The Feast of Saint Barbara
December 4th is the day we honor St. Barbara. Barbara was born in Nikomedia, now Turkey, in the third century. She was the daughter of Dioscuros, a very wealthy pagan who imprisoned her in a tower to keep her isolated and protected from the evils of the world.
She secretly became a Christian, baptized by a priest disguised as a physician. The tower had only two windows, but while her father was away on a journey, she had a third window added to represent the Holy Trinity.
When Dioscuros returned, he asked her about the third window and she told him that she had become a Christian and would no longer practice pagan rituals. The authorities ordered her execution. She escaped from the tower but was caught, tortured and then killed by her own father. Her father was immediately struck to death by lightning.
Barbara protects against fire, storms, lightning, sudden death and is the patron saint of stone masons, firemen, artillerymen, and those working with fireworks.
Herbs Associated with Saint Barbara's Day
Barbara kept cherry branches in the tower and on the day she died, they burst into bloom. December 4th is the day to bring a cherry branch inside and begin the process of forcing the blooms.
Maria von Trapp of the Trapp Family Singers from the Sound of Music wrote in "Around the Year with the Trapp Family" (Pantheon Books, 1955) that the Austrian legend states that if a person's branch blossoms on Christmas Day, he or she will be married in the following year.
Wheat and Roses
Wheat and roses are both beautiful additions to the Feast of Saint Barbara for decorations and for your meal. Freshly baked bread with rose petal jelly is sublime!
One of my most powerful lessons on creative thinking was my aha! when I realized that half of eight was O!
I was in an arithmetic class in elementary school and as I looked at the number 8, I realized that "half of eight equals 4" wasn't the only right answer! This discovery thrilled me and I immediately raised my hand to share this with my teacher and the rest of the class. The teacher was neither impressed nor pleased. She was visibly annoyed.
By the time I got home, my dad, a calculus professor at an engineering school, had received a call. He sat me down at the dining room table to have a conversation. His face was expressionless (my dad had made a considerable amount of money in the Korean War playing Black Jack and unlike me, had an enviable poker face).
He told me that my teacher had called and given her perspective, quite negative, on my discovery, and he asked me to explain mine.
"Well, I just realized that half of eight can be zero," I said quietly, my head down.
"Can you prove it?" he asked, and I saw a grin cross his face. He knew I could!
So I drew an eight, and covered the top. 0!
My dad was not angry. He was pleased! And as I looked at the 8 I realize it could be an E or a 3! And if I turned it on its side, it could be an m or a w!
It was then that I realized being creative in school might not be well received. Over the years, many teachers wanted me to memorize and regurgitate. Thankfully my dad, a Calculus professor, wanted me to think.
My life would have been very different if he has scolded or reprimanded me as my teacher had. I have often wondered over the years as I've worked with young people, how many times their creative ideas and potential contributions have been squelched. Seeing things in new and different ways adds such joy to life.
Just this morning my daughter Mycala came up with an idea that i could see changing everything in her life, and have a humorous and joyful impact on others! I've been smiling since and thinking of how blessed I was to have support in my life for looking for more than one right answer!
The Dracaena, derived from the Greek word for female dragon, and also known as the “spirit of the dragon” tree, has brought me comfort through dark times. She reminds us that chaos is necessary in bringing about positive change quickly. This tree supports us during conflict, and encourages us to turn inward to find strength and solutions. She is the perfect Christmas tree for 2020!
When we think of pine, our first thoughts are probably as a Christmas tree, or using the evergreens for wreaths and swags. Pine wreaths were originally hung on doors for protection more than decoration, replacing the dead black chicken which was once hung on entrances to discourage witches from entering. They were honor bound to count every feather before they could go inside. Thankfully, pine needles replaced the feathers, undoubtedly more fragrant than rotting poultry! Witches have very active minds and often get distracted and lose count, so instead of starting over, they will probably go next door. (You may want to advise your neighbors to get a pine wreath.)
Pine cones can be used to make roses, wreaths, garlands, and in table arrangements. The internet is overflowing with ideas for using pine cones as crafts.
They can be covered with peanut butter, rolled in bird seed and hung out as bird feeders.
Use tongs to dip thoroughly dried pine cones in melted paraffin or beeswax, let wax drip off and dry on wax paper or foil.
Turpentine, another gift from pine, is a distilled oil made from pine resin. Some of my most cherished moments in the art room have been surrounded by the fragrances of turpentine and linseed oil.
Amber -Pine's Gift of Golden Sunshine Energy
Pine gives us another gift! Amber! It is said to have the energy of liquid sunshine, to make the wearer more beautiful, to attract wealth and success, and dissolve opposition.
Amber has been identified in over 300 shades. Most of us are familiar with the golden yellow and orange ambers, but it can also be an orange-red, brown, green, black or even violet, though very rare.
Amber is made from the fossilized resin of the pine tree, and to be classified as true amber it must be over 100,000 years old! That is miraculous, don't you think? Copal, or Columbian Amber, less than 1,000 years old, has not yet fossilized but is also beautiful and truly remarkable. There is something sacred about pieces that have been part of the earth for so long!
Amber is revered in the Far Eastern Asian cultures. Asian Indians regard amber as the 'soul of the tiger', endowing the wearer with courage. Egyptians placed a piece of amber in the casket of a loved one to ensure the body would forever remain whole. Early physicians prescribed amber for headaches, heart problems, arthritis and a variety of other ailments. In ancient times, amber was carried by travelers for protection.
Wishing you all a holiday season of fragrant, protective pine and the warmth and sunshine of amber!
Last night my friend Nancy and I celebrated Diwali, the festival of light over coming darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance. We sat at opposite ends of the table for a scrumptious dinner she brought from the Sunshine Grill, then colored, talked, and listened to a friend’s virtual Gypsy Jazz concert. We may have long dark evenings ahead but the light from the Diwali celebration is promising!
And as always, herbs played a significant part. Ganesha is nestled in a bed of marigolds, and a rose, lavender and sage potpourri provided a bed for the pierced candle and votives, as walls as Ganesh and Ma Durga. (I didn’t have a Lakshmi statue, so she graciously agreed to fill in!)
India is celebrating Diwali, the Festival of Lights, and Children’s Day, happiness and joy.
Let’s join them!
This newsletter from my dear friend Rameshji and his beautiful wife will give you more information. You can also read about his new book, Soul Selfie, below. It is available on Amazon and I enthusiastically recommend it!
Date : 13-11-2020
A SPECIAL DIWALI
This year the festival of lights (Diwali) coincides with the festival of joy and happiness (Children’s Day) and teaches us how we can live life, childlike:
1. Children may create a mess, appear untidy, have runny noses and sticky, dirty hands but we love them nonetheless as their hearts are always clean. They neither hold grudges nor nurture feelings of anger, ill-will or negativity; thereby showing us that the inside matters more than the outside.
2. Like children, our focus should be on bhavana and not merely on rituals and ceremonies. We should aim to express internally, not just impress externally.
3. Children are always eager and enthusiastic to burst crackers, design rangoli, meet relatives, taste sweets and participate in all festivities. We too, should have the same level of energy and excitement towards life and should make the most of every moment given to us.
4. The innocent smiles, mischievous giggles and infectious laughter of children shows us that life should not be taken seriously all the time but should be filled with lighter moments which spreads joy in everyone’s life.
5. Just as the diyas light us up soon after we light them, children also begin to impart valuable life lessons to us while we raise them. We must be open to their perspectives and allow them to be our guiding lighttoo.
So, this Diwali let us not just light up our homes but light up our lives by cherishing our children and embracing our own inner child!
"My mission is
to help others see and cherish the beauty,
romance and treasures within and around them
that are often dismissed or completely overlooked."
Mikell is a writer, artist and professional treasure hunter, finding the greatest treasures in the wonderful people who enter her life!