Trust your intuition, my heart whispered.
You’re being paranoid, my head replied. He said there were no tomatoes. He wasn’t confused. He even asked if you had a nightshade intolerance. He gets it.
Trust your intuition, my heart whispered.
You’re being paranoid, my head replied. He said there were no tomatoes. He wasn’t confused. He even asked if you had a nightshade intolerance. He gets it.
Getting comfortable in my own skin and with how I perceive my body image has been one of my challenges this lifetime. So every spring, as I come off the liquids-only day of my yearly, oh-so-gentle detox, I repeat the mantra “A detox is not a diet. A detox is not a diet.”
My inner teenager, who danced with bulimia and diet regimens enforced by both my mother and my doctor, can never be skinny enough. She looks at pictures of my raw-boned ancestors and cringes, wondering why she didn’t inherit my mother’s bird bones and Audrey Hepburn visage. (more…)
It goes like this:
Persephone was walking on a hillside with her friends when she came across the most beautiful flower. She was captivated by its bloom and its sweet smell, and she paused to be with it, her heart full of joy.
The flower was a narcissus, grown by the Goddess Gaia, at the request of her son Hades, who was in love with Persephone.
He abducted Persephone and returned with her to his home in the roots of the earth… I do wonder sometimes about this abduction. Perhaps he simply charmed her and she made the choice many fool-hearted teenagers make and ran off with her latest crush. But either way, Persephone’s mother, the Goddess Demeter who reigned over the green and growing things of the earth, reacted in the way of mothers who are angry and terrified. Demeter searched for Persephone but she was not to be found.
The Gods on Olympus became concerned. And Hades was called to task and told to return Persephone.
But Persephone had broken a cardinal rule: she had eaten the fruits of the Underworld. And so a compromise was reached: Persephone would spend half the year with her mother and half the year with Hades in the Underworld.
When Persephone is with Demeter the world is green and lush but when she descends to the Underworld for her time with Hades, the green world dies and we slide into winter.
Persephone became entranced by a narcissus, a flower whose name springs from the same root as the word narcissist. In other words she became entranced with herself. The descent into the Underworld was a descent into her own being, her own soul. And because of the compromise struck between Hades and Demeter, this was a journey that Persephone would take cyclically, year over year, journeying deep into her being for the winter months and returning to the world above through the summer. This is the cosmic yin/yang, the slow breath in and the long exhale.
Interestingly, when shamans journey to gather information from the spirit realm, they journey down into the underworld. This is true of shamans from various continents, from lineages not known to each other until modern times. This construct of going down, returning to roots, is universal in tribal practices. Similarly in ancient Greece, the oracle at Delphi sat on a tripod, over a chasm deep in the earth, offering divination for the future. Our ancestors knew that to know yourself you needed regularly-scheduled time in the underworld.
We are in the time of the descent. The plants are sending their energy down, into their roots, and we too are sending our energy down, into the core of our being. It is a time of self-reflection and sometimes sadness as we mourn, like Demeter, the loss of summer.
From a seasonal point of view, it’s appropriate to descend at this time of year. It becomes a problem only if you don’t also rise as the energy of the sun returns (or, of course, if you’re more than just a bit down and are considering doing harm to yourself or others).
Allow yourself space to ease down into winter.
Some of us respond more strongly to this season’s lack of light than others, which can make the descent a rocky and uncomfortable journey.
The plant world has comfort to offer:
I love this combo! St. John’s Wort blooms at the Summer Solstice, capturing the sun’s light in her petals and making it energetically available to us as we descend toward the winter solstice and need a hit of sunlight to brighten our mood.
* St. John’s wort will interact with SSRIs, so be mindful if you are on anti-depressants or seizure meds.
Your doctor can do a blood test for you if you want to know your Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D’s co-factor (what you need for proper assimilation) is Vitamin A. Both are in Cod Liver oil but if you are taking your D in another form, be sure to get your A as well.
Choosing to descend, purposefully stepping into the darkness, lets you take back your power as we enter the time of the longest nights.
Let me know how you are doing with the seasonal changes in the comments below.
“Am I doing this right? Will you tell me how you do ritual?”
I’m asked this all the time.
So this is it: the big reveal, your glimpse behind the curtain of my Samhain rituals:*
First stop, Instagram (’cause that’s super-magical, right?). I found a great photo by Poppy Baruch and quickly dictated this post:
Before I wax prolific on Samhain, I need to send you to check out Poppy Barach’s Instagram feed @poppybarach. The images are moody and nostalgic and so yummy…
…especially today as the veils thin and we slip into liminal space which, for me, lasts ‘til Winter solstice.
When I lived in Ireland, studying under a traditional healer, this day was pure magic. It felt like I became transparent and all the myths and stories of my being rose up through layers of self to be worn on my skin… like my cosmic insides became my outsides. I painted a black band over my eyes, wove feathers in my hair, and called the most ancient bird goddesses to cloak me in their grace.
There and then, in that place and that time out of time, it felt not like a costume but a revelation. We told stories into the night, set intentions into apple seeds (to be planted for the year to come), danced to the bodhran, and left heaping plates of sweets and shots of whiskey under the hawthorn for any spirits or ancestors abroad in the night…
By morning it was a dream, a passing fancy, dishes to do and crumbs on the floor…
But every year, on this day, the gates open and I once again hear the goddesses laughing.
It occurred to me, as it does every Samhain, that there was very little chance this Samhain was going to live up to that one. But this particular memory is precious; I pull it out and dust it off year after year, because it reminds me of how we can slip, back and forth, from real time to mystical time, how we humans can become gods and goddesses for a night, how the spirit of the many overlapping worlds longs to move in us and through us.
Then this appeared in my Instagram feed (I told you it was magic):
riverislandapothecary Cool, so whiskey shots at your house tonight? I’m there!! 😆✨😇🕸✨🕸
Whiskey and craic—things were suddenly looking up!
The day went on, as days do. I ran about, getting ready for this weekend’s retreat, taking care of things for Witch Camp and Medicine Keepers, doing the usual doings of the day.
Shannon, my online community manager, messaged me:
shannon [12:19 PM]
Part of my job is bumbling around Facebook to spread witchy cheer…um, what did I do to deserve this life?!?
maia [12:21 PM]
I no longer have to bumble around on Facebook to spread witchy cheer. What did I do to deserve this life?
The latter from a Witch Camper who shared her Nana’s recipe after she and I went back and forth about connecting with lineage and our ancestors through food. You can grab her recipe, which she was kind enough to share, below.
Talk of food got me thinking about my own evening and what would go well with whiskey. Did I have time to cook? Maybe something super-simple like apple cobbler… which was actually perfect since we ate apples, wishing on the seeds, as part of our Samhain celebration in Ireland, plus I had apples from my friend’s farm.
As I chopped the apples, I sent a bit of gratitude to my friend who grew the apples. My mind wandered to the ways in which food connects us, the similarities between Celtic culture and the Jewish cultures I grew up, the prevalence of apples in world myth, my mother’s apple cake recipe… hey, is that really Grandma’s recipe? I decided to use real sugar, ’cause Grandma would have. And… I almost forgot… Grandma had a luncheonette. What did she cook there? I texted my mom.
I love cooking a beautiful meal on Samhain, a meal which I share with the ancestors. I put out what I call a spirit plate—a bit of everything on the table—to honor those who came before.
What do they say? Man plans, God laughs?
Early in the evening the dogs—both of them—came down with some sort of stomach bug. The kind of stomach bug that means I’m making them rice and boiled turkey for dinner. Which really is no trouble… except that the gas cooktop has been glitchy and I’m cooking on a hotplate. A one burner hotplate.
I texted Andrew pick up something for dinner.
Do spirits like take-out?
By the time our friends arrived we’d been fed, watered, and I’d regained my equilibrium. The cobbler was both tart and sweet and the whiskey smooth.
Around 10 pm we heaped a plate with cobbler, filled a mason jar with whiskey, and lit a few candles.
Ummmm… I said, I usually just send a silent call to my ancestors and any others who may be abroad tonight. And a thank you, definitely a thank you, to the spirits of this place.
We all stood in companionable silence for a few minutes.
When we’d returned inside, I turned to my friend: I hope you didn’t expect me to call the quarters or something. I really only do that when I’m alone, I confessed.
Me too! she said and we laughed with relief. The conversation turned to more comfortable things: witches in Romania; how to best teach about essential oils, scent, and divination; and a piece of property they’re thinking about buying.
Because we live in a world where people shout out their best and worst moments—their most dramatic times, each documented as though it were a magazine spread. But the truth is: most of life happens in between these extremes, a lot of it’s not particularly elegant or lyrical.
Even when I’ve had a particularly mystical day, there are still dishes to wash: first the magic, then the mopping.
So if you’re wondering if you did it right, if your Samhain was magical enough, I want to give you permission to just be real, to embrace both the magic and the mopping. Ritual doesn’t have to be picture perfect, it just has to leave you feeling a little more whole and a bit more connected.
* Samhain is pronounced sow-when. It’s the ancient Celtic New Year and a mystical time of year when ancestors are honored and the spirits wander abroad.
P.S. Kim, one of my Witch Campers, honored her Nana by sharing this fabulous recipe with all of us. Kim writes:
My Nana was the mother of 8, grandmother of 42 (I’m the oldest) and great Nana to 39 (my son the oldest). She was first generation Italian and taught all of us grandchildren how to cook, knit, crochet and sew. I’ve been thinking so hard about her the last few weeks and feeling her presence (she promised before she died to visit me in the kitchen 🤗) so I decided to make her biscotti recipe. It’s very time consuming but I promise your house will smell like a hug and your tummy will thank you.
The good news? It doesn’t have to. But in order to create that future, we need to start thinking differently now.
My friend Charis Lindrooth has been studying the brain for years. Below, in her own words, is her very best advice:
As a student in chiropractic school one of the greatest privileges I experienced was holding a human brain in my hands. Just three pounds of what feels and looks like a pile of fresh sausages governs the entire workings of our body and is entirely responsible for who we are, what we think, how we behave, as well as a myriad of bodily functions.
The internet is full of news breaking the old way of thinking that fat is bad, and by now most of us have a clue that we need healthy fats to stay healthy, and even that eating these fats can help us lose weight. But did you know that almost two-thirds of your brain is made of fatty tissues, and that the integrity of these tissues depends on a diet rich in fatty acids, the building block for fatty tissues?
Most likely you have been convinced in the past that eating fat is a bad thing for your health. The media, advertisers, food manufacturers and even scientists have warned against the deleterious effects of eating foods with any sort of fats. Products such as phony eggs, or egg white only eggs, no fat milk, cheese and other dairy products, have replaced the real deal. Low fat processed foods have relied on sugar and other not-so-healthy additives to make them more satisfying… and less nourishing.
David Ludwig, MD, PhD at Harvard University writes about the connection between obesity, cravings and dietary consumption of fat. His book, Always Hungry? Conquer Cravings, Retrain Your Fat Cells and Lose Weight Permanently, highlights the important role dietary fat plays in our feelings of satisfaction.
Dr. Ludwig points to insulin as a type of “Miracle Grow for your fat cells.” When we eat too many refined carbohydrates, a habit that often results when we are avoiding fat, our pancreas releases a rush of insulin.
Too much sugar intake is handily stored as fat, a sort of storage unit to be used when food later becomes scarce. But when our carb intake rises, insulin does too, and persistent levels of insulin create a myriad of problems which ultimately leads to Type II and Type III diabetes. Chronic high levels of insulin not only strain the pancreas, but also keep us feeling hungry, never satiated, and make it impossible for us to burn the fat we are so busy stockpiling.
Dr. Ludwig states that the simplest way to reduce chronically high insulin is to eat more fat. Ironically his research indicates that a healthy intake of fat reduces our cravings for sugary foods, helps us feel full and helps us maintain healthy blood sugar and insulin levels. There is evidence that periodic fasting is also helpful, since it helps to make the cells more responsive to insulin, potentially decreasing the need for higher and higher levels of insulin to clear the blood stream of glucose.
But there is a difference between healthy and not so healthy fats. Naturally, one can only achieve good health at the hands of healthy fats—foods like avocados that contain raw, unadulterated nourishment. Coldwater fish like salmon, raw nuts and seeds, and eggs from chickens that eat vegetation and insects regularly. Grass-fed and finished meats are also helpful.
This same principle can be applied to healthy brain function as well. A diet rich in healthy fats is essential to maintain a youthful, high-functioning brain.
Fats that occur in processed foods, or that contain heated, processed or hydrogenated fats are obviously on the “NO!” list. These fats are found in foods like french fries, packaged crackers, chips, cookies, donuts, fried foods, ketchup, mayonnaise, salad dressings and bread. These fats can make the cell membranes of your brain, of the neurons, rigid and unresponsive.
They degenerate, and then they promote brain inflammation. If your brain isn’t working as well as you’d like it to, take a look at your diet first thing and entirely eliminate foods which contain unhealthy fats. Which fats promote healthy brain and body functions? Essential fatty acids are the key components of healthy fats. Two essential fatty acids that should be part of your diet are omega 3 and omega 6.
Signs of fatty acid deficiency include poor brain function and endurance, inflammation, achey joints or muscles, arthritis, dry skin or skin rashes, dandruff and hormone imbalances. Eating fried foods, partially hydrogenated processed foods can bring on deficiencies, as can lack of dietary consumption of fatty fish, raw nuts and seeds, uncooked olive oil and avocados.
Omega 3’s are readily available in cold water fish such as salmon and sardines. If you are vegetarian you can also get them from micro algae products. This is the essential fatty acid-rich algae that the cold water fish eat. Fish oil contains 2 very important fatty acids: DHA (docosahexanoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentanoic acid). When you buy a standard fish oil supplement these two are usually in a ratio of approximately 1:1.
DHA is particularly useful for brain function, especially brain fatigue or brain fog. You might consider using a product that has a high DHA level if you have memory issues, concentration or focus issues, mood swings or other chemical imbalance in your brain, or a family history of dementia. This is because DHA is a major building block of the brain and essential nutrient for function of the neurons, supporting growth of neuronal dendrites, improving the ability of the neurons to release neurotransmitters and enhancing communication between neurons.
Fish oil high in EPA is anti-inflammatory and supportive of healthy immune function. It is useful if you have system-wide inflammation such as achy joints, sore muscles, skin rashes, allergies, or autoimmune disease.
Vegetarian sources of omega 3’s are highest in flax oil, but also chlorella, dark green veggies such as kale, eggs, walnuts and pumpkin seeds. These omega 3’s provide ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) which the body must convert to DHA and EPA to be useful. This can be problematic especially if dietary protein is lacking or someone is insulin resistant. A diet high in omega 6’s also inhibit the conversion. A better option might be microalgae omega 3 oil. It is expensive, but may be more sustainable for the environment than fish oils.
Research is now indicating that greater quantities than previously thought are needed for good health. In general you may need about 3500 mg/2000 calories. Most people are falling short of this target, so are not getting the benefit they need from proper supplementation. If you prefer to eat your omega 3s, rather than supplement them, note that a can of Wild Planet Sardines contains about 1000 mg of DHA/EPA as well as B12, Vitamin D, CoQ10 and selenium.
Want the rest of this story? Watch the FREE online class, Eat Fat and Stay Smart
Charis Lindrooth, D.C. has helped her patients for more than 20 years, working with plant medicine and natural methods to restore well-being on all levels. During her formal training she fell in love with the brain and spent many hours tutoring the entire neurology class, one of the toughest subjects for students to grasp. Since then she has continued her studies on the brain, focusing especially on natural methods to improve memory and cognition. She has a reputation for teaching difficult topics in a way that is easy to understand. Learn more about her work at CharisLindrooth.com.
“Hello—Herbiary. How can I help you?”
“Hi. I bought Citronella essential oil from you the other day. How many drops should I be taking?”
“Why are you using Citronella essential oil internally?”
“I read on the internet that it’s good for detoxing.”
Oh, of course! Insert sarcasm: If you read it on the internet, it must be true!
People! Please, I beg you:
Is internal use of Citronella good for detoxing? It depends what you mean by the word “detoxing.” If you mean expelling worms or other parasites, then yes, Citronella can get that done for you and it may be more gentle than pharmaceuticals.
This stuff is as strong as many antibiotics (would you take antibiotics ’cause you want to detox?) and just like when you take antibiotics, you’ll need to rebuild your gut flora when you’re through.
So if what you mean by detox is “I’ve been eating too many sweets and processed foods and I want to give my body a rest and reset,” then no, Citronella is not good for detox.
Although Citronella oil is Generally Regarded As Safe by the FDA the amounts their talking about is minuscule—parts per million—not an entire drop. It takes a ridiculous amount of plant material to make that one drop of oil, more than you’d consume in a month if you were just munching on Citronella… which is a grass, by the way.
Usually when you detox you want to rest your liver. Does this sound restful to you?
If you want to detox, the very best you can do is eat simple, fresh whole foods, and drink lots of water for a week. Cut out all sugars. Lay off the caffeine. Lots of veggies, lots of juice, lots of bone broth. Add some supportive herbal teas like dandelion or burdock root or alteratives like red clover or cleavers (don’t know what an alterative is? Then you really shouldn’t be using essential oils internally. This is basic botanical knowledge and if you’re not willing to do a little learning than you shouldn’t be using the hard-core stuff).
Is some whiny part of you thinking this sounds kinda hard…. I’d rather just take a drop of citronella… ?
… And in that discipline lies freedom.
I want you to be empowered to own your own wellness, to make wise decisions about your well-being. If this is what you want for yourself, you need to be digging deep and cross-referencing what you read. One internet article that randomly came up when you researched “detox” does not make for a wellness plan.
Maybe you’re gonna get into essential oils and do a bit of studying. Maybe you’re gonna realize there’s more to it than you thought and consult with a professional.
Either way, you’re stepping up and taking responsibility for yourself and your healing.
‘Cause your health shouldn’t be dictated by the latest internet fad.