I often joke that I've been a witch since Halloween 1980. My grandmother made the costume for me sans those horrible plastic masks they had back then. This may have been because I loved the Wizard of Oz and always loved the duality of Good Witch and Bad Witch, though secretly still want an army of flying monkeys to this day. I still have the gown, but sadly the hat and cape did not make it through the remainder of the 1980s due to excessive wear. I was a weird kid and interested in weird things. I wasn't the pink dress princess, my little pony loving girl of the 1980s. I wore mostly black because I grew out of children's clothing by the time I was 9 years old and I loved horror movies and heavy metal music. My Barbie Dolls looked like rock stars instead of fancy debutantes. I probably drove my parents crazy cutting up all the ball gowns and making rock star outfits for them.
I wanted to write a little more in depth about my path into eclectic witchery and my experiences in life from early childhood that led me down this path. I draw from many practices and traditions that are part of my old ancestral history: European and specifically Slavic Witchcraft and Folk Magic, in addition to White Magic, Black Magic, Hoodoo, and other Occult traditions.
My heritage is Eastern European, predominantly Ukrainian with roots Slovakia, Poland, Hungry, and Romania. There is also Germanic, Irish, English, and Northern European ancestry as well. I was mostly raised within the Ukrainian tradition and Byzantine Catholic until my family converted to Roman Catholicism. Eastern European families tend to be matriarchal by nature. My Grammy and Grandma were both strong women, who while not the "breadwinners" of the family, wore the proverbial "pants" for the family. I inherited a lot of their strength, wit, and dominant personality from them and my flare for fashion and wearing all black from my paternal grandmother.
My father gave me my first crystals when I was about 4 years old, a rose quartz and a donkey carved out of polished quartz. I still remember exactly how that rose quartz felt in my hands as a child and can visualize every mark and ripple of the stone. I haven't seen them in decades at this point and my mother has been searching high and low to see if she can find them. She found many other things along the way including geodes, petrified wood, seashells, and other crystals and rocks. Some were my brothers as well and quite a few were from my grandfather. I remember the geode being from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, my brother has one half and I have the other now.
I've always been a dreamer and have excellent dream recall of details - even from dreams I had as a child from things like hiding inside my grandmother's sofa from the dinosaurs that were coming down the street (probably because I loved watching Land of the Lost), dreaming that I was a bat and flapping my arms with the sheets in bed, and stuff about nuclear power plants (I live in Pennsylvania, and was about 4 years old when Three Mile Island happened, also I used to build nuclear power plants with my blocks.) I've always been fascinated with dream worlds and dreams in general. As a side note, many years later my mother told me that I used to have dreams about animals biting my fingers and hands when I was very young and she said that she never told me that she used to have the same dreams when she was a child.
I was a creative and imaginative child and loved drawing and building things. My earliest artistic renderings were drawings of houses whose chimneys were struck by lightening. I think that was a common theme because the apartment complex we lived in was next to a bus depot with a tall chimney that may have been struck by lightening. I was also introduced to death at a very early age, my kindergarten teacher had a heart attack and died in front of us in class. We thought she was asleep. We tried to wake her up and eventually went to go find a grown up. I couldn't really communicate what happened to my parents, but kept saying something about her leg. Later they received a phone call informing them what happened.
In 1981, my family relocated from Pennsylvania to Rome, Georgia which is about an hour outside Atlanta because my father got a teaching job at a college there. Being a transplanted Northerner in Northwest Georgia was an eye opening experience, suddenly I was the "Dumb Yankee" because the Civil War nee "War of Northern Aggression" as they called it was still a sore spot in the early 1980s apparently. In retrospect, Civil Rights were somewhat nebulous because one day I came home and asked my mother "why the Black kids had to sit at the back of the bus?" A great question coming from a six year old. I'm not going to mince words, I grew up in a racist town where Black people were always referred to by the N-word. It wasn't even malicious, it was so commonplace that it was just normal. Might I add, in addition to being a "Dumb Yankee" because I was from the North, I was also a "N-word Lover" too, because calling a young child that is totally acceptable apparently. I guess us Northerners do things differently and that can cause quite a stir, my father was almost run off the road by the KKK for giving a Black colleague a ride home from work. Yah, that kind of different. Even though I was white, I was still "othered" because I was from the North and somehow that made me not quite white like the Southern born Whites. I still ruminate over my childhood experiences and never really come up with answers that make any sense.
We rented the first house we lived in Georgia for about a year and then bought a house across town. I liked the first house better as it was on a wooded property with lots of trees and stuff. The house we moved to across town was in a small development that was built on swampland. I grew up with lots of tornado drills at school and occasional warnings. I never saw one though, but my mother did. I still get anxiety during severe storms. Part of me loves storm energy and my inner child is like "we're all gonna die!!" One of the things I loved was making "witches brew" after storms, collecting the debris, plant material, and putting it in murky water. When I made my first batch of Florida Water, it took me back to that place as a child. I spent a lot of time outdoors traipsing through wooded areas collecting arrowheads that we would find making forts out of tree branches and limbs.
The second house we lived in was previously owned by a family whose daughter died in a tragic car accident, she was in a car on a foggy night with friends and they stopped at the train tracks because a train was coming, but didn't know the car was partially on the tracks and they were struck by the train and killed. My bedroom was her bedroom and I felt her spirit or ghost. Children can be more aware of these things than adults. I don't know if I ever told my parents about it. One of my earliest spiritual beliefs was in past lives and reincarnation. I don't know where I would have stumbled upon the concept as a child especially in the Catholic church, but it always made sense to me. I used to have waking visions and dreams of past lives throughout my childhood of a young girl named Camille Christiana Peacock and flashes of her life and death. I think she may have drowned. I have the details all written down somewhere in my vast archives of writing. I don't think I told my parents about that either though I remember telling some friends about them in grade school or junior high.
At some point in time, given the lack of Northerners of Eastern European descent, my family converted from Byzantine Catholicism to Roman Catholicism and I started going to Catholic school in the third grade. Given the lack of cultural diversity, there was a Jewish family in our parish because they probably were the only Jewish family in that part of Georgia. I was interested in the stories, but I was one of those kids with a lot of questions and I wanted concrete answers to them.
I always felt like I was a child that was born as an adult. I wasn't overly interested in childhood things and hated being a child. My favorite movies were Grease 2 and Rock N' Roll High School. I still stand by my stance on Grease 2 being vastly superior to the original. I watched MTV from its inception and that for me was when my whole world changed. We ended up moving back to Pennsylvania in the Summer of 1984 and that's where the story will pick up in the next installment.
Halloween is a tradition passed down from the Celtic pagan celebration of Samhain (pronounced Sowen) which marked the end of the harvest and transition into winter, which was often associated with death. It is said that on Halloween that the veil between the worlds thins allowing the dead to communicate with the living realm. This became a time of great celebration with ornate costumes and divination or fortune-telling. The traditions were mostly predominant in European countries (or those colonized by Europeans.) In the United States, Halloween didn't take foothold until the mid-to-late 1800s with the influx of Irish immigrants during the Potato Famine. Also, at this time trick or treating was incorporated into Halloween celebrations.
5 Fun Ways to Celebrate Halloween/Samhain:
Halloween is a magical time for all who celebrate, whether it is a sacred day of group or solitary rituals and spellcasting, trick or treating with the kids, or going to a lavish party. Find the magic in the little things and celebrate!
I've been steeped in research on how plants, flowers, earth, resins, oils, and other materials are used in magickal practices throughout different traditions. Its a lot more esoteric than the standard therapeutic approach, but it has been a wonderful exploration into plant lore and folk magic.
Smudging has become a popular practice in recent years used to remove negative energies from the home and other personal spaces, but its origins come from the Indigenous people of North America. It is important to remember that smudging ceremonies were sacred rituals to the Indigenous people and furthermore that until 1978, they could be jailed or even killed because it was illegal for them to practice their religion. There are also issues of sustainability due to the over-harvesting of White Sage in particular due to the uptick in popularity. Is Burning Sage Cultural Appropriation? Here’s How To Smoke Cleanse In Sensitive Ways is an eye opening look at the practice of smudging and its origins and implications.
Many other plants and herbs have protective and purifying properties that can be used to spiritually cleanse the home and other personal spaces. These herbs can be burned as incense, carried in sachets or charms, their essential oils could be diffused or used to create an energy cleansing spray, or they could be placed in offering bowls.
Here are my Top 10 Choices for alternatives to sage for energy cleansing.
Other materials that are excellent for their protective and cleansing properties: activated charcoal, baking soda, sea salt, coconut milk, egg shell powder, and vinegar.
I use a fair amount of sage in my aromatic creations including incense, sachets, charms, and infused oils, but I am cognizant of its meaning, place, and origin in spiritual practices. There are numerous other plants, flowers, herbs, resins, and natural materials that provide the same level of protection as sage. As always be mindful of practices and traditions especially as they become more mainstream, as many have been impacted by the legacy of colonialism and oppression.
Aromatherapy, among other complementary alternative medicine practices are just that - complementary. These practices are not meant to replace traditional medical practices and treatments entirely. Body autonomy is crucial and we will all have different needs and course of treatment. I was diagnosed with a Circadian Rhythm Disorder - Delayed Sleep Phase Type a few months ago. While there are numerous essential oils used for sleep and relaxation, in my case, there is no combination of essential oils that can and will help me sleep. I've tried diffusing them, using rollers, and balms with no luck. Now this does not mean that essential oils do not work for sleep - they just don't work for me. My course of action was to work with my sleep doctor, sleep therapist, and sleep psychiatrist to incorporate prescription sleeping pills with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia and Sleep Phase Therapy. This is perfectly okay and I am now sleeping a full eight hours a night for probably the first time in over 20 years. This is a chronic disorder and one that I will always struggle with. Most likely, I will need to take prescription sleeping pills long term.
If you are committed to natural holistic living and practices, common sense and risk assessments are crucial because in some cases, you can end up doing more harm than good. I have to take prescription medication for my sleep disorder, ADD/ADHD, high blood pressure, and because of my history of depression. There are plenty of essential oils that I can use to complement those traditional treatments, but I cannot rely on them 100% and remain healthy and functional at the same time. Essential oils can be uplifting and psychoactive, but for those with chronic and severe depression, anxiety, panic disorders, mood disorders, and personality disorders they cannot be used as a stand alone treatment. I can use all the essential oils in my house (and there are over 200 of them) and it is not going to treat suicidal depression. I will leave that to the medical professionals.
Now to address the elephant in the room, essential oils and herbal remedies are NOT a substitute for vaccines, they do not function in the same physiological way. Yes, many essential oils and herbs have antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, and antiviral properties, but they are not going to provide the same level of protection as vaccines or other traditional medical treatments. Essential oils are chemicals, yes they are derived from natural plant material, but it is their chemical properties that give them their therapeutic benefits.
Again this comes down to risk assessment, while you might feel that your family is doing just fine without vaccines because you have your essential oils and herbal remedies, you absolutely have to consider the risk you pose to others, especially those who are chronically ill or immunocompromised - like cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, children or adults who have had organ transplants who will be on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives, anyone with immune disorders like HIV/AIDS, and of course infants who are too young to be vaccinated. When my nephew became critically ill at 6 weeks old, if he was exposed to measles or other preventable diseases it would have caused even more critical health issues or killed him. That is a viable risk and one that needs to be taken into consideration.
The point I am trying to make as an aromatherapist and herbalist is that they are not a 100% cure all meant to replace traditional medical practices. I would love for that to be true and to not have to take prescription medications or to see my doctors all the time, but that is not my reality and never will be. Use common sense and assess the risk, not only for yourself, but for your family, and for those you come into contact on a daily basis. Peoples lives may depend on it.
I write a lot about the nuances and specifics of French Aromatherapy (or Aromatic Medicine) because not only is it a topic of interest, but it is also the subject of my final research paper for my French Aromatherapy certification. I completed the coursework almost a year ago and got sidetracked by business development and other certification programs so I ended up putting the final paper aside. It is still a work in progress, but I have done considerable research on the subject matter.
There is a lot of buzz and significantly misinterpreted information when in comes to the actual practice of French Aromatherapy, much of which comes from the MLM (Multi Level Marketing) side of the aromatherapy spectrum. The information passed down under the rubric of French Method/Model comes from Young Living and doTERRA and is a very loose interpretation of the actual practice of French Aromatherapy.
In this blog post, I am going to break down what the MLM companies are telling their reps and members about the "French method or French model" and counterbalance that with the actual practices of French Aromatherapy and general practices across the professional aromatherapy industry. They overlap in theory, but are extremely nuanced in approach.
The "Schools" of Aromatherapy: British, German, and French.
The Importance of Essential Oil Safety and the work of Robert Tisserand & Rodney Young within the practice of French Aromatherapy.
MLM companies use the French method/model which places a high emphasis on the quality of essential oils and encourages "aggressive" use of essential oils.
Ingestion of Essential Oils, Europeans widely practice this because they follow the French model, but everyone else follows the British model and is firmly against the practice.
Detoxing is a normal response to your body removing toxins from your body.... use more oils...
Negative effects of essential oils are extremely rare and no one has ever died from essential oils
In conclusion, and I say this a lot, the aromatherapy industry loves essential oils and we want everyone to experience their benefits and to do so safely. Do you need to be an aromatherapist to use them? Of course not, but knowledge is power. Safety precautions are not tantamount to rabid fear-mongering. The aromatherapy industry is not just a bunch of kill-joy gatekeepers, we are here to help and glad to do so. I answer countless questions on a regular basis from people who contact me personally with questions regarding safety, myths, and proper use of oils. Ask questions, learn something. This is how I became an aromatherapist.
Ever since I completed my French Aromatherapy Certification coursework last year, I have been curious about the trend of folks cooking with essential oils as a means of ingestion often touted under the tutelage of the "french method." Nowhere in the certification program was cooking with essential oils even once mentioned, nor have I seen it in any authentic French Aromatherapy articles, blog posts, or books. Cooking with essential oils seems to have come out of the MLM faction of the essential oils industry. Personally, I don't see the point of the practice as it is both expensive and wasteful, but lets delve a little deeper into the mythos surrounding the practice.
Setting aside the safety concerns about improper ingestion of essential oils, my gut feeling on cooking with essential oils is that it is nothing more than an expensive waste. I look at it the same way as cooking with alcohol -- my bourbon chicken is going to taste great, but I'm not going to get drunk on it because the heat required to cook or bake the dish burns off the alcohol content. The same would apply to essential oils, if you are using them for their therapeutic benefit, the heat is most likely taking that away and you will be left with expensive flavoring. So why not use fresh or dried herbs instead or even herbal infusions?
Essential oils do not contain any vitamins or minerals like herbs do. I have and am continuing to study herbalism extensively and one of the things I love about true French Aromatherapy is that it is a combination of herbalism and aromatherapy. They exist in harmony and balance and practitioners chose the best mode of application - would making an herbal poultice for a burn be a better application than putting an essential oil salve on it? Both are trusted methods of treatment and viable options.
Regarding the safety of ingesting essential oils in food, let us revisit the fact that essential oils are fat soluble meaning they are attracted the fats and not water. Once again, OIL AND WATER DO NOT MIX and that is just elementary science. With any mode of internal application of essential oils, the same safety principles apply, some essential oils are mucous membrane irritants meaning they could cause irritation in your mouth or digestive tract. Other essential oils can interact with certain medications when ingested. These are things to consider with the practice.
The potency of essential oils cannot be understated - you will often see the example comparing one drop of peppermint essential oil being the equivalent of twenty-six cups of peppermint tea. Would you drink that much peppermint tea a day? every day? GRAS (Generally regarded as safe) status does not necessarily indicate that there are zero safety concerns when it comes to ingestion. Things that were deemed GRAS by the FDA were done in parts per million not individual drops in a single beverage or dish. This article clearly outlines the particulars of essential oils and GRAS status.
As an experiment, I wanted to make Rose infused brownies, and I was not going to use a single drop of my precious and expensive Rose essential oil in it. However, I used a rose petal infused olive oil in addition to some powdered rose petals in the brownie mix and it was delicious. In my herbalism studies, there are so many amazing food and beverage preparations with natural materials that do not contain a single drop of essential oils. I prefer herbal infusions for flavoring. I've made infused honey, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar and am eager to experiment further.
If you want to cook with essential oils, no one is stopping you, but consider that there are much better alternatives to doing so that are safer, less expensive, and more sustainable in the long run.
I have been a little quiet lately, but that is because I am up to a lot of exciting new endeavors. First and foremost, I bought a house and am settling and moving on November 5th. I am super excited to have a larger facility to make my products, have small workshops, and facilitate client consultations.
Here are some other exciting things to note for November and December 2018:
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an eclectic witch, certified aromatherapist, herbalist, perfumer, skincare formulator, and incense crafter who specializes in unique creating handcrafted perfumes, bath products, skincare products, soaps, shampoo bars, aromatherapy products, incense blends, ritual oils, botanical charms, candles, and ritual and spell supplies.