A Cleansing

 

snowy skies

 

 

In rainwater soak

Leaves of birch chopped fine

Into it coarse salt pour and

Mix with almond oil

 

 

Strip down bare

Even if cold

Leave not a thread

Even if cold

 

 

As thorough as ever then

Wash your limbs

Wash your body

Wash your hair

Rinse in running water

 

 

With salted birch and oil you then

Scrub your limbs

Scrub your body

Scrub your hair

Rinse in running water

 

 

Afterwards

Clean new clothes

Chamomile and honey tea

Sleep and be reborn

 

 

snowy skies

 

 

 

Mighty Rowan, kära rönn

IMG_2958 (2).JPG

 

Our house lies in between two big old rowan trees. You can see one of them in the picture above, in bloom as they are in the earlier days of summer. Today there are no flowers, but plenty of bright red berries.

The rowan, in Swedish is called rönn, may not be the grandest of trees – often it grows to be no more than a shrub. Nonetheless it has a mighty powerful place in folklore, ancient mythology, and yes, magic. Protective as well as runic magic, most of all. According to an old myth a rowan tree once even saved the life of Thor himself, which is no small feat.

The young leaves can be used for tea, and the berries are edible. Not particularly tasty, but edible. They are completely packed full of vitamin C, so much that three a day will cover what you need. Luckily you don’t have to eat them raw, they can be made into jelly or jam, or even wine. Or you can dry them and add a bit in bread baking, or use in your müsli or whatnot. The birds love them too, and for good reason – rowan berries, or rönnbär, makes up their most important food source in wintertime, at least up here.

One day the two mighty rowan trees by our house will wither and die. It’s alright, there are already young shoots coming up to take their place. We will take care of them, and perhaps they will take care of us.

Blood of Man – Hypericum perforatum – St John’s wort

Hypericum perforatum, also known as perforate St John’s wort, is in many countries classified as a noxious weed. It surprises me! A noxious weed, now that sounds unpleasant and prickly, perhaps even painful. It certainly doesn’t sound like a beautiful flowering herb with well known medicinal properties! But that is just what it is.

In Swedish we know the herb as Johannesört, or as I recently learned, mannablod – an old name meaning ‘blood of man’. It grows in my garden on a sunny south-facing slope, not planted and by design but as a part of the wild and natural flora. In fact, it is not until recently that I have been entirely certain of it being the genuine Johannesört, as there are other varieties which look very, very similar. One in particular is common around here, called ‘square’ Johannesört. And with recently, I actually mean yesterday, as it wasn’t until then that I was entirely certain.

How do I know then?

The first clue is in the latin name – perforatum. If you pick a leaf of the genuine kind and hold it up against the light, you will see what looks like tiny pin prick holes through it. The other one doesn’t have this. The second clue is in the Swedish name of the variety – the ‘square’. It refers to the shape of the stem; the genuine Johannesört has two ridges, while the other one has four – giving a cross-section that looks (and feels) square.

Yesterday as I and the husband took a long walk around the area I took the time to properly look at the herbs we encountered, and interestingly it seems as though the genuine kind, the perforate St John’s herb, is rather rare while the square variety grows in abundance in the area. Which makes me properly motivated to care for the ones growing on our little plot of land!

Now why is this herb interesting in the first place? Oh, there are several reasons.

For starters it is, as I already mentioned, a well known medicinal plant with proven effect on treating depression. Helping a person to relax, it’s also used as a sleeping aid. It has also – in Sweden at least – traditionally been used to give flavour to brännvin, ‘schnaps’ (giving the very alcoholic drink a neat little anti-depressant side effect, yes!).

Now, before I go on, I need to mention that this is not a medicinal plant that you should ingest without proper research. Most importantly it may have a direct adverse effect in combination with other medicines, to the degree where it’s completely un-advisable if you are already on other medication. And that includes birth control pills, which the St John’s wort may screw up. Oh, and if you are bipolar you should also avoid it, as it may give an increased risk of mania. So, be careful. It is medicine, not to be taken lightly.

What else?

Magic. Oh yes. There is a long, long tradition of using this herb for things unacceptable for modern science. For one thing it’s been considered to have powerful protective abilities, and has been long used to ward off evil spirits.

There is much more to learn, but I am going to stop here for now. If you are curious I urge you to google ‘perforate St John’s wort’ or ‘Hypericum perforatum’, and see what you can find. And again, be careful with how you use this herb. It is useful and powerful, but not inherently safe.