Saturday, April 18, 2015

Daffy for Dandelions

I have started offering a service to my friends and neighbors, dandelion removal. The ones in my yard are where I get leaves, flowers, and seeds, I can't harvest their roots. so I have been volunteering to dig up peoples dandelions to get rid of them. My caveat is that they cannot be fertilized or treated. If I feel that the person is being less than forthright I may use those for talismanic work. The rest I will roast and consume. I love dandelions, they grow almost everywhere and they are very useful. Dandelion Spirit is one of my tutelary spirits, a wise sage with deep roots.

Deep Roots

Dandelion, Taraxacum Officinale, has very deep roots, both in actuality and in folklore. Historicallythey are believed to have evolved roughly 30 million years ago in Eurasia. They are considered a hardy, taproot perennial. In other words if you do not remove the root you do not get rid of the dandelion, thus my proposal to friends and neighbors. Some mythological associations include the Sun and Jupiter, in Ayurveda it is attributed to Saturn and air. It is this dualistic aspect that attracts me on the esoteric side.

The roots of dandelions can break up compacted soil and magically that is how one should think of them. They have the power to break through where others cannot. Associations with underworld currents suggest other works that could be accomplished with the roots. Saturnal work is greatly aided by the the addition of dandelion root as materia. The making of an Alruan or root talisman, is described by Sarah Anne Lawless in the article Alraun Crafting: How to Make a Herbal Root Talisman. Personally I just dry them and make a talisman as fits my purposes, but I found her article interesting.

Dandelion roots also have many traditional healing uses and current scientific studies how promise of anti cancer properties. Two chemicals in particular lupeol and taraxinic acid  show promise in clinical trials. Dandelion root is rich in vitamins A, B, C and D and the minerals potassium, iron and zinc. Traditionally it has been used as a diuretic and to treat the urinary tract and filter organs. This includes kidneys, liver and gall bladder. The common method of ingestion is a tisane made from dehydrated roots, sometimes they are roasted and used as a coffee substitute.

 Helios and Saturn

Just as the roots are associated with Saturn, so too are the blooms associated with the sun. At first glance this may seem to make the dandelion double aspected, but upon closer examination we will see that this is not necessarily so. The bright shining face of the dandelion is happy like the sun, bursting forth with the joy of life. In ancient Greece, the Sun was Helios, and in Rome it was Sol, names also attributed to the planet Saturn. Ancient Chaldeans referred to Saturn as Helios and in their own language Alap-Shamas, or "Star of the Sun". What is most interesting about this is that many ancient sources remark upon Saturn's Bright appearance and it was often illustrated with rays or spokes. Some have speculated that there was an astronomical event that created the ring and when it happened a bright disk could be seen around Saturn. I believe there is simpler explanation.

Helios Cthonos is a clue as is Ra as Atum, the ram headed form. Even the Egyptians gave horns to their gods when they traveled the under world. Helios was likewise a traveler of the underworld by night. Saturn is ruler of the underworld, as such he would travel freely across the night. The ancients saw a mirroring of journeys and aspects. Saturn was the secret sun of the dark night. The antithesis of the sun, no longer Sol Invictus, but Sol Niger, the black sun. So back to the dandelion, a cosmos in a flower. Above ground bursting forth and shining bright the dandelion is Sol, Helios, Ra. Below ground digging deep in to Cthonic realms, it is Sol Niger, Helios Cthonos, Atum in Mesektet. This seemingly simple flower has mighty power. It may even help save the world.

One Man's Weed

Many people consider the dandelion a nuisance, just an annoying weed that must be removed. I am a weed. I don't fit in well with manicured society, many would consider me simple and rustic. I am wild and will root where ever I happen to be. Just like the dandelion I find vast riches and freedom on the margins. This often reviled plant has many great uses and benefits. Every part is edible and it has medicinal qualities which I mentioned above. The most commonly consumed parts are the leaves, the flowers and the roots.

I will put dandelion flower petals in salads and I have had them batter dipped and fried. The greens I prefer sauteed like spinach, with olive oil, fresh cracked black pepper and kosher salt. The roasted root makes a great coffee like drink, I like mine with roasted chicory. While reading up on this post I stumbled upon Eat The Weeds, which may be my favorite new find this month. 

The leaves are rich in minerals like magnesium, calcium and iron. They aid with digestion and they have vitamins A, C, and E. They are high in beta carotene and contain plant sterols such as beta-sitosterol and stigmasterol. These are fatty compounds that are similar to cholesterol and help block cholesterol in the body.For a good overview I recommend the University of Maryland Medical Center's website, the supporting research is impressive.

Liquid Sunshine

Alternative to fermenter
Growing up, the elders of my family had one treat that they indulged in every summer Dandelion Wine. To me Dandelion Wine is one of culinary treats that every human should try before shucking their mortal coil. There is nothing dandier that Dandelion Wine, It will aid you in communing with the spirit of this plant, literally. Here is a recipe I have used in the past.

  • 1 package (7 g) dried brewing yeast
  •  2 quarts (230 g) whole dandelion flowers Using 2 quarts+ of just the petals can make for a less bitter wine
  •  4 quarts water (3.785 L)
  •  3 tablespoons (18 g) coarsely chopped orange zest; avoid any white pith
  •  1 tablespoon (6 g) coarsely chopped lemon zest; avoid any white pith
  • Don't do this. Flowers=Bitter Wine
  •  8 cups white sugar 
Wash the flower, remove green bits.
Soak in water, covered for two days.
Bring to a boil with Lemon Zest, Orange Zest and Sugar.
Once you reach a boil, turn off fire and let cool.
Strain. Paper coffee filter are good for this.
Pour into a plastic fermentation container, and attach a fermentation lock. Let the wine ferment in a cool dark area until the bubbles stop, 10 to 14 days. 
Let the wine clarify and then siphon off everything but the lees (sediment).
Bottle and cork, let it sit for about another week in cool dark area before decanting.
Enjoy your exploration with Dandelions. Before I part I will remind you of one bit of lore of the dandelion, blow away its seeds is thought to grant wishes. I personally believe this, because my wish always comes true and I always wish for the same thing, more dandelions. 


Friday, April 10, 2015

Down & Dirty

Spring is here and many are returning to the garden. I am fortunate enough to live in a climate where I garden pretty much year round. This tends to dampen my enthusiasm for spring, in this part of Texas spring is a three week precursor for the hell of summer.I actually prefer the half of the year where the temperatures drop below 90. Despite these reservations, I do still enjoy getting into the dirt.
And when I say get into dirt, I am actually inviting you sit a spell and let me bend your ear, or captivate your mind with the wonders of dirt.

Prima Materia Magica

Over at Hotel Vast Horizon, Aidan wrote about Philosophy & Theory  of Sorcery/Magic/Sacred Arts/Prayer where he uses a meadow as an analogy for the totality of experience. What struck was this snippet, "It’s full of vibrant life. Soil bacteria, microbes, fungi, teeny tiny insects & creatures from very small to huge."What I particularly love about this is the acknowledgement of the parts that make the whole. This why I consider Dirt to be Prima Materia Magica, it contains parts of the whole. Everything that ever was, is and will be started as dirt and will end up as dirt. Dirt births us, sustains us and embraces us in death, and it does so for all of life.

As people begin to tend there gardens I hope they take a moment to nurture their dirt. Dirt is a community of bacteria, fungal mycellium, and microbes. These are the things that along with minerals will help your plants grow. Love your dirt. To acquaint yourself with the primacy of dirt try this simple exercise:
  1. Go outside and dig up a handful of dirt.
  2. Put it in an open container.
  3. Smell the dirt every morning.
  4. Do this for a week.
  5. Write about your experience.
Tip: If the dirt loses some of its "oomph" water it with a mister. I guarantee you will feel better just from doing this. Dirt is magical.

Dirt Magic

When it comes to dirt Magic it is hard to know where to begin, so I will start with the dirt beneath me.Quite simply dirt is the flesh of the Mother and as such a connection to her. Through this you are connected to the entire web of life and death. Since I work with both hands I will talk about how dirt can harm and heal. There are many uses of dirt in many traditions, but I will confine myself to HooDoo and Santeria, the two traditions with which I have the most knowledge and experience. 
Graveyard Dirt
This is by far the most popular dirt used in magic and it has a wide variety of uses, although the two that seem most common are protection spells and harmful spells. I personally use it in rites of necromancy amongst other things. The important thing about graveyard dirt is to obtain it in the proper manner, in HooDoo this is called buying the dirt. If you want to know more about that I strongly recommend The section on Graveyard Dirt at Lucky Mojo as a good start.You will also find information about the different types of dirt to be had in the graveyard. As an example if you are going to use graveyard dirt in a love spell (it happens), then you probably don't want collect it from a murderer's grave, that sort of thing.
Crossroads Dirt
The dirt of the Crossroads has the power of the Crossroads itself, the power to bring about change. This dirt can be used as a proxy for the Crossroads as well. A colleague keeps some on her altar, in a cauldron with a miniature stang so she can access this power at anytime. She does have to recharge with fresh dirt about once a month. Crossroads dirt is also used in protection work and banishings. On the other side it is used to "Cross" a situation or even to cause great indecision in a person. always leave an offering when taking dirt from the crossroads.
Track Dirt
Track Dirt comes from the path any animal makes in the dirt. Some dirt from the animal track will have some energy from the animal in it. In the case of all animals other than shod humans there is liminal quality to this dirt, it is literally the point of contact between that organism and the Mother. This could be used for anything from shape-shifting to spirit communion. It will depend on what animal made the track and your relationship to that animal as to how you choose to use it.
Churchyard Dirt
This is exactly what it sounds like, dirt form the grounds of a church. Again this is a dirt that is used in a variety of ways, but mainly either as a blessing or as a curse. Some also use it to communicate with Angels or Underworld Spirits. Traditionally dirt from Catholic Churches is used as most still sanctify the land before the church is built. I wonder if Synagogue dirt could be used the same way?
Other Dirts
Other Dirts are used in a contagion type of way, in that where the dirt comes from will exert influence over that energy. Some examples are:
  • Bank Dirt - Prosperity
  • Library Dirt - Knowledge
  • Racetrack Dirt - Gambling
  • Courthouse Dirt - Legal Issues
Once you begin to work with dirt, you will discover more and more ways to use it.


Geophagy literally means earth eating. I have cousins in East Texas who ate dirt. I used to believe this was just some quaint southern thing, but then I found out about diatomaceous earth and bentonite clay. While researching these topics I came across a New York Times piece, Southern Practice of Eating Dirt Shows Signs of Waning, again I was confronted with the image of southerners eating dirt. More research yielded this nugget from Berthold Laufer (love that name), simply titled "Geophagy". That was written in 1930 and as far as I know, there are not many papers that attempted to present such a comprehensive picture of the practice, which is Global.

Now, however, the internet seems to be teeming with information on the topic, even mainstream news has covered the topic in a more positive light. Then I hit the Mother Lode, that kernel that had eluded me for so long, evidence of ritualistic geophagy. In section 23.3.3 (yes I like that number) of Soil and Culture , edited by Edward R. Landa, and Christian Feller, several examples are cited, most exciting is a reference to present day Guatemala. In Guatemala, small clay tablets are baked with crosses and other symbols and consumed in much the same way as the Host in communion. At Esquipulas Basilica, pilgrims gather to venerate Christo Negro, or the Black Christ. Kaolin clay, which is used in Kaopectate, is baked into the aforementioned clay tablets and consumed.

I personally incorporate geophagy into some of my rites. It gives me a certain connectedness to works involving earth energies, and aids in shape-shifting. I have used diatomaceous earth and bentonite clay, both with profound effects. When it comes to geophagy, I say, "Eat Dirt!"

Using Dirt

In addition to geophagy there are other ways one can incorporate dirt into their practice. Some of the methods I use are Point of Contact, Powders(Polvos), and Sachets. Each of these techniques is useful in different ways and I will attempt to briefly describe each.

A point of contact is a magical link, which works along the lines of quantum entanglement. To connect to the power of a place take some dirt. This technique is more powerful if it comes from a place of power. Always when taking dirt ask permission. Of whom? The spirits of the land, the crossroads, the graveyard, and sometimes the property owner. This why dirt is powerful, is stores energy, it is the ground of all things.

Powders, polvos en EspaƱol, are made with herbs, magnetic sand, salt, cobwebs, dirt, seeds, seashells, and anything else that can be ground up into a powder. Normally one uses an odd number of ingredients, the reasoning behind this is intriguing. Basically even numbers are balanced or settled, whereas an odd number is active or unbalanced. In order to push a work you must upset the way things are and shape how things will be. Information on this is everywhere, but I strongly recommend Catherine Yronwode's big green book, Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic: A Materia Magica of African-American Conjure. You leave powder anywhere you believe your mark will be.

Sachets, mojo bags, and nation bags work on similar principles, but for different reasons, do a search you'll find all sorts of information. Just start reading Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by Catherine Yronwode at the aforementioned Lucky Mojo. One either starts with a cotton or flannel (sometimes silk) drawstring bag, picking a color suitable to the work. Certain items are added to the bag, again in odd amounts. The bag is then fed over time. This involves either oils or powders being applied to or into the bag. This bag is carried to bring the work directly to the person.

I am sure there are many more ways to work with dirt, I have only scratched the surface. The key as always, is to experiment and communicate with your guides. They will show you things about dirt you never imagined. Right there in the garden and at your feet the most profound of the Mysteries; Dirt.

This is the trailer for Dirt! the movie, if you have not seen it, please do, it will change everything about how you see dirt. Life's a garden, dig it.