Monday, November 26, 2012

We Are the Other People by Oberon Zell (Unabridged)

Hugo van der Goes, 1470.
Ideal beauty is also a social construct. 
One of my personal favourites!  There is only one other blog I know of hosting this currently, and while I don't want to detract from them, I worry that this might not always be available. There have been several long periods when I haven't been able to find this easily on the 'net, so I'm going to reproduce it here to give it a bump.

This sentiment is one of the many reasons I personally don't resonate with the Abrahamic messaging of Sin or Salvation.  There is nothing to save *me* from...  In their mythology, we are all one family, but the pagans have strayed. In ours, they are a separate people; beginning from a very small group and now grown, but still, their myths and dogma are not ours..

This was published years ago in "Green Egg" magazine.  All the links I can find to the Chick tract satire version of this are broken.  If anyone can find me a copy, I'd love to see it again!

We Are the Other People

"Ding-dong!" goes the doorbell. Is it Avon calling? Or perhaps Ed McMahon with my three million dollars? No, it's Yahweh's Witlesses again, just wanting to have a nice little chat about the Bible... 

Boy, did they ever come to the wrong house! So we invite them in: "Enter freely and of your own will..." (Hey, it's Sunday morning, nothing much going on, why not have a little entertainment?) Diane and I amuse ourselves watching their expressions as they check out the living room: great horned owl on the back of my chair; ceremonial masks and medicine skulls of dragons and unicorns on the wall; crystals, wands, staffs, swords; lots of Goddess figures and several altars; boa constrictors draped in amorous embrace over the elkhorn; white doves sitting in the hanging planters; cats and weasels underfoot; iron dragon snorting steam atop the wood stove; posters and paintings of wizards and dinosaurs and witchy women, some proudly naked; sculptures of mythological beasties and lots more dinosaurs; warp six on the star-filled viewscreen of my computer; a five-foot model of the USS Enterprise and the skeleton of a plesiosaur hanging from the ceiling; very, very many books, most of them dealing with obviously weird subjects... To say nothing of the great horned owl perched on the back of my chair and the Unicorn grazing in the front yard. You know; early Addams Family decor. And then, of course, it being late in the morning, you can expect Morning Glory to come wandering out naked, looking for her wake-up cup of tea. Morning Glory naked is a truly impressive sight, and the Witlesses look as if she'd set titties on stun as they stand immobilized, hands clasped over their genitals.

With the stage set and all the actors in place, the show is ready to begin. Their mission, of course, is to save our heathen souls by turning us on to "The Word of the Lord"- their Bible. I guess they figger some of us just haven't heard about it yet, and we're all eagerly awaiting their joyous tidings of personal salvation through giving our rational faculties to Jesus. Every time they come around, I look forward to trying out a new riposte. Sure, it may be cruel and sadistic of me, but hey, I didn't call them up and ask them to come over; they entered at their own risk! This time should be pretty good. After letting them run off their basic rap while lovely Morning Glory serves us all hot herb tea, I innocently remark: "But none of that applies to us. We have no need for salvation because we don't have original sin. We are the Other People."

"Hunh? What?" they reply eloquently. It's clear they've never heard this one before.

"Right," I say. "It's all in your Bible." And I proceed to tell them the story, using their own book for reference: (Genesis 1:26) The [Elohim] said, "Let us make humanity in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves, and let them be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven, the cattle, all the wild beasts and all the reptiles that crawl upon the earth." Elohim is a plural word, including male and female, and should properly be translated "Gods" or "Pantheon." (1: 27) The Gods created humanity in the image of themselves, In the image of the Gods they created them, Male and female they created them. (1:28) The Gods blessed them, saying to them, "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and conquer it. Be masters of the fish of the sea, the birds of heaven and all living animals on the earth."

Now clearly, here we are talking about the original creation of the human species: male and female. All the animals, plants, etc. have all been created in previous verses. This is before the Garden of Eden, and Yahweh is not mentioned as the creator of these people.

The next chapter talks about how Yahweh, an individual member of the Pantheon, goes about assembling his own special little botanical and zoological Garden in Eden, and making his own little man to inhabit it: (Gen 2:7) Yahweh God fashioned a man of dust from the soil. Then he breathed into his nostrils a breath of life, and thus the man became a living being. (2:8) Yahweh God planted a garden in Eden which is in the east, and there he put the man he had fashioned. (2:9) Yahweh God caused to spring up from the soil every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat, with the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden. (2:15) Yahweh God took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and take care of it. Now this next is crucial: note Yahweh's precise words: (2:16) Then Yahweh God gave the man this admonition, "You may eat indeed of all the trees in the garden. (2:17) Nevertheless of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you are not to eat, for on the day you eat of it you shall most surely die." Fateful words, those. We will refer back to this admonition later.

Then Yahweh decides to make a woman to go with the man. Now, don't forget that the Pantheon had earlier created a whole population of people, "male and female," who are presumably doing just fine somewhere "outside the gates of Eden." But this set-up in Eden is Yahweh's own little experiment, and will unfold to its own separate destiny. (2:21) So Yahweh God made the man fall into a deep sleep. And while he slept, he took one of his ribs and enclosed it in flesh. (2:22) Yahweh God built the rib he had taken from the man into a woman, and brought her to the man. Right. Man gives birth to woman. Sure he does. But that's the way the story is told here. (2:25) Now both of them were naked, the man and his wife, but they felt no shame in front of each other. Well, of course not! Why should they? But take careful note of those words, as they also will prove to be significant...

Now this next part is where it starts to get interesting. Enter the Serpent: (Gen. 3:1) The serpent was the most subtle of all the wild beasts that Yahweh God had made. It asked the woman, "Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?" (3:2) The woman answered the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden. (3:3) "But of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, 'You must not eat it, nor touch it, under pain of death." (3:4) Then the serpent said to the woman, "No! You will not die! (3:5) "God knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil." What a remarkable statement! "Your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil." The Serpent directly contradicts Yahweh. Obviously, one of them has to be lying. Which one, do you suppose? And, if the serpent speaks true, wouldn't you wish to eat of the magic fruit? Wouldn't it be a good thing, to become "like gods, knowing good and evil"? Or is it preferable to remain in ignorance?

(Gen. 3:6) The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye, and that it was desirable for the knowledge that it could give. So she took some of its fruit and ate it. She gave some also to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. (3:7) Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized that they were naked. So they sewed fig leaves together to make themselves loincloths. The author makes an interesting assumption here: that if you realize you are naked you will automatically want to cover yourself. Further implications will unfold shortly...

(Gen. 3:8) The man and his wife heard the sound of Yahweh God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from Yahweh God among the trees of the garden. (3:9) But Yahweh God called to the man. "Where are you?" he asked. (3:10) "I heard the sound of you in the garden," he replied. "I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid." (3:11) "Who told you that you were naked?" he asked. "Have you been eating of the tree I forbade you to eat?"

And so the sign of the Fall becomes modesty. Take note of this. The descendants of Adam and Eve will be distinguished throughout history from virtually all other peoples by their obsessive modesty taboos, wherein they will feel ashamed of being naked. It follows that those who feel no shame in being naked are, by definition, not carriers of this spiritual disease of original sin!

(Gen. 3:12) The man replied, "It was the woman you put with me; she gave me the fruit, and I ate it." Right. Blame the woman. What a turkey! (3:13) Then Yahweh God asked the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman replied, "The serpent tempted me and I ate." So of course she blames the serpent. But just what did the serpent do that was so evil? Why, he called Yahweh a liar! Was he wrong? Let's see... (3:21) Yahweh God made clothes out of skins for the man and his wife, and they put them on. Out of skins? This means that Yahweh had to kill some innocent animals to pander to Adam and Eve's new obsession with modesty!

And now we come to the crux of the Fall. Yahweh had said back there in chapter (2:17), regarding the fruit of the tree of knowledge, that "on the day you eat of it you shall most surely die." The Serpent, on the other hand, had contradicted Yahweh in chapter (3:4-5): "No! You will not die! God knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil." So what actually happened? Who lied and who told the truth about this remarkable fruit? The answer is given in the next verse: (3:22) Then Yahweh God said, "See, the man has become like one of us, with his knowledge of good and evil. He must not be allowed to stretch his hand out next and pick from the tree of life also, and eat some and live forever."

Get that? Yahweh himself admits that he had lied! In fact, and in Yahweh's own words, the Serpent spoke the absolute truth! And moreover, Yahweh tells the rest of the Pantheon that he intends to evict Adam (and presumably Eve as well) to keep them from gaining immortality to go with their newly-acquired divine knowledge. To prevent them, in other words, from truly becoming gods.

So who, in this story, comes off as a benefactor of humanity, and who comes off as a tyrant? THE SERPENT NEVER LIED!

This story, to digress slightly, bears a remarkable resemblance to a contemporary tale from ancient Greece. In that version, the Serpent (later identified as Lucifer, the Light-Bearer) may be equated with the heroic titan Prometheus, who championed humanity against the tyranny of Zeus, who wished for people to be mere slaves of the gods. Prometheus, whose name means "forethought," gave people wisdom, intelligence, and fire stolen from Olympus. Moreover, he ordained the portions of animal sacrifice so that humans got the best parts (the meat and hides) while the portion that was burned to the gods was the bones and fat. In punishment for this defiance of his divine authority, Zeus condemned Prometheus to a terrible punishment for an immortal: to be chained to a mountain in the Caucasus, where Zeus' gryphon/eagle (actually a Lammergeir) would devour his liver each day. It would grow back each night. Zeus promised to relent if Prometheus would reveal his great secret knowledge: Who would succeed Zeus as supreme god? Prometheus refused to tell, but history has revealed the answer... The interesting thing about all this is that the Greeks properly regarded Prometheus as a noble hero in his defiance of unjust tyranny. One may wonder why the Serpent is not so well regarded. On the contrary, snakes are loathed throughout Christiandom. (3:23) So Yahweh God expelled him from the garden of Eden, to till the soil from which he had been taken. (3:24) He banished the man, and in front of the garden of Eden he posted the cherubs, and the flame of a flashing sword, to guard the way to the tree of life.

So that's it for the Fall. But the story of Adam and Eve doesn't end there. (Gen 4:1) The man had intercourse with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain... (4:2) She gave birth to a second child, Abel, the brother of Cain. Now Abel became a shepherd and kept flocks, while Cain tilled the soil. (4:3) Time passed and Cain brought some of the produce of the soil as an offering for Yahweh, (4:4) while Abel, for his part, brought the first-born of his flock and some of their fat as well. Yahweh looked with favor on Abel and his offering. But he did not look with favor on Cain and his offering, and Cain was very angry and downcast. Well, why shouldn't he be? Both brothers had brought forth their first fruits as offerings, but Yahweh rejected the vegetables and only accepted the blood sacrifice. This was to set a gruesome precedent: (4:8) Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let us go out;" and while they were in the open country, Cain set on his brother Abel and killed him.

Accursed and marked for fratricide, (4:16) Cain left the presence of Yahweh and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. We can assume that the phrase "left the presence of Yahweh" implies that Yahweh is a local deity, and not omnipresent. Now Eden, according to (Gen. 2:14-15), was situated at the source of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, apparently right where Lake Van is now, in Turkey. "East of Eden," therefore, would probably be along the shores of the Caspian Sea, right in the Indo-European heartland. Cain settled in there, among the people of Nod, and married one of the women of that country. Here, for the first time, is specifically mentioned the "other people" who are not of the lineage of Adam and Eve. i.e: the Pagans.

So let's look at this story from another viewpoint: There we were, around six thousand years ago, living in our little farming communities around the Caspian Sea, in the land of Nod, when this dude with a terrible scar comes stumbling in out of the sunset. He tells us this bizarre story, about how his mother and father had been created by some god named Jahweh, and put in charge of a beautiful garden somewhere out west, and how they had gotten thrown out for disobedience after eating some of the landlord's forbidden magic fruit of enlightenment. He tells us of murdering his brother, as the god of his parents would only accept blood sacrifice, and of receiving that scar as a mark so that all would know him as a fratricide.

The poor guy is really a mess psychologically, obsessed with guilt. He is also obsessively modest, insisting on wearing clothes even in the hottest summer, and he has a hard time with our penchant for skinny-dipping in the warm inland sea. He seems to believe that he is tainted by the "sin" of his parent's disobedience; that it is in his blood, somehow, and will continue to contaminate his children and his children's children.

One of our healing women takes pity on the poor sucker, and marries him... (4:17) Cain had intercourse with his wife, and she conceived and gave birth to Enoch. He became the builder of a town, and he gave the town the name of his son Enoch.

With both of their first sons not turning out very well, Adam and Eve decided to try again: (4:25) Adam had intercourse with his wife, and she gave birth to a son whom she named Seth... (4:26) A son was also born to Seth, and he named him Enosh. This man was the first to invoke the name of Yahweh. Now it doesn't mention here where Seth's wife came from. Another woman from Nod, possibly, or maybe someone from another neolithic community downstream in the Tigris-Euphrates valley. But her folks also, cannot be of the lineage of Adam and Eve, and must also be counted among "the other people."

But whatever happened to Adam? After all, way back there in chapter Gen. 2:17, warning Adam about the magic fruit of knowledge, Jahweh had told him that "on the day you eat of it you shall most surely die." So, when did Adam die? (Gen. 5:4) Adam lived for eight hundred years after the birth of Seth and he became the father of sons and daughters. (5:5) In all, Adam lived for nine hundred and thirty years; then he died. Hey, that's pretty good! Nine hundred and some odd years isn't bad for a man who's been told he's gonna die the next day!

Well, the story goes on, and maybe next time the Witlesses come to visit I'll tell more of it. But suffice it to say that those of us who are not of Semitic descent (i.e., not of the lineage of Adam and Eve) cannot share in the Original Sin that comes with that lineage. Being that the Bible is the story of that lineage, of Adam and Eve's descendants and their special relationship with their particular god, Yahweh, it follows that this is not the story of the rest of us. We may have been Cain's wife's people, or Seth's wife's people, or some other people over the hill and far away, but whichever people the rest of us are, as far as the Bible is concerned, we are the Other People, and so we are continually referred to throughout.

Later books of the Bible are filled with admonitions to the followers of Jahweh to "learn not the ways of the Pagans..." (Jer 10:2) with detailed descriptions of exactly what it is we do, such as erect standing stones and sacred poles, worship in sacred groves and practice divination and magic. And worship the sun, moon, stars and the "Queen of Heaven." "You must not behave as they do in Egypt where once you lived; you must not behave as they do in Canaan where I am taking you. You must not follow their laws." (Lev 18:3) For Yahweh, as he so clearly emphasizes, is not the god of the Pagans. We have our own lineage and our own heritage, and our tale is not told in the Bible. We were not "made" like clay figurines by a male deity out of "dust from the soil." We were born of our Mother the Earth, and have evolved over aeons in Her nurturing embrace. All of us, in our many and diverse tribes, have creation myths and legends of our origins and history; some of these tales may even be actually true.

Like the descendants of Adam and Eve, many of us also have stories of great floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other cataclysms that wiped out whole communities of our people, wherein "I alone survived to tell the tale." Nearly all of our ancestral tribes (and especially those of us who today are reclaiming our own Pagan heritage) lack that peculiar obsessive body modesty that seems to be a hallmark of the original sin alluded to in the story of the Fall. We can be naked and unashamed! Why, our Goddess even tells us, "as a sign that you are truly free, you shall be naked in your rites." Not being born into sin, we have no need of salvation, and no need of a Messiah to redeem our sinful souls.

Neither heaven nor hell is our destination in the afterlife; we have our own various arrangements with our own various deities. The Bible is not our story; we have our own stories to tell, and they are many and diverse. In a long life, you may get to hear many of them... May you live long and prosper!"

(Ed. note: This is written from the Wiccan perspective.  As far as I know, it's only their sect that promotes nudity for every rite.  The rest of us usually save it for special occations, though it is true that most of the rest of the world isn't nearly as body shameful as the Abrahamics...)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Washing Grains: Traditional Soapless Cleanser for all skin types

Another great traditional cosmetic found in almost every ancient beauty book from around the world.  From azuki beans to almonds to rice bran, ingredients usually feature local products, but most have at least a few exotics in them, for both medicinal purposes and to lend a sense of elegance and luxury.  Naturally soapless, they cleanse the skin of oils and impurities, as well as exfoliate and smooth the surface without harm.  If the herbs are chosen with health conditions in mind, they can even out tone, soften lines and wrinkles, and help cure everything from psoriasis and eczema to blemishes!

I made this originally for myself, as I couldn't find any on the market made with quality ingredients as well as reasonably priced, and it is now my most popular product. You'll see these in boutiques and spas for four times the amount, but they all used to be made at home. I find that, used daily, the healing herbs and exfoliation can appear to take 5-10 years off my face in about two weeks. They work like magic!  They are also a welcome and thoughtful handmade gift, and an essential for a home spa day.

My version of washing grains are based on years of experimentation on ancient formulations with modern sensibilities in mind. I use only organic ingredients where possible, including the essential oils, so this cleanser has the least chance of reaction for even the most sensitive skin. I designed this product to work with any other regime and for everyday use. It contains no nut products, which have allergy issues, and can spoil if not used directly. These will keep almost indefinitely, though using herbs as soon as possible is always best. I grind them at the lowest temperature as possible so as not to decrease the efficacy of the delicate herbs and oils.  I use newly dried herbs, since using fresh will mean that you must use them within one or two days, and it will already be a paste.  Rather like a facial pesto, it is also traditional, of course, but requires a bit more fussiness. Feel free to give it a try!

They can also be used as a mud masks - once or twice a week is recommended. Water, honey and yogurt can be used as a base with the Grains. Honey is antibacterial and is especially recommended for problem skin. For a slight natural bleaching effect for freckles and blemishes, the Acidophilus in yogurt increases the efficacy of the elderflower.

If you've never used Grains before, I recommend starting off in the bath or shower, as they can be tricky to rinse off completely in a sink. Now I know why previous generations needed a basin on their vanities: to splash off Washing Grains!

My typical batch can include:

Oatmeal : For softening, exfoliating, and relieves irritations.
Cornmeal: Exfoliating. Considered sacred by peoples of the Americas.
Kelp: Exfoliating. High in vitamins and minerals.
Clay: Used to draw out toxins and other impurities from the skin while providing minerals.
Fennel: Wrinkle remover. Fragrance herb.
White Willow: Moisturizing. Healing wash for eruptions and sores.
Nettle. Astringent, tonic, improves skin. Very high in vitamins and minerals.
Lavender flowers: Soothing. Stimulates circulation. Toning. Anti-microbial and topical antiseptic. Healing for cuts, burns. Fragrance.
Rose petals: Wrinkle removing, moisturizing. Fragrance. Sacred in Western Europe.
Linden: Softening, healing. Wrinkle removing, antiseptic, mildly bleaching. Fragrance.
St. John's Wort: Anti-microbial. Healing for skin ulcerations and severe conditions.
Red Clover: Skin conditions of all types. Purifier. Blood cleanser.
Yarrow: Astringent and healing, especially for cuts and gashes.
Elderflowers: Tonic. Clears and softens skin, smoothes wrinkles and bleaches freckles.
Calendula: Treats inflammation, wounds, irritations, and sores.
Chaparral: Treats severe skin conditions, including serious infections.

Add only a small amount of the essential oil of your choice into the mix, or whisk in at the end for different batches.  Any more than a drop or two, and you risk it becoming a bit more tingly than you might be comfortable with, as well as creating a rather lumpy mixture.  Many essential oils have medicinal as well as perfumery properties, so keep in mind the effect you want.  Don't use fragrance oils. They have no medicinal properties, can clog your skin, and are usually entirely a chemical creation.

Use the bases in greater ratio than the herbs.  You don't actually need many herbs, and they can be rather stick-like.  Grind everything to a fine powder in a coffee grinder, wheat mill, or blender specifically set aside for this purpose.  Take a break if it's gets too hot. You wouldn't want to ruin all the best parts of the ingredients. Experiment with the ratios to get the effect you want.  Don't be afraid to try some of the traditional formulations with different beans and nuts.  Some of those are much harder, though, and may require a hammer to get down to a reasonable size before grinding, which is another reason I don't use them.  It's too much wear and tear on my equipment, since I make so much of these... Each nut and bean has different effects and properties, but remember to keep those types in the fridge to minimize degradation.  And keep track of your recipes!  You may hit upon the next, greatest version, and we'll all want to know about it...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Four Thieves Vinegar: Non-toxic & Natural Disinfectant & Cleanser

From what evidence we have, infused vinegars have existed almost since we first discovered vinegar.  It's so useful by itself, and infusing it increases its effectiveness and potency.  Its many functions include:

- culinary

- preservation
- beauty regimes
- cleansing
- disinfection
- anti-infestation

I have gone into detail on some of the cosmetic vinegar infusions in this post.  Now would be the time to start making them for the holidays, if you were considering giving them as gifts, by the way...

Herbally infused vinegars are natural, organic, non-toxic, inexpensive, traditional technology that used to and still can replace so many of our modern products.  They can be full strength for cleaning and disinfecting, as an insect discouragement or anti-fungal. With the proper ingredients, they are remarkably effective against bacteria, as well as an efficient cleanser which leaves a refreshing scent. I personally have used the diluted spray to cure my apple trees of a debilitating fungus that had been plaguing them for years. I also got rid of the aphids on my Virginia Creeper and created a scent barrier against ants getting into my house.

Diluted, often with rosewater, it was used as a cosmetic, to tone the face, clear up eruptions, refresh clothing, and in a sponge nosegay, was kept near the face to ward off the Plague. Certain physicians are still called quacks due to the medieval practice of wearing a duck-like mask with a sponge of aromatic vinegar resting in the beak when visiting areas of contagion. Perhaps it's currently an insult to call a doctor a quack because it implies their techniques are right out of the Middle Ages.

It should be used only with extreme caution during pregnancy, as some of the herbs are abortifacient. I used it when I was pregnant with my son to no ill effects, but I took care not to get any on my skin.

Four Thieves Oil is a very modern invention, and not the same thing at all.  It usually contains essential oils of similar herbs, but oils and aqueous infusions do not often share the same properties.  It cannot be used for all the same purposes as the vinegar formulations, and are often far more expensive.  Though it apparently can be used for similar magical purposes, such as banishment, in Vodun and other systems...

The first actual record we have for the version known as Four Thieves is not medieval. If it is indeed an actual record. Most of the "documentation" are really stories. I will take the liberty to re-post this excellent history.  (I'd credit it if I knew the original source, but this exact version is all over the 'net.):

The famous French aromatherapy doctor, Jean Valnet, has two recipes in his book. He claims the original recipe was revealed by corpse robbers who were caught red-handed in the area around Toulouse in 1628-1631. His story is the more credible of the many one can find. Given the virulence and deadliness of the plague, the judges were astonished by the indifference of the thieves to contagion. Valnet quotes the archives of the Parliament of Toulouse:
During the Great Plague, four robbers were convicted of going to the houses of plague victims, strangling them in their beds and then looting their dwellings. For this, they were condemned to be burned at the stake, and in order to have their sentence mitigated, they revealed their secret preservative, after which they were hanged.
Given the source, I choose to believe the Valnet account, but there have obviously been many spins of the tale. Here is the recipe stated to be the original:
  Original Recipe for Four Thieves Formula
3 pints white wine vinegar
handful wormwood
handful meadowsweet
handful juniper berries
handful wild marjoram
handful sage
50 cloves
2 oz. elecampane root
2 oz. angelica
2 oz. rosemary
2 oz. horehound
3 g camphor
Dr. Valnet has a variation of his own described as an antiseptic vinegar:
Marseilles Vinegar or Four Thieves Vinegar
40 g. greater wormwood, Artemesia absinthum
40 g. lesser wormwood, Artemesia pontica
40 g. rosemary
40 g. sage
40 g. mint
40 g. rue
40 g. lavender
5 g. calamus
5 g. cinnamon
5 g. clove
5 g. nutmeg
5 g. garlic
10 g. camphor (do not use synthetic camphor)
40 g. crystallized acetic acid
2500 g. white vinegar
Instructions: steep the plants in the vinegar for 10 days. Force through a sieve. Add the camphor dissolved in the acetic acid, filter.
Valnet says his formula is useful in the prevention of infectious diseases. He says to rub it on the face and hands and burn it in the room. It can also be kept in small bottles that are carried on the person so that the vapors can be inhaled.

Years of experimentation using historical and modern recipes have helped create my interpretation of this legendary liquid. My version is an amalgam of several different recipes, taking into account what was commonly available, especially in England, during the medieval period, and what was in my garden fresh.  It is a concoction of white wine vinegar steeped in aromatic and anti-bacterial herbs such as garlic, rue, and wormwood for a number of days, then filtered and used in dilution with water for cleansing the house and other areas.

Remember:  Only use real, brewed vinegar for all these recipes. Ordinary store bought white vinegar is just lab-created Acetic Acid diluted to 5%.It doesn't have the same richness of composition or balance of acids as real brewed vinegar, or the same sustainability. Try these recipes with other base vinegars, too, such as apple cider and rice wine! 

Here is my exact recipe, for those that want to try it at home, or who just want to see how crazy I get when I make these things.

My Four Thieves Vinegar Recipe:

Approximately the same sized twig piece of each:

fresh peppermint
fresh thyme
fresh rue
fresh rosemary
fresh wormwood
fresh sage

four cloves garlic (slightly crushed to release the allicin)
3 bay leaves
4 cloves
4 small pieces cinnamon bark

Place ingredients in old, clean, spaghetti jar. Fill remainder of jar with white wine vinegar, stir to get rid of bubbles, add lid, and place in sunlight, like windowsill. Herbs will lose colour after a few days. Then you filter and can add a bit more herbs for a really strong batch.

Filter out completely in a few weeks, bottle and label.

Article published on Witchvox on December 30, 2012.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Stevia: The Miracle Sweetener & How to Use it!

Dried Stevia

"What if there were a natural sweetener that:

Was 300 times sweeter than regular sugar, with minimal aftertaste
Had no calories
Was suitable for diabetics
Appropriate for children
Did not cause cavities
Was heat stable and thus could be used for cooking and baking
Was a great alternative to synthetic sweeteners
Easily blended with other sweeteners, such as honey
And already widely and safely consumed in many countries around the world for decades.

Well, this remarkable, no-calorie sweetener called Stevia is, unfortunately, not a household name. It should be... With the availability of Stevia, there seems to be little reason to use artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin."

Humans have used Stevia for centuries with no known side effects. The Japanese and others have been using it commercially to sweeten their treats for decades.  People who have little tolerance for sugar or other sweeteners can use Stevia leaf or Stevia extract. Studies suggest that Stevia has a regulating effect on the pancreas and could help stabilize blood sugar levels in the body, due possibly to its Chromium component, therefore making Stevia a better choice for people with diabetes, hypoglycemia, and those prone to Candida. Traditionally Stevia is indicated as a cardiotonic, anti-gas, and for obesity. Stevia is also used to reduce acidity (heart burn), hypertension, and to lower uric acid levels. Research suggest that Stevia will fight bacteria in the mouth. The sweetening power of Stevia extract is estimated to be 300 times that of sugar. Both leaf and extract may be used in cooking.
Diabetes and Hypoglycemia
Scientific research has indicated that Stevia regulates blood sugar levels, bringing it to a normal balance.

Weight Management
Stevia contains 0 calories, making it the ideal sweetener for any weight loss or weight management diets.

Studies have also shown that Stevia works as a cardiovascular tonic, lowering high blood pressure.

Stevia inhibits the growth and reproduction of bacteria and other infectious organisms like those that cause colds, flu and dental caries.

Skin care
Applied as a face mask, Stevia smoothes out wrinkles and is effective in healing acne and in treating seborrhea, eczema and dermatitis.

Taken as an herbal tea, Stevia improves digestion and gastrointestinal functions and effectively soothes upset stomachs.

Raw Leaf vs. Extract

I have the fresh leaf in my garden, which of course is the cheapest to use.  However, the fresh leaf can't be substituted directly in recipes that require sugar.  I can dry it in the winter, and then powder it, of course, which is still far cheaper than the prepared forms in the health food stores.  Those have a purpose, though, too.  They are standardized, fully prepared and completely water soluble, so it might be worth paying the premium to know exactly how much you need, and not to have to filter all those darn leaves.  Easier to carry around with you to use during the day, too.

So be careful in the recipes below!  Keep in mind which concentration level of the stevia you are using is.  Raw form is of course far less powerful than extract, but the price certainly compensates for that...

Recipes and Suggestions for Use:

For teas, infuse the raw fresh or dried herb as usual in with your other black or herbal leaves.  No need for additional sweetener!
When substituting and experimenting with your stevia in cooking and baking, remember that it has no calories, so it doesn't provide the nutrients needed for rising yeast, for example. The raw or dried leaves can be made into an infusion, filtered, and directly included as the liquid component in recipes using water or milk for most purposes, though. It's far cheaper than the concentrated health food store version, if a bit more of a bother.
How to make herbal infusions:

Get inventive, and send us some of your suggestions!
Easy Ginger Ale

3 ounces ginger syrup (see below)
5 ounces sparkling mineral water
ice cubes

Pour the syrup into a 10-ounce glass and add the ice cubes. Slowly add the sparkling water. Stir and serve. 


With minimum effort, you can make this flavorful stevia-sweetened syrup to have on hand whenever you're in the mood for a refreshing glass of sparkling ginger ale.

4 cups water
4-or 5-inch piece fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon white Stevia powder
2 tablespoons vanilla flavoring
1 tablespoon lemon extract

Peel and finely chop the ginger. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the ginger and Stevia, reduce the heat to low, and simmer gently for 8 to 10 minutes. Strain the liquid into a heat proof container, and stir in the vanilla and lemon. Covered and refrigerated, this syrup will keep for several days.

Flourless/Sugarless Chocolate Cake (non-vegan)
14 oz semi-sweet chocolate chopped
3/4 cup plus 2 TBS. unsalted butter
10 egg yolks
1 tsp. Stevia
1 TBS. vanilla extract
1 tsp. lemon juice
10 egg whites
1/2 tsp. Stevia
2 cups heavy cream, whipped


Melt chocolate and butter in top of double boiler, or in microwave. Set aside to cool slightly. Beat yolks and the Stevia until smooth; stir in vanilla and lemon juice. Blend in chocolate mixture. Beat egg whites in large mixer bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add 1/2 tsp. Stevia, beating until stiff peaks form. Stir 1 cup whites into chocolate mixture, then fold in remaining whites. Pour batter into a 10 or 12-inch pan which has been greased and floured and lined with wax paper. Bake in a preheated over at 250 F for 2 1/2 hours. Cool COMPLETELY on a rack before removing from pan. Serve with whipped cream.

Grandma’s Apple Pie
Yields a 9 inch pie

Pastry for a 9 inch, 2 crust pie
6 cups peeled and thinly sliced pie apples
1 or 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Stevia Extract Powder
2 to 3 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of cloves or allspice
2 tablespoons butter

Fit bottom pastry into a pie dish. In a large mixing bowl sprinkle lemon juice over apples and stir to mix. Using a cup or small bowl stir together Stevia, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves or allspice. Sprinkle spice mixture over apples and carefully stir to coat apples. Pile apples into crust. Dot with butter.

With water, moisten the outer rim of the lower crust. Place upper crust on pie and crimp edges together. Slit top of pie to allow steam to escape. Place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees in a preheated oven for 55 to 60 minutes. Aluminum foil can be placed over the pie during the last 15 minutes to prevent over-browning.

Cool on a rack, cover and leave at room temperature overnight or refrigerate if you like. This pie is delicious at any temperature.

Pesto SauceYields 1 cup sauce

This unique herbal sauce freezes well for later use. Goes on sandwiches, salads and pasta dishes or by itself on bread or crackers.

1/2 cup parsley leaves, stems removed
3/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil (olive oil if you prefer)
1/16 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon Green Stevia Powder
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
3 1/2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese or Parmesan style soy cheese

Process in a blender the parsley, garlic, oil, salt and Stevia. Push down the sauce with a rubber spatula as needed. Add remaining ingredients and blend. The sauce need not be entirely smooth. Refrigerate in a covered jar.

Stevia face masque/ Stevia liquid

Green Stevia powder


Brew like tea. Mix residue with extra virgin olive oil. I keep it in the fridge. When this is smoothed on the skin, it is like a cool breeze blowing on your face. Let it dry. When it has dried, rinse off. Your face will feel sooooo smooth and soft. Took 5 years off my face, even a friend noticed how relaxed I looked!! Nothing like "recycling" your Stevia leaf. Extra paste can also be stored in the fridge for two or three days.

Lemon Ice Cream 
Sweet cream with a lemon zing.Yields 6 servings

1/2 teaspoon Stevia Extract Powder OR 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons Green Stevia Powder
1 cup milk, skim or whole
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon lemon extract

Combine Stevia, milk, and cream in a small, deep mixing bowl. Stir to dissolve Stevia. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze 1 or 2 hours until solid around the edges.

Remove from freezer. Add lemon juice and extract. Beat thoroughly and replace the plastic wrap. Return to freezer.

After 2 hours beat again. Freeze some more until consistency is firm but still soft enough to dip. This entire process requires about 6 hours and very little effort.

For leftovers, remove from freezer about 1/2 hour before serving to allow for softening. Whip again if desired.


The amount of Stevia and lemon extract can be varied according to taste. Equal amounts of lemon extract and vanilla extract can be use.

Vegan: In place of dairy milk use soy milk.

Vegan Noggin
2 10 oz pkgs. silken tofu
16 oz vanilla soymilk
1 TBS. plus 1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup sugar
2 TBS. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 to 1 cup brandy or rum
nutmeg to taste

Combine everything except nutmeg in blender; blend 'til smooth. Serve chilled and dusted with nutmeg.