Sacred Earth

Exploring nature and culture

Nature Notes 

Lughnasad

Lughnasad

The time of the grain harvest

Lughnasad marks the beginning of the harvest season. The fruit and vegetables are ripening, and the grain is turning golden. It is an intensely busy and happy time, especially for gardeners. The efforts of the early part of the year are paying off.

 

The growing period from spring to harvest is fraught with danger: Late frosts can kill sensitive starters, and summer storms can ruin the crop in just a few minutes. The harvest is by no means guaranteed. But once the grain has been cut, we reap the efforts of our labour. It is time to celebrate. 

 

Lughnasad is called Lammas in the Christian tradition, which comes from the Anglo-Saxon ‘hlaf-mas’, meaning ‘loaf mass’. Bread and wine are the traditional sacraments of the Eucharist.

 

But harvesting the seed is only one of the stages of the perpetual cycle of life. The harvest does not only fill our bellies now but must sustain us through the dark season and provide the potential of growth for the year ahead. We reap as we sow, but we also sow as we have reaped.

 

In the face of the unfolding climate catastrophe, it is especially important that we not only give thanks for the gifts of today, but that we also reflect on what we wish to reap in the year(s) ahead. 

Welcome to the Sacred Earth website!

Hi there! Thanks for stopping by! My name is Kat Morgenstern, and I am delighted that you have found your way here!

I have created the Sacred Earth website as a forum for nature lovers of all stripes. Come and join me on a journey down the garden path, and off into the virtual woods, where we will explore, learn and discover all about the intertwining roots of nature and culture.

Categories

Subscribe to our Newsletter

We keep your data private and share your data only with third parties that make this service possible. See our Privacy Policy for more information.

Are you interested in Astrology?

 

We are living in turbulent times. If you have ever wondered what is going on with the planets these days, check out Astro-Insights.com for current astrology updates and planetary insights. or contact info@astro-insights.com for a personal astrological counseling session.

Current issue

How to Make Natural Body-Care Products?

How to Make Natural Body-Care Products?

This article offers a short introduction to how to make natural homemade cosmetics.

Homemade natural cosmetics are a real treat and easy to make

I don’t know about you, but I always like to give at least some homemade gifts at Christmas, so right around now, I start to scratch my head, wondering what to make.

There are plenty of items that are always well-received: jam, syrups, and pickles among them. But I am a bit more ambitious than that. I look for something a bit more special. Homemade body-care products make great gifts that can easily be personalized, and many are straightforward to make without the need for complicated procedures or ingredients.

The best natural cosmetics are homemade using high-quality vegetable oils and butter such as coconut, avocado or almond oil. These can be combined with organic flower waters (hydrosols) and essential oils to make nourishing lotions and crèmes.

Since many natural oils are rich in unsaturated essential fatty acids, it is generally a good idea to make smaller batches to prevent spoilage. What’s so great about natural cosmetics is that you can tailor-make them to specific needs, and there is such a variety of products you can make. Therefore, before you start, consider what kind of product you want to make and what properties it should have.

Emulsifying agents

Lotions and crèmes aim to nourish and moisturize the skin, or even to heal or repair skin damage. They usually consist of an oily and a watery component, such as a hydrosol or tincture. But since water and oil do not mix well
an emulsifying agent is needed to blend them.

Just like oils, emulsifiers also have different properties, and one can’t simply be substituted for another.

Most emulsifying substances are the product of complicated chemical processing, even if they derive from natural materials.

In the past, spermaceti, a substance produced in the heads of whales, was the most common natural emulsifier. Thankfully, nowadays, there are non-animal source alternatives.

Pick your ingredients according to your specific nutritional or therapeutic requirements (see the previous article about oils).
Some oils are ‘drying’ while others are moisturizing. Combining these with humectants such as vegetable glycerine or aloe Vera gel changes the consistency and skin-care benefits. The trick, when blending crèmes, is to combine them slowly have all ingredients at a similar temperature to avoid curdling. If you have ever made mayonnaise from scratch, you have a good idea of what it takes to make a lotion or crème.
Apart from the emulsifying wax, which blends the watery and oily components, you may also need a stabilizer, such as stearic acid. These are added in tiny quantities to stabilize your crème’s consistency. However, use sparingly, or your crème will become chalky instead of smooth.

If you don’t want to mess with oils and waxes, there are now ready-made base crèmes on the market. These generic crème bases can be enhanced by adding special ingredients such as essential oils, infused oils or Aloe Vera gel. However, they can only absorb a few additional ingredients, before they become unstable, so experiment carefully. The quality of such crème bases varies widely, and most contain preservatives or alcohol to increase their shelf-life. However, these chemicals are not that great for the skin, so read the ingredients label carefully, and do your research. Making your own is definitely preferable and will be of much higher quality. For personal use, making small batches is much the best strategy, as you don’t have to worry too much about the shelf-life.

Recipes:

I’d like to share my favourite body butter recipe with you. It is so easy to make and very adaptable to your needs.

body butter

Ingredients:

 

  • 100g Shea butter
  • 100g Coconut butter
  • 100g Cocoa butter
  • 100 ml Almond oil

Method:

In a double boiler, melt all the hard ingredients and add the Almond oil at the end. Stir well and let it cool down. This takes a while. Once it starts to set, whip with an electric blender to make it fluffy and creamy. Allow to cool some more and then whip it again. When the consistency is to your liking, fill it in your prepared (sterilized) jars with the help of a spatula.

 

This is quite a dry, yet very soothing body butter that is generally well tolerated. It is very easily and quickly absorbed by the skin. If you like it a bit richer, you

can adjust the oil or the butter. Cocoa butter and shea butter are great because they stabilize this blend. Coconut oil by itself would be less useful as the melting point is too low, and the butter would only stay solid if kept in a cool or cold place. 

You can add a few drops of essential oil in at the end but research the oil first to make sure it is not allergenic or irritating to the skin. Also, keep the percentage of essential oil well low (1-3%)

For an additional therapeutic benefit, add in a small amount of nutritive oil, such as Evening Primrose, Hemp, or Borage Seed oil. (10% of the total amount). 

Instead of the plain base oil, you can also use infused oils, such as Calendula, or St. John’s Wort oil for their extra healing qualities. 

 

bath salts

Bath Salts

The cheapest and easiest bath salts are coarse salts, such as Epsom or Sea Salt. Crush to a grainy size (dissolves easier) and add a few drops of a gentle essential oil, such as rose, lavender or Jasmine. Stir and blend well, fill in a jar and let it macerate for a few days. Some people like to add food colouring to make it look more like commercial bath salts, but this is purely for looks. If you don’t mind ‘bits’ floating in your bathtub, you can add a handful of fresh fragrant rose petals or lavender flowers to the salt blend. The salt will dehydrate them and absorb their scent. 

 

Bath Oil

Soaking in water for any length of time dehydrates the skin. Normally, the skin’s natural oil secretions prevent it from drying out, but frequent bathing washes our natural protective layer off. Body butter or simple oil application (almond or apricot oil) replenish the natural skin oils. But better still, use bath oil instead of commercial detergent. Almond or light coconut oil are good choices. Add some drops of essential oil for a beautiful scent (make sure they are not toxic or irritant and don’t overdo it). Add a small amount of Turkey Red Oil, to facilitate the dispersion.

If you don’t like the greasiness of bath oils, but still want to use essential oils in your bath, use plain milk, buttermilk, or cream as a dispersing agent for your essential oils. A tiny blob of honey mixed in is also very pleasant and softens the skin.

Plant Profile:

The Cultural History of Grapes

The Cultural History of Grapes

Grapevine (Vitis vinifera)

Grapes are one of the most important agricultural crops in the world. But they have far more uses than ordinarily meet the palate. There are at least 8000 cultivated varieties of grapes, most of which are grown in the Northern Hemisphere.

Name: Grapevine (Vitis vinifera)
Family: Vitaceae
Synonyms: Grapevine, Vigne, Weintrauben, Rebstock

 

Description:

Grapes are one of the most important agricultural crops in the world. From New Zealand to California, Chile, South Africa and of course, their traditional turf around the Mediterranean Basin, grapes are cultivated in Mediterranean climate zones around the world. Grapevines are surprisingly hardy. They can live on next to nothing. They thrive on poor soils, so long as they are well-draining and don’t mind the heat. The only thing they won’t survive is a cold, wet climate.

When left untended, grapevines can reach a height of about 15 m. As climbers, they will scramble up anything that will give them support. In cultivation, they are often trained on wires and cut back after each season so that only the strongest one or two shoots remain.

The gnarly stem forms finely grained, dense wood. The leaves are palmate (hand-shaped) with deeply indented lobes, with very jaggy serrated margins, depending on the variety. In May or June, they begin to flower, forming bunches of tiny, white, 5-petaled flowers with a very delicate and sweet aroma. Alas, this phase does not last long. Soon, bunches of sweet, juicy berries start to develop.

Depending on the variety, their size and colour vary. The smooth-skinned, yellowish-green to reddish, or purple-black berries usually contain 2 seeds each (except for seedless varieties). Vines can be propagated by seed or cutting. Most European stocks are grafted onto American rootstocks due to a devastating blight that nearly destroyed all European vine stocks.

There are also many wild grape species, which also tend to be a meandering bunch. They can sprawl over an extensive area if left undisturbed. Their berries also grow in bunches, but they are much sparser and consist of much smaller berries, which are usually quite tart. Like their cultivated counterparts, the flowers are small and rather inconspicuous.

Chile Wine Valley

Fancy a Wine tour of the Chilean Central Valley?

The Central Valley is Chile’s most famous wine-growing region. Situated between the Andes and the Pacific, enjoy not only great wines and food, but also stunning views all the way! This short self-drive itinerary explores the Colchagua Valley, which is close to Santiago. Combine with a short trip to the coastal resort town of Pichilemu, known for its water sports activities.

Learn more…

Distribution:

The geographical origins of the vine is still a matter of debate. Various wild varieties can be found in different parts of the world, far beyond the Mediterranean. When the Vikings first arrived in the Americas, they called it ‘Vinland’ for the many wild grape varieties they found there. The type now under cultivation in Europe seems to have originated in Georgia. Under the influence of Greek and Roman expansion, it steadily spread west and north from there. Today grape production is prolific in all warm, temperate regions of the world, from Central and Southern Europe, Northern Africa, Asia Minor, US, Chile, Argentina, South Africa, Australia, to New Zealand.

Problems and Pathogens:

Viticulture is a profitable business, which, however, claims a vast amount of land. Wine lovers may appreciate the variety of tastes and textures this diversity produces, but environmentally it is a disaster. Relying almost entirely on just one single cash crop is highly risky. Furthermore, monocultures heavily depend on fertilizers, and pesticides that are highly damaging to the environment.

Various pathogens can threaten grapevines: powdery mildew rots the stalks, shrivels the leaves, splits the grapes and finally kills the vine. Red spider mites suck the sap from the leaf veins, phylloxera vastatrix strikes the roots, and the cochylis moth grub attacks the flowers.

wine press

HISTORY, MYTHOLOGY AND FOLKLORE

The story of viticulture is so old that nobody really knows where and when it all started. The Bible mentions that Noah planted a vineyard, but even he was probably not the first. Wine is mentioned in almost every classical text, with records dating back some 6000 years.
It appears as though the Greeks were the first to popularize fermented grape juice, with the Romans soon following suit. As major trading powers, they spread the art of viticulture all around the Mediterranean Basin. By 600 BC, wine was a sought-after export commodity, especially popular with the Gauls who, in time, became expert growers themselves.
However, in the latter half of the 18th century, tragedy struck. By then, grapes had moved to the Americas along with the colonists. The drama unfolded when a North American grower sent some specimen of his rootstocks back to the old world for further study. Unfortunately, the sample he sent was infested with a devastating blight (phylloxera vastatrix) that threatened to wipe out vineyards across Southern Europe. It was a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions.
Luckily, the cure also came from North America – and just in time. A frantic search for a blight-resistant yielded results, and another sample was sent to Europe. Growers started quickly grafted their ancient varieties onto American rootstocks, which saved them. Although the industry took some time to recover, European wine-growers rank again at the top of the international charts.

The wines of Ancient Greece seemed to have been quite a different kind of brew than what we are used to today. Historical records describe a much thicker and heavier beverage that had to be diluted at a ratio of 1:3 for consumption. Typically, it was infused with other substances such as resins, aromatic herbs and even psychotropic plants. It is not surprising then that the Greeks associated wine with Dionysus, the wild, shamanic god of ecstasy. His rites were frenzied and orgiastic. A menacing mob of Maenads, (his priestesses) pursued the god (or his representative) in a feverish hunt and tore him apart. Eventually, an animal (a fawn or fox) replaced the human sacrifice. In time, Dionysus was tamed and re-cast as a chubby, cheerful, but domesticated deity of wheat and wine. The animal sacrifice was replaced with a ritual sharing of ceremonial bread and unadulterated wine during the annual celebration of the Elysian Mystery play.

The Romans equated Dionysus with Bacchus, their god of wine and intoxication, whom they worshipped in much the same manner. In Egyptian mythology, Osiris is the Lord of wine, and Isis fell pregnant with Horus after eating his grapes.

The Hellenized Syrian satirist Lucian recounts a ‘tall satirical tale’ in his ‘True History’. A strange vineyard once grew on the far banks of a river that ran with wine instead of water. The grapevines grew woody stems, but their upper parts sprouted beautiful maidens whose hair was a tangle of leaves and bunches of grapes growing from their fingertips. Their enchanting song lured passers-by. But woe to those who succumbed to their embrace: instantly drunk and unable to escape, the hapless took root and soon sprouted shoots and leaves themselves.

Aphrodisiac associations:

Wine is a divine gift of the gods. In moderate amounts, it lifts the spirit, exhilarates and inspires. It opens the mind and holds the key to the heart and soul. Innumerable works of art have been inspired, and countless adventures started by a spark of its passionate fire. But in excessive quantities, it stupefies and causes delusion. It is a fine line between ecstasy and frenzied oblivion.

 

Ever tried making homemade wines?

MEDICINAL USES

Both red and white wine was traditionally used as a solvent to extract other substances when making medicinal wines and cordials. But various parts of the plant itself were also used as medicine.

PARTS USED:

Leaves: fresh young leaves
Flowers: dried or fresh flowers
Berries: fresh or dried fruit
Seeds: oil pressed from the seeds

HARVEST TIMES:

The flowers appear in May/June. The leaves should be picked in spring when they are tender, and the grapes ripen from September onwards (in the Northern Hemisphere).

LEAVES

Constituents:
In the summer, the leaves contain a mixture of sugar and glucose, tartaric acid, potassium bi-tartrate, quercetin, quercitrin, tannin, Amidon, malic acid, gum, inosite, a crystallizable fermentable sugar and oxalate of calcium. In the autumn, they contain more
quercetin and less quercitrin.
Actions:
Anti-inflammatory, astringent, styptic
Indications:
An infusion of 1 TSP of fresh, finely cut leaves per cup of water helps with conditions such as rheumatism, gout, nausea and spitting of blood. A preparation known as ‘Papinorum Extract’ made from the leaves is used in Homeopathy to treat epilepsy and inflammatory conditions of the hip. Dried and powdered, leaves were fed to cattle as a treatment for dysentery. A decoction was used to prevent a threatened miscarriage. The astringent properties help to arrest internal and external bleeding, cholera, dropsy, diarrhoea and nausea. The decoction can also be used to treat mouth ulcers and as a douche for vaginal discharge. Grape leaves are used as a treatment for varicose veins and fragile capillaries. For this purpose, leaves are harvested as soon as they turn red and are used either fresh or dried.

FLOWERS

Actions:
Nerve tonic
Indications:
1tsp of dried flowers per cup of boiling water is said to strengthen neuronal dendrons. It also supports the bone marrow to build red blood cells. The infusion can be used internally or applied externally as a rub to aid neuronal function (even for numbness of the lower limbs)

BERRIES

Constituents:
Malic, tartaric, ascetic ascorbic and racemic acids, alanine, alpha-linolenic acid, alpha-tocopherol, arginine. Oxalic acid in unripe fruits, Ca, P, Fe, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and ascorbic acid
Actions:
Fortifying blood tonic, nourishing, stimulates kidney and liver function and thus aids elimination and inner cleansing, gentle laxative
Indications:
A grape-fast is a popular method to rid the body of accumulated metabolic waste products and other toxins. 2 kg of grapes should be eaten throughout the day for two weeks, with little or no other food. It is recommended to do a full day fast one day before embarking on this regime. This is an excellent way to stimulate and tone the kidneys and thus to lose weight by releasing water from the tissues. It reduces fat, regulates bowel function, purifies the blood and cleanses the skin. A grape-fast can alleviate rheumatic pain and heartburn, regulate metabolic processes, water retention, oedema and circulatory complaints. Grapes are restorative and nourishing food that aid recovery from anaemia and debilitating conditions. Dehydrated grapes (raisins) have demulcent, nutritious and slightly laxative properties. Grape sugar (fructose) is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream. It almost instantly restores energy levels in case of exhaustion and debility.
 Contraindications:
A grape fast is not recommended for dyspeptic, excitable, hot-blooded individuals, as it may cause palpitations.

SAP:

Grapevine sap, a watery substance that naturally occurs when pruning the vines, was used as a lotion to treat weak eyes and corneal floaters. It has also been used as a skin lotion. Internally, it acts as a diuretic.

 

wine press

 

GENERAL USES

  • Basketry: The annual shoots are pruned in the winter. They are very flexible and have been used for basketry and broom-making.
  • Cosmetics: A lotion made from the flowers has been used for freckles, while the oil (seeds) is used for making soap.
  • Dyes: The berries yield a purplish colour, which is not durable. The fresh or dried leaves dye yellow.
  • Fuel: The old grapevine stocks are popular as firewood, especially for grilling due to the aromatic smoke. The twigs make good kindling.
  • Grapeseed Oil: Grapeseed oil is pressed from the seeds. It is used for culinary and cosmetic purposes. For culinary use, the oil must be refined to make it fit for consumption. Unrefined grapeseed oil is slightly sticky. As a massage oil, it is best to blend it with other oils.
  • Culinary uses: Grapes are wonderfully refreshing, nourishing and cleansing fruits that can be enjoyed straight from the vine. Their sweet and tasty juice makes a refreshing beverage and can also be used to make jelly. Evaporated to produce a concentrate, it makes a good sweetener. But above all, grape juice is fermented to make wine and champagne. Wines come in a staggering variety: reds, rose or white wines, champagne or sparkling wine, are made from hundreds of different grape varieties. A dessert wine is produced by adding alcohol to the ferment to prematurely stop the fermentation process.
  • The young tendrils can be eaten raw or cooked as a vegetable. The flowers are also edible and can be prepared as fritters.
  • The sap tastes sweet and can be used as a drink, but harvesting large quantities weakens the vines. Roasted seeds can be used as a coffee substitute.
  • Pickled leaves are used as a wrapping for finger-food appetizers (dolmas) that are especially popular in Greek and Middle Eastern cuisines.
  • A crystalline salt, cream of tartar, also known as potassium bitartrate, is derived from the residue of pressed grapes. Sediments collected from wine barrels are used for making baking powder.

 

Photographs by Kat Morgenstern

More articles:

Pin It on Pinterest