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Yuletide Blessings


Spiritual herbalism has a similar approach to plants as our medicinal approach. Although a lot of the spiritual connotations or meanings have ancient roots based on cultural and familial traditions. While some are similar to our medicinal uses some are seemingly out of left field. I believe our ancestors had a spiritual insight into mother nature that we have lost over the ages. I’m sure you have noticed that there has been a revival of finding those beliefs and practices in our society in recent decades. I am no different in my thirst to learn and understand those things held so dear to the hearts of our predecessors.

This month we are celebrating Yule, or The Winter Solstice celebrated from December 21 – January 1, which has been and continues to be celebrated throughout the world because it marks an important transition in the Wheel of the Year. Yule was originally celebrated thousands of years ago by the Norse and Scandinavian peoples. Depending upon the source, Yule was celebrated as a two-month celebration beginning mid-November, a 12-day celebration starting on the Autumn Solstice, or a three-day feast beginning on the eve of the Winter Solstice. More recently we celebrate the beginning of the Winter Solstice which is the shortest day of the year, marking the final day of long nights and the return of the Sun. Fire and ice are sacred to this season.

In particular, the hearth fire becomes the focus of the home. With it being the longest night, folklore sprung up around what happened in the dark, the most prominent of these European myths being the Wild Hunt. Candles were lit to drive away the darkness, keep out the demons, and encourage the Sun's return so that life would flourish once more. It is also the new year for the pagan community and a time where the spiritual veil is at one of the thinnest of the year. It is a time to reflect on what goals we would like to set for the year to come (New Year resolutions). In this post I am going to focus on a few of the plants that are included in these traditions and that are usually the focus of most of us in our goals.

The Evergreen Tree, the traditional symbol of Yule.

O Medicinally sempervirens (The Evergreen Tree) is known as warming and drying (Warming herbs are herbs the speed up the metabolism, stimulate energy production, increase blood flow and warm the body. Drying herbs remove excess moisture from tissue, firming it and relieving swelling and dampness.) This means that some of the ways it can benefit your health is that it stimulates as a diuretic (an agent to induces urination to remove excess water from the body.), acts as an expectorant (an agent that loosens and induces the removal of mucous from the lungs.), diaphoretic (an agent that causes sweating.), modulates inflammation (influences inflammation by addressing the cause), is a nutrient–dense food, vulnerary (an agent used to heal wounds.), and antimicrobial (an agent that inhibits or kills micro-organisms.).

O Spiritually It represents everlasting life and light in the darkness. Unlike deciduous trees that lose their leaves during the winter months, evergreen trees keep their leaves, remaining perpetually green and full of life, even during the darkest, coldest time of the year.

One way to use this plant is to make a wreath, take outdoors on the winter solstice and place on a flat surface. Anoint with cinnamon essential oil or ground cinnamon. Place white candle in the center. Reflect on the meaning of winter. Meditate on your fondest winter memories or on words or phrases that most connote the season for you. Extinguish the candle and watch the smoke rise from the wick, imagining that it carries your thoughts and hopes skyward. Sprinkle the salt on your wreath, imagining it represents snowfall. Shake it out gently and take it inside with you to hang on your door. This is to bless all that pass through your threshold and offer protection and blessings to those who dwell inside.


Acorns

O Medicinally the Quercus (AKA the acorn nut) can reduce inflammation in various skin conditions, treat aches and cuts, stomach pain, bloating, nausea, diarrhea, and other common digestive complaints and elevate energy levels. Its nutrient dense compounds (they are filled with vitamins and minerals) also are thought to aid in protecting the heart health, regulate blood sugar levels, and help in building strong bones, growth and repair.

O Spiritually they are representative of the legend of the transition of the waning power of the Holly King to the Oak King. The Holly King is at his peak during the Winter Solstice, but his power begins to weaken as the Oak King, who is reborn on the Winter Solstice, regains power. They represent strength, new life, and rebirth, balance, a promise of what is to come once the darkness passes. Oak trees were first mentioned in the mid-400s BC by Heroditus and believed that oaks held the gift of prophecy in their branches. Oaks are well known for their protective nature, and that is needed on the longest night of the year and year around for that matter!

The Oak tree is regarded as one of the most powerful sources of spiritual “magic” by numerous cultures throughout history and even still today.

To harness the acorns strength, light a red candle, which represents strength, survival and endurance. Hold an acorn in your hands, watch the flame and meditate on the hardships you’re going through and your wishes to overcome them. Remember that you are strong and resilient. Visualize the hardships resolving and how that happens. Warm the acorn over the candleflame, kiss the acorn, and place it under your pillow on the night of the winter solstice.

Cinnamon

O Medicinally Cinnamomum aromaticum (AKA Cinnamon) is stimulating (encouraging), warming, drying. It is used to treat toothache, diarrhea, infections, arthritis, insulin resistance, cold/flu, pain and encourage blood movement. It assists in boosting good oral health due to its astringent and antimicrobial properties, lowering blood glucose levels in people with Type 2 Diabetes (also lowering cholesterol and blood pressure issues in connection), and inhibits pathogens.

O Spiritually Cinnamon represents spirituality, success, healing, protection, power, love, luck, strength, purity and prosperity. Many cultures and religions have held it in high spiritual esteem. Even in Christianity it is shown that the bible even mentions the purification and protective properties. It is still used worldwide for spiritual awareness and strengthening intuition among other things.

Combine a sprig of Rosemary, a dried orange peel and a Cinnamon stick with natural twine. Anoint with Orange and Cedar essential oils and let cure for 3-5 days. Then make a wish for the coming new year, then toss your bundle into the Winter Solstice fire.

Clove

O Medicinally Syzygium aromaticum (AKA Cloves) contain a lot of manganese, a mineral that helps your body manage the enzymes that help repair your bones and make hormones. They also are a great source of Vitamin K and has been used as a food preservative for thousands of years. It is antioxidant, antimicrobial, has been used to treat toothaches, join pain and used a antispasmodic since recorded in the 13th century and more recent studies have discovered it is also antiviral and possibly beneficial in the treatment of cancerous tumors.

O Spiritually Many spiritual experts believe that cloves contain a potent spiritual power that can help to improve your focus and intuition. Using it as a spice or essential oil guarantees a high level of clarity, especially for students or anyone faced with a situation that requires critical thinking. They are also believed to have the ability to protect one against the evil plans of the devil (for those who believe in him) and his agents. Using Cloves can eradicate every negative force directed at your life, creating a sense of immeasurable calmness and harmony.

Use it to help ground yourself to balance your energy and to bring a sense of kinship to a social gathering.

Frankincense Resin

O Medicinally Boswellia sacra (AKA Frankincense or olibanum tree) is surprising. Most of my life when I thought of Frankincense, I thought of burning the resin as an incense or one of the gifts from the Magi in the biblical story of the birth of Jesus. Much to my surprise it is also good therapeutically in many ways. In the traditional medicine of the East, it is believed to have anti-inflammatory, expectorant, antiseptic, and even anxiolytic and anti-neurotic effects. Contemporary studies have shown that resin indeed has analgesic, tranquilizing and has anti-bacterial effects. It reduces inflammation during rheumatism, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, bronchitis and sinusitis reduces the risk of asthma and has antiproliferative (anti-tumor) effect on tumor cells of the leukemia and glioblastoma subsets. It is also antimicrobial, antibiotic, antifungal, antiseptic, cytophylactic (the protection of cells against cytolysis), wound healing, anti-depressant, expectorant, nervine relaxant, and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety).

O Spiritually it purifies the atmosphere and facilitates meditation and connection to Spirit. It induces euphoria, supports meditation, fights negative and unproductive thoughts, boosts self-confidence, elevates spirits, and encourages connection with the inner self through introspection. When diffused in your home, it provides immunological and spiritual protection for you and your family.

Use in rituals associated with self-will, self-control, or the ego. You can also mix it with Cumin and burn as incense for powerful protection for your home or a loved one.

Myrrh

O Medicinally Commiphora myrrha (AKA Myrrh), another gift from the Magi in the bible, is recognized for its therapeutic properties since the ancient times and has been used extensively in the treatment of wounds, management of aches, inflammation of the joints, parasitic infections, obesity, and gastrointestinal diseases in the ancient Egypt. In studies it has been found that it does indeed help with the treatment of wounds, mouth ulcers, aches, fractures, stomach disorders, microbial infections, detoxify the liver, and inflammatory diseases and is used ectopically in gouty and painful joints. Aromatically it is used to alleviate the symptoms of nervous system disorders. It is analgesic (acting to relieve pain.), antiseptic (agent that slows or stops the growth of microorganisms on external surfaces of the body and helps to prevent infection.), astringent (causing the contraction of skin cells and other body tissues.), anthelmintic (destroys parasitic worms), carminative (relieves flatulence.), emmenagogue (stimulate blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus), expectorant (clear mucus), and stomachic (promoting the appetite or assisting digestion.).

O Spiritually Myrrh is still used in incense formulas used to “smudge” catholic churches and is considered sacred to the Hebrew people. In other cultures, and spiritual paths, it is said to boost the spirit, soul, fostering a connection to the divine. They are often used in rituals and ceremonies to enhance spiritual experiences and create a sacred space. Myrrh represents Spiritual opening, meditation, and healing. It is also associated with purification and cleansing. As an incense and anointing oil, Myrrh can lead to rich and rewarding meditation (especially introspection). It is used to heal personal sorrow and to connect with the dead and the Underworld.

You can burn it as a potent incense to bring peace and to consecrate and bless talismans or charms. It is also burned with Frankincense in rituals related to banishment and during funerary rights to honor a passed loved one.

Holly

O Medicinally Ilex aquifolium, aka Holly, was historically used by some native American tribes as a heart stimulant. Now it is believed to be beneficial for cough, fever, digestive disorders, heart disease, and other various skin conditions. It is diuretic, purgative, astringent, expectorant, and reduces fevers. The fresh berries are poisonous and will cause violent vomiting if ingested. The dried, powdered berries can be used as a styptic (a substance capable of stopping bleeding when applied to a wound).

O Spiritually Druids believed the Holly tree to possess protective qualities, such as guarding against evil spirits and bad luck. Legend has it that bringing the leaves inside during the winter months would provide shelter from the cold for fairies, who in return would be kind to those who lived in the dwelling. Also, in Celtic mythology and symbolizes peace and goodwill. Due to its resistance to lightning, it is associated with the Celtic and Norse gods of thunder, Taranis and Thor, and so was planted near dwellings to protect people from lightning strikes. The leaves can be used to make a tea that is consumed before a divination session to aid in the interpretation of symbols and messages. Holly flower essence can also help transform hatred, anger, or aggressive behavior that is out of proportion to the life situation. It can help illuminate the places where we are stuck or unresolved and facilitate the return of our inner light.

Plant it around the outside of the home for protection or use it as a decoration at Yule.

Mistletoe – Often confused with Holly.

O Medicinally According to the National Cancer Institute Viscum album (AKA European Mistletoe, has red berries) is one of the most widely studied alternative therapies for cancer and has been shown to help treat conditions such as epilepsy, asthma, hypertension, headaches, menopausal symptoms, infertility, dermatitis, arthritis, and rheumatism. In Europe, mistletoe extracts are among the most prescribed therapies for cancer patients. It is also used to help alleviate anxiety, stress, and insomnia, is immune boosting, calm the respiratory system, it’s antioxidant and helps with some types of skin conditions. That said… The fresh berries have been known to be toxic and are advised to not be consumed orally.

American Mistletoe (Phoradendron Leucarpum, has white berries) has been used for low blood pressure, constipation, gastroparesis, and ending a pregnancy (abortion) but it can also cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, hallucinations, and heart problems in some people so please be sure of what kind you have and consult with a physician prior to consumption.

O Spiritually Mistletoe has been part of human history for thousands of years. Its association with celebrations pre-date Christians and the celebration of Christmas. It predominantly represents Love and Peace and protection. Celtic druids considered it a symbol of vitality and ward off evil spirits. There are many legends or myths detailing how the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe started but one is from an old Norse legend where Baldur, son of Odin and Frigg, was killed with the use of Mistletoe by the trickster Loki. Baldur’s mother, Frigg, declared it a symbol of love because Baldur was resurrected by the gods because he was so loved by all. Frigg declared that she would kiss anyone who walked underneath the plant.

Some ways to utilize Mistletoe this time of year is to wear in or as an amulet to repel negativity & ill will. You can also hang the plant over the front door of your house to bring good luck to all who dwell within. Hunters used to carry for luck while hunting and others would string mistletoe in the home with a red ribbon, for protection against disease or harm during the winter, and then burn it in the spring on Imbolc, to further the protection of the home at the height of winter.

Lemon

O Medicinally Citrus limon (better known as Lemon) is native to South Asia and Northeastern India but it grows all over the world these days. It contains citrus flavonoids which are antioxidants. These antioxidants fight free radicals, have anti-inflammatory effects, and can reduce your risk of brain disease and other degenerative diseases. It is high in vitamin C, fiber, and various beneficial plant compounds that research has shown to help with cardiovascular health by reducing the risks of heart disease and strokes. It can also help lower cholesterol levels. It has been known to help treat sore throats, prevent kidney stones, is an anti-inflammatory, rich in citric acid and polyphenols, helps in digestion, may help the alleviation of fatigue, possibly anti cancerous due to its antioxidants, slow the aging process slightly and there were implications that it may help to slow the progression of dementia related diseases.

O Spiritually Lemons represent cleansing, spiritual opening, purification, the removal of blockages, happiness. In India the Lemon is known as a Nimbu Phala and is believed to be a sacred fruit and is known as the king of fruits in the spiritual world. They are linked to keeping negative energies at bay. This is because lemon has the power to hold strong energies and reduce the impact of negative energies and evil eyes. In fact, it is believed that keeping lemons in the temples and bringing them at home can help in removing the impact of negative energies.

Way we can use the Lemon this season is to soak peel in water and use the mixture as a wash for objects to remove unwanted negativity, especially for objects received second-hand. You can add dried lemon rind to a jar and written personality traits of the friends you’d like to call into your life; seal the jar with a yellow candle. Or you can create a purifying floor wash by simmering 1/4 tsp. lemon peel in a cup of boiling water before adding the water to your favorite cleaning solution; you can use this to cleanse your sacred space or your entire home.

Orange

O Medicinally Citrus sinensis (or the Orange), another citrus fruit surprisingly connected to Yule, protects your cells from damage. Helps your body make collagen, a protein that heals wounds and gives you smoother skin. Makes it easier to absorb iron to fight anemia. Boosts your immune system, your body's defense against germs. It is packed FULL of vitamin C and B and has minerals such as potassium and phosphorous, two substances that help delay or prevent chronic diseases. Helps with hydration, improves digestion and gut health, aids in iron absorption, is a good source of fiber, decreases the risk of heart disease and colon cancer, helps your body make collagen, a protein that heals wounds and gives you smoother skin, and plays a role in metabolism, fetal and placental development, and many other important processes. The leaves of the orange tree can help with anxiety, insomnia, headaches, and asthma.

O Spiritually Oranges are associated with Gaia, the goddess of fertility, as well as god of earth and air, Enlil. They assist in unlocking prophetic dreams or divination, inspire love and happiness, banishing negativity, cleansing, and are heavily associated with love, fertility, success, prosperity, and friendship. It attracts an abundance of love, creativity, prosperity, success and happiness is associated with the sun and used in solar rites and rituals.

Some ways to use the Orange during this time of year is to combine a sprig of Rosemary, a dried Orange peel and a Cinnamon stick with natural twine. Anoint with Orange and Cedar essential oils and let cure for 3-5 days. Then make a wish for the coming new year, then toss your bundle into the Winter Solstice fire. I remember making a pomander from an orange studded with cloves as children. Beyond smelling beautiful, these are a symbol of good luck, health, and protection and to attract good fortune and abundance.

Nutmeg

O Medicinally Myristica fragrans Houtt (AKA Nutmeg) is known for its anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic (a drug that reduces the formation of blood clots.), as well as anti-rheumatic (slow down disease progression.), carminative (relieves flatulence), and stimulant properties. In pregnancy and lactation, nutmeg is used in traditional medicine practice for antenatal and postnatal treatment. Dating back to the 16th century, nutmeg has been known for its psychoactive properties, which includes antidepressant, anxiogenic (inhibits anxiety) and hallucination. It is a rich source of antioxidants, which help protect against the signs of aging and serious conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and liver disease. It has antibacterial properties that have proven particularly effective against oral pathogens that cause disease and bad breath. It is rich in fiber, which helps keep the digestive system healthy and prevent blood sugar from spiking, manganese, copper, magnesium, and fiber. It also contains small amounts of vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin C, and several B vitamins.

O Spiritually it strengthens the health of your spirituality by helping to connect with spirit, increase your energetic connection to mother earth, boosts your vitality especially during Yule or Samhain, protection from unwanted spiritual influences, cleanses your environment of negative energies, and help create peaceful and harmonious atmosphere by relaxing you and allowing you to let go of anxious thoughts. It also brings clarity and strengthens your intuitive awareness as well as providing an abundance by attracting wealth and success into your life.

In the old ways it was carried as a good luck charm and/or to increase the intellect. Today we can include ground nutmeg in teas, ritual cakes and other kitchen witch recipes for Mabon and Samhain. This classic fall spice contains the all the energy of autumn in just one small dose.


Finally we have…

Rosemary

O Medicinally Salvia Rosmarinus (Rosemary) has been in used in folk medicine as an antispasmodic, mild analgesic, to cure intercostal neuralgia, headaches, migraine, insomnia emotional upset, and depression. Scientific studies show it has significant antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-apoptotic, anti-tumorigenic, antinociceptive, anti-spasm, analgesic, anti-anxiety and neuroprotective properties. They also show important clinical effects on mood, learning, memory, pain, anxiety, and sleep. Studies also show that it can reduce the impacts and frequency of neurological disorders, mental health, and drug abuse. It is used in folk medicine to alleviate several diseases including headache, dysmenorrhea, stomachache, epilepsy, rheumatic pain, spasms, nervous agitation, improvement of memory, hysteria, depression, as well as physical and mental fatigue.

O Spiritually Rosemary represents spirituality, protection, purification, healing and health, love. It is protective in keeping negativity away from you and your home and can help cleanse your aura and protect your heart chakra. It brings wisdom into your meditation and intuition and decision making. Rosemary is considered a powerful purifier and cleanser in many spiritual practices. Burning rosemary or using it as sacred smoke, is believed to clear negative energies, both from physical spaces and the human aura. The smoke is thought to uplift the spirit and create a sense of calm and tranquility. It is often linked to remembrance and honoring loved ones who have passed away. It's common to include rosemary in funerals or memorial services as a way to pay tribute and maintain a spiritual connection with the departed. It possesses healing properties that go beyond the physical realm. Some cultures view it as an herb that aids in spiritual growth, enabling individuals to connect with their higher selves and achieve a deeper level of consciousness. It is seen as a facilitator of self-reflection and introspection. It will center and ground you during your meditation sessions.

Ways you can use this plant all year around is to plant it by your front door to keep negative attitudes and influences from crossing the threshold or add dried rosemary to jars or charm bags to amplify your intention.


Yule, predates all modern Christmas celebrations and traditions and has a much more spiritual significance than what we know of this season today in our society. No matter your belief system or practice, you will find these herbs, spices and plants bring a spiritual value and significance to your life and home that will warm your heart and spirit. It is a sacred time of year for all and celebrated in many ways but we each must find our path that leads to our peace of mind and spirit in order to bring peace and love into, not just our lives but the world around us. So to all of you who read this today, I send you many Yuletide blessings and may your season be full of love and happiness all year long!

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