Singing to Survive, and Singing to Thrive

I'm a passionate person.  I have always cared deeply about people, about my world, and what I do in the world.  So naturally, when I take note of all the problems in my community and the world at large, it's really easy to get spun up, upset, and overwhelmed.  The full force of these feelings hit me hard as a kid, and when they hit, my breathing would get rapid and shallow, and I would begin to cry.  If my mom tried to get me to take deep breaths to calm down, I would fly into a rage.  She quickly figured out that the best way to get me to calm down was to get me to sing a song.  When we sang together, I was able to pull myself together, and we got to have some bonding time.

Music has pervaded my household since before I was born.  Both my parents play instruments, and met in their church choir.  My mom sang with a women's ensemble called the Vanderbelles when she was pregnant with me, and she knew she could always calm herself and me by listening to the opera Carmen.  Early cassette recordings of me showed an uncanny vocal facility; my early cooings as a baby could be downright operatic.  As a kid, I sang at the drop of a hat.  I made up songs about everything.  Growing up the weird kid, it was a pressure release valve for my feelings that kept me from harming myself.  In high school, as a closeted queer kid in a military town, singing in Concert Choir, Madrigal Singers, and Barbershop Chorus and Quartet was a lifeline.  I credit singing with my surviving to adulthood.

There is actually sound science behind this phenomenon, and since I'm every bit as much of a scientist as I am a mystic, it behooves me to share it. Singing can increase our resilience for dealing with the world and with our own life stuff.  When you sing a phrase, your body naturally releases a long, drawn-out exhale.  This turns off the fight or flight response in your nervous system, and turns on the rest and digest response.  The vibration in your vocal cords stimulates the ventral vagus nerve which bolsters your emotion regulation and immunity, increases resilience, and lowers your risk for heart attack.  In short, singing is good for your health.

Magically speaking, singing is an excellent way to focus your intentions and give your invocations an extra oomph.  I employ singing quite often in my Priestessing, as I find it creates a powerful lens to focus my intention and my actions.  You don't have to be a classically trained singer to do it.  You don't even have to carry a tune.  Your focus and intention and heart is what is most important.  Singing with a group has a way of connecting all that focused energy into something that is far greater than the sum of our parts, creating a ripple effect through the group and out into the world.  Singing with a group is also a profound reminder that we are not alone.

In the wake of the domestic terrorist attack in Orlando, and the shooting at the vigil in Oakland last night, we really need our resilience more than ever.  Coming together in song by itself won't change the world, but if we raise our voices in song together and use it to galvanize our intentions for action, we can be a powerful force for change.

So let me ask you this:  What are you grateful for this past moon cycle?  What do you wish to manifest in the coming moon cycle?  During this upcoming Singing Moon, we have a potent opportunity to transform our wishes into focused song, and use that energy for healing and change.

Blessed Be.

Ravensong Phoenixfire, Wildflower Initiate 

Herbal Allies & Herb Crafting for Spring (Part 1): Nettles

by Meadowlark

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Humans and plants have co-evolved together on this planet since the beginning of life as we know it. We live in a symbiotic relationship--literally sharing every breath. By honoring this relationship and getting to know and sense the unique qualities of different plants and herbs and how they interact with our own unique qualities (physically, chemically, energetically, etc), we can cultivate powerful allies for our magical, medicinal and spiritual work. These plant and herbal allies can also assist us in cultivating harmony within ourselves and with the world around us, as we move through the ever changing energies and challenges that tend to manifest during the various seasons of the year.

This past weekend marked the Vernal Equinox--one of two magical times each year when light and dark, day and night, coexist in perfect balance with one another. It is a time of transition and change. While we may still feel the lingering cold winds or the occasional (and much welcomed) rain shower, we also begin to experience the budding of the trees, the singing of the birds, and the sprouting of delicate new leaves of the spring herbs and flowers. Spring has sprung! It's a time to clear away the winter debris and prepare the fields for planting. For a farmer or gardener, this may literally mean “clearing your fields”. But even if we are not farmers, we can still do this metaphorically. It could be about doing a good spring cleaning of our homes; Or it might mean an internal cleanse of our bodies; or it might be about cleansing and re-consecrating our magical tools. Fortunately, for any of these applications, Nettles (or Urtica dioica) can be a powerful herbal ally.

People have been using nettles for magic, food, medicine, fiber, and dyes since the Bronze Age. Nettles' long, fibrous stems were important in Europe for weaving, cloth-making, cordage, and even paper. Native Americans used them for embroidery, fish nets, and other crafts. In ancient Egypt, reports are found of the use of nettle infusion for the relief of arthritis and lumbago pains. Nettles have also been used magically in various cultures to dispel fear and darkness, and to cleanse an object or space of evil and negativity.

Nutritionally, nettles have the highest percentage of protein of any known vegetable (10% protein), and are very high in vitamins (A, C, K, D and most B) and minerals (especially iron, calcium, selenium, sulphur, zinc, chromium and boron). Nettles contain biologically active compounds that reduce inflammation and may help prevent or reduce seasonal allergy symptoms, as well as help the liver build blood proteins to transport nutrients throughout the body and support healthy immune, digestive and reproductive systems. Nettles are also used to help nourish and prepare the female body for pregnancy, increase the strength of the fetus during pregnancy, and promote lactation in humans and animals.

Spring Herbcrafting with Nettles:

  1. Nourishing Infusions: As a spring tonic, drinking nettle infusions will help to nourish the whole body, gently cleanse the body of metabolic wastes, and purify and build the blood and liver, after a winter diet rich in fats and/or sweets. To make an infusion, place ¼ cup to ½ cup dried nettles* in 1 quart mason jar, fill with boiling water, lid tightly, and allow to steep for 4-10 hours. Strain well (composting the spent herbs) and drink warm or chilled, as desired. For best results, drink 2-4 cups a day for at least 30 days.

    *Note: Since the minerals and other phytochemicals in nourishing herbs are made more accessible by drying, dried herbs are considered best for infusions.
     

  2. Herbal Bathing: As an external body cleanse, bathing with nettles can cleanse the body energetically (washing away negative or dark energies), or physically (nourishing and fortifying the skin and hair). To make a nettle bath, infuse (as above) and add 1 -2 cups to the bath, or use as a hair or body rinse in the shower.
     

  3. Space Cleansing: To cleanse a space or home of evil and negativity, nettles can be hung, strewn or burnt (as an incense or smudge), alone or in combination with other purifying and/or protective herbs.
     

  4. Personal protection: To dispel fear and darkness and protect your energetic and personal space, small bags or pouches of nettles (alone or in combination with other purifying and/or protective herbs) can be sewn in a pocket, worn, carried, etc.
     

  5. Cleansing magical tools or objects: To cleanse magical tools or objects of negative energies and infuse them with protective energies, wash them in a strong infusion of nettles (prepared as above) or hold them over the smoke from burning nettles.