Tempus Vernum

  I come alive when the flowers bloom and open.  Something about all that sappy wet sexuality and dewy ripe newness makes me feel ecstatic and restless.  I can't sit still long when the sun is out and the branches are growing heavy and that clean smell is in the air.  Once the cotton trees open up and the sun bakes the sap in the poplar trees, Riverton looks like a dream captured in a moment; the air smells rich and the sky is hazy with spores and pollen; birds sing at every hour and rabbits dart through the roads.  The trees get so full you can't see the city from my house anymore, but you can certainly smell the salty breeze wafting over the hills from the Puget Sound.  Spring is warm, spring is sex, and I have at it with my pruning blade and weathered gloves.  Bee magic is waking up, flower magic is waking up, hummingbird magic is buzzing about and ladybugs infest the windows.

    I'm one of those people that really does better when I have a list of things to complete within a season.  For a lot of witches, it comes naturally with the spring; the change of plans, completion and renewal.  but for me, Spring is frantic and too much, full of so many possibilities and very little patience.   Everything I will need for my winter work needs to be checked and harvested right about now.  I spent the last few weeks gathering up poplar buds and melting their sticky sap into sweet almond oil.  

   I always most look forward to working with the local love plant spirits, which are fairly abundant around Riverton.  There are two classes of love herb around here; indigenous and introduced.  Most of the time they all work together hand in hand.  In other cases, the herbs must work with their distinct family for the best results, and many of these spirits require specific taboos to be observed for their gathering and use.  I'm careful about harvesting trillium bulbs from my mother's yard rather than the forest.  Dogwood, wild rose, honeysuckle, bed-straw and bleeding hearts; all of these are harvested in spring in different portions for use in spells to draw love and lust throughout the summer.   I focus a lot of time on this aspect; it brings me closer to my femininity, my nurturing and also offers me a chance to get a lot of self-healing done by bringing happiness to others.

   The floral components for cherry medicine gourds need to be picked within the month, or I'll lose their fresh energy.  The sweet violets too must be picked within the next few weeks, they die quickly here.  The hyacinth, periwinkle, muscari, lunaria, red paintbrush, blue bells, pieris and heather will stick around for a while, but the camellias wont, so I need to make use of their tea-dye as soon as the last of mom's white camellias grow in.   The broom is perpetual, but the cornflowers have to be picked at a specific time in May if I want blue dye, otherwise they're all gone and covered in creeping buttercup by summer.  This is an excellent time for gathering reeds by the river; doing so requires leaving an offering for the spirits of the river and the river herself.  Snowberries, madrona flowers and sage wrapped up in reeds tucked under the bramble, or sometimes it's as simple as singing a song. 
I have a lot of different gourds to start sending out to the world.  Some for my bestie, some for my sister, some by request from readers, some for tarot clients.  Almost ready...

     I have plenty of time to prepare my orchard medicine gourds- the wild apple, pear and plum trees in the nearby horse orchard are only just now starting to bloom, and when they've spent at least four days in warm sunlight, they'll be baked and ready to be plucked and dried.  Later, the bark will be harvested, then the fruit and seeds, and finally the leaves before they turn.  When it's all said and done, the gourds will be soaked in the floral essences of each tree, suffumigated by the smoke of the fallen branches and filled with all the components and portions of each tree.  Each one will house the genius of the fruit-bearing tree and can be sealed as a spirit vessel or used in different green works.

     Of course, it's not just fruit-bearing trees I wait for, it's the special trees of the dead I wait for.  Golden chain flowers bloom in full force and their sleek black pods will emerge later.   Before that happens, I gather the flowers from this giant and dry them, along with leaves and bark.  I come for the pods in August, when they cackle in the wind like witches.  Golden chain is a foreign witch here, she's a sorceress who bespells those who sit under her.  She'll make you dream of love as she poisons you mind with doubt.

     When Midsummer comes, the riverside will be blooming with butterfly bushes, snowberries and salmonberry; my meadow will be awash in tall grass, forget-me-nots, dandelions and thistle and the hidden paths that lead to the wetlands will be festooned by buttery yellow dogwood and drooping wisteria.  Spring is the best time to enlist herbs of love for their work, and the Northwest has a distinct pharmacopoeia for indigenous love magic.

     Traditionally, peoples of this area made use of trillium bulb, dogwood, devils root, roses, parsley, and huckleberry in love potions and charms and I make use of the herbs for the same purpose when I can.  I prefer to blend trillium, lupine, corydalis, red paintbrush, dogwood flower, enchanter's nightshade, honeysuckle, Oregon grape flower and yarrow into a strewing mixture for love rituals.  Introduced plants of love help build the possibilities of magic in the area; elder, lilac, periwinkle, sweet violet, magnolia and poppies, wild growing and beckoning for harvest come the end of spring.  

Spirit food for the spring in this area can range from salal bread, dandelion soup and swamp tubers to simple teas of wild rose and huckleberry with sumac.  Offerings to the genius loci or the indigenous plant spirits can be bundles of cedar wrapped in red and burning sage, or they can be artwork of any kind (reed baskets and shell beads are nice), lay to rest in the deep forest.  Offerings should be left at the base of nursing logs or great cedars; to honor the tricksters, changers, grandmothers and others who dwell here.

    Even if you're not indigenous American or part of the native community of the Pacific Northwest, if you live in King County, I urge you to honor the spirits here when you work spiritually.  Acknowledge the land, the people and the spirits who rule this place in some form, even if it's just a prayer to Raven or the respectful use of the land for ritual- the spirits here are powerful, kind, ancient and no-where near dead.  They have not been pushed out of the culture here, they've been included into the city fabric, the cultural identity of Seattle- schools, totems, street artwork and architecture; much of it here honors not just the people, but their spiritual figures from whom we get our local names and folklore.

I hope spring brings you the fires of inspiration; that the spirits speak wisdom to you in the form of green things.

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