Herbs of Strewing and the Oak Feast

Green people, shamans and witches alike have this tendency to sweep the ground, tend meadows, salt, asperge, fumigate or otherwise purify and harmonize sacred spaces during sacred events.  Before solstices and equinoxes, before circles and moons, there is a long tradition of preparing, or awakening a sacred space before undertaking work, or as a matter of sacrificial worship to that land as payment for its cooperation.  Strewing corn or grains in fields before rites of summer was observed in some cultures as an act of feeding the land, a sacrifice.  This sometimes accompanied bloodletting, a common theme of summer and harvest time rituals of fertility.  Laying white blossoms at the feet of newlyweds is supposed to bless them, and sowing hemp behind oneself is an old charm to draw love. First fruits brings to mind a more bloodless way to sacrifice to the land.  

I sacrificed a good deal of time over the last year to amassing suitable materials of sacred plants to produce strewing herbs in time for the next Midsummer.  Some are mine, some are gifts for friends.  Mostly, they're an effort to combine the spirits of favored appropriate herbs to invigorate specific areas; the sacred space of the Solstice, places where bees gather, meadows, and the harvest field.

"Therefore let the freshly gathered offerings be sweet of fragrance, the better to perfume the Circle of Art when trodden.  If the feet be naked when pacing the circle round, so much the better for the Herbalist to share the plants virtue with the Plot of her treading..."- Daniel A. Schulke, Viridarium Umbris.

Midsummer is all about daylight and drawing down the sun.  It's important for me to put a lot of sentimentality and nostalgia into my work.  I have so many memories, good, powerful memories associated with herbs.  My grandparents were naturalists and hippies who always kept me and my siblings and cousins occupied in gardens and mountains and beaches... My dad always used to get me red roses for special occasions (a flower I am extremely fond of, cliche as it is) and my grandma always grows tea roses and smells like rose water perfume, and my partner always gets me bouquets of yellow roses whenever they're getting frost bite on my cold shoulder, heh.  

When you have a lot of memories and emotions tied to a spirit like that, it creates a bond of power, and a powerful bond, and so working together towards your ends becomes easy, natural.  My family has tutelary spirits, totemic animals, sacred plants of all kinds, and so work like this becomes extremely sentimental and grossly touchy-feely for me.  Suddenly a poppy is more than a flower, it's a symbol of my sister, mom and I in the Californian desert.  Aloevera plants are like pet cats to us, and corn is god-food; sacred.  Of course, I took off on my own direction and so much of my work incorporates things totally new and non-sentimental to me.  For the most part, all these flowers I work with have some sort of family story or romantic tale behind them, and that makes the harmony of this work effortless, comforting.

This strewing blend is kept in a golden gourd, a sign of my devotion to the spirits of the luminary sol.
Marigold, yellow roses given to me by someone who loves me, rose buds from mom's garden, honey locust flower from the in-laws river-side garden, red clovers from my own garden (sensing a theme yet?)... among other sweet and sunshiny herbs to bless beneath the feet during the rites of summer.  Being a Riverton witch means gathering most of your components and materia from Green and Duwamish riverside, or from the Sound-side of the hills, Seahurst and the like.  That's where I look for everything I need, right here where the waters and the rains and the madrona trees and poplars know me.

Bee Blessing (top right, top photo)

Okay so this was a collaboration effort between me, a few books and my home-girl Candice, a horticulture student who knows her way around the aromatic arts.  Rose, powdered honey, bee pollen, sunflower pollen, honey locust, honeysuckle essence, California lilac, powdered white poplar resin, and about a dozen other extremely aromatic and sweet scented materia.

The Sacred Circle (bottom left, top photo)

These can be used year round as they contain floral essences from every month of the year, accumulating over time into this passion-scented blend of blessing herbs that are simply meant to be danced in; kicked up with the twirl of skirts and naked legs.  I would say; starting at Samhain, go in a circular direction around the boundaries of the area you keep, where you gather your herbs and honor nature.  Divine, sacrifice and collect from these places; specifically flowers of the seasons which represent a protective, healing, loving or otherwise positive current of energy.  Really, any flower of any kind will do; it's about collecting these fertility essences throughout the year, from each season and from the area that surrounds you and your home.  In my case, you'll wind up with elder and bluebells, hyacinth and red paintbrush, lupine, corydalis, hellebore and bunchberry.

Corn and grain, sumac and hemp seed, oat and wheat, rice and poppy, food for Three Sisters and Harvest Gods.

Harvest Field

Grains to be strewn in the field before rites of the harvest.  This one is for use later, when the squash and corn and peppers and beans all come in, closer to High Summer.  I prepared it now because I want to spend as much time letting it bake in the sun as possible before the harvest thanks festivals begin, smoked with copal and palo santo.

Some of the herbs prefer to stick together, they marry their spirits differently when paired; such as rue and basil, rose and lily of the valley, hyacinth and honeysuckle, pear, cherry, plum and apple blossom (a floral orgy).  Oak prefers oak, in my humble experience.  It's an authoritarian tree with little room for shared power... 

Right now, I'm working on creating one massive spirit-gourd which will house the genius of the quercus.  I have an affinity for oak that only other witches seem to understand.  In fact, my symbol is the acorn; I wear copper-dipped acorn necklaces, golden acorn broaches, my house is full of the little nuts subtly placed, hoarded like some squirrel.  The oak is the tree of power and thunder, a masculine tree which produces nourishment and is thus associated with fertility/virility.  It is exceptionally important in magic in which to bring forth new life; acts of sexuality, semen, thunder, lightening, strength, domination and channeling.  It is also a traditional protective amulet as well as the symbol of some green paths such as the private Riverton/Green River current of the green path, D.G.

The Oaken Feast

The apple, the nut, the leaf; all manner of vegetation on which the spirits can be fed.  Some of these will go into the go the massive spirit gourd and the rest will be given to a hilltop where lightning once struck nearby.  The pale grey bone-tree there is split on its left side and blackened like hell-pitch at its shadowy heart.  That's where I took the apple galls of the God, these parasitic protective fruit of the skin-crawling spirits.  

"The fruit that never comes to ripen."

You know that feeling that ripples over your skin right before thunder, a chill that makes all the hair on your arms stand up as the air becomes charged with power?  That's the feeling I get when I pick the galls of the peninsula's sacred oaks.  They are old gods and temperamental, they are insect-filled aberrations of arboreal perfection.  My skin crawls from fear and caution when I pick the apples, when I crush them, or whisper to them; when the wasps and worms and spiders come slithering out of the pin-prick burrow holes. 

Fertility, divination, fire, thunder, sacred sigils of the dead, masculine, Sun, Jupiter, Law, Authority.

The apples I picked for sacrifice are fresh; the ones I picked for the gourd-of-the-oak-god were picked last September on the day after my birthday where they were used to interpret the new year as part of the Equinox festivities; now they go to the ink.  Galls are husky, dry and black brown then, not fresh and fleshy as they are in spring.  When they are dry, they are wonderful for the creation of sacred Jupitarian sigil ink, especially when boiled with their kin the acorn, and their rival, the walnut (who seeps a fragrant and black potential).  

But Midsummer is the time to honor the First Fruits and the spirits of the grove and orchard, so the fruit returns to some place between the worlds as a sign of my pact to honor the green way, and as a gift to the thunder god.  They could be used in protection amulet magic for children and men, or observed to predict the weather, but for now, the fresh ones go to the God of Thunder while the old acorns, bark, dried leafs and old galls will become a smoke for a holy fire, when the sun is highest.  They're sacred fruit of a familiar spirit, an old oak god that walks with me.  His voice is the bellow of thunder, and his gifts are a fearless legion.  So the nuts and apples and leafs of the oak are shared, and I look out to a stormy sky above.  Out there, there are other Riverton and Green River witches doing their green work too, waiting for the thunder to rumble.

1 comment

  1. This is a gorgeous post. I too, collect seeds, blossoms, and other herbal material I've grown or harvested and weave them into meaningful blends. I often take them out into the places I do my wildcrafting as offerings, and give them to my gardens and the land I work and walk upon.

    Thanks for stopping by R&H. I'm glad I took a moment to pop over to see your lovely space on the interwebs. I'm going to have to make myself a cup of tea and stop back around to read for a while. Love what you are doing here.


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