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Playing For You From Our Scented Cottage

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. ~Berthold Auerbach

Wednesday, April 16, 2014











I'm taking a bit of a blogging break but do browse my archives and enjoy! Be back soon!


Volcano Spit Stone..Also Known As...


Hematite. Hematite is one of the most grounding of all stones (root chakra) and aids in intuition. Used as a meditative stone, Hematite grounds information through the crown chakra and energies from other realities into this physical reality.

Hematite jewelry was highly sought after and popular in Europe during the Victorian era, and regained popularity when rediscovered in jewelry pieces carved by Native Americans. Known best as carved and sculptured pieces, it sports a unique, unmatched dark metallic color, a shade of smoky-silvery black with a unique and  unmistaken shiny charcoal charm. It encourages spontaneity and zest for life and is said to protect the wearer's vital energy and guarantee survival.

FOLK NAME: Volcano Spit
ENERGY: Projective
PLANET: Saturn
ELEMENT: Fire
POWERS: Healing, Grounding, Divination

MAGICAL/RITUAL LORE:
Hematite is a strange stone. It's name alone is something of a mystery. To ancients, hematite was what we now know as bloodstone, so virtually all magical information relating to "hematite" in old books refers to bloodstone. In Italy and elsewhere, it is fashioned into necklaces which are sold as "volcano spit." Magical information relating to this stone is scarce. Hematite possesses the curious property of "healing" itself. Make a small scratch on the surface of the stone, and then rub your finger over it. The scratch may disappear.

Hematite is said to be powerful in drawing illness from the body. As with all stones, it's held in the hands while visualizing, then placed on the skin directly over the afflicted area. A necklace of small stones can also be worn for healing. Hematite is worn for grounding and stabilizing purposes, and to focus the attention on the physical plane.

Hematite is said to have been traditionally used in the construction of "magic mirrors," and is believed to be able reflect back any negativity from whence it came. For this reason, it is often used in scrying.

In ancient Egypt, Hematite was carved into "pillows" and was often used in death/rebirth ceremonies with the deceased. It was also utilized as an inscription stone for certain passages from the Book of the Dead. It was in this part of the world that Hematite's magic was also put into service by being made into protection amulets, and also as jewelry worn by those in mourning. The original "Bloodstone," the ancient Egyptians used this mineral to aid in curing abnormalities and diseases of the blood, to reduce inflammation, and to treat hysteria. Hematite amulets have been found in nearly every pharaoh's tomb as a support in the afterlife.

The early Romans would crush the mineral and rub its red powder onto their bodies, believing this would bestow courage, strength, and a general invulnerability. Native Americans utilized Hematite to make red face paint called red ochre, often when on a warpath. Ancient myth has it that large deposits of Hematite were formed wherever battles were fought and wherever blood flowed as a result of those battles.

Engraved seals made of Hematite have been found in the ancient ruins of Babylon.

To cleanse and restore the properties of this beautiful stone, bury it in the earth for 24 hours or more. For the polished stones a quick rinse under running water helps revitalize the mineral's natural water element properties adding further enhancement to its heavy earth element structure.

Metaphysical Properties:
Astrological Sign(s): Capricorn, Aries
Element(s): Earth, Water
Chakra(s): Root
Mental attunement
Clarity
Focus
Memory enhancement
Courage
Strength
Grounding
Cooling
Clearing
Calm reasoning
Promotes tranquility
Dissolves negativity
Meditative
Promotes self-control, strength, stability, originality
Attracts harmony
Protection

This stone also gives physical aid in treating:
Leg cramps, blood disorders, anemia, kidney disorders.
Helps with nervous disorders, insomnia, anxiety.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Lesson On Scottish Shortbread...



To say I have a fondness for shortbread would be a gross understatement. I not only love nibbling on it with my cup of afternoon tea, but I love to gift it during the holidays as well. Place some in a pretty tin and include some tea and it makes a fine and welcome gift indeed!

The story of shortbread begins with the medieval "biscuit bread". Any leftover dough from bread making was dried out in a low oven until it hardened into a type of rusk. The word "biscuit" means "twice cooked". Gradually over time, the yeast in the bread was replaced by butter, and biscuit bread developed into shortbread. In the old days, shortbread was classified as a bread by bakers to avoid paying the tax placed on biscuits in Scotland. It was an expensive luxury, and for ordinary people, shortbread was a special treat reserved just for special occasions such as weddings, Christmas and New Year. Luckily, these days it is one of the most affordable cookies to bake.

Shortbread has been attributed to Mary, Queen of Scots, who in the mid 16th century was said to be very fond of Petticoat Tails, a thin, crisp, buttery shortbread originally flavored with caraway seeds.

There are two theories regarding the name of these biscuits. It has been suggested that the name "petticoat tail" may be a corruption of the French petites gatelles ("little cakes"). However, these traditional Scottish shortbread biscuits may in fact date back beyond the 12th century. The triangles fit together into a circle and echo the shape of the pieces of fabric used to make a full-gored petticoat during the reign of Elizabeth I. The theory is that the name may have come from the word for the pattern which was 'tally', and so the biscuits became known as 'petticoat tallis'.

Shortbread is traditionally formed into one of three shapes: one large circle divided into segments ("Petticoat Tails"); individual round biscuits ("Shortbread Rounds"); or a thick rectangular slab cut into "fingers." No matter how you cut them, they are delicious and one of my favorite cookies. I usually make mine in rounds or squares and sometimes use a shortbread press to make designs on my cookies. If you are a lemon lover as well, you will like this recipe. These cookies also freeze very well.

Lemon Shortbread
1 cup butter,softened (I use I can't believe it's not butter cubes and it works GREAT)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add lemon zest and blend well. By hand, stir in flour a little at a time. Dough will be crumbly. Pour it out onto a counter top or pastry board and work it together by hand until smooth. Pat or roll dough out into a rectangle that is about 1/2 inch thick. Cut into small squares, rectangles or diamonds (whichever you prefer). Arrange cookies on ungreased baking sheet (I use parchment paper for easy cleanup) and bake 20-25 minutes in a preheated 325 degree oven until the bottom edges are just starting to brown.

Happy Birthday Taurus...



"Throw your shoe high up
into the branches of a Willow tree;
If the branches catch and hold the shoe,
you soon will married be."

Happy Birthday to all of my Taurus readers who were born between April 20 - May 20!


If you were born between April 15 - May 12 your Celtic Tree is The Willow and you are in the 5th Moon of the Celtic Year. There are two distinct types of Willow individuals (a division which relates to all Celtic Tree Signs). The "new moon" character is associated with the first two weeks of a sign and the "full moon" character is associated with the last two weeks.

The "new moon" Willow individual tends to more inclined to sudden mood changes and displays more unreliable character traits. These people are, however, receptive to change and quick to take advantage of any opportunity which presents itself.

The "full moon" Willow individual tends to disregard advice, even though his or her own reasoning power often lacks credibility. The "full moon" Willow is, however, the most resourceful of the two types and is blessed with an even more exceptional memory than his or her "new moon" counterpart.

Physical Goal: To encourage a comfortable relationship with the material world, which is full of lessons and cycles of changing values. Change is paramount for growth...and values are no exception.
Mental Goal: To gain understanding of a particular concept...a steady accumulation of facts is the foundation of understanindg. Not everything may be learned in one lesson...the key is repetition.
Spiritual Goal: To learn that there must be periods of rest rather than continual activity.
Ogham Association: Saille
Polarity: Feminine
Color: Known only to be "bright"
Class: Peasant
Sign: Taurus
Calendar: 4/20 - 5/21
Planet: Venus
Element: Earth
Day: Friday
Color: Blue, Green, Pink
Metal: Copper
Stones: Aquamarine, Azurite, Chrysocolia, Emerald, Jade, Kunzite, Lapis Lazuli, Opal, Quartz (rose or rutilated), Rhodonite, Sapphire, Selenite,
Topaz (golden), Turquoise
Herb/Esssence: Coltsfoot, Rose (red or wild), Violet
Magick: Benefits, Finances, Increase Value, Possessions, Vehicles

Underneath their cool, calm and collected exterior, Taureans differ greatly from all the other signs of the zodiac. Taureans manage to discreetly stay apart from the crowd, even though they have a well-earned reputation for being socializers. They will let others get close, but only so close as they want them. Some claim that trying to get your point across to a Taurean, should they not want to hear you, is rather similar to talking to the trees – they simply won't budge. There is no such thing as an open-book Taurean. Their feelings, fears and desires often run far deeper than anyone around them would guess. Like the butterfly that chooses to remain hidden in its cocoon until it is ready and prepared to emerge, so the true Taurean spirit remains hidden behind a veneer of day-to-day activities. Taureans are sometimes regarded as snobby, withdrawn, boring, or even sulky.

Most Taureans like their creature comforts and hate change because it takes them out of their automatic pilot condition of separating themselves from the world around them. Because they hate to be put in jeopardy of any kind, this is the sign that strives to create tomorrow in advance, rather than leave it to fate. In love, Taureans are regarded as extremely sensual beings. An earth sign, they deal well with the personal, physical senses and consequently all the pleasures associated with what they can see, touch, smell and taste, add up to a special delight to them. Often nature and pet lovers, Taureans are closely associated with all things off the earth and nature.

The Walnut...Lore And Legend


Since the beginning of time, trees have been recognized as a symbol of life and regeneration, and to some of sacred knowledge. To primitive man the tree and its by products were a source used in all aspects of life. It offered shelter from the elements, food from its fruit, heat from a fire, clothing from its bark and tools as well as weapons from its wood. It is little wonder that the tree evolved as one of the earliest symbols of reverence to worship.

In Celtic Tree Lore, your tree is the walnut if you were born between April 21 - April 30. It can sometimes be confusing as there are sometimes more than one type of tree in Celtic Lore for your birth month. At times you can see a bit of your personality in each one.

The personality of most people with this tree as their symbol is unrelenting, strange and full of contrasts. The Walnut's motto is "Looking for a Homeland" or "The Passion." Often egotistical, walnuts are aggressive and noble with a broad horizon. They are unexpected and sponteneous in their reactions with little or no flexibility. Walnut people possess unlimited ambition and can make for difficult and uncommon partners. Not always liked but often admired, the walnut individual is an ingenious strategist, who is very jealous and passionate by nature and rarely given to compromise. Walnuts will accept and endure a multitude of troubles in order to satisfy the desire for pleasure. An uncompromising character, the walnut individual will undertake a project with inexhaustible perseverance and once in love, tends to love until death.

Once believed to be a vessel of evil, the walnut tree has long been associated with witchcraft and healing. It is now used for fertility magic and smooth transitions. The roots of walnut trees give off a substance into the soil that make it very hard for other plants to grow near the tree.

Walnuts were thrown to Roman wedding guests by the groom to bring good health, to ward off disease, and increase fertility. Young boys eagerly scrambled for the tossed walnuts, as the groom's gesture indicated his passage into manhood. In Rome, the walnut was thought to enhance fertility, yet in Romania, a bride would place one roasted walnut in her bodice for every year she wished to remain childless.

During the Middle Ages, Europeans believed walnuts would ward off fevers, witchcraft, epileptic fits, the evil eye, and even lightning. The Chinese believe crickets to be a creature of good omen, and would often carry musically-trained crickets in walnut shells covered with intricately-carved patterns.

According to Roman lore, the gods feasted on walnuts while their lowly subjects subsisted on lesser nuts such as acorns, beechnuts, and chestnuts.

There are three types of walnut trees: English, Black and Butternut. English Walnut grows in Asia, Europe and now in North America. Black Walnut and Butternut are North American trees. Nuts are mostly harvested from English Walnut; Black Walnuts have some uses, but are prized even more for their lumber; Butternut is a lovely wood for furniture.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Quill Pens And Berry Ink...


In the 1700s and well in to the 1800s, people wrote with quill pens. Such writing was not easy, and skill came only with a lot of practice. They say the merit of a quill pen is it's ability to produce a fine line with none of the harsh qualities common to a steel tipped pen. It's sad, but these days we can go days without even picking up a pen, and we send out missives on our computers instead of handwriting personal notes.

Here is a fun idea if you still enjoy writing as well as doing crafts. If you have older children they may appreciate this as something to keep them busy during the summer months if they write or pen missives to far off friends and relatives. Do be careful of berry stains, but if you get them, check my archives on ways to remove them.

Berry Ink Ingredients:
1/2 cup ripe berries (blueberries, cherries, blackberries, strawberries, elderberries, raspberries, etc.)
1/2 Tsp. Vinegar
1/2 Tsp. Salt

Fill a strainer with the berries and hold it over a bowl. Using the rounded back of a wooden spoon, crush the berries against the strainer so that the berry juice strains into the bowl. Keep adding berries until most of their juice has been strained out and only pulp remains. Add the salt and vinegar to the berry juice. The vinegar helps the ink retain its color and the salt keeps it from getting moldy. If the berry ink is too thick, add a tablespoon of water. Store in a baby food jar. Only make a small amount of berry ink at a time and, when not in use, keep it tightly covered.

To Make Your Quill Pen:
A large feather (find your own or purchase one from a craft store)
Craft knife
Paper
Berry ink
Paper towels

Tips of fresh shafts on the feather must be hollowed out before cutting to remove all oil or fatty material. Thoroughly dry the quills. Use a craft knife to cut the tip of the feather at an angle. (this is best done with a very sharp knife and a hard surface, such as a block of wood, under your quill) Carefully, cut a slit in the tip. Dip the feather into the berry ink. Dab the end on a paper towel. Repeat as needed. Now, write your masterpiece just like our ancestors did!

Writing with your quill pen tip:
Hold the quill as if writing and make small circles with it on the back of your other hand (Try this without ink!) When you can make slight indentations on your hand without leaving a slight scratch mark, you are using the proper pressure to write. The pressure most of us use to write with today is too hard to use with a quill. There is no substitute for practice.

Enjoy your new quill pen!

Ouch!


As you are working about your cottage, you are bound to get a scrape or sprain sooner or later. Keep squares of gauze or cheesecloth on hand to make compresses. Use comfrey, witch hazel, or arnica for sprains; St. John's Wort for deep cuts; comfrey, witch hazel or aloe for burns.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Swan In Celtic Lore


A mystical bird who finds it's way into several Celtic stories is the Swan. It's feathers were often used in the ritual cloak of the Bards. Swans are connected with music and song and also help with the interpretation of dream symbols, transitions, and spiritual evolution.

In Ireland, it was believed that swans pulled the bark of the sun across the underworld sea each night. Swans also bore the souls of Celtic chieftains to the afterlife and had magic powers that could make mortals sleep. In County Mayo, the souls of virtuous maidens were said to reside in swans. In Scotland, three swans flying together was an omen of national disaster. Celtic swan deities were generally solar, and, like Brighid, possessed the healing powers of sun and water.

In the Irish tale of The Children of Lir:
The four children of Lir — Fionnúala and her brothers Àed, Conn and Fiachra — were changed into swans by their evil stepmother Aoife, who condemned them to spend 900 years in the form of swans, 300 years at each of three places in Ireland. They could only become human when a prince from the north married a princess from the south and a church bell was rung in Ireland (signaling the coming of Christianity). To protect the children, when the Milesian chieftains came to Ireland, they are said to have made it illegal to harm a swan. At last the conditions were fulfilled and Saint Patrick’s bell was rung. The children were restored, but they were 900 years old and immediately died of old age.

The Powers Of Jade



The soothing green color of jade makes it a wonderful healing stone. It helps the body in self-healing while working through underlying, non-physical reasons for a precipitation for disease. It is particularly helpful for kidney, liver, heart and stomach complaints. It strengthens the body and aids in longevity.

Jade is an ancient stone that has historically been used to attract love. Carved into a butterfly, in China it is a powerful symbol used to draw love.

Jade can be used to bring money into your life. Create a positive attitude towards money and visualize yourself using money creatively and productively while holding the stone in your power hand. When making an important business decision, use the prosperous energies of jade by holding it while contemplating your course of action. Jade strengthens your mental faculties and assists in clear reasoning.

Jade is also a protective stone, guarding against accidents and misfortune. Place a piece of jade between two purple candles and let the candles burn for a short while. Then carry the jade with you as a protection amulet.

A butterfly carved from jade holds a special romantic significance. Ancient Chinese legend tells of a youth who wandered into the garden of a wealthy mandarin in pursuit of a multi-colored butterfly. Instead of being punished for trespassing, his visit led to marriage with the mandarin's daughter.

Today, jade butterfly symbolizes successful love.

Victorian Lavender Cookies with Rose Water Icing ...




I first posted this recipe in the spring of 2010, and am reposting for those interested in a wonderful tea cookie. They freeze well so bake a double batch!

If you grow your own lavender (as I do) make sure it is pesticide free if you use it in your recipes. Otherwise, you can order food grade lavender online for your cooking needs.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon lavender, crushed
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
For Icing:
2 cups powdered sugar
5 1/2 teaspoons water
6 1/2 teaspoons rose water (can be found in most specialty or grocery stores)

Yields about 4 dozen cookies

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, lavender, flour, baking powder and salt.

Drop by teaspoons onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes.

While the cookies bake, prepare the icing by mixing the powdered sugar with water and rose water. Drizzle over the cookies after they have cooled.

Stop by again soon!