We are fast approaching the Summer Solstice, the time of year when we enjoy the most hours of sunlight. This is a time when we relish the warmth of the sun and honour its return. This is also the time of year when we honour our Fathers. The honouring of Fathers began in the Middle Ages (and possibly even earlier) in Latin America and Europe and is a holiday observed by over 40 countries in the world, typically sometime between March and May and for some as late as July. In North America and the majority of countries, Fathers Day is observed on the third Sunday in June.
The formal celebration of Fathers in North America did not occur until as late as the 20th century. The first attempt to honour fathers happened in response to the tragic deaths of many men in the Monongah Mining Disaster in Fairmont, West Virginia. The daughter of one of these men, Grace Golden Clayton, requested that her Methodist church honour all of the fathers who had died. The ritual event took place in that town only and did not spread any further. It wasn’t until after several attempts by other individuals (some of which had ties in the textiles and gift industries) that the holiday was proclaimed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966 and then formally made a national holiday by Richard Nixon in 1972.
The timeless trinity of Mother, Father and Child is an ancient metaphor for the continued cycles of life. While the well-known archetype of Mother is often associated with nourishing, unconditional love, the archetype of Father is known primarily as protector and provider. Other symbols associated with the Father archetype are rules, order, and authority.
On a larger scale, Father energy, or masculine energy is associated with action, focus, and courage. And it’s important to know that this type of energy lives throughout the entire universe…which means it lives within all of us, regardless of gender. In mythology, the role of Father, the masculine energy, has been depicted by various Gods, such as the Roman ‘sky god’ Jupiter; the Greek paternal god, Cronus; the Hindu creator god, Brahma; Apoyan Tachu, a Native American ‘sky god’; the ‘horned god’ Cernunnos, a Celtic forest god of creativity; and the Egyptian man/god Horus, to name a few.
The concept of Father and masculine energy is also demonstrated symbolically in nature: Father Sky (always watching over us); the Sun (warmth, providing nourishment and healing); the Oak Tree (a Celtic symbol of strength, power and influence); and Lightning Bolt (a symbol of instant and wise intervention). Certain animals are also associated with Father/masculine energy, such as Father Raven (Canadian Arctic Indigenous culture); Eagle (a solar animal that shares the energy of the Sun); Stag (a Pagan symbol for dominance, tools and weapons); Falcon (a symbol for the Father god Horus and known as an expert hunter).
Take this time to consider what Father means to you…and celebrate this eternal, universal energy with your Father…or within yourself!
Most of us understand, or come to understand, that without trees, our ability to breathe would be critically impaired. Our relationship with trees is interdependent – they thrive off of the carbon dioxide we exhale; we survive off of the oxygen they release.
There are an estimated 60,000 – 100,000 species of trees around the world and approximately 5000 types of wood that humans use to produce something. Managed and responsible reforestation practices are followed in many places around the globe to ensure a continuation of the life-giving resources offered by these beautiful beings. In Canada, less than 1% of our managed forestlands are harvested annually.
Another effective way to ensure the longevity of our sacred forests is through the use of reclaimed wood. When you use reclaimed wood, you give old wood new life – and help to preserve young forests by using older wood that comes with a story. Most reclaimed lumber in the Western world comes from floor boards and rafter timbers rescued from old barns, factories, and warehouses; decking, old boxcars, coal mines, shipping/crating materials, old gym bleachers, bridges, old orchards and wine barrels. In other areas of the world, reclaimed wood is sometimes sourced from old boats, oxcarts and even sawdust!
Candy and Les, owners of Tribal Mountain Trade, have spent the last 35+ years finding unique décor and gift items hand-crafted by artisans in Indonesia. These artisans use wood native to their regions and, in some cases, use reclaimed ‘boat wood’ and sawdust to create their showcase pieces. The wood used depends on the item being carved. For example, wood used for furniture needs to be strong. Wood such as teak, reclaimed boat wood, frangipangi and coffee wood are hardy woods that can offer stability and support.
Yet another type of wood found in Indonesia that is used for carving is Parasite Wood. Parasite wood is actually a parasitic, mushroom-like growth that embeds itself into the bark of a Chinaberry tree and gets its nourishment from the tree’s sap. Once the tree dies, it leaves the dense parasite growths behind – it is from this growth that many crafts are carved.
A variety of wood species such as Sono, Sabo and Coconut are also used to carve earrings and plugs because these types of wood are adequately porous and so they allow piercings to breathe, preventing infection. These types of ‘organic’ material are also a great alternative for people who are sensitive to metals.
For the more spiritually inclined, mala necklaces and bracelets are often created from wood beads. Rosewood is a popular source for malas, used for its healing properties. The scent released from the wood, especially over time and when it comes in contact with the natural oils of our skin, is said to calm the nervous system, provide headache relief and boost the immune system. Spiritually, rosewood is associated with the Heart Chakra where it can help us to develop compassion and love.
Sandalwood is another wood used for malas. The warm, soothing scent of sandalwood helps to calm the mind, opens the heart to love, and stimulates the Root Chakra making it an effective grounding and meditation tool. Sandalwood retains its fragrance for decades which is why so many people prefer it for malas.
Perhaps the ultimate no-waste use of wood is the use of sawdust to create unique items. At Tribal Mountain, you’ll find incredible dragon creations of various sizes made from sawdust pressed with resin into a mold. The finished products are light as air but can look impressively massive.
In the practice of Feng Shui, the element of Wood stimulates the energies of growth, expansion and vitality. If you are challenged with an issue that you need more clarity to resolve, if your energy is low or you feel confused, introducing wood into your personal space can help to strengthen your physical, emotional and mental well-being.
In the giving and nourishing spirit of Wood, be prosperous and well!
Gemstones carry powerful energy that resonates with and harnesses the energy of other organisms in ways that can promote harmony and healing. Every gemstone has its own blend of energy that is uniquely therapeutic.
At one point or another, we all learned in our high school physics class that all matter is energy in physical form. And all forms of matter are created from atoms with negatively and positively charged ions. Gemstones are ancient creations of the Earth, some of them millions of years in the making and carrying potent forms of this concentrated energy.
Even as the industry of science acknowledges the power of gemstones and uses them in various technologies, some folks still doubt the truth of their potency. And yet countless individuals have experienced transformative healing, physically, emotionally and mentally from gemstone therapy.
Each month of the year has an associated birthstone and various related gemstones. The linking of specific stones with specific months has its possible origins from the time of ancient Israel, and the breastplate of the Levitical priest Aaron that contained 12 gemstones representing the 12 tribes of Israel. April’s birthstone is Diamond and its other associated gemstones are Ruby, Red Jasper, Carnelian, and Coral.
The name of April has its origins in the Latin word ‘to open’, reflecting the opening or blossoming of flowers that is rampant in this month. April is also related to the Greek/Roman Goddesses Aphrodite/Venus and to the Saxon Goddess Eostre (the Goddess from whom Easter has its pre-Christian origins).
April’s birthstone, Diamond is said to have been created by the God of Mines when he compounded all of the world’s known gems together. Diamond is referred to as the ‘king of gems’ because of its perfect structure, natural hardness and powers of light reflection and dispersion. Composed of pure carbon and crystallized deep in the earth’s mantle under intense heat and pressure, Diamond derives its name from the Greek adamas, meaning ‘unbreakable’ or ‘untamable’ and diaphanous, meaning transparent.
Diamonds are often thought of as colourless but it also comes in white, black and various shades of yellow, brown, blue, green, pink, red and (in its rarest manifestation) lilac.
Diamond is considered a highly spiritual stone, with a high frequency energy that, when dispersed, creates brilliant light, like the fire of the sun. It is this high energy and brilliance that has Diamond perceived as a symbol of perfection and illumination.
Diamond is used in healing therapies to enhance inner vision, imagination and stimulate creativity. It is often placed on the Third Eye chakra (located in the centre of the forehead) to encourage psychic development. As the hardest known gemstone in nature, Diamond is known as the ‘stone of invincibility’, bringing victory, incredible strength and courage to those who wear it. And because of these qualities, it is also considered a potent stone of protection. Diamonds are also used by healing therapists to help strengthen and harmonize the energies moving through their clients.
Diamond is also considered a symbol of integrity, innocence, love and fidelity. Worn with these intentions, it is said to enhance strength of character, ethics and faithfulness – to oneself and to another. It’s not surprising, then, that this is the stone typically chosen for wedding rings.
But Diamond is not the only healing gemstone associated with April. Other related gemstones and their healing qualities are:
The name ruby comes from the Latin word ruber, which means red and is favorite gem among those in power and those in love. Some ancient cultures believed that rubies grew on trees, just like fruit. In the middle ages, rubies were viewed as a stone of prophecy.
In the Orient, Ruby is described as “a drop of the heart’s blood of Mother Earth”. Considered the king of precious stones and the leader of gems in India, Hindus call the Ruby Ratnanayaka, after the lord of the gemstones. Those who donated rubies to honor Krishna were assured being reborn as an emperor in a future life.
When used therapeutically, Rubies help to balance the watery, and sometimes chaotic, realm of the emotions. They are also used to increase integrity, devotion, and happiness.
Jasper is a fairly common stone found worldwide. Revered by ancient cultures as a sacred and powerful stone of protection, it was worn by warriors as a talisman that also promoted justice and supported life. Viking legends tell of Red Jasper inlaid in the hilt of Siegfred’s, the ‘dragon slayer’s’ sword to give him courage. Ancient Egyptians believed Red Jasper to hold the power of life-giving and death-causing blood and associated it with the Goddess Isis. Red Jasper is perceived as the blood of Mother Earth by Native American tribes and was used as a healing stone and in re-birthing and rain rituals and ceremonies.
The grounding properties of Red Jasper are known to help us sustain a connection to Mother Earth. It’s an effective cleansing stone that helps to dissipate negative/harmful energy and has a calming effect on the mind, readying it for meditation. Red Jasper is also used to absorb harmful EMF’s (electromagnetic frequencies), environmental pollution and radiation.
Used in physical therapy, many individuals report it has a balancing effect on metabolism, provides strength to fatigued systems and increases physical stamina. As such, it is a recommended stone for people who are chronically ill, injured or hospitalized. It is also used to help purify the blood and improves the function of detoxing systems in the body. Lastly, as a Root and Sacral Chakra stone, Red Jasper can support survivors of physical and sexual abuse and restore passion for living.
The healthiest deposits of Carnelian are found in Brazil, Uruguay, India and Madagascar. Ancient warriors commonly wore this stone around their neck to give them the courage to over-power their enemies. Egyptians believed Carnelian to be associated with the energy of the ‘setting sun’ – a feminine energy that also associated the stone with the menstrual blood of the Mother Goddess.
Another Root and Sacral Chakra stone, Carnelian helps to nourish creativity, attract prosperity, and encourages people to ‘speak up’. It is a recommended ‘tool’ for activists as it helps one to develop the courage to overcome obstacles and take a stand, in a community of others, for just causes.
Physically, Carnelian is often used by healers to promote circulation to organs and tissues. It is said to aid in fertility issues (both male and female) and help reduce menstrual and menopausal symptoms. Its detoxing characteristics make it a good stone to use when clearing the body of alcohol, drugs or junk food addictions.
Also known as Praval or Moonga, Red Coral is the gemstone of Mars according to Indian Vedic Astrology. Mars is the planet of energy, vitality, blood circulation and ambition and Red Coral is worn to boost the energy of Mars. In Greek mythology, Red Coral came from Medusa’s blood while Poseidon is said to have lived in a watery palace made of corral and gems.
As a ‘gemstone’, Red Corral is ‘organic’ which makes it unique from other stones, which are minerals. Red Coral grows on the rocky sea bottom in the darkest depths or in dark caverns or crevices, primarily in the Mediterranean.
Once polished, Red Corral is highly glossy and its intense colour was popular amongst ancients who used it for decorative and ritual uses. In the Victorian era, it was a very popular stone used to make ornate jewellery.
Used in healing therapy, Red Corral is used to improve circulation of blood, increase energy, and heighten ambition. Red Corral is also touted as having the power to clean the blood of impurities, improve bone strength and prevent or cure chronic disease.
For more details on birthstones and gemstones and their associated months, visit https://www.americangemsociety.org/en/birthstones and https://www.howlatm.com/gemstone-healing-properties
“Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.” (Carl Bard)
For hundreds of thousands of years, the arrival of Spring has been celebrated by many diverse cultures with a common theme of renewal and rebirth. Of course, we see it played out for us in nature, especially in the northern hemisphere where there is a very obvious, and often protracted, transition from winter to spring. (As I write this blog on March 10th, we are experiencing recurring snow flurries as winter insists on having the last word.)
Regardless of the spiritual or cultural origin, the emphasis on renewal inspires us to ‘make new again’ in many areas of our lives. Before the calendar we use today added two extra months to the year, the month of March was considered the beginning of the Roman new year. Many celebrations were made to mark this auspicious time of ‘letting go of the old to make way for the new’.
Even if you typically celebrate the ‘new year’ in January, the onset of Spring still carries with it our desire to let go of the old…hence, Spring Cleaning. Whether we’re cleaning out our living spaces, our bodies or our spirits (as is the case with the season of Lent), nature seems to want to help us out by providing the vigorous winds that blow away the detritus of the previous season.
The anticipated arrival of the first floral shoots pushing their way through the hard ground is always a welcome sight of this perennial renewal. This is also the time of year we begin to see the animals who spent most of their winter hibernating in the warmth of the underground. And with their return, some of these animals are quick to reproduce. The March Hare, more familiarly known as the Easter Bunny, is a symbol associated with Spring and fertility and earlier Goddesses such as Eostre, Astarte and Ostara.
The theme of death and resurrection of Gods is another prevalent myth at this time of the year that predates the story of Jesus with the death and resurrection of Osiris (Egyptian God), Attis and Mithras (Roman Gods) and Adonis (Greek God), to name a few. These myths are metaphors that can guide us through the journey of renewal and rebirth within the many cycles of life – cycles that include the birth, life and death not only of human beings (and all of Earth’s creatures) but also of “ways of being”.
As we mature emotionally and spiritually, we might begin to realize that in spite of the diversity of myths at this time of the year, we actually have more in common than not. Acknowledging what we share, while honouring the uniqueness of our cultural practices helps us to create a global community whose focus is on ‘we’ rather than ‘us/them’.
One way to acknowledge and celebrate what we share in diversity, is to consider the number of rituals and celebrations that take place around the world at this time of the year and the common themes they share (this is by no means an exhaustive list…that would literally take a book).
As you learn about and consider the wide variety of rituals and celebrations practiced by diverse cultures, you’ll begin to recognize some common threads that weave the tapestry of humanity together. And you’ll recognize that we truly are a planet upon which “worlds and cultures meet”.
For more information, check out this interesting article about Spring Equinox Celebrations Around the World.
In the western hemisphere, the month of February is most closely identified with Valentine’s Day and the varied expressions of love: passionate love, familial love, the love of friends, the expansive love for all beings and life itself. Most people associate the origins of Valentine’s Day with the celebration of the Catholic Saint Valentine; however, Valentine’s Day (and the month of February in general) has even older origins and associations with the Roman fertility festival of Lupercalia, a holiday devoted to the Roman Goddess Juno Februata, Queen of Gods and Goddess of the ‘fever’ (febris) of love.
The festival of Lupercalia was a day of erotic games where men chose their partners by drawing ‘billets’ (small papers) with a person’s name on it. This was too racy for the early church fathers who tried substituting the names of saints and quotes from the bible on the billets; however, in spite of the continued efforts to ‘platonize’ the holiday, the general populace kept returning to their passionate antics and the ‘love notes’ that transformed into the exchange of Valentines that we engage in today.
If you’ve ever received a Valentine, you might remember how good it felt to do so. Imagine what would happen in the world if we regularly expressed our love and admiration for each other more than once a year? In a world where some people insist on promoting ‘othering’ - a philosophy that demonizes diversity, rather than celebrating our differences and honouring our similarities – the radical act of expressing love for each other can be a game changer. The rest of Nature understands the interdependency of diversity – surely to goodness we can re-learn this as a species.
So, how does one express love in the midst of chaos? As always, it starts with allowing ourselves to love ourselves, warts and all. This is not an invitation into narcissism but permission to allow ourselves to be who we are without falling into the trap of trying to be someone ‘extra-ordinary’. The western cultural mandate to be “America’s Next Big…” or “Canada’s Top…” has many of us scrambling to be more than, to have more than, to do more than. Not only does this send us the damaging message that we’re ‘not enough’ just as we are but it also sets the stage for constant competition against ‘others’ so that we can land on the top of the pile.
What if the radical act of love started with acknowledging the paradox of being ‘unique’ and also ‘the same’ as others? What if our overarching philosophy was one of partnership and community rather than domination and separation? Can you imagine how incredible that would be? This can happen; each of us can be a part of the paradigm shift that is necessary to embrace the interdependent diversity of life on this planet.
With the advent of the internet and advances in technology, we are more connected than ever and yet, paradoxically, we seem to be more disconnected from each other every day. Why not make the month of February a month of daily actions that demonstrate loving connection, with self and others? Here are 28 suggestions for self-love and diversity you can play with in the month of February and beyond.
Our planet is both incredibly large and surprisingly small. When we give ourselves time to look inward as well as expand our vision outwards, we can more easily recognize that we truly do live in a place where “worlds and cultures meet”.
Welcome to 2017! Bid adieu to 2016. Some of us may be glad of its passing; however, all of us have something we’ve learned - something we can reflect on and that can support us in our continued life journey. And the beginning of a new year is a notable time for reflection. After the busyness of the holiday season, many of us look forward to hibernating throughout the months of January and February. We may give ourselves more permission to rest, relax and reflect. Some practice yoga and meditation, others go for walks in nature, while some folks take time to sip a healing cup of tea, or gather with small groups of favourite people. Sacred space is also used to journal, draw or paint, chant or sing, play an instrument, or simply listen to outside nature. Regardless of what we choose to do, having a safe and sacred space in which to turn off the world and tune into ourselves is key to supporting us in this time.
When considering creating sacred space, it’s helpful to know what we consider to be ‘sacred’. Once we clearly define our sense of sacred, we can then consider where we want to create our sacred space. The sacred space may be in our home, our workplace or our backyard. It may also be our own physical body – taking care to treat it with love and respect. Many people are called to create resolutions that focus on exercising, making better food choices and getting more quality sleep. How we create that personal space is unique to each individual; however, there are some common methods of doing so that effectively support the inward journey.
Creating Sacred Space
Once you determine what ‘sacred’ actually means to you, choose where you want to create your ‘sacred space’. If hibernation is about hunkering down in the safety of your home, choose a spot inside your home that is conducive to the creation of sacred space. Ideally, the space is away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the household. However, if you live in small living quarters that do not have a separate room to dedicate to sacred space, purposefully choosing a corner of a room can be just as effective, for you can also choose the quietest time of day to interact with your sacred space.
In cultures around the world, altars play an important role in the creating and using of sacred space. An altar is essentially a space in which we place sacred objects and engage in sacred practices. Equally important is the role of ritual. In fact, the moment you begin to consider creating sacred space, you enter into ritual. Choosing items for and creating the space is another key part of the ritual. What you choose to put in your sacred space is, of course, very personal.
Candles often inhabit sacred space as the glow of candlelight creates an atmosphere of reverence. Candlelight is very different from artificial light both in its energetic make-up and the effect it has on our physical, emotional and mental well-being. Synthetic light sources emit white, green or blue light (UV) that mimic sunlight. If we use synthetic light in our homes after dark, this light tricks our bodies into believing it's still daytime, causing the body to suppress melatonin production which is necessary for supporting our natural circadian rhythm. Excessive amounts of synthetic light negatively affect hormone production and make it more difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep. Candlelight also has a calming effect on our mind, helping to bring it to a more meditative state. This state of mind is essential for self-reflection, rest and renewal.
In addition to candlelight, contemplating on sacred objects and what they symbolize helps many people to tap into sacred energy and move more deeply into self-reflection. What makes an object sacred? It’s a combination of what we learn from our culture and our own personal relationship with the object. Some people are more deeply impacted by religious icons while others are swayed by cultural icons. Sometimes we don’t know why we’re drawn to a particular object or image…we simply are. The answer very likely lies in the deeper part of ourselves which we are more likely to access if we give ourselves time to be still and silent.
Some common sacred objects are crosses, mandelas, carved images of Goddesses and Gods, carved or painted images of flora or fauna, pictures of loved ones or places, or personal mementos. Sometimes positive words or affirmations help us to quiet our busy mind and fill ourselves with the healing energy of these words and affirmations.
Once you have chosen the items to populate your sacred space, you are ready to engage in ritual. Ritual does not have to be complicated or steeped in ancient or religious philosophy or dogma. It can be as simple as sipping your favorite cup of tea while reading. It may be sitting in silence and watching your thoughts. It may be creating purposeful intentions and supplying them with the energy required to bring them into being. Purpose and intention are essential but how you do your own personal ritual is up to you.
Spend as much time as you wish in your sacred space. And know that it isn’t just for the hibernation months of January and February. Your sacred space can serve you well for the entire year and for many years to come. Above all, let the creation of your sacred space be filled with play, wonder and joy.
Be well and enjoy your well-deserved time of hibernation.
Not everyone has access to clean, mountain or waterfront air...especially in your inside spaces. The recycled air many of us breathe when we're inside our homes or work space can be doing more harm than good. This is especially true when we're asleep - when we're breathing more deeply as our bodies engage in restorative activities.
Himalayan Salt Lamps are one of many ways we can purify the air we're breathing into our lungs on a daily basis. Himalayan Salt creates negative ions in the air. Both positive and negative ions exist in the air that we breathe and when they occur in balanced amounts, they cancel each other out. Negative ions occur naturally (for example, we often sense them after a thunderstorm - the combination of lightning and rainfall produces negative ions...in fact any running water creates negative ions) while positive ions are primarily created by electronic sources (our cell phones, TV's, microwaves, etc) and in greater quantities can negatively impact our ability to breathe and sleep.
An overabundance of positive ions is linked with:
The neutralizing effect of negative ions benefit us in many ways:
In addition to the physical benefits Himalayan salt lamps, they create a beautiful, ambient atmosphere with their softly radiant light. A wonderful decor piece and healing accessory for the home, Himalayan Salt Lamps are a wise lifestyle choice.
For more information on the benefits of negative ions, read this and this.