herbs and plants

TERRESTRIAL ZODIAC

 

The UK has Glastonbury Tor

The US has Mount Trashmore

I have been a Flatlander

Here in the Florida peninsula

But my backyard converts

To whatever I wish

And like conjurers of old

I see a Terrestrial Zodiac

On a two-lot land

An as below, so above plan

True, copying the stellar heavens

Is almost impossible to do

Yet I have special corridors of power

To do my bidding

Scaled down to twelve sections

 

Aries, my own, begins the wheel

Lies in the North

Red and green cayennes

Like the finest quartz Bloodstone

Soaking up the Sun

Clockwise to Taurus

Partially shaded by

Banana tree fronds

A solid, fighting weed

Inflorescence fruit womb

Gemini up against the back fence

Pure shade to hide the glow of

Duality and intelligence

Live Oaks dripping

Spanish Moss

With Air plants of Red Tillansia

Cancer conserving the foresty ponds of

Aquaplants like duckweed and algae

While Leo, basking in sunlight

Shows off the finest, most colorful

Swamp flowers

Haven for bees and hummingbirds

Now the serious vegetables take root

As Virgo’s analytical, critical

Earthy nature dominates under the palm tree

Libra has a patch of harmony

Growing this and that

But intense Scorpio

Hides the roots

Of onions, garlic and ginger

Under the water-based ground

And vibrant, reckless Sagittarius

Generously shines on Greens of every hue

As ambitious Capricorn

Close to the back of the house

Self-importantly impels the

Growing of corn and sunflowers

Sowed by birds and squirrels

Circle almost complete

As Aquarius

Not caring a bit

Who thinks what

Grows whatever blows its way

And inching closer to the beginning

Sensitive Pisces

Lets loose with exotic tropical flowers

Often not based in daily reality

But there, nevertheless

 

And so, I may never go

To see and feel the breathlessly beautiful

Tors and mounds sublime

But it is always

As above, so below

And I believe

In the great mystery

That if even one person

Out of one hundred

Lives life magically

It is a life worth living…

800px-Torre_de_Glastonbury

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGES: Night Sky (Sky & Telescope), Glastonbury Tor (Wikipedia) and Mt. Trashmore, Virginia Beach (The Daily Runner)

Mt_Trashmore, Virginia Beach, image by The Daily Runner

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THE STOCKHOLM OCTAVO: A NOVEL

My Book Review (Amazon and Goodreads)

When I saw the illustrations for Karen Engelmann’s The Stockholm Octavo: A Novel, I tore open my bedside drawer.  Yes!  There was my obscure deck, bought from an online historical games site several years ago.  As a long time cartomancer, I thought this would be an interesting deck to use.  I must confess, however, that I did not have the imagination that the author has and tossed them out of my sight.  Descriptions of the plot and characters are available from the other reviews.  I will just say that the story is Magical and Wise: a cauldron of History, Culture and best of all, Sacred Geometry.  I quote from the book:  “The Octavo is the architecture of relationships that we build ourselves, and with which we build the world.”

 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R17WMKSKX4QV6K/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B006SJCKVE

(Image: my personal copy of the 1588 deck by German Renaissance artist Jost Amman)

 

 

 

 

ANETHUM GRAVEOLENS

 

Ooooh that smell

Not really quoting Skynyrd

Smell of life

Merari, my Gran called it

Dill

Chicken vegetable soup

Fresh merari

Tossed on top of the pot

For the last five minutes of bubbling

Hot kitchen, cold winter

But now

Evening in Florida swamp

Smell it growing wild

Well, seed pods begging to be harvested

Must have blown out of my neglected pots

When I took time off from growing herbs

Planted themselves

And now

An aromatic memoir greets me

In the soft gray

End of day

Bringing the ghosts of Gran and Mom

Aunt Cee and Aunt Are

Bumping hips

While dancing around each other

In a small kitchen

With a huge pot

 

Forgetting I have no pockets

Because women’s clothing

Usually doesn’t include that all-important

Piece of fabric

(Can’t have it interfering with the hip line

Of a voluptuous woman)

But I reach for my pouch

So inconvenient to draw attention

While fumbling with the drawstring

Just to feel the reassurance of

My pocket deities:

Acorn, feather, sea shell and fiery bloodstone

Imbued with my essence

From touching them with

Invisible fingertip oil

Touching, touching

Wanting to keep the ghosts of family

Singing and laughing

Forever happy

Keep those ghosts forever

But soon they fade

And I vow

That tomorrow

I will search the sunlit swamp

For a sprig of dill

Add it to my female pocket

And one day call upon

The memory

Once again

From the scent of an earthen gift…

 

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Dill, Wikipedia

 

NOT FOR ARACHNOPHOBES (revised)

(some of my wonderful friends are worried that I was bitten by another Recluse Spider.  This is my poem from 2014–not my best–but want you to know, no worries)

 

What is the message of the spider?

Open invitation from the resident

Into a pesticide-free home

Spaces in floorboards

Irresistible to the neighboring swamp

Despite the equalizer AKA feather duster

The spiders come in the night

They always nip me equally

One on each arm

Unless it’s a Recluse

She gets me in a circle of eight

The secret antidote is plantain

Or even aloe for the minor stings

I’ve been injected with venom so many times

That one day I expect to point my wrists at a wall

While cobwebs shoot out

Enabling me to scale the side of the tallest building in Florida

But I know there is a message

I used to fancy that I was SpiderWoman of folklore

Weaving my tales

My fantasies

My fantasies came true for others, not for me

What was the message there?

Observer and recorder of life

But never a recipient of those richly imagined dreams

We Romani are always looking at portents

The Sinte word for the spider storyteller is

“Shpina Paramichari”

She is telling me that the one nip on each arm

Represents balance

Be consistent in life

Be moderate while living

No important revelation

But a painful one

Just weave your life symmetrically

In order to function in harmony

I tend to forget every few years

Guess I need a reminder…

(c) 2014, 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Recluse Spider Web, creative commons

LESSON NOT LEARNED (my thin-skinned reply to a negative reviewer)

Imparting lore, knowledge

To others with love

Plainly stating

This is NOT an herbal reference book

So many of those already available

All different cultures

No

This is 4-planes medicine

Physical, yes, a bit

But also

Emotional

Mental

Spiritual

Roma—Gypsies—did not travel

With huge herbariums

Have you ever lived in a trailer?

I lived in a Fifth Wheel for two years

I lived in a 15-foot travel trailer for more years

There is barely room for everyday necessities

So why would readers/reviewers think

We should copy the great herbals

For your viewing pleasure?

The Gypsy herbarium was in the surrounding forests

In the wild flower fields

In the rivers and streams

But all that changed

I’d never recommend wildcrafting

When plentiful poisons threaten the land

Only basics are tucked lovingly away

In the vurdon—wagon—that is home

No detailed grimoires exist

Most didn’t know how to read or write

The oral tradition served for everyday cures

If more serious, the Witch-in-the-hole

Was consulted

Or the Vrezitorka  (so say my Sinte family)

Or the Chovaxani (so say my Kalderash side)

If the town hid one

There was no pantheon of gods and goddesses

Although sprung from India

Speaking a bastardized version of Sanskrit

Now named “Romanes”

Gypsy Chib

But Mother Earth

Father Sky

And a few household helps

Like the Domovoi

Lived alongside the Gypsies

Whether they traveled or

Unfortunately became slaves

In Eastern Europe

No collection of pharmaceuticals

The lesson is

Portability

What can be carried on the back

Is most important

Even today

Many of us grow

To adulthood

Learning that lesson

Herbs?

Magic Words?

Future paths

To live life joyfully

Contained in the 22 numbers

Of the Drom Ek Romani

That some call the tarot

The day of birth

Reveals your lifetime study

15 is mine

Temptation down the wrong path

Add to get 6

Love thrown in the mix

Read the book

It’s all explained

This past week

It was useful for me to be ill

Helping me remember

The simple cures

Seeing that they still work

That’s the other lesson

Less is better, always…

 

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

Re: Drab Lil: A Gypsy’s Medicine Book © 2014

BABA JAGA BLUES

 

Missing a lot of Aries women who were important in my life and have passed on…

 

Burning sun makes for a Baba Jaga noon

Shining across the Carpathians and into Eastern Europe

Warming the people who invented me

I am the Grandmother of Fire

Face covered in red and orange ashes

My house on two chicken legs

Scratching in the dirt

As a wide band of water rushes between them

Gently tipping the mortar that serves

As a flying vehicle

The pestle is my rudder and

Tracks etched in the sky

Are swept away with a white birch broom

I, Fire Woman, toss out water-cleansed herbs

And the people see earth sailing through the air.

 

No, I do not eat children

That is another fairy tale

From another country

I do have companions:

White horse rider named Day

Black horse rider named Night

Red horse rider named Noon-Time Sun

They decorate the ceiling of my chicken-legged home

Cavorting around the painted firmament

So I do not feel closed in when forced to stay.

 

Like smoke from fire, though

I can sinuously escape through the chimney

Into the real sky

Absorbing more heat and light by day

More stars and coolness by night

Able to traverse the path

Sidewinding around the Galaxy

By map and compass embedded in my brain.

 

What is my purpose here?

Yes, you may ask

Fiery wise woman am I

Guidance is all I offer but

I prefer that you ask no questions

I age for each one asked

Only blue rose tea will reverse my reluctance

To answer, when you truly need help

Purity of spirit, and most of all, politeness count

But you must overcome your fear

To ask and then hear

Solutions to feed your burning need to know.

 

So many false tales about me

I am guilty merely because my preference is

To live alone

In order to think

And be myself

I do not like the image I see

Reflected through others

It is warped and thus murky

Not a true mirror

But no one cares to look deeply into

The mystery of Baba Jaga

Fire Woman, Wise Woman

Who was never a witch or even a clown

Just an old soul trying to translate the Earth

To others…

 

(c) 2014 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja), Poetry of Memory

IMAGE: Baba Jaga, Russie Virtuel

SIBYL OF THE RHINE

 

*scroll down for a YouTube video*

 

Nine hundred years before my birth

Hildegard von Bingen arrived on this Earth

Sent to a convent because of her religious visions

Eleventh Century upheavals:

Gypsies banished from India

Creating a European diaspora

Sharing their knowledge of divination,

Herbs, cures

By oral transmission

William the Conqueror

Banishing Anglo-Saxons

Creating new law codes and the early census

Known as the Domesday Book

While indigenous tribes unknowingly

Lived out their last moments of freedom

In the Americas

Yet keeping alive their own oral traditions

Of spirituality and cosmography

Momentous times for a Renaissance Woman

To appear in Germany

Rising to the position of Abbess

Writing a book about her visions

Composing music on her psaltery

Rivaling Gregorian chants

Writing the book Physica

A classic on health and healing

Writing the book Causae et Curae

A classic on herbs and cures

Leader, reader, writer,

Composer, musician, healer

History moves in spurts

As does knowledge

The dark ages may seem all-consuming

But they are not

Arcane knowledge

Always rises to the top

Like a granular convection

And once again

Buried dreams will be reality

Hold tight

Remember that night

Always fades in the dawn…

 

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

 

https://youtu.be/LJEfyZSvg5c YouTube video Spiritus Sanctus, Hildegard von Bingen

 

IMAGE: Statue of Hildegard in Bingen’s Museum am Strom

 

poetry, sybil, healer, oracle, nun, abbess, herbs, cures, visions, politics, history, renaissance, repression, underground, dark ages, second inquisition, oral histories

SPRING FEVER

 

Cure for Spring fever:

Plant Peppermint for tea

Rub on the dogs’ fleas

Releasing the aroma

Digging dirt glove-free

Earth-stained fingers

Enhancing ukulele-string calluses

That make the music

That sing to the grasses

Youthful madness approaching soon

Sun in Aries

Mars in the Moon

Strengthening me as I whisper farewell

While Orion shifts west

And Crux appears to bless

Earth

Water

Air

Fire

Elements that never fail to

Inspire…

 

© 2017 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: My new peppermint plants

 

PETER RABBIT’S MEDICINE

 

Somehow, someone is growing chamomile in the subtropics

Skillful fingers crocheting the stems

Into lacy tiaras worn in early summer

Ah, Anthemis nobilis

Linnaeus’ name for Roman Chamomile

A helper or doctor herb

Drying the white and yellow heads

Calming colicky infants or nervous stomachs

Preventive for nightmare

Delirium tremens in early stages

Hysteria and nervousness

Also called the “plant’s physician”

lf other florae are drooping or sickly

They will recover if chamomile placed next to it

Strengthening other herbs and plants

I like that idea but this is why

Vegetarianism makes me uncomfortable

Is there truly a difference

Between killing animals or

Killing plants?

If you are someone able to grow chamomile in the subtropics

You are the one I want to see

Please contact me

With your secret recipe for growing

Anthemis nobilis

Power in a flower…

 

© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Aliexpress.com

 

GREEN FRIENDS

 

Growing and sharing my home

Pots of live

Jars of dried

Bottles of extracts

Brewed under New to Full moonlight

Each with their own personality

Hard not to grow a friendship

With such misunderstood healers

Angelica sinensis

Also known by her Chinese name

Dong Quai

A female ginseng

She had Oh Dee’d on her

Utah boy, Ephedra,

Thinking he looked so much like her

China boy, Ma Huang

But the good news

Ignoring the side effect

Of heart arrhythmia

Was that she dropped into a lower baggie size

Saw palmetto

Serenoa repens, in contrast

Is a Florida boy

Serious male prostate herb

He hungrily eyes Angelica S.

But unable to woo her

Until his nature kicks in

Herbs, so good, yet so slow

To heal

Patience required

Capsicum annum

He’s also known as

Cayenne, our favorite chili ingredient

By day

Plant tourniquet

By night

Magical blood hemostat

Saving me from an operation

When I flooded and drank a few teaspoons

Sanguinaria canadensis

Bloodroot

Parts of it banned by the US FDA

All I can say

Is she saved me from a radical

Slash and burn “cure”

Took a while to work

Took a while to heal

But will always be grateful

For Mother Earth’s gifts

Lovingly sharing her friends

With me

And anyone else

Who can see…

 

© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: CS with herb table 1993 or so