Naturale Magick herbal remedies
Beeswax and herbal-oil
Naturale Magick's Pomade for "good health""
"Pomade", also called herbal salve, is an herb-oil and beeswax preparation, that can be used to soothe insect bites, minor burns, nicks and scratches and as an all-purpose skin cream. I use nothing else. The basic recipe is always the same, with the choice of plants defining each pomade's specific application. Naturale Magick recently developed a pomade for wood care, which has become a regular homecare product round here, and a feather in the cap of serendipity.
In my standard preparation, I use herbs well-known for their kindness to the skin: chamomile, calendula, rose, lavender, violet, plantain and yarrow being local favourites. I recommend nettles for an invigourating massage oil and as a great hair tonic, combined with rosemary and aloe vera for extra shine. Aloe vera and chickweed make a wonderful, cooling "aftersun" and "after-itch" oil for summer, while spices like ginger, cloves and blackpepper are great for warming rubs in winter.
Comfry's cell-regenerative gifts help to heal sprains, strains, bruises and even broken bones. Historically, comfry root was used as an early "plaster of paris", made by pounding the root into a sticky paste that dried in a hard cast around the broken bone. The healing quality from the root penetrated into the deep-tissues and acted as a catalyst for accelerated cell regeneration. It's French name "consoude", means to "sold or weld together". Its my number one favourite for life's bumps and bruises, and provides the mainstay of my "kiss-it-better" first-aid treatment.
There are few rules...and lots of room to play in pomade-making. I love going out just after the sun has dried the dew, and the plants are still fresh from the night. I have my personal rituals for acknowledging the plants that I harvest, and always leave more than I take.
Picking the plants
As quick as I pick, I cover the chopped plants with cold-pressed olive oil, and put on the lid to cut out the sunlight. I usually carry my pomade pot around with me, so i can protect the fresh plants immediately. I wander between my favourite patches, find surprising seasonal additions and keep layering up the plants and oil till my pot is nearly full and all the plants are covered and ready to warm.
Infusing the oils and melting the wax
I infuse the oils over a low heat (two night-lights under a thick-bottomed enamel pot) for four to six hours. When the nite-lites burn out, and the oil has turned deep green, I filter out the plant material and then melt grated beeswax into the filtered oil. I have found a litlle more heat is needed to melt the wax than to infuse the plant's oils, so i use a very low flame on my gas cooker, stiring continuously till the oil and wax are ready to pour into clean, glass jars. As the pomade cools, the colour changes as the solidifying wax transforms the oil into pomade. A lid, a lable and a cool, dark place are the final touches the pomade requires before it is ready to be used. It keeps for years under good conditions, but its much more fun to use.
Something rather "Special"
I guess most people have read a book or two by Joanne Harris; i have read a few which have greatly influenced my life in rural France, including a long-enjoyed chuckle with the bottles of home-made "Specials" in "Blackberry Wine". It is the story of magic and old-man Jackapple, told in the clinking, fizzing, excited tones of the various brews Jack made. They seem to be hoping for a "special" moment that may call for their ultimate, intoxicating release. Jackapple, Joe Cox, was a seed-saver, and his bella rosas were his prize stock for making home-made "specials" . He treasured his "jack apples" in a great, big, fully-stocked seed chest, from his travels over the seas. These "specials" are as much the main characters of "Blackberry Wine" as the typical "anti-hero" englishman, Jay, finding his way in life, in the french backwaters. It links back to Joanne's previous work of art, "Chocolat" and in fact, the village and characters somehow reappear in the tale; now seen from across the river, from outside of town.
I guess thats what its about; being "outsiders", pioneering weeds, blown in on the wind, or walked in on well-worn heels. Its the stories that brought us here, that make sense of what we are here to do. Living in the heart of our French-Catalan village, with sunlight streaming in the open door and children running between the neighbourhood gardens, has given me a fresh taste of life and a place to plant my roots. In every nook and cranny, another plant adapts to the climate and happily returns each year. Naturale Magick blends these groundcovers, herbs and flowers, with the story of light and rain that grew them, in traditional recipes, gathered from our "grannies". In Gurnsey, Cindy's grandma spoke French patois at the beginning and end of her long life. She slept with onions and herbs under her pillow, drank herbal infusions and giggled hysterically with Cindy and her mom at every possible occassion.
In my case, its my adopted Catalan grandmother, Jeanne, who tells me what grows where. She recently fell and bruised her side and has been applying the comfry salve i made with a happy grin. She tells me about local herbs and gardeners, as we sit in the shade of the plum tree, and she keeps me up to date with the village comings-and-goings. She is even slowly teaching me "un poco" Catalan.
Cindy and I were taught to make pomade by a herbalist friend who lived here, ten years ago. Its a simple recipe, that requires no more than properly-sterilised equipment, good quality oil and wax, fresh plant material and a hint of a magical tale. I find the story of the dew, the day and the herbs awakening is already a huge burst of a beginning, for a story of a garden hill-side, the home of "Herb's de Catalonia" (close cousins of the Provençals). Their homescape features both the sun-drenched quality of Spanish Catalonia, and the shady cool of the foot hills of the French Pyrenees. In amongst the boulders in the chestnut forests, or round the roots of oaks and ash, are growing thyme, sage, lavender, rosemary, bay, elder, basil, mint, fennel; marjoram, parsley,...you name it, we sing it.
In Naturale Magick we try to adapt each plant's unique quality into as many preparations as we can imagine, and each preparation is backed up by a growing list of alternatives, following evolutions cues of always making contingency plans.
Lets take a plant like Rosemary. As a child, I first knew it in an Italian pasta recipe, cooked by my mom's good friend in a huge pot for a table of many. So, I adapted the idea into a herbal salt by grinding the dried herbs into coarse sea-salt. It worked. I added oregano, tried thyme, basil, parsley, and developed the "seasonings for all seasons".
In the funny way of things, the same salts can also be used in the bath, as a relaxing, cleansing, 'zing of a bath. Rosemary's distinctive fragrance can refresh the mind, zaz up the sauce, and take me to Italy on the first breeze going. I think my all-time favourite use for Rosemary has got to be in hair care. Its great as a herbal rinse, or in hair oil or pomade, depending on how you prefer to apply it. I recently made a strong tea (also called a decoction) of rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme, marjoram and walnut leaf as a hair rince with the idea of having healthy, lice-resistant hair. In that blend, the scent of the herbs already begins to work their naturale magick, combining with the cleansing, revitalising nature of their oils. Walnut leaves act as an effective repellent to head lice, which adds a bit of clout to my herbal hair tonic, and another use, for another plant.
I aim to write a series of articles about other herbal preparations, and will start the next one with "something rather special" and a few sugar cubes.
- The Joanne Harris Website - Joanne\'s Books: Blackberry Wine
The website for the author Joanne Harris
- Seven Medicines by Susan S. Weed
Seven Medicines - Wise Woman advice from Green witch Susun Weed.