Triple Goddess Incense

Triple Goddess Incense

This week I've been burning the Triple Goddess incense. The Triple Goddess is representative of the three main phases of the moon: waxing, full and waning; of the women's menstrual cycle from the start of lining of the womb, through ovulation and followed by shedding layers of the womb and bleeding; and finally it is representative of a woman's circle of life: Maiden-Mother-Crone. Our culture celebrates the maiden, the woman at its sexual peak, yet also naive and most vulnerable, alluring and raw/fresh state. It pretty much ignores and diminishes the woman at the times when she is most in need of support, when she is dedicating herself to raising the young ones - Motherhood; and the time when she is wise and no longer fertile or "of use" to the patriarchal culture - as she is no longer a desirable sex-object, and can no longer bear children. At this stage, however, the Crone is most precious for its polished and refined state of being, it is most beautiful from within, having gained much wisdom and life experiences. She can teach both men and women how to live and how to be in tune with nature's cycles. She's seen many dark nights turn into daylight. She is the woman who knows

This post, as well as the incense, is in memory of my brother's sister-in-law. She passed away a week ago, on Monday night, surrounded by her closest family and loved ones, after a year and half of battle with breast cancer. Her courage and her suffering serves as an urgent call to us women: to live our lives truly and fully, and to reach out and ask for support from our sisters, mothers, aunties and grandmothers. In good times and especially in bad times, we always have one another. Even if it seems like they won't understand us or support us. Maybe in our darkest moments we don't even think we are loved. But this is not true. We always have other women to turn to and trust. Find those women and keep them close to you. Don't let anything come between you - but keep leaning on each other through motherhood, marriage, relationship, hardships, careers, and also take them along with you when things are just fun and light and happy. So that you have those sweet and fond memories to feed on in times of famine. 

And since you are dying to know: the incense has three colours in it, and three incense materials, representative of the red, white and black of the woman's psyche. White of purity and light and fullness, represented by White Copal, which smells just as bright and fresh when burnt. Of course the white can also be associated with the Crone's wisdom, as well as with snow, winter and death (being the colour of bones and of the white cloth used to wrap the dead with). The red is the colour of bleeding, of giving life, of her wounds, represented by Dragon's Blood, not only because it is blood red, but also because of its flaming, aggressive aroma, purifying and protective properties and perfume. And lastly, the Black of earth,  of a decaying yet fertile soil, of the Crone's wisdom.  I chose to use Black Copal for this stage, which is suitable not just because of its colour but also because of its musty and mysterious scent. Of course the meanings and associations of these colours could be different. This is simply one layer of a deeper wisdom. 

This post as well as the incense is dedicated to all womanity so that we accept, no - embrace! - both our waxing, waning and darkest hours. May we never resort to artificially and superficially inflating our light to cover up sorrow, grief, emptiness and flaws. Bleed, cry, dance, swim, laugh, weave, play, create, destroy, sing, listen and heal when it's the right time. You are enough! 


Winter festivities  Bois d'Hiver
It's the shortest day of the year, and the darkest night. So it's no surprise that dark thoughts are creeping on me. Although I was voicing them before  - that is  like why the hell did I pull apart my put-together life and drag my daughter with me into the unknown. Was a change so important to me? Was I really up for adventure in the true meaning of it - which is that almost every possible thing will go wrong? These thoughts were shouted out loud in broad daylight (usually in the context of some family drama, so it had an audience that kblieved I'm only half serious about what I'm saying). There is a different feeling to them - that of despair  rather than anger and rage - and having those thoughts come out of the cold darkness of midwinter. 

We're fast approaching the three months mark here in Israel, and there is no end in sight for the situation in which I am with my daughter 24/7. Not that I'm suffering from her company - but I know that she needs more than what I have to offer in this very stressful time when my attention is divided between maneuvering nastily stagnant bureaucracy, managing a construction site, funding the financing for a renovation project that costs three times more than I estimated, living in a  yurt with not even enough electricity to charge a mobile let alone a laptop or run a wi-fi... I'm tethering on my cellphone which is at 25% battery now and the laptop battery is running out faster than it usually does. As does everything in Israel - money runs out faster (because it's worth less), people's word is not worth much (especially when it comes to money or time commitments), and all electrical devices overheat after five minutes of use, for unknown reasons. In short: I'm at over-capacity, in all regards. When I have free time, I sneak into my brother's house where my suitcase of perfume stock is, fulfill my orders and then drive to the nearby Druze village's post office. And then there are some strange quiet times when I find myself in front of my laptop, blogging at long last. Next week we're going to see another program for her (after everything else I've seen was lacking in too many ways to count), and fingers crossed it will be worth fighting for her to be there. Because the temptation to hop on a plane and go back to the rainy desolation of Vancouver seems pretty tempting at the moment. At least I won't be feeling guilty if I do that. And in my imagination I will have the safety of a home again... 

On some more brighter notion (because I always feel obliged towards my reader to be optimistic in some way) - my house renovations are moving along, and I even got approval for some funding for my business expansion. I've never sought any financing for my business before, so I find this approval to be rather encouraging - and a good sign that it will go well here despite the bumps and hiccups of the move. 

Although I'm not feeling it right this dark moment - I know that the feeling of having a home is very important in midwinter. The yurt is not exactly cozy right now - it's too cold most of the time, and too crowded now too, because we had to move the bed from the little extra room to the mail tent... And there is a big Pilates chair sitting in the middle of the space.

I miss the Canadian festivities this time of year - as much as it is stressful with too many holiday parties, shopping and mailing to do - the coziness of the season's social gatherings is something I sadly miss. I miss having friends stop by and drop in for a visit (it took me years to "train" them to do it - Middle Eastern style! -  and now I left and my Middle Eastern friends are acting all Canadian on me and are too busy to ever get together unless it's for me to teach them Pilates). And unfortunately I've been so up to my ears in survival mode that I've been hard pressed to find time to reconnect with my childhood friends here -and have been largely out of touch with my friends from Vancouver, and that's not easy either. The combination of time difference and the sheer exhaustion that attacks me very early each evening is daunting. 

I don't even have an oven to bake any holiday cookies, so thankfully Chanukah only requires stove-top pan-frying. We got some Christmas lights from Kfar Massif (the neighbouring Arab-Christian village) and lighting them up already cheers me up quite a bit. I found our electric Menorah (but will have to hold off lighting it because the voltage here is way too high for it), and that's also cheering me up a little bit... And to pass the time when all my phones and laptops die, I now got into basket weaving and am making experiments with branches of mastic bush. These are extremely fragrant and even if the basket did not turn out that great - the whole yurt sure smelled amazing! I want to also make wreaths from them and from cypress trees. They should smell quite heavenly together... 

Tomorrow the day will be a few seconds longer... So don't be discouraged by dark thoughts today. Let them pass through you and know that the sadder and heavier you feel today - the lighter and brighter your mind will shine tomorrow with the rebirth of the sun and increase of light.

Happy Winter Solstice!

Winter Solstice

8hrs 6min 59sec of daylight in Vancouver today. And after that, the days will gradually increase - a few seconds at a time at first, gradually improving.

I'm celebrating with candles, eggnog and a winter solstice bath scented with refreshing yuzu to welcome the return of the sun after the longest night of the year (the eggnog knocked me down early so I didn't get around to it till the morning hehe).

Scented candle of the day: Hugs & Kisses by Gabriel's Aunt. Classic combination of cloves, cinnamon and orange with a bit of cardamom for a little exotic twist. Nothing like spices to warm you up on a cold winter day :-)

Happy Winter Solstice!


Winter Solstice & Lunar Eclipse 2010

Lunar Eclipse 2010, originally uploaded by biswamber.

I envy all of those living in places where you can see the stars at night. Living in (usually cloudy) city does not make it easy to stay connected with any interesting planetary action. But everyone was talking much about the total lunar eclipse coinciding with the winter solstice and I obviously missed it (being fast asleep, thank goodness!).

Excuses aside, tonight is the longest night of the year. Or was it yesterday? I'm getting all confused... Part of me wants to say up all night and beat it to the ground. And my other half just wants to crawl into bed with that flannel pyjama I was finally able to pick up from Robson street (it's very close, but I was practically unable to take care of anything besides business for up until now).

We live exactly where winter solstice should smell better than any other time of the year: people will be bringing in a tree, and the weather is perfectly cold, wet and gloomy for baking and filling the home with the aromas of warm spices.

Seasonality is beautiful in the sense that there is something familiar and expected (putting on that cozy sweater again, cooking that winter soup again, crawling into bed with a book that you haven't opened in a while. But every year is different, and there is always a sense attached to whatever it is that's different - intentional or random. That's why I like to find new interesting things that are appropriate for the season but I didn't know about before.

In these past few days of winter vacation (finally!), I've been enjoying my Bois d'Hiver candle, bathing in Spruce or Hinoki bath salts (I'm craving woods, rather than the Yuzu I bathed in previous years) and sipping a new tea I discovered that smells a lot like Fête d'Hiver! It's a black tea with rose, vanilla, cloves, cinnamon, orange and cardamom. And so I will be also burning Winter Moss candle this season which is bitterly green (by Gabriel's Aunt). Chai tea will be prepared with black cardamom for a tinge of smokiness, and hot cocoa will be cooked with whole chilli pepper and fine ceylon cinnamon scrolls instead of the sweet cassia bark. Subtle, but different.

As far as perfume goes, I'm mostly caught wearing my body oils in Megumi or Song of Songs. And in addition - usually by midday I'll spray-on non other than my Orcas perfume (which I fully intend on sharing with you in the spring of 2010). It's brisk rosemary and splash of salty waves was what I need to restore my alertness in those dreadfully-long weeks of work and restlessness. And the occasional dab of Hinoki perfume for unwinding at the end of a day.

"Dark spruce forest frowned on either side the frozen waterway. The trees had been stripped by a recent wind of their white covering of frost, and they seemed to lean towards each other, black and ominous, in the fading light. A vast silence reigned over the land. The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness. There was a hint in it of laughter, but of laughter more terrible than any sadness-a laughter that was mirthless as the smile of the Sphinx, a laughter cold as the frost and partaking of the grimness of infallibility. It was the masterful and incommunicable wisdom of eternity laughing at the futility of life and the effort of life. It was the Wild, the savage, frozen-hearted Northland Wild." - Jack London, "White Fang"

The Gift of Sharing

Today/tomorrow is winter solstice - the shortest day and the longest night in the year. Marking the darkest and the most difficult time of the year, where light and warmth is sparse, this is when human being around the world have created other ways to supply themselves with these important resources – by spending those dark, long, cold nights with one another and enriching them with sharing their experiences.

Storytelling, music and dance have been a natural way to combat the winter fatigue, depression and anxieties. In modern day living, when the communities have been broken down and families are spread all over the world, this time of year is a special one, when people actually do get together and set that time aside to nourish each other and keep each other company in the dark.

Some cultures have incorporated fragrance into the winter celebration. The following are a few ideas for adapting these customs into modern day living – whether you are religious or not.

Well, you all know what my people do to brighten up the winter. We light those candles on a 9 branched candlestick called Chanukia. Each night, one candle is added until in the 8th night of the holiday, the Chanukia is all lit up.
While Chanuka is over, the possibilities of lighting candles are not. Candles have a warm, soft light and make each situation feel somewhat more intimate and less intimidating. I always light candles in parties rather than have a full-blown electric light, to make my guests feel more comfortable and to set a different, more festive mood. If you have fragrant candles, all the better. Soy wax or beeswax candles are the cleanest burning and are better for you and the environment.
If your candles are unscented, you can scent them yourself by anointing them with your own oil. Simply rub the outside of the candle with an oil based perfume, and the room will be filled with a gentle aroma and a gentle light. I recommend using a natural perfume oil for that matter. I used to do that with my Moon Breath perfume with spectacular results, and I’m sure you could do the same with more simple combinations of oils that appeals to you. Use a base of jojoba, almond or olive oil for best results.

In Japan, yuzu fruit are added to hot baths for a festive winter solstice bathing ritual. And indeed, I can’t recommend a better time for a citrus bath than now. While public bathing is rarely part of Western culture, this might be a good time to share your bath with those who you feel comfortable with and depending on the size of your bath. Citrus scented bath at this time will also have none of the photoxic risk (unless you live in a sunny country), as your skin will most likely be non exposed to the sun after taking the bath… Even if taken alone, this rejuvenating fragrant bath is sure to chase away the winter gloom and bring in positive thoughts like sunny orchards.

yuzu-yu, originally uploaded by ranjit.

Here is a recipe for a nourishing and fragrant citrus bath oil.

Yellow Yuzu Bath Oil
100ml Almond Oil
2 capsules vitamin E
20 drops Lemon essential oil
20 drops Litsea Cubeba essential oil
50 drops Yuzu essential oil
20 drops Grapefruit essential oil
5 drops Clementine essential oil

Frankincense and Myrrh were gifted to Jesus Christ upon his birth, and have played a symbolic role in other places in the New Testament (myrrh was given to Christ on the cross to relief his pain, as it is an analgesic). Symbolically, frankincense is associated with the sun, while myrrh is associated with the earth. There couldn’t be a better time to burn incense. An incense made of equal amounts of frankincense tears and myrrh resin would be very appropriate. Burn it on a hot charcoal in a censer to create an atmosphere in your gathering and bond between those presents; or, burn it in your home to clear it energetically, flowing new energy into the rooms where the incense is brought into, and creating space for more sunlight and warmth.

Botafumeiro, originally uploaded by antonioVi.

Once upon a time, my parents decided to buy a wood stove to heat the little hat they built in the Western Galilee. And a very clever idea that was, as there was no better way to heat the house other than that. So, they took me and my baby brother for a sleepover in a Druze family in the village of Hurfesh in the Upper Galilee, who brought us the next day to Beith Jan to buy the said wood stove. The family lived in one room, and in the night time, mattresses were placed all over the floor for the family members to sleep. There were only two additional rooms to the house – an outhouse, and the kitchen. And in the living room (which is were everyone really did live), there were only two pieces of furniture – a wood stove for heating the space and a dining table. The three kids that lived there had no toys at all, but they did have markers and paper. And they drew rooms with light bulbs hanging from their ceilings – something that seemed very odd to me (we did not have electricity in our village). Somehow, the bareness of their home seemed to be quite inspirational to my parents and I can’t remember myself being bored there even for one moment, as the kids were welcoming and shared all they had with us.

A wonderful spice tea that is served during the winter months in most Druze homes in the Galilee and the Golan heights is called “Hulnejan”. It is a combination of three spices: dried ginger root, dried cinnamon bark and a root called “hulnjan” that is spicy and earthy all at once. It releases a beautiful aroma in the home when cooked. Practically, it is left on the fire place the whole winter, and the family members and guests will gather to drink it (it is very spicy), sweetened with sugar and topped with freshly unshelled pecan nuts. It is still a mystery to me what “hulnjan” is or where to find it out of the Druze community, but a similar tea can be brewed, with spices of your choice.

chai, originally uploaded by uncommonmuse.

A tea ceremony of any kind is an excellent way to enjoy togetherness during the winter time. You can prepare your own chai tea with your own whole spices. I made this chai during Hanukah and we sat together and ate donuts and drank chai. It was unforgettabley delicious… I’m no tea expert, so take or leave what you like of this recipe. But one thing is for sure – homemade chai is so much better than those tea bagged chai teas from the supermarket.

2 tsp. Assam tea
1 star anise
½ tsp black peppercorns
1 small piece of whole, dry ginger root
6 green cardamom pods
4 clove buds
1 cinnamon stick
8 pimento berries
½ nutmeg nut
½ cup water
4 cups whole milk
4 tsp. sugar

In a small pot, cover the spices and tea with water and bring to a boil. Add 4 cups of whole milk. Bring to a simmer. Add 4 teaspoons brown sugar and cover the pot for 5 minutes to allow the milk to absorb the aroma. Strain and serve in small cups to encourage everyone to ask for more many times!
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