Medicine, Alchemy and Cooking

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”   Hippocrates 431 B.C

Food as medicine doesn’t sound that appetising does it? The usual diet for many westerners is neither food nor medicine; it’s just chemicals pretending to be food. Likewise, our “medicine” is chemicals designed to mask symptoms; not medicine at all. Food as medicine was the norm for thousands of years and still is in other systems.

In the Ayurvedic system, one of the oldest and longest standing in the world, herbalism and nutrition are a single science, and no healing can be truly successful that disregards one or the other. Specific foods are prescribed therapeutically as herbs, or in combination with herbs. Eating correctly, according to your body type, is the most important aspect of Ayervedic healing.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, which is rooted in the Ayurvedic system, food is regarded as indispensible in regaining the yin-yang balance and healing. Traditional Chinese Medicine designates four uses for food: diet, medicine, tonic, and abstention.

Doctors are not required to advise on nutrition in the UK, it is covered in just a few hours in the first year of study. Their job is to diagnose, prescribe and refer. It doesn’t really have a lot to do with healing. Hippocrates turns over in his grave one more time.

Hippocrates was considered the “father of medicine”. He is well-known for rejecting primitive medicine and its superstitions and magic in favour of a scientific and rational approach. He is also famous for establishing a code of ethics, doctor/patient confidentiality, note-taking and patient record management. It is less well-known that he insisted his students study astrology, saying, “He who does not understand astrology is not a doctor but a fool.”

The Greeks had medicine long before Hippocrates. Their medicine originated Egypt, the home of alchemy. The historical and cultural links between alchemy and medicine have been systematically destroyed over many generations, but the memory still remains in the endo-psyche of our species. What does that mean? It means that if you sit quietly in nature, or look into the fire and pay attention to your body you will experience specific sensations and feelings and these will direct you to exactly what you need. It never fails, but it does take practice and this is how we get to cooking.

Alchemy can be arcane and complicated or as simple as bringing together a container, a substance and a catalyst. Purists might argue that cooking isn’t alchemy, as the substance that is cooked is not transmuted; a carrot is never transformed into ice cream, no matter how skilled the cook.  However, carrots protect you from heart disease and cancer, are anti-inflammatory, can improve your eyesight and support your brain and liver. I don’t go along with the notion that everything works exactly the same way for everyone all the time. Sometimes I want a carrot and that’s exactly when I need it.

Cooking as alchemy needs to be outside with a real fire. The first stage of alchemy is called the nigredo, blackness, suffering; the medieval manuscripts are full of references to putrefaction and death. In psychological terms it is about depression and the dark night of the soul, but in cooking as alchemy we are not talking about anything that intense. But wait until you are hungry before you start the process. Feel your hunger. If you have a health issue or are stressed about anything, feel that too and don’t push anything away. Then look at the flames for a while.

Flames have a wonderful way of quietening the mind and gradually begin to think about what you would like to eat. Of course, you will have had an idea before you start and you will have certain food available, but make sure you have a good supply of different ingredients and spices to hand. Notice the flavours, spices and textures that appeal to you. As you allow the recipe to emerge notice how you feel about different ingredients as they come to mind – the White Queen is always present in the feeling.

This process of feeling your responses to different ingredients corresponds to the albedo, or purification stage of alchemy. The purification is in the process of identifying and selecting the ingredients that make you feel good when you think about them. This is how you free the spirit from the physical matter of the food. It’s not about following a fixed recipe, this food is perfectly tailored to your needs at the time you are making it. If a new combination comes to you go with it. The Red King guides you to discover something new, or a different combination. The cooking corresponds to the rubedo or reddening stage. In this stage the spirit is reunited with the food, through heat, and a new “wholeness” is achieved through the combination of the ingredients and the intent brought into the process.

This is something to play with and is fun to do in a group. The alchemical marriage takes place in the merging of the ingredients to create something new. And where is the Philosopher’s Stone? Perhaps in the way you feel when you eat food prepared in this way.   With time and practice you will find yourself guided to the foods that support your healing.

Cooking is just one aspect of the practical alchemy of healing that we enjoy here. We work with the local healing plants, grow much of our own food and make most of our household and personal care items. It’s all alchemy!

Our next retreat is at Lammas and runs from 31July-4th August 2014.

Yolanda

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Benefits of Earthing

Earthing or grounding is the simple process of getting outside with your bare feet on the ground and it has astounding benefits. We have forgotten how important this is and not just from a spiritual perspective. We have been created to work in harmony and connection with Gaia and wearing shoes all the time has ironically been one of the most damaging things we have done to ourselves in the name of progress.

The Earth is electrical – just like your body! There is a well-known scientific phenomenon called the atmospheric Global Electrical Current. It’s basically a current of electricity coming out of the ground where lightning strikes and returning to the ground elsewhere. This creates negative-charged free electrons in the ground which contribute to the benefits of Earthing in people and animals (and probably all life forms on Earth).  These free electrons are replenished by an estimated 5,000 lightning strikes a minute all around the Earth.

When you touch the ground with bare feet or bare skin, then, you’re not just touching the soil – you’re connecting with a massive electrical warehouse of free electrons which are then transferred to your body. This will “ground” you – literally and figuratively. Just like an electrician knows the importance of grounding a house’s electrical system, so too is it important to ground your body.

The health benefit of earthing is in reducing inflammation. Inflammation is the immune system’s natural response to allergens, trauma or infection. There are two types of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is not normally a problem, as the body needs to make pro-inflammatory compounds to deal with injury or infection and then will go on to make anti-inflammatory compounds to repair your system after the infection has dissipated.  Chronic infection is a problem because the immune system continues to promote inflammation throughout the body with pro-inflammatory compounds.

Inflammation is now considered to be the root cause of many ‘modern’ diseases; it is a significant factor for arthritis, as well as heart disease, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and diabetes. Inflammation is also known to accelerate the natural process of aging and causing your body and immune system to weaken over time due to repeated or prolonged stress. Inflammation leads to more stress, which leads to the worsening of all auto-immune conditions.

There are many theories about the causes of chronic inflammation. The Gaian healing approach is to consider the possibility that your body is not ‘broken’, but merely misinformed and to focus on the solution, not the problem. Some understanding of the inflammatory response is helpful here, so that the mind can recognise the real benefits of earthing.

The normal inflammatory response is, in part, a burst of free radicals produced by the immune system in response to an injury. This natural production of free radicals occurs to prevent infection and to promote healing at a site of injury. A free radical is an electrically charged particle. Free radicals are produced during oxidation: the process during which electrons are extracted from molecules. Oxidation occurs through electromagnetic radiation or sunlight and when oxygen in our bodies bonds with other molecules. This constantly happens when we breathe, for example, or when our body breaks down nutrients.

This electrical charge occurs because the free radical is missing an electron. To become stabilized, a free radical must “steal” its missing electron from another molecule. When the electron is stolen from an invader (e.g., bacteria), the invader’s molecular structure is damaged, which leads to its death (as intended by the immune system). When there are no invaders left to destroy and when there is a lack of electrons available from antioxidants to stabilize excess free radicals, free radicals then turn to the only other source from which they can steal electrons – healthy cells. The resulting damage to and death of healthy cells, from loss of electrons to free radicals, further signals the immune system for additional help. This sets up a continuous autoimmune response (creating more free radicals), which promotes chronic inflammation and tissue damage, often referred to as oxidative stress.

The simple solution is to provide excess free radicals with the missing electron they seek, so that they don’t need to steal from healthy cells. The Earth herself is a massive source of free electrons that flood the body on contact with the naked skin. Research has shown that the rhythm of this free electron flux helps to entrain the body’s circadian rhythm, including the rhythmic secretion of cortisol.  This suggests that grounding is also important for optimal sleep, daytime alertness, and endocrine function.

Earthing also shields the body from the damaging effects of man-made electro-magnetic fields and microwaves as the Earth’s voltage is conducted throughout the skin, creating a natural Faraday cage effect.

Earthing is also known to thin your blood and make it less viscous, reducing the risk of blood clots, elevated blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. Just getting outside with your bare feet on the ground for 30 minutes a day can significantly reduce pain and swelling in a few weeks.

If you stretch your mind beyond the scientific into the experiential, you will enjoy even more benefits from earthing.  Walking barefoot in your garden gives Gaia-Sophia useful information that She uses to provide you with the specific plants you need for your optimum health.  Plants use underground fungal or mycelial networks to share information and that includes information about you released through the pores in your feet.  Last summer, our first summer here, we payed special attention to many of the healing plants and wildflowers we saw around.  This year we have at least four times as many.  This isn’t something you need to believe, as you can easily try it for yourself and it costs nothing!  You can find out more about this at our Lammas Alchemy Retreat.

I find that daily earthing, when the weather allows, has helped my manage my body temperature more effectively; I’m less hot when it’s hot and less cold when it’s cold.  I also find that I’m able to deal with problems more effectively and I have considerably less anxiety.

Clint Ober is credited with bringing earthing into the mainstream and his book, Earthing, is a good read and full of research and testimonials.

There is also a lovely film, called Grounded, which follows the affects of grounding through a small Alaskan community – and has lots of beautiful Alaskan scenery.

There are also a range of grounding products available, such as sheets and mats that enable you to be grounded while inside. (We use grounding sheets and we all sleep better.)

Yolanda

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Lammas Alchemy Retreat in Galicia 2014

Lammas Alchemy Retreat in Galicia 2014

Lammas is midway between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox; the turning point of the seasons, where the waning summer element of Fire meets the Autumn element of Water. The Great Work of alchemy is the union of opposites and this transmutation creates a third entity, the Child of the Conjunction, or the Philosopher’s Stone.    All alchemy is rooted in nature, as it is through interacting with the elements and developing our awareness of existence beyond ourselves that we find our true selves.  This is the theme of our alchemy retreat in beautiful, unspoilt Galicia.

Lammas is the festival of the grain. The name Lammas is said to come from “Loaf Mass,” the celebration of the bread made from the first wheat sheaf of the harvest and shared amongst the community. In Ireland it is known as Lughnasa, after the Celtic Sun King Lugh, who created the tradition of feasting and games at the request of his foster mother Tailtiu, “The Great One of the Earth” and she was a goddess of sovereignty, looking after the harvest.

The origins of Lammas/Lughnasa are unknown, but any occasion celebrating grain and harvest leads us back to the Eleusinian Mysteries, and the reimagining of the story of Demeter the Goddess of Grain, Harvest and Fertility and her beautiful, innocent daughter, Persephone. Persephone was abducted and raped by Hades, the Lord of the Underworld and in her grief and rage Demeter caused nothing to grow while she searched for her daughter. Eventually she found her and Hades agreed to her release. However, Persephone had eaten some pomegranate seeds while in the Land of the Dead and this meant that she was obliged to return there for a third of the year as Hades’ Queen. Demeter refuses to let anything grow and we have winter until Persephone returns, bringing spring with her.

This is the time to celebrate the power of the Sun and Fire and to be grateful to the Earth for the harvest to come that will feed us through the winter. It is the time to recognise our personal harvest; what have we achieved? What have we learned? What do we have to share with each other? The visible fruits of the land, how the Sun and rain have turned the seed in the Earth into grain remind us of the processes at work in our day-to-day lives. Now is the time to think about the inward journey. For us the alchemy of Lammas lies in the transmutation of fire and water, the Yang and the Yin, heart energy and kidney energy.   What do we need to dissolve to encourage this process?

There will be plenty of time for contemplation, reflection and discussion on this alchemy retreat.  The area is so peaceful and beautiful.  We’ve planned workshops and activities that allow us to work together and develop skills that are practical and useful, that also strengthen our connection to the Earth, from which our sovereignty derives.  Fear and stress dissolve when we spend time outside and learn how to take care of ourselves and the Earth. These are skills that fall under the permaculture umbrella, enlightened with mindfulness and flavoured with alchemy!  Transformation here does not involve hard work, just allowing the experience of living a more natural lifestyle.

Workshops/Activities:

  • Introducing Mindfulness and Meditation
  • Qigong
  • Principles of Gaian Healing and how to make them work in your life
  • Making natural shampoo, toothpaste and non-toxic household products that work
  • Introduction to Effective Micro-organisms and how to use them to enhance productivity in the garden
  • Introducing muscle-testing and how to work with your bodies innate intelligence
  • Introducing the Gaian First Aid Kit and making an essential salve and tincture from weeds.
  • Stargazing
  • Nature walks
  • Cooking outside (basic alchemy)

This is an outdoor retreat. Most of us don’t spend enough time outside; we’ve lost our connection with the Earth and we need the resonance of the Earth to function at our best and be healthy. The experience of sitting outside, eating outside and even showering outside (with hot water) makes us feel content and strong and able to deal with whatever life throws at us more effectively. It’s why we go camping after all!

“As the sun transforms the seeds within the harvest, I too am able to transform my experiences into new seeds for the future. Lammas assessment helps me to gather the seeds of new directions that I will take with me into the dark of the year. This is the alchemy of Lammas.”

Glennie Kindred “The Alchemists Journey”

It’s hot here in August, but the nights are cooler. We have a tipi in case it gets too hot, or it rains. We have beds and bedding, but you need to bring your own towels. All meals (vegetarian) are included from Thursday evening onwards and we have an honour bar for beer and wine. We’ll pick you up and drop you off at Monforte de Lemos, but you’ll need to make your own way there from the airport. There is a direct train at around 6pm or buses throughout the day, with a change at Lugo. See How to find us for more information.

The price is £250 per person. (12 places maximum – 10 booked.) £100 on booking and £150 by 25th July 2014.   Arriving on the evening of Thursday 31st July and leaving on the morning of Monday 4th August 2014.

Use the contact form below for enquiries and we’ll send you the payment details via email. We are contactable by phone, but the reception is unreliable, so please leave a message if you don’t get through and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

UK mobile: +44 788 768 1706     Spain mobile: + 34 616 247 355

  • Rio Cabe in summer

 

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Beltane

My first post on our new site is on Beltane – how good that feels! Gaia is vibrant in birdsong and dazzling green everywhere I look. Our ancestors celebrated Beltane, May Day, as the time of fertility and the sacred union of the male and female principles.

Beltane is a Fire Festival. The word ‘Beltane’ originates from the Celtic God ‘Bel’, meaning ‘the bright one’ and the Gaelic word ‘teine’ meaning fire. Together they make ‘Bright Fire’ and traditionally bonfires were lit to honour the Sun and encourage the support of Bel and the Sun’s light to nurture the growing harvest and protect the community.

This year, as we celebrate creativity, fertility and abundance with our Beltane fire, I have a new awareness. The ancient Gnostics, the pagan ancestors of the Celts and other tribes, had the most beautiful and complex cosmology that has been painstakingly reconstructed by John Lash. In this they tell of the shearing of the template for humanity (the Anthropos) caused by Aeon Sophia unintentionally falling out of the Galactic Centre. This caused the gender rift we still experience today.

 “When the Aeon Sophia careened into Orion and sheared the template, she took a part of the Anthropos template with her, and the tattered streamer of nucleic dew was absorbed into the soft globe of the mothering earth. By shearing the template, Sophia caused the separation of the sexes and precipitated the conditions for mitotic reproduction in the human species, not a feature of her original dreaming.

The tattered mesh drawn into the materialization of the earth was the female part of the Anthropos template, the Omega component. The male part, the Alpha component, was left behind in the Orion nebula. This is the origin of the gender rift. It is cosmic prelude to the chthonian romance between the otherworldly Alpha males and the native women of Gaia — dissevered halves of the same species. [“Alchemical Androgyne,” a symbolic image of the dissevered genders in unity. From the Turba Philosophorum, an alchemical anthrology of the 17th Century.]”

Extract from http://www.metahistory.org/dynamyth/TreeNymphs2.php

John Lash

The Sophianic Myth is so compelling because as soon as you encounter it, you find that you are already living it. Do you ever have moments when you look at a member of the opposite sex and feel completely baffled by their strangeness? That is because you are seeing the Truth. Men and women are so very different in our expressions of the same material; there has never been a time on this planet when we as a species have been able to live in harmony and unfettered appreciation of the beauty in our differences.

The great gift of the Sophianic Myth is that it does not end in judgment, in fact it does not end at all. Thousands of years ago the ancient Gnostics foretold that a time would come in their future, our present day, in which Sophia would wake up in Her Dreaming and be responsive to those of us who want to work with Her. We are celebrating this Beltane as recognition of the opportunity we have to co-evolve together with Gaia Sophia, as our yin/yang perspectives are unified in Love for the Earth, all Her creatures and those humans who choose to appreciate Her Beauty.

My Beltane Ritual will be to write my Highest Desire for the rest of the year on a piece of paper and put it in fill a small cardboard box filled with petals, a few seeds, a twig of willow and some oak leaves. I will bury that in the Earth, sprinkled with more petals so that Gaia takes my Desire into Her awareness and makes it grow.

Beltane poem