#plantmagic #botanarchy (at Baroness Homestead)
What can I say, I LOVE busting out the good china. I will always, if ever so slightly prompted, make an occasion of everything, turning all banalities into a bona fide tête-à-tête. Raised amongst wolves of women that gathered daily for their coffee klatch, I’ve romanticized the ritual of drinking coffee to religious heights (as it should be, really), deifying its dark alchemy as a harbinger of inspired debauchery and lucid linguistics. The parlance of coffee is one of exhilarating candor, which can erupt into ecstatic bouts of speaking in tongues if given the proper prompting. This exotic elixir is PERFECT for sipping, to sink into the slipstream of unimpeded flow, and joyous communion with your hallowed kinfolk.
CARDAMOM MINT COFFEE:
1/3 Cup Organic Espresso, Ground
1 Tsp Cardamom, Ground
A Sprinkling of Rose Petals, Dried or Fresh
A Smattering of Fresh Mint Leaves, Plus 1 Sprig to Garnish Each Cup
HOMEMADE HEMP MILK:
1 Cup Raw Hemp Seeds
4 Cups Purified Water
2 TBSP Raw Honey, Maple Syrup, or 2 Dates
1 Pinch of Celtic Sea Salt
A Dash of Raw Vanilla Bean, if so desired
To make the Hemp Milk, process everything on high in a suitably robust blender until frothy, creamy, and smooth. Store in a glass bottle for up to a week in the fridge, though I reckon it may never last that long.
Brew coffee using your favorite alembics (I’m faithful to the French Press, drip be damned!), adding the cardamom, rose petals, and mint to your grind. Stir in alabaster opals of Homemade Hemp Milk, sweeten with a swizzle of coconut sugar, and garnish in your fanciest glass with a verdigris sprig of mint. Enjoy in a circle with a prized cabal of Priestesses, and hash out the week’s rigamaroo with pinkies raised~! ☙☕☙
Preventative medicine in a porcelain pot, Si Shen Tang 四神汤, ‘Four Deities Soup’, is an old school tonic remedy for all matter of melee thwarting zest & zing. I have been all sorts of obsessed with this soup since introduced to it by my Chinese Nutrition teacher, who’s hot-blooded zeal for food as medicine is unparalleled. Slurp by slurp, I noticed near immediate relief from digestive doldrums, and felt palpable rays of puissance wash over my seriously taxed bag o’ bones. This gentle soup can be utilized in a myriad of ways, from strengthening the digestive system, increasing appetite after illness or chemotherapy, battling fatigue, boosting the immunity, and calming a jostled nervous system. Because it’s taste is placid & mild, Si Shen Tang is the perfect source of nutrition for finicky kids with digestive distress. Though I find juice fasts to be haughty, ill-informed, & positively superfluous (life is entirely too vivacious to camp out on top of a Vitamix for weeks on end, eschewing commitments, kettlebells, and spontaneity), I CAN get down with a soup detox, which grounds, nourishes, and warms the body. Where juice lacks fiber & protein, shuts down the thyroid, dampens the digestive system, and contributes to wild fluctuations in blood sugar, tonic soups are PERFECT for a midsummer cleanse. They will sustain and simplify, supporting your organ systems without dampening and depleting your inner fire.
Soup cures are this bruja’s medicine of choice, nonpareil. Though you must be proactive, prudent, and vigilant in your preemptive preparation, using soup as medicine is an infinitely rewarding and deliciously empowering alternative to medication and surly interludes at urgent care. A dash of fastidiousness in the kitchen goes a long way in the gallant fight against acute ailments, chronic fatigue, and recovery from illness, by maintaining a buoyant & valorous flow of qi throughout the body.
Though their pedigree may seem glamorously avant garde, Chinese herbs are a hoary banality, and customary staple in most Asian pantries for both healing and grubbing. All of the herbs below can be easily procured in your local Chinatown apothecary, should you have a local Chinatown apothecary. If Los Angeles happens to be your halcyon homestead, hustle on over to Tin Bo or Wing Hop Fung for a crash course in Chinese herbalism, and a fanciful frolic amongst shelves of dried fish maw, beetle skeletons, powdered horns, seahorses, and musty mystical mushrooms. Fresh fare- such as Sake and Chinese Yam- will be readily available at any Asian market, where you can also try your luck at finding rogue Chinese herbs to flesh out your budding collection.
1 Cup Job’s Tears Barley/Yi Yi Ren
A gluten-free barley (be still my heart!) that adds burly nourishment to even the most tedious soups, stews, and brews, Yi Yi Ren is a gloriously gratifying grain. Excellent for eliminating dampness, heat, and toxicity, it goes to the spleen, stomach, and lungs, aiding in digestive troubles, swelling, fatigue, urinary difficulty, abscesses, and joint pain. I was thrilled to learn recently that Yi Yi Ren is being used intravenously in China to shrink cancer cells, and has been exhibiting hefty anti-tumoral powers. It is, unfortunately, not suitable for pregnant women, though it’s wondrous in soups for conjuring postpartum joie de vivre.
1 Cup Lotus Seed/Lian Zi
A dapper bedfellow to Yi Yi Ren, Lian Zi is a meaty lil’ seed that nourishes the heart, spleen, kidneys, and vital essence. Another darling of the pantry, Lotus Seed is mild enough to beef up any feastly fête, excellent for cases of chronic diarrhea, urinary and reproductive disorders, low appetite, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, and palpitations.
1 Cup Fox Nut/Qian Shi
Completing the trifecta of tonics, Qian Shi gently supports the spleen and kidneys, for frequent urination, diarrhea, diabetes, chronic discharge, and sore low back from stress and over-taxation.
A Few Pieces of Fu Shen/Spirit Poria Mushroom, Broken Up
One of the most poetic medicinal mushrooms of the Chinese canon, Fu Shen is both a mushroom AND a morsel of host wood from the pine tree upon which she feasts. Thus she contains the rootsy, arboreal energetics of the tree, and the otherworldly, decaying detritus of the fungus. Spirit Poria nourishes the heart spirit, and the ancient Taoists believed that consuming this famed fungi ‘leads to a long and happy life.’ It is used by those wishing to overcome anxiety, palpitations due to heart deficiency, insomnia, poor memory, worry, fear, edema, and urinary difficulties.
1 Raw Chinese Yam/Shan Yao, Grated and Sliced
Another boon for boosting spleen and stomach qi, Shan Yao is excellent for diarrhea, fatigue, spontaneous sweating, and lack of appetite. Also admirable for tonifying lung and kidney qi, it is an delightful herb for diabetics and those with chronic cough and wheezing.
3 Cups Sake or Mirin
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, rice wine invigorates and warms the channels of the body, quickening the flow of qi and enhancing the potency of herbs.
3 Liters Purified Water or Homemade Bone Broth
Should you be hoarding any homemade Botanarchy Bone Broth, this would add luscious flair to your brew. If water seems entirely too ho-hum for your tastes (which it won’t be, I promise), you can find my broth recipe here. I recommend a lighter broth, such as chicken, tempered with purified water.
A Heavy-Handed Sprinkling of Toasted Sesame Oil and Sea Salt, To Taste
Optional: Chicken or Pork
First, sanctify your herbal assemblage by bathing it in water, and grate the scrappy skin off your Chinese Yam before slicing. Once your herbs have been happily hallowed, grab yourself a hefty stock pot, and throw in the Job’s Tears, Lotus Seed, Fox Nut, and Fu Shen with wild abandon. Cover with a liter of purified water, boil, and then reduce to a slow simmer with lid on for about 2 hours, until your herbs have sweetly softened. Pop on over about two shakes of a lamb’s tail short of two hours, and add the Sake and Chinese Yam. Once the yam is soft, season to taste with Sesame Oil and Sea Salt. Enjoy in robust health, surreptitiously slurping your bowl of medicine daily, until you have thoroughly coaxed your mojo back to life and hoisted the heebie jeebies right outta dodge.
Entertaining a cabal of discriminating raw vegan occultists this full moon? Perhaps you’ve a coven of rogue astronomers to impress, and don’t fancy making the same old edible space diorama out of cocktail weenies and day-glo jello planets. Or do you have a hankering to sequester yourself in your homestead for a Cosmos marathon this full moon weekend, and haven’t the foggiest notion what to serve amongst bong rips and tumblers of gypsy wine?! Fret not, kitchen witches! All of the full moon fabulousness you can stuff into one raw dessert is contained HEREIN:
These moon cakes are marvels of opulent coconut cashew cream and diabolical chocolate enchantment. Surely to please raw foodists and opinionated omnivores alike, they can be served up as a mundane dessert OR consecrated for ritual, adding a sympathetic zing to your full moon sabbat. They freeze majestically if sealed in glass Tupperware and gingerly defrosted. For an elaborate rite, you can enchant each cookie phase with a particular intention that you wish to cultivate over the course of a moon cycle, and ingest each by each as she waxes and wanes in the sky. I always add bits and bobbles of mojo to my kitchen witchery, and sympathetic potions and herbs could easily be sprinkled in the cake batter. A brew of magically enchanted tea could even be used in lieu of the coconut water, if you don’t mind capricious results. Otherwise, stick faithfully to the following:
FULL MOON FROSTING
- 2 Cups Cashews, raw and unsalted. You’ll want to soak them for a few hours in purified water until soft, discarding the soaking water before adding to the blender.
- 1 Coconut, including 1/4 cup of the coconut water and all of the meat scooped.
- 3/4 Cup Coconut Butter. We’re sweet on Artisana Raw Coconut Butter at our homestead, but any will do.
- 1/2 Cup Agave Nectar or Raw Coconut Nectar
- 1 Vanilla Bean, split and scraped like a boss.
Daintily pile your assemblage into a Vitamix, or suitable blender with Beast Mode settings (heads up- this will MURDER a regular blender). You’ll have to put in some austere elbow grease to get a smooth consistency, comprised of plunging and stirring on the regular. Be patient- it will come! Once you’ve finessed a felicitous blender of frosting, refrigerate to set until your cookies are ready to frost.
RAW CACAO MOON CAKES
- 3 Cups Almond Flour
- 1/2 Cup Coconut Oil
- 1/2 Cup Agave Nectar or Coconut Nectar
- 1/2 Cup Raw Cacao Powder
- Dash of Sea Salt
Corral your cake constituents in a food professor, and pulse until dough-like. Roll out your dough on a sheath of wax paper, until you finesse an orb of chocolatey goodness from your fingers. Procure a rolling pin (or make one out of an empty beer bottle turned on its side), and roll out the dough until it is roughly 1/4 inch thick. If you find the dough is sticking like crazy to the wax paper, you can grease a lil’ coconut oil over your surface and fingers. Cut out your moons carefully with a circular cookie cutter, shiv, or the mouth of a suitably shaped cup. Set for a spell in the fridge, and then frost your best gibbous’ and crescents using cumulus clouds of lush coconut cream. Serve immediately, or freeze in glass Tupperware to enjoy periodically along with the phases of the moon. ☾⚫☽
Be it by hook, crook, Depo-Provera, or deodorized douche, the all-pervasive monotheistic religious hegemony has spent the last 2000 years convincing women that life sprang from Adam’s Rib, selling us on the lie that the vagina is a bothersome vessel for pain, shame, stench, bewilderment, male pleasure, and vulnerability. Scared silly by the sacred sorcery of the womb, our topsy-turvy culture has tried to stifle its innate ecstatic capabilities, obstructing its shamanic power by handing our health over to doctors, pharmaceutical companies, advertising agencies, corporations, and various trained henchmen of the uninformed patriarchy. Before the culture of the yearly Pap smear, women had a slew of secrets for protecting and enshrining our palaces. We communed with the moon, and tracked our cycle in the ebbs and flows of its shadow. We listened to the language of our sacred secretions, knowing which herbs to take to fight infection, stop bleeding, treat infection, and prevent or promote pregnancy. We tethered our circadian rhythms to ritual, using ecstatic rites to harness the guttural and sacred power of our cycles, evoking power and transformation for both ourselves and our kinfolk. As the sole gatekeepers of ancient medical arcana, we were self-governing gynecologists in our own right.
Throwing brevity out the window, I could wax poetic for miles on the suppression of shamanistic ecstasy and the rise of the patriarchal hegemony (if that gets you all weak in the knees, do consult the Oracle Of Terence McKenna, stat), but I’ll let you fall down that rabbit hole on your own accord. Rather than lamenting the loss of the sacred feminine, I’ll offer up my most hallowed rite for celebrating body autonomy, an old school ritual of reclaiming and rejoicing in your womb.
Vaginal steaming, known as Chai-Yok in traditional Korean medicine, has been used for centuries to cleanse, strengthen, fortify, and sanctify the Palace of Blood. I use it frequently, to stave off a lifetime of reliance upon institutionalized healthcare and gynecological practices that shut down the body’s innate intelligence. A staple of midwifery and folk medicine in regions as diverse as Asia, Egypt, and South America, V-Steaming is now offered for $40-$120 a pop at MILF-y spas in most metropolitan locales. The perfect anecdote to wily gynecological issues that hover in the periphery, both persnickety and pernicious, steaming brings oxygenation and heat to the womb, dispelling cold and stagnation in the body whilst cleansing, nourishing, and healing the oft-ignored tissues of the reproductive system. Squatting over a steaming cauldron of herbs has benefits both meditative AND medicinal. Practical and primordial, the bewitching vapors bring energy and exaltation to the dark, sibylline corridors of our body and our nature, places where patterns get stuck and troubles tend to stagnate. Steaming is an effective pain reliever that moves blood, aids in tissue repair, strengthens the female sexual organs, ignites sex drive, prevents and heals infection, and reduces inflammation. The ritual itself is a high falutin’ heathen hootenanny, fit for both guttural goddesses and citified gentility alike. If you are curious about how to address urogenital health at home along with your current healthcare regime, steaming could inject a hearty dose of joie de vivre into your Blood Palace and aid in the following conditions:
• Postpartum Health
• Uterine Fibroids
• Menstrual Cramps
• Irregular Menstruation (long, short, or absent monthly menses)
• Blood Clots (or dark, brown, scanty blood during menses)
• Pain During Intercourse
• Uterine/Bladder Weakness and Prolapse
• Ovarian Cysts
• Vaginal Dryness
• Bladder and Yeast Infections
• Ingrown hairs on the bikini line
• Scarring and adhesion from childbirth, hysterectomies, and laparoscopies
• Sensation of cold in the abdomen
• Sexual Trauma
Though gentle and painless, steaming should be avoided if you are pregnant (or after ovulation if you are currently engaged in conceiving), bleeding heavily, use an IUD, have an acute infection (systemic or local), or have vaginal sores, blisters, or open wounds. If your current state of health & robustness is ever in question, DO consult with a suitable health care purveyor before engaging in any shenanigans. Body awareness is tantamount to body autonomy, so always be mindful and well informed. Keeping with the times, I must incant the following mantra, making it loud and clear to the powers that be that everything I offer here is for educational purposes only:
This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult a qualified health care professional if you think you may have a medical condition.
The benefit to steaming at home outside of the confines of a bougie spa, is that you can get down & dirty with the purely ritualistic aspect of cleansing your nethers atop a makeshift throne of chairs and blankets. Liberated from an infinite loop of stodgy spa jamz, you can undulate to black metal or Brian Eno, and shake, scream, chant, trance, and seidr to your little heart’s content. You can anoint yourself as Priestess of the Blood Palace, and consecrate your sex organs through a shamanic journey into your own womb. Use the steam to track sensation in your nebulous sexual matter. What arrows and wounds can you remove and heal? What would you like to plant in your sanguine shrine to gestate and grow? V-Steaming nearly BEGS you to invoke your favorite fertility goddess. Perhaps honor Coatlicue, the Aztec goddess who gave birth to the moon and stars. You can give birth to your own moon and stars, dissolving into primordial nothingness and re-constellating inside a Cosmic Egg containing the raw DNA of your new, intentional universe. Sitting regal atop your throne, you can chose to worship your womb and release old trauma, imagining the steam is the magic milk of the goddess Isis, imparting divinity and healing like it did for the witch cults of ancient Egypt. Perhaps invoke the priestess physician Sekhmet in a purification rite to drive out and destroy malignant forces. Or, adorn yourself in feathers fit for shamanic flight, retrieving information from the netherworlds about a womb-related health quandary that you long to address. Maybe you’d like to turn this into a protective rite, to ensure that various institutional ignoramuses keep their grubby paws off of your vagina (here’s lookin’ at you, SCOTUS!), and stop treating your body as the property of their dubious enterprises. The possibilities are as infinite as your own sense of adventure. In my experience, ‘magic is effective together with medicine, medicine is effective together with magic.’ That’s real talk pulled straight from an ancient Egyptian papyrus on healing, a culture revered for their sophisticated, efficacious, and nuanced medical care. Whatever you fancy for your nethers, throw in a flourish of intention and will, deepening the medicine by allowing the steam to impregnate you with the seeds of your desired self.
Traditionally, herbs were chosen by village folk healers and midwives based on their magical and medicinal properties, taking into account what was in season and the specific needs of their patient. The basic recipe calls for 1 cup of dried herbs to 8 cups of purified water, and if you fancy a forage, do make sure the herbs haven’t been sprayed with any god-awful malarkey. In my practice, I specifically tailor my herbal formula to what condition I am working with (pregnancy? cramping? pain?), adding my mojo to a base of mostly Mugwort and Wormwood. My favorite recipe includes equal parts of the following constituents:
Mugwort: Sacred to both Hecate, patroness of herbalists and midwives, and Artemis, the moon huntress who presides over women in labor, Mugwort is a uterine stimulant that can restore a woman’s natural moon cycle with a wave of her weedy wand. Bar none for regulating the menses, she simultaneously eases menstrual bleeding in cases of excessive blood loss, whilst stimulating menstrual discharge in cases of scanty flow and amenorrhea. A natural antibiotic & antifungal, Mugwort protects the uterus from ulcers and tumors, eases painful menstruation, prevents miscarriage, and expels cold and stagnation from the womb. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we light bundles of dried Mugwort over acupuncture points to expel cold and warm the meridians, healing a myriad of conditions by leading to a smoother flow of blood and qi.
Wormwood: Antifungal and antibacterial, this cherished herb of Poets and Priestesses alike rids the body of toxins, cools the blood, heals wounds, relieves spasms, and strengthens sexual desire.
Rosemary: A tonic, astringent, diaphoretic, and stimulant, Rosemary increases circulation to the reproductive organs, relaxes nerves, eases muscular pain, stimulates the immune system, purifies the reproductive tract, and prevents infection.
Lavender: Known as the Swiss Army Knife of Herbs, Lavender cools inflammation, is antiseptic, aromatic, and antispasmodic, and particularly shines for chronic infections, relieving muscle spasms & cramping, regenerating cells, preventing scarring, and lifting the spirits.
Rose Petals: Sacred to Aphrodite, this female tonic is an anti-inflammatory and aphrodisiac. Cooling, gentle and astringent to the tissues of the genitals, Rose increases menstruation, heals skin, balances hormones, and calms tension.
Marshmallow Root: Not necessary for all V-steamers, but excellent to sprinkle in if you’re having a bout of vaginal dryness. Marshmallow relieves irritation by coating skin surfaces, and is a gem for those that experience a sensation of ‘rawness’ in the nethers, or burning with urination.
1 cup of dried herbs, or 1 quart of fresh herbs. Though I love the dickens outta them, essential oils should NOT be used for steaming, as they could easily irritate sensitive genital tissues.
8 cups of purified water, boiled.
Large pot with lid, suitable to hold your steaming herbal brew. A crockpot is excellent to transfer your boiling water into, as it retains heat for longer periods of time.
Two wooden chairs that you will balance your sweet cheeks betwixt. For routine steaming, you can cajole a carpenter friend with a scroll saw into making you a special steaming chair, with a hollowed out center for the steam to rise through. Or, if you’re a fancy pants, you can invest in a right & proper U-shaped medical chair, like this hot little number from Amazon.
Blankets to ensconce yourself in once seated.
Warm clothes to cover your neck and feet. These ensure that the healing ringlets of heat get trapped deep within the body, where they can work their magic and mojo.
Suitable ritual adornments for your magical fête.
A nearby bed to retire to après steaming.
WHEN TO STEAM
Most women will benefit from a hearty steam 1-5 days before their period arrives. For those looking to enhance fertility, I love these V-Steam guidelines from the CNY Fertility Center:
1. If you are in a natural cycle, steam once within a few days after your period, and then once just before ovulation but before intercourse.
2. If you are taking Clomid, steam once when you first start your Clomid medication, and then once just before ovulation but before intercourse/IUI. A side effect of Clomid may be a decrease in cervical mucous. The steam will help increase this mucous.
3. If you are doing an injectable IUI cycle, steam once when you first begin your stimulation drugs, and then once in the morning before your IUI procedure. Steaming before your IUI procedure helps to liquefy the cervical mucous and creates a lubricated path for the insertion of the catheter through the cervix.
4. If you are doing an IVF cycle, steam once when you first begin your stimulation drugs, and then once in the morning before your transfer. Steaming before your transfer procedure helps to create a lubricated path for the insertion of the catheter through the cervix.
5. If you are doing a donor egg cycle, steam once while your donor is stimulating and then once in the morning before your transfer.
1. Arrange your steam shrine in a quiet place where you can get down and dirty. Suit up in your ritual garb (keeping your neck and feet covered), being sure to remain pantsless or sans-culottes, as they say in France. Create your throne by placing two wooden chairs far enough apart for the gentle tendrils of steam to penetrate your nethers, with a nice spot between them to place your bowl of herbs (you may want to use a placemat if you have dainty hardwood floors). If you’re using a crockpot, plug it in now so that it’s nice and toasty when it’s time to pour your brew. Kick up the jams, consecrate your herbs with your intention, and work your magic and mojo like a boss.
2. Drape a warm blanket over your chair, so that you don’t have to fuss about once it’s time to steam.
3. Place your purified water and herbs in a covered pot, and bring to a soft, rolling boil for roughly 5 minutes. This is a stellar time for incantations, or a cathartic Bacchanalian dance party.
4. Turn off the heat, and steep your brew for another five minutes with the lid on. You can wrap the pot in a dishtowel to further hold in the heat if you so desire. When ready, place it next to your steam shrine.
5. Pour half of the water into your bowl or crockpot, waving your hand about 10 inches over the water to ensure the steam is not hot enough to burn your precious ladyparts.
6. Finally, sit atop your throne, tilting your pelvis and posture for maximum steam action. This requires some show-ponying around, and will be different for every pelvis. Ensconce your low body in the blanket, making sure no steam is escaping through the pesky crevasses. Should the steam be too much for you, you can control the temperature by venting the blanket as you so desire. This should be pleasantly intense, but not painful or burn-y in the slightest. Be very mindful, m’dears, especially if you’re in an altered state or meditative trance.
7. Allow yourself to stew in the vexing vapors for about 10-12 minutes, or until the heat wanes to tepid and/or ho-hum.
8. Dispose of your wan waters, and replenish with the remaining herbal infusion from the stewing pot. If need be, reheat the brew until steaming. Then, be a dear and repeat steps 5-7.
9. Retire to the bedchamber, and seal the rite under a pile of warm blankets, relaxing and rejoicing in your resilient, rejuvenated womb.
10. Be mindful of your vagina in the days and weeks to come, being sure to check in with the state of affairs hither and thither. You should expect changes in your vaginal discharge and menstruation, signaling that cleansing and healing is transpiring.
Many women won’t blink an eye at the ritual of a monthly wax, but rarely ever invest in their vaginas outside of a vajazzle or a finessing. Seeing as our reproductive rights and body autonomy are under savage attack on nearly all fronts these days, it is more important now than ever that we reacquaint ourselves with our biology, and reclaim our unalienable health by shifting to a paradigm of self-care. Your reproductive health is your birthright, learn to lasso it’s capricious curves!
For the swashbuckling Saturday shaman, who desires nothing more than to cultivate entheogenic empathy using some of the wisest & wiliest plant teachers known to man, the logical place to start is by spelunking the caves of one’s own subconscious. Dream divination, known as Oneiromancy by the ancient Greeks, allows us to peer into the depths, to know ourselves, to establish a symbolic vocabulary that helps us forage through the morass of daily life with the prophetic poise of a wise crone.
The functional prophetess should be able to navigate the dreamlands by one’s own compass, retrieving useful information for both oneself and others. The requisite accoutrements include traveling with fierce intentionality, a basic understanding of one’s subconscious mythos, and, of course, a well-maintained dream journal. Dream allies are your fiercest comrades in the Land of Nod, unlocking doors and mediating communion betwixt you and a motley crew of aetheric entities. The dream allies listed below are meant to be an ethnobotanical survey of my most prized oneirogens, and treated as such. If anyone wishes to approach the allies, it should be done in good health, only when deemed appropriate by a hearty sign-off from your healthcare provider. I am not keen on providing dosages over the Internet, as these plants are unique creatures with wildly variant properties, and a myriad spectrum of moxie from stem to stamen. I believe this should be the jurisdiction of your herbal purveyor, as they know the persnickety potency of each herb they grow and peddle. And also, my dears, DO check your state laws, as many of my most prized herbs for healing and gnosis are psychoactive at certain dosages, misunderstood by an ignorant hegemony, and therefore may be illegal for consumption in your state (don’t worry, you are still protected under the law to poison yourself slowly on Diet Coke and factory-farmed meat).
The Dream Herb: Calea Zacatechichi
My most favorite prophetic dreaming ally is the indigenous Latin American plant Calea Zacatechichi, also called the ‘Dream Herb’ by the Chontal people of Oaxaca. She’s used by the big ups of Mexican shamanism to produce psychotropic benders of prophecy and mirth, producing crystal visions worthy of a witched-out Stevie Nicks divinatory diatribe. Village shamans will bong rip Calea like there’s no tomorrow (which there very well may not be), though I prefer a genteel infusion of dried Calea in tea. Bitter to the point of near un-drinkability, a few stirs of honey will add an air of class to the whole ordeal, though it may still inevitably taste like someone has disgracefully vomited battery acid in your mouth. Do not let that deter you, dear seekers! In traditional Chinese medicine, bitterness is good for the heart spirit, and the quality detracts not from Calea’s lovely, generous spirit. Like a liminal Charlie Rose, you can ask her all matter of thorny questions, which she will graciously answer in bouts of epic visions and narrative. Though she’s often symbolic with an astounding archetypal imagination, many times her answers are so literal and linear, that you will be re-reading your dream journal months later with slack-jawed astonishment. She’s very forthcoming with her brujeria, and I’ve never had her turn me down. Therapeutic dosages will produce catnaps with bursts of intense visions. Dreaming recall is EPIC. I’ve found she’s well suited to a make-shift opium den constructed in your home parlor, with furs and pillows strewn willy nilly in front of a dream altar constructed with your dearest friends.
My basic method is to brew a strong pot of Calea tea and steep it for 15 minutes in my ritual chalice, while cradling it in my hand and meditating upon my query. Occasionally, I’ll bundle up my herbs in a homemade teabag, and tie it with a tiny tag upon which my divinatory question has been scrawled. Then, I stir in my honey, imagining the tendrils of tea lacing the brew with my mojo. Raising the chalice above and thanking Calea Zacatechichi for her wisdom and guidance, I imbibe my limbic elixir, and retire to my bedchamber with a journal nearby to record my visions. Seeing as she is traditionally used by shamanic healers to solve village health quandaries, I think she is an especially robust guide for clarity in healing work.
I will offer one caveat; there is, unfortunately, inferior Calea skag floatin’ around the ether. Which is why I ALWAYS order from the impossibly awesome Botanical Preservation Corps (if the emblematic bitterness is missing from your brew, you have an landed yourself an inferior herb). Should you be the journeyin’ kind, I have crafted a lucid dreaming elixir laced with Calea called Hypnotiana, and will be peddling my wares shortly at the Botanarchy test kitchen.
Mugwort: Artemisia Vulgaris
With fragrant silvery spires that glow incandescent white in the moonlight, Artemisia herself harkens to both the poetic dreamscapes of the moon and the subconscious hinterlands of the mind. A muse to both Old Gods and mere mortals alike, Mugwort is the sacred weed of Artemis (or Diana, if you’re a rapacious, re-appropriating Roman), a humble herb that grows freely (like the wild Botanarchist she is) amongst freeway meridians, sidewalk cracks, and areas of blight, disregard, and disarray. Foraging for her is the delight of urban hunters, left to get their jollies amongst paved-over pastures and sagacious sprawl.
Though herself humble & hoary, Mugwort has the pedigree of a bona fide goddess in disguise. In an appropriately foxy compendium of sex & death meeting myth & medicine, her patron goddess Artemis was said to have bestowed all of her herbal knowledge upon Chiron, a centaur (hot!), who then passed it on to the martyred necromancer Asclepius (even hotter!). Asclepius then compiled the sacred medicinal arcana into the Materia Medica’s of Ancient Greece, and taught ancient mortals the art of healing magic before being offed by Zeus for raising folks from the dead for money (even necromancer’s gotta eat!). Primordial seekers used to make holy pilgrimages to the Mugwort-laden Temples of Asclepius to practice dream divination, asking Asclepius for guidance to heal the sick and infirmed. Shall you not find yourself amongst the enshrined elite anytime soon, a clairvoyant cup of Mugwort tea drunk before bed produces visionary dreams, can enhance recall, and is often used by those who practice the art of lucid dreaming. Mugwort achieves this magical melee due to a chemical cocktail of constituents that prevent us from reaching a deep sleep, trapping us instead in the twilight hours of vivid dreamtime purgatory. That said, she may leave you a tad torn and frayed if used on the regular. With anything, do your legwork before starting any herbal regimen, making sure you are in suitable shape for such dalliances. And never take Mugwort internally if you are pregnant (or any of the dream allies, really), as it can cause miscarriages at certain dosages. I’m partial to a few heaping teaspoons steeped in hot water for a good 10 minutes, then strained and served with a spot of raw honeycomb. She’s also quite divine whence mixed with equal parts Rosehips and Lemon Balm, a tea that I’m privy to sip before any scrying magic, or a bro-down with my cards.
Xhosa Dream Root: Silene Capensis
Known by shamans of the river valleys as the ‘Herb of the White Path’, Silene Capensis is a South African dream herb famed for bearing gossamer visions heavy on white symbolism. Though I haven’t met the White Lady in my dreams as of late, I will give Silene mad props for increasing dream intensity AND recall, a sibylline cocktail of Orphic bliss. The most astounding facet of her brouhaha might just be that a frothy brew of her twisted tendrils is ingested upon RISING from slumbers, with absolutely NO impact on waking life- all of the illusory vagaries happen between the sheets! Those with a penchant for Cthulhu and the Deep Ones will inevitably love Silene, as her spirit form is a magical, alien sea snake that lives in the deepest waters of the river, straddling the boundaries betwixt this world and the next.
Learning to work with Silene bears infinite rewards for the psychonaut, offering diviners Delphic intimations of their personal arcanum, connecting the dots between personal myth and ancestral legacy. When approached with the proper intentionality (as entheogens always should be), she brings communion with the ancestors, and can deliver you messages from those departed. I did tremendous work with her over the course of a moon cycle, using
Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Way of the Tarot as a tactile counterpart to my work in the ethers, the two overlapping to form a deep symbology that I still draw upon often.
When I use Silene, I devote a week or so to her majesty, allowing the alkaloids to build up in my system over time. For those doing ancestral work, or looking to commune with a particular sea-faring entity, it is often helpful to set up an altar near your bedchamber dedicated to those with whom you desire to speak. I drink an infusion of the herb in hot water on an empty stomach upon rising, after stating my intention over my frothy chalice. When one feels the typical pangs of morning hunger, it is safe to eat. I am one to abstain from drinking coffee whilst taking counsel from Silene, and those with more sensitive constitutions may want to follow suit. After a day ensconced in the typical mire of humdrum consensual reality, I will state my query again before bed, with a befitting meditative interlude before my dream altar. Again, do be mindful of the dosage prescribed to you by your herbal purveyor; as is true of most alkaloid compounds, nausea and vomiting is not uncommon at higher doses.
Inquisitive parties simply MUST read ‘Root, Dream & Myth: The Use of the Oneirongenic Plant Silene Capensis,’ a tremendous exploration of her mystic myth, published in Eleusis: Journal of Psychoactive Plants & Compounds, Vol. 4. Snippets of the perfectly prolix incantation can be found here.
Frankincense: Boswellia Carteri
Dried tears of sap from resinous Frankincense trees are saturated with pineal-seducing sesquiterpenes ripe for the pillaging, and some folks preaching from the hinterlands of science believe it can stimulate the release of DMT from the pineal gland during near-death experiences, waking dreams, and psychotropic benders. Well, boy howdy! Is there any wonder why Frankincense is all biblical and stuff?! Located at the seat of the third eye, the pineal is a small endocrine gland resembling a tiny pinecone (hence its cheeky name), straddling the two hemispheres of the brain, suspended between our most primitive and most refined selves.
Nary the size of a grain of rice, and considered to be a superfluous, vestigial organ until the swinging 1960’s, the pineal gland’s main physiological function was unbeknownst to modern scientists until recent times. The gland that mediates our primal, circadian rhythms with a symphonic flourish, the pineal secretes melatonin, which effects sexual development, animal hibernation, metabolism, and seasonal breeding, secreting this hormone in sync with the seasons and cycles of light and dark (oh, the panache!). However, the cabalistic pineal- the mystical third eye, if you will- has been the darling of the esoteric haut monde since for evs, revered as the mysterious connecting link between the physical & spiritual worlds. Learning how to unlock its adamantine doors was the psychotropic prize of mystical traditions ranging from the embalmers of Ancient Egypt to the Vishnu apostles of Angkor Wat, as it was believed to grant the adept psychonaut second sight and transcendental consciousness. It is believed that there may be an opiate substance secreted from the pineal gland during Samadhi that has been variously called Nectar of the Gods, ambrosia, amrita, and the Living Water, and research into neurological changes in the brain during heightened states of consciousness may actually support this theory. In her book, The Biology of Kundalini, Jana Dixon writes that during peak transcendent experience, “many changes happen in the retinas and occipital lobes, including increased ATP production, acting as a neurotransmitter, histamine increasing blood flow in the brain, and an increase in nitric oxide metabolism. The end result being that one has an increase in visual acuity, inner visions, inner lights, seeing auras and vivid dreams.” Whether or not you believe in science or value direct experience (or if you’re like me and value them one and the same), there is a palpable link between pineal-stimulation and an activation of the dreamstate.
Take it from a sista, Frankincense is bar none for coercing gloriously halcyon sleep visions from deep within that lil’ brain pinecone. My method for dreaming deep is to diffuse Frankincense essential oil in the bedchamber before slumbers, and anoint myself with it liberally until I feel fit for the pharoses (this may prove too stimulating for some constitutions). Be forewarned- there is a reason that Frankincense was the gold standard in biblical times, bestowed upon kings and pharaohs, and lavished upon the illustrious as an unguent unparalleled. It is PRICEY, so be prepared to pay top dollar for a quality oil. Because I’m a neurot, the only purveyors I trust are Young Living, Lifetree Aromatix, and Floracoepia, the former because I can attest to the purity of their oils through hundreds of my patient’s testimonials, and the later because I can attest to the fastidiousness and character of their creators. Don’t worry, if you buy a bottle you can find countless uses for it in your healthcare regime. I have had success in using it for depression, narcolepsy, chest colds, pain, inflammation, wound healing, scarring, and skin infections. Not feeling quite that highfalutin? Procure a sprinkling of the resinous tears at an herbal shop (or lift some from your local Catholic church- it’s the incense they waft in those jaunty thuribles during mass), and burn it on a charcoal incense burner for a similar effect.
California Poppy: Eschscholzia Californica
Is anything more synonymous with the fantastical fairytale reverie of the dreamlands than Milk of the Poppy?! A bedfellow of the Opium Poppy without the déclassé trappings of, you know, having heroin, California Poppy can initiate deep dreaming by banishing the obsessive thought patterns that plague us during twilight hours, while snuggling us into a gently tranquilizing cuddle puddle.
A living emblem of the halcyon hallucinatory spirit of our chimerical Californian landscape, California Poppy is the state flower, and therefore, is illegal to wildcraft. My advice, as always, is to grown your own for tea and tincturing. She is a stubborn hausfrau, and like myself, loathes being picked or transplanted, preferring to proliferate footloose and fancy-free where she damn pleases. However, she has a joie de vivre so robust that she responds quite well to having her seeds scattered with wild abandon in a neglected, sun-drenched yard. A kindred spirit invited me to wildcraft Eschscholzia at her homestead near the desert, and I am now thoroughly obsessed with the resulting tincture. I urge all folks with a penchant for gardening to follow suit. Though easily procurable at your local apothecary, homemade California Poppy tincture is a picnic, as you simply tug her out of the dirt, clean her off, and use everything from root to petal. Taking a liberal dose of the tincture before bed will ferry one to the subterranean squall of dreamlands far beyond the cloying confines of physical and emotional pain.
Tiny Chocolate Love Spells
Making raw chocolates is really the only Valentine’s Day tradition we subscribe to over at the Baroness Homestead. I like my holidays heathen and my bacchanals ungentrified, avoiding all the banal trappings and manufactured melodrama of the Hellmark holidays. That said, I relish any occasion where I can get my dainty paws sullied with surreptitious chocolate mulch, and nefariously dust the embers all over the foxy countenance of my favorite gentleman caller (and undisputed best human on earth). Being the full moon and whatnot, I figured I’d get down with some good oldfangled kitchen witchery, and wrap some libidinous mojo into my favorite raw chocolate recipe.
These tiny edible spells were made with my secret recipe of qi-tonifying ingredients, including raw cacao, cacao butter, coconut palm sugar, and vanilla bean. They were then infused with the puissant aphrodisiac punch of Horny Goat Weed and Maca Root. After inoculating them with garlands of seductive gusto, they were dusted in tiny crystalline pyramids of smoked Maldon sea salt. Finally, they were poured into molds and left to smolder their embers in a crisp freezer until set, and elegantly enjoyed by my amorato and I during our ribald Lupercalia shenanigans under the Snow Moon.
Along with being one of the most powerful antioxidants on the planet, raw chocolate is a sacred medicinal that boosts anandamide, the so called ‘bliss chemical’ in the brain, serotonin, our body’s natural anti-depressant, theobromide, caffeine’s more genteel cousin, and magnesium, a powerful heart tonic and smooth muscle relaxant. Despite its cheeky moniker, Horny Goat Weed- known as Yin Yang Huo in traditional Chinese medicine- is an ancient aphrodisiac revered for its ability to slow the effects of aging, increase libido, and soothe PMS & menopausal symptoms. Not to be upstaged, Maca Root is an Andean adaptogenic used by Incan warriors to increase their agility, strength, and endurance, recently enjoying much ado for its ability to regulate our complicated lady hormones.
The rest of the tiny spells are getting test driven by a smattering of favorite friends, and once I suss up their potency, I reckon I’ll offer them for sale in my Etsy Shop. I can always do custom orders, weaving magic and mirth into every bite!
Vignettes from the Los Angeles Mycological Society’s Wild Mushroom Fair
Mushrooming season has been abysmal in Southern California this year, leaving me in heaps of despair with my dusty boots and empty basket. Since I can’t get all frolicsome with my fungal friends in the midst of this arid interlude, oogling specimens from the Wild Mushroom fair held at the LA Arboretum this weekend was like being on shore leave during the Great War. Whetting the whistle for all matter of mycelium, there were cooking demos, inoculation and dyeing workshops, forays in the botanical gardens, and a lecture from my most favorite mirthful mycophile, Gary Lincoff. Mayhaps I will make it through the dry season, after all!
Howsabout this for Valentine’s Day… culture a jar of homemade yogurt by the heat of your own body! Raw milk + yogurt starter + mason jar + snuggling + ecstatic love = romantical and delicious Valentine’s Day breakfast, or sublimely sexy gift for your darlin’!
Before Valentine’s Day was co-opted by squaresville Judeo-Christian materialists with a penchant for stale chocolate and ugly thongs, February 14th was part of Lupercalia, a carnal hootenanny of Ancient Roman proportions, harkening the Great God Pan with all sorts of lascivious melee. Lupercalia, the ‘Wolf Festival’, honored the She-Wolf who suckled the orphaned infants Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome. Like a regular afternoon in the Baroness Homestead, folks would run through the streets buck naked, whipping each other bawdily with improvised lashes, adorning themselves in goatskins, and petitioning the Gods and Goddesses for love & fertility. Bring a bit of this heathen witchery back to Valentine’s Day this year, and celebrate by making your own She-Wolf yogurt!
You will need the following: one quart raw milk, yogurt starter (easily procurable at your local health food store), thermometer, saucepan, clean mason jar with tight-fitting lid (at least one quart), snuggle buddy. For best results, perform the following in the nude, right before bed, on a sympathetic moon:
Gently heat your milk in a saucepan over a low flame until it reaches a balmy 180 degrees. Try your damnedest to maintain this temperature for about five minutes, making sure you DO NOT BOIL (this is important for keeping all of the lusciously lively beneficial bacteria alive & kicking). This would be an excellent time to stir your pot o’ milk, weaving incantations of mojo and magic into your love yogurt. Turn off the heat, and allow the milk to cool to about 108-112 degrees. Add the yogurt starter to your clean mason jar. My starter takes about 1-2 teaspoons per quart of milk, but as these are living beings with varying potency, yours may be a lil’ different. Follow the directions on your packet for best results. Languidly add a few tablespoons of milk, mixing lubriciously to make a smooth paste. Continue adding your milk in a slow stream until the jar is bursting with mirthful milky goodness, and cap tightly once you’ve sealed your intention into the jar. Sequester yourself in bed with your amorous accomplice, and incubate your yogurt overnight by the warmth of your steamy flesh. My Magic Man and I cradled ours between the sheets for a good eight hours, and as the sun crowned over our bedstead, we had a perfectly-cultured jar of ambrosial alchemy, cultured in our curves and imbued with the enchantment of our ecstatic love. Refrigerate as you would ho-hum store bought yogurt, and spoon feed when the mood strikes.
fantome-affame said: What are those field guides called that lead you to the binomial nomenclature of a species by asking a question with one or two answers until it narrows it down to one species?
Might you mean ‘dichotomous keys’, perchance?
Behold the baroque splendor of the fussiest biscuit this side of Middle Earth, hand-pressed with love & squalor in the Botanarchy test kitchen! Oh, Springerle!
Lovingly dubbed the ‘sadomasocookie’ by those of us bewitched by its tedious, cruel opulence, these highly bedecked biscuits date back to 14th century Germany. The origins of Springerle can be traced back to Julfest, a midwinter celebration of pagan Germanic tribes. Julfest- later Christianized to Christmas, sans all the blood, guts, & glory- marked the dark time of the year with the donning of the winter solstice. It was customary to sacrifice animals to the gods, in hope that such gallant offerings would bring a mild winter and an early spring. Us poor folk, ill-equipped with livestock to spare, would instead make token sacrifices, in the form of animal-shaped breads and cookies. Speckled with anise seeds and dusted with a flourish of flour, Springerle are a hearty atonement, surely suitable to please the persnickety pantheon.
The molds used to make Springerle are intricately hand-carved from wood, and are a flourish of folksy labyrinthine opulence. My love affair with the cookie began whence spying my gal Jen’s lovingly curated mold collection, hanging on the wall of her sunny kitchen. A mélange of rococo mushrooms, ancient crests, knights in shining armor, gilded owls…the wooden scenes of antiquated pastoral life wooed me to pieces, and struck up what is sure to be a life-long love affair. Loaned to me for my birthday bake fest, you can see part of her prodigious collection in all its sumptuous splendor in the photograph above.
Springerle is a labor of love, in the truest sense. The dough is sensitive and finicky, eggs must be beat by your wearisome hands for AT LEAST twenty minutes, each cookie must be delicately pressed and cut with dainty finesse, and then left over night to harden with wild abandon. You will inevitably mess up, and at some toilsome juncture you will be covered in flour, crying in your kitchen as the moon crowns through your window. It is all entirely worth it.
House on the Hill is the de rigueur resource for all things Springerle, and my friend (who’s Springerle is arguably the most scrumptious) swears by their recipe. They even have a gluten-free version, which I’m chomping at the bit to tackle next. I played around with King Arthur Flour’s recipe (if only for the medieval flair of their flour’s moniker), but found the directions to be a bit spotty, and the result a bit hard. They are, however, simply transcendent dipped in a carafe of black coffee whilst swooning over the fruits of your labor. Es ist noch kein Meister vom Himmel gefallen!
My bosslady Sara Pettitt, L.Ac., got me hip to this infernal brew, and now I whip it up every cold season to chase the devil away (once I have my way with him, natch). I give it out to all my kin, and we take turns knocking back shots like career Bukowski’s courtin’ strumpets in a skid row rattrap. This is not a dainty convenience store dalliance, like popping a few Sudafed between hits of Emergen-C (which are so déclassé, I won’t even touch them). This wicked brew has a visceral tang harkening to the necrotic fury of the Black Death, as the basic formula goes back to medieval Europe & Asia during the Bubonic Plague. It is a broad-spectrum antibioticthat will destroy both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.Puissant to the point of arrogance, it is also a potent antiviral and antifungal formula. Drink one ounce a few times daily for broad immunity, and increase as necessary for acute conditions, such as inducing a sweat to vent a fever. If you’ve a brutish constitution, you can even gargle this tonic for sore throats.
Mix equal parts of the following in your Vitamix, or equally tenacious blender. Oh, and be sure to wear gloves, as the nefarious pairing of pepper-stained fingers and your nethers is disdainfully inelegant:
Garlic cloves, peeled
Fresh ginger root/Sheng Jiang
Fresh horseradish root
White onions, peeled
The hottest peppers you can get your paws on (Habanero, African Bird, Scotch Bonnet, Cayenne, et. al.)
1/3 cups Braggs Raw Apple Cider Vinegar
2/3 cups vodka or grain alcohol
Blend on high until liquid, and down a thimble full. Store the rest in a glass jar in your refrigerator.
This tangerine-tinted titan has been my bedfellow all morning whilst nursing a wee cold in my gypsy sleep tent. The ocherous alembics of turmeric and ginger root warm the bones and stoke the middle jiao, while the saccharine swirls of maple syrup tendrils send me into an autumnal abyss from which I never want to return. Whip the following up in a Vitamix until milky, and warm on the stove:
1 large knuckle of fresh Turmeric root/Jiang Huang
1 small knuckle of fresh Ginger root /Sheng Jiang
3 Tbsp raw Hemp seeds
Maple Syrup, to taste
2 cups fresh water
The sweet solar energy of this hot toddy will boost your wei qi, providing you with Viking-worthy armor against pathogenic pests and shivering bones all season long.
How to Become a DIY Mushroom Forager
I often get asked how I got into the business of traipsing through the underbrush and scavenging in the sediment. Did I get all learned up in fancy college? How do I keep from dying valiantly by the miasmal dagger of a rogue toadstool? How can one discern the Shitakes from the shinola?
Here’s a guide for the slapdash forager, those urban swashbucklers after my own heart, armed with nuthin’ but a rusty pocketknife, mud-soaked boots, and the gallant heart of a hunter.
1. Frolic in the forest.
Hone your mushroom mind. This is a sublime state of mushroom gnosis, where the detritus comes alive with crowning caps, and the lichen lean in to whisper sweet nuthin’s in your ear. Never forget that you are a hunter-gatherer. You have a second sight that comes alive when beckoned, enabling you to spot your prey in the vast sprawl of primeval morass. We have to process a staggering mess of stimuli these days, dulling our best senses and thwarting spontaneous shamanic illumination at every twist and turn. Visualize the mushroom, and let it guide you where it will. Suddenly you will slip into a state both lucid and liminal, a primal summoning of your nomadic lust. This is the quintessence of foraging. I swoon at the very thought of it.
2. Research your feculent fortune.
Because you aren’t a super-sentient forest crone living in a hollowed out toadstool conversing with the deer & the dryads, you have no idea what you just dug up. After your hunting spree in the witchwood, you’ll want to take your precious toadstools home and identify them like a bona fide mycophile. Bust out the bifocals. Make a spore print, if you wanna show pony around. Check your specimens against your guidebooks, or use the vast swamp of myco-porn on the Internet. Become CONSUMED by minutia- it’s the only thing that will keep you topside of the soil. Here’s a smattering of my favorite resources for the budding forager:
The Fifth Kingdom: The crème de la crème of mycological textbooks.
Wood Decay Fungi: Keys, photographs, and descriptions of macroscopic fungi utilizing wood as a substrate in the Northeast United States.
MushroomExpert.com: Featuring my most favorite mushrooming tool, “What’s This Thing In My Yard?”
MykoWeb: The main attraction at MykoWeb is The Fungi of California. It contains photographs over 600 species of mushrooms and other fungi found in California, with over 480 of the species with descriptions. There are currently over 5400 total photographs of the mushrooms. Included are links to other online descriptions, and photos of the species treated plus references to common field guides. Hubba hubba!
3. Nerd out and join your local Mycological Society.
Mycological Societies hold local forays, invite guest lecturers, provide cookies, and typically have a handful of resident nut job mycologists who are just chomping at the bit to help you classify your mushies. Bring in your haul! High five your brethren! Best of all, you will enjoy the company of sympathetic folk who know their way around an artfully-placed mycological pun, and swoon at the curves of a bodacious Bolete. Find your local chapter online at http://www.namyco.org/clubs/index.html or http://msafungi.org/.
4. Get learned up on your trees.
Fungi and their arboreal blood brothers are inextricably linked in labyrinths of mycorrhizal matrimony. Morels love Ash, Amanitas love Aspen, and so goes the symbiotic Saturnalia of the forest floor. Knowing which fungi are sweet on which trees can often be the key to identifying ambiguous mushroom mysterions. Mushroom Expert has a fabulous catalogue of North American trees with their frequently associated mushroom kinfolk.
5. Amass your library.
You simply must invest in the following tomes, of biblical importance in my ramshackle homestead:
Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora
All that the Rain Promises and More: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms by David Arora
The Complete Mushroom Hunter: An Illustrated Guide to Finding, Harvesting, and Enjoying Wild Mushrooms by Gary Lincoff
6. Go to mushroom camp.
SOMA Wild Mushroom Camp is held every January by the Sonoma County Mycological Association in the redwood-studded wilds of Occidental, California. It’s three days of woodland reverie, featuring forays, gourmet mushroom cuisine, and workshops on mushroom identification, cooking, dyeing, paper-making, medicine-making, photography, cultivation, and more. Being a dyed-in-the-wool nerd of the highest degree, this was just about the best thing that ever happened to my natty old soul. We ate homemade mushroom chocolates, and traipsed through the fandangled forest like Hansel and Gretel, with overflowing baskets and the folksy wisdom of our fearless leader, Gary Lincoff (he was that year’s guest speaker). Hello, wet dream! Before the foray, I chastised my boyfriend for his behemoth basket with a cool “let’s not get cocky here, kid.” Much to my surprise, we filled the whole damn thing, and were chastising ourselves for our paltry accoutrements (we are from the mushroom wasteland of Los Angeles, after all). By the end of the foray, I had of reams of Russulas and heaps of Amanitas shoved down my cleavage, and was bartering mushroom real estate with my fellow frolickers. We ate wild mushroom pizza for WEEKS. Then we went back to camp, identified our burly bounty, ate a wild boar, drank some homemade wine, met some folks changing the world with emergent mushroom technology, and listened to Lincoff wax poetic late into the eve on foraging psychotropic ‘shrooms. So yeah…best weekend ever.
7. Become fabulously wealthy, and Mushroam around the world with Daniel Winkler.
This is what I wish for on dandelion tendrils and falling stars. The Indiana Jones of wild Cordyceps, Daniel Winkler leads medicinal mushroom forays into Tibet and the Bolivian Amazon, as well as the glamorous hinterlands of the Pacific Northwest. Altogether badass, his field guides to edible mushrooms are also top-notch, and he’s doing wonders for rural communities whose economies are based on mushroom-medicine.
8. Don’t be a hero.
The mushroom spirit is a capricious mistress who eats chumps like us for breakfast. Mushrooms, by their very nature, are destroyers. Therein lies their mystery and moxie. There are plentiful reasons they have the nom de guerres ‘Destroying Angel’ and ‘Death Cap’…they allow us to walk between worlds, yet they often slam the door behind them. There is nothing glamorous about sacrificing children whilst being ravaged by Satan in a robust bout of Amanita psychosis (well, maybe there is…but it ain’t worth the gamble when ya get right down to it), or having your liver decompose in mere hours in a necromantic tango with the Deadly Galerina. Every year she claims new souls, and even the most reverent and skilled are not above her diabolical law. Experts die at the behest of these sorcerous specters every year- do be a dearheart, and DON’T BECOME ONE OF THEM.
9. Semper Fi, buttercups!
I have a knife and a field guide on me at all times (an Opinel and The Field Guide to Edible Mushrooms of California, should you ask). You never know what sort of illuminated treasures lie in wait within the cracks and crevasses of urban decay. You have promised your heart to the wildwood now, and must always be prepared for her succulent surprises.