Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Ouroboros

This day marks the beginning of Spring in the northern hemisphere with an equal balance of day and night. In ancient times, when our ancestors paid close attention to nature and the heavens, Mean Earraigh also termed the Spring Equinox was celebrated with festivals and ritual.

In several texts the symbol of the Ouroboros is said to go back to 1690BC Egypt, the birth place of alchemy as well as perfumes used for medicine and consciousness. The serpentine later appears in Greece where we get the origins of the word “oura” meaning “tail” and “bόros” meaning “eating”.

The alchemical image depicts a serpent or dragon, or both, eating its own tail. I used it in my online course at both the beginning and end to represent “Circular Thinking”, since the symbol is the re creation of the self. The circular image reminds us of the cyclical nature, the "eternal return” and primordial unity.

The Ouroboros feels like a perfect symbol for todays Spring Equinox as it relates to the aspect of balancing duality and the union of opposites. Out of the chaos of formless disorder we are born into this infinite, repeating cycle of natures constant creation and destruction. In the great wheel of the earth, the Spring Equinox is the transition point as we move from the darker half of the year into the light here in the North. In the Southern hemisphere its the opposite, transitioning from the light to the dark.

The dualistic principle of this symbol is like two sides of the same coin the aspect of the chaotic state, where everything exists at one time. There is a perpetual motion, like that of consciousness and the cyclical, repeating nature in life. Depending on where we stand in our perception I have observed this state as the void. On one hand I am able to grasp the awarenesss of observing the duality, while on the other, not being a very "mental" body individual, I get confused and desire more concrete answers. In some ways this reminds me of the four processes. More on that in another post. In the meantime, if you are new to my work, check out my presentation at Bastyr University titled The Tree of Life.

Monday, March 12, 2018

New Mexico Plant Feature: Osha Root

Keeping in the vein of last weeks post, I thought I'd share a bit about a local root that I have been cultivating a relationship with. It's called oshá root, Ligusticum porteri, a perennial herb that grows at high elevations in rich, moist soils. Common names include: Porter's Lovage, Wild Lovage, Indian Parsley, Mountain Carrot, Empress of the Dark Forest, Colorado Cough Root,
Chuchupate, "Indian Parsley", mountain ginseng, and Bear Medicine. 1.

I had avoided it for years because it is threatened due to over harvesting. Here in northern New Mexico osha is native and is fairly easy to find at the Santa Fe farmers market by growers who are respectful of the plant. Osha has a co-dependent relationship with the mycorrhizal fungi, which is the main reason the plant won't grow outside of its native habitat.

In January I contacted the respiratory infection that was going around, besides my usual regime of eating lots of garlic & ginger, taking baths with essential oils and salts, fasting, consuming specific herbs and tinctures, I picked up some osha cough syrup—that's when the love (lovage) affair began and has been building ever since. I've heard osha referred to as the ginseng of New Mexico.

"Osha root contains anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties and therefore supports health or healing for respiratory conditions (coughs, colds, tonsillitis, flu, and other types of viral infections). Its antiviral properties are well recognized today, and as an alternative medicine, it's often prescribed at the first signals of the common cold or flu. Osha can also be taken when traveling to higher altitudes or for long-distance hiking to promote easy breathing.

A decoction (essentially a long, slow simmer) will extract the medicinal properties of the root into a flavorful, dark tea, which can be sipped purely, or mixed into any variety of tea-lattes or broths.

To make a decoction, simply add a handful of dried root to several cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer and allow to reduce for at least thirty minutes - though five to six hours is preferable as the longer the roots simmer, the stronger, and more beneficial the decoction.

When finished, the water will be a translucent, grey-brown tint, reflective of the root's color, and rich in beneficial plant-properties."2.

Osha tastes and smells warm, earthy and wonderful—the rather strong fragrance contains creamy, syrup-like anise, tonka and pepper notes. I have an essential oil of lovage that I plan to revisit, especially for my New Mexico pure fume series.

The indigenous people consider the root sacred and used it for respiratory conditions and as an incense or strung for purifying the air.

1. Taos Herb
2. The Alchemists Kitchen

Sunday, March 4, 2018


"Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light."
~ Theodore Roethke

It's root vegetable season, very evident at the Santa Fe farmers market. In California, where the growing season is all year long for the most part, you don't witness the shift that occurs in the plants as much, a shift which humans also experience on a much more subtle level.

Roots are very dense in nutrients since they absorb lots of beneficial earth based components as they grow underground. These nutrients are then turned into antioxidants, vitamins and iron that help support and cleanse our systems. Other benefits include slow-burning carbohydrates and fiber, good for nourishing our interior life during the cold winter months.

It's as if roots are fuel to keep our inner light flickering. This idea reminds me of other concepts, related to the opening quote by Theodore Roethke, a perfect illustration of how plants are great symbols for us of how to live and thrive in the world.

We begin our lives as tiny seedlings, nestled in a dark, watery womb where we are nourished via a root-like cord. After emerging into the world, we first receive nutrients from our mother milk and eventually get teeth so that we can chew our own food and begin to embody/in body our own self as an independent being.

The light from the sun (Fire) helps us to blossom, to push through the earthly (Earth) mantel, into the open expanse (Air) and receive those drops of life force from the heaven above (Water). Through this constant, repeating pattern, we grow and hopefully learn, keeping that inner light—the spark of life, alive and constantly tended.

As you may have noticed, at this journal I highlight our connection to the plants, how we are like the different representatives whether the flowers, the trees, the elementals and how by getting back to those roots we can perceive the light.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Mercury Day

Wednesday is attributed to the heavenly body, closest to the sun. Although small in size, it is dense and heavily cratered like the Moon. The astrological of signs Gemini and Venus are ruled by this messenger of the God and Goddess. There is dualistic, curious, versatile component. In a conversation with my local buddy Avery he mentioned that there is a  "fluidity of the subconscious, a bridge that connects the waking and sleeping states, or the mortal and immortal nature of the soul.”

Although in Rome he was called Mercury, in the Greek Odyssey his name is Hermes, the father of "hermetic" knowledge who carried a golden herald, called a kerykeion, a caduceus by the Romans. Ancient texts associate Hermes with his lover Aphrodite, whose child was Hermaphroditus. According to Greek mythology he was merged into an androgynous form with the water nymph Salmacis. 

The color harmony of the planet is blue, relating to the throat chakra, home of our center of expression and communication. The stones attributed to both this planet and chakra tend to be blue in color to aid in our expression and communication.

Although tansy, yarrow and both blue chamomile and cypress contain the appropriate hue, in aromatherapy we use thyme and elemi to assist in self expression. Fragrances that contain an airy quality with notes containing some motion, like the air have more mercurial attributes. Pay attention to scents that encourage a feeling of fluidity in your communication, as if you have wings.

Stay tuned for more related posts as I dive deeper into the ancient mysterious of alchemy and astrology.

Planet Mercury gif via NASA
Painting by Adolf Hiremy-Hirsch
Photos and text ©RoxanaVilla

Monday, February 26, 2018

Movie Monday: Phantom Thread

On Friday evening Greg and I headed over to the Violet Crown to see Phantom Thread, the latest and supposedly last film of the formidable Daniel Day-Lewis. He portrays Reynolds Woodcock, a British couturier in 1950's London with impeccable taste and a rather extreme and demanding temperament. If I were to choose an astrological sign for him Virgo comes to mind with his obsession to detail mixed with a bit of the cardinal signs of Capricorn and Aires who tend toward control. This compulsion for attentions to intricate parts of a whole, intense work ethic and commanding others is inherent in most genius artists who are committed to mastery and a defined aesthetic, Coco Chanel is a great example.

The film is beautifully rich, threaded with symbolic messages which hid themselves at first, presenting themselves on a conscious level as I continued to ponder and savor all the little details carefully stitched throughout—literally and metaphorically.

Film maker and director Paul Thomas Anderson co-wrote and produced this glamour packed, elegant morsel with Daniel-Day, previously the two had collaborated on There Will Be Blood (2007).  Mr. Anderson also undertook the role of "director of photography" which leads one to speculate that he himself contains some of the same eccentric devotions to quality we see in Mr. Woodcock.

The film also stars Vicky Krieps as Alma, his strong willed, young muse and Lesley Manville as Cyril, the very discerning and observant assistant and sister. Both Alma and Cyril have a similar look, which before I knew of the brother/sister relationship, had me speculating that the two red heads may have metaphorically been aspects of the same character. Something else to note is that the word alma means soul in Spanish.

Viscerally compelling from the start where we get a glimpse into Mr. Woodcock as master craftsman in the fashion house of a post war, London master craftsman and his entourage of assistants as they arrive at dawn and put on their uniforms.

The exquisite scrolling, calligraphic title is what captured me instantly in the trailer, followed by the setting of Londons mid century, high glamour fashion world coupled with Daniel Dy-Lewis and Paul Thomas. The haunting soundtrack weaved throughout was composed by Jonny Greenwood.


Before continuing, I recommend to STOP READING from this point forward so that you can view this cinematic gem in pure ignorance of the spoilers I am about to share.

As we drove out of the parking lot of the theater, Greg shared that he found the film troubling and was left with an uncomfortable feeling. I on the other hand didn't have that impression, in my mind I thought how in a way it was a modern day Taming of the Shrew in reverse. And to be completely honest, can see how in a partnership there are all sorts of issues going on simultaneously as each person makes concessions, or not, for the other—or over time one becomes resentful of the other. Relationships, especially close ones, are extremely complicated, as I am sure you are keenly aware of. To be the wife of a celebrated artist with a healthy ego can be anguish, daunting and constantly work on your own self esteem, it demands you to stand up and be heard, even when the other has no interest in having his shadowy self revealed.

So, where Greg was made uncomfortable, I relish Alma finding her own way of dealing with the bully and bringing him to his knees in an act of equanimity.

Another intriguing aspect that came to mind was how Alma, symbolic of the creative, circular womb, would go out into the forest to harvest mushrooms. I thought about how in many of the old faery tales untamed nature is so often needed to bring restoration to a life out of balance. There is also the concept of the mushrooms acting as a detox.

I'm sure as I continue to contemplate Phantom Thread and see it again and again, more of its inner linings will be revealed.

Monday, February 19, 2018

PISCES: Swimming without Water

Happy Solar Return to all you born under the influence of Pisces! The sun has entered this mystical, intuitive and watery sign today, February 19. The symbol of the two fishes is said to be derived from the ichthyocentaurs, who aided Aphrodite when she was born from the sea.

“We Pisceans know how to swim without water” 
― Munia Khan

I've been delving deep into astrology lately and all the wonders of this ancient, pattern tracking wheel, thus expect more on this topic here at the journal. I'm married to a Pisces and have lots of the sign showing up in my chart. All of us have some form of this mutable sign in some way and we can relate to an aspect of it personally or how the symbol shows up in others and the world.

What shall we scent our Piscean friends with, watery GreenWitch, intuitive Vespertina or the very tender and flow inducing Gracing the Dawn? Hmmm, I say it's too hard to choose, let's layer them up or, even better anoint a different part of the body with a different scent!

"And here fantastic fishes duskly float,
Using the calm for waters, while their fires
Throb out quick rhythms along the shallow air."
— Elizabeth Barrett Browning, A Drama of Exile

Opening image: Painting by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, Golden Indian Coin 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

The Triple Goddess: Crone in Santa Fe

As you may already know, in September, Greg and I moved from Los Angeles, California to the high dessert in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  It's been a bit of a wild, Mr. Toad adventure which has presented many challenges and interesting (to say the least) characters (Crazed Tesuque lady) along the way.

A few weeks ago, along the dirt road that leads to our new temporary dwelling, we met a crone that walks with a tall staff. After passing her on the road and waving, Greg and I turned to each other and gasped, “Female Gandalf!”

"In Joseph Campbell's classic work The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the first encounter of the hero on his journey is with a protective figure who provides him with amulets or magic devices against the dangers he will face. The crone is one of the most common of these protective figures"

Then as we returned home, just before making the turn down that same dirt road, I spotted about ten bee hives to the side of a house with a little sign that said "Earth Nurse". I gasped and pointed it out to Greg. We started wondering who the “Earth Nurse” was.  ???

On another day, heading back from town along that same dusty and bumpy dirt road, we spotted the “Female Gandalf” once again. We choose to stop and say hello, assuming that she might be the "Earth Nurse”, after all she certainly embodied an Earth Nurse by her outward appearance and great staff. Her answer to the question was, “Well, the Earth nurses me.”

Indeed she is the "Earth Nurse" and in my opinion the community crone, a facilitator of balance in our little neighborhood here along the Santa Fe River. As we dialogued I learned that she is hosts many gatherings at her home and planning is to create a "closing" event for the Counter Culture exhibit currently at the New Mexico History Museum. Since the Counter Culture tribe is alive and well, particularly here in Santa Fe...meaning Holy Faith. Perhaps you have heard me mention that Santa Fe is the city of the retired hippie?

Despite the constant challenges, Santa Fe continues to enchant and surprise daily. In many ways she herself is the crone, an ancient city with a very bloody HIStory which may be being healed a bit by the creative presence found here. Woof!

Here is a link to the Counter Culture show here in Santa Fe just in case any of you are local or come for a visit in the next few weeks.

(1)  Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces (orig. pub. Princeton University Press, 1968; 3rd ed. 2008), p. 57.
(2) Fine Art America, the Crone

Chamisa photo along the Santa Fe River and text ©Roxana Villa
I couldn't find attributions for the two pieces of art used in this post, if you happen to know who the artists are please leave it in the comments or send me a note. The second image says Wheel of Life, oil on canvas 1998 (?) with an attribution that is hard to read ©maiana.de perhaps?