Gathering the oak scree

This is the time of year, Honorable Shamans and Fellow Pagans everywhere, when we collect the Oak Scree and Cypress needles for the next 12 months of smudging. One of the tennents of the Earthways Shamanic Path, is to go out into your lands and find the magic that dwells there, and honor it.

oak thingsFor us here in Southwest Florida, following this path means we do not use white sage for smudging.  It doesn’t grow here, and sage shouldn’t be used for “every” ceremony or occasion.  Instead, we collect the tree flowers or tree leaves/needles that have fallen off the trees around us, locally.   The challenge is to gather enough for the coming year.  How much do we need?  How often would you like to smudge yourself? !  Right, it is hard to know how much to gather.

The Live Oak trees only produce their scree at this time of year.  (December to January.)  I like to collect it from trees that drape over parking lots, or sidewalks, since that makes it easier to collect the scree, when it bumps up to a curb.  Live Oak Scree has a very simple smell when burned.  It burns FAST, you will need a lot.

Cypress Tress, on the other hand, drop their leaves/needles a couple of times a year.  They can be gathered directly under the trees.  I like to collect a pinch here, and a pinch there, so as not to dig holes around the trees.  The leaves/needles smell good when dried, and again, burns fast.

I also use rosemary and a few other locally grown herbs, to add  to my smudging blends.

Look around where you live, and where you go out into the wilderness, and see what grows that you can harvest, safely and legally.  Learn what poison ivy and other poisonous plants and trees looks like and do not use any parts for smudging.  Also, know what plants are protected species and do not harvest them.

And while smudging, share your Peace with Our Earth.

Join Whale Maiden in the discussion at the Earthways Shamanic Path – Facebook Group

(c) 2015, Whale Maiden, all rights reserved

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Why not smudge with Sage in Floirida?

A few weeks ago now (Feb 22) I created a Medicine Wheel in Southwest Florida, with the help of several wonderful people.  Before we created the Medicine Wheel, I led a meditation/demonstration of what we could use besides sage, to smudge ourselves and our materials.

What’s wrong with sage?  Nothing, in general.   For something like 20 years, at almost every ritual I’ve attended, regardless of intent, we have smudged with sage.   This is painting with too broad a brush in my opinion.  I like sage.  It smells good to me, it tastes good to eat (or smoke) and is readily available at most “new age” or “metaphysical” shops.  The drawback is, I think it isn’t native to Florida, much less Southwest Florida.  Plus, I read a great article a few weeks ago on facebook called “the four sacred plants,”  which led me to reconsider how and when we use sage in our rituals and gatherings,  In a word, we are over using it, which I had long suspected.

So when I invited the people to help me create the Medicine Wheel, I also asked them to bring tree material from around where they lived.  I suggested they forage for tree items since that would reduce the potential to pick plants that are either non-native, or are endangered, or toxic.  Plus, trees are easier to identify than plants, so I thought that would help us keep track of this experiment.

I brought a coconut, from my neighbors’ coconut palm.  And, some dried flowers from the Orchid Tree.

Other people brought:  pine cones, pine needles, pine sap on bark bits, and a bunch of other types of trees materials, particularly from Mahogany.  We had cypress tree leaves that had fallen to the ground and were gathered.  They were already fairy dry.  We also had oak scree.

Oak scree is what we call the flowers/ reproductive parts of the Live Oak trees.  (There’s several species of Live Oak, but we don’t distinguish them in this essay.)

We talked about what each person brought and discussed whether it was suitable for burning in a smudge bowl.  For example, the coconut is readily available, at least in my neighborhood, but it is difficult to prepare for smudging.  We burned bits of each item and sat with each to see what we liked best.

I like the oak scree.  You have to be careful because it is a quicker burn than sage is.  But it is readily available, if you gather it at the right time, and has a nice smell.  One person brought some berries of (Cypress? or Cedar?) and these smelled very good when burned.

Of course, if I only use oak scree I’ll be back to the problem of painting every ritual with the same broad brush.  Hmmm…

Take a stroll around where you live, work, go to church, or play and see what tree items you could gather and dry for your ceremonies.  Sit with the items and see what speaks to you.

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footnote:  There are times where we have consecrated sacred space with an herb like rosemary, dipped on water.  We anoint people with this when we are in a place where we can’t burn sage or other materials.  Presently I’m using a sprig of Boston Fern to anoint people in my Class.  It is right outside the door of the classroom, and is thus very convenient.  And, it is growing in Florida, so that works for my purposes.

Heading Into Fire Season

We are heading into Fire Season here in Southwest Florida.  How can I tell?  In the past two weeks, the day time temperature has hit 80 degrees every day.  It is Hot.  People are talking about how hot it is.  The psychological shift that year-rounders under go, to cope with the extreme heat we know is coming, is underway. 

It isn’t Humid yet.  (Humidity is the province of Rainy Season.)  It is Dry and Windy.

The Yellow Blossom Trees are coming into bloom.  {I’ve got to get a good picture of them THIS year!  I think I missed them last year…}

And, the Live Oak trees have flowered and dropped their seeds.  I call this stuff, ‘oak skree.’  I’ll post a photo of it, in a moment.  I gather this stuff in broad daylight and put it into whatever container I have when I see it.  Sometimes I gather it in an empty to-go drink cup; this time I gathered it into an empty bag from Wendy’s Drive Through.

I use oak skree  ceremoniously, the way some people use Sage, (*) but you have to watch out because oak skree burns FAST.  It is not a lazy, meditative smudging tool like Sage is!

(*) see “Uses of Sage,” in the next post.