Sunday, April 9, 2017

Here we go a'Maying...

Those of us who are students of Jason Miller, preform together a Global Juno Rite on May Day.  If you're not part of the Strategic Sorcery course, I very strongly recommend it; there's still time to sign up before the rite.  Although the ritual does not require an incense, this year I decided to compound one, and here it is!  Although I originally designed it with the Juno rite in mind, this incense captures, not the essence of Juno, but the essence of May Day, and of the May Queen, no matter what you call her; Juno, Maia, Flora, Magna Mater, She of the Wildflower Meadow, and a hundred hundred other names.  This incense is great for any work related to abundance, prosperity, fertility, fecundity, marriage, family, gardens, a happy and healthy sex life.

If you do not want to compound your own, you can order the incense from Mastros & Zealot here: for $23 per half-cup portion (includes US shipping). US orders placed and paid by Friday April 15th are guaranteed to arrive in time for May Day.

Queen Guinevere's Maying
John Collier, 1900
May Queen Incense Recipe

The proportions can vary tremendously depending on where you source your materials, how fresh they are, and your own personal taste.

4 parts rose

2 parts frankincense
2 parts damiana
1 part hibiscus
1 part hawthorn berries
1 part hops flowers
1 part red clover
honey to bind

Grind all ingredients small (but leave some flower petals whole, because they are pretty!) Mix together, and bind with honey.  (warming the honey makes it thinner, and easier to mix)

I used this (slightly modified) traditional hymn to bless the incense:

Bring flowers of the rarest,
Bring blossoms the fairest,

From garden and woodland and hillside and dale;

Our full hearts are swelling,
Our glad voices telling
The praise of the loveliest flower of the vale.

O Lady, we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of Heaven and Queen of the May!
O Lady, we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of Heaven and Queen of the May!

If you want a more Maia and less Juno hymn, you might substitute "Queen of Faeries" for "Queen of Heaven".  The traditional line is "Queen of Angels", and where I have "Lady", the traditional hymn sings to "Mary".

Damask Rose,  Rosa damascena, is sometimes called the Queen of Flowers, and I'm sure you don't need me to tell you about.  So, instead, here is a Roman myth of the rose's origins: Flora, the Goddess of Spring and of Flowers, one day found the dead body of her dearest and most beautiful nymph; inconsolable, she begged all the Gods to come to her aid to change the dead body of her loved one into the most beautiful flower which would be recognized as Queen of all Flowers. Apollo, God of the Arts, gave her the breath of life, Bacchus bathed her in nectar, Vertumnus gave her fragrance, Pomona fruit, and Flora herself finally gave a diadem of petals, and thus the rose was born.

Frankincense, the resin of Boswellia sacra tree, is solar and sweet. It has a long and storied use throughout North Africa and the Middle East. Biblically, it was a gift of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon, and also a gift of the Magus Melichor to the infant Jesus.  I use it in almost all of my incense mixes. It is good for purification and sanctification, for healing and peace. It provides a sunny, summery, solar layer layer to the incense. 

Hibiscus, also called rose mallow, is sacred to a wide variety of deities, including both Kali and Ganesh.  In Tahiti and Hawaii, the hibiscus is very closely associated with marriage.  Married women wear the flowers behind their let ears, and available girls and women behind their right.  In addition to their lovely color, the hibiscus flowers have a delicious fruity scent when burned.

Hawthorn Berries, the small red fruits of May Tree, have an extraordinarily rich mythology.  As is evident from the name, the tree has been associated with May Day in Britain since time immemorial. British traditions hold that hawthorn was used to make both Jesus' crown and Joseph of Aramathea's staff (from which sprung the Holy Thorn of Glastonbury).  In Celtic lore, it is said to heal a broken heart, and the Gaul's credit it as the premier flower of Faerie.  To underscore the tree's association with May Day, I am nearly positive the white blossoms in the painting above are hawthorn.  In truth, the berries do not much effect the scent of the incense, although they add a very subtle fruitiness, but making a May Day incense without hawthorn seemed unforgivable to this Queen of the Witching Trees.

Damiana, Turnera diffusa, has a complex spicy floral scent, somewhat reminiscent of chamomile. Closely related to passion flower, damiana has a great reputation as an aphrodisiac.   In fact, it's name comes from the Greek "daman", which means "to subdue" (as with a love spell).  It was used ritually by both the Aztec and the Maya, who learned her use from the Guaycura (the indigenous people of Baja). When burned, damiana has a dank herbal scent, similar to marijuana mixed with figs.

Red Clover, Trifolium pratense, is among the most common of meadow plants, and is a favorite flower of bees.  I strongly associate it with the Great Goddess, Heavy with Child, partly because it contains high quantities of phytoestrogens.  However, I include it in this incense primarily because, to me, clover is the smell of summer.

Hops  blossomsHumulus lupulus, was a great favortie of the amazing Hildegrd von Bingen, who appeared to me in a dream and called on me to "become the Abbess of Witches"; the first inspiration for the Witch House.  Most of us know it as a flavoring agent for beer, but hops has many other important qualities.  It is calming and relaxing, a tonic against anxiety and restlessness.  They are also being studies for their potential in female hormone replacement therapy.  Hops also promotes powerful dreams and visions.

Honey is the last primary ingredient. It lends a sweetness and slight floral quality, as well as binding the other herbs together. I love to use honey in incense, because it provides huge clouds of smoke, great for giving spirits something to manifest in. Bees, and thus honey, have a long association with the May Queen. If you’d like even more smoke, you can mix in a little bit more honey.  The honey in this mixture is from Braddock Farms, an organic urban farm just down the road from the Witch House.

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