Just Another Animal Experiencing Autumn

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Just Another Animal Experiencing Autumn

 
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Warning.  

This isn’t about bees.  It’s about love. Except, maybe stick around, cause I *might* throw some bees in for good measure.

Ever notice how love, loss and longing get stored in your body the same way seasons do for every other temperate animal on earth? There’s a kind of body knowing that arrives.  It sneaks in and gives you emotional responses to things that feel out of context, until you examine the seasons of your life.  The bees feel it.  They react accordingly.  It’s not a surprise, it’s instinct (see how I did that). 

We talk about calendar dates, but what’s really running the internal clock is seasons.  Autumn has always been my love season.  Maybe it’s because the first time I fell in love was in early fall.  When autumn rolls around I feel Love courting me.  Grief works the same way.  It slips in with the seasons.  Something about the particular angle of the light, the smell of dry grass, the color of the hills.  This week, as late summer heat merges with early fall chill I’ve been experiencing an unexpected wave of grief.  A longing and sorrow.  I didn’t even realize it was exactly a year since my last heartbreak.  My body told me.  The body remembers.   We store powerful experiences in our body.  They emerge with all sorts of prompting, but seem especially prone to blooming when the earthly seasons shift, creating the same sensory experience you had when that thing happened to your heart that one time.  Tragedy, ecstasy, love.  It all percolates up from the depths of you just so it can meet the season of its birth once more.  I believe if handled with care, this is part of what we call Healing.

 
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Last summer I fell in love in Paris.  How cliché. But hear me out: it was with a long time friend  who lives in Europe and whom I’d been in occasional rendez-vous for 13 years.  Okay okay, it’s super cliché.  Still, it was vey real and very mutual. Change your life real.  Do things you’d never thought you’d do.  Willing to make sacrifices.  That kind of real.  Obviously it didn’t work out.  Reasons? Something complex mixed with something as simple as I wanted kids, he didn’t. 

It doesn’t change the love for each other.  He’s still one of my favorite, long-life friends/lovers.  Our entire love affair is based on walking through ancient city streets for hours in a never-ending labyrinth of delicious conversation.  I gave it my best.  I flew back to Europe in September.  I put it all on the line.  My heart broke.  Enter Autumn.

 
 

Now here we are, flirting with Autumn and all her potential affairs, while the season moving through my body is also reminding me that this is a time to weep.  I think this is what it is to be an animal.  This is what it is to let the natural flow of emotions move through you.  Call it the feminine rising.  Can we make room for it? Can we allow room for grief and love to pass through all the ventricles of our heart, without setting mandates on when we’re allowed to feel what and for how long?  Take April for instance.  I always get irritated in early April.  Short tempered, easily frustrated and prone to cry.  You’d think I’d remember by now, but as time goes by it become more subtle and I have to slow down to notice.  What happened in April 9 years ago still plays out in my body-heart even when I’m not paying attention. All that frustration and irritability is a cover for the insane grief of miscarriage followed by years and years of praying for a partner and a baby.  No wonder I get snippy in April.  Once I realize what’s going on and have the breakdown with the big tears, everything shifts and the season of April is tolerable again.  It surprises me every time.  

Whatever it is - falling in love, the day your mother died, the birth of your child, the time the fires came - it’s tracking the seasons even if you are not.  Give it room.  Give yourself time.  Usually all it wants is to be noticed and respond to accordingly.  When the flowers dry up and the nectar stops flowing, the bees respond accordingly.  When the smell of rain is on the wind, the birds begin their migration.  It’s natural.  Every animal has learned how to respond to the season.  We may have learned a lot of big-brained tricks for pacifying the seasons.   We can even try to escape them entirely.  That is, until we remember that they are moving inside us, not just around us.  

I have spent the last 9 years in a depth of spiritual and shamanic study that demands me to not only be in touch with my emotions, but to also express them.  How rebellious.  In a culture that fears emotions, labeling women who fluidly move with them as volatile, crazy, intense, or dramatic, the active cultivation of emotional expression is downright revolutionary. Goodness, only a century ago had a disease for women’s emotions named Hysteria.  

 
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The thing about these external seasons evoking internal seasons, is there’s no escaping it.  You can either suppress it, and suffer the consequences (model for last 2000 years), or pause as the leaves turn, greeting the upwelling of memory and feeling.  I’ll tell you what this love and heart break gave me: permission.  Like many women, I have spent my life apologizing for my emotions.  I remember apologizing to this man, amidst a torrent of tear.  Sorry for crying.  “Why are you apologizing?” he said.  “It’s just an emotion.  It’s natural. Let it out.  Let it come all the way through.  It’s not going to hurt me.  If you don’t let it all the way through it will get stuck.”  

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you can spend your life giving yourself permission to be you over and over again, but sometimes, when you’re at your most vulnerable, it takes someone you love saying, yes, you are allowed to be your whole self in front of me.  If we could only remember to be that whole self every day.  Or to not try to give our whole selves to people who only want a part of us. The raven doesn’t diminish itself in order to be liked by other ravens, or foxes.  The lion doesn’t stop being fierce because the wind can’t handle it.  The bees don’t stop stinging because you praise them for their honey.  

Moral of the story, give yourself permission to be what you are, tears and all.  There is a difference between expressing emotions and dumping them on someone else as their responsibility.  No one else is responsible for your emotions, but the antidote to emotional dumping isn’t emotional suppression (hint: that leads to dumping).  The answer is expression.  Allow them to exist.  To move through your body, your art, your music, your cooking, your love affairs, your cry in the shower.  And don’t you dare let someone else’s discomfort with emotions tell you that you having emotion is some how wrong.  You, dear feeling creature with the sea in your eyes and falcons in your hair, your existence is not wrong. 

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What's In A Name?

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What's In A Name?

 
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As my most witchiest of seasons arrives, I’ve been thinking a lot about titles. I do a fair amount of interviews & Podcasts and people always want to know my title/label.  In the world of bios, CVs and qualifiers, this title business is always daunting.  Hell, I don’t even know if I feel comfortable calling myself a Beekeeper, let alone all the other things I am.  Words are complicated.  Titles, moreso.  Sometimes people just give you a label.  I’ve been called a priestess, shaman, initiate, Melissae and once, someone even wanted to call me a Guru.  Thanks, but no thanks. The thing is, these are all titles that were once bestowed with great honor and after journeys that can take the better part of a lifetime.  

For instance, within the Lyceum, the European bee tradition I am a part of, we learn shamanic practices, but I would not call myself a Shaman.  Maybe shamanic healer.  Maybe.  We learn from teachings handed down by the Bee Mistress and the Melissae, but I would never call myself a Bee Mistress, because I am not one, and will probably never arrive at such a mastery of self in this lifetime. There are initiations rarely spoken of, but I am not initiated, therefore can not call myself an Initiate of The Path of Pollen.  I mean, initiation is no joke.  Initiation is always a death, a crossing the threshold and a return.  The closest I’ve come is a wilderness rite of passage.  Can you see where I’m going with this?  What a conundrum.  

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We are starving.  Over the course of a number of generations, the spiritual root system of most earth-based peoples has been systematically eradicated, syphoned off, demonized, and then processed and glossily repackaged.  It’s now sold as a commodity and we consume all we can, because we are dying from the kind of thirst that can only be quenched by the kind of deep well tended by ravens and grandmothers.  How do we reclaim our ancestral heritage of priestess, shaman, wise woman, or medicine man without watering down lineage and traditions with selective consumption, appropriation, or spiritual bypass?  

It turns out it’s all about initiation.  An initiation is a right of passage.  To get to initiation takes some nose to the ground discipline and hard work.  Or it blindsides you like a hunting falcon, but that’s a different story.  As Martin Shaw writes,  “Initiation creates a boundaried opportunity to step nearer the kingdom of death and be called back to the living by the singing voices of elders.”  When a culture is lacking in sacred rites of passage and threshold locations, the youth seek it regardless: though drunken nights, death-defying acts, and engaging the wild self without any container to welcome you back upon return.

“The ground of real peril in a contemporary imitation is not the Threshold, but the Return Journey” so writes Shaw.

We know we need initiation.  We crave it.  We may not survive without it, but we also may not survive it.  That’s why initiation involves the proverbial sting.  Initiation involves crossing over a death threshold.  It’s a stripping down.  It’s 5 nights fasting in the wilderness speaking to the lost bones of your ancestors and the elusive badger in equal measure. It’s loosing your mind a little.  It’s being reshaped in the fire.  We only have a few rites of passage available to us outside of ceremony - births, deaths, and perhaps marriage.  But we don’t have strong containers or elders to sit all night by the fire keeping vigil while we wander the wilderness of our own transformation.  We have to do it for each other, with absolutely nothing in our society showing us the blueprint.

I believe, initiation is a culmination of years of moving through the trials of self growth within a container witnessed and held by spirit AND humans.  

Initiation is not something that happens in a class, a drug trip or even after a potent ceremony.  It’s unruly, serious, trickster.  It chooses you as much as you choose it.  I truly feel compassion for my younger self who grabbed that word and lusted after it because I recognized how badly I/we/society needed it.  I believe there are rites of passage in life that truly initiate us into the next level of our development and those are deeply personal and can not be judged by outside opinion.  But within a spiritual tradition that HAS initiation, it’s important to remember that to travel down the road of study is no mean trick.  No walk in the park.  No certificate to add to your CV.  You will get squeezed.  Your life will upend.  Multiple times.  It’s a death threshold, and while it is exquisitely beautiful, it is never pretty.  

How do we find our way in?  How do we follow Persephone’s footsteps? Prick our finger? Cut off our hair? Walk through the desert blinded? How do we become the elders that can sing our youth home when they climb bloodied and frostbitten from the depths of the underworld? 

 
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By letting ourselves be squeezed now.  By loosing friends, jobs, lovers because we are willing to make the underworld journey, not just for ourselves but for the generations to come.  By choosing the all night vigil with the cold stones, as well as the euphoria of the divine.  By choosing the dark goddess and the wild god in exile, as well as the “Aha” moments when celestial geometry lines up, the sun rises, and inner peace is attained.  To feel the ecstatic divine, we have to go fully into the gritty realm of the every day fuckery of the trickster gods.  We have to die to ourselves a thousand times over, and when it’s time, turn back around and sing the song that calls each other home.  We have to be the Earth dying to be the Earth blooming.  We have to feel the sting with the honey.



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They Made Me Do It

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They Made Me Do It

 
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What is it about beekeeping that encourages so many dudes to mansplain and publicly shame other beekeepers? Particularly natural beekeepers.  Particularly female natural beekeepers?  In my Facebook group a female treatment free beekeeper selling honey at a local market was recently approached by a very aggressive and strongly opinionated male pro-treatment beekeeper who talked AT her while she just sat there.  What the hell dude? If this was an isolated incident, I’d say it was a guy having a bad day, but do you know how often women write me asking how to respond to the [insert shitty behavior descriptor] men at bee meetings/classes/online forums etc?  I know mansplaining and aggression is everywhere, but non-beeks, let me tell you, it’s seriously bad in the beekeeping world.  I’m also super passionate about music, food, hiking, travel, and wellness and in none of those areas have I experienced or witnessed the level of shaming from men.  

Pause to acknowledge: yes, men and non-gender binary beekeepers also experience shaming from men, women and non-gender binary folk.

Double pause to acknowledge: all the amazing men who are not like this at all and possibly suffer from same types of experiences.

Resume: I’m not here to bad mouth all men, but the question stands, what do we do as women when we are being aggressively shamed by men in our field? I wish I had it in me to tell someone to just eff the fuck off, but that’s *generally* not my nature.  So what else? Is the person lecturing me on how I’m the reason bees are dying really going to pause and thoughtfully listen to my counter argument?  What if I do say something?  Will the situation escalate? Because underneath the lack of response from women like me who have learned to be nice, and patient and not too “emotional” there is fear of violence.

Fear of violence pervades even if we know it’s highly unlikely that Angry Bee Man would be violent if we politely asked him to leave us alone.  It’s the fact that the fear it there, under the surface (or on the surface).  It’s not logical.  It’s not based on reason, but it’s there because well…look at history.  You could come from a community of the kindest, bravest, most nurturing men and history still has: the Burning Times, genital mutilation, child brides, sterilization of Native American women, women as property of men, honor killings, and of course domestic abuse and rape.  

Hey, kind, loving men, are your hackles up because none of this describes you?  Anybody wanna tell me I’m over-generalizing?  Choose love over anger?  Love over fear?  Anyone wondering how on earth do I get from Angry Bee Man to rape and murder?  Am I being too emotional?  We live in a time when the transgressions against women, the earth, people of color, and gender non-binary folx are being dragged into the light by everyone in those groups.  We’re living in a time where women are exercising their voice, which was silenced for centuries.  Is STILL being silenced.  But there’s more room.  There are walls that are crumbling to the many tiny hammers eroding the walls of Patriarchy.  

Is there a connection between Angry Bee Man and inherent violence?  There is.  Will he be violent? No. Not likely.  He’s just abusing his power.  Turns our he’s the product of a system.  He’s probably really passionate about saving bees.  You’re treatment-free way threatens him.  It’s not an excuse to warrant bad behavior, but he’s just doing what the men before him did.  The problem is, typically when a woman raises her voice and yells at a man, it doesn’t come with the potential threat of life threatening violence.  But regardless of how unlikely it is, when a man is aggressive with a woman, that fear can and often does lurk beneath the surfae.  Why? Because of frightening statistics like in the U.S. “The rate of women murdered by men in single victim/single offender incidents rose by 11 percent between 2014 and 2016.” (UNICEF)

I’m getting off topic.  Well no, it’s not.  Not really.   Violence against women. Violence against bees.  Violence against the Earth.  It all comes from the same place of gross imbalance perpetuated by over 2000 years of a world view that sees women as inferior and/or property of men.  The same view sees the Earth as inferior and in need of dominance by man.
I’m not pointing a finger at all men or saying you don’t have a right to your opinions and your anger. I’m saying women are learning not to tolerate bad behavior.  Women also have a right to their anger, especially when centuries of violence and oppression sit behind it. The ways to stop women-shaming behavior are manifold, but they include women’s anger. There is a kind of anger that arises out of fear of something you have (power) being taken away from you. This can be especially frightening if you are a man (especially a white man) who has experienced your privilege as the norm. There is another kind of anger that arises out of refusal to continually be abused by a social system that suppresses your voice, especially if you are a woman (or anything else that’s not cis gendered white male). Obviously there are degrees of extreme to what people endure at the hands of others. That being said, until women have an equal voice, equal right and are equally safe in their own bodies, men are going to have to get used to new rules.

Women are learning to use our voices to say no to dominance over us.  There’s a difference between explaining something in a conversation and patronizing a woman, talking over her, and telling her how it is without asking (and listening) to her opinion.  Until women’s voices are regarded as equal to men’s voices, men are going to have to deal with the sting of our words.

So what do you say to the Angry Bee Man who wants to know why you don’t treat your bees you naive-irresponsible-hippie-witch?  Here are a few thoughts: 

“I’d love to have an adult conversation, but since that isn’t an available option at this time, I decline further contact.”

“Did you know Saint Brigit sent a host of bees to defend against men trespassing on her land?”

“This is a great topic to bring up with someone else.”

And my personal favorite:

“Have you heard of the goddess Lilith? Persephone, per chance? They made me do it.”


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Apple: Fruit of the Otherworld

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Apple: Fruit of the Otherworld

 
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Apple

æppel • aball • malum

Main Pollinators: 

Honey bees, mason bees (but there are many more!)

It’s apple season here in Sebastopol.  I grew up in a land of cedars and pine, but moved to the soft, apple hills of this small town, which used to be the Gravenstein capital of the world.  Some of the old orchards have resisted the encroaching vineyards and every spring they are ablaze with white blossoms and memories of Avalon.  This time of year the apples fall faster than we can pick them.  Yesterday I saw two white-spotted fauns in the middle of an orchard enjoying the free harvest while mama looked on.  Apple harvest is always a good time of year.  It means love it in the air.  Always has, always will.

The apple we know today is originally from Central Asia, but has been cultivated in Europe and Asia for thousands of years. In Ireland and Britain, there is a smaller, native apple known as crab apple, or to the Celts, wild apple.  In Scotland, Wales and Ireland, you can still find windblown, twisted apple trees with ribbons and cloth tied to the branches . These trees are called Clootie trees and are a form of prayer tree. Two of the most common Clootie trees are Hawthorne and Apple, both associated with love and the Otherworld.

Apples are Faye food.  Forbidden fruit. Fruit of the dead.  Love fruit.  Witches fruit.  They hang heavy off the many-branched tree of folklore.  After all, wasn’t it our courageous Eve who first tasted their promise of Gnosis (although let’s be honest, her apple was most likely a pomegranate).  

 
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It was apple, gifted by the Goddess Iðunn who gave the Norse gods eternal youth.  In Ancient Greece, apple was the fruit most beloved to Hera, Athena and above all, Aphrodite, goddess of Love.  It is not surprise that Apple was associated with youthfulness, love and fertility.  It’s health benefits are many and varied, but they are particularly known to prolong life through aiding in digestion, liver function as well being a good source for vitamin C, B6, and potassium.

 
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My favorite apple myths spring from Celtic mythology.  In Irish folklore, the Wild Apple was a sacred chieftain tree, and to cut it down without permission engendered a hefty penalty.  It was often associated with the Otherworld and apples were commonly found buried with the dead.  The Otherworld however, is more than the place of the dead, it also represents the land of the Faye folk, who were said to live in the hollow hills, the trees and in the sacred isles beyond the ninth wave.

In one Irish myth, a Sidhe, or fey maiden falls in love with a mortal and sings her love to him.  She is chased off by his father’s men, but before she departs, she throws him an apple.  The apple is fairy food and is ever-renewing.  The fruit alone sustains the mortal for a year, until she returns on her crystal ship and they sail to the Otherworld together.  

In another Irish myth, through trickery, two lovers are kept apart and die.  On the grave of the maiden an apple tree grows.  On her lover’s grave, many miles away, a Yew tree sprouts.  The trees grow and bend longingly toward on another for seven year.  Then the trees are cut down by bards and all the stories of love and romance that ever fell from lips were carved upon wooden tablets made from the trees.  Eventually these tablets found their way to the hands of the high king of Tara.  When the love tablets were side by side, they sprang into each others arms, becoming as deeply entwined as the branches of an ancient tree.  

I wrote a song once called Apple Tree, about loving and letting go, inspired by the Celtic lore.  You can listen to it here.

 
Lamentation by WB Scott

Lamentation by WB Scott

 

In Arthurian myth, the Isle of Apples is another name for Avalon: the land lost in the mists.  When Arthur is mortally wounded, his half-Faye sister, Morgan le Fey, ushers him on her boat to the Isle of Apples, a place of eternal summer, where Arthur sleeps until it is time for him to wake and return to the world of man.  Today that isle is associated with Glastonbury Tor in England, where the veil between the world is quite thin.  This photo is from the apple orchard on the side of that famous fairy mount.

From stories such as these, and many others, a myriad of folk traditions have arisen.  In Britain and Ireland, to toss an apple to someone is a declaration of love.  Similarly, to cut an apple crosswise, revealing the star, and then share it with another, is also an act of love.  At harvest faire, around the the time of Samhain, young women would bob for apples.  Once an apple was caught, the girl would peel the apple in one long ribbon and then toss the peel over her shoulder.  The peels were then inspected to see if they made a letter, which was believed to be the first letter of the girl’s future husband.  

Beyond romance, apples were also commonly associated with divination and magical folk.  Druid’s divining rods were carved from Apple.  Merlin himself was thought to practice his arts in a sacred apple grove.  The trees were so important, that a long standing tradition of honoring them at midwinter arose.  This tradition involved heading to the orchard on midwinter eve or Christmas eve.  A tree was selected to represent the commonwealth of Apple trees and was then saluted and blessed with cider, cakes, song and poetry.  This tradition is called Wassailing and is still practiced to this day.

 
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Some of my favorite traditions that you can incorporate into your autumn harvest are:

  • Making apple cider vinegar and sprinkling it on an apple tree at midwinter

  • Baking apple crisps for your loved one, infused with cinnamon and clove

  • Collecting dried apple seeds in a small sachet and sleeping with them under your pillow for support in dreams of the otherworld

  • Leaving apple offering to the fey folks when the veil is thin at times such as Autumn equinox and All Hallows Eve.

  • Pelting your crush with apples, just to be sure they know you like them.

  • Leaving apples or apple seeds on your ancestral altar to honor the spirits who have journeyed to the underworld.


Happy Harvest!

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Lavender: Giddy Calm

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Lavender: Giddy Calm

 
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Lavender⠀
Lavande • Lavendre• Lavandula⠀

Pollinators: ⠀
Honey bee, bumble bee, digger bee, carpenter bee, leafcutter bee⠀

Medicinal parts used: ⠀
Flowers⠀

Preparations:⠀
Teas, tinctures, essential oil, spice for cooking/baking, hydrosols, lotions and ointments, ⠀

I will never forget the way it hit me. Like a physical bath of scent. We arrived in Sainte-Croix-à-Lauze just as dusk descended. The crickets were declaring the glories of summer, while fireflies emerged to secret the sun away into the night. It was heaven. I got high. Quite literally, the scent of lavender so engulfed me, that I sort of lost it for a bit. I was a mess of giggles and wonder. A friend and I have meandered our way through Provence to the tiniest town in the Hautes-Alpes. There wasn’t even a cafe. It was just an old, stoney town with one central spring, and on all sides, Lavender. Fields and fields and fields of the heaviest, sweetest scent I had ever experienced.

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My mother grows lavender. Heaps of it. It lines the apiary and turns dry and grey-violet each summer. It’s absolutely lovely. I cut bunches of it for making oils, sachets and wall hangings. This was NOT that lavender. This was otherworldly. I thought I knew lavender. This was something else. This gave me superpowers. This was a soup of scent. This was the the loosening of my hair. This was barefoot crush. This was an intravenous anti-anxiety drip, except with breath. Imagine breathing a sort of liquid, giddy calm. How can you be giddy and calm? Go to Provence in July in the evening.

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Our AirBnB host was a tall, linen-wearing woman with a long sliver braid looped over her shoulder. She was celebrating a birthday in the neighbor’s yard with a weaver and a beekeeper when we arrived. They invited me down because, well…beekeeper. By the next morning my doorstep was filled with Oak honey and homemade rosewater. I knew, in that moment that I was about to fall in love. Not with the beekeeper, but someone. (I did by the way, shortly after, although it swiftly ended in heartbreak). I still eat a bit of that Oak honey every day. I still believe it will lead me to love.

I had just finished teaching Apis Sophia Exstasis, a women’s retreat in Aquitaine, and I was exhausted. My friend Nani and I drove 10 hours across France to hide away in a stone cottage and inhale lavender. She made me salmon that first night, but the kitchen was lacking basics and the nearest grocery story was a hour away. We made do with butter, salmon and red wine. It turns our a red wine butter sauce of salmon is quite tasty, and to this day, whenever either of us is in a bit of a conundrum we tell each other to just “Pour some red wine on it.” Can’t figure out how to keep your houseplant alive? Pour some red wine on it. Feeling confused about some nasty paperwork? Pour some red wine on it. You get the gist.

On our last night, we shared a glass (we are big lightweights, so one was clearly enough) and went for a midnight stroll through lavender fields, picking a stalk here and a stalk there, absolutely certain all wrath and furry were about to descend on us for our shitty tourist trespassing. Then we did the unthinkable (and by unthinkable, I mean I literally didn’t even think about it - whoops), and brought those stalks home in our suitcases. I know, we are the worst. No that lavender is infused into an oil that I use on my skin daily for nourishment and anxiety relief.


Used by Egyptians in the mummification process and cultivated for its oil in ancient Arabia, lavender has been a sacred and beloved herb in healing, cosmetic and culinary arts for millennia.⠀

It is an herb used for calming the nervous system, treating wounds, easing headaches, improve sleep and offers a general feeling of wellbeing.⠀

It was spikenard, a form of lavender, that Mary Magdalene used to anoint Jesus’ feet. ⠀

Lavender honey is very light, herbaceous, floral and pairs well with soft cheeses, figs, and my favorite: biscuits and Devonshire cream.

 
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Here are some of my favorite ways to love lavender:⠀

* I use drops of lavender essential oil in my humidifier at night. ⠀
* I gather it every midsummer for making lavender infused oils (not EO). Oiling the skin is of a daily ritual for me, as I have every sensitive skin and live in a dry place. Lavender oil soothes mind and body.⠀
* I make lavender infused chocolate truffles which I used to take to Burning Man to feed all my friends.⠀
* I put it in sachets for dreams when I am needing lightness⠀
* I sprinkle it into almond honey cakes, which make great ritual offerings.⠀
* I hang a bundle over my bed ⠀
* As a hydrosol, it never leaves my side⠀
* I mix it in a calming tea blend, often with nettles, chamomile, and rose. ⠀
* I watch the bees dance through it.

 
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Sometimes There’s Honey⠀

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Sometimes There’s Honey⠀

 
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I spend a lot of time talking about the importance of letting bees be bees. I teach about more natural or bee-centric approaches to beekeeping. I talk about planting for pollinators. I educate on the damages of the monocrop pollination industry and conventional beekeeping. I leave the bees alone most of the time. But sometimes...there’s honey.⠀

Sometimes getting to the honey is messy. It’s sticky and unruly. If you harvest it from natural comb, it means no fancy centrifuge extractor. It’s a knife, a board, and an invitation to the ants. It’s crushing comb with bare hands. It involves destroying something beautiful that took honey and love to make. As in, comb is wax, and wax takes a lot of energy/food (honey) to produce from the body of a bee. Getting to the honey can result in sting, even with your best intentions and gentlest hands. Sometimes you fuck up and the bees tell you in their perfect, piercing language. Sometimes collecting honey is magic. And sometimes it’s a questionable endeavor full of misfortune and mistakes.⠀
All of this for a moment of gold on the tongue. A sun-warmed treasure from the beings that bring us the resplendence of flowers. ⠀
We can’t take too much. It’s part of the rules. Our society tells us take more, but the bees are quite clear: it is their gift to give, not our right to have.⠀
However, when you do find yourself in a moment of honey, between the mess, the blade and the sting, give over to it. Pleasure is sometimes seeking you.

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Let the Bees Lead You

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Let the Bees Lead You

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I know it’s called “beekeeping friday” and I ought to talk about beekeeping, but the thing is, nothing with bees is linear. This photo is all about beekeeping. It’s also about finding your voice, trusting the path, sisterhood, and magic. It’s also about hard work, discipline, punches to the ego, and realness. ⠀

This photo is from yesterday in France, after finishing the evening’s work with my bee sister and trusted colleague, Gina. It’s taken a lot of trust and surrender to get here. We didn’t know this was coming when we stepped onto the lemniscatic path. I didn’t know work could look like this. So here we are: this is our debrief after after a hard day’s work. This is also a moment in my actual life where bees brought me to the south of France to teach bee shamanism in an open air barn with this view. ⠀

What I’m saying is, I fell in love with bees. I fell in love with the mystery behind their ways and the history woven into women’s relationship to the hive. I started beekeeping, in part to save my heart (and life) after miscarriage. I have followed the strange and crooked path of listening to the wild one within and the wild ones without. That path has landed me in the gracious arms of a growing hive of bee women who are courageously facing their own tangled fears in order to become voices for the earth and the feminine once more. To claim sovereignty, eros, seership and the full expression of self.⠀

So this is about beekeeping, because beekeeping is about listening to the bees, and in my book, listening to the bees goes far beyond the realm of “normal” and sails straight into the land of mythic reality. The bees fly on crooked paths through liminal thresholds, and when we let them, they show us how to do the same.

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What "Counts" as Feminist?

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What "Counts" as Feminist?

 
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In my life, I keep bees alone. It’s usually just me out there, going from hive to hive. I don’t mind keeping bees alone except for this one thing: I’m not very strong and I don’t know how to use power tools. Furthermore, I don’t want to learn how to use power tools. You kinda need power tools for most hive styles: log, sun, lang, top bar, warre, tree, etc. I don’t want to learn how to build hives, or carve out logs with chainsaws, or climb up in trees to attach swarm boxes, or lift 100lb boxes of bees alone, or build an enclosure for a sun hive. ⠀

I’ve been getting some entertaining internet flack for what “counts” as feminist. It seems if you post feminism AND bees, WHILE wearing skirts, you are really aren’t being feminist (because how dare I also talk about sexuality and maybe take a tasteful topless photo?). ⠀
Or how about the time I got called out for talking about bees in association with feminism, (I’m clearly misguided because bees are about bees, not feminists). Besides, aren’t feminists angry, man-hating and super into power tools? ⠀

Look, I am all about boss women with power tools, or crazy boxing skills. I’m just here to say, it’s also okay to be a feminist who wears skirts, talks about female pleasure, and needs to ask people for help when it comes to the heavy lifting. Did using a woodshed to build my first hive make me feel powerful and accomplished AF, you bet. You know what also makes me feel powerful and accomplished, the ability to intentionally dream about my hive and diagnose what’s going on with them. Power doesn’t always me to dominate the gym, the office, the bedroom. Power can also be the roots of an oak tree. It can mean the ability to hold your form in the midst of indecision and turmoil. It can mean knowing what lies beneath your skirt and between your legs is a vast territory of sovereignty. It can mean a heart laid bare.⠀

I’m a feminist and sometimes I ask some really wonderful women to help me change a tire.⠀

I’m a feminist and sometimes I ask some really wonderful men to build shit for me. Get over it.⠀

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Pleasure as Purpose

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Pleasure as Purpose

 
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Feminist Beekeeping Friday⠀

:::Pleasure as Purpose:::⠀

“There is a sort of bee who moves from flower to flower, sipping nectar from each luscious blossom. Picking up pollen from this bloom, she deposits into that one, circulating pollen everywhere, fertilizing all the plants. As a result, the garden flourishes…⠀
…There is another type of bee who also moves from flower to flower, but does not sip nectar. Rather, she devours the blossom with all her senses: inhaling the fragrance, savoring the taste, absorbing the color. She imbibed the song of joy evoked by sunlight on petals. Back in the hive, she also shares her bounty with the community. As they gather in a circle, each bee dances and expression of the blessing she has gathers: dancing the joy, dancing the splendor, dancing the delight.”⠀
- The Shamanic Way of the Bee⠀

If we are going to actively choose to move away from the kind of thinking that calls the bee the worker and tends to a hive as though it were a machine, we are going to have to remember pleasure. Not just the pleasure of honey on the tongue, but the unbridled pleasure of sun on skin, hand in water, wind over grass, firelight in eyes. ⠀

To adopt a different approach to the earth and how we tend to her creatures, we have to reclaim Pleasure. Not the vapid pleasure of screen and consumerism, but true Pleasure. The kind of pleasure that turns your hand trailing in the river into something holy. ⠀

My brand of feminism sometimes requires the fires of sting, but also exhales into the liquid nature of softening. Softening to our own hearts, and to the hearts of others. Recognizing when the wind is asking to be our mistress.
Dare we give pleasure a place in how we tend to our Eden?⠀

If you had the ability to melt into a rose, wouldn’t you?⠀

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Don’t Assume. Listen.

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Don’t Assume. Listen.

 
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Don’t assume I’m going to sting you. Don’t assume anything about my nature. Don’t assume I’m soft and fuzzy. Don’t assume I’m making you honey. Don’t assume I am industrious. Don’t assume I’m in it for the love affair. Don’t assume I need your chemicals. Don’t assume you know better about myself than I do. Don’t assume I do not hear you because I am only a bee.⠀

....⠀

Don’t assume I’m naive. Don’t assume I don’t know about sting. Don’t assume I know less because I’m a hobbyist. Don’t assume I know less because I don’t turn a profit off their honey. Don’t assume I am going to give you answers because you demand them. Don’t assume I am going to withhold honey because I am a feminist. Don’t assume I am in it for the love affair. Don’t assume I am not. Don’t assume I know less because I’m a woman. ⠀

...⠀

Don’t assume you are the poison in my waters. Don’t assume I can not hear your prayers. Don’t assume patriarchy is the enemy. Don’t assume it’s outside yourself. Don’t assume it does not damage you, even as you benefit from it. Don’t assume it is too late for me. Don’t assume it is too late for you. Don’t assume you know what is best for me. Don’t assume you are the only species that can save me. Don’t assume you can not. Don’t assume you are somehow separate from me. Don’t assume you cant hear my voice, because I am the Earth and you are me.⠀

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Honey-Tongued

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Honey-Tongued

 
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Once upon a time bees made ambrosia: food and drink of the gods. ⠀

Once upon a time honey was spread on the lips of poets so that they may become honey-tongued and speak words of pleasure. ⠀

Once upon a time bees gave us their secrets of sensuous intoxication, and we spoke of another world where the rivers ran gold with honey-wine. ⠀

Once upon a time the bees were kin to the nymphs of Arcadia, beings of beauty residing somewhere between mortal and divine.⠀

Once we equated the honey bees with love, with fertility, and with divine whispering.⠀

Today we used new words to talk about a bees. Words like industrious, workers, and busy. ⠀

Language is the result of worldview, and one’s worldview is shaped by language. ⠀

When did we take the divine out of pleasure? When did we exile the Lover from the Mother? When did Eros become a distraction, while the Worker ruled? When did we stop seeing drops of nectar as Holy and start seeing them as Product? When did the Nymph, so deeply attuned to the fertile and feminine cycles of nature, become she who is “diseased” with “bide-madness” or Nymphomania. ⠀

The Queen is the Mother is the Lover is the Goddess. Change how you talk about a thing and you change the way you see it. Give yourself permission to bring pleasure back into the conversation. The bees most certainly have much to say on the matter. If we listen.⠀

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 Long Live The Queen

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Long Live The Queen

 
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In conventional beekeeping practices we are taught to replace the Queen bee every year. They call it requeening. The are a few reasons for this. Sometimes a hive looses their queen and you need to replace her if the bees don’t. Sometimes a hive is dwindling and the only way to save them is by brining in a new queen. Those are the only two reasons I support. Now, lets talk about the main reason people requeen: productivity. The idea is, humans want a productive, fertile, active queen in her prime. Most queens will live 2-5 years, but the older queens *might* not be as productive as the young queens. As a result, beekeepers are advised to requeen every year. 
This means removing and killing the mother of the colony and forcing the colony, after this crisis, to adapt to the scent of a new queen in order to survive.
I seriously just came across a blog where someone had defined SPRING as S= Stimulate For Rapid Foraging Force, P = Prevent Swarms, R = Rotate Hive Bodies I = Inspect The Productivity of the Queen, N = New Queen, G= Give 1:1 Sugar Water. SPRING.
GAH! Basically EVERYTHING I teach people not to do. 
We pour the acid of our youth-obsessed culture over everything we touch. If she’s not young, vibrant and popping out babies, get rid of her, even if she’s still fertile. Fuck. It’s like Patriarchy looking you square in the face and saying, after 35 we consider your a geriatric pregnancy. Might as well off us now. 
What is a Queen? What is a Mother? Does a queen loose her value as she matures? Is a 22 year old mother better fit for the job than a 32 year old mother? 
Hey beekeepers, the colony knows how to replace their queen when it’s time. Sure sometimes the new queen kills the old queen, but did you know that sometimes the both queens, young and old, live in the same colony together. Bet nobody every told you that.
Don’t listen to the bullshit. Don’t replace your queen arbitrarily. Don’t enforce the weakening of the species. And don’t for godsake, allow ANYONE to let you loose your sense of value. Fertility comes in many forms. Smash the Patriarchy not the Queen. 

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Dare To Behave Like They Hear You

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Dare To Behave Like They Hear You

 
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Dare to offer the earth a little more beauty. She is blessing you with beauty relentlessly.
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Dare to speak to nature as if it is listening. You are made of the same stuff, and you are here being it, after all.
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Dare to behave as if the bees understand your whispers, your songs, your prayers, your praise.
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Dare to carry on as though the the Little People are watching, with their fey eyes, wondering if the cake you crumble in offering is you actually Remembering.
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Dare to believe that the hand that touches paint brush to hive is somehow related to the hand that coaxes islands from the sea.
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Dare to consider the trees hear your words when you speak to the bees.
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Dare to comprehend that you live at the same time as honeybees, as lions, as mama orca whales, as baby elephants, as king gorillas, as murmurations.
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Dare to believe you are worth someone falling as madly in love with you as you are with this earth.
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Dare to believe that without books, without internet, without opinions, without expertise, you know how to care for the precious living things. You know what to do. You know what to do.

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Mistress of the Wild

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Mistress of the Wild

If you reach your hand back into the mythscapes of history, you will find, over and over, the story of the sacred other.  The lover.  The Twin.  The Sister.  The Brother. The Sacred Adversary. The Mirror. The Queen and her King.

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Beekeeping In Skirts

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Beekeeping In Skirts

 
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It’s officially bee season. This means people are suddenly interested in me again in *that* way. You know: How many hives do you have? Where do you sell your honey? Are bees still in trouble? What’s killing them? What do you mean you don’t sell honey?
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These are all great questions and I understand why you ask them, but I’m gonna answer a different one: Do you really do beekeeping in skirts?
Yes, yes I do. And pants. And bee suits. And shorts. So let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about the skirts. It’s cause I’m a feminist right? Nope. Do feminists even wear skirts? It’s 2019, of course we do.
Beekeeping in skirts is about a number of things. Sure, on the surface level it addresses women having a voice in the male dominate world of beekeeping. However, not all women wear skirts, and I know some pretty fly dudes who like to sport a skirt from time to time, so while the women in beekeeping argument is important, it’s not why I wear skirts.
Physically, they’re more comfortable. Wear what you want.
But I digress, beekeeping in skirts is also a statement about the kind of beekeepers we can become. Beekeepers who move slow, listen to the bees and don’t try to enforce our will upon them. When we are aggressively serving our own agenda we do things to a hive that cause the bees to react and defend. Then we need suits. (Obviously wear a suit until you feel safe and comfortable without one and always be aware of regional issues such as Africanized bees). I wear skirts because I believe in a bee-centric, slowed down approach bees.
Beyond that, the final reason I wear skirts is because of relationship. The relationship I’m interested in while serving the hive is between my seat of creative power and the creative Earth herself. It’s personal. It’s womb to womb connection with nothing between myself and the Earth. It’s an old way. A folk wisdom. A reclaiming. It’s not for anyone else. It’s not sexy. It’s not defiant. It’s relational. What a woman hold between her legs is holy and utterly wise. Dare I say the same for a man. Holy. Wholly. Whole. Nothing less than reverence will do.

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Feminist Beekeeping: Boundaries

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Feminist Beekeeping: Boundaries

 
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Honey bees have taught me so much about boundaries. They have taught me how to be more direct and use my voice. 
As Beekeepers, we are taught to suit up and enter a hive on our time and our agenda. The bees may not like it, but who cares, we’re protected and we know what they need best. We’re only her to help. Or take some honey. No big deal.
Wrong.
When we practice actually listening to the bees, we discover that there are days when the bees are calm and sweet. Crawling over your bare hands, humming their life-giving song. Then there are days with simply cracking open the lid causes a flurry of annoyance from the hive. You get bumped a few times. Consider it a warning. Sometimes they don’t even bother with a bump and go straight for sting. You don’t know their inner workings. Don’t pretend to assume. Listen to them. Bees know their boundaries and if you are not fully present and fully attuned to them, you will get stung. It doesn’t get more clear than that. They are excellent teachers in the word “No”. They are exquisite in their precision and directness.
As a result we need to be more attentive to our listening skills. Remember, always, that when you open a beehive you are entering a body. You must ask permission. You must do your very best to discern if now is a good time for the bees or just convenient for you. We must seek to learn from them, rather than being voyeuristic.
Bees have taught me about my own boundaries around consent and what happens when those boundaries are violated. They have taught me that there is an appropriate time for sting. And they have taught me that even if another person pushes my “No”, gaslights me, or tries to tell me my “No” is anything other than my “No”, I can, and will, use my voice to make that “No” carry the power of 50,000 stinging sisters who’ve taught me a thing or two about sovereignty.

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Feminist Beekeeping: Trust yourself

 
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Trust yourself. Trust yourself. Trust yourself.

Look, if we’re going to do better as earth stewards, we’ve got to practice trusting the inner voice more. There is no manual for how to listen to your bees. Or your body. Or your heart. You have to do your very best to go with that gut feeling. Or womb feeling. Or heart feeling. Pick an organ. They all feel. But trust the feeling. Whether it’s a feeling to open your hive and check on them, even though they seem fine. Or a feeling that they are struggling with a predator even though you see no signs. Or the feeling that your bees are grateful to you even if you can not speak their language.
So often when we open our mouth to say we just “have a feeling”, we get the eye roll or the proverbial pat on the head, while “experts” tell us what’s really going on. Sound like beekeeping to you? How about being a woman at the doctor’s? Same story? Or in politics? Or the music industry? Or in science? Or or or.... how often do our feelings get spoken of in dismissive terms, by ourselves and our peers. What would happen if our society wasn’t so contemptuous of “it’s just a feeling.” What if we gave the feeling as much credit as a “hunch” or a “stoke of genius” (re: male intuition being celebrated). 
Once a female cop told me I was just a frightened girl making things up when I called the cops about a stalker. I wasn’t.
Once a doctor told me I wasn’t anemic. I was making things up. Turns out, I was.
Once a dream told me there was a black widow eating the bees inside my hive. There was.
Once, I turned down a street on my birthday because I “felt” there was a swarm of bees nearby. There was.

The first step to using our voices is to trust our inner voice. Sure, do the research, educate yourself, use all your faculties, and when all is gathered and combed through, set it aside and let the inner voice speak first.

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Shamanism Meets Tea Time

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Shamanism Meets Tea Time

I’m about to board another flight to London. I seriously can not wait for scones and tea at No. 9 on the Green in Wimborne. I am visualizing pouring cream into a saucer as I write. Heaven.

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 :::The Right To Grieve:::

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 :::The Right To Grieve:::

This week my inbox has been full of panicked emails from beekeepers loosing their hives.  October and November is the time many hives die.  This can be for a number of reasons and happens whether you treat your hives for varroa mites not.  Honey bees are a threatened species.  All of our pollinators are, which means all of life is threatened.  It’s a lot to contend with emotionally. 

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Feminist Beekeeping

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Feminist Beekeeping

I’d like to take a moment to talk about why Feminist Beekeeping is a thing at all.

First, let’s understand a few things.
1. We are all struggling with language and the meaning behind words.  

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