Ostara salt scrub

Happy Ostara!

I haven’t developed this into a full ritual yet, but here’s an idea you might try: an Ostara salt scrub. Why not try a little “spring cleaning” on your body as well as around the house?

Seriously, though, when I look at the imagery of Ostara, all those eggs and seeds, there’s a piece of the story that is seldom told. The first thing a chick does is break out of its shell. The first thing a seed does in order to sprout is split open. My beloved cherry blossoms start as buds that burst open to unfurl their tender petals.

And for all that vigorous language – breaking and bursting – it’s often made possible by a softening. We see this in the plant life. With many seeds, with many kinds of buds and blooms, the prerequisite is a change in the surrounding tissues, which become thinner and softer, so that the opening is more gradual and gentle.

A salt scrub is a simple way to experience this in your own body. Take relatively coarse-grained salt, like kosher salt, and mix it with a little oil, just enough to make a paste. When you start your shower or bath, before you turn on the water, rub the paste gently across areas of your skin that you want to exfoliate and soften. The coarser the grain, the stronger the scrub will be, and you can scratch yourself with this, so go slowly. When you’re done, wash with soap and water, and the skin should be refreshed – it might even be tender.

That tenderness has something to teach us. Think about how the new buds feel when their coverings are peeled away for the first time – they are tender and delicate, easily hurt. The transformation of Ostara isn’t just a process of scrubbing away or breaking through, it’s a process of softening into the change, and continuing that softness, that gentleness, afterwards as part of nurturing the new things that are coming into being.

If you want to make this into a ritual, I suggest you do it for your hands and feet. You might want to soak your feet to soften the calluses, then dry them off and do the scrub. Think about what you’re scrubbing away, but also think about how you can soften, how you can open to new possibilities in gentle ways. Take care of your softened, renewed skin by putting a little moisturizer on it, and think about how you’ll need to care for whatever this new thing in your life is.

When you’re done, ground and center – and if possible, go outside and put your scrubbed feet on the ground to do it. Feel how the refreshed, softened skin is much more sensitive. Maybe you’ll feel a new ability to root down into the ground, growing a few more tentative tendrils like the new shoots of springtime seeds.

Feel the new sensitivity in your hands, too. Think about the new possibilities available there. What are you aware of when you touch the world around you that you couldn’t feel before? Maybe you will put your hand to a new task. Maybe you can reach out in a new way. Whatever you do, be gentle with it. Remember the tenderness you feel; remember that other kinds of new life, new possibilities, new alternatives, feel just as tender and tentative in their own way.

Ground, gently, and renew yourself. Reach out, gently, and nurture the newness around you. Blessed Ostara!

Calendula and chamomile

With all the stress lately, I’ve developed some irritated skin. Here are two pieces of kitchen witchery I’ve done in the last few days to take care of it.

Calendula and chamomile facial mask

I mixed 1 part calendula powder, 1 part chamomile powder, and 6 parts cosmetic clay. I added enough water to make a texture slightly thicker than yogurt and applied to clean skin fairly thickly. I didn’t let it dry all the way – the goal was to use the mask as a sort of poultice for irritated skin, and I didn’t want to undo the good of the herbs by dehydrating the skin afterwards.

This felt good on my skin; I dried gently and put on a light lotion, and the irritation was decreased.

Calendula and chamomile salve

In the top of a double boiler, I simmered 1 Tbsp each calendula and chamomile powders in 100 g light olive oil for about 20 minutes. Then I added 30 g beeswax and stirred until it was all melted. Poured out into a clean container and let cool with occasional additional stirring – if you don’t stir while cooling, it separates into layers – can anyone advise me about easier ways to prevent this?

This produced a nice consistency, firm enough that it doesn’t feel oily but still very spreadable. It’s grainy from the powders being left in; next time I’ll simmer the whole herb in a cloth bag so I can remove it. This does smell strongly of calendula and chamomile, though, and it has a potentially less than appealing brown color, but neither of those bother me.

Obviously, I’m just beginning to dip my toes into the wider expanses of herbalism and kitchen witchery. I’d be happy to hear advice or suggestions from my readers!