Holy Rolling! Facial Gua Sha for Gettin' the Glow

Facial Gua Sha

Ahhhh, the cerulean splendor of a cool slab o' seagreen jade swept sultrily across the face during a sweltery summer heatwave to soothe those lock-jawed, teeth-clenching, fever dream-drunk, heat-vexed blues. Call it what you will - beauty qigong, facial rejuvenation, holy rolling - this resplendent routine of face-melting mirth culled from the annals of traditional Chinese medicine is most certainly the manna of immortal Taoist poetry.

Gentle, upward strokes along the facial meridians performed with a jade guasha tool can help move lymphatic fluids, drain puffiness, relax tight facial muscles and fascia, and boost blood and qi flow to the skin. It also improves the skins hydration and circulation, which can glamor you with a youthful glow that betrays the reality of moon-drunk all nighters spent knocking back body shots of Reishi and bumps of cordyceps. One of the myriad things I love about the medicine I practice is the DIY ethos that permeates through it. There is so much hot tech that doesn't require the prowess of a doctor or the savvy of years spent in clinical practice. In fact, the most refined medicines are those which you can give to yourself, in heavy rotation, on the daily... gigoing, nutrition, meditation, guasha, healthy sex. For anyone interested in how to perform DIY facial guasha, I will be hosting a workshop on Taoist women's self care later this summer. Details coming soon!

DIY Coconut Milk

DIY Coconut Milk

This is A REVELATION!!! Ambrosial, alabaster coconut milk made at home with TWO ingredients for mere pennies on the dollar, packing a pearly velveteen puissance for all your DIY potions! The recipe calls for organic shredded coconut and purified water in a 1:2 ratio (ie: 2 cups coconut to 4 cups water). Simply warm the water on the stove (should be toasty, but NOT boiling or scalding), add to a vitamix with the coconut, and whirl, whirl, WHIRL. Pour the milk through a strainer into a suitable vessel, then squeeze the remaining pulp in a cheesecloth to milk all remaining mojo. If you were seriously enterprising, you could save the pulp and dehydrate into coconut flour like an egalitarian kitchen witch. Regardless, your milk will be the best thing to happen to your concoctions like, ever. And it’s not loaded with all of the cumbersome fillers of store-bought milk!

Brew What Thou Wilt: Lacto-Fermented Beet Kvass

Beet Kvass

“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious…

The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.

The beet was Rasputin’s favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes.”

-Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

Beet Kvass is an acquired taste, a guttural garnet brine of sanguine soil, mossy mouthfuls of prosaic, proletarian food medicine. A digestive tonic of Slavic heft and ardor, it’s a simple remedy that exalts the latent magic of the beet through fermentation, boosting its nutritional profile and inoculating the beets with boughs of beneficial bacteria. Kvass is a perpetual staple at my LA homestead, along with Bone Broth & Cod Liver Oil. Taken religiously with the fervor of my Slavic ancestors, it can render the need for further digestive support obsolete, all the while strengthening a sluggish immune system and supporting the organs of elimination.

I first sampled this rosy, fermented fête out of an unmarked carafe at a hot spring in rural Austria. Thinking it to be cranberry juice, I was immediately perplexed by its salty strangeness and effervescent bite. Which is to say, I spit it out. Moments later, I longed to swill it by the mouthful, like a Viking gulping the blood of its enemies. Beet Kvass will sneak up on you like that. My friends from Eastern Europe grew up swigging Kvass daily in school, a nourishing ritual that shames the pants off the Dixie Cups full of sugary fake juice doled out by the US school system.

The probiotic puissance of Beet Kvass lies in its ability to rectify the morass of an unbalanced digestive system, whilst thinning out the bile to help with liver congestion and function. The mystical beet, in and of itself, also boosts an ORAC value of 1,776, making it an excellent natural anti-inflammatory and preventative medicine for cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, allergies, and chronic fatigue.

FIXIN’S

6 Organic beets, washed & peeled

1 Tsp Sea Salt

1 Packet Body Ecology Probiotic Starter Culture

½ Gallon Glass Jar or Fermentation Crock

METHOD

Wash, peel, and chop your beets into small pieces, placing them in your sterilized glass jar. If you don’t have a ½ gallon vessel, you can distribute them amongst smaller jars, and divvy the recipe up equally (Kvass is a cooperative chap!). Fill the jar with purified water, enough to cover the beets, making sure to leave 1inch headroom at the top. Add your sea salt and probiotic starter, shaking and whisking until thoroughly infused. Loosely seal (I use a paper towel and a rubber band, because I’m the utmost fancy) and store away from direct sunlight, allowing your rubicund potion to ferment at room temperature for 3-5 days. You may notice a winsome, white mold starting to form on top of your prized Kvass. Fret not, fervid fermentors! It’s merely a harmless rogue mold, entirely par for the course in the wily badlands of cultured foods. Scoop her off gingerly, with nary a scoff or skirmish.

After my counter top fermenting has commenced, I’ll either whirl my Kvass with a smidgen extra of water in a Vitamix before bottling (for the earthy girth of a thicker brew), or strain the beets and bottle the scarlet elixir. You can reserve the beets for a nice salad or amuse-bouche, or re-ferment them in a second batch of Kvass. Store your Kvass in a sealed glass vessel in the fridge, where it will continue to simmer and seethe with bountiful bacteria indefinitely. Serve chilled, with a squeeze of lime or a spritz of sparkling water if you so fancy, or add to homemade Borscht for a bit of old world Slavic kitchen witchery.

*If the Kvass is entirely too pungent for your palate after the counter top fermentation, mellowing it in the fridge for 2-3 weeks will curb its mojo. This will also enhance the nutrition of the Kvass, but is not a necessary step, as she’s already an unequivocally potent brew.

DOSE

¼ cup per day, taken as a few sips hither and thither before meals to stimulate digestion. If your body temple is not accustomed to the bubbling brawn of fermented foods, start small, and work your way up to the full dose.

DIY Raw Butter

DIY Raw Butter

YOU GUYS…did you know that you can make your own raw butter in a Vitamix?!? Raw butter has been on the fritz in Los Angeles for MONTHS, but the lovely folks from @organicpasturesdairy at the Hollywood Farmers market assured me that I can finesse my own raw butter out of their organic raw cream. All you need to do is whip it on high in a Vitamix until thickened, then blend in 5 second spurts on setting 5, pausing every 5 seconds to scrape the sides with a spatula. At some magical juncture, the buttermilk will separate, and you’ll be left with a lusty mound of creamy butter. Strain off the buttermilk, press the mound to remove excess moisture, and voila! No more raw butter blues!

Drinkable Skin Care: Mung Bean Milk

Mung Bean Milk

Have you found yourself a hotsy totsy mess these dog days of endless summer, perched upon a porch whilst fanning yourself feverishly like a woebegone Southern Belle, misplaced teen angst smoldering across your face in blazing embers of pimply muck & mire?! Perhaps you feel that the wistfully winsome 1990’s renaissance happening with your footwear & Spotify playlist should stop short of a nostalgic bout of adult acne. For those kindred spirits that find themselves a sticky heap of hot & bothered ire in this oppressive swelter, here’s a quick and easy food cure to clean up your complexion, soothe the Mean Reds, and clear toxic heat from the body.

Ruled by Yang and the element Earth, late summer is marked by the union offire and damp, the sweltry dynamics of the two alembics stewing like sultry prunes in the cauldron of Earth’s atmosphere. As above so below, our ‘body cauldron’ mirrors the dank doldrums of our soggy terrain, and if our inner equilibrium is thwarted, we will internalize the pathological essence of our environment. Hot and humid climates force our pores open, weakening the body’s defensive Qi and depleting our internal Yin, making us vulnerable to pernicious pathogens. Excess heat and damp can act like a vector for disease to root in the body, and we are left with a coterie of flu-like symptoms ranging from restlessness, hot flashes, headaches, copious sweating, nausea, sluggishness, vomiting, dry mouth and throat, profuse thirst, constipation or diarrhea, muscle aches, sore joints, turbid discharge, skin eruptions, dizziness, palpitations, and fatigue.

Mung Beans, humble verdigris pellets of puissance, have been used by the Chinese for ages to battle summer heat and damp heat conditions. They reduce pathological heat lodged in the body, and dissolve accumulated toxins, leaving us with a lustrous, clear complexion. Skin care from the inside out, Mung Beans address the internal environment that engenders breakouts, gently coaxing the body to a state of balanced bravado. Li Shizhen, the Grandpappy of Chinese Herbalism, wrote of them in his cherished herbal materia medica Ben Cao Gang Mu, proclaiming that “Mung Beans are highly recommended not only as a rich source of nutrients, but also as medication.“

Whether plaguing the skin in a pestilence of pimples & purulent eruptions, or cursing the innards with turbid discharge from the respiratory, genitourinary, or digestive system, damp heat is a lingering, loathsome pest. However, with a daily dose of the right food medicine, dynamic equilibrium is maintained within the body cauldron, letting the body heal itself. Ancient Wisdom, Modern Kitchen: Recipes from the East for Health, Healing, and Long Life has a slew of inspired recipes featuring the cooling mojo of Mung Beans. However, my favorite is a simple, egalitarian milk made from the boiled beans, drunk daily as a skin tonic.

MUNG BEAN MILK INGREDIENTS

2 Handfuls of Dried Mung Beans/Lu Dou
4 Cups of Purified Water

Mung Beans

METHOD

Rinse your Mung Beans in a jacuzzi, holy well, or kitchen sink, removing any grit & grizzle. Boil the beans in four cups of water for roughly three minutes, remove from heat, and cover with a snug-fitting lid.  Let the beans stew for thirty minutes, strain, and chill your brew in a sacred vessel in the ice box until needed. Repeat the whole rigamarole once over with fresh water, to milk the most mojo from your batch of beans.

To clear up break-outs, drink one cup of milk daily for DIY skin care. Also suitable for porch-sippin’ like a Whiskey Cordial during Indian Summer in the City, for those days when all around, people looking half dead, walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head!

Vaginal Steaming: DIY Healthcare for Body Autonomy + Reproductive Health

Yoni Steam

Be it by hook, crook, Depo-Provera, or deodorized douche, the all-pervasive monotheistic religious hegemony has spent the last 2000 years convincing women that life sprang from Adam’s Rib, selling us on the lie that the vagina is a bothersome vessel for pain, shame, stench, bewilderment, male pleasure, and vulnerability. Scared silly by the sacred sorcery of the womb, our topsy-turvy culture has tried to stifle its innate ecstatic capabilities, obstructing its shamanic power by handing our health over to doctors, pharmaceutical companies, advertising agencies, corporations, and various trained henchmen of the uninformed patriarchy. Before the culture of the yearly Pap smear, women had a slew of secrets for protecting and enshrining our palaces. We communed with the moon, and tracked our cycle in the ebbs and flows of its shadow. We listened to the language of our sacred secretions, knowing which herbs to take to fight infection, stop bleeding, treat infection, and prevent or promote pregnancy. We tethered our circadian rhythms to ritual, using ecstatic rites to harness the guttural and sacred power of our cycles, evoking power and transformation for both ourselves and our kinfolk. As the sole gatekeepers of ancient medical arcana, we were self-governing gynecologists in our own right.

Throwing brevity out the window, I could wax poetic for miles on the suppression of shamanistic ecstasy and the rise of the patriarchal hegemony (if that gets you all weak in the knees, do consult the Oracle Of Terence McKenna, stat), but I’ll let you fall down that rabbit hole on your own accord. Rather than lamenting the loss of the sacred feminine, I’ll offer up my most hallowed rite for celebrating body autonomy, an old school ritual of reclaiming and rejoicing in your womb.

Vaginal steaming, known as Chai-Yok in traditional Korean medicine, has been used for centuries to cleanse, strengthen, fortify, and sanctify the Palace of Blood. I use it frequently, to stave off a lifetime of reliance upon institutionalized healthcare and gynecological practices that shut down the body’s innate intelligence. A staple of midwifery and folk medicine in regions as diverse as Asia, Egypt, and South America, V-Steaming is now offered for $40-$120 a pop at MILF-y spas in most metropolitan locales. The perfect anecdote to wily gynecological issues that hover in the periphery, both persnickety and pernicious, steaming brings oxygenation and heat to the womb, dispelling cold and stagnation in the body whilst cleansing, nourishing, and healing the oft-ignored tissues of the reproductive system. Squatting over a steaming cauldron of herbs has benefits both meditative AND medicinal. Practical and primordial, the bewitching vapors bring energy and exaltation to the dark, sibylline corridors of our body and our nature, places where patterns get stuck and troubles tend to stagnate. Steaming is an effective pain reliever that moves blood, aids in tissue repair, strengthens the female sexual organs, ignites sex drive, prevents and heals infection, and reduces inflammation. The ritual itself is a high falutin’ heathen hootenanny, fit for both guttural goddesses and citified gentility alike. If you are curious about how to address urogenital health at home along with your current healthcare regime, steaming could inject a hearty dose of joie de vivre into your Blood Palace and aid in the following conditions:
• Infertility
• Postpartum Health
• Uterine Fibroids
• PMS
• Menstrual Cramps
• Irregular Menstruation (long, short, or absent monthly menses)
• Blood Clots (or dark, brown, scanty blood during menses) 
• Pain During Intercourse
• Uterine/Bladder Weakness and Prolapse
• Miscarriage
• Ovarian Cysts
• PCOS
• Constipation
• Vaginal Dryness
• Endometriosis
• Hemorrhoids
• Bladder and Yeast Infections
• Ingrown hairs on the bikini line
• Scarring and adhesion from childbirth, hysterectomies, and laparoscopies
• Sensation of cold in the abdomen
• Sexual Trauma

Though gentle and painless, steaming should be avoided if you are pregnant (or after ovulation if you are currently engaged in conceiving), bleeding heavily, use an IUD, have an acute infection (systemic or local), or have vaginal sores, blisters, or open wounds. If your current state of health & robustness is ever in question, DO consult with a suitable health care purveyor before engaging in any shenanigans. Body awareness is tantamount to body autonomy, so always be mindful and well informed. Keeping with the times, I must incant the following mantra, making it loud and clear to the powers that be that everything I offer here is for educational purposes only:
This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Consult a qualified health care professional if you think you may have a medical condition.

The benefit to steaming at home outside of the confines of a bougie spa, is that you can get down & dirty with the purely ritualistic aspect of cleansing your nethers atop a makeshift throne of chairs and blankets. Liberated from an infinite loop of stodgy spa jamz, you can undulate to black metal or Brian Eno, and shake, scream, chant, trance, and seidr to your little heart’s content. You can anoint yourself as Priestess of the Blood Palace, and consecrate your sex organs through a shamanic journey into your own womb. Use the steam to track sensation in your nebulous sexual matter. What arrows and wounds can you remove and heal? What would you like to plant in your sanguine shrine to gestate and grow? V-Steaming nearly BEGS you to invoke your favorite fertility goddess. Perhaps honor Coatlicue, the Aztec goddess who gave birth to the moon and stars. You can give birth to your own moon and stars, dissolving into primordial nothingness and re-constellating inside a Cosmic Egg containing the raw DNA of your new, intentional universe. Sitting regal atop your throne, you can chose to worship your womb and release old trauma, imagining the steam is the magic milk of the goddess Isis, imparting divinity and healing like it did for the witch cults of ancient Egypt. Perhaps invoke the priestess physician Sekhmet in a purification rite to drive out and destroy malignant forces. Or, adorn yourself in feathers fit for shamanic flight, retrieving information from the netherworlds about a womb-related health quandary that you long to address. Maybe you’d like to turn this into a protective rite, to ensure that various institutional ignoramuses keep their grubby paws off of your vagina (here’s lookin’ at you, SCOTUS!), and stop treating your body as the property of their dubious enterprises. The possibilities are as infinite as your own sense of adventure. In my experience, ‘magic is effective together with medicine, medicine is effective together with magic.’ That’s real talk pulled straight from an ancient Egyptian papyrus on healing, a culture revered for their sophisticated, efficacious, and nuanced medical care. Whatever you fancy for your nethers, throw in a flourish of intention and will, deepening the medicine by allowing the steam to impregnate you with the seeds of your desired self.

HERBAL ALLIES

Traditionally, herbs were chosen by village folk healers and midwives based on their magical and medicinal properties, taking into account what was in season and the specific needs of their patient. The basic recipe calls for 1 cup of dried herbs to 8 cups of purified water, and if you fancy a forage, do make sure the herbs haven’t been sprayed with any god-awful malarkey. In my practice, I specifically tailor my herbal formula to what condition I am working with (pregnancy? cramping? pain?), adding my mojo to a base of mostly Mugwort and Wormwood. My favorite recipe includes equal parts of the following constituents:


Mugwort: Sacred to both Hecate, patroness of herbalists and midwives, and Artemis, the moon huntress who presides over women in labor, Mugwort is a uterine stimulant that can restore a woman’s natural moon cycle with a wave of her weedy wand. Bar none for regulating the menses, she simultaneously eases menstrual bleeding in cases of excessive blood loss, whilst stimulating menstrual discharge in cases of scanty flow and amenorrhea. A natural antibiotic & antifungal, Mugwort protects the uterus from ulcers and tumors, eases painful menstruation, prevents miscarriage, and expels cold and stagnation from the womb. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we light bundles of dried Mugwort over acupuncture points to expel cold and warm the meridians, healing a myriad of conditions by leading to a smoother flow of blood and qi.

Wormwood: Antifungal and antibacterial, this cherished herb of Poets and Priestesses alike rids the body of toxins, cools the blood, heals wounds, relieves spasms, and strengthens sexual desire.

Rosemary: A tonic, astringent, diaphoretic, and stimulant, Rosemary increases circulation to the reproductive organs, relaxes nerves, eases muscular pain, stimulates the immune system, purifies the reproductive tract, and prevents infection.


Lavender: Known as the Swiss Army Knife of Herbs, Lavender cools inflammation, is antiseptic, aromatic, and antispasmodic, and particularly shines for chronic infections, relieving muscle spasms & cramping, regenerating cells, preventing scarring, and lifting the spirits.


Rose Petals: Sacred to Aphrodite, this female tonic is an anti-inflammatory and aphrodisiac. Cooling, gentle and astringent to the tissues of the genitals, Rose increases menstruation, heals skin, balances hormones, and calms tension.

Marshmallow Root: Not necessary for all V-steamers, but excellent to sprinkle in if you’re having a bout of vaginal dryness. Marshmallow relieves irritation by coating skin surfaces, and is a gem for those that experience a sensation of ‘rawness’ in the nethers, or burning with urination.

Yoni Steam

SUPPLIES

1 cup of dried herbs, or 1 quart of fresh herbs. Though I love the dickens outta them, essential oils should NOT be used for steaming, as they could easily irritate sensitive genital tissues.

8 cups of purified water, boiled.

Large pot with lid, suitable to hold your steaming herbal brew. A crockpot is excellent to transfer your boiling water into, as it retains heat for longer periods of time.

Two wooden chairs that you will balance your sweet cheeks betwixt. For routine steaming, you can cajole a carpenter friend with a scroll saw into making you a special steaming chair, with a hollowed out center for the steam to rise through. Or, if you’re a fancy pants, you can invest in a right & proper U-shaped medical chair, like this hot little number from Amazon.

Blankets to ensconce yourself in once seated.

Warm clothes to cover your neck and feet. These ensure that the healing ringlets of heat get trapped deep within the body, where they can work their magic and mojo.

Suitable ritual adornments for your magical fête.

A nearby bed to retire to après steaming.

WHEN TO STEAM

Most women will benefit from a hearty steam 1-5 days before their period arrives. For those looking to enhance fertility, I love these V-Steam guidelines from the CNY Fertility Center: 
1. If you are in a natural cycle, steam once within a few days after your period, and then once just before ovulation but before intercourse.
2. If you are taking Clomid, steam once when you first start your Clomid medication, and then once just before ovulation but before intercourse/IUI. A side effect of Clomid may be a decrease in cervical mucous. The steam will help increase this mucous.
3. If you are doing an injectable IUI cycle, steam once when you first begin your stimulation drugs, and then once in the morning before your IUI procedure. Steaming before your IUI procedure helps to liquefy the cervical mucous and creates a lubricated path for the insertion of the catheter through the cervix.
4. If you are doing an IVF cycle, steam once when you first begin your stimulation drugs, and then once in the morning before your transfer. Steaming before your transfer procedure helps to create a lubricated path for the insertion of the catheter through the cervix.
5. If you are doing a donor egg cycle, steam once while your donor is stimulating and then once in the morning before your transfer.

METHOD

Yoni Steam

1. Arrange your steam shrine in a quiet place where you can get down and dirty. Suit up in your ritual garb (keeping your neck and feet covered), being sure to remain pantsless or sans-culottes, as they say in France. Create your throne by placing two wooden chairs far enough apart for the gentle tendrils of steam to penetrate your nethers, with a nice spot between them to place your bowl of herbs (you may want to use a placemat if you have dainty hardwood floors). If you’re using a crockpot, plug it in now so that it’s nice and toasty when it’s time to pour your brew. Kick up the jams, consecrate your herbs with your intention, and work your magic and mojo like a boss.
2. Drape a warm blanket over your chair, so that you don’t have to fuss about once it’s time to steam. 
3. Place your purified water and herbs in a covered pot, and bring to a soft, rolling boil for roughly 5 minutes. This is a stellar time for incantations, or a cathartic Bacchanalian dance party.
4. Turn off the heat, and steep your brew for another five minutes with the lid on. You can wrap the pot in a dishtowel to further hold in the heat if you so desire. When ready, place it next to your steam shrine.
5. Pour half of the water into your bowl or crockpot, waving your hand about 10 inches over the water to ensure the steam is not hot enough to burn your precious ladyparts.
6. Finally, sit atop your throne, tilting your pelvis and posture for maximum steam action. This requires some show-ponying around, and will be different for every pelvis. Ensconce your low body in the blanket, making sure no steam is escaping through the pesky crevasses. Should the steam be too much for you, you can control the temperature by venting the blanket as you so desire. This should be pleasantly intense, but not painful or burn-y in the slightest. Be very mindful, m’dears, especially if you’re in an altered state or meditative trance.
7. Allow yourself to stew in the vexing vapors for about 10-12 minutes, or until the heat wanes to tepid and/or ho-hum.
8. Dispose of your wan waters, and replenish with the remaining herbal infusion from the stewing pot. If need be, reheat the brew until steaming. Then, be a dear and repeat steps 5-7.
9. Retire to the bedchamber, and seal the rite under a pile of warm blankets, relaxing and rejoicing in your resilient, rejuvenated womb. 
10. Be mindful of your vagina in the days and weeks to come, being sure to check in with the state of affairs hither and thither. You should expect changes in your vaginal discharge and menstruation, signaling that cleansing and healing is transpiring.

Many women won’t blink an eye at the ritual of a monthly wax, but rarely ever invest in their vaginas outside of a vajazzle or a finessing. Seeing as our reproductive rights and body autonomy are under savage attack on nearly all fronts these days, it is more important now than ever that we reacquaint ourselves with our biology, and reclaim our unalienable health by shifting to a paradigm of self-care. Your reproductive health is your birthright, learn to lasso it’s capricious curves!

DIY Love Magic: Body-Cultured Raw Yogurt

Homemade Yogurt

Howsabout this for Valentine’s Day… culture a jar of homemade yogurt by the heat of your own body! Raw milk + yogurt starter + mason jar + snuggling + ecstatic love = romantical and delicious Valentine’s Day breakfast, or sublimely sexy gift for your darlin’!

Before Valentine’s Day was co-opted by squaresville Judeo-Christian materialists with a penchant for stale chocolate and ugly thongs, February 14th was part of Lupercalia, a carnal hootenanny of Ancient Roman proportions, harkening the Great God Pan with all sorts of lascivious melee. Lupercalia, the ‘Wolf Festival’, honored the She-Wolf who suckled the orphaned infants Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome. Like a regular afternoon in the Baroness Homestead, folks would run through the streets buck naked, whipping each other bawdily with improvised lashes, adorning themselves in goatskins, and petitioning the Gods and Goddesses for love & fertility. Bring a bit of this heathen witchery back to Valentine’s Day this year, and celebrate by making your own She-Wolf yogurt!

Magic Yogurt

METHOD

You will need the following: one quart raw milk, yogurt starter (easily procurable at your local health food store), thermometer, saucepan, clean mason jar with tight-fitting lid (at least one quart), snuggle buddy. For best results, perform the following in the nude, right before bed, on a sympathetic moon:

Gently heat your milk in a saucepan over a low flame until it reaches a balmy 180 degrees. Try your damnedest to maintain this temperature for about five minutes, making sure you DO NOT BOIL (this is important for keeping all of the lusciously lively beneficial bacteria alive & kicking). This would be an excellent time to stir your pot o’ milk, weaving incantations of mojo and magic into your love yogurt. Turn off the heat, and allow the milk to cool to about 108-112 degrees. Add the yogurt starter to your clean mason jar. My starter takes about 1-2 teaspoons per quart of milk, but as these are living beings with varying potency, yours may be a lil’ different. Follow the directions on your packet for best results. Languidly add a few tablespoons of milk, mixing lubriciously to make a smooth paste. Continue adding your milk in a slow stream until the jar is bursting with mirthful milky goodness, and cap tightly once you’ve sealed your intention into the jar. Sequester yourself in bed with your amorous accomplice, and incubate your yogurt overnight by the warmth of your steamy flesh. My Magic Man and I cradled ours between the sheets for a good eight hours, and as the sun crowned over our bedstead, we had a perfectly-cultured jar of ambrosial alchemy, cultured in our curves and imbued with the enchantment of our ecstatic love. Refrigerate as you would ho-hum store bought yogurt, and spoon feed when the mood strikes.

How to Become a DIY Mushroom Forager

Botanarchy Herbs & Acupuncture

I often get asked how I got into the business of traipsing through the underbrush and scavenging in the sediment. Did I get all learned up in fancy college? How do I keep from dying valiantly by the miasmal dagger of a rogue toadstool? How can one discern the Shitakes from the shinola?

Here’s a guide for the slapdash forager, those urban swashbucklers after my own heart, armed with nuthin’ but a rusty pocketknife, mud-soaked boots, and the gallant heart of a hunter.

1. Frolic in the forest.

Hone your mushroom mind. This is a sublime state of mushroom gnosis, where the detritus comes alive with crowning caps, and the lichen lean in to whisper sweet nuthin’s in your ear. Never forget that you are a hunter-gatherer. You have a second sight that comes alive when beckoned, enabling you to spot your prey in the vast sprawl of primeval morass. We have to process a staggering mess of stimuli these days, dulling our best senses and thwarting spontaneous shamanic illumination at every twist and turn. Visualize the mushroom, and let it guide you where it will. Suddenly you will slip into a state both lucid and liminal, a primal summoning of your nomadic lust. This is the quintessence of foraging. I swoon at the very thought of it.

2. Research your feculent fortune.

Because you aren’t a super-sentient forest crone living in a hollowed out toadstool conversing with the deer & the dryads, you have no idea what you just dug up. After your hunting spree in the witchwood, you’ll want to take your precious toadstools home and identify them like a bona fide mycophile. Bust out the bifocals. Make a spore print, if you wanna show pony around. Check your specimens against your guidebooks, or use the vast swamp of myco-porn on the Internet. Become CONSUMED by minutia- it’s the only thing that will keep you topside of the soil. Here’s a smattering of my favorite resources for the budding forager:

The Fifth Kingdom: The crème de la crème of mycological textbooks.

Wood Decay Fungi: Keys, photographs, and descriptions of macroscopic fungi utilizing wood as a substrate in the Northeast United States.

MushroomExpert.com: Featuring my most favorite mushrooming tool, “What’s This Thing In My Yard?”

MykoWeb: The main attraction at MykoWeb is The Fungi of California. It contains photographs over 600 species of mushrooms and other fungi found in California, with over 480 of the species with descriptions. There are currently over 5400 total photographs of the mushrooms. Included are links to other online descriptions, and photos of the species treated plus references to common field guides. Hubba hubba!

3. Nerd out and join your local Mycological Society.

Mycological Societies hold local forays, invite guest lecturers, provide cookies, and typically have a handful of resident nut job mycologists who are just chomping at the bit to help you classify your mushies. Bring in your haul! High five your brethren! Best of all, you will enjoy the company of sympathetic folk who know their way around an artfully-placed mycological pun, and swoon at the curves of a bodacious Bolete. Find your local chapter online at http://www.namyco.org/clubs/index.html or http://msafungi.org/.

4. Get learned up on your trees.

Fungi and their arboreal blood brothers are inextricably linked in labyrinths of mycorrhizal matrimony. Morels love Ash, Amanitas love Aspen, and so goes the symbiotic Saturnalia of the forest floor. Knowing which fungi are sweet on which trees can often be the key to identifying ambiguous mushroom mysterions. Mushroom Expert has a fabulous catalogue of North American trees with their frequently associated mushroom kinfolk.

http://mushroomexpert.com/trees/index.html

5. Amass your library.

You simply must invest in the following tomes, of biblical importance in my ramshackle homestead:

Mushrooms Demystified by David Arora

All that the Rain Promises and More: A Hip Pocket Guide to Western Mushrooms by David Arora

The Complete Mushroom Hunter: An Illustrated Guide to Finding, Harvesting, and Enjoying Wild Mushrooms by Gary Lincoff

6. Go to mushroom camp.

SOMA Wild Mushroom Camp is held every January by the Sonoma County Mycological Association in the redwood-studded wilds of Occidental, California. It’s three days of woodland reverie, featuring forays, gourmet mushroom cuisine, and workshops on mushroom identification, cooking, dyeing, paper-making, medicine-making, photography, cultivation, and more. Being a dyed-in-the-wool nerd of the highest degree, this was just about the best thing that ever happened to my natty old soul. We ate homemade mushroom chocolates, and traipsed through the fandangled forest like Hansel and Gretel, with overflowing baskets and the folksy wisdom of our fearless leader, Gary Lincoff  (he was that year’s guest speaker). Hello, wet dream! Before the foray, I chastised my boyfriend for his behemoth basket with a cool “let’s not get cocky here, kid.” Much to my surprise, we filled the whole damn thing, and were chastising ourselves for our paltry accoutrements (we are from the mushroom wasteland of Los Angeles, after all). By the end of the foray, I had of reams of Russulas and heaps of Amanitas shoved down my cleavage, and was bartering mushroom real estate with my fellow frolickers. We ate wild mushroom pizza for WEEKS. Then we went back to camp, identified our burly bounty, ate a wild boar, drank some homemade wine, met some folks changing the world with emergent mushroom technology, and listened to Lincoff wax poetic late into the eve on foraging psychotropic ‘shrooms. So yeah…best weekend ever.

http://www.somamushrooms.org/camp/

7. Become fabulously wealthy, and Mushroam around the world with Daniel Winkler.

This is what I wish for on dandelion tendrils and falling stars. The Indiana Jones of wild Cordyceps, Daniel Winkler leads medicinal mushroom forays into Tibet and the Bolivian Amazon, as well as the glamorous hinterlands of the Pacific Northwest. Altogether badass, his field guides to edible mushrooms are also top-notch, and he’s doing wonders for rural communities whose economies are based on mushroom-medicine.

http://www.mushroaming.com/

8. Don’t be a hero.

The mushroom spirit is a capricious mistress who eats chumps like us for breakfast. Mushrooms, by their very nature, are destroyers. Therein lies their mystery and moxie. There are plentiful reasons they have the nom de guerres ‘Destroying Angel’ and ‘Death Cap’…they allow us to walk between worlds, yet they often slam the door behind them. There is nothing glamorous about sacrificing children whilst being ravaged by Satan in a robust bout of Amanita psychosis (well, maybe there is…but it ain’t worth the gamble when ya get right down to it), or having your liver decompose in mere hours in a necromantic tango with the Deadly Galerina. Every year she claims new souls, and even the most reverent and skilled are not above her diabolical law. Experts die at the behest of these sorcerous specters every year- do be a dearheart, and DON’T BECOME ONE OF THEM.

http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/news-5-truly-toxic-mushrooms

9. Semper Fi, buttercups!

I have a knife and a field guide on me at all times (an Opinel and The Field Guide to Edible Mushrooms of California, should you ask). You never know what sort of illuminated treasures lie in wait within the cracks and crevasses of urban decay. You have promised your heart to the wildwood now, and must always be prepared for her succulent surprises.

The Nectar of Nefertum: Egyptian Blue Lotus Wine

Blue Lotus in all her splendor

Blue Lotus in all her splendor

“I rise like Nefertum, who is the lotus at the nostrils of Ra when he comes forth from the horizon each day.”

-The Egyptian Book of the Dead

“Branches they bore of that enchanted stem, 
Laden with flower and fruit, whereof they gave 
To each, but whoso did receive of them, 
And taste, to him the gushing of the wave 
Far far away did seem to mourn and rave 
On alien shores; and if his fellow spake, 
His voice was thin, as voices from the grave; 
And deep-asleep he seem’d, yet all awake, 
And music in his ears his beating heart did make.”

-‘The Lotos-Eaters’, Lord Alfred Tennyson

Some newfangled Egyptologists (I’m looking at you, Jeremy Naydler! Here’s a high five while we’re at it!) are assailing the staunch anthropological old-guard with some pretty high-fallutin’ hypotheses. These rogue scholars pluckily postulate that the collective papyri forming the Egyptian Book of the Dead are not merely a funery handbook of spells and incantations for dead folks hankerin’ to make a graceful transition to greener pastures. Instead, they’ve laid claim that this ancient, cadaverous tome should be read as a manual for the art of ‘practicing dying’ by us lucky folks topside o’ the soil. I can, and do, emphatically believe the chutzpah of these incendiary eggheads, and not just because I practice dying most every day with desolate relish. Ancient Egypt stinks to high heaven of Shamanistic inclinations! Animal-headed deities, a shamanistic Priesthood highly esteemed within the stratified society, hieroglyphs & papyri a’plenty showing profound knowledge of plant lore and altered states of consciousness, psychoactive ritual cocktails that may (or may not, juries out) have included mandrakes and poppies, transmutation rites, guiding the souls of the dead hither and tither…must I go on?!

Like Naydler postulates in Shamanic Wisdom in the Pyramid Texts: The Mystical Tradition of Ancient Egypt, I’m high on believing the secret of the Egyptian Mysteries could very well lay in the concept of the body itself as a kind of tomb, enclosing godlike candy that has the potential to escape from the earthly realm entirely and dwell amongst the stars. Naydler writes:

“The akh is that part of our inner being that can be considered divine. It has the potential to escape entirely from earthly and even cosmic limitations, and it is through the akh that we can receive divine wisdom and insight. Only once the ba (what we would consider the soul, or consciousness) is seen to be independent of the body, then it is possible to come to know the akh, which was seen by the Egyptians as luminous and associated with the sun, and which, after death or through the ritual of the mysteries, found its place among the stars.“

If we’re in the business of discarding tombs both real and imagined (which I am), Nymphaea Caerulea, the Sacred Blue Water Lily of the Nile, would be an excellent ferry cross the river Styx. Carrying in its serpentine, cerulean DNA a shamanic cocktail of disintegration (apomorphine) and communion (nuciferine), she truly is Hermetic gnosis manifest- a vehicle for the ecstatic alchemical separation of body and spirit, a botanical simulacrum of simultaneous ‘solve et coagula’. Nuciferine serves to ‘strip off the garment’ of the lotus eater, while the euphoric tendrils of apomorphine liberate the akh, the luminous sun of our inner being.

As the sacred flower of the pharaohs, her plant manna was used ritualistically by the ancient Egyptian noblesse to produce shamanic ecstasy and hypnotic trance in magical rites, mostly involving the gruesome twosome of sex and death (9 out of 10 words in that last sentence make me exuberantly, erotically excited). Chinese botanists (my favorite kind, this side of Luther Burbank), were convinced the lotus had the ability to transcend the limitations of time, as they believed she flowered and bore fruit simultaneously. As a ritual libation, I’ve been ensconced in a wanton love affaire with Nymphaea Caerulea ever since ingesting a hydrosol distilled from her cerulean buds at a workshop with John Steele on Shamanism and Fragrance in Ancient Egypt.

All this epically erotic entheogenic Ethnobotany gets me terribly hot and bothered, but the REAL reason I fell in love with the lotus is because of how she’s pollinated. It’s truly the hottest piece of pornography this side of Georges Bataille. Sacred scarabs are lured into the dark waters by the lily at dusk, no match for its irresistibly miasmic pineapple musk. They intoxicatedly feast on the central petals, so engorged with lily liquor they fail to notice when the flower closes over them. The anthers then ripen and shed their pollen over the trapped beetles, whilst the flower descends back into the black waters of the Nile, for a night of Bacchanalian revelry in an underwater boudoir of velvet pollen, beating wings, nectar victuals and ecstatic sex. As Ra rises over the horizon, the enshrined altar re-emerges above the water, and the beetles are set free to do the walk of shame across the banks of the Nile.

The first time I heard this story, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. I was simply bereft at being relegated to a lifetime of banal ‘human sex’ in church pews and Burger King bathrooms. Not content to suffer beyond this lifetime with the paltry constraints of human biology, I vow that my love and I will incarnate as bandit beetles next time we spin ‘round this rusty wheel. I promise to ensconce us in orgies of Saturnalian stamens and sub-aquatic romps in flowery coffers, of pollinated perversions and death rites in the ether.

In this lifetime, ritualistic victuals of lotus wine will have to suffice. You can make your own sacraments with a decent bottle of Rosé, a few ounces of Nymphaea Caerulea, and a few shakes of a lamb’s tail. Simply take 20 grams or so of lotus, crack open your bottle, skim a few chugs off the top, and soak your petals in the juices for three days to three weeks. You’ll want to re-cork your vessel and store it in the fridge until it’s time to commune. Like most lovely things, she’s a bitter pill, and her unguents may need to be cut with a little raw honey to sweeten the deal. I spent some time enchanting my brew for use in oracular ritual and tomb-discarding tumult. It’s always good to be on the same page as your elixirs. 

Like all noblesse flowers of the Philistines, Nymphaea has her very own God presiding over those bodacious blooms. Nefertum is the Egyptian god of the lotus and perfumery, an archetype of rejuvenation and anointment. As an avatar of Nefertum, ingesting the lotus into your temple (lotophagus, as the Greeks say, cause Ancient Greek makes me swoon) is akin to the ribald Dionysian rite of enthusiasmos, a state of being quite literally ‘filled by the gods.’ So make like Alan Watts and leave ‘your skin-encapsulated ego’ behind! Ra, Ra, shish boom Ra!