Ashes and Rust

March 18, 2008

Today I have a Temperance story for the week of the Full Moon and the Vernal Equinox.  In the Ironwing Tarot, the Temperance card is titled “Quench” and shows a newly-forged iron bowl being cooled in water, creating steam that melts the overhanging melting icicles.  It is an image of completion, consecration, and all the contrasting elements that create a mysterious organic union of iron and oil.

The day after last month’s lunar eclipse, I got an e-mail from a customer who had bought one of my triple cone bell pendants and a custom-order bell a few years ago.  The bell has a very large clapper that is a substantial bell in itself, and I have not made another one like it.  My customer used and enjoyed the bells for several years.  Then her house burned to the ground.  She was able to find the bells but was afraid they were permanently damaged, and was writing to ask if I could do anything with them.  Of course I told her to send them back – I was very honored that she had salvaged them and still liked them enough to want them fixed!  I had expected the iron to be weakened, deformed, or even partly burned, but when the package arrived, I saw that the big bell was merely coated with rust and ashes.  It was easily cleaned up with a wire brush.  The small bells were clogged with ashes and bits of melted plastic that quickly vanished when I put them in the forge.  After polishing, everything was returned to the forge, quenched in oil, and good as new!  I added a new copper spiral to the pendant, and added a chain and miniature bell to replace the heavy coiled hook (which I’d never liked much) on the bell.  Here are the burned, rusty bells before rehabilitation:

burned bells

Here are the refinished bells, ready to go home (they’ll have a nice bag, too):

triple bell pendant
big bell with miniature

I thought of the Temperance card on Sunday while I quenched and blackened the bells in oil as sleet rattled on the roof – a late winter storm brought snow to the mountains and a bit of rain to encourage the desert wildflowers.

Desert Anemone

March 11, 2008

This is the desert anemone, Anemone tuberosa.  It is a close relative of the wood anemone (A. nemorosa) of the Eastern forest, but the desert plant is more succulent and usually has some pink shading on the flowers.  Today I gathered anemone leaves for a tincture.  The active compound is anemonin, which slows the heart rate and relaxes smooth muscle.  It is used in tiny amounts, since too much can easily be toxic.  It is surprisingly effective for calming anxiety or even for treating panic attacks. 

Anemone tuberosa

Seeing the plant, this use is not surprising, since the flowers seem to glow, pouring out the loving, living radiance of the early spring earth itself.  They appear in the most unlikely places – the dry, gravelly bajada slopes where their companions are the most drought-tolerant cacti, such as this Needlespine (Echinomastus erectocentrus var. erectocentrus). 

Echinomastus erectocentrus

The cactus in the photo is a giant of its kind, since most plants of this species have only one stem.  If you look closely, you can see anemone leaves at the base of the cactus.  Each anemone plant has several leaves (usually three) and a single flowerstalk with a tiny leaf on it.  The tiny tuber is several inches underground, where it can endure extreme heat, occasional hard freezes, and months without rain.  In very wet years, plants grow several leaves and may be over a foot tall, but even in such ideal conditions, they vanish by mid-April.  In dry years, such as the past two springs, the plants do not appear at all.  This year, the anemone plants are two to six inches tall, and the leaves are quite small.  For the tincture, I collected a single leaf from half a dozen plants, leaving the flowers, roots, and remaining leaves undisturbed.

Tibetan Snow Lion Doll

March 4, 2008

For this Moon, I took a break from designing oracles and took a commission for a shaman’s doll – this Tibetan Snow Lion, with blanket, iron bells and tent stakes, and shaman’s mirror.  I enjoyed making him so much that I want to make another lion, but I’ll probably take my time about finishing that one, and get back to other projects.

Description and more photos on this page:

snow lion doll