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Reclaiming Ourselves – Back To Basics: Food and Medicine.

… first we must reclaim ourselves and the knowledge that we have forgotten or lost. We must learn to rely less on the State. The suggestions contained here on in  may well seem basic to those already well versed in such things, but for so many these skills have been lost and it is for those that I write this, after all, we must all start somewhere. There’s no shame in starting small.

From Emma Kathryn

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The world’s going to pot.

Just look around you. Literally, stop. For just a moment and take a look at everything that’s kicking off, all around the world.

Some problems are more dire than others, some more urgent, but it doesn’t really matter because everywhere  your glance may fall, there is some shit going down, some suffering or other, and then, to top it all off, is the destruction of the planet, of nature. Nobody can escape that!

And nobody really knows what to do. Governments don’t care. They may claim to, but every action they do shows the lie of their words. And what about the everyday person? What can one person do? Sometimes it feels like there is nothing we can do, not individually, and I fear that any efforts made now may be too little too late, though that’s not to say we shouldn’t make those efforts. We should definitely make those efforts, but small gestures are no longer enough. Drastic action is needed.

So what can we do as individuals in the face of all of the problems before us? What can I do in the face of these colossal problems? What can you do? How can our little efforts make any kind of difference?

No wonder humanity has fallen into a kind of hopeless apathy. And yet all hope is not lost, for are we not hopeful things? Even when the odds are stacked against us and failure is all but promised some small glimmer of hope remains. Is there any power, no matter how small, that we may claim for ourselves?

Perhaps there is, but first we must reclaim ourselves and the knowledge that we have forgotten or lost. We must learn to rely less on the State. The suggestions contained here on in  may well seem basic to those already well versed in such things, but for so many these skills have been lost and it is for those that I write this, after all, we must all start somewhere. There’s no shame in starting small. And for those that would comment saying things like ‘Well, too little too late’, or ‘it’s not enough’, you may very well be correct. But whatever happens, the skills I speak about here will become increasingly important.

The Land

I know, I know, here I go again, banging on about connecting to the land, but I only mention it here because everything comes from that connection. You all know how I feel about that! But seriously though, get to know the lay of the land where you live. Make yourself familiar with the local plants and fauna. This is something that takes time, months, years, indeed there is always more to learn.

Food & Cooking

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Learning to cook from scratch is a vital skill for anybody to learn at any time. I include cooking here because so many do not know how to cook from scratch, hence why kitchen witchery has become a thing (I mean no disrespect either, but I see so many kitchen witchery articles that are just recipes). Indeed cooking is a kind of alchemy all by itself.

So why is cooking so important? I think it is one of the major ways in which we have lost some control over our lives. We’ve become reliant on cheap prepackaged food and in doing so we’ve forgotten the basics. So learn to cook from scratch. Learn how to make stocks, learn which ingredients can be substituted for others. Find out what’s in season, because food that’s in season will be cheaper to buy.

A word on sourcing food. There is a common misconception, here in the UK at least, that if you’re on a low-income, you can’t afford to eat well. Whilst I always say buy the best you can afford, organic fruit and veg is great, but it is often too pricey for those on tight budgets, so buying regular fruit and veg is more than fine. Check out local markets and if you go later in the day then there’s a good chance that their goods will be reduced, but still in perfect condition. Also check out discount stores. If you’re in the UK then retailers such as Aldi and Lidl are great for fresh and affordable food.

Foraging is another way to increase your food supplies. I know the idea seems pretty out there (who’d of thought it eh, foraging radical?), but there is so much that is edible. Nuts are good round about now. Sweet chestnuts, cob nuts and walnuts are just some that I forage for. Mushrooms are also good now, though I do urge anyone interested in finding wild mushrooms to learn to identify them properly! But there are so many foods that can be foraged, more than I have space to write here! This is where your knowledge of the local landscape becomes important.

Medicine

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Medicine is another area in which we have become dependent on capitalism. Now, when I talk about medicine in this instant, please do not think that I’m advocating self diagnoses, or that the remedies I might include here are for serious conditions. But, when it comes to those minor illnesses, coughs and colds and what not, well, pharmaceutical companies make a killing on selling us useless medicines. This part leads naturally on from food, because so much of what we might call natural medicine is also food.

I live in England, and for us, autumn and winter mean an increase in all of those annoying illnesses that whilst not fatal, are annoying and uncomfortable and generally make life that little bit harder. Learning to make your own natural remedies is a way in which you can ease the symptoms of whatever ails you and at the same time save some cash.

Coughs are annoying as hell and can be painful. When you buy cough medicine from the pharmacy, all you’re really doing is buying something that doesn’t cure the cough nor the cause of it (the cough does that itself) but only soothes the symptoms. Cough medicine is basically sugar syrup. That’s it. So making your own is cheaper and better for you. Simply layer lemon and garlic (you can leave out the garlic if the taste isn’t for you, but garlic is such a potent ingredient it is well worth adding) in a jar and pour honey over until it covers, and that’s it! Keep it in the fridge. I always like to make two batches so that way I can add a shot or two of brandy or rum to one of the jars. This I’ll take in the evening or if I know I haven’t got to drive.

Colds are a pain too, especially the ones where you feel like you can’t breathe. Like coughs, the medicine you buy for colds only eases the symptoms. For colds, eucalyptus and peppermint are your friends. Make a chest rub by blending equal amounts of beeswax and coconut oil and adding drops of essential oil. Now, I do like mine quite strong, but add the oils drop by drop until you are happy with the scent. I make candles using eucalyptus oil and let them burn. Ginger is good for colds too and you can make a syrup just like the honey and lemon one, only including ginger. Make ginger tea, and if you like the taste, then candied ginger makes the perfect lozenge to eat when suffering from a cold.

But it’s not just illnesses where home medicines can be useful. There are no end of minor accidents that occur in everyday life, and for a lot of those, our response is to put on a cream, or pop some pain killers. Mugwort ointment is great for skin complaints from eczema to burns. Mugwort grows as a weed and is real easy to use. I use it in ointment form (you can watch my video here) and I drink it as a tea to ease menstrual pain. It is an abortive herb so it does cause the uterus to contract, bringing on menstrual bleeding, so take care if you’re pregnant or trying.

There is so much information available nowadays in this area, too much to write about here, but my point in writing is this. Let’s try to become less reliant on the system that we find ourselves trapped within. There’s nothing radical about the information here, nothing new. But it is these mundane efforts, combined and multiplied that will help wean us off the system that is Capitalism. It is by starting small and working upwards that we progress, in all things. In martial arts, you don’t get into the ring for a fight on your first day. No. You start with learning where to put your feet. Basic, so small a detail that you’d think it would be so insignificant, but footwork is the bread and butter of fighting and is the difference between hitting and getting hit. And so learning, or rather re-learning the basics, those forgotten skills like feeding and healing ourselves is a small step on the path to reclaiming ourselves.


Emma Kathryn

My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magic, of course!You can follow Emma on Facebook.


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6 Comments »

  1. Elderberry is almost a universal cure-all. We generally do tinctures with the berries. Looking for a way to use willow as a pain reliever without harming the tree.Comfrey, yarrow are also great medicinal plants! I like the idea of the slow cooker rather than constantly stirring in a double boiler.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ok, that is one awesome basket of ceps! I got a few this year, but full of worms 😦

    We live way out in the country and are able to grow a lot. We can and freeze vegetables, do sauerkraut, brew beer etc. Its hard work, but meditative. We’re not free from capitalism, we need a freezer, electricity, mason jars, etc., but it’s a start. I’m in my 50’s and really living more like my grandparents did than my folks. I suppose it could be called reactionary, but I don’t care. Good luck on your path

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Finally, some good talk about herbalism! I refuse to use pharma drugs as much as is practical, I like being able to rely on the land first. One of my favorite go-to herbs are the plantain leaf, great for bites, stings, and itches, and its seen as a weed everywhere

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Emma: Keep doing and writing about good things like this – every little bit DOES help. But dear gawd, please do get off Facebook! It’s all about fragments, reductionism, displacement and the commodification of relationship. And keep Wendell Berry’s good advice always in mind, as it seems you already do:

    “We are going to have to gather up the fragments of knowledge and responsibilities that have been turned over to governments, corporations, and specialists, and put those fragments back together again in our own minds and in our families and household and neighborhoods.”

    Go cheerfully!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Emma, this is a fantastic article, and much needed in times like these. But it doesn’t seem you remembered the most important part, all of the things you talk about doing and making (except maybe the cough and the cold, 😛 ) are so much fun. It isn’t just necessary to reclaim ourselves, it is also fun! That was the original draw for I and the wife. Here in California we have Miner’s Lettuce, which grows with abundance all over Santa Cruz. Most people just think it a weed. But anyway, a fantastic article, I hope for a series that elaborates the contents.

    Liked by 1 person

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