A Retrospective in Anglo-Saxon Heathendom

If you asked me six or seven years ago how Anglo-Saxon and Norse Heathendom differed, I would have struggled to answer. I think there was an innate understanding that we were in some way different, but we seemed to lack the vocabulary necessary to truly articulate it. Marc (of Axe and Plough fame) and I spent many an hour deliberating over this very question and, like an ouroboros, we always ended up back at square one.

Historically, on paper, there wasn’t a lot separating the two religious expressions and one could easily write off the gallantry and “high cultural” aspects of the Eddas as nothing more than post-pagan flourishes brought about by authors, such as Snorri, trying to add a touch of prestige to Icelandic identity. 

Likewise, the more folksy aspects, such as leechcraft and metrical charms, typically associated with Anglo-Saxon religion, may well be the result of the English taking to writing at an earlier period and thus, recording more of their folk practices for posterity. This is made more apparent when one reads the Norse sagas, wherein characters such as Egil engage in what might be termed “folk magic”. 

So, how can one truly delineate ancient, Anglo-Saxon Heathendom as something distinct and separate from its more well-known, Norse cousin? The answer Marc and I came to after having run in circles for what seemed an eternity was that, unfortunately, you cannot. Looking at both religions with the historical sources we have available to us, the differences are superficial at best and come down to differences in language, locale, time period and, at least in my humble opinion [*], a difference in “pantheon.” 

For most, this is not going to be some special revelation. Anglo-Saxon Heathens have long looked to Scandinavia to fill gaps and Norse Heathens have done much the same with Anglo-Saxon source material, whether they’re keen to admit it or not (Wyrd, anyone?). I mean, for the longest while, we would joke that Anglo-Saxon Heathendom was just reworded and repackaged Norse religion – Norse religion with an Anglo-Saxon DLC pack. While authors such as Swain Wodening were able to breach the Norse-centred market and entice newcomers to an Anglicized paganism, they were ultimately just repackaging Eddic Heathendom with an often clumsy and ill-fitting Old English overlay. 

Those who know me may well be saying, “but Wodgar, you’ve long been one of the loudest voices in trying to distinguish Anglo-Saxon religion from other iterations of so-called Germanic paganism” and you’d be entirely correct. And while I may not be able to substantiate many of my romantic notions about how Anglo-Saxon religion differed from other, like-religions, I can articulate how it is diverging now

You see, I’ve made peace with the fact that this is a new religion made from ancient parts – something I had difficulty with when I first discovered Heathenry. It’s something I think a lot of folks who rely heavily on reconstructionist methodology have difficulty with. 

We all want to claim we’re practicing some ancient thing that our pagan predecessors would immediately recognize,  but the unfortunate reality is, we’re dealing with a substantial break in practice and information and for all our reconstructions and comparative analysis, there’s absolutely no way to claim with even a modicum of certainty that this thing we do is 100% authentic and accurate. Sorry (not really), but regardless of what a bunch of English Nationalists will tell you, the culture of the Ur-Saxons no longer exists and the distinction between Norse paganism and Anglo-Saxon paganism as it was during that period is of less importance to me than taking this new thing and trying to make it distinct and viable in the 21st century. 

Whether we can say with certainty that they were intrinsic to Anglo-Saxon religion, modern practitioners of Fyrnsidu seem to have gravitated toward certain things that our Norse counterparts are usually less enthusiastic about. The aforementioned interest in herbalism, leechcraft and plantlore has certainly found a prominent place among 21st century Anglo-Saxon Heathens and it’s something that I think should be included in any curriculum designed for the budding Fyrnsidere. If we’re going to continue to distinguish ourselves as a standalone entity, then we need to celebrate and expand on those small things that modern practitioners have gravitated towards. 

Offerings at bodies of water, well and spring worship, celebrating Blostmfreols, offerings of recels (incense) and the making of corn dollies may or may not have played an integral part in the so-called Anglo-Saxon religious experience, but they have taken on an important role today

Modern practitioners also demonstrate a greater acceptance of non-Germanic source material and comparative study, due to post-Roman Britain being something of a cultural melting pot of Germanic, Romano-British and Roman ideas. Perhaps our lack of written mythology has been something of a boon, rather than detrimental to our development and diversification in that regard. 

So, where do we go from here? 

I think we should and likely will continue to develop away from other forms of Germanic paganism, utilizing a combination of historically attested practices, comparative analysis and informed innovation. As more people join our small community, more ideas will ultimately come to the fore, meeting the needs of an ever diversifying, 21st century body of practitioners.


[*] I am a big believer in the plurality of the divine and as such, I do not think that, say, Woden is the same deity as Odinn. I may make a habit of using comparative study to flesh out my reconstructions and better understand the divinities I’m communing with, but that doesn’t mean I assume the deities being compared are one and the same.

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Wyrtlār: Mint

 

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Mint is a genus of flowering perennial plants from the family Lamiaceae which possess fragrant, jagged leaves and a rich, aromatic flavour. There is some disagreement as to the number of different mint varieties, with anywhere between 13-24 species being recognized in the field of plant taxonomy [1][2]. This discrepancy is the result of both natural hybridization and hybridization by man for culinary and medicinal purposes. The stems of the mint plant are square in shape and rhizomatous – meaning they are able to send creeping rootstocks horizontally in order to proliferate and spread.

Mint derives its name from Old English, minte, which, in turn, comes from Proto-Germanic *minta. It is highly likely that the Germanic term was borrowed from Latin menta by way of ancient Greek μίνθη (mínthē), or another, unknown Mediterranean language[3]. Mint also appears as mi-ta on the Mycenaean Linear B tablets [4].

In terms of Anglo-Saxon medicinal usage, mint appears three times in the Lacnunga Manuscript and twice in the Herbarium. In Lacnunga 15, brookmint and unnamed “other mints” [5] are used alongside a plethora of other herbs, flowers and grains to create what the author refers to as grene sealf (green salve) – a salve for which we are never provided with an intended application.

In Lacnunga 34, mint, fern-mint and “the third kind of mint which blossoms white,”[6] are boiled in water with pennyroyal (also in the mint family) and leek and applied to the scalp to alleviate headaches. This usage is reasonable when we consider the analgesic qualities of mint and the fact that peppermint oil is still used today to treat migraines and headaches [7]. Leeks (Allium ampeloprasum) also possess practical applications as an anti-inflammatory agent, where they are often used topically or ingested as a treatment for hemorrhoids [8][9]

In Lacnunga 154, “mint which grows by the river” [10] is employed to ease inflammation and is mixed with malt-ale, iris, feverfew, garlic, radish, the inner part of elder bark, cress, nettle and pepper and drunk after 9 nights and a period of fasting. The duration of “9 nights” is of particular interest here and is suggestive of a remedy which may predate Christianity, with multiples of 3 being of marked religious significance to pre-Christian, Germanic peoples. 

In Herbarium 92, horsemint (mentastrus) is mixed with strong wine and poured into the ear to alleviate earache and pain caused by wyrmas (worms) [11]. It’s uncertain whether the wyrmas referenced in this particular remedy refers to a type of inner-ear parasite or something more otherworldly in nature – though Pollington’s translation suggests the former. In the second usage attached to Herbarium 92, the author suggests horsemint can be ingested to remedy dry skin, which makes sense considering the anti-inflammatory properties of mint and its use in modern restorative creams and lotions [12][13]

In Herbarium 122, mint is mixed with sulphur and vinegar and smeared upon the body with a feather to ease the pain associated with ringworm and “a pimply body” [14]. Once again, this remedy makes sense from a modern perspective, as mint essential oil is both antifungal and antimicrobial and is often incorporated into antifungal soaps for the treatment of ringworm, jock itch, yeast infections, athlete’s foot and nail fungus [15]. In the second part of 122, mint is used to heal wounds and scars of the head – a usage which also finds some modern, corroborative evidence in scar treatments which utilize mint as a main ingredient [16][17].

Mint was well-known in Greek medicine and the Greek physician, Dioscorides, writes about several varietals in his De Materia Medica.

His first entry deals with a plant he calls Susumbrion, which is likely a reference to mentha aquatica, better known as water mint. Dioscorides tells us this plant grows in untilled soil and can be used to help pass urinary stones, stop hiccups and when laid on the temples, can be used to treat headaches [18].  He also claims mint can be used to treat the stings of bees and wasps – a treatment which recalls its modern usage as a topical itch reliever. 

Dioscorides’ second reference to mint comes in the form of something he calls Eduosmos Emeros. This entry could be referring to white mint, peppermint, spearmint, common mint, or whorled mint, according to Obaldeston and is suggested for use in a variety of applications. Dioscorides says Eduosmos Emeros has warming and astringent qualities and as such, can be consumed with vinegar to kill roundworms, staunch blood flow and increase sexual desire. He also lists a variety of other uses, many of which are associated with pain relief and inflammation.

 

“Two or three little sprigs (taken in a drink with the juice of a sour pomegranate) soothe
Applied with polenta it dissolves suppurations. Applied
to the forehead it eases headaches. It soothes the swelling
and extension of the breasts, and with salt it is a poultice
for dog bites. The juice with honey and water helps
earache. Applied to women before sexual intercourse, it
causes inconception. Rubbed on, it makes a rough tongue
smooth. It keeps milk from curdling if the leaves are
steeped in it. Finally, it is good for the stomach and fit for
sauce. It is also called mentha; the Romans call it menta,
some, nepeta, the Egyptians, tis, others call it pherthumer-
thrumonthu, perxo, or macetho.
hiccups, vomiting, and bile.” [19]

 

Dioscorides’ third entry is called Eduosmos Agrios and is likely a reference to wild mint or horsemint, though we are provided little in terms of applications outside of it being “more poisonous to smell, and less suitable for use in health” than other members of the mint family[20].

The final entry found in De Materia Medica refers to something called Kalaminthe, which is almost certainly calamint or catmint.  Taken as a drink, Dioscorides claims kalaminthe can help those bitten by snakes, help the passage of urine and treat hernias, convulsions, asthma, griping, bile and chills. We also see more typical utilization to treat roundworm, lessen the appearance of scars and bruises, kill parasites of the ear and remove dry, “morbid” skin [21]. Dioscorides also suggests kalaminthe can be scattered underfoot to chase away snakes, an employment which finds little support in modern gardening forums and publications, with cinnamon, clove, lemongrass and garlic being much more popular repellents [22].

Mint was used in ancient Egypt as well, appearing as a remedy in several medical papyri. 

In the Ebers Papyrus, dated to approximately 1500 BCE, peppermint is suggested for flatulence and as a digestive aid – a usage which seems to be supported by modern, medical science [23]

 

“A number of studies show that supplements containing a combination of enteric-coated peppermint oil and caraway oil may help reduce indigestion symptoms. This formula is thought to relax the stomach muscles, as well as help food pass through the stomach more quickly.

In a study published in Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics in 2000, 96 people prone to indigestion were assigned to 28 days of treatment with either a placebo or a supplement containing a combination of enteric-coated peppermint oil and caraway oil.

At the end of the treatment period, those given enteric-coated peppermint oil and caraway oil showed a significantly greater improvement in several symptoms of indigestion (such as feelings of heaviness and fullness after eating).” [24]

 

The Ebers Papyrus also advises peppermint be mixed with flour, incense, wood of wa, waneb plant, a stag’s horn, sycamore seeds, mason’s plaster, seeds of zart and water to create a curative paste for headaches [25], buttressing later Anglo-Saxon and Greek prescriptions for headache and migraine pain relief. 

In the Hearst Papyrus, dated to approximately 2000BCE, peppermint is recommended as a treatment for an ailment -possibly rhinitis- where it’s applied directly to the nose. In prescription 171, peppermint is mixed with wine and is used to treat what might be edema of the legs. After the mint and wine mixture is consumed, some sort of bloodletting is required, though the physician doesn’t provide much in terms of specificity [26]. Mint is still used to treat edema today, though most modern references deal with topical creams for livestock – particularly cattle [27]

Jumping ahead a few millennia, we see much of what was written by Egyptian, Greek and early English physicians survived in Nicholas Culpeper’s famous work, the Complete Herbal, written in 1652CE. Unlike the Egyptian papyri, or Anglo-Saxon Leechdoms, Culpeper’s work provides us with fairly in-depth information pertaining to the appearance and growth habits of particular plants. 

Regarding calamint or mountain-mint, Culpeper claims it is a “herb of Mercury” and good for afflictions of the brain [28]. He also echoes earlier physicians, claiming the plant can be used to stimulate urination in patients – a usage which finds modern, scientific backing when we consider the diuretic properties of mint [29]. Culpeper’s remedy for parasitic worms – particularly worms of the ear- recalls the passage from Herbarium 92, where wine and mint are mixed together and poured into the affected ear. Here too we see mint being used to ward against snakes, which harkens back to Dioscorides’ entry on kalaminthe

In his next entry, Culpeper deals with spearmint, which he refers to alternatively as “heartmint”. Here, the plant is labelled a “herb of Venus,” which is followed by a direct reference to Dioscorides’ assertion that mint possesses healing, binding and drying qualities. In fact, much of this entry borrows directly from Dioscorides’ work, though there are some additions that seem to have been gleaned elsewhere. Treatments for a sore and itchy scalp, pain of the ears, venomous bites, headache, indigestion and wind are all covered, as well as prescriptions for bad breath and soreness of the gums and palate. Horse or wild mint are then touched upon, the benefits of which are listed thusly:

 

“The virtues of the Wild or Horse Mint, such as grow in ditches (whose description I purposely omitted, in regard they are well known) are serviceable to dissolve wind in the stomach, to help the cholic, and those that are short-winded, and are an especial remedy for those that have veneral dreams and pollutions in the night, being outwardly applied. The juice dropped into the ears eases the pains of them, and destroys the worms that breed therein. They are good against the venomous biting of serpents. The juice laid on warm, helps the king’s evil, or kernels in the throat. The decoction or distilled water helps a stinking breath, proceeding from corruption of the teeth, and snuffed up the nose, purges the head. Pliny saith, that eating of the leaves hath been found by experience to cure the leprosy, applying some of them to the face, and to help the scurf or dandriff of the head used with vinegar. They are extremely bad for wounded people; and they say a wounded man that eats Mint, his wound will never be cured, and that is a long day.” [30]

 

The final mint entry, outside of a fairly lengthy excerpt on pennyroyal, deals with “nep,” or catmint. This plant too is a “herb of Venus,” and seems to have been used primarily to treat barrenness, issues concerning menstruation and the pains associated with childbirth and pregnancy. Oddly, Culpeper claims “nep” can be burned and the smoke sat upon to alleviate the previously mentioned afflictions, though he also presents topical application and ingestion as alternatives. 

 

“Nep is generally used for women to procure their courses, being taken inwardly or outwardly, either alone, or with other convenient herbs in a decoction to bathe them, or sit over the hot fumes thereof; and by the frequent use thereof, it takes away barrenness, and the wind, and pains of the mother.” [31]

 

Much of this particular description matches earlier ones, where mint is employed for scabs of the scalp, dryness of the skin, trapped wind, cramps of the belly, as well as for use against piles and general bodily pain. 

Now that we’ve explored mint’s medicinal uses in the Anglo-Saxon corpus, Dioscorides’ De Materia Medica, Egyptian medical papyri and in Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, we can clearly observe a continuum and commonality in application. Due to menthol’s innate analgesic qualities, mint can be employed for use against headaches, migraines and general pain and swelling. This also extends to use as a digestive aid, as mint has been shown to relax the muscles in the stomach, which allows food and wind to pass more easily. We have also seen mint being employed topically to treat dry, itchy skin, insect and animal bites and lessen the appearance of scars, bruises and scabs – particularly on the scalp and face. Due to its antimicrobial and antifungal properties, mint has been employed for millennia to treat fungal infections, such as ringworm and to treat parasites, such as roundworm. Mint is also a diuretic and as such, can be used to stimulate urination and possibly even treat against hypertension.

In conclusion, mints are incredibly versatile, delicious, exceedingly easy-to-grow plants that have been used for aeons both culinarily and medicinally. Just be aware that once you’ve planted them in your garden, they are prolific and have the potential to be invasive and muscle-out other, less-hardy plants.

 

“Se lǣca þe sceal sāre wunda wel, gehǣlan hē mōt habban gōde sealfe þǣrtō”
(the Leech who has to make a good cure of painful wounds, must have good salve for the purpose)

Sources


[1] http://www.plantsoftheworldonline.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:30016176-2
[2]Jiranan Bunsawat, Natalina E. Elliott, Kate L. Hertweck, Elizabeth Sproles and Lawrence A. Alice. Phylogenetics of Mentha (Lamiaceae): Evidence from Chloroplast DNA Sequences
[3] https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/mint#English
[4] http://www.palaeolexicon.com/
[5] Stephen Pollington. Leechcraft: Early English Charms, Plantlore and Healing. Pp. 184-185
[6] Stephen Pollington. Leechcraft: Early English Charms, Plantlore and Healing. Pp. 190-191
[7] https://www.healthline.com/health/migraine/peppermint-oil-for-migraines
[8]https://hemhealing.com/2013/02/adding-leeks-to-your-diet-can-prevent-hemorrhoidscid20130215heg1/
[9] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1876382015300305
[10] Stephen Pollington. Leechcraft: Early English Charms, Plantlore and Healing. Pp. 228- 229
[11] Stephen Pollington. Leechcraft: Early English Charms, Plantlore and Healing. Pp. 326- 327
[12] https://www.rewardme.in/beauty/skin-and-body/mint-face-packs-that-help-your-skin-in-summer
[13] https://theidleman.com/blogs/grooming/how-peppermint-oil-is-beneficial-to-your-skin
[14] Stephen Pollington. Leechcraft: Early English Charms, Plantlore and Healing. Pp. 338- 339
[15] https://www.verywellhealth.com/best-toenail-fungus-treatments-4174023
[16] https://www.naturesaid.ca/how-to-naturally-treat-and-minimize-scars/
[17]https://www.lifealth.com/lifestyle/beauty/mint-acne-reduce-acne-scars-mint-av/82632/
[18] Dioscorides, Pedanius. De Materia Medica. Translated and edited by Tess Anne Osbaldeston
[19] Dioscorides, Pedanius. De Materia Medica. Translated and edited by Tess Anne Osbaldeston. 3-41
[20] Dioscorides, Pedanius. De Materia Medica. Translated and edited by Tess Anne Osbaldeston. 3-42
[21] Dioscorides, Pedanius. De Materia Medica. Translated and edited by Tess Anne Osbaldeston. 3-43
[22] https://www.pests.org/best-plants-that-naturally-repel-snakes/
[23] https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/peppermint-tea
[24] https://www.verywellhealth.com/benefits-of-enteric-coated-peppermint-oil-88630
[25] https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323633.php
[26]https://archive.org/stream/in.ernet.dli.2015.63883/2015.63883.The-Old-Egyption-Medical-Papyri_djvu.txt
[27]http://www.thebullvine.com/news/genex-offers-udder-edema-lotion-and-spray-to-soothe-cows-udders/
[28] The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Complete Herbal, by Nicholas Culpeper
[29] https://www.livestrong.com/article/548146-is-peppermint-a-diuretic/
[30] http://www.bibliomania.com/2/1/66/113/frameset.html
[31] The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Complete Herbal, by Nicholas Culpeper

Indifference of Convenience? Pagan Community Silence on Mauna Kea

I mean, he makes a pretty good point here…

Of Axe and Plough

When it comes to protesting development over sacred sites, the wider Pagan community (online as it is) tends to be relatively vociferous. With the Dakota Access Pipeline and the conflict which erupted at Standing Rock over that situation, writers of Paganism unleashed a flurry of information, coordination, and protests. A search of the “Dakota Access Pipeline” in the archives of the Wild Hunt reveals (as of 7.21.19) eighteen distinct post hits, from link roundups, to editorials and columns of Pagan involvement, or otherwise community notes. On Patheos Pagan, numerous known bloggers wrote about the fight over the sacred space which the oil robber barons would bulldoze through, pollute, and tarnish with their unmitigated and unnecessary (scientifically and morally) project. Witches & Pagans has a clear seven hits, if one were to utilize Google’s algorithm to do a cursory search, writers invoking the Cailleach to protest, advocating solidarity with Standing Rock…

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A Votive Bull

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A couple months back, I petitioned both Wada and Sōl in their capacities as healing deities. I had been experiencing some health issues and required their luck and protection to see me through a slew of medical appointments that were coming my way.  Instead of engaging in my typical hearth ritual, I opted to provide the aforementioned deities with an ex-voto.

So, what are vota?

Ex-voto is a term of Latin origin which translates roughly to “In accordance with a vow”[1]. In this particular ritual, the practitioner makes a solemn, promissory vow to give a public or private gift to a particular deity if certain parameters are met. If said parameters are met, the practitioner then proceeds to uphold their end of the vow and subsequently provides the deity with a return gift in the form of a dedicatory inscription, votive animal, painting, cult image, etc. Gianni Pizzagoni describes Catholic ex-vota thusly:

“The premise of the Catholic ex voto is the vow, the solemn promise supplicants make, in a moment of great hardship, to give public thanks to a particular Saint if he/she intervenes to avert disaster; the ex voto, in turn, is the concrete testimonial of that vow’s fulfillment, an object that stands as the material representation of the miracle itself. “[2][3]

As the Roman Empire and the use of Latin spread, a near standardization of dedicatory inscriptions began to occur, with the phrase Votum Solvit Libens Merito, or V.S.L.M. “He has fulfilled his vow, willingly, as it should,” showing up on throughout the Empire by the later Imperial era [4].

Vota were subdivided into three different types: Vota privata (those done for the benefit of the individual or household), vota publica (those done for the benefit of the Republic/Empire) and Military vota (done for the benefit of a particular campaign or battle) [5]. The most extreme form of military votum was called devotio and was when a general vowed to sacrifice his own life in exchange for victory.

A Votive Bull
20190601_160003For my particular votive, I opted to offer a black bull I had made out of clay. I chose a black bull because of the connections between black animals and chthonic deities (which I believe fits my conception of Wada) and the obvious importance of bulls as sacrificial animals throughout the ancient world.

I then had to come up with a satisfactory name for this ritual that would fit well into my current praxis.  In the Old English corpus we’re provided with a few words which are synonymous with votum, with behāt [6]or gehāt [7] ‘promise, vow,’ appearing to be the most similar in terms of their usage. I then wrote a short, modern English inscription, which I recited when I presented the Gods with their gift.

 “To Wada and Sōl, Wōdgār Inguing willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow.”

Finally, after leaving the votive statuette on my wīgbed (altar) for a number of days, I took it outside and deposited it in the ground, offering it fully and permanently to the Gods.


[1] https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/ex-voto
[2] Pizzigoni, Gianni. Commentary. Ex-Voto: Dipinti di Fede: Mostra di Tavolette Votive Dal XV al XIX Secolo. Milano: Tipografia Davide Mazza.
[3] http://www.mariolinasalvatori.com/understanding-ex-votos/
[4] Fowler, Religious Experience
[5]Frances Hickson-Hahn, The Politics of Thanksgiving
[6] http://bosworth.ff.cuni.cz/003477
[7] http://bosworth.ff.cuni.cz/014609

A Prayer to Niht

O Niht , Swarthy one, Day’s rival, Primordial Goddess
Your cloak is cast over heaven and Earth
Embracing all things equally
Whether baying wolf or men at rest
All know your caress
All know your protection

Hear this prayer, O Niht
O, Nourisher
O, Obscurer
Goddess-of-Crossroads
Sleep’s joy
Grant that I might find shelter and safety in your bosom
That I might find respite from the day’s toils
And be provided with dream and fore-token

O Goddess, accept this offering
Humble though it may be
May it reach you
May it please you
May you continue to smile upon us


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A Leech’s Prayer

Oh, look upon these herbs collected.
Children plucked from Folde’s fertile womb
May they share your benefits
Oh Goddess rich in vegetation

And to Mōna and to Niht I do call
Dressed in nightfall’s mantle
You who kiss all things with your dew
Dripping to Earth from the horse’s bit
Nourishing all until Sōl reclaims the heavens

Share with me your power
Share it with seed and with sprout
And with all green things
May they prove potent
And drive out sickness and wound
Whether consumed
Or applied upon the body
May we be whole and may we be well


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Making Cannabis Salve with Sundorwīc

It’s no secret that we Sundorwīcians are deeply interested in herbalism and often engage in DIY projects related to said interest.

Being something of companion piece to our previous article, Wyrtlār: Hemp/Cannabis, this article will feature our hearth’s recipe for making cannabis salve; a  non- psychoactive topical which we regularly use for stiff and painful joints and muscles.

But, before we dive into the step-by-step, it might be worthwhile to explain what a salve actually is and how it differs from other products.

Unlike lotion, salves do not require water and are simply the combination of oil(s) and a wax (typically beeswax), which, when mixed and cooled, harden to form a topical application which is less fluid than conventional lotions or creams. The absence of water and introduction of beeswax also provides salves with a long shelf life without the need for added preservatives. Salves are – at least in my experience – superior to lotions when it comes to applying cannabis topically, as it takes longer to absorb into the skin and as a consequence of this, provides a long lasting protective coating over the affected area.


Step 1 – Making Cannabis Oil

The first and arguably most important step, is the creation of the cannabis infused oil. To create this oil, you will need:

  • 1/8 – 1/2 an ounce of dried cannabis flower or decarboxylated cannabis flower. To decarboxylate cannabis, one must bake dried and ground cannabis flowers on a baking sheet for 30-45 minutes at 240 degrees Fahrenheit or 115 degrees Celsius. One can also used the golden-brown cannabis flowers left over from vapourizing, as they are already decarboxylated.
  • 4 cups food grade or cosmetic grade oil, which you can purchase at most health and wellness shops. Coconut oil works extremely well for this.
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    Our Decarboxylated Cannabis

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    Decarbed Cannabis simmering in oil

Add your 4 cups of oil to a medium saucepan and gently stir in decarboxylated cannabis flowers. Heat the oil on a very low temperature for about three hours, making sure that the oil doesn’t boil or burn. The idea is to keep the oil warm, not to cook the cannabis! Then strain the oil concoction using a cheesecloth or coffee filter to remove unwanted bits of dried flower. You should be left with a transparent oil free from sediment, unless you used an oil which is solid at room temperature, such as coconut oil.

That’s your cannabis oil completed. You can also use this recipe to make edibles as long as you used food grade oil.

Step 2 – Making the Salve

What you will need for this step is as follows:

  • 1/4 cup of cannabis infused oil
  • 1/4 cup of cosmetic or food grade oil (coconut oil, grapeseed oil, hemp seed oil etc.)
  • 2 tablespoons of grated beeswax (grating the beeswax is annoying, so if you can find it in pellet form, buy it!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of vitamin E oil
  • 6-10 drops of essential oils of your choosing (optional)
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The beeswax as it’s melting into the oil
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How the oil should appear once the beeswax has melted fully
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The end result before the oil solidifies

In a mason jar or heatproof bowl, mix together your cannabis oil, your carrier oil and your beeswax. Don not add your vitamin E or essential oils at this point, as the heating process will essentially destroy them. If using a mason jar, place the mixture in a saucepan half-filled with water (make sure water doesn’t get into the mason jar!). If using a double boiler, place your heatproof bowl on top of the saucepan. Heat until all of the beeswax has melted into the oil over medium-low heat. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly for 5(ish) minutes. Add vitamin E oil and essential oil blend and stir repeatedly for 2 minutes. At this point, your salve can be transferred into appropriate containers and allowed to cool and harden. The salve can keep up to one year at room temperature without the use of added preservatives.