Why Lilith? The reason for the name behind the Apothecary.

February 9, 2012
Ishtar in her marital aspect

Ishtar in her marital aspect

My name is not Lilith. As many of you know, dear readers and customers of my Apothecary, my name is Sarah. Though many people name their businesses after themselves, the reason for using the name Lilith is a bit convoluted, and I often get questions about it, so I will try to be articulate about my reasoning here.

Lilith first appeared in ancient Hebrew texts as a demon or a monster, but I am not concerned about those earliest references which are controversial in their authenticity at best. More interestingly,  Lilith appears in the 8th–10th centuries in Jewish folklore as Adam’s first wife, created at the same time as Adam, and considered his equal, unlike Eve who was created from Adam’s rib.  In the 13th Century mythology, Lilith left Adam after she refused to become subservient to him and then would not return to the Garden of Eden after she mated with the archangel, Samuel. Though Lilith is a name often used in reference to a feminine stance, I wanted to think deeper about this mythological figure and what she represents. The fact that she was Adam’s equal from the start rather than made to serve him, that she was fiercely independent, and strong in character certainly stand apart from the story of Eve. She took control of her own sexuality and copulated with an archangel, thereafter refusing to return to the Garden, which despite it’s earthly delights, was not quite up to par with sex with an archangel, I’m guessing. Call it a hunch.

Burney ReliefThis is an Babylonian image that is often associated with Lilith and in my earliest labeling, I used this image on all of my products. Called the Burney Relief, Babylon (1800-1750 BCE), this figure is apparently based on a misreading of an outdated translation of the Epic of Gilgamesh, and modern research has identified the figure as either Ishtar or Ereshkigal. How perfect! The pairing of those two goddesses lends even more interest to the Lilith story, though the linkages may be only the red threads between them that exist in my mind. While  they may not be related to Lilith, the Assyrian Ishtar (or Sumerian, Inanna) is the goddess of fertility, war, love, and sex. Even as the goddess of fertility, she was not as kind and benevolent as you might think, and she was above all the goddess of sexuality and could be brutal to her consorts and lovers. That said, she had many faces, just as we humans do, and in a famous legend about her decent to the Underworld. There, Ereshkigal, the goddess of the Underworld, allows her to enter but only according to the rules. She must shed her clothing as she passes through each of the seven gates. When she finally arrives, she is naked and in a rage! Ereshkigal puts her in prison and sends 60 diseases upon her, but eventually Ereshkigal is commanded by the gods to revive her by sprinkling her with the waters of life.

And why am I telling you all of this? Because this descent and revival is so intrinsic to our life on earth as human beings. First of all, we need to nurture the many sides of our characters, and those may include facets we are not encouraged to present to the world, at least as dictated by our modern societies. We are not ‘encouraged’, for women especially, to present our anger, frustration, our deepest sexuality, our moods if they are not sunny and bright. We are told to be Superhuman in our ability to stay bright and lively and committed to everything, even when we are burdened with difficulties, with family troubles, with work, or even with the fatigue of our intense, modern lifestyles. Ishtar’s story reminds us of the need to feel our rage, to allow that descent to the Underworld and our darkest places, even if that means a temporary, quiet withdrawal from social obligations. We need to be able to confront our own demons, to even be assaulted by the emotions we feel, and then to have the space to seek respite, to nurture ourselves back to life again, thus the ‘sprinkling of the waters of life’ for revival. But it is important to note that these darker aspects of our nature are not necessarily needing to be expunged — they are part of who we are, and these dark places also need to be accepted as part of our whole being. There is a fantastic Jungian analysis of this mythology that was quite formative in my thoughts about this mythology, and also in my own journey,  allowing myself to feel and be respectful of the complexities of my inner world and deepest nature.

Bravery accompanies Her:
Ishtar the bold
Her festivals are the Warriors´ festivals,
The stimulation of the warriors at combat,
The rousing of officers
The liberation of armies
Her rage at combat,
Her enthusiasm in battle
Reveal Her true Nature
And demonstrate what Ishtar knows how to do!

So how does this all connect to me naming my business Lilith’s Apothecary? Well, quite simply it is a reminder to us all that we have every right to a firm footing in the world, that we have the ability to not only be equals with our peers, lovers, and mates, but that we can also allow the many parts of ourselves (those deep, hidden, or even dark places included) to exist in harmony and balance.  Using herbs, our plant allies, to nurture our deeper selves is just one piece of this need to attend to ourselves more fully.  In my small way, and despite more limited means than the large corporations we have come to know so well, I want to help provide men and women with the ability fulfill this important function with natural,  raw ingredients — minerals such as clay and mica; gifts from the animal kingdom like milk, yoghurt and honey; and oils, essential oils, and raw herb matter to nourish ourselves both inside and out. With these materials from the earth, we are able to nudge our bodies into balance, hopefully. Above all, the herbalist is concerned with helping a person achieve holistic balance, and thus it is also my primary motivation. By looking at the full person, we can help try to ascertain what needs should be met, and hopefully what we can suggest as helpful assistance, ideas, and suggestions for achieving that equilibrium that we all seek.

I do hope all of that makes sense. You’ll be happy to know that my new website, complete with herb consulting details, is only now waiting for me to tweak a few things and then it will be live very soon. If you have any comments, stories, or feedback, I would love to hear from you. xo ~ Sarah

Incidentally, you may be interested in my Ishtar blend, named for this very story and with the achievement of hormonal and emotional balance in mind. I just ordered some organic shatavari root so I can make you a custom blend if you would like to try it.

Ishtar root tea


Musings for Change

May 12, 2011
Facial Cleansing Grains

Facial Cleansing Grains

Hello my dear readers. Oh, I wish I could blog more often. The intensity of my full-time day job combined with a busy craft season (actually, every season feels really busy) makes it tough. I am so looking forward to what amounts to an “herbal retreat” for me this June, the Medicines of the Earth Herb Symposium , Black Mountain, North Carolina. Check out the cool PDF brochure if you’re interested. Not only can immerse myself in the world of herbs for a nice, long weekend, but I also get to learn from some of the greatest herbal teachers of our time.

When I begin to shift into a new paradigm or even have some ideas for changes to be implemented, it seems that it takes me a very long time to migrate into a new place. I muse about changes for what seems like months, even years, before I make a move.  A true taurus! I confess. This slow drifting towards change can extend from new curtains to new Lilith’s Apothecary products, to new life practices. Why is this? I’m not sure, but I’ve come to accept that it is just my process. On the flip side, I’m also impressionable. When I read about great ideas, hear convincing arguments about ideas, growing practices, food, and so forth, I can internalize them with a passion. But I don’t flit from one thing to another; rather, I deeply internalize things that make sense to me until they become part of my own personal tapestry. And I’m finding that unlike Athena, who sprang from Zeus’s head fully formed in all her philosophical, conceptual, and ideological glory, it’s taken me 34 years to get me to where I am now. Maybe that’s just how it is for we mortals. Given my nature, I fully anticipate changes ahead to be a gradual, growing process. This is why I fully believe in the power of the third phase of life, the Crone’s stage, as one’s potential arrival at wisdom. Before that, it’s not really possible (as I see it anyway), though we try. We do.

I have some goals for the future of Lilith’s Apothecary. I will begin to slowly move towards the accomplishment of these goals over the next year, following my last craft shows of the Spring, The Art Star Craft Bazaar and the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival Last summer was a time of rest. This summer will be a time of careful implementation of new practices in my business.

1. I am going to move away from the use of Plastic. Yes, the plastics I use are all recyclable, but it just doesn’t make sense. I will probably keep certain components, such as pumps, caps, or mister tops, because at the moment, I don’t really see a way around it.

2. I am going to be focusing my product line much more exclusively on Facial Care. This is my area of expertise, and in an effort to keep my customers happily contented, I have often created products that are not really in this sphere. As they are lovely products, too, it’s hard to part with them! I have far too much diversity in my offerings, however, and I am spread too thin in production, which means that people often need to wait for staples such as facial creams and serums. What I may do is offer certain body creams, lotions, etc on a limited basis from time to time, but they may not be as regularly available. An exception to this is my Chamomile & Calendula lotion, as far too many people depend on this lotion to treat various dry skin conditions.

3. I’m going to have to eliminate my Tea line, which I have been pairing down for the last few years. I am still available as an herbal consultant to make specialized blends for pregnancy, post-partum, breast feeding, insomnia, anxiety, etc, however. Feel free to contact me directly, but realize that custom orders can sometimes take up to 4 weeks.

4. By paring down my offerings, I will be able to put more time into the development of new products that fit into my Facial Care line, such as creams that address skin discoloration (in development), products specific to acne issues, and others that have been bouncing around in my head for months!

5. I’m going to invest the necessary time in the development of my website, www.lilithsapothecary.com which was started over 2 and a half years ago, but for which I have rarely felt the ability to devote the necessary attention and time.

So, there are exciting changes ahead! And as I progress along my learning curve as a business owner and developer of natural bath and body products, I hope all my learning shows!

The main thing is that I love my business and I want to continue working on it in a way that is sustainable for myself, for my customers, and for the earth itself. I always welcome a dialogue with my readers and customers and would love to hear about your own personal experiences as well as favorite products. Thank you, as ever!


Immune Boosting Herbs talk @ Holistic Moms Network meeting

October 7, 2009

 

herbs

herbs

Tonight I had the pleasure of presenting about the use of herbs to fight colds and flus, particularly with regard to the treatment of small children. The presentation was delivered to a local chapter of the Holistic Moms Network. It’s fun presenting to the choir, more or less, as this group is made up of parents who are interested in holistic health & living in all respects. And such a lovely group of people, dads and moms alike!

We were able to talk about the energetics of foods and herbs, the use of preventative versus acute herbal remedies, and dosages for small children & infants. I am again reminded of how wonderful it is to share knowledge and information about our botanical allies, and of course giving such talks only reinforces that for me. I was reading a bog post on ProBlogger this morning about weighing the cost-benefit of speaking at events for free. In other words, what’s in it for the business? For some people, attending a far away conference to speak without compensation means that they have to figure out why the trip would be worthwhile, whether through contacts, networking, or business sales. I definitely identify with that when I think about my ‘day job’ in Public Health. I also make decisions like that when it comes to my business, Lilith’s Apothecary. But when it comes to herbal medicine, if I can afford it, I am more than happy to participate in any way I can. It’s true that I do indeed have an herbal bath and body business of sorts, but I don’t educate about herbs because I want to sell products. In fact, I hardly even indicated that I have a business tonight. Instead, I want others to learn how to make the products for themselves! Sure, I can make it for you if you don’t have the time or desire (i.e. I can’t sew, so someone has to sew things for me!), but if you want to make your own herbal syrup, by all means! Let’s do it. And doing it together is so much fun.

Holistic Moms Network
NJ/Philadelphia Chapter
Collingswood, NJ 
Thanks for having me!

Other posts that may be of interest:
What to do about H1N1: 5 Tips
Nervous About Swine Flu? Look to Herbal Medicine for Immune Boosting
DIY Remedies for the Cold Season Part I
DIY Remedies for the Cold Season Part II
Herbal Facial Steams for the Cold and Flu Season


A little autumn magic…

October 5, 2009

Ishtar-320piWith the arrival of October, I welcome Autumn, the end of the summer harvest, the real advent of cooler, crisp breezes and sparkling fall days. While springtime seems to be my most productive and invigorating time of year, full of creative new projects, products, and inspiring concoctions, I also find this time of year poignant in many ways. Though it is more a time of retreat and reflection for me, it is also a time of gentle, creative magic and quiet meditation. I often think about the Sumerian goddess, Ishtar, and her decent to the underworld for renewal. She is seen by some scholars as the ‘sacred whore’ but for me, her story is more about our need for retreat, our need for reflection, and perhaps even a need to descend into a time of darkness so that we may find healing and strength. Carl Jung writes of Ishtar as signifying “earth, nature, fertility, everything that flourishes under the damp light of the moon and also the natural life-urge”. (“Adam and Eve”, Mysterium Coniunctionis). Thus, Ishtar might stand, for us, as a return to the earth, and that like the roots of the forest that place their energy now in the roots rather than blossoms and berries, we must now ground ourselves and soak up the nutrients that in decay now cover the forest floor…leaves, nuts, fruits, and other organic matter.

Ishtar_tea_1

Ishtar Root Tea Decoction

Back in 2005 or 2006, I created my Ishtar Root Blend with this myth in mind, and still find this blend ideal for autumn reflection and healing. Ashwaghanda, an ancient Ayurvedic tonic herb, is an adaptogen that brings balance, immune-building, and calming harmony to our nervous system. Shatavari, the ancient Ayurvedic fertility tonic for women brings fertile ground for our bodies, spirits, and reproductive system; it is indeed but another adaptogen with moistening energetics, soothing vata and providing an ideal tonic following childbirth, sickness, or as a vitality tonic for any time of year. Dandelion and Burdock roots attend to the needs of the liver, providing nourishment and nutrients to this oft’ overworked organ, the very organ responsible for processing hormones, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, environmental toxins, and fats & sugars from the food we eat. Cinnamon provides a warming energetic and catalyst to spark the other herbs into action, soothe one’s belly, and provide that delicious taste craved by many this time of year. In sum, I find it a lovely, nourishing accompaniment to autumn’s necessary moments of reflection and building of inner strength and peace. Namaste.

astarte

Directions for preparing a root decoction:
1. Measure 2 Tbsp of root blend and place in a pot with 1 quart of water to simmer.
2. Simmer roots for at least 15-20 minutes. Add milk and simmer a little longer if desired.
(*in Ayurveda, a Shatavari root tea is often simmered with milk and cinnamon and then honey and ghee, or clarified butter, would be added before drinking)
3. Steep 10-15 min longer with the pot covered.
4. Strain and drink as much as desired, or, in 1 cup increments 2-3x a day
5. Decoction will keep, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.
6. Drink with honey and/or ghee if desired!

mandrake_family

@ ciderandfaun.blogspot.com

By the way, for other magical connections to the earth around us, you might check out these additional delights:
Lady Lavona’s Cabinet of Curiosities
Cider and Faun
Violet Folklore
For Strange Women
Swan Bones Theatre
Totus Mel’s Wunderkammer


Tamara’s Herbes interviews Lilith…er, me!

February 19, 2009

Herbally-inspired artisan and fellow etsian Tamara of Tamar’s Herbes has recently interviewed me for her charming blog as a featured seller. I thought I would share this interview for those who would like to know a bit more about what is “behind” Lilith (or who!) as Tamara’s questions are great. Don’t miss that last ‘random question’ for a fun bit tidbit or two! Thanks Tamara.

TELL ME A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF:
I am trained as a medical anthropologist and work full time in the public health sector. The intersections of disease, healing, and culture have always interested me, from historical, cross-cultural, and even philosophical perspectives. I’ve been studying herbal medicine for a number of years now, and when I first discovered herbology, it was a total “ah-ha!” moment — finally everything was coming together in a way that really resonated with my life. It’s my true passion! I am also a mother with a two and a half year old toddler, Maeve, and wife of Tony McNichol, who is an archaeologist and kindred spirit. I work a forty hour week and then spend between 15 and 20 hours more (at least!) toiling away at night in my basement workshop to create what is Lilith’s Apothecary, a vehicle for my herbal knowledge.

HOW DO YOU BALANCE YOUR CREATIVE NEEDS WITH THE REST OF YOUR LIFE?
Well, first of all, Lilith does fulfill many of my creative needs. In that sense, I am lucky. I would love to be able to devote more of my life to the Apothecary, but at the moment, my day job provides an income that we can’t really do without. The tough part is not finding moments to be creative, it’s finding a way to make THAT my full-time job. Finding a balance between a full-time job and a ‘hobby’ that really wants to be a full-time endeavor is not easy, actually. Lilith is always growing! But that’s a good thing.

IF YOU COULD MAKE ONE CHANGE IN THE WORLD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
You mean, philisophically? I could answer this questions a hundred times over. I personally believe that a lot of the problems that we have as a species boils down to the fact that we’re just big apes at the end of the day. It sounds reductionist, but when you look at primate behavior, it makes more sense why we as humans do the things we do. That said, what we lack in biological superiority, we do have in the potential to be creative, wise, and cultured beings. I wish we could — as a species — tap into that aspect of ourselves more readily. Can’t there be more Ghandis? Capitalism needs to go, for one thing. It demands an underclass.

WHAT DO YOU WANT THE WORLD TO REMEMBER ABOUT YOU WHEN YOU’RE GONE?
I think we all think about this. At the end of the day, I want to feel as though I have impacted people in a positive way. I don’t think there is a legacy that is more important than being a loving, positive influence on those you love the most. I’ve been to memorial services of academics, for instance, who were mostly estranged from their own children because of the all-consuming nature of their work. The negative impact that had on those children is probably worse than the so-called legacy of their academic contributions.

HOW DO YOU DE-STRESS?
Yoga is a wonderful respite, but I haven’t practiced in a while. It’s really hard to make time for myself that isn’t “work” related, even in terms of Lilith. That said, Ikebana (the art of japanese flower arranging) has been a wonderful outlet for me. I study with an ikebana teacher of 30 years, Midori Tanimune, and she is an incredible influence on me. I have learned so much from her. I also make jewelry, and have a little site http://www.lilithsjewels1.etsy.com, and I do custom work for family and friends, which is a lot of fun.

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR ETSY STORE.
Etsy, for as ‘expensive’ as it ends up being between etsy fees and paypal fees, has been a wonderful thing for me. I have learned so much about my business since I opened Lilith’s Apothecary in 2007. My photos have evolved, my products have evolved, I’ve been able to reach a much wider audience, and I get a real sense of what my market is and a deeper confidence in my product and what I have to offer.

WHAT DREW YOU TO THIS MEDIUM/HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
In my studies of herbology, I learned how to make basic skin care preparations, including salves, ointments, syrups, linaments, tinctures, creams, and skin care products. I have always had sensitive skin, and I realized how superior my hand made products were compared to commercial versions. Family members started “ordering” products from me, and soon I was being commissioned to make things at christmastime as gifts. Once etsy came along, beginning to think about a real business began to take shape, and the etsy store has really forced me into a wonderful learning curve.

WHAT OTHER MEDIUMS DO YOU ENJOY WORKING WITH?
I love making bath & body things, but I also love herbal teas, which I offer in my shop, using my herbal knowledge, and I make jewelry, garden, love cooking & nutrition, and practicing ikebana. I hate to sound like a dork, but creating is really what I love to do most, whether it’s a dandelion and gruyere quiche or my latest ‘Boudoir Blossom Facial Cream’

IS THIS A HOBBY OR FULL TIME BUSINESS?
I wish this was a full time business! Maybe someday it will be. It is not really a hobby though, either, as I devote 15-20 hours a week to the development of Lilith, on top of my full time job and family responsibilities. Do I *make* money? No, not really, but I am optimistic! Lilith is young.

WHAT DO YOU FIND INSPIRES YOU FROM DAY TO DAY?
Other crafters’ stories of success can be very inspirational (though sometimes it makes me feel a bit defeatest too). At the end of the day, just knowing that I would not ever really want to live without Lilith keeps me going. It’s too much of a wonderful creative outlet for me, and I absolutey thrive from the feedback and interaction with customers. Such a positive experience.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT YOUR CRAFT?
I love the creative evolution ~ the continual refining of a product as well as trying out new formulas and products.
LEAST?
The shameless self promotion that I know i should be engaged in 24/7 to really push these products and get myself out there.

WHERE DO YOU EXPECT TO BE IN FIVE YEARS?
I have no idea. But let’s say that in ten years, I want Lilith to sustain me financially.
That’s my dream. I don’t know if it will happen but that’s my dream.

DO YOU HAVE YOUR OWN STORE/WEBSITE?
I have a website that has been in development for a year now and a source of great frustration. Hopefully it will be together soon ~ that’s a different story. I don’t have a brick and mortar store and don’t forsee that happening for a long time, though maybe some day! I am starting to do some consignment and wholesale and it will be interesting to see where that takes me. mommaeve_christmas08

Random Question:
If you were having a dinner party and could invite three famous people, who would they be?

I would like to be really ‘clever’ with this question, but I think I’ll be self-indulgent and answer it as honestly as I can (of course it is somewhat impossible because there are so many people I’d love to sit down & share a glass of wine with). I am not sure if these famous people are supposed to be alive or if I can drag some back from the dead, but I’ll be doubly indulgent and go with the latter: Marcel Duchamp, Alistair Crowley, and Gertrude Stein. Now that would be an interesting party!


Barak

January 21, 2009

I would be remiss in neglecting to acknowledge the wonderfully exciting inauguration events that took place for our 44th president, Barak Obama, yesterday, January 20, 2009. As an American, I can certainly say that this is the first time I’ve ever felt excited, inspired, and hopeful about a new president. I know I’m not alone in this.

Barak!

Barak!


Herbal study & research ~ anxiety & depression

January 13, 2009

Passion Flower for insomnia with circular thinking

Passion Flower for insomnia with circular thinking

I have been doing a lot of study lately around treating anxiety & depression with herbal medicine. Two of my most prized tinctures are fresh, organic St. John’s Wort & organic Skullcap, both herbs that are very useful in treating depression and anxiety, respectively. But there are so many different herbs one can use to really specifically treat variations of the depression or anxiety, dependant on the origin. More commonly known herbs such as Evening Primrose (herb, not oil), Lavender, Lemon Balm, Passion Flower, Night Blooming Cereus (Cactus Grandifloris), and Ginko all have roles to play.

‘Adaptogens’ are also critical to the lives of most people, as they help us cope better with stress and bring a level of balance to our systems. Examples of adaptogens would be Ashwaghanda, Asian Ginseng, Siberian Ginseng, Shatavari, Dong Quai, and Rhodiola Root. These are so important, I think I should do a special post devoted to them!

Recently, I was able to participate in David Winston (AHG)’s graduate course in Differential Diagnosis of Anxiety & Depression, which added a lot of depth to my study. I’ve been dying to do David’s course for years now, but just haven’t figured out a way to do it properly (well, since the arrival of my wee bairn). I just hope I catch it while he’s still teaching! He’s one of the US’s master herbalists, having practiced herbal medicine for nearly 40 years, and one of the original founders of the American Herbalists Guild (AHG). I consider him the leading authority in my own herbal work. http://www.herbalist-alchemist.com

Note: check out my “Bright Mornings” herbal tea blend for a gently mood-elevating, nervine tea that is safe and uplifting to the crest-fallen spirit. http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=13937696

Bright Mornings Herbal Tea

Bright Mornings Herbal Tea


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