With spring just around the corner, it's once again that time of year when I toss out my older, weakened herbs and lay in a fresh supply of them for spells, incenses and rituals. I've spent the last few days washing jars, making new labels for those herbs that I've never worked with but have decided that this is the year when I'm going to come up with a use for them so I better have some jars available, and casting the old no-longer-potent herbs upon the ground around my birch trees. I'm starting with just 13 this year (which is a surprising number, given my penchant for order and keeping everything even), but that number will most likely grow as more ideas start to sprout in my always-working brain.
Like everything else I do, I try to bring a bit of art into my herbal apothecary by making my jars as lovely on the outside as what rests within them. I've been using hand painted labels for a few years now. At first I thought it might be nice to do a small original painting on each, but then I decided that even I'm not that insane (yet) and so I settled for a lovely large-scale rubber stamp which allows for a uniform sized label, but which I then hand color with watercolors. I originally chose two blues and two greens, as they looked lovely with my old 19th century hand-blown blue canning jars, but then I realized that the blue and green were also sort of symbolic of the earth and sky and all that lies in between, which I rather like. And I can see the mood I was in on those days when I painted each label: some are delicate and light, while others are boldly blue and dark. The jars are crooked and old, full of little flaws in the form of bubbles in the glass and tiny chips near their rims. The metal bales are rusty, and they more than look their age. But that's okay because it reminds me of all the people who have handled them over many, many years: the men who made the jars, the women who used them to store food to feed their families during the long winter months, and then me who uses them in my quest for the spiritual and the magickal which are often one and the same. It's really all rather poetic.
Spring cleaning really does suck, but even in the midst of all the drudgery, I can still find a little beauty both in the tedium of cleaning endless jars with pretty labels and in the excitement of all the magick I'm going to create from the simple leaves, twigs and berries those jars now hold.