Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Shrine Offerings - Plants & Flowers

It's summer, deep hot summer. During the cooler months it is easy to find offerings for my Lasa/Lare Shrine and God & Goddess Shrines. But in the deep hot summer, it's not so easy. I like flowers as part of my offerings but it has been my experience is that scent is an important part of the offering, it pleases the spirits. So plants with aroma, primarily herbs, are what I have focused on growing.

One plant that actually produces flowers better in the heat than in the cooler times of year is Pentas. These bushy plants have large flower clusters and the flowers come in pink, red, white, purple. The only color I haven't seen is yellow. I like the many 5 petaled flowers, because they remind me of the pentacle and stars which I associated with the Grigori. In many ways the Grigori are like Lare who watch over all Streghe. I tend to use these flowers more in my Lasa Shrine but have also used them in my God & Goddess offerings when other offerings aren't as readily available.

My yellow Shrimp Plant is also a consistent flower producer in the summer months. I use it's flowers almost exclusively on my God Shrine.

Zinnias tend to do well in the heat and make great cut flowers. My problem has been in getting them to consistently grow from seed. I did manage to ge a few this year. I'm beginning to think this was because we had a very dry early to midsummer. I'm going to try again next year and water the seedlings less and see if I can be as successful. Zinnias work well for Lasa, God & Goddess offerings. I tend to use the orange & yellows in the God offerings, pinks for the Goddess and purple for the Lasa.

Many roses stop blooming in our summer heat. The exception is the Europeana Rose. I've never seen anything like it. It literally blooms year round, not as prolifically in the summer, but it still blooms. Additionally, unlike many modern hybrids, it also smells like a rose. I'm working on growing more via layering because this rose is so fantastic in our summer heat. Roses work as offerings for the Lasa, Goddess & God and when there are lots of Roses I'll use them in all 3 offerings. But when there are fewer roses I confess I tend to use it more on my Goddess Shrine.

Another herb that offers its white flowers in the summer is Greek Oregano. This plant is hardy and heat tolerant. It leafs out in the spring and by midsummer has begun to flower. After it flowers I cut it back in the last summer and dry it to use in cooking and the remaingin naked sticks go into fall bonfires. Like all the other herbs its scent is part of the offering. Once the scent is gone from any herbal offering it is time to replace with something new.

My spearmint is beautiful in the spring with its lush deep green leaves. The smell is heavenly. I use it as a ground cover so that I can step on it on purpose and release the scent. But do not plant mint unless you are willing to let it run. You can not easily contain it. Even when planted in pots if these pots are on the ground in a gardent the mint manages to escape and spread. As the heat of summer progresses it puts out white flowers shaped appropropriately like a a spear tip. In late summer first the leaves and then the flowers begin to die back. I use the mint leaves in the spring and the flowers in the summer and then in August I will cut it back hard and save the cuttings for fall bonfires. Mint can be used on as offerings for the Lasa/Lare as well as the God & Goddess Shrines. The spear shape works for the God. The white flower looks great in all white flower (mint, oregano, white pentas, rose if I'm lucky) Goddess Offerings. The leaves and flowers and the heady scent work in the Lasa Shrine.

Pennyroyal is another mint that grows well in the south. In the summer it blooms lovely clusters of purple flowers along its rambling tendrils. It works especially well for me in my Lasa shrine. It is also great as a flea repelent on pets. Break some of the runners of of the plant and rub it down your pet's back. Pyrethrin is a key ingredient in many flea soaps and comes from pennyroyal. This doesn't seem to affect the Lasa at all. They seem to enjoy the small globe clusters of flowers and the scent.

In the summer I can count on Russian Sage . I planted this looking for a purple flower that could stand the heat. The plant can stand the heat but I rarely get the lovely purple flowers. It does however have a strong sage scent.
I also have cooking sage as long as I keep it in the shade under our Bradford pear tree. The Lasa dislike sage and it doesn't seem to work well for the Goddess either, so I use it only on my God Shrine.

Spanish Tarragon is a wonderful addition to deep south gardens. It blooms happy yellow flowers late in the season. I like to use the yellow flowers for the God Shrine. The scented leaves work also work well for the Lasa & the Goddess. I've tried to grow French Tarragon but I've not been successful, yet.

Lavender blooms in the spring, but the leafy plant can be used all year round. I just have to cut offerings more sparingly in the summer as the plant doesn't grow as fast nor is it as hardy in the heat of the year. I have a number of different types of Lavender. Sweet Lavender with its tall flowering spikes is great in the spring but it is the Allardi Lavender that I can count on for fragrant leafy offerings in the summer. Spanish Lavender & French or Denticulated Lavender seems to be most sensitive to our Gulf Coast climate changes. I typically reserve Lavender as offerings for the Lasa & the Goddess. The greyish tint of the Allardi Lavender leaves goes well with the all white full moon Goddess offerings.

I can grow Fennel easily from seed. Once established this plant can last 2 or more seasons. Fennel is extremely connected to the Lasa and Fata. As an offering in the vase on my Lasa Shrine, nothing seems to make them happier. The fennel has a nice licorice aroma and the delicate fronds create a soft comfortable environment in the vase. I haven't been successful in growing stalk fennel but have been highly successful with "bulb" fennel. In the Mediterranean California climate fennel grows wild along the coast and is perfect for the type of stalks necessary for the Summer Solstice ritual.

I'm also trying to grow asparagus. And while we've had only a few tasty asparagus shoots, the plant makes frondy, frilly offerings that are great in the Lasa shrine or as fill in God or Goddess offerings. Cutting back the plant also encourages root growth which is just what I need.

Basil is a strong summer plant in New Orleans. It must be planted in spring when the weather is cool but thrives in the summer heat. Its fragrant green leaves can be used as offerings. But so can any flowers. The Basil plant will weaken once it starts to flower because it's thinking about creating seeds. So cutting the flowers from basil plants helps them grow more leaves and stay strong. We can harvest basil for offerings and cooking all summer but have to make sure that we harvest most of the plant before the first frost. So pesto is often a home made Solstice/Christmas gift from our house. Thai Basil or Queen of Siam Basil or Cinnamon Basil flowers added to vinger create a flowery pink tinted vinger that is also good as a homemade gift. When you open a bottle of Cinnamon Basil Flower vinegar in the winter brings the smell of summer flowers into the room.

When I am placing offerings in my 3 shrines I like to use one herb or flower to "connect" the offerings on all 3 shrines: Lasa, Goddess, God. So I might have Fennel and Pentas in the Lasa Shrine. Roses and Lavender, with a sprig of fennel in the Goddess shrine. Tarragon flowers & Russian Sage, with a sprig of fennel in the God Shrine. I keep my offerings in small vases and change them regularly.

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