Totem Animals

totem_animals_by_fuocorupestre-d60vupsAnimal totems play huge roles in our lives. They aid in self-discovery and capture our imagination, giving us incredible avenues of self-expression and awareness.

Additionally, they assist in understanding our past, and if we are attentive, our animal totems can reveal glimpses of our future.

Webster’s Dictionary defines a totem as: “A natural object, usually an animal that serves as a distinctive, often venerated emblem or symbol. A means of personal or spiritual identity.”

Animals serve as harbingers of personality traits we, as humans, all aspire to achieve. This makes animals some of the most powerful symbols in our spiritual toolbox.

Animals afford us visions of how our lives could be if we lived more simply and lived with purity of thought and emotion. Therefore, incorporating animal totems into our lives affirms our spiritual goals.

By focusing on the attributes of our totems, we internalize these traits and thus begin to externalize the very character we absorb from our totems.

Photo Reference

Henna/Medhi

Henna/Medhi

IMG_0621Traditional-Henna-on-Hands

(top left: that’s me with my awesome Eye of Horus henna done at the Yellow Springs Street Fair 2014
bottom left: not me, just a really awesome google pic of henna!)

History

The word Henna comes from the Arabic word “Al-Hinna” and comes from the Lawsonia Enermis plant that grows 4-8 feet high in very hot climates, including Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Morocco, Palestine, Egypt, Yemen, Uganda, Tanzania, Afghanistan, Senegal, Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and India. The leaves, flowers, and twigs of the plant are ground into a fine powder containing natural dying properties called tannins. The henna plant originally comes from Egypt and made its way to India as a gift from the ancient Egyptians. The art of applying Henna is called Medhi, a Hindu term. Henna has been used for at least 5,000 years in cosmetic and healing capacities. Ancient Egyptians would use it to adorn the mummies and Cleopatra is even known to have worn it as an adornment.

Hennaed skin is not tattooed as the practice does not require any piercing. Henna paste is a dye that leaves a more or less durable stain on the outer layer of the skin alone. Henna contains hennotannic acid that binds with cells, so the henna paste must stay moist and in contact with the skin for a while. Heat makes the dye darker, but normally, the resulting color is a dark orange/light brown/red. The stain will last anywhere from 1-4 weeks.

The Night of the Henna has been a tradition since 1000 BC at least. In the Night of the Henna, a girl is purified, dressed, bejeweled for her wedding, and then marked with henna.

Uses / Healing

Henna can be used as a hair or skin dye, and is even used on fingernails. It acts as a cooling agent on the skin during hot weather. People used to dip their hands and feet into the henna paste to aid with cooling their bodies. Even after the paste flaked off and the reddish stain was left, the cooling agent was still active. As a healing plant, Henna conditions, cleanses, colors, and cools the skin. It is used as a coagulator for open wounds, and a poultice made with henna leaves works to soothe burns and certain cases of eczema. Since the palm contains numerous nerve endings, when hennia is applied to the area, it helps to relax the system and cool the body. Henna mixed with vinegar and applied to the head is reputed to heal headaches.

Spiritual

Henna has a strong connection to the Spirit and is seen in many religions, including Paganism. Varying designs have a different meaning for members of each culture, such as good health, fertility, wisdom, protection, luck, and spiritual enlightenment. Henna is believed to attract good luck and dispel bad luck. Henna has also been used in bathing rituals for purification.IMG_0615

Making Henna Paste

There are some main ingredients when making your own henna paste. The henna powder is obvious. Essential oil is added to help darken the dye and through the EO’s ingredient terpinol. Some of the best essential oils for henna are lavender, tea tree, clove bud, ravensera, eucalyptus, and/or cajeput. These are used for consistency and acceleration. The coffee is used to pull the color out of the crushed henna leaves. Dark tea will provide the same effect; just make sure it is hot. Lemon juice adds acid and acid breaks down the cellular structure of the henna powder to bring out the color. Peppercorns, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, and whole cumin seeds can be used to darken the dye. White sugar adds the stickiness that the henna paste needs to stay on the skin long enough to leave a nice stain. You can also use honey instead of sugar.

When making yourself, if a brown crust forms on top, the henna is near its peak. If the paste has become dark brown throughout, it’s probably degraded and will not stain well. When you see drops or puddles of dye, the henna is at or passing its peak. Timing henna takes practice as low pH and heat speeds up the process.

The longer you leave the paste on your skin, the darker the stain will be. Try to leave the paste on at least 4-8 hours. Look for henna that is a brownish-green color. Henna loses potency over time, so when the powder has lightened and turned brown, it won’t leave a good stain. Store leftover powder in the freezer for up to a year. Measure out powder for how much you want to use. For body art, use a teaspoon for a few small designs and several tablespoons for 10-50 designs.

You can also use henna on any natural, porous surface; untreated wood is ideal. Leather also takes henna designs very well. Any items made out of animal skin works nicely.

You can purchase fresh henna at most health food and Asian markets. Stay clear of anything that states “black henna” as this is not natural or safe. The dyes claiming to be black contain a toxic chemical called paraphenylenediamine or PPD, which can cause severe allergic reactions, blisters, scars, and even life-long damage to your health.

Tips

  • Do not use lotion or sunscreen for at least 24 hours before the henna is applied.
  • Henna paste should remain on the skin for at least 4-8 hours before removing. It is best to let it naturally flake off. If you can leave it on overnight, this is best. The longer the paste is on, the darker the stain will be.
  • Do not get your henna wet for at least 24 hours. If done on your hands, I understand that this will be impossible, but just realize that it will fade faster and may not be as dark.
  • Sift henna powder before mixing paste to remove any clumps. When mixing, make sure to mix thoroughly to remove clumps. Clumps can get caught in the end when applying, causing a design to mess up.

To Make Henna Paste:

  1. Measure ¼ cup henna powder into a bowl.
  2. Add ~ 1/8 to ¼ cup room temperature lemon juice while stirring consistently until consistency is that of thick mashed potatoes.

OR

  1. Boil 2 packets of instant coffee singles hard in about 1½ cups of water until it boils down to about ¾ of a cup of dark liquid. Mix just enough coffee into the powder to create a thick paste. The hot liquid will make the powder ball up a little, so be sure to mix until well blended and smooth.
  2. Add ~ 2 T lemon juice.
  3. Cover the bowel tightly with plastic wrap/foil/lid and let sit in warm (not hot) location for 12 hours.
  4. Add 1 ½ to 2 t sugar.
  5. Add ~ 5 drops lavender essential oil.
  6. Mix well, recover, and let sit an additional 12 hours.
  7. You want thin yogurt consistency (should ribbon off spoon, but not be too runny). Add lemon juice until consistency is right.
  8. Pour mixture into applicator and freeze until ready to use. Best if used within a few days as the dye will not work as well if later than that.

Acknowledge Beauty.

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Art is all around us and to each individual soul, beauty is felt. When you feel these moments, when your soul is touched by the beauty in another, make it known. Whether that be the beautiful golden eyes of a stranger or a well-thought-out ensemble of a coworker. It could be a magnificent tie or the barren winter trees outside. Acknowledge the beauty. Compliment the individuals who have brought this moment of beauty, and move on. You expect nothing in return because you are simply acknowledging that you also feel beauty in a certain thing/person/attribute/etc. However, don’t tell someone they have pretty eyes and then just turn on your heel and run. That will obviously look very odd and maybe even creepy. Do not be afraid to give compliments. Make eye contact with a person and simply tell them that something they have on or their appearance in general is whatever adjective you choose to use that explains the beauty.

Admiring beauty that does not involve other human beings is clearly easier, but may not touch as many people. When admiring beauty in nature or in objects around you, make note to stop and take in your senses. What do you feel? HOW do you feel? Is it awe-inspiring, bringing tears to your eyes because its beauty is so profound? Good! I say commence, good friend! Allow yourself to experience what the beauty does to you. If sounds escape your lips, such as a sigh or a moan, allow it, as this releases even more positive energy into the object and the world around you. And you can pass along at least a semblance of that moment of beauty through photography and words. If you feel inclined to write, express your moment and sensations through the words, thus creating art yourself.

Experience the world around you. This will allow you to discern more awe-inspiring dimensions in this world and others. Stop for a moment and simply be. Feel what is going on around you right at this very moment. The textures, people, smell, wind, temperature. Look around and see beauty. Document this beauty if you wish, or simply take with you the memory of that moment. That is up to you and at your discretion.

I encourage you, dear friends, to never allow beauty to cross your path without a considerable amount of exertion put forth to express and acknowledge this beauty. There are times when discretion advises against expressing your moment of beauty, but I like to count those as few times indeed. And then it makes the giving of my expressions of beauty that much more meaningful. Compliment others. Take pictures. Laugh. Live in this moment, if only for a moment. Experience awe. Acknowledge these moments for the impact they have in this time in existence.