What makes us human?

What makes us human?

       This is a question that undoubtfully all humans ask themselves at some point? I recently heard a talk about this subject and thought it was well worth exploring.  As I am currently working on the new calendar cycle and The Year Ahead,  when the famous question – what is it all about?  fleetingly raised its head. But was equally quickly succeeded by – What comes next and what are my plans for the year ahead?

It would be highly presumptuous of me to say that there is only one answer, of course, there is not. But the more I listen to experts who study primates in their natural environment and early human civilizations,  the boundaries between humans and animals are becoming ever clearer. Not that I see the human species in any way far more important or superior. The Biodynamic way of life sees all species, including plants, worms and even microbes in the soil as part of the WHOLE CYCLE and each play their unique part. But humans have qualities other species simply have not.

Over 70,000 years ago Neanderthals started to use instruments, discovered fire, and even played music. These ‘creative activities’ had not been seen before. This all got even more sophisticated around 48,000 B.C. when the  Cro-Magnons – the earliest humans- started to settle in today’s Europe and Africa.  Cave paintings and subsequently found tools show us what their civilization would have looked like and more importantly how they lived. Working with fire was by then well established, but this ‘new species’ showed creativity and the ability to plan ahead as no other species had done before.

In his book  The Pattern Seekers, Simon Baren-Cohen describes how humans became distinctly different from animals when they started to recognize patterns. And I would argue more importantly when they started to connect the dots. Animals tend to react, but humans plan ahead.

Initially, this ‘planning ahead’ was quite haphazard. But once early man discovered a predictably time-pattern in the sky, i.e. the cycle of the moon, ‘social planning’ became a lot easier. This was a big game-changer.  Once tribes knew how to operate these early time measuring tools – proper social planning was really on its way. Here you can find out more about how early humans created their first calendars. 

We know that humans were definitely collective beings right from the very start. And there is no reason to believe that this trend is slowing down. Just look at the very recent rise of social media and there is no doubt that humans thrive on collective interactions.

But then certain animal species, of course not all, also share this communal spirit.  Just look at how a pack of wolves or lions hunt together and share the prey (or fight over it!). Or how monkeys or whales come together and care for their young.

But what sets humans really apart is the communication of shared experiences. We do like events and we like to share them – live!
This has been the biggest impact of the  Coronavirus pandemic. It has taken away the ability to congregate, celebrate, and see ‘live events’ and share ‘in the flesh’-experiences? Technology has made great advances and I am sure we are all grateful for that. But ‘this common energy’ is missing. We don’t communicate just with words, there are so many unspoken cues that are impossible to pick up via a video screen.

I think once we are all vaccinated and free to mingle again,  we will treasure this ‘communal energy’ even more than we once did. Especially the senses of touch and smell, which have both been so neglected.

But until then the ‘virtual gatherings’ will prevail and I have finally taken the nudge and together with the new calendars, I have created a VIP Facebook group. At the moment this is on an ‘invitation only’ basis for some members.
But If you stumbled across Living With The Moon for the very first time, you are welcome to download our free introduction e-book by clicking the link below and maybe see you one day in our small, friendly and connected group.

 An Introduction to LWTM

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Natural home clearing

Natural home clearing

Tidy, declutter and dusting      THIS SYMBOL REPRESENTS DECLUTTERING AND ENERGETIC HOME-CLEARING

In the late 1990ies I had a very interesting home visit. My then downstairs neighbour told me about this ‘wonderful interior designer’ who he met at a recent party. My husband and I were just about to gear up for a serious redecoration process. So  I decided to have her round to get some input and ideas.

A few days later a bubbly young Italian woman showed up and I guided her around the house. I had been a makeup artist for a little while but was then experiencing a career-lull and felt a bit lack-luster.  What I needed was extra energy and a fresh start.

As we walked around the place she noted a few things down and finally, we reached the top floor. There were 2 rooms. The one facing towards the garden was used as a work/spare room and the room facing the street was our bedroom.

She was puzzled by this arrangement and thought the bedroom would be much better facing the back. But we had tried this before and both found that we could not sleep well in this room. And neither did any of our guests.

She turned to me and asked if she could ‘energetically clear this room’ and took out a sage smudge stick.  At that time I had never seen one before and was by now getting quite curious.  She lit it and then walked around with it, making sure the smoke went into all the corners, behind piled-up papers, in the cupboard and any other hidden place. She then carried on throughout the whole place.

Once finished, she gave me precise instructions on how to declutter and thoroughly air and clean the place. Then she urged me to hang up colourful, happy pictures of friends and family and snapshots of ‘happy moments’.  When all that was completed and only then, I was to move the bed back into the garden-facing room, which of course I did. 

That night and many after that I slept so well.  No more twisting and turning. I could not believe the difference the whole procedure had made. Additionally, a friend called me the next day and told me about an interview for a new TV show. I went to it and got the job. In hindsight, that day really transformed my then stagnant career and home life.

Of course,  this all could have been completely coincidental, but whatever she had done – it just worked! She had explained to me the ‘concept of stagnant energy’.

According to her, dead energy gathers in crevices and around clutter and needs to be cleared away. It is like dust or debris which you would clear away, too.

My grandmother had always mentioned that energy does not get lost but just transforms. So it all somehow made sense. In any case, it did work whatever had caused it.

Since then I have kept to this principle.  If I ever need a bit of ‘energy’, ‘oomph’, ‘mojo’ – or whatever else you call this elusive “get-up-and-go” quality, I cleanse my home – dirt, clutter, and energy!

How to cleanse you home the biodynamic way?

1) Declutter:  Choose the time of the Waning Moon, ideally on an Air Day. Take 3 bags and declutter either a room, a storage area or whatever needs doing. If you are a hoarder (like me), make sure you stick to a small area or room, otherwise, it is just overwhelming. There is always another moon cycle to do the next bit. A great way to go room by room through the whole house. 

Bag One is for rubbish, Bag Two is for giving-away. This could be to neighbours, friends, family, charity or selling on e-bay. Bag Three is your treasure chest – this is the precious stuff to keep, ideally not too much. 

Once madness turned into tidiness, take a duster and get rid of all the dust. If you still have some energy, clean mirrors, and possibly hoover. But what is really important – give your home a good blast of fresh air. Even in winter, just 
make it shorter. 

2) Cleaning: Keep the decluttering, dusting and hovering on Air Days, if you can and have a day off if possible. Then a Water Days will follow the Air Day- still in the Waning Moon. Today is a cleaning day. Do another good hovering session, wash your floors and wet vacuum your carpets (you can hire wet&dry Vaccum cleaners). Get down curtains, give them a shake outside or wash them.  Move furniture to really get as much dust/dirt away as you can. This is not a routine clean, this is a deep clean.

Here are 2 articles about natural cleanser you most likely have in your larder.

Natural Cleaning Products   
Cleaning with Vinegar 

3) Clean Energetically: Now your home is dusted and cleaned. Give it a day or 2 and then you will clean it energetically. For this get a sage smudge stick and light it. Then walk around circling the smudge stick, making sure the smoke is going in all the hidden corners and crevices. Have you ever heard the phrase – you can cut the air with a knife – this is stagnant energy. If you pay attention, there will be some hidden corners where the smudge stick literally gets stuck, spend a little more effort there. Places where there is a lot of traffic, such as a hallway, are usually clean of stagnant energy.

Finally, open again all the window and let the smoke ‘breath out’. Once all the smoke has gone,  light a scented candle or use a natural air freshener.  I guarantee you – you will notice a big difference and your sleep should improve, too

 An Introduction to LWTM

Please click this link to find out more about LWTM and holistic lifestyle planning and  download our freebies 

 

 

 

 

 An Introduction to LWTM

Please click this link to find out more about LWTM and holistic lifestyle planning and  download our freebies 

 

 

 

Halloween, witches and Samhain

Halloween, witches and Samhain

     On October 31st is a special day – The Blue Moon falls on the same day as Halloween. 
The last article looked in-depth at what a Blue Moon is. This post will delve deeper into the subject of Halloween, where it comes from and its significance.

The history of Halloween

Halloween has its origin in the Celtic festival Samhain, celebrated on the evening of the 31st of October. This symbolized the end of the harvest season and the ‘death of the seasonal growing cycle’. It was also celebrated on the eve before All Saints Day or better known as ‘ All Hallow’s Day’- the day of the Saints and the dead Ancestors.
halloween  The Celts believed in reincarnation. The highest honour was to die in battle. The body of a slain soldier or member of society was burnt on a pyre together with the corpse of their favorite horse. The cold ashes were collected in a clay jar and buried in a mound. For centuries these practices continued. The souls turned into invisible figures wearing cloaks with large hoods – just think of the grim reaper! These figures escaped in the moonlight to another world, unseen by those left behind and eventually reincarnated into another human, animal or plant.

Moon gods, bulls and horns

cow horns Many cultures, amongst them the Sumerians, Babylonians and Minoans worshipped moon gods and their sacred animals were the cows and bulls. Here is an article that explains a bit more about the Minoan culture and their practices with bull jumping, now believed to be a forerunner of the Olympic Games.

Bull horns represented the moon cycle and the cycle of life. The first cave paintings dating back to 30,000 B.C. depicted horned animals together with the cycle of the moon. Horns decorated helmets and found their ways into the graves of the dead. The moon, fertility, celebrations and horns – all are symbols of the moon gods, celebrating the rhythm of eternal life.  Just like the seasons, we come, we go and we are reborn.
As Albert Einstein once said, ” Energy doesn’t get lost, it only gets transformed’.  As the leaves sprout in spring and help the tree survive throughout summer and autumn. Eventually, they wilt and fall to the ground.  But that is not the end. The dead leaves now have a new purpose.  Rotted down, they produce precious compost which nourishes the trees and makes sure that the next growing cycle begins.

A practice of Biodynamic agriculture sees the farmer fill a cow horn with manure in autumn. This gets buried into the ground for around 6 months. In late spring it gets dug up and the now well-rotted manure is diluted into a spray preparation that fertilizes the new crops on the fields. As weird as it sounds these preparations produce excellent results. It is most likely down to the microbes that find their way into the soil and nourish it.

How come we dress up as witches at Halloween?

During the Middle Ages and even before,  local herb women, so-called witches, ran the Ancient healthcare system. They delivered babies and attended to the sick and dying. They made concoctions and potions to give to their patients. They made these out of animal products and gathered herbs. Some medicines ask for blossoms, others for dried leaves or root extracts. Collecting roots usually happened during the evening or at night. The reason was that roots deemed to be less effective once exposed to direct sunlight. The logical time to gather these roots was around the Full Moon, as it provided the necessary light at night.  Digging out roots at Full Moon and being connected to the dead (as some patients undoubtedly died) – the myth of the witch was born.  It all fitted in nicely with Halloween, the festival of the dead.
The connection between witches and Friday the 13th comes from the pagan lunar year. The Ancient Calendar year followed the path of the moon. Normally 12 moon cycles with the occasional  13th cycle added in to align the year again with the seasons. Friday was the day of worship for the Fertility Goddess Frigga. Friday the 13th became synonymous with the forbidden pagan knowledge and a particularly unlucky day. 

 An Introduction to LWTM

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Once in a blue moon

Once in a blue moon

Have you ever heard the phrase – once in a blue moon. I should think so. So I delved a little deeper to find out what it really means and where it comes from

Countless poems and songs have been written about the Blue Moon, meaning an event that does not come around too often.

The phrase ‘Blue Moon’ became widespread in the late 19th century. One of the reasons could be that there was an actual event when the moon really turned blue.  The date was the 26th of August 1883. On this day, a massive eruption occurred on the Indonesian island of Krakatoa.

The death toll counted over 34,000 people and many more injured. A number of tsunamis followed and the shocks were felt as far as Australia.  Two-thirds of the island of Krakatoa was completely destroyed and debris was found as far as Madagascar. 

As a result, an ash column stretching over miles entered the atmosphere. It subsequently lowered the world temperature by over 1.2 degrees. But the positive byproducts were spectacular orange sunsets and the moon had a blue-greenish tinge. This phenomenon lasted for a few years and the phrase Blue Moon was born.

Disturbingly, in early 2020 Krakatoa shows signs of activity again and there was even a small eruption in April, but nobody was hurt.

We know a Blue Moon is a rare occurrence – but how often does this actually happen and how is it calculated? There are 2 definitions. 

1. Four full moons in a season 

The first definition refers to a fourth full moon in a season. The year has four seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter and normally each season has 3 full moons. So that brings the yearly total to 12 full moons and the main reason why the year has 12 calendar months.

The Ancient Roman year was comprised of 12 moon cycles and then a period of rest, roughly what we now call January and February which did not exist at that time. 
The new year started again in March.  This coincided with the new military marching season, ruled by Mars, the God of war.  To keep the year in sync with the seasons, very occasionally an additional moon cycle was added to the year. This meant there were now 13 months (moon cycles) instead of the usual 12. As a result, one season had 4 full moons instead of 3.  The last full moon in that season was called a Blue Moon.

When Julius Caesar adopted the solar calendar model, he created 12 calendar months per year. (calendar comes from the Latin word for register) and abolished the 13th lunar month altogether. Instead, he opted for leap days every 4 years.

Although the new Roman sun calendar replaced the former lunar model for official duties and taxes,  many pagan rituals were still celebrated in accordance with the moon cycle. About 400 years later, Theodosius I made Christianity the official Roman religion. The table very quickly turned. Less than 100 years earlier Christians had been persecuted for their belief and public executions often followed. 

Under Theodosius I, now Christian heretics and people who did not adopt this new state religion found themselves in the same position. Any pre-Christian practices such as fertility rituals, worship of nature and following the lunar instead of the new sun calendars were outlawed. 

The number 13 became synonymous with outdated knowledge and seen as evil. It was hailed double unlucky if the combination fell on a Friday (the day of worship for Friga, the pagan fertility goddess). This lore is still alive in fairy stories. Do you remember the 12 good fairy godmothers in Sleeping Beauty and the 13th came to dinner and spoilt it all?

To give you an idea of how often this happens –  The last ‘Blue Moons’ according to this definition occurred on the 21st May 2016 and 18th May 2019. The next Blue Moon is due on the 22nd August 2021. So on average, a Blue Moon happens every 3 years, hence the saying ‘ once in a blue moon’, meaning an event that is very rare.

2. Two full moons in a calendar month

Another way of describing a ‘blue moon’ came later. Normally a calendar month has one New Moon and one Full Moon, but occasionally 2 of each can occur in the same month. From the 19th century onwards it became popular to call the second Full Moon in a given calendar month ‘a blue moon’. Although still rare, this event occurs more randomly than the first definition. The last time this kind of Blue Moon happened was in March 2016 and there were no Blue Moons in 2017. 2018 had a Blue Moon in January (31st), no full moon in February, and then again another Blue Moon in March  (31st March). After that, the next Blue Moon happens on the 31st October 2020 which incidentally is also Halloween. 

An Introduction to LWTM

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Baking bread

Baking bread

 

Today is a great day for extra baking and cooking. You can always freeze your meals in small portions to have them to hand on busy days ahead. This is a very efficient way to create home-made meals that saves time and energy.

Bake your own bread: 

Making your own artisan bread, especially sourdoughs have become a past time for many people now working from home. I grew up with sourdoughs and for me, these home-made loaves are what I call ‘bread’. Below you can read how to make your very own sourdough starter.

I have a breadmaker for ease but don’t worry if you don’t have one or if you prefer to do yours in the oven.  Below is a quick and easy recipe for all those who want to give it the first try. The recipe below is for a simple and tasty mixed loaf that can be done in any conventional oven. No breadmaker or sourdough needed.

baking bread   How to bake an artisan loaf

You will need kitchen scales, the ingredients below, a ceramic dish with a lid (ideally round), a bowl and a mixing spoon.
Ingredients:  560g wheat flour, 190g rye flour, 550g hot water, 16g salt, some cumin seeds (1/2 a teaspoon should be enough), 3gram of active yeast. You could add some linseeds or other seeds if you like.

1) weigh all the ingredients and put them together into a big kitchen bowl.  I use a big mixing spoon to blend them together. Then add some flour to your hands and knead the dough.  (please use enough plain flour on your hands, otherwise, the dough will stick to you). After a few minutes of kneading, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, and leave it to rest. I suggest a minimum of 3 hours. You could also prepare the dough in the evening and let it rise overnight. Then it will be ready for baking the next day.

Tip: To see if the dough is ready for baking. Pull some upwards.  If it rips easily it needs to rise a little longer.  A dough that is ready for baking should glide out and not rip straight away. Traditionally you let the dough rise up to 5 times. It sounds complicated, but you let it rise in the bowl and then just take a few minutes to knead it again and let it rise again. It makes sense to make a few bread loafs at the same time.

2) Once the dough is ready,  preheat the oven to 250degree C (480F) and put the empty ovenproof dish with lid into the oven. Yes, that is right – empty to heat it up!

3) Take it out when it is very hot (be careful handling it!) and add some sprinkles of plain flour to cover the bottom of the pan. This is important as otherwise the bread will stick to the pan and it will be hard for it to come out.
Then add the dough. With the mixing spoon create a line in the top of the dough – that is where the crust can rise and sprinkle some plain flour on the top.  Put the lid on and bake the bread (middle shelf) for about 35 minutes.
My Tip: Pour water into an oven dish and put it on the bottom shelf, so the bread bakes it in moist air.

Sourdough starter:

This is an old recipe from my grandmother. In Austria most loaves of bread are sourdoughs and when I was a child I can only ever remember eating sourdough bread. Here is a recipe for your very own sourdough starter. If you put it together today, it will take a minimum of 9 days before you can use it. But once you have started, you can keep your sourdough going for years. If fact, if it is fed regularly, it gets better and better. My current one is about 3 years old. You can then give part of your starter away to friends – to give them a headstart in their own process.

What is sourdough? 
In essence, it is a fermented dough that you add to your bread mixture before baking.
The reason it has become so popular is that it tastes so good as well as being beneficial for your digestion. Sourdough contains strains of the helpful lactobacillus, also called the friendly gut bacteria. If you suffer frequently from bloating or even IBS, switching to sourdough from a conventional bread might be a good move.

Here is how to make the starter: 
You will need 250ml of milk, 250ml water, 1 tbsp of sugar, 2.5 teaspoons of dry yeast, and 450g of plain flour.  If you are lactose-intolerant try to do just warm water instead.

Warm the milk to almost boiling and add the water and sugar. When the temperature has cooled to 40degreeC (105F) add the yeast. Cook at a very low temperature for about 5-10 minutes. It is important that the yeast starts to foam a little. Pour this mixture into a container that has a lid and add the flour. Mix well. Initially, you need to keep the lid off as it is essential that air can get to your new starter. I suggest you cover it with a tea towel or muslin cloth. Keep it stored in a warm place like an airing cupboard. The warmer the better – around 30C (80F) is ideal. After a day or 2, it starts to bubble. It is important to stir it once or twice a day. Soon a greyish liquid will form on the top – don’t be alarmed. This is absolutely normal and good. Hurrah it’s working!

Once it starts to smell sour – hence sourdough – it is ready to use. Now you can put the lid on and that is how it is stored. If you don’t intend to bake immediately put it in the fridge. There you can keep it literally for years!  Beware it is a live organism and therefore needs the occasional feeding to stay alive.

This is how to do it: Replenish it with 120 ml warm water (4fl oz) and 120g of flour. That’s it. Leave it to bubble up (ideally do this a day before baking and leave it outside). Then return it back into the fridge when it is no longer needed.

If you keep your dough outside, you need to replenish quite regularly (say once a week), when I keep it in the fridge, I only do it sporadically, usually after using it or at least every 2-3 weeks. Even if you don’t use it, it needs the occasional stir otherwise it will separate too much.

Now you are good to go. You can add this sourdough starter to the bread recipe above and you will have baked your first sourdough bread.

 An Introduction to LWTM

Please click this link to find out more about LWTM and holistic lifestyle planning and  download our freebies