So you guys know by now that I seriously love every single one of the people I profile for Many Branches but Jen holds a special place in my heart. First of all, her gardener’s salve truly kicks ass. Secondly, she is not only a dear friend and colleague, she is one of my students and she brings magic wherever she goes. Finally, she has one of the kindest, most down to earth voices, in the entire Pagan blogging community–not an easy feat for a bunch of dirt loving folks! Enter into her wild garden of delights–you will be sure to find a magical treat or two!
Jen (Rue) Holmes is the lime daiquiri-wielding hostess of the blog Rue and Hyssop, a wandering little adventure in Paganism, gardening and herb-craft, folklore, silliness, and the joys and trials of trying to maintain some semblance of a daily practice. Jen believes firmly in sharing your harvests, daily laughter, and in wearing as many strange hats as you can find.
Jen can also be found at her shop, Three Cats And A Broom, where her gardens in the verdant valley hills bring you herbal goodies to delight your bath, body, and home.
Why Rue and Hyssop–do these plants hold special meaning for you and if so what is it?
Picking a name for my blog was no easy task. I was going to be writing about my journey and all that it entailed – the garden experiments, my travels, the ups and downs of my personal practices, and the things that were bubbling away in the cauldron. I didn’t want to mislead anyone. The blog was always about my adventures in Paganism, but it was important for me to present it through the lense of my real life, and not try to come off as someone I wasn’t. It had to be real. Although I don’t discuss my uber-personal stuff (who I’m dating, my familial issues, and other too-close-for-comfort tidbits), I do lay it all out when discussing my struggle with keeping up a spiritual practice, or how I’m working through other issues like fear or self-esteem. It’s the kind of thing I appreciate in other bloggers, so there was no chance that I wasn’t going to be genuine.
“Rue and Hyssop” was a perfect fit for me. It served a dual purpose – it was a play on my at-the-time public name (Rue) and highlighted my interest in herb-craft, as well as providing a bit of symbolism for me, a girl who came from a bible-based upbringing (hyssop being a prominent biblical herb) who grew into a woman on a magical-based path (rue being a beloved charm, most notably for the Strega). As for the herbs themselves, they are a cherished part of my garden. Even after working with them for years, I still find wisdom to glean from them.
I think you are one of the brightest voices in the Pagan blogging community–why did you start blogging? As a pagan blogger what would you like to see more of?
That’s a really generous compliment, Bri, and one I’d like to keep working at deserving. When I started blogging almost five years ago, there was not an easy-to-find Pagan community locally. Fortunately that has changed, but I could never regret that it sent me searching online for like-minded people who shared my love of getting dirty in the garden and the wilds, who were fascinated by folklore, and who embraced and celebrated the land and the seasons. I’m thrilled to have met so many wonderful people in the blogging and Pagan communities, and I’m beyond flattered when anyone stops by to read or comment at my little spot on the web. I’m especially surprised at the volume of readers I have that wouldn’t consider themselves Pagan, but who stop by because we share some interest or concern that brings our separate journeys closer together.
I’ve found that this year, the Pagan community seems to be struggling a great deal with divisiveness. This isn’t new, I know, but there seems to have been many opportunities for people to say “we don’t know everything, let’s explore this together,” that instead, have become derisive. The magical and spiritual communities whose boundaries we wander over and through boast some of the most learned, creative, generous, and gifted people on the planet. I truly believe that we can find better ways to express ourselves and our explorations of our chosen path than to knock someone else down to show that we can wield the verbal sword impressively. Having said that, I am often in awe of the strength, kindness, and wisdom of those I’ve met in the blogging community. I’m confident that the people with these traits will outshine the ones who prefer to squabble, and my hope is that we’ll see more bloggers, podcasters, authors, and magical businesspeople stepping out into the public eye and showing the world a diverse community that can work together.
You make wonderful herbal remedies that are both healing and magical–how did you get started in this work and what are your favorite things to make?
When I was ten, at the height of summer I walked through a field of clover barefoot. The bees gorging on clover-nectar took exception to my intrusion and I was stung. My grandmother immediately noted that a stinger remained in my foot and cut a potato in half and placed it on the wound. Within a short time, the sting lessened and the stinger fell out. To me, that was the most magical thing I’d ever experienced. Within the year I was weeding her gardens (very non-magical, if you had asked me) and I was forever bitten – or stung – by the garden bug.
After relying far too many years on over the counter drugs for common complaints such as colds, sleeplessness, or skin concerns, I turned to herbs to help combat these issues. I’d always grown veggies and culinary herbs, but medicinals were new to me. I grabbed a handful of books and found some organic seed companies and never looked back. My current passion is replacing the chemical-laden cleaning and beauty products in my home with my own organic herbal alternatives. And, of course, I grow a few plants specifically for magical use too.
My current favourite creations are the herbal-infused oil products. There’s just something about seeing those plants suspended in golden oils, releasing their invaluable treasure. I put together a herbal salve that is crazy-healing, as well as a massage oil, and I’m working on a facial oil that should be coming out soon. I’m testing it right now and I’m loving what it’s doing to my skin!
What projects are you working on in 2014? What would you like to learn more about?
I’ve been operating my business as a hobby for the past few years and it’s been fun. When I look to my future, I see myself growing and wild-harvesting plants and making herbal creations full time, so there are some big decisions to be made this year in as far as putting a plan into action to see that outcome.
My herbal studies are always ongoing – I was gifted with about a dozen herbal books this year and I’m enjoying working through them. I’m always playing with and testing new herbal creations. Some will make it to the shop and others may end up being more private runs. I made some sample scrubs for a local spa and they’ve ordered them for their permanent line now.
The thing about plants is that you can spend a lifetime studying them and still have only scratched the surface. The same thing applies to spirituality and magical work – there is always something to discover and experience. I’ll never be finished learning.
If you could give one piece of wisdom to my readers today, what would it be?
I’ve spoken of this often lately, but it’s because I’ve really been living it. Find one thing to be joyful about every day. We’d all like to win the lottery, or be a size 2, or hit it out of the park in the IQ department, but even if we are not feeling like our best selves, or life is not being generous with the “good stuff” we can still find something to be joyful about. Just one thing. Really dig it. Smile. Dive into that chocolate bliss. Become intoxicated by the scent of that flower. Giggle mercilessly at your crazy cat. There’s always something to squeal about. It will keep you young, I promise. And people will wonder why you are always smirking.
And be kind. It’s not that difficult.
Find Jen on the World Wide Web:
Rue and Hyssop - www.rueandhyssop.blogspot.com
Three Cats And A Broom - www.threecatsandabroom.etsy.com