Exploring the True Wilderness and a Tea to Commemorate It
Today, it is relatively easy for us to get to new landscapes and cultures. We can book a plane ticket halfway around the world, take high speed trains over state and country lines. We have a much broader understanding of what is out there, thanks to our rapid forms of communication transfer like the internet. But it hasn’t always been so.
A weekend in the “wilderness” sounds fun and relaxing to many of us, but to ancient Greeks and other old civilizations, “wilderness” had quite a different connotation. Wilderness represented the unknown, the uncivilized. It was the spaces at the edge, the darkness. They believed that it was a land of the divine, of gods and monsters. One false step in the wrong direction could mean the passage into another realm or magical place. Spells were lurking in the woods, waiting to become attached to the pour soul that stumbled through them.
Think for a moment: what is your true wilderness? What is a step out beyond what is known to you or what you understand? For some, that may simply mean traveling beyond the state in which you were brought up. For others, this may mean going a weekend without access to mobile devices or the internet.
Hold that thought in your mind and pay attention to how your body responds to it. Do you feel any specific physical sensations? How does it feel in your chest? Your stomach? These reactions may help to inform you of whether or not you should explore that wilderness. I’m not advocating for you to follow the Greek example and dive right into it in the fear-defying brashness of a long journey through the unknown (unless that’s what you’re called to do.) But perhaps you could dip a toe in. A day trip. A weekend. A phone call.
When I take such adventures myself, I often try to create a sensory memento of the experience, usually in the form of something I can eat or drink. (According to Joseph Cambell's thoughts on the Monomyth/Hero's Journey, this represents "the elixir" - something that has brought back from the journey as a sacred memento, often imbued with new knowledge or healing powers.) That’s just how this tea blend began - a day of wandering in a new area of the woods, the scent of elderflowers dancing around me and honeysuckle perfuming the clearing. There, in the midst of the wild feeling utterly at peace and connected, I watched the summer’s first Monarch butterfly gracefully float on by. A little bit art project and a little bit sensory delight, this tea is going to be the perfect way to reflect on those sweet summertime memories in the depths of winter. Feel free to customize this to your own experiences - different herbs, different butterflies, different memories.
To make the butterfly tea bags, you’ll need:
heavy paper like watercolor paper or construction paper
paints, markers, pens, or other art supplies
unfilled tea bags (either small muslin bags or iron-shut varieties work well )
1/2 c. dried elderflowers
1/2 c. dried honeysuckle
1/3 c. dried jasmine buds
1/4 c. dried calendula petals
- Begin by drawing or painting your butterflies onto the heavy paper. It can be helpful to cut out a template and trace it to get the outline symmetrical. Then, just copy the design as best as you can. After the paint has dried, cut the butterfly figure out and fold it in half so the top of the wings are touching.
- Very carefully cut a small notch into the bottom of the butterfly about 1/4” wide and 1/4” tall where the butterfly will perch on the edge of a teacup. Tie or glue one end of the cotton thread onto the bottom of the butterfly’s body.
- Mix together the elderflowers, honeysuckle, jasmine, and calendula petals, then spoon a bit of the mixture into a teabag. Seal according to package directions and attach the other end of the string.
- To brew, just pour boiling water over the teabag as you perch the butterfly on the edge of your cup. Sip and savor the summery smells and flavors as your eyes take in the beauty of the memories of summer’s beauty.
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