This month marks 25 years in our partnership- a quarter century since Paul and I fell in love and started Al-Kemi together. It seems like hundreds of years, and at the same time, just a few minutes. As a wise elder woman once told me: the days are long, but the years are short.
When we started this work, it was as a personal spiritual path, with Alchemy and Spagyric lab work as a natural outgrowth of Paul’s studies in Qabalah and my own herbal healing pursuits. Those two threads came together when we met, and each of us carried knowledge that the other needed for the next steps on the path; so we started walking together.
We’ve worked with many hundreds of herbs over the years, but some stand out because of their stories, or how they connect with our story. Here are a few I remember fondly from the last decades.
Before we even met, I was studying herbalism and natural healing, inspired by my own experience. As a child and teenager, I had horrible kidney and related issues, and had tried so many medicines and treatments, none of which worked for long. About a year before I met Paul, I mentioned this to a friend and she suggested I try a tea of Uva Ursi, a small creeping plant also known as Kinnikinnic.
I tried it and it was as if my kidney issues had never existed, all within the first day of drinking the tea! I was amazed, and wondered what other healing wonders grew all around me. That was the start of my studies in herbalism, which I was well into when I wandered into Paul’s gallery and bookstore in Boulder.
That store brings up another Spagyric connected to our history, our Somalixir formula Midnight Sun. I came up with the combination during quiet times at an entheogen conference, trying random combinations from the sample bottles. It is a simple formula- just Lotus and Blue Waterlily plant Spagyrics, with mineral extracts of Amber and Pearl.
Playing with it, I discovered that it has a really interesting effect of connecting what Taoists call the “Jade Pillow“ center at the base of the skull with the Third Eye in the front. That bridge is very useful in Taoist energy circulation practice such as the Microcosmic Orbit, as it unifies the polar energies of dark and light Moon, along with Yin and Yang, feminine and masculine, and the inner poles of the emotional body.
How this relates to our history together is that, as soon as I tasted the finished formula, I knew I had to name it after that lovely gallery where Paul and I met- it was called Midnight Sun. Paul named it after an idea from Alchemy, the union of opposites that brings the Sun and Moon together as one balanced unity. For me, that perfectly expresses this formula and the start of our life together so many years ago.
After a few years of working together at Midnight Sun, we decided to close up shop and hit the road. Our plan was to travel from one hot spring to the next, all over the West and Southwest, and we did just that for a year. It was wonderful, difficult, healing, and challenging, and the source of some of my most treasured memories.
We encountered healing plants everywhere we went, and decided to settle down so we could set up a lab to work with them. We wanted to make the seven planetary Magisteries and offer them through meditation magazines such as the late great Gnosis. We set about creating a basic set of seven plants we could collect ourselves, starting with the wild Angelica that grew in the mountains above our home in Manitou Springs, Colorado.
Walking across the field to collect the roots, I smelled a lovely fresh note, and asked Paul if he was chewing gum (something he never does). He said no, and after a few puzzled moments of looking around, I saw we were standing amidst huge patches of wild mint, Mentha arvensis, known as Poléo in the Southwest.
We collected both herbs that day, and made a wonderful Sun Magistery from the Angelica, along with a Venus ruled one from the Mint. We still have stock of that Angelica, now aged beautifully into a deeply intelligent Solar medicine. The Wild Mint Magistery is long gone, but a few years ago, when we got out of the car to look at the house we now live in, we put our feet down on that same familiar smell- Poléo mint is all over our land here, letting us know this is our home.
Another herb we always enjoyed collecting ourselves is Oshá, the renowned immune tonic from the Southwest, which we offer as our Magistery of Mars. It’s a tricky herb to find, with poisonous look-alikes, but when you do find it, it is plentiful. Our most successful Oshá hike was in the mountains north of Taos, New Mexico, late in the fall when the plant sends its resources deep into its roots to store for the winter.
Bears dig up the roots and roll on them and eat them as they get ready for their long winter sleep and need immune support to get through the cold. We didn’t see any bears that day, but groups of beautiful partridges followed us as we dug, gladly pecking up any root scraps we dropped. As we hiked and chewed on the root, we became warm and glowing just like those fat little birds, and we soon stripped down to our underlayers even though the day was cold.
Sometimes wildcrafting takes a more social turn, with the gathering done by another person under our direction. Sometimes, it’s not even a plant we’re after, as with the eggs for our Oil of Egg. This powerful medicine is a tonic to the heart, circulatory system, and vitality; it’s also a superior wound and skin healing medicine. We have seen it repair burns, deep cuts, and even brown recluse spider bites within days of application, and we consider it an essential first aid Spagyric.
Its healing power comes from the nutrition and vital energy of the egg itself, boosted by the universal energy of the cycles of the seasons. True Oil of Egg can only be made from eggs collected on True Easter, which is the first full moon after the Spring equinox.
What this means for us is that in years we make Oil of Egg, we have to find a chicken farmer who is open to the idea of collecting all the eggs laid on True Easter- none from the day before or after- and selling only those to us. We haven’t had too much resistance to this idea once it’s explained, but it has made for some funny farmer’s market conversations over the years. It helps to be a team working on these projects, rather than just a lone-maybe-crazy-person!
Another plant we have wildcrafted, and which has an interesting story, is Yerba Mansa, another Southwestern herb. Yerba Mansa grows in the boggy bosque of New Mexico’s Rio Grande river basin, in great stands of fleshy leaves in the silty sand. It has sweet-smelling white flowers and mucilaginous leaves, and along with its growing conditions, that all points to a Lunar-ruled plant.
We collected it on Monday to magnify that quality, and started processing it on Monday also. But, Paul being the sensitive Alchemist that he is, felt this wasn’t quite right. To him, the plant felt more Saturn, with its shrinking and drying effect, and its structural qualities of containing illnesses and energies. So, our first Yerba Mansa Magistery was started as Moon and finished as Saturn.
What might seem like a mistake turned out to be perfect, as we suddenly started hearing from people who needed exactly that combination of Moon and Saturn. Some were born on the cusp of those two planets’ rulerships, and some just needed a complex set of effects, but that Magistery was the fastest selling Spagyric we’ve made.
The energies of Saturn have long been important in our lives and work- I being a Capricorn and Paul an Aquarius, in the classical planetary system, both ruled by Saturn. Capricorn is Saturn giving form, and Aquarius is Saturn breaking form, the polarity dependent on the direction you’re traveling on the Tree of Life.
That balanced energy has brought us together as a team and created balance in the work we do together, with my structural skills of research and space-holding brought to a higher level by Paul’s open and visionary gifts. We’re so fortunate to know each other, work so well together, and find support in that work from you, our loyal customers, and we look forward to many more decades together on this path.