Mint – Yerba Buena: The Good Herb is a magical herb for processing pain and assuaging grief.
The call came in the dead of night. My sister Megan screamed into the phone, “He’s dying!” amongst the clatter of doctor’s commands and general chaos. The stint they had put in our father’s heart earlier that day had failed to save his life. Leaving my boys asleep, I drove through the dense fog to the hospital to grieve with my family.
As the oldest daughter, I was given the opportunity to choose the day we would celebrate our father’s life. I decided upon Winter Solstice, because of the symbolism of the returning light that I hoped could somehow fill the emptiness. The woman who presided over the ceremony told us it would take time and tears to move through the pain, not one or the other, but both. After the funeral, I returned home to a house that was completely flooded by torrential El Nino rains. The copious water mirrored the deluge of emotions inside.
As I attempted to soak up the several inches of water in my bedroom, then surveyed the mud pit that was my backyard, I let the tears take over. I stood in my garden as the rains poured down upon me, arms outstretched and cried and howled. In time, I became aware of a presence, and saw in my heart, the beautiful Minthe, the Greek Nymph Goddess who presides over the River Cocytus in Hades, known as the “River of Wailing.” She, who holds a sacred space for tears and cathartic wailing, was bearing silent witness to my lament. Her presence and acceptance of my tears and fathomless grief allowed me to go deep into my sadness. I was not alone as I honored my feelings of loss.
I cried with the rain for several days until finally the sun came out. I returned to my yard with thoughts of my dad who had been a landscaper and had instructed me on how build a French drain. As I dug a trench, I thought again of Minthe and her story.
The Myth of Minthe.
It is said that the beautiful Minthe, guardian of the river Cocytus, known as “the river of wailing,” had an affair with Hades, the King of the Underworld. When Persephone, Hades’ wife, discovered the lovers, she flew into a rage, beat and trod upon Minthe, until the nymph became the lowly plant mint. Hades amended the magick so when Minthe is brushed against, the plant responds with a sweet, aromatic fragrance. Most say Minthe was cursed, but I have another interpretation. Persephone granted Minthe the ability to live, as Kore did in Spring, with fresh air and sunshine and most importantly gave her a new incarnation, where Minthe was no longer the omnipresence to waves of unyielding grief, but newly focused on process and movement of intense emotions as the Good Herb.
The Good Herb. Mint, affectionately known as Yerba Buena or the Good Herb, is used medicinally for indigestion, palate-cleansing, and calming. Mint’s magical uses include healing, prosperity, prophetic dreams and success.
Settling into The River of Lament
The next time you are feeling a loss, or perhaps even afraid to let yourself feel the depths of your grief, invite Mint to assist you. It is best if you can use the energy of a Dark Moon, but as grief knows no bounds, at least begin this ritual after sun sets. Ground and center yourself with calming breaths. Sit with a plant or handful of mint. Light a black candle and turn on sounds of a river (even better, if you can sit beside a river). Call upon the Nymph Goddess Minthe and ask her to be with you. She is a powerful force, an incarnation of the Great Goddess, who has steel-like strength to withstand deepest sorrow and overwhelming heartbreak in the dark, dark waters.
When you feel her presence, close your eyes and allow yourself to go into your deep Underworld and lament your loss. Feel Minthe’s arms around you, protecting you. Feel her total acceptance; see the empathy in her eyes; hear her heartbeat pulse with yours; trust in her to help you. Allow the sound of the water to soothe you, as the Mother humming sings her babies to rest. Permit the maternal goodness to match your pain and move with it. Cry. Lament. Wail. Howl. Keen. Breathe. Just Breathe.
When you feel empty of tears or simply had enough for the moment, imagine Persephone, cloaked in Queen’s regalia, has come. Together she and Minthe will help you to transform the depths of your sadness. Trust the Queen of Darkness to bring you from the womb of earth to the land above. See your legs turning to roots and feel yourself growing from the cavernous darkness of the Underworld to push up through the layers of earth, up to the soil, breaking free to feel the warmth of sunshine. Open your eyes. Brush your mint and smell her fragrance. Douse the flame. Eat six leaves and feel the Good Herb working her magic to move and transform your sadness from deep within. Grief takes time and tears. This ritual may be one you come to again and again.
Working directly with the Good Herb, you can make a ritual mask as part spell, part craft. Since at least 7000 BCE, masks have been used for protection, disguise, entertainment, rituals and ceremonies that include communing with ancestral spirits and animal spirits. Coyote, or trickster medicine, often uses masks to awaken us from a purposeless, passionless life; shake things up and turn them upside down so we can see a new perspective; release control issues; and help us to trust the mystery of life that magickally and beautifully unfolds best we when let go and let it flow.
The creation of this Mint Mask is a reverse glamour spell. Instead of using a metaphysical veneer to project and attract, as in a glamour spell, this spell is a conscious effort to recognize the mask that you wear in order to protect yourself from others’ opinions and judgments and/or a mask that you wear in order to gain approval or acceptance and remove it with the power of magick. Fear-based living immobilizes us. The more you can learn to accept yourself for exactly who you are, the more self-love increases. It is this love that will keep you safe. When you learn to value yourself and become your own best friend, nothing is impossible unto you.
Physically, mint controls oiliness as it contains Vitamin A. It rejuvenates and refreshes the skin, making it bright and soft. The salicylic acid present in mint helps clear skin of blemishes and its anti-inflammatory properties can soothe mosquito bites and other irritations. The oats, almond and flax soften and smooth a tired complexion, while the mint calms and cleanses the skin.
1 cup of water
1 teaspoon flax seed
1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves
1 tablespoon rolled oats, lightly ground
1 tablespoon almond meal
Boil the water and pour over the flax seed and mint leaves. Simmer for one minute, turn off the heat, stir, and cover. While your mask steeps for 15 minutes, spend the first few minutes thinking about the times you were limited, i.e., choosing a profession because of outside pressures, ignoring your internal yearnings in order to please others, not crying or laughing when you really wanted to, allowing fear of rejection to prevent you from creating, daring, leaping into adventure or quiet space. The more you empower the mask to represent your limitations, consciously pay attention to how you put on the mask, how you feel while it is on and how you take it off, the more power will be imbued into this spellwork.
Spend at least ten minutes writing down all the perceived and spoken projections others have placed upon you, or assumptions you have made that have limited you. Write without picking up your pen or pencil, in free style writing.
Strain, reserving the liquid. In a separate bowl, combine the rolled oats and almond meal. Add enough of the reserved water to make a paste. Cleanse your face thoroughly. Apply your mask to face and neck, avoiding the delicate area around your eyes.
You will leave mask on for 15 to 20 minutes. Now, fold the paper away from you and burn it in a safe container. Let it go. See it moving away from you as a swift river cutting through a valley of shadows. Close your eyes and imagine what your world would look like if you felt safe and strong enough to be you, regardless of what others say or what you assume they would say if you moved, took a vacation, cut your hair, changed your sex. Allow a feeling of unconditional love and acceptance to engulf you. Feel self-love for simply existing. You have nothing to prove. Write down the best case scenario for a fully actualized you – the soul self in action, deed and thought.
Rinse your face with warm water. As you peel away the mask, imagine that you are scraping away the illusion of control that others have on you or the limitations that you have placed on yourself. See the past falling away from you. Feel the blessing of Minthe as you transform the dark thoughts to positive, light-filled ones.
As you splash your face with cool water, imagine that you are stepping into your future with a fresh face and bright outlook. Look in the mirror or river waters to see the Divine Reflection mirrored back to you. Mint can help you return to self.
A Return to Self
After my dad died, I planted mint along my French drain to help ground my energy and newfound strength and keep the waters moving, never giving them a chance to grow stagnant and poisonous or flood my house. I tended my mint garden carefully, which grew well over six feet high and ten feet long. Mint attracts few pests and doesn’t need fertilizer and easy to grow and succeeds in almost any soil, but prefers damp soil and plenty of sun.
I just loved how wild and free she became over the following months. (For those who are interested in reducing mint from spreading, use an edging strip around the around the area as a barrier or plant in pots.) Mint’s ability to expand and blossom became the mirror of my spirit. I spoke to mint of her beauty and blessed her for taking on my grief and helping me to move through it.
And still today, whenever I feel waves of grief, whether for the loss of my father, or even the upcoming and inevitable empty nest, I can brush my hand across the top of my mint plant and the scent reminds me of our shared resiliency or snip off a leaf and chew to recall my ability to accept my true nature, process and transform negativity like compost and re-invent myself. I know I am never alone and I feel the universal love move in me, as me.
Plants are sentient beings and when we acknowledge and show reverence for their spirit and story, our relationship with them grows ever stronger and more meaningful. It becomes a relationship built upon mutuality and reciprocal love and blessings. They become friends and together we care for and nurture each other – moving through life as constant companions.
THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN WITCHES AND PAGAN MAGAZINE #31