Spare Mother Tinctures
In April of this year I was passing by Ilminster, in Somerset, on the last leg of my journey home from five weeks of driving 5,000 miles to Bulgaria and back. Bulgaria is another story I hope to share with you in the future but since I was passing where my spare set of mother tinctures had been stored for four years, I decided to pick them up in order to sort through and review them. I wanted a few of the bottles to replenish dwindling stocks and also add to the spare set with recent essences I have made. Each flower essence producer has a unique set of mother tinctures that has been built up over many years. I have always thought that if the house burnt down, god forbid, at least my, at present, 19 years of work would not be lost. After a week or so getting back in the English way of life I opened the boxes.
Each bottle of mother tincture is marked, not only with the name of the flower, but the date, place and time of making. As I hold each bottle and read the label I can be instantly transported back to the making of the essence in its environment. Lots of memories are contained within these bottles. For example, the bottle of Bougainvillaea was made one hot day in May at a Greek orthodox monastery on the island of Symi. The monastery of Panomitis is itself built on the site of an ancient temple dedicated to Poseidon, god of the sea. The Bougainvillaea climbed up the walls of an internal courtyard, spilling its colour over the whitewashed walls. With such a beautiful scene, set in a powerful spiritual environment, a flower remedy had to be made.
Many of the bottles are marked with Threpwood Hill, the cottage in Northumberland where I started Aquarius Flower Remedies. The cottage is remote, with no road or electricity. In winter it was a case of parking the car at the bottom, putting on wellies and carry everything up the hill, this included food, wood, bottled gas and for a time two young children, both whom had been born at the cottage. From its elevated position you can look south to Hadrian’s Wall and north to the Scottish border. Its 360 degrees of views means it enjoys plenty of weather; it is exposed to all of the elements.
Here I lived a semi self-sufficient life style for 19 years– wind and solar power, big organic vegetable garden and plenty of bees and hens. Surrounded by fields, my nearest neighbour was a ¼ mile away. I only had to step out of the front door to be surrounded by unspoilt nature. Many flower remedies were solarised in the garden from flowers I had picked in the surrounding fields and woods, or specifically grown to make into flower remedies. The vast majority of the Moon Flowers have been made at this location under the unpolluted Northumbrian night sky. Although I left the cottage some eight or so years ago, each time I hold these Moon Flowers in my hand as I prepare a bottle for a customer, I visualise the flowers and their location in the fields and woods surrounding the cottage.
Since leaving the North Tyne valley of Northumberland I have come to realise just how much Threpwood Hill has shaped me. If the car broke down I had to fix it, when the water pipes burst in the winter I had to repair them – there was no one else to help. Freedom and independence are two qualities that I strongly developed. It wasn’t long after moving down to a much more densely populated Devon that I started to ‘press buttons’, annoy certain folk with my independent and free thinking nature.
I found that it’s not just the essences but the bottles too that hold memories. I have made a fresh batch of Gorse this year so one bottle I replaced was the spare mother tincture of Gorse. It’s a hexagonal bottle with an extremely faded label only I can read, dating back to 1989, the first year I started making remedies. An experienced reflexologist in Newcastle called Margaret Duran gave me several empty bottles of this shape when she introduced me to the book ‘Flower Essences and Vibrational Healing’ by Gurudas. This inspiring book led me beyond Bach and into the process of making flower essences. I have no idea if she is still practicing or if she is still on this earth.
I have even noticed that the ink on the hand-written labels holds memories. Many are written in burgundy coloured ink that I bought in Glasgow. I have a vivid memory of the swanky shopping mall, complete with glass lifts and the piped music of Van Morrison. I was a proper country bumpkin. I went there with Linda, my first partner, the year Glasgow was the European City of Culture (1990). We left our kids with my mum and dad in Newcastle, headed north over the border, wandered the streets of Glasgow, visited the Burrell Collection and stayed in a cheap B and B. Linda is a poet and in her first collection ‘Red’ published by Bloodaxe, she included a poem about our lavish accommodation. She kindly agreed to let me print it here. (Staying on friendly terms with your X does have its uses!)
Bed and Breakfast in the City of Culture
Not-quite-spring-meadow curtains didn’t meet,
fenced by a grey mesh of netted window,
receded out-of-focus tenement systems.
Quilt and sheets, wallpaper, carpet and chair –
seed-packet hybrid reds and pinks – shrieked
as shrill as the door-bell at 1 a.m:
a malt-mouthed Yorkshire drawl, fucking everything
fucking. We already had. Now forged into spoons
for morning tongues – salt, porridge, mint.
Things we didn’t photograph but print
their images in my mind just as the way
our familiar bodies whispered a foreign language
in the dark dashed by the lobby light
beneath the door: our Esperanto
of lip and skin; suitcase, a bulky chaperone;
toothbrushes’ tartan green and red coupling
on the sink, filmed with layers of other visitors’ dirt;
one whose name in the register we shared, France, Harrogate.
Nothing good comes from too much thinking
our landlady told us, arms full of eggs,
in an East European accent more tempting
than the polyglot toast, marmalade
encapsulated in plastic. Derek from Oxford
reeled off numbers of motorways – M8, 74 –
like so many conquests. Under the table
I wrapped my second egg like a warm pink baby
in a paper napkin, stowed it in my pocket.
One find in the box of spare mother tinctures was a bottle labelled ‘Cup and Ring Mound’. Heidi, my current partner, made it five years ago when we went to visit a friend, Lindsay, who lives in a remote Scottish glen. Amongst the Caledonian fairies, in the field opposite her cottage, is an outcrop of rocks covered in cup and ring markings. This form of ancient rock art comprises of a small circle, an inch or so in diameter, chiselled out of the granite in the shape of a tiny bowl. The vast majority of these cups have been compassed within a chiselled circle two to three inches in diameter. The solarising bowl was placed on top of one of the cup and rings and left in the sun for three hours.
Last year we eventually made in back to Glen Lochy and stayed a week with Lindsay. During our stay I read a detailed and well-researched book about the cup and ring markings that pepper the Perthshire hills. One of the author’s conclusions was that the ancient people carved them to attract positive earth energy and deflect negative energies. I was pleased when the mother tincture came to light for it fills a gap in our repertory; we didn’t have anything specifically for deflecting negative earth energies, sometimes referred to as geopathic stress or ‘black streams’. This essence is perfect to add to our Protection flower essence combination.
When I first met Lindsay she was living a few miles from her current abode, in a cottage on a farm called Tombreck, on the banks of Loch Tay. Recently I got a phone call from one of our customers who just so happens to be ‘wwoofing’ (willing workers on organic farms) at Tombreck. She had been reading through our catalogue and wanted some blackthorn essence. Because of its protective qualities she suggested it be added to the Protection flower essence combination. Good idea, I thought, now I can enhance the formula not only with one but two more essences and one of those little magical coincidences.