The golden rule of foraging; take only what you need – of what there is available, take one third, leaving two thirds behind.
There is nothing quite like going out and foraging locally for your supplies. One of the first for me is always a trip around the local pines trees for some of their sweet smelling resin. They give up their gifts so easily; no need to ‘tap’ the tree’s (though I have in the past) – I just wonder over to where they are, which is part of the old estate grounds, the house, now long gone.
It’s best to find the resin at this time of year, as it can take a whole year to ‘mature’. Fresh pine resin is very very sticky, and even after a year, it can still be tacky – but hot soapy water usually cleans any sticky hands. Because the sap rises from the roots of all trees in the spring, (resulting in the buds bursting forth into blossom and leaves) looking for pine resin in the early part of the season will assure a gathering of a mature harvest, and the fresh emanations can be thus avoided.
The tree’s I use are Scots pines, and have been for many years; it is they who ‘called’ me, and who’s spirit I work with. The relationship is a long and healthy one; I ask – they give – I give back with thanks. So my advice is to cultivate your own relationship with the spirit of the pines (there are many genius across the continents) – taking time to get to know the trees on all levels; both on the physical and the spiritual. It’s a personal thing between you and the tree; work at it and you won’t regret it. Just don’t expect to go out on dates together 😉
So how do you know it’s resin?
Well for one thing, you will smell it. It may amaze you when this happens, because it will sooner or later – usually when you least expect it.
The trees I gather from, usually bleed from very feminine fissures – seriously – they do – see the photo’s – amazing eh?
Sometimes the resin takes a greenish tinge, almost a mossy mouldy type crust over it – sometimes this crust is a brownish yellowish or redish colour – sometimes, the resin, when fresh literally bleeds down the bark of the tree – once you get your eye in, you’ll be seeing nuggets of resin all over the place … but not on all pine trees… lest than half of the pines I go to, give up their resin. But that’s fine – I keep looking and noting where they are.
Once you think you’ve found some nuggets, gently, and carefully prise some out with a pen knife or ritual blade… if some wood comes with it, no problems, but the resin should be yellow when broken open, and grows darker with age. A year old, it it will be the colour of primroses; older and it will mature to a golden colour.
The scent will be heavenly!
Pine, according to Culpepper, is ruled by Mars – go figure which day to harvest on and your half way there to using it magically. Work with the pine spirit and you will have your own gnosis. Combine the two and you may come to see why it is so prized by some cultures, and is thé traditional resin for the witches of the past who chose it over the exotic resins from the Far East.
As you burn some on a little charcoal, envisage a cottage, stone built walls; thatched roof; a fire in the hearth, a gun behind the door – and I can well imagine you flying up the chimney on your broom… in fact I challenge you to imagine it too.
Become that little old bent lady, shawl over her shoulders, head scarf knotted under her chin when you go out, bag and knife in basket, covered with a clean t-towel, so no-one can see what you’re at. Be her, as soft footed she enters the area where her pines grow – her kisses are your kisses as they float through the air to the tree tops; her hand is your hand as she gently caresses the rough bark, sensing the roots deep beneath her feet – her smile is your smile as she scatters the seed for the birds that live in the pines branches; you are as one as you watch them flutter down – you both smile as a little squirrel comes to steal some… you lift your nose to the air and follow the scent – to the tree who’s tops blow gently in the wind; as you take out your blade, and slowly sink it into the yielding rich yellow resin, you whisper words of incantational gratitude. The wind caresses you softly, as if in reply, lifting your skirts, the tail of your shawl and your scarf slips from your head, leaving your long loose hair, writhing like gorgon like, around your shoulders.
In that moment you are at one with Mother Nature and all her children… far above you a bird of prey calls and you know, all is well within your magical world.