Irish Soul Food

She was and still is beautiful. I had no idea who she was but when I found her photo I wanted to include it in my Sacred Ireland brochure. Imagine my surprise when two months ago I got an email from her.

Turns out she’s a friend of the woman who is leading a sacred site workshop for our Sacred Ireland tour and she wondered if we might have dinner when we were in the area. It also turns out that Yvonne, who has been playing professionally since she was eight years old, has quite the reputation and following in County Clare, the heart of traditional music in Ireland.

imageWhen we met for dinner we arrived at exactly the same time and it was like we had known each other before…she wondered if perhaps a past life. My fellow travelers and I had planned to have dinner with Yvonne and then wander down to one of the pubs for some trad music. That would not be necessary. After two hours of delightful and spirit filled conversation Yvonne went to her car, collected her fiddle, and returned to play for us at our table. The first piece she played was Women of Ireland, a soul filled tune and one of my favorites. It brought me to tears. It was a feast for the soul…indeed Irish soul music.

We made plans to meet again while I am here and to explore the possibility of her playing for our Sacred Ireland tours at some of the sacred sites.

Judith –

Help Yourselves To The Poison

I had my imaging done at the CM Breast Center. And indeed it was a great gathering of breasts. There we were stripped from the waist up and all dressed in matching white waffle-cotton robes. As the very gracious and hospitable staff ushered us through the proceedures from one small waiting area to the next, they would gesture to a small bevergage table and tell us to help ourselves to the poison.

There are so many ideas and opinions about cancer and its treatment, especially when one ventures outside the contemporary protocols. And they differ widely.  However there are a few commonly shared opinions and one is that sugar is to be absolutely, strictly, and permanently eliminated from the diet. Cancer cells grow with reckless abandon in certain conditions and sugar is one of them. Yet is seems rare for an oncolgist and others to advise cancer patients to avoid sugar. It’s not that they don’t know.

I appreciate that in medical school doctors get little information on nutrition – I’ve read as little as fifteen minutes but more generally only an hour or two. With limited time there is perhaps little opportunity to explore the negative aspects of sugar. But doctors are aware that the CT scan imaging dye is mixed with sucrose prior to injection because the cancer cells will grab onto the sugar and in doing so reveal their location in the body. Yet sweet treats continue to be offered in medical offices.

Actually what the CM Breast Center staff said was, “Help yourselves to the hot chocolate.”  What I heard was help yourselves to the poison.image

The Real Questions

Eire fuscias osho quote


Great question. There are so many great questions in life. Wandering the fuchsia lined lanes and sacred landscapes in Ireland is an excellent way to contemplate them and open to the soul’s answers. And now this wandering is only days away. Delicious.

Judith – 

Embracing Death

I’m here. I’m doing well. And I’m not planning to embrace death any time soon, God willing, as they say in Ireland. I am reminded that at one time the Irish did very much embrace death. In fact it was cause for great celebration, those events now known to us as Irish wakes. They believed absolutely in the Otherworld and were actually sad when a baby was born from that glorious and care free world into this world of trials, travails, and tears. Returning to that world was reason for great joy.

The following excerpt from John O’Donohue’s poem Entering Death reflects this heritage of knowing. The image is of Tír na nÓg, the Otherworld. Indeed it is the home we never left.

Tir Na Nog

I pray that you will have the blessing
Of being consoled and sure about your death.

May you know in your soul
There is no need to be afraid.

When your time comes, may you have
Every blessing and strength you need.

May there be a beautiful welcome for you
In the home you are going to.
You are not going somewhere strange,
Merely back to the home you have never left.

Judith – 


With Death On My Shoulder

With death on her shoulder and laughter in her belly,
an Elder embraces the mystery of her changing life.

I shall not begin what I cannot finish in love, joy, and peace.

This first line is from an Elder Covenant my elder sister circle created last summer. And of course it’s really not gender specific. The second line is another from the prayer I referenced in my last blog post. On my journey with cancer I was called to work with these energies. But really? Where was the laughter in my belly? And how could I navigate this journey with joy and peace?

We all know we are going to die, though we don’t often believe this at a cellular level.  I hadn’t. Yet the prospect of my death was becoming much more real. A portal of knowing I mystery portalwould pass through and find my life and myself changed forever. I would find myself in deeper relationship with the Sacred and sacred mystery. A profound spiritual initiation.

I’ve always been, as my friend Chris would say, a charles-in-charge kind of woman. And that served me well as we navigated lifestyle and diet changes. It would not serve me in my relationship with the Sacred. This was beyond my control. Surrender was the only alternative.

Although spirituality is fundamental in my life, opening and surrendering to the grace of spirit, spiritual realms and those who dwell in those dimensions was so counter intuitive in my struggle for control. Yet it was only through surrender that there was peace. Only through surrender was I able to embrace the mystery – and the joy of life in each moment. Only through surrender was I able to open to healing grace beyond anything I could have imagined. Healing grace for this journey of cancer, healing grace for my journey of life now with death on my shoulder. Grace and peace.

Judith –

Altered States

In honor I hold myself for I am the Earth.
All decisions I make bring wisdom.

These lines from a prayer that is with me every day have been especially meaningful on this journey with cancer.

I am the Earth and of the Earth. We all are. Everything we eat and drink comes from her. Honoring myself is to honor her. Honoring her is to honor myself. So what does this honoring look like? It’s different for everyone but for me it is opening to the power she holds and the healing energy of her natural and organic bounty. The decision I made to engage in the cannabinoid protocol would bring healing…it would also bring unexpected wisdom.

altered statesAs a child of the sixties I’ve had my share of hallucinogenic experiences. Although it was decades ago I would be grateful for those experiences. The protocol calls for starting with a very small amount of the reduced cannabis oil and gradually increasing that dosage over time. But small as the dose was the reaction I had that first night was nothing short of horrific. It was like my worst experience with altered states of consciousness. It was intense and dark. Fortunately my beloved husband stayed up with me much of the night and talked me through it like the former drug counselor he is.

The next day as I was trying to process this it came to me. Several years ago, in preparation for an intensive three-day prayer vigil, I had given up as a willing sacrifice the limited involvement I had at the time with marijuana. I effectively cut the cords on that relationship. And now, without any effort at reconciliation, I was stepping back into that relationship. I had work to do. Over the next few days I spent time connecting with the spirit of the plant and was able to re-establish a relationship based on healing, not recreation. A relationship that honors the gifts of the plant and accepts the energy that comes with those gifts.

I’ve learned and continue to learn so much on this journey. But information is not knowledge and knowledge is not wisdom. The gift of the cannabis plant was healing, it was also a profound deepening of the wisdom of being in right relationship with the Earth.


The Babble Hour

I took the largest dose in the late afternoon. We soon got to know this time as the babble hour. But I figured being stoned and a bit stupid was far better than being sick from the effects of chemo therapy. So we climbed into a very aggressive protocol of cannabinoids, the reduced oil of the cannabis plant. Luckily it’s now legal where we live.

You have cancer. Those words can be devastaing, but in fact they are true for everyone because it turns out that we all have cancer cells in our body, those rogue cells that don’t die as they are supposed to. Generally our immune systems take care of these cells, but when that internal system fails then the cells turn into tumors. So what didn’t make sense was putting poisons (chemo and radiation) into my body and effectively killing off my body’s own immune defense system.

imageCleaning up our diet and adding supplements would recharge my immune system. The cannabinoids would take on the cancer cells. There is compelling evidence coming in from Israel, Spain, and other European countries that in fact cannabinoids kill cancer cells – without harming other cells and organs in the body. However there are no similar studies in this country. Resources for medical studies and clinical trials are provided by the major pharmacutical companies and they are not interested in studying something they cannot patent – and you can’t (yet) patent a plant. This thinking also pervades the limited governmental research dollars. The head of the FDA (food and drug administration), formerly with Monsanto, has said publicly that the agency will never study anything organic. Information about using cannabinoids is, in this country, fragmented, contradictory, confusing, and coming from underground sources. This landscape is changing, but we were very much left to our own research to discern how to work with this protocol.

However in spite of all our research efforts, my first experience with cannabinoid oil did not go well.

Witch Hunting In The Twentieth Century

Mortar with fresh rosemary and dried spicesBefore I wander into a conversation about medical marijuana I want to acknowledge that Earth based and natural healing was not entirely lost during the burning times. By nineteen hundred it was thriving once again. Chiropractic, herbalists, and homeopathy were the therapies of choice in the United States. But all that was about to change.

Carnegie and Rockefeller saw tremendous potential for the production of synthetic drugs and took the opportunity to partner with a then struggling American Medical Association to provide a market for these medicines. At the time the AMA was working to shut down the homeopathic colleges and replace them with colleges and universities focused on training doctors with manufactured chemical drugs. Carnegie and Rockefeller showered hundreds of millions of dollars on these medical schools that were teaching drug intensive medicine. And it worked. By nineteen twenty-five over ten thousand herbalists were out of business. By nineteen forty over fifteen hundred chiropractors would be prosecuted for practicing quackery. By nineteen fifty the twenty-two homeopathic medical schools that had flourished in the early nineteen hundreds were closed.

The quest for power and profit would once again marginalize Earth and plant based healing traditions. Fortunately there are those who tenaciously keep this ancient wisdom alive, vital, and accessible.

Healing Wisdom

When a child is sick a fairy woman is generally sent for,
who makes a drink for the patient of those healing herbs 
of which she only has the knowledge.
Lady Wilde

There are seven herbs of great value and power;  
they are ground ivy, vervain, eyebright, groundslel,
foxglove, the bark of the elder tree, and
the young shoots of the hawthorn.
Lady Wilde

It was from their great knowledge of the properties of herbs
that the Tuatha-De-Dannans obtained the reputation
of being sorcerers and necromancers.
Lady Wilde

Our ancestors, most especially our ancestresses, knew how to work with the energies of the Earth and plants for healing – as reflected in these quotes from Lady Wilde’s 1919 book on the legends and charms of Ireland. But knowledge is power and this power was too much for the emerging Christian churches. Between 1450 and 1750 they would instigate the persecution and killing of these wise women and healers. During what wise-womanbecame known as the burning times, estimates range between 100,000 and 600,000 for the number killed. In some instances the females of entire villages were burned. Generations and a heritage of healing were lost to us.

I was delighted to learn that unlike England, Scotland, and Europe, records indicate only five or six women were killed in Ireland and then only because of one very ambitious bishop.

Standing in right relationship with the Earth would, for me, mean looking to her for healing. I eventually found plant based and plant spirit medicines for this journey with cancer but it was not without challenge. This traditional and indigenous wisdom is still very hidden and fragmented and certainly not honored by the contemporary medical communities who are generally disdainful and dismissive of plant based healing – and even fairly disparaging of my decision to go completely organic with all of my food. “Sure, if that makes you feel better and feel like you’re doing something constructive,” was a common response.

I was incredibly fortunate to find one of very few naturopathic oncologists in our area. Grounded in integrative therapies Dr. G. agreed that if the surgery was able to remove the cancer tumors, which it did, and if the CT scan showed cancer no where else in my body, which it did, then we would move forward with natural healing protocols. While I have no ground ivy, foxglove, or elder tree bark in my medicine cabinet, I do have seaweed, extracts of mushrooms, flax seed, and turmeric. All known anti-cancer plants.

However even Dr. G. could not entirely advocate for the one plant that has been among the most powerful of my protocols. As amazing as it is, the marijuana plant is still on the medical margins.

Deep Roots

Packing for Ireland. I’ve done this so many times my clothes almost fold and tuck themselves into my suitcase. Preparations for this journey are very familiar as is often the way with journeys we choose and plan for. Not so with those that land rather suddenly and unexpectedly in the midst of our lives.

tree womanWe’ve all heard that a journey begins with the first step. But before that step the journey begins with and is shaped by where we stand – the culmination of our life, experiences, and conditioning. This is what we have packed in our lives. This is the preparation. Affirming where I stand was my first step on this journey with cancer. Being rooted deeply on a spiritual path with profound connection to Ireland’s indigenous spiritual ancestors and their wisdom of being in right relationship with the sacred, with community, and with the Earth would be my strength and guide my way forward. These deep roots would be more important than I could have anticipated.

The journey of cancer arrived like a storm. Dark clouds gathered and the strong winds of contemporary treatment would attempt to blow me along a path of protocols that are considered standard but which for me are abhorrent. Claiming my voice and my choice, standing strong against the storm was and is only possible with deep roots.

It is from this place of rootedness that I will share insights from my journey.