Banbha’s Treasures of the Earth by Stephanie Mathivet
At the time of the Autumn Equinox we celebrate Banbha, Gaia and Nolava of Earth. This can mean many things. Some see Gaia representing the earth as the world, mother of all forms of life on this wonderous planet or Banbha as representing the earth beneath our feet, upon which we stand, thanks to gravity, and provider of food that sustains us, home to creatures great and small and place of hibernation. So when we bend to touch the earth we find we can take up handfuls of it, crumbling it between our fingers, smelling the distinctive musty odour that we have come to describe as ‘earthy’. Some people have mixed feelings about earth on their skin – do you wear gloves when potting plants or do your hands love to feel of earth as you embed your plants into their new homes? Do you encourage your children to play in ‘mud kitchens’, making mud pies or malleable mush or gloopy goo with various proportions of earth and water? Or do you tell them not to get their hands dirty or get mud on their nice clothes? When factors of time and place are accounted for, no one can deny the deep satisfaction children have from playing with earth. Likewise, with sand – especially at the beach – or with clay – real clay, not substitutes of ‘playdoh’ or plasticine, although flour and water dough is very earth-like. There is something primal about this in our natures which speaks of our indelible connection to the land, to the earth, to the soil that sustains us.
Human beings discovered the incredibly useful properties of earth as clay millennia ago when they found it hardened in the sun, later a fire or kiln, and, when dry, could be utilised for all sorts of marvellous creations. In Crete the museums are full of the most divine craftware as well as more rudimentary pieces, no less full of meaning and intent than the ‘posh stuff’. Perhaps the potter’s child picked up scraps to make models of animals for fun, as children do now, or sat with their families as each person made a piece that went in a loved one’s grave. A priest or priestess maybe made a model of the appearance of the Goddess to teach children the stories of the mysteries. Couples wanting babies made rather rough models showing lovemaking, pregnancy and childbirth to leave in sacred caves, full of divine love and earnest intent.
But there is another quality to this primal draw that earth or earthy substances have for us. There is a wonderful sense of connection that our feet have with earth; that sense of delight as we remove footwear and place bare feet on soil, sand or mud. It’s like skin to skin connection we had as babies to our mother, or, as adults, to our lover. There is something that is healing and relaxing about it. When you are tired and have aching feet, it feels good to put some soil in a bowl with some cool water and sit with your feet in it. Try one foot in that and your other foot in a bowl with just water. Feel the difference. Both feel cooling and refreshing, but the bowl with the earth and water is energetically quite special. Whether you are meditating, snoozing or browsing social media while you sit with feet in the mud, the earth is working its magic, drawing out negative energy accumulated through the day as stress or tension. Not only do your feet feel great, but your energy levels are revitalised too. If you have a cut or blister on your foot soil might not be such a good idea but salt or clay are other wonderful substitutes. For there is healing to be found in the treasures of the earth.
Packs and compresses have been used through the ages for healing. To draw out pus and poisons from wounds or boils, to make casts for broken limbs or as components of medicinal compounds. The world of beauty is also no stranger to clays for making masques to tone and purify the skin. There are many different clay treasures that can be used. Bentonite for example is popular (often marketed as Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay) and said to have properties for both external and internal use. Its safety is a matter of controversy as it contains quite a high proportion of lead – a known neuro-toxin- and the jury is still out as to whether it is safe to use or not. Fuller’s Earth is another old-fashioned compound used by our grandmothers and still used today. It has very strong drawing properties and has been used to lighten the skin. Kaolin or white clay is mineral rich, mainly used as a disinfectant and astringent, it is widely used in cosmetics. It was also teamed with a low dose of morphine to make Kaolin and Morphine, a compound used to ease vomiting and diarrhoea. Rhassoul (Ghassoul) is a wonderful Moroccan mud or clay which is used in soaps, or traditionally it is used in hammams as mud wraps and scrubs for its detoxing effect on the skin and good for drawing out impurities, such as blackheads. Green clay is quite a strong clay too, so is helpful for oily skin and acne, and yellow clay is a stimulating exfoliant. Sensitive and mature skins benefit from pink clay, which is milder, soothing and calming. Clays are effective skin treatments on their own, but the addition of oils (but not undiluted essential oil), dried fruit powders or hydrolats adds to their efficacy as a ‘prescription’ facial.
Mother Earth, we give thanks to you for the endless joy you give us in your many forms as our healer, teacher, provider of our homes and sustenance; your earthly treasures are endless.
Stephanie offers Lomi Lomi, Aromatherapy, Swedish Massage and Facials. Get in touch with the Goddess House to book a session with Stephanie.