A Dozen (or so) Dyed Eggs … the Natural Way

My mom is an expert designer and crafter of hooked rugs (the kind the pioneers made, not modern latch hooking), and she has often dyed the wool swatches herself with a variety of natural materials. I remember watching her stir steaming, sometimes evil-smelling pots of plant matter for hours, listening to her talk of onion skins and celandine, marigolds and mordants – which permanently set the colour.

Those experiences sparked my interest in using natural dyes for eggs. With fond childhood memories of sitting around the kitchen table painting Easter eggs – which we’d blown out until we thought our heads would explode – I adapted several natural dye methods found online and experimented over a couple of weeks, using only items from the grocery store and spice cupboard (and, okay, my husband’s wine rack) to get the results shown here.

These dyes produce muted, variegated, matte colour – like those seen in nature! Don’t believe those Pinterest photos showing “naturally” dyed eggs in hot pink, brilliant blue and emerald green – I suspect they’ve cheated and used commercial dyes or food colouring. Also, despite online recipes for green dyes using cabbage, beets or spinach on white or brown eggs with or without vinegar, the closest I could get was a very pale celadon green from spinach. I did, however, get a teal green-blue (not shown) from first dyeing with turmeric (#3, alternate method) then redyeing for less than an hour in red cabbage (#15).

General Tips:

I dyed my eggs uncooked because I wanted to blow them out later so they’ll last longer; if using raw, make sure they’re fresh so they’ll stay submerged in the dye liquid – older eggs will bob with one end sticking out • Use hardboiled eggs if you prefer • Before dyeing, clean eggs with a drop of dish soap and lots of water so the colour will adhere better • Dye eggs in a single layer in a non-metal container narrow and tall enough to ensure complete coverage • Turn eggs occasionally in the dye bath, touching them as little as possible, until desired shade is reached • Remove eggs very carefully with a slotted spoon – plastic if you have one – and set on a wire cooling rack; until it’s dry, the colour is very fragile and prone to rubbing or scratching off • Some dye matter such as turmeric or grape juice will leave a grainy or bubbly residue or “skin” which will eventually set • When most of the egg is dry, turn to let the underside dry, gently patting over the still-wet rack marks with your finger or a paper towel • Save the dye to use multiple times • Always soak and store eggs, whether raw or hardboiled, in the refrigerator.

Natural Dye Recipes:

These twelve materials and methods – with a few variations in soaking times – yielded the results shown in the photos. Generally, the longer the soak, the deeper the hue, especially for pinks, purples and blues. Colours 1 to 7 are a bit more vibrant in real life than in the photograph (it was hard to get the lighting right!).

(1) Celadon Green: Bring 4 cups (one 227 g/8 oz. bag) fresh spinach and 1 tsp baking soda to a boil in 3 to 4 cups water • Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, occasionally mashing spinach with back of spoon • Remove from heat and allow to cool • Strain spinach from liquid • Soak white egg in strained liquid for 24 hours. This is a very pale green that never got any darker, even after 24 hours.

(2) Ochre: Add 2 cups boiling water to 4 green tea bags • Allow to cool • Remove tea bags • Soak white egg for 8 hours. This colour is a slightly more muted version of the mustard yellow from turmeric (see #3), with no residue.

(3) Mustard Yellow: Add 1 cup boiling water to 2 tbsp ground turmeric and 1 tbsp white vinegar • Allow to cool • Soak white egg in mixture for 14 hours. This method left a grainy residue on the egg. Alternate Method: Bring 4 cups of water, 4 tbsp turmeric and 4 tbsp white vinegar to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes • Allow to cool • Strain turmeric from liquid • Soak white egg in strained liquid for 24+ hours. This will give a sunny yellow colour and a smoother surface to the egg.

(4) Tan: Add 2 cups boiling water to 2 tbsp ground coffee • Allow to cool • Strain coffee from liquid • Soak white egg in strained liquid for 24 hours.

(5) Light Sienna: Add 2 cups boiling water to 4 tbsp ground paprika and 2 tbsp white vinegar • Allow to cool • Soak white egg in mixture for 24 hours. Unlike turmeric, the result (without straining) was a smoothly-dyed surface with no residue.

(6) Mushroom: Add 2 cups boiling water to 4 strawberry pomegranate (STASH™) tea bags • Allow to cool • Remove tea bags • Soak white egg for 24 hours. This looks just like the LBMs (little brown mushrooms) we find in our local woods – taupe with a hint of olive green!

(7) Umber: Add 1 cup boiling water to 4 orange pekoe tea bags • Allow to cool • Remove tea bags • Soak white egg for 7 hours. A wide range of shade intensity is possible, depending on soaking time.

(8) Baby Pink: Bring 4 cups peeled, sliced red beets (about 2 medium) and 4 tbsp white vinegar to a boil in 4 cups water • Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes • Remove from heat and allow to cool • Strain beets from liquid • Soak white egg in strained liquid for 10 minutes. Beets will give instant, lovely results ranging from pale pink to deep maroon, depending on soak time and whether you use white or brown eggs. See #9 and #12 for variations.

(9) Dusty Rose: Use same method as #8, soaking white egg for 2 hours.

(10) Lavender: Soak white egg in 2 cups of red wine for 5.5 hours.

(11) Mauve: Soak white egg in 2 cups concord grape juice for 14 hours. Intensity will vary depending on soak time.

(12) Maroon: Use same method as #8, soaking brown egg for 2 hours.

(13) Slate Blue: Add 2 cups boiling water to 4 tbsp loose hibiscus rosehip tea leaves • Allow to cool • Strain out tea leaves from liquid • Soak white egg in strained liquid for 2.5 hours. This tea was a no-name bulk food store purchase. Straight hibiscus tea will probably yield similar results. See #14 for a darker variation. This recipe, with vinegar added, is supposed to yield green, but it didn’t.

(14) Denim: Use same method as #13, soaking white egg for 7 hours.

(15) Sky Blue: Bring 4 cups shredded red cabbage (about half a large head) and 4 tbsp white vinegar to a boil in 4 cups water • Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool • Strain cabbage from liquid • Soak white egg in strained liquid for 45 minutes. See #16 for a variation.

(16) Deep Blue: Use same method as #15, soaking white egg for 3 hours. Not shown: a brown egg soaked for 4.5 hours produced a dark denim blue (not the dark green claimed by online recipes).



Full Moon Magick

May Flower Moon

This month’s full moon, which occurs May 10 to 11, is known as the Flower Moon because it’s generally considered safe to plant flowers and crops starting in May. Other traditional names are Mother’s Moon, Milk Moon and Corn Planting Moon. Folklore tells us that clothes washed for the first time under a full moon will not last long, and that, because the Moon is associated with love, the best time to accept a marriage proposal is during a full moon!


Moonstones showing a bit of blue “flash”

Moonstone is a variety of feldspar that has been admired since ancient times. The original name for moonstone was selēnitēs, the ancient Greek word for the Moon. The Romans believed that this mineral was made of solidified moon rays, and that the Moon’s waxing and waning could be seen by gazing into its milky depths. Moonstone’s lunar association makes this silky crystal, which is considered feminine, the stone of lovers, blessings in marriage and fertility.


Selenite, a colourless, white or pale peach, pearly or transparent form of gypsum is unrelated to moonstone but got its name in the 15th century from the same ancient Greek root; it means ‘stone of the Moon’. Gypsum has insulating properties and feels warm to the touch.

Washi tape, which is surprisingly water resistant yet easily removable, adds a pretty touch

Grounding Mist (2 fl. oz. / 60 mL)

Although I do love the Moon, for me, the days leading up to and during a full moon can be chaotic and unsettling. To help bring calm and stability, try this grounding essential oil mist made with soft sandalwood, romantic rose, rich vanilla and night-blooming jasmine.

1 vanilla • 3 jasmine  • 9 rose or rose geranium • 12 sandalwood

Add essential oils (number of drops indicated) and distilled water to a 2 fl. oz. (60 mL) glass mister bottle. Shake well before each use and spritz on skin, hair or into the air as desired. Keep at room temperature, or in the fridge for an extra refreshing mist. Avoid getting in eyes, and do not ingest.

Moon Goddess Mist (4 fl. oz. / 120 mL)

This intoxicating hair, body and room spray includes jasmine – the Queen of the Night – perfect for communing with the full moon! Add the oils to a 4 fl. oz. (120 mL) glass mister bottle of distilled water. Feel free to adjust the amounts according to your desire, but don’t go overboard with the vanilla, or it will overpower the others. Recipe can be halved for a smaller bottle.

2 vanilla • 9 jasmine • 12 tangerine • 12 lime • 12 neroli • 12 rose geranium

Selenite and Legend: The Arthurian Tarot by Anna-Marie Ferguson

The Crystal Cave

20170111_002030-3Named for the 1970 Arthurian novel by Mary Stewart, this garden of clear quartz (a.k.a. rock crystal) standing stones rises from a glittering bed of ice blue and frost grey pebbles. The seven stones (a magickal number symbolizing knowledge, awareness, meditation and introspection) stand proudly, admiring their ancient reflection in the surface of a frozen lake. Amongst this winter wonderland, a blanket of forest moss gives us hope for an early, green Spring.

To make this crystal garden, I filled the bottom of an 8” diameter rose bowl with a mix of blue and grey vase filler glitter stones, then nestled an inexpensive 5” round mirror amongst them – remembering to clean off the smudges first! Because none of the quartz points had a flat base, I used white tac adhesive (removable, non-drying and non-staining putty) to help them stay upright, and disguised it with moss and more pebbles. Tweezers and my cell phone stylus helped with placing and securing the pebbles and moss.

20170111_002030-5To add a further wintery touch, I originally sprinkled the garden with faux snow of the shredded clear plastic kind, but the large flakes with their colourful iridescence didn’t fit my theme of icy winter white and just didn’t look right, so I used my tweezers to remove most of them. If I were to do this again, I’d choose the granular variety instead.

I purchased all materials except the quartz and adhesive at Michael’s, although glass containers and craft mirrors can usually be found at bargain stores.

The beauty of this arrangement is that it’s temporary and can be changed according to one’s whim: with the seasons, using different decorative accents, or with minerals or stones that hold special meaning for you. Amethyst, for example, would be a wonderful choice for February!

For more information on the history and properties of clear quartz, please see my blog post here.dsc_5078-3

Royal Resins

20161217_103013-3Gold, frankincense and myrrh. We know all about the first, but have you ever wanted to know more about the second and third kingly gifts, what they are, where they come from, and what they smell like?

Frankincense, myrrh and other aromatic resins such as amber, copal and dragon’s blood are the soft, viscous saps exuded by woody plants in response to injury. When dried and hardened (polymerized) into “tears”, they are used in perfumery, aromatherapy and medicine. There are three main types: oleoresin (sticky, semi-soft), hard (brittle, tasteless and odourless until burned) and gum (gum or tree sap). A resin’s fragrance is due to the presence of terpenes, organic compounds whose strong odour may deter parasites or herbivores which eat or destroy the plant. Except for amber, these resins are harvested two to three times a year by “tapping” the tree: slashing the bark and collecting the resin which oozes out. The final tapping produces the best-quality, opaque resin with the highest terpene content. Amber is “fossilized” (i.e. completely polymerized); copal can be tapped or subfossil (not completely polymerized and much younger than amber). Most resins used as perfume or incense are graded according to colour, purity, scent, age and shape.

Frankincense: “Frankincense to offer have I; Incense owns a Deity nigh.” Frankincense (from Old French franc encens, meaning “high quality incense”) is a gum resin obtained from four species of Boswellia tree. Also known as olibanum (Arabic for “that which results from milking”, referring to the collection process), frankincense has been traded in western Asia, North Africa and China since ancient times. It is depicted in Egyptian tombs, was known to the ancient Greeks, was introduced to Europe by crusaders and is one of the chief resins used in religious rites. Translucent, impurity-free resin is edible and can be chewed as gum and is used in cosmetics and for a variety of medical complaints. Somalia is the major frankincense producer today. Aroma: Sweet, piney, lemony.

Myrrh: “Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume / Breathes a life of gathering gloom; / Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, / Sealed in the stone cold tomb.” Myrrh resin is the yellowish-brown gum of several small, thorny species of Commiphora trees in Africa and western Asia. Myrrh, which means “bitter” in Arabic and Aramaic, has been used throughout history as a perfume and incense and in medicine for its antiseptic and analgesic properties. The Bible mentions it as a rare, intoxicating perfume, and it was sometimes mixed with wine to drink, or, as the carol reminds us, used with natron to embalm the dead. Aroma: Earthy, smoky, musky-sweet.

Amber: Valued since Neolithic times, amber is hard tree resin that is several million years old. In classical antiquity, it was known to the Romans as electrum and to the Greeks as ēlektron (“beaming sun”); we get the name from the Arabic anbar. Amber is found primarily in the Baltic region, Russia, Africa, and the Americas, although seams of it are distributed worldwide. Amber disturbed from seabed sediments washes up on the shore; seams are mined. The “amber” fragrance used for perfume was once made from ambergris – the waxy substance extracted from the intestines of sperm whales – but is now made from other resins and organic compounds such as labdunum and benzoin, plus synthetics. Raw amber stones can be burned as incense, although true amber is costly. Aroma: Warm, rich, honey-like and woodsy.20161217_110330-4Copal: Harvested from the copal tree (Protium copal), this milky-white hard resin has been used for ceremonial purposes in Mexico and Central America since pre-Columbian times. Copal from several species of Hymanaea tree is found in East Africa, and this variety has been used since the 18th century as incense and an ingredient in varnish. Harder, citrine-coloured subfossil copal (partially-fossilized, several-thousand-year-old roots found beneath living copal trees in Africa, Asia and New Zealand) is a cheaper substitute for gem-quality amber and is sometimes sold as “young amber”. As an incense, copal is mellower than frankincense, myrrh or amber.  Aroma: Subtly spicy, faintly reminiscent of cumin.

Dragon’s Blood: True dragon’s blood, an oleoresin, comes from dragon trees of the Dracaena species from the Canary Islands and Morocco. Another common source is the Indonesian Daemonorops draco rattan palm. Like many fragrant resins and spices, dragon’s blood made its way to Europe during the Middle Ages via the Silk Road. The resin is bright red and, when heated, bubbles like blood, and it was believed to have come from elephants and dragons that had died in combat. Other uses throughout history have been varnish, dye, ink, medicine and even toothpaste. Aroma: Strong herbal-floral, perfumey.

How to Burn Resins:

I recommend burning raw, natural resin rather than incense cones or joss sticks, because the latter can be treated with synthetic fragrance, and their quality varies widely. Also, you need only one or two small pieces of resin to scent a room, and the perfume lingers for some time.

Use a fire- and heat-proof vessel with steep sides, such as a cast iron pot or a bowl designed for burning resin (I use a small cast iron cauldron) • Place on a protected surface, as the container will get hot • Fill halfway with sand and place a small charcoal tablet, sold specifically for burning incense, inside (you can break in half for a shorter burn time) • Use a match to light the charcoal, which will give off sparks for a few seconds • Keep away from any combustible material • When the charcoal starts to glow red, carefully place a piece of resin beside it (tongs, tweezers, spoon or fork work well for this) • The heat will begin to melt and burn the resin, which releases that lovely fragrance.20161217_113056-3

Common-sense Cautions: Use only charcoal disks specifically designed for burning incense • Never leave an active burner unattended • Direct contact of resin with lit charcoal will burn up or scorch the resin more quickly and produce a lot of smoke • Burning charcoal creates carbon monoxide, so use with proper ventilation • Allow charcoal to become cold ash; never throw contents of pot directly into the trash • Store unused charcoal disks in a sealed bag to protect from humidity.

The Mugglestone

dsc_4038-3Tiger Iron, also known as Mugglestone, is found primarily in Australia and South Africa. It is a banded stone containing layers of golden tiger’s eye, red (and sometimes yellow) jasper and hematite.

The tiger’s eye quartz in this gemstone demonstrates chatoyancy, an optical effect which creates a luminous sheen reminiscent of a cat’s eye. Indeed, that is where the effect gets its name, from the French œil de chat (cat’s eye). The arrangement of fibres in tiger’s eye is responsible for this chatoyancy.

dsc_4105-3Jasper, a blend of chalcedony and opaque quartz, comes in several colours such as red, yellow, brown, green and blue and can have spots, blotches or stripes. In fact, the name jasper, handed down through the millennia from Asian and Middle-eastern languages, means “spotted or speckled stone”. The red jasper in tiger iron is caused by iron inclusions.

dsc_4080-3Hematite is an iron oxide which can be black, steel grey, silver, or a dark reddish-brown. Its main use is as ore for iron, and the deep red varieties make a pigment. Powdered rouge (used in paint and cosmetics), red or yellow ochre clay and the red drawing chalk, sanguine, all contain various amounts of hematite.

So why is Tiger Iron sometimes called Mugglestone? Some believe that tiger iron is a protective stone which deflects harmful energy caused by the judgments of others. We first saw the term muggle in Harry Potter, of course, referring to non-magickal folk, or to those who don’t believe in magick or consider it evil. How appropriate, then, that this grounding stone, which contains the strength of iron, is often used to repel negativity and provide power, stamina and positive energy in the face of adversity!dsc_4181-4

Reading the Runes


Terracotta rune set with hessian bag and guide book by Horik Svensson.

The Elder Futhark, the oldest known runic alphabet, is of Germanic origin dating from the 1st or 2nd century CE. Similar to the Greek alphabet, which is named for its first two letters, the Futhark takes its name from the first initial or phoneme of the first six runes: F, U, Th, A, R and K. Each rune corresponds to a letter or sound (transliteration).

There are many theories as to why this system was invented and what it means, but no one knows for sure. Was it an attempt by northern Europeans to imitate Roman script? Did the runes have a practical purpose, such as recording ideas or events? Or perhaps the characters had mystical or shamanistic properties.

The runes are usually referred to in either ancient Proto-Germanic or 8th century Old English, the language of the Anglo-Saxons. (For the runic items I make for my shop, I use the latter.) The words are from nature — usually animals, trees or weather — or are the names of gods. For example, the first rune, shown in the centre foreground of the photo above, is known as either Fehu (P-G), or Feoh (OE). Feoh transliterates as the letter f, means “wealth” or “cattle”, and is generally accepted today as symbolizing wealth, power and success.


The runes, woodburned onto a cedar plank, with their names in Old English.

Here are the 24 Elder Futhark runes, their ancient meanings and modern symbolism:

Feoh  •  wealth, cattle  •  Wealth, power, success
Ur  •  aurochs  •  Risk, rapid change, stamina, determination
Thorn  •  the god Thor  •  Protection, luck, inner growth
Ansur  •  mouth  •  Advice, deliberation
Rad  •  wheel, ride •   Journey (literal or toward enlightenment)
Ken  •  torch •   New life, fertility, knowledge, the arts
Geofu  •  gift  •  Union, harmony, love, peace
Wynn  •  joy  •  Happiness, success, fulfillment through hard work
Hagall  •  hail  •  Unpredictability, sudden setback
Nied  •  need  •  Restriction, patience, spiritual growth through hardship
Is  •  ice  •  Caution, put plans on hold, waiting
Jara  •  year, harvest  •  Cycles, birth, time of reckoning
Yr  •  yew  •  Positive outcome after delay, inner strength
Peorth  •  pear tree  •  Unexpected inheritance, recovery of what was lost
Eolh  •  elk  •  Protection, beneficial influence
Sigel  •  sun •  Life force, guiding light
Tir  •  the god Tiwaz  •  Battles, competition, vigorous energy, being prepared
Beorc  •  birch  •  Fertility, inception of idea or project, family
Eoh  •  horse  •  Travel, change (made carefully, not abruptly)
Mann  •  Man, humans  •  Separate but not alone, relationships, inner wisdom
Lagu  •  water, lake  •  Intuition, flexibility, receptivity, creativity
Ing  •  the god Ingwaz  •  Completion, good omen, relief is near
Othel  •  heritage, estate  •  Ancestry, the home, land, obligations, karma
Daeg  •  day  •  New beginnings, growth, inner acceptance, security


Rune necklaces I made recently for a customer in California, of reclaimed Muskoka white pine. I pyrographed the freehand designs and bark-like edging and finished the pendants with linseed oil and beeswax.

Similar to Tarot cards, runes can be cast for divination, or can be worn or carried as an amulet. I wear Tir as my personal talisman because it is the rune of archers.

Crystal Clear

DSC_1913 (7)

Rock crystal a.k.a. clear quartz: the Perfect Jewel

Rock crystal (from Greek kruos and krustallos, ‘frost’ or ‘ice’), Earth’s purest form of quartz, is found worldwide and is the second most abundant mineral after feldspar. This colorless, transparent to translucent silicon oxide (SiO2) quartz, also known as pure or clear quartz, forms hexagonal prisms often ending in a pyramid. It measures 7 on the Mohs hardness scale.

The ancients believed pure quartz was superhard, petrified ice and that the gods lived in palaces of rock crystal; knapped tools and weapons such as arrowheads were made from it. The emperor Nero drank his wine from a rock crystal goblet, as this mineral was supposed to quench thirst, and wealthy Roman ladies carried it in their hands during hot weather because they thought it had cooling properties. Pure quartz is the traditional material used to make seers’ crystal balls; 11th century crusaders brought these objects back from the Holy Land, believing they possessed magical powers of divination and healing. Subsequently, clear quartz became popular in medieval Europe as a treatment for a slew of conditions including dysentery, colic, fever, pain, gout and kidney disease. For Native Americans, rock crystal is a good luck stone to be placed in a newborn baby’s cradle. Rock crystal is a symbol of purity, patience and perseverance for the Japanese, who call it tama, the Perfect Jewel. It is thought to open the heart and mind to higher guidance, and is used in the quest to achieve enlightenment.

Rock crystal is considered a semi-precious stone and can be left raw, shaped or tumbled smooth in jewelry, touchstones, carvings and meditation aids, or as decorative clusters or geodes. The genuine stone also had industrial applications and was used in timepieces, but most modern quartz movement watches and electronics now employ synthetic rock crystal.