Thirty Days of Making: Spagyric of Lemon Balm

I’m in Day 18 of a short series: Thirty Days of Making. Every day for the next thirty days, I intend to make something, anything, that is in some way connected to school. There won’t always be pictures, and I reserve the right to credit myself for things that I help my kids make. But I’ve decided that I need thirty days of maker success and maker failure under my belt to be a better designer.

I’ve decided that artwork counts, but not writing (unless it’s part of the art, like calligraphy). Digital work counts, but it has to be useful or publishable.

Some days there will be pictures, some days there won’t be. Each blog entry will contain a list of some of the materials and tools, a quick review of the success or failure of the Making, and a reflection on what I think I learned from the endeavor.  (My friend Alicia is beginning a new series along these lines, 12 weeks of the Artist’s Way — I wish her well in her process, go check her out!).

Reason for the Project: Druidry

I did this one, not because of school but because of druidry.  I’m a member of the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn, and this spagyric tincture is one of the requirements for my Bardic degree.  It was time, and it looked ready. That’s good enough for me.

Process and Results:

Thirty days of making: lemon balm
It’s a lovely green-emerald color

I can’t really say this was an elaborate process.  About a month and a half ago, I put this herb, Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) into very high-proof alcohol.  And then I let it soak for a good long time, about three weeks.  And then I filtered the herb residue out of the alcohol, and burned the residue to ash.  And then I recombined the alcohol and the ash for about another three weeks.  All through this process I shook the jar whenever I was home.

And now, I’m filtering the ashes out again, this time using coffee filters instead of cotton balls.

The resulting liquid is going to have to go into an amber-colored glass jar to be protected from sunlight and other potentially-negative forces acting on it.  But it smells, and looks, wonderful.  The remarkable thing about these spagyrics is that they’re relatively easy to make, they appear to have positive if low-level medical effects, and they’re fun (although they do require quite a bit of patience.

Reflection on My Learning

There comes a point in any process of learning where one discovers that one knows the basics.  That’s not to say that I’m an expert at making spagyrics — only that I’m competent, and that with competence comes a certain degree of mental flexibility.  I knew about when the spagyrics would finish ‘cohobating’ or mixing, and I knew about when to remove the ash from the finished spagyric.  But the matter of determining exactly when is a matter of some … debate? conjecture? art?  It’s hard to know what the precisely appropriate term is.  In the meantime, the work is done.

Far more troubling to me was how long it took to decide on this as my project for the day.  I’m running out of things I want to work on, after twenty days.  It’s not surprising, really.  How many of us know what we’d work on for the next sixty days if we had to work on projects with a plan in mind for sixty days.  I’m not really sure that I know what I’m going to do for the next ten days, actually.  I have some projects in mind, but some of them I don’t really feel like sharing with the world; or are not really appropriate for school.What do we do when we come to the end of what we are thinking about in terms of projects?  How do we become newly inventive?

Reflection on General Learning

What I’m going through — this uncertainty about what I’m going to work on next — must affect my students quite a bit. They’re expected to be on top of their inventive game, as children, and to produce work in five to eight different subjects on a regular basis.  And yet we don’t necessarily do a good job of teaching them how to do that.   I’m kind of interested to see what sort of discovery, and what sort of stretching, I’m going to have to do tomorrow to have something to work on.


Five of five stars.  Not quite relevant to my work at school, but an important project that advances my own learning processes.

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