Yesterday, with ego bruised from my failed technical experiments with walnut ink and stamping, I spent some time away from the studio and instead worked in the kitchen. I was making one of Barefoot Contessa’s recipes for baked chocolate pudding. It called for some fresh vanilla bean. As I peeled away the seeds and pulp of the bean I was put in touch with the magickal allure of the Goddess Gaia. It was over a decade ago that I discovered Goddess Spirituality. Over a short time, I came to realize the power that the divinely feminine goddesses would have on my life. For nearly a decade I wrote a column for “Sage Woman,” magazine and this column was a vessel at the time for my spirituality, now that shift has moved more towards the garden, artmaking and writing books and articles. I mention the garden because I see and experience the Goddess and goddesses in nature most prominently. When I hold and smell any of my favorite herbs I am immediately put in touch with earth goddesses and earth elementals. My work as a magickal herbalist is deeply spiritual and tied to the divinely feminine faith I hold dear. Some herbs are great facilitators for the journey into the spirit realms. I will get into many of those later but for now I want to pay homage to vanilla--an expensive herb to purchase in bulk but well worth it because of its intensity, scenting, flavoring and staying power. I actually use vanilla beans more in my botanical blends, particularly the winter and spring potpourris, than in cooking, though when I find a recipe that calls for it in my kitchen I am happy to use it. Vanilla is musky and deep yet it is a sweet-smelling herb as well. It has a nice balance of yin and yang as well as male female energy. Its appearance is phallic and it holds countless seeds, suggesting fertility; yielding promise. Deeply earthy, transcendent burnt umber in color, this is not only a great herb for putting one in touch with Gaia, the earth goddesses and elementals, but the earth gods as well. This ATC featured today is the usual 2 ½ by 3 ½ inch foundation, on which I’ve created a tribute of earth goddess Gaia with a focus on her ability to inspire and sustain creativity using collage. After working the vanilla, with the recipe, which came out fabulously, I returned to my studio for several sessions of work with the walnut ink and stamps. This time I had much more success with the new materials partially because of experimentation with both mediums. The other element that really helped was the fact that I make contact with my beliefs and spirituality—all through the little seed vessel, we call vanilla.