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Before you begin healing work, ceremony or ritual, or shamanic practices it is recommended that you cleanse your energy field and your space. Cleansing with herbs help to create sacred space, and shift the energy. It clears and opens the doorway so that our guides and spirit helpers can enter more easily and assist us in the process.
Smudging is one common cleansing ceremony in which herbs are burned. One Native American teacher I worked with, Rainbow Weaver, called smudging “Cosmic Right Guard”. Burning your specific herbs in a clay bowl, abalone shell or other fire safe vessel, use your hand or a feather to brush the smoke over yourself and through your aura. Smudge throughout the space, around the sacred circle you’re casting, visualizing the negative energies rising out on the smoke.
Sometimes if you’re working indoors and the negativity is great, you may want to open a window. In Western North America the most frequently used herbs are sage, cedar and sweetgrass. Mugwort, also of the sage family, is used. In Mexico and Central America, copal, a resin derived from the copal tree, is used widely in ritual.
Palo Santo Aromatic Wood (Burseara Graveolens)
~ also known as the “Holy Wood” has been used by the indigenous peoples of the Amanzonian region since ancient times to soothe and calm the spirit and rid the homeplace of negative energy. When lighting, allow the wood to catch fire, then blow the flame out. Palo Santo sticks may be re-lit many times. You can also shave the wood into chips and make a tea or burn on charcoal.
~ the botanical name for “true” sage is salvia, which in latin means “to heal”. Sage is burned to drive out the negative energies, spirits or influences and it creates a protective barrier to keep those energies from entering the space.
~ is best burned with sage or after as it brings in the good spirits and influences. It is to remind us of the sweetness and innocence of our youth. Usually found braided together, you can light the end of the braid and wave it around the area so the smoke permeates the air or add it to the mixture of other herbs.
~ is burned for purification like sage. It will clear out negative energies and also bring in the good spirits. Cedar is burned while praying as it is believed that the prayers rise upon the smoke and are carried to the creator.
~ is sometimes burned alone or with other herbs. It is useful in opening the third eye, connecting us more fully to our intuitive process. It assists in our psychic abilities and also induces dreams.
A personal journey. A spiritual journey. Cyclical and ever evolving. The cards allow us to see deeply into ourselves. They gently nudge us along, ever reminding us of our potential. They fearlessly point out our character flaws and nurture us with positive reinforcements. Directing us with powerful insight and teachings.
The cards are divided into two sections: the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana. The twenty-two Major Arcana cards represent our spiritual journey to wholeness. They are the power cards in which we learn about the world around us. The Major Arcana highlight the lessons we must face along our path of personal and spiritual growth. They take us from the innocence of The Fool, seeking fulfillment; through the pains, struggles, joys and rewards we can expect to encounter as we strive toward wholeness – which we experience in The World, where we begin again with newness and innocence on the spiral journey of the spirit. The Minor Arcana is the day to day, more mundane aspects of life. These 56 cards are divided into four suits – Wands, Pentacles, Swords and Cups.
Each of the suits correspond to an element, astrological signs and planets, a season and much more, all which depict its reflection upon our lives. Cup cards are connected to water, hence the cards of this suit relate to our emotions and feels, the deep hidden unconscious part of ourselves. The Sword cards are related to air and associated with communication and our rational self – the mind. The images held within this suit are learning tools for better communication and the return to being more heart centered. The suit of Pentacles is earth based and brings us lessons regarding money, business, finances, tangible things. Wands are connected to fire and speak to our passion and spirit.
Choosing a Tarot Deck
“Take the time to examine as many decks as you can. Be sure to get a fully pictorial deck – one with actual scenes for each card, not just a picture of two cups, for example, for the Two of Cups. Sadly, this rules out several beautiful decks, but there are still plenty from which to choose. In order for a deck to work for you, you have to be able to “see” with it – that is, the images have to speak to you, push you forward, encourage you to make little leaps of consciousness. You don’t want to stay trapped in reading the booklet that comes with the deck for your answers: the pictures have to be sufficiently rich and evocative for you to journey with them. Let your personal aesthetic be your guide: find a deck that appeals to your senses, that look juicy and beautiful to you. If you have an area of special interest – Native American medicine ways, pagan or Celtic traditions, specific art movements such as Art Nouveau – there are decks with appropriate images that you may want to try. There are some schools of thought that hold that you should never buy yourself a Tarot deck but wait until someone gives you one. Horrors! What if (a) nobody ever does; or (b) they do, but it’s dead wrong for you? There is nothing more frustrating than trying to make a deck work for you that just isn’t right. Save yourself the aggravation- decks are highly personal. Invest some time and find a deck or two that will be your friends and partners for life. ” ~ an excerpt from “Tarot for Every Day” by Cait Johnson[/quote]
Take some time getting to know your new deck and let your deck know you.
One way for this to happen is to actually sleep with your deck under your pillow or near to you. This allows your vibration to begin to become part of the deck. You may wish to bless your new deck, to cleanse it and honor it as the learning tool it is. You can use visualization, crystals, herbs or oils. Whatever you feel most comfortable with as the vehicle by which to get the job done.
One suggestion is to smudge your new deck with herbs such as Sage and Cedar. You can burn the herbs over charcoal or in the form of a “smudge stick”. Visualize the smoke cleansing and purifying. Store your deck in a special pouch or cloth. Mugwort is an herb long used to enhance intuition and open the third eye. It’s good to place a sprig of mugwort in with your cards while stored, and it’s a wonderful herb to burn before you do a reading. Take the time to examine each card of the deck.
Notice the details and feelings expressed in each situation. How do they make you feel? What cards are you drawn to? I recommend you start a Tarot journal. Allow yourself some time each day to spend with your cards. Take a few deep breathes to bring your attention inward and get centered, then shuffle the cards. Pick one or a few cards. Study them. Write down what you see in each card, what you feel is happening, and what it means to you.
You might find it useful to log in what’s going on in your life, moods, phases of the moon, planetary information, women might want to keep track of their moon cycles. All these points of information help you to understand the cards on different levels.
Place the deck on a flat surface with the cards face down and begin to mix them up by spreading them out, pushing and sifting through them. Try to touch each one. When you feel like you’ve touched them all, gather them into a neat pile. Hold the deck in your right hand and place your left hand on top. On certain days in this hand position I can actually feel the deck shuffling on its own as I focus my thoughts. Begin your spread or daily card pick from the top.
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The Wheel of the Year
I am often asked what someone can do to feel more connected – to themselves, spirit and the Earth. How can they be in right relationship with our Great Mother Earth. What I have found for myself is that when I connect to the cycles and rhythms of the Earth, when I slow down enough to notice the beauty and sacredness all around me in nature and all her wonders, it is in those moments that I am deeply connected to all that is. When I connect to the magic and awe of Mother Earth it is then that I feel grounded and centered in my body; then spirit can reach me. One of the ways to connect to the Earth is to follow the Wheel of the Year. The Wheel has eight spokes, four of which are solar events that occur during the year and the other four are agricultural holidays. Our ancestors celebrated four auspicious times of the year, honoring the cycles of birth, death and rebirth as they are manifested in the seasons. These ancient holidays can be just as potent and magical today as they were for our ancestors. It’s very important to myself and to our community that we create ceremonies for these occasions which are relevant to our time and to our culture, allowing these magical days to have deep meaning in our lives and in our connection to the Earth.
[toggle title=”Samhain ~ October 31″ opened=”no” ]Samhain (Sow-inn), All Hallows Eve, Halloween, is the New Year to many pagans and witches. This turn of the wheel marks the third and final harvest – that of the meats. Animals were slaughtered now to ensure food throughout the winter. On my altar for the October full moon, respectfully called the Blood Moon, there is a candle to honor the animals that sacrifice their lives to provide goods and food for our survival. This marks the waning portion of the year, when the land begins its slumber.
From now until Yule, the days grow shorter and darker. Winter storms begin to sweep down from the north. This is a time of reflection and turning inwards, beginning our own rejuvenating process. There are many themes in nature to learn from at this time of year – the trees, which no longer need their leaves, gracefully release them, letting them go to become compost, to nourish the earth and enrich the soil. The earth mother draws her energy inward, down into the roots, to rest, regenerate, and to rejuvenate, all the while dreaming of the spring. It is said that the veil between the physical and spiritual world is at its thinnest and spirits may pass between more readily between worlds. This is a time to connect with your ancestors and to your loved ones who have crossed over. Create an ancestor altar with pictures and mementos; add autumnal decorations you’ve collected from Mother Nature and light red, orange or yellow candles. We take our annual walk to the local cemetery on a night near the full moon with our carved jack-o-lanterns, which we leave behind all glowing magically. We honor those who are buried there by leaving offerings of pomegranate seeds and sharing libations of homemade pomegranate mead.
Our intentions are to connect to Hecate and Persephone, who has taken her seat as Queen of the Underworld. Both of these wise women of the darkness are sought after for guidance and insight as we bravely journey into the shadow aspects of ourselves for healing and understanding during the dark half of the year. Yule, also known as the Winter Solstice, is the longest night and the shortest day of the year. Although much of the winter weather is still to come, we celebrate and welcome the Sun’s return.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”Yule ~ December 20 – 23″ opened=”no” ]All of the Christmas traditions that we are familiar with have pagan roots – most of them having to do with sympathetic magic to lure back the sun. The evergreen boughs and trees hold the sun’s light within them, their lush greenery representing the hope of the sun’s return to green the earth. I decorate the mantel with Sun cards from many different tarot decks dangling from sparkly tinsel and hang gold suns all around. The earth takes this time in the darkness to regenerate, rest and dream spring into being.
I find it a nice tradition to seek out some time to sit in complete darkness on this night. I honor my own shadow side and the lessons it has brought me. I reflect on what ideas and plans I will be gestating during the long, winter months ahead. From Yule until Midsummer, we will be gifted with the beauty of the sun’s light shining upon us a bit longer each day.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”Imbolc ~ February 2″ opened=”no” ]Newgrange was built over 5,000 years ago in Ireland. It’s entrance way is aligned with the rising of the Winter Solstice Sun. I made my pilgramage to the Mystical Emerald Isle in 2005 ~ visiting faerie mounds, stone circles, caves, cairns, castles and holy wells. Also called Feast of Torches, Oimelc, Lupercalia, Candelmas, Brigid´s day and the Feast of Brighid. The term Imbolc can be translated from the old Irish as “in the belly” or “ewe’s milk” – at this time of year the pregnant sheep began to lactate.
To our agricultural ancestors this was occasion to celebrate! They were in the depths of winter and the pleasure of fresh milk was a sign that the life-giving forces of spring were just ahead. The Light Bringer, Brighid, the Celtic Goddess of fire and inspiration, healing, poetry, and smith craft was the most highly revered goddess in all of Ireland so much so that the Catholic Church had to make her a saint and create St. Brighid’s Day in order to stop the pagans from gathering in ritual for Imbolc.
In our modern age of flipping a switch for light and our homes comfortably heated with no effort on our part, we are disconnected from the harshness of winter and the importance of always keeping a warm coal on the hearth. I am grateful for these conveniences, don’t get me wrong! At Imbolc it’s important for me to reflect and honor the hardships that our ancestors endured. Imbolc is a time of gratitude. It has become a time for us to gather with our community and rejoice in our connections and the blessings of love and support that we receive from them. We come together to honor Brigit and the shining light within each of us.
Being in community during the dark months is balm for the soul. During the afternoon we share the making of butter and weave Brigit’s crosses in front of the hearth fire. Folks bring back the cross they made the year before and in ritual they toss it into the fire and thank Brighid for the blessings of the past year. With holy water from the Chalice well, we anoint our new crosses, asking Brighid’s blessing of healing and protection again for the coming year.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”Vernal Equinox/Ostara~ March 20/21″ opened=”no” ]On March 20 or 21, the Sun crosses the equator from south to north, marking for us the first day of spring. The darkness is overcome and we honor the Sun in its glorious return to power. From this point on the days grow longer and the Sun appears higher and higher in the sky each day. The Vernal or Spring Equinox, also called Oastara in many pagan traditions, is one of four solar festivals that occur during the year. We take the time now to celebrate all that the onset of spring heralds forth ~ hope, rebirth and resurrection, fertility and new life. The spring rains wash away the last dregs of winter and along with the thaw, fill the creeks and streams with fast moving currents. The maple sap is flowing and the time for boiling it down to syrup is at hand. The sweet songs of the spring birds fill the air. All around us the world is alive with blooming plants and new animal life. Decorate eggs today as they are the symbol of potential and new life.
It has also become our community tradition to gather and partake in an old Ukranian tradition of floating red eggshells downstream. Our ancestors did this to inform the spirits who lived in the darkness that spring had arrived. We have modified this ritual and we charge our shells with our joys and loving intentions and float the shells downstream, blessing the waters and all the lands that they touch. Afterwards we have a springtime feast including lots of eggs, and decorate with a bouquets of tulips and daffodils. Celebrate the first day of Spring by balancing an egg on its bottom all day long. Wear green (which symbolizes the plant growth) or red (which symbolizes life). Rake away last years leaves from your garden and uncover the wondrous green life bursting through the soil. Bless your garden seeds with the fertile energy that the spring holds by placing them on your altar with a green candle and visualize a lush, green, abundant crop.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”Beltaine ~ May 1st” opened=”no” ]May Day, or Beltaine as it is called by most pagans today, is a cross-quarter that is celebrated on the first of May. This is a wonderfully festive event celebrating the beauty of spring and the rebirth of the Earth. The birds and the animals are mating. The tree buds are bursting, the flowers are blooming all around and the returning warmth of the sun is here. Gardens are being tilled as the seedlings we’ve been nurturing are now ready for outdoor planting. It’s a celebration of the fertility of the Earth. Community festivals are held with Maypole dancing, games and music. Many of the rituals are full of symbolic representations of the sacred union of the God and Goddess, of Father Sky and Mother Earth. Great bonfires were lit and the herds passed between them for blessings and sent out to the summer fields. Bonfires are still lit across Europe and Britain on May Eve, just as they have been for hundreds of years.
If you have a partner in your life to share this journey with you, this is an evening to spend time truly appreciating each other, to make a bed beneath the stars, to take a bath together… If you are single treat yourself to a massage, a pedicure, or a sweet cream and honey bath. Check out our bath recipes on the Aromatherapy page.
Honey is part of the traditional feasting, as bees are symbolic of spring and fertility. Mead, a wine made from honey, is the traditional libation of the day. You might know someone who is brewing their own and willing to share, but if not it can be found in most liquor stores these days. Raise your glass in celebration of the seeds sprouting in your own life, and be sure to share your libation with Mother Earth in gratitude for all her gifts.
Spring cleaning is a wonderful way to honor the change of seasons. Clear away the winter debris and clutter. Rake away the old leaves; finding the seedlings that have begun to grow beneath them is magical. Open your windows. Get outside. Go for a walk. Listen to the birds, the wind, and the rain. Spend some time appreciating the new green life the Earth is pushing forth.
There is just as much of fairy lore associated with Beltaine as with Midsummer so be sure to leave out a dish of milk, a dab of honey and a cookie to please them.
Here in the Hudson Valley there are a few places to dance around a Maypole, wear a circlet of flowers in your hair and enjoy a wonderful bonfire after the sun sets. Check out these websites if you’re interested in celebrating with a community:
[toggle title=”Summer Solstice/Litha ~ June 21″ opened=”no” ]In 2008 I was part of a group of pilgrims visiting sacred sites of England. During our adventure we had the opportunity to experience the magic of Stonehenge for a sunset ritual. We arrived after hours when they allow you to walk past the ropes and gather within the stones. As we circled round the stones before entering into this sacred site, tears of deep reverence had already begun to flow. The tangible energy that we were surrounded by was incredibly moving.
Built between 3100 – 1100 BCE, Stonehenge is a megalithic structure which is aligned with the Summer Solstice sunrise and the Winter Solstice sunset. No one is sure just what went on within this stone circle but there is no doubt when you look upon this massive monument – whatever it was – it was magical.
For all of Earth’s creatures, nothing is as fundamental as the length of daylight. After all, the sun is the ultimate source of all light and warmth here on Earth. In awe of the power of the Sun, humans have honored and celebrated it’s journey across the sky for thousands of years. The Summer Solstice marks the longest day and shortest night of the year. It is the peak of the sun’s height for the year. Traditionally it was celebrated across Europe, England and Ireland with bonfires, dancing and festivities.
Today, groups of Earth loving folks continue to gather, honoring the amazing power of our Sun. There are festivals around the country where sacred fires burn into the night as dancers and drummers stay up all night to welcome the dawn. Many more people come together and hold smaller ceremonies in open space, everywhere from their gardens to woodland areas.
Mid-Summer usually celebrated in my backyard. It’s a day of picnicking, children running through the sprinkler, lying on blankets, enjoying each others company and basking in the warmth of the sun. We then gather in a circle as the sun sets, sharing poetry, song and other creative tributes to the Sun.
Brew yourself some Sun Tea. Fill a mason jar with spring water and put three of your favorite tea bags into it. Cover the jar and leave it in the sun for a few hours. Pour over ice and honor it’s life giving energy.
This is a time to celebrate growth and life and as we become more deeply aware of the ongoing shifting of the seasons it is also time to acknowledge that the sun will now begin to decline once more towards winter. So treasure this time of warmth and light. And be sure to look at your noontime shadow. Around the time of the solstice, it’s your shortest noontime shadow of the year.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”Lammas ~ August 1″ opened=”no” ]At Lammas, or Lugnasadh, celebrated on or around August 1, we turn the Wheel to celebrate the the first of the three harvest festivals. We now reap the bounty of the seeds that were sown in the spring. The berry bushes are ready for picking, and our gardens are overflowing with tomatoes and all sorts of yummy fresh vegetables. At this time we give thanks for the gifts that the Goddess has bestowed upon us in many ways. The Native American people celebrate with Corn Dances and Festivals, honoring the Corn Goddess. It’s the perfect time to make corn bread and be sure to add fresh corn to the recipe. Make an offering to the land and share it with your loved ones as you each send out a prayer of gratitude for all your blessings. It is also the first of the celebrations in the waning portion of the year as the days have now begun to shorten, though daylight hours are still longer than the night. The Sun now casts a very long shadow as it’s position moves in the sky. It is the sacrifice of the Sun God, Lugh. It’s a time of letting go and death in a much more subtle way than at Samhain in October, but just as important to honor this shifting. As we celebrate with gratitude it is also the time to release into the sacred flames of the bonfire, that which must be sacrificed in our lives in order for us to reach our dreams, those goals that we set forth for ourselves in the spring. We can look at what needs to be released in order for us to grow and be bountiful in our lives. There are still weeks left of hot and humid days for us to enjoy here in the northeast but there is the underlying knowing that summer dwindling. We feel the pressure to enjoy these last days, get to the beach and have backyard barbeques. The blooming of the Queen Ann’s Lace and the fabulous blue chickory on the side of the road is a gentle reminder too that the summer days are coming to a close and fall is just around the corner.[/toggle]
[toggle title=”Autumnal Equinox/Mabon ~ September 22 / 23″ opened=”no” ]Mabon, or the Autumnal Equinox is the point at which there are equal hours of day and night. Henceforth the days are now shorter than the nights, marking the beginning of the dark half of the year. It is at this moment of balance that the daughter of the Earth Mother begins her journey to the Underworld to spend the dark half of the year with her lover Hades. The story of Persephone, as told in the Greek mythology, is a very disempowering series of events – clearly told and written by men (no offense). This is my version of Persephone and Hades: Persephone, our young sister-goddess, is off gathering wildflowers in the field when this blazing chariot comes bursting forth from the earth. Impressive right? Behind the reins of this ornate, fabulous chariot is a tall, dark and handsome magic man dressed in leather. Wouldn’t have to ask me twice if I wanted a ride… and so the story begins. Leaving her mother behind, she joins her lover willing and consciously, choosing to fulfill her destiny as Queen of the Underworld. Her mother, Demeter, is befallen with deep sorrow. She draws her energies in and takes refuge in the darkness, waiting for her daughters return at the Spring Equinox. Mabon is the second of the three harvest festivals. Here in the Hudson Valley we harvest root vegetables, apples, pears, pumpkins, gourds and squashes of all types. You can begin to create your autumn altar in the kitchen with a basket full of fresh pickings from the farmers market. Gather up a handful of acorns and a few freshly fallen leaves to decorate. Be sure to give yourself a few moments to sit outside today. During this quiet time create a gratitude list for the bounty in your life.[/toggle][/fusion_tab][fusion_tab title=”Aromatherapy” icon=””]
Aromatherapy is an ancient art of healing, working on all levels — emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual.
Because it effects the “whole”, aromatherapy is a truly holistic form of healing. It works in harmony with the body. When we choose a natural approach to healing our bodies, it’s hard to overlook the benefits of aromatherapy.
What is the magic of aromatherapy? Essential oils — the life force of the plant, the plant’s soul. Essential oils are the volatile, aromatic liquid extracted from flowers, grasses, leaves, fruits, bark, roots, and resins. These highly concentrated extracts contain hormones, vitamins, antibiotics and antiseptics. Each has an intense and complex chemical make-up. This molecular structure will actually change the chemical compound of the air around you. They stimulate the neurotransmitters in the brain related to memory, sexual feelings, emotions, moods and creativity. Essential oils enter and leave the body with great efficiency, leaving no toxins behind. Essential oils awaken the self-healing capabilities innate in each one of us.
Essential Oils are highly concentrated. One drop of pure rose oil is equal to 30 roses, and equivalent to 25 cups of an herbal infusion. Less is really best. If you use too much oil it may have contradictory effects. Direct application of essential oils – with the exception of a few – is not recommended. Essential oils need to be diluted in a carrier or base oil, also called fatty oils.
The following is a list of the essential oils that we carry at the Dreaming Goddess. Sample vials are also available upon request for most oils, since pricing is minimal this is a great way to explore new scents and experiment.
- If your pregnant, have high blood pressure, asthma or epilepsy, please use caution when choosing your oils. Use oils sparingly and further research may be necessary for your own peace of mind.
- Oils to avoid during pregnancy: Basil, Clary Sage, Juniper, Marjoram, Myrrh, Rosemary and large amounts of Peppermint.
- Oils to avoid if you have epilepsy: Sage, Rosemary.
Some oils like the following may cause skin irritation. It is advised to dilute oils, with a few exceptions, before applying them directly to the skin. Citrus oils except Bergamot, Cinnamon, Citronella, Clove Bud, Lemongrass, Nutmeg and large amounts of Peppermint.
Baths are one of the best ways to receive the full benefits of aromatherapy. A candle lit room, gentle music, healing water and a special blend of essential oils ~ sounds heavenly doesn’t it!! With bathing you get the benefits of inhaling the oils and absorbing them through the skin. Be sure to keep the door closed so that little of the precious vapor escapes. Since essential oils (EO) do not disperse in the bath water, its best to add them to an emulsifier. You can also add EO’s to other base ingredients to further enhance your bathing and healing experience.
A mixture of sea salt, epsom salt and baking powder (2 cups total mixture) is one of my favorites. You can then add 5-15 drops of your favorite EO.
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HONEY ~ 3- 5 drops of EO added to 3-4 TB honey
SWEET CREAM ~ 10-15 drops EO added to 3-4 TB cream
EGG YOLK ~ same as above
BUBBLE BATH ~ 1-15 drops EO added to 4-5 TB unscented liquid soap
SEA SALT ~ detoxifying, cleanses the whole system, helps to strengthen the immune system.
BRAN/OATMEAL ~ 15 drops EO added to about 1 cup of either used in a muslin pouch. Both are water softeners and good for infected or irritated skin.[space]
Stimulating Morning Baths include oils such as rosemary, juniper, lemon, bergamot, swiss pine, mint, lavender.
- Peppermint 2 drops
- Rosemary 4 drops
- Juniper 2 drops
Calming Evening Baths include oils such as sandalwood, lavender, bergamot, rose, geranium, orange, rosewood, marjoram.
- Lavender 4 drops
- Sandalwood 10 drops
- Marjoram 4 drops
- Orange 5 drops
- Bergamot 5 drops
Cleansing Detoxifying Bath
- Lemon 2 drops
- Juniper 4 drops
- Geranium 2 drops
- Juniper 5 drops
- Orange 3 drops
- Cypress 3 drops
- Lemon 3 drops
- Mix with 2 TB honey
Sensual/Aphrodisiac Baths include such oils as sandalwood, jasmine, clary, ylang-ylang, patchouli.
- Vetivert 3 drops
- Ylang-ylang 3 drops