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The Magic of Sisterhood


If you haven’t yet swum in the mighty Atlantic Ocean, gulped in a little salt water, floated in billowy delicious waves, hiked through deep cream-colored beach sand, picked up shells, jumped to save your bare feet from becoming burnt as you walk over 20 foot, hot dunes, wandered aimlessly in a small New England fishing village, or laughed to an outdoor-theatre Shakespeare Troupe, I highly recommend it. This August saw me doing all of this, and while it was an incredible week, what made it extra special—and a summer’s vacation I will treasure—is that I did it all with my sister.

I live here on an island of splendor and beauty, and it’s so beautiful that it is actually a paradox. At almost every turn, I see vistas of ocean, rolling green hills dotted with vegetable, cow and sheep farms, and tiny fishing villages full of picturesque sailboats and quaint harbors. It’s gorgeous. But in fact, it’s almost overwhelming, and since August is the busy tourist season here (when us locals make most of our yearly income), I rarely get to go out and enjoy these very things that attract the tourists.

But my wonderful sister Leslie arrived last week and brought her husband Shawn, and they convinced my husband and I to take the week off work and to simply be. To enjoy. To indulge in the great, green, Goddess-gifted beauty that surrounds us.

How nice it is to sit back and take a deep breath and appreciate what’s around us! And even nicer to experience it through someone’s else’s eyes. To my sister, the view out above the Allen’s sheep field to the sea isn’t just a view of the water: it’s the freakin’ Atlantic Ocean. It’s pulsating and wild and breathtaking and salty and completely new. To my sister, the bustling ferry packed with hundreds of tourists isn’t just a boat filled with potential customers; it’s the transition vehicle—the liminal space between reality (what we fondly call America) and the magic isle of Martha’s Vineyard. Riding on the ferry can be like sailing through a veil toward a dreamy, sunny land of imagination where everyone is on vacation and the sun always shines (and if it isn’t shining, there is a mystical fairy-tale fog that whisks us even further into the cloudland of make-believe).

Thank goodness Leslie came up and dragged me away from my daily work to experience all this.

And thank goodness my other “sisters” held our annual Lammas gathering. It took place at Rebecca’s farm, so we began our evening strolling around to see all her goats, sheep, ducks, chickens, turkeys, pigs, and other critters that Rebecca cares for. Once we got our cute animal fix, we joined around a wonderful odd white rock that Rebecca unearthed on her farm years ago; she placed it in a grassy space near the barn and the picnic table and it has become the center of our Sabbat gatherings, especially when we learn one of Cynthia’s Celtic dances to celebrate the season. So it was nightfall, and the crickets were chirping, and the last rays of the sun were striking the top of an incredibly tall fir tree, and we circled the white stone in silence as we built a mandala around it. Each of us had brought flowers, leaves, or other goodies to add to the mandala, and by the time we finished it was a glorious geometric pattern of cucumbers, pine cones, catnip branches, tansy stalks, calendula flowers, seaweed, sprinkled salt, crushed wheat cereal, and so much more. We admired our offerings, danced, and laughed when Rebecca’s cat began rolling around in the catnip. We lit a fire and listened to Cynthia read Celtic stories that celebrate family, tradition, the seasons, and the cycle of summer and first harvests.

I am blessed that I’ve been able to spend this summer with many of my sisters: Leslie, my Sabbat sisters, and the wonderful ladies who are my students who join me on our Apothecary Days to blend teas and make herbal goodies. It is a sisterhood I cherish and relationships I will enjoy building for many years.

Our sisters are gifts that are showered upon us by the Goddess and by this wonderful, quirky, intuitive Universe we live in. Our lives are brimming with magic. And sisterhood.

If you haven’t yet experienced life with your sister(s), I highly recommend it.

(photo: taken at the International Herb Symposium; lovely ladies celebrating at "Fairy Night 2015", photographer unknown)

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Award-winning herbalist and author Holly Bellebuono directs Vineyard Herbs Teas & Apothecary on Martha’s Vineyard, as well as The Bellebuono School of Herbal Medicine, a creative and welcoming program for those interested in pursuing the study of herbal formulary. Holly lectures internationally about natural health and women’s empowerment and has published three books: The Essential Herbal for Natural Health, The Authentic Herbal Healer, and Women Healers of the World: The Traditions, History & Geography of Herbal Medicine (foreword by Rosemary Gladstar). Holly lives on the island of Martha’s Vineyard with her family on their mini-homestead raising chickens, rabbits, firing up the blacksmith forge, and hiking wild island trails in search of magic.


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