Cindy Guilbert of St Laurent de Cerdans in the Vallespir talks about her book on easily found herbs, Natural Magick.
I made a change of direction in mid-life and I have never regretted it. I was born in Guernsey and I worked in the Finance industry for nearly thirty years for some of the financial institutions but it was never where my heart lay.
I had a stall in the Guernsey Market for a few years and used to rush down at lunchtime to set it up, have a kind person to run it and then rush down after work to pack it all up again. I painted horseshoes, weights, cans, scales etc in the toleboat painting style and also glass painting. I have made jewellery, painted furniture, did five years silversmithing at night school and then pottery.
Now I live in the Pyrenees of France with my husband and six cats. I like to have a project on the go, I cannot just sit and watch tv. At present as well as painting watercolour mandalas, I decorate wooden and metal items, still do a bit of furniture painting, make my own soaps and as gifts and occasionally to sell, also I now make my own perfumes with essential oils and have also made one for my husband, we then made soaps with them, male and female scents.
My maternal Grandmother used a lot of flowers and plants and her generation seemed to be the last who understood and knew how to use what grows around us for free from Mother Earth. In an era which becomes more mechanical and electrical I want the knowledge to survive and be passed on to all generations, especially the younger ones who can then take this knowledge into the future.
I decided to create a book on easily found herbs because so many people suffer from different ailments which would certainly be aided if certain herbs were consumed. Instead of filling our bodies full of chemicals from the doctors, which are based on plants anyway, then why not use the real thing? Dandelions and Stinging Nettles to me are two of the most amazing plants and yet many people spend their lives killing them with chemicals because they make their lawn look untidy! (By the way, I would never recommend stopping conventional medicine, but taking the natural remedy alongside, always checking that there are no contra-indications, can only help.)
I Love Nature, it amazes me how many of the plants commonly known as weeds are incredibly good for us. And these plants can be used in so many ways and many can be found easily in the surrounding fields and forests if you do not have a garden. Why not make a simple tisane? Take a spoonful of the herb and infuse it for 15 minutes in water and then drink as normal instead of a cuppa. Herbs can also be made into tinctures, creams, pomades, or included in soaps and bath salts. Or just eaten fresh, in spring and summer I made my salads with dandelion leaves, strawberry leaves, violet leaves and whatever else edible I can find, pansy flowers is one of my favourites as they make a salad look so good.
cy book gives you all the information you need, for of course you must have the knowledge before you pick and eat.
I have just made chocolates including the confit de rose I made in the summer from rose petals and crystallised violets which adorn the top, tasty and good for you, what more can you want, well except for the sugar of course. I make the chocolate from scratch. Once I have had a few more chocolate creating sessions I hope to give workshops.
Another aspect of nature which amazes me is crystals. To think that these beautiful stones are underneath us deep in the ground, and sometimes not so deep. Here in the mountain our friends have a quartz crystal mine on their land and we have found some beautiful pieces. On top of all that they can aid many people in different ways and that is what inspires me when I am painting mandalas.
One day someone mentioned them and I went online to see how mandelas were created and thought, ooh I’ll have a go at that. As well as being an art form, they can be lovely to meditate to and if someone is particularly having a hard time I will create one in the relevant colours to aid that person. They are very satisfying to do but I am not always able to create them, I have to be in the “zone” and once I am I will remain there for several weeks or months in which time I create one after another and then suddenly I find I don’t have the inspiration anymore so I stop painting them until I feel the urge again.