Living That Jewish Witch Life in Lithuania: Plus, ONE YEAR IN!
Updated: Mar 3
We're almost there, y'all! On this day a year ago, The Scientist and I were getting every last little (heated) drop of Texas we could - driving out through limestone hills to Lake Travis for our last drinks at Oasis Brewing Company, the same spot we had a party of our wedding guests the day before our wedding.
And hey, speaking of weddings, we may have moved to another country on our wedding anniversary. You know, why not just pack all the celebrations and new chapters in to one day!? So this is a very special, auspicious week in our household, one that we know will end with good friends and my husband's homemade beer. (Bless him and his endless curiosity for life!)
My husband camped out and attended one day of a local metal festival (no, thanks!), so I've honestly had a lot of time this weekend to reflect on where we were one year ago, how much our lives have changed over this past year, and to tend to some locally harvested herbs to make my own teas.
Yeah, you heard that right. Right before I moved to Lithuania, my husband bought me this book that y'all have heard me reference a couple times now called Ashkenazi Herbalism written by the sweetest humans, Deatra Cohen and Adam Siegel. This book kind of showcases herbalism from Eastern Europe's Pale of Settlement, and acts as something of a guide, a tome, for curious Jews like, well, me. And since I was plucking myself out of the Jewish diaspora back into my Mother Country, what could be more interesting than this?
Lithuanians have a notoriously strong connection with the natural world. From Rasos 2022 at Kernavė.
More than any other book I've brought with me - and you can remember we shipped numerous books over from America (heyyy, Trevor Noah!) - this one has guided me on my path of being in touch with the land here, where I am. Because when you live in a temperate climate so close to the forest - literally a one minute walk from the forest - you're bound to see things you recognize and things you don't. I don't exactly live in the center of the city. I'm far enough away that I can visit the city center for an adventure, or way more often, walk in the forest for an adventure. So recently, I found some motherwort nearby - a whole lot of motherwort! - and some mullein, one great as a stress-relieving nervine heart ally, and the other perfect for those heaving coughing fits at the dreaded end of a cold. (Blerghhh, that's the worst part!)
But the cool thing about this mullein was that it was different - a darker green and not as fuzzy as the mullein I was used to. When I looked it up, it was a European variety called dark mullein that I'd never heard of, and this excited me to no end. I wouldn't call myself an herbalist by any means; I've never taken any herbalism courses or even read that many herbalism books. But it is really important to me to be close to the land I'm on, especially if that land is part of my own unique blueprint as a human. So, here we are. I'm reading a book right now called Root & Ritual by Becca Piastrelli, and it's really just reinforcing how many of us have been disconnected from the land, but more so from the land of our ancestors.
But not me - not anymore.
I used to fall under that category, and what this book has unequivocally shown me as that I am lucky to have been able to return. My people are not only from Lithuania, mind you - also, Moldova, Poland, Austria, etc. But I have a direct link, real humans that my family members knew and loved, from Panevėžys, Lithuania, a place so close to home that I see signs for it constantly. There is constant reminder of my ancestors here, and THAT is the most beautiful thing about moving, living, and thriving here nearly one year in.
I'm grateful that these herbs can act as allies or bridges to the people of my past here in Lithuania. Just as they were preparing challah for the beginning of Shabbos (only my most favorite bread EVER), you know they were using local herbs and plants for their meals, most of which were not elaborate. They lived simply, and they stuck together like glue. And to take it a step further, if I'm understanding my connection correctly, they're all so very happy that I'm here. Peaceful, relieved, healing, grounded. These are the words that come to mind. This isn't just a healing for me from my own Jewish and cultural diaspora, this is a healing for my ancestors, that I've come back around. That I can be freely Jewish without any repercussions, however unusual my personal Judaism is!
And I have these herbs to thank for helping me get closer and closer to myself and to my ancestors.
I think the story will only continue from here. These ancestors are only a thought away, every time I light my Shabbos candles or take a daily walk in the forest.
It's been the opportunity of a lifetime to be here in Lithuania, so thank you all for being on the journey with me and with us! And with that, I'm off for an alt-J show at the Vilnius Botanical Gardens. If you're reading this and haven't subscribed to receive my bi-weekly emails and updates for my weekly posts, scroll down to the bottom and add your email. I'd be happy to have you along! Be well, and treat each other kindly. We could all use more of it, every day.
Until next time - viso gero!