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Saint Hildegard von Bingen

Medieval Polymath born in Germany 1098-1179, A 'mother superior' and leader of a convent, who created the concept of 'Viriditas'.

Hildegard of Bingen was a name that held great mystery and delight for me as a Herbal Medicine student at Westminster. Whilst at university, if student herbalists heard her name being mentioned they would immediately cheer and say a jolly chant. Sadly I have forgotten that short, spritely, joyous incantation (and would love it if any of the older herbalists could remind me, it is so deeply set in my memory bank that I can not for the life of me access it).

Anyway, as a student I thought, what an amazing person, to inspire such joy and so many people during her long lifetime and continue to inspire to inspire revelry thousands of years later. Often clapping and tapping feet or slaps on the back were noted. Hildegard to helped so many people during her long life and advised kings and queens in matters of health and holiness. Hildegard could be considered the original holistic health practitioner. She was accomplished in so many different areas of art, science and music. Hildegard was a composer, a philosopher, a mystic and visionary, a herbal practitioner and medical writer and of course a well known herbalist with great healing gardens, her music was said to bring one closer to God. As a child it was said that she had beautiful visions of heaven, the angels and saints. Hildegard was formally canonized as a saint herself in 2012.

The concept of 'viriditas' is something that speaks deeply to me during the depths of winter and fills me with hope every spring. Viriditas connects me with the unconditional love of nature and often brings me to tears as I notice the burgeoning of spring during my walks. It starts with a feeling before the green, a warmth from the earth a note of birdsong and then my eyeballs feel massaged and brought to life by 'the green' sometimes walking passed wavering baby hawthorn leaves or baby nettles bursting along a bank can bring one ecstatic bliss.

'Viriditas' is a word that Hildegard used to describe the divine force of nature, 'the greening power of the Divine' that magic, the love can be seen and experienced in nature. When we slow down and watch in stillness and appreciate this magical force, this power imbues passion and love and oneness which allows our true state of being to truly unfold. Have you ever stopped dead in your tracks at the beauty of nature? An infinite expression that nourishes your soul and in witnessing its beauty both parties are so deeply nourished. When I consider 'viriditas' I often find myself wandering alone singing this beautiful word as a pray to the majesty of plants, buds, trees, leaves. I try not to think or I consciously consider my personal spiritual and physical health allowing areas of growth, decay and replenishment by 'the green'.

During Hildegard's time, water was unlikely to be have been used for making tea or drinking at all. Herbal medicine; herbs, roots and seeds were simmered and/or soaked in wine and drunk in moderation from small liqueur glasses.

Melissa officinalis or Lemon balm was cultivated in many monastic gardens, it became know as the hearts herb or the monk's or priests herb. A pleasant, uplifting and lemony hot drink for the winter months. I love to drink a strong cup of Lemon balm tea first thing in the morning. Energetically it is cooling and drying, a wonderful antiviral herb and a relaxing nervine tea which soothes fractious nerves and irritability. During the summer Lemon balm tea can be drunk cool with a slice of lime and a couple of slices of cucumber as a refreshing drink. Lemon balm has a wonderful ability to relax and uplift the heart and mind at the same time, supporting digestion, soothing irritation and promoting sleep.

* A safe and gentle herb but Lemon balm is not advised for people with an underactive thyroid. Please check first with your primary care practitioner before consuming any herbal medicine if you are on conventional medication. Remember herbs work! and should be treated with care and attention.

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