Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gemstones of the Zodiac - Part 9 - Onyx

Welcome to Part 9 of our “Gemstones of the Zodiac” series.
The ninth sign of the Zodiac is Sagittarius (November 22 - December 20).  The Mystical Zodiac stone for Sagittarius is Onyx.


Onyx is a Greek word that means the nail from a finger (or claw).  According to legend, Cupid cut the fingernail of Venus while she was sleeping on the banks of the Indus River, and they fell into the water.  Because no part of a God or Goddess can every really die, these fingernails settled on the bottom of the river, and were turned to stone, thus giving birth to onyx.

Onyx is from the microcrystalline quartz family knows as chalcedony.  Chalcedony gets its name from Calcedon, a port town on the Marmara Sea in Asia, where the stone was first discovered.  These days, onyx is mined not only in India, but in Brazil, Uruguay and California.

While most people associate onyx with being black, there are multiple colors of onyx, including white, red and green.

Onyx Properties

Black Onyx

Black onyx, due to its ability to absorb light, is looked at as one of the more powerful protection stones.  It is a root chakra stone, which helps keep you grounded and focused.  Onyx has a strong association with Saturn, so those with Saturn in your birth charts (Capricorns especially, but not solely) might want to look to onyx for protection. 

Based on the myth of Cupid and Venus, onyx is believed to add to the belief of the life cycle, in that death is not looked at as final, but merely party of a cycle of continuing life.  This is why mediums look to black onyx to help connect to the spiritual realm.

On the more physical plane, black onyx is looked at to help increase strength, stamina, energy and self control.  It is also thought to lessen tensions, worries, and can help quell confusion and bad dreams.

White Onyx

White onyx balances the system by tying the root chakra to the crown chakra.  So, while the root chakra will keep you grounded,  the crown chakra ties you to the heavenly.  This further enforces the concept of the continual life cycle, and how death is not a finality, but a phase.  Think of it as a continual sense of renewal, a continual balancing of your energies.

Red Onyx

Like black onyx, red onyx is also tied to the root chakra, and is a grounding stone.

Green Onyx

Green onyx is for the heart chakra, which is about connection, transformation, and powerful healing.  It is the center of the conscious and spiritual. It helps bridge the three chakra above it with the three below it.

Combining Onyx With Other Stones

Since onyx is not only a protection stone, but also a grounding stone, it is a great stone to combine with other stones, depending on what you want to achieve.

Tiger eye is also from the chalcedony family, which, like onyx, works for people with Saturn in their birth chart (including, but not limited to, Capricorns).  The combination should help you not only stay grounded, but draw that energy further up your chakras, and give you strength to channel that groundedness into power.  As a Capricorn myself, onyx and tiger eye has always been my favorite combination, and I use it together often in pieces such as these:

Onyx and Tiger Eye
That piece above is one of my personal talismans.

For those seeking a more feminine approach:

Onyx and Tiger Eye Flower Necklace

 As you may remember from our story on agate, like onyx, is good for balance and strength.  You can channel them together in a piece such as this:

Onyx and Agate Necklace

 Cleanse and Purify Your Stones

For information on how to cleanse your stones, see this wonderful article published recently on Mind Body Spirit Odyssey.

You can read Giani's Tarot reviews in the Review section of this blog.
This is the ninth article in this wonderful series, and I am definitely looking forward to reading more
 in the upcoming months!  I thank Giani
 for his wonderful continued contributions to Mind Body Spirit Odyssey. 

The beautiful jewelry pictured above can be found in Giani's website and on CraftStar.
 ~ diane

Series Article Part 1 - Opals 
Series Article Part 2 - Sapphire
Series Article 3 - Amethyst
Series Article 4 - Moonstone
Series Article 5 - Diamonds 
Series Article 6 - Agate 
Series Article 7 - Jasper
Series Article 8 - Pearl
Series Article 10 - Emerald

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Mind Body Spirit Artist Series - Betsey Harries

When we featured the beautiful felt sculptures by artist Betsey Harries on our Mind Body Spirit Marketplace Facebook page last month, the response was overwhelming.  Our readers found themselves totally captivated by and engaged with her wonderful, Native American inspired "Earth-Felt People".  I'm so happy that I was able to contact Betsey and interview her for our artist series.  What an interesting story and artistic process that bring these beautiful little figures to life. Hope you will enjoy this interview as much as I did!
                                                                                                                   ~ diane fergurson

Kindness Matters
MBS:  Can you tell us a little about yourself?  How did you get started in art?

Betsey:  My story is a little surprising, as I only started creating art a few years ago; my occupations prior to that were about as far from artsy as you can get. My first job out of college (where I earned my forestry degree) was as an officer in the United States Marine Corps, where I was a military policeman and Provost Marshal (what you call a police chief in the military).  Following my military service, I practiced forestry in a remote area of the Missouri Ozarks and in northern Wisconsin for several years, followed by a stint as a writer/editor for a federal agency, writing and editing fairly dry and uninteresting technical documents.  My desire to create beauty began to emerge on the weekends when I became interested in traditional Native American beadwork and started studying the beadwork of the Plains Indians.

MBS:  From a technical standpoint, your sculptures are just amazing...but to me, they go way beyond that.  They really seem to capture something very quiet, elusive and beautiful about Native American Culture.  What drew you to Native American culture as a subject matter?

Betsey:  I've always been impressed that Native American beadworkers created such beautiful works of art with whatever they had at hand.  They could not order up 20 different shades and sizes of blue beads and have them delivered in 3 days time, as we can today.  They had to use what was available to them, and I imagine they were quite intentional about recycling beads and other supplies.  And you know, there are hundreds of nations of Native American people; today's bead artist could pick one single decade and one single geographic region of the country, spend the rest of your life studying the beadwork created then and there, and never master it.

Curiously, I never intended for my little people to represent a specific geographic area or nation of people.  Many people assume my art dolls are Inuit or Alaskan, and it’s true that they all wear parkas, mittens, and mukluks.  But I intentionally create some of their faces with dark clay, and some with very light clay.  Their hair may be black or white or gray or red.  They could be any of us who live in the colder regions of the world.  .

They do have one important thing in common, though: each little person honors our spiritual connection with nature, music, and the arts.  They carry positive messages:  be kind to others, handle animals with great gentleness, respect the earth, delight in making art and music, and enjoy the movements of our active bodies.  I named this line of my artwork, "Earth-felt People", to connect the respect they "feel" for their "earth" with the fact that I handsew their outfits from wool "felt".

The Reader
MBS:  What is your process when you create the "Earth-Felt People"?  How do you go about it?  Do you work on more then one piece at once?

Betsey:  I make a skeleton of sorts, out of wire, to start.  I don't use a pattern or jig; I form it by eyeballing it and bending it with my hands and trying to keep the dimensions within basic limits.  Surprisingly, it almost always works out O.K.  I then attach the head, which I make out of clay.  I cut and handsew the clothes out of wool felt fabric (the patterns and templets took me FOREVER to perfect), and put them on the body; at this point, I have 3 or 4 different needles and threads attached to the clothes and it is a task to keep them all from getting tangled.  Then I use fibers harvested from buffalo, alpaca, or sheep to make the little person's hair.  I often make braids for the figures, because braids speak of female history and traditions, and also add a whisper of innocence.  At this point, the really difficult step starts: the detail trim around the parka hood, mukluks, and mittens.  And by now I've already got a good start on what the little person is going to be holding; I will finish that part of the sculpture as I get to the last steps of the whole process and can put it into their arms and hands in the final position, and secure the item in their grasp.  I try to secure everything by sewing, rather than glueing, because it seems more professional and clean...and much more difficult, so I take pride in that.  Sometimes, however, glue just can't be avoided, so I make every effort to make it invisible.

I avoid working on more than one little person at a time.  This kind of art unfolds much more smoothly if I focus on just one piece at a time, from beginning to end.

The Knitter
MBS:  Do you have an idea in mind what you would like the piece to reflect before you make it?
Or does the personality or theme of the "person" reveal itself to you after you finish?

Betsey:  Ha! I always THINK I know what the little person will be holding before I start her.  Once in awhile it takes a sudden turn during the process, and she turns out totally different than I envisioned, but that is rare.  They take several hours to make - on average, 16-24 hours - so I have a lot of time to think about their stories and personalities as I sew, mold their heads, carve their paddles, or needlefelt the animals they cuddle.  Since all of them reflect a message of peace, kindness, or happiness, those feelings surround my work area as I mediate on their stories, wrapping the whole process in joy for me.  Lovely fun....

One of the biggest surprises to me is how I make all the faces basically the same....same expression, eyes calmly closed, a little smile....but just by changing the position of their shoulders, the tilt of their heads, a bit of slumping to the spine....each figure expresses a totally different emotion.  This one expresses sadness, that one pride, and that one serenity; just like humans, their body language says so much more than their faces ever could.
Double Dog Dare
MBS:  Are there favorite materials that you like to use in your pieces?

Betsey: I do like to use buffalo hair to make the hair for my little people, but it can be hard to come by.  The last batch I got was from a friend who was traveling across the Great Plains and took the time to gather some for me.  I also use fibers from alpaca and sheep, and if I can get it from local farms, that's even better.

MBS:  Do you have a favorite figure? (and why)

Betsey:  My favorite piece is "Double Dog Dare", with the toboggan hurtling down the snow hill, and the rider covering her face, her braids flying out behind her.  She's my favorite because people laugh out loud when they see her, and that tickles me.

A few of my pieces make people cry; the first time that happened, it took me by surprise and I had to think about what that meant, and my responsibility as an artist -- to create something so sad or so beautiful that it can make a stranger cry.  It takes days to make each piece, so I have a lot of time to think about my little people's "stories", which I write down and position near their display cases.  Some of the stories touch people's hearts more deeply than I understand.

The Turtle's Heartbeat
MBS:  What is a typical work day like for you?

Betsey:  I work for 60-90 minutes at a time, then take a break to relax my back -- take the dog for a 15-minute walk, for instance.  This type of work is very sedentary, and I spend much of my workday hunched over my work table focused on detailed sewing.  I have a black cat named Lucy, who is both naughty AND intelligent (a dangerous combination in a cat), and she often sits near me and "helps".  I listen to soft music, books on tape, or public radio, while I'm working.  I love the freedom of a flexible work schedule, and sometimes work late into the night, and sometimes take an entire afternoon off to take advantage of a sunny day.

MBS:  I see that you sell your work on-line.  What has your on-line experience been like?

Betsey:  When I started my business 5 years ago, I made the mistake of trying to launch into three separate markets simultaneously.  I applied to several juried art shows, created my Etsy on-line shop, and traveled around the Midwest visiting and selling to art galleries and gift shops.  In hindsight, I should have just picked one market that first year and focused on learning it well before adding other major challenges.  (Live and learn, right?)  My Etsy shop didn't always get the attention from me it deserved because the two other markets required so much time and travel.  My Etsy shop has always served me well as a place where customers who saw me at art shows could rediscover my work and reconnect with me, but it's only been in the past year that my Etsy shop has had a visible presence to new customers who have never seen my work before.  

MBS:  What are you currently working on?  Do you have any particular shows or sales coming up in the near future?

Betsey:  I am working on several commission pieces right now, which I consider to be the most challenging of all.  It takes a lot of communication with the customer who is ordering the piece to ensure that I "get it right" for them, without compromising the basic principles of "Earth-felt People".  For instance, if someone asked me to make a little person carrying a rifle, I would decline to accept that order, as my figures all represent peaceful activities.

My show schedule is winding down for the winter, but I have an extremely intense schedule tentatively planned for next year, to include not only juried art shows, but also exhibitions at art galleries.  I create my art during the cold winter months, when the roads in Minnesota are often snowy and not well-suited for safe travel; spring, summer, and fall is when I am very busy traveling to shows to display my artwork.
MBS: What have you learned about yourself that has surprised you since you started creating your sculptures?
Betsey:  It might sound funny, but I'm surprised that I can actually do this -- make something unique and beautiful that people love and are willing to buy and display in their homes.  Every time I dream up a new design and actually pull it off, I'm surprised and delighted.  I never knew I had this beautiful artsy spirit within me; it sometimes feels like it's not ME who's creating the artwork.  It's like there is something magical going on and I'm just the messenger that bringing the message forward.  It's a wonderful mystery to me, and I feel very, very lucky.

MBS:  What advice do you have for anyone who wishes to (seriously) pursue an artistic path?

Betsey:  I would offer two pieces of advice.  First, find a mentor to advise and encourage you.  You can't expect yourself to know everything right from the get-go, and there is SO MUCH to learn.  I have found the artist community to be very, very friendly and helpful.  We all have been helped by other artists along the way, and we love to pass it on. Secondly, understand that your artistic development, and the success of your art business will not be a straight-line path.  Don't be discouraged when things aren't unfolding exactly as you had envisioned them when your first launched yourself onto an artistic path.  Detours are normal....just keep moving your feet!

Thank you Betsey! 

Betsey's beautiful sculptures can be found online in her Etsy Shop or you can email her at

Links to other interviews in the Mind Body Spirit Artist Series.

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Friday, November 9, 2012

11 Ways to Shine Bright and Feel Better

Let it Shine

by Karen Casey-Smith

Letting your light shine is pretty easy when the sun’s out, when things are going well. It can feel a lot more challenging when things don’t seem to be going your way.
Here are a few thoughts, strategies, and uplifting quotes that have helped me find my way to a better place when I’ve needed some assistance. I hope you’ll find a few that will work for you, if you ever temporarily forget the way back to your center. Depending on how you feel at the time you use these, different ones might be more helpful at different times.
Oh, and it really makes things easier for you if you’ve practiced this stuff before you need it.  ;)
  • Breathe slowly. Count your breaths. As your breath becomes calmer, your mind will be calmer. If you do this, it works every time.
Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh, Being Peace
We cannot see our reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see. ~ Zen quote
  • Ask for help, and trust you’ll get it. It was promised. Help can come from the Divine through so many avenues, including family, friends, strangers, angels, and in ways you’ve never dreamed. We are all connected. Remember, you’re asking with your feelings – they count more than your words.
Don’t hold to anger, hurt or pain. They steal your energy and keep you from love. ~ Honore de Balzac
  • Remember, you aren’t alone. You don’t have to do/ handle _____ all by yourself. (See Ask for Help above.)
Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.  ~ Glenn Turner
  • When you request help, don’t micro mange the outcome you’re asking for. What if there’s some wonderful solution you haven’t thought of? There is. So, ask for the best possible outcome. Feel appreciation for the wonderful solution that’s on its way. Say thank you.
Your imagination is your preview to life’s coming attractions.  Albert Einstein
Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way. ~ Native American saying
  • Take good care of yourself – get sleep, nourish yourself, etc. Go for a walk. There’s wisdom in your body. Listen.
Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live. ~ Jim Rohn
  • Being peaceful, and centered, always has positive benefits, not only for you, but for everyone around you.
If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace. – Thich Nhat Hanh  Being Peace
  • Pet or talk to your cat, dog, or other pet friend. If you let them, they’ll show you peace, and how to be in this moment. They can lead you back to center.
Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions; they pass no criticisms. ~ George Eliot
  • Count your blessings. Let yourself really feel appreciation. Gratitude takes you out of your head and into your heart.
What we see depends mainly on what we look for. ~ Sir John Lubbock
Go to your bosom: Knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know. ~ William Shakespeare
  • Help someone. Send blessings. It helps you, it helps them, and it can really bring perspective to your own life.
Student says, “I am very discouraged. What should I do?” Master says, “encourage others.”  ~ Dogen Zenji
It is difficult to see the picture when you are inside of the frame.”  — Author Unknown
  • Sing! Sing with all your heart. I’m convinced that the vibration of your singing helps to clear your energy. Singing in the shower might be even better. If you think your singing is scary, well, that might not be a bad thing! ;)
He who sings scares away his woes. ~ Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
  • Treat yourself with sweetness, yes, with sweetness – in your thoughts, your words, and your actions, just as you would a dear or beloved person. You are that. ♥
Yeah we all shine on, like the moon, and the stars, and the sun. ~ John Lennon

Karen Casey-Smith's beautiful print "Let it Shine", along with a wonderful selection of her other inspirational photographic work, is available through her shop on Etsy.  A big thanks to Karen for sharing this wonderful post with our blog!

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Top 10 Reasons to Avoid and Label GMO's

A big thanks to Cory Trusty and the ECOEtsy Team for sharing this article with us.  Although there is a vote coming up in California, this is an important issue that we all need to become more educated and vocal about.  It directly effects our health and well being.  Chances are if you are not currently feeling the effects of eating GMO food (increased allergies etc), you most likely will in the future... or your kids will ~

 Vote Yes on Prop 37 T-shirt by EmanateVitality on Etsy
Proposition 37, a Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food Initiative, is on the November 6, 2012 ballot in California.  The EcoEtsy team is in favor of GMO labeling and we hope you will support this initiative.  Before I tell you why, do you know what GMOs are?

GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism, and GE stands for Genetically Engineered.  This is not the same as hybrid creation by normal cross breeding means.  GMOs are created in a lab by combining DNA from completely different organism.  For example, BT corn is corn that has been created with the addition of a bacterial gene which encodes for the Bacillus thuringiensis toxin.  This toxin is then made in every cell of the corn.  GMO foods have been on the market in the US for the last 20 years.  Some of the most common GMO foods include corn, soy, safflower, Canola, Hawaiian Papaya, sugar beet, Aspartamate, milk from rBGH treated cows, yellow crookneck squash, and zucchini.

Top 10 reasons to label and avoid GMOs

1) We have a right to know what is in our foods, so we have the freedom to choose what to eat and what kind of agriculture practices we support.  Without labeling we don’t know what is in our food, though it is estimated that 80% of processed foods contain GMO.

2) The US falls short in best accepted policies for GMO labeling.  50 countries now label genetically engineered foods including Australia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, the European Union and China.

3) Serious health issues are linked with GMOs in humans and animals including: cancer, infertility, allergies, and irritable bowels.  We do not have assurance of safety.  The Food and Drug Administration does not test GMOs despite warnings from it’s own scientists.  GMO manufacturers suppress independent safety testing with patenting of seeds.

4) Herbicides and Pesticides used in GMO farming are highly dangerous to farmers health.

5) GMO farming increases use of toxic herbicides creating superweeds.  These superweeds lead to more pesticide  use.

6) GMOs contaminate the natural and Organic seed supply through pollination between GMO and Non-GMO crops.

7) GMOs do not improve crop yields.  This is particularly important in the context of climate change and drought.  Organic crops have shown to consistently produce better under drought conditions.

8) GMOs are dangerous to the livelihood of farmers.  Unlike traditional crops farmers are not allowed to save seed to replant for future sowing.  Farmers face expensive court battles, including Monsanto versus Vernon Hugh Bowman whose case will be heard in the Supreme Court.

9) GMOs promote seed slavery.  A seed is not an invention. That is why patents on seeds are illegitimate. Even in a genetically engineered crop, the original seed come from farmers. Patents on seed are based on biopiracy… Patents on seed allow corporations to prevent farmers from saving and exchanging seed. Thus patent violates farmers’ right to save, use, reuse, breed and exchange seed as their commons.

10) Labeling will offer more options for the consumer at no extra cost, because they will have the opportunity to vote with their dollars.  Opponents of Prop 37 suggest that labeling GMOs will result in increased food prices.  However there is no evidence that  food prices have increased in the many countries that have implemented GMO labeling.

Photo by Soul Role
Nancy of Soul Role is an EcoEtsy team member living in Hawaii.  She echoes these concerns as a consumer and farmer and summarizes as follows:
"As a consumer it is very important to me to know WHAT is in everything I eat and feed my family.  I have read studies with US government data showing GE crops have produced an overall increase, not decrease, in pesticide use compared to conventional crops. I am working hard in my life to limit my families exposure to pesticides and chemicals and anything that requires the use of more known carcinogens is not ok in my opinion.  From what I have learned there has been very little long term testing on the effects of GMOs on the human body which is another huge reason why I do not trust them.  As a farming family, we do not support GMO seeds, because plants grown from  them will not produce their own seeds which makes the farmer a slave to the GMO seed companies.  There are many more reasons why we want to see all products using GMOs to be labeled accordingly."
Need more evidence about the dangers of GMOs?  Watch the full length film Genetic Roulette now through November 6th

Californians, will you vote yes next month to label GMOs?  Everyone else, will you ask you friends in Califonia to vote yes on prop 37?  You can also volunteer by making phone calls.  Spread the word and feel free to repost this top 10 list to your blog or website.

This post was written by...
– has written 3 awesome posts on Eco Etsy.
Cory is the owner of She is an Etsy Bath and Body product seller, soap maker, community herbalist, organic gardener, and homeschooling mom. Her background is in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Biology. Cory and her family live in Daytona Beach, which is USDA growing zone 9a. Follow her blog for more articles.

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