THE MAGIC INGREDIENT: CHAGA MUSHROOMS ARE SUPER HEALING & SUPER DELICIOUS

Feeling the Spring fever? Ysanne Spevack whips up an immune boosting pudding with chaga mushrooms that’s equal parts powerful and subtly healing. Main Image: Mariano Peccinetti 

April is an invigorating time of year, with spring’s changing moods inviting us back out of our homes and into the streets. The month also brings indecisive weather, from thunderstorms to sunshine. To face this fluctuating weather and to address the rising allergen percentage in the air, our immunity needs a natural boost right now.

Enter chaga mushrooms, a humble type of mycelium that grows on trees. More like a tree fungus than a regular mushroom, chaga is probably best known and most widely used for its scientifically confirmed anti-oxidant qualities that protect against cancer, and also for its use for people with HIV. Chaga doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to antioxidant qualities.

That said, chaga is equally powerful when eaten to reduce seasonal allergies, and it has a soothing effect on the respiratory system. What’s more, chaga mushrooms have a subtle flavor that lends itself well to sweet recipes. It has a woody taste with an undertone of vanilla, so blends well with anything containing vanilla.

Chaga grows right here in the US and is always wild, never cultivated. You can find it on birch trees anywhere along the East Coast that experiences a cold winter. And if you’re not ready for a trip into the woods, you can find it ready-powdered online at High Vibe or your local independent purveyor of high-quality medicinal superfoods.

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Chaga Chia Pudding Recipe 
by Ysanne Spevack 

Makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

2 medjool dates
1½ cup water
2 tbs hemp hearts
2tsp powdered chaga
½ tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup black chia seeds

Method:

Remove the pits from the dates using your fingers, and drop them into a blender. Add the water, hemp hearts, chaga, and vanilla, then cover and process at the highest speed for 45 seconds.

If you have a Mason jar, pour the chia seeds into it, and pour the liquid into the jar. If you don’t have a Mason jar, any kind of 2 cup lidded container will work.

Secure the lid, and shake vigorously for at least 30 seconds, to ensure the seeds are all thoroughly wet and aren’t clumping together. If you see obvious clumps, open the lid and break them up with a fork.

Set aside on the counter to gel for at least three hours. After that duration, it’s either ready to eat, or to refrigerate. Consume within 3 days.

Discover more about Ysanne Spevack HERE.

A GUIDE TO VENUS RETROGRADE FOR YOUR SIGN

Does the sound of another retrograde have you reeling? Chill! Venus Retrograde 2017 is a time for rediscovering where our true love lives, says Danielle Paige … Main Image: Carlos Bongiovanni 

Saturday, March 4th :: Venus Stations Retrograde :: 14 degrees of Aries

Sunday, April 2nd :: Venus Re-enters Pisces  

Saturday, April 15th :: Venus Goes Direct :: 26 degrees of Pisces 

Lovers. Love. Sex. Money. The Feminine. Self-worth. Intimacy. Values. Relating. Giving. Receiving. Ahhhhh yes … all of the above is up for RE-discovery, right now.

While our first reaction to the word “retrograde” might be to let out a sigh of frustration, these cycles are actually moments of deep review. Think of this as an opportunity to work with your shadow side, heal those parts that need to be integrated or purged, and upgrade your patterns.

But of course, it’s not all sweetness and light—doing shadow work prompts us to address things that have been pushed under the rug. There will be breakups and there may be confusion in your current relationships. Whether you’re pretending you have a perfect relationship when you know it’s not truly nourishing your soul, or are stuck in the same relationship patterns over and over, it’s an optimal time to get real about what’s no longer working. And with this realness, eventually comes clarity. 

Ex-lovers? Venus Retrograde energy always tends to dig up the past in order to end old cycles, so don’t be surprised if old flames pop back up. New relationships? This can definitely be a time where people enter your life for karmic work. Be aware that “karmic” doesn’t always mean roses and sunshine! These will be relationships that force you to confront parts of yourself that you’re suppressing.

However, the energy of Venus is two-fold. While she symbolizes how we connect with others, each relationship has everything to do with what we VALUE, since we often project our core desires onto others. Remember to keep this broader message of Venus Retrograde in mind. Ask, how are you working with your feminine energy? Does it need more balancing? What’s your relationship to money like? Are you having a hard time discovering your core desires and values? Now is the time to dig deep into your heart and explore all of these themes—without judgement!

And please, don’t force it. Simply remain mindful that after Venus goes direct, you may start to see things differently. Whatever happens during this time, trust that your heart always knows the way home!

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Wondering where to start? Discover your Venus sign by looking at your birth chart and following the guide below. 

Collage: Mariano Peccinetti

:: Venus in Aries :: Venus Retrograde is encouraging you to reconnect with your courage and independence in a balanced way, instead of just diving in head first. You are good at pushing others to find their independence but sometimes that means you forget about yours—reconnect with your courage and your truth!

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:: Venus in Taurus :: Venus Retrograde is encouraging you to connect back with your own sensuality and your core values. You are good at sustaining others in love but have you forgotten to sustain yourself as well? Take your time in love—you’re meant to go at your own pace.

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:: Venus in Gemini ::Venus Retrograde is encouraging you to communicate your needs clearly, but to do so in a way that moves beyond the surface and gets real. It’s easy for you to skim the surface but what happens if you get a little deeper? You move beyond the shadow energy of Venus in Gemini and you may actually find something that doesn’t bore you!

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:: Venus in Cancer ::Venus Retrograde is encouraging you to nurture yourself as you would a child. You spend so much time taking care of others, and with this Venus energy redirected, it can help you better care for your own feelings. You are the mamma bear of love but don’t forget that mamma bears need love too.

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:: Venus in Leo ::Venus Retrograde is encouraging you to shine your love and light on the world in a way that motivates others, instead of only making it all about yourself. You have such an ability to show others the way—use it to serve, inspire, love, and cheer people on and raise them up! In doing so, you raise your vibration as well.

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:: Venus is in Virgo ::Venus Retrograde is encouraging you to clean up your diet, health, and routine so that you can be of service to yourself in a way that you haven’t before. You are dedicated with your love, so make sure you are dedicated to yourself as well.

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:: Venus in Libra ::Venus Retrograde is encouraging you to find the right relationship for your soul, not just any relationship. Libra enjoys partnership and can often lose themselves in one. Instead, this is a time to really get connected with what you need and desire in a divine partnership that lifts you up rather than simply fills a void.

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:: Venus in Scorpio ::Venus Retrograde is encouraging you to connect deeply with those around you. Surface relationships are not your thing so if it’s not activating your heart then it’s time to go deeper or move onto something else. Out of all the Venus placements, you know when to purge a relationship or when it’s a call for deeper intimacy—trust that you know what to do!

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:: Venus in Sagittarius :: Venus Retrograde is encouraging you to spread your wings! Go on adventures either with your lover or by yourself, because you never know who you might meet. This is the Venus sign that says “yes” to expansion. Have you been stuck in a rut? It’s time to explore and let your passport lead the way…

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:: Venus in Capricorn :: Venus Retrograde is encouraging you to find your own inner authority. You are always very good at helping others rise to the top so now take the time to plan out your next steps for inner and outer success. In your uphill climb, remember that slow and steady wins the race for you.

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:: Venus in Aquarius :: Venus Retrograde is encouraging you to play up your intelligence and your uniqueness. Often times, you may subconsciously hide these qualities because it challenges societal expectations, but thisVenus Retrograde is the time to tap into all that makes you, you! This is your path towards the free-spirited love you so desire.

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:: Venus in Pisces :: Venus Retrograde is encouraging you to make sure you’re seeing love clearly. Pisces energy can sometimes focus solely on the good parts and ignore the red flags in relationships. Instead of focusing so much on others, this is also good time to be sure you are seeing yourself clearly as well. Are you ignoring your own inner flags? Refocusing on your own process will help you find more clarity in love as well.

Speaking of feminine energy—is a vacation in Greece calling you? Discover more about Danielle’s upcoming Greek Goddess Island retreat (only 2 spaces left) and all her astrological services HERE

A STORY OF ASTROLOGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE

Is Astrology helping tell the story of human responses to climate change? With Saturn in Sagittarius and a scary new deadline to cut fossil fuel emissions, it’s time to pick each pilgrimage wisely, says Ruby Warrington. Images: Mariano Peccinetti

So this was going to be a post about how to use astrocartography to plan your vacations and retreats in 2015. Astrocartography is the practise of placing your birth chart over a map of the world, to see where the different planets hold the most influence for you – which is obviously completely fascinating, and I urge you to download your map here STAT!

But then I started reading Naomi Klein’s climate change manifesto This Changes Everything – and it’s become a story about how air miles feel like my most guilty pleasure.

Scanning my mind for my very favorite, most life defining memories, so many of them were made following the burning of a shit-tonne of fossil fuels – like the time I travelled to Greece as a moody adolescent, and got to experience another culture first hand for the first time. Or to Ibiza as a happy-go-lucky rave babe in my twenties, and to Miami to marry my husband, just the two of us, nervous and giggling like teenagers in the garden at the Delano hotel.

These are the memoires that exist in 3D Technicolor for me, aromas, emotions and all, and I had been fully intending to create many, many more in 2015. I’ve already booked a trip down to the Bahamas to swim with dolphins in February, which, considering I have a life-long phobia of snorkelling (I am a human, last time I checked I am not equipped for breathing underwater) I’m anticipating will be a game-changer for me.

Then there’s Lauren and Joe’s wedding in London in March (my biggest matchmaking success story), and the big ol’ Santa-Fe-to-Big-Sur road-trip I’ve been loosely fantasizing about.

But since This Changes Everything, I’m beginning to relate to the part of my mind that continues to think it’s totally okay to jump on a plane somewhere every other month like that creepy, morally corrupt dude Mr. Burns from The Simpsons. There is shame, and there is a degree of disgust.

In her book, Klein says it’s our collective “climate change denial” (i.e. continuing to jump on planes places every other month) that means we’re currently facing a situation where, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA): “If we do not get our emissions under control by 2017 our fossil fuel economy will ‘lock in’ extremely dangerous warming.”

By “lock in,” they mean seal the deal on irreversible changes to our global climate, which could trigger completely devastating environmental disasters on an as yet unimaginable scale – the trailer for which disaster movie has already begun playing on a loop.

Klein’s manifesto makes for scary but what feels like essential reading. Relating to the 28% of fossil fuel consumption attributed to the transportation industry, it’s also got me thinking about Saturn, planet of harsh life lessons, restriction and karma, recently having stationed in globe-trotting, happy-go-lucky Sagittarius. Where it will remain until – you guessed it – December 19 2017, a.k.a. pretty much D-day on potential environmental Armageddon. Which suggests that the next three years are about a stern approach to re-thinking our attitudes to why, when and how we travel.

Wow, it sucks being stuck in this materialistic human suit sometimes. At the center of my being, my soul intelligence can be finally waking up to the fact that it’s time for some RADICAL FREAKING CHANGES, but still my physical body will argue; “not quite yet though, yeah? Swimming with those dolphins is seriously gonna rock your world…”

The hard-core environmentalists will argue that there is no room, or time, for compromise. But the Titanic won’t turn on a dime. Which is an interesting metaphor in itself, considering it’s also been predicted that a rise in sea levels resulting from the disintegration of the West antarctic ice sheet (due to global warming) could wipe out coastal metropolis’ like New York, LA and London by 2100.

And I know, I KNOW. But how about, for now (really though, NOW), we commit to only travel for true pilgrimage. It’s an idea that’s also in keeping with Saturn in Sag, the notion that our journeys must have real purpose, and if it meant we all took just one trip a year instead of five, wouldn’t that be going some way towards meeting the IEA’s 2017 targets? As for all those business trips, the jaunts across continents for meetings that really need to take place face-to-face…um, isn’t that why we invented Skype?

As always, writing and thinking about environmental issues makes me feel like a total hypocrite and also extremely naive (you too, I know, which is why it feels so much nicer to just keep looking the other way), because of course I’ll be going to that wedding. Obviously a trip to Berlin to meet my new nephew this summer counts as a pilgrimage too, right? And actually, isn’t this all just too little, too late?

But as a mere human, a microscopic particle in the organism of our collective Earthly consciousness, I have no real choice but to believe that even the one, or two, or three trips I choose not to take this year will make a difference. A theory that only really works if I’m not the only one making those choices.

So then how to choose the journeys that are really worth waiting for? A while ago I had my astrocartography chart read by a British astrologer called Zoe Hind. It’s all way too complicated for me to explain in detail here, but below is a map of my chart to give you an idea.

The different colored lines represent the planets, and the labels at the top and bottom – “MC, IC, AS, DS” – show their highest and lowest points, as well as where they are ascending and descending. The idea being that a planet ascending over a certain country means it’s influence will be strengthened there. The reverse if it’s descending. So where there are lots of lines, shows where in the world there is the most cosmic potential for you.

Thinking in terms of my personal and spiritual growth (i.e. “pilgrimage”), this looks a lot like Hawaii, South America, Africa, Scandinavia, and Russia / Tibet. None of which have factored in my travels to date. But with cosmic healer Chiron strong over the Pacific, Hawaii could be the ideal location for a solo retreat, says Zoe – opposed to a group trip, as Uranus, planet of group activity, is also at it lowest there.

South America, the Amazon in particular, is where my Sun, Venus, Mercury and Chiron, all in my fourth house of family roots, are “going to sleep.” The interpretation? “If you were going to have an; ‘I want to get away from myself, change my mind and challenge my core beliefs in a group scenario’ sort of trip, then obviously South America is looking very strong. Because the planets in your 11th house of groups (Uranus, North Node) are also lit up.” Which sounds about right for the ayahuasca experience in Peru I’ve got scheduled for somewhere around age 50.

As for putting my money where my mouth is for now though, and simply staying put? When I moved to New York from London in 2012, I had a visceral sense of destiny itself kicking me out of my comfort zone and into a new life across the Atlantic.

And wouldn’t you know, my Sun, the essence of my being, and Moon, representing my instincts and subconscious mind, meet high up in the sky, directly above this dirty, dramatic, endangered city. It’s my three-year anniversary next month, and the internal pilgrimage I’ve been on here has created some of my most momentous life milestones of all. So this year I commit to making lots more of those, RIGHT HERE.

Discover more about Zoe Hind’s astrology at AstroZo.com

Read more about This Changes Everything