Oak

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For as long as I can remember I have been draw to the Oak tree. I have, over the years, collected leaves, twigs, windfall wood and two years ago was gifted three tiny oak saplings. When I say tiny I really do mean tiny as none measured more than six inches.

The saplings were planted in pots and nurtured over the last two winters. Sadly one didn’t make it and so I now have two. They haven’t grown much but are producing new leaves which I hope is a good sign.

Last year I was told they grow best with company and as they are in individual pots I may now move them to a larger pot, all together and with a holly sapling for company. In the wild they grow alongside holly so I figure this is worth a go. I have space in the garden but they are too tiny to plant out and as we have rabbits I wouldn’t rate their chances very highly if I did.

There is a lot of tree lore related to trees and much can be found online but I want to share this with you: OBOD Tree Lore Oak

Cleansing and Purifcation

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I have blogged before about how I used to really dislike the month of February, how after the Winter Solstice, the seasonal celebrations, the period of recovery, of getting back to normal, it always felt a bit flat, a bit nothing in particular and that I was always relieved when it was over. I then discovered that historically February was the month of cleansing and purification and it all felt a bit better. Yet here I am on Imbolc itself, the first day of spring with the wind howling and the rain lashing, if ever it felt a time for closing down and hibernating, today, and if the forecast is right, the next couple of days are it, never mind a spring clean and a purification of home and of body. This is a good reminder for me of why I am usually delighted and not a small bit relieved for it to be March with its promise of better things to come. Mind I have until 15th February before the historical period of Purification began so there is still time…..she says hopefully.

This does seem a good time for me to share two of my past blogs which contain information about February, pagan rituals and ideas for cleansing and purification, again this should save you trawling back through the archives for them:

Cleansing 

Spring Cleaning 

This year, on the whole so far, the winter has been mild, the winds often slack and our windows have been wide open more than they have been closed so the need I usually have to open them wide and allow the element of air to move through and do its work is needed less than usual it seems. The garden is not covered in bits of windfall from the ash and hawthorn and so I have no need to go gathering kindling, at the moment anyway. So unless anything changes as the month unfolds, this February my cleansing and purification is going to focus on ME 🙂

Since the summer I have been working in a gym again, the first time for six of seven years. I am discovering muscles I hadn’t seen for a long time and a physical strength that I had thought was lost forever. My 2017 cleansing and purification rituals then are going to be used to get to know it again, how it is now, to deeply cleanse by spending time with it rather than the quick in and out of the shower it is used to. The purification will be through what I eat which will be as healthy and light as I can make it during the winter. So lots of fresh fish, vegetables, salads, meals made from scratch and of course the odd bar of chocolate and glass of wine 🙂

 

 

Brigid and Brigid’s Cross

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One of the first things that I learnt to do when I moved to Ireland was to make a St Brigid’s cross. I hadn’t heard of them at all before I moved and had to be taught not only how to make it but also what to do with it when it was made.

Describing how to make one is complicated without diagrams so having found this online today I thought I would share it in case anyone else is drawn to make one. This link includes a nice video if a child making one, it’s not difficult 🙂 I like that the instructions say to use straws or reeds for there are a special type of reed that grow in wetlands, used to make them here, a reed I recognise whenever I come across it, but the site of which I always forget come February.

I was told that it was the tradition where I live, to make a new Brigid’s cross every year and to place it in the loft on a rafter to protect the house from fire, which used to be a common problem in old houses in Ireland. In old houses chimneys were left unlined and any chimney fire could easily escape and leap through the loft space taking the roof and very often the whole house. I have since discovered that they are also used to ward off evil but maybe I looked too innocent to be told that I might need to do this 🙂 It was a long time ago!

So who was Brigid?

Brigid was a Pre-Christian, Celtic goddess who was associated with smithcraft, poetry, healing, childbirth. She is sometimes spoken of as a Triple Goddess and is always closely associated with fire. In fact the fire associations are so strong that a perpetual fire was set at Kildare in her honour, a fire which still burns today. Brigid is also known of as  Brid, Bride, Brighid, Brigit, Brigantia, Briginda, and Brigdu.

In Irish mythology Brigid appears as a member of the Tuatha Dé Danann and was the daughter of the Dagda, wife of Bres and had a son named Ruadán. To the Catholic Church though she is known as Saint Brigid and spoken of only as sharing her name with the Celtic goddess. It is said that St Brigid was the child of  Brocca, a Christian woman baptized by Saint Patrick, and that her father was Dubthach, a Leinster chieftain. As Brocca was a slave, Brigid was born into slavery. Some stories say that Brigid was baptised by St Patrick, others that she grew up as his friend.

If you would like to read more about Brigid, the Celtic goddess though the OBOD have an article that can be accessed here and which contains a lot of additional information.

What is known is that the the pagan festival of Imbolc or Imbolg, is associated with the goddess Brigid. The festival marks the beginning of spring has been celebrated since ancient times. It is a Cross Quarter Day, midway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.  It can actually fall anywhere between 2nd & 7th of February as it is calculated as the mid point between the astronomical Winter Solstice and the astronomical Spring Equinox, however it is often celebrated on 1st February, which is the same date as the Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion celebrate St Brigid’s Day.

And what about Brigid’s crosses?

There are many stories her as to how the tradition of these crosses originated and this is just one of them:

There was an old pagan Chieftain who was on his deathbed in Kildare when his servants summoned Brigid to his beside in the hope that the she might be able to calm his restless spirit. Brigid is said to have sat by his bed, consoling and calming him . Whilst she was here she picked up some rushes from the floor and began weaving them into the distinctive cross pattern. As she weaved, she explained the meaning of the cross to the sick Chieftain and it is thought her calming words brought peace to his soul and requested that he be baptised as a Christian  before his passing. Ever since that day it has been customary on the eve of Brigid’s Feast Day on 1st February, to fashion a St Brigid’s Cross of straw or rushes and place it in the roof of the house over the door as a means of protecting the house.

Brigid has always been held in high regard in Ireland, many wells in all parts of the country are named after her, the symbol of her cross is to be found in many Irish designs and there is even a pilgrimage route that can be walked, known as an the Brigid’s Way an Ancient Path between Sky and Earth

 

Book Review – Merlin: Once and Future Wizard

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Merlin: Once and Future Wizard

by 

Elen Sentier

 

 

As someone who has the pleasure of working with Merlin as a guide and teacher I was really looking forward to reading Elen Sentier’s ‘Merlin: Once and Future King’ and I was not disappointed in any way, quite the opposite. I often find myself reading of others work with Merlin only to see him glamorised or mythicised beyond recognition so it was really refreshing to read of Merlin being described as ‘tricky’ and to feel that yes, this is someone who really has worked with him and who knows him, not someone who’s knowledge has been acquired 3rd hand as it were.

Elen’s account is both personal and academic, in that in her book she generously shares her own journey with Merlin alongside deconstructing and explaining some of the myths and legends that surround as well as looking at those people and places connected with him. This is always done in a thoughtful and considered way, leaving the reader with insight and material which they can use to draw their own conclusion about Merlin.

I love synchronicity and shortly before starting to read ‘Merlin: Once and Future Wizard’, I found myself studying Brocéliande in Brittany, France, in my OBOD work, then discovering that one of my student’s home places is very near Brocéliande and that she knows it well, then finally reading Elen’s version of the same place. I’d like to think Merlin himself had a hand in this although maybe if he did it wouldn’t have been as clear to see 🙂

Due for release on 9th December 2016

Summer Solstice

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Summer Solstice is usually one of my favourite times of the year. I love the balance of day and night and coming as it does in the midst of summer, celebrating outside is often not only possible but enjoyable. Summer Solstice is the one time of year I really look forward to marking by some kind of ritual, sometimes with friends and sometimes as a solitary.

This year though, for some reason it is different. Time has somehow got away from me and was only a day or two ago that I actually realised Solstice was creeping up on me, for one moment I even thought I had missed it completely. This came as quite a shock for even though I don’t religiously follow the ritual of a wheel of the year, I do, in my own way, acknowledge the passing of time and the turning of the wheel.

This year as part of my Ovate training with the OBOD I have been trying to live the wheel by  observing changes in the world around me so that I am always aware of where and when I am. Because it has been warm, dry and sunny I have been outside a lot, in the garden, working with plants, tidying, planting and just generally enjoying the natural world around me. Perhaps it is because it’s been such amazing weather (not always the case where I live),  that I somehow hadn’t noticed the passing of time, or perhaps I have just so been caught up in the enjoyment of a dry, warm spell that I haven’t been aware of where in the year I am. Whatever has happened Summer Solstice is tapping on my shoulder and at the moment I have no plans.

In many ways I am pleased about this for it gives me complete freedom to work with my intuition, my guides, allies and the spirits of place, on the day of Summer Solstice itself,  to mark the time in whatever way I am guided. I actually prefer this way of creating ceremony or ritual to using anything anyone else has constructed or which can be found in a book and of course if I am alone I don’t have to take into account anyone else’s energy or wishes.

I am almost expecting that solstice this year will be different anyway, the energy higher perhaps as with the full moon just a few hours before the Summer Solstice sunrise it can hardly fail to have some effect. I am though being patient and with a few days to spare I still have time to sow the seeds of Summer Solstice, to wait to see how they germinate, what grows from them and what form the ritual takes this year.

Book Review – Secret Medicines from your Garden

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Secret Medicines from your Garden

Ellen Evert Hopman

ISBN 978-1-62055-557-6

Every now and again I come across a book which I know will become favourite resource, one that will live on my bookcase, one I will reach out for on numerous occasions, one that will never be leant out to anyone in case I were to lose it. Such a book is Hopman’s ‘Secret Medicines from your Garden’.

This is not a traditional herbal encyclopaedia by any means, for unlike others this is topic based. Plants frequently appear in one section of the book only to pop up again in another, showing us a different side to them, one that may be overlooked by others. Sections of the book teach us about working with the signatures of plant, seasonal herbs, the invisible dimensions of the plant world and ways we can make use of plants in our own lives. Throughout her book Hopman provides us with a real treasure chest of information, wisdom, both modern and traditional, recipes, remedies, potions, tinctures, teas and more besides.

Ellen Evert Hopman is someone with an eclectic background, interested in many things who is both a herbalist and a Druid . In Secret Medicine from your Garden we benefit from this diverseness, for because of it, she is able to open up the world of plants to us in both a practical and very spiritual way.

Imbolc

  

Today was Imbolc, or tomorrow depending on whether you believe it is on 1st or 2nd February this year. Me I’m going for today, for Imbolc is the first of the three spring festivals in the Celtic Wheel of the Year and today certainly felt like spring 🙂

Despite being in the midst of the eight storm of the winter, Storm Henry, the winds were blowing over us, the sun shone and the garden was calm and sheltered for once. Outside in the fresh air it was warm and undoubtably the nicest day we have had for a very long time now.

I should have been hoovering the house, which had been the plan, but instead having hung the washing out in the fresh air, well pegged on I might add, I pottered around collecting up the branches of our ash and hawthorn, branches that had been given up by them none of the other storms. I broke branches into smaller pieces and filled not one, but two large containers of kindling for the fire.

Other years it has been far less clear in February that this is the start of anything yet alone spring, but it was easy today to feel the turn of the wheel, to know that the seasons are shifting, to be able to see that this is a time when things to germinate, maybe break through the surface, ready to grow when the wheel turns again.