Language Please!

When I was younger, if someone cursed or swore in conversation in a pub, the landlord would call out “Language please!” prompting the person to be circumspect in what they were saying.  Actually, anyone who was offended might say the same thing.

I have always enjoyed language.  I have been reading since I was four or five and you could call me a book worm.  I easily get lost in the words and I really enjoy rich, descriptive language as well as informative and factual reading.  I also enjoy tracing the etymology of words.  Enchantress for example – a word that might be used in stories to suggest a witch or the sort of woman who might lead a man astray, actually means one who chants and traditionally women would chant when they were working together.  They might be working with textiles, weaving or washing clothes;  or in a garden; perhaps they were all spinning together (spinster!!).  Unfortunately, the early Church did not like women to be chanting together in case they were calling up demons or exercising their power and so the word enchantress now has negative connotations.

The etymology of a shanty or song, such as a sea shanty is interesting.  You could expect ‘shanty’ to come from the French verb chanter – to sing but it is thought to come from chantier – a naval work camp or lumberjack’s hut.  You see how interesting etymology or the study of the history of words is!

Language is both an art and a science.  When I studied Literature in college, our lecturer gave us a facsimile of the original copy of a poet laureate’s work.  There were scribbles and crossings out where he had alternated between different words as he must have thought one word carried more weight than another or perhaps conveyed more meaning. I found this very interesting because I had assumed Poet Laureates just wrote poems – just like that!  Of course not…they craft their poems. I also remember writing an essay on the language of Thomas Hardy and ended up lost in a very boring text book about the scientific structure of grammar.

I am writing about language today for a number of reasons, reasons which mainly make me angry.  Let’s start with the word “weeds“.  Weed is derived from the old English weod – meaning grass, herb, weed. You could say it was one of those catch-all words, meaning anything that grew that was smaller than a shrub or tree.  Nowadays the word has only negative connotations which means many people inadvertently destroy the natural medicine that is growing outside their door.

Other words that make me really angry are words like “factory” when someone means abattoir .  Phrases like “Agri-Industry”  are just oxymorons and make morons out of the people who use them. “Stock” is a word that used to mean goods that were held in stock, i.e in a shop or warehouse.  Now the word is also used to describe animals going to the “factory”.  Those animals are not things and nor are they commodities in my mind, they are living beings!! Our beautiful trees, that used to cover so much of Ireland and were so important to the people that they created an alphabet, Ogham, are now regarded as yet another industry.  Our beautiful trees which were once regarded as living elders and wise ones are now just lumber, timber or cubic metres of logs.  Of course we need wood for heating and furniture, building and paper; but our woodlands and forests, our beautiful trees have been reduced to just being a component of industry and have been dragged to the factory floor.

Worst of all, of course, are those words that trick and deceive people; words such as “cases” or sentences like “..due to the increase in cases“.  Such sentences are deliberately mis-using a word and are re-defining it to obtain a specific reaction.  It is important, when we are bombarded with media at every turn, to be discerning and to really listen.  Don’t just hear the word, listen to what is actually being said. Listen to the tone of the speaker, are they making sense? Are they being logical and truthful?  Are they tripping and stuttering over their words?  Are they using fancy, obfuscating words that people do not understand? Are they twisting their words so that they cannot be held accountable?  Words can become propaganda and unless we really listen to what is being said and make discerning judgement we can be hoodwinked.  We can be tricked into thinking that a “factory” is not a slaughter house.  We can be tricked into thinking that agriculture, which is defined as – the practice of cultivating the soil, growing crops and raising animals has become an industry (which is defined  as the process of making products using machinery and factories).  How did we end up with and accept, an oxymoron such as agri-industry?  We didn’t listen!!! We didn’t question! Remember those little “w” words – who, what, why, when, where?

Words create everything don’t they? “In the beginning there was The Word”.  Once something is named, we all know it.  If a plant is called Hawthorn, then we all know it by that naming word. If it is called Fuchsia, then we know it as Fuchsia.

Words have power so we must be careful what we wish for.  We must guard our tongue in case we say something we might regret, because words carry energy.  To spell a word is to make a spell.  We must look at meanings behind words to know if the language is helping or hindering us.

Language can be beautiful as well of course and beautiful language is poetry.  Nature poetry particularly uses language to describe our amazing, diverse, incredible world.  There is also the “Language of Flowers” and there are words and phrases which evoke feelings of belonging and connection,  Mother Nature, Mother Earth. We all belong to Mother Earth, we are all relations so therefore we are all connected and if we are all connected, surely we are all one.  If we are all one, then let us use language please, to tell the truth and to spread only love.

My 5 Favourite Herbal Remedies

Whenever I use a medicinal plant, it becomes my favourite…until I use another medicinal plant. Plants are like that – they really make friends with you and when you imbibe them in whatever form, they become your favourite.  I recently posted a film to YouTube about Lemon Balm because I had just had my first cup of Lemon Balm tea of this year and I remembered it was my favourite tea of all.  Then I remembered all of my other favourites and thought I would put together a short list of at least five of my favourite herbal remedies and why I love to use them.  These are not in any order of preference, they are all of equal status to me.

Thyme – Thyme is so beautifully aromatic and so hardy.  I grow it in the poly-tunnel and outside in the herb garden.  I like to use Thyme in my cooking for the flavour it gives to stews and casseroles and to roast vegetables.  During the winter though, Thyme is one of the best remedies to prevent coughs and colds.  I always make Thyme tincture because of the anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties as well as the antiseptic properties; not to mention the soothing and warming Thyme brings to a chilled body.    If Thyme is taken at the onset of a cough or cold usually that’s it, they are nipped in the bud.  If the cough does take a hold, Thyme is a wonderful anti-spasmodic and expectorant which means he helps to make the cough productive and gets the phlegm up more easily.  This quality can also help with health issues such as asthma or whooping cough.

Thyme can also be beneficial for sluggish digestive systems and the astringent properties can help with diarrhoea.  You can use Thyme for many of the body’s systems – genito-urinary , respiratory, digestive, and endocrine system. Thyme can be used  for both internal and external problems including fungal infections and wounds.  As a nervine Thyme can  relieve tension and anxiety and aid sleep.

If you do not have Thyme tincture ready when somebody comes down with an infection, then make a Thyme tea, it is really delicious and the aroma itself can make you feel better almost instantly.  The aromatic oils that are released when Thyme is burned, (or Thyme oil is put into a diffuser) can cleanse the air preventing infection from spreading.   For me Thyme is a favourite because of the wonderful taste and the  incredible healing properties. I use it every winter at the first shiver or sign of a sniffle and it works like magic.

 

Plantain is also called Slán Lus  in Irish which means Herb of Health and Plantain certainly brings health to many of the body’s systems.  The digestive system, the urinary system, the endocrine system, the respiratory system and blood system all benefit from Plantain.

Plantain is cleansing and soothing and breaks things up such as old, hard, deep phlegm that might be stuck in the lungs. I particularly love Plantain because of the way he draws out infection, pus, splinters, insect stings and other foreign bodies and heals the wound, preventing infection. I have many amazing stories of the incredible work Plantain has done in relation to drawing.  One story for example was my husband’s back.  A small lump developed and got bigger and bigger over a couple of years.  The doctor said it was probably just plasma and water and that it could be removed surgically if it became a nuisance.  When the lump became large enough to interrupt my husband’s sleep Plantain came to the rescue.  Repeated poultices over a couple of days drew out the water and plasma and took the lump away.  Today my husband’s back is flat and smooth again.

Both internally and externally,  Plantain can also be employed to reduce bleeding and haemorrhage so can be useful for deep wounds or heavy periods. The juice of Plantain can be used to relieve dry and tired eyes and for ear ache.  For children, Plantain is a Godsend when there is ‘glue ear’ and for anyone with sinus issues, Plantain would be the most likely herb to help.  My experience with Plantain shows me that Plantain is formidable when dealing with infection and drawing out poison and infection.  I make poultices for boils and ulcers, and for wounds or scratches.  Plantain tea or tincture used as a mouthwash can relieve gingivitis and clear mouth ulcers.  Try chopping young leaves in to your salad.  If you have an insect bite or a small wound, even a spot on the face, chew up some leaves and make a spit poultice.  Hold this in place for a short while – 10-15 minutes or up to half an hour and repeat if necessary.

 

Hawthorn is another favourite of mine, not only because of her action on the physical heart and cardio-vascular system but also because of her metaphysical action.  Hawthorn surrounds my land and recently we have discovered a circle of Hawthorn in a special place.  Each Hawthorn bush has its own distinctive energy, some being quite masculine, others being feminine and soft.  In fact, the Mother Tree of our garden is a very old Hawthorn.

For the heart and the cardio vascular system Hawthorn is a great tonic herb relieving palpitations, easing angina, reducing high blood pressure, raising low blood pressure and reducing cholesterol build up in the arteries.  Hawthorn’s  vasodilatory effects means that oxygenated blood gets to all tissues of the body and therefore health issues such as poor circulation and poor memory as well as mental confusion are all improved.  Hawthorn has a beneficial impact on the Vagus nerve too  which in turn leads to an improvement in any heart irregularities such as a rapid heart beat.  The way that Hawthorn affects so many benefits for the heart and cardiovascular system makes it the number one herb to consider for any heart problems.  In some countries, I have heard, Hawthorn is used as a prophylactic for people over fifty!

Apart from helping with the physical heart Hawthorn is also renowned for helping the heart on a metaphysical level.  In other words, when there is a spiritual or emotional problem affecting a person, Hawthorn can help.  When the heart feels heavy due to grief for example, Hawthorn is a gentle and supportive healer.  If a person finds it difficult to feel love for their own self or feels a disconnect from others, Hawthorn can help to “open” the heart,  restore trust and allow love and compassion to flow.  Hawthorn can help to heal a “broken heart” following a failed love affair.

Apart from the benefits to the heart, Hawthorn is also a wonderful nervine, reducing anxiety and stress and aiding restful sleep.  Hawthorn can also be used for digestive issues and as a diuretic to relieve fluid retention.


California Poppy is another special favourite for a number of reasons.  I grow this beautiful flowering herb in the poly-tunnel because she does not too well outside due to the harsh salt wind.  I really respect plants that have tenacity and California Poppy has a lovely, soft determination.  She is determined to colonise the poly-tunnel and I can’t complain because she has so much beauty, attracts pollinators and also makes a fantastic herbal remedy!

California Poppy is a wonderful herb for reducing over excitability and fractiousness in children when they are too “wired” for sleep.  For adults too, California Poppy allows the mind to relax and stops those thoughts and worries that go round and around and keep us awake.   This is due to the anti-spasmodic and sedative actions which also help relieve aches and pains in nerves and muscles. Tension and pain, stress and anxiety are also soothed away due to the actions of this lovely plant.

California Poppy can also help children with bed-wetting issues.  Children’s cuts and scrapes can be soothed by California Poppy as she has anti-microbial properties,  Persistent coughs are relieved due to the anti-spasmodic properties of Californian Poppy and there has been some research that suggests California Poppy may help the elderly with memory and concentration due to her action on the heart.  The aerial parts of the plant are most commonly used, ie those parts above ground although the root can be used for tooth ache and dental issues.  I love it when all parts of a  plant can be used – roots, aerial parts and seeds because you are engaging with the whole plant and that makes any medicine more effective.  All of this plant can be used, safely and effectively because it is so gentle.  I just love to see it coming up and I love popping open seed heads to save the seeds.

 

Looking through the ‘photos I have in the media library for this website, I saw so many “favourites” I almost couldn’t choose.  There was Meadowsweet, Mullein, Vervain, Rose, Dandelion , amongst others – I almost settled on Dandelion but in the end I decided to go with Nettle.  I love Nettle as she offers so much to so many in so many ways.  Man, woman and child can all improve their health with Nettle due to her medicinal properties and she also tastes so good in soup and pesto and stews.  I believe Nettle is a true representative of all the abundance our Mother Earth provides for us.  From Nettle we can obtain food, medicine, clothing and possibly shelter if Nettle was considered in the same way that Hemp is.  That’s just my thinking and I could be wrong – but there are new technologies that can do incredible things with plant material that would benefit the planet.

Nettle offers protection to us physically through working with us to prevent illness; and also metaphysically as she is a warrior plant, ruled by Mars.  I feel very safe knowing that there is a Nettle patch at each side of my front gate.    Apart from providing us with food, medicine and clothing, Nettle also provides us with fertiliser to grow other foods.  I use Nettle to make a compost tea and you can put Nettle chopped  into the compost bin.  One of the loveliest things about Nettle is that she provides a home for at least five species of butterfly.  The small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Peacock, Painted Lady and Comma all lay their eggs on Nettle.  The first time I saw all the caterpillars I was taken aback by the quantity of them but am delighted to know that there is so much diversity in my garden.

There are so many health benefits that we can enjoy from Nettle  as the plants are full of vitamins and minerals.  Nettle cleanses the blood, (among many other things) so is ideal to be eaten at this time of year when the season is changing. Fortunately it is possible to have several harvests of Nettle during the year.  I use it fresh for tincture and dry it for tea and you can find out more about Nettle in my book The Weed Handbook Volume 1.

|i grow medicinal herbs in my garden, those that I cannot find growing wild.  Lemon Balm for example, Marjoram and Basil.  My real favourites though are the wild plants – they have so much dignity and energy and they heal so effectively.  There are so many too.  On herb walks I have led, sometimes we barely move more than a couple of feet because there are so many medicinal plants growing wild.  Herbal medicine makes so much sense to me for a number of reasons- we share DNA with plants so our bodies recognise them and work with them; we have used them for millennia and survived;  they are cheaper (often free) and much safer than pharmaceuticals;  using herbs enables you to connect with the planet; herbs have natural intelligence and know what to do; making herbal medicine means you are empowered and responsible for yourself.

All of the five herbs above can be made into teas and tinctures and salves.  They can be used in metaphysical ritual and ceremony too. Some of them are delicious as teas, Nettle, Thyme and Hawthorn whereas the California Poppy and Plantain can be more bitter – but that is a good thing so don’t let it put you off.  I do hope you will consider using herbs more regularly in your life.  The more herbs that people use, making medicine themselves, the more likely it is that people will start to look after this wonderful planet.  Do you have any favourites of the moment?  Leave a comment and let me know.

 

 

 

 

Sacred Water, Sacred Wells

I recently visited a local Sacred Well.  Unlike other Holy Wells in Connemara, this one is no longer visited for a ‘pattern’ or for a saint’s day.  It is largely forgotten and ignored and as far as I know, I am the only person who visits it.  I go to it for a number of reasons, not least because it is SO beautiful, so magical and so neglected.  I love opportunities to connect with the land in different ways and to connect with my ancestors and visiting a well like this enables me to do those things.

There are Holy Wells all over Ireland and the majority are associated with saints and their healing powers.  One holy well might relieve headaches and another holy well might relieve blindness or stomach aches or some other ailment.  Almost every well in Ireland has a tree close by, more often than not Hawthorn but you might also find Ash, Holly and Oak. If the well had a reputation of offering healing and was associated with a saint, people would perform a “pattern” – a ritual walk around the well saying prayers.  The people would walk deosil or sunwise as they prayed and made offerings, perhaps a coin or something else precious to them;  and if they had a problem with their health, they would wrap a rag or cloutie on to the tree close by.  This little rag symbolised the ailment they hoped would be healed and as it rotted away, so would their ailment go; or perhaps they might leave rosary beads or a holy medal tied to the tree as an offering.

It has saddened me very much when I have seen plastic tied to a tree.  Once in Meath, close to the Lough Crew monument, there was a stand of Hawthorn trees covered in clouties made from black bin bags!!!  Obviously a group of people used something handy – perhaps a black bin bag from a coach on tour – but to my mind this was totally disrespectful to the trees and to the spirit of the land as well as to the Goddess that the monument celebrates.

In Irish mythology there are several tales of magical wells.  One of the most well known is in the cycle of tales about the Fianna, a band of warriors led by Fionn Mac Cumhail.  The story tells us that a Hazel tree, (that was the first thing to exist in the universe and contained  all the knowledge within the universe), was growing close to a well known as an Tobar Segais – The Well of Knowledge.  This was because hazel nuts would fall into it.  A beautiful salmon lived at the bottom of the well and had eaten some of the nuts, consequently becoming the Salmon of Knowledge.  By accident or perhaps it was fate(?) Fionn tasted the salmon and was immediately filled with all of the  knowledge of the Salmon, the Well and the Hazel tree – you will have to read the story for yourself!

Another story tells of Bóann, a young goddess who wondered why she was not allowed to go to her husband Nechtan’s Well of Inspiration.  No one was permitted to visit this well apart from Nechtan, (it being the same well where the Salmon of Knowledge  had lived) as it could be dangerous to approach because the water would gush out and cause injury.   Bóann decided to break the taboo because she knew that this well was the Source of All Wisdom and contained the Mother River of all the rivers of the world.  She approached counterclockwise and the waters of the well rose up and burst out becoming the mighty Rover Boyne, washing Bóann down to the sea.  There are other endings to this story that you may like to search out.

There is a similar story about the River Shannon, the longest river in Ireland.  Another young goddess, Sionnan also went to visit the Well of Inspiration and when she lifted the lid of the well, the waters gushed out, flowing rapidly and drowning Sionnan.  The rapidly rushing water became the River Shannon. These young goddesses did not die though, they were transformed through the knowledge they obtained and became immortal.

 

For the ancient Irish, Water was a sacred element.  It flowed through rock and opened the earth and it was believed that it must have magical powers and the ability to connect this world with the Other World.  The people then, knew of course, that water was life and that water was healing.  After all, we began life swimming within the womb and without water our worlds, inner and outer, would not exist.  Water is the universal solvent so it can dissolve rock and metal, it can wear away large areas of land and can evaporate into steam or fog, seemingly to disappear.  Water can hold memories and perhaps that is why the Sacred Wells are so important, as they connect us to a past when we knew the Earth was alive and so were the trees and the plants and the stones and of course, Water itself.

Water has been used since antiquity to cleanse and to bless, to purify and renew, to wash away and release.  We can tell our problems to a stick or write them on a piece of paper our and let it go in the water.  As it is washed away to the sea, so is the problem washed away.  This is a very therapeutic ritual.  The element of Water is associated with the Moon and many of us can feel the pull of the moon, at certain times, affecting our emotions.  Perhaps this is because Water represents our emotional body which should be flowing freely rather than becoming stagnant and causing us harm. By tuning in to our watery side we can release negative emotions and restore flow to our psyche.  Speaking of the psyche,  Water connects us to our deep unconscious – the place where our souls know everything,  In ancient Ireland poets connected to the element of Water for creativity,

“…the place where poetry was revealed was upon the brink of water..” (John Matthews.) www.hallowquest.org.uk/  Those liminal places, shorelines, river banks, by the side of a lake (or by the River Boyne – above) were the places where three elements came together – Air, Earth and Water – and created a magical place of otherworldliness and inspiration.

On the Celtic Wheel of the Year, Water is placed in the West at the Autumn Equinox.  According to Tom Cowan,  wp.riverdrum.com/?page_id=6 “…water runs downward into the Earth, like the setting sun…(it) seeks its resting point as the sun seeks its evening rest below the horizon”.  The Equinoxes represent balance and at the  Autumn Equinox, Water represents balance as it finds its level in any container. The  Autumn Equinox is a time when we can experience balance as we take time to reconnect with our deep inner selves.

As Water is indeed a Sacred element I would encourage anyone to remember that and to bring that sacredness into the mundane.. Bless the water before drinking or using for cooking and contemplate gratitude because water IS life.  When you wash or bathe bless the Water with thanks for its cleansing and purifying, soothing and rejuvenating qualities.   Be mindful of how many times a day you use water and give thanks.  Can you show your appreciation by cleaning up a beach or riverside?  Spend time with a favourite body of water and see if you can sense the spirits that reside there.  Can Water tell you anything you need to know – after all it has been used for divination throughout history.  If you have access to a well or to a spring, revive the custom of decorating it with flowers and leaving votive offerings such as coins or a gift from Nature such as a pebble or shell.

In these troubled times I will leave you with some words of wisdom from the Irish poet and philosopher, John O’Donohue, www.johnodonohue.com/

“Water enjoys freedom.  It disperses itself evenly wherever it lies.  There are no entanglements or nets at the heart of water.  It does not know the conflict and contradiction of differentiation.  Sometimes the presence and effect of friendship and love is like the dissolution that water brings.  Love unties and dissolves whatever is caught, hardened or entangled.”

 

 

An Ode to Autumn

 

 

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom friend of the maturing sun,

 

I can still remember John Keat’s poem To Autumn even though I was in school when I last read it.  It stayed with me, I think, because Autumn has always been one of my favourite seasons. I was born on the Autumn Equinox and naturally, whenever it was my birthday it felt as if it was a new year – which it was in a personal way.  With school starting just before my birthday – a new school year, (and then I became a teacher so had the same experience through work),  Autumn has always felt exciting and rejuvenating.  The smell of Autumn is so distinctive as well and smells go deep, deep down into memory, into the oldest part of the brain.  I can remember smoke from gardens as people tidied them up and burned leaves and whatever.  The smell of the frost in the morning also added an air of anticipation.  The difference in the light,  the sense of change,  of stepping over some invisible threshold, has always piqued my imagination making me look forward to whatever is coming next.

 

This year is a BIG birthday! So big I can hardly believe I have spent so many decades on this planet.  I look back at all the years of loving Mother Earth and feel very grateful that I found my way home to her.  Growing up without a garden I never imagined that one day I would be growing trees and flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables; that I would be saving seed and doing my best to create a little paradise, yet here I am!

The Autumn Equinox represents the second harvest, the fruit harvest, and this year in particular, I am contemplating all I have harvested in my life and what seeds I intend to sow in the years coming.  With talk of a serious recession, I am intending to sow many food seeds in 2021  because I think it is a good idea to be a little more self-sufficient.  I also plan to sow metaphorical “seeds” for the things I want to see grow in the world.

 

After all the freshness of spring and early summer with their busy-ness and thrust to action; then the heat of summer proper, there is something relaxing about Autumn.  The work is done – almost, (it’s never really done in a garden), and the sun is visibly “maturing” as the year ages.  Even though some plants are dying back, there are still the joys to be had from collecting blackberries and harvesting apples from our trees.  The last of the courgettes have just been discovered under a mass of leaves and there are still potatoes, kale, cabbage, leeks and chard to harvest as well as some herbs .  Lots of flowers have gone to seed; Foxglove, Mullein, Rose Campion for example, although Evening Primrose is still holding its own and Fuschia is still spilling its ruby-red dancing flowers. The roses are also still going strong and I have been pleasantly surprised this year by some flowers that have just emerged.  I am not sure what they are – some kind of bedding plants that were just leaves when I bought them.  I was disappointed during the summer that they had not flowered and now, suddenly, boom!! – lots of bright pinks and purples.

 

Thinking of red, there are Hawthorn berries too.  More abundance to be collected and dried for medicine.

It is during Autumn when I really feel and appreciate the abundance of Mother Nature.  I feel a sense of fulfilment looking at my jars of chutneys and relishes;  my dried herbs for medicinal teas and bottles and jars of medicines all supplied by Mother Nature.

 

There are also lots of Nasturtiums still flowering, adding their own colours to the Autumn palette.  I collect them for making Nasturtium Vinegar.

After a month of infusing, this vinegar will be ready to treat sinus problems and head colds.  It can also be used as a prophylactic as it is full of Vitamin C,  just take a spoonful each day if you are prone to head colds or blocked sinuses. Soon it will be time to make  Fire Cider Vinegar and once that happens I will know we are on our way into winter.  In the meantime, I continue with the harvest and start to make soups and tasty veggie casseroles and stews.

I really love this time of year as there is so much of everything which feeds the body and the soul.

Which season do you prefer?

 

Magical Mugwort – Artemesia!

Tonight there will be a Full Moon and I was thinking of the plants in my garden that are ruled by the moon or associated with the moon.  Cucumber is one such plant as are Californian Poppy and Poppy; Chamomile, Willow, Chickweed, Cuckoo Flower, White Rose and Mugwort. These plants are cooling and moisturising,  sedating and they bring pain relief.  Quite a number of plants ruled by the Moon (or that have an association with the Moon), are also beneficial to women for their menstrual cycles and more.  One of my favourite plants associated with the moon is Artemesia or Mugwort.

Artemesia vulgararis, also known as Mugwort (because she was once used to flavour beer and beer was drunk from mugs), is actually ruled by Venus but is strongly associated with the moon.  In some astrology, Venus is seen to be the Daughter of the Moon and there is an interesting article about this here.

 According to Culpepper, a herbalist should know which planet rules which plant or herb so that one can correctly choose which plant or herb is most suitable for the individual.  As Venus rules those  bodily parts specifically relating to women, it makes sense to choose plants or herbs that are ruled by Venus – or by the Moon as we also know the connection between women and the lunar sphere.  When we look back in history we see that older civilisations were very in tune with the cycle of the moon and her effects on the oceans and tides as well as women’s bodies, as discussed here 

 

Mugwort  is used to help regularise the menstrual cycle and as such can be of benefit to young women who have just entered puberty and perhaps have irregular or difficult periods.  Mugwort was also used during labour to help bring the baby safely as well as to safely deliver the after-birth.  I make an infused oil of Mugwort to use as a massage oil for the labouring mother – it’s good for sciatica pain as well!  Mugwort can help a woman at any time in life by balancing hormones and helps during menopause by reducing anxiety due to the action on the nervous system.  

Mugwort, being a bitter herb is beneficial for the digestive system.  For those with eating disorders or with anorexia, Mugwort can help nudge a person back to good appetite.  If a person is trying to overcome addiction – to both alcohol or narcotic drugs – Mugwort can help during withdrawal.

 

 

Thinking of the Moon, on this evening when the moon is full, I remember that I prefer the name Artemesia.  This plant is named for the Goddess Artemis, an ancient Greek Goddess who is patroness of the hunt, the forest, vegetation  and all the wild animals.  She is often depicted as a woman with a bow and arrow although Homer referred to her as Mistress of the Animals as she is also protecting the young animals from hunters .

 

Artemis is also renowned as a goddess of hearth and home and as a protector of  women – helping during childbirth and also to preserve young women’s chastity from the unwanted attentions of men.  Artemis is a Goddess of the Moon, her twin brother being the sun god, Apollo whom she had helped to deliver, hence her role in assisting women in labour. As a goddess of nature and vegetation she is found dancing in the wilderness, under the light of the moon with all the animals of the forest with her.  She loves wild dancing with trees and with her companions the tree nymphs.  When Orion the hunter was chasing one of her nymphs she called on her father, Zeus, to save them.  He changed the seven nymphs into a cluster of stars that we know as “The Seven Sisters” or the Pleiades.  Here in Connemara, there are several Holy Wells named for the Seven Sisters of the Seven Daughters…..is there a connection??

 

Reading about Artemis makes me feel very attached to the plant Artemesia.  She is such a beautiful, tall, graceful plant.  Her connection to the moon is apparent in the silvery undersides of her leaves and the silvery appearance of her flowers.  I have her growing in a part of my garden that is dedicated to the Irish Moon Goddess Aine.  I find that Artemesia makes a tasty tea and her powers of protection can be claimed by making a smudge stick.  Artemesia is also harvested for use in divinatory rituals and for vivid dreaming.  It is traditional to include Artemesia in a dream pillow or just put her straight under the pillow.  I have made a flower essence from Artemesia and I take it when going to bed, setting an intention to receive wisdom and teachings from the Goddess in my dreams.

 

How do you use Artemesia?

 

A Brilliant Opportunity!

The world is reeling and in shock at the moment and it can be hard to imagine what the world will be like once this disease, the Corona Virus, has had its day.  I am not worried about the virus because I am using herbs.  The medical profession are feeling helpless because they are powerless without a vaccine.  Herbalists on the other hand,  treat the person not the symptoms and there are lots of herbs that would suit people as a preventative and many that could be used to help people should they contract the disease. This is a brilliant opportunity for people to turn back to herbs for reassurance and it seems that many are.

I am being asked for advice about herbs and healthy living a lot recently but because we are all in isolation and I cannot meet people, and because people cannot go and just pick up medicinal herbs as they might have done, the best thing I can do is recommend lots and lots of Vitamin C (or Vitamin C rich food – fruits and vegetables)

and to look into their kitchen cupboards to see what herbs and spices they have.

There will be something that can be useful and beneficial for this time  For example, many people will have dried Sage, Thyme, Rosemary, Cinnamon, Cloves, Cayenne, Ginger, Turmeric and Garlic. These are  all herbs and spices with qualities that can help at a time like this.  Some are antibacterial and antiviral , some are  warming or anti-inflammatory.  Herbal teas such as Chamomile can help reduce anxiety as well as promote sweating  should you feel feverish.  Use Sage for a sore throat  and use Sage, Thyme and Rosemary  together or on their own (depending upon what you have) as preventative and immune supporting herbs by infusing them all for at least 20 mins, in a teapot with boiling water.  Take three cups per day if you are worried you might be compromised in any way.  I am not saying this will be a cure, but they may be all you have access to and they will certainly be helpful for some. For all who try using these kitchen herbs and spices you will feel less anxiety because you have done something to empower yourself.  This is a brilliant opportunity to become self-reliant and self-empowered in terms of your health.  Your body knows how to heal itself, it needs you to help it.

 

Whatever circumstances we find ourselves in there is no doubting in my mind, that we have been given a brilliant opportunity to change our lives in really positive ways.  For example, gyms and sports clubs are closed so people have to walk to get their exercise and this gives them an opportunity to reconnect with Nature. Whether you walk along the street, in a  park, in the countryside or at a beach, this is your chance to observe the trees in bud and the spring flowers popping their heads up.  It is a brilliant opportunity to breathe in fresh air and hear the birds.  Seeing Nature as a living system going about her business calms and reassures – Life goes on no matter what.

Rowan buds on the brink of bursting open

 

 

A native bee on a Rosemary flower

 

Dandelion – a great teacher and always brings a smile

 

 

Daisy – reminds us of our childhood – innocence and contentment

 

Lots of people have started putting down vegetable plots and are growing their own food. I am increasing my growing space because I suppose I realise I haven’t been making the most of the space that I have.  Growing my own food increases the diversity of my land, brings back the land from benign neglect and helps me to co-create with Nature.  Growing your own food is one of the most revolutionary things we can do in modern times according to Mr Dervaes.  Watch this!  According to the Dervaes family, growing your own food is empowering and sets you free.  I also love the way they live, slowly and with thought. This little film is well worth watching at any time.

Preparing the land for growing your own food also brings you into a meditative  state and helps give you the time and opportunity to not only observe Nature but to be in her.

At this strange time lots of people are using social media to send positive messages and hopeful messages to one another.  Perhaps this is a sign of community and altruism, “we’re all in this together”; perhaps it is a sign of co-operation and consideration.  Perhaps it will all lead to a better world as many are speaking of this time as  being  a brilliant opportunity to assess their lives and take the time to actually think about the kind of world we want to live in and the kind of world we want to leave our children.

There are many conspiracy theories abounding and it is easy to get sucked into them – and I have been caught up in all that negative thinking.  On my walk this morning though. observing Nature and thinking about the positive events that have already happened and remembering that I believe in the power of the mind, (that is, we create our world  with our thoughts), I decided that this is a brilliant opportunity for me to put my mouth where my money is, so to speak.

I am fortunate to have a very powerful imagination, sometimes it can run away with me!  I am going to work hard imagining a world where we are all free to live a full and happy, healthy life.  Where every decision is made considering our “relations” the plants and animals, rivers and oceans, mountains and bogs that we share this planet with.  I am finding it easy to imagine that we all wake up to the fact that we have been manipulated to be consumers.  We have felt deep down that this consumerism can not be maintained and we know that it does not make us feel happy but we can now put blame behind us, (consumerism was thought to be a good idea post WW2 as a brief agenda to get people back to work and  to kick start economies but it is a promotion that long since reached its sell by date). Let’s leave the guilt behind, (energetically it serves no purpose) and we can start afresh.  We now have a brilliant opportunity to look at our amazing and beautiful world which is so diverse and rich, if we only value it for itself .  Observing Nature during this spring time of renewal and rebirth is the best thing we can do for our future.  Just imagine!

Self-Heal for all of us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women and Power

Yesterday, 8th March, was International Women’s Day.  We all know about it, we’ve all heard of it but what are its origins?  How come there is such a day?  A day that is officially celebrated in countries such as Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Mongolia, Turkey, Uganda, Russia, Vietnam, Zambia and elsewhere.  There are no western European countries on the list  and nor is America on the list , (a list supplied by the internationalwomensday.com web site) which strikes me as rather strange.

At the beginning of the 20th century women around the world who were being  exploited in low paid jobs and who had only limited opportunities marched and/or went on strike to draw attention to the inequality of their time.  In 1917 , in Russia, women campaigning for peace and for an end to the 1st World War marched and went on strike for four days until the government acceded and allowed them the right to vote.  They were joining with women in New Zealand, Australia, Armenia and Latvia who already had this right.

One hundred years ago women HAD to campaign for better working conditions and better pay and it seems that despite one hundred years of legislation, many women still have this battle to face. Apparently, the UK has just announced that self-employed women will no longer be able to access Maternity benefits!!!???  This tends to be the case in the U.S as well – maternity benefit being down to the whim of the employer.   Despite the statement that IWD celebrates the “social, economic, cultural and political achievements” of women,  how does this transfer to ordinary women?  I am concerned that this annual celebration is very narrow in its focus. I am NOT saying, but I AM questioning if the definition of women’s success is based on how well they succeed in a man’s world.  It is absolutely brilliant that women are now CEOs, are involved in politics or are top athletes – no doubt about it.  However, I would ask what about celebrating the ordinary woman who is not high achieving on these terms?

I know it sounds old-fashioned – but what about celebrating women as creators of life?  For simply being a mother?  Yes, we have Mother’s Day, (which is purely commercial) but it does not champion  the bond between a mother and her child.  A majority of women are made to feel like pariahs if they do not go straight back to work; if they do not leave their child with strangers and pretend it is normal; if they feel sad and stressed about this.  Surely in a civilised society we should know the importance of the role of the mother and how beneficial it is to both mother and child to have time together.  Not every woman is ambitious in the work place – many being there for economic reasons only – and I think that to place so much emphasis upon women being in the workplace  rather than upon their caring for their young children is to denigrate this role.

Equality is a fine goal to strive for – I definitely agree that everyone,  – regardless of gender, race, religion, age, ethnicity, – should receive the same treatment, opportunities and courtesies under the Law.  I also believe in Equity which brings a different aspect to women’s rights.  Equity is defined as being fair and just, impartial and free from bias.  Do women really want to be treated exactly like men?  Is it fair that new mothers must return to work?  Is it right that women who work creatively or domestically or who do a type of work that is not seen to have an economic value should be viewed as inferior or as pariahs?

What is women’s role?  Why are we different to men?  Should we celebrate that difference or should we strive to become more like men?  I am not au fait with current feminist thought and philosophy, I am simply musing here; but I believe that the whole notion of Equality means we should all be celebrating our differences and yet enjoy equity for all.  Equality and equity of respect for women has been necessary for a very long time.  Do we know why there has been and is such imbalance in this area?

I (respectively) suggest that a fear of women’s power was inculcated by various religious leaders of all types throughout history.  Women, with their more emotional bodies and their intuition and their ability to bring forth life were seen to be as wild and as unpredictable as Nature  herself  –  Nature that was feared as being powerful and that had to be placated and appeased and controlled.  One way to control women was to denigrate their work.  Spinners for example, according to Max Dachau, were used to working together , chanting over their work; calling on the unseen powers of the Universe as they created cloth and garments.  Their chanting, in the ears of religious men,  (men disconnected from the Earth), became enchanting, thus making those women dangerous and, in later centuries, not just dangerous but witches and devil-worshippers.  Any domestic activity where women came together was suspect;  activities which connected  women to the Earth through their use of herbs and plants  was suspect and eventually led down through the years to the witch hunts and the many burnings of the medieval and renaissance times.  Today we use the word spinster to refer to unmarried women – those who are left on the shelf!

I am all for women being successful in business, politics, sport or wherever, although I would be happier to see more women demanding Equity and also re-connecting to the Divine Feminine.  There have been thousands of years of imbalance and the planet and people have suffered greatly because of an excess of  an imbalanced, out of control patriarchal system that is raping the planet.  It has been and unfortunately still is, a system that believes we have dominion over the natural world rather than we being the husbanders or guardians of this world.  (Interesting word, husband, as it  means to be a manager or steward.  Perhaps the fact that it also means to be married to a woman comes from ancient societies’ notions that the king should be “married” to the land which was always regarded as female.)  We cannot blame only men for this situation.  We women have stood by and let it happen.  We have been brain-washed over centuries by propaganda to believe that being female is “dirty”, “unclean”, inferior, weaker, less important, less valuable, less intelligent, less able.  We have been persuaded that we need more things to make our lives easier.  Perhaps it is no surprise that those countries that do not officially celebrate International Women’s Day are the main protagonists in destroying our environment. And nowadays, we swallow the propaganda that to succeed in a man’s world we must behave like a man.

I believe that IWD could be about encouraging women to reconnect to Mother Earth, to start growing things, to commune with Nature, to plant, plant, plant.  To  remember our role is to promote peace for people and planet, to balance the strength and action of the male with gentleness and creativity rather than accepting destruction and exploitation.  If we can only remember that our bodies are not “unclean” but are the bringers of life.  We must remember that our bodies are not “dirty” but shed blood as part of a feminine cycle that is repeated over and over and over in Nature.  It genuinely saddens me when I meet younger women who think menstruation and childbirth  are horrible, messy, unpleasant experiences they would rather not have to deal with.  This type of mindset must be changed if we want our planet to survive and if we want the pendulum that swings between masculine and feminine energies to be balanced.

Women have power.  This is true despite centuries and millenia of patriarchal propaganda.  Women and men will continue to suffer until women reclaim that power – a power that is of woman and is based on equity of mutual respect and fairness.  We can use our power to say no to exploitation, extraction, destruction and we can say no – we do not need to consume material goods at the ridiculous rates that are currently consumed.  Our power lies in our connection to Mother Earth, to being creatrixes just like her; in our respect for our own bodies and in our intuitive understanding that ALL beings are equal whether it be a man, a woman, a tree, a piece of land or an animal, a bog, lake or the ocean  Equality, Equity and respect for all stems from a woman’s power.  It is time now to reclaim it.

 

 

 

 

 

Danu’s Irish Herb Garden – A Radical New Beginning!

For twelve years I have been working with and learning about medicinal plants in my study of herbal medicine.  For the last seven years I have been learning from and journeying to plants and trees.  I am now fully out of the closet – I am a herbalist.  In today’s corporate world, a world of fast medicine, to be a herbalist is to be a radical.

Herbal medicine is the medicine of the people and according to WHO, 80% of the world’s population still uses herbal medicine.  And why wouldn’t they?  It is free, safe and effective.  It may take a bit longer for someone to be up and about and at work again but shouldn’t it take time for our bodies to heal?  We are, after all, human beings, not machines, so it surely stands to reason that rest, sleep, de-stressing, good food, time and herbs are going to be the best option for excellent health.

In England, and in Dublin, groups of herbalists have got together and are radically offering free health care!!  They call themselves radical herbalists because they believe they have to bring herbs back to the people, especially people who cannot afford health care. There are people, predominantly women, who are offering courses in herbal health care within their communities and on line.  Women like myself who want to empower people to be able to recognise a medicinal plant and know how to use it. There has never been a better time to be radical in this area.

Herb Robert

An entrepreneurial herbalist in America is selling T-shirts with the slogan -” I am a Radical Herbalist – a Culture Shifter!  Well I am too.  I stand up to be counted.  I believe something radical must happen and our culture must shift.  Our culture must shift from one of exploitation to reciprocity, where we work with Nature and not against her.  Hence the name change on the web site and the Facebook page, You Tube Channel and Etsy Shop.

My friend Colette wondered why I had different names on all these social media platforms and I agreed it was a bit daft.  I have, therefore,  chosen a name that I think is more specific to what I am doing. Danu’s Irish Herb Garden is the new name. My postal address has been Danu’s Garden for several years now and I am Irish and growing a herb garden so it feels right.  I work with the healing power of plants and this work helps me to feel closer to and connected with Mother Earth.  As I work to heal myself and others I am helping to heal the planet.

                                                                                                       Self Heal  

Danu is an Irish Mother Goddess or Earth Goddess and so I think the name is appropriate and a constant reminder to me.  I will be talking about Irish Goddesses in a future blog because a lot of other goddesses in Ireland are also associated with healing but for today I will tell you what I can about Danu.

                                                                                                            Dandelion    

Danu is a mother goddess, the Mother Goddess, of Ireland.   The hierarchy of gods known as the Tuatha De Danaan – the children of Danu – all stem from the goddess Danu as her husband is not known by name.  Danu can be said perhaps,  to be the gaelic equivalent to Demeter, a goddess of the earth and of abundance.  Peter Berresford Ellis, Celtic historian, says that the name Danu means “Waters from Heaven” and of course, water is life.  Water enables food to grow.

Danu’s children went on to become the gods and sovereign goddesses of Ireland.  Eire is one of the daughters of Danu so you can understand why I feel Danu is a Mother Godddess I can have an attachment for.  I think it is important to be cognisant of these parts of our history so that we respect this land.

So, dear readers, in future you can find me at www.danusirishherbgarden.com My Etsy shop is DanusIrishHerbGarden.  The Facebook page is Danu’s Irish Herb Garden and the brand new You Tube Channel is also Danu’s Irish Herb Garden.

Thanks to everyone for subscribing to this web site and blog.  Any comments or queries are welcome in the comments box below.  Blessings!

An Bhean Feasa – Up and At It!

Suddenly, the garden is growing again. It is still pretty cold here and there has been a lot of grey cloud hanging over us but it is May and the garden has suddenly greened!  We have had a slow start, with such a long, cold Spring and I have been taking my time about things because early seed sowings failed to germinate and early brassicas were eaten by slugs or snails.  So now I am Up and At It!

Potatoes and onions are coming up and I have mawled the spuds twice already.  Weeding is the next priority to make sure we can find them at harvest time.  I have some room left in this bed for lettuce and French beans when the weather improves.
My herb garden is alive and well and is full of various shades of green and seems to have revived almost overnight.

I am delighted to see Angelica and Elecampane as well as lots of Lady’s Mantle, Verbain, (the magical herb), Motherwort, Lemon Balm, Soapwort and many others, including the culinary herbs.  It is such a thrill to welcome back old friends after the winter hiatus.
I was up and at it early this morning ’til dinner time, planting herbs and shrubs and some flowers for the bees. I was also weeding and tidying and wondering how it got so bad so quickly!!  I am praying that the new lilac trees that I bought at the end of last summer will produce some beautiful and fragrant flowers.  They look healthy enough but no flowers yet.
Living in the countryside and growing my own vegetables, fruit and herbs is an idyllic life that I love but now that things are warming up, (pushing up), I really have to get my skates on.  There are plants and herbs to harvest and dry, for medicine making – something almost every day.

  

The Nettles are being dried for tea, the Calendula will go on to make salves, creams and soaps and the Coltsfoot is for my husband’s asthma remedy.
Lotions and potions, salves and tinctures are building up in the apothecary. It’s a good feeling to see such things accruing over the summer.
I have just heard the Cuckoo so I think I will pop outside and have a last look around – I must close in the chickens anyway. The Cuckoo arrived here around the 20th April which was about the same date as last year.  I hope you are enjoying this lovely evening where ever you are.  Please let me know if and when you heard the Cuckoo this year.

 

All my other creative projects are on hold at the moment.  New cushion covers will have to wait!

Springtime Simplicity

Today is La Feile Brigid – Brigid’s Day, a day that always feel special and exciting to me as it is also Imbolc, the first day of Spring.  There is a sense of anticipation in the air which is exciting because it feels like a renewal, a fresh start, a change.  I was at my horticulture class today and when I returned home the sun was out and I was inspired to walk around my garden and have a check on it.  I had left the garden alone since the end of autumn, apart from a little winter pruning here and there, because I had learned that it is better to leave old plants in place as insects and other creatures use them for shelter.  Consequently, my garden looks a bit neglected and a bit bedraggled.

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As you can see here, there is not a lot growing and the storms have knocked down the fence.

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All the trees and bushes are bare but there is some colour from the Dogwood

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It is difficult to see with all the bushes being bare, but this is a corner of my dedicated Brigid’s Garden.

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And here is one of the first Dandelions, not yet in flower.

Dandelion is a flower associated with Brigid so it was lovely to see it today on my little meander.  Thinking about Nature,  you come to the conclusion that it is something immense and complicated and really we, humanity,  have no idea how it all works.  Then, just by quietly observing, you realise that is all quite simple really.   Just allow Mother Nature to do her work and help out whenever you can.  Do simple things like leaving plant material for the hibernating insects, leaving dandelions alone so that the bees can feed when they awake after winter hibernation.  The goddess Brigid is renowned for bringing magical bees from her orchard in the Other Realm so that we would have sweetness in this realm.  Perhaps that is why she is so fond of the Dandelion.

Imbolc – the beginning of Spring, that sense of anticipation in the air, a sense of good things coming and Brigid is, in popular folklore, regarded as being the bringer of plenty, helping things to grow and overseeing new beginnings and fresh starts.  Every spring we make a fresh start in the garden, helping things to grow.  We “spring clean” our homes ready for all the good things that are coming; these are simple and age old activities that enable us to feel renewed.  Spring greens such as Cleavers are appearing and they can be cleansing and nutritional after the heavy winter fare.

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Cleavers can be included in a simple green juice or eaten fresh like spinach.  It spring cleans the system.

For me it is important to trust that All Is Well – I use the phrase as a mantra sometimes.  I hadn’t been in the poly tunnel for ages and when I went in today I got something of a surprise.. .

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Lots of lemons on the lemon tree!  Despite a miserable and grey winter!  I had been worried about the tree but it was fine. What a gift on such a day.  Just simplicity at work.

Life can be as simple or as complicated as you choose to make it.  Why not make it simple and avoid the stress?  Life is too short, as a friend of mine recently found out, so simplify things.  We can only find space in the house for so many things, so stop worrying about wanting to buy more.  We can only wear so many clothes at one time.  We can only be in one place at a time.  Our children are only here and then they’ve grown and gone.  As Springtime begins, we have a great opportunity to make a fresh, and hopefully, simple start to the rest of the year.  Be happy and enjoy all the blessings of Brigid on this special day.  Use the comments box below to let me know how you celebrate La Feile Brid.