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.

 

 

 

 

Keeping The Light Shining

 

The Winter Solstice was one of my highlights of last year, 2020.  After a year of gloom, doom, despair and darkness for many,  the Solstice was an opportunity to really celebrate the Light.

 

 

Candle light and lamp light brightened the house during the holiday season and it is always lovely to have such soft lighting when relaxing.  Our Solstice celebration also included lights or torches made from Mullein stalks that I had saved from harvest time.

 

 

You can see how brightly they burned!  They lasted for a good time too – maybe an hour or more – so I was very pleased with them.  I felt it was more important than ever to celebrate the return of the Light after such a dark year.  The Solstice occurred on the night of the conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn.  I had read a lot about this conjunction but I am not an astrologer so I won’t attempt to describe any of the forecasts.  You can read about this conjunction here and here  astrologyking.com/jupiter-conjunct-saturn-the-great-conjunction/  darkstarastrology.com/jupiter-conjunction-saturn/         

Suffice it to say, things are going to change but HOW is not known, it depends on us and how we think.  Throughout this last year I, like many, have felt anxious and fearful and I am sure there have been many dark nights of the soul for people. The lack of light during winter certainly did not help.  For me, I was not anxious about a virus or becoming ill because I am confident in my immune system and good health.  I have been anxious about what it all means.  There seem to be so many agendas, so much censorship and propaganda; so much fear generated and so many theories about what is actually going on.  Censorship and confusing information from governments and health experts have given me particular concern and I have felt a darkness spreading towards our future.  Consequently, at the Solstice I made a vow to myself, to not only welcome in the Light but to be the Light!  If we are to manifest a future that serves everyone, brings Peace and good will, a future of equal opportunity and mutual respect for the planet and for all people, then I think we must focus on the Light and not on negative possibilities that haven’t yet happened.

There are many plants throughout the year that will help us to shine our lights, not least St. John’s Wort and, coming very soon, Dandelion!  These plants are allies who will help us to shine the Light within us.

 

 

I do believe that we all have a Light within.  Some people might call it Divine Light others might call it Star Light or Love Light.  It has actually been scientifically proven that we do have a Light body made up of bio-photons. Here is an interesting article.  wakeup-world.com/2013/07/12/biophotons-the-human-body-emits-communicates-with-and-is-made-from-light/   

 

There are many definitions of Light but for me, the Light that is within us is a deep, deep Knowledge.  The Knowledge that we are part of this planet, that we are part of each other and that deep down we know that this is the Truth.  In ancient Ireland, the Truth was seen as a magical force that could bring forth healing.  One could argue that we all have our own truths and that truth may differ from person to person.  Perhaps, but I say, strip away all the conditioning, all of the religious dogma and political, social and cultural propaganda that we have all been subjected to and the deep Truth within all of us will shine like Light.  This Light or Truth, can heal us and heal our planet and heal our relationship with all our plant and animal relations.

So rather than continuing to worry, I am training myself to be in the now and more importantly to visualise and imagine, to really work to  manifest a bright, light filled future.  I want the best for my children, I want them to be free and happy.  I want all of us to be happy and free, free to be how we are meant to be.

If we keep our Light shining and resist the morbid temptation to worry and imagine the worst; if we remember  to call on our plant allies to support us then our Light will overcome any darkness and help us to manifest a better world.  Our energy and personal power will manifest the Light rather than feed the darkness.

Marianne Williamson’s poem has been with me for a long time and I would like to share it with you:

Our Deepest Fear
By Marianne Williamson

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

 

If we consciously shine our own Light then the Light will spread and all will be well.  The plants are already doing it even in January!

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?

 

Growth – It’s a Funny Word, that!

Isn’t it wonderful in springtime, when we observe the growth in the hedgerows and fields and in the parks and in our gardens.  We feel a deep down, almost primeval feeling of relief,  that life is continuing, that plants are growing again after winter.  I think that sense of relief is carried in our genetic memories.  The sight of spring growth lifts the spirits and promises us that the light is returning.  Plant life needs the light of the sun for energy, for growth.

 

We start off some of our seeds in February, tucking them up in modules of compost, looking forward to the day when we spot signs of growth.  Outside, we notice the greening of the land, with the growth of Dandelion, Cleavers and young Nettles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh buds on trees also tell us that there is growth as do the flowers that appear as the Earth warms and we head towards summer.

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing growth in Nature like this is so heart affirming.  We look forward to the growth of our vegetables and to  the fruit on the trees.  Harvest time is a natural outcome of all the growth during the summer.  Watching our plants grow – the vegetables, the fruit bushes, the herbs and the trees; enjoying the colours and scents of the flowers is like watching our children grow.  Nothing gives more satisfaction than seeing a child grow from infant to adult or seeing the garden grow over the seasons.

With harvest time at Lughnasadh, growth slows down and we begin to harvest our crops.  All the effort has paid off.  We are grateful to the sun and to the rain.  We are grateful to the plants.  We are grateful that we have had the opportunity to enjoy the weather and the fruits of our labours.

 

Later, as we reach Seed-Fall or Samhain, (the end of summer), we harvest the final crops and our seeds.

 

 

Plants die back and it is time for the Earth to rest.  It is time for us to prepare for winter.  We know that it is only natural that growth cannot continue.  It would be wrong if it did.  Imagine if our children kept growing but never reached adulthood, it would be worrying and unnatural.  Imagine if plants kept growing but we never reached harvest time, we would be hungry!  We refer to various bodily complaints in terms of unnatural growth – an in-growing toe nail for example is very painful.  An overgrowth of facial hair on a woman can be very distressing.  Often cancer is described as a “growth”. Such complaints cause stress and pain and are the result of some imbalance within the body; something gone wrong.  The natural cycle of life is for all living things to come into being, grow and then die off.  Then the cycle begins again. We can see these cycles in the seasons, in the natural world and in our selves.

An economy is a system in which the production of and consumption of resources are managed.  Every day we are given news about this system – which, by the way, is not alive.  It is an idea, a method, a system of organisation.  We are told that we need growth, we need the economy to grow.  The growth of this economy is dependent on producing and consuming more and more and more.  Unlike natural systems, the economy must keep growing, it must never cycle or relax or end.  The objective of our economists and politicians is to convince us that the economy is a “being” which must be fed.  To feed this non-living system, method, idea,  necessitates plundering our natural world.

Environmental groups and  green parties also talk about the necessity of economic growth as if they can achieve two diametrically opposed outcomes.  They do know that caring for the planet cannot be done if one is seeking economic growth, based on a system that manages the production and consumption of our planet’s resources.  Extraction, pollution, throwaway this and disposable that, destruction of habitats, 24/7 anything you want on tap, (most of which we don’t need but are trained to want) is an exhausting treadmill of pointlessness for us and for the planet.

It is quite simple.  There is no such thing as infinite growth – we know that when extended growth  happens in Nature, something is seriously wrong and out of balance.  We cannot have a happy planet, a healthy environment, (internally and externally) if we are in exploitation mode.  Life would be so much simpler, happier, less stressful, if everyone made do with a little less, slowed down, rested and looked forward to the return of “summer”.

 

Focusing Intention and Attention

 

We are living in strange times at the moment and many people have found that with the  extra time on their hands they have been able to reflect on their lives.  Some have taken up yoga and meditation or are watching movies and soaps. Me?  I have never been busier! This lock-down has compelled me to spend more time outside in the garden.  I have built more vegetable beds; I have sown more seeds; I have planted more trees, (www.youtube.com/watch?v=XBIE86dVq5A)  and I have had my head down working.  I have been very busy doing things.  It has almost been as if, because the world is in lock-down, on a go-slow, I have had the opportunity to catch up.  But catch up with what?

When I was living in England, before I came home to Ireland, I lived in a house like this,

and I only had a tiny back-yard garden.

Here in the west of Ireland, the fields are small and are called gardens.  When a person here is talking about a garden they mean a field, not a lawn with some flower beds.  My garden here originally looked a bit like this, (though not as bad I am glad to say)

as this poor garden is just neglected.

For the past eleven years, give or take a year, I have been working with my garden, trying to co-create a place of peace and beauty. I have hungered so long for such a place, a place where I could grow my own food, connect with Nature and encourage bio-diversity.  As I work, I speak to the plant spirits asking them to grow well and to thrive.  I sense, out of the corner of my eye, that spirits of the land are looking on.   I focus my intention on what I am doing and on the plants.

Just before lock-down, we went to visit a very dear friend who has an outstandingly magical garden.  We always come away full of hope and inspiration and lots of great ideas and encouragement.  Her garden is a true labour of love and it shows.  You can see what I mean here –  bealtainecottage.com/about/.  Another friend of ours inherited a well established, mature garden with a beautiful ancient woodland at its edges, a  real olde worlde garden,  anglersreturn.com/home-amenities.php.  These gardens have inspired me so much, to the point where I work, work, work to “catch up” and I have only just realised that I am so busy doing the gardening that I am not just being with the garden.  I am focusing my intention on the garden,  on the outcome of my work; but I was not focusing  my attention which is quite different.

 

My intention is to create the beautiful garden of peace that I mentioned.  Focusing my intention seems to be working. I took a break the other day, a lovely warm day of sunshine and blue skies.  Sitting down and glancing around I really looked at my garden, really saw it..  I was quite surprised to see how lush and beautiful it is.

 

 

 

 

It dawned on me then, (and I feel so stupid about this), that intention is brilliant when it is focused and it achieves a lot.  My intention has created a lovely, wild garden with trees, shrubs, herbs, vegetables and fruit. However,  my garden needs my attention as well.  If I really want to co-create with the spirits of the garden and with Mother Nature, I must be attentive to them.  Just as a child needs attention to help it develop confidence and grow,  my garden needs my full attention to enable it to feel really loved and  really appreciated.

Professor Emoto showed in his experiments with water crystals that if something is ignored it pines away from neglect.  If something is shouted at and cursed it will just survive.  Best of all is that which receives loving attention.  (www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ehlw-9PJkIE)   I believe that showing my garden loving attention will result in a much deeper, more sacred relationship with the land for me; and that will lead to us, my garden and I, enjoying a wonderful life of co-creativity together.

 

Lovely Lughnasadh – Enjoying Abundance

Lughnasadh  is a seasonal event derived from the funerary celebrations, games of skill and  animal trading that the sun god Lugh devised to commemorate his foster mother Tailtu..  She was an ancient Earth or Mother Goddess who had decided to clear the land of rocks and boulders so that the people of ancient Ireland could grow their crops.  The hard work that ensued wore out poor Tailtu and she died of exhaustion.  Each Lughnasadh we remember Tailtu’s hard work as we enjoy the first harvest.

Here in Ireland  agricultural shows take place during August and there are  horse shows up and down the country.  Connemara is famous for the Connemara Pony Show which attracts visitors from all over the world who come to seee the finest of our regional ponies who are renowned for their intelligence and gentle manner. Many of the other types of summer festivals taking place around the country are the legacy of Lugh’s original games.

Clifden Pony Show

 

For me, this time of year is especially beautiful.  The colours of the flowers in the meadows and hedgerows are so particularly bright, they seem to be saying “..look at me, I’m here for you..” and there are lots of medicinal plants to harvest.

 

 

           Purple Loosestrife

 

Agrimony

 

So many flowers are really making their colours shine out and the air is perfumed  with the scent of both trees and flowers.

 

                                           Wild Carrot

 

I have been collecting the “weeds” from my garden and from the polytunnel and so far I have made medicine – teas and tinctures – from Meadowsweet, Nettle, Agrimony, Coltsfoot, Dandelion, Lemon Balm, Artemesia, Rosebay Willow Herb and more.  If you would like to know more about “weeds”and their healing powers, you can purchase my two books, The Weed Handbook Volume 1” and “The Weed Handbook Volume 2” from this web site.
It is such a relief, as summer draws to a close, knowing that I am well stocked up with herbal teas and tinctures, salves and lotions.  Fruit is in the freezer to bring some sweet delights during the dark days and other vegetables are being harvested and dried or blanched and frozen.  I could have had more but I have been busy with other demands lately.  However, despite those demands, I must return to my garden and finish harvesting and preparing my beds for their rest during winter.  This means hoeing and clearing and adding sea weed which will rot down and release lots of much needed minerals.
To celebrate the season of Lughnasadh it is a good thing to practice gratitude.  One thing I like to do is write down all the lovely things that  I am grateful to Mother Nature for – all those beautiful flowers and trees, warm, long, sunny days and the freedom to be able to enjoy them.  If you can break bread with friends, do it consciously with thanks.  I remember Tailtu’s great gift to us all.

Blessings of Lughnasadh to everyone.

Medicine and Magic in the May Garden

 

I love the month of May – the whole country becomes lush and green and seems to me to be full of magical promise. Every time I turn around there is a new plant to discover, a new flower blossoming, a new leaf just opened on a young tree.

Some people might say that it is a terrible year for weeds as the heat and the soft rain have really encouraged vigorous growth but lets not forget that many of those weeds are medicinal and magical.

Horsetail – Equisetum arvense is a wonderful urinary herb and is very beneficial to the body in other ways.  He also has many uses in the garden itself; in a compost tea, as a spray for blight and as a spray for rose fungus, so don’t get too het up about finding him in your garden.  Be grateful and put him to use – that is why he is there.  Horsetail can be used in fertility spells which is not surprising when you see how prolific Horsetail is!

Red Clover – Trifolium pratense – looks so sweet and pretty, actually she really does taste sweet.  Try the flowers in a salad.  You can also use this little herb for coughs and skin complaints as well as part of a detox formula.  As for the garden, she fixes nitrogen into the soil so all your other plants benefit from having her there.  Use Red Clover in a spell for Love, Success and Abundance.

Here is Cramp Bark – Viburnum opulus, also known as Guelder Rose, can be seen in many a hedge row and like other trees she is dressing up in her flowers.  Later in the year she will produce bright red berries.  Although she can be used for muscle tension and cramps anywhere in the body, she is in particular a herb for women.  Always take the bark from a branch or a twig and NEVER from the trunk.

Elder – Sambucus nigra – is a tree that just keeps giving!!!  She shares her bark, leaves, flowers and berries!  The flowers and berries are especially prized for relieving upper and lower respiratory problems.  Elder is said to be ” …a veritable medicine chest…” as she can help with almost every physical complaint in some way.  Not only that, she has the magic of being the Crone Tree, a wise tree with much to teach us.  She is the fierce Mother who will do away with harmful negativity and protect us from all harm.

All of the plants mentioned so far are magical,  of course, simply by being who they are and by the way they share their healing attributes with us.

Here is Marshmallow – Althaea officinalis  looking beautifully lush and green before flowering.  You can see just how soft and velvety the leaves are.  I collect the leaves once the flowers have appeared as they make a very soothing medicine for chest problems during winter.

 

This is a real magical plant. Foxglove – Digitalis purpurea – was grown from some wild seed and I have planted several plants around my garden.  I saved seed last year too and now I have about thirty or more little seedlings sitting in the green house.  I would not personally use this as a medicine although it has been used traditionally for heart complaints.  I use it to honour the faeries and the Spirits of Place, the spirits of this land that I am guardian of.  This is one of their plants and I want them to feel at home here.  I am so glad it is in flower this month as May is such a month of faery activity.  As for the magic of this plant, I use the fallen petals to make a magical summer incense with and include it in my Summer Solstice celebrations.

What list of May plants and May magic would be complete without Hawthorn?

 

Hawthorn – Cratagus oxyacantha – is so associated with the month of May that her blooms are often called May Flower and Hawthorn often represents the Maypole.  Hawthorn is a herb for the heart, helping with blood-pressure issues and reducing cholesterol as well as toning the heart muscle and the cardiovascular system.

Hawthorn is a Bealtaine plant, representing youth, fertility and conception; falling in love and starting a new generation.  I think that her association with the heart is very interesting because if there is one plant, one flower, that can help open your heart to the Beauty of Nature, then it has to be Hawthorn.

Last weekend I attended a herb conference and all of the international visitors and speakers commented on how stunning they thought the Hawthorn in the hedgerows looked.  One speaker, who had travelled all the way from the Amazon, was astounded by Hawthorn’s beauty and her message to us. They were all touched deeply by the beauty of this lovely hedgerow plant.  Don’t you think that is magic?  That one of our magical trees can affect people to such an extent?

Hawthorn is of course, a magical plant.  Here in Ireland she is a faery plant and even today people still believe that it would be unlucky to cut down or interfere with a lone Hawthorn tree.

Isn’t she graceful? Each lone Hawthorn is said to hold the spirit of a faery, one of the Sidh and they are often found at Holy Wells in Ireland.

The time is here now for us to acknowledge that plants are not only sentient beings and have a lot to teach us; they are also wiser than us.  It is easy to build relationships with plants and during this month of May, when our hearts are touched by the Beauty of Nature, go out into your garden, park, hedgerow, cemetery or any wild place and start building relationships.  Our planet, our amazing Mother needs us to do this, wants us to do this and the plants are waiting for us to do this.

Let me know how you communicate with plants and if you need a little help to get started, have a look at the Weed Handbook Volume 2.  Maybe consider the Wise Woman Training which will soon be available in digital format.

May Blessings of love and fruitfulness to everyone!

 

Will You Join The 3.5%?

Wild Violet

 

What a beautiful and delicate little flower the Wild Violet is.  Would you deliberately trample on it?  Would you pluck it and let it wilt and then discard it?  I am sure you would not.   I am mulling something over here, so I hope you will bear with me.

A very good friend mentioned recently that she was horrified to see a woman purchasing some weedkiller – no need to mention the name and give them free publicity – needless to say a weedkiller made by a notorious company.  She wanted to say something, to alert the woman to her error, to tell the woman not to harm our beautiful precious Earth but she was so angry she could not bring herself to do it without incurring aggravation.  I believed she should have said something but like her, if it was me, I too would have been angry and would have the made the situation worse.  Taking a deep breath I realised that it would be better to reach out with a friendly word of warning rather than berating people who may simply not know!!!  After all, I was once one of those people who didn’t know.

                                   Bluebells

I live in a beautiful part of the world and we get a lot of rain so it is difficult to believe all the dire predictions about global warming even though the evidence is right there.  How much is due to human behaviour and the exploitation of our planet and how much is due to the cyclical nature of weather is not really the point.  What is relevant to me is the pollution we create, the sheer waste of resources, the wanton destruction of our Green Relations and pristine places, deliberate extermination of beautiful animals and the overwhelming greed that is endemic in Western society.  I say to myself,  “..it’s not all my fault, it’s the system I was born in to…” which is true.  I would have never voted for plastic, for weed killers or cars but they are here in my world.  I have avoided weed killer and I avoid plastic NOW – that I know better – but I cannot avoid my car.

Daisy

George Monbiot, writing in The Guardian recently, warns of an approaching apocalypse and says that “they” (the powers that be) are not coming to our rescue. He tells us not to feel disheartened or feel guilty.  He says it is time for civil disobedience that we – the ordinary people – must agree that enough is enough.  Whatever is causing climate change is exacerbated by consumerism and we in the west all have enough.  (I feel angry that the “system” in which I live has trained me to be a consumer and I have to fight with my conscience and common sense each time I go into the city).

 

                               Foxglove

However, as George argues, we cannot allow ourselves to be defeated by feeling guilty and therefore becoming powerless to do anything, we have to stand up for what we believe in, do what we can, be disobedient if necessary.

With love in our hearts, we can approach people who may not know they are poisoning our Mother and themselves.  We must speak out while we still , just about, have time and speak our truth.  We must refuse to give in to the fear mongers, defy them and truly believe that the world we want to see is here, now.

Be a rebel, dream a beautiful world where there is care for the planet, shares for all and happiness quotas instead of consumer quotas.  Speak out when you see injustice to the planet and to those beings we share our planet with.  It takes only 3.5% of the population to change things.  Imagine if that little Wild Violet was the last one we might ever see, what would you do?

Danu’s Irish Herb Garden – Spring Intentions and Brigid’s Day

Spring is almost here – only a week until Brigid’s Day Eve which is a great opportunity to check in with the intentions made at the new year.  It is also a good time to make some Spring intentions now that energy is rising as the Earth slowly wakes up and begins to stretch.  I made several intentions, or promises to myself, and as I begin to feel re-energised as Spring approaches, I find myself examining the intentions and adding more energy to them.  One philosophy I read somewhere about intentions or resolutions, is that you should let someone know what they are so that you cannot then lapse or give in and lose face.  So here goes, here are my intentions.

My second book about herbs – The Weed Handbook Vol 2 – has been started and is underway and I intend for it to be available to buy by Spring Equinox.  You can pre-order a copy if you would like.  I am also, almost ready to make available digital Herbal Workshops for those people who live a long way off and would like to attend my workshops but cannot.  My HERb shed should be ready for use by mid summer; and, as the work there continues, I am continuing to beautify the garden with more herbs, flowers and trees.

As Brigid’s Day approaches, I am planning a little ceremony or ritual, dedicating all the work and my intentions to her.  After all, she is a goddess of creativity! I always celebrate Brigid’s Day, following tradition, (the little we know) as well as creating some of my own rituals.

I follow the traditions of making Brigid’s crosses for protection of the home, outbuildings and for the car; a little Brídeog – a small doll made from rushes to represent Brigid – and I make a libation or offering of milk and honey,  and oat cakes, foods that would be associated with Brigid.  I also leave outside a scarf or piece of fabric so that when Brigid passes by, she can bless the fabric with her healing powers.

As the Earth is waking, green herbs are appearing that are tonic and cleansing.  Nettles, Cleavers, Chickweed and of course Dandelion, among others.  I make a small feast of these fresh cleansing herbs and I make a vegetable stew with barley – the traditional grain of old Ireland.  Following these traditions I have created something and crafted something and used fire to achieve my Imbolc feast.

There is very little source material available regarding the Goddess Brigid yet there is sufficient information passed down as myth to know something about her.  If things have been added over the centuries, I think that demonstrates both her popularity and that she is a “living” archetype.  She is regarded as a Triple Goddess of Fire, looking after the hearth flame, the flame of the forge and the flame of poetic inspiration.   She most DEFINITELY was NEVER a blacksmith!!! (One modern day writer has gone to great lengths to work out if Brigid ever worked as a blacksmith!)  Her relationship to the forge was purely metaphorical.  In ancient times, the people who were able to transform molten metals into things of beauty or of great use and value were thought to be working magic with fire and as a goddess of fire, Brigid is patroness of the forge.

Her remit is quite large.  She looks after hearth and home and consequently offers healing and protection; she provides the passion and inspiration needed for creative work and crafting and is also associated with midwifery and fertility.  It is no surprise then that  Brigid is associated with Imbolc which is placed on the Wheel of the Year between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox and is one of the eight fire festivals. 

There is some dispute as to what Imbolc actually means; some scholars believe it means i mbolc meaning “in the belly” which could be referring either to the sheep who are about to lamb, thus providing the people with milk; or it could  be referring to Mother Earth’s belly as this is the time when spring crops were sown and when other young were expected.  An alternative suggestion is that imbolc comes from the Irish iomfholc which can be roughly translated to mean a great washing or bathing, that is, a very specific bathing such as for purification for example.  An old Irish manuscript refers to a poem or verse that seems to bear this out,

“…..this is what is proper at Imbolc, washing the hands, the feet, the head”

and of course, springtime is a time of spring cleaning, both internally and in the house.  In ancient times it is quite possible that people did not have the opportunity to bathe during winter or open up their homes to fresh air. By this time, Imbolc, the beginning of Spring, they would be desperate for some fresh, cleansing greens for themselves and be glad of the opportunity to clean their bodies and their homes.

 

The Goddess Brigid is said to have brought magical bees from the Other World to bring sweetness into our world.  Perhaps that is why she has always been associated with Dandelion – one of the first spring flowers that provide the bees with nectar.  The Sacred Oak is another plant associated with her so planting oak saplings would be an appropriate thing to do at Imbolc at the end of winter.

Although Brigid is a goddess of fire, she is also linked to the holy wells of Ireland and there are several holy wells dedicated to Brigid.  It always feels nice to visit one of the wells and ritually wash my hands in the water for purification and to remove any litter or rubbish lying around.  As fire is also associated with purification, I like to light a white candle, sit with it and mediate on the “rubbish” I could release and cleanse away.

How do you celebrate Brigid’s Day  or Imbolc?  Leave a comment below to let me know.