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.”

 

 

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?

 

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.

Head Down – Treasure to Find!

During the three days of the Summer Solstice we had the loveliest of weather and thanks to the Goddess it is continuing.  Hurray!

Have you noticed how the energy has changed?  Something has definitely changed or shifted since last Friday.  On Friday I found myself skipping up and down kerbs in the city.  I was having wonderful conversations in my head and noticed I was gesticulating as if I was having a REAL conversation and I had to cop on to myself otherwise I would have had some funny looks.  I could feel energy or excitement brimming up inside of me and I wanted to dance along the streets, laugh, hug people.  I felt SO happy!  It was such a great feeling.  I felt as giddy as a teenager because I felt so full of light.  It must have been the solstice and the sun spot activity.  Or perhaps it was due to all the treasure I had recently found.

All too often we rush through life,,looking ahead to the next chore or activity.  We are always running out of time and dashing about doing.  I can be as guilty of this as anyone but fortunately, because where I live is so beautiful, I am regularly reminded to slow down and take it all in.

 

Looking around and looking down, I discover Devil’s Bit Scabious, English Stonecrop,  Hawkweed and different types of grass.

The purple of Self-Heal next to the white of Clover and the yellow of Dandelion make me think of treasure.    There are more treasures to be enjoyed if I keep looking down.

 

The colours of Red Clover and  Hawkweed along with the pale pink of the Blackberry flower and the blue of Devil’s Bit Scabious are like bright gems strewn in the grass.

 

There are so many stories within our folklore and within modern “morality” tales about people who are so busy searching for what they think is precious or is treasure, that they often don’t recognise it when it is right in front of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

English Stonecrop  looks like a scattering of fallen stars and Wild Thyme adds bright colour which stands out so beautifully against the green of the grass.  Our wild flowers are a treasure trove that we can enjoy if we go head down rather than looking ahead to what is coming next.  So many of these plants are medicinal or have been included in tales in our shared folk history.  The variety and diversity of size, shape, colour and possible use is quite amazing to see on a short walk.

 

Cow Parsnip with lacy umbels look so fresh and delicate.

I say treasure our wild flowers and keep your head down – so that you can see them.  Be a friend to them…which reminds me; if you would like to make a friend of a wild flower consider coming to my double workshop on Saturday 13 July – Finding a Plant Ally and Making a Flower Essence.  Details here,

How to Find Your Plant Ally and make a Flower Essence – 13 July 2019

And remember, when you are out walking, if you really look, there are many types of friends to be made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Danu’s Irish Herb Garden – Healing for Mother Earth

The weather is growing colder and the nights become darker earlier.  With the fall of leaves, the landscape changes and the trees appear skeletal.  Their nakedness reveals other things within the landscape, things that are usually hidden, such as tussocks and hillocks and animal dens as well as the rocks and stones that are the bones of the land.

At this time of year I think of the Cailleach – the Old Hag, as she takes hold of the dying year and brings the seasonal changes of winter.  She is in charge now until Imbolc, when Brigid, as a maiden goddess, will herald the return of Spring.  The Cailleach’s mode of healing is rest and the deep sleep of winter.

Irish Goddesses are notoriously difficult to make sense of when they are compared to the Greek or Roman pantheons.  They are very rebellious, not really fitting into any of the usual “Goddess boxes” and when we think of the virtue of healing, several Goddesses  have responsibility in this area.  For example,  Brigid is the Goddess of Healing and Airmid is the Goddess of Herbs; and healing in the past always included herbal remedies, salves and medicines.  Healing though, is so much more than oral medicine or topical applications and when we talk about our health and well being, I think we should also include the state of the land/Land as a component of our own health.

In ancient times, the health of the land depended upon the integrity of the king, his wisdom, truth and justice and his care of the land as his bride.  When such a man was king the Land flourished.  At the moment our Land is sick – the Land of Ireland and land elsewhere.  A study has just announced that the fertility of Irish soil has fallen by 40% during this last decade and no-one knows why.  No-one knows why? One expert suggested it may be because we do not use enough fertiliser!!  But surely it is obvious!  When the land is unloved and is only seen as a commodity instead of as our nurturing Mother; when the land is repeatedly poisoned instead of fed and appreciated; when humans neglect to care for the land, is it really any surprise that the Land is sick??

 

Our Land needs healing.  To do this we must actively interact with and communicate with the Land and show love and appreciation.  In the past we left offerings of gratitude, at Lughnasa for example when we gave thanks for the harvest; we allowed our old Mother to rest by leaving some fields fallow – to recover from their hard work.  Trees and shrubs were planted around fields so that leaf fall could rejuvenate the soil.  Birds and wild life were encouraged and tolerated as all life is connected and all beings have their place in the wonderful web of life.  We knew that there were seasons for work, rest and for healing. We are learning now – possibly too late –  that we must rely on all the other life forms to maintain balance and harmony and yet we allow badger culls and hare coursing.  We remove ancient hedgerows and clear fields of bushes and shrubs…..It is a monstrous madness of destruction.

 

The Goddess The Morrigan is associated with death, war and destruction, was seen to incite blood lust and battle frenzy and her motif is the carrion crow.  The crow however, does not create destruction, rather it cleans up after Death has visited.  For me, The Morrigan is also a Goddess of healing who brings peace and calm after the battle, harmony and balance after chaos.  She is also a territorial ancestress of the Land, a sovereign Goddess and she made a rather alarming prophesy. She foretold of a time when there would be “…no flowers in summertime, no milk from the cows, no fruit from trees and no fish from the sea. … the women would be shameless, the men without strengths, old men would tell lies and the politicians would make unjust laws……men would become thieves and there would be no virtue in the world.” 

Will she be right? Is she right?  What can we do?  There is no point relying on politicians to heal our Land, this Earth, we must do it ourselves, one step at a time.  Be a careful consumer and plant something – anything, just keep at it.  Commune with the Land and with plants, become an ally.  Do some healing.  Anyone can heal anything, just go into your heart space and set an intention to heal. Make amends.

I believe that everyone does care and does want justice for the Land and the planet but it is so difficult to change the conditioning of a lifetime.  Change is necessary though.  Call on one of our healing Goddesses or to the Warrior aspect of the Morrigan for help and guidance and you will find a way to do something.

Let me know if you have any good ideas by using the comment box below. For each comment I will send a FREE packet of seeds to you.  (Postage is 1.50e)  These seeds will go someway to healing and beautifying our Mother Earth.

 

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 – Exhibition, Equinox, Excitement…

 

Well, I am a very happy woman as I write this evening.  I really didn’t expect to get such a positive response to my exhibition held during Clifden Art’s Festival.  I had been prompted to do it by the plants and having done it, taken the photos and written the book, what happened next was in the lap of the goddesses.  It was such a thrill to get positive feedback from people and I sold out the book!!! (I had secretly hoped to sell about half but never expected to SELL OUT!!!)

The best part of it all was that people really looked at the photographs and recognised some of the plants.  Finally, they had a name for those weeds that were all over their gardens.  Other people were fascinated and quite shocked  to find out that the weeds were medicinal and could be used for their health; still more people could remember the plants being used by their grannies when they were small children but they couldn’t remember how or why.  Hopefully this will be the start of their return to connecting with Mother Nature.

My birthday coincided with the end of the festival, on the Autumn Equinox, a time of equal night and equal day; a time  of balance.  My birthday always feel like a fresh beginning -perhaps everyone feels like that – I think it was because the school year always started just before my birthday and everything was new and just beginning again.  Then I worked as a teacher so I had the same feelings.  The change of season and the equinox always make me feel that I am about to head off into some new adventure, that new opportunities are waiting and life feels refreshed.

Light balanced with the dark.

The sun rising on the morning of my birthday, spreading beautiful rays of light towards me.

This year has been no different.  The weather has improved, there is that expectation of change in the air and mornings and evenings are getting cooler. My friend Colette, of Bealtaine Cottage, was visiting and gave me lots of motivational and inspirational ideas and suggestions and advised me to spend my birthday evening thinking about what I want this next year to be about. She had made a video about me for her You Tube channel which led to even more sales of the book.  I have had to have it reprinted!! You can watch her video here

 

After reflection, I have made a decision about what I am going to do with the rest of my life.  I am going to believe in myself, I am not going to take NO for an answer anymore, I am ready for action, I am going to strike while the iron is hot and I am devoting myself to plants, the herbs, which are a gift from the Goddess.

With all this excitement about the coming year, all the plans and ideas about how to get the world to recognise the wonder of plants, I am busy, busy busy.  My husband has to finish building my “herb shed” and I am planning to produce a digital course about herbs which will include their metaphysical qualities.  I have been asked to guide a Herb Walk for a local Green festival and I will be planting lots more herbs in my herb garden – and not to mention I will be writing The Weed Handbook Volume 2. It’s great to have so much to look forward to.

The sun is setting after a lovely Autumn day spent working in the garden.  I am so grateful for having had a very fulfilling week, selling books, meeting lovely people and talking about herbs.  The Libran full moon is in Aries which is possibly giving me the balance, drive and energy to make the decisions I have mentioned.  This moon is a great time to put head and heart together to move in the same direction and so I am putting energy into what I really want to do, what my inner soul really wants to do.  I am making a wish on the Full Moon tonight, that my inner power, strength and energy will lead head and heart to follow my soul’s destiny.

What will you wish for?  Let me know in the comment box below.  Happy Full Moon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Bhean Feasa – A Capricious Spring!

It is said that if  Brigid’s Day is cold, wet and stormy, then the Goddess of Winter, An Cailleach, stays in bed and sleeps on not noticing Spring creeping up on her.  However, if the day is fine on 1st February, the Cailleach gets up to collect more firewood as she means the winter to go on.  This year, here in Connemara, the weather was mixed and we are finding that Spring is very capricious.

 

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Rainbow and rain clouds
During the first part of February we had “never ending” rain which seemed to go on forever and people were questioning how much more the land could take.  Then we had a day of sunshine and I was working in the garden enjoying the warmth of the sun when I noticed the dog was very busy with something under a Hydrangea.  I went to investigate and found this:
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Can you see the Bumble Bee in the Crocus?

 

She must have been one of the first bees out of hibernation but our Ribes haven’t flowered yet, nor has the Blackthorn and there are few Dandelions. I hope she was able to feed from the Crocus before it closed for the evening and wrapped her in purple silk.
The light in Connemara is very special – even magical and you can always tell the season from the effect of the light on the landscape.

 

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 On our walk we saw Daffodils standing proud, golden trumpets wrongly foretelling that warmer weather was coming.

 

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Vinca Minor – a beautiful and medicinal plant is already in flower.

 

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The other signs of Spring were the Monbretia coming up through the grass in a truly bright shade of green.

 

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One of my favourite things to see on a walk, and can be seen all year round, is Moss.  So velvety and soft and so varied.

 

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It makes me feel as if I am looking into a magical otherworldly realm.

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After the brief sunshine, the ominous clouds returned and plunged us back into that miserable greyness.

 

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The wind began to rise and it was bitterly cold, more so than previously.  The Crocuses closed up and the poor Daffodils were beaten down. One of the benefits of the wind is that it dries up the land – but also my face when I’m outside!! Not so pleasant.

 

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The rain returned.  There was talk of snow and storms.  We poo-pooed the warnings here because we rarely get snow and we are on the west coast, far away from “The Beast“!!  But the snow did come.  Certainly not as badly as elsewhere but enough to engender a frisson of excitement.

 

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I hope the Daffodils will spring back when the snow melts.  Strange to think of this happening outside when inside the polytunnel lemons are growing!

 

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Is this because the polytunnel is very effective at creating a micro climate or is such variation due to climate change?  Perhaps it’s the end of the world as we know it, in reference to St. Malachy’s predictions.  It’s a sensitive subject and creates a great deal of debate.  What do you think?  Use the comments box below to let me know.

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.