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.”

 

 

Samhain Celebrations – Feasting and Communing with the Ancestors

I’ve been busy this last week updating and sending off the Samhain module which is part of the Wise Woman Training Course.  danusirishherbgarden.com/wise-woman-training/  I am delighted that so many are engaging with this course which goes around the Wheel of the Year.  I have always enjoyed Samhain.  As a child the possibility of magic and mystery and the potential opportunity to see a ghost made me look forward to Hallowe’en – as I knew it then.  Now, as an adult my understanding has changed and I celebrate Samhain, the Celtic New Year.  Samhain is SO much more than the nonsensical Hollywood version which is really, just another attempt to denigrate women – “evil witches and hags”; whilst at the same time trying to separate us from Nature and from our Dead.  The terrible fear around death at this moment, all over the western world, is because we have lost our connection to the Dead and we have forgotten that the soul is immortal.  To many people today, death seems to be THE END, something to fear.  Whereas, if we celebrate Samhain instead of Hallowe’en,  (with all its commercial, nasty plastic and diabetes-inducing sweets),  we feel comforted to know that those we loved are still with us even if they are elsewhere.  We can sense, through our intentional celebrations that they are close by.

The traditional celebrations include saving a place at the table for the Ancestors to join in the main meal.  I set an extra place and put out food as if a corporeal person was there and then after the meal I offer that plate to the Nature Spirits.  The meal is conducted in silence so that if our ancestors want to speak to us, we are more able to hear them.  It is also traditional to leave whiskey and tobacco at the fireside should the Ancestors want to sit by the fire once we are in bed.  These little acts give us the chance to do something again for our loved ones and to let them know that they are alive in our hearts and minds.  Perhaps if we sit by the fire quietly we will sense their presence and feel comforted.

This year, as always, I will create an altar that celebrates Samhain.  This altar will represent the New Year, the Ancestors and Seed Fall . ( danusirishherbgarden.com/2017/11/Have a look at this older blog post) I will include photographs of my Ancestors and perhaps some items of sentimental value that connect me to them.  In the evening, with the beginning of the new day, we will begin our feast.  We often start with a root vegetable soup – carrots, parsnips, turnip, onions and potato.  The sweetness of the root vegetables makes us feel a little brighter now that the nights are getting dark earlier.  The feast always includes Colcannon, one of my favourite dishes and we have so much kale growing it would be a shame not to use it.

 

This year I have made something for the first time, which I will be putting on my Colcannon and my veggie sausages – Hawthorn Berry Ketchup.  

This has been made from the last of the harvest.  Going out to collect or forage the last of the summer and autumn fruits reminds us again that life is cyclical and that there is life in death.

That actually, there nothing to fear.  I added some late Blackberries to my ketchup and here is how I made it.

I rinsed the fruit and removed the stalks from the Hawthorn berries with a fork

I then placed all the berries into a pan with some water and Apple Cider Vinegar – organic of course  –  brought to the boil and simmered for half an hour or so until the berries had split.

The next step was to strain the liquid through a sieve into a clean pan, pressing the fruit through too.  Quite a laborious job.

I then added some sugar and spices to the mixture, brought it back to the boil and simmered until it had thickened.  Then I poured it into a sterilised bottle and labelled it.

 

I made up my recipe by amalgamating about three others so here it is – adjust it as you will.

1lb/500g Hawthorn berries and some Blackberries, 300ml ACV, 300ml water, 1 small onion finely chopped, 175g (-250g) of brown sugar, (I used about 200g) Salt, Fresh Black Pepper and spices – I used Chilli Flakes, Cumin, Coriander seeds crushed, and pinches of Sage, Thyme and Rosemary.  Herbs that I grow myself in my garden and that called to be a part of this.

At the feast, we will also enjoy an Apple Pie and a traditional cake –  the fruit Breac.

The fruits and the vegetables  of the Samhain Feast connect us with the harvests and lead us to remember how much abundance we receive from Mother Earth. Samhain is also known as Seed Fall as so many plants are going to seed with the promise of more abundance to come later in this New Year.  As the winter progresses we can feel nourished by Mother Earth and feel safe to go within, to assess how we did this last year and to make our plans and set our goals for the coming year.  As there is little to be done out on the land, we can now take the time to commune with our ancestors and to heed their wisdom.  The Grandmothers and Wise Woman of our past communities marked the seasons, acknowledged Mother Earth  and shared the wisdom of the Ancestors.  This female power has scared the patriarchy for centuries if not millenia and thus those wise women and grandmothers have been reduced to “wicked witches” and hags who consort with hobgoblins and demons.  This is a ploy to make us fear the dark,the Ancestors and Mother Earth.  We are told to stay in and shut the doors when we should be out dancing under the moonlight!  Here in Connemara  it is very stormy – you can feel all that elemental energy!!  It is so rejuvenating and awakens our wild, natural selves.  Will you go out and dance under this Samhain Full Moon?

 

 

 

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!

 

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.

The Sun Stands Still

Solstice literally means “sun stands still” for about three days.  About ten days ago we had snow and sleet on the mountains.

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We had hope that we might get a “White Christmas” and a shining, sparkling Solstice but our hopes were dashed as temperatures rose again and we became engulfed in mist. The mist wrapped itself around and imposed a magical enchantment, reducing sound and only slightly revealing ghostly shapes.  Soft and velvety it protected us from the madness of current crazy consumerism. Then, on 20th December it seemed to be clearing.

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The mountains were becoming visible.  Perhaps we would be fortunate to see the sun the next day.

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On Thursday we were up to celebrate the solstice,  to greet the returning sun. Just before dawn, standing in our bare feet to connect with Mother Earth,  we sang and chanted and I drummed a welcome but unfortunately the mist was too heavy – it was a fog!!  We could not see the sun but we celebrated anyway.

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Celebrating the Solstice is celebrating the return of the Light, celebrating the strengthening sun.  We lit a candle and made our dedication for the coming year.  Thinking of the light with-out and the light within, we lit candles around the house.

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The house is dressed with the gifts of greenery from the forest, Holly, Ivy, Pine and Spruce, representing our hospitality to the Green Plant Spirits and our recognition of the sun’s vital role in generating life on this planet.

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As we lit the candles we thought of all the aspirations we had for ourselves for the coming year.  We thought of how we all carry Divine Light within and how can we best use it for the benefit of ourselves and for others. What do we want to illuminate and allow to shine?

 

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Eventually the day lightened – we still couldn’t see the sun for the mist but our house was well lit and we felt full of optimism for the coming year.  All will be well in 2018, all is well.  May the blessing of the light be with you.  As my yoga friends say, may the sun shine upon you.  Happy Yule.

Samhain – Summer’s End, Seed Fall

 

Happy Samhain Greetings! 

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It is Summer’s End, the leaves have fallen from some of the trees and they are looking stark and bare.  Other trees are changing their colours and brightening up the bleak landscape, adding yellows and oranges to the palette.

 

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One of the many Hawthorn trees on my road reveals its beautiful feminine wind-shaped glory after leaf fall.

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All around me, here in Connemara, is evidence of Summer’s End.  The bracken has turned brown and the heather has lost all colour.

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Fruit has come and gone.  The Rowan berries were the first to arrive and depart but a Cotoneaster has lots of berries to offer the birds as does a Guelder Rose.

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Our apples are long since eaten but there are still blackberries in the hedgerows.  According to legend they cannot be eaten now because the devil would have spat on them on Samhain Eve.  Small animals will make use of them I hope.

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I love the way the blackberry leaves turn pink adding another colour to the Autumn palette here in Connemara.  It is welcome as we do not have many trees.

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At Samhain we are in the north west of the wheel, a place or time of patterns and spirals. It is the Celtic New Year so it is a good time to meditate on what we have harvested in the past year.  What are the results of our actions?  What negative patterns have we repeated or become trapped in?

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Can we spiral into a better place for the coming year?  Samhain is also known as seed fall and so, metaphorically, we can think about which “seeds” we want to fall and grow for ourselves in the coming year.  Do we want to harvest peace and compassion, tolerance and forgiveness?  Do we want things to continue as they are, a world gone crazy and people totally disconnected from  our Mother Earth?

Here in Connemara I can see the turning of the Wheel of the Year by observing the changes in the hedgerows, in the plant life; from watching the birds prepare for migration, by enjoying the colours and fruits of Autumn. There is an atmosphere of change, a shifting. The sea and sky seem to merge in a different way emphasising that change is coming.  All of these observations and feelings give a sense of peace, a knowing that life continues to spiral on and so there is an opportunity to reconnect.

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According to Celtic belief, a place or time on the cusp of another is a potent and powerful opportunity for change.  The veil between worlds is thin and we can cross to meet with our ancestors and they can come to meet with us.  In times gone by it was traditional to set an extra place at the table to welcome to the Samhain feast, the loved ones who had passed over.  It is also a time of magic because at this cusp we can meet with the spirits of plants and of the Earth.  It is my belief that these spirits are there, like angels, waiting for us to sense them and ask for their guidance.

For me, the goddess who resides in the north west on the Wheel of the Year, is The Morrigan.  She is thought to be a goddess of death and we can see life dying or hibernating, ( a temporary death), in preparation for the winter cold.  She is also a goddess of fertility and the land which to me, is synonomous with the seeds lying in the ground during the cold winter, ready to germinate in spring.

As a goddess of the battlefield, she did not fight but cleared the battlefield of the dead. Her song after a battle was,

“Peace mounts to the heavens, The heavens descend to earth,                                                          Earth lies under the heavens, Everyone is strong…..”

Above all, she is about change and clearing up the “battlefield” of life.  She can clear away our mess and our fear, our mistakes and foolishness and make all fresh and clean again.  The Morrigan is not to be feared, she is to be welcomed with much respect.

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Call on The Morrigan to clear your life of whatever no longer serves you and look forward, with bright blessings to a New Year with the changes you want to see.

Leave a comment about how you connect to Mother Earth at Samhain.

 

If you would like to know more about our Celtic Goddesses and the Wheel of the Year, sign up for the Wise Woman Training.

Wild and Free – Elemental Energy

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MOTHER EARTH

Thanks to the early moon missions we were able to see what our planet looked like from space.  Our home, the extraordinarily beautiful planet, Earth.  The impression this made on people at the time and since has been profound and certainly added energy to the then burgeoning environmental movement.  Looking at this image today, I feel a deep love for Earth as well as a yearning to become more wild, more earth-like, more of the Earth. The constraints and pressures of modern life on myself, my family and on my friends makes me want to just run away and be free in the wilderness. I think many people feel this same urgency which is why the notion of living off-grid is so appealing.

There are many ways to nurture a more intimate relationship with the Earth in order to feel wild and free once more.  One can go into the wilderness, walk barefoot, hug trees, sleep outdoors … and there are many books which encourage just that.  Jay Griffiths’ “Wild”, George Monbiot’s “Feral” and Rachel Corby’s  “Rewild Yourself – Becoming Nature” to name a few.  It is also possible to enter the “wilderness” through the garden, through the window box, through a plant pot,

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…or even an old paint tin.

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Once you put your hands into soil or compost and intend to grow something, something magical happens.  The spirits of place, the spirits of the land and the spirits of the plant all work with you to co-create.

Once the call is made (by humans) nature responds accordingly to support that defined call.” 

Machaelle Small Wright (author of “Perelandra Garden Workbook – Co-Creative Energy Processes for Gardening, Agriculture and Life”)

Once we start co creating with Nature we are back into the wilderness.  (It is really not very far away – note the Dandelion that springs up through tarmac!)  The energy of the wilderness simply wants to encourage and enable all things to thrive.  Some people describe that wild energy as elemental; and some people go further and describe that energy as being caused by an elemental being.

Elemental beings are the spirits of place, the spirits of the land, the spirits of trees and streams and pebbles and all that we identify as Nature.  One writer, Pam Montgomery describes a water droplet creating a rainbow as light passed through it, as an individual elemental being. (“Plant Spirit Healing”and “Partner Earth”)  As we now know, everything is made of energy, so it seems perfectly reasonable to me that there are energies out there, in the plants, in the garden, in the wilderness.IMG_2148

This, by the way, is not wilderness – this is neglect and the co- creativity has stopped. The wilderness has not returned, with a diversity of plant and animal life; this is a stagnant field, in suspended animation, waiting for love.

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A little patch of our wilderness that flowered this year for the first time!

It is possible to return to wilderness by co creating a garden with helping elemental spirits.  They are also regarded as Divas or architects.  I have been trying to communicate with the Elementals here and I think it is starting to pay off.  The furze above has never flowered in the twenty years I have been here until now.

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Hawthorn with about three foot of growth on lower branches

The Hawthorn has been here for who knows how long without any change until this year.

The trees that we planted over the last three to four years are already ten to twelve foot high.IMG_2028

Our garden is being co-created, I call for help with every task.  I ask for help to grow our trees because they prevent erosion and provide homes for birds and animals. I ask for help when growing flowers and herbs because they feed the insects and birds and provide medicine.  I remember to give thanks for the wild gifts – the medicinal plants, the food plants.

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Hawthorn Berries – Food and Medicine

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Blackberries in profusion

I’ve been working in this garden with intent for about five or six years now and it is still a wilderness.  I do not use pesticides, I do not use fertilizers.  I make compost and call for help from the Elementals and I believe it is working.  Many gardeners would look at my garden and despair because there are no neat rows, it is not tidy and there are lots of “weeds” everywhere. It is definitely NOT a neat suburban garden with no leaf out of place.  It is a garden and it is a wilderness.

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A suburban garden here on the left is a fine example of what my garden is not.

Mary Reynolds, a former award winning landscape gardener, has decided she can no longer design gardens because ultimately they need to be controlled to keep the wildernesss out.  She writes,

 “Nature had her own ideas about design…..garden maintenance is fighting the  intentions Mother Nature has for herself.”

Machaella Small Wright argues that

Humans tend to look at gardens as an expression of nature. Nature looks at gardens as an expression of humans”

If we call to the Elementals and work as co-creators we can have wilderness gardens that express both Nature and human. If we call to the wild and free energy of the Elementals we will find ourselves connecting with the wilderness where ever we are.  In connecting with the wilderness we are communing with Mother Earth the Goddess.  For me, I think I’m getting results.    Leave a comment below and let me know how you connect to the wilderness or if you call to the Elementals.

     


 

“Plant Wisdom and The Goddess – Wise Woman Training”

One of my missions in life is to spread the word about the wisdom and healing power of plants.  I want everyone to know how beneficial plants are when we are feeling unwell or out of sorts; if we have the ‘flu or we are feeling anxious.  There is a plant remedy for every ailment and upset.

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As 80% of humanity uses plant medicine as their primary source of health care and as more Westerners return to herbal medicine, the healing power of plants is well known.  Not so many people know about the wisdom of plants.  Few know how the plants can be our allies in life and how they help us to connect on a deeply spiritual level with the Goddess, our Mother.

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The plants were Her first children and as our elders they are ready to bring us on a magical journey to remind us that we too are part of nature.

So, back to my mission….to share other aspects of plant healing.  I now feel that it is time for me to offer a course of Wise Woman training.

“Plant Wisdom and The Goddess – Wise Woman Training”

is a one year course from Samhain to Samhain during which time we will travel the Celtic Wheel of the Year meeting with our plant allies and with the Goddess in her various forms.  We will celebrate the eight fire festivals, weaving myth and reality in this world and in other worlds, rekindling a love for and a relationship with our land and with the Earth.

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We will recall our Celtic heritage through folklore, story and music, remembering how our ancestors respected the Goddess and we will come to understand that everything is alive and filled with spirit.  We will spend time in Nature here in Connemara, walking the land, wandering the sea shore and observing the plants. The land in Connemara is imbued with an unseen presence that can be felt when walking with gratitude for the Beauty of Nature.

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We will craft our various magical tools, (beginning with our Crane Bag), at each of the fire  festivals and you will learn how to journey with the Drum and with Dance.   We will practise ritual and ceremony and you will learn how to make an altar, how to work with gifts from Nature as you prepare for a Vision Quest that will take place at the end of the course.

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At every step, the plants will be with us, forging our reconnection to Mother Earth.  As we journey with the plants to the Goddess we will undergo personal transformation, remembering that Love is all there is.

If you feel that this training is calling to you, please feel free to contact me for any further information or to ask any questions that you may have.  If you know this course is for you, go to the Workshops Page where you can sign up for it.

 

 

 

 

 

Hawthorn, Magical Faery Tree at Bealtaine

One of the most iconic images of the west of Ireland is that of the Hawthorn tree, bent over due to the prevailing winds, looking almost like a graceful woman dancing.

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The Hawthorn tree is also known as Whitethorn and as the May tree.  It is just coming in to blossom here in my garden and during May will be full of white blooms  with their distinctive perfume. Once Hawthorn is in bloom you know that summer has arrived.  Bealtaine, Irish for the month of May, also marks the beginning of summer in the Celtic calendar.

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Medicinally, Hawthorn is taken as a tonic for the heart.  The flowering tops can be picked from May onwards – these include twiglets, flowers, buds and leaves. The berries are available from mid September. As a heart tonic it nourishes and strengthens the cardio vascular system, relaxes peripheral blood vessels, balances blood pressure, tones the circulatory system and acts as a diuretic thus reducing blood pressure.. It helps to open up the arteries as it dissolves cholesterol, it reduces palpitations, and can also be used to treat angina. It is an incredibly safe herb with no side effects or contra-indications.  However, if one is using allopathic cardio drugs one should see a medical herbalist.

Hawthorn can also be used as a tonic for “emotional” heart problems during menopause and in cases of anxiety, restlessness and other emotional pain.

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The flowering buds can be eaten in a salad and the berries can be eaten or fermented into wine.  The leaves and fruit have strong drawing powers and can be made into a poultice to draw splinters and thorns.

Metaphysically the Hawthorn helps to ‘open’ the heart to love and compassion and bestows courage on those who feel vulnerable.

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A lone or single Hawthorn is regarded as a Faery Tree and in Ireland no-one in their right mind would cause any harm or damage to it because they would risk the wrath of the Faeries. Indeed, during Bealtaine, (when the Faeries are especially active), the trees are decorated with bright ribbons, red cloths, shells and garlands.  These are offered to honour the tree and the Faery within and to invoke the blessings of fertility for land, livestock and human folk.

Bealtaine celebrates fertility and abundance, new life, the land awakening.  It is thought to go back to the time when the Celts were nomadic herdsmen, driving their cattle out to the summer pastures.  The Bealtaine bonfire represents the blessings of Bel (a sun god) and the return of the strength of the  sun.  Cattle were passed between two bonfires to ensure health and vitality.  This fire was very much a sacred fire of health and protection and in Connemara and elsewhere, the ashes were sprinkled on cattle, over crops and around dwellings.  Every hearth fire would be doused, put out and relit the following morning with a burning brand from the bonfire to ensure good luck for the coming year.

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Young men jumped over the bonfire to impress the girls, demonstrating their strength and virility. Hand fastings or wedding ceremonies often took place at this time of year, as the sap is rising and burgeoning life is obvious everywhere.  Hawthorn flowers were included in the wedding bouquet to ensure fertility for the happy couple.

Bealtaine and the Hawthorn are unquestionably linked, both representing the beginning of summer, love, light and fertility. During the Bealtaine celebrations offerings of milk, oats and honey would be made to the goddess of summer for the continuing abundance of life and good fortune.

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We are holding a Bealtaine celebration here.  See details on the home page and get in touch if you would like to come along and join in.

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