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!

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?

 

 

 

An Ode to Autumn

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

Which season do you prefer?

 

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.

 

Women and Power

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Stock-Take, Looking Towards Spring

Here in Connemara we have finished  celebrating the Winter Solstice and on Monday I went to a friend’s house to enjoy an evening  with women friends as it was Nollaig na mBan or Women’s Christmas.  Traditionally  in Ireland, this is the day when women put up their feet and relax or they go out and party with female friends before getting back to “business as usual”.

 

I always do a personal stock-take during the holiday season asking myself – What have I learned?  Did I fulfill my aspirations and the plans that I made this time last year?  What challenges did I meet this year?  Did I have any successes?  Was I happy? Did I make others happy? Did I make a positive difference in the world?

Doing this personal stock-take or reflection, I realise that I have learned a lot about myself, which is good because now I know some of the areas that need improvement and I know my strengths.  One of my plant allies, Fuchsia was a great help and support when I was facing challenges.  I feel so fortunate in having such good friends and allies in the plant world.

 

I fulfilled some of my aspirations and plans for 2019. For example,  I wrote and published my second book – “The Weed Handbook Volume 2”.

 

(which you can buy from this website – along with “The Weed Handbook Volume 1”)

I battled with technology, struggled with websites, became creative with cameras and learned new skills to create my first ever digital herbal course., “Herbs for Winter Wellness”.  This is available on the Udemy teaching platform and here is a link to it:

www.udemy.com/course/herbs-for-winter-wellness-from-danus-irish-herb-garden/?referralCode=C3D8822F078850AA3AD0

I am also thrilled that my other digital course, “Wise Woman, Goddess Training” has also taken off and I have students doing that too.  Here is a link:

danusirishherbgarden.com/wise-woman-training/)

I am happy to be sharing my knowledge about medicinal herbs as well as helping others to reconnect with Mother Nature and at the same time working to heal themselves.

After taking stock of my personal life I must conclude that despite some difficult times during 2019 and despite the let-downs, overall I am happy.  I think I have done some good for the planet and for my community. I have continued to build a relationship with the plant community by co-creating with Mother Nature.  For any one person that I met this year who was unkind and unpleasant, I was supported and encouraged by so many others and they made a bigger impression on me,   Now I am looking forward to 2020 and I intend to have an amazing year, with the amazing people  who are my friends and who I have yet to meet and with more wonderful plants.

To this end,  I have just carried out a stock-take of my apothecary, my home medicine chest, to see what I have and to plan what I will need for 2020.

 

I see that I am very well stocked with medicines made mainly from weeds, plants that grow wild here, as well as a few garden herbs. It is such a  reassuring feeling having so much good, natural medicine.  I am ready now for any event, for any health issue.  I noticed that there are several nervine herbs here – Lemon Balm, California Poppy, Skullcap, St. John’s Wort, Passiflora and Valerian.  I remember being quite surprised by the abundance of these plants and feeling obligated almost, to make medicine.  With so many people under stress these days I am delighted that I have medicine ready to help those with SAD, depression, nervous tension, anxiety and sleep problems. The plants have provided the medicine and those who need it will come.

What I will probably do this coming year is focus more on the plants and herbs that will help with physical problems, digestive issues and pain for example.  I will dry more plants for teas and make some incense from the many beautiful flowers that will be growing.  We do not know what the weather will be like but it is fun to make plans.  Soon it will be time to be looking through the seed packets again!  So much to look forward to and Imbolc, the beginning of Spring will be here before we know it.   Let me know if you are looking forward to growing anything this year or if you have a home apothecary.

 

 

 

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?