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.

 

 

 

 

An Bhean Feasa – Exhibition, Equinox, Excitement…

 

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

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

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

Light balanced with the dark.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Bhean Feasa’s Mission ….An Exhibition

Have you ever felt compelled to do something?  Felt nudged and pushed?  Have you ever had that feeling deep down in your gut that there is something you must do?  I have for some time now and finally, that feeling has culminated in a photographic exhibition “Weeds on the Wall”.

For the last number of years my mission has been to tell the world about the wonder of herbs.  The plant spirits have been nudging me, urging me, whispering to me to get the message out there and I have tried, offering workshops in herbal medicine and more.

The prompts continued and I began to think more consciously of what else I could do.  Talking to friends, about health issues and the state of the health service, I understood that there was something else I could do.  I became aware that many people were unable to recognise which plants growing wild in Ireland (and elsewhere) could be used in herbal medicine.  I felt that if people knew the plants, they would be empowered to take responsibility for their own health.  Once a person uses herbs – that is, any plant that benefits our health – then they become more conscious of their environment.  Once a person has a vested interest in their environment, they will take more care of it and be protective of it.

I decided to photograph some of these wild herbs and have an exhibition so that people could see the plants and learn their names and discover how beneficial they are.  This decision was made a couple of years ago but unfortunately I could not afford to have an exhibition, the cost of framing made it impossible for me.  Then,  in January this year, as providence would have it, I found some frames in a shop in Galway – just the type I wanted and VERY affordable.  Strange that there were only just enough for my purposes??!!

I have spent the summer photographing wild plants  – medicinal herbs – that grow in my garden and in the surrounding meadows, verges and fields.  Most of them are instantly recognisable but are nevertheless unknown.  By that I mean that the majority of people have lost their connection to them, have forgotten their names and their benefits.

For example, one of the photographs in the exhibition is of a plant from which aspirin is derived.  People take aspirin for a number of reasons, to reduce aches and pains, to get rid of headaches, to thin their blood, to reduce inflammation and to reduce fever.  Those people are (hopefully) aware that the benefits of aspirin have to be balanced with the side effects – bleeding in the stomach, gastrointestinal ulcerations, heartburn, abdominal pain, cramping, nausea, rash, drowsiness, bloody stools, vomiting……. the list goes on. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that you can get relief for your headaches and fever, aches and pains and inflammation without the side effects and for no financial cost?  Wouldn’t you prefer to use a natural, herbal medicine which is safe, tried and tested?  The only investment you have to make is to care for the land and observe when the plants are ready to harvest.

As for my plan – to have an exhibition – the frames had materialised and I had taken the photographs but who would come?  I am not a photographer and I am unknown.  Then….. Beth to the rescue! (www.bethtrepper.com) My friend Beth is a professional photographer of international repute and has a great love for Nature and for plants.  She decided to exhibit during the Clifden Arts Week and agreed that I could share her space.  How sweet is that?

Our exhibitions have Irish flora in common as Beth is including Irish dried flowers around her mixed-media, fine-art photographs. Her exhibition, entitled “Amid the Green Wood” reveals beautiful maidens and mysterious forests which resonate with our ancestral memories of a magical past time.

Another friend, Patricia Wallace, is a writer and a poet and when she heard what I was doing, she responded by writing an incredible story, “Willow”, that she will read at the opening of the exhibition.  It is a story for today, haunting and captivating and will, I believe, inspire people to think differently about the plants that we share our environment with.

All was coming together and then the plants suggested more.  How will people remember us after the exhibition they asked?  I thought at first that I would put up as much information about each plant as I could, but discovered that there would be more writing on the wall than photograph so I decided to jump in at the deep end and write a book, “The Weed Handbook Volume 1 – The Medicinal and Magical Uses of Connemara “Weeds””.

It is a small book, 60 pages long and it describes each of the thirteen plants in the exhibition.  I also include information about where the plants can be found, what ailments they can be used for and the methods of how to use them. Thanks to The Digital Office for the printing.

Mission completed – at least it will be next week.  The exhibitions will be open from Friday 14th September until Sunday 23rd and the book will be launched on Monday 17th September at 6.30p.m which is when Patricia will read her story.  If you are in Clifden for Arts Week, (www.clifdenartsfestival.ie) please feel very welcome to pop in to see us at The Hair Gallery on Bridge Street. (Thanks Joanna). The book is for sale at 5euros and can also be purchased through this website – go to the Workshops bar in the menu and scroll down to Shop.  Looking forward to meeting you.

“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.

plant medicine

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.

mother earth and plants

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.

celtic_year

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.