Onn: Furze

Onn is one of the five vowels of the ogham tree alphabet, representing our letter O. It’s time is the Spring Equinox – the second of the five goddess’ festivals, the second vowel.

The vowels are important to language, in most modern western languages you cannot make a word without them.This has a spiritual significance too – we need the goddess and her festivals in order to make the Logos, the word of our lives.

They are recognised as such by the five festivals of the goddess throughout the year. These are not quite the same as the four moon-fests of Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadgh although this festival of Onn and three of the others occur at the same time. The Celtic is a winding, twisting, complex tradition that spirals its way through Life working with riddles and puns as often as not, never having only one way of saying things. I always like the lovely Irish joke that goes …

British/American couple driving round Ireland get lost. They stop an old man walking his dog along the lane and ask him the way to Dublin. “Ahh …” he goes, watching them with a twinkle hiding in the back of his eye. “Well … if I was you,” he says, stroking his beard, “I wouldn’t start from here.”

I love this! It really says it all and it’s so very Zen. Although Zen is far better known that Celtic riddling the Celts were at it long before Tao and Zen J, but I just love that sort of humour. And it’s so enlightening – about wisdom again like Fearn with whom it shares a time of year.

Onn’s watch-phrase is …

  • I am the blaze on every hill

Its metal is gold and it is about initiation.

Onn is called Furze, it’s also known as Gorse. Its bright flowers are yellow-gold and they come out around the time of the Spring Equinox in the northern hemisphere, just in time to feed the newly woken bees. And bees are sun-beings, in many traditions they are carriers of the soul. The gold on the high moors at this time is certainly “the blaze on every hill”.

Gold … lets think about gold. It’s a very pure metal and, amongst other things, the best conductor of electricity there is. That has loads of spiritual analogies …  invisible power, we still don’t really know what it is but without it – well just think about life without electricity, not good, eh?  You could Google it, find out its qualities in the physical world.

Looked at it in Alchemical terms gold is the holy grail, in both spiritual and physical terms alchemists tried to find ways of turning lead into gold. In spiritual terms they (and we) thought of transmutation of matter to spirit. In material terms it was again an attempt to transmute a base metal into a precious one.

This process of transmutation is about changing the essence of a thing not just changing its shape … that’s to transform something. To transmute a thing is to change its spirit, core, heart, soul, quintessence or fundamental nature. It’s about changing its real meaning.

Is this not what initiation is about?

Gold has always been a fascination to humans. It occurs in lots of fairy stories, often their theme is of the Seeker who goes into Faerie … there he meets the Faerie Queen and, after various adventures and lessons, is given gold to take home. In the stories, when the Seeker first crosses back into the everyday world, he finds his gold has become stones. It has gone from being precious to being base, it has transmuted backwards. But the concept of transmutation stands very well.

Our own spiritual transmutation is about holding the knowing we have gained by travelling to Faerie when we come back to our native place … to keep our gold as gold, transmute it rather than transform it.

The Seeker learning to find his way back into Faerie, to learn how to keep the gold as gold when he returns to the everyday world … is this not like the shaman’s skill? The shaman journeys to Otherworld, discovers the needed wisdom and returns with it across the worlds, to help his people. It is this ability to go out and return – like Bilbo J – bringing the wisdom back and able to give it to the people that is the shaman’s skill.

Learning this skill is a form of initiation, a vital part of it.

So Furze/Gorse is about initiation; about learning service, to go out for others, not just one’s self, and bring back wisdom for others. Service, working for others, is what initiation is about.

Onn’s time is the Spring Equinox. What is this about? what is the Equinox about? Equinox is the other half of the Solstices. It’s the time when there are equal hours of light and dark. It is the real beginning of Spring. For the past six months there has been more dark than light each day. Now, for the next six months, there will be more light than dark each day.

Think about that with regard to initiation. The watch-phrase says …

  • I am the blaze on every hill

The light blazes out, on every hill, as the sun begins to shine more each day over the months of summer. We’ll look at what happens at the Autumn Equinox later in the year, with another of the vowels.

The goddess speaks for herself in the watch-phrase – she is the blaze on every hill, as she is each of the other five lines of her verse.

Elen Sentier

Writer, Artist, Celtic Shaman

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