Fferyllt – British Alchemy

Green Man

Fferyllt in Brythonic (the old British language) is the alchemy of the druid-shamans of Britain. It’s about the wedding of the Lady/Goddess to her Guardian-Lord. The Lady is the goddess of the Land, the Earth, Gaia if you like and with all the attributes James Lovelock assigned her. The Lord is her Guardian and Protector. Another way of seeing them is as the Green Woman and the Green Man, but the Lady and the Lord are common in British craft practice. In the British shamanic tradition the Lady is often called Sovereignty as this expresses the essence of what she is.

Lady - Vowchurch

These pictures are of the Lady and the Lord from the screen in Vowchurch church. Unfortunately, their genitals have been cut off and obscured with new wood by worried christians. The Lady, from the position of her hands, would have been a Sheela-na-gig and the Lord would have had an errect phallos. The link give a picture of the Kilpeck Sheela, about 10 miles from me here.

Lord (Vowchurch)

For us, individually, to make our relationship to the Lady and the Lord is for us to find our selves … our soul-self who connects us to the goddess and our personality-self who connects us to the god.

In old British tradition the king – the god/Lord’s representative – was chosen by various tests from the queen. These are exampled in folksongs like the Fith Fath Song and The Blacksmith as well as tales like Taliesin. A new king was chosen every 100 lunations, every 100 moon-months which is approximately 7 years. At the end of his term he was sacrificed and ploughed into the land, giving his goodness and fertility back to the goddess, perhaps the ultimate consummation. The folksong John Barleycorn tells the story. This tradition is found in other places in the world, the best known is probably the Eleusinian tradition of Greece but it’s possible the Osiris “murder” is another form of this. In the British tradition one story-form of this is the Llew Llaw Gyffes story, another is the Dream of Macsen Wledig. The Llew story has been badly mangled by Victorian storytellers who have turned it into a “faithless wife”drama, losing most of the points that the old Awenydd (Brythonic for vision-keeper) used to make when telling it at hearthsides long ago.

The concept of the queen testing the king to see if he is up to the job underlies much of the British Celtic shamanic ritual. Like everything Celtic, there are always the macrocosm/microcosm, the as above so below, aspects. The inner always reflects the outer as is shown in the Troy Town labyrinth – this picture is from Rocky Valley in Cornwall, the rock-carving is over 4000 years old.It’s on the cover of my book on Numerology.

And this drawing of reversible heads (Lord and Lady) from an ancient Celtic coin. turn the picture upsidedown and you still have the Lord on the left and the Lady on the right! Each is the other – a principle of the Celtic tradition.

Lord & Lady

The queen/goddess/Lady relates to our soul-self, the part of us that continues beyond each incarnation. The king/god/Lord relates to our personal-self, the personality into which the soul incarnates. This, of course, is different every time … different gender, race, colour, background, orientation, outlooks, ability to remember the soul, etc. It is, however, the part of ourselves we often know best and identify with. It’s also the part that will, undoubtedly, die and come to an end at the end of each incarnation! If /while we believe this is the “real me”, who we truly are, then we will be terrified by the idea of death, quite understandably.

In eso-speak it’s said the soul sleeps in meditation deep until the personality begins to awaken and knocks on the door of the soul – it has to be this way round, the soul will never push awareness onto the personality! This knocking on the door precipitates the rebirth.  The personality comes to know who and what it is, what its job is. Once this happens the personality usually wants to do its job right, be a good vehicle for the soul to work through. Our word personality comes from the Greek word persona which was the mask Greek actors wore and of which they said it was “the mask through which the gods spoke”. For gods read our own souls. The personality’s job is also to guard the soul. One example of this that has come down to us through folklore is the Morris Men [link to Joh Matthews’ excellent book] and Morris Dancing. Morris is likely derived from “Mary’s Men”. The name Mary comes from various words going back to Sanskrit meaning sea and has always been one of the words/names/concepts for the goddess, the flowing waters that give life, and indeed the sea was the soup of the beginning of Life on Earth. The Morris dances have much in common with various unarmed combat exercises and were likely practiced through dance both as ritual to the goddess and, later, as a way of continuing the old ways after the Christian invasions. So the personality is the Guardian of the soul as the king is the guardian of the queen.

The superiority of the king and the concept of “birthright” are quite new to Britain being heavily enforced by William the Conqueror! Before that kings were elected – Harold was – and women held land, led armies and governed. The job of ruling was taken on by the combined representatives of the goddess and the god, of the feminine and the masculine, of the representatives of the pairs of opposites.

The Fferyllt alchemy holds these principles and helps us to find them within ourselves, to become the microcosm of the macrocosm, to live here below as it is above.  This workshop initiates the process of awakening in the participants and offers, tools, journeys, exercises and ritual to facilitate the rebirth along with follow-up support after. If you find the path suits you then you may well want to join the 3 year shamanic training, Rainbow Warriors, to come to know the process at a deeper level.

  • This workshop runs from 1700 on Friday 11th June to 1400 on Sunday 13th June 2010. If you would like to join us apply here – there is also an outline of the workshop here along with cost. Places are limited. The workshop is non-residential and held in the ancient countryside just outside of Hereford in the UK – a place steeped in Celtic legend. We use local sacred sites as part of the journeying work.

Elen Sentier
… behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …
writer artist gardener shaman
My Blog
Contact Me WordpressFacebookYoutubeMySpaceTwitterAmazonLinkedinFlickr
Celtic shaman – Elen Sentier Proportional Representation

Toads & the Vision of Sir George Ripley

Hunting the Black Toad

This is my favourite on Toads & alchemy …

When busie at my Book I was upon a certain Night,
This Vision here exprest appear’d unto my dimmed sight:
A Toad full Ruddy I saw, did drink the juice of Grapes so fast,
Till over-charged with the broth, his Bowels all to brast:
And after that, from poyson’d Bulk he cast his Venom fell,
For Grief and Pain whereof his Members all began to swell;
With drops of Poysoned sweat approaching thus his secret Den,
His Cave with blasts of fumous Air he all bewhited then:
And from the which in space a Golden Humour did ensue,
Whose falling drops from high did stain the soyl with ruddy hue.
And when his Corps the force of vital breath began to lack,
This dying Toad became forthwith like Coal for colour Black:
Thus drowned in his proper veins of poysoned flood;
For term of Eighty days and Four he rotting stood
By Tryal then this Venom to expel I did desire;
For which I did commit his Carkass to a gentle Fire:
Which done, a Wonder to the sight, but more to be rehearst;
The Toad with Colours rare through every side was pierc’d;
And White appear’d when all the sundry hews were past:
Which after being tincted Ruddy, for evermore did last.
Then of the Venom handled thus a Medicine I did make;
Which Venom kills, and saveth such as Venom chance to take:
Glory be to him the granter of such secret ways,
Dominion, and Honour both, with Worship, and with Praise.

The point of this whole “work” (as alchemy is called) is …

Then of the Venom handled thus a Medicine I did make;
Which Venom kills, and saveth such as Venom chance to take:

a homepathic-like idea … like cures like … and that what we at first consider evil contains the beginnings of the good that will heal us.

From Wiki – Sir George Ripley was a famous 15th century English alchemist, second only to Roger Bacon.[citation needed]

Ripley studied for twenty years in Italy where he became a great favourite of Pope Innocent VIII. He returned to England in the year of 1477 and wrote his famous work “The Compound of Alchymy; or, the Twelve Gates leading to the Discovery of the Philosopher’s Stone”, dedicated to King Edward IV and highly appreciated by him. His twenty-five volume work upon Alchemy, of which the Liber Duodecem Portarum was the most important, brought him considerable fame.

Being particularly rich, he gave the general public some cause to believe in his ability to change base metal into gold. For example, Thomas Fuller in his Worthies of England describes a reputable English gentleman who reported having seen a record in the island of Malta which stated that Ripley gave the enormous sum of one hundred thousand pounds sterling annually to the Knights of that island and of Rhodes to support their war against the Turks.

Ripley was at some time ‘Canon of Bridlington‘. He spent his elder years as an anchorite near Boston (Yorkshire).

This is an excellent alchemy site if you’d like to explore further.

Elen Sentier
… behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …
writer artist gardener shaman
My Blog
Contact Me WordpressFacebookYoutubeMySpaceTwitterAmazonLinkedinFlickr
Celtic shaman – Elen Sentier Proportional Representation

Toads & the Fferyllt British Alchemy

Some years ago I wrote a novella called Toad … or perhaps I should say it wrote me :-). I was in the middle of writing Owl Woman at the time and so would rather have waited until I’d finished that but my pesky little Toad wasn’t having any, I had to write him then, right then and no messing! It was the fastest, most flat-out piece of long writing – as opposed to short stories – I’ve ever done. I’m still satisfied with him although I do hanker after changing the ending, but he’s out there now, on Amazon and all, so it would be a bit painful.


I’m trying to remember when I first got interested in alchemy … lots of hazy, misty stuff about the old kitchen in the house in Okehampton which would put me at about five years old. Dad was always telling me magical stories, half made up himself and hanging on the bones of really ancient stuff. I used to see the characters, as he told me the tales, in the air above my bed up in the attic. I strongly recall believing the old Rayburn stove in that marvellous kitchen was really an Athenor, the fiery oven in which you were baked, and they found me once half inside the warming oven along with the orphan lamb who was being kept warm in there :-). Dad had a way of telling the stories so they were perfectly comprehensible to his five-year-old daughter … a marvellous trait.

There were toads living in the old drainpipes in the shed of next-door’s huge garden. I used to go play there with Jill who was a few months older than me. It had all the charm of The Secret Garden although it was in a town on the edge of Dartmoor rather than in the wilds of Yorkshire. Sometimes dad would come too and be the Wizard, or the Black Knight, or some such character … including the alchemist. He told us about toads. He had a way with animals as well as words and most things would come to him, stay with him if he picked them up. I’ve even seen a grasshopper sit on his thumb for minutes while he talked about it … and to it … flicking its antennae and occasionally moving a leg but hopping off, not until he was finished talking. The shaman’s way … each creature respecting the other.

I found toads fascinating. There was a big pond in the garden and most springtimes there was the necklace of pearls, the long sting of toad-spawn, in the water as well as the more commonly seen frogspawn.

Neither my nor Jill’s cats like toads. They would find one sometimes and think to catch it but one taste and they were foaming and spitting with disgust at the taste. Dad told us about the coating of unpleasant stuff that made most creatures who would eat toads foam at the mouth, the toad’s defence. In alchemy, he said, it was called venom, poison, and highly prized. Of course, after that, we wanted to get some so Dad showed us how to stroke the toad gently to get a little of the venom without hurting the creature. He said the alchemists would make a medicine of the venom, transmute it by various secret means, but he would never tell us how. As a crone myself now I wonder if he knew, or if he was hiding the fact that he didn’t know in a great cloak of Secrecy to impress us. I don’t mind which it was. The very fact that he would never tell made me hunt the secret myself … and find my own answers. It’s likely this was his intent all along :-).

In my story, Toad goes on a journey. He has a rather uncomfortable beginning in that he goes to the loo with a frightful stomach ache and finds himself blown into another world. Makes you careful about going to the loo, eh LOL.


In the other world he has an adviser, helper, mentor, a very Eyore-ish Crow – if you don’t know Eyore do go and read Winnie-the-Pooh, another way of alchemy :-).

Toad goes through the four alchemical processes …

  • Nigredo – the Black, a form of death
  • Albedo – the White, rebirth and getting to know the pairs of opposites in the form of the Queen and the King
  • Citrinato – the Gold, a long walking-waiting, learning patience and what you’re here for, and learning to go on without knowing where you’re going
  • Rubado – the Red, the final alchemical wedding of Soul and Personality

Umm … yes … how do you say all that to a pair of five-year-olds ??? But Dad planted the seed in my mind and then had the strength to go away and leave it to grow – unlike the farmer who went out into the field each night to pull up his onions to see if they were growing!

And finally, in my story, Toad finds his way home although, as Ursula LeGuin puts it home is a place he has never yet been and that, too, is part of his learning, his journey. His reward is waiting for him, it’s something he would never have thought of before, terribly practical and completely satisfying. Out of the poison, the venom, that he began with when he fell down the loo comes a medicine that cures all the ills he thought he had before he went on the journey.

I’m extremely fond of Toad. He is Everyman, he is me. I’ve been where he’s been, known his despair, known his joys too. I don’t know if I’ve come to the end of my journey yet, or my reward, but I do know that I’ve learned how to be joyous and how to be content. Those are great things to have learned.

Going on the alchemical journey does this for many people and Toad – damn his eyes! – was at me again earlier this year to make a workshop for people around his adventure. And to do it here, where I live. It’s a very magical place here in the Welsh Marches, lots of sacred sites and lots of Arthurian connections – my other love, the other stories Dad used to tell me. Toad wants me to use some of the sites on the workshop. After lots of pondering and thinking and cogitating and struggling the workshop emerged and will be held for the first time  from 11-13 June 2010. it will be small but there’s still a bit of room if you’re interested. If you’d like to come, contact me here. It costs £100. Sacred sites we will work at are …

  • Arthur’s Stone – a 4000 year old tumulus in which we do the Nigredo process.
  • Archenland – my home, where we do the Albedo and Citrinato process; these include walking the Celtic labyrinth, the Troy Town, and making masks in our sacred grove.
  • Dinedor – the Serpent Mound above the river Wye, where a 4000+ year-old serpent-pathway was found a few years back, where we do the Rubado process and the alchemical wedding.

The workshop is about exploring yourself, discovering parts you may not have suspected you had, ideas about why you are here and where you are going. Each process includes a journey, partly led and accompanied by drumming and/or chanting followed by drawing and then discussion. There will be pointers on what each process is about but participants will each find their own journeys and experiences and, through these, their own answers.

Elen Sentier
… behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …
writer artist gardener shaman
My Blog
Contact Me WordpressFacebookYoutubeMySpaceTwitterAmazonLinkedinFlickr
Celtic shaman – Elen Sentier Proportional Representation

Pagan Holidays for May 13, 2010


Rome will spend it’s last day celebrating their Festival of Lemuria. For those who missed the details concerning this one—or those clearing it up—

Previous Post & Info Concerning Lemuria and Larvae

For those who got it, moving on then to the next big thing which the Celtics are making happen. This date in their ancient calendar marks the beginning of their tree Month called Huath.


Thursday belongs to the deity Thunor, also known as Thor, who is the God of Agriculture and Thunder.


Thursday are Great for Dealing with Matters or Magical Spells & Rituals Concerning:

Passions & Desires—what do you want in your life?

Political Power—you can influence this for yourself or for what you desire on this day.

Speculating & Gambling—someone have a problem? Do you need help or luck?

Legal Matters, Treaties, Oaths—today is a great day to deal with these.

Harvests—perhaps you buy your food and this doesn’t;t matter to you but today you could make sure someone else has a good harvest. Maybe you could see to it that they have a meal for Thanksgiving?


Thursday represents The Planet Jupiter and The Element of Fire




Coming   Soon from Noble Romance Publishing Click to Purchase