Wye’s Woman at Madley Pool

I went for a walk this afternoon, over to Madley Pool, in the village. This is where Efrddyl (say it as Averill) was the priestess, Well Maiden, guardian of the waters.

Efrddyl’s story is the archetypal priestess with the “fatherless child” … the virgin birth, the magical child with the father from out of this world. Look at all the myths, even the Christian myth has the fatherless child but cannot accredit it properly. Merlin is the archetype fro the British tradition, indeed his fame and credibility go worldwide. Efrddyl’s child is our local Merlin-figure, indeed he is even said to have crowned Arthur at Woodchester and his story is tied up inextricably with all the Arthurian tales; Gawain held lands hereabouts; there are many places that bear the name of Eign … another way of saying Igraine, Arthur’s mother, she held lands here too. A house nearby, now owned by my cousin, is said to have been part of Gawain’s estates.

So … the story …

Efrddyl’s father came back from the wars. His daughter, lady of the house, was there to greet him. She washed and combed his hair as was the tradition of respect in those days. As she passed close to him he saw that her belly was swollen, she was with child.

‘And who is the father?’ he demanded.

Efrddyl was silent. She went to wipe the comb.

‘Here, girl!’ Peibio caught at her skirt, pulling her towards him. ‘Who is the father?’ He caught her eyes.

She held his eyes back, saying nothing. Delicately, she pulled her skirt away.

‘No!’ Peibio pulled her back. ‘You will tell me!’

Again she pulled her skirt away, shaking her head.

Silence, stretched between them.

Peibio sat slowly back. ‘Take her,’ he said, gesturing to the men beside him.

They took her, down to the river, the Mother Gwy. They threw her in.

Her skirts sucked up the water, pulling her down. The currents took hold of her, swept her round and pushed her back so that she landed on the shore. The men knew their master’s will, they pushed her back.

Again, the water sucked at her skirts, her legs, caught in the weeds. Again the river currants took her and swirled her about, freeing them and sending her gently back again to the shore.

Again the men took hold of her. This time they pushed her far out into the main currant. And again, the currant took hold of her. This time it held her and steered her further down the shore to where a little mound stood up by the river bank. Softly, it nudged her to the bank. She lay in the soft grasses, panting, choking, coughing the water out of her lungs.

Peibio called the men.

‘Get wood. Build a fire, build it high and wide. Set the girl upon it and put fire to it.’

The men built the pyre, high and wide, of good dry wood.

Pulling the wet clothes off her they forced her naked onto the pyre, took torches and set it alight. Angry and fearful, Peibio went back to the homestead, sat all night with jugs of ale. What had he done? He could not now undo it.

Morning came. Peibio did not want to see, to know. He sent a boy down to the river to find the ashes.

In no time at all it seemed the boy was back.

‘Sir … sir .. sir … it … she …’

The boy could get no words out.

‘What is it boy?’ Peibio grabbed him by the front of the tunic.

‘S-sir … it …’ He wrenched himself out of his lord’s grip to scared to care for rectitude. ‘Sir, you must come see for yourself.’ And he fled the house.

Slowly Peibio got up, made his way down to the riverbank.

He found a sight. There, sat upon a white stone, sat his daughter. In her arms was a child, a boy-child. There was no sign of the fire. He stood and stared.

Slowly, delicately, in all her naked glory, Efrddyl came down from the stone. She held out the child to Peibio. The baby reached a little hand and stroked his grandfather’s pox-ridden face – Peibio had the leprosy – and straightway the sickness was gone.

A magical child! Peibio had heard of such things but to him? To his daughter? What was this?

He recalled the river. She had pushed the girl back to him. Three times. And the fire. That too had gone to sleep, died rather than burn the girl. She was more than he had known.

He took them back to the homestead, the daughter and her child. He looked at his lands, there was the spring, and the pool that it fed, the source of the water that fed the land. The water had given her back to him, stopped him in his stumbling ways, that would have caused the land to waste had he taken the priestess from it. It made his heart grow cold to think on it.

‘Efrddyl …’ he called to her. ‘Efrddyl … you must go to the pool. You must keep the waters, for the land, for the people.’

And so it was.

Efrddyl was the Lady of the Land. She kept the waters, guarded them, gave them to the people. She brought up her son to know the Lady know the goddess and to serve her. She kept the waters of the Land. ___________________________________________________________

The name of the village, “Madley”, it comes from Matle which means holy place and comes from Lann Ebrdil the holy place of Ebrdil or Efrddyl. Later, with the Christians, there came a cult of the Virgin Mary – another form of the Goddess and in her form as mother of the fatherless, magical, child. The earlier cult was remembered this way – Ebrdil and her son Dyfrig, in the land named after her, Ynis Ebrdil, Ebrdil’s island.

This is one of the places we use on the workshops, Exploring the Goddess. Soon after the time of Imbolc, we work with Efrddyl who is also Olwen, Lady of the Whitte track, Lady of the Moon who guards the waters that are the life-blood of the Land.  we sit with Efrddyl and learn from her how to keep the land from becoming the Wasteland.  We explore the goddess, learn her ways, sat quiet by the waters her priestess guards.

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Composting 4 – Hot Heaps

Some like it hot 🙂 … and it certainly does produce good compost as well as killing off weeds and pests.

A hot heap needs to be at least 1m x 1m x 1m so that it has enough mass to generate the super-high temperature. Hence you need a lot of material, all at once, to get it going. If/when this happens – like spring and autumn – then use the compost preps in the way of farmers and large-scale growers.

You Need …

–          The 6 compost preps

–          An egg box

–          A small amount of wet clay soil or moist cow dung

–          Bucket and stirring stick

–          Half a bucket of rainwater

–          Watering can with a rose

–          A stick, half the height of your compost bin/heap

–          Clock


It’s good to be indoors, in the garden shed, or somewhere comfortable to make up each preparation into a little ball ready to put into heap. Having a table and chair makes things easier.

  • Take the first of the compost preps – 502, Yarrow – and open it up
  • Break off a piece about the length of you first thumb joint
  • Take a piece of wet clay soil or moist cow dung and mix it with the preparation so that the two together become a well-mixed ball, or egg shape.
  • Put the ball into the top left hand corner of the egg box – as in the pattern below
  • Now, take the chamomile and repeat the process
  • Put the chamomile in the bottom left hand corner of the egg box
  • Now, take the oak bark and repeat the process
  • Put the oak bark in the top right hand corner of the egg box
  • Now, take the dandelion and repeat the process
  • Put the dandelion in the bottom right hand corner of the egg box
  • Finally repeat the process with the nettle
  • Put the nettle in the bottom central hole of the egg box.

You use this same pattern to put each of the balls of prep your bin – this way, you know which prep is which!           

Now, head for the compost bin …

  • Take the bamboo cane or stick that’s half as deep as your bin and push it into the heap, making five holes as in the pattern. NB – the pattern works just as well for round bins as square.
  • Drop each ball of prep down the relevant hole.

Now it’s time to do the valerian …

  • Put about thirty drops of valerian juice (prep 507) into the rainwater in the bucket
  • Stir it vigorously clockwise and anticlockwise, making a vortex in each direction and creating the chaos as you change direction – as for preps 500 and 501 – for twenty minutes
  • Pour the stirred valerian into the watering can (with rose!)
  • Water the valerian onto the contents of the bin

Put the lid back on and leave to cook! My Dad would have added, “Light the blue touch-paper and stand clear …” but he used to set off fireworks long before there were any safety regulations!

Your compost preps won’t blow anything up. They will start a wonderful process of making your heap into really excellent compost, and it should all be ready for you in about 3 months depending on how well you were able to chop things up. The finer the chopping the faster the compost, it’s like chewing your food helps digestion.

writer artist gardener shaman
Wye’s Woman Rainbow Warrior

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Celtic shaman – Elen Sentier Wye’s Woman

Composting 3 – Cool Heaps

You know composting’s coo-ool 🙂  …

But to be serious, most books on biodynamics talk about making large heaps of compost, the hot heap method, though rarely calling it that. Hot heaps can be enormous (they’re also called windrows) several feet high and many feet long. I can see some of you paling at the thought already! These are the sort of compost heaps as you get at the Royal Horticultural Society gardens at Wisley, or at one of the National Trust estates, or on a farm. Most of us don’t have the space for this sort of thing, nor do we get huge masses of bulk material all at one time as they do.

To use the compost preps the way farmers and large estates do you need at least a cubic metre of “stuff” before putting the preps in – that’s a heap 1m tall x 1m deep x 1m wide. The posh wooden compost bins you can buy at garden centres and in catalogues are often about this size. To fill one up takes a lot of compost and I hear some of you saying “Even a cubic metre will take me a year to achieve!”, it won’t actually, as we produce far more compost every day than we realise until we being to make compost. To do it all in one go, as farms and estates manage is very difficult for gardeners except at spring/autumn clear-ups, but it’s all right, there are other ways to use the preps.

Cool-Heap Working

For most gardeners compost will come “little and often” over the whole of the year, adding weeds and kitchen waste as you have it, as the kitchen caddy fills up. This is cool heap working.

The cool heap needs the preparations just as much as the hot heap but, because it’s being continuously added to, you use them in a different way, using compost starters as they’re called. These starters are made of all six compost preps mixed with cow dung and allowed to mature. They come as a clean, dry powder that you sprinkle onto your heap as you put layers of compost material in. They work well with ordinary compost plastic bins, like the ones you can get through your local council in Britain.

These starter preparations are …

  • Mausdorfer
  • Cow-Pat-Pit (also known as Barrel Prep)


Mausdorfer is available from your local biodynamic association. It was developed by Josephine Porter, a student of Ehrenfried_Pfeiffer (1899-1961). Pfeiffer began work with Rudolf Steiner in 1920. He later developed an analytical method using copper chloride crystallization that was used as a blood test for detecting cancer. As a result, he was invited to the U.S. in 1937 to work at the Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia and emigrated to the U.S. in 1940. His theory brought him an honorary degree of Doctor of Medicine from Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital in Philadelphia in 1939. He also studied chemistry and became a professor of nutrition in 1956. But he always followed biodynamics and the Josephine Porter Institute carries on the good work. It has an excellent web site and does a very good magazine “Stella Natura” for which I occasionally do an article.

Cow-Pat Pit

Cow pat Pit is available from your local biodynamic association or you can make yourself, I’ll talk about how in another blog, it’s easy if you have the space.

It’s basically a mix of cow dung (cow pats), clay and basalt. The basalt is a real booster, getting the prep to work quickly into the heap, making it brew well.

Using Mausdorfer & Cow Pat Pit
  • To use in the heap, as compost starter, take about an ounce of of either Mausdorfer or cow pat pit and sprinkle it on the top of the heap after each layer of compost material you add.
  • Using cow pat pit in the garden … stir in water for twenty minutes, then flick onto the soil and plants as you would 500. Cow pat pit is a fantastic pep-up for both soil and plants in the garden. I do this three or four times a year in my garden and am  delighted how well the plants respond.
  • I also add it to the 500 sometimes as an extra pep-up.

writer artist gardener shaman
Wye’s Woman Rainbow Warrior

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Celtic shaman – Elen Sentier Wye’s Woman

Compost Bins

Compost bins come in all shapes and sizes … lash-ups with pallets; expensive wooden bins; bottomless plastic dustbins ex-fruit-juice concentrate barrels; local authority-supplied plastic bins; simple heaps thatched with straw or bracken. Whatever you decide to use make sure …

  • The compost is in contact with the soil so the worms and bugs can get in.
  • The bin gets sunlight for a good part of each day.
  • It has a lid or some form of covering to stop the rain leaching the goodness out into the soil.
  • The bottom is secured from rats – use strong fine mesh underneath.
  • The compost itself is chopped up as well as you can manage to give lots of surface area – see Colloids in this blog – I use the lawn-mower to run over all the compost and chop it up, it also gets some grass added in automatically which helps get it going.

An average British town garden may be able to accommodate two local authority bins – each bin usually contains about a cubic meter. The plastic compost bins provided in the UK at a good discount by your local authority are absolutely fine for working with biodynamics.

If you can fill one up really quickly when you’re having a clear-up then you can use the preps as in the Hot Heaps method – I’ve blogged on this today too. This is especially useful at the spring and autumn clear-ups or any other time you have a large collection of weeds to compost all at once, perhaps when making a new bed or clearing an old one. Any time you get so much material you can fill up a bin and leave it alone for a bit while you concentrate on the other bins for the weekly kitchen caddy and general weeding.

Specialist Composting

As well as the ordinary bins many people are now using wormeries and Bokashi. Both are excellent and can be used with the biodynamic Mausdorfer and/or cow-pat-pit preparations.


Wormeries are very good, giving you solid compost and liquid feed for the plants in a fairly short period, a few months. They can be a bit fiddly and take some getting the hang of as the worms are as idiosyncratic as any cat or dog! Wormeries are good if you have only a small space as they deal with compost quickly and without smell or mess – once you have the knack of them.

Each time you add kitchen waste to your wormery, sprinkle a teaspoonful of Mausdorfer or cow-pat-pit onto the top of the layer.

It won’t harm the worms in any way … possibly they may come out the other side even more fit and muscular than ever! Some people say they get seriously huge worms after they’ve been chewing through the BD veg and the BD preps! Out of interest, we notice how big and healthy our worms are here, how many there are in the wormery of all generations from tiny, wee babes like a wriggling piece of cotton to enormous ones that we think came from Frank Herbert’s planet Dune. My husband says he’s going to set a thumper to call them! Regardless of sci-fi in-jokes, having worms of all sizes is a good sign that they’re healthy and breeding well.


Bokashi is a Japanese system of composting using “bugs” which are applied in handfuls of a special bran supplied by whoever you got your bokashi bin from – see contacts. Within the bin, it’s an anaerobic process, excluding the air, which is different from other composting systems. We’ve found it very effective and much faster than the wormery – and much easier to get the hang of. The bugs are not contrary-minded as the worms are and just seem happy to get on with their job of digesting the kitchen waste. It is more expensive in that you have to keep buying the bran for the bugs.

Again, as with the wormery, you layer in whichever starter you decide to use with the waste material you add to the bokashi.  

Bokashi is a very good way to deal with meat and fish waste. Many people worry about putting these into the heap in case they attract rats. First of all, remember that rats are omnivorous, they eat anything and everything; the ones on the farm next to where we live love the grain that falls from the straw and hay the cattle are fed, for instance. However, the bugs in the bokashi will deal with all the meat and fish, and the bones.

I’ll write about how to use bokashi in the garden in a later blog.

Using the Preparations

Whichever system you use – bins, wormeries, bokashi or all the lot – as you add each layer of compost to your bin, sprinkle on some of whichever starter you’ve chosen. They begin to work straight away, getting the compost going.

The starters will speed up the composting – provided your bin is in good condition – and give you a very good compost in four-six months, sometimes quicker if you chopped the material up well before putting it in the bin or went over it with the lawn mower.

Research Results

In 1999, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) researched the compost preps. They found that using the preps “could speed up the composting process, better destroy pathogens and weed seeds in the material by maintaining high temperatures longer, and change the value of the resulting compost as a fertiliser by increasing the amount of nitrate.”

You’ll probably find you need less of the BD compost to bring the soil into good heart than you did of the usual non-BD compost.

writer artist gardener shaman
Wye’s Woman Rainbow Warrior

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Celtic shaman – Elen Sentier Wye’s Woman