Ogham – M-Muin: Blackberry

M: Muin: Blackberry

  • The Moon-month for Muin, Blackberry, runs from 2 Sep – 29 Sep
  • Blackberry is the tree of joy, exhilaration and dark wisdom.

Many Ogham users work with the vine for this month. Although the vine is part of British Bronze Age art it is not a native. I prefer to use our native Blackberry.

In Celtic countries there is a taboo against eating blackberries after the 29th September … in Devon they say the devil has got into them, in Brittany they say the fairies will get you if you do. They do taste different after that date but – so far – neither devils nor fairies have swept me off.

Blackberry is a hedge plant, its fruit is very good, nourishing, and also makes an excellent wine. It fruits at this time of year along with some apples, as you probably already know the two together make an excellent pie – see recipe at the end.

If you make the wine then the first of it can be ready in time for a celebration of the coming darkness after the autumn equinox on 21st September after which there is more darkness than light each day until the spring equinox in March.

I find working with the idea of blackberry-and-apple pie brings me to the need for both light and darkness. The apple is Apollo’s fruit, the sun god, god of light. The blackberry is Dionysios’ fruit, along with the vine, the fruit of darkness and discovering wisdom within. Wine is also the fruit of madness – the madness of the gods in the case of Dionysian revels which, again, celebrated the death of the god and his giving of life, through his death, to the Land. As the time of blackberry is also the harvest time this is another part of the ongoing harvest festival and John Barleycorn.

Cooking Journey

Cooking isn’t often thought of as a spiritual exercise … unfortunately! … but it is one, or should be. You don’t have to go off into trance to journey, in fact, as you become proficient at it, you find yourself able to “walk between worlds”, to be here and there at the same time without needing to be sectioned under anyone’s mental health acts. Preparing food, changing plant and animal substance into a form that our bodies can digest and so receive the energy from is deep magic. What happens in cooking is serious magic … but we do it everyday, on auto-pilot, and don’t think about it at all, it’s just “what you do”.

The whole process of making blackberry and apple pie can be a journey.

  • First collect the blackberries. This likely requires a walk in the country, going out into the wilder places – wilder, at least, than one’s own garden usually is – and seeing the fruit as it grows for itself, for the goddess, for the land. While you’re out collecting you may well see various wildlife also feasting on the berries and in the hedges where it grows. Seeing, watching, wildlife, being quiet and still, not disturbing, not shouting, being invisible almost, unthreatening to the beasties and insects, that is a whole journey in itself.
  • Give time to your picking, harvesting. Harvest more than just the fruits, harvest the experience, the delight in watching Life work as it has for millions and millions of years with  no hassle from ourselves. Watch how easily and beautifully it all interacts. You will come home with more than just super fruit for the pie.
  • Look at the dark purple juice on your fingers, taste it, smell it. See how it changes your skin. Don’t think of it as “dirty”, thank the goddess for the juice, for the colouring. See the darkness …
  • Collect the apples. If you have the chance to go to an orchard, or have your own trees, pick the apples fresh. The scent as you do so is intoxicating – never mind Chanel !!!
  • Remember about apples … Merlin’s wisdom-fruit from the tree of knowing and reincarnation. Look back over the blog for Quert.

The whole process is one of journeying but it doesn’t have to be serious and solemn. Mindful, looking, watching, listening … all techniques of reaching out beyond yourself, losing preoccupation with yourself, all this is drinking the Black Cup of Forgetfulness that is also the cup of wisdom of the Celtic tradition.

Black Cup of Forgetfulness

Blackberries give the dark wisdom. This comes out of the ancestral knowing of the Earth herself, out of our own ancestors both physical and spiritual, and out of the “dark matter” of the Universe.

I find it fascinating that science is now talking of Dark Matter as the evidence of “missing mass” in the orbital velocities of galaxies in clusters. You can read more about dark matter at the link, it’s complex but has to do with gravity, which has to do with mass. We’d all wiz off into space without gravity! The earth couldn’t spin round the sun and give us day and night, light and dark, warmth and cold, all the things that make life possible, without gravity.

For many, the whole concept seems enormous, too big to contemplate, too far removed from “self”. Wisdom is like this. It needs that we relinquish the importance of the little-self, ego, allowing it to float in the sea of being that is all-that-is, that-which-moves, creation. It’s often a big jump to reach a place where you can contemplate your non-existence without terror eating you up. However, once you dare to do this the change in the whole way you and Life work together is fundamental, and it fills you with joy. Yes, really, the terror dissolves into joy. Your physical existence as the little personality you are in this incarnation ceases to constantly thrust its way to the fore. You are able to see yourself, feel, sense, as part of the whole. It’s spiritual growing up.

The Black Cup of Forgetfulness is about this. Blackberry is a pleasant way of beginning your journey to know this place, way of being.

Now … after all that heavy stuff, how’s about making the blackberry and apple pie, then sitting down to eat it with a large dollop of cream ???

Blackberry & Apple Pie Recipe

Ingredients

For the pastry

  • 350g self-raising flour
  • 175g butter
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 80 ml water

For the filling

To serve

  • Devonshire clotted cream

Method

1. For the pastry: put the flour in a mixing bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Then stir in the sugar, followed by the water. Mix until the ingredients come together to form a ball of dough. Wrap this in cling film and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6.

3. For the filling: put the apples in an ovenproof dish with the water and sugar. Bake them for 30–40 minutes until they are tender. Remove the dish from the oven and leave it to cool (the apples could also be cooked in a microwave oven). If they have given off a lot of juice, strain some of it into a bowl and set aside.

4. Turn down the oven to 170C/gas 3.

5. Put the blackberries in a saucepan with a dash of water and cook over a low heat until they have softened but still hold their shape. Tip the berries into a sieve and catch any juices in the bowl with the apple juice.

6. Combine the apples with the berries and moisten with just enough juice to give a syrupy consistency. Don’t discard any extra berry juices – save them for serving with ice cream.

7. Take the pastry dough out of the fridge and roll out two-thirds, on a lightly floured surface. Use this to line a pie dish and spoon in the fruit filling; put a pie funnel into the middle. Roll out the remaining pastry dough into a piece large enough to cover the pie dish. Dampen the edges of the dish and cover it with the dough, letting the top of the funnel poke through. Brush the top with beaten egg and dust it with caster sugar; use any pastry trimmings to make leaves and balls to decorate the pie. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked and golden, then serve with Devonshire clotted cream.

Enjoy 🙂

Elen Sentier
… behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather taleneted cat …
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Scripts in Ritual

When planning a ritual, one of the first things to consider is whether you want to work from a script. If you go for the scripted option, you need to consider whether you’re going to commit it to memory, or read it on the day. My personal preference is for improvised ritual, but there are times – especially with celebrant work – when a script may be more appropriate. I thought I’d lay out what I see as the pluses and minuses of using scripts – do bear in mind that I have a bias here!

The major advantage of using a script is that everyone knows what they are doing, can agree to it in advance, can see what they need to bring, don’t have to remember words, and have some protection against the anxieties of performing ritual. However, the issue of who creates the script is an interesting one, and putting words into other people’s mouths is a job fraught with difficulty. If there isn’t agreement, there is difficulty. Having a script and an intention that everyone learns it can work, but if anyone forgets their lines, the flow can be lost. People used to working with scripts find it harder to improvise if lines are forgotten or circumstances change. Reading from a script is fine if you have good light and dry weather – outdoors this doesn’t always work out.

Scripts tie you to a plan, and sometimes on the day, the weather, the vibe or recent events can totally throw that out. I’ve had Lugnasadh rituals that felt autumnal, and Indian Summer autumns where the equinox was uncomfortably hot. We’ve hit Beltain with too many folks troubled and distressed in their personal lives for any talk of ‘sap rising’ to make sense. Not having a script gives you the space to respond on the day to whatever is happening. A script can also be a barrier between folk in the circle, anyone without ‘lines’ will feel unable to contribute, and if you give other people words, they may need up saying things they neither feel nor mean, damaging the emotional integrity of the ritual.

The downside to flying without a script is that it’s always a tad chaotic and you don’t get smooth ritual drama. Sometimes you get exquisite, improvised poetry, sometimes it’s awkward. People have no idea what to do. To make it work, you either need a small, trusting group where people aren’t self conscious, or you need at least one person confident enough to hold the ritual together and shape it in the moment, without a script. Folk who have learned ritual by doing it in the company of other improvisers can usually do this themselves.

Sometimes it works well to give participants their own bit of script – people contributing to a handfasting may need lines, for example, but the ritual itself can flow around them unscripted, held by the celebrant. If there are dedications to be made, a script for that section may make sense. It’s not an all or nothing choice, you can mix free flowing ritual with scripted ritual to suit your needs. You can start wholly scripted and move away from that as participants become more confident. There is no one right way of doing things – what matters is finding an approach suitable for the group of people you have.