Ogham: Peith – Guelder Rose

Peith: Guelder Rose

The Moon-month for Peith runs from 28 Oct – 24 Nov

  • The guilder rose is the tree of the feast of Samhain (31 October) and the death of the year
    • Guelder rose is one of the ancient trees of Britain. It’s also called water-elder or whitten, reminding us of the magical elder tree

Most traditions say this is the time of the reed  but I use the Guelder rose for this season and the ogham character commonly used for nGeatal.

White flowers of Guelder rose

Guelder-rose contains the important Celtic winter feast of Samhain on 31st Oct, now called Halloween.

It is the season of death and rebirth, the turning of the Celtic year and a time when the veils between worlds are very thin and often drawn aside so that we and the Fae can pass across the borders freely. It’s been a time of death for millennia in the northern hemisphere, coming as it does just after the autumn equinox. The light each day grows less and less until the sun stops and turns around at the midwinter solstice.

For those in the southern hemisphere it comes right after the spring equinox, where the light increases every day up to the midsummer solstice. Also a time of rebirth going to death.

Midsummer is a time of death, the going down of the sun and lessening of the light.

Midwinter is a time birth, the rising of the sun out of the time of darkness.

So in either hemisphere this season is about rebirth, return, change, coming again.

The thesaurus gives us the following possibilities for these concepts …

  • rebirth, reawakening, reincarnation, regeneration, renewal, revival
  • return, reappearance, reoccurrence, resume, revisit, restore
  • return, repay, pay back, reimburse, refund, give back
  • change, new beginning, new start
  • coming again, homecoming, arrival

Take each if these into your sacred space and ponder on it.

Menses

Medicinally, the Guelder rose has extensive uses, since both leaves and fruits are laxative, while its bark contains ‘scopolamine’ or “Cramp Bark”, which helps painful menstrual cramps which fives it one of its country names. It’s also called Snowball Tree; King’s Crown; High Cranberry; Rose Elder; Water Elder; May Rose; Whitsun Rose; Dog Rowan Tree; Silver Bells; Whitsun Bosses; Gaitre Berries (Chaucer’s name for the tree) and Black Haw.

The berries have anti-scorbutic properties and they turn black in drying. They have been used for making ink, a tool of scribes and bards … the poetry of the crone, the wise-one.

Guelder rose, Samhain and menstruation … not perhaps the first things to think of together. Samhain is the crone-time, the Old One, long past her menstrual years. It’s also a time of the ancestors, so what has this to do with menstruation?

The crone time is the menopause, when the wise blood no longer flows each month, the movement through the goddess’ cycle from Maiden to Mother to Crone … Inspiration, Love, Wisdom. For me, the Guelder rose takes on all three of these forms.

Maiden Mother Crone
Inspiration Love Wisdom
White Red Black

The cycle of the Guelder rose begins with the white flowers of the Maiden, Olwen of the White Track, although her more usual flower is the May or hawthorn or whitethorn. Just after Lammas the Guelder rose fruits ripen into the bright red berries of the Mother. The dried fruits – if the birds haven’t had them – go the black of the Wise One, the Crone who holds the wisdom of the ancestors. Over the winter, our Guelder rose stand leafless, its branches dark against the winter sun, sparkling with bright red berries until midwinter when all turns black in preparation for rebirth.

Red berrries of the Guelder rose

Ritual

The word ‘ritual’ comes from ‘rtu’ which is Sanskrit for menses, the word from which menstruation comes via the Greek … menus meaning both moon and power, and men is the  word for month. The womb blood which nourished the unborn child was known to have ‘mana’ or ‘breath of life’. It’s likely the traditions of blood sacrifice originate in the ‘sacrifice’ of blood that pours from women at the Moontime each month when there is no pregnancy for it to nourish. Menstrual blood is given freely and was once used to nourish the tribe or the earth in other ways.

A woman’s bleeding was, and still is by pagans, considered a cosmic event, relating and connecting to the moon, the lunar cycles and the tides. She was thought to be at the height of her power at this time, and for this reason was encouraged to spend time listening to her inner voice which would often offer suggestions and wisdom which would benefit the whole tribe. It still is a time when women can be at their most intuitive and creative. It was only later, under patriarchal rule, that the Moontime was distorted into a perception of uncleanness. Women were forced to go apart, not allowed to participate in the preparation of food for men or ceremonies and their wisdom denigrated, called lunacy and forced underground.

With the advent of Christianity the pendulum began to swing away from Goddess-centred worship and towards the patriarchal, man-based place we still largely are today. In Britain, this was made worse by the Norman conquest which relegated women to being possessions of fathers, brothers, husbands … indeed just about any male! My recent ancestors headed the movement for the Married Women’s Property Act without which women’s’ suffrage would not have happened, so I get quite passionate about this J.

Birth – Death – Rebirth

I work on all of these ideas at the time of Samhain. It’s the time of death and rebirth so invokes the white, the red and the black, the maiden, mother and crone, as all three are necessary to make the transits of death-birth.

Remember, when you are born into thisworld you die to otherworld. Then, when you die to thisworld at the end of your incarnation,  you are born again into otherworld. So the cycle goes on and on, round and round. At each spiral you take with you all that you have learned to date and go into the new life with the wisdom stored from the past ones. As part of your soul group you do the same thing, upload your life-experiences from that incarnation onto the group server so all can learn from them. So, you increase the knowing, nouse, wisdom, for everything, including the universe itself.

When we are born, with all that past wisdom available on our hard disc for the incarnation,  the trick is to learn to access it again! Samhain is a good moment for asking otherworld for help with this. The veils between the worlds are thin and drawn back at this time, good for crossing in both directions, a time to use all that otherworld offers to get more access to our useful pasts.

Discernment

And there’s another thing … we may well have had many lives, some of them will be very relevant to our current incarnation and others will be not. We need to learn discernment, how to see what is worth using now and what should stay in the cupboard for other lifetimes.

Spend this time of the Guelder rose contemplating your past. As the time of the ancestors this season offers you the opportunity to contact them, ask them to help you with which of your past lives are most relevant to where you are now in the current incarnation. This helps your ability to discern what is necessary and what is “light relief”. Many past lives can offer us pleasant memories, like a good novel or film, with a few ideas thrown in maybe. But how does it help you in your current 21st century life to remember how it was to be Cleopatra or Napoleon?  Or even one of their servants J. Oh, it may be useful, but likely it’s not.

It’s useful to ask the ancestors to help you concentrate on just one or two past lives. If you try to do a whole gamut you’ll only get even more confused!  It’s also useful to ask for two contrasting lives, so we can see ourselves in very different roles. If you feel up to it, ask for one of the lives to be one where you were a nasty person … yes, we’ve all been nasty, and it’s worth coming to terms with that!

Spend this time of the Guelder rose considering the time of crossing … crossing between the worlds, your own time of passing from this incarnation back into otherworld to train up for your next incarnation. This happens after you’ve given up all your experience in this incarnation to your soul-group – like uploading your life onto the server for your soul-group so all your soul-friends can share in the things you learned.

This will give you, gradually, a very different perspective on life in general … a very good thing for the time of the Guelder rose.

Elen Sentier

behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …

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One thought on “Ogham: Peith – Guelder Rose”

  1. I used to be really into and interested in Celtic paganism, being British with Irish and Welsh ancestry, and possibly Cornish as well. As I became more and more a practising Christian (but not some fundie nut!) I believed that they were just interesting folklore similar to Greek mythology or Norse mythology and the like. Interestingly, I have heard that ancient Irish folklore is very similar to Indian mythology. 🙂

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