Category Archives: Creativity

The pagan with the pen

Where does art come from?

Some might say the subconscious, or the imagination. Some may cite the id as the bubbling cauldron of ideas, or the need to define certain childhood experiences or emotions. Perhaps the answer varies from person to person. I personally feel that creation, in its purest form, is a sacred act.

There are definitely times when I’m writing that I feel like I’m channeling something rather than creating something.  I’m not alone in this.  One will often hear artists saying that their strongest works seemed to ‘write themselves’ or ‘play themselves’ or ‘paint themselves’.  It’s wonderful when this happens. More commonly, things don’t come that easily. That’s where craft and discipline come in. Divine inspiration or not, it takes work to shape the final piece. Muses can be fickle things. They can whisper while one is absorbed in mundane daily tasks, scream at inopportune moments and then, when given a chance to speak, be strangely and stubbornly quiet. They can abandon us at crucial moments, standing just out of reach. Muses must be fed, on a constant influx of inspiration. (Mine seems to also enjoy a glass of red wine.) And to open your output valve, you also have to open your input valve.

In art and in life, our influences and experiences are our teachers. The songs we listen to and the movies we watch and the books we read imprint new patterns on our brains. Healthy minds are always changing, evolving, factoring in new experiences and adjusting outlook accordingly. As we never stop learning (hopefully) we should never stop seeking new sources for inspiration. Frequently this search leads to the past, to the myths and lore and legends of old. And if one follows those threads of influence back, inevitably one will find oneself in the realm of myth. Stoker didn’t create Dracula out of whole cloth. The Count was the lovechild of myth and history. And without the Count, we likely wouldn’t find ourselves being inflicted with glittery baseball-playing vampires.  

The line where myth and art meet is not a clear one. If you’re looking for them, you might recognize archetypes and/or dieties at play in the least expected places. You might find a hint of Aphrodite working through Miss Piggy. You might find traces of Loki at play in a mischievous character. One of my favorite TV shows ever, Sons of Anarchy, is loosely inspired by Hamlet, which was inspired by the 13th-century Vita Amlethi, which was in itself inspired by something else, something older.

Art is the line between dream and reality, between the future and the past, the seen and the unseen, the sacred and the profane. Art is the embodiment of emotion. Art is one way in which we interact with the universe, how we express  our thoughts and emotions. Art is as necessary as breathing for some of us. There are many of us who simply feel driven to create. Whatever one’s art, there are going to be roadblocks at every turn. Rejection, uncertainty, lackluster product, even a lack of confidence can lead one down a dangerous dead-end road. Sooner or later, we all run out of gas. The way through these roadblocks can sometimes come through unexpected places, such as meditation or ritual, as well as research. I’ve found characters in meditation, and resolved plot problems while staring at a solstice moon.

When one is ‘borrowing’ a god or goddess for a muse, it can become a bit complicated. There is a fine line one treads when working with deities in art. Some deities do not take lightly to being adopted. You cannot work against them. You have to let them come to you on your own terms. I realized this recently when working with Hecate. I found myself blocked, and realized that I had to open myself to the goddess, rather than force her myth to open up to me. The pagan and the pen, indeed.

Where does art come from? The natural, or the supernatural? I think it’s a bit of both, but either way, art is a chain that stretches back to the beginning of time, and if nothing else, in that aspect it becomes sacred. If one can transcribe emotion and cause an audience or a reader or a listener to react emotionally, that’s a very powerful and profound thing . One of the things that drew me to druidry in the first place was the fact that it recognizes creation as divine.       

Some might argue that the gods and goddesses of the ancient world, and their stories, are nothing more than pieces of us, the human race, embodied in specific forms and tales. You can certainly put those labels on them, if you choose. This goddess represents sexuality, this one rage, this tale is about hubris, this one is about love. Myths certainly are mirrors; we see ourselves reflected back in them, and if we’re paying attention, we can learn valuable lessons from them. The spirits of the ancient dieties will shine through us if we let them.  And if you look, you might find them waiting for you in some very unexpected places.

Ogham: Ruis – Elder

The moon-month for Ruis is  25 Nov – 23, the time of the Winter Solstice.

Elder is the tree of doom … Tree of the Cailleach, Hag, Crone

It is a witch-tree, along with rowan and blackthorn, associated with death, magic, magic wands and enchantment. It’s a chancy tree as we say in Britain, one to be very careful with.

Its berries are black, carry the black cup of forgetfulness. This is forgetfulness of the little self, the personal self.

If we do not learn to forget ourselves, to put our personal needs behind those of the planet, then we bring doom onto all, look around the world now, think about the harm that has been wrought by human selfishness … how humans consider all things must be for our good and trying to make sure that only the things we want exist or happen. The unfortunate biblical phrase “gave dominion over” suggests to most folk that god gave us this planet as a kiddies playground and that it’s fine if we pull the wings off flies, etc.

Elder Berries

Take all these thoughts into your work with the spirit of Ruis and see what comes.

  • Doom, Kismet, Karma, Fate, Destiny, Luck, Fortune, Chance
  • How do these words relate to the old word geas, the word for duty, one’s soul-job, life-job?

Take these words into a sit-with to bring you closer to the essence of Ruis.

The Elder is again about endings and beginnings, maturity. Although the Elder is easily damaged, it recovers and is rejuvenated easily.

The Elder is also strongly connected with the workings of the Faer. The soft wood has a lightweight core that can be pushed out to create a hollow tube – perfect for a Faerie flute!

Elder was also planted near dairy barns, in the belief that its presence would keep the cows in milk, and prevent collected milk from spoiling.

Elder Flowers

The flowers and inner bark are famous for their therapeutic qualities often brewed to fight fever, cough, and sore throats. The flowers make excellent wine and champagne. The berries are very good for a cordial that helps with winter colds and such as well as being an lovely drink in its own right.

I make elder-flower cordial every spring and always keep a bottle to be opened at Midwinter and drunk over the time of the solstice – from 20th to 25th December. The 25th December is Sun-Return, when the sun again appears to move forwards after his standstill from 22-24 December. I use this to remind me that death and rebirth are two faces of one coin. As the sun arrives at the shortest day so he pauses, waits for the three days, then moves on ensuring that the light increases again. It is a time of the rebirth of Sun, a time of new beginnings.

Hopi Prophecy …

I came across this prophecy again today as I was editing this piece … it’s very apposite.

The 6 things to consider are exactly what I’ve been saying to myself since the autumn equinox. And the last line, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for” is a fundamental part of the Rainbow Warriors course. I’m glad to be reminded of this now as we come up to Sun-Return. The Rainbow Warriors are the 144,000 warriors of the Rainbow … the sum of the petals in the seven chakras that are the life within each of us. We are indeed the warriors who can save the Earth, and we are the ones we have been waiting for.

This knowing, nouse, goes all around the Earth, from the ancient eastern sutras, the Hopi, and the Celts … and everywhere else throughout the world.

The prophecy …

You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour.
Now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour.
And there are things to be considered …

  • Where are you living?
  • What are you doing?
  • What are your relationships?
  • Are you in right relation?
  • Where is your water?
  • Know your garden.

It is time to speak your Truth.

Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader.

This could be a good time!
There is a river flowing now very fast.
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold on to the shore.
They will feel they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly.
Know the river has its destination.
The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of
the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.

See who is in there with you and celebrate.
At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally.
Least of all, ourselves.
For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a
halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!
Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

–The Elders, Oraibi, Arizona Hopi Nation

Work for Ruis

I think taking the following, from the prophecy, and sitting with them, working with them, is a very useful at this time. They are all about taking a clear-sighted (clairvoyant) look at where you are and then asking Otherworld’s opinion on how appropriate this is for you now.

  • Where are you living?
  • What are you doing?
  • What are your relationships?
  • Are you in right relation?
  • Where is your water?
  • Know your garden.

It is time to speak your Truth.

Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader.

Where are you living?

This is more than just your physical house-address.

Are you living in your …

  • Body? Do physical things rule you?
  • Feelings? Are you pink & fluffy?
  • Thinking? Are you a head-case?
  • Intuition? Are you off with the fairies?

I chose some tough examples of where you might be to give you an idea of what I’d like you to think about when you do this exercise. It will undoubtedly link, thread, to you physical abode as well but don’t be narrow and simplistic in your work on this.

What are you doing?

Again, don’t just think about your job, although this will be an important aspect for your work on this subject.

Are you doing anything? Or are you just faffing about, stuck on the fence, not doing anything really, just marking time?

What might you be doing?

What would make your heart sing? This is really important! Likely it’s your soul-job and so very necessary for you to get in touch with … and right now is a really good time!

What are your relationships?

Oooo! This is a tough one! We all come acropper here, probably several times in a lifetime. And we are all very touchy and tetchy about having anyone say we’re getting our relationships all round the backs of our necks.

Who do you have relations with?

  • Husband/wife/partner?
  • Children?
  • Boss?
  • Staff?

And now we come to the less well-known ones …

  • Your home – the place where you live, that you are guardian to
  • Your garden – ditto
  • The animals who live with you

o   And what about all the ones who are squatters in your home … mice, spiders, rats, flies, fleas, bed-bugs, bats …

o   And the germs, microbes, viri, bacteria, etc. …

  • Then there’s your car, bike, mode of transport
  • The neighbours
  • The trees and plants around you
  • Your furniture, fridge, curtains …

Hmm … had you thought of all those are part of what you have relations with?

It could be quite a long session, this one, where you first of all need to say Hi to all the things you’ve been ignoring for the past umpteen years …

Are you in right relation?

And are you in the right, the appropriate relations with all of these things?

If you weren’t even aware there could be a relationship then that was likely a bit off for a start, so you’ll need to do some mending with those things.

Where is your water?

Ha! Another deep one.

Did you know that you are about 70% water?

So where is your water?

And then there’s the water that enables you to live … it comes from the tap? Yes … but where does it come from before that? And what’s been done to it along the way, before it gets to you? Are these good things?

Some of us are still fortunate to have our own springs, water that bubble up from the land where we live. This is sacred. All water is sacred. The Earth, Terra, is called the Blue Planet because, from space, the enormous masses of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans dominate what you see. Earth has a fantastic amount of water, it’s what enables life as we know it here.

So … where is your water?

Know your garden

As a gardener, this is just so important to me but it’s not just about a physical plot of soil.

Garden – the Persian word for garden is paradise. What is a paradise?

  • Utopia, rapture, joy, delight, nirvana, ecstasy, bliss, heaven

Take these words into a sit-with and see what gifts they bring you.

Truth

The prophecy goes on to say …

It is time to speak your Truth.

This is often the hardest thing for us to do. Too often we fear to be ostracised if we do it and so conform! In psychology we call it living by someone else’s scripts. A sign of maturity is when we can say this is me, no matter what you say or think.

How much do you live by other people’s scripts?

The work you’ve done on the other questions will help you let go of this and speak your own truth.

Look within …

And do not look outside yourself for the leader.

This comes out of finding ways to speak your own truth. All the gurus who brought you to where you are now must go. As Buddhists say … If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him!

Can you understand that? It’s very important. As long as you rely on others, have gurus whose precepts you follow devotedly you are still living by other people’s scripts, however “worthy”. No guru worth her or his salt wants you to follow them, they all look forward to seeing you break away, find your own path, your own truth.

To return to the mythos I love and work within, the Arthurian one, all the knights who entered the Enchanted Forest in search of adventure – the adventure of discovering themselves – were expected to do so by finding their own way in. No knight followed a path already laid down by another knight.

Take this idea into a journey, see where you enter the Enchanted Forest, and what you find there.

Good questing on this time of Midwinter and Sun-Return.

Reviewing the year …

A friend did this review of his gardening year, I find it really inspiring. I must sit and do my own review. Thanks Rob 🙂

Here is the link …

Elen Sentier

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

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Course – Gardening with the Moon and Stars

I’ve just been asked to set up a biodynamic gardening course beginning early in 2011. Details uncertain yet but keep looking at Wye’s Women for more details. It’s likely to be one Saturday or Sunday a month over the spring/summer, at our place – Archenland – and bring a shared lunch. We’ll go through all the stuff, actually doing it as well as theory. And we intend to have a monthly discussion group at the cafe – the Garden in the City, Hereford – each month too, like a couple of weeks after each course-day so there’s time to digest and come up with questions between each session.

If you feel like joining, get in touch with us now at wyeswomen@gmail.com and we’ll keep you posted.

Wye’s Women

Elen Sentier & Jennie Russell-Smith

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Rose Hip update …

I’ve just got the mush into the muslin, draining overnight into the bucket, tomorrow I’ll make the juice into the jelly.

It’s now Apple, Rose Hip & Hawthorn jelly. I went out for a walk this afternoon, onto Honeymoor Common, and was greeted by more rose hips and lots and lots of haws – the hawthorn berries. The trees on the common are loaded with berries, dark tree-limbs jewelled with bright garnets that glow in the autumn sun. I couldn’t get all the way I wanted to, along the footpath across the common to come into the village behind the church, the stiles were too high, I would need to pull myself up onto them and having only one working arm doesn’t make this a good idea to try! So, I turned back and walked around the common past the smaller pool, then back to the big pool and to the lane home. It was a good walk.

Coming near to the big pool there was this exquisite hawthorn tree. She had lost all her leaves and stood at the edge of the water glowing with her garnets. She called to me. I asked again when I got to her – never take anything for granted. A robin – again, like yesterday – sang to me. I said that I would only take a few, what my big coat pocket could hold, and leave the rest for the critters and birds. Both tree and bird seemed satisfied and the slight pressure I’d felt, a sort of wariness, wanting me to have some of the fruit but hoping I wasn’t going to be greedy, slipped away. I took some fruit from all the branches I could reach, it quickly half-filled the pocket, weighing the coat down on the shoulder that side. Not my operated shoulder. When I’d finished I thanked the tree, and the land and the beasties and moorhens I could hear in the long grass and reeds, and went on homewards.

In the lane,m before I got our drive, the sun caught the fruit on a lovely apple tree. bright greens and reds, and the tree herself had a lovely shape. I stopped to admire. No-one had picked the fruit although it was well ripe and the tree stood right by the gate – but outside – of one of the houses in the lane. It called too. I looked at the fruit but I couldn’t take it, not without asking the people, but there were a lots of windfalls, many of them good, lying in the grass. I felt I could take those. Again, I asked the tree. “Please! Please!” she said. “I want my fruit eaten.” So I did, filling both the big pockets in my coat with the gorgeous apples. The scent was delicious.

So I got home with all the makings for the jelly, and all wild-harvested. The rose hips from yesterday are in my wild hedge although they get the biodynamic treatment. I love this, asking Mother Nature for food and being given it. It’s always worth watching the things that happen to you, the apparent “accidents” like me not being able to do the walk I had intended. If I had done I may well not have gone anywhere near the hawthorn tree, nor would the sun have necessarily been in the right place to show me the apple tree, and nor might I have been in the right frame of mind to see any of it either. I don’t subscribe to accidents and coincidences as many do. I try to always listen and hear and see the little gifts the Mother showers on me every day, and to return gifts of my own whenever I can. the little everyday magics are amazing :-).

Elen Sentier

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Apple & Rose Hip Jelly

Rosehip and Apple Jelly Recipe

* Comments(91)

My thanks to The cottage Smallholder for this recipe Smile

Rosehips in our gardenRosehips are ripening and perfect for picking now. Some people wait until after the first frost, when the rosehips will be soft. We start picking from the first week in September. They need to cook for longer but we know that they’re really fresh. They’re high in vitamin C and a great asset for the self sufficient smallholder. As a child, I remember my Mother giving us rosehip syrup (a dessert spoon daily). It was rather good. Nowadays, we make apple and rosehip jelly.

The rosehip flavour combines well with the apple. This is a delicate jelly with a fuller taste than plain apple jelly; good with toast for breakfast and excellent served with chicken, pork or a mild cheese.

Incidentally, I recently heard that rosehip concoctions are good for sore throats. Perhaps we should all toy with a spoonful when we’re next in bed with a bug.

Rosehip and Apple Jelly recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb/900g rosehips
  • 4 lb/1800g of sweet eating apples. We use windfalls as they won’t keep
  • Zest of half a lemon (add to the apples)
  • Juice of half a lemon (strained). Half a medium lemon equates to one tablespoon of juice.
  • Sugar – 1pt/600ml of strained juice to 1lb/454g of white granulated sugar
  • This recipe makes 14 half pound jars. So adjust accordingly.

Method:
As the rosehips can take longer than the apple to soften I always cook them separately. In this way both are cooked for their individual optimum time. I cook the rosehips on one evening, straining it overnight, and then cook the apples on the next evening. The juice will keep well in the fridge for a couple of days, in covered containers. Split over three evenings, the jelly is not a palaver and can be easily fitted into a busy routine.

  1. Remove stalks from the rosehips and place in a large pan. Don’t use an iron or aluminium pan as this will strip away the vitamin C. A large glass or enamelled saucepan is ideal. I use a large non stick or stainless steel stock pot. Barely cover the hips with water and bring to the boil and simmer gently until the hips are soft. This can take quite a while if the hips are still firm (when I was making this jelly, the hips took a good hour and a half to soften). Keep an eye on them, stirring from time to time. Top up with water if necessary. (I mashed them gently with a plastic potato masher to hurry them along). If you are using my three evening method, strain the rosehips through sterilised muslin (see points 3 and 4 below)
  2. Wash the apples, cut out bad bits and chop roughly. There is no need to peel or core the apples. Add water to coverc of the fruit. Add the lemon zest. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer very gently until all the fruit is soft and squishy. (This can take anything from 20 minutes to an hour, depending on how ripe the fruit is.)
  3. Pour the cooked fruit through sterilised muslin into a large clean bucket or bowl (how do I sterilise muslin/the jelly bag? See tips and tricks below). The muslin is often referred to as a “jelly bag”. We use tall buckets to catch the drips from the jelly bags. Rather than hang the bags (conventional method-between the legs of an upturned stool) I find it easier to line a large plastic sieve with the muslin. This clips neatly onto the top of a clean bucket. The sieve is covered with a clean tea cloth to protect against flies.
  4. Leave the jelly bag to drip overnight (or about 12 hours).
  5. Measure the juice the next day.
  6. Pour the juice into a deep heavy bottomed saucepan and add 1lb/454g of white granulated sugar for each 1pt/570ml of juice.
  7. Add the lemon juice.
  8. Heat the juice and sugar gently stirring from time to time, so as to make sure that that all the sugar has dissolved before bringing the liquid slowly to the boil.
  9. As there are apples (high in pectin) in this recipe only continue to boil for about 10 minutes before testing for a set. This is called a rolling boil. Test every 3 to 5 minutes until setting point is reached. (What is testing for a set? See tips and tricks below).
  10. Tossing in a nugget of butter towards the end will reduce the frothing that can occur.
  11. When jelly has reached setting point pour into warm sterilised jars using a funnel and ladle. (How do I sterilise jars? See tips and tricks below).
  12. Cover immediately with plastic lined screw top lids or waxed disks and cellophane tops secured with a rubber band.
  13. If you don’t think that the jelly has set properly, you can reboil jelly the next day. The boiling reduces the water in the jelly. I have done this in the past. Ideally you should try for the right set the first time.
  14. Label when cold and store in a cool, dark place. Away from damp.

Tips and tricks:

  • What is a jelly bag?
    A jelly bag is traditionally a piece of muslin but it can be cheesecloth, an old thin tea cloth or even a pillowcase. The piece needs to be about 18 inches square. When your fruit is cooked and ready to be put in the jelly bag, lay your cloth over a large bowl. Pour the fruit into the centre of the cloth and tie the four corners together so that they can be slung on a stick to drip over the bowl. Traditionally a stool is turned upside down, the stick is rested on the wood between the legs and the jelly bag hangs over the bowl. We experimented and now line a sieve with muslin, place it over a bucket and cover the lot with clean tea cloths (against the flies).
  • How do I sterilise muslin/the jelly bag?
    Iron the clean jelly bag with a hot iron. This method will also sterilise tea cloths.
  • Jelly “set” or “setting point”?
    Getting the right set can be tricky. I have tried using a jam thermometer but find it easier to use the following method.
    Before you start to make the jelly, put a couple of plates in the fridge so that the warm jam can be drizzled onto a cold plate (when we make jam we often forget to return the plate to the fridge between tests, using two plates means that you have a spare cold plate). Return the plate to the fridge to cool for approx two minutes. It has set when you run your finger through it and leave a crinkly track mark. If after two minutes the cooled jam is too liquid, continue to boil the jelly, testing it every few minutes until you have the right set. The jelly is far more delicious if it is slightly runny. It does get firmer after a few months.
  • How do I sterilise the jars and lids?
    We collect jars all year round for our jelly, chutney and jam making sessions. I try to soak off labels and store the clean jars and metal plastic coated screw-top lids in an accessible place. The sterilising method that we use is simple. Just before making the jam, I quickly wash and rinse the jars and place them upside down in a cold oven. Set the temperature to 160c (140c fan-assisted). When the oven has reached the right temperature I turn off the heat. The jars will stay warm for quite a while. I only use plastic lined lids for preserves as the all-metal lids can go rusty. I boil these for five minutes in water to sterilise them. If I use Le Parfait jars, I do the same with the rubber rings.

Read more: The Cottage Smallholder » Rosehip and Apple Jelly Recipe http://www.cottagesmallholder.com/rosehip-and-apple-jelly-recipe-60#ixzz13GPwVd6v

Elen Sentier

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Healthy Food Helps You Slim

I found this diet site today. I was just looking up how many calories = 1 pound and it came up, it’s perhaps the best info site I’ve found on calories, weight, food and their interconnection.

Part of being a shaman is to be as healthy as you can, being overweight (as I was before the knee op) is not good. it stresses you emotionally and mentally as well as doing your physical body in, so your ability to discern, to have good judgement and clear vision are much impaired. Yes, it really does make a difference! even with a lifetime of experience working with otherworld i found my abilities impaired, my judgement less good and my faculties out of kilter. Losing the weight has made a difference.

So any aids to getting to your proper weight, getting fit, are part of the shaman’s way.

This particular article is very good about how eating good food helps. It talks about eating as little processed food as possible, eating whole foods, eating natural foods. I would add eating organic and biodynamic foods ups the anti on this but that’s more difficult for a generalist site like this to do without seeming partisan and so putting people off .. which I certainly don’t want it to do Smile

So, form a shamanic point of view, as well as a wannabe healthy person, i recommend you get to your optimum weight and fitness state … and this article can help.

Elen Sentier

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