Tag Archives: apple

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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Ogham – Q: Quert: Apple

Quert - Apple

  • The Moon-month for Quert runs from 5 Aug – 1 Sep… it shares the month with Coll, hazel, as the wild apple and nut harvests coincide.
  • Apple is the tree of knowing and reincarnation. This is the wild apple, crab-apple. Merlin’s tree that he shares with the Pigling, one of Ceridwen’s children with whom he runs wild deep in the forest of Caledon, eating the apples of knowing.

Merlin, Pigs & Apples

In the Celtic mythos one the most famous connections with the apple is Merlin in his “mad” phase in the Caledonian Forest with his companion pig and Ceridwen.

The main reason usually quoted for Merlin’s madness is the slaughter at the battle of Arfderydd. The Yr Afallennau has Merlin sleeping under apple trees with a pigling that has come to him and coming into his prophetic self. For us, nowadays, maybe many need some “down to earth” reason for madness that can be “dealt with” through psychobabble, however this was not the case in the old days, nor is it now amongst those who walk the old ways.

Madness is a form of changing. How it works out, if the person is still able to function in the everyday world, if they live even, is another matter. The shaman knows this. The old ways – now sometimes called sensory deprivation – when one went voluntarily into a long barrow to be shut in for three days and nights worked to produce the seer, the spirit-keeper, the awenydd. Another way was to go out into the wilds, the mountains, a lonely seashore, the forest, and sit-with the goddess and the gods, with Nature, with the spirits. In America this is known as vision questing. If you’ve ever tried it you’ll know what a scary process it is – to be alone, with nothing but the bare necessities of life.

You are alone firstly with your self and your Self – your personality and your soul. Have you tried this? No distractions, no iPod, phone, radio, TV, no other people around, no-one to help, no-one to comfort you. Only your self and your Self for company.

Arthur's Stone at Moonrise - a barrow used for initiation

The old ones said you come out of such an experience dead, mad or enlightened, often going through some form of death and madness  in order to grow through into the enlightenment. Not everyone made it. the dead were deeply honoured, it was known their spirits had gone into Otherworld and would return again, once refreshed, to try again. The mad were deeply honoured too. It was known that even if their sayings seemed garbled and unclear they would have wisdom hiding in there somewhere, waiting to be found. Those who made it all the way through became as Merlin to their people, the great ones becoming seers known in many lands and for many ages.

It still happens today. If you are willing to sit out in the lap of the Land, with no company … willing to listen to your Elders, the animals, trees, birds, insects, plants, wind, sky, earth and water … then you will find wisdom. If you are able to hold onto the experience then you will be of use to the people, and to the Land and Otherworld itself as well as Thisworld.

This is what Merlin did – battles or no battles. It was a test of initiation, of growing into the seer, the awenydd, the spirit-keeper.

The apple holds all of this for you.

Ceridwen & Pigs

White Sow - suckling her piglings

One of Ceridwen’s totem shapes is that of White Sow. The pigling that Merlin lives with in the Caledonian Forest is one of her children. The pig, like the horse, was integral to the Celtic tradition, customarily it was thought to be the inexhaustible beast that could and would forever feed the people. Recent diggings at Stonehenge have shown that pig-feasts were an integral part of the celebrations there.

Many of the heroes, such as Culhwch, were swineherds – keeping the pigs was a priestly duty. The heroes were also often hidden through their job, kept safe and produced when the time was right for them to come into their inheritance.

Ceridwen fostered them, kept them as her piglings, nurtured them. In a sense she does this with Merlin in Caledon.

Ceridwen’s pig-form is very much a part of Thisworld, of manifestation, rather than of the Upperworld of ideas or the Lowerworld of ancestral wisdom, about making things manifest here and now. Merlin, as awenydd, needed this, needed to be able to help the everyday world of which he was a part – despite his half-fairy parentage. As a half-blood (unlike Harry Potterites!) he was acclaimed, known for one who very directly had a foot in each camp, and so was very valuable. Ceridwen was able to help him walk between worlds. His journey to do so was difficult and dangerous, involving him in losing his everyday mind to replace it with a wiser form that could see Otherworld and Thisworld side by side and work in both. The Lady of the Cauldron fostered him and tested him and provoked him while he made this journey. She did not make it safe … she made it possible.

Avalon

Avalon, from the Welsh word derived from Old Welsh abal “apple” or aball “apple tree” (Middle Welsh aval, avall; Modern Welsh afal, afall), though an Old Cornish or Old Breton origin is also possible – they too being Brythonic languages.

The Isle of Avalon features in the Arthurian mythos and is famous for its beautiful apples. It first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s 1136 account Historia Regum Britanniae (“The History of the Kings of Britain”) as the place where King Arthur’s sword Caliburn (Excalibur) was forged and later where Arthur is taken to recover from his wounds after the Battle of Camlann. As an “Isle of the Blessed” Avalon has parallels elsewhere in Indo-European mythology, such as Tír na nÓg and the Greek Hesperides, also noted for its apples. It is associated with Morgan le Fay, one of whose titles is “apple woman” and who is goddess of the crossroads, the ways between Thisworld and Otherworld, between life and death.

Trying to locate Avalon as a geographic entity, in what we call the real world, is about as useful as attempting to herd kittens and with a similar lack of results and consequent frustration! There is no point. The concept of Avalon can be located on a physical reference point … anywhere, but that doesn’t help the Seeker to find the apples of wisdom to which s/he aspires. The apple isle is the place of initiation and discovery for the person who is searching for such. The various histories – all written by people, each with their own prejudices and axes to grind – are largely reiterations of the writing of those before them. They remind me of the old adage … “Big fleas have smaller fleas upon their backs to bite ‘me. Little fleas have lesser fleas … and so ad infinitum!”

It is similar to many teachings, they give you “techniques” but nothing of the real thing. They wash out so much colour and fire in order to make the techniques safe one might as well be playing charades. Reality is not safe. Like the apple that Snow white is given it has a red face and a green face, one is poisonous and will transport you across the divide of change, of death, sometimes physical, sometimes the death of old ways and beliefs, throwing you into turmoil, forcing you to change, to grow.

Fairy Horse ...

This is what the apple does in stories all around the world. It gives wisdom … but wisdom is not safe, it’s wild and huge and free. It will set you on its back as the Kelpie does, and run away with you …

From Wiki – Its hide was supposed to be black (though in some stories it was white), and will appear to be a lost pony, but can be identified by its constantly dripping mane. Its skin is like that of a seal, smooth, but is as cold as death when touched. The horse’s appearance is strong, powerful, and breathtaking. Water horses are also known to transform into beautiful women in order to lure men into their traps.

The apple is the fruit of wisdom … all wisdom seekers would do well to work with this tree, and its fruit.

Spirit-Keeping – Awenydd

Awen is a Welsh word for poetic inspiration. It is historically used to describe the divine inspiration of bards in the Welsh poetic tradition. Someone who is inspired, as a poet or a soothsayer, is awenydd.

Apple Pentacle

The apple is the fruit of Apollo, the Greek god of the arts and poetry – poets are keepers of farsight, wisdom, song, and many other things, wisdom, awenydd, spirit-keepers. Cut an apple in half, crosswise, as opposed to from stem to base, and you will see the five seeds make the pentacle-pattern of many initiation-cults.

To be spirit-keeper is to hold the gateway to spirit for the people and, even more so, for the Land. This involves learning to know, and be befriended by, the Spirit of Place where you live and work. This can be as small as your village or as great as your land, your country. In either case this includes all that live and moves and has its being therein … not just humans but all the other kingdoms of Nature including rocks, soil and mineral, atoms, bacteria, molecules from the most infinitesimal to the hugest.

The pentacle at the centre of the apple signifies the four element and spirit, encompassing all things, seen and unseen.

Ponder on all the above and watch it change the way you relate to all Life.

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Celtic shaman – Elen Sentier Wye’s Woman at Madley Pool

The Origins of the Star, Pentacle, Pentagram

 

The star , known as a Pentagram or Pentacle, has come to have great meaning and power over the decades to both Pagan and others. It has remained, regardless of religion, in some way or form.


But where did it surface from? What does it mean? And what does it continue to stand for?


 

The star itself can be traced back to Ancient times as nearly every culture laid claim to it. The Goddess Kore, who was worshipped by the Pythagorean mystics knew that if you cut an apple crosswise, it revealed the star in its center marked by her sacred seeds.

Some ancients called it the star of Ishtar, of Isis, of Nephthys. While in some cultures it meant life and health, in Egypt, it came to represent the underground womb. And even still, from there it’s uses and purposes grew. In Babylon, they were famous for drawing the star on pots and pottery invoking its power to help preserve what was in them. Even those of biblical times, adapted the power of the star as being the first holy sign of their seven seals. Why even King Solomon’s legendary magic ring was made of a star.

While the upright star also symbolized the Goddess, it  brought protection and knowledge. While Christians today will make the sign of a cross over their chest, Ancient Pagans would make the sign of the pentagram over theirs.

Start at the left breast, then to forehead, then right breast, then left shoulder, right shoulder, then end it at the left breast.  This symbolized not only protection but completion.

Pretty neat, hu?

Over time, though, the meaning of the star changed, and even today, many Pagans and non-Pagans forgot it’s origins. We have been taught to fear the star, especially when we see it represented in this way.

Pentacle 2 But in Ancient times, the upside down star simply represented the God. It especially became popular when a man was placed in the center, calling him “He of the five shapes.” Also known as the horned God, representing four horned and sacred animals: the bull, ram, goat, and stag. The fifth shape was that of a man.

This was adapted by Satanists sometime later, and then the stereotypes and fear grew from there for whatever reason. (Usually misrepresentation, lack of knowledge, or speculation.) But back in the day, the Horned god nor the upside down star ever represented anything evil or frightening.

Sadly, though, even today, many Pagans do not know the origins of the upside down star. A perfect example– I did a newsletter some odd years ago, using a piece of Royo art to set it off. The warrior woman had on a necklace with an upside down star on it. To me, the woman represented the Goddess and the star, the God. But sure enough I was slammed with angry and offended emails wondering why I would shatter the image of Paganism by using something so evil as the upside down star.

However, focused on what our Ancient Ancestors would do…and On a more positive note…when the two stars are intertwined like so…

Pentacle 3 They represented the union of the God and the Goddess joining. This symbol was often used in marriages between Pagans, as in some cultures, the woman represented the Goddess, and the man, the God…so by bringing them together, they each represented the sacred union and joining of both.

This, nine pointed star has also come to mean the Tree of Life, or the moon inside the tree of life. It represents balance, guidance and inspiration. It symbolizes completion, eternity, as well as nine being a popular number in Ancient times.

From the Ancient Egyptians, to the Celts, the star was held high and kept close. from story to legend, to family crest, the star made its mark. Gawain was said to carry the pentacle as it was painted on his shield–representing Morgan. Hermetic Magicians used the star within their model of man because from Ancient to previous times, the star meant, among other things,….knowledge.

Those of law enforcement move behind that of a star. Many flags– American, Iraq, Australia, and more show stars. Why, one of the most popular decorations right now happens to be the Primitive Star. I can’t drive through a neighborhood without seeing a gazillion of them hanging on people’s homes. From Barns, to weather vanes…the star has survived the test of time…and for those who make note of them in your life, maybe they will give you a deeper meaning, now that you know some of their grand origins.

 

Reconstructing the Fall: A Memoir

It was a rather memorable moment, or should I say – historic? Not that there weren’t any other animals around. There were plenty. All of them named by homo sapiens, my allotted spouse. I wasn’t around during that name-giving process and his first wife, Lilith, had just left, so – just to clear things up – we women had no hand in taking dominion over the living things of the earth.

I made my entrance without preconceived ideas about my fellow creatures and made friends easily, while Adam – that is to say this ‘reasoning’ companion of mine – felt he had to rule them. Being on friendly terms with the other animals gave me access to objective information about the time before I was in Eden. About the two trees and the one rule, and about Lilith and why she left. Lilith’s best friend and ultimate confident was Snake. She was wise and patient, understanding and trustworthy. And I wanted to get to know her, naturally. More than anything else, really.

She was of the most amazing appearance. Her body was of a dark shade of green that seemed translucent, and the golden stripes on her back were like sunbeams on water, images forming and re-forming in ever-changing patterns. Her eyes were as clear as crystals, and just above them there was a golden sign drawn on her skin, powerful and mystical. I saw before me the most beautiful creature I had ever beheld.

Now, you might think you know what happened then but, let me tell you, they got it all wrong. We had a long conversation about life, power and knowledge. Of course we touched upon the subject of making one’s own decisions. From there it was only the tiniest step to eat the fruit.

Leaving Eden was a blessing. My life finally had some meaning – meaning that I myself could attribute to it. Though I never saw Snake again, I knew I would never forget this shining figure’s enchanting voice, and how she uttered the words which led to my freedom. And Adam’s too, by the way. Although he just followed the leader.

© jsmorgane (2003)