Tag Archives: ogham

Ogham: B – Beith/Birch

Birch’s day is the first day of the new year, the beginnings of new things, the beginning of a new cycle.

Shining One

The word birch means bright and/or shining in many languages including a Sanskrit root “Bhräjate” “it shines” and “bhurja” for birch. Indo-European and proto-Indo-European tree names are (*bherH-ģ-o ) as meaning  “shining”, “bright”, “gleaming”. It’s also known as finnbheann na coille “the bright lady of the woods”.

Shining … sun-bright … giving off light. The glimmering white trunk of the tree in northern woods is stunning and gives the truth to the naming.

The thesaurus gives us the following for bright and shining …

Bright … Vivid Intense Dazzling Light Clear

Shining … Unblemished Immaculate Glowing Radiating Virgin Original Primeval

That last word, primeval, is significant here. The birch is one of the primeval trees, one of the first trees in the world and one of the first trees to help reclaim old building sites, to bring them back to nature. It and the Scots Pine work and live together.

Sit-with these words, see what gifts of insight they offer you at the beginning of the year.

Birch Tree

New Beginnings

In Scandinavia the farmers use it’s leafing to time the planting of wheat. In many countries Birch is the earliest tree to put on leaves, and one of the trees that begins to make new land along with the Scots pine.

You have just worked with the first vowel tree, Ailm, the Scots pine. Both trees work with newness and ask you to always be open to all possibilities, but without being so gullible that otherworld is able to send you off for a tin of striped paint … LOL. This is the sort of paradox-line you continually walk as a shaman, always having to discern what is both true and pertinent to the moment. You must learn to know when you are being tested. It will be to see if you are really awake or just bumbling along on auto-pilot J.

Birch is the tree of inception. What does this mean? Here are some words for you to sit-with and ponder on to help open up your mind and intuition to what Birch and inception is about, what Birch does, what its job is.

Inception begin, set up, start, set in motion, commence, inauguration, open, origin, foundation, launch, establishment, creation, activate, initiate.

Sit-with these words. What pictures come into your mind from them? Take them into your journey as foci, guiding and directing you towards finding the spirit of the wood.

Kenning

In the medieval kennings, the verses associated with Beith are:

  • Féocos foltchaín: “Withered foot with fine hair” (Word Ogham of Morann mic Moín)
  • Glaisem cnis: “Greyest of skin” (Word Ogham of Mac ind Óc)
  • Maise malach: “Beauty of the eyebrow” (Word Ogham of Culainn)

Kennings are knowings … not knowledge! To ken something is about having an acquaintance with it, a cognisance of it, and understanding of it, an awareness of it. To have any or all of these things of another ensures you have a new beginning of your relationship with it … be it animal, vegetable, mineral or human. The birch is a tree of kennings.

Broomstick

The birch twigs make the flying tail for the witch’s broomstick … so the birch is about flying too. The French broomstick’s handle is traditionally of hazel – the tree of Elen of the Ways, so giving the broomstick its ability to find its way across the worlds. In Britain it is often given a handle of Ash, Gwydion’s tree, the shapeshifter’s tree that helps with the flying between worlds. The birch twigs are tied to the stem with fine willow strippings, bringing in the goddess Brighid = she of the Bright Fiery Arrow. The birch gives the broom the shining, glimmering light of otherworld to light the ways which it will travel.

Birch Tea Benefits, particularly their anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties, have been highly regarded for centuries.

The broomstick is used in many traditions as a method of cleansing or purifying a space. In some cultures, the rite of jumping the broom is considered an important part of a marriage ceremony, signifying new beginnings and a clearing away of the past for a new future. This ritual has seen some resurgence in popularity as more and more Pagan couples celebrate handfastings.

Take all of this into your meditations for the beginning of the year.

Elen Sentier

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

 

Wye’s Women Elen’s Books Rainbow Warriors

My profiles: FacebookWordPressYouTubeAmazonTwitter

Ogham: A – Ailm: Scots Pine

Ailm

Ailm’s day is 25 Dec: Sun-Return – the day the sun begins to move again after the Midwinter standstill/solstice

  • Winter Solstice is 21st December, the 3-day standstill is 22/23/24 December
  • Sun-Return is the day the sun begins to move again after the 3-day standstill of the Winter Solstice; i.e. 25th December.

This is an important turnaround in the year. We go from the days getting darker and darker, there being less light every day up to the solstice, the 21st December, to the changeover. From the 25th December there is gradually more and more light each day up until the summer solstice when it turns around and after 25th June there is less and less light each day until Midwinter.

  • Midwinter is about the rebirth of the sun.
  • Midsummer is about the death of the sun.

Ailm is about birth. It’s watchwords  are “I am the womb of every holt”.

Womb is a word to take into your sit-with. What is the womb? What does it do? Think about how the spark of life enters the womb, fertilises the seed, how the seed grows within the darkness to finally birth out into the light. All of these things are what Ailm is about – in every sense, plant, planet, star, animal, human, building, country, nation, idea, book, painting, cooking, each journey you make in the everyday world, everything … yes, everything, goes through this cycle. Ailm holds this energy for the Earth and all her creatures, including us.

Scots Pine

In Britain, this principle is often held by the Scots Pine, an ancient tree that is about breaking up land so that it becomes earth and soil that will support growing things. When you understand the principles that Ailm holds and guards for us all you can ask to be shown the wood – in your land – that will be right for the spirit-house of Ailm where you live. This is about working with the land where you live, not trying to force the land into working in a way some human has written about and, as such, has become “gospel”. We all need to learn to change ourselves to fit with the world rather than trying to make the world fit with our wants.

Scots pine has a long and rich history in mythology. In The Golden Bough, James Frazer relates various stories involving pine trees from classical mythology, which may or may not have been Scots pines, such as how the ancient Egyptians buried an image of the god Osiris in the hollowed-out centre of a pine tree. He writes that “it is hard to imagine how the conception of a tree as tenanted by a personal being could be more plainly expressed.” As a symbol of royalty the pine was associated with the Greek goddess Pitthea, and also with the Dionysus/Bacchus mythology surrounding the vine and wine making, probably as a fertility symbol. Worshippers of Dionysus often carried a pine-cone-tipped wand as a fertility symbol and the image of the pine cone has also been found on ancient amulets as a symbol of fertility. For the Romans the pine was an object of worship during the spring equinox festival of Cybele and Attis. As an evergreen tree the pine would also have symbolised immortality.

The Scots pine groves or ‘shaman forests’ scattered over the dry grasslands of eastern Siberia were considered sacred by the Buriats, a Mongolian people living around the southern end of Lake Baikal. These groves were to be approached and entered in silence and reverence, respectful of the gods and spirits of the wood.

Closer to home, Druids used to light large bonfires of Scots pine at the winter solstice to celebrate the passing of the seasons and to draw back the sun. Glades of Scots pines were also decorated with lights and shiny objects, the tree covered in stars being a representation of the Divine Light. It is easy to see how these rituals have given rise to the latter day Yule log and Christmas tree customs.

In the old Gaelic alphabet, where each letter is denoted by a tree whose name starts with the letter, the Scots pine is not listed under its Gaelic name of Guibhas but rather under P for Peith, which is the alternative Gaelic for the tree. Guibhas (pronounced goo-ass) crops up in several place names in Scotland both in its native Gaelic, such as Allt na Ghuibhas in Wester Ross and Glac a Ghuibas by Ardgower, ‘Pine Stream’ and ‘Pine Hollow’ respectively, and as Anglicised derivations such as Dalguise and Kingussie; Goose Island, Lough Derg, may originally have been Isle of Pines, not geese.

Note  … I use the Guelder rose for Peith but am very content with it being Scots Pine.

Scottish folklore surrounding the Scots pine seems to be fairly sparse. This may be due to the sort of uses to which Scots pine was put, mainly as a building material. In the days of wooden boats and ships several of the products of the tree proved useful in shipbuilding. The high resin content of the sap of the pine means that the wood is slow to decay. The tall, straight, flexible trunks proved to be ideal for masts and spars (witness Beinn nan Sparra, Hill of Spars, in Glen Affric), and the wood was also used for the planking, and sealed with pitch made from the resin (which was also used to seal the beer casks!). In fact there used to be a ‘superstition’ about not felling the pine trees for shipbuilding during the waning of the moon, as the tidal influence of the moon was said to affect the resin content of the wood; and indeed botanists now recognise the complexities of sapflow in plants which are to some extent affected by the gravitational influences of the moon’s cycles.

Hugh Fife, in his book Warriors and Guardians – native highland trees, suggests that as much plant folklore stems from the uses and influences of the plant on people’s everyday lives, and that as the uses of Scots pine were mainly on a larger, industrial scale, less lore about the pine has evolved or persisted, ie no rituals for annual harvesting, coppicing, medicinal/herbal uses and the like. There are nevertheless some medicinal uses derived from the pine: the resin and needles of the pine have been used, particularly as an inhalant, to treat respiratory problems and as an expectorant, and also have antiseptic and disinfectant qualities. The Bach Flower Remedies recommend pine to treat despondency, despair and self-condemnation.

A persistent theme in the folklore of Scots pine is their use as markers in the landscape. In the Highlands there is a recurrent theme that they were used to mark burial places of warriors, heroes and chieftains.

In areas further south where the sight of Scots pine may have been more unusual and their use would have stood out more, they can be seen to mark ancient cairns, trackways and crossroads. In England they were commonly used to mark not only the drove roads themselves, but also the perimeters of meadows on which passing drovers and their herds could spend the night. There is also the possibly more fanciful suggestion that Scots pines were planted in England by Jacobite farmers or sympathisers.

This relates them strongly to Elen of the Ways, and to her sister the Apple Woman and Washer at the Ford (Morgan). Elen is the lady of the roads and tracks. Morgan is the Lady of the crossroads, the Greek goddess, Hecaté, is similar to Morgan.

What does Ailm mean? Here are some words for you to sit-with and ponder on to help open up your mind and intuition to what Ailm is about, what it does, what its job is.

Birth, nativity, beginning, origin, dawn, start, founding, opening, foundation, creation, initiation, begin

You can see that both the words this month are about similar things – beginnings of various sorts. And both trees are  initiators of change, they break up concrete and stone and rock, they help make the stone into soil that will support new growing things.

Take all these ideas, concepts, together and feel your way into them. Feel into the similarities … and the differences. Both differences and similarities are important. The words are not all the same. The concepts that each of the spirits hold are not the same, you cannot interchange one with the other … but they support each other, they work together. This is important! It is how the world works J.

Humans tend to work from a competitive basis, against each other, against anything they perceive to be in their way. Working with the rest of the world is not something most humans have even contemplated yet, let alone had a go at living! You have the opportunity to begin working this way for yourself … as you begin the course.

Sit-with the words. What pictures come into your mind from them? Take them into your journey as foci, guiding and directing you towards finding the spirit.

Elen Sentier

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

 

Wye’s Women Elen’s Books Rainbow Warriors

My profiles: FacebookWordPressYouTubeAmazonTwitter

Ogahm: Iolo – Yew

I – Iolo: Yew

Samhain & Winter Solstice

Metal – Lead

Planet – Saturn

  • I am the tomb to every hope
  • Death & Rebirth

Iolo is one of the five vowels of the ogham tree alphabet, representing our letter I.

Yew Cauldron

Yew is the longest lived of all British trees, holds great knowing and wisdom. It’s been the coffin-maker’s tree for ages. It was also the tree of weddings, the bright red yew-berries were thrown as good-luck charms over newlyweds, offering their sweetness.

Normally I would talk about this tree at Samhain but I saved it for winter solstice this year. Here in Britain this year we have snow, lots of it, an unusual occurrence for us for the past 20+ years. Now global warming is really cranking up the winters are changing and becoming more severe. No-one knows yet how the new patterns the Mother is making in the weather will pan out, we may get a set of hard winters and then a set of wet, soft ones … we must wait on her and see what she gives.

In case you didn’t know, Solstice is 21st December. Astronomically this may be slightly different each year but for purposes of celebration many folk stay with the 21st. this year we had the added blessing of a blood-moon this morning. The energies were amazing where I lived but I couldn’t physically see much because there was a high mist covering the whole sky. I could sense the covering of the moon, the eclipse, but not see it with my physical eyes.

The 21st is the beginning of the solstice period, the period of three days when the sun appears to rise at the same point on the horizon. This is very well marked at Stonehenge, and at other less well known stone circles. Our ancestors knew …

The three day period of apparent standstill ends with the sun appearing to move forward, rise in a slightly different place on the horizon on the 25th December. In our tradition it’s called Sun-Return and signifies the birth of the King. In early mediaeval myth here in Britain this became the birth of Arthur but before that it was the birth of the Mabon, the eternal child who brings us the journey of the soul. It’s not surprising that the Christians took it up and used it for the birth of their winter king who – like all puer eternis – shows us the soul journey.

Sun-Return is the day the sun begins to move again after the 3-day standstill of the Winter Solstice; i.e. 25th December, and is a symbol of birth out of death. Archaeologists still seem to like to say our ancestors would have been afraid the sun was never going to come back but this is a highly denigrating view. You only have to watch the sun return one year to see it will. If you’re particularly fearful then maybe it takes two or three years … so you’re probably aged five or so when you’ve got the hang of it, especially if your parents take you to rituals and give you the stories.

Besides, people who could build such accurate time-pieces as Stonehenge and the other circles would hardly be so dumb as to not know about the seasons, that would make no sense at all. Sometimes we appear to have gone backwards in our common sense and be trying to pull our ancestors back into the childish habits of thought many people live in now.

Yew’s watch-words are “I am the tomb to every hope”.

What does this mean? What is a tomb? The thesaurus offers the following …

  • Ossuary Grave Sepulchre Mausoleum Burial place Charnel house Necropolis,

A place where things/people are buried after they have died. In the case of ossuary it is a place of bones, a charnel house where the relics – the bones which take perhaps millions of years to decompose – are stored. The word necropolis refers to a city of the dead, a physical vision of the place where the ancestors live. It makes some sense of the habit the Christians picked up of “relics of saints”, the bones. They again use the idea from the far more ancient pagan tradition of keeping a small part of the body an ancestor had once worn as a link back to the ancestors. Unfortunately they mostly don’t know about this tradition and meaning, however the innate human knowing does usually get some sort of a handle on it.

But why the tomb of hope? This can sound frightening to many. Hope … what is this? The thesaurus offers lots of possibilities for this word …

  • Confidence Expectation Optimism Anticipation Faith
  • Chance Likelihood Possibility Potential
  • Desire Aspiration Dream Plan Wish Goal Yearn Long Look forward to

Hmm … what do you make of all that?

And then there is the Greek story of Pandora’s Box. The story goes that

Pandora, whose name means “giver of all” or “all-endowed”, was the first woman on Earth. Zeus command Hephaestus, the god of craftsmanship, to create her, which he did using water and earth. The other gods granted her many gifts – beauty from Aphrodite, persuasiveness from Hermes, and music from Apollo.

After Prometheus stole fire from Mount Olympus, Zeus sought reprisal by handing Pandora to Epimetheus, the brother of Prometheus. Pandora was given a jar that she was ordered not to open under any circumstances. Despite this warning, overcome by curiosity, Pandora opened the jar and all the evils contained within escaped into the world. Scared, Pandora immediately closed the jar, only to trap Hope inside.

This story is very like the creation of Blodeuwedd by Gwydion and with perhaps som of the same purposes. Hope is a funny, tricky thing. W often say things like, “my hopes were dashed”, “there’s no hope”. Hope can turn very sour and evil when we have pinned all our faith on it and it doesn’t come to pass as we expected … as we’d hoped!

This takes me to a gift I was given many years ago. One of my teachers told me he went into every situation “full of expectancy but without any expectations”. Do you get that?

He is open to anything that may come but without pinning his own ideas, wants, needs, expectations on it. He leaves room for the universe to be, he walks the universe’s path rather than trying to constrict the universe into walking the path of his own small desires.

So the watchwords of the Yew make some sense now?

If we bury our little personality hopes, desires, wants, then we make room for the big gifts the universe wants to offer us. The yew takes in these petty personal desires and composts them for us, buries them, allows them to decompose and go back into their constituent atoms so they can be remade anew into the good things that Life, the Universe and Everything really needs.

It also makes sure we don’t try to make everything live by our own scripts. We put space and boundaries around ourselves and allow others to be different. We can still grumble about the difference – inside out own space! – as long as we leave space for others.

So we put our hopes into the tomb the yew provides for us and go out to find the new path.

This is the death and rebirth thing of this time of year, of the going down of the sun and his/her return after the three days, to begin a new cycle, to begin the stirrings of springtime, of the herbaceous plants who demonstrate this so beautifully for us by dying down into the ground over the winter and then springing back up out of the soil as the seasons change.

Ponder on all this for the season of Sun-Return. I’ll talk more about the planet Saturn and the metal Lead later on today.

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.

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 …

Wish ListElen’s BooksRainbow Warriors

My profiles: FacebookBloggerWordPressYouTubeAmazon

 

Twitter Latest tweet: HEADS-UP … due to my arm I can’t do the numerology workshop on 20-22 Nov. If you were hoping to come on that I’m… http://fb.me/ztAYB08k 

Ogham: G Gort – Ivy

  • Time: 30 Sep – 27 Oct
  • Ivy is the tree of resurrection.
  • It’s god is Bran, in another of his aspects.

Ivy is evergreen. It grows spirally, as the spiral of life grows, and represents the ever-flowing life-force that courses through the Earth. It is often the tree of chthonic (underworld) gods like Dionysios. For the Celts this is Bran.

Bran is one of the father-figure gods and a giant. It is told that when he lay down over a river, an army could march across him. He is also king of the underworld, and watches over the treasures of Don. These treasures are the animals, plants, insects, birds and the fabric of life itself of the Earth, for Don is one of the names of The Mother. So Bran is a king in the Celtic sense in that he was guardian to and of the goddess. He is also the God of Bards.

One of his names is Bron or Brons, the Fisher King of the Parsifal story. Arthurian scholar, Loomis, says …

“It can hardly be accidental that so many significant features of bron should lead us back to Welsh tradition. If we accept the hypothesis of an exclusively Christian origin for this character, we must also be prepared to admit that he is irrelevant and unnecessary. As Nitze has observed, Joseph and Petrus would have sufficed for the purposes of the story. If on the other hand Bron = Bran, then the inconsistencies in the stories can be explained as purely Christian developments.”

It seems that again Christianity homogenized one of the Celtic gods. Most conquering peoples do this to some extent, some are reasonably gentle about it as the Romans were in integrating their gods with ours. Others are brutal as were the Christians.

Bran is associated with the Apple Isle, Avalon, and one of the places his head is said to be buried is there. There are many candidates for Avalon in the real world and, as I’ve said before, chasing down which is the “right” one is a fool’s game. I have personal reasons for favouring the island of Lundy off the North Devon coast as it’s where I was born and grew up. It is said there are towers, usually invisible, on the island and that in one of these Bran’s head his buried. The towers are also associated with Arianrhod, and with Elen of the Ways, my personal patron.

The old name for Lundy was ‘Ynys Wair’ – Gwair’s Island. Gwair is a Celtic – Sun God. The 19th century Celtic scholar, Professor Rhys, was among the first to connect the imprisonment of Gwair on Lundy, with the Greek myth of the binding of Chronus on a western isle. What is this myth of the god imprisoned on a western isle?

In the Book of Taliesin the poem the Prieddeu AnnwynThe Spoils of Annwn –  contains the outline of the now lost legendary tale. The poet tells of Arthur and his men sailing to the Fairy Fortress ,Caer Sidi, aboard Arthur‘s ship Prydwen to free the captive Gwair. It is accepted by leading scholars in the field that the Fairy Fortress, Caer Sidi, refers to the island of Lundy.

So … the sun is captured and imprisoned in the west, the place of sunset. The Celts had less fear of the dark than of the sun who was said to burn the land and called the “son of Scorch”. Pwyll fights him for Arawn as part of their agreement.

The taking and keeping of the sun is part of Bran’s ritual each midwinter. He is the Ivy god who fights with the Holly god – as sung in the Christmas carols – and who is overcome. It is an alchemical battle between death and resurrection.

The battle is also told of in the tales and songs of the Robin and the Wren. Tradition was that the wren is killed on the 26th December – the first day after Sun-Return, the day the sun begins moving again after the midwinter solstice or standstill, when there begins to be more light than dark each day for the next six months up until midsummer. In ancient times Sun-Return was a very special feast, not because our ancestors were stupid and thought the sun would never come back but because they were wise and knew to work with and celebrate the goddess in the seasons.

Amanita muscaria

Graves likens this time to the autumn feast of Dionysios, called the mysterion. As well as wine the celebrants would have taken the faery toadstool, amanita muscaria, the red toadstool with the white spots in all the faery paintings. It’s quite possible this was done in Celtic lands too. The journey given by the toadstool is deep, passionate and violent, it strips to the core, tearing us apart. And note we call it a “toad stool”, place of the toad, the alchemical creature whose poison can be made into a medicine, rather than a mushroom. The feast is called the mysterion … feast of the mysteries, the lore, the grammarye, the reality of Life.

As part of this ritual ivy-ale, a highly intoxicating drink, would be drunk. It was still brewed at Trinity College, Oxford, up to the 1960s and maybe still is. The ivy bush was an old sign of a wine, as opposed to beer, tavern in England. There are still many pubs called “The Ivy Bush”.

In British folklore, Ivy is a bringer of good fortune, particularly to women. Allowing it to creep up the walls of your home protects all who live there from baneful magic and curses. It also appears in love-divination, it was said that a girl carrying Ivy in her pockets would soon see the young man who was meant to be her husband. Medicinally, an Ivy tonic can be brewed to keep away diseases such as whooping cough and respiratory ailments — it was even believed to keep away the plague.

The Fisher King

Bran, like Dionysios, is a chthonic god, a lord of the underworld, the place of shadows, dreams and a light that does not burn or scorch. And Bran is associated with Ivy as well as with the Alder which are the branches he carries in his crown to the Battle of the Trees. Where then we had Bran as the god-essence behind the alder tree no we have Bran as the essence of the Fisher King, the wounded king of the Wasteland,

This, from Wiki, gives a good idea of it all …

Ivy, like a woman clinging in ecstasy to the tree trunk

The Fisher King appears first in Chrétien de TroyesPerceval, but the character’s roots lie in Celtic mythology in the figure of Bran the Blessed in the Mabinogion.  Bran had a cauldron that could resurrect the dead that he gave to the king of Ireland as a wedding gift when the king married Bran’s sister, Branwen. Later, when Branwen is insulted, Bran wages war on the Irish and is wounded in the foot or leg, the cauldron is destroyed. He asks his followers to sever his head and take it back to Britain, and his head continues talking and keeps them company on their trip. This story has analogues in two other important Welsh texts: the Mabinogion tale Culhwch and Olwen, in which King Arthur‘s men must travel to Ireland to retrieve a magical cauldron, and the obscure poem The Spoils of Annwn, which speaks of a similar mystical cauldron sought by Arthur in the otherworldly land of Annwn.

The purpose of the fishing has got very lost over the hundreds of years. Going back into the Celtic original we can link it to the Salmon of Wisdom. To catch this Elder Beast and ask it for advice was a known way to help with ill-fortune and the Fisher King would do this. Indeed, it would be one of kingly duties both to ensure the nine hazel trees surrounding the Well of Segais flourish and so provide nuts to feed the Salmon. Also to go to the Well and call the Salmon, ask it to come and answer questions. In Celtic terms the gaining of wisdom is often about “eating”. To digest and absorb, right into ones bones so to speak, is considered good learning. Just to process it through the head, the brain, was and is still considered worthless and ineffectual. So the Fisher King would catch and cook and eat the Salmon. And, every time, the Salmon would renew itself, come again into form so that it can provide the wisdom-food for the next supplicant.

As you work with ivy don’t go eating it, it’s very poisonous! But do sit with it, try to absorb its wisdom within you. Don’t try to make sense of it just flow, with it, allow it to wrap around you, embrace you, as ivy does the tree. And don’t be afraid, although ivy is a parasitic plant it never kills its host – that would be stupid and wasteful as it would lose its means of support. Ivy gives as well as receives and will teach you how to do this too.

As a resurrection plant, ivy will take you through each little death that happens in your life and help you enable yourself to rise again. You will be a larger and more inclusive being for the experience.

 

writer artist gardener shaman
Wye’s Woman Rainbow Warrior
__________________________________________

Contact Me WordpressFacebookYoutubeMySpaceTwitterAmazonLinkedinFlickrStumbleUpon
Celtic shaman – Elen Sentier Morning

Ogham – E: Eadha – Poplar

12 – P: Eadha – Poplar

Time – Autumn Equinox

Metal – Iron

The shield-maker’s tree. Tree of old age. Elders, wizards, cunning men.

  • I am the shield to every head
  • Repose

A major characteristic of the tree, Poplar, is that she is always moving. The slightest whisper of wind set her to rustling, we have two outside out bedroom window and the whisper to each other all the time. To dance, to always be moving, is a way of defence, of shielding, and a way of being invisible. Dancing gods are known all over the world – Shiva, Krishna from the east are quite well known, for instance. This is another form of shielding to consider.

The Latin name of the aspen is Populus tremula, the trembling poplar. Though other poplars have a similar habit of shimmering in the breeze, the aspen’s distinctive canopy of round leaves with serrated edges and pale undersides, mounted on long, laterally flattened stalks gives the tree the unique appearance of shimmering or quivering in the wind. They also make a distinctive rustling, whispering sound “. . . as if they were spattered by rain.” (R. Mabey, Flora Britannica 1996).

Many traditions associate the wind with the voice of Spirit. The moving, rustling whispering of the polar can give you this if you sit still with it and listen. The shadows the ever-moving leaves cast on the ground gives a flickering landscape to stand in, it is like standing between the worlds … at the interface where all worlds meet. The movement of the shadows can be your journey-horse, transporting you to otherworld if you allow it.

Aspen crowns have been found in ancient burial mounds. It may be that this ability to transport is part of ther reason for this, transporting the spirit across the threshold from Thisworld to Otherworld.

The word “aspen” comes from the Greek Aspis meaning shield. The Celts used this light wood for making their shields, combining the physical wood with the spirit properties of the tree to ward off enemies. It is called the “shield tree”.

The Scottish Gaelic name is critheann (pronounced cree-an), the Gaelic verb for tremble is crith. As with Thomas the Rhymer, an aspen leaf placed under the tongue would make the bearer more eloquent, traditionally a gift of the Faerie Queen. Highland folk taboos say the wood must not be used for fishing or agricultural implements, or in house construction, which makes the poplar a faerie tree on a par with the rowan. Unfortunately, Christianity had a go at trees, along with all things Faerie, making them evil. In this case the shimmering aspen tree was said to tremble in shame because its the wood made the crucifixion cross was made. Other Christian tales give the same accusation to holly and oak. All these trees came to suffer fear and loathing because of this.

The Bach Flower Remedies aspen is used to treat fears and apprehensions.

All of these ideas suggest forms of “shielding”. So what is shielding, what is a shield?

Shield = protect guard defend shelter screen safeguard buffer defence armour

This is much more than just a piece of wood between you and your foe’s sword. Perhaps one of the most important concepts here is that of boundary. In order to effect any of the suggested actions there must be a boundary, a distinction between self and not-self. If you do not know what is you and what is not-you, what is your flesh and what is the wooden shield, or the enemy’s sword, then you haven’t a snowball’s chance in hell of escaping being cut down in battle.

So, the goddess’ watch-words for this season, and this vowel-sound, is about knowing self. To know yourself, and to know otherness as the other side of that coin, is to provide a shield for your head.

The poplar, the aspen, trembles and whispers, hearing and speaking with spirit constantly, keeping the channels open, and knowing itself for what it is, where its roots live, and where its branches reach,

Elders, wizards, cunning men

Elder = senior, leader, organizer, guide

The thesaurus offers us these as some possible interpretations of the concept of elder. Some folk think that they can call themselves elders, even that they may get a certificate that calls them such … this is all pie in the sky. You can indeed come to know yourself to be an elder but by that time you won’t have the slightest inclination to talk about it. You know far too well that, although you know a great deal and have much experience there is a great ocean of knowing and wisdom out there – as Isaac Newton (alchemist) put it – that makes your knowing only the size of a tiny pebble on the beach.

Elders are known to their people, or some of them at least. Again, the elder has the supreme confidence of self-knowing that means they do not mind if the whole world is against them. What are the advantages of this?

If no-one and nothing can undermine you then you are not blackmail-able. You cannot be cowed into agreeing with someone/thing when you know it is wrong, you cannot condone wrong actions, you cannot collude. Do you see the advantages of this?

What if no-one could force you to do something that you knew was wrong, they had no hold over you, there was no peer pressure, no need in you to be a part of the group, no fear of being ostracised? Is this not what governments fear? A population that they cannot cow? A population that will say, ‘Oh come off it! Show us your rabbit!’?

Come to that … how much do you fear being left out, being ostracised, excluded? Mmm … more difficult to admit to ??? Then sit under poplar, watch the shadows flicker through the many realities, allow poplar to transport you to worlds where you can be true to yourself. Then … learn how to carry this knowing back across the worlds so that you can BE it here, in Thisworld.

Wizard = wyze-ard, wise one, one who has absorbed wisdom.

The wizard has done this. No, not just the Harry Potter version although he does make a fairly serious attempt to do this. But the real wizards have done this, go and look up the stories about some of them, the most famous British one is, of course, Merlin. Read about him with open eyes. Remember he is only half mortal. Realise that many storytellers dumb down the tales to fit them to the ears of their audience and so collect more pennies in their hat and more kudos for their tellings. Consider too if the storytellers really had much concept of the magnitude of Otherworld … many don’t but try to reduce it all to human-size.

To absorb wisdom is hard work … like eating and surviving the poisoned apples as Merlin does in the Caledon forest. It also means getting a very real picture of yourself and you place in the scheme of things. In general human perceptions seem to go wide of the mark, either to large … we were all Cleopatra or Napoleon in our past lives rather than the slave who emptied the chamber pot! Or too small in that we believe we can’t do anything and are continually saying we must wait until the time is right, the moon in the right quarter, etc … waiting for the eternal “round tooit” and, as we all know, these are in extremely short supply!

The wizard does not wait but gets on with it, gets on with the next job. The Zen adage to eat your rice, then wash your bowl is a good example of this. The tenet of how to gain wisdom is known worldwide but it has little Hollywood appeal so most people don’t go there. Steiner said (rightly) that good spirituality is eminently practical and was always exhorting his followers with, “The deeds, gentlemen, the deeds!’. Deeds, doing and not doing them, and knowing when is appropriate – as the elder does – is wisdom.

Cunning = skilled, ingenious, creative, dextrous, adroit, ability, inventive, resourceful,

Again, in order to be any of these you must know yourself. You cannot work magic if you are muddled as to what you are working it on, where you are working it, what it will effect. Well, you can … but it will end up like Mickey Mouse and the Mops in the film Fantasia! And you will need a skilful, adept wizard to rescue you before you drown!

In the British language the name Cunningham comes from “cunning man”. This picture of a cunning woman from the Boscastle Museum of Witchcraft shows such a person. The link, to Wiki, gives a good outline of them. I favour historian Emma Wilby’s description to the (perhaps) better known Ronald Hutton’s – he too often, for me, explains away and also tends to denigrate those who don’t follow his own spiritual path. Emma Wilby identified what she believed were a number of shamanic elements to the magic of many cunning folk. For more about her work look here.

The cunning folk of Britain worked with familiar spirits – the witch trials testify to this where cats were hanged and burned alive along with their mistresses. The natural world was no enemy but a friend and ally … a shield for the head. Nowadays people tend to fear the world, nature, that which is not human – see daft TV programmes called such things as “Dangerous Planet”! There is a specially human sort of arrogance that believes the world is out to get them – as though we were that important, instead of the most junior in age as well as intelligence of all the animal species that in habit Mother Earth.

The ways of nature were and are still open to the cunning folk. It is part of the ability to “work with” rather than the need to control, to defeat, to overcome … all words much more often used in modern society. Again there is that stupid arrogance that we might be able to overcome the planet. Oh yes, we can make her life hell, make her creatures extinct, but in the end we will die and she will recover … possibly having decided not to make the mistake of letting humans aboard her again.

The cunning folk are skilled in many ways but perhaps most in their ability to discern what action is appropriate for the time and place where they are at that moment. They are resourceful and ingenious in being able to change that mode of being, acting, as soon as they perceive that it is no longer appropriate. They are creative and inventive in the ways they find to change, again suiting means to need. They are adroit in being at the right time and place and dextrous in how they handle situations, people and spirits. They have ability. All this comes from that initial knowing of self … which may take a long, long time to learn.

Aspens at Dawn: Ansel Adams

Poplar as AllyPoplar is an ally, a great ally. Allies are those who help and befriend us. Like the cunning folk, you too can discover this and poplar will help.

Ally = Friend Supporter Assistant Partner Collaborator Helper co-worker colleague sponsor defender champion guardian

These are some of the Thesaurus’ offerings for the word ally and all are well worth pondering on. How do you find each of theses word-concepts? How do they in-form and enlarge your idea of “ally”?

Take all of this into your pondering for the time Eadha, the poplar month and consider how “I am the shield for every head” is true.

  • The pictures I’ve used this time are from the wonderful photographer Ansel Adams; he had a way with aspens that gives the magical feel of the tree.

 

writer artist gardener shaman
Wye’s Woman Rainbow Warrior
__________________________________________

Contact Me WordpressFacebookYoutubeMySpaceTwitterAmazonLinkedinFlickrStumbleUpon
Celtic shaman – Elen Sentier World Pagan Pride Day