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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

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Wye’s Woman Rainbow Warrior
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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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