Thursday, 1 December 2011

Celtic month of Elder

We are currently enjoying the Celtic Month of the Elder.

'The unique personality of the elder was anciently believed to come from the spirit of the 'Elder Mother' who dwelt within the tree.  The Elder Mother, called Elle or Hyldemoer in Scandinavian and Danish myth, worked strong earth magic and according to legend, avenged all who harmed her host trees.  No forester of old would touch elder, let alone cut it, before asking the Elder Mother's permission three times over and even then he was still in dread of her possible wrath.  Likewise, in many country districts of Europe and Britain, wise people still show respect by touching their hats when passing elder trees, in continuance of ancient custom.  Certain North American tribes also believe that elder is the Mother of the human race.

According to legend, witches would often turn themselves into elder trees, and one famous witch-tree turned a king and his men to stone, thereby creating the Rollright Stones in Oxfordshire.  This ancient piece of folklore tells of a Danish King, on his way to battle for the English Crown with his warriors, meeting the witch and asking her what his fate would be.  The witch replied:

Seven long strides thou shalst take,
And if Long Compton thou canst see
King of England thou shalst be.

Because he was almost at the crest of a hill, the Dane was confident as he strode forth, but unexpectedly at his seventh stride a long mound rose up before him, blocking his view.

The witch replied:

As Long Compton thou canst not see,
King of England thou shalst not be.
Rise up stick and stand still stone,
For King of England thou shalst be none,
Thou and they men hoar stones shall be,
And I myself an Elder tree.

In an instant the Danish King and his men were turned to stone.  Those warriors loyal to the King became the King's Men stones set in a circle; and those who had questioned his authority turned into the Whispering Knights, huddled together and apart from the others.  The King himself became the King Stone, standing, still in shocked attitude, apart from all his men.  The witch then resumed her guise as the guardian Elder tree.'

from 'Tree Wisdom' by Jacqueline Memory Paterson.

Following picture from Wikipaedia: The Rollright Stones of Oxfordshire.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

A Pillow of Leaves

Chasing leaves, like thoughts, I feel 
Autumn closing in on me. 
As I lie beneath the chestnut tree 
Blue skies appear between the leaves. 
As leaves drop, larger skies appear 
Like a huge blue duvet over me. 
The leaves become my comfy bed, 
A crumply pillow for my head. 
A place to keep my hopeful thoughts 
A place to sleep, my wishes caught. 
Caught amongst the rustle, rustle, 
A time to rest away from bustle. 
A place to think, a time to learn and 
A chance to wait for new life to return... 

I am a conker, rich and brown 
Fat and shiny, I snuggle down. 

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

The end of the summer.

"August, the traditional holiday month for most people, is a busy time for the farmer as he works long hours to bring in his harvest.  You can hear the muffled roar of combines in the cornfields and the incessant thump of balers on the farm.  The burning of straw in the stubble fields leaves them charred and blackened and if this is done without proper care, it can seriously scorch and damage the surrounding hedges.

Dog-days, the first two weeks in August, often bring sultry, hot weather.  They are named after the bright Dog-star Sirius, which during this time rises and sets with the sun.  Settled weather on St. Bartholomew Day, the twenty-fourth, promises a fine autumn: there is a country saying that:

If St. Bartholomew Day be bright and clear
Then a prosperous autumn comes that year."

from "Discovering Hedgerows' by David Streeter and Rosamond Richardson

So here we are at the very end of August 2011.  The summer has gone by very quickly for me and already there are many signs of Autumn. Our weather here in England has been very disappointing with little sunshine this month and lots of cloud, but it could have been much, much worse. Last night we saw a bat flitting past the window of the house and I was aware that the nights are really drawing in.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Midsummer's Day

High Summer always mean 'red' to me and the flower that epitomizes red is definitely the poppy. My picture today is of one of my 'Guardsman' poppies in full colour. They don't flower for long and fade to a wishy-washy pink so whilst they are flowering, I need to make the most of them.  Just like summer really, over too soon!

Next week on 21st June we will enjoy the longest day of the year in this area. There will be celebrations at Stonehenge.  I wrote about that here.

'The period - early June to early July - is ruled by the Oak Moon and the certainty of a good crop comes under the aegis of this moon.  The earth is pregnant, but the safe delivery of a healthy and bountiful harvest has to be worked on.'
From: 'Enchanted' - Titania's Book of White Magic

Certainly, this year we have had troubles with drought in the east of England.  Virtually no rain fell during the months of April and May and so now, despite irrigation, the farmers are expecting the crops to be less than they hoped for. However, we have had a bumper crop of delicious strawberries and raspberries. No doubt we will catch up with the rain at some time this year.  We always have before and nobody has mentioned a hose-pipe ban in my area YET! but a few wishes won't go amiss.

I hope your Midsummer's Eve is all you wish it to be.

Blessings, Star

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Elder flowers

The elder flowers are beautiful just now.

'Both the berries and flowers make excellent wines, jams and jellies and can be added to the cooking of meat, vegetable and sweet dishes.  In addition, elderflower water makes an excellent facial rinse, which cleanses and brightens and if cotton pads soaked in it are placed over the eyes, they will feel brighter and refreshed.

Elderflower tea can be taken as a painkiller and is useful in the treatment of colds.  Elderflower tea cleanses the blood and is slightly diuretic so it can also speed recovery the morning after the night before!  

Elder leaves can be made into an infusion and rubbed onto the skin to deter flies and other insects.  Elder leaves boiled until soft are useful for dressing bruises, strains etc.  However, I would not recommend using them on an open wound as, under some circumstances, they can be toxic.'

From:  'The Real Witches' Garden' by Kate West

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

The Spring Solstice

'The Spring solstice falls on 21st March.  At this moment, the equinox, the earth is in perfect balance and day and night are of equal length.  This was a powerful festival in times gone by.

The sun - which was considered male - was in perfect harmony with the moon - which was female; the solstice is a divine symbol for the female receptivity of the earth preparing to take the (male) seed and blossom forth.  The first signs of spring flowers bursting with life are evidence that all is right in the divine world and that the earth is blessed.'
From: Titania's Book of White Magic' - Enchantment


"It is common for many of us to become caught up in emotional reactions to the circumstances of our lives.  Even if we do not outwardly express our emotional reactions to things, we still feel them.  Many of us live without awareness of how our reactions stir us into un-empowered action.  An imbalance in emotions causes us to act out, to speak in harmful ways and it causes us to dip right back into the thinking mode.  Reliance on thinking and emotional reactions go hand in hand.  If you've noticed an imbalance in one of these areas, it is best to explore possible imbalances in the other.  When we emote and react to each circumstance, we start an internal monologue of complaints.  "I don't like the way she makes me feel."  'He's stingy.'  'Why does she always criticize me?'  Meanwhile, we miss out on what is actually happening.  We miss the sound of the wind, the sensations of our bodies, the taste of our food, the things we see and feel.  We miss out on the world, which is the realm of Deity or power.

The opposite energy of emoting is blocking emotions.  Most of us have experienced painful situations as a simple matter of living life.  As a result, some of us choose a strategy to block out the pain of our circumstances.  We make ourselves tough; we ignore our hurts.  We work at developing our insensitivity, hoping that this is the answer to a life where pain is a natural part of the process.  But this doesn't work.  It only results in numbing ourselves from the whole of life, so we miss out on both the pleasure and the pain.

In reviewing your emotions, do you find that you are out of balance?

In which direction do you tip the scales?  In over-emotionality or in emotional blocking?"

Taken from 'Wicca - a year and a day' by Timothy Roderick"

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

A light in the darkness.

No matter how dark the night, the dawn will always come - eventually. All we need is a little glimmer of hope, like the flickering glow of a candle flame.

Persephone, goddess of death, spent each winter in the underworld, returning every spring to live with her mother, Demeter, the goddess of corn.

During the winter, you could say we 'go to ground.'  We hunker down, preferring our warm firesides to the cold winds outdoors.  However, this dark time of the year is important to our psyche.  It allows us to rest, to 'recharge our batteries' to think deeply about the new season, which is coming.  For however dark our world appears, there is always a candle waiting to be lit, a new song waiting to be written, new people to meet.

According to the Greeks, Persephone's father, Zeus, promised his beautiful daughter to Hades, the Greek God of the underworld, without consulting her mother. When Hades rose from the underworld and took his bride by force, Demeter was beside herself with grief.  Winter had come into her life and all of nature reflected her sadness.  The land was no longer fertile, plants wilted, animals bore no offspring and death stalked the land.  Eventually Zeus was obliged to intervene and ruled that Persephone should spend time each year with both her husband and her mother.  Persephone could never return entirely to the living world because she had eaten in Hades's realm.

As we wait for spring to come, let's not waste our time.  We can sit usefully in front of the hearth, planning what we shall do when the weather improves.  We can look into seed catalogues, plan a new area of the garden to cultivate.  Maybe we could join a new club or society.

Whatever we plan on doing, it will soon be time to get out the trusty broom and sweep the house clean, won't it?

Are you planning any changes in your life in the springtime?


Source of information:  The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology by Arthur 
Cottrell and Rachel Storm

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Imbolg -Candlemas

For me the worst months of the year are November and February because they are dark and cold and the days are long -  but in February Wicca brings us Candlemas.

The joy of lighting candles is a pleasure at all times of the year, but especially in the winter.  I light candles to bring light into my world and also to practise magic.  Candles are a wonderful way to focus my thoughts and light the path into that other world where the sun is always shining and only happy clouds hang in the sky.

February 2nd is Candlemas, also known as Imbolg.  It is a time when new life is quickening.

In the northern hemisphere, where I live and in the Celtic lands in particular, this time of the year belongs to Brigit, the triple goddess of inspiration and poetry, smith craft and healing.

Winter is slowing changing into Spring - in Wicca the crone face of the goddess is becoming the maiden again.  Age is giving way to youth.

In your own life it is a wonderful time to buy a new outfit.  Buy it for the person you are now, not the person you were ten years ago.

Look in your garden for signs of new life.  You may be able to see snowdrops popping up and the tips of daffodil bulbs breaking through the soil.

Light candles in your home, choosing spring colours of green, white and yellow and enjoy the new scents they bring.  They will make you feel good and bring light and refreshment to your home.

I wish you a wonderful Candlemas, bursting with new life, inspirations and ideas.