Friday, 29 April 2011
Monday, 25 April 2011
As a very young clan we seem to need to review our knowledge and understanding very frequently. Although both of us had been working at 1734 for some time before the founding of the clan, the advent of the Clan of the Entangled Thicket changed everything and we had to consider far more seriously how we might pass on our knowledge to others, and indeed what knowledge we could pass on. Again and again we had to reach towards “beginner’s mind” in so many ways.
Jane: The question has arisen in my mind, and may have occurred to others, how has a tradition that had its roots in the inspirational teachings of Robert Cochrane, left these shores to take root in America, only to set seed once more in the UK. Have the teachings travelled safely? Are the tenets intact?
‘The inherent philosophy of the Craft was always fluid, and fluid it must become again before it gasps its last breath under a heap of musty nonsense, half-baked theology and philosophy. Witches cannot retreat from the world any longer, there is no room for us in this society unless we have something valid to offer it, and participate in its social evolution.’ c) Pentagram, Issue #2, 1964. By Robert Cochrane http://www.1734-witchcraft.org/today.html
Wednesday, 20 April 2011
What a very pretty little flower the dandelion is, yet very much maligned. Not seen as a friend of the gardener as they can; without a doubt, be very invasive. The very successful seed dispersal method guarantees reproduction, and the long deeply embedded tap roots, are so very hard to remove completely, yet in my opinion why would one want to? The humble dandelion is such a useful little plant, and also very attractive. How pretty this little meadow in South London appears, dappled and golden, as an orange tipped butterfly jitters carelessly over the blooms in the spring morning sunshine.
The dandelion, or dent-de–lion, named, as I had always imagined, as the leaves resemble the teeth of a lion, not that I should think for one moment that the person providing this name, looked the lion, right in the jaw, and thought ah-ha, ‘this resembles the leaves of a little yellow plant I have seen;’ or perhaps, ‘if I was ever to see the teeth of a lion, this is the shape I would imagine them to have’. However it appears I was mistaken on both counts, as according to Michael Jordan in Plants of Mystery and Magic, (2001) ‘The name Dandelion comes from the French dent de lion, not because of the shape of the leaves, but because the lion was considered a symbol of the sun and the flower is sunlike.’
Another French name placed upon the dandelion is piss-en-lit or as I was instructed as a child, wet-the-bed. It does appear that partaking of the dandelion stimulates urination, and Culpeper’s heading for this plant is ‘Dandelion, Vulgarly called Piss-A-Beds’ he goes onto relate how ‘it opens the passage of urine in both young and old; powerfully cleanses the imposthumes and inward ulcers in the urinary passage, and by its drying and temperate quality doth afterward heal them;’
The dandelion is also edible, and Culpeper has this to say; ‘You see here what virtues this common herb hath, and that is the reason the French and Dutch so often eat them in the Spring; and now if you look a little farther, you may see plainly without a pair of spectacles, that foreign physicians are not so selfish as ours are, but more communicative of the virtues of plants to people.’ Don’t you just love him?
The dandelion is of the Asteraceae family, and each flower contains many small flowers or florets together on a composite flower head. The seeds are produced without pollination (very effective) this results in plenty of offspring, and these offspring are identical to the parent plant, unlike the bluebell as seen previously.
It appears, according to Jordan ‘that word Taraxacum derives from the Greek, and means “to disturb or alter the state of something.”’ Perhaps it is worth pausing to consider this. Who as a child has not blown a dandelion seed head, and counted to tell the time, yet perhaps another use of the dandelion seed head could be for bearing messages on the wind, blown afar, and with intent.
Scott Cunningham places the dandelion as ‘Masculine’, under the ‘Element: Air’, and the ‘Deity: Hecate’ and placed the under the dominion of the planet Jupiter which does appear fitting. Plants under the authority of Jupiter demand attention. I certainly couldn’t ignore these plants on this bright April morning. It also appears that Jupiter is ‘the eternal optimist, so its plants never become discouraged, even when growing conditions are less than ideal.’ Jupiter’s plants, ’are extremely hardy, able to survive a crowded urban environment and even inclement weather.’ It is also said concerning Jupiter that, ‘this planet governs the liver and lungs. Its herbs are considered beneficial to these organs and to all diseases that stem from corruption of the blood.’ http://www.stariq.com/Main/Articles/P0001553.htm
The use of the sap from the flowers stem, placed directly to remove warts is a well known country remedy, and the root can be roasted, ground and drank as a coffee substitute. The flower can be made into a country wine, and a summer drink, still sold in supermarkets contains, or is said to contain, dandelion and burdock. What a useful little plant this is.
Monday, 18 April 2011
On the 13th April, while roaming the footpaths home from Eltham, past Eltham Palace, I spotted a hawthorn bush in full flower. Hmm, I thought, one hawthorn does not a May-day make. I contemplated the fact that there are two types of hawthorn found growing in the UK, Common hawthorn, and the smaller Midland or English hawthorn, and in my experience, the Common Hawthorn opens its buds before the English. Yet a little farther along the footpath there was the other species in flower, and then many more, and across the path a blackthorn in full flower also. Wow I thought, I have never seen this before. Now, my own little trees growing in the garden are normally late in comparison with those skirting sunnier paths, so home I trotted to examine the state of play there. Bearing in mind that most years, without fail, the buds in the garden open on the 4th of May or thereabouts, last year they were very late, nearing the 12th, but never in April. However on entering the garden, there they were pushing their fully swollen buds towards me, appearing as if they may flower any day now. Then, upon this sunny afternoon, my mind wandered to the lore of the Hawthorn, seeking tales that the white froth of flowers showers upon the reader. And as you pause for a moment Cardea casts her spell upon you with her hawthorn wand. (Robert Graves, The White Goddess 1999, p169)
Let us roam to the shores of Wales, where, according to Graves ‘the hawthorn appears as the malevolent Chief of the Giants, Yspaddaden Penkawr, the father of Olwen (she of the White Track) another name for the White Goddess’ who lived in a castle guarded by nine porters and nine watch-dogs, Olwen wanted to marry Kilhwych, said to be so named because he was found in a ‘swine’s barrow’ Giant Hawthorn, in his wisdom, demanded a dowry of thirteen treasures. (p170) Hmm thirteen and two lots of nine; interesting!
Fred Hageneder in The Living Wisdom Of Trees, also links the hawthorn with “She of the White track”, the Welsh Goddess Olwen, (Oloon) who ‘once walked the empty universe and her white track of hawthorn petals became the Milky Way.’ Graves indicates that ‘Olwen’s hair was as yellow as the broom, her fingers as pale as wood-anemones, her cheeks the colour of roses, and from her footprints trefoil sprang up- trefoil to show that she was the summer aspect of the old triple Goddess.’ (p204) Graves doesn’t overlook an obvious similarity as on page 37 he states Blodeuwedd is another name for Olwen. Blodeuwedd was magically created as a bride for Llew Llaw Gywffes by his great uncle Math and his father Gwydion. If you would like to read an inspirational rendition of this tale I would heartily recommend Evangeline Walton’s The Island of the Mighty. One of the nine flowers that became Blodeuwedd of course was the hawthorn.
Hageneder links the marriage of Culhwych and Olwen with the sacred marriage of a ‘mortal man with an immortal queen or the sovereignty of the land. Olwen evidently means “the golden wheel” which posits her as an opposing force to Arianrhod of “the silver wheel”
Skipping across many lands, as hinted previously, the hawthorn tree was also dedicated to Cardea the Roman goddess of childbirth. And to Zeus’ wife Hera ‘who conceived Ares and his twin sister Eris when she touched the blossoms.’ (Hageneder p71) This male and female birth, according to Hageneder points to the balance of male and female, and interestingly the hawthorns blossoms are hermaphrodite.
Hageneder goes on to share how ‘babies were protected by Cardea’ and according to Ovid were considered as the ‘Heaven-given results of the sacred union of the male and female creative energies.’ Yet conversely Graves states that ‘Ovid’s story is inside out,’(p63) and relates how ‘Cardea was also Alphito, the White Goddess who destroyed children after disguising herself in bird or beast form, and the hawthorn which was sacred to her might not be introduced into a house lest she destroyed the children inside.’ Yet it also appears that Cardea became connected with the hinge of the door and confusingly was given the task of keeping the bogeyman away from the nursery door, not logical if she is the bogey woman herself. (Seems to me rather like giving the job of store detective to a shoplifter.) Graves states that ‘Ovid says of Cardea, apparently quoting a religious formula: ‘Her power is to open what is shut; to shut what is open,” (p64)
Now that Hawthorn buds are opening everywhere, the air in the garden and my local hedgerow will become heady with that very distinctive hawthorn aroma reminding one, as Graves puts it, of the ‘orgiastic use which corresponds with the Goddess Flora’ adding that hawthorn blossom has a ‘strong scent of sexuality.’Nigel G. Pearson in Walking the Tides, adds an interesting slant on sexuality and the hawthorn, which he places as not only having to do with the time of year, rising sap and all that, (inference mine) but to do with the previously mentioned scent of the flowers, or as he puts it ‘as it is the female sexual scent which is give out.’ (p171) He goes on to rather spoil the imagery by indicating that ‘one of the main constituents of the scent is triethylamine, which is also the chemical that corpses give off when they start to putrefy.’ (ibid) Female sexual scent and dead bodies; oh dear, this does appear a rather a heavy handed reminder that death will always follow birth; later rather than sooner in most cases I hope. This also prompts one to consider Pearson’s linking of the hawthorn with ‘Mary altars’ and ‘female powers in all their guises’.
On that happy note I will move swiftly on, according to Hageneder ‘The prefix haw is derived from the Old German hagedorn (which means hawthorn) Together with the hornbeam, the it was often used to enclose and guard woodland sanctuaries.’ He also indicates that the protective use of the hawthorn can be found in ‘various Hittite texts from 1500 BCE, which asks the tree to “pluck any evil, impurity or wrath of the gods from this initiate, who walks through the gate the gate [of your hedge]”. These references to the “gate” indicate that the hawthorn-enclosed sanctuaries existed in ancient Anatolia (modern Turkey) too.’ Interestingly it appears that the clouties or pieces of cloth hung onto the trees surrounding the sacred wells of Cornwall as offerings or thanksgivings were usually hung on the thorn of the hawthorns always found growing nearby. Its flowers are said to help the prayers reach heaven. The hawthorn, according to Alexander Porteous in The Forest in Folklore and Mythology ‘was considered so holy that no evil spirit could approach it.’(p218) Maybe they didn’t like the smell. ;-)
Monday, 11 April 2011
Monday, 4 April 2011
Saturday, 2 April 2011
How wonderful this time of year is. Lively yellow flowers greet the eyes of the woodland , meadow and riverside wanderer.The Coltsfoot is one of these early spring heralds. found in flower at this time of year. The image above was found joyously radiating its springtime illumination along the riverbank. According to Culpeper the Coltsfoot is ‘also called Coughwort, Foal’s-foot, Horse-Hoof, and Bull’s-foot.
He goes on to relate how ‘The plant is under Venus, the fresh leaves or juice, or a syrup thereof is good for a hot dry cough, or wheezing, and shortness of breath. ‘ he follows this by emphatically recommending ‘the distilled water hereof simply, or with Elder flowers and Nightshade, is a singularly good remedy against all hot agues,’ I think the 'simply' bit is the oly recommended remedy to be even considered or maybe you will never be troubled with the hot, or any other form of ague again. So leave out the nightshade please.
Anyway, the cough syrup part sounds good to me.
The woodland floor, is now carpeted with Wood Anemone, or Anemone nemorosa; the windflower; a joy to behold.
It appears that in Greek Mythology, the Anemois, or wind gods sent forth Anemones as the herald of spring. (Very kind of them too, me-thinks) Culpeper says of the windflower that ‘the flowers never open but when the wind blows’. He then adds, ‘Pliny is my author; if it be not so, blame him.’
Nemorosa, refers to its woodland habitat, dancing in a carpet of froth shimmering across the woodland floor and sharing its abode happily with its neighbour, lesser celandine.
Its bedfellow, the lesser celandine, springs from the Latin chelidonia meaning swallow, as it was said that the flowers bloomed when the swallows returned.
Both plants belong to the genus Ranunculus. And the name Ranunculus is said to be ‘Late Latin’ for ‘little frog’ as they, (all Ranunculus genus) are often found near water, and then of course near the frogs and toads. Although the lesser celandine is found also down by the river and ponds where the frogs and toads live, these images are from the woodland floor. It appears to me that it is perhaps at the time when these pretty little heralds of spring are in flower that you will get a delightful glimpse of the frog and toad population of local ponds and pools.
Culpeper places the lesser celandine, or pilewort under the ‘dominion of Mars,’ and he goes onto indicate that if you dig up the root, you will find they resemble piles, and it appears, according to this learn-ed gentleman that that an oil, ointment or plaster of the root or leaves, will ‘readily cure both the piles and haemorrhoids, and the Kings evil.’ His excitement jumps from the page in this entry, must go try it, well maybe not, forgot I very fortunately don’t suffer from piles or haemorrhoids, nor the Kings evil. (Wikepedia tells us ‘the Kings evil is ‘Tuberculous cervical lymphadenitis refers to a lymphadenitis of the cervical lymph nodes associated with tuberculosis. It was previously known as "scrofula"’)
Now back to the windflower and Culpeper’s wisdom. He places the wood anemone under the dominion of Mars , ‘being supposed to be a kind of Crow-foot.’ He doesn’t sound too sure about that one, but a relatively safe assertion medicinally. However it does appear that the wood-anemone is poisonous, so whatever Culpeper recommends with all conviction, in the way of ingestion, please don’t try it.
Well what a glorious day this became, I strolled off, bag full of offerings; Cake Stuart had made, along with Rosehip Vodka made with the energies at the Autumn equinox, to place upon our woodland altar, and then on to the crossroad with an offering for Hekate .
No black dogs anywhere to be seen, but it is still a place that permeates power, and resonates with energy.
The crossroads has always been a place linked with liminal space, a change of direction, or movement; ‘which way now’ I mutter to myself so of course I petition the patroness of such places Hekate. as a chthonic deity she walks between the living and the dead, she looks in all directions at once, and aids the steps of the seeker; and for me and my toad (sounds like a song there) patroness of both realms. In the foreword of the book Hekate Liminal Rites by Sorita d’Este & David Rankine we find;
‘Hekate stands at he crossroads bearing the keys to the mysteries. In the ancient world she inspired poets and philosophers,Witches, magicians and ordinary people, all of whom knew she could bestow blessings to improve their lot and protect them from the harsh denizens of the infernal world.’
‘There are still people today whom Hekate continues to call to her mysteries – encouraging them to reach the innermost parts of their souls to find the power that illuminates the darkness.’
So as a goddess of ‘transition’ for both me and the toad, it seemed correct to make an offering to her, at a place within the bounds of the Clan of the Entangled Thicket.
At the entrance to this sacred place is our altar, half way up an old oak tree, a readymade place of offering. It is here that I clear away the leaves with my little mushroom cleaning brush, and leave an offering to the spirits of the place, the Genii who walk the woodland paths, and have travelled here from time immemorial. All that now remains of ancient woodland, is a very small haven in a sprawling metropolis.
Friday, 1 April 2011
On 27th March 2011 I collected a dead toad from the pond in Chinbrook Meadows, fairly large in size, perhaps a female. At approximately 11 O- clock in the morning, barely scraping into British summertime, as the clocks went back at 2 o-clock this morning. Sun-rise was at 6.48, (Greenwich Mean-Time) Incidentally sunset will be at 19.25; this gives us a day of 12h36min and 06 seconds in duration, that doesn’t have much to do with any of my thoughts, but just thought I would lob it in for good measure.
So, it appears that I may have collected the toad in the 5th hour of daylight, if my calculations are correct, which would place the hour under the planetary rulership of Saturn. This seemed to me to fit rather snugly as; ‘Saturn's aspect generally involves the bringing to the collective attention the realities of responsibility, limitation and finitude.’(http://planetaryinfluence.com/forecasts/2010/Mar/ the finite existence of the toad, was certainly very apparent, which made me contemplate the nature of my own existence. However what appeared as more important than the planetary aspect at the time was the influence of the sun; which, breaking through the mist, started warming the air all around me, and continued to so for the duration of this late March day. Not enough however, to provoke the large toad population into another sexual frenzy of activity witnessed by Stuart and myself two days ago. It all appeared to make the Marquis De Sade seem like as Enid Blyton.
Apparently ‘Because Bufo bufo is an explosive breeder and there is high competition for females more than one male may grasp onto the female forming multiple amplexus or a mating ball. In some cases (including in Bufo bufo) females can be swamped and drowned by eager males.’ http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/aps/mbiolsci/kate-hutchence/abouttoads.html
Oh dear; it does appear that this may have been the eventuality that befell my poor toad. However, this was exactly what I needed to perform the Toad Bone Ritual, so; as one would say ‘waste not want not;’ a lesson learnt from nature herself. So homeward I trod; that sounds as if I had to trek the wilderness whereas in reality, this is but a few hundred yards.
I took my treasured find into the garden, and with due ceremony and a sprinkle of sacred water, she was interned; there for the ants and other very small creature to do their work; and hopefully leave me with the bones. I also thought, best mark the spot, of the burial, as I didn’t fancy having to dig up the whole of one side of the garden to enable me to uncover my hidden treasure. And as Stuart has reminded me, the bones will be very small.
In the past; when a fox decided to surrender its life in my little plot he, or she, very kindly did so under a rose bush, so apart from the danger of poking my eyes out and shredding my clothing, there was little danger of me actually forgetting where my treasure was placed.
So back to the Toad Bone Ritual; when taking into account the way this toad died, its death, it appears was during the act of attempted generation. A reminder to me that I am giving up the pursuits of the flesh, to follow the journey beyond, I will, over the coming month, identify with the flesh of the toad now leaving its bones and will examine what this means to me, in the mean time.........more to come......