From little acorns mighty oaks will grow

DSCF1501I have two baby oaks growing in my garden – what a sweet blessing! Have no idea how they got there but I have my suspicions. About three years ago I cast a handful of acorns around my garden as part of a ritual I was doing. Well I did forget I’d done this until now. Or maybe they are the children of the oaks that stand behind the boundary fence at the very back of the garden. Who knows but for the fact they are here. One is much small than the other and I’m not sure if they will both survive but I’m going to try to keep them safe. I’ve already cut away the tall grasses and thistle plants surrounding them so they both get access to sunlight.

So what is the meaning for me? Well the oak tree has been a symbol of strength, power and sacredness in a great many cultures and indigenous tribes across Europe. The Celts especially, and the Teutonic tribes, venerated oaks and considered them chieftain amongst trees. Oaks were associated with a great number of deities – Zeus, Jupiter, The Dagda and Thor amongst others. The Green Man is always most often seen surrounded by a partial mask of oak leaves. Because they live a long time (it takes an oak a very long time to grow so I won’t see these at their full glory during my present incarnation) they embody endurance too. And of course wisdom from the Gods.

The oak also stands for great protection, justice, honesty and bravery. Apparently its associated stone is Aventurine so I will lay one of these at each stone as a blessing for it – a gift! It’s position on the Wheel of the Year is at the Summer Solstice, when once again the Oak King will battle with his brother the Holly King. But this time it’s the Holly King that will win the bout and the waning year begins once more.

The medicinal park of the Oak is its bark, because of the strong astringent properties. Internally as a tea it helps fight diarrhoea and dysentery. Externally it can be used to treat haemorrhoids, inflamed gums, wounds, and eczema. The tannin found in oak can help reduce minor blistering by boiling a piece of the bark in a small amount of water until a strong solution is reached, and applying to the affected area.

It is tradition for the Litha fire to be oak wood representing the God, since this is the time of year when oak reaches its Zenith power.

The Oak trees essence helps boost energy levels and the ability to manifest our goals. The tree’s roots mirror its branches and stretch as far below ground as the branches do above  – this reminds me of the saying ‘As Above So Below’, which usually refers to the astral plane and the physical but I think it can also refer to the physical and the underground realms, the land of the dead.

Oak twigs bound together with red thread into a solar cross or a pentagram will make a greatly protective talisman for the home, car, or in your desk or at work.

LESSON OF THE Oak from The Wisdom of Trees by Jane Gifford

The oak represents courage and endurance and the protective power of faith. The tree’s noble presence and nurturing habit reassured ancient people that, with the good will of their gods, their leader, and their warriors, they could prevail against all odds. As the Tree of the Dagda, the oak offers protection and hospitality without question, although its true rewards are only apparent to the honest and brave. The ancient Celts deplored lies and cowardice. To be judged mean-spirited could result in exclusion from the clan, which was one of the most shameful and most feared of all possible punishments. Like the oak, we would do well to receive without prejudice all those who seek our help, sharing what we have without resentment or reservation. The oak reminds us all that the strength to prevail, come what may, lies in an open mind and a generous spirit. Inflexibility, however, is the oak’s one weakness and the tree is prone to lose limbs in storms. The oak therefore carries the warning that stubborn strength that resists will not endure and may break under strain.

I honour the energy of oak, the doorway to the mysteries. I will call upon the strength of the Horned One when I feel in need of protection. So mote it be

G is for Growing

rose60-pinkorangeThis is my second post for The Pagan Blog Project ‘G’ week but also a journal post too. I think it’s high time I just meandered my thoughts down on paper…well on the screen. It’s a funny old world isn’t it, you have ideas and dreams and suddenly, if you’re working in line with them to cause their fruition, then something blossoms. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how we grow spiritually, and I guess I should really say evolve but it’s growing too. You’ll all know by now that my speciality is herbalism – I love plants in all their wonderful glory; from the tiny daisy to the fantastic tropical trees. I never thought I’d be a herbalist though. Over the years I’ve nurtured a great interest in plants and this interest kind of grew without me even really doing anything about it but I guess it is my deep love of nature. Then my wanting to help others in some way. How could I do this? I had a deep urge to be a healer but of what kind? I am a master in Celtic Reiki and also a crystal healer but plants urged me on from tiny seedling thoughts of being a plant healer to actually doing something about it via certification.

Of course it is my belief that plants offer us insights that require no paper certificates but in this world I’m afraid some kind of professional standing is valued. But I’m really a down to earth woman of wort cunning even though I’ve done professional courses (and am still doing this actually as I’m taking a Masters in Phytotherapy). However, it’s really nothing extraordinary – anyone can do this…all you have to do is spend time with plants and trees and truly get to know them and they will impart their wisdom and knowledge to you. Of course getting to know other like-minded herbalists is important too.

Anyway, I digress because this post is really about how we evolve on our spiritual path if we are open-hearted and open-minded enough. When I look back at who I was at the very beginning of my pagan path I was really an entirely different person to who I am today. I had fixed ideas about who I should be; what kind of pagan I was or wanted to be, called myself a Wiccan and followed quite a strict Wiccan protocol. But over the years this has changed quite dramatically – yes I am an initiated Priestess in a Wiccan Coven and I don’t regret this decision and being part of this group is very important to me. But my path has diverged into many different branches since then. I feel I’ve truly become a tree!

I guess my spirituality is very eclectic with old ways witchcraft roots, shamanism, Daoism as well as Wicca. Some would call this a mish-mash and probably berate me but I just think this is what my Spirit wants – this is the human experience my Spirit incarnated to have. After all, when I pass over all this will be gone…only Spirit remains and the material will not matter. So I’m passed worrying about whether or not I have a particular religion or set of protocols to follow. I just do what Spirit and the Universe encourage me to do.

How do I know? Well, actually I think synchronicity plays a huge part in knowing if I’m on the right track or not. The more open I am the more meaningful synchronicity happens. Then there are those things that happen to warm me off a course of action. Of course, being human I don’t always see, or even if I do see I don’t always pay attention, or choose to ignore and then I pay the consequences. But even these are lessons to learn. Each choice we make is an opportunity for our Spirits to learn. Even choice and actions that don’t work out the way we want are important for our growth. When we think of ourselves within the tree metaphor we can see how many branches and twigs there are on a tree and each one of these can be choices and actions, some working out and producing new growth and some not. But it’s all ok because they’re all part of the overall beauty of the tree, which is each one of us as individuals.

G is for Green Witchcraft

5446_576954122314584_224581038_nThis week’s post for The Pagan Blog Project is about Green Witchcraft, or what I see it as. Green Witchcraft is actually many things to many people but there are some things in common – a deep love of nature and in particular plants and trees, a deep interest in the old ways (i.e. the myths and legends pre-christianity), and a yearning to live ones life in synchrony with the seasons and the cycles of the moon. Of course many would also add the environmentalist and eco-witch aspect in there too.

Much has been written about Green Witchcraft, there are many really lovely authors out there who have written some very informative books on this aspect of witchcraft. One in particular is Ann Moura whose many books on the subject are well worth reading.  Some people see green witchcraft as synonymous with hedge witchery or being a kitchen witch and I guess this is true, at least for the hedge witch. For me green witchcraft is everything I’ve mentioned in the first paragraph but I don’t think there are really any hard and fast definitions with this, like life itself, the Craft evolves and definitions have to be fluid rather than rigid.

My life as a Green Witch largely revolves around what used to be called wort cunning; the knowledge and use of plants for healing and magical purposes – I guess I’m a 21st Century cunning woman! Although I live on the edge of a small town in Kent, England, I immerse myself as much as possible in nature. Even nature can be found in back gardens and suburban places. However, I’m lucky in that I don’t live too far from the country and indeed my back garden backs on to a small woodland area and beyond that fields. Environmentalism and concern for the ecosystems of the world do concern me but I wouldn’t call myself an activist by any means. I just go about my business fairly quietly with not too much obviousness. I leave the activism for others and I’m sure they do a very good job of it too but that’s not to say I don’t care. I just do my part in other quieter ways.

For me, Green Witchcraft touches my soul and it feels like finally coming home to the place I’m meant to be. It’s different for everyone though – we each find this ‘coming come’ in different aspects of the Craft, or for many too even in different religions, although the Craft isn’t a religion. I don’t think it really matters what religion one is, or what aspect of the Craft one follows as long as it truly speaks to your soul and you are balanced. As long as balance and harmony is there then it is the true path for you; fundamentalism in any form is just not good for the spirit and is a sign of ego thinking, which doesn’t come from spirit but from the human mind.

The ironic thing is, I never expected to be a Green Witch, not at all, it just crept up on me slowly over the years although I’ve always had a love of nature and green things and have never been happier in green fields and woodlands. But I truly believe that if you just open your mind and heart, and are patient, your true path will appear. It might take many years, as it did for me, or might come in a few months. It doesn’t matter – when you’re on it you will know, not in your head but in your heart. That’s not to say you won’t have doubts because I certainly did. However, my true path kept pulling me back like a song you just cannot get out of your mind. Although I’m sure there are some who never have such doubts about their path.

I love this path – the greening of the land; the changing of the seasons; the waxing and waning of the moon and the effect this has on things; the plants and trees and the secrets they hold for the betterment of all. It’s not always an easy path but it’s the one my spirit has chosen for me at this time.

Z is for Zanzibar Copal

copal-b

Zanzibar Copal is a resin exuded from the Jatoba tree (Hymenaea courbani) and other species of the same family, which grow in South America. It is also found in East Africa (Hymenaea verrucosa). The word Copal is derived from the Nahuatl language word copalli, meaning “incense”, and it has been highly prized since pre-Columbian days as an incense for sacred ceremonies and purification.

Copal comes in different colour versions and forms; it ranges from a harder pale translucent yellow through to a more amber like colour. In fact Copal describes the intermediate stage of polymerisation and hardening between the gummier resins and amber, and is often found encasing insects just like amber. The hard yellow Copal is the less expensive, with the white, milky, stickier substance more expensive and more highly prized. By the 18th Century, Europeans found it to be a valuable ingredient in making a good wood varnish. It became widely used in the manufacture of furniture and carriages.

Copal is also found in New Zealand, where it is known as Kauri gum, in Japan, Colombia and Madagascar. Copal can be easily distinguished from genuine amber by its lighter citrine colour and its surface getting tacky with a drop of acetone or chloroform.

All the different types of Copal have a slight sweetish aroma but each one has unique properties. However, in general they have the following magical properties and associations.

Copal is masculine in gender, and is ruled by the Sun and the element of Fire. It’s magical powers are love and purification. You can use a piece of Copal to represent the heart in poppets. Burn Copal for any kind of cleansing or purification ceremony as well as using in love spells.

Copal from Madagascar. With spiders, termites, ants, Elateridae, Hymenoptera, Cockroach and a flower.

Copal from Madagascar. With spiders, termites, ants, Elateridae, Hymenoptera, Cockroach and a flower.

Announcing the all new HERBORIUM newsletter

I am very pleased to announce that The Herborium newsletter is now up on my other site for immediate download. It is free and in pdf format.

http://naturesalive.wordpress.com/the-herborium-newsletter/

This newsletter is the first of many (hopefully) – a little project I’m doing around each Sabbat (that’s eight times a year) focusing on plants and herbs, and the natural world, including Plant Spirits. I hope you enjoy reading it just as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it and putting it together for you.

Bright blessings

Deep~Glade

T is for Trees

Ah…trees, possibly my favourite things! Where would we be without these Standing Sentinels? Without trees there could be no life on earth (along with water and the sun too of course). Trees perform a wonderful and most important service to not only mankind but All-kind. Trees are the ‘lungs of the planet, with the Amazon rainforest alone producing 20% of world oxygen. Think of that! Without trees we would asphyxiate and die.

How do trees produce this life-giving gas? Well, it’s through the action of photosynthesis, which is how trees, and all green plants in fact, produce energy from light by means of chlorophyll that is contained in their leaves (the green pigment that makes leaves green!). They use the sunlight and the chlorophyll to make sugars from carbon dioxide (which they breathe in through their leaves during the day) and water. This sugar is then used to give the plant energy so that it can grow. The tree then gives off oxygen, which is the gas we breathe in so we can live. So our existence is inextricably linked to trees.

Trees also support a multitude of other plant and animal life too. There are many animals that just could not exist in the wild without trees, and trees also support numerous mosses and lichens that are important to the ecosystem. For example, one hectare (2.47 acres) of rainforest may contain over 750 types of trees and 1500 species of animals and higher plants. Scientists and botanists are also continually finding new species of plants and animals that rely on trees for life.

Trees are a wonderful source of medicine and food, producing fruit, flowers, leaves and bark that can all be utilised in some way for our holistic well-being. Consider the many different species we have in Great Britain, practically all of them have some value medicinally. One fantastic example is that little white pill so often taken for headaches, the one called Aspirin. If it wasn’t for a tree that might never have been developed. The bark (and to a certain extent the leaves) of the White Willow (Salix alba) contain a chemical called salicin* that eases aches and pains, and reduces fevers. Hippocrates noticed this back in the 5th century BC. However, it was being used far earlier by the Cherokee and other native American tribes. Eventually the chemical was isolated and became known as salicylic acid and was then synthesized in laboratories and brand-named Aspirin. This is just one example of how trees help us medicinally, there are hundreds more.

Trees not only give to us for our physical well-being but also our spiritual well-being. A tree of life, or Sacred Tree, is a common motif in various world theologies, mythologies, and philosophies; a mystical concept alluding to the interconnection of all life on our planet. It connects the Heavens (or upper world), the middle world, and the underworld; the three realms. For those with a spiritual leaning it helps to connect us with all other sentient beings (and that includes the spirit realm) and negates the idea of separation.

Yggdrasil ~ The Norse concept of the World Tree

Due to the longevity of trees they are sources of great knowledge and wisdom. They’ve stood, in some cases, for hundreds of years – can you imagine what they’ve witnessed throughout their long lives? In Celtic tradition, trees play an important part in disseminating knowledge and wisdom to us humans. Probably the most well-known use of trees in this tradition is the Ogham (pronounced OH-am or OH-yam) or Celtic Tree alphabet. This is an alphabet of twenty-five inscribed characters, each one symbolising a tree sacred to the ancient druids of old. Each symbol (which is an upright stave with particular straight markings on it) symbolises a letter, the character of a tree, its place within Celtic spirituality and mythology and its attributes both for daily living, healing and spiritual working. It is also used as a system of divination whereby the wisdom of the trees help us in our daily living and inner work.

Just spending time with trees is a meditative process in itself. To sit under a large, leafy tree on a summer’s day and gaze up into its branches can imbue us with peace and clarity. To hug a tree is even better!

A Tree Meditation

Sit comfortably…relax…close your eyes and take three deep cleansing breaths.

Now begin to clear your mind by concentrating only on your breathing…count your breaths slowly up from 1 to 10. If thoughts intrude do not force them away but return to concentrating on your breathing.

You are standing in a sun-dappled clearing in a wood. Around you trees stand like sentinels, their branches covered with the lush greenery of summer. Leaves whisper and rustle, kissed by a zephyr breeze that blows gently around and through them. The carpet of emerald grass beneath you is soft as velvet. In your nostrils wafts the delicate fragrance of summer flowers. All is quiet except for the sound of the leaves and birds singing in the branches of the trees.

As you stand there, the sun’s rays gently warming you, you begin to feel the grass part beneath your feet. The soft, rich soil gives way and you feel yourself sinking down into the earth. Soon your lower legs are completely surrounded by the cool earth. You feel your feet reach down into the earth, becoming roots that dig deeper and spread out anchoring you solidly into the ground. At the same time you raise your arms towards the sun and they begin to turn into branches, your fingers become twigs reaching ever upwards towards the sky. Soon leaves begin to appear, sprouting and growing vigorously all over you, rustling with the soft breeze that blows around you and through you…you have become a tree.

You begin to feel your feet pulse with energy from the earth and with each breath in this energy is drawn up…up your toes…your feet…up your legs…towards your body. This is the energy of Gaia and it flows and swirls all through your body as a vibrant green mist, entering every cell…filling you up with the nurturing strength of Mother Earth.

The sun’s rays shine down upon you and enter your crown chakra where they flow towards your centre as a golden mist, filling every part of you with the powerful energy of the God. Every cell in your body is filled with golden light…energising and invigorating you.

The two energies meet and merge within you…swirling around and through each other…mixing their powerful energies…every part of you is filled and sustained by the Goddess and the God.

Breathe deeply and feel these energies become one…flowing through you as life-blood through your veins.

Now begin to gradually count your breaths down from 10 to 1…focusing on your breathing only. When you are ready open your eyes and know that divine energy is within you and remains in you…sustaining you and giving you the energy you need to see you through.

(Copyright Deep~Glade)

*Salicin is also found in other plants such as Meadowsweet and many common fruits and vegetables.

Sweeping out the mess with Ngetal

The next card I pulled from Mickie Mueller’s Voice of the Trees oracle deck was Broom/Reed (or Ngetal), which I think is so pertinent since pulling Yew a few days beforehand. Yew talked about entering into a rite of passage, transformation or renewal, and now I find Ngetal has appeared, which makes perfect sense to me since in order to transform or renew one needs to cast out all the ‘crappage’ and dross first. A good cleaning out is in order obviously! And certainly Ngetal stands for cleansing but also vitality. Well once one cleans out the garbage one is automatically imbued with a renewed vitality, at least I am. This will give me the impetus and clear the way to enter into the next phase of my life.

The physician’s strengths include herbs one and all

With compassion and knowledge may your illness fall

While sweeping away darkness from body and soul

In the physician’s robe, heroic deeds make you whole.

If we feel dis-ease we need to take action and the first step is to clear away any physical and emotional toxins that are causing blockages to our vitality. These blockages really can make us unwell and sap our energy, not just physical energy but spiritual and emotional too. Dis-ease is a sign of imbalance within and the holistic view of this is that physical illnesses are almost invariably caused by some kind of emotional or spiritual blockage or issue that needs to be looked at, worked through or swept away.

I can remember my mother having a large Broom bush in our back garden when I was little; it grew right next to the Rosemary. I never quite knew why my mother grew the Broom because I found it rather uninteresting at the time, except that I did love its bright yellow flowers. Looking back now I realise that actually my mother had a great many medicinal herbs and plants in our garden and although I know she wasn’t ‘of the Craft’ she had a great love of nature and adored all kinds of plants and herbs.  In fact it’s been quite interesting for me to take time and remember all the medicinal and sacred plants and trees my mother actually grew – Rosemary, Broom, Mint, Heather, Rowan, Cherry, Rose, Hawthorn, Chives, Thyme…and probably more but that’s all I can remember right now. Maybe somewhere in her psyche she was a witch.

It’s one of those funnily strange things that the word Ngetal doesn’t actually refer to the name of a tree or plant. It actually means ‘wounding’, ‘to pierce or stab’ or ‘charm’.  Word Oghams associated with the letter are related to the practice of medicine, so healing could be assumed to be strongly linked with a physician’s healing chant (or charm). how does wounding or piercing relate to healing though? An example from an Anglo-Saxon Book of Leech-craft could provide an answer. It provides a healing charm which says ‘I wound the worm, I strike the worm, I kill the worm’ (in those days worm was another name for disease or illness). So the wounding or piercing is not literal although it could be, such as in lancing a boil or cutting a person in order to bleed them, or attaching a leech that would pierce the skin in order to suck out the blood (another form of blood-letting). We can see then that Ngetal refers to cleansing and healing by chanting incantations but also by piercing and wounding – perhaps metaphorically cutting the toxins out of the body or inner self. In relation to this ‘cutting and piercing’ it is also interesting to note that Broom is the close cousin of Gorse – a prickly, and very spiky plant. And when you think about it, using a ‘broom’ is decisive action isn’t it…no messing about…sweep and sweep and sweep until the dirt is gone.

But why does Ngetal refer to Broom AND Reed? Well, when we look back to Celtic times both these plants were important to that society and both seem to work harmoniously together..rather like either or! The Broom was often used for making actual brooms or besoms, as were reeds, and also reeds were used for thatching, so both were quite important commodities to our Celtic ancestors. As you can see also both plants were associated with the home. The reeds used for the roofs of houses, to keep the inclement weather out and maintain the coziness of the home, and the broom to sweep the floor and the hearth – both very important for maintaining a clean, safe and hospitable home. It’s the same for us – our bodies are our home aren’t they. They encapsulate our inner selves and both need to be harmonious and clean in order to be in balance and work well.

Traditional thatched roof in Ireland

 

The Celtic Goddess best known for her association with the Reed is Brighid – a triple goddess with influence over poetry, smithcraft and of course healing. She is patroness of Druids (particularly Bards) and strongly associated with healing wells and springs.

As for Broom, it has strong medicinal properties but it is ‘strong medicine’ and can cause violent vomiting if taken in too larger quantity. This again can show us the strength of its spiritual healing – it doesn’t mess about!

So how can I use Ngetal in my ‘mess clearing’? Well I don’t have access to Broom or Reed unfortunately but I can, in the spirit of physicians of old, write a charm to harness its powers. This would be perfect to use at the next New Moon next week.

References

Voice of the Trees Companion by Mickie Mueller

Celtic Tree Mysteries by Steve Blamires

A Druid’s Herbal of Sacred Tree Medicine by Ellen Evert Hopman