21
Mar 14

Spring is Official

With the Spring Equinox here spring is official. So I rooted out my eggs to put out for the next month. One thing I loved 20140320_183536when living in the Netherlands was the variety of decorations for the house available at this time of year in shops. Of course I wished now I had bought many more. After a few years everything is sadly wearing out but I still have a few things left, not least my egg which broke (well they do tend to) on a move but was glued back together very well.

20140320_183711My chicks unfortunately didn't make it...

But luckily there were a few more in a box which saved the day.

I felt a bit guilty chucking them in the bin, a left over of my childhood of thinking all my toys are alive. I have a problem with chucking away stuffed toys too. But I draw the line at keeping them on window ledges and don't put them to bed at night!

But back to spring, my favourite time of year. This is an extract from my book Pagan Portals - Hedge Witchcraft on spring with extra comments in brackets and in italics.

The Spring Equinox

At the Spring Equinox, I honour the coming fertility of the land and Brigid remains my goddess of the season as the maiden coming into full bloom. Mother Nature brings us an evolution of beauty, fertility is abounding and lambing season has begun. Insects begin to appear again, and on sunny days we begin to hear the buzzing of the bumblebee (had a few really big ones in the house this year but managed to catch them in a cup), while the birds appear to sing all the louder. We know that at this time of year there is still a risk of snow, but we soon see the blades of grass peeping up through the whiteness, and know that it will be short lived and next week we could be out without our coats and jackets (hope so it's gone so much colder).

In March, I bring out my pottery eggs and chicks (see above) and place around the house to signify fertility and rebirth. Spring is 20140320_184111here now with a vengeance. The fresh green of the hawthorn is a sight to behold on walks and even when driving (this is later this year). I love to put yellow everywhere as I think of spring being the yellow time of year and a time of optimism. Crocus, daffodils, primroses, forsythia, coltsfoot, charlock and lesser celandine are just some of the flowers to be seen over March and April. Every day out walking there is something to get excited about. Changes happen rapidly and from one day to the next, we see something new.

Try to get out into the countryside. After the cold, dark winter months, we need the tonic that being out in the wildness of nature brings. In the milder, sometimes wet, spring, breathe in the earthy smells, this is particularly so in the woods and forest.

For celebration, I will decorate the house and leave offerings to Brigid on my outdoor altar. I have yellow candles lit in the house. Yellow cheers me up (as you may have guessed by now); it provides optimism, creativity, happiness, prosperity and luck.

With the warmth returning we often have a hopeful attitude to life. Spring often brings with it rejuvenation and inspiration. When the clocks change we remember whether they go back or forward by the saying, ‘spring forward, fall back’. Spring forward is appropriate and it means progression. Our potential is unlimited and we always have room to grow. If you have been planning to do something, why not put it into action. If you are always saying that ‘at the right time’ you will do this and that, well you might find that you have been saying this for a long time, as the ‘right time’ never seems to come. So make the right time now.

On the Spring Equinox and again as with every Celtic festival, I make a special altar. Still with yellow dominating, I have yellow candles but also orange candles for overall success, happiness, motivation and creativity. Daffodils are still a favourite flower, but primroses, and any other bright spring flower are added to the altar. Hares, lambs, chicks, and baby animals in general either pictures or ornaments help to remind us of the growing fertility around us. If people come to my ritual then I ask them to bring something for the altar that reminds them of the season.

This ritual follows the Imbolg ritual with the altar facing east, and the addition of asking for inspiration and motivation to carry out the projects and plans that I have already begun.

7
Mar 14

Spring Goes Missing!

20140307_121637It's strange what you miss when you're otherwise occupied. Caught up in worries, mind overloaded. You go for a walk by the river to try to relax, but still the mind is wondering and it's hard to focus. You think to yourself, "Where are the signs of spring." But as much as you look, you can't see a single bud or a flower, just hear the water racing away as it's rather loud. You don't even hear the birds singing.

You walk for a while and the sounds of the water take over everything else. 20140307_115706You find a bench and rest and just look. Gradually the mind stills. Then walking back along the path you suddenly spot a bud on a tree, then you notice the trees are actually covered in them. As you stroll on you see the celandine in bud and blooming. Small birds flit from branch to branch and you hear them sing, perfect music, soothing your soul. Spring was there all along. It's just that you were so preoccupied you couldn't see it. Your mind wouldn't allow you to see it. This is indeed what happened to me.

And so our worries, anxieties and negativities, stop us from actually seeing what we should be seeing. They prevent us from focusing - from resting the mind even for a few minutes a day.

20140307_120214So out on walks, just like in meditation, you need to empty your mind and this can take much effort. It's the same with journeying, your mind needs to be focused, not occupied with everyday worries. If we can't relax and focus out of doors, then we will find it hard to do this during journeying and our journeying will be unsuccessful. Practicing emptying the mind, and just seeing, listening, feeling, sensing, seems to be rather important then. Not just because we need to focus, but because of all the wonderful things we are missing when our minds are preoccupied.

 

27
Jun 12

Dog Rose Petals

Our garden is covered in wild dog roses (Rosa Canina). We have fields and a farm next door, so the roses are among the wild honeysuckle, elder and bramble in the hedgerow. I slipped on my clogs  and took a walk along the hedgerow with a bowl. Gently touching each rose (only those wide open already, or have already lost half their petals) I knocked off the loose pink and white petals into my bowl. They are so pretty and smell gorgeous. I brought them in and lay them on some paper towel to dry them out. I use old jam jars to keep them in. The best way to clean the jars and remove the labels is by simply putting them into the dishwasher. In two or three days I'll put them in a jar and screw the lid on tight and it will join my other jars of hedgerow herbs. At some point they will be used generally in friendship, luck and goodwill, spells and incenses.

In the autumn, I'll be able to collect in the rosehips to use in teas and syrups and also spells and incenses. Full of Vitamin C, I remember rosehip syrup well, as something that was given to us freely when we were children (my siblings and I). Come autumn I'll be posting the recipes. If you don't have wild rose, then Rosa Rugosa, a hedging rose, is great for this as it has large hips, and the scent of the actual rose is stronger too. I don't know though, there is just something so beautiful and magical about wild rose.

Another way to collect rose petals, and you have no garden or anywhere you can freely gather them, especially if you're loathe to buy a bunch to tear them apart, is to
wait until you buy or are given a bunch. When they are past their best and you are thinking of throwing them away, remove the centre of each one. You will fins the petals are still fresh. You can then dry them as usual. There is advice on internet about drying rose petals quickly in the microwave. Don't so it. Apart from the thought of microwaves interfering with the petals, they smell awful when they come out. Be patient it only takes a couple maybe three  days to dry them out.

Thank you to my husband for running outside to take the photos.

11
Jun 12

A Druid's Tale

I'd like to introduce a great book published this month by Moon Books. A Druid's Tale by Cat Treadwell. More about this coming soon!

 

What do people think of when they hear the word 'Druidry?' The real questions, not the 'old men in white robes' stereotypes. What makes a Druid? What do they do? This book hopes to answer some of those questions. For the benefit of those who prefer the more traditional methods of finding information, Cat has compiled and expanded on some of the more common queries as well as focusing on the day-to-day aspects of Druidry as a lived path, constantly evolving to be relevant and accessible in the modern world.

Warm, bubbly and accessible, it reveals the honest thinking and wakeful self-reflection that should be the foundation of every personal exploration of Druidry Emma Restall Orr, Founder of The Druid Network, Author of Living Druidry and Living with Honour

…one of the best illustrations of how Druidry is lived that I have seen. Professor Ronald Hutton, University of Bristol, Author of The Triumph of the Moon and Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain

Cat Treadwell is a Druid Priest based in Derbyshire, England. She is a professional celebrant and multifaith worker, Trustee of The Druid Network and Awenydd of the Anglesey Druid Order.

30
Apr 12

Bigotry

I really wasn’t surprised to see this article in The Telegraph via Facebook:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9232097/Letting-the-witch-out-of-the-bottle.html.

This is yet another bigoted article, written by someone who is ignorant on the subject and a prime example of poor journalism.

Let’s just take some of the “observations” and look at them with a pagan eye. Christopher Howe quotes and comments on a report from the Church Times:

On page 7, the paper reported: “Concern about accusations of witchcraft and possession within black and minority ethnic communities was heightened this year by the case of Kristy Bamu, aged 15, who was murdered by his sister and her partner.” His killers had thought he was using the harmful power of witchcraft.

So it seems there are now two kinds of witchcraft: the bad kind that black people believe in, and the kind that should be celebrated because it is believed in by Cornish people.

So the reporter says here that there are two types of witchcraft, which are a contradiction to one another, a black witchcraft believed in by only black people and the harmless kind believed in by Cornish people. This remark is not just bigoted but implies black = bad, white = harmless. The remark is of course also hypocritical as aptly pointed out by Nun Yerbeezwax in a reader comment:

Hmmm two kinds of Witchcraft you say? Is that like the two kinds of Christianity, one that ministers and feeds the poor and the other like the Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas USA that pickets funerals of fallen soldiers with signs claiming the soldier burns in hell for enabling homosexuality, and marches outside of Gay Pride celebrations with "God Hates Fags" signs? The comparison is apt.

Of course there are many such comparisons with Christianity that we as pagans could dig out, but probably won’t as we are not as bigoted as Christopher Howe. His above quote also fails to point out that this particular atrocity that he decided to highlight and lump in with paganism was perpetrated by Christians who were not in fact witches.

Another rather ignorant comment is:

The other problem is that if paganism is taught alongside the religion that children’s parents practise at home, it implies that paganism is a religion just as well-founded as Presbyterianism or Islam. It’s like teaching Esperanto alongside French.

The words “well-founded” perhaps stand out the most. Laughable — well-founded on what exactly? And what makes other religions more valid? That they have been around longer? Well, paganism has been around much longer and the argument that the pagan revival is relatively new doesn’t wash. Pagans have gone back to their roots, to the only indigenous religion of these isles. As for Esperanto, there are up to 2,000,000 speakers of it. I think this makes it valid as a language whether old or new, just as the fact that there are now millions of practicing pagans also makes it a valid subject to be taught in R.E. lessons. As for Wicca, Professor Ronald Hutton calls it the only religion Britain has given the world. Paganism, including Wicca, is indeed the only home-grown religion in these isles. As such, yes let’s see it discussed in R.E. lessons.

No child should have religion thrust down their throats but should be included in discussions on all religions and be allowed to make up their own minds. And as my own son said when he challenged his R.E. teacher, “If this is a religious education lesson, why is it you only teach Christianity and every so often throw in a token few minutes of Islam and Buddhism. You should spend equal time on all religions”. For which of course he was promptly thrown out of the class for “giving cheek” which loosely translates as “pointing out the truth”. In Cornwall this wouldn’t have happened as in fact he wouldn’t have had to protest.

14
Apr 12

An Early Spring!

Welcome to The Hedge Witch’s blog

In this first entry, I think a beginning is a good theme, and what better beginning to talk about than the early spring we are having.

Here in the rainy west of Ireland we’ve had a very mild winter. I only recall having seen two frosts, although that could be somewhat down to me rising late (blush). I think it snowed for five minutes on one day and more recently we had a couple of hail storms. I don’t remember any days when the house was really freezing. So all in all, yes a very mild winter, and this has led to the lovely early spring.

Back in mid February, my hubby and I took a wander through our village on a pleasant sunny day (yes there is occasional sunshine in Ireland), and decided to walk on further to the little harbour. We found a bench to sit on under a horse chestnut tree, which was actually in leaf. On the way home I spotted branches of hawthorn sticking through the hedgerow also in leaf. There were daffodils everywhere.

In March, we had a several sunny warm days, and this brought a sea of yellow. The celandine popped up, dandelions, more daffodils, and the primroses brightend the countryside. And dotted around the fields, our own garden, and around the lake, which we are lucky to have just a few metres away from our home, is the lovely, abundant, bright yellow blossom of the furze. The blackthorn is also now in bloom. I’ve seen ground ivy and I have it on good authority that the marsh marigold has made an early appearance. For all the early spring, I haven't yet heard the cuckoo.

This morning I sat outside on our bench, looking at the early morning sunshine reflecting on the lake. A couple of cows were looking at me over the hedge. I remembered back to the variety of animals I've had running through my garden over the last few years, while living in different houses. Oh the joys of rural living. One garden has a herd of wild Galloway cattle run through it. They lived on the riverside and the high tide had forced them off their usual grazing land and they had panicked. Chasing behind them was a long string of people. My dogs were barking like hell. I was standing in the snow in my bathrobe calling the dogs. It was like being in a Benny Hill movie. Shortly after this incident, several ponies escaped from the next door farm and my hubby sent me to tell the farmer while he chased off down the lane after them.

Later in the year I'd planted up a circular flower bed with a dwarf weeping willow and lots of lovely purple and yellow pansies. People used to stand on top of the dijk (this was the Netherlands) and look at them. One morning I saw several people standing looking and I was immediately suspicious. I went out to find a tribe of goats eating through all my lovely plants, they had scoffed the lot, including the willow. At this same house, we often saw geese, ducks, herons and all manor of wild fowl as we were so close to the river.

While in Ireland living in Tipperary, we regularly had horses escaping into the garden. One time, trying to get them back into a field with a locked gate was a little difficult. The owner was at a funeral, which in Ireland can go on for a few days. Meantime we had shut our gate to prevent them escaping onto the road. The owner eventually turned up. Standing in the same garden looking down the back field I once saw two deer running along by the river. We often had hare, pheasant and red squirrel visit us too.

One of the things I really loved having the opportunity to do while living rural, was helping to feed orphaned lambs.

We had found the mother sheep and another little lamb lying dead in the field adjoining the house and we had alerted the farmer. He invited me to feed the poor one remaining orphaned lamb, and I was only too glad to help. It's so easy to get attached to them. Snowdrop would run to me every time I came outside. She wagged her tail all the time while being fed. During this time, my hubby and young son went to the field to fetch Snowdrop and another sheep and her lamb panicked and ran off up the lane. My hubby ran to fetch his bike while my son dashed off after them. I grabbed Snowdrop before she followed. The sheep and lamb trotted on and the lamb fell or jumped off a little bridge into a shallow ditch and my son jumped in after it. Meanwhile my hubby peddled off after the sheep, which he lost sight of when it ran into someone's garden. He came back and helped my son drag the lamb out of the ditch and they both arrived back soaking wet, covered in mud and red faced (but they looked really funny). Luckily the sheep was caught and returned pretty swiftly. Snowdrop survived my attempts at being her mum and thank the goddess grew up and eventually joined the rest of the flock.

Here though in Clare, it's the cows we have. They have escaped several times and rampaged through the garden. They are now blocked off so just peer at me from over the hedge.

It's lovely here in Ireland at the moment of writing this blog and a nice  respite from the stormy days right now. But I'm sure we will soon be back to stormy days with lots of wind and rain. Hopefully in between the April showers torrential rain, we will get enough dry days to enjoy our country walks more, especially in our lovely woods. I personally will be ever grateful that I am privileged to live in such a beautiful country.

Sláinte