What was he doing, the great god Pan,Elizabeth Barrett Browning 1806-1861
Down in the reeds by the river?
Spreading ruin and scattering ban,
Splashing and paddling with hoofs of a goat,
And breaking the golden lilies afloat
With the dragon-fly on the river.
He tore out a reed, the great god Pan,
From the deep cool bed of the river:
The limpid water turbidly ran,
And the broken lilies a-dying lay,
And the dragon-fly had fled away,
Ere he brought it out of the river.
High on the shore sat the great god Pan
While turbidly flowed the river;
And hacked and hewed as a great god can,
With his hard bleak steel at the patient reed,
Till there was not a sign of the leaf indeed
To prove it fresh from the river.
He cut it short, did the great god Pan,
(How tall it stood in the river!)
Then drew the pith, like the heart of a man,
Steadily from the outside ring,
And notched the poor dry empty thing
In holes, as he sat by the river.
‘This is the way,’ laughed the great god Pan
(Laughed while he sat by the river),
‘The only way, since gods began
To make sweet music, they could succeed.’
Then, dropping his mouth to a hole in the reed,
He blew in power by the river.
Sweet, sweet, sweet, O Pan!
Piercing sweet by the river!
Blinding sweet, O great god Pan!
The sun on the hill forgot to die,
And the lilies revived, and the dragon-fly
Came back to dream on the river.
Yet half a beast is the great god Pan,
To laugh as he sits by the river,
Making a poet out of a man:
The true gods sigh for the cost and pain,—
For the reed which grows nevermore again
As a reed with the reeds in the river.
Modern Letter: R
Ruler of the 13th Lunar Month
25th November – 22nd December
Ruis is a very transitional rune, associated with new experiences and new phases of growth. Life is a continuation; as old cycles come to an end new ones begin. Experience brings maturity and wisdom, even as we encounter new things we can approach them with a child like wonder, but childish-ness is to be avoided. Something else that change brings is creativity, the departure of the old making way for new thoughts and ideas. All of these form the foundation of who we are to become in our renewed life.
Common name: elder
Scientific name: Sambucus nigra
Elder trees are another native tree which is a wild foragers delight. Growing up to 15m and living up to 60 years, it is easily recognised by it’s short trunk and grey-brown furrowed bark. Its twigs are the easiest way to identified in winter due to their unpleasant smell, something that is carried over in to the leaves when bruised.
The leaves are oval in shape, slightly serrated which appear from ragged, scaly bud but it is their creamy white, fragrant flowers and deep purple berrys which emerge from each pollinated flower. These are on large, flat spreads of fine stems which droop dramatically as they ripen in late summer.
Elder grows well in many settings in the UK, such as woodland, scrub, wasteland and hedgerows, and has been successfully been transplanted to many temperate and subtropical regions. Because the berries are a favourite of many herbivores try are often found in areas populated by badgers, rabbits etc with the seeds having been distributed via their droppings.
Themes: Judgment, Transformation, Death & Regeneration, Fate, The Inevitable
Stone: Olivine, Jet
Birds: Pheasant, Raven, Rook
Color: Black, dark green, blood red
Deity: Hel, Holda, Venus, Hekate, Hilde
Ruis Ruis RuisSuggested Galdur
Ruuuuu Iiiiiis Ruuuuu Iiiiiis
Rr Rr Ruuuu Iiiiis
Ruis Ruis Ruis
Using red wool/thread bind nine small elder twigs in a fan shape as a charm to draw the presence of powerful elemental to your ritual. A similar charm of two crossed stems bound with red thread can be hung to protect a home.
A straight elder stem, peeled, sanded and polished makes a very effective wand. Alternatively, separate the stem into small sections and remove the pith to create beads which can be hung or worn as a protection against evil spirits.
Invoke a blessing and protection whilst scattering elder leaves over someone’s head.
Mythology and Literature
The elder tree has many associations with the Goddess and with faery it is considered unlucky to cut it down. If it must be done it needs to be done respectfully, giving the spirits associated with the tree time to move out. The wood should only be burned in you home when permission has been granted or adequate recompense has been made to the tree.
Another strong association is between elder and witches. The short gnarled trunks are not unlike the crooked form of the fairy-tale evil witch and there are numerous tales of witches shape shifting into the form of an elder tree in order to escape notice. This magical transformation was sometimes cited as the reason for the blood red sap which appears when elder branches are gathered for the midsummer balefire. Witches were also thought to live in elder trees. One tale tells how a father used a piece of elder he had cut from a local tree to repair his new-borns crib. Insulted, the witch who lived in the tree visited her wrath upon the infant by pinching it each night. When the wife realised what her husband had done she forced him to replace the repair with some birch (as he should have done in the first place) and get the pieces of elder out of the house. As soon as it had been done the night time visitations ended as the witch was unable to locate the family once the elder wood had been removed.
Deep within a silent placeThe Faces of WomanSpirit A Celtic Oracle of Avalon by Katherine Torres, Ph.Dhttps://katherinebell.org/
the birth of life is stirred.
“Secrets held within the dark,”
speaks the magic bird.
Death to Life the soul is told
to “feel the womb so pure.”
Oracles reveal the Truth
New Life will surely birth.
Sources and Further Reading
The universe spent the latter part of 2021 bombarding me with information about black mirror scrying from any number of directions but particularly in the form of a course from Jason Augustus Newcomb. Historically I’ve not got on well with the practice and have largely passed over it for other practices and a focus on dream interpretation because of the insistence that burnt incense is a must have requirement to aid the practice.
I like incense as much as the next witch, and if I am part of a group ritual I generally don’t have an issue beyond eye watering, but if I am in close quarters with it, or burn in a space I spent a lot of time in (i.e. my living room or bedroom), I find that it eventually affects my breathing. The joys of allergies and asthma.
I’ve experimented over the years. One off offering as part of deity devotion is okay, so long as ventilate the space as burning the offering and keep it ventilated for the following day, but when trying to undertake a daily process ventilation doesn’t help much, and I usually manage three days before I have to stop and allow the atmosphere to clear.
When Jason’s course presented itself, I decided to so some thinking rather than rush straight into practice.
The main purpose of incense in scrying is usually to aid the process of seeing in the mirror. The mind space created by the olfactory effect of incense coupled with the slight “veil like” movement produced by the smoke (if it is placed before the mirror) all aid the process of seeing in the mirror. On top of this, the burning of incense is an offering to deity for aid in the operation being undertaken with the rising smoke becoming the vehicle of communication between the earthly and heavenly realms.
This second purpose may not be relevant to all, thus meaning that the incense can be excluded without much consideration but in the context of Jason’s course and practice, which is rooted in the PGM, it is critical.
Is there an alternative?
So, the question is; is there an alternative to incense available?
The obvious answer that occurred to me was aromatherapy. The olfactory benefits of aromatherapy for the mind, body and soul are legion and I am not going to cover them in any depth here. Needless to say, the same benefits to mind space imparted by incense are also being created by the burning of oils.
The other effects of incense are also clearly present when using modern electric diffusers, so long as you are open to having electronics directly involved in your ritual and you are able to balance the placement of the diffuser with the placement of the mirror, which is in of itself sometimes very difficult.
Whilst I am personally not averse to the electronics being present but I don’t already own a diffuser and I am not inspired to the expense. I do have a number of incense burners around the house however, so it made sense to me to use a traditional candle-based burner. With a bit of mental gymnastics around the rising of heat I am able to consider both the olfactory and rising communication purposes of incense covered, leaving my ability to enter deep meditation and maintain soft focus to carry the day.
Based on this I’ve had an oil bend infusing for the last moon – a combination of oils and herbs using virgin olive oil as a carrier. It combines frankincense and myrrh as two scents traditionally used in ancient religion for scent and oil-based offerings, serving as catch-all scents regardless of the godly context, with herbs and oils which aid in mental focus, divination and connection with the spirit world such as Mugwort, lemongrass and rose. It isn’t what you would call a recognised recipe but a combination of what was in the cupboard and listening to when the ancestors said stop. I do have a note of what was used and roughly to quantities/proportions, but I wouldn’t like to swear to be ever able to replicate it perfectly again in the future.
I am results driven, and will now undertake the praxis outlined by Jason’s course and develop my scrying skills as part of that. I am fairly certain that something will come of it as in my initial foray I found that things were starting to move energetically, but whether it will be as effective using an oil burner and this blend remains to be seen. My aim is to start building my scrying muscles using a small black mirror before expanding to using other crystals and objects that I have at my disposal.
My other aim in undertaken this practice is part of my New Year’s resolution to try and get out of bed earlier in the morning. I am still working from home (thanks COVID) and I have fallen into bad habits. I’m going to make this a morning ritual which fits in around the morning routine of the rest of the household – though it will mean the other half will not be able to come back to bed like he has been doing. The sacrifices we have to make…
Modern Letter: ST
Ruler of the Dark Half of the Year
Oct 31st to April 30th
Straif indicates that the maxim “The best laid plans of mice and men…” is relevant to your situation. Any plans which you have attempted to lay out will be subject to unavoidable change. External forces may tear your plans to their foundations in unexpected and surprising ways. These changes and obstacles are unavoidable but overcoming them brings strength and resilience. Clinging to old ways and negative patterns will only delay the process and make it more painful. It is necessary to accept change to be able to move one, to be able to be reborn.
Common names: blackthorn, sloe
Scientific name: Prunus spinosa
Blackthorn is a native to the British hedgerow, though it is found throughout Europe and western Asia. The tree grows well in scrub, preferring well-drained soil and sunlight so has thrived when transplanted to New Zealand and North America.
A mature blackthorn, which can be as old as 100 years, grows to a height of 6-7m, developing a dense and spiny canopy which protects their autumn fruits. The bark is dark brown and smooth, with straight side shoots developing into purple/black thorns along smaller twigs and branches.
Blackthorn leaves are toothed ovals, pointed at the tip and tapered towards the base but it is best known by its small white flowers, which appear before them in March/April. Once pollinated the flowers develop into blue-black fruit, known as slopes, which are ready to gather in late October / early November.
Planet: Mars, Saturn
Themes: Protection and Revenge, Strife and Negativity, Balance
Stone: Black Opal, agate, bloodstone
Color: White, Black, Red
Deity: Morrigan, Cailleach
Straif Straif StraifSuggested Galdur
Sssss Traaai Ffff Sssss Traaa Ffff
Ss Sss Sss Traiii Ffff
Straif Straif Straif
Write the name of a person or situation you seek protection from and wrap it around three thorns. Tie the bundle with red thread and bury the charm, ideally at the base of the tree from which the thorns were collected.
Include the dried wood, thorns and soles in incense for rituals of purification. To have a vision of the Wild Hunt circle the Samhain fire three times and throw this incense into the flames. Stare into the smoke for your vision. Alternatively, add blackthorn wood to your Yule fire to hail the return of the sun and the banishment of winter.
Include thorns and dried soles in spell pouches for added protection from negativity and positive influence.
Mythology and Literature
Most of the mythological associations of Blackthorn lie within Celtic and Galic traditions. Goddesses associated with the waning aspects, such as the Cailleach, Morrighan and Beira, are associated with Blackthorn. These goddesses are sometimes depicted as carrying a staff or stang made of blackthorn wood.
Blackthorn has a long association with the practice of witchcraft, both in baneful and beneficial magical practice. For example Blackthorn was the preferred material for ‘blasting rods’ – a wand tipped by thorns and inscribed with the Thurisaz rune used for cursing. Thorns have been found stuck into poppets, as opposed to pins, and have an association with the way the Devil sealed his deals.
In the Irish legend, the Pursuit of Diarmaid and Grainne, Sadhbh eats sloe berries becoming pregnant and eventually giving birth to a son. Her son was born with a lump on his head which turned out to be a serpent. This serpent was later killed in sacrifice for another man, a theme which is repeated in The Sword of Oscar. Another theme associated with blackthorn is protection and proving oneself. This is best seen in the tale of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ where it is blackthorn that forms an impenetrable bramble which protects the castle and its inhabitants which the prince must cut through in order to prove himself worth of the princess within.
The wind is cold, the Spring seems long a-waking;
The woods are brown and bare;
Yet this is March: soon April will be making
All things most sweet and fair.
See, even now, in hedge and thicket tangled,
One brave and cheering sight:
The leafless branches of the Blackthorn, spangled
With starry blossoms white!The Song of the Blackthorn Fairy
Cicely Mary Barker
Sources and Further Reading
Its official – I’ve been blogging for eight years straight. Given my patchy transmission for the last month or so I want to give it a passing nod and use it as an opportunity to reorient at least my schedual, if not my focus as well.
2020 and 2021 has not been conducive to my blogging style. I was, prior to Coronavirus, a seasoned commuter and I lot of my writing during the time I was on, or waiting for, my bus and kids. Now my bus journeys are short, off peak afairs. The lack of long waits in rush hour traffic time have really cut into my social media search, with was a fertile ground for topics as well as a good opportunity to do the writing as well.
Thats not to say I’ve not done some writing, but the mental hurdals to be overcome are big ones. My home computer is located in the same place as my work one and even the thought of siting at it during the weekend is not an attractive one. On top of that I’ve been relayed on my contributions to my local moon, which finally ended up in the long term, formulaic feeling Ogham posts. I’m also likely to end up doing similar Rune posts, starting some time in 2022. I’ll be honest, they are boring to post. Im going to try and “spice” things up with the runes by leaving some of the research book based and needing to be added in person before live posting.
I will still try and mix things up and intersperse them with other things, like posts about Hekate, crochet and thoughts about events I attend (inperson or virtual) because its not that Ive done nothing – I’ve been regularlly sitting in on the Ronald Hutton Lecture Series, as well as other interesting talks hosted by the Last Tuesday Society, so I will start posting reflections as they occur.
I am taking something that happened yesterday as a good sign. Saturday morning, seemingly out of nowhere a silver sixpence from the reign of King George V appeared on our bedroom floor with no explination of where it came from.
The only explanation we could come up with at the time was that one of our parents gave it to us when we got married but both sets say they didn’t (as well as make comments about my house keeping being a little behind hand seen as though that was 15 years ago) but that still wouldnt explain how it had appeared randomly in the midde of the room one day.
It is topical as a couple of days before I’d been watching an episode of They Got Away With Murder on the death of George V, and it also gave me a reason to reread Keeping a Crooked Sixpence: Coin Magic and Religion in the Colonial Chesapeake by Sara Rivers Cofield, which I skimmed when researching Henry Harrison.
I’m going to treat this little find as a token of good luck and protection so I’ve placed it somewhere it can do some good.
In other news I am still a crafty witch. I’ve been unsuccessfully experimenting with tapestry crochet so I have moved on to combining crochet and cross stitch.
This was intended to be a zipped pouch but I am in half a mind to turn it into a wall handing but thats a decision for another day.
I won’t be posting again until after Yule and Christmas so however you are planning to mark the season may it be merry and bring much happiness.
Modern Letter: Ng
Ruler of the 12th Lunar Month
28th October – 24th November
After a period of chaos it is necessary to draw out order once more and the appearance of Ngetal draws attention to this. You need to draw on your leadership abilities and skills in order to rebuild what was destroyed but you are in a good place to get everything back on track. Things may be a little bumpy at first but if you are proactive and think before you act you will succeed, particularly if you avoid distractions. Any lessons that you learn during this process will be just as important as the eventual outcome. These truths are as relevant to your mundane life as they are to the spiritual, the degree of your intent will define your success.
Common name(s): common reed
Scientific name: Phragmites australis
Reeds are a common form of grass/sedge that form the British wetlands, forming an important habitat for a range of birds such as the Bittern and Marsh Harrier. Common reeds grow from a creeping rhizome (underground stems) to form extensive redness with reeds growing up to 4m in height.
Common reeds stems are hollow and golden in colour, throwing purple feathery flowers which turn brown and spiky in august to October. Reed has been a favourite thatching material for roofing homes in the south of England. When well managed (either for reasons of ecology or for building material) there is little risk to them but they can quickly be overcome by scrub and then turn to woodland if left. Other uses for reeds over time includes as arrow shafts and as a form of musical instrument, particularly flutes and pipes. Reeds were also used to separate and beat threads in preparation for weaving.
Planet: Venus, Sun, Pluto
Themes: Adaptability, versatility, positive action, patience
Stone: Black obsidian
Birds: Geese, kingfisher
Deity: Coventina, Morrigan, Rhiannon, Manannan Mac Lir, Poseidon, Pwyll
Ngetal Ngetal NgetalSuggested Galdur
Nnnn Geeet Alll Nnnn Geeet Alll
Nnn Nnnn Geeet Alll
Ngetal Ngetal Ngetal
Use the stems of rush grasses to weave a Brighids Cross of St Brides Eve (31st January) and hang it over your door from the 1st February for a year of good luck and full blessings.
Make music using a reed whistle or pipes to summon the fae to your rituals
Find a flowering reed-mace (bull rush) stem with a green top and good luck will be sure to follow.
Mythology and Literature
The reed is strongly connected with the celtic story teller, and by extension the Welsh bard. They bear the tale of the bard, figuratively in the form of the song that instruments made from the stem and literally in the case of Taliesin. In ‘the Book of Taliesin’ the magical child was found floating in a basket of woven reeds in the same was that Moses was found in the bullrushes.
Reeds were also associated with wisdom and scholarship, as well as power, due to the way they were used. Reed stems were used to make early pens and stylus’, inextricably linked with writing, reading and the power and knowledge that these bring.
Reeds were the underworld thanks to their deep root systems and the eerie music which they produce thanks to the wind. In addition to deities like Pluto and Hades reeds are associated with the God Pan. ‘Pan-pipes’ made from reed stems which were known as Syrinx, named for the beautiful nymph that Pan fell in love with and perused. In her attempts to escape his attentions she begged the spirits of the River Landon to save her and they did so by turning her into a bed of Reeds. Mournfully Pan gathered some of the reeds and created the first set of pan-pipes to enable him to imitate the song of the reed bed which reminded him of his lost love.
The family of reedsWatchers of the Wetlands – by Scott B. Stewart
watch over the wetlands.
Standing-tall sentries of rivers, lakes and ponds
blessed by the omnipresent hands
of our dear Goddess, who cares for them all:
her reeds, rushes and cattails
which thrive along swamps.
The Celts have long-honored
these most unique of plants
which make music in the wind
and most gracefully bend.
Sources and Further Reading
November 2021 has proved to be a patchy one for blogging; the world is slowly opening up and life is getting busier. Amongst the things that have kept me away from the keyboard we have a weekend away and a trip to accident and emergency with a sprained knee. One of the more pleasant distractions involved the Light for Leeds interfaith event, where I manned the Paganism stall for the third year, 2020 not withstanding. I enjoy it every year, and this year’s theme was an elemental one for us Pagans, being focused on the environment. I even played up to the roll, wearing my “Green Woman” dress and jewelry though it was all hidden under my big autumn coloured cardigan. Another reason I enjoy the day is the conversation.
I am usually an incidental face at interfaith events but Light for Leeds is an exception where I hang around the stand for the full session. I’m not fully free to mingle thanks to wanting to leave the pointy ritual tools unattended but everyone is so friendly and more numerous and more than happy to approach me directly. The conversation is definitely welcome, but it is often enlightening and thought provoking, giving me the opportunityt to learn new things and review my own journey with Interfaith and what draws me to being involved.
Discussing the misunderstandings
My first draw is that it allows me to discuss misconceptions about Paganism with people who may never have met, or realised they have met, a modern pagan. Watching the transformation in people who walked towards me timidly and whisper questions like “isnt it all *satanic*?” is rewarding. More often then not they end up leaving with a smile of their face, realising that its isnt quite what Hollywood would have them believe and having found some nugget of belief that strongly resonates with their own and that is highly rewarding. It also brings me to the next draw…
Recognise the similarities, celebrate the differences
Interfaith events always present the opportunity to remind myself that Paganism shares a great deal with all the major religions. The reasons for the similarities are varied, representing both a cross pollination, both modern and ancient, but also a shared social and political landscape in the modern era. There are differences, of course, but different does not universily equate to “bad” and some of those differences are worth celebrating and recognising and valid, worthy and perhaps something we all should be aspiring to.
Taking the time to see the good in every faith builds bridges and mends the rents torn in society by acts of terror and bigotry. Not all adherents of a faith or belief can be seen ambassadors of such but participating in interfaith gives us the opportunity to remember that the vocal and destructive few do not represent the many within their faith.
A journey full circle
And on to the third reason – my own healing journey. I was brought up in a Christian household, regularly attending first a C of E and then Methodist church from birth to my mid teens. My journey to Paganism involved a number of factors, such as searching for the feminine principle in my faith as well as a closer connection with nature and the landscape, but was also informed by how I saw fellow members of the congregation failed to practice the qualities which they professed when out of sight of the pulpit. I was significantly unimpressed at the way that those who became ill, be that physically or mentally, were dropped and ostracized by a previously apparently supportive community and my immature reaction to seeing someone’s name being apparently forgotten because they were no longer ‘useful’ was to damn the faith universally.
Maturity brings personal development. Whilst I still hold many of those individuals in contempt for those actions I no longer hold the faith at large responsible; nor do I assume that someone professing those same beliefs will behave in the same way by default. It has also brought me the opportunities to revisit conversations with family members and attempt to show them that I have undertaken personal growth, despite not having returned to the church of my youth as they would prefer me to.
One of the catalysts for this development was having children. I may not have been planning to take them to church myself I did intent to make sure they had the knowledge and freedom to make their own choices as they grow to maturity. It started as encouraging family to take my children to church with them and by ensuring that they fully participated in faith based activities in school. This grew to bring open to representing my own faith/belief within the school setting (being Pagan is about the only thing that makes me the cool mum), supported by having friends in the Pagan community of a like mind and deeply involved in local interfaith themselves.
My own journey with infterfaith has not entirely reached full circle, mainly for a lack of free time rather than free will, but it is one of healing -and that seemed to be the theme for those I spoke to about their involvement in interfaith. Sometimes it is the healing of self, or that of the local community and even of the wider world but regardless of the scope the theme remained.
Modern Letter: G
Ruler of the 11th Lunar Month
30th September – 27th October
In divination Gort refers to spreading growth and wandering, the search for the self and inner soul. Just as the roots of the Ivy extend into the ground in search of nourishment and its vines extend to the light above so we seek nourishment and enlightenment. Look inward for self development and outward for spiritual companionship with like minded individuals as this is no time to tackle things on your own. The group mind can bring joy and assistance on your spiritual journey just as it can assist yours.
Common name(s): ivy, common ivy, Atlantic ivy, English ivy
Scientific name: Hedera helix
Ivy is an evergreen climber which uses specialised hairs growing along the stem to help is support its progress, which can be up to 30 meters in height. Though mature Ivy can be self-supporting it most often grows along trees and walls. With a separate root systems ivy causes little to no damage to the host tree, indeed as it prefers wet environments there is enough food and water to go around. Ivy generally grows out as a spiral/helix and generally is hard to get rid of.
The leaves of ivy are dark green and glossy with pale veins. Mature leaves are oval or heart shaped whilst juvenile leaves have 3-5 lobes. Mature plants will produce yellowish green domes of flowers which turn in the black, berry-like fruits in clusters.
Planet: Moon, Saturn
Themes: Fidelity and Fertility, Protection, Healing
Birds: Lark, mute swan, swallow
Deity: Dionysus, Bacchus, Ariadne, Artemis, Arianrhod, Pasiphae, Osiris
Gort Gort GortSuggested Galdur
Gooo Ooort Gooo Ooort
Go Go Gooo Ooort
Gort Gort Gort
Ivy allowed to grow along the walls and boundaries of your home will bring protection and positivity to the residents.
Place an ivy leaf in a saucer of water on New Years Eve and dent look at it until the evening of the Twelfth Night. If it remains green the year ahead will filled with good fortune but if it turns black then misfortune will visit you.
Bind together a twig of ivy (female) and a twig (male) with red thread to make a love talisman to bring fidelity and good luck to a newly married couple.
Place ten ivy leaves under your pillow on Samhain Eve to dream of your future spouse.
Mythology and Literature
The Druids considered Ivy to be the feminine companions to Holly, bringing balance and wisdom to the masculine aspects of protective Holly. Ivy can be found growing amongst the branches of established holly trees, using its strong branches as a frame along which to grow. Some considered ivy to be a symbol if rebirth given its ability to regrow after being cut back.
In Greek mythology Ivy was associated with Dionysus, and was shown as wound around his Thyrsus, a scepter made of a stout hollow fennpe stem topped with a pine cone. His worshipers considered to be an antidote to his revals if worn as a woven crown.
Oh, a dainty plant is the Ivy green,The Ivy Green, Charles Dickens
That creepeth o’er ruins old!
Of right choice food are his meals, I ween,
In his cell so lone and cold.
The wall must be crumbled, the stone decayed,
To pleasure his dainty whim:
And the mouldering dust that years have made
Is a merry meal for him.
Creeping where no life is seen,
A rare old plant is the Ivy green.
Sources and Further Reading
Modern Letter: M
Ruler of the 10th Lunar Month
September 2nd – September 29th
In divination Muin advises a moment of pause to assess what is about to come. If you are about to speak on a matter be sure that you speak truthfully, now is not a time to seek to be populist at the expense of the truth. Utilise all your senses and intuition to ensure that you are open to all possible information, signs and omens to inform your way forward. Not everything will make sense straight away but bear it in mind as you plan ahead. By doing so you are laying the foundation of a fruitful outcome to lessen your burdens. If you have had a period of depression, or simply need time and space to recover the Bramble offers an abundance of natures defence, the thorn, though be mindful not to restrict yourself in the grasping canes and stunt your future growth.
In Ogham the vine and bramble are used interchangeably – this is in part due to the evolutionary nature of Ogham. Grape bearing vines are not native to the British Isles and Ireland and whilst the concept of wine was introduced as early as the Iron Age as a traded commodity there is no evidence that the vines themselves came across at that time. Street names like Vine Street appearing centrally in large city like London suggests that vines were present by the Norman Conquest, perhaps earlier given that it is Vine that is associated with Muin in later writings on the Ogham. For more in this please visit English Wine History
Give that it is native and abundant I am going to focus on Bramble as it is something we are more likely to encounter in our woodland walks.
Common name: Blackbery
Scientific name: Rubus fruticosus
The Bramble, commonly known by the blackbery fruit that it bears, grows abundantly in all parts of the British Isles. It is an especially hardy plant, often found strongly rooted amongst hedges and shrubs which it uses to support its strong canes. It thrives in areas which are running neglected, and are often perceived as weeds as they are resistant to pruning and its sharp thorns can be problematic to children and animals.
The leaves of the bramble are usually oval in shape and divided into three or five serrated portions, appearing dark green on top whilst being paler underneath. Clusters of small white/pink flowers appear in spring to early summer which then turn into a small green fruit which ripens through red and purple to black. The berry is divided into many drupelets (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drupe) in which the seeds reside. The gathering of blackberries is an autumnal delight and it is a firm favourite of foragers, being perfect for jams, jellies, syrups and other sweet treats.
Planet: Venus / Moon
Themes: Healing, Protection, Abundance, Wealth
Birds: White swan
Deity: Brighid, the Tuatha de’Danaan
Muin Muin MuinSuggested Galdur
Muuuu Innn Muuuu Innn
Mu Mu Muuuu Innn
Muin Muin Muin
Burn a small handful of dried blackberry leaves as incense in rituals for attracting wealth and good fortune.
Carry a small piece of blackberry cane, stripped of its thorns and bark, as a touch-charm against poverty. This charm is best harvested during the autumn equinox or during the August full moon. Alternatively, keep a blackberry cane by your altar to aid in grounding.
Use flexible green brambles in binding spells or weave several prickly canes to hang in your home as a form of protection charm. Include Rowan and Ivy to protect against bad spirits and I’ll wishes. Alternatively encourage brambles to grow along your boundaries to benefit from their protective qualities.
Blackberries make a simple feast to be shared as part of rituals involving the fae.
Mythology and Literature
Most traditions associated with brambles revolve around when the blackberry fruits should and shouldn’t be eaten. For example, in many areas of Britain it was traditional to ensure that the first fruits, or at least some fruit, were left to the fairies. It was believed that to gather that which was due to the fairies would result in the rest of the fruit spoiling quickly. Even if this isn’t true, blackberries are an important pre winter fruit for many birds so it is advisable to be careful in how much is gathered.
On the other hand there is also a legend advising on when to stop gathering blackberries, this time blending old wives wisdom with Christianity. This links the rebellion and fall of Lucifer, and subsequent elevation of the Archangel Michael, with the end of blackberry season with Lucifer falling into a bramble patch when thrown from heaven.
“Lucifer battled to free himself from the brambles and was so angry with the plant that he spat into it – some even say he urinated in it to show his contempt. Now, Lucifer’s name of Shining One has changed to Satan – which means ‘enemy or adversary’ and the blackberries are no longer worth eating after the day when Michael became the chief Archangel in heaven – Michaelmas Day”
Whether you date Michaelmas as the 29th September or by the older date of 10th October it is true that by this time of year blackberries are well past their prime. They turn quite bitter, thanks to the increasing levels of tannin in the fruit, and have been food for various animals and insects so are no longer pleasant to eat.
My berries cluster black and thickThe Song of the Blackberry Fairy – Cicely Mary Barker
For rich and poor alike to pick.
I’ll tear your dress, and cling, and tease,
And scratch your hands and arms and knees.
I’ll stain your fingers and your face,
And then I’ll laugh at your disgrace.
But when the bramble-jelly’s made,
You’ll find your trouble well repaid.
Sources and Further Reading
Hekate is a Goddess with many aspects and roles in mythology and some of these are so overpowering that others can get lost in the glare of belief that ancient culture was an homogenous whole. One example of this is her role as a Goddess alone, virgin and (by extension) unwed and unfettered by attachment to any male be they God or Mortal but on closer inspection this is not actually the case. Hekate is found connected with two males; one mortal and one Titan, with whom she is variously described as consort and wife as well as mother to various children by them. Who are these beings and how do they relate to a Goddess often perceived to be an eternal maiden and virgin goddess alone?
The monstrous titan God Phorkys (Phorcys) was the ancient personification of the hidden dangers of the deep sea. He is sometimes described as being “the old man of the sea” and who, according to Homer, was honoured at the harbour of Ithaca in attempt ensure the safe passage of shipping. Depicted as a grey haired, fish tailed deity with crab-claw like forelegs in addition to human hands he is father of many monster including the Gorgones, Ekhidna and Drakon-Ladon with his sister consort, Keto.
It is through Keto, who herself is also the Goddess of the dangers of the sea, specifically sea monsters, whales and large sharks, that the connection between Hekate and Phorkys is born. One of Keto’s epithets is Kratais, and it is one which is shared with Hekate. It with Kratais that Phorkys fathered Skylla, a nymph who would become the many headed monster of Straits of Messina. We get this parentage from three sources. In fragmentary references included in later commentaries by both Acusilaus and Eustathius of Thessalonica in the discussion of Homeric epics of the Iliad and Odyssey, where both refer to the mother of Skylla as Kratais Hecate but there are a number of other parentages offered which include Hekate but not necessarily Phorkys. In a further attempt to reconcile the confusion Apollonius Rhodius suggests that Kratais is another name given to Hekate on a regional basis.
…sail too close Skylla’s disgusting hiding place – deadly Ausonian Skylla, whom Hekate, that night wanderer known as Kratais, once bore to Phorkys – lest with horrible jaws agape she spring on them and destroy the pick of the heroes…lines 827-831, Book IV of the Argonautika, Apollonios Rhodios, trans. Peter Green
It is open to question as to whether Kratais is a pseudonym of Hekate, Keto or is a separate Goddess in her own right however it is clear that there is a connection between this character and the dangerous and living depths of the ancient oceans. She is a being of great strength and might whom by a son of the Ocean and Earth, bore a mighty monster who still echoes in the landscapes in Greece today.
Another semi divine figure associated with Hekate is the Witch-King of Kolkhis Aeetes, son of the solar God Helios by the Okeanid-nymph Perseis. This parentage makes him a half sibling to a number of great characters, including the King of Tauric Khersonese Perses, Witch-Queen and mother of the Minotaur Pasiphae and the Witch-Goddess of Aiaia, Circe amongst many, many others. Aeetes is not the nicest of characters within Green Mythology and Epics, despite being prominent as the father of Medea. He, along with his brother Perses, are awarded the description of “exceedingly cruel” by Diodorus Siculus, and it is from this same Greek historian that we have an alternatively family history;
“We are told, that is, that Helius had two sons, Aeëtes and Perses, Aeëtes being king of Colchis and the other king of the Tauric Chersonese, and that both of them were exceedingly cruel. And Perses had a daughter Hecatê, who surpassed her father in boldness and lawlessness; she was also fond of hunting, and with she had no luck she would turn her arrows upon human beings instead of the beasts. Being likewise ingenious in the mixing of deadly poisons she discovered the drug called aconite and tried out the strength of each poison by mixing it in the food given to the strangers. And since she possessed great experience in such matters, she first of all poisoned her father and so succeeded to the throne, and then, founding a temple of Artemis and commanding that strangers who landed there should be sacrificed to the goddess, she became known far and wide for her cruelty. After this she married Aeëtes and bore two daughters, Circê and Medea, and a son Aegialeus.”Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History Book IV
To try and make this more succinct; according to Diodorus Hecate is the daughter of Perses, son of Helios and brother of Aeetes, and only marries Aeetes after poisoning her father, after which she had three children by him including Circe, Medea and the ill-fated Aegialeus.
In this telling it might be inferred that Hekate is mortal rather than a goddess, and this is where we enter the realms of the Tauri Princess. The Tauri were a group of people living on the southern coast of the Crimea peninsula and into the Crimean Mountains, a narrow strip of land between the mountains and the Black Sea. These people were known for worshiping a singular virgin Goddess, sometimes identified as Artemis, through human sacrifice. This virgin Goddess is also linked to Hekate through the transformed princess Iphigenia, a Myceane princess transformed into a Goddess by Artemis at the moment of her sacrifice.
Bekah Evie Bel suggests that this may indicate that Diodorus was attempting to morph myth into historical record, trying to reconcile the history of human sacrifice amongst the Tauri with the sacrificed Iphigenia becoming Hekate through divine metamorphose, with Artemis being the Goddess who receives the sacrifice.
Whether Aeetes can truly be counted as the consort of divine Hekate is very much open to interpretation but does give an interesting alternative lineage to Medea and Circe, which will take us neatly into a post about Hekate’s Children in a few weeks time.