It is Autumn here in England. For me, Autumn is when the trees start shedding their leaves. They do this because they are getting less light. This is because the Earth rotates on its axis as well as rotating around the sun and the part of the sphere I am currently living on is slowly rotating away from the sun.

However, that is the scientific reason. I confess that I would prefer there to be an occult reason, but I have not yet found one that fits with my beliefs. I have heard the one about the Oak King and the Holly King fighting for dominance and Brigit giving way to The Cailleach, but it just doesn’t ring true for me.

When I became Pagan, many books I read stated that this was the season that plants started dying. No, they don’t. Farmers will confirm that there are crops which are farmed at winter, for example winter barley. Any gardener will tell you that some plants have foliage all year round. Grass lives all year round and can be found under the snow.

Hello Again

Apologies for the enforced absence; we had computer problems as the router slowly died of old age and we decided to change providers and get a new router for free.

This took a while and during that time I celebrated the Winter Equinox by wassailing the guardian trees of my neighbourhood. I am sad to say that the one which was my estate’s has been cut down. However, another one has taken its place.

January saw me do my usual clearout; I went through all my documents, letters and files on the computer and stored on CDs. I also cleared out my mobile phone of numbers I hadn’t used for a long time.

I was going to celebrate Imbolc, but my son was sick that day and even though he napped as usual in the afternoon I did not want to be doing a ritual and worrying that he would wake up and throw up in the middle of it. I felt I couldn’t give the proper attention necessary for that ritual, so nixed it.

I did renew my house protections and made a new Brigid’s cross to put over the house door. The old one goes up in the attic to protect from fire and lightning.

Cursed Places

There have always been places that are cursed : trees which the locals go past at a run, rivers that are known to take a life.

There’s a bridge over the railway line that I used to walk through twice a day. I have never seen it with graffiti on and there have been a number of nasty incidents, including one where a mentally ill woman set herself on fire in the toilet of the train she was travelling in as it was coming into my town and unfortunately died.

I have been advised to do a cleansing, but will have to do my tarot reading beforehand to see what exactly the problem is, as I have never dealt with anything such as this, but do not want incidents such as the above to happen in my town.

Getting Out

While I don’t hold with only observing the natural world and not reading books, it’s good to get out and about in nature and be able to identify some of the species you read about.

It would be good to be able to identify all local species; but this takes time, practice and a lot of looking at books. Plus some seemingly “wild” plants are garden escapes like Honesty and Oregon Grape, which I spent a lot of time trying to find in books about wild plants.

A friend came round yesterday and we walked through the woods to the pub. He’s seriously sporty, so for him it was a pleasant stroll, whereas for us it was a bit more of a challenge.

Just going through the old wood and seeing all the different shapes of trees which you don’t get where woods have been managed (this one wasn’t for a long time) was beautiful and something you cannot observe in books, where they show the bog-standard shape of the tree.

There are quite a few wild cherry trees and I was going to come back and harvest the fruit but it’s really bitter this summer; possibly not enough sun or something at the moment, so I’ll try again next year.

Worshipping Trees

It’s coming up to the Winter Solstice when trees are wassailed (it was when I originally wrote this, but unfortunately I have been ill) so I thought I’d write a piece on worshipping trees.

In the past the Irish tribes had a tree for their tribe, which I have. The tree represents the health and the strength of the tribe, so it’s important to choose a good tree. Traditional types of tree chosen include oak, ash and yew. Sometimes one tribe would cut another tribe’s tree down to insult them. The tribe would then choose a new tree.

Trees guard and look after areas of land or peoples. They are a long-lived plant which belongs to all the Celtic realms of earth, sea and sky.

Odds n Ends

It’s been a long time since I wrote anything for this blog. This is because I was going to write up what I did at the Winter Solstice, then I fell ill with a diarrhoea bug and wasn’t well enough to look at a computer until a couple of days ago.

The Winter Solstice passed well, with my husband and myself making a libation to all the guardian trees around our area and our tribal tree. The libation was the last of my sloe gin. We returned home and ate some spicy biscuits I’d cooked for the festival.

I also managed to make a place for Eochaid in our car. Eochaid is the Irish deity of horses, so it makes sense he’d want a place in our car. My husband found a drawing on the net of a horse which was rearing up because of lightning. I copied it out onto a card which we’ve put in the car.

Meetings with Remarkable Trees by Thomas Pakenham

Meetings with Remarkable Trees by Thomas Pakenham

I’ve wanted to get this book for years, as I thought I’d missed out on something by not buying it when it came out and I was glad when it turned up in a National Trust gift shop. Unfortunately when I got it I found that it is just a coffee-table book with no real substance behind it. A lot of the trees are outside the British Isles and Ireland, which makes travelling to see them problematic.

The photos of the trees are fantastic, but I don’t think it’s worth paying for this book – it’s one to get from the library or get someone to buy you as a birthday present.

It’s that Time of the Year Again…

It’s that time of the year when I hit the books hard.  You’re probably thinking something like “eh? but it’s nice and sunny out there, what’s she doing reading books?”

It’s the time of the year when flowers start growing and trees are starting to put on leaves.  The ash trees haven’t come out yet, but the river birches are way ahead of them and the horse chestnuts are finishing putting on leaves.

This is the time of the year when I start cracking open my identification books.  Or if I can’t find the plant or tree or bird or animal or insect in my books, I look in the library’s books.

So many pagans are what I call “Commercial Pagans”.  If they can buy it, or go on courses about it, then they will do it.  What they will not do is do any actual work for it.  And then you get pagans who are unable to name more than two or three leaves of eighteen common trees in their area, plus one uncommon one.  I had this experience when I put up a drawing of nineteen different leaves on a British forum several years ago.  The only person who was able to name more than four was a druid, who got all of them except the poplar.

Knowing the land you live on and knowing the flora and fauna that grow on it and the animals, birds and insects that live off it is, in my opinion, one of the most important things a pagan can do.  And yet so many don’t want to bother with anything they can’t easily pick up and have now, which is why there are so many pagans and witches who don’t get beyond the basics because it’s too difficult for them, or they’re “too busy”, which means that they can’t be bothered.

Identification is only the first step.  Then there’s the lore of the land, what certain trees putting out leaves before other trees mean and knowing what plants and trees to use for what.  It’s a long process which I have only just started, and this is what I meant in the introduction to this blog that you cannot just read one book and become a pagan or a witch, it takes study and hard work.  But it’s really worth it.

Talking to Trees

A large part of my path is working with trees.  I do this because I’m the sort of person who is drawn to trees and manages to speak with them with little or no difficulty.  One of the best things in the world is to sit at the roots of a tree in a hot summer day and talk to it.

I have a Common Alder that I go by twice a day on my way to work and talk to.  One evening I found a branch down at the foot of the alder.  This was obviously a gift from it, but I checked all round the alder (which is only ten feet tall) and could see no marks from a branch being either torn or cut from it.

In some books people are advised to talk to trees by imagining the sap inside it.  Whatever you do, do not do this.  I was at a gathering where this was being done, and the poor tree was in agony from strangers poking at its insides.  I psychically built a brick wall around and above it to seal the tree off from humans.  I don’t know if this is permanent as I don’t live in the area, but it was a quick fix in an emergency situation.

The best way to talk to trees is to first find a tree that you like.  It doesn’t matter what the reason is that you like it, but it’s best to start off with a tree which you will want to visit.

Then just say “hello” to it.  If you can, sit at its roots and read or have a picnic and basically spend some time with it.  At first, you may not get any response at all.  The alder I mentioned previously took two to three weeks to start communicating back and that was with me saying “hello” to it twice a day on my way to and from work.

I have found that trees which grow in public places to be easier to communicate with, as they spend more time with humans.  One London Plane in Aylesbury dropped a bit of its bark on me to get my attention!

Don’t try and communicate with a tree which has lost its leaves, as it will be going to sleep for the Winter and conserving its strength and resources to get through that time.  But when the tree has leaf buds out it will be waking up for the Spring and any time between then and when it starts losing its leaves is a good time to start to communicate with it.

I have found that trees that grow on land you own are most friendly and open to communication, but trees growing wild or in forests are difficult to communicate with as they have not had much experience with humans.

Plant Spirit Wisdom by Ross Heaven

Ross Heaven starts the book off badly with a lot of things which are culled from that well-known faker Iolo Morganwg and clearly a whole lot of rubbish.  Five pages in and I was wanting to be sick.

Fifteen pages later and I found that the number of things the author manages to ignore are amazing.  For example, he talks of an Irish world tree and names an oak called (according to him) Crom Bile as the Irish world tree.  There are several named trees in the Irish texts and the ones I know are oak, ash and yew.  So the oak tree alone was not venerated as the Irish world tree as various tribes had their own tree, for example the Yew of Ross.  But that’s a lot less convenient than having a single type of tree as the Irish world tree.

At several points he says the name of a tree is X in Celtic and goes on to mention an Irish or Welsh name.  Since he can’t even differentiate between Irish gaelige and Welsh what he writes is seriously suspect.  He also says that the Celtic name for rowan is luis, which actually means “flame” in Irish gaelige and does not mean rowan.  He got luis from the Irish ogham, where rowan is associated with luis.  Scholarship, what scholarship?

I managed to get through twenty pages of this book before it got too much and had to put it down.  I paid £1 to the local library to get this pile of neo-pagan claptrap, and £1 is too expensive. Avoid, avoid, avoid this book at all costs.  Even if you get this book for nothing it’s really not worth the time spent reading this rubbish.

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