23 Dec 2013

Ivy for Yule


If it ever stops raining I will go into the garden and get some ivy to decorate the table for a little family party tomorrow. I love the way the subtle colours of the leaves stay fresh and bright right through the winter. No wonder that for my British ancestors it was one of the most powerfully magical plants, used to guard against negative influences in and around the home. I used its Celtic name - Gort - for a character in one of my children's books The Moontree, which is set around the time of the winter solstice. I hope to re-edit this book in the new year and get it up on Kindle.

In the Celtic Tree alphabet, Gort, with its trailing and twisting stems, is connected with the never-ending spiral of the inward and outward spiritual journey. Around the time of the Winter Solstice our hearts and minds turn inward, to hearth, home, family and roots. One of the ways that we access the inner world of our own psyche is through our dreams, but my own dreams are lying fallow at the moment. I am rocked through the dark nights by the powerful roar of the wind in the trees, as if I am sailing in a small night journeying boat, like Iggle Piggle. It's certainly snug under my yak wool blanket! Season's greetings everyone and see you in the New Year.

Soul Journal
What would it mean if you dreamed of ivy? What does ivy mean to you?
Write about a memory of ivy - maybe on an old building, or growing up a favourite tree.

29 Nov 2013

Hooded Thing Knitting Pattern for Children (and grown-ups...)!


This is a knitting pattern for children - and grown-ups!

These little Hooded Things are finger puppets. They are quite easy to knit. I have some hiding in my shrubbery!
Have you read My Friend Annis yet? If you have you will know what happens when Milly Dixon sees the Hooded Things. If not then....
  
Remember
Ask a grown up to help you if you get stuck. And never use sharp things like scissors and needles without asking first.
You will need
Knitting needles about 3 to 4.5mm in size. The bigger your needles the bigger your hooded thing will be.
Oddments of DK yarn in grey or black
Darning needle
Scissors
Abbreviations
DK      double knitting yarn
k knit
k2tog  knit two stitches together to make one
Body
Cast on 14 stitches
Knit 17 rows in garter stitch
k2tog at each end of the next 5 rows (4 stitches left)
Cut off the yarn leaving a long piece attached for sewing up your hooded thing.
Use the darning needle to thread this yarn back through your remaining four stitches so they don’t unravel. Now take them off the knitting needle.
The black hooded things are taller, so knit 21 rows of garter stitch before you begin to decrease. They are more dangerous than the grey ones because you can't see them in the dark.
Eyes
Choose a different colour yarn for the eyes.
Sew the eyes using one chain stitch for each eye. Ask your own granny how to do this. If by any chance she does not know, look it up on the internet and teach her how to do it because it is about time she could. Make sure to slant the eyes a bit to make your hooded thing mysterious and dangerous.
Sewing up
Now sew up your hooded thing on the wrong side (the other side to the eyes), using the long bit of yarn that you left.
Sew in the loose ends of yarn.
Turn your Hooded Thing the right way out.
Now you can scare your friends!

23 Nov 2013

Interview


I am only going to show you my feet. I have Roman or Greek feet apparently - maybe I am descended from some of the shivering soldiers who patrolled Hadrian's Wall two thousand years ago! I like to walk barefoot, especially on grass or sand. As a (slightly) rebellious teenager I used to annoy my father by going barefoot all summer and also by removing my hated boots and walking barefoot on the fells.

If you want to know more (but not about my feet), there is a rare interview with me here, by Rebeccah Giltrow!

13 Sep 2013

Sneezewort


I recently discovered this rather pretty little wildflower on a local walk. I didn't know what it was, so I looked it up and found that it is sneezewort, a common plant in damp, grassy places in UK. 

It has load of other names, such as: sneezeweed, bastard pellitory (what did it do to deserve that one?)  European pellitory, fair-maid-of-France, goose tongue, sneezewort yarrow, wild pellitory and white tansy.

The plethora of names suggests it was well-known to country folk in the past. The roots were dried and used medicinally for joint and muscle pains and gastric problems. It can be also used as an insect repellent, but is poisonous to cattle, sheep and horses. Apparently in the past it was used to make sneezing powder for practical jokes - hence, presumably, the name! Culpepper, the famous herbalist recommended it for toothache and also suggested stuffing it up your nose to clear mucus. I'm not too keen on that idea, but it would be decorative enough to grow in the garden, especially in my wild flower meadow, so I may try to collect a few seeds. it was in fact grown in cottage gardens in the past, and the familiar `batchelor's buttons' were bred from it.

6 Sep 2013

Hedgerow Jelly


A friend and I spent a lovely half hour the other day walking in the autumn sunshine and foraging for wild fruits to make hedgerow jelly. We could only reach the ones low down, so we left plenty for the birds and animals. This is my haul - crab apples, blackberries and rowan berries.

When I got home I washed the fruits and then covered them with water in a large pan and boiled them up until they were all soft. Then I hung the resulting mush up in a cloth bag suspended over a glass mixing bowl, in order to filter out and collect the good juices.

I knew that my jelly would set well, because crab apples already contain the necessary pectin. so all I had to do next was to add a pound of sugar to each pint of juice, and then boil rapidly until the setting point was reached. You can tell when this has happened by dripping a small blob onto a cold plate. If the surface of the cooling blob wrinkles when you tilt the plate, then you are there. Bottle it up into clean, recycled glass jars and store it away to make a delicious accompaniment to cold meats and salads, or a spread to have on toast. Don't you think the colour is totally magical? The flavour is too, believe me - yum yum!



You will find this recipe and plenty of other ideas in my new series of Soul Journal ebooks - for more details click on the tab at the top of the page.

15 Aug 2013

Meadowsweet

Look out for masses of sweet smelling Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) in damp ditches and by the road side at this time of year. A member of the rose family, it was sacred to the ancient Druids and was used to flavour mead. In the middle ages it was used on the floor as a strewing herb to sweeten the air in houses. It has many medicinal uses, working very like aspirin to relieve arthritic problems, stomach upsets, colds and fevers.

Magically, meadowsweet is used in love spells, or placed on the altar to make an uplifting, light and cleansing energy. Placed in a bridal bouquet it brings joy and blessings to the newly weds. It also encourages contact with the fairy realms!

7 Jun 2013

Grass Verges


I have been so delighted that this year, with the cut-backs, the local council have not been mowing the grass verges on our estate. A feast of wild flowers and grasses has sprung up - so wonderful for our endangered bumble bees, butterflies etc and my little granddaughters have been delighted with the free flowers too.
 

So I was really sad yesterday when men appeared with noisy, polluting mowing equipment and chopped the lot down, just at the wrong time before the wild flowers have had a chance to set seed :-(
How about a nation-wide`don't mow your verges' campaign? All those little strips right across the country must add up to a huge number of teeny little meadows. If councils could be persuaded to mow just once, later on in the year, the verges could be managed as mini-meadows. Local schoolchildren could be taken to visit them and learn the names of the flowers - start them early and get them keen on wildlife. And the councils would get to save money too. Win win.
 

I know a lot of people think the long grass looks untidy and to them the wild flowers are just weeds. But maybe we can persuade them to think differently...please pass the idea on to your local council, wildlife organisations etc!

29 May 2013

Nettle Lore



I've been busy today making nettle cordial. It's very simple to make and has an interesting green, earthy taste. Apparently it is good for the stomach and for arthritis. There are lots of different recipes, some more complicated than others, so I just adapted them and made my own:

Ingredients

  • 200 ml water
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 200g young stinging nettle (common nettle, urtica dioica) tops, washed - pick about a carrier bag full - wear gloves!
  • a wedge of lemon

Method

  1. Make a syrup by bringing to the boil the water and sugar.
  2. Blanch the nettle tops for a short while with the lemon wedge and about a tablespoonful of extra water until they go like cooked spinach.
  3. Chop them up in the pan using kitchen scissors
  4. Add the syrup, stir, cover and leave to cool, stirring occasionally.
  5. Strain the liquid off into a bowl and then bottle.
  6. Keep in fridge - don't know how long it will keep.
  7. Serve diluted to taste with sparkling water. 
In magical lore nettle is (obviously!) used for protection, and to avert malign energy. It was sewn into bags and carried, or powdered and sprinkled around the corners of the house. You can also hold it in your hand to ward off ghosts, but I'm not sure if facing the ghost might actually be preferable!


Nettles need soil rich in phosphates and so they like to grow near human habitations, near animal pens, graveyards, compost heaps, bonfire sites etc. Patches of them are very good indicators of ancient human settlements. You can boil up the young leaves and eat them like spinach, or make them into a quiche. As country children we often had painful encounters with them and swore by rubbing on a dock leaf to cure the itch and sting.

22 May 2013

Snakes in Dreams

A dream about a snake is a really good example of why I always emphasise that your dream is personal to you and only you can really unravel its meaning. Dream oracles can help, but you need to go deeper than that. Freud would no doubt have seen the snake as an obvious phallic symbol, and more or less left it at that. But when I thought about a friend's snake dream this morning I very quickly came up with quite a few alternative ideas:
  • Supposing you live in a country where you might easily encounter poisonous snakes. Then your dream might be based on a perfectly ordinary, real life fear, or even a phobia. You might dream about snakes because you had seen one the day before. Or the snake might be an inner warning of a situation that is making you feel afraid.
  • The snake is a common symbol of the Goddess in pagan mythology, so your snake might be symbolic of getting in touch with deep feminine power and intuition.
  • A snake sheds its skin as it grows, so your snake might symbolise important changes and personal growth.
  • We often refer to a treacherous or devious person as a snake. Is your dream warning you about someone? Listen to your intuition.
  • In Christian mythology the snake is associated with temptation and the fall. Are you being tempted in some way to do something that goes against your moral code?
  • Snakes are rather cunning, often hiding until they want to pounce on their prey. Maybe you need to mimic this behaviour?
  • They also spend a lot of time basking and lazing about in the sun - maybe you need a holiday!
  • And finally of course, Freud just might be right...
If you have a snake dream, write it down in as much detail as you can, and then sit with it. How does your snake make you feel? What associations do you have? Making some art work based on your dream might help too. And for more idea about exploring your dreams, see my dream book.

15 May 2013

Kingcups


When I was three a slightly older little girl, who was probably five, told me that she was taking me to see the kingcups and I knew, without anything else being said, that something of great importance was about to happen.

Children had a lot more freedom in those days so we toddled off down the lane together hand in hand, and there, in a wet ditch at the bottom of a marshy field full of rushes, she showed me the kingcups. I was utterly stunned, mesmerised. To me at three years old the flowers were vast suns, spinning magical glowing energy from the dank mud and silence. It was one of the earliest shamanic experiences of my life, and in that moment I already knew everything that I know now.

I have never forgotten that day, and still grow kingcups by the pond in my garden. I am using them at the moment to help me with pranayama (breath work) - adults sometimes need a little gentle assistance to get to that place that children simply exist in. Take time today simply to BE. It is one of the most important things that you can do.

3 Apr 2013

Hand Crafting

A hand crafted thing is totally different from one made in a factory. This is the beginning of a dinosaur hat, commissioned by a young customer. He is only five, but he wants to be an archaeologist and palaeontologist when he grows up!

This hat will be individually designed and crafted by me, with love and magic in every stitch. Yesterday I cast on the stitches, on my beautiful birch wood needles. Today I sat in the first warm spring sunshine in my garden and listened to the birds singing as I worked. Imagine the magical energy this hat is going to have! 

7 Mar 2013

Being Creative

I am am a highly creative person, both writer and artist, and I have come to the conclusion that my brain works in a different way from those who are very logical thinkers. In a way it's a bit like being able to dream when one is awake, and I think it may result from both halves of the brain firing up together.

This morning I was lying on the bed talking on the phone to a friend who is also highly creative and I noticed this figure in the pattern on the ceiling wallpaper. We had a long entertaining conversation about it, and she is possibly going to incorporate the idea into one of her books if I don't beat her to it. This is what we came up with, just by me describing the figure to her over the phone:

The tall figure is a man-unicorn, or manicorn, (or is it a werecorn?),which sounds very phallic and Freudian. He was once a normal man, but has been stuck that way since the 18th century (he is wearing breeches you see). He was walking along minding his own business when a bad fairy jumped on his back and has ridden him ever since. You can tell it is a bad fairy by the skull like face and the creepy little bell on its hood. It has saddled the man with a weird saddle rather like a throne with runners, on which it can fly through the sky or slide along ice. I don't think the man's shoes were quite so pointed until he became part of the fairy kingdom. So there!

5 Mar 2013

Yggdrasil




This is how I learn to disappear;
hidden in the burnt hollow of the ash,
time drifting slowly as the stars.

Above me presses the weight
of ancient wood; outside my door
rain drips on the leaves and the wren
curses in the undergrowth, eye
sharp as winter, throat full of stories.

Woven in crevices of bark,
tall wood spirits wait;
spinning thin fingers through my hair.
My arms become dry twigs,
stretched to the vault of sky.

Breathing the pulse of moss and rot,
I grow roots that sink
deep to the jaws of Dreadbiter;
feeling the chill of shaman's death,
no longer a human child.


11 Feb 2013

Grass in dreams


What does it mean if I dream about grass?

This is the kind of question that I am often asked and of course there is no direct answer. All those dream oracle books can only give you a traditional meaning - which might be relevant to you, or it might not. That's why I give plenty of different suggestions when I do my little Dream Oracle posts and Tweets.

Grass for instance, might mean various things. Think about common phrases such as
Put out to grass
Grass roots
The grass is greener on the other side of the fence
Your dream might be hinting at one of those connections. Maybe you feel it is time you retired; time you got down to earth; or that you are envious of someone?

But grass might have other, totally different associations for you. Cannabis for example! Or maybe your dream is reminding you of an idyllic day in your teens when you lay on your back at looked at the sky. (Maybe these two meanings are related!) The real point is that you and only you can get to the real metaphorical meanings in your dreams. Write your dream down in your journal and then write about whatever connections arise. That way you will get closer to understanding what your unconscious is telling you.


1 Feb 2013

Alder


Alder is another tree that, like willow, flowers very early in the year. Its long, yellow, lambs-tail catkins are already dancing in the cold wind, and you can still see last years neat little seed cones as well. The tree is a survivor - it grows happily on poor and wet soil in northern Europe. You will find it growing on river banks and by ponds and marshes. The timber is a fascinating deep rich orange-red colour when cut, which made it a very magical tree because it appears to bleed. The sap can be used to make a red ink or dye. Because the wood is oily it was used for the foundations of medieval buildings such as those in Venice, and for causeways across boggy ground.

Alder is associated with divination and prophecy, and with the god Bran, whose magical, oracular  head was buried at the place where the Tower of London was later built. He is associated with ravens and you will still find them at the Tower today. Wands and whistles made of alder wood are used in weather magic.

29 Jan 2013

Pussy Willow


A soggy wet walk after yet another day of torrential rain. The sky clears to a pale watery lemon and egg shell blue, with torn grey clouds racing from the north. At the top of the field bright silver catkins of Pussy Willow are opening, brightening up my day. They take me straight back to childhood, jam jars full of them on the high windowsills in our Victorian country schoolroom. The sight of them made me long to escape from sums and explore the woods and fields.

Willow is a water loving tree, associated with night and the moon. In Britain it is sacred to the Goddess, particularly in her Death/Rebirth aspect. It was often planted near ancient burial mounds,  possibly because it is one of the first trees to spring back to life and flower, when most of the others are still bare.

Decorate your altar with willow stems to encourage healing and new beginnings, especially after the dark of winter. Make sure to ask the tree's permission first - willow was considered to be quite a dangerous tree and they were known sometimes to uproot themselves and walk, muttering darkly, behind terrified night-time travellers along moonlit roads.


24 Jan 2013

Dream Symbols




Occasionally a symbol that seems to be particularly important may crop up in a dream.  Sometimes this special symbol recurs in different dreams, or else it may come up only once but you just know that it feels important to you.
            Special symbols may be well known ones that are found in myths and stories. They also appear as birth signs, business logos, religious symbols and so on.  Or your symbol might be important to you alone.  Either way, finding a special symbol in a dream can be very empowering and you should take special note when one occurs.
            The special symbol may represent an aspect of your belief system or culture.  More personal special symbols tend to represent an aspect of your own psyche.  Look out for the following:

·        Religious symbols – for example the Christian cross.
·        National symbols – for example, the Welsh dragon.
·        Lucky symbols – such as a four leafed clover.
·        Mythical symbols – like the Holy Grail in Arthurian legends.
·        Personal symbols – such as an owl brooch you have had since childhood.
    
 If a special symbol does appear in your dreams, take time to decide what the symbol means to you.  How did you feel when you had the dream about the symbol?  It can be very satisfying to work with special symbols in your waking life as well.  Try any of the following ideas:
·    
         Draw or paint your symbol and then put it somewhere where you will see it often, such as by your bed or in the kitchen.
·        You might be lucky enough to find your symbol represented in an item of jewellery.  Wearing your special symbol reminds you constantly of its meaning for you.
·        See if you can find simple objects that represent your symbol.  For example you might find it on a mug or on a tea towel.
·        You might be able to adapt the symbol for your personal use – for example as a business logo, or as a letter heading.

23 Jan 2013

Lichen


Gratitude for the small things

Trees are so beautiful in winter. The shape of the bare branches against subtle pastel skies; delicate tracery of twigs and snow laden branches; bright cushions of bright green moss, and clumps of fern. And lichen, with its amazing variety of colours, from brilliant yellow and orange through to muted greys and powdery white.

Lichens are ancient, slow-growing life-forms. They grow not only upon trees, but also on rocks, walls and gravestones. They teach us about listening, quietly waiting, not hurrying things. They show us how to look for the small and subtle details, the things which are often overlooked in our hurried lives. And they teach us about communicating with the Old Ones, the wise ones who have gone before.

If you are feeling spaced out, ungrounded or over-worked, try connecting with lichen energy. Find some patches in your neighbourhood - you may be very surprised at where they turn up when you start noticing them. Study their intricate forms, their beautiful colours. Try making some art-work based on them, or perhaps a piece of knitting or embroidery.



15 Jan 2013

Witch Hazel


Subtle magic

A beautiful morning, cold, crisp and sunny. The witch hazel is in full bloom in my garden, the first tiny flowers which unfurled at the Winter Solstice now open wide to the sun, their delicious subtle perfume drifting on the breeze.

I will cut a tiny sprig for my altar, asking the tree's permission first of course. I will do this silently, in my head, and wait for a subtle reply. If I feel any sense of unease then I will not cut the flowers. Witch hazel is so magical, being one of the first flowers to open, even while snow lies on the ground. Use it for new beginnings, to help you focus on positive, vibrant energy, casting away the doubt and shadows of winter.

Witch hazel has long been used medicinally as well, for inflammatory conditions such as bruises, swellings, piles, rashes, insect bites and skin complaints. It has a similarly soothing, protective effect at the psychic level, filling the heart with peace, hope and joy. It's not a very large tree, so well worth planting one if you have a garden.

13 Jan 2013

Dream Houses



Exploring Your Dream House

Houses in dreams can be important mirrors of the way we see ourselves: the dream house very often represents your own psyche, your current feelings and/or problems. For example I have recently had quite a few dreams set in an old and rambling house, full of people and babies. No prizes for guessing that I am deeply involved with my family and have recently become a grandmother!

If you dream about a house, begin by writing down a detailed description of it. It doesn’t matter if you feel that you are `making this up’, because all that you write down will be emerging from your own unconscious in any case. Just go with the flow and write down anything that springs to mind.

Now have a good look at what you have written and see if you can spot insights into how you feel about at present, and your attitudes to other people. Here are a few pointers to look for:
  • What kind of house is it? (What sort of person do you see yourself as?)
  • Is it big or small? (How do you feel about yourself in relation to other people? What amount of personal space do you feel comfortable with?)
  • Are there other people in your house? (This is about relationships, so if there are others, how do you feel about them being in there?)
  • Is your house old and rambling, small and modern, or what? (Do you feel better in comfortable old clothes, or are you fashion conscious etc? What is your self-image?)
  • Is your house clean and tidy, or chaotic and dirty? (Time for some physical and mental space-clearing perhaps?)
  • Does your house have any structural problems? (This can be a warning of potential health or relationship issues, so take note of whether problems are to do with the wiring, brickwork, water supply and so on.)
  • Is the house well-lit, or dim and dark? (This often reflects your mood state. If your house is dim and dark you may be feeling a bit low. Bright and cheerful is better!)

All of these questions (and you will probably think of more of your own), can give insight into how you really feel at present, and may give clues to areas that need your attention. Has your roof blown off? You are probably feeling very insecure right now. Is water slowly rising in your cellar? Pay attention to suppressed feelings. Is your house crowded with unwelcome guests? Then remember to reassert your boundaries and make space for some all-important you time. Good luck, and have fun exploring and making home improvements!
For much more about how to use your dreams for personal growth and creative inspiration, see my dream book