This month we have contributions from all three of us. Mandy explores pincushion phenomena in our environment, Freya weaves in some Blackthorn magic and Jane is taken with an Elf.
April update - apart from starting one new Eco Shamanic Practitioner training and finishing another Mandy will be running Shamanic Sundays as usual on the first Sunday of this month (7th). The Usk Pilgrimage on Easter Monday (22nd) will go from Caerleon to Usk (more details below and some photos of Newport to Caerleon that Mandy and Jane did recently). And on June 9th the Plant department (Freya and Mandy) will be at Hellen's Garden Festivalgiving a taster session in the afternoon at 3.30pm. Events for the rest of the year are below the writings.
Heart nodes and pincushions Sewings from Mandy
Blackthorn by Jackson Pollock (20th century abstract expressionist painter) - for a full blossom Blackthorn scroll down to Freya's writing
I have spoken of the word 'instinction' on several occasions in the past few newsletters and for those who are new to it, it means 'inspiration' or 'impulse'. I've referred to it as the 'impulse' of species to 'reappear' after seeming to have become extinct (according to humans). I've also suggested that the 'dream' of a species lies in the void, or the spirit world, and I've become very aware, during recent teachings and encounters with the outer world, of how humans perceive the world of spirit.
I posted the above photo of Blackthorn buds on instagram recently and called it 'Blackthorn' by Jackson Pollock. I could just as well have called it Space Oddity - if you squint your eyes it could be either. The budding Blackthorn looked, to me, like one of Jackson Pollock's paintings and it felt like a pincushion . . . and pincushions remind me of nodes, of which there are many meanings but the one I'm referring to is from the Late Middle English denoting a knotty swelling or a protuberance: from Latin nodus ‘knot’ or as a focal point. It is where there is an 'expression' from the void. The cushion is the void and the pin is the node. The Blackthorn buds are the nodes and the dark areas are the void.
Trees have roots in the Earth and branches in the sky, a little like pins in a pin cushion. Tree roots connect with the mycorrhizal mass and exchange nutrients, amongst other things, via these fungal growths, or nodes, in the void. Tree branches can do the same although the void they are in is the sky. The photo of the Alder trees below show their branches in the sky void, exchanging gases and moisture when they are in leaf. It is all a matter of perspective and perception. If the branches were white and the sky black it would look like the roots in the earth void.
In shamanism trees are typical portals to the upper and lower realms of spirit. When we journey shamanically to these realms we pass through a 'node' which becomes our access point to the spirit world and I believe this is when we pass through our hearts into the world that is spirit, potential, the dream. It is also my feeling that there are voids everywhere with pin prick nodes that are the interface of the void (spirit) and matter. We are surrounded by the void, the dream, the world of spirit and not only that, our interface, or node, with the void is our heart . . . and this outer void is a reflection of our inner void, or spirit, and vice versa.
In the last newsletter I wrote of Earth and the Apollo 8 Mission which resulted in the photo of Earth looking like a Blue Marble in the void of space. Our Earth is also a node, an expression of spirit. Let's look after it, with our heart nodes.
Clockwise from top: The Blue Marble (photo NASA); Belly rock with Beech hair; Alder branches in the sky void; Beech roots excavating rocks; Easter Island man with Beech hair.
Spring cleaning with Blackthorn Plant News from Freya
Exploding Blackthorn Blossom
April, and Spring is truly here with bright dandelions and bobbing daffodils, the creep of cleavers and chickweed, excited bird song, violets in the hedgerows, and in the woodlands the pungent smell of wild garlic.
On the steep slopes of the Wye Valley the trees shift from dark winter silhouettes to softer colours - purple tipped alder, brown, blush pink, yellow pussy willow buds, lime green hazel leaves, and amongst the tangled twigs the creamy smoke of the blackthorn stands out on the hillsides.
A recent encounter with blackthorn was part of an eco mapping walk, a process to find answers to questions and healing by noticing and sensing the outer world in relation to my question. That day the blackthorn was laden with blossoms, the branches barely visible in the foam of small five-petaled flowers. The scent and brightness had attracted bees, hoverflies, wasps, butterflies and ladybirds. A busy community - thriving together, giving and receiving; the blackthorn offering nectar to the insects delving into the sweet softness of it’s blossom in exchange for pollen transfer.
The profusion of blossom is for now, blackthorn does not hope to support this many blossoms turning to fruit. Some blossom will be blown off in the wind or knocked off by the rain, a frost may take more. As I gazed at blackthorn I noticed the contrast between the creamy white blossoms and the dark wood; and between the delicate blossom and the tough, sharp, long thorns. The blackthorn that day offered me a meditation on relationship and discernment. The ability to select what is important, the sensitivity to gently release the things that no longer serve, to choose wisely, to give fully and to focus my energy into the things that bring me joy and fruitfulness. Days later this message is taking shape in my activity and choices and begins to feel like a plant inspired spring clean! Thank you Blackthorn!
To discover more about creating and developing relationships with plants please join us for an introductory day of Plant Perception and Resonance (June 29th) or dive deeper with the 4 weekend course throughout the year (starting 14th/15th September 2019) both at Millers Farm. We will also be at Hellen's Garden Festival on Sunday 9th June with a 90 minute presentation on Plant Eco Shamanism at 3.30pm. Near Much Marcle in Herefordshire this weekend festival is dedicated to plants and planet.
Sweet dreams and music News from Jane
Clockwise from top: Flutes and horns; Maxence des Oiseaux playing the flints; being an Elf in the corner
A concert in tribute to the Elves took place at the foot of our ancient Yew tree on Thursday last week. Our "Troubadour", the fairy musician Maxence des Oiseaux from the mountains of the Pyrenees, came by with his pipes made from Elder, Swan bone, horn and clay and played the flints. The Queen of the fairies had invited him to England for when he was in his twenties he asked her to teach him their music which they did, but only on the the condition that he share it with other places, spaces and people.
What is extra special about this is that six of us locals have been dreaming on the full moon throughout the winter with our intention being to ask how to further re-enchant the land, rivers and trees and we had dreamed of this! The next morning I woke up wondering whether it was just a dream and wrote this to Max. His reply says it all. 'There is no border between dream and reality for those who believe in faeries. I am deeply touched by the welcome that the English make me every day, and deeply spoiled as this country opened its doors to me, and allowed me to resume service in quality of elfico-Musicologist. It makes me great to assume this part of my art and my mission again. It's amazing, everything finally happens at the end of more than 20 years of good and loyal services to enchantment, and years of struggling to give everything without winning anything'.
His sounds took us to some other worlds and later as we gathered for more in our living room he took us deep inside a prehistoric cave. This youtube link of Max playing in a cave will give you an idea of the ethereal quality of his music. Later I took a photo and as he was playing a large pipe made from Elder but he had merged into the corner of the room and become an Elf. Can you see him in the photo above?
The next evening in the same space there was another gathering of elders this time of the human variety for Way of Council, (though not all are elders in terms of years quite yet). We dedicated the evening to the more than human world and had such an interesting time as we dived deep into our personal and collective hopes and fears this spring. There were tears of laughter and sadness and some good old proper mischievousness, as these elders were also heard, felt and seen as they played their notes and sang their tunes. We said, at the end, that often this is all we can do, some things cannot be mended but being in council and sharing helps somehow, because in council there is no need to pretend.
I am writing this in the garden with the sounds of bees buzzing, sheep baa-ing and crows cackling, what interesting times these are that we are living through, will we look back and know that we have played our part fully in this long song? My sense is that we need to find our unique place within this orchestra and then hold on tight, playing our own tune without being overly influenced by another. We are blessed in Britain to have a deep understanding of such things which I realise is not the case in other lands, whether it is the people or the land or a combination of the two, one and two makes three. In the words of Max again. 'Here in England, the "Troubadour" aspect, as well as the fairy musician, seems to me to have a lot of sense for people. In any case I find the passionate audience, very listening: the English (or in any case those I meet) are still connected to a concept of roots, of enchantment that I have a lot of trouble finding elsewhere.'
Shamanic Sundays - 7th April - Millers Farm
This Sunday 7th April is at Millers Farm in the Forest of Dean. All are welcome including beginners. 10.30am - 1pm at Millers Farm nr Blakeney GL15 4AP
There will be the usual tea, coffee, biscuits and fruit and this is included in the cost. A selection of beeswax spirit candles will be available for sale . . . please bring a mat, blanket, eye cover and pen and paper. Directions to Millers Farm can be sent out on request. Email me (scroll to bottom of newsletter to find an email link) if you'd like more information. A NOTE RE PARKING - please park efficiently in the parking area at Millers Farm and block others in if necessary. If there is no room please use the verge outside the farm gates but not further up the road. If there is still no room please park up on the Green.
2019 events update
in date order
What's happening this year - anything in blue and underlined is a weblink.
Any questions or enquiries please get in touch.
Usk Pilgrimage Easter Monday 22nd April - from Caerleon to Usk
Jane and Mandy recently walked from Newport to Caerleon to find a route for the next stage of our Usk Pilgrimage on Easter Monday. It was a good day but had some energetically sticky patches which we managed to shift but thought that it would be difficult to take people on that walk (climbing fences etc). So we felt that our pilgrimage on that day was enough to carry the river energies to Caerleon.
So our next leg will be from Caerleon to Usk. We'll meet at The Priory Hotel (plenty of parking) for 10 to 11am on Easter Monday. There's lots to see in Caerleon including the Roman amphitheatre and museum so if you come at 10am you can have a wander around Caerleon and it's sites. We'll set off for Usk at 11am from the Hotel. Bring a packed lunch and suitable walking gear. We will leave a car in Usk for ferrying purposes.
Do let us know if you're coming so that we know to wait for you if you get stuck in traffic.
Newport Transporter bridge from underneath and afar . . . with a Hogweed stalk.
Other bridges in Newport clockwise: road; suspension foot bridge; motorway underpass; old road and rail bridge by the Castle.
If you have any questions feel free to message, ring or email me. If you know someone who might be interested in any of the above please forward this newsletter to them.