Left/top: Rosemary under a veil. Right/bottom: close up of veil. Rosemary is associated with remembrance. In my garden it is she who holds Indra's Net so visually and beautifully at this time of year.
When writing these newsletters, each one of us writes without knowing what the others will be saying. There is always a thread and this month it is Rosemary, the herb. Mandy reflects on reflection, Jane puts the dragons to bed and Freya is . . . absent . . . but we haven't forgotten her - there is a pun there which relates to Rosemary as a herb of remembrance.
Left/top: spiders web / Indra's Net catching the dew and some rosehip jewels.
Right/bottom: invisible spiders web straddling a Rosemary bush.
As we end the Celtic year today, called Samhain in Celtic speak, it is usual for us to celebrate and commune with the dead. It is said that the 'veils' between us and them are thinner now than at any other time of the year. In Eco Shamanism theory we perceive the dead as living spirits that exist in another dimension, and maybe not in human form. Indra's Net is a Buddhist conception that allows this duality in a process of infinite reflection. This following quote from Alan Watts is an apt explanation of Indra's Net.
"Imagine a multidimensional spider's web in the early morning covered with dew drops. And every dew drop contains the reflection of all the other dew drops. And, in each reflected dew drop, the reflections of all the other dew drops in that reflection. And so ad infinitum. That is the Buddhist conception of the universe in an image."
Spiders and their webs are a bit of a thing at Samhain because their webs, or nets, become visible in the autumnal mists and dew. This is information from nature, or spirit, or anima mundi, whatever you like to call it, that this time of year is one of change, from one dimension to another. Or maybe we can think of it as a time of reflection from one dew drop to another, from one cosmos to another. Each dew drop sees all the other dew drops and in turn, all the other dew drops see the one, and many, that is looking at them.
Last year, when Jane, Freya and I met in Somerset, we went to the woods and found a magical spider's web. It was in September, a month or so before the autumnal mists begin.
In the first photo above you can see the spider in the middle of the web, the centre of her empire. The Sun shone on her and I like to think that she was in a state of grace, or ceremony that involved calling the dew drops to her from the Sun. Can you see them leaving from beneath the Sun, on their long journey into the autumn? You may need to look with spider's eyes. In the second photo, with the Sun in the middle of her web, she becomes invisible, reflectionless. It is as if she were one with the Sun yet her web creation has taken on the colours of the rainbow, and what an invitation for a dew drop! A web that catches cosmos(es) and, unlike flies, the spider's normal prey, are released again by evaporation, as if never there, and now in some other net, in another dimension, reflected back on itself, ad infinitum.
Lastly, I would like to remember a friend, a Gatekeeper trustee (the pilgrimage organisation) and one of my students, Fiona Hopes who died 10 days ago following a rare illness. She had a great love of plants and a deep knowledge of the alchemical energies of these Isles. She was also a member of the current Eco Shamanism practitioner training group. The day before her death was the last day of one of the training modules and, knowing that she was dying, but not knowing when that moment would be, we held a ceremony to ease her passage into her next dimension. It is as if she were a spider in the middle of her web and her time to be swallowed by the Sun had come, making her invisible to our eyes but leaving a rainbow web of connections and reflections for which I am truly thankful. May her new dimension, be it dew drop, Rosemary or spider, be of great joy.
Putting the dragons to bed Jane plants a coin
Six months ago six of us met at Castle Neroche on the Blackdown hills, an ancient hill fort with a modern Motte and Bailey castle on the same site. Rob, the forest ranger, was keen to explore the idea of running some events which were in some way led by, and for, the land as well as the people.
It was a bitterly cold day, so we all went off into the site at a fast pace (to keep warm) with the intention of listening to what the land said. Everyone except me had been there before and I felt it to be a bit wary of me at first. However I found my self drawn quickly to the top where we had decided to meet at a certain time. I found a penny in my pocket and planted it in a mole hill as I'd had a recent dream about moles together with the story I'd heard of the Neroche dragon from Gordon, a tree dowser. The dragon (it was said) terrorised the locals and stole money from passers by, the treasure it hid and guarded in that very hill in a lair underground. In revenge, the villagers diverted a stream into the lair, the dragon was drowned and the people took the money and so became very rich indeed. I was saddened by the story (which I felt to be not entirely true) and just another of the legends where a dragon is killed.
We moved down to a lower place, a darker mound. I said it felt like a ying yang symbol on the land, and then we all noticed that we were three men and three women. We stood in a circle acknowledging this and asking for guidance and inspiration. Gordon looked down and by his foot was a £1 coin, everyone had seen me plant the penny, magic was afoot . . . literally.
Life moved on and then a few moths ago Rob got in touch to say he had been allocated a small budget to spend on an event at half term . . . one penny, one pound, one thousand pounds . . . and had we got any ideas?
With another of the group, I work with a local dragon twice a year. Once to be there as it wakes up in the spring and again as it goes to sleep in the autumn. It seemed a nice idea to acknowledge all the local dragons and help ease them into their rest for the winter. We knew a storyteller who tells the local legends, especially the dragons tails. We made some new dragons out of clay and leaves and built nests for them. A simple ceremony to the top of the hill to rest two dragons (a male and female) in a sleepy hollow near to where I planted the penny was suggested. We promised to be quiet and unrushed during our setting up so as not disturb the energy and so wake everything up just as things are trying to settle down.
Dragons in their nests
So that is what happened on Tuesday. I have to say that it was lovely. Jenny, from Neroche Woodlanders, who was in charge of all the organisation and Rob the ranger said that it had been extraordinarily easy, a quality often found when we work in partnership with the energy of PLACE: the anima loci.
The dragons were remembered with the rosemary in their nests, they were then helped to rest with lavender and to dream with mugwort. Although we had expected that it would just be a handful of people who stayed and did the ceremony in fact almost every single person and a few dogs came up and poured some sacred hot chocolate onto the ground where the two dragons are resting and covered them with the mugwort and lavender. It was really rather special as everyone crept away with their own personal dragons wishing the ones we left sweet dreams and knowing that the energy of this event is going far and wide into these new dragons sleeping places. We suggested that they are put somewhere quiet, to remember them and look out for them in their own dreams until the spring, when they will wake up and once again go out onto the land.
In the words of Nigel Pennick in Celtic Sacred Landscapes "Enhancing the anima loci is a kind of spiritual gardening. It cannot result from attempts to command and control a place, but comes rather from participating consciously in the qualities already present, from which breathes an ennobling presence."
Hands on Herbal Freya offers a Hands-on-Herbal session in November
Fire ciders made on the Plant Eco Shamanism course in 2018
A new Hands-on-Herbal session Freya is offering in November at Ragmans Farm in Gloucestershire. There will be more seasonal sessions throughout next year.
Winter Tonic - Fire Cider
Would you like to know how to make a winter tonic using roots and herbs? I will be offering a morning session on Sunday 10th November where we will make Fire Cider - a generic name given to a fiery brew of roots, herbs and cider vinegar. It's a warming winter tonic that helps us fight off colds.
I want to support people to help themselves to health and well being through connecting with plants and creating plant based remedies. Hands-on-Herbals are practical sessions where you will make remedies to take home and use. We will work seasonally and where possible harvest wild plants as part of this process.
Venue: Ragmans Lane Farm, Gloucestershire in the Wye Valley