This month we have contributions from Mandy, Jane and Freya. Mandy sings of the Nightingale and it's significance in terms of 'Instinction', Jane recounts bees, swarms and the resulting Mayhem whilst Freya is surrounded by Daisies.
Click on the photo to go to the Plant workshops and course page on the website
June update - a reminder that there is no Shamanic Sundays this Sunday. Mandy will be at the Isbourne Centre in Cheltenham teaching people how to journey shamanically. It you would like to come along there are still a few spaces available - click here to book at the Isbourne. The following Sunday 9th Freya and Mandy are giving a Plant Eco Shamanism taster session at Hellen's Garden Festival at 3.30pm. Then on Saturday 29th they will be running a Plant Eco Shamanism day workshop at Millers Farm. Mandy will be presenting at the Mind, Body, Spirit day in Cheltenham on Sat 6th July and the Seed Festival 19th-21st July (the early bird for the Seed Festival runs out at the end of May). Happenings beyond July please scroll down.
Return to Knepp Mandy recounts a revisit to the Knepp Estate in Sussex
May has been a month of rest for me and within that time I've been back to the Knepp Estate rewilding project in Sussex. Some of you will remember my midwinter visit there, it was very wet and had a touch of the Marie Celeste about it in terms of humans although there were many sightings of the wild in non human form. This last month I returned for a short camping stay with Jane who had not been before. I knew it would be leaf clad and there was a chance of hearing Nightingales. Well we did, during the night and midday. If you click on the Nightingale photo at the beginning of the newsletter it will take you to an instagram link (or here - you don't need an account to watch/listen to it) and there is a recording of said Nightingales, yes, there were more than one. Someone who had been on a safari there said there had been a report of 19 males present whilst we were there, and it's the males that sing until the females arrive at which time they cease their songs and start families. Here are a few other photos - a magnificent antler arch greets you on the way into the camping area - click on any of the photos and it will take you to the general Knepp Wildlands website.
Clockwise from top left: Knepp Estate Camping area antler arch path; antler arch top detail; fallen trees are left to feed other species; oaks are predominant at Knepp, both young and old - photos courtesy of Jane Embleton and Lucy Stott
Back to the Nightingales. In previous newsletters, I have talked of Lazarus species that appear to have become extinct only to be rediscovered at a later date in relation to my theory of 'instinction'. Back in March I wrote a whole piece about it and that newsletter was called Lazaruth Earth, a misspelling of Lazarus which was entirely accidental . . . or was it? A reader commented on the misspelling as rather apt as I had made Lazaruth into the feminine which alluded to Ruth and this conversation led on to the line in John Keats poem 'Ode to a Nightingale'. Below is the stanza which mentions Ruth -
Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
What intrigues me about this poem is that Keat's refers to the Nightingale, particularly it's song, as immortal. It is full of the richness of May, of life in all it's growing abundance and has the flavour of infinity, or instinction. It has the ability to thread it's way into Ruth's heart as she stands among the alien corn, alien like our current modern agricultural methods which stifle and threaten all other species. Knepp is different. It doesn't purport to the production of vast volumes of food for humans, it suggests that where the land fights against you in the production of food (the land at Knepp is heavy Wealden clay that is almost impossible to farm in modern day agricultural systems) maybe it's best to loosen the reins, let nature show us how it's done. This is listening to the land in the best possible sense, going from a controlling influence to a listening attitude. Knepp produces high quality beef, venison and pork products from animals that are allowed to enjoy the sort of freedom, herd structures and welfare standards that are as close to their 'wildness' as possible.
On our first night at Knepp, in the early evening, our hearts were caught by the Nightingales. We were transfixed and thought we were the only humans there to hear them. Then we came across others who were dotted about listening, in quiet reverence, to the great god Nightingale. We became aware of a man not 50 yards away with the light of his phone pointing to the tree canopy, catching (recording) the melodious calling of the male Nightingale. About a minute later a sylph stepped out from the dusk and they embraced. He put his phone away, he'd got his girl just as the gods above him would.
Daisy, Daisy News from Freya
Three Day's Eyes, two with the tinge of a rosy dawn and dusk
The hedgerows, gardens, woodlands and roadsides are pulsing with growth this month. Fresh leaves, blossom and flowers lighting up the countryside and gardens with colour, with life - plants, birds, creatures and insects. It’s not hard to feel it!
Out with a friend we were surprised to see white patches in local meadows, like pools of frost or as poet John Clare put it ‘sheets of snow’. A pasture ‘super-bloom’ of daises and buttercups. We sat on the cushion of flowers soaking in the magnificent sight. It felt as though we were sitting in a painting. The feeling was euphoric, joyful, a bliss accompanied by a sense of freedom and nurturing.
Daises, such small flowers, yet probably familiar to everyone - perhaps making daisy chains in childhood, picking bunches of the small flowers, watching them close up at night, using them to divine if you were loved or not, or perhaps breaking up the green of the lawn. An old Scottish name for daisy is 'Bairnwort', which alludes to children. This association with childhood gives us some clues to the nature of daisy that goes beyond its constituent parts and suggests a playfulness, an openness, an innocence and joy. Daisy seems to have ‘no edge’ and can bounce back from severe attack such as mowers and over-picking. These qualities help us understand a little bit more about this beautiful plant and the gifts she brings.
Daisy has many medicinal qualities too and can help with inflammatory conditions, coughs and sinusitis, blood pressure and wound healing. Another name for daisy is 'bruisewort' and it is a good native plant to use as you would arnica for bruising. I have some daisy oil on the windowsill at the moment that I will incorporate into a balm for bruises. Last year on our plant-year Summer workshop we made daisy flower essence and called it ‘Daisy Dew’, capturing the freshness and light qualities of the flower - as fresh as a day’s-eye.
All this aside - why not find a patch of daises, sit down, look, and listen, maybe daisy will conjure a memory or feeling for you too.
Daisies at Ragmans Farm overlooking the Wye Valley - where the Eco Shamanism Trainings and Courses are held
Mayhem Bee Swarms Jane listens to what the Bees have to say
How to catch a swarm with a skep and a sheet
It is often busy in our household this month as it is the beginning of swarm season. There are two swarm kits at the ready, one in the house and one in the car, each containing a skep, a bee suit, smoker, white sheet and matches or lighter.
Put very simply swarming is the process by which a new honeybee colony is formed naturally. The old Queen having laid an egg which will become a young Queen, leaves with the majority of the worker bees to find a new place to live, there are numerous exceptions to this of course. For the bees to swarm the conditions need to be just right, usually warm, sunny, still and a little humid (if the weather is not right they will wait for the right conditions). This is why swarms tend to happen all at once causing Mayhem for those who have bees. The swarm will often leave the hive and cluster nearby to regroup, usually they have sent out scouts to find a suitable place, other times the urge to swarm will be overwhelming as the conditions are perfect, so they will hang around a bit till they decide where to go!
On Saturday morning I was in a strange mood and left the house in a strop for a walk having had a row over nothing! I came back an hour later to find the bees who live at the front of the house swarming all over the road and they settled in a Rowan tree on the green, at the same time another swarm was down in the field. That explained my mood which had now completely dissolved.
My job was to watch the front ones to check that they settled and watch where they went if they flew off again, they didn't and were safely housed so I sat on the green till dusk when they were moved to a more suitable location. While I was watching the swarm I witnessed squabbles over the Swift box which is home to a couple of Sparrows and which House Martins want to live in (no Swifts) and watched another pair of House Martins repair an old nest above a window which also seemed to involve a certain amount of disagreement between the two. This made me ponder the nature of nature and how we are so much a part of it, there was something in the air here in Somerset that morning, and the humans felt it too.
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.