30 Nights of well being – night 4 – Birch/Spine

Thirty nights of well being – night 4

Birch and new beginnings – the spine

I love nature! The way it is both so straightforward and so incredibly complex.

If you look at a birch tree what do you see? A tall often straight, white truck and many, many hairlike twigs.

In folklore the birch is sometimes known as the ‘Axis Mundi’, the world tree. It’s the tree around which the Maypole is often danced, the first tree emerging after the ice age.

So what happens if I do a spot of shapeshifting…I become the birch tree, that tall trunk becomes my spine, the structure around which my body is danced.

So by dreaming with birch twigs under our pillows we have taken the hair of the tree into our hair, into the tops of our spines.

Today the task is to draw the energy down, to balance the spine and to release anything that we don’t need on the journey into Spring. (if you remember your dreams they may have already started this process. We will do more dreaming in a few days).

In the Chinese Meridian system the Governing meridian runs from the base of the spine, over the top of the head. It finishes in the centre of the top lip. You can lightly trace this line with a finger to encourage it to flow. (from the base and up). This meridian is to do with structure and releasing what is not useful/stuff back there.

I’m sending a recording to guide you in working with your spinal reflex (from reflexology), balancing and drawing the energy down to the base of your spine.

Thirty nights of well being – Birch

Today with gold in our hearts we are preparing for the next journey. In the oldest known Gaelic calendar, known as Beth-Luis-Nion, a tree calendar which links trees with alphabet and seasons, the year is divided into 28 days. From December 24th to January 20th, the tree is Birch, the Gaelic is Beth.

Several years ago I met Welsh poet Hilary Llewellyn- Williams. This is an extract from her poem;

‘ Birch/Beth’ 


After Twelfth Night comes the reality

of winter. When the greenery’s stripped down
it’s barefaced, blowing under the door.
Mean days dragging out a fraction more
before dark, make our myth of spring
ridiculous. I walk out into the stark
endless moment of January.
…..
These brittle twigs swept clear of leaves
whipping along the light
points of dark bud concealing green,
I’ll tie a bundle to my broom for flight;
no shelter here, the rain falls through
this frost wood, the sky stares between.
…..
Think of the covered hills
filling with cleaner light, and a gap
in the clouds for something to glance through.
I stoop in the cold shade
gathering twigs for a journey.’

So the invitation is to connect with the Birch tree. If you can get outside, take your golden heart to Birch. She will recognise you, as in the autumn she was a golden haired maiden with a thousand of golden leaves. Let her greet you like a friend. Take her a small offering; a pebble, flower, shell, some bread crumbs…and ask her for some of her twigs. If you can’t do this physically you can do it in your imagination.

Tonight put the twigs, or imaingary twigs under your pillow. Ask the spirit of Birch to guide your dreams as you begin the new journey towards Spring. In the morning write down whatever you remember or any feelings, no matter how ridiculous they may seem to you. We can do this for three nights, so don’t panic if you don’t remember any dreams!

Thirty nights of well being

‘Thirty nights of well being’ is an eclectic weave of stories, meditations, reflexology tips, simple rituals, tree medicine, energy tips, poems, foraging ideas, affirmations….you get the idea? I will post one offering each afternoon/evening for thirty nights.

Tonight is the Twelfth night after Christmas. The end of a journey for the Magi, the three wise people of the Christmas story. But as we all know, when one journey ends, another begins. This next journey is to the Gaelic festival of Imbolc, or the Christian Candlemas on 1st/2nd February.

Is it the 1st or the 2nd? Is twelfth night on the 5th or 6th? Confusion gives us a clue…there’s magic here. The festival is not on either day and it is on both… because the ancients celebrated the nights, not the days. In the night time there are stars and dreams, edges are blurred, there is the possibility to sleep more…magic can stir…

So this journey at a very dark time of year, both seasonally and in terms of our current lockdown situation, is an exploration. What magic can we find here? What wisdom, what as yet, unnamed joy, is waiting in the empty space? And what will we find when we arrive in the lap of Imbolc, ‘fire in the belly’ , then the earth mother begins to wake up after her sleep, when the sap in our own veins starts to rise. What will we find as we journey to meet with the Celtic/pre Celtic Goddess, Brigid? How will the Earth speak to us at this time?

Here is my offering on the final night of the Christmas journey and the 1st night on the next. It is a story/meditation and lasts 7mins. Sending many blessings.

 

Wild Deer in the Woods

On the day before the Mid Winter Solstice eight of us gathered in the woods to drop into stories and ceremony. There was a magic about standing with women amongst the mid winter trees.

Mulch and dropped leaves, moss and mud under our feet; the deer were not far away, their spirits seemed to whisper in close encircling us. Oak, Holly and Ash stood witness. As I finished telling the story Emma heard a raven call.

What I am enjoying about these workshops is seeing how creative women are. I bring a story and the women chose a fragment and then retell that part, in their own way. What comes out is amazing! With this workshop the affinity between woman and deer felt powerful; woman as friend and companion, one to another; woman as part of a team or herd, woman as shape shifter, as dream maker, storyteller, maker of new ways.

To finish we drummed, sang, created a bowl of fallen wood, spoke and stirred our prayers into the land. When the deer next visit that place, I feel sure they will feel us, know our presence. And the connection between them and us, will be a little bit more healed. We did what women have been doing for centuries; we span magic with our words, our movement, our voices and our intention. And nobody really knows the full implication of this, only that it is beautiful.

image by Fleurlittlebigtree

The Deer Goddess at the Winter Solstice

We are used to seeing pictures of deer in the snow at this time of year, or reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh. But what are the origins of deer and reindeer being associated with mid winter?

If you journey to Trendle Hill on the Quantocks hills in Somerset, UK, you will find stories of a mysterious old woman who is sometimes seen herding deer. I mention this sighting because it is close to me in Devon. But further North in Scotland, there are many stories of this old female deer herder. She is known as the Cailleach. The Cailleach is the old woman of winter and she takes care of the deer. She will give hunters one warning if they take too many deer, one warning only. As the winds of winter blow, we should all know that it is best not to mess with the Cailleach. She is stoney strength, creator of the hills, mountains and boulders. In my telling her hair is writhing snakes and her eyes shine with the curious light of the wild cats.

The Cailleach is a fierce protector and we need her energy both personally and globally. What she protects is the deer; gentle intuition, intuitive path finding and dreams. In this world of reason, where reason is extremely helpful but does not give all the answers, we need the energy of the deer.

To learn more about the ancient Deer Goddess we can look at a story, found in the Mabinogion, a collection of Celtic tales. The story is called ‘The Dream of Maxen’. It’s a pseudo historical tale about a Roman Emperor, Maxentius. In the story Maxen dreams of a beautiful woman who he loves. Eventually, after many adventures he finds the woman, who is called Elen of the Hosts. As a wedding gift she asks for lands and for roads to be built. To this day there are roads across Wales with Elen’s name.

This connection with roads and pathfinding are key to understanding Elen’s more ancient origins; Pre historic people of Britain lived closely alongside first reindeer and later deer. In these times all of Britain would have been covered with the Boreal forest. After the ice age the reindeer, as migratory animals, ran the first tracks, the first pathways through the forests. It is the older female deer who lead the way and statues from very ancient times in Britain have been found depicting women with reindeer horns. This indicates the Shamanic bond between women and the reindeer.

In my telling of the story there is an easy shapeshifting between deer and woman. The pathways are both physical pathways through the forest and also dream pathways that can guide us. If we connect with Elen back to a time before the Romans, to a time when she was a shapeshifter, we can begin to tap into some of the deep magic that is here;

Elen sends out dreams into the world, to call back the things that she and her land needs. We can work with her to help us with our own dreaming at this dark time of year. When we are lost and confused, when the true pathways have become overgrown through disuse, Elen is an energy, a force who is embedded in this landscape. Through the telling and the retelling of her stories we can start to connect with her energy. Then the dream work begins. This is subtle, intuitive work. But it is also extremely powerful.

At this time of mid winter and at this time on our precious planet there is much that is unknown. It could be said that we are, once again, lost in the Boreal forest. The practical and reasonable ways are not always working. We need guides who know the way in their bodies, not just their heads. We need guides who are intuitive and have walked the paths before. So I am making space in my life for Elen and the deer. And also remembering the Old Woman of Winter, the Cailleach, who protects the deer against harm.

Clare is telling her version of the story of ‘Elen of the Ways’ on 20th December in Stoke Woods, Exeter, at a workshop for women. This will also be available on line for women and men. Please contact Clare if you would like to know more about this or future workshops.

Healing Stories at Mid Winter

Today is a grey day. It’s fairly cold and there’s a dampness in the air. I’ve learnt to love this typically English weather, with it’s half light and bare trees. Even though there is a still flatness in the air which whispers, ‘It won’t be summer for a long time…’
There is a subtlety, when I tune into it. It’s mournful and empty and I can feel my own mournful emptiness. The place where nothing ever happens, where nothing is growing.

And the earth seems to say, ‘Yes, I know that place too, that place is in me too..but look closer, some things are growing and see how the dead leaves are rotting into the earth. See how the stillness makes time for everything to rot down. Come with me, here, take my hand’

And if you are brave enough you will take the earth by the hand. She pull you down into the darkness of her still, empty womb. It’s a strange place to hang out, but it is at least a little warmer here. As your eyes adjust to the darkness you start to see them…the dreams..bright flowers, butterflies, swallows, new life..and dreams for humanity too..millions upon millions of tiny seeds and as you touch each one it opens up. You call out for your own seed and it comes flying to you.

What if this was the original Santa’s sack? The dark belly of the Earth Mother, all full dreams for the coming year.

So now I am trying to stay with the pause, with the empty. Because it is only when we are empty that there is space for the new dreams, the new seeds, to fly in. If I fill up every space, how can the truly magnificent dream of the earth ever reach me.

Breath out, breath in, breath out again. Feel the empty of your body. Feel the empty of the earth. Then trust. As I am seeking to trust, that as long as I’m alive, the next breath will come. The new dream will, in the Spring, unfold.