Danu's Cauldron: Wisewoman's Ways, and Wild Fey Magic

Living in a sacred landscape, walking between the worlds in the veil of Avalon Glastonbury. Where the old gods roam the hills, and the sidhe dance beneath the moon...wander into the mists with me and let us see what we may find...

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Danu Forest

Danu Forest

Danu Forest wisewoman, witch, seer, walker between the worlds, healer, druid, priestess, teacher, writer, gardener, herbwife, stargazer, faery friend, tree planter, poet, and wild woman lives in a cottage near Glastonbury Tor in the midst of the Avalon lakes, in the southwest of England. Exploring the Celtic mysteries for over 25 years, and noted for her quality research, practical experience, as well as her deep love of the land, Danu writes for numerous national and international magazines and is the author of several books including Nature Spirits, The Druid Shaman, Celtic Tree Magic, and an on going seasonal series 'the Magical Year'.

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The 2nd of February is of course, the Celtic festival of Imbolc, which means 'in the belly' referring to the pregnant ewes giving birth at this time. One of its other names, Oimelc meaning 'ewes milk', also referring to the birth of the lambs, and the return of milk to the household. Sacred to the goddess Brighid, who became St Brigit with the coming of Christianity this time is known as   Gŵyl Fair y Canhwyllau in Wales, and more generally the Christian festival of Candlemass.  

Brighid may well have given her name to Britannia the sovereign goddess of Britain, but she is best known as a goddess of the hearth and home, as well as milking, midwifery, healing, smithcraft and poetry. Brighid is a fiery goddess, connected to the rising Kundalini in the earth at this time, bringing the spring. She is said in Scottish folklore to have to defeat the Cailleach or goddess of winter each year to bring life back to the land. 

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The Winter Solstice falls this year on the 22nd of December. The shortest day and the longest night of the year, the sun is now at it's very lowest point. For three days, it's position in the dawn sky will appear to 'stand still' in the furthest south-easterly position of its it's cycle, before it begins to be seen rising ever so slightly further north each morning until the summer solstice, or longest day.

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This year we decided to take a small break and celebrate Samhain and honour our ancestors by visiting the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic in Boscastle, Cornwall, and join their revelries. It was a spectacular night. As we descended along the twisty lane to enter the small fishing village in the gathering dusk we were met by a host of witches, tourists and black clad Morris men- traditional British folk dancers with flaming torches and crow feathers in their tall top hats. The sound of drums and fiddles echoed off the cliffs above and mingled with the sounds of the sea and the reeling gulls.

Traditional Border Morris men (or sides) wear the colour black, to leave their identity behind and take on the role of spirits as they honour the underworld and the winter to come. They danced to ancient songs, their feet mirroring the turn of the year and the battles between winter and summer in the courtyard of the museum, where the many a witch of generations passed has donated their magical tools, and beneath the library that holds the history of our traditions going back centuries.  The audience around them sat or stood enrapt, many of them being those who walk the old ways themselves, bedecked in their cloaks, with wide eyed children sitting at their feet dressed as sprites and spirits.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Danu Forest
    Danu Forest says #
    Gerrie i love those books too! i think they encouraged a lot of us on the path...british folklore is much overlooked but is very r
  • Gerrie
    Gerrie says #
    I learned of the Mari Lwyd in Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising series. For a young American just beginning her Pagan path, this s

Following on from my previous post about foraging and working with plant spirits to add extra magic to our potions and hedgerow cooking, one very important berry to collect at this time of year is the rosehip. Rosehips are the hard, oval shaped berries of the rose. Packed with vitamin C and a host of other essential vitamins and minerals these rich red berries have been used medicinally for thousands of years all around the world and are a potent magical resource. Like roses, these are usually thought of as sacred to earth goddesses as well as goddesses of love, and astrologically they are usually thought to be ruled by Jupiter and Venus and are suitable for magic related to these themes; love, abundance, exuberance, fertility and sexuality. Like roses rosehips also have strong faery energy, and are attractive to the sidhe  and nature spirits. Rosehips however have quite a different energetic feel than rose flowers. Far more robust, their taste and scent is quite fruity and zesty, hinting at their high vitamin C content. Traditionally the best ones to use for flavour or magic are hips from rosa canina the wild dog rose, although garden roses also work well.

Medicinally rosehips have been used to help with intestinal problems, kidney and bladder infections, stress and depleted immune systems, and to boost the circulation. When using rosehips some like to remove the seeds inside which are covered in tiny hairs and can be an irritant, but personally I've never noticed this be a problem. To remove the hairs, slit the berries and scoop out the seeds, or roughly chop the berries in a mixer, and then sieve. The tiny hairs will fall through the sieve easily.      

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Cauldron bubbles....autumn kitchen witchery part 1

This time of year as Mother Nature's larder is at her fullest I'm always being asked about making home remedies, foraging and using wild ingredients. To me, working with nature and living close to the earth is a practical as well as a spiritual path, and gives me an opportunity to keep in close relationship with the land around me, as well as its indwelling spirits. Gathering wild herbs nuts and berries for remedies and cottage preserves, as well as fruits and vegetables from the garden I'm always reminded of the kinship I feel with the plant and tree spirits, and this dictates how I go about my gathering as well my preparations. I consider them to be among my magical and shamanic allies- they help me understand and grow into greater communion with this sacred earth, as well as adding extra energy, taste and effectiveness to the potions and preserves we make together.   

Some of my top tips

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The equinoxes have been marked across the British Isles since the earliest times as agricultural markers, revealing the times of seed sowing and crop reaping as well as honouring the patterns of growth and decrease in our lives. In Ireland the Neolithic burial complex at Loughcrew known as Sliabh na Callighe of  'the hills of the veiled one' contains many astronomical alignments, and the interior of one of its structures, known as Cairn T is illuminated by the equinox sunrise, revealing spectacular designs carved into the rock over five thousand of years ago.  Archaeology reveals that Loughcrew has been a place of ritual and ceremony at the equinoxes for much of that time, a tradition that has been revived enthusiastically in the modern era, the footsteps of the pilgrims today walking the same paths as the ancestors thousands of years ago.

Another lesser known ancient place aligned to the equinoxes is West Kennet Longbarrow, part of the Avebury sacred complex, now a UNESCO world heritage site. I've spent many a night here, in communion with the ancestors, and to me this is a place where the barrow forms a recumbent goddess, receiving the spirits of the dead to return their spirits to life in the spring. 

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As the last of the summer fades away I always look forward to the autumn ahead as a time of real sensual delight. In this the first of a series of blogs from me celebrating my favourite season I look at how to make it relevant to you, no matter where you live, and whatever your spiritual path.   

Autumn is a time of rich abundance. The freshening air after a long summer can reinvigorate us, and encourage a more wistful, reflective state of mind that can help us develop our awareness to a deeper level. The scents of wood smoke and ripe apples waft over the countryside. The leaves begin to turn from green to golden, and the berries ripen on the branches in purples and scarlet making this a delicious, sensual time of year. A good opportunity to tune in to our wisdom of our bodies.

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