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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A time of magic and transformation, sacred to the goddess Brighid, is upon us at the eve of Imbolc,  Lá Fhéile Bríde  as it is known in Irish and Là Fhèill Brìghde as it is known in Scottish Gaelic. Brighid is one of our oldest and most revered of goddesses, Britain and Brittany are both named after Her, she is the sacred guardian of these countries. Her special festival, Imbolc, is one of the oldest Celtic festivals- one of the most famous sacred sites in Ireland, the mound of the hostages at Tara, built around 3350BC is astronomically aligned to the Imbolc sunrise, and there are several others, showing us that this time has been sacred for thousands of years. Thought to mean ‘in the belly’ Imbolc is a time when the ewes are pregnant and the new lambs are born, and when the year ahead is still pregnant with possibility.

There is something so special about this quiet, wintery time, when the first new shoots may be breaking through the soil but winter still continues fierce for a while yet. Today I woke at dawn to frosty world of white and silver, and I cleaned the hearth and kindled the fire in Brighid's name, adapting a traditional Celtic kindling prayer from the Outer-Hebrides.

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I sat with the Cailleach the other day, deep in the barrow mound, upon the hill, as the sun set on the shortest day. A raven spiralled over the white sky, and cut through the air with its cry…but its mournful sound seemed far off to me, sheltered in the shadows of the stones, and the black earth, the steady drip drip of water onto ancient sacred soil a drum rhythm, a rattle to the slow base of my heart beat in my ears, as I sank deeper and deeper still into the quiet.   

I held out my hands and felt her strong fingers, dry as winter twigs, gnarly knuckled and skin like paper-ash fine and fragile. She held my hands and with her the ancient ones, the sleeping ones stirring from the deep places dreaming, pulling me gently into layers below my awareness, calling me to slow down, and be enwrapped by them, to not rush today seeking magic when wisdom is here, in the quiet, in the dark. 

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Today we celebrate Samhain, and I'm drawn to think of my ancestors, my mothers bloodline and my fathers, back to the beginning, and as I step out to the threshold of my home, darkness gathering about me like a shawl, I give thanks to Gwyn ap Nudd, my patron god, lord of the wild hunt, and I give thanks to those that stand we with me unseen at the liminal places, who have seen my victories and my sorrows, and held my hand soft as the mist that caresses my cheek. I give thanks for each of them, my ancestral guardians, my beloveds, those whose bones are now a part of the rock and soil, those whose ashes are scattered on the wind, and whose memories are dust in the barrow mounds upon the hills, those who walked this long road before me. I remember you and you live in me, always.

Each year I bake a gift for the spirits, either barm brack or soul cakes, which I place out with a candle and a whiskey, for those who pass by on the wind. 

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So equinox has passed, and the leaves have begun falling from the trees. Its dark earlier, and the call of the hearth fire is stronger now than before. I always feel early autumn and the equinox, is a whole season, a whole process rather than a single point. We are balanced finely, gently tipping a little more into the dark half of the year, when the Cailleach calls us to look within.

Here in Avalon the scent of ripe apples fills the air, and the mists draw in, and there can be a feeling of both abundance and grief as death and endings seem to hang on every branch and blow on every breath of wind, with the harshness of the unknown winter the only surety ahead of us. We find ourselves now at a time when endings are afoot in our cultures as well as the seasons, with uncertainties and challenges ahead. But in these quiet moments, when the summer sun seems to be far behind, when we see the hope and life force of the land drain away into the earth once more, it is She who takes our hand, without a word, and we know that we will not walk into the darkness of winter alone.

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This time of year, the earth is full of abundance, and the wild witches garden is full of butterflies and bees- a haven for nature and our spirit and animal allies. The bee in particular has long been the friend of witches and seers in the Celtic traditions as well as further afield.  

Bees have long been considered magical beings, sacred to the a host of earth goddesses. In ancient Greece the priestesses of Artemis and Demeter were called Melissas, and in English folklore there is a tradition of 'telling the bees' all the news of your family, as well as your hopes and fears as they serve as powerful spirit allies. 

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  • Maja
    Maja says #
    Beautiful

The fairy pools SkyeI was blessed this year to spend the summer solstice on the Isle of Skye, and the powerful eerie and eternal presence of the Black Cuillin mountains surrounded me every day. Known in Gaelic as An t-Eilean Sgitheanach, or the Isle of Mists, this is an Otherwordly place with a distinct feeling to it. Nowhere on earth feels like Skye. Its a place of memory, of spirits.

On the solstice I went on a pilgrimage to the famous Fairy Pools- a series of bright turquoise pools and rushing waterfalls, slicing through the land across a bright green marshy river valley. The source of the water is a vast and deep purple slit or crevasse splitting the massive hillside above from top to bottom with obvious vaginal imagery. This mountains Gaelic name can apparently can no longer be translated, but its powerful feminine presence is unmistakable. The fairy pools are said to have no specific Faery myths attached to them, but their name is well earned. Anyone visiting can feel the unique atmosphere of this beautiful place, and the bright waters, pouring endlessly from the vaginal mountain flanked on either side by immense rocky thighs together with numerous traces of ancestral barrows and possible neolithic rock carvings dotting its landscape strongly suggest this was once a sacred complex, probably honouring the goddess of the mountain. There was one barrow ( an ancient burial mound usually for a chieftain or healer traditionally used for ancestral ritual) which was clearly to be seen, its roof fallen away but its rocky internal structure- small internal 'rooms' off a small central passage- was in the perfect position, by the side of one of the waterfalls to have allowed a view of the Great Goddess and space to enact entrance to Her womb/ tomb, as the ancient priestesses of the site sat in vigil in the barrows sacred darkness, seeking rebirth and vision.      

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It’s been a busy time for me lately. As a magical mother I’m always doing two things or more at once, every day an endless list of practicalities, and my spiritual life is by necessity deeply enmeshed in the mortal physical world. I see no separation between magic and the mundane, I walk through the worlds seamlessly.  But there are times when I feel particularly blessed, when the realms of spirit come to me and I am given space, connection, without purpose, without focus, other than to touch and feed the soul, just a time to revel  in the love of the Otherworld.

Yesterday I walked the dog and child through endless meadows filled with knee high golden buttercups, purple clover and wild white cow-parsley, like sea-foam, as the glorious heat of the day began to subside, and the mists rolled and billowed from the many rhynes, or watery ditches that lace the fields around my home, in the marshes that surround Glastonbury Tor. I waded through clouds of gold and green and white flowers all wrapped in the white mists of Avalon. Soon the Tor ahead of me vanished into clouds, and the meadows became wreathed in their own eerie shimmering light. A buzzard, my ally and kin from the realms Above swooped overhead and vanished into the white encircling walls of mist, and it seemed we had wandered into Faerie. Dog and child leaped and played, and I gathered armfuls of fresh herbs, and the sound of crickets grew still. I breathed and felt the earth beneath me so full of life. We walked for a time in some blessed realm. And my heart was full to the brim.

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