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 1st of May marks the ancient Celtic fire festival of Beltane, once honoured on the 5th of May, or the nearest full moon when the hawthorn is in blossom. The Beltane season is traditionally a time of lovers and the sensual, erotic lure of nature as new life bursts forth all around us and the promise of summer unfolding ahead of us raises both our spirits and our life force. Ancient festivities for Beltane included leaping the Beltane fire to receive the blessing of the sun god Bel to mark this rise in our vigour. But this is also a time traditionally related to the sacred marriage, the union of the god and the goddess of the land to bring us all fertility for the coming year- partaking in the 'rites of May'- heading off into the woods and the wild to spend the night with your lover at this time was in many ways an established custom all across Europe for hundreds of years, and is mentioned in Shakespeare's 'A midsummer night's dream' as an explanation for the lovers disarray when they are discovered.   

Beltane and May Day lore always involves some kind of dissolution into our primal selves, where every man and woman may embody the divine for a while and partake of this sacred marriage within our own souls as well as with sexual partners. Traditions from adorning and worshipping at the phallic maypole, and crowning a May Queen to represent the old pagan fertility goddesses remain a fixed feature of many May Day celebrations in the modern era, but stranger ones such as the Cornish Padstow Obby Oss have also survived and seen a passionate revival in modern times, reminding us of the inherent chaos and wildness of the season- beneath all the May Day fairs and village cake competitions there is still a suggestion of something strange afoot- this is a spirit time, when forces beyond our everyday world may still make themselves felt.

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The spring equinox this year falls on the 20th of March. This is a time of youthful exuberance in nature, when all of the green world seems to be springing back into life. March wind and rain may still keep many of us indoors on some days, but if we venture out into the wild we will be surprised by what we encounter. Blossom will be erupted from every tree and hedgerow,  and the forest floor begins to be carpeted with primroses and anemones, celandine and of course daffodils, which spring up everywhere along verges and gardens as well as the wild with equal ease and sunny glory.

Mad march hares can be seen sprinting across the brown fields, and boxing off unwanted lovers as the mating season gets underway in earnest. One of my favourite places to see the hares is at Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire, though they can be found all over the UK.  Sighting the hares is a regular part of my spring pilgrimage to this exposed but beautiful ancient site.

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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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