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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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

Know the plant. Be sure you have identified it properly, and learn some of its botanical lore as well as its folklore or magical significance.

Always gather with an attitude of respect and gratitude to the plant for its gifts. Some plants require permission from their indwelling spirits, but all deserve to be asked and thanked.

Never gather more than you need. You are part of nature; co-create and share, don't merely consume. Contribute and give back by walking lightly on the earth, use eco-friendly products, reuse, recycle. Provide and protect places for nature to thrive.

So now for a couple of my best autumn potions.

Elderberry is one of nature's best cold and virus remedies as well as a powerful immunity booster, and it also tastes delicious.  The elder mother, its indwelling spirit is a powerful faery being, a protectress of the forest and a friend to witches. Befriend and honour her and she will keep your family healthy over the winter with these powerful potions- but beware! Elderberries stain.        

Danu's magical elderberry elixir

Gather the berries- always asking the elder tree permission first. Find an elderberry tree and ask it in your own words, or try these

 'Elder tree, elder mother, may I gather some of your berries for my healing potion?'

Take a moment to really feel in your gut- do i have this trees permission? If you do then go ahead, being careful to just gather the berries and their stalks, not pulling or snapping branches. Give the berry heads a gentle shake to give insects a chance to fall off back onto the soil. Give the tree an offering of water at its roots as thanks.

When you get the berries home, gently give them a rinse through, and ease the berries from the stalks as much as you can. Some stalks will probably remain but thats ok. Leave to dry in the air. 

Sterilise a glass jar by washing it carefully ( don't towel dry it) and putting into a hot oven for a few minutes- as soon as the water has evaporated its sterile. Let it cool before touching.

Add the berries to the jar and then add enough honey to cover the berries. Manuka honey is best for this as it has added benefits but any honey works well. Throw in a couple of star anise, and perhaps a few chunks of chopped ginger root- how many depends on what you have and how large the jar. You want it to taste fairly spicy as that shows they are strong enough to do you some good.

Finish with a large dash of brandy and stir. You want enough brandy to make the mixture more liquid, so it's easier to take by spoon and slightly less viscous, but again, go with your taste and what you have. So long as the berries and spices are covered they are being preserved.      

Leave somewhere dark and cool for a month or two then strain using a sieve and rebottle in another sterilized container. It will happily keep for a year stored somewhere cool and dark. If you forget to sieve that's fine, sieve out the berries and spices as you go. A few berries can be eaten without ill effects- just don't give lots of the berries to small children as it can be too much on their tummies.

The elixir can be taken by the spoonful or added to cold or hot water for a delicious drink. I use two or three spoons three times a day for adult colds and viruses. One spoonful diluted in water three times a day for my 5 year old.    

Elderberry syrup recipe

This syrup can be added to water like a cordial or taken by the spoonful, as well as poured over ice cream, added to sauces etc. It tastes delicious, as well as having being a good cold and flu remedy.

First, again gather your elderberries, preferably with the tree spirits permission, rinse them and gently ease them off the stems.

Put them in a pan over a moderate heat with a small amount of water and bring to the boil until they soften- about 20 minutes, then strain them using a jelly bag, muslin or a fine meshed sieve.

For every pint of 'juice' add 1lb of sugar and the juice of one lemon. Ginger, star anise cloves or other spices can also be added to taste and added medicinal qualities.

Return to the heat and boil until the sugar has been dissolved, then boil for another 10 minutes and leave to cool. Use a sieve to remove any cloves or large chunks of ginger etc.

Store in sterilized bottles or containers  ( see above for sterilizing instructions).

Next time....rosehips and apples.




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Danu Forest is a wisewoman in the Celtic Bean Feasa tradition of her Irish ancestors. You could call her many things- witch, seer, walker between the worlds, healer, druid, priestess, teacher, writer, gardener, herbwife, stargazer, faery friend, tree planter, poet, and wild woman. Danu 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 Wild Magic, The Druid Shaman, Celtic Tree Magic, Gwyn ap Nudd and The Magical Year'. She teaches regular workshops and online courses and is available for consultations, including healings readings and other ceremonies.


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