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This May I was blessed to be asked to teach at a wonderful event at Dunderry Park in County Meath in Ireland. 'Animystics' was a two day event that wove together various Celtic traditions and earth based practices to really deepen our connection to the earth and our own souls. My session was all about connecting with tree spirits, and the tradition of the Bile, or sacred tree, clan totem and representative of the world tree in the Celtic Traditions. Standing there, in a field on a beautiful May morning, I was struck again by how such simple acts as breathing and being present to nature can restore our balance, and by extension our connection to our own sovereignty, our own souls, and the soul of the earth Herself. Dunderry is just a few miles from the hill of Tara, said to be the ancient seat of the semi- mythical high kings of Ireland, and I felt the ancient ancestors, with their passionate love of the land reach out to us, to remember, and honour Her again as a way to restore ourselves in these often troubled times.

Tara is such a special place, a wide green hill that overlooks a vast and verdant landscape. On a clear day it is said you can see all of Ireland from it's summit. Once an Iron Age hill fort, it is also home to a Neolithic burial mound, 'the mound of the hostages', granting access to the womb of the earth, the realm of the sidhe, and the Lia Fáil, or Stone of Destiny, said to have been brought from the otherworldly city of Falias by the Tuatha de Danann, the Irish gods. The Lia Fáil is said to cry out when the rightful king stands upon it. Once it stood beside the mound, but now it stands sentry a little further off, overlooking the wide plains below. Whether this solitary monolith was truly the ancient mythical stone will always be up for debate, but standing there touching its weathered grey sides, sensing the endless generations that have come here, and used this as the touchstone, the still and central point to anchor their spiritual and earthly selves together, to find that link to sovereignty in a world that tries to take so much soul and so much power from us, is always a healing and humbling moment.

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Celebrating the greening

In my part of the world the green returns somewhere between the standard Pagan festivals of the spring equinox and Beltain. It’s something I quietly celebrate, because the return of colour to the world, and the return of leaves is something I find uplifting. It’s not an event, and it’s impossible to ascribe a reliable date to it. The greening happens in response to light, temperature, and the mysterious whims of plants.

Underwood tends to leaf first – I’m seeing elder and hawthorn leaves. Weeping willows are in leaf, osier willows still have bare branches. Chestnut is underway, ash isn’t particularly. Each tree comes into leaf in its own time. Other plants all have their own unique relationship with the seasons – early spring flowers are going over, a new set of plants are flourishing, the woodlands are green with the leaves of garlic and bluebells, while the fields and hills brighten with new grass.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
The Love of Trees

"The Clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness."

John Muir 1890. 

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
The time of birds

It’s the first day of December, and most of the leaves are now down from the trees where I live. There’s one little ash tree that is, somehow, still mostly green but the yellows are creeping in there, too. It’s been a matter of weeks since enough leaves fell from the horsechestnut to reveal the bird feeder I put there last year.

During the summer, bird watching is a difficult activity because there’s so much cover. Seeing a whole bird isn’t easy unless you can put up a bird table and lure them out into the open. In years when I’ve been able to do that, it’s still not been easy to see birds in summer because most of them prefer to be in the trees or out in the fields. I’ve noticed that birds tend to return to urban gardens in the winter, they’ve got wise to bird feeders.

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Pagan News Beagle: Earthy Thursday, November 5

The oldest living organism on Earth is detailed. Plans are made to transform Chicago for the future. And fires burn out of control in Indonesia, threatening the global climate. It's Earthy Thursday, our weekly take on science and Earth-related news. All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Shake your tree!

One of the issues we face when working with modern Paganism based in ancient Minoan spirituality is a practical one: we can’t read what the Minoans wrote. Their two writing systems, Cretan hieroglyphs and Linear A, are still undeciphered. That leaves us with lots and lots of images from frescoes, pottery, seal stones and seal rings. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but figuring out exactly which thousand words are the right ones can be a problem.

Lately I’ve been working on some art projects that involve enlarging photos of some of the Minoan seal rings, and I’ve had occasion to examine the artwork closely. Most of the time this has been an enlightening process, but I have run across one bit that bothered me a lot. You see, there’s a particular ritual scene that’s repeated over and over on the seal rings. The archaeologists have interpreted it as a ‘tree shaking ceremony’ but they can’t manage to explain what it might actually mean. As I was examining a closeup of the seal ring from Tholos Tomb A at Archanes (the main blog image above) it occurred to me that the branch-type object the male figure is shaking might not actually be a tree. I had a look at a few other seal rings that include similar ‘tree shaking’ rituals and I think these images may be something far more specific to the Minoan goddess than trees.

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Pagan News Beagle: Earthy Thursday, July 23

It's Earthy Thursday once more, our weekly news post about nature and science. This week we bring you stories about those magnificent, high-reaching biological structures we commonly know as "trees." Can you email a tree? How about build a church out of living trees? And are trees good for your health? All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

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