Ogham & Faery Divination

Ogham and The Book of Ballymote


I am writing a book on the Irish Ogham. I have been working with the Trees and the strange alphabet based on them, and reputed to be one of the only things to have come to us from the Druids,  since the mid 1980′s. I wrote a poem way back then called Witches Wheel, using the Trees on the Wheel of the Year. This poem was instantly snapped up by the editors of Seattle poetry mag Bellowing Ark, launching my brief, but eventful, poetry career.

I was going through some journals and things and found that old Bellowing Ark with this poem in it. It inspired me to put a book together using this poem based on the order of trees in association with the months that felt right to me back then, and still do now. It is not the standard Celtic Tree Calender, or Celtic Astrology we have had marketed to us for the last 20 years. It is based on the thirteen month lunar calender of the Celts — equally speculative, but more appropriate. I back up my ideas in the book and will make it available through this blog.

At the time I wrote Witches Wheel, I was heavily under the influence of Robert Graves’ White Goddess.  I wrote a few others under that influence, including Song to the Gundestrup Cauldron lurking somewhere in the Archives of this blog. Recently as I was doing research to refresh my memory a bit,  I was poking around in an online version of the Book of Ballymote. There I found this list — a nice bit of wonderfully poetic Tree Lore.

Click below for that poem:

Intimations of Ancestry: Song to the Gundastrup Cauldron

The Book of Ballymote was written by a scribe and named for the parish of Ballymote, County Sligo, in 1390 or 1391.

I don’t know really know much about it except that it is full of Ogham, like this page here: all these arrangements of little lines symbolize particular trees, and everything they are each associated with.

RIA image detail (2)

For more details on the Book of Ballymote, there is a fabulous website:


Ogham Scales from the Book of Ballymote, by Dr. Barry Fell.

Faery Divination?

I think it was from R.J. Stewart that I first heard where the Faery Tunes of Ireland, like Pretty Girl Milking a Cow, and the Faery Tunes of O’Carolan, came from.  In my other brief career as folk musician, I knew that some tunes were  known as Faery Tunes, but I did not know that they came up from under the ground.

Call me what you will, but when I was in Ireland, I took a tour on a bus out to the Burrin. As we rode along, I could have sworn I heard music coming from under the ground. Had I known how to write music, I could prove it!

The Faery Tradition is a path of imagination and poetry. In the same way that Turlough O’Carolan captured Faery music as it rose up from the Underworld, I believe that one can get messages from Faery through the trees, the patterns the branches against the sky, and the flight of birds across the sky seen through the trees. Some of these messages may be oracular. A Faery Seer sees signs everywhere, and  with a certain poetic sensibility is able to interpret them.


These meanings are mostly about the actual uses of the trees- as types of firewood, cattle fodder, what can be made from them, what insects or animals might hide in them- or are simple descriptions of the trees. While some of the meanings are quite intriguing, I don’t believe that these lists are specifically related to divination or magic- although they could have been part of a larger system that was.

List One:

From The Scholar’s Primer:

Word Oghams of Morann Mac Main

Parentheses are mine. My meditations have been quick. They will bear deeper work, especially when you are familiar with the trees and can, in a sense, go into them. Be the tree and at the same time, the observer of the tree and you will find the juncture for divination.

At the end of this post, i gave a nice little divination technique.

B – beith, birch – faded trunk and fair hair
,   ( this is how Birch looks)

L- luis, rowan – delight of eye, blaze or flame
, ( the berries of the rowan are flame red)

F- fearn, alder – shield of warrior-bands,   (the bleeding alder was used for shields)

S- saille, willow – hue of the lifeless
,   ( willow is the threshold of the Otherworld, death)

N- nion, ash – checking of peace (a sign of peace)   ( upholds the earth)

H – huath, hawthorn – pack of wolves
   ( the Faery Tree, dangerous to touch)

D – duir, oak – highest of bushes     ( large)

T – tinne, holly – “Another thing, the meaning of 
that today” ( holly is the Winter King who must replace the Oak of Summer)

C – coll, hazel – fairest of trees
  ( poetry and wisdom)

Q -  quert, apple – shelter of a hind, a fold, lunatic ( romantic, sexual love. Lovers run mad in many Celtic tales)

M – muin, vine – strongest of effort ( you cannot break it)

G – gort, ivy – sweeter than grasses, cornfield   ( spreads everywhere like grass, but is sweeter)

NG – ngetal, broom – a physician’s strength    ( luck)

ST – straif, blackthorn – strongest of red (dye color)
  ( Also, a tree of suffering — blood)

R – ruis, elder – intensest of blushes, from shame   ( witches tree)

A – ailm, silver fir – loudest of groanings, death rattle
    ( the ghost rising up out of the earth, birth coming from death)

O – onn, furze – helper of horses, chariot wheels       ( feeds horses)

U – ura, heather – in cold dwellings, mold of earth
    ( grows close and all over the ground)

E – eadha, aspen – distinguished wood for the trembling tree  ( good fire)

I -  idho, yew – oldest of woods  ( immortality)

EA – ebad, aspen (or white poplar)- most buoyant of wood  (graceful, flexible)

OI – oir, spindle tree- most venerable of structures   ( house building wood)

UI -  uillean, gooseberry- sweetest of wood
       ( berries)

IO – ipin, honeysuckle (or woodbine)- juicy wood
     ( wine)

AE – emancoll, witchhazel- expression of weariness   ( end of wisdom)


List Two:

These meanings show another aspect of each tree.

Word Oghams of Mac ind Oic:

b, beith, birch – most silvery of skin ( bark of the birch)

l, luis, rowan – friend of cattle  ( I think cattle shelter under rowan)

f, fearn, alder – guarding of milk   ( The Fery King who guards women — shields were made of alder)

s, saille, willow – activity of bees ( the buzzing of bees signal proximity of the Faery Queen. Willow is her tree)

n, nion, ash – fight of women    ( the Three Norns live under Yggdrasil, the World Tree and spin the Web of Wyrd)

h, huath, hawthorn – blanching of face ( fear the Faeries –  supernatural beings, harbingers of death)

d, duir, oak – carpenter’s work
  ( wood for building houses, Door)

t, tinne, holly – fires of coal     ( holly fires, berries turn  white, green, red, and then black)

c, coll, hazel – friend of cracking  ( hazel nuts being shelled)

q, quert, apple – force of the man
  ( sexual potency inspired by beauty)

m, muin, vine – condition of slaughter, a man’s back
  (captivity,  lashes)

g, gort, ivy – (med nercc, meaning “abundance of mead.”)

ng, ngetal, broom – (this list skips this letter..)

st, straif, blackthorn – increasing of secrets   ( anything hidden under the blackthorn is safely guarded)

r, ruis, elder – redness of faces, sap of the rose
   ( Enchantress’s tree)

a, ailm, silver fir – beginning of an answer, child’s cry ( birth)

o, onn, furze – smoothest of work

u, ura, heather – growing of plants, the soil
  ( holds the soil as groundcover)

e, eadha, aspen – synonym for a friend

i, idho, yew – most withered of wood, or a sword  (old and yet strong)
ea, ebad, aspen (or white poplar)- corrective of a sick man

oi, oir, spindle tree- (this list skips this letter)

ui, uillean, gooseberry- wonderful of taste

io, ipin, woodbine (or honeysuckle)- great equal length

ae, emancoll, witchhazel- (this list skips this one)

Ogham Staves for Divination


I am not sure if Ogham staves are authentic, or if they a new thing based on the I-ching. They are cool though.

For modern people,  who don’t spend a lot of time with nature watching the trees, Ogham staves can be a replacement for this observation of the patterns of trees. Having the forest reduced and encapsulated  into a set of tools,  saves you having to learn the names, growing conditions and seasons of each and every tree.

I would tend to visit a tree — say a yew in the park close to my house — and work ask it to help understand the forces of death and rebirth, and immortality.  Or I would  find a willow if I wanted to increase my psychic powers.

I call Observing the  Ogham Faery Divination at its purest. Casting the Ogham staves can work in much the same way if you learn the qualities of the trees,  their life cycles and where they fit in the chain of life. Then, when the staves are thrown, you merge with the spirits of the trees and gather the messages from the images that come to mind. The spirits you commune with are Faery beings who impart to each tree is numinous, eerie, poetic attributes, making the staves into doorways to the Otherworld where the answers lie.


I have used Ogham divination in this way for other people. You could try it too.

1. Have the person bring you a leaf. or several if they need them. As they gather them, they should be thinking the whole time about their question or concern, and thank the trees for the leaves.

2. Go out with your client and find a tree that the leaf belongs to. For instance, if they brought you an Oak leaf, find an Oak tree.

3, Sit under the tree, lean on its trunk, and go into communion with the spirit of the tree — its Faery self.

4. If you like Geomancy, this would be great to use it, but only  if you need a tool besides Clairvoyance. But if you meditate deeply enough, you should be able to receive direct impressions — messages from the tree, the wind in the branches, the life all around it. What falls on your head?

5. What animals come along? Imagination is the key to Faery divination.

6.  You can also make a board like the diagram above and throw stones on it and see where they land if you need more detail. This is good if you have to  stay inside, or want a bit more information on an issue and require more trees.

Have fun!

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A Film About Faery Seer, Rev. Robert Kirk

The Secret Commonwealth

in 1692, Reverend Robert Kirk hand wrote a notebook about on Scottish folkloric Faery Tradition not long before his mysterious death. The  notebook was called “The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies.”

Legend has it that Robert Kirk walked between the worlds and had finally entered into Faery and was never seen again. That his experiences with these beings was real is proven by the evidence of his writings for he gives many Magical Instructions, descriptions, experiences,  and answers the questions of good and evil that concern Christians about Faery.

Author and Faery Seer, R.J.Stewart translated Robert Kirk’s notebooks annotating it with a great deal of his own knowledge.  It is a must read for those who wish to work with the Faery. It is called: Robert Kirk: Walker Between the Worlds.

For Bob’s book go here: R.J.Stewart Books

He sent me an email to find this exciting trailer on Youtube. What an amazing subject! Us Faery Seers may finally have our day!


For related books click the widget for Amazon!

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London: Spirits of the Land, The Faerie Queene

Elizabeth Tudor: the Faerie Queene

Of Faerie lond yet if he more inquire,
By certaine signes here set in sundry place
He may it find; ne let him then admire,
But yield his sence to be too blunt and bace,
That no’te without an hound fine footing trace.
And thou, O fairest Princesse vnder sky,
In this faire mirrhour maist behold thy face,
And thine owne realmes in lond of Faery,
And in this antique Image thy great auncestry.
— Edmund Spencer, The Faerie Queene

I was drawn to London because of Shakespeare. In the 1980′s I was heavily involved in Shakespeare productions, not only as an actress, but as a choreographer as well. I was also known to lend a hand with costumes for they are one of my passions, and brought up in small town Massachusetts, I was a trained needlewoman since early childhood.
In 1998, an authentic replica of the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre had been completed on the south bank of the Thames. Portraits of Queen Elizabeth and the Tudors were on free exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery. It is quite a thing to be able to stand in front of a painting that one’s favorite monarch actually sat for and to feel the centuries pass below you, carried on the River Thames.
The reign of Elizabeth was remarkable for its glories in art, music, dance, magic, and culture, as well for its horrors.  One only has to walk along Tower Bridge to recall that in her day the severed heads of traitors would have been displayed above you,  visited by crows and reduced to bones on a regular basis. Of course, across the bridge one can see the Tower of London, where Elizabeth herself was imprisoned as a girl.
Bright light, deep shadow, London was a microcosm of the forces of dark and light, god and evil, and everything in between.

I have no doubt that I was ‘guided’ to live in London because of the intensity of this duality, resonant as I was with the city’s history in Elizabeth’s time. Magically, Elizabeth Tudor’s court Astrologer, John Dee, and his Seer, Edward Kelly, were talking to angels. After the Queen’s death, these two  would help to bring the art of Alchemy to fruition in Bohemia. King James’s daughter, Elizabeth, would marry Fredrick of Bohemia. Together they  became the icons of the Alchemical King and  Queen.
Edward Spencer’s epic poem, The Faery Queen, based on Queen Elizabeth, did not come out of a vacuum. I believe he was inspired by a conceit already being played out in the Court.
But I had ‘met’ her in this guise  while living in Seattle, long before I ever went to London.

Have a listen to Spem in Alium, composed for Queen Elizabeth’s birthday by Thomas Tallis, while you read the blog. It is sung by 8 choirs.

The Pelican and Phoenix Portraits

My first formal magical excursions into the Realm of Faery were under the guidance of R.J.Stewart in a workshop he gave on the Dark Goddess.
One of Bob’s exercises is have an audience with the Faery Queen and the Faery King. Each participant has their own version of this, for the Realm of Faery, though ‘real’, dresses itself in the iconography of our individual imaginations. I saw, and have seen since, the Faery King as great Stag/Man and the Faery Queen ‘dressed’ as Queen Elizabeth.

The Influence of Our Personal Imagery on How Faeries Appear

I thought this imagery was due to my inner links with Shakespeare and Elizabethan times. Also, as a child of he 1960′s, I grew up listening to Joan Baez singing the old Child Ballads, many of which came from the 15th and 16th centuries. Many of these songs were collected in Appalachia, brought to the Americas by English, Scots and Irish settlers during those times. As a child in Massachusetts, my imagination was informed by austere Puritan imagery: Women in black clothes with laced  corsets, neck ruffs, and peaked hats were among the  spirits of that land for me. The infamous Man in Black was dressed in 17th century clothes. I drew many pen and ink illustrations of women dressed like this, calling them my “Witches”. I felt they came to me from the flint, birch trees, and the golden rod, that covered the low hills of New England. The folk ballads and the Puritan imagery worked together in my imagination to generate ideas of what Underworld Faeries, the Ancestors, looked like.

This would be true for everyone who enters Faery. They will appear to you in a from that appeals to you or frightens you, or whatever gets the strongest emotional response from you.

Imagination, or Something Else?

While in London, I began writing fiction. I had been writing all my life, mostly poetry. (I am a published poet and have won a few prizes for my work.) But it took living in an historic country like England for my stories to come alive in me. My first endeavor was a novel about a Faery Changeling entitled Dark Night, Lily Bright. The Faery Queen is called Queen Elspeth and her consort is Cernunnos, the Stag/Man. There are also two other related characters in the story, sorceresses, that are similar to her. They all wear Elizabethan fashions.

Writing is a magical act, and the characters were very much alive. This seems to be the reason people become passionate about writing, for the writer watches as the characters act out their story and record it. In my novel about Faeries, I merely clothed the Faery Queen as Elizabeth. I never dreamed it may have actually been Elizabeth as Goddess of the Land entering my inner world.

My ‘real’ work is as a psychic and healer. One day, I was doing a healing session with a client lying on the massage table in a trance. When the session was over, she sat up and said “The whole time we were working, two women were standing at the end of the table dressed in purple. They said they were Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary.”
I was floored! Never had anyone else seen them before. I did know that Queen Mary had arrived. Of course they were sisters.

Masonic Connections

Before I went to England in 1997, I had a dream that I was invited into a gathering of English people seated in an a circle in a formal library as you might find in a stately home. It was a gathering of occultists. I saw the face of the leader of the group very clearly, for he had opened the door to me.
In 2004, I went to a talk on Alchemy that was held at a Masonic center in Cannonbury, Islington. During the tea and cakes reception a man walked toward me, holding out his hands as if he were greeting a long lost friend. I instantly recognized him as the man in my dream! During our conversation, in which I told him of my pre-cognition of our meeting, the subject got on to my feelings about Queen Elizabeth and magic, especially Alchemy. This man, Joseph McDerrmott, had been a Jesuit monk in Ireland. He eventually left the Order to focus on occult practices. The iconography of Queen Elizabeth was a special interest of his, so he kindly invited me to meet him at the Tate gallery to see the Phoenix Portrait of Queen Elizabeth on loan from the National Portrait Gallery. He told me it would be ‘an initiation’.

The Symbols of Sacred Queenship

Pelican of Sacrifice

The iconography of the rubescent Pelican Portrait displays emblems of the Queen’s willingness to sacrifice  herself for her subjects, for as the mythical Pelican pierces her own breast to feed her young with her heart’s blood, so the Queen bleeds for the benefit of her country and its people. Red is the color of martial strength,as well as sexual energy. She has a branch of cherries behind her ear that seems like a ‘come and get it if you can gesture’, though one could not possibly suggest that the Queen would play such games…The roses and other  flower-like jewels and embroideries on her gown suggest fertility and abundant life. The Tudor rose and the fleur-de-lis floating in the space behind her are the symbols of England and France.
In restored versions, there is a fringe over her head suggesting  that she stands beneath a canopy. As her shadow is cast on the wall behind her, we can assume she must have been facing the sun, the source of light. This solar spotlight suggests that the Queen chose to be highly visible before her people. She had nothing to hide, rather she displays her role as their protector and guide.
These are the outward shows for the sake of reassurance for the realm that she give her all for their sake.
Yet there was one important thing Elizabeth would never give them — an heir. I think her compensation for this is revealed in the companion portrait, where she looks to the left, the ‘sinister’ direction of the moon. Her black veil suggests that she stands in the shadows, in the darkness, hidden.

Phoenix of Death and Rebirth

The Phoenix Portrait is the companion piece to the Pelican Portrait. Joe described one as being  ‘with the red rose’, while the other is ‘under the black rose’. The black rose signifies secret knowledge kept ‘under the rose’ or ‘sub rosa’.

In the Phoenix portrait, Elizabeth stands under a black veil against a black background suggesting that she is on the threshold of the Unseen. The phoenix is an emblem of death and rebirth, but not pro-creative duplication. This is important in Elizabeth’s case, for she remained ‘virgin’, or unmarried, all her life. This created serious political problems, for she was dooming the kingdom to go on, after her death, without an heir.

The phoenix as a symbol for Elizabeth’s uniqueness, oneness and chastity, has a hidden meaning. The bird that dies  in fire to rise again from its own ashes, is a powerful icon for dynastic mysticism. Its ability to transcend death asserts the continuation of hereditary kingship through the immortality of the monarch, in this case the Virgin Queen. There could be no more potent symbol of power on Earth than this reminder that  even death cannot defeat this Queen.

The jewels in the Queen’s hair ray out like moonlight, she is covered in pearls and garnets, suggesting moonlit dew drops and blood. The strawberry leaves embroidered over the fabric of her gown symbolize love, luck and pregnancy(?). (It is interesting to note that strawberries, when crushed, could be said to bleed.)

Most significantly for the occultist, the Queen holds a white stone in her  hand. Could it be the Philosopher’s Stone that grants immortality, eternal youth and life?

This portrait explains the secrets behind and esoteric justification for the Queen’s chastity. Her possession of the Philosopher’s Stone means that she will never die.  Did Dr. John Dee conjure this for her? As we saw previously, it was he that brought Alchemy to Bohemia, catalyzing the Magical Court of Emperor Rudolf, a center for esotericists from all over the world.

When one  considers that the Tudors were also Celts, with their ancient tradition of Lady Sovereignty, representative of the Land, it may not be too far fetched to suggest that Queen Elizabeth reveals her magical beliefs and alchemical aspirations to be the Sovereign Lady reigning over the land of England forever. All future Kings who marry the Land will marry Elizabeth, for she is one with the land, part and parcel of it. She is the Faery Queen.

photo credit: Ivana Warde   Hampstead Heath

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Creating Sacred Space: Part 2

Above, Below, and Between

In the preceding article, Creating Sacred Space, I described how to create a Magic Circle based on the Four Directions of the compass. East, South. West, and North. This is the horizontal Place Between the Worlds, but there at three vertical directions needed  to complete the Astral Temple that really takes one safely into the Otherworld.

Magical Circle

Reestablish yourself within the Four Directions of the Magic Circle. I like what my teacher R.J.Stewart always says: “The direction in which you stand comes through you, the direction that face comes to you, the directions to you right and left uphold you.”

Now you stand in the center of the circle and raise your Magical Weapon to the sky and say:

“I call forth the Gods and Goddesses of the Celestial Realm. The Moon, the Sun, and the Stars, the Seven Planets, the Signs of the Ecliptic, are arranged above us tonight.”

Earthlight Ritual

You can perform the Faery Earthlight Ritual while you call the Sky, as taught by R.J.Stewart at this point to bring it into your body:
*Standing straight with your arms at your sides, visualize the color green in your feet and moving up your legs.
*Raising your arms a little, visualize the color blue moving into your pelvis and generative organs.
*Raising your arms so they are even with your shoulders, visualize the color red moving into your chest and heart.
*Raising your arms so above your head, visualize the color yellow around your head.
*Slowly bring your arms down, visualizing the colors as you go.
This is called Raising the Earthlight and is a Faery technique.

Descent to the Underworld

Now see the ground at your feet. Depending on your tradition, see a five-pointed star shining with blue light, or a six pointed star, the door of a well, and stairway or the roots of a great tree whose branches spread down into the Underworld.

Traditions with Judeo-Christian values, may avoid going into the Underworld, known to them as the Infernal Realm, abode of Demons, or Qlippoth. They may believe that the Faery are Demons. Even I know that they are Fallen Angles — but so are we.

If you feel safer to work in a Temple that has no basement, then it it is perfectly fine to work within the SIX. For those of Faery or Infernal leanings, you will want to include the SEVENTH.

Take your seat in one of the Four Directions. Focus on the well, stairway or tree roots in the center of the Circle. There is a different feel to each.

The Well has a watery feel and tends to take you to twilight places. I find dew spangled grass, trees, and it is through the portal of the well that I have met Merlin, Morgan LeFay, Vivienne, and the Priestesses of the wells.
Around the well grow red and white roses. Roses are sacred to the Faery, and in facet have been created by them. Roses belong to Lucifer and the Madonna as well. I also give them to King Solomon, and the Black Madonna.

Stair to Moat

Stair to Moat

The Stairway that spirals down into the earth has a feel of ancient stone. In my experience, it leads to ancient temple precincts, ruins, and libraries. Also cemeteries, catacombs and the like. Goths will like the spiral stairway, for it seems to lead to the darker mysteries.

The Reversed Tree leads to the Faery Realm, the Green Land and the path to the Palace Under the Hill. This is very potent. There are rules.

I will write another post on the subject of Faery etiquette in the future. If you insist on trying it out before that, use impeccable manners and treat the Lordly Ones with deference, and respect. This isn’t just about being nice — its a warning.

The Sphere Of Light

Now you are within the sphere which is your Astral Temple. You can work within and below as I described, you can journey into one or all of the Four Directions and learn form them. This is never boring as far as I am concerned, because it changes all the time.
This horizontal work can bring amazing experiences. You can wander into the dark forest of the Grimm’s fairy tales, or dive into Undersea Palaces, dally in the Garden of the Rose, or walk among the Standing Stones that shine on the low hill at sunrise..

If you want to move Above, Rising on the Planes, set your intention and you feel yourself shift. Shifting usually brings a sensation of light pressure in your solar plexus and head.
You can visit the Moon, Sun, or Stars. I like to see a golden ladder come down and climb it sometimes. Tower imagery works very well. They have different feels about them. I have often found myself lying in a long golden boat called Millions of Years.

Mood Enhancers

*Music instantly changes the atmosphere. Ambient music, Tibetan bowls, drumming can help focus the mind.
*Incense acts on ancestral memory. Some incenses are designed to call upon certain spirits or deities. Benzoin and Amber call the Faery.
* Crystals, stones, flowers, leaves, figures, and other images can help one to focus, adding a visual link to the deep, subconscious mind. I used to use a crystal bowl filled with water as the centerpiece of my Moon Circles for years.

Every item in the circle should follow the Correspondences to bring through the energies to want to work with.

I will write more on these topics as we go along. Any requests? have any questions or ideas come up about this work of Creating Sacred Space?

For more Magical Instruction, subscribe to my email list and you will be updated.

You can’t go wrong with these books by R.J.Stewart Faery Magus

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Witchery of the Frog and Toad

Witchery of Frog and Toad

I’ll go to the toad

That lives under the wall;

I’ll charm him out

And he’ll come to my call.

The Frog King

In the Grimm’s Fairy Tale, Frog King, a little princess chases her golden ball around the garden. It falls into the well and the girl is heartbroken.  Suddenly a frog hops out of the well and  asks the Princess what is troubling her. She complains that her golden ball is gone down the well. The frog promises to restore it to her if she will accept it as companion who will sit beside her, drink from her glass, eat from her plate, and sleep in her bed. She promises this thinking, “Well, it’s only a frog. It cannot possibly be my companion!” The frog restores the golden ball and asks her to take him home with her. The Princess runs away and soon forgets about the frog and her promise.
The next day, when the royal court is feasting, the frog appears and asks to be let into the hall. The Princess shuts the door on it and attempts to put the frog out of her mind.  Seeing her distress, the King asks her what is wrong. She tells him, and the King insists that she must never go back on her promises and had better invite the little frog in. The Princess does so, but refuses to allow the frog to sit next to her the table, putting her nose in the air, and turning away in disgust. The King reminds her to keep her promise. She begrudgingly allows the frog to share her meal, and then hurries away from the table to escape his next request. The King  angrily calls her back and tells her that someone who has helped her when she was in need must not be despised. So the frog joins her in bed. The little Princess is so revolted at the thought of lying next to a frog, that, after three nights, she can stand it no longer. She picks him up and hurls him against the wall. Suddenly, he turns into a handsome Prince!

illustration: Anne Anderson

When I was child playing in the woods, me and the other children were fond of catching frogs. There were lots of little streamy swamps in our woods that had two major frog ponds in them. One was at the end of a path that went down through a stand of little trees and bushes. At the base of a high rock surrounded with wild irises and tiger lilies was a deep pool. There the frogs were very friendly and easy to catch, and their green clouds of eggs clung to the shore  within hands reach. The other, larger,  pond was deeper in the woods and the frogs tended to stay near the far bank under the bushes. This pond was crossed by a big fallen log. We used to lie across the log and stretch our hands down to water where the frogs swam with their heads just above the surface, green and shiny and looking at us with gold-rimmed eyes. If we were fast enough, we could catch them, though they easily slipped out of our grasp and disappeared under the dark, unreflective water.
I saw the frogs were beautiful and never captured them without letting them go.

Magic of Toads and Frogs

The pond, well, or spring has long been thought to be a portal to the Faeryland which is underground. Water is the carrier of beings from one state to another, and is also our original home. What lies underwater is as mysterious, dark, hidden as that which lies underground. The difference is that the water seems to allow entry into its hidden realm. We can see through the surface of the water where living creatures move like shadows,  sometimes emerging and the disappearing again as through a dark mirror. Frogs, turtles, snakes, alligators, crocodiles, and even some mammals have the capacity to move between realities through water.
If we can imagine  times before there were submarines and technology that allows us to see what  beneath the surface of the seas, we might understand the power of  mysterious wells and springs, the oceans and seas, in the imaginations of our ancestors. These were  literally portals to the Otherworld.
These amphibious creatures are magical, for everything that exists in the unstable state betwixt and between is magical. They move in and out of two worlds, water and earth, above and below. They are transformational, shape shifters, moving through phases like the moon who is their ruler. From a sqaushy green jelly full of eyes,  to tadpole, to frog, the miraculous changes take place before our eyes. Anyone who has watched  a tadpole sprout legs one at a time, lose its tail, and hop on as a fully fledged little land animal knows the fascination of the frog.
For those with the Witchblood the frog and toad become more. I used to be able to see the jewels in the foreheads of toads, especially at night. They sat in our front  garden and sometimes I sat beside them. I was fond of bells in those days and had the odd fancy of tinkling bells over the toads to make them dance. Later I learned that the toad does have a gland in its head that secrets a hallucinogenic substance, or a poison, as all drugs are. For me, as a child, the jeweled Toad was a part of my dreaming reality. I have since learned that bells are carried on the wind of Faery in Celtic tradition.
I often sat beside the pond under the high rock in the twilight to listen to the songs of the frogs and watch them catch the long legged mosquitoes that hovered above the water. I felt that if I just stayed very still and silent, they would communicate with me. Those were magic moments in the hot late summers of Massachusetts, when I ringed the pond with tea lights, and sat with my eyes fastened on the still pool, the slowly moving flowers, the ragged edges of the trees turning darker in the dimming light of the sky. Unlike the Princess, I did not find it strange to be the companion of frogs and toads.
Once I read a book about a girl who found a pond like my pond. When she looked into the water, she saw a face looking back, but it was not her face.  Sometimes the spirit of the well looks up at you from the water. She is a dark woman who is as old as time and as beautiful as your imagination allows her to be. Like the frog, she glances up and then disappears. But you must be very still to see her and it must be twilight and hot summer when the witch grass is thick and the mountain laurel blooms and the bushes smell like ripe fruit.
In the book, the face in the pond was the remains of an old ship’s figurehead. Very New England image, that. It led to some mystery, but that I do not remember. Only the pond and the face looking up. Later on when I would study Faery Magic with R.J.Stewart, I would learn the lore of the three heads in the well and that it was a well of healing. For me the frog pond was a place between the worlds.

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Thomas Rhymer: An Exploration of A Faery Ballad

Child Ballads:

One of the things that drew me to the Faery Tradition was my love of the old Child Ballads. these were collected throughout the British Isles by a folklorist Francis James Child in the late 19th century.

This definition Of the Child Ballads comes from Wikipedia:
“The Child Ballads are a collection of 305 ballads from England and Scotland, and their American variants, collected by Francis James Child in the late 19th century. The collection was published as The English and Scottish Popular Ballads between 1882 and 1898 by Houghton Mifflin in 10 volumes. The ballads vary in age; for instance, a version of “A Gest of Robyn Hode” was printed in the late 15th or early 16th century, and the manuscript of “Judas” dates to the 13th century. The majority of the ballads, however, date to the 17th and 18th century; although some probably have very ancient influences, only a handful can be definitively traced to before 1600. Moreover, few of the tunes collected are as old as the words. While many of them had been individually printed, e.g. as broadsides, Child’s collection was far more comprehensive than any previous collection of ballads in English. (However, there were comprehensive ballad collections in other languages, like the Danish collection Danmarks gamle Folkeviser, which Child referred to in his comments.) One Child number may cover several ballads, which Child considered variants of the same story, although they may differ in many ways (as in “James Hatley“). Conversely, ballads classified separately may contain turns of phrase, and even entire verses, that are identical.
The Child Ballads deal with subjects typical to many ballads: romance, supernatural experiences, historical events, morality, riddles, murder, and folk heroes. On one extreme, some recount identifiable historical people, in known events. On the other, some differ from fairy tales solely by their being songs and in verse; some have been recast in prose form as fairy tales. A large part of the collections is about Robin Hood; some are about King Arthur. A few of the ballads are rather bawdy.”

Initiatory Ballads:

I discovered the ‘fairy tale’ ballads when I heard Joan Baez sing song like ‘House Carpenter’ and loved the haunting Elizabethan tunes she sang whether from England or Appalachia where they were brought with the early settlers to Virginia Colony — named after the Virgin Queen herself by Sir Walter Raliegh.  It was  pretty clear to me as child with the witchblood, that some of these ballads were talking about the Otherworld, about visitors to the Otherworld and the things that could be expected to happen there.
As an example, I have posted below the Childe Ballad of Thomas Rhymer. This is based on a true story of Thomas of Ercildoun, who was lazing about on a Faery Mound when the Queen of the Faeries approached him and whisked him off to her Otherworld Realm. He was not seen by the villagers for seven years. When he mysteriously returned, he was a changed man: a poet with the gift pf prophecy. He might have been thought a little mad, away with the faeries, due to his gift of the Second Sight.
Thomas Rhymer is what is known as an ‘Initiatory Ballad’. In other words, the ballad describes how the Faery Realm is entered, what its main features are, and how one is advised to behave if one finds oneself there. There is a warning given very clearly be the Faery Queen: “Don’t speak or eat when you are in Faery, or you will not return home for seven years.”
Of course Thomas does all of it.
Another feature of this ballad are the descriptions of the Underworld Sea, the Sun and the Moon that shine in the Underworld, the location of the Queen’s domain in an apple orchard, and the twin rivers of blood and tears.

Origin of the Faeries:

Faery is the Underworld because it is the realm of the ‘ancestors’, or more bluntly, the immortal dead. Christians would see it as a kind of purgatory where souls go after death when they were decent people but did not  become baptized Christians. In Irish Faery Tradition, there is  a story of the war in Heaven described by John Milton in his epic poem, Paradise Lost. The Archangel, Lucifer,proud of his shining beauty,  led a rebellion against God for creating the human race and expecting the angels to look after it. The angels took sides, either with Archangel Michael, champoin of God, or were Lucifer the rebel. Some stayed neutral, neither siding with Lucifer nor Michael the Archangel, but were cast down to Earth for lack of devotion along with the Prince of Darkness and his minions. These neutral angles became the Faeries. They are neither good nor evil, but neutral, like most of nature which is their expression and their love.
Thus, at an early stage, the Feary Realm was not yet consigned to Hell, but was a land between Heaven and Hell. Yet it was also not a place of purgation, but of magic, feasting, dancing — mostly to encourage the fertility of the Earth and maintain the balance of nature.
This is expressed very well in the ballad Thomas Rhymer when the Faery Queen points out three roads: The broad easy road leading to Hell, the narrow thorny road leading to Heaven, and the lovely lane winding among the trees is the road to Faeryland.

Image: War in Heaven: Gustave Dore

The Underworld Sun, Moon, and Stars:

The Faeryland is described as being in the Underworld, which most of us imagine as a land inside the Earth, underground. So how can there be Sun. Moon, and Stars, and an ocean down there?
I have two theories on that.

1: Having done many Shamanic journeys into the Underworld over the years, I immediately became aware that the heart of the Mother Earth glows like a sun at the core of the planet. This experience is very easy to access with the right intention.

2: Back in the days when the Earth was believed to be flat, being underground was probably perceived as a layer just below the surface of the Earth where the dead were buried, over which grew trees and flowers. These plants were often consulted when the living wished to speak to the dead as can be seen in fairy tales like the Juniper Tree. In other words, the Realm of Faery was physically much closer to the living, more familiar and accessible. Once the earth was known to be a sphere, it was possible to imagine a vaster realm at the center of the Earth. Now after seeing images from space, we know that the Earth is one of many stars and floats in the sea of the cosmos.

The true Faery Seer would always have seen the stars and celestial bodies below the surface of the Earth with his Second Sight. he may not have known he was seeing through the body of the planet, or sensing its place among the Heavens, but he would have seen the Sun, Moon, and, Stars and the celestial sea deep in the Underworld kingdom.
When one travels to Faery, these images resonate deeply, for the Sun.Moon, and Stars and the Underworld Sea also live inside of us as the rhythms and tides in our blood, where the ancestors ‘wake up’ to guide us deeper into our primal selves.

photo: Moonlight, Park Sadr’s photoblog

The Rivers of Blood and Tears:

The twin rivers of blood and tears are an indication of Faery as a domain of the dead, “for all the blood that was shed on earth flows through the springs of that country…”
Where mortal blood is shed so  tears of sorrow and grief. The rives of blood and tears thus flow together through the Realm of the Faery watched over by the Immortal Dead who are nourished by them.
Within this construct is tinge of the primal fertility rites involving blood sacrifice, for the blood and tears water the Earth creating the fertile conditions that allow nature to flourish. “The Earth must have blood.” This old notion still lives within us and exerts a strange power when we hear or read a tale involving the sacrificed King who gives his life for the land as in the Grail Legends.

The Apple Orchard:

In Irish Ogham the Apple has the quality of beauty. It is also the fruit of the Goddess, who is the Faery Queen. Part of the reason is that when an apple is cut form side to side and opned the figure of a five=pointed star, or pentagram appears with seeds within its points. the apple is also associated with Eve’s first transgression: disobeying God in order to satisfy her desire for knowledge, especially sexual knowledge, the basis of Earthly creation, and the generation of life, making her an equal to God.

Thanks to R.J.Stewart for crystalizing these insights for me.

Thomas Rhymer: Child Ballad 37C

Thomas Rymer

TRUE Thomas lay on Huntlie bank,
A ferlie he spied wi’ his ee,
And there he saw a lady bright,
Come riding down by the Eildon Tree.

2 Her shirt was o the grass-green silk,
Her mantle o the velvet fyne,
At ilka tett of her horse’s mane
Hang fifty siller bells and nine.

True Thomas, he pulld aff his cap,
And louted low down to his knee:
‘All hail, thou mighty Queen of Heaven!
For thy peer on earth I never did see.’

‘O no, O no, Thomas,’ she said,
‘That name does not belang to me;
I am but the queen of fair Elfland,
That am hither come to visit thee.

‘Harp and carp, Thomas,’ she said,
‘Harp and carp along wi me,
And if ye dare to kiss my lips,
Sure of your bodie I will be.’

‘Betide me weal, betide me woe,
That weird shall never daunton me;’
Syne he has kissed her rosy lips,
All underneath the Eildon Tree.

‘Now, ye maun go wi me,’ she said,
‘True Thomas, ye maun go wi me,
And ye maun serve me seven years,
Thro weal or woe, as may chance to be.’

She mounted on her milk-white steed,
She’s taen True Thomas up behind,
And aye wheneer her bridle rung,
The steed flew swifter than the wind.

O they rade on, and farther on-+-
The steed gaed swifter than the wind-+-
Untill they reached a desart wide,
And living land was left behind.

‘Light down, light down, now, True Thomas,
And lean your head upon my knee;
Abide and rest a little space,
And I will shew you ferlies three.

‘O see ye not yon narrow road,
So thick beset with thorns and briers?
That is the path of righteousness,
Tho after it but few enquires.

‘And see not ye that braid braid road,
That lies across that lily leven?
That is the path of wickedness,
Tho some call it the road to heaven.

‘And see not ye that bonny road,
That winds about the fernie brae?
That is the road to fair Elfland,
Where thou and I this night maun gae.

‘But, Thomas, ye maun hold your tongue,
Whatever ye may hear or see,
For, if you speak word in Elflyn land,
Ye’ll neer get back to your ain countrie.’

O they rade on, and farther on,
And they waded thro rivers aboon the knee,
And they saw neither sun nor moon,
But they heard the roaring of the sea.

It was mirk mirk night, and there was nae stern light,
And they waded thro red blude to the knee;
For a’ the blude that’s shed on earth
Rins thro the springs o that countrie.

Syne they came on to a garden green,
And she pu’d an apple frae a tree:
‘Take this for thy wages, True Thomas,
It will give the tongue that can never lie.’

‘My tongue is mine ain,’ True Thomas said;
‘A gudely gift ye wad gie to me!
I neither dought to buy nor sell,
At fair or tryst where I may be.

‘I dought neither speak to prince or peer,
Nor ask of grace from fair ladye:’
‘Now hold thy peace,’ the lady said,
‘For as I say, so must it be.’

He has gotten a coat of the even cloth,
And a pair of shoes of velvet green,
And till seven years were gane and past
True Thomas on earth was never seen

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