Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees: Alder

Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees: Alder

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Witches Wheel

Alder, alder, tree of the Faerie King

Who rises from the Underworld waters in Spring;

Raven bedecked, and oracle crowned.

Cone, leaf, and blossom, new life shall abound.

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Fearn (farin)

There is powerful poetry in the succession of trees, for the death dream of Willow in February is dispersed by the return of the Alder in March to summon the greenwood awake.

Alder springs from the watery places that are the interface between the mortal world and Fearie. The Alder tree is called King of the Waters. His red inner bark, and purple buds display his royal status. He is  connected  to two other water loving trees. The Queen of the Waters, Willow, and the Lady of the Woods, Birch. White Alder looks very much like Birch, suggesting a sibling relationship; Birch stands at the threshold of Winter, as Alder guards the gateway to  Spring.

Anyone who has walked in a young wood will find the Alder as straight and densely packed as troop of warriors. In the Gaelic battle of the Trees, Alder was said to fight most fiercely. Small wonder the Celts made their  battle shields of Alder wood, for despite its softness, it was imbued with the essence of the brave Faerie King. Alder also represents the Wounded King. When he is cut, his wood turns  red as blood. Reflected in the waters, these wounds may appear to be  blood spilled forth as a sacrifice to earth, guaranteeing the resurrection of all  living things.

Alder is the only deciduous tree to have cones as seeds. As we know from the Greeks, the pine cone represents the pineal gland, seat of vision and communion with the Divine. Dionysis  carries a staff with a pine cone at the tip, emblem of masculine fertility. Alder cones grow in a spiral pattern, symbolizing the role of male of fertility in the cycle of death and rebirth.

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Bran the Blessed

The famous Irish warlord, Bran the Blessed takes the Alder as his special tree.  He is another aspect of the Faerie King, Lord of the Underworld who springs up to the surface world with the strengthening of the light.  Alder is called The Shining Tear of the Sun. This image suggests  the rising sun reflected in water, inspiring a vision of the golden oracular head of Bran coming up from the Underworld.  Ravens attend on Bran.  Raptors that thrive even in winter, ravens carry messages from the dark realms into the light. The sacred Head of Bran speaks true poetry: Death conquers all; there is no death.

Because of its associations with Bran, the Alder is sacred to poets and singers, which were synonymous in ancient times.  Mortally wounded in battle, Bran  prophesied the events that would follow his death. He then told his men to cut off his head and carry it with them. Like the alder wood, it never decayed. They carried Bran’s head to Harlech where is sang for seven years. They carried it to Gwales where it spoke prophecies. They brought it to London and buried it under the White Mount, site of the Tower of London, to protect England from invasion. If not for the hubris of King Arthur digging the head of Bran up, it would still be there. Yet the ravens remain to sound the alarm.

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Fertility

Alder has another aspect of the Between.  He bears female catkins. These attract caterpillars that spin cocoons and re-emerge as moths and butterflies. Darkness to light, death to rebirth once more. Butterflies attend the King  by day. Moths keep him company at night. Alder is the foundation of magic—-transformation of the world, and of the self are in his power.

So primal is the power of trees that Irish lore says the first man was and Alder and the First woman a Rowan.

Alder is fertile and generous.  Though soft, he has an oily bark making him resistant to water and fire.  Therefore pilings for lakeside houses and docks, boats and even wooden shoes have relied on the wood of the Alder to last. He also gives many colorful dyes. Red, purple, yellow, brown, and black. Dye production and spinning of cocoons make Alder sacred to the Weaving Goddess, who also attends upon the Wounded King in the Arthurian Legend. He feeds many creatures. Bees love his flowers, grouse eats leaves, buds and seeds, rabbits chew his bark.

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Alder Healing:

Alder bark is prepared for medicinal use by carefully scraping off the dead outer bark and using the green, living tissue underneath. Alder bark can be simmered in water to make a wash for very deep wounds, rashes, and burns. The leaves and bark are simmered into a bitter tea for tonsillitis and fever. He helps with diseases of damp, relieving joint pain and inflammation.

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Alder Working:

March is a time for making spiritual decisions. Prophecy and divination rites come in handy for this., assisting your intuitive processes and abilities. Alder flowers and twigs are used as charms  in Faerie magic. Whistles made out of Alder shoots call upon Air spirits. It’s an ideal wood for making a pipe or flute.

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Our hopes and dreams for the New Year can be manifested in the Alder time. Alder grows quickly, so focus on  things that might be stalled. Use this bounding new energy to resolve old disputes and more forward into the new.

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Magical Correspondences

Ogham Name: Fearn

Letter: F

Tree: Alder

Deities: Bran the Blessed, Faerie King, Astarte and Tammuz, Phoroneus inventor of fire

Bird: Raven

Use: Gateway to Faerie, Divination, Protection, Healing, Musicianship

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Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees: Rowan

Rowan

After November 1st, we enter the darkest time of year. A bright branch of Rowan is like a torch in the night and at the heart of each flame-colored berry is the five-pointed star of protection. Little wonder a Rowan wands were used to ward off enchantments.

The Faery gateway of the Green and Burning Trees, suggests the  green and burning quality of Rowan.

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Witches Wheel

Rowan berry, rowan berry
Ends in a yellow star.
A wand of rowan above our beds
Is an anchor in dark December dreams…

Luis ( loush)

The lovely Rowan is the fire in the night. With its bright orange berries, it lights up the perpetual twilight of winter with a touch of brilliant warmth much like the hearth fires our ancestors gathered around as they hunkered down for long hours indoors.  For most of their waking hours, the fire and the candles were the only sources of light. Small wonder that a tree bearing the color of flames would be perceived as protective.

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There was a time when fire was so scarce that it was kept very safe and was never allowed to go out. Our very early ancestors did not know how to create fire; they knew it as a gift from the Gods. Fire was carried in lamps and delivered from lamp to lamp. Woe to the person who let the fire go out!

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In the Book of Balymote, “Luis is the delight of eye that is Luisu”, or the lambent color of flame. In modern Irish Luise indicates a red glare with added luster or sheen. As fire keeps off predatory animals and freezing cold, it also has the power to ward of demons, faeries, and ghosts. To that end, rowan is planted in graveyards to keep the dead from rising. The wood of the Rowan was used by the Druids on funeral pyres for it had power over death and rebirth.

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The association of Rowan with fire is one reason it is ascribed to Candlemas and the Goddess of the eternal flame, Brighid. The poetry of this may be why the Ogham was made to correspond to the Julian calender of a January 1st New Year. But the symbolism of the Rowan also suits the festival of Winter Solstice. The use of Rowan as a protective amulet toward off the darkness of December, to survive for the time when the light begins to return, is a strong point in favor of Rowan belonging to December.

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The magic of Rowan guards us against the forces of chaos and destruction, strongly linked in the minds of our ancestors with darkness and the creatures that prowl unseen and hungry at the doors and windows. Rowan promises rebirth with the increasing warmth and light that comes after the Winter Solstice.

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Rowan was said in ancient times to have been guarded by dragons.

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Rowan Tree and Red Thread,
Gar the Witches tyne their speed.

Rowan tree and red thread slow down wicked witches, for it has the power to bind to malevolent forces. Magic wands made of Rowan branches are excellent for this purpose. In celtic countries, spindles and spinning wheels were made of Rowan.
Rowan, also known as Mountain Ash, is one of the trees of the sacred Faery groves of oak, ash, and thorn.  Scottish Faeries are known to hold celebrations within stone circles protected by Rowan trees.

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It is so sacred to the Scots that the old law does not allow use of any part of the tree except for sacred purposes.
Another reason for the Rowan’s protective influence, and its magical nature, can by found by examining the berries themselves, for at the end of each one is a tiny five-pointed star, or pentagram.

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Rowan Working

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It is the deepest dark of winter. You sit close to the fire to stay warm. The fire sets you dreaming so that you see the flames part and desire to walk between them. In you minds eyes, they flames become two Rowan trees. Pass between the trees, bright with red berries, into the snowy landscape on the other side, bringing with you the fire of Luis. Let it illuminate your path.
A necklace of Rowan berries is the Red Thread that confers protection from evil spells.

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Divination by Rowan: You need protection and nourishing through this time. Creativity, vision art, poetry and storytelling are inspired as you slow down and focus inwards with the flame of passionate inspiration to guide you. Health and strength improve.
Magic can be done by placing Rowan twigs above the doors and windows for protection. Place Rowan twigs in the shape of a cross and bind with red thread to be carried as a protective amulet.

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Another name for Rowan is Witch Tree or Wicken Tree and can be used for divining precious metals in the way hazel is sued to find water. Rowan can be used to increase psychic powers, and is a fine ingredient in spells for healing, success, safety, and is used to make excellent magic wands.

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Magical Correspondences:

Ogham Name:
Letter: L
Tree: Rowan
Deities: Brighid
Birds: duck
Animals: unicorn, bear
Color: flame red
Uses: magical protection

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Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees – Birch

Birch

The graceful Birch is the White lady of the Woods. It is fitting that these trees,
ghostly in twilight, should stand at either side of the gate of the Celtic New
Year of October 31st, for it has come down to us that passing among the
birches can take you into the Otherworld.

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Witches Wheel

Birch, white stemmed birch
Stands pale in the dark forest.
A rod of Birch will cleanse us of evil
And usher us through November’s long doorway…

Beth (Beh)

There was an old Samhain tradition of running down an avenue of birch trees
while being flogged with the twigs as a means of purification for the New Year.
This birch portal at the gate of the New Year mirrors its position as first of the
letters, for it is the opener of the gate to the Ogham, the creation of Ogma
Sun-Face, God of Eloquence.

Birch was traditionally used to make cradles for babies to protect them from
being stolen by the Siddhe. It seems typically paradoxical that the tree that
opens the doors to the Otherworld would be used to protect a child from
possession by it, but perhaps the birch bark cradle served to fool the Gentry
into thinking the child was already theirs…

In Britain, the maypole is made of birch while the wonderful scraggly birch twigs
are used to kindle the Beltane fires. The best witches brooms are made of birch with those wonderful black twigs as sweepers.

There is an old tradition of burying the dead with conical birch bark hats on their heads to insure the purification of their souls.

The lines are from the English ballad: The Wife of Usher’s Well. The lady’s sons appear wearing their birch bark hats — proof that they are dead.

It fell about the Martinmass,
When nights are lang and mirk,
The carlin wife’s three sons came hame,
And their hats were o the birk.

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Birch Working

Imagine the birch trees standing across from each other, their topmost branches in the shape of a Gothic arch. On the other side, calling you with its mysterious, mist filled grandeur is Faery. If you walk through, you will enter the trance that allows divination by the Ogham.

Divination by Birch: Protection from harm both physical and magical. Cleansing, leaving the negative, life draining energies behind to start over refreshed. A time of going inward to store power in purity. Clear the ground of
obstructions so that new things may grow. Change comes gradually with the turning of the Wheel.

Magic can be done for fertility and creativity, healing and protection.
Tie a red ribbon around a birch tree to ward off negative energies. Hang birch twigs over a new baby’s cradle. Use birch bark as magical parchment to keep your writings safe.

Magical Correspondences:

Ogham Letter: Beth
Letter: B
Deities: The White Goddess, Belin, White Ladies of the Forest
Bird: Pheasant
Animal: White Cow
Herb: Fly Agaric Mushrooms — The Flowers of Annwn
Color: White

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Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees – part 2

The Alphabet of the Gods

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According to the Irish Bards of old, the Ogham was received by a great poet, mac Elatha mac Delbeath from the God Ogma Grian-ainech or Ogma Sun-Face, a mercurial God of language and poetry. It was instantly conceived as a magical tool. One only has to cast the mind back to the times when uttering spells and charms was enough to change reality at will, or to recall the opening of the Bible, “In the beginning was the WORD”, in order to grasp the power of letters and language in the old world before books usurped the power of communication and turned language into a standard collection of letters printed on pieces of parchment. Of course every witch knows that books themselves in those times were believed to be magical, and for some of us, they still are.

The first letter written was the Ogham for Birch, Beth, carved seven times on the birch bark paper by Ogma for the God Lugh, as an oracle to warn him that his wife would be carried away.

Blogger, Kevin Jones, at: www.taliere.tripod.com, has these interesting things to say about the word Ogham:

Ogham is named after Ogma. However, in Greek ogmos means a line, row or
furrow, which is quite an apt description of Ogham… In Scots Gaelic the word
for Ogham, oidheam, means ‘a notion of anything, an idea, an inference, hint’.
This is an accurate description of the Ogham. The cognate word in Latin,
agmen, means both ‘boatmen’s oars’ and ‘speech’, which is very apt! There is
also the rather obscure word ogygia which is best translated as primeval or
‘before time’. This may or may not be related but if it is, it is apt since the
Ogham does concern primeval things.

Primeval…yes! What could be more primeval than the trees and the sky and
the birds and the earth?

Wooden portal of the Stave Church at Urnes

Deer nibbling the leaves of the Ash Tree
that is also like a door into the Otherworld.

Witches Wheel

Two trees on either side of a path can be perceived as gateways
into the Otherworld. Therefore you must pass between two birches on the Eve
of Samhain, or All Soul’s Night, to begin your journey around the Wheel of the
Year through the grove of sacred trees.

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photo:Michael Hudson

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As pretty as the correspondences are, I feel the current popular trend of creating Celtic Tree calenders with Birch on the threshold of January is  wrong. The Ogham is an ancient Celtic system. The ancient Celtic calender, and one adopted by many who follow a magical Celtic path, begins at Samhain and the Rites of the Birch are meant to be carried out at that time.

Robert Graves, author of The White Goddess, was among the first to popularize the Ogham as the sacred alphabet of the Celts.  He also claimed that all true poetry sprang from this sacred source, magical words formed of magical letters seeded in the subconscious of the inspired poet, and behind that was the power of the Great Goddess. His description of this alphabet, which he called Beth, Luis, Nion, or Birch, Rowan, and Ash respectively, follows the Celtic year of thirteen lunar months. beginning on November first.

I am following the order of trees in a poem I wrote in the early 1980’s called Witches Wheel. I wrote this poem under the influence of The White Goddess, well before the New Age version of Ogham hit the bookstores under the guise of “Celtic Astrology”. Each tree in this book is accompanied by a stanza of this old poem of mine, which was the first poem I ever had published. Even this order is unusual, but it the one that works for me. I give my reasons in the text, though I wrote the poem in a completely intuitive, stream of consciousness state that intellectually justified none of my choices.

The truth is that the idea of a Celtic Tree calender has more to do with the Celtic Twilight of the Victorian Age than with any historical facts. Nevertheless, it is still a beautiful concept that inspires the imagination and gives us a sense of place in a world where human beings are increasingly alienated from nature.

As one who resonates with the most primal levels in magic, I will attempt to reach back intuitively  into the origins of the Ogham in the mists of the “Dark Ages” on the British Isles.  Fact or fantasy? Who cares!

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Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees

Thirteen Moons: A Year of Magical Trees

by Alyne deWinter

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Writing is a magical rite, a way to ‘alter consciousness at will’. Writing opens the door to the unseen…

Ogham: The Mysterious Language of Trees

I am intrigued by the power of Ogham, the sacred alphabet that is formed by the way the branches of the trees cross each other against the sky. Imagine reading the branches, and then the sky through the branches…. a bird flies across the ‘empty’ space, the wind blows causing the branches to move and re-arrange themselves. The meaning changes, a sentence is created, a poem…
Whatever you communicate with communicates with you. Everything is connected.

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>Moonlit Shadow Night Trees Images

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Trees and the Moon

The first timekeeper was the Moon. Our earliest ancestors living as close to the earth as they did, would not have been able to help noticing the regularity of the lunar cycles. Women would have noticed their bleeding came and went with a particular phase of the moon — most likely the dark moon associated with death and the void. Ovulation, the preparation of the womb for the insemination of life, would have been linked to the full moon. Our ancestors would, of course, have noted the passing of the months by the changing moon,  the transformations of the seasons by alterations of the land, and the renewing cycle of the year at the crux of the thirteenth moon when the world was plunged into darkness.

Trees display the changing seasons quickly and dramatically. When trees begin and bud and burst into flower, we know that it is Spring and the days will grow longer and warmer. When the flowers turn in on themselves and become nuts, fruits, and seeds among leaves of lush and vivid green, it is a sure sign of Summer. When the trees start to turn golden, flame, russet, and brown, we know that Autumn has arrived and that the bare bones of Winter will follow like Fate.

So it is not difficult to understand how the moons were linked with the trees, and how someone might notice how trees express the characteristics of the seasons, and might suggest a connection that not only allows people to tell what season, and more precisely, what month it is, but also to know the qualities of that month and how to prepare for it.

Not all Faery Seers will agree the following associations of months and trees, but it seems most fitting to place Birch at the threshold of the New Year.

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Trees as Oracles

Our early ancestors would also have noticed how trees begin in the Underworld and reach up to touch the sky. There was a time when people saw the sky as a great dome set over the earth, so it must have seemed very magical that the trees could seem to touch the roof of the sky. Birds also live among the trees, fly through the branches and across the sky. Some birds migrate on schedule and were thus also tellers of the time. The coming of winter could be judged more exactly by when the birds chose to leave and how long they chose to stay. Thus our ancestors foretold the future by the flight of birds, and they used the patterns of the crossing branches to divine the deeper messages of earth and sky.

As the trees touch the sky, they also delve deep into the earth. In many traditions the place below the ground is the realm of the dead. This makes sense when we know that for many cultures, the dead are buried in the earth. Faeries, who are the spirits of ancestors, and even old gods “killed” by the invading cultures, also live down below in the Underworld. Both ancestors and Faeries have magical powers — living among the roots and seeds, they may have been credited with maintaining the fertility of the soil, of making the crops grow and even making the earth give birth to animals and humans alike. Thus, the trees join all the worlds: the Underworld of ancestors and faeries, the middle ground of earthly life, and the sky of weather, sun, moon, stars, and the birds who are their messengers.

Would it not be too far fetched then to see how our ancestors may have thought that the Gods spoke to them through the trees?

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The Erotic Realm of Faery

The Erotic Realm of Faery

What are Faeries Really?

The gorgeous production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by the Ballet Russes is charged with eroticism and the glamor that goes with it. Indeed Shakespeare’s play with its two pairs of lover lost in the moonlit forest, love spells, jealousies, flirtations, deceptions, bands of flower fairies led by the Trickster Faun, Puck,  is a rite of fertility magic. The choreographer has captured the hive quality of fairy beings, fused together in dances of sensuality and ecstasy. Oberon enters with his train of night and crown of branches. Beside him is the child, a grim reminder of the sacrifices of old, for it is Midsummer when the Summer King gives his life to the harvest. Titania is tricked by Puck into making love to one of his hoofed brethren, a donkey, for the fairies do not discriminate.

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Faeries are more than nature spirits. They are the spiritual Intelligences of the earth. Its is Faery from which life springs and to which it returns in never-ending cycles of death and rebirth. Earth is a sexual planet. We see this all around us: constant reproduction, growth, flourishing, impregnating and dying off so more life can be born. This is what earth does. It what faeries do. Therefore Earth is also a Love planet, for love charges eroticism with spiritual power. Mothers tend their young with love so that they will have the strength to survive.

Faeries serve the life force. They are morally neutral but can be bent to human will. To those in harmony, the faeries will appear beautiful and grant gifts of knowledge and creative power. To those of wicked intent who call upon them for selfish purposes, the fairies will take on that pollution.

It’s sad that so there is so much left hand path magic going on today because the spirit world is darkening and suffering and becoming distorted by it, and we see what is happening to the earth. The dark and light Seelie Courts are a totally modern pop phenomenon brought about during the primal rift that separated the worlds.

In the old fertility religions, the peasants would couple in the fields in imitation of the faeries. They shared the erotic life of Faery in recognition that this is the way of the Earth. Done with full spiritual awareness of the energies involved, this was good magical participation at the high tides of the solar festivals. I believe blood sacrifice associated with Midsummer were a degradation of the original rites, because blood was used to embody spirits. This was not necessary before the coming of the Wasteland.

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Wells and Springs are Entrances to Faery

Wells were one of the main entrances and exits between Faery and the outer world. The Arthurian Legend of the Wasteland describes what happened when these portals between the worlds were shut down by invaders. In The Elucidation, the tale is told of a temple of priestesses that tended the sacred wells.  A drink of water from the Priestesses of the Wells was charged with healing power because of its links with the Love vibrations of the Earth and wisdom of the Faeries.

An army of brutal, warlord invaders, led by King Amangons, attacked the Priestess’s temple and raped them and stole their sacred goblet. After that, the wells were closed and the faeries were buried underground, no longer able to interact with mortals and help the earth to flourish. rape destroyed the the sacred sexuality of women and corrupted the lustiness of men to brutality. The continuity of the life forces was severed, the links between the world broken. Thus the earth did not bear fruit and was laid waste.

This was when the sacrifice of the Summer King came about represented by the little boy who is King for a Day with Oberon.

The importance of Faery can thus be seen as very great. Every wound to Mother Earth is a wound to Faery and to the spiritual envelope that is the Anima Mundi or Soul of the World. can we restore the Wasteland before it too late? Even in the Arthurian legend in the 12th century the Grail, representative of the cup of the  Priestesses of the Wells, was withdrawn because of war and destruction of sacred sexuality and feminine.

theladyofshalott_rossetti_1857Lady of Shallott, Rossetti

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Faeries, Dragons & Witch Blood by Radomir Ristic

Synchronicity in the Writing of The Roses of the Moon: The Ritual of Creating Worlds.

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My new friend Radomir Ristic is fan occultist and folklorist from Serbia. He is the author of many magazine articles including  The Cauldron whee this article will be published in August. He is also the author the bestselling book:   Balkan Traditional Witchcraft, available from Amazon.

“Published in English for the first time, this groundbreaking book by Radomir Ristic is a compilation of historical data, anthropological studies, and the authors own experiences and interviews with the Witches of the Balkans. Covering both theory and practice, the book gives a complete system of Balkan Traditional Witchcraft.

I  asked Rade if I could publish this article as a companion to my exploration of writing as a magical rite in connection the previous blog entry about the mythical world I created for my forthcoming novel The Roses of the Moon. I was amazed to discovered that weeks  after I had written up the foundation myth for the novel (, Castle Zmeu is the setting high in the mountains of Royal Hungary in a hollow that was the birthplace of the Moon, ) I found many elements were very close to the actual folk traditions of that part of the world, specially the dark faeries and a dragon people called the Zmeu.What is also cool is that it compliments the theme of my blog: Legacy of the Witchblood.

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I hope you enjoy this fascinating article.

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Faeries, Dragons & Witch Blood

In folk believe system of Serbian people exist very interesting myths who tell us how some people gained their unusual powers, intelligence, strength etc. Actually, by people believes almost every Serbian hero through history was dragon man. That is how people have explained their heroic acts, wisdom and powers, if they had some.

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The problem is that by witches’ myths, witches explain origin of their powers and their blood lines in same manner. All people know that but no one wants to say that loudly because that is heresy. Witches can not be in same line with cult heroes. This problem could be even bigger because common name for male witches aka warlocks in Serbia is dragon men.
In Serbian mythology we can clearly see that there are at least three different kinds of Dragons. First kind would be dragons who are identified as meteors on night sky and they are considered to be a personifications of fire. Second kind are reptile dragons or serpent dragons who are very similar to those who we can find in Western Europe. By people believes they can be very dangerous. In most cases they are winged serpents but they have intelligence and they behave similar as dragon-people. Actually they share same capabilities. Third kinds are dragon people and they are kinds who interested us here. One old epic song tells us follow:

As many Serbian heroes there is,
All have been brought up by faeries,
And many have the dragons for fathers…

So by myths some of those heroes were Mislos Obilic, Zmaj Ognjeni Vuk, Relja Bosnjanin, Banovic Sekula, Banovic Strahinja, Ljutica Bogdan, Kraljevic Marko…

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The question is how those people had becomes dragon people? That could happen in three ways. First would be that ones mother could sleep with dragon. Second is that ones father could sleep with fairy and third is that fairy has nursed (give her breast milk) one when he was a baby.

titania-sleeps-LTitania—Cowper

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If someone becomes dragon-man because his mother was fairy or fairy has nursed him, we can clearly see that faeries are female dragons! Actually, in Serbian traditions there are several kinds of faeries. We have, lets say “little ones”, fairies from nature, protectors of some springs, lakes, trees and Great Ones about whom we are talking here. By old myths those Great Ones are daughters of Adam and Eve whom God has cursed and they became something like semi women very similar to fallen angels from Book of Enoch. By some stories they even have animal legs which are hidden by their dresses. They have their Queen and her name is Jerisavlja. Very often people consider that queen of faeries is Forest Mother and her nick name is Forest Witch or Great Witch. We can find that in many old incantation by whom people had try to contact her. We must emphasize that those faeries are not some gentle creatures from pagan fairytales but very dangerous ones who have extreme power, magic knowledge, bad temper etc. In many stories we can see how they punish some character just because he has better voice or he has seen them. Beside that they are sexually lustful and they have manner to sleep with young boys, shepherds or warriors. However, they do not like to be in marriage and they do not like family life. Actually, by myths the only Serbian King who was in marriage with fairy was Vukasin so all of his children were dragon people.

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Dragons are sexually lustful too. Even today at the east Serbia people believe that dragons had manner that at night visit beautiful girls. Very often, by people believes, those girls gave birth and their baby was to be dragon man. What nobody tells out loud is that if baby is a boy, people will call him dragon man and if baby is a girl, everybody will call her witch. What those girls and boys have in common is that both will have magic powers, knowledge and what is the most important capability to, by their own will, induct trance. Why? Because they are dragons’ and faeries’ children, so they are just a half human. Maybe they look like humans, but their souls and true beings are totally different. Usually people say that only persons with some capabilities can see how they really look like, until they are in their bodies, but everyone can see that as they leave their bodies. In most cases their souls were described as in animal shape or mythic animal shape. For instance in one old epic song Serbian duke Banovic Sekula lives his body in the shape of dragon with six wings.

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From historic data we can clearly see that dragons do not chose girls perchance. Those girls are witches or they are from witch families. For instance, professor Stevan Dordjevic have founded in city archive of town Zajecar that society accused one young girl that she was sleeping with dragon in village Osljan in 1935. She was a witch and she was famous by fortune telling. Later in year 1946 there was another accusation and then people accused young daughter of famous male witch Krsta that she was sleeping with dragon. We must say that people usually had nothing against dragons and their children but they believed that it was too dangerous if dragon stayed to long in their neighborhood because he could provoke drought. The only reason why dragons stay in one region to long are girls.

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The question is who those dragons are and what is their origin? With regret we must say that Serbian ethnology has failed to give us straight answer to that question. Mainly there are two theories. By first dragons are some animals, usually serpents, fishes or sheep that became dragons because they have lived too long. For instance, if some serpent lives hundred years it will become dragon in one moment, by people believes. Second theory speaks more about mysterious dragons that sleep with women. By it those dragons represents mythical ancestor or ancestors. Reason why scientists consider that those dragons could be ancestors is that because they are in too many blood lines, especially in those with “blue blood”. That tells us about why they are so important in people’s belief system. However, it doesn’t say who those ancestors are.

vlad_dracul

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We have had the opportunity to speak with several authentic witches in rural regions of the country about that subject and found out what their traditions tell us about those dragons. So from several similar stories we have compiled one which we will tell here.

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By witches’ myths, dragons have fallen all over the Balkan many centuries ago. They have fallen with something which looked like meteors shower. Because of that, even today witches and peasants connect dragons with meteors and that is noted in Serbian ethnology as we already see. Some of those dragons have fallen in rivers Danube, Timok and Pek and other in forests and mountains. Those who had fallen in rivers have continued to live in them under the water. They look like male mermaids, they have their middle long, big circle eyes, wide nose and long canine toots. Those who had fallen in forests inhabited big trees, mainly old beeches with holes. How they look like is hard to say because some witches claim that they are just big lights and other that they are anthropomorphic serpents with wings and that they become big light only when they start to fly. Those who have fallen in mountains inhabited caves and they look like previous dragons. As we can conclude, all of them are same dragons but after they fall in matter they take different shapes depending of their new habitation.

>
It is very difficult to explain how witches percept them. Most of them claim that those dragons are material but that they are more like material spirits. They are not “dough” and “firmly” like us. Let’s say that they are more etheric. Because of that only some people can see them. Most often those people are witches, shamans or some similar groups which have extraordinary capabilities. However, dragons can hide themselves even to those groups if they want to, because they are very powerful. As some of my informants have told me dragons reviled themselves only to the woman with whom they wanted to sleep, people with whom they wanted some other kind of contact or people could see them accidentally. One of my informant explained me that very plasticly and described me that if I perchance cought the woman in the moment when she is sleeping with dragon I could see only her and her legs in the air.

2382052_f520Fuseli

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As we can see, after their fall dragons have started to seduce women and sleep with them. That was not hard task for them because they are shape shifters too. So when they want to seduce a woman they take appearance of a handsome man and seduce them. That was how it all stared. Children from these relationships become half human half dragons. What is the most important thing, is that by that process those children have inherited some powers and capabilities of their fathers. That means that they have some basic powers, and those powers were different from person to person but all of them would have one ultimate power, and that power was “different” souls, because of which they would have capabilities to leave their bodies when ever they wanted.
Because of that “power” all of them are capable to be in contact with hidden world and hidden forces which could be visible to them only when they leave their bodies. That contact provides them additional magic knowledge. During their night flyes they can be in contact with faeries, dragons, ancestors etc.

>
By witches’ myths that dragon blood line has managed to preserve itself through centuries. It is not necessary that every family has a woman who is in relationship with dragon at present; it is enough that family has a long departed dragon man or witch and that family would have dragon blood in their veins even today. Some members of that family could revile themselves as witches or dragons men but not everyone although they all do have dragon blood. Usually that happens when they are young and when they start spontaneously to fall in trance. That is the time when they get their initiations and when they discover hidden world of faeries, dragons and ancestors.

>
As we can see dragons could be mythic ancestor as ethnologists have sad. However, as we can see, those dragons are mythic ancestor only to some people not all. Those people who have dragons as their ancestors will have unusual powers and capabilities. They would be people with witch blood.

>
Moreover, it is not unusual that dragons are subject of witch cults. About one of these cults we have already talked in one my previous article (The Cauldron No128, Serbian Witchcraft, p32-33). Shortly told, in east Serbia exists a big tree in witch “Morning Star”(Lucifer) or Danica is Serbian, lives after his fall. That tree is object of cult. All local witches respect that tree or better said what is in that tree. They work with Danica, it is their source of knowledge and power but they do not worship it! What is interesting here is that Lucifer is connected with dragons because he is Star that had fallen and he lives in tree as others dragons do. Other name for meteors in Serbia is falling stars and all dragons are connected with stars. It is very clear that he is a subject of cult because he is more important then the other. So we can see some hierarchy here among dragons.

>
When I ask my informants where those dragons have came from, I only got one answer-sky. Because they are connected with stars we can conclude that they have come from space. It is important to say that people don’t see them as aliens but as very old creatures from ancient times. So who are they? It is very hard to say. However, all what we can conclude from all of this is that this stories are very similar to those from Book of Enoch I. We know for sure that the Book of Enoch I(it talk about watchers, fallen angels and how they slept with women and their half angelic offspring) was very important among Balkan Gnostic Bogumils and even more that the Book of Enoch II was found in Serbia in Belgrade. Stories about dragons and witch blood which we have found among Serbian witches are very similar to those from Book of Enoch although they do not talk about fallen angels but dragons.

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The questions is if angels and dragons are the same? It hard to tell but we think that even if these stories are not the same they must have mutual origin. We know that stories about dragons in this region are older then Book of Enoch so our personal opinion is that angels have taken places of dragons after arrival of Christianity and Gnosticism. At the bottom line appearance of fallen angels is very similar to appearance of fallen dragons in the way they behave. It is clear that both of them represent same creatures which have fallen from the sky but that they have different names through different moments in history and through different cultures. What is more important is that those stories explain origin of blood lines of those people who have some powers. In Serbian witch stories we can find out why those people have these powers and what these powers are.

Radomir Ristic

leonid-shower

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Hidden Mystery of the Unicorn Tapestries Revealed!

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The Hunt of the Unicorn Tapestries

The Hunt of the Unicorn Tapestries comprise an allegory of the fate of the pure soul in the world. The Unicorn has often been referred to as a Christ figure, but its meaning is much older than Christianity, for the image of a Beast, no matter how mythical, would not be used to symbolize the Son of God unless that God existed at the most primal, pre-conscious level, deep in the Soul of the World. When one meditates on the sequence of images in the Hunt of the Unicorn Tapestries, it looks more like an ancient Fertility Rite enacting the sexual awakening of the World. This has more to do with the Medieval Courts of Love than the Passion of Christ.

The innocence of the Unicorn is signified, not only by its clean, white coat, but by its single, uncloven, horn. One horn suggests unity,  it  cannot be entered, it wards off intrusion. Dual horns, in this context, suggest that that which was whole is now split. The possessor of two horns lives in the world of opposites, of two sexes, and therefore is concerned with procreation. That which is split then seeks reunion through the birth of the third, mirror image of itself, and so the regenerative cycle goes on.

That is why the Unicorn can only be tamed by a virgin, for the Virgin is undefiled, unitary, and protected. The Men of the World cannot open the Unicorn’s body unless he lies in the lap of the Virgin who comes forward voluntarily with an aura of sacrifice. The symbolism of the single fertilizing horn in a Virgin’s lap is clear. In the case of the Unicorn, there is a divine fertilization. Only when the Soul, (the Virgin) is torn away from her union with the Divine, can she be joined with man. Therefore the men, who seek to re-discover lost innocence, and because they are of the World, cannot value purity as inner possession only, and kill the Virgin’s Divine connection so she will be available for them in the world of duality.

This interpretation suggests that there is an alternate allegory to that of the passion of Christ possible here, something to do with the Virgin as World Soul in union with the Divine, and the Unicorn as the mystic seeking return to the source.It is also a Creation myth that shows the Fall into duality without which earthly life would not be possible.

For me, the quest for the Unicorn, and these beautiful tapestries, evoke great Mystery, so they are part of my Mysterious Domain…which is of course, in my imagination…

A Mystery is Sought

The Hunters represent primal man, crude, blind, and driven by base desires without the light of consciousness. They  enter the forest to hunt, but find themselves on the path of a great Mystery that will  instill a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves. Only a powerful encounter with the Otherworld will be shocking enough to awaken them.

They come upon a Unicorn dipping his horn in a fountain.


The  Hunters  break out of the woods and find a garden where all the animals, both hunter and hunted, live in peace and harmony together. It is the Garden of Paradise before the Fall,  before the intrusion of Man.

A beautiful, pure white Unicorn dips his horn into the Waters of Life, both to purify them, and fertilize the Earth with his divine power.

The Waters springing up from the Underworld  let us know we are in the Realm of Faery…

The Unicorn leaps over a stream


The Unicorn sees the Hunters and leaps over the stream that runs from the fountain. In the old traditions, bodies of water, especially rivers and streams, are crossing points between the mortal world and the Otherworld of Faery. It is interesting to note that while the Unicorn was at the fountain, he was safe in Paradise where the Hunters were not able to act against him. By leaping over the stream, is he not, therefore, running toward danger,  straight into the spears and arrows? If that is the case, it would seem his  sacrifice is voluntary, as all true sacrifices must be.
But why?

The Unicorn defends himself

The Unicorn defends himself by attacking the dogs. Is this not a representation of how the most pure, Divine power must seek protection from the defilement of the basest instincts of Man symbolized by the dogs?  In the old fairy stories, animals often stood for the gross sexual appetites, unrefined and undisciplined  by the consciousness of the higher mind. The idea of the tail wagging the dog comes to mind when you think of people who chase after sexual pleasure, or release, irregardless of the consequences.

Rather than defending himself, could the Unicorn be protecting the Virgin? Could he be trying to prevent the primitive Hunters despoiling her with rude weapons and coarse sexuality? For the Unicorn is the Virgin’s lover is he not?

The Ladies know what it means to capture the Unicorn

The Ladies of the Palace know what the mystery is and how it must climax. For they too have been virgins in love with the Unicorn.

A Virgin Tames the Unicorn

This is event is always referred to as the Virgin taming the Unicorn, but it not be seen another way?  It is really an image of the Unicorn laying hos head in the Virgin’s lap. While lying there between her legs, he is killed by the Hunters. Perhaps the Unicorn lays down its life to protect the Virgin from the instinctual, untamed, and unenlightened desires of the Hunters. He is her purity, and her inviolability. Once the unity is cleft, there can be no return to Paradise. Innocence is lost forever.
Interestingly, this piece of the tapestry is damaged and the figure of the virgin torn away. The red gowned  Lady coyly looking on is merely her handmaiden. We see the dog drawing the Unicorn’s blood.

So much for the pure, innocent Soul of the World in our times…

The Hunters slay the Unicorn

The Unicorn is pierced through the heart , both his spiritual heart located below the throat and his physical heart in his breast. The Palace of civilization stands on the other side of a lake. The refined Lords and Ladies stream down from the palace to receive the Hunters who seem changed by their encounter with the Unicorn.They approach the Ladies who appear to instruct them, perhaps on the proper attitude of respect to maintain regarding the Procreative Mysteries.

Indeed, the Lord and Ladies seem to ignore the Unicorn as he is impaled  above them, at the edge of the palace garden.  They seem much more intent on sharing the gifts of civilization with the Hunters. The palace is thus the realm between the higher and lower levels of being.

The Unicorn is restored to life

Often called ‘The Unicorn in Captivity’.
This is an apt title, although it leaves out the impression that the Unicorn has come back to life. Perhaps this is because he never was a mortal creature, but a symbol all along, a representation of innocence and purity too good for the World. Now he is captured, fenced in, and controlled by the forces of civilization that would use him as an example of perfection. Yet he is set apart, no longer part of the whole, rendered, in a sense, useless. He is emptied of the numinous wholeness he once wielded in the lost Paradise. In the  World, duality is all, for without duality, the cloven horn and hoof, the Creation as we know it, would cease to exist.
The Unicorn knows this. That is the nature of his sacrifice. He is at peace.
Go to my Videos for a beautiful Medieval song that goes well with these tapestries
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Video: Celtic Gods and Goddesses

Author and occultist, Sorita D’Este,  posted this on Facebook and I just had to put it on the blog! It is really gorgeous with vocals by Loreena McKennitt and some very cool storytelling. Its also a nice follow up for the Ogham post.
Thanks Sorita! And enjoy!

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Irish / Celtic Gods and Goddesses (Part 1) – The Ever Living Ones The Celtic pantheon is known from a variety of sources, these include written Celtic mythology, ancient places of worship, statu…
Irish / Celtic Gods and Goddesses (Part 1) – The Ever Living Ones

The Celtic pantheon is known from a variety of sources, these include written Celtic mythology, ancient places of worship, statues, engravings, cult objects, and place or personal names.

It should be understood that there are two main types of Celtic deities: general and local. General deities were known by Celts throughout large regions, and are the gods and goddesses they invoked for protection, healing, luck, honour, and many other needs. The local deities were the spirits of a particular feature of the landscape (such as particular mountains, trees, or rivers) and thus was generally only known by the locals in the surrounding areas.
Category: Education

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Ogham & Faery Divination

Ogham and The Book of Ballymote

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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:

www.equinox-project.com.

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.

apple-trees

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)

auroramoon_curtis_big

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

d
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

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

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

Ogham Staves for Divination

staves_huatheduir

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.

wheel

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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