March 2013 Blog

March Madness!

I love this time of year when Celtic music and dance pops up everywhere and the sun brightens. These days the snows melt fast or are just powdery showers. Bird song is already filling the air and critters are about. I have identified possum and raccoon and coyote tracks in the snow behind the house (animal tracks in snow). I found a large spider on my front door last week and unidentified flying insects have started to come into the house via the heating vents. It’s almost Spring!

While Catholics like to think of March 17 as the celebration of Saint Patrick’s mission in Ireland (there were at least three Patrick’s whose stories got fused into legend) for us Nature Religion types the festival is about snakes. We like to refer to it as BRING BACK THE SNAKES DAY. This is a traditional saying that applies to the Imbolc festival in Scotland (what we Americans like to call Ground Hog Day) when farmers would look to see if snakes had emerged from their holes – if so the earth was warm enough for plowing;

Moch maduinn Bhride, thig an nimhir as an toll;
Cha bhoin mise ris an nimhir, Cha bhoin an nimhir rium.

Early on Bride’s morn, the serpent will come from the hollow;
I will not molest the serpent, nor will the serpent molest me.

Here in New England the ground is still frozen and covered with a thin layer of snow, but we still have our ancestral memory of snakes. While Saint Patrick is credited with “driving the snakes out of Ireland”, we know that there never were any snakes there for him to drive out. Its possible that by “snakes” he meant the Druids who were “wise as serpents”. In any case, for us snakes are symbols of healing and regeneration as evidenced by their ability to shed their skin and start over as a new creature. Why would anyone sensible drive them out?

My old college friend Dru Clifford is an expert on the Western flora and a trailside gourmet. I asked him if he had any thoughts on snakes in honor of the season and he sent this;

A guest blog from Dru Clifford, an old college friend of mine, in honor of BRING BACK THE SNAKES DAY

Yes, I have killed, cooked, and eaten rattlesnake once.

I have killed a rattlesnake once when it was racing toward me very aggressively, and I have accidentally killed them by driving over them on dirt back-country roads.

I feel rotten about it.

The time I killed the rattlesnake who was threatening me I came home to see the flag “Don’t Tread on Me” hanging on the wall (that was in 1989 before the teabaggers had expropriated that symbol).

I started at the flag and thought “What HAVE I done?”

After that I resolved to be more careful about walking into their turf so that I would never seem a threat to one so one would never feel the need to threaten me.

Since that time, the only snakes I have killed I have accidentally run over.

I hold snakes sacred.

I won’t go near them, flirt with them, or molest them.

I will always give them a wide berth.

To me, snakes are a living symbol of the Being that lies beyond becoming… the hidden link between past now present and future: the eternity beyond time… the center of our selves.

I regard them reverentially.

That said, They are beings just like us that share this earth and on one level no more Imago Dei than humans are… or then the Peregrine Falcon is.

Rattlesnakes possess an unusual odor, as indescribable to those who have never smelled it as the flavor of tequila would be indescribable to anyone who has not tasted it. The odor is in the skin.

When the skin is removed, the meat does not retain any of the somewhat objectionable smell.

Rattlesnake meat does not taste “just like chicken”… it is actually a bit more like fish in texture, but like baccalà. It is more al dente than fish. The meat itself is not bad, but unless you get a very large rattlesnake like an Eastern Diamondback (the most dangerous) there is not much meat on them. With a large Eastern Diamondback one might be able to slice crosswise into steaks as with a salmon, making the meat easier to consume. But these species are native, ecologically important, and dangerous.

When I heard of the invasion of south Florida by Burmese Pythons I thought… here is a way we can get to try snake meat and do something positive for the environment and ecology of Floridian native species being decimated by these beasts.

We could be sure that these snakes could be cut crosswise into nice steaks.

Big problem though… these creatures are so high on the food chain they are loaded with accumulated toxins… essentially inedible… dangerously inedible.

À tout à l’heure,


Here are a few other accoutrements of the season, some lore about shamrocks;

Wood Sorrel, Shamrock

Part used: the fresh herb (gathered in the spring)

Gaelic: seamrag, greim saighdeir (a soldier’s mouthful)

Latin: Oxalis acetosella

Gathered in spring, the herb can be eaten in small amounts.It is added to soups and salads and taken as tea for fevers including typhus.

Caution: do not eat large amounts of this plant as it contains oxalic acid that can harm the kidneys and cause internal bleeding and diarrhea. Persons with weak or diseased kidneys should avoid this plant.

The cold tea helps indigestion and liver complaints. It is used externally as a wash for skin conditions.

Tea: steep 1 cup of the herb per quart of freshly boiled water for 3 minutes. Take ¼ cup, 4 times a day, for a few days.

Lore: where shamrocks are plentiful there is sure to be Fairy activity in the area. Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella) is known as Fairy Money.

And a Classic Scottish healing charm from the Carmina Gadelica


A SHEAMARAG nan duilleag,
A sheamarag nam buadh,
A sheamarag nan duilleag,
Bha aig Muire fo bhruaich,
A sheamarag mo ghraidh,
Is ailinde snuadh,
B’ e mo mhiann anns a bhas,
Thu bhi fas air m’ uaigh,
B’ e mo mhiann anns a bhas,
Thu bhi fas air m’ uaigh.

THOU shamrock of foliage,
Thou shamrock of power,
Thou shamrock of foliage,
Which Scotta had under the bank,
Thou shamrock of my love,
Of most beauteous hue,
I would choose thee in death,
To grow on my grave,
I would choose thee in death,
To grow on my grave.

And just in time for Saint Patrick’s Day, here is a tale of Finn MacCumhail and Patrick and what happened when they met.

I think its not too late to share this lovely English podcast about the previous Celtic Fire Festival Imbolc, or Oimelg.

Below you will find the usual round-up of the past Moonth’s news. Catch up on book reviews, archaeology, nature and religion stories gleaned from the media;




  • I recently stumbled upon this review of the first novel in the Druid trilogy PRIESTESS OF THE FOREST – A DRUID JOURNEY
  • A nice review of my newest book. From
    The Secret Medicines Of Your Kitchen
    By Ellen Evert HopmanIllustrations by Martyn PentecostISBN-978-1-907282-58-4Copyright 2012 by Ellen Evert HopmanThis well-organized little gem of a book is one-of-a-kind. It is more than just a book on nutrition and herbs. It includes valuable information that is hard to find about the healing properties of food and herbs and spices. It gives the Latin name for everything listed and it is in alphabetical order, which makes it very convenient for reference. It also has an excellent index in case you need to look up a cure for a particular malady.Ms. Hopman includes a list of herbal basics such as how to store and cook herbs, along with precautions. The illustrations are absolutely beautiful and worth the price of the book alone. The book includes recipes for how to use every item in the book. Some herbs should be put in bathwater, others served as tea or eaten fresh.Included are priceless bits of information such as for bananas: “In Sri Lanka a cup of the sap of the banana tree is given to a person who has been bitten by a venomous snake” and “always use whole grain barley because it will have all the B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium.” As well, persons with high blood sugar (diabetes) should either avoid beets or be sure to add lemon juice or vinegar to prevent a blood sugar spike. My husband has diabetes and I never knew that.The nutritional advice is top notch. I’ve spent years studying nutrition and what foods contain various nutrients. I also use food to make sure I get all my nutrients and have studied herbs for over 30 years; yet much if not most of the information in this book are things I never knew. For example, bean pods contain silica, which strengthens internal organs. We need silica to stay healthy.Traditional uses of food and herbs are listed, as well as folklore, history and odd bits of information. Garlic, for instance, has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, but few people are aware of that fact. Garlic was used extensively in ancient times to prevent colds and flu. I’ve used garlic myself almost daily for the last 20 years. I hardly ever get the flu and it keeps my blood pressure down as well. I first learned about the extremely powerful anti-fungal features of garlic when I had a horrendous case of systemic candidiasis and I used to it help cure myself. Garlic also cures athlete’s foot, yeast infections and a host of other fungal illnesses within 24 hours or less. Very few people know about that, and in the 20 years that I’ve used garlic almost daily, I’ve only met one other person who knows about it curing fungus; I never met anyone who knows about the anti-viral properties except for the author of the book; that is to say, Ms. Hopman knows an incredible amount of detailed information about the herbs and foods listed in the book!Another odd bit of information is that Ms. Hopman recommends saving the seeds from your oranges and planting them in a flowerpot. “When the trees are about 3 inches high, snip the leaves and add them to salads.” Information about when and how to harvest some of the herbs and food mentioned is included such as harvesting peach tree leaves before the Summer Solstice.

    I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to achieve maximum health in natural ways. It is perfect both for the beginner and the advanced nutritionist/herbalist or anyone who would just like to know more about the nutrients in your food and what they do for health. I applaud Ms. Hopman’s latest effort, who seems to excel at whatever books she writes, whether it is fiction, non-fiction, herbs or Druidry. All in all, I recommend this book for everyone; we live in an environment today that is polluted and saps many nutrients from us. This book will go a long way towards helping to keep the reader healthy.

    – Ariel Monserrat