August 2013, sliding into the dark

The summer has been especially wet here on the mountain. The raspberries are big and juicy and the flowers abundant as a result. There are huge clusters of elderberries, ready to be made into syrup and goldenrod flowers to be stripped and soaked in apple cider vinegar, for salad dressings all winter. I just cut back the summer growth on the nettles, in hopes of yet another harvest before the frost.

Due to the constant rain it has been a lush year for wild edibles, but we have also had a report of a local horse diagnosed with “Triple E”  which is a mosquito born illness that can be fatal to humans. I am working extra hard to dry up water sources, I removed the dishes from under the potted plants and overturned the bird bath.

A tribe of wild turkeys seems to have moved in permanently. They have a roost somewhere in the surrounding forest and bring their young to the lawn almost daily, looking for slugs and other delicacies. They also like to tear up tiny patches of lawn, while looking for insects and worms. Fortunately I do not live in the suburbs and so small bare patches of lawn are not a large concern.

My flower beds are being patrolled by “dragons”, huge dragonflies that sit on the clothesline, scouting for bugs. I love those fierce defenders of the garden!

Now is the time of Lammas or Lughnasad (August 1-15) when the gardens and fields begin to yield their harvests. A time of gratitude for all the riches the year has brought, and also the first hints of autumn. We are already sliding into the dark.

“An elder in my church knew a woman who was accustomed, in milking her cows, to offer libations to the fairies. The woman was later converted to Christ and gave up the practice, and as a result one of her cows was taken by the fairies. Then she revived the practice.” – W Evans-Wentz, the Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries

I always mention this when I give a talk on Fairy Lore as I did recently at the Mariposa Museum in Peterborough, New Hampshire. When I was in Ireland some years ago I visited a farm and saw the depression in the earth where for centuries farmers had made daily milk offerings. The first milk collected each day was always given to the Fairies. Around 1920 the church decided that this was too Pagan a practice and there was a campaign to stop these libations. Shortly thereafter a cow disease ravished the countryside.

Those of us who live in developed countries take our food supply for granted. We can always go to the grocery store for a bottle of milk or a loaf of bread these days, even at 2 AM. Back in the day it was so much harder. Fresh foods were available only in season and gratitude was felt when the oats, berries, and vegetables were finally ripe for the picking. Even the milk was seasonal, it dried up in winter and returned in spring , just before the mother sheep or cows were ready to give birth.

In these degenerate days we often forget to make our thanks offerings. A ceremony that I do here on the mountain, once a year, is called “washing the stones”. To make up for the lack of milk offerings each day, we pour out gallons of milk (with a little whiskey added in for the Spirits) upon the large stones in the natural stone circle behind the house. As I write this it is the time of Lughnasad, the First Fruits festival, and time to think about the next big milk offering for the Spirits of the sacred land.

Below you will find other harvest customs and a collection of the past Moonth’s archeology, nature, religion, herb, and ethics news. I hope you enjoy the harvest!

From SCOTTISH HERBS AND FAIRY LORE (Pendraig Publishing)

It is traditional to bake a bannock or cake at each of the Fire Festivals. At Oimelc , the cake is called a Bonnach Bríghde , in honor of Bride . At Bealltan, it is called a Bonnach Bealltan , at Lúnasdal, it is a Bonnach Lunastain and at Samhuinn, it is a Bonnach Samthain .
Several cakes are baked, and every clan member goes out to the fields, eating the cakes and tossing small bits over each shoulder, while invoking any malevolent Spirit or entity that could hurt the farm. A piece of bread is tossed out for the wolf that it might spare the lambs, and another piece for the fox that it spare the ducks and chickens. Other pieces are tossed to appease ravens, eagles, crows, and any other force of blight or disaster for the farm.

Here are some traditional recipes for festival breads and cakes. It is very easy to make your own fresh butter to go with these breads. Just place whole heavy cream (not low fat) in a jar with a tight lid, and shake vigorously for about twenty minutes.

Bannock Bread (Oatmeal Bannock)
225g (8 oz) fine oatmeal
55g (about 2 oz) plain flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 pint of buttermilk
Preheat your griddle. It is hot enough to cook on when our sprinkled
on it takes a few seconds to brown.
Put the oatmeal, our and salt into a large bowl and mix well.
Put the buttermilk into a small bowl, add the teaspoon of bicarbonate
of soda and mix briskly.
Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and bring together
into a so dough. Be careful not to overwork the mixture. Work
quickly, as the bicarbonate of soda will be kicked into action by the
buttermilk.
Roll the mixture out on a lightly floured surface, to a depth of about ½
inch. Cut into a round (cut around a suitable size plate).
Dust the griddle with a small amount of flour, and put on the round of
dough to cook. Turn the bannock over when the underside starts to
brown. (It will be a large,flat oat cake).4

Another Lughnasad present for you all;

The Oak Trees of Ireland (video)

SOME REVIEWS

A person who works in prison ministry in the UK is purchasing my DVD Pagans – The Wheel of the Year and had this to say;

“The dvd arrived very promptly and all worked fine. I think it’s excellent, though I might have liked it to be longer! I have recommended it for use at the prison where I work primarily (HMP Parc), and also to the other chaplains of the Pagan Federation Prison Ministry (covering England and Wales). If you haven’t had any more orders from this part of the world as yet, I hope some will transpire.”

*You can order the DVD and my books from this website (all books are autographed) *

Johnny Depp’s THE LONE RANGER – my review

I went to see The Lone Ranger, mainly because I had heard that the Christian Right was panning the film due to its “Pagan content”. That made it almost required viewing for me. (See  also “Christians go on the attack against ‘Pagan’ Lone Ranger” ) Here is my review;

I have never been a fan of Westerns nor a romantic about outlaws and the Wild West, so this was more of an intellectual exercise, to see what the Religious Reich was so upset about.

Film critics have described the film as “a mess” most likely because of the choppy transitions between San Francisco of the 1930’s and late nineteenth century Texas. To the average White (non Native American) critic this back and forth could appear unnecessary and distracting. Why not have all the action take place in one era? But as someone who has spent time with First Nations elders I see things a bit differently.

The movie seems to be trying to move forward as a teaching tale from an elder, the now aged Tonto in the person of Johnny Depp. The fact that Depp’s character is ancient while addressing a young child dressed as the Lone Ranger seems a deliberate and necessary choice.

I was once privileged to sit in on a meeting between an old Inuit elder and a young warrior of her tribe. The warrior was complaining that he could not be at peace with White people, because of all they had done to his tribe. He told the elder that he hated Whites and did not know what to do about that.

The elder patiently explained things this way; she said Whites on the continent were like little babies and the First Nations were the grownups. That Whites made a lot of mistakes because they did not know how to live here. “What would you do if a two year old climbed in your lap and shit on you? Would you harm it?” she asked the young brave. He got the point.

Still, I can understand why the general public is not flocking to the film, despite Depp’s presence. The majority of us are sick of guns and shootings and the release of a “shoot ‘em up” Western seems ill timed because for most of us guns and gun slingers have lost their romantic appeal. Having sat through it, to me the film is essentially a black comedy about real American history.

I am continually urging younger co-workers and friends to read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States which I consider required reading for every American, so they can learn a different version of history than they were taught in school. For readers of that book this movie will seem like a tepid foray into the Truth about the Wild West. Yes, whole Indian villages; elders, women and children, were massacred by Whites. Yes, the army was corrupt (think of Custer). Yes, the robber barons of the railway corporations were greedy and they did exploit Chinese workers and break treaties with Native American sovereign Nations to steal their land. And yes, guns were used as “justice” in the absence of courts and lawyers. All this must come as a shock to those who think corporations are always benign, the army always just, and American history a continually inspiring example of progress.

But what is probably most upsetting to the Christian Right’s apple cart is the fact that Native American Tonto is portrayed as the smart one who has to help the blundering White Ranger out of many scrapes, all the while talking to a horse as his spiritual ally, and making offerings to a spirit crow that he wears as a magical talisman on his head (the crow is based on a painting Depp found while researching his character).

Spirit allies are a real aspect of shamanism and indigenous religions everywhere, which must come as a shock to those who are supposed to call upon only one spiritual ally; the Palestinian carpenter named “Jesus”.

I speak Spanish and it has always bothered me that the Lone Ranger’s Native sidekick was named “Tonto” which means “Stupid” in Spanish. This film says exactly the opposite which must be unsettling to many.

An intelligent review from another quarter.

I wrote this review for my friend Bill Pfeiffer’s new book;

Wild Earth – Wild Soul – a manual for an ecstatic culture
Bill Pfeiffer
Moon Books, 2013 ISBN 978-1-78099-187-0

This book is a great manual for teachers, facilitators and humans, to help overcome the sense of separateness from nature. The “separate self” is described as a psycho-spiritual illness that modern peoples are suffering from and we are presented with a step by step set of exercises and activities to overcome our nature deprivation.

We are taught how to re-enter Paleo-thought processes such as are still found in indigenous cultures; how to make offerings to the Spirits of Place and to say “thank you”, how to overcome sexism, to increase trust in our “tribe” and in the universe.

The nitty gritty of running a Wild Earth Intensive is covered; leadership techniques, meditation, artwork, nature immersion exercises, deep exploration of the elements and deep observation of the land.

The book shows how to use stories to praise ones self and others, and to pass along talents and skills. There are guides to doing Earth based ceremonies, shamanic journeys and sweat lodges (I urge the reader to first experience these with a live teacher, especially sweat lodges which should only be done with a genuine Native American elder – we have seen how James Arthur Ray basically cooked his workshop participants to death in a plastic covered sweat lodge due to ignorance).

The book emphasizes that the teachings should be given with humor and play. It’s a great little manual for those who seek to mentor themselves and others into the art of being more fully human.

UPCOMING EVENTS!

  • CWPN’s Harvest Gathering 2013
    Seeds of Renewal
    August 15, 2013 to August 18, 2013
    Camp Cedarcrest, 886 Mapledale Rd., Orange, CT
    I will speak on Kitchen Medicines, Celtic Gods and Goddesses, Celtic Cosmology and Druidism.
  • WESTERN MA PAGAN PRIDE DAY
    September 28, Florence, Massachusetts
    Florence Community Center – all day
    I will present a slide show and lecture on the Medicinal Plants of New England
  • CHANGING TIMES CHANGING WORLDS
    Nov 8-9, Crown Plaza Cromwell
    (near Hartford, CT)
    Changing Times-Changing Worlds is a metaphysical conference for New England. People from all sorts of perspectives: scientific and magical, spiritual and practical and curious get together to share their knowledge and skills so that we can build on each others work, and further the acceptance that humans interact with energy as well as matter. We dowse, we see ghosts, we heal, we divine, we experiment and find what works. Psychic abilities are useless if only used as party games, let’s learn how to make them practical. Let’s dispel the myths that make them seem “spooky”! It’s time to make the world a better place and stop denying the talents we have.
    Changing Times-Changing Worlds Conference will be held in Cromwell, Connecticut November 8-10, 2013. Three days from 10 am to 11 pm, dozens of speakers, over a hundred hours of programming.
    I will be speaking on communicating with trees.
  • HERBAL HEALING INTENSIVE
    If you live in Western Massachusetts or nearby and are interested in my yearly six month Herbal Healing intensive please message me. We meet two Saturdays a month, October 19 to April 2014. MA nurses can get CEUs and a certificate is awarded to those who complete the program. Covers Western herbal Materia Medica, formula making, case taking, Chinese Five Element Theory, Homeopathic First Aid, Flower Essence Counseling, plant identification, ethno botany, and hands on herbal techniques such as poultices, tinctures, salves etc. An herb walk outdoors, slide shows of plants and hands on preparations are included.

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