November blog 2016 Spooky times and election fears

By the time you read this Samhain (Halloween) may have passed but never fear, the old date for the Celtic New Year’s festival was November 11. So you can probably still observe it!

The modern notion of Halloween with its billions of dollars in candy sales has lost the true meaning of the day, which was to give thanks to the Land Spirits who feed and clothe us, and to give thanks to the ancestors who fought, loved and survived just so we could enjoy our own walk upon the Earth. Here are some ideas for things to do, to honor the forces and Beings that sustain us;

 

Offerings for the Spirits of the Dead 

“Hogboon, Hogboy, Hugboy – From the Old Norse haug-búi a mound-dwarf or guardian Spirit that inhabits a burial mound. While these Spirits are helpful to those who offer them gifts such as wine, ale, or milk, they resent interference with their mounds, for example, children playing on them, or cows grazing on them (not to mention the intrusions of archaeologists and tourists!). They especially resent those who come to steal treasure from a mound.

The very best offerings for a Hogboon are the first milk when a cow calves, the first jug of new ale, or the offering of a rooster or a cow from the farmstead. It is very good luck to set up housekeeping near a burial mound, provided the proper offerings are made on a regular basis.

Neglect of the local Hogboon can lead to sickness in the cattle, loss of possessions, or a haunted house. A Hogboon that is well respected and cared for will help with the farm chores and even follow the family if they move house.” From *Scottish Herbs and Fairy Lore* (Ellen Evert Hopman, Pendraig Publishing)*You can order a signed copy from this website!*

 

Offerings for the Fairies

“The best time to see Fairies is on the eve of a Fire Festival when they move house, from Fairy mound to Fairy mound. It is particularly important to leave offerings on your Fairy Altar at those times (a wooden or stone construction in the garden where food and drink offerings are left), for their refreshment. Fairies appreciate gifts of milk and ale on those nights, and milk and ale are offered to the Fairies at Samhuinn by pouring libations into tombs.” From Scottish Herbs and Fairy Lore (Ellen Evert Hopman, Pendraig Publishing)

“Of course, every farm and homestead must have a section of land that is never plowed and where no human ever goes (The Gudeman’s Croft). Wild weeds and grasses are allowed to grow there undisturbed, as a shelter for the Brownies and other Fairies.”

From *Scottish Herbs and Fairy Lore* (Ellen Evert Hopman, Pendraig Publishing)

Halloween, Samhain, Lá Samhna, Calan Gaeof (October 31, November 11 old style)

Make offerings to a sacred fire; dry herbs, whiskey, butter, ghee

Make offerings of rosemary (memories) to the fire

Leave a dish of the feast for the ancestors

Pour red wine, honey, cider or milk in the fields and on the stones

Offer ale and oatmeal gruel to the sea, in thanks for the seaweed and the fish

Leave a little of the harvest in each field and in the water

Leave a blessing for the trees

Gather the family and tell stories about grandparents, aunts and uncles who have passed. Bring out old pictures and remind the children of who they were and what they accomplished.

By the time you read this you may already have voted. Far be it for me to tell you how to vote. But please consider this;

The number of hate groups in the USA (and also in Europe incidentally) such as the KKK has increased dramatically since 2014. There is one candidate who has emboldened these kinds of monsters who are far worse than any Halloween specter. That candidate has deliberately allied himself with the “alt-right” who are misogynists and racists. His campaign is being managed by them and they are now creeping out of the shadows when before they remained hidden. He has given them a voice. Please think of the future of the country and of what it will look like if this candidate and his minions are given the dignity of high office.

As others have pointed out, Democracy can be lost by apathy and neglect.

*Yule is coming! Why not consider ordering books from this website. You will get a signed copy and a personal note from the author!*

BOOK NEWS

  • A new review just came out….
  • A Legacy of Druids: Book review by Ulchabhán

    Legacy of Druids

    Legacy of Druids

    Normally I am not drawn to reading collections of interviews – mainly because it is not easy to provide a cohesive narrative and I tend to get lost in a lot of the back and forth views. However, Ellen Evert Hopman’s book was a very pleasant surprise and an engaging and informative read.Each conversation should be taken in the context of the time of each individual’s practice as well as the particular connection of their varied developed practices. I liked that Ms. Hopman put an obvious amount of thought into trying to organize the insights shared into approachable topics of interest.While it is apparent from the well-researched variety of individuals who have been active in the Druid community over the decades that there is a great deal of diversity in what really constitutes “Druidism,” as a practicing Druid I felt a sense of underlying cohesiveness. As I read through each discussion, I enjoyed once again reviewing my own developed thoughts on what brought me on this journey. Each interview had its own flavor and presented a constantly morphing intellectual and spiritual case for all the threads that have woven our experiences into the truly rich and evolving Path I still walk with Joy and Gratitude.This book should be considered part of any library touching on the fire, music and connection of being a Druid. This is one I will return to many times to catch the layers of meaning more fully.Walk with Wisdom, Strength and GratitudeUlchabhán

  • And another review!
    Wednesday, October 05, 2016Review of Legacy of Druids: Conversations with Druid leaders of Britain, the USA and Canada, past and present by Ellen Evert Hopman (2016) Moon Books.Full disclosure: I was, to my amazement then and now, interviewed for this book. That is not why I like it, though I confess it is why I wanted to read it in the first place.Why Review Legacy of Druids on Brigit’s Sparkling Flame?I wouldn’t normally review a book like this on BSF as it isn’t actually about Brigit. However, there are two reasons to:1) it contains an early interview of me (September 3, 1996) which discusses my own spiritual path, and of course that involves the origin of the Daughters of the Flame in 1993 and its workings till 1996 (pp 29-39).2) More generally, it is fascinating from a historical perspective for Neo-Pagans generally, particularly but not exclusively those who identify as Druids or follow a Celtic-based path. Many Brigidines of course are in that number.Self-Indulgent MomentIt is a little weird reading the me of twenty-odd years ago. I notice I have mellowed. I want to correct two things I said in the book, and then I can forget me for the rest of this review:1) I was not able to carry through with my intention (a mere year ago) to stop producing the Daughters of the Flame newsletter. It is too central to the group. On, in less labour-intensive form, it goes.2) I say at one point, “On the way to the monastery I passed a high school called Saint Brigit’s. I had been into a couple of churches with shrines to St. Brigit, in Melbourne and elsewhere, and I found myself praying to Her as Goddess more pointedly than I had in the past. When I passed the school I said to my companion that I wondered what the students would think if they knew their school was named after a Pagan Goddess? (pg 32)”I no longer think that is a fair question. Though Brigit to me, and to most NeoPagans, is a goddess as well as a saint, I believe now that historically this was not likely the case, that it is a much more recent fusion. I won’t get into the argument for that here, just say that I would not ask that question in the same way, now.Brigit in Legacy of DruidsApart from my interview (pg 29-39), Brigit is mentioned a couple of times by other interviewees. Lady Olivia Roberston has an amusing reference to the “silliest poem” used by Ross Nicholls (progenitor of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids) in honour of Brigit in his early Imbolc rituals.

    “It rather went like this … ‘Ah, sure now, we invoke the golden-haired blue-eyed Brighid, the sweet Brighid who gives us the good cow’s milk.’ This ghastly image … ” Pg. 51

    On to the Main Review!

    Synopsis: A thoughtful, chatty book—reading it is like visiting, mead in hand and cross-legged on the forest floor, or sipping tea and nibbling dainties in an overstuffed chair, one fascinating person after another as they reflect, through their spiritual history, opinion, and advice, an exciting time in the evolution of modern Druidry and Celtic Neo-Paganism. Far from giving a single self-praising paean, the subject is pondered with care, scepticism, and occasional grumpiness from a multitude of viewpoints.

    Druidism is a way of life. For some it is a religion. But either way, it is a belief system that honors the natural world in its many manifestations, a system that can work with other religious beliefs or stand just as well on its own … No one’s perception of it is quite the same.
    TopazOwl (pg. 102)

    The interviews for Legacy of Druids were done twenty and more years ago, in pubs, at gatherings, through letters and email. One might expect they would be a little stale after so long, perhaps no longer relevant, but this isn’t so. Indeed, with updated information tucked around the interviews where needed, they are an absorbing read, all the more so with the advantage of hindsight. They are fuelled by stories of each subject’s spiritual path, their vision and practice, their concerns and hopes for the movement, and by their diverse perceptions of the history and meaning of Druidry. Hopman, herself a modern Druid, and therefore versed in much of the history and many of the issues of the movement, asks brief, broad questions and allows the interviewee to take flight.

    The text is broken into four sections: “Druidry of the Spirit”, “Druidry and Politics”, “Scholars and Writers”, and “Musicians, Artists and Poets”, with introductory materials by Hopman, John Matthews (1996), and Philip Carr-Gomm (2015). Carr-Gomm’s “Failed Predictions, Hopes and Fears” and “The Core Issues”  give a useful overview for those (like me) who are not intimately acquainted with modern Druidry. Some of his comments seem a touch anti-Celtic Reconstructionist, which is unfortunate, but this is not a theme of the book.

    Elsewhere, Ronald Hutton gives a comparison of UK and American NeoPaganism, and, in greater detail, of British Druids and Wiccans, including in his observations the “interesting ironies”—or inconsistencies—found in each path.

    Erynn Rowan Laurie covers a lot of ground in her interview, offering many elements of belief and practice gleaned from the study of the ancient Celts which can be employed in our own practice. Although she is in the “Scholars and Writers” section, her views on the spiritual and social practice of poetry, her call to live out Celtic values like strength, honesty, and strong community relationships, and her final behest that we “Pursue the Salmon of Wisdom” (pg 215) struck strong chords in me in terms of my own spiritual practice.

    Idealism, hope, humour, and contemplation fill the book. I think the greatest value for me is the opportunity to see the unfolding of each individual’s spiritual path—the seeds in their young lives that led them to grow in the ways they have, and the fruits that are born of those seeds. The unselfconscious innocence of these stories is moving and often inspiring. It is fascinating to peek into the heads of such a broad array of practitioners, from the most practical to the utterly fey, to learn what they are reacting to both in the greater world and within modern Druidry and NeoPaganism, and how they and their companions have helped to shape those paths. The unique voice of each subject, expressing their intentions, their paths, how they have structured their groups and why, kept me absorbed long after I had intended to stop reading each night. They base there practice on received spirit communications, on meditations and dreams, on the teachings of friends and family, on knuckle-biting scholarly research, or on a combination of these. Some don’t identify strictly as druids, but follow a Celtic-inspired path. Portrayals of meetings between modern Druids and Catholics, of Druid groups splitting off from or working together with others, and so on lend the juice of gossip to the mix.

    I am intrigued, too, to see how various practitioners conceive of the history and meaning of Druidry, and what they choose to focus on within that understanding. Some of the ideas of ancient times and lineages read like wholecloth pseudo-history, where other histories seem grounded to greater and lesser degrees in evidence-based scholarship. I can’t help squirming when I read occasional assertions of what long dead people believed and how they behaved when I am pretty sure we can’t possibly know. But of course it’s not the purpose of this book to define for the reader the True History of Druidism. It is to learn the beliefs of modern Druids, and their views of their history are as individual and informative as their religious beliefs.

    Just as definitons of Druidry vary, ideas of who is a Celt, or who is entitled to follow such a path, are disparate. For instance, Kaledon Naddair in his rough and righteous rant warns against the misguided appropriation of Celtic culture: “ … the only people that have an automatic entitlement to the riches of the Keltic cultural tradition are Kelts! Kelts by race, birth, language and cultural upbringing in Keltic homelands! (pg 198)” Equally firm about the need to steer away from cultural appropriation and support the struggles of Celtic peoples is Erynn Rowan Laurie. “Respect for modern Celtic communities and languages [is] essential. The Celtic people are still under siege in all their remaining lands. Languages are dying, as are traditional practices, songs and stories. Going about trying to recreate something 2000 years old while ignoring the plight of those people’s descendants is nothing short of arrogant and disrespectful (pg 204)”.  However, her view of who might legitimately follow a Celtic Pagan path differs from Naddair. “I think that inclusiveness is important. We can’t rely on genealogy or geography to determine who is ‘Celtic’. The historical Celts roamed all over Europe, and lands beyond. Anyone worthy might be taken into the tribe through marriage or adoption (pg 205)”.

    In the end, I’m not sure what percentage of what is represented here is very closely linked to the ancient Celtic world-view—or what little we actually understand of it—though of course this varies from interview to interview. But what it does undoubtedly contain is a modern world-view that is lively, thoughtful, and filled with insights, which does indeed have elements of the ancestors’s ways, or at the very least a reverence for those ancestors, a reverence for the earth we are born of, and a joie de vivre that must ensure its continuation into the future. How we may see modern Druidry in another twenty years is a tantalizing question indeed.

    Summary

    I am delighted to have read this book. It is interesting, it is useful, and it helps to set a framework to our endeavours and remind us of what we are as Celtic-inspired NeoPagans: what we aspire to, what our responsibility is to ourselves and to our world. If our practice as NeoPagans of any stripe does what so many of these practitioners are in part attempting to do—change our relationship to self and others and shift our impact on the earth and her children for the better—then it is far more than a self-rooted exercise, however pleasant or helpful, it is a gift of healing to the world. For it to be such, we need to live up to the ideals we put forward in interviews like these, and leave factionalism and self-interest behind.

    Posted by  Mael Brigde

  • Secret Medicines from Your Garden gets coverage in Mother Earth Living!
    SecretMedicinesofGarden

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POLITICS AND ETHICS

 

A Druid’s Web Log – Boycott Hobby Lobby

Like many women in the USA I am reeling at the latest assault on women from the religious right and the Republican majority (and hardly impartial) Supreme Court. At a time when US women are already being forced to go to Mexico for gynecological care and contraceptives SCOTUS ruled yesterday in the Hobby Lobby case that for-profit corporations don’t have to provide contraceptives to their female employees if it offends their religious values.

The court’s majority (all men) think its fine to discriminate against women when they try to make their own health care choices. The court’s losing side (all the women) were horrified.

Despite the court’s claim that this is a narrow judgment that “only” applies to birth control (and only singles out women as persons to be discriminated against so who cares) the future ramifications are breath taking. Precedent is now set so that any for-profit privately held corporation can deny service to blacks, refuse to hire gays, impose Sharia Law, refuse blood transfusions, or refuse to cover health care altogether (as in the case of Christian Scientists), if their religion so recommends.

Let’s hope this all becomes so odious that this country finally grows up and embraces single payer national health insurance like every other developed nation has. Why should employers be allowed to decide who gets how much coverage and for which conditions? Absurd.

Last week the same court told Massachusetts that it was unconstitutional to have a 35 foot buffer zone around women’s health clinics to protect the women from anti-abortion and anti-birth control goons. Those buffer zones were set up for a reason, because women were being harassed and bullied en route to routine health care. The same court makes sure that they themselves are well protected with a nice buffer zone around their own place of business while protesters are routinely denied access to political rallies, conventions, etc. and kept behind barriers.

I have lost all respect for the Supreme Court as an impartial judicial body. I hope this will be a real wake up call to voters everywhere. The war on women is in progress. Can you tell I am pissed?

OK, so back to more placid matters…due to the heavy rains this spring the elderberries are sporting massive clumps of blooms and I am looking forward to a bumper harvest in a month or so. I like to mix elderberry and Echinacea to make a fantastic flu and cold remedy. You will find plenty of suggestions below on how to use wild plants for food and medicine.

Earlier this Moonth I had an amazing week at the national Dowser’s Convention in VT. I did a workshop on communicating with trees using an ancient Bardic technique and was told “the best Celtic workshop I have ever attended”. I also did a 3 hour Scottish Fairy Lore talk and they said they thought it should be all day (six hours) and could I please come back and do it next year? Also sold quite a few books …

Then it was on to Mutton and Mead in Montague, Massachusetts, a wonderful Ren Fair. The weekend went very well and I sold quite a few books, only thing is I need to make another sign – no one realizes I am the author of my own books, they think I am selling other people’s stuff. Also, of interest, I had four separate cases of strangers coming to me for counseling on various life issues; death, stress, self-esteem issues, etc. It was like the position of the table made it seem like “the doctor was in”. (I have no problem with that, it’s just interesting). The hard part is getting up at 5 AM when I am used to working nights (urk!). Slept about 15 hours afterwards. Also, a lady told me she had heard that the picture on the cover of THE DRUID ISLE (my second Celtic novel) was me. I asked her “How could a 20 something young girl write a trilogy of Iron Age novels with Old Irish glossaries and pronunciation guides in the back?” Stop by my table YE CELTIC BOOKS AND HERBALS next year if you can.

Here are some more upcoming events this year;

  •  Join Mary Pat Palmer and Karin Uphoff Tuesday July 1st at 1pm PST (4 PM EST) on Holistic Health Perspectives as they interview Master Herbalist and Druid, Ellen Evert Hopman about the magic of the green world, fairy lore and tree medicine.  Ellen has written many fiction and non-fiction books about plants and Paganism.  You can listen via www.kzyx.org and earn more about Ellen Hopman at www.elleneverthopman.com
  • September 5-7, 2014
    Tree Medicine Tree magic 
    A weekend intensive in Pennsylvania on making tree medicines and learning Irish tree lore
  • Western MA Pagan pride Day
    Florence, MA
    September 27, 11 AM to 6 PM
  • Herbal Healing Intensive
    October 18, 2014 – April, 2015
    Two Saturdays a month, 1-5 PM near Amherst, MA
    A six month intensive. 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.
    Over 400 pages of handouts are included with the course. A certificate of completion is offered at the end.
  • Changing Times Changing Worlds
    Nov. 7-9, Crowne Plaza in Cromwell, Connecticut
    Ellen will teach a three part Druid Intensive including the Druidic wheel of the Year, the Ogham alphabet and meditating with trees.
  • I will be a featured speaker at Con-Ception in Illinois, April, 2015.

Meanwhile, there is a lot of other news to report. The usual archeology, religion and nature news are featured below, along with some practical ideas on how you can help to make this a better world.

*Remember – you can always order signed books from me via this website!*

THINGS YOU CAN DO

  • No Fracking Way – a film about fracking in Massachusetts (video)ALSO – Please enclose a letter to the CEO of your energy provider each time you mail in your bill and payment. Let them know how you feel about fracking in your community and which safe and clean energy solutions you support; wind, solar, bio-mass, geo-thermal, and conservation.
  • *Urge the Forest Service to end destructive old-growth logging in our largest National Forest.* Take Action
  • *About 75% of flowering plants rely on pollinators like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
    But sadly, *pollinators are on the decline* worldwide.
    There’s no better time to reward these hard workers for all they do than by turning your yard or garden into a welcoming haven for wildlife.
    *Help bees, butterflies and hummingbirds by certifying your yard, garden or balcony as an official National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat(R) site today.* And, here are a few tips to attract these helpful friends to your garden.
    *Honeybees* pollinate about one-third of all crops in the United States.
    Honeybees and smaller native bees have somewhat shorter tongues than bumblebees, so they’ll appreciate tightly packed clusters of tiny flowers and shallow blossoms like some milkweeds, spirea, goldenrod and phlox.
    *Bats* are hard at work while you’re asleep, so consider night-blooming plants in addition to day-bloomers. Install a bat box on a nearby tree to encourage bats to take up residence in your yard.
    *Hummingbirds* love brightly colored, tubular flowers. Native red trumpet honeysuckle and many types of columbine are a favorite. When blooms are few, supplement flowers with feeders filled with nectar water.
    *Butterflies* move pollen on their bodies, like bees, but aren’t quite as efficient as other pollinators. Attract these beauties with red, yellow, orange, pink and purple blossoms that are flat-topped or clustered and have short flower tubes.

FIRE CIDER UPDATE

  • Check out the newsletter online
    Summer Solstice Update Newsletter:*LEGAL ACTION TAKEN!
    *FIRE CIDER TASTING AND EVENTS AT THE WOMEN’S HERBAL CONFERENCE
    Legal Action Taken!
    It’s time for legal action!! We are filing for a cancellation of the Shire City Herbals trademark on Fire Cider.
    This is an action we can all take together!
    In filing with the United Stated Trademark and Patent Office (USTMPO), we are asking them to remove the trademark Fire Cider from Shire City Herbals.ABOUT THIS PROCESS:
    *Anybody can file a cancellation as an individual, business or herbal group.
    * This process costs $300.
    *Multiple people can file under 1 petition. Have your names ready to add to the petition when you file. Herbal groups and friends can work together to pool the $, or raise the funds together.
    *PLEASE PLEASE LET US KNOW IF YOU FILE, SO WE CAN KEEP COUNT!!
    send us an email EMAIL US IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SPONSOR AN HERBALIST TO FILE!EMAIL US IF YOU ARE AN HERBALIST THAT NEEDS A SPONSOR!Check our website for step by step instructions (in pictures!) on how to file with the USTMPO.
  • *Fire Cider Tasting and Events at the Women’s Herbal Conference
    Look for the Fire Cider table this summer at the Northeast Women’s Herbal Conference in New Hampshire, August 22-24, 2014.
    *Sign the petition
    *Raffle
    *Write a letter
    *Fire Cider Tasting: Bring your Fire Cider and enter into the tasting contest!
    *Find a group to file for cancellation with!
    http://www.womensherbalconference.com/

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