January 2014

Druid blessings on the Secular New Year

This past year has been a bear for me. My beloved soul cat died in January, my mother passed in April, my cousin’s ex-husband and my high school boyfriend in November, and my aunt Jackie passed on the Winter Solstice. I have never had a year like this one. On Christmas Eve I actually slept for 12 hours and had a vivid dream that a man with a Kalashnikov rifle was sleeping next to me, to protect me. Let’s hope that 2014 is a kinder and mellower year.

Earlier this month I had a very nice experience at the largest hospital locally. I was invited to be part of a four person panel with a Jewish Rabbi, a Muslim, and a Catholic Priest. We talked about the season and our respective holy days. There was another Catholic Priest in the audience. I started my talk with the Bible quote; “In my Father’s house are many mansions”. I also mentioned that physicists now opine that there are
multiple universes, let alone galaxies. Then I launched into the Druidic Wheel of the Year. We were all very well received, so much so that we have already been invited to speak at another hospital. Interesting that hospitals are places of such glowing hope.

Shortly after that I was on the phone with tech support for computer issues and the person I was speaking with told me he was a Hindu, from India. As we waited for changes to load on my computer I mentioned the Solstice and he Googled it. Then I talked about Stonehenge and its Solstice orientation. He had never heard of that either so he Googled again. We kept talking and I explained that the Celtic religion is the Western fringe of the Vedic, Indo-European tradition that eventually morphed into Hinduism (he was flabbergasted that I knew how to pronounce Sanskrit words like “Atma”). Finally I urged him to read my article on these subjects. It has been a pleasant season for inter-faith work, so far.

As I type there is a flock of five very sleek looking wild turkeys eating the fallen seeds from my bird feeder. The sun is out but we are expecting a classic ‘Noreaster by tomorrow. May the new year be peaceful, happy and prosperous for us all!

BOOK AND BLOG NEWS

  • My Moonthly herbal blog post
  • Check out this site where you can hear excerpts from my novels read in gorgeous British accents!
  • Stumbled upon this old interview today – I had no idea my web person put it on my site!
  • Upcoming workshop in PA
    Tree Medicine Tree Magic
    September 5-7 2014
    Weekend Workshop Hosted by Ellen Evert Hopman (in Pennsylvania)
    A Friday night slide show of some common North American trees illustrating their medicinal and magical properties. On Saturday morning we learn about the Irish “Tree alphabet” and then go outside to perform a traditional Druid tree meditation and learn to listen to the trees. Saturday afternoon we learn more about the “Tree Alphabet” and then gather tree medicines such as leaves, pine needles, flowers, barks, etc. Sunday we prepare medicines from the ingredients we have gathered. Each student  will leave with a hand-made set of Ogham divination cards, based on the ancient Irish Ogham “Tree Alphabet”. Please bring a notebook and pen, and wear comfortable shoes and outdoor clothes as you will be outside part of the weekend.
    Ellen will also have books with her to sell and sign if you are interested.
    $225 covers workshop, all supplies, lodging and meals.

ARCHEOLOGY NEWS

 HERB NEWS

CELTIC NEWS

RELIGION NEWS

PAGAN NEWS

NATURE NEWS

POLITICS AND ETHICS

 

February 2013 blog

Last month I reported that a tiny Saw Whet owl had struck my car. I associated the death of the bird with the then recent gun murders of children in Connecticut, and tried not to see it as a personal omen of impending death. But sadly I was wrong. Within a few weeks my thirteen year old, tortoise shell Soul Cat started going downhill. I took her to the vet and he diagnosed Lymphoma. She had to be put down right there in the office.

The vet was very sensitive to my loss. He wrapped her in a pink towel and placed her in a tiny white cardboard coffin. I brought her back home and buried her in the garden, under the Hawthorn trees that bloom with white blossoms in the Spring and are covered in red berries in the Fall. It is a spot that has become a cat cemetery, two other cats of mine are buried nearby, with natural rocks to mark their graves.

I should have known about the warnings from Owls. A few years ago I had a similar Owl experience as I was washing dishes one evening. It was summer and the kitchen door was open, with only a screen between myself and the three miles of woods behind the house. An Owl started to hoot, right outside the door. I had never heard an Owl that close to the house and I thought it must be on the roof, calling for its mate or its children. The hooting persisted. I thought to myself “Wow, that is a very loud Owl” and I kept washing the dishes. Finally the hooting got even louder and more persistent. It went on for several minutes. Finally I said to the Owl: “OK, I get that this is a message, thank you!” and I knew that someone close to me was about to die.

The next morning I turned on my computer and found out that Celtic scholar and linguist Alexei Kondratiev had passed to the Otherworld the previous day. Alexei was a very important person to me, he collaborated on every one of my books, providing Old Irish and Scottish terms for the glossaries, with pronunciation guides. He was generous to a fault, and never asked for payment. I would send him a smoked wild Alaska salmon after each book came out, by way of thanks. Celto-philes will recognize the symbolism of the “Salmon of Wisdom” and why the gift was so appropriate for him. He was my Druid, the touchstone to whom I went with historical and spiritual questions about the ancient Celts and Indo-Europeans.

(Excerpt from my book SCOTTISH HERBS AND FAIRY LORE, Pendraig Publishing)

Owl – In Scottish Gaelic the owl is called Cailleach Oidhche (the night hag) and is generally associated with Goddesses. In Welsh tradition Lleu had a magical wife created for him out of flowers by the magician Gwydion. When his wife, Blodeuwedd, plotted with her lover Gronw to kill him, Llew escaped by transforming himself into an eagle and flying into a magical oak. After regaining his human form Llew turned his wife into an owl. 9

Seasonally, February first to second (because all Celtic festivals begin on the eve of the festival day and last until sundown the next evening) marks the season of Imbolc, the ancient Celtic festival of the lactation of the ewes, of candle blessings, and of the Goddess Brighid. Here in New England we have a “January thaw” about the end of January each year and I like to think its because Brighid herself is walking across the land, greening the hills where her feet tread. After Imbolc the cold descends again and the world is frozen until early March.

There are very subtle changes happening on the mountain. While the ground is still slushy with melting snow, the Kinnikinnick bushes (Red Osier Dogwood, or Red Willow, Cornus stolonifera ) which the First Nations use to make smoking mixtures for personal prayer and ceremony are flaming red against the backdrop of fog and snow. I suspect the reddening of the branches has to do with the lengthening daylight. Flame-red twigs are also a fitting symbol for the Fire Festival of Brighid, the ancient Celtic healing Goddess who is Patroness of the hearth, the forge, and the fires of poetry and inspiration.

I was privileged to watch a family of muskrats down by the pond, as they added dried rushes to the roofs of their lodges, taking advantage of the thaw. I have found Coyote tracks in the snow behind the house. Beyond that, everything is still frozen in its winter stasis and nature is quiet, slumbering into Spring.

Gwyl Mair (Imbolc):

In my books and articles I have generally been focused on the Irish aspects of the Celtic Fire Festivals. I wanted to understand the “British” take on things so I visited Imbolc in Wales on 12/14/2012 and revisited The Apple Branch – A Path to Celtic Ritual, by Alexei Kondratiev, in order to understand the Welsh aspects of the season. According to tradition Sant Ffraid (Saint Brighid) floated over from Ireland on a piece of turf. (Presumably that is how the Irish Imbolc customs came to Wales).

In Wales Imbolc is called Gwyl Fair y Canhwyllau or “Mary’s festival of the candles” and Gwyl Mair Dechrau’r Gwanwyn or “The Feast of Mary at the Beginning of Spring”.

In English the festival was called “Candlemas” when folk brought their candles to be blessed by placing them on the altar of a church. Candles were also carried in processions or placed in kitchen windows. The mistress of the farm would give the head maid a lighted candle to be used later in the autumn. That candle was to be used during the darkest part of the year, the time for working by candle light, and handed back on February 2nd, when it was light enough that the animals could be fed without the use of a flame.

Divinations were done; two candles were placed on a bench or table and each family member would take a turn sitting between the candles. They would take a drink such as beer from a beaker or horn and then throw the goblet behind them, over their head. If it fell upright that presaged a long life, if it fell bottom up, that meant an early death.

Sunshine on Candlemas Day that meant there would be a good harvest, but if a single crow circled or hovered over the house on Candlemas Eve, that was a bad omen.

* Remember – when you purchase books and DVDs from this site you get a signed copy and a FREE personal note! *

*** Upcoming Workshop Announcement ***

I and my friend Crystalline Ruby Muse, an outstanding Celtic Bard, have created a weekend workshop that will take place this Fall at Earthlands Institute for Environmental Awareness September 20-22, in Western Massachusetts. The workshop is timed for the start of the Fall foliage season, with six vegetarian meals and lodging provided (and airport pickups for those who need them). Folks are registering already, a deposit will hold your space. Find the flier by opening the link below and please share widely!

Celtic Tree Magic Flyer

Celtic Tree Magic Workshop
With Master Herbalist and author Ellen Evert Hopman
And Celtic Bard Crystalline Ruby Muse

Workshop Overview

The ancient Druids of Ireland used the Ogham Tree Alphabet to share coded messages hidden from outsiders. Each letter is named for a tree or plant, and is surrounded with medicinal and spiritual lore. For centuries this language was only transmitted orally in order to protect its secrets.

Using the Auraicept na n-Éces, a 7th century work of Irish scholars, as well as other traditional sources, we will reveal the meaning of this language. We will teach the poetic, spiritual, medicinal and divinatory meanings of these Celtic trees, all of which can be found in North America, in a context useful for modern seekers. We will venture outdoors where we will lead participants in connecting with the trees through meditation, observation, singing and dancing amongst them. Participants will make wands for individual use using the Ogham divinatory meanings as a guide.

We will teach traditional and modern songs and incantations in Irish, Scots Gaelic, and English to deepen the cultural and spiritual context of our work together. The entire course will be interwoven with ceremony created through Celtic Reconstructionist scholarship, offering participants insight into original Celtic polytheistic spiritual practices.

Students will leave with homemade wands and experience in using them; knowledge for using the Ogham as a divinatory tool; deeper awareness of and connection with ancient and extant Celtic culture; some understanding of how to use these trees as medicine; traditional and original songs to sing in Gaelic and English; insight into ritual in a uniquely Celtic context that they can continue to develop in their own spiritual practice; and a greater sense of connection to the spiritual realms as expressed through nature, song, and community ceremony.

This workshop is appropriate for people who are completely new to the Ogham and Celtic Reconstructionist ceremony, as well as people who have some experience but would like to expand their knowledge and skills. It will be roughly one-third lecture, two-thirds participatory experience, which will include space for a question-and-answer format in which to cover the students’ preferred material.

For information on costs, more about the presenters, and the location of the workshop (in Petersham, MA at the beautiful Earthlands Institute for Environmental Awareness) please download the flyer.

Below you will find this Moonth’s assortment news, freshly gleaned from the internet;

NATURE NEWS

CELTIC NEWS

ARCHEOLOGY NEWS

HISTORY

LANGUAGE NEWS

DRUID NEWS

RELIGION NEWS

HEALTH NEWS

POLITICS/ETHICS

May Brighid spread Her cloak of healing, peace, and inspiration over everyone who reads these pages. A blessed Imbolc to all!

* Remember – when you purchase books and DVDs from this site you get a signed copy and a FREE personal note! *