August Blog – A time of War and Harvest

It is the time of Lughnasad, the Celtic festival of the First Fruits and the official start of the harvest season. I managed to find a field of heirloom wheat here in the area and garnered a few stalks just before the field was harvested. I plan to make a “corn dolly” from them, a special doll that will hold the magic of a successful harvest and carry the luck into next year.

For me it isn’t really Lughnasad (the Assembly of the God Lugh, inaugurated in honor of his foster mother Tailtiu) until the blueberries ripen. In traditional areas this festival is still called “Blueberry Sunday” or “Blaeberry Sunday”. Last week the high bush blue berries were finally ready for picking and I knew that it was time to celebrate.

It has been a cold and rainy summer until this week, with fifty degree nights and seventy degree days, most unusual for late July. The raspberries and blackberries have been fabulous and it seems there will be a huge acorn harvest. That means an explosion in the mouse population down the line, followed by an increase in owls, foxes and coyotes, a cycle that ebbs and flows.

As I write this another  truce has been declared in the 2014 Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I haven’t had the heart to turn on the news to see if the peace has held. It has been a gut wrenching few weeks hearing the daily reports of carnage in the asymmetrical war. It reminds me of Vietnam when we used to have to watch the body bags and burned civilians parade across our TV set as we sat down to eat dinner each night. In that war we were on tender hooks for years as the body count soared. I pray to the Gods that this conflict will soon be over.

A few days ago  I called my two senators (Warren and Markie) and the White House. I told them that as an American tax payer I don’t want my country participating in war crimes. Now that Israel has run out of some kinds of weapons what are we doing? Selling them more so they can continue to kill women and children who are trapped like fish in a barrel. I said the US should stop arming either party and the UN should go in, street by street, and find the tunnels. Supposedly this is about tunnels, right? Because right now it’s become mass murder and genocide of civilians. I heard on the news last night that when the Egyptians closed the tunnels on their side of the border they did it by flooding them with water, in other words they managed to do it without inflicting mass carnage on the civilian population. One wonders why the Israelis felt the need to kill so many to accomplish the same thing.

HH Dalai Lama said about the Israel Gaza Violence: …”Of course, war and the large military establishments are the greatest sources of violence in the world. Whether their purpose is defensive or offensive, these vast powerful organizations exist solely to kill human beings. We should think carefully about the reality of war. Most of us have been conditioned to regard military combat as exciting and glamorous – an opportunity for men to prove their competence and courage. Since armies are legal, we feel that war is acceptable; in general, nobody feels that war is criminal or that accepting it is criminal attitude. In fact, we have been brainwashed. War is neither glamorous nor attractive. It is monstrous. Its very nature is one of tragedy and suffering”

There are also Israeli citizens who oppose this war;

a petition  by Israeli reservists who refuse to serve in the current Israeli military operation and speak out against the Israeli oppression of women and minorities, “Whenever the Israeli army drafts the reserves — which are made up of ex-soldiers — there are dissenters, resisters, and AWOLers among the troops called to war. Now that Israel has sent troops to Gaza again and reserves are being summoned to service, dozens are refusing to take part. We are more than 50 Israelis who were once soldiers and now declare our refusal to be part of the reserves. We oppose the Israeli Army and the conscription law. Partly, that’s because we revile the current military operation.”

As is often the case, it’s the veterans, those who have experienced death and destruction and know the consequences, who speak most loudly for peace. And the misery is just beginning for the women and children of Gaza. Water and electricity have been cut and soon cholera, dysentery and other diseases will inevitably set in, due to lack of sanitation. And since their homes have been destroyed, a logical solution would be to hand over all the illegal Israeli settlements to the displaced civilians of Gaza – according to the UN an occupying force is responsible for the lives of the civilians it has control over. Israel has cut off all means of escape and yet continues to bomb and deprives the area of water, thus Israel is guilty of war crimes. Providing shelter for the refugees from this conflict would go a long way towards repairing the inhumanity.

And there is still conflict in Syria which the press barely covers.

My heart is heavy in the  midst of bright summer…

Below you will find the usual collection of archeology, nature, herb and Celtic news. *Reminder – you can order books from me via this website and get a signed copy with a personal note!*

Here are some upcoming events;

  • Tree Medicine Tree Magic
    October 4th & 5th at the Philo School of Herbal Energetics – California
    A Weekend Workshop With Druid Ellen Evert Hopman
    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 can 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.The Philo School of Herbal Energetics website has information on directions & lodging. $150 for the weekend; register here.Lodging: We do not offer lodging. Please go to the Anderson Valley Chamber of Commerce page for available lodging.
  • 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.
  • A recent radio show where you can hear what I have been up to
    Facebook
    July 7 I did another radio show (1400 AM, WHMP, Northampton, MA) where we discussed the upcoming local Scottish Games and my trilogy of Druid novels and the book “Scottish Herbs and Fairy Lore”. The two radio guys were wide eyed as I described my experiences with the Good Neighbors. They seemed only slightly shocked and they did invite me back again, so it apparently wasn’t too scary for them.
    After the show I went for a walk by the Connecticut river. At one point I stopped and looked down and saw A FOUR LEAF CLOVER sticking up and practically waving at me. Now I am not one of those people who finds those easily, in fact, it’s my first one. I felt like it was a nice confirmation from the Fair Folk and a thanks.

THINGS WE CAN DO

PAGAN NEWS

ARCHEOLOGY NEWS

HERBAL NEWS

NATURE NEWS

CELTIC NEWS

RELIGION NEWS

POLITICS AND ETHICS

May your harvest be full and your future filled with peace.

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! *