October blog 2014 Drought in the West, Glorious Fall in the East

Philo Herb class 2014

Philo Herb class 2014

I just got back from a lovely sojourn to the old growth redwoods and the Pacific ocean, in Northern California. I was there to teach a class in Celtic tree lore and Herbalism. Two things were shocking; first the miserable state of air travel at this time, and second the extent of the drought in the West.

Travelling by airplane is now like a long bus ride, smashed in-between passengers, breathing bad air, and with no food for even trips of almost six hours (pretzels and Coke do not count as “food” in my book).

The stewardess was surly when I asked her where we were as we flew over a mountain range. “The pilots are very busy and I am serving drinks” was her answer. Gone are the days of cheerful patter from the crew on Southwest.

Northern California is in a terrible state – apparently if the drought keeps up like this there is only one year of water left. In the town where I was teaching people are experimenting with not washing their hair any more. Showers are once a week affairs, the rest of the time its sponge baths, and when you turn on the tap to let it run until it gets hot or cold you collect the running water in jars until the right temperature is achieved. The jars later go out to the garden to water the flowers.

I saw a number of rivers that were completely dry – the rivers that flow at the base of the giant old growth redwoods. The trees are trying to adjust by shrinking their needles.

Meanwhile southern Californians who are taking their water from the north continue to wash their cars and water lawns and golf courses are exempt from water regulations which is absurd. I am starting to understand the animosity that some northern Californians feel towards their southern neighbors, and why they want to secede.

There is a type of grass that was developed in Japan called Zoysia that grows sideways more that up and is very drought resistant. It’s a mystery to me why this type of grass isn’t required by law in drought prone areas. It is very compact and the only problem with it (from a golf course point of view) is that it turns yellow in summer. But who cares? We need the water for agriculture much more than we need perpetually green golf courses.

It should be illegal to plant regular grass in drought stricken areas. Desert plantings are now required in some townships and that should be the law everywhere in the West (we obviously need more Herbalists and Botanists in congress).

I have been invited to return to the Bay area of California next year to teach. Hopefully there won’t be a drought catastrophe by then!

The holy day of the dead, Samhain (English – Halloween), is fast approaching. Think about ways to honor your ancestors and to give a final thanks to all the beings that gave their lives so that we humans could enjoy a fruitful harvest.

Some places you can find me

  •  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.
  • The Greenfield Annual Word Festival
    Saturday October 25
    Ocean Grill Banquet Room
    30 Federal St., Greenfield, MA 01301
    (413) 376-4677
    2:30 pm – 4:00 pm
    I will be reading from my novels and selling books at the Book Fair
  • Changing Times Changing Worlds
    Nov. 7-9, Crowne Plaza in Cromwell, Connecticut
    I will teach a three part Druid Intensive including the Druidic wheel of the Year, the Ogham alphabet and meditating with trees.

Oil and war

I was not able to attend the big climate march in New York so I wrote to Obama about this. You can do this too.

Dear President Obama: I can’t go to the march today but wanted to make my opinion known on the environment. As a trained Herbalist I always look for the root cause of an illness. We are facing two fatal sicknesses in our time – war and environmental catastrophe. They both have the same root cause – fossil fuels and in particular OIL. We are faced with a new 100 years’ war in the Middle East. The reason we are there (and the reason ISIL and others want to attack us is precisely because we are there)is only for oil. If it were for truly humanitarian reasons we would be at war in the Congo and other places, we only go in when there is oil to be had. Instead of spending our trillions of dollars plus blood and lives lost and maimed, on oil, let’s admit that we are ON A WAR TIME FOOTING and convert the nation to wind, solar bio-mass, geothermal, and radical conservation. LETS STOP THE DEADLY ADDICTION TO OIL!!! Please make this happen.

Below you will find the last Moonth’s collection of articles.

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May the blessings of your ancestors follow you always.


Imbolc, Brighid, and the return of the snow

As I write this we are in the midst of a classic winter storm. This year it almost feels as if the weather hereabouts has gotten back to “normal” (whatever that is). I can remember 20 foot snow drifts, higher than a school bus, back when I was a teenager and going to the Putney School in Vermont. I remember wind so cold I had to wear an old nylon stocking over my face, just to keep it from frost bite. Now they call that kind of cold a “Polar Vortex” and everyone acts surprised.

Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal are sheltering in the Rhododendron bush next to the living room window. Other birds are chomping away at the seeds and suet I put out and I have seen fresh Coyote or Coy-Wolf  tracks in the snow every day. The flock of wild turkeys that has adopted me hasn’t been around for a few days. Hopefully they are roosting high up in a conifer somewhere, safe from the snow and predators. When the storm is over I will put out my usual cracked corn for them, at the edge of the driveway.

I love late January and early February because that is the time of year when my Patroness, the Goddess Brighid, is honored. I don’t know what happens in other parts of the world but here in New England we have a yearly event called “The January Thaw” when the air gets warm for about a week and water drips from roof tops and puddles and mud form in driveways. In Celtic traditions it is said that when Brighid walks the countryside, everywhere She steps the ice melts and the Earth turns to green. It is far from green here, but we certainly get hints of Spring at the time of Her festival.

I always know that Brighid is here by the weather, and I put out a candle in the snow, oatmeal or oatmeal cookies for Her and her donkey, and a basket of cloths to be used for healing throughout the year, for Her to bless. That magical time is now over and the snow is dropping on us in buckets, by this evening we will have a foot or more.

Here are some prayers and invocations that I like to use.


by Ellen Evert Hopman
(translation by Alexei Kondratiev)

A Brigit, a ban-de beannachtach
Tair isna huisciu noiba,
A ben inna teora tented trena,
Isin cherdchai,
Isin choiriu,
Ocus isin chiunn,
Cossain inna tuatha.

O Brighid, blessed Goddess
Come into the sacred waters
O woman of the three strong fires,
In the forge,
In the cauldron,
In the head.
Protect us.
Protect the people.

~   ~   ~

Brighid, Patroness of the Druids and Bards
By Ellen Evert Hopman


Beloved Brighid of the triple flame
Daughter of the Dagda
Guardian of the sacred spring
Whose voice is the soul of the harp
We call on thee.
Teach our hands to heal
and our hearts to sing.
We entrust our life’s progress to your care
and ask that you shape us
bending and turning our hearts
on your bright anvil of flame
till we are made perfect jewels
fit to be set into the eye
of your timeless harp
to play for the soul of the people
in times of sorrow and times of celebration.
We thank you for your gifts to us
of poetry and music
of laughter and tears
and for the healing balm of your wisdom.
May we always remember to meditate
on the gift of your sacred waters
which surround us at our birth
and sail us to our destiny.
Our hearts are open
to receive your blessing.
Midwife of our souls, rain on us.
Shower your inspiration
in curtains of song
from sacred waterfalls
in the realm where you dwell.
Come to us as Virgin
with the soft smell of flowers.
Come to us as Mother
and feed us your fruits.
Come to us as the Wise Woman
in the stark blasts of Winter.
Help us to see your Mystery in all creation
that we may know gratitude
and reverence.
Our hearts sing to you with love.
Teach us to change
like the revolving seasons.
Teach us to grow
like the green corn that feeds the people.
Teach us to fashion beauty
like the stillness of the forest pool
and the roar of the ocean wave.
Teach us to heal
like the soothing gem
which cools the eyes and Restores the limbs.
With humility and bright expectation
We invoke thee this hour!


Below you will find the usual collection of the last Moonth’s media. May
these tid bits inspire your path.

*** If you order books or DVDs from this website you will get a signed copy
with a personal note! Be sure to add a request if you want the books signed
to someone else! ***








May Brighid bless your fields and your flocks!