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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September blog – Enjoying the dregs of the summer

The big news here on this New England mountain is the drought. My elderberry bush is strangely lop sided this year; one half dried up and dying and the other half bending low with berries. The rowan (Mountain Ash) trees are suffering the most, with crinkled up leaves they appear to be at deaths’ door. I take heart from a story my brother once told me. He lives in Texas where there was a severe drought for three years. It was so bad that the oaks lost their leaves for the entire period. But once the rains returned, so did the leaves.

A few weeks ago I had a strange encounter with a hummingbird on the back patio where I have never had hummingbird feeders. In past years at this time my garden has been filled with roses and pink phlox. Now, due to the drought I have half as many flowers. One day I went out and a hummingbird started dive bombing my face. It was clearly trying to tell me something because it hovered for a minute or so at my eye level, chirping all the while. I got the message. I immediately got into the car and went out and bought a Hummingbird feeder.

Hummingbirds are powerful little animals. In Inca tradition they are the intermediaries with the angelic realms and help one to achieve the impossible.

This house is on a well and last week the well actually went dry and I had to wait a day before the pressure was high enough to turn on the faucets. I am getting used to a new routine; watering plants by hand from empty milk jugs, channeling grey water from the kitchen sink directly into the garden, squeezing out my laundry before I put it on the line to dry and saving the water to pour on the roses, only watering in the early morning and in the evening to prevent evaporation.

(Speaking of drought,  here is an article about a farmer who is succeeding with very little water )

The other big project around here is gathering acorns. I went down to a local lake and found a hollowed out stone and another stone that fits neatly into my hand, to use as a mortar and pestle/acorn smasher. My plan is to crack the acorns, leach them, dry the leached nuts, and grind them into flour. So many people I know have oak trees, it’s a wonder that we aren’t all making use of this amazing food source that was once a staple food of our ancestors.

Here is a little recipe from my newest herbal “Secret Medicines >From Your Garden”;

Acorn Cake

  •  1 cup olive or coconut oil
  • 1 cup acorn flour
  • 1 cup other organic flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground Cardamom
  • ½ tsp. ground Cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground Nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp. ground Allspice
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup raw honey
  • ½ cup Applesauce
  • 1 cup organic sugar
  • Some powdered sugar to dust on top
  • Butter to grease the pan

 Method:

  • Grease and flour a Bundt pan
  • Heat the oven to 350 degrees
  • Mix the dry ingredients and spices in a bowl
  • Beat the wet ingredients together in a separate bowl
  • Combine the wet and dry mixtures and pour into the Bundt pan
  • Bake 30-40 minutes or until a knife comes out clean. Take out of the oven, allow to cool for 15 minutes, and then turn out on a rack.
  • Once the cake is completely cooled dust lightly with confectioner’s sugar.

How to process acorns
How to make acorn flour

FALL EQUINOX

The Equinox falls on September 22 this year. Here are some suggestions for how to honor the Devas and Land Spirits who have labored long and hard to create the bounty of our forests, fields and gardens;

Fall Equinox, Meán Fomhair, Alban Elfed (September 22)

  • Make offerings to a sacred fire; dry herbs, whiskey, butter, ghee
  • Pour milk offerings on stones
  • Offer ale and oatmeal gruel to the sea
  • Pour ale, honey, cider or milk on the Earth
  • Make a scarecrow from the new grain and place it in the exact center of your fields. Do not give it clothes. The Spirit of the Grain will inhabit the scarecrow and look out for the welfare of the crops.

ACTION ALERT

“A suspected Native American burial ground is slated for destruction during the high holy days of the Algonquian people who live here.  This is our time to memorialize the deceased and to celebrate life. All Tribal representatives were banned from inspecting this site, contrary to Federal policy (Bureau of the Interior, Section 106 and Bulletin 38) and in violation of MGL 114, Massachusetts burial protection law.  The law is designed to prevent “alienation of a burial ground for any other purpose,” but is being loop holed in this case.”

Please read and consider signing this petition to allow Native American tribal officers to inspect a suspected burial ground before it’s destroyed:

Please share to all your friends on various social networks.  This petition is being sent to the Hopi, Dineh, Oglala Lakotah, and several other First Nations offices.  A copy of this petition has been sent to President Obama, who is vacationing through the Algonquian holy days in the backyard of the Aquinnah Wampanoag, ironically.

Nahuhnushagk,

Rolf Cahat

Akwesasne Mohawk Tribal Member, Nipmuc descendant, science editor and researcher of Native American culture and religion, resident of Shutesbury

ANOTHER ACTION ALERT

We the people ask the federal government to call on Congress to act on an issue:

Stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline which endangers the water supply to Native American reservations.

Created by C.S. on August 15, 2016

“The Dakota Access pipeline is set to be constructed near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, crossing under the Missouri River which is the only source of water to the reservation. The pipeline is planned to transport approximately 470,000 barrels of crude oil per day. The potential of oil leaks would contaminate the only source of water for the reservation. While Dakota Access claims oil leaks are unlikely, an oil leak from a separate pipeline in North Dakota was discovered (8/15/16) to have leaked over 500 barrels of oil since the leak began on July 19, 2016. You can read the article here. A leak like this from the Dakota Access pipeline would leave the Standing Rock Sioux without any clean water”.

BIG BOOK NEWS

OK, this really is  BIG. The International Herb Association has chosen “Secret Medicines from your Garden” for their Thomas DeBaggio Annual Book Award – announced at their annual conference, held this year in Columbia, MD, August 18-21.

As I said to them; “Please tell the participants that I am very honored to be chosen. I am the kind of person who goes to a dinner party and points out the poison ivy growing by the front door to the hostess and also the edible tips of the hemlock trees growing in the yard. I see clippings from river birch trees lying in a pile at the edge of the garden and I tell anyone within earshot that they would make a great tea. These kinds of sentiments are not always understood (or appreciated) by a busy hostess at a dinner party! But I am sure plant people will understand. (smile).”

You can purchase a signed copy of the book from me via this website or find it in the usual places! The amazing thing is the book contains magical as well as medicinal uses of herbs. Apparently herb magic is no longer threatening to the general public (or at least to Herbalists!)

Article  about SECRET MEDICINES FROM YOUR GARDEN, the award the book just received and some local classes….

And an author interview here

WORKSHOPS AND CLASSES

  • THE HERBAL AND SPIRITUAL PROPERTIES OF TREES
    A slideshow and talk
    September 3rd , Pelham, MA
    Taught by Ellen Evert Hopman, Herbalist and Author.
    Ellen Evert Hopman is the author of  A DRUID’S HERBAL OF SACRED TREE MEDICINE, SECRET MEDICINES FROM YOUR GARDEN and other herbals. She  will be discussing the herbal and folklore traditions surrounding common North American trees and harvesting and preparation methods. Trees covered include; Larch, Oak, Hawthorn, Walnut, Pine, Redwood, Eucalyptus, Maple, Birch and many more…
    After the class  she will have some of her books on hand for signing. Her books and salves are also available for purchase in the shop.
    COST – Sliding scale $10 to $15 (Registration fee of $5 included in total cost)
    DATES – Saturday, September 3rd
    TIMES – 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm
    LOCATION – The Bower Studio: 378 Daniel Shays Hwy, Pelham, MA 01002
    * If the class minimum is not met, all registration fees will be refunded and you will be notified.
    You may also pre-register by visiting the shop during business hours.
    ** Payment for classes will be due in full (minus pre-registration cost) at the start of class. Class fees must be cash or check, made out to the class instructor. Cancellations must contact us 48 hours prior to class so we can offer canceled spaces to others. Pre-registration fees are non-refundable. Read our FAQ for more info.**
  • Scottish Herbs and Fairy Lore
    With Ellen Evert Hopman
    Sunday, October 2nd
    11:30 am – 5:30 pm
    $94 prepaid by September 25th
    $104 thereafter
    Crystal Wellness Center Upstairs at Crystal Essence 39 Railroad St., Great Barrington, MA
    To register please call: 413.528.2595
  • HERBAL TRAINING IN WESTERN MASSACHUSETTS
    October 15, 2016 – April, 2017Two Saturdays a month, 1-5 PM near Amherst, MA
    The yearly six month herbal intensive in the Amherst area starts October 15, 2016
    Cost: $1000 plus a $100.00 nonrefundable Xeroxing fee
    Ellen Evert Hopman is the author of; “Secret Medicines From Your Garden” , “Scottish Herbs and Fairy Lore”, “A Druid’s Herbal for the Sacred Earth Year”, “A Druids Herbal – Of Sacred Tree Medicine”, “Secret Medicines of Your Kitchen” and other volumes
    DETAILS: 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, an herb walk outdoors and hands on herbal techniques such as poultices, tinctures, salves. Over 550 pages of handouts are included with the course. A certificate of completion is offered at the end.

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*Enjoy the dregs of summer, the heady wine of autumn is on its way! Happy Equinox on September Thursday, September 22, 2016 at 10:21 AM EDT*

 

 

 

 

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