Saturday, February 28, 2009

Rowan’s seed

The Witchen or Wiggen tree, lady of the mountain or poetical delight of the eye is a small tree growing generally up to 30 feet in height. Her slender branches point upwards as though reaching to call down the moon. She grows almost anywhere tolerating poor soil but needing light and air so prefers high altitudes. When Rowan’s creamy flowers fall like a froth of silky softness, small green buds swell and as the season progresses ripen to rich red berries.

One of many trees to be regarded by the ancients as a tree of life, When Hebe lost the cup of the gods, great eagle was sent to fight the demons for it. It was said that wherever a feather or drop of blood fell, a rowan tree would spring hence its feathery leaves and blood red berries.

Serpents or dragons are said to guard rowan trees. Alongside Hebe the rowan is connected with two powerful sun goddesses, Bridgid of Ireland and Brigantia of England.

Rowan has been used since ancient times as an astringent and anti biotic. It’s bark can be used in a decoction to relieve diarrhoea, and eases the discomfort of vaginal discharge when used in washing water. Rowan seeds are poisonous to children but rowan berries were prepared in decoction as a gargle for sore throats and inflamed tonsils and used externally to heal haemorrhoids and scurvy.

Associated with the sun, and connected to the element of fire, rowan has strong protective qualities and is a great source of healing. Incense can be made from ground leaves, berries from the tree are used to banish undesired energies. Rowan smoke is a powerful divinatory tool. Rowan wood is very tough. Spindles and spinning wheels were traditionally made from rowan cut between Beltane and Midsummer. The bark a fruit of rowan can be used to dye wool black and bark can also be used for tanning. Jams and wines can be made from the fruit.

Sunday February 22, 2009:

I step carefully amongst the slender trees, their bare limbs arching up to the sky as though to cradle the round silver moon beaming down upon the earth. It might be winter but it is not at all cold. The ground slopes steeply and I notice how the rowan trees lean with the steepness. I walk on.

The rowans change as I progress through the wood. Soon buds form, then feathery and delicate leaves unfurl and are soon frothed by the white blossom. Leaves grow larger and darken; bright red berries swell and hang against their dark green. I walk on under a changing sky, through a softened warmed air that, as the days roll on, begins slightly to cool with the approach of autumn.

Heavily hangs the elegant laden branch, round glossy berries pendulously swinging before my eyes. The deep green feathery leaves, like hands, flap in the breeze.

Is it I who move or do they? Do the berries swell before me or am I changing size? They loom closer, growing larger and larger. Pushing against my cheek with their silky coolness, I find myself burrowing my face into their roundness. Their flesh melts against my lips and there I am head first, immersed in the pinkie softness, not suffocating but definitely submerged.

It is the weirdest of sensations but I don’t fight it. Slowly I am being sucked in, until I am lying curled up in the berry like a docile parasite. The flesh yields, I yield, surrender, let go and am captured.

Who knows how time passes. I am conscious that I am lying next to a big red orange seed and that it sits on the edge of a pale green, slowly moving little stream. I push the seed into the green liquid, climb upon it and allow myself to drift along.

The greenness widens and quickens. Soon I am scudding along a fast flowing torrent bearing me inexorably into the darker greenness beyond.

I am in a pale green tunnel. It leads via forks and turns into another and then another. Soon I have lost count of the turnings and forks. I simply sit upon my red orange seed in the pale green liquid and wait.

At length the tunnel widens, the ceiling arches and the rivulets pools into a great pale green lake under a high arched roof, which when I look closer seems to be made out of the waving fronds of many, many rowan leaves and is itself a darker deeper richer green. The green lake glimmers, throes off an eery acid shimmer, cool and still.

I look across the lake and see a figure standing watching me. Her/his raggedy robes flutter in an unfelt breeze, her/his hair, a brilliant rowan red, falls in cascades across broad shoulders and rounded green clad breasts. Her shape is female but her face … her face, framed by the wavy red locks is pale, austere, angular yet beautiful. Neither traditionally masculine nor feminine, she/he watches me from quiet, unreadable dark green eyes.

My seed bumps the side of the lake. I clamber out and pull the seed onto the lake-edge. Kneeling before her, I look up in wonder. Now I see her robes are made from rowan leaves, and as I look up at her, I see the hair is bunches of bright red berries hanging heavily about that still face.

Silently, she stoops and strokes my face. Her hands are soft and feathery like the leaves of the rowan. I see that they are circled in berry bracelets. I gaze at that quiet pointed face, into those dark, dark green eyes and my heart shifts within my chest and I sigh, a deep releasing sigh.

Not taking my eyes from her face, I grope before me to the seed boat; I scoop my hands under it and lift it. It is light, light as a leaf almost, I think as I reach over to lay it at her feet. It is all I have to give apart from my love and reverence for her beauty and all she stands for. I fold my hands on my breast and bow my head.

I hear a gentle crack. I look up. She is gazing at the seed. I look down and see that the seed is splitting. Out from its centre pops a green shoot. Rapidly it pushes up into the aerie green light, delicate and frail, reaching out for life and sustenance. Before my eyes, the shoot divides gracefully and slowly spirals round and round, growing small twigs that become elegantly arching branches. And the rowan spirit leans into it, becomes one with the tree, grows on and up to the roof of the parting cavern which opens to reveal a pale blue spring sky beyond.

I kneel next to the tree, resting my cheek on her smooth bark. I see the canopy rise, thicken and grow out and up. Day becomes night, becomes day becomes night again and on and on as the world turns. I see her branches arch up as though to invite the moon to nestle in her arms. And I see the moon move closer and lie in that tender loving embrace. Her branches are festooned with ribbons, bells and tokens. I feel the power of the prayers and spells made by her side as the years move on.

And there before me stands my own rowan tree, slender and bare in her February beauty, little buds beneath the surface waiting to break through. I kneel before her. Her slim branches shelter me as I give thanks to her guidance this year of the trees. How apt that her feathery leaves will pass on the honour of marking the year and its beauties, to the birds, my next goddess muse, set to start at Ostara.

“Beautiful trees, I love you. Be always with me where ever I am. May your generous branches nurture and support the winged ones that I will follow this year to come.”

“Lovely tree” I say, reaching out and touching her smooth grace, “I have completed my pilgrimage to the trees this year. I have honoured the standing tree people who are your relatives and all their spirits. I willingly opened myself to tree wisdom, and have been nurtured by strong tree trunks. I have dreamed and sung beneath sheltering branches and my words have honoured the beauty of the trees. I have also taught others to love trees too. I bow to the generosity of the trees in allowing me to connect humbly with their spirits and worship the magnificence that is all trees, big or small, young or old.

I call to the element of earth, to thank you for holding me and grounding me in this, my work for this past year. I have grown strong like the trees. My strength has led me to work in the world (when I am not with the trees) to work for love and respect for all peoples and especially to champion the rights of those whom others despise and would hurt. Let me have the strength to go on with my life’s work, to grow in my skills and influence so that I may free my people of the chains of ableism.

I call now the element of air. Let your breath blow me onwards through the year as I fly with the birds. I will fly to inspire, and so that we may all know and love justice. So mote it be!”


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