Dropping-wells of fire, rich in streaming gold…


One of the earliest memories I have of the Laburnum tree is of staring out of my parent’s bedroom window,  watching the beautifully long and delicate racemes of bright yellow flowers, swaying in the breeze.

There were many Laburnum trees growing in the neighbourhood when I was young. I can remember my sadness as they were all mercilessly cut down, as they posed a threat to the local children.

It is said that the Laburnum and Lilac would mourn, if a tree of like kind was cut down in their vicinity, by not blooming the next year. But there were no more Laburnum to watch for blooms nearby, they were all gone. I can remember laying flowers on the stumps that were left behind.

Every part of this tree is poisonous you see, and the seeds that develop after flowering are particularly so. I was fascinated by them, awed by their beauty, but I would always keep a safe distance from them. My mother  warned me how poisonous they were, especially since I loved to snack on freshly shucked peas straight from the pod, and the seed pods of the Tree of Golden Rain are very similar.

The Laburnum were introduced to the UK  in Elizabethan times from the mountains of Southern Europe and has proved hardy, decorative and useful ever since. It’s heartwood is the most gorgeous shade of deep olive brown, surrounded by contrasting creamy-yellow sapwood. It is ideal for turning, and was once widely used for bagpipe parts.

If you look closely at the flowers and their fresh green, clover like foliage you can see that this stunning tree is actually part of  the pea family, which makes the Laburnum a close relative to Scotch Broom.

Like it’s cousin, Broom, it is beloved of Bees,  extremely protective and great for purification. Hares and deer can feed on parts of this tree without any issues at all, and because of this the plant is believed to have magic properties in some regions.

It is a gateway tree. It challenges you. It reminds us that beauty can also be deadly.

Recently, I have been having a lot of dreams in which it features pretty heavily.

I look forward to what it has to teach me…

Obelisks, Monuments, and Mausoleums, Oh My…

I make no secret of the fact, that I adore graveyards, burial grounds and cemeteries. I can stroll around them alone, for hours at a time. Last night I had a dream. I don’t talk about what goes on at night on my blog much, as it’s incredibly personal to me. But last night was an extremely vivid dream, and I found myself back in one of my favourite cemeteries – The Glasgow Necropolis. I was introduced to the Necropolis many years ago by someone who knew of my love for  the Cities of the Dead. In the years to follow I would visit regularly, usually after wrapping up at my part-time job in town, and walking up the hill to spend an hour or so amongst the dead.

My company were the Roe Deer, the numerous finches and tits, the occasional Kestrel, the odd Robin (which seem to follow me everywhere since my uncle died), the creeping Ivy everywhere I turned, and depending on the time of year, butterflies. Every now and then I would get a glimpse of the common Pipistrelle bats, as they set about on their patrol of the tree canopy, on warm evenings at dusk. I would pause here and there to salute a lone Magpie.

(c)Colin MearnsI can remember the diversity of what grew up around those gravestones.  The hawthorn, the elder, the mugwort, the ash, the broom, the heather, the elm, the willow, the garlic mustard. Obelisks and monuments raising out of thickets, grasses and tree canopies, surrounded by the creeping cinquefoil, numerous berry bushes, the rowan, the black nightshade, the red and white clover. Tombs carved into the face of the hill, laburnum trees with their racemes of delicate, yellow flowers swinging in the breeze. I’ve collected graveyard dirt from there. Under a glorious Sycamore was one of my favourite places to sit and read.

Many, many millions of moons ago, a Dolerite sill was formed by volcanic activity, and was later worn down by glacial action; This ‘hump’ is where the Necropolis now stands, high above the city of Glasgow…

So this is where I found myself…  It was just after dusk, a warm, still evening. The moon, a tiny silver sliver, suspended in the sky. A bat swoops past, narrowly missing my head, as I walk the last few yards of the Bridge of Sighs, and the huge, ornate gates swing open. A broken pot lay on it’s side, in which white flowers floated in a pool of dark red. Was that wine? Blood? Or was it just darkened water?

I walk on through the gates, and notice that there are torches burning.  I follow these torches, which blaze along the path leading further up the hill, deeper into the city of the dead, and closer to that glittering crescent. A quick movement catches my eye and I turn to look. Fireflies. Fireflies flitter around something that has been set on a stone near the edge of the path – As I draw closer, I see it is a bouquet of flowers.  Mostly a bouquet of Broom, with a few poppies, a branch of goat willow with female catkins, a branch oak leaves, and wild garlic (ransom) flowers. I pick it up, and carry along the path, the sweeping laburnums swaying, pendulously in the breeze. So pretty, such a sweet smell, extremely poisonous – I remember being told that only deer and hares can stomach them and remain unscathed…

The torches lead off the main path and between the graves, jutting out of the tall grasses, the obelisks raising like daggers to the sky, wrapped in their ivy cloaks. The lambent light of the corpse-candles flitter, standing their guard by the graves. So entrancing, beckoning me, lulling me, enchanting, but still I walk the path of torches, baring my newly found bouquet. Up and up the hill, past mausoleums with drumming raising from within them.

My feet fall into their slow, steady beat, and I continue winding my way through the now dark night, lit by the grave-guards, flicking here & there, and the torches burning brightly in a serpentine manner up the hill. Soon I find there is something in my way, it’s a beautifully carved alabaster hand, it almost looks real. It raises out of the ground in front of me, surrounded by foliage, and in it’s palm lays an intricate bronze key on a chain. I place the key around my neck, and do not feel right just taking it, so I prick my finger on a nearby Rose bush and leave a few drops of my blood in the middle of it’s palm. And still I carry on up the hill, winding and winding, up and up. I cannot remember the hill ever being this high… And soon I come to the top…

The mausoleum stands alone, and grand – I cannot remember this being here either – two torches stand brilliant and bright on either side of the stairs, the door is closed, but I know the key around my neck will open the door. I knock on the door three times and let myself in. At that second all the torches are extinguished by a huge gust of wind. Black. Black as pitch. But I have not come all this way to turn around and stumble down the hill in the dark, so I take a step into the blackness, and I fall…

I fall, and fall and fall and fall… Clutching the flowers to my chest, as I know it’s important tat I keep them on me. And soon I land, with what should be bone shattered impact onto a cold, stone floor. My fall broken somehow. I can smell fragrant wood burning, and the room is filled with a heady perfume, a scent I cannot quite put my finger on. I stand straightening myself. And a torch flickers on, a bronze mounting pole, wrapped with coiling serpents, holding it to the wall… I leave the flowers on a small stone stand and a door creaks open behind me, soft footfalls… I turn… I catch a glimpse of a white dress… A glint of something metalic… And I wake up!

I wake bloody up! Right at that moment! What the…? Frustrating… I would love to share more with you all, to maybe make a little sense of it, but I cannot… I’ll be keeping an even closer record of my dreams… I’m officially intrigued…

The Other Men in My Life – Cernunnos and Dionysos

There have been a lot of changes going on recently. We’ll I say recently, but do we ever stop growing? And as we grow, and continue to learn as we travel along our path, our outlook, and the way we do things, is bound to change. It should change! If you are doing the same thing you were doing ten years ago, unless you really do have it all completely figured out, then you are doing something wrong.

When I took my first steps on this path, I did not really know what I was getting myself into. I didn’t realize that I would periodically get my ass-whooped by the Gods, or taken down a notch or two when I ‘thought’ I had something figured out. I didn’t realize how much work was actually involved. There is no guidebook. I’ve taken a lot of wrong turns, but I’m grateful for them. I’ve come so far, and I wouldn’t change a thing. The self doubt, the heartbreak, the loneliness at times. Nothing would have delivered me to where I am today without a lot of blood, sweat and tears (literally and metaphorically)…

I’ve had a relationship with Cernunnos for many years now, but it’s only recently that it seems to have taken off in another direction…

Deeper somehow, but also something that I’m not entirely sure of; He keeps me on my feet, that’s for damn sure. I didn’t originally have a name for the Horned God when we first started out, Cernunnos seemed to fit, and it stuck for a while, but He’s proven me wrong. I don’t know what it is with me and needing to name everything, the same with The Antlered Woman, why Elen? He seems to laugh in my face every time I try to pin Him down. It’s part and parcel with the relationship I guess, the harder I look and try to figure him out, the faster He moves. He shapeshifts more frequently these days. The is the Púca. He is the Lord of Life and Death, of darkness and light, but at that point between the two is truly where He belongs. His place. He is my Wild Horned God of the Crossroads. Ruler of the Forest, Fen, Bog, Marsh, Moor and Hill. The Rampant One. My Beloved Gatekeeper, and the King of Elphame (in the true Scottish sense of the word – I hesitate before using that title, as there are so many these days that throw it around willy-nilly). All I really know is, He is my Horned Lord and Guardian of my heart, soul and body. I belong to Him. Does he really need a name? I think not. I have asked Him before “Who are you?” and I get the same answer  “Does it really matter?”…

He comes with antlers of the Stag or Buck, He comes with curling horns of the Highland Ram, He comes on the hooves of the He-Goat…

But when He comes with the horns of a Bull, that’s when my head really explodes! My life gets turned inside out, upside down, and I have no clue whether I’m coming or going. I drift through days in a half trance – A Dionysian Haze…

The quote “Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad” comes to mind when He is around. His presence fills me so completely that I swear I can almost feel the threads of my sanity unraveling. I sometimes wonder what would happen if I felt that all the time. Could I handle it? Could I be a good mother and wife, with my head filled with Dionysian madness? Wandering around in an ecstatic reverie all day, every day. Maybe I’m just given these brief encounters because in fact I most probably wouldn’t be able to. Would it be different if I were single and childless now? Would I let myself run and dance with him freely then? No fighting? No resistance? Yes, I would, and I have. I was single and childless the first time He came to me, I ran and danced with him like a crazy woman, possessed, but still He left me. Maybe because even then I couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t cope with the sheer intoxicating joy and pain of his presence. I was a broken, shattered girl back then, I like to think I can handle a bit more these days – But maybe I have to prove myself…

After him being around almost constantly during the weeks leading up to   Anthesteria, it came a bit of a shock when I felt him leave on the third day of the festival.He left completely and a few night later I had the first dream in which  Cernunnos and Dionysos were both present. A dream in which I was dismembered and torn… And then nothing for what seemed like an eternity, but I’ve had a few fleeting, but very intense,  visits since then…

No other God or Spirit has ever commanded my attention as Dionysos has…

Usually I am at my altar, during my travels or out and about alone – In some spiritual or quiet state… But not Dionysos, he shows up in the middle of a hectic afternoon like a slap in the face, which almost screams “Hi, I’m here! Lets go grab a beer!”

He comes and He goes – I love Him dearly. I’ve tried to ignore Him. I can’t. I’ve tried to ask Him to leave me be, as it’s so painful when He goes away. He won’t.

I’m not sure where this is going to go… A new direction… A new path…

All I know is, He’s gonna disappear at some point…

He always does…

I just hope He stays around for a while this time… My heart aches when He is away…

I don’t usually do the whole posting YouTube videos thing, but his song screams Dionysos to me right now…

Reddening the Bones…

The first time I came across the term ‘Reddening  the Bones’ was  back when I was occasionally practicing with a group of Witches back in the UK, quite a few years ago now. We were never a ‘formal’ group, as we all preferred to do our own thing. We are all very solitary in nature. We found a common link between us, even though we were of all ages, backgrounds and experience,  we learned from and encouraged each other to take our own personal craft further. I have spoken about Karl before (and here), and we as the youngest of the group, bonded more than the others. One trip out alone, we came across a fallen magnificent Red Deer Stag. He had been there for a long time, and his bones had been cleaned and whitened by nature. Possibly he had been food for another of my sacred animals. We could not believe we had made this find, as we had stumbled upon him at quite a poignant point in our conversation. We knelt beside the fallen Stag for quite some time, left him gifts of food and water, walked away, and carried on to the place where we would make camp. It was early in the afternoon, and we had plenty of time before the Sun would set. Our conversations were on the Stag, and Karl told me something he had learned from Ray, an ancient tradition of ‘making something red’ to bring a life-force to, a Spirit back, or make sacred an object…

We had in our packs the paraphernalia for a rite we wanted to carry out, and amongst it I had fresh beetroot! The beetroot is a very sacred root to us both, and with it’s Underworld associations it just seemed like too much of a coincidence. We decided we were to build a shrine to our Ancestors in the hills!  So, as I went back to the fallen Stag, Karl set about collecting stones and boiling the beets…

The skull was easily removed as it wasn’t in perfect condition, I left my offerings and wrapped it up and brought it back to the camp…

That night beside the fire, we made our rings of flour and water, and each of us took alternating turns to rub in our paste made of Beetroot mush , and Hunstanton red chalk dust. When  it wasn’t our turn rubbing the bones, we were drumming for the other, as we both recited a charm, over and over, until the Stag had been completely covered. That night He stood watch over our camp as we slept.

The next day we made a small pile of rocks, building them into a mound. Beneath this mound we buried items that represented our Ancestors – a Scottish Thistle, and Heather were amongst our gifts and offerings. We cut out palms, mingling our blood together as it dripped out around our clasped hands onto our freshly built mound of rocks. We then set about washing of the paste in a nearby stream, and set the newly died Stag Skull atop our mound. A skull is no longer a skull when it has been made red, it becomes a powerful direct link to the those beyond the veil. That night after the Sun had set, our fires were lit, our rings were made, we smoldered incense over hot coal, and our Ancestors were asked to join us. We invoked our Gods, and the Spirits of the Land beneath our bare feet, as we danced around the mound. We danced beside and with our Gods, the Spirits and our Ancestors until we couldn’t dance any more…

So, that was the first time I had Reddened something…

***

The act of Reddening is legendary and perhaps even Palaeolithic in origin, it is the art of giving life to an inanimate object through the use of blood or a blood-like substance, or can be used as part of a rite for Calling a Spirit Back to  objects such as bones (total coverage is not always needed, sometimes I just redden a small part of the skull of smaller animals, such as my Crows), but it can also be used as an act to sanctify and make an object sacred. Over the years I have researched, and used various types of ‘reddenings’ to aid me in my Witchery.  Some more famous examples of ‘reddening’ that most may have seen are the bones of Red Lady of Paviland (who actually wasn’t a lady at all) the Venus of Willendorf also had traces of red ochre, or Madder root, Odhinn states in the Havamal that the runes should  be stained, and act of feeding Mandrake roots blood and dressing them in wine…

“Know how to cut them, know how to read them,
Know how to stain them, know how to prove them,
Know how to evoke them, know how to score them,
Know how to send them.”
~ Hávamál: Odin’s Quest for the Runes.


So, this was the first time I have had the opportunity to work with a Stag skull alone, and my paste was a little different this time. I still used Beetroot. The Ancient Greeks seem to have been the first to discover the value of the Beet, they gathered the leaves of the wild plant, saving the roots for medicinal purposes, to cool the blood. The Oracle at Delphi pronounced that Beets were second only to Horseradish in mystic potency, and Aphrodite apparently ate Beetroots to retain her famed beauty.

Closer to home, and in my personal work, Beetroot has an Underworldly connection, as do most fruits and veg that grow in the ground. I boiled down a large Beet until it was soft enough to mash and let it cool. In the meantime I ground down a few dried Rowan berries to powder, along with a couple of good chunks of Dragon’s Blood Resin. I didn’t have any of my favourite red chalk left, so I used some red brick dust that my friend, Papa Toad Bone, send me as part of a gift a while ago. In Gaelic, Rowan is Caorann, or Rudha-an (red one). The name Rowan is ultimately derived from the proto-Germanic word raudnian meaning  ‘getting red’. In some traditions Rowan berries are associated with the blood of the Gods, and in the Highlands of Scotland using any part of the Rowan, except the berries, was taboo. Unless the wood was to be made into a ritual object. So, since sacred ojects were made out of Rowan, so it seems only right to make an object sacred ‘with’ Rowan…

In a ceremony I mixed together my powders, my Beetroot, Red Wine and my blood. I sprinkled Mr. Stag with Holy Water, fumigated him and then set about slavering on my red paste. I gave my gifts and offerings, then left the paste on for a day or so, until it has dried enough to crumble and brush off. Once He had been buffed down lovingly and carefully he was taken outside, so I could burn some incense without it annoying anyone else in the house. As I opened the door I remembered I had forgotten something. So, as I turned around, I guess I just wasn’t careful enough, because Mr Stag went flying off the plate I had him set on. Only to land perfectly, PERFECTLY, upside down on three tines!

I couldn’t move! I could hardly breathe…

My husband and Mother had heard the commotion and came rushing over, but they soon stood absolutely still as they caught sight of Mr. Stag showing off performing his balancing trick! He was already demanding my full attention and I’d only been working with Him for a small while. My Mother and I compared the hairs on our arms, which were standing on end.

Though for different reasons 🙂

And there you go, one reddened skull… I’ll  be keeping you all updated with what’s next:

Giving Mr. Stag a new skin…

The History of Mr. Stag:
New addition to the family

A’bhiolair uain

The Horned God and the Jackdaw

Ash Cave and Conkle’s Hollow…

Once upon a time, the Hocking Hills area of Ohio lay under the waters of a vast inland ocean….

Rivers flowing into this ancient sea carried coarse and fine grained sands, depositing them in large wide deltas much like the present day delta at the mouth of the Mississippi River. Over millions of years, these sand deltas were buried by finer textured silt and clay sediments. Eventually these sedimentary deposits were compressed to form a thick hard layer of sandy textured rock, now referred to as Black Hand sandstone. Great forces of energy within the Earth caused the land surface to gradually rise, eventually forming the present Appalachian Mountains. As the ocean waters drained away, the new land surface dried out, and became subject to the erosion processes of surface water and climatic extremes. The newly exposed sediments were weathered away, layer by layer, and washed onto some distant river delta. Today Black Hand sandstone layers are the uppermost of these past sediments and they in turn are being acted upon by erosional forces.

The approach to Ash Cave is through a narrow gorge lined with stately Hemlocks, massive Beech trees and various other hardwoods. Connor started with his ‘Ohhh’s and ‘Ahhhh’s almost instantly. He was pointing at everything, (the butterflies, roots, trees, streams, everything) and really taking it in, he’s definitely his Mother’s Son and adores being out and about. The valley floor offers brilliant displays of wildflowers in all seasons; Trillium, Dutchman’s Breeches, Trout Lily, Jack-in-the Pulpit and Jewelweed. Fern, Moss and Fungi grow everywhere, clinging to trees (both alive and fallen, which will in turn feed Their standing Brothers and Sisters) and rocks, birds chatter in the high canopy, the light glints and gleams down through the branches, Butterflies & Dragonflies flutter and glide past. As you walk further into the narrow gorge, losing yourself in the sites and sounds of the forest, it gives way with astonishing suddenness to a tremendous overhanging ledge and cave shelter.

The horseshoe-shaped cave is massive! It measures seven hundred feet from end to end, hundred feet deep from the rear cave wall to its front edge, with the rim rising ninety feet high.

A small tributary of the East Fork of Queer Creek cascades over the rim into a small plunge pool below. Ash Cave is was given it’s name after huge piles of ash were found under the shelter by early settlers. The largest pile was recorded as being a hundred feet long, thirty feet wide, and five feet deep. The source of the ash is unknown, but is believed to be from Indian campfires built up over hundreds of years. One other belief is that the Indians were smelting Silver or Lead from the rocks. Still another theory claims that Saltpeter was made in the cave. No matter the source, several thousand bushels of ash were found. In 1877 a test excavation of the ash revealed sticks, arrows, stalks of coarse grasses, bits of pottery, flints, corn cobs, and many, many animal bones. Bones of Elk, Black Bear, Skunk, Deer, wild Duck, Rabbit, Box Tortoise, Passenger Pigeon, Squirrel, wild Turkey and Wildcat..

The whole area is extremely awe-inspiring, the walk in and the cave both, there is a powerful atmosphere to the place and I walked slowly, silently, reverently. That’s when I heard them… The drums! I turned to my husband and asked if he could hear the very distant drumming, very faint but still audible; he couldn’t. I heard those drums on and off throughout the day whilst wondering about through gorges, exploring grottos and caves, as they drifted through the forest and over the bubbling of waterfalls and streams. I asked my husband more than once; still he could not hear them…

They must have been for my ears only…

We then took a jaunt into the nearby town of Logan for lunch. I remember, coming here the first time I ever visited Jason. We stayed in a cabin, deep in the wooded hills, exploring each other and the surroundings. This was our first trip back since Connor was born. Whilst the Wee Man napped I popped into one of Logan’s small antique shops for a browse, and came out with three new (new for me, but not really ‘new’ at all) keys…

After lunch we went to explore Conkle’s Hollow and it’s sheer cliffs, which rise nearly two hundred feet above the valley floor. The deep, cool gorge, which is considerably narrow in places, is considered to be the deepest in Ohio. Numerous waterfalls cascade, and tumble prettily over the sandstone cliffs. The atmosphere here was palpable, even stronger than the walk up toAsh Cave. I cannot describe how utterly beautiful it is. The drums beat on again, as the Birch, Hemlock and Tulip Poplar closed in. Canada Yew, Teaberry and Partridgeberry are generally associated with more Northern climates, but here in the cool gorge they thrive happily, next to stands of Oak and Pine. The Hollow is also home of several species of endangered native Orchids. Littering the forest floor, and the exposed cliff faces, Mountain Laurel grow next to Huckleberries and Blueberries.

         

         

 

 

 

 

All Hail Springtime Egorii, Keeper of the Keys…

So… It was Saint George’s day on Saturday, and being English isn’t the only reason I celebrate this day, but I also have Russian blood running through my veins – Though those still aren’t the only reasons. It is hard to believe that the commemoration day of a Saint – even one associated with killing a rampaging dragon and the destruction of heathen evil – could ever have attracted such a host of folk customs if his martyrdom had not happened in Spring. I found it hard to reconcile my love of St. George, but through my study and research – I now see him as Springtime Egorii, the Keeper of the Keys, Green Gorge…

Russian proverbs such as “George will bring Spring” and “There is no Spring without George” are common, as they are in other Slavic countries. Finnish sayings of “St. George comes with his fish basket” alternate with others that indicate that he brings grasses. What George is, is fertility. He is the fertility of green plants, fish, game and of the people. He is directly associated with  the people’s ability to survive and to provide for themselves…

The Greek form Georgius means a ploughman, a cultivator of land, and to my Russian ancestors he was ‘Springtime Egorii’, he who unlocks the Earth from the vice-like grasp of the frosts of Winter, he who protects the cattle and horse from the wild beasts of the forest, the Keeper of the Keys. It is he who is asked to make the grass grow, and to disperse the clouds…

Many lands and nations, even after the onslaught of Christianity, continued to manifest in their sacral traditions a unique blending of Christian and pre-Christian beliefs. Both Christian prayers and Pagan spells were resorted to for the fulfillment of desires. Magic roots, snake skins and skulls were worn in charms next to the Christian cross. Forest & water nymphs and demons, nature spirits and household guardians lived on, alongside angels and cherubim…

These icons were referred to as gods, as among these ‘saints’ were characteristics that were previously found in sacred verse, and tales, of Pre-Christian origin and folklore. Again we look to Russia, and St George was on one hand ‘Egorii the Brave’ the bringer of Christian values to the Heathen masses & slayer of demonic dragons, and on the other hand he was the embodiment of Springtime. Look how close we are to Bealtuinn, and celebrations connected with Spring-time vegetation & the awakening of nature and the arrival of The Bright Months of the year, that are rife in Pagan traditions at this time of the year…

So, in His hands Springtime Egorri holds the Keys to Summer (as well as the Keys to the Heavens, and to the Depths Below – But that is another story, my friends). And so just before Bealtuinn, I cry out to Green George, smack on the ground for good measure, and bring him offerings to open the ways to Summer. As it my tradition he always gets proper English beer, after all he is the patron Saint of England…

A’bhiolair uain…

Cha leiginn mo bhuidheann fhiadh,
Mo bhuidheann fhiadh, mo bhuidheann fhiadh,
Cha leiginn mo bhuidheann fhiadh,
Dh’imlich shligean dubh an tràigh.

Cha do ghoid mi cliabhan duilisg,
Cliabhan duilisg, cliabhan duilisg,
Cha do ghoid mi cliabhan duilisg,
‘S cha mhó ghoid mi ribeag chàil.

Is mór gum b’ anns’ a’bhiolair uain’,
A ’bhiolair uain’, a’bhiolair uain’,
Is mór gum b’ anns’ a’bhiolair uain’,
Bhios air bruach an fhuarain àird.*

So this handsome chap has come to live with us recently. Isn’t he beautiful?  As you know, if you have been following my blog for a time, the Deer is an extremely sacred animal to me. The Deer are Pathfinders & Gatekeepers, they often lead into encounters with the Otherworld, and are a great ally in shape-shifting.  When ‘Travelling’ a Deer will be my guide (most of the time), if my Gods aren’t present with me on that trip. Most nights my dream are filled with Deer, or antlers, my dreams have lots of antlers. Last night’s was of a gorgeous Hind; A Hind, and lots and lots of Rowan and Mushrooms. Deer are one of the oldest animals, along with the Blackbird, the Owl, the Eagle, the Crow/Raven  and the Salmon, they have fascinated me and held my heart since I was a young girl. My parents used to take my Brother and I to watch the herds of Red and Fallow Deer in Richmond as wee bairns, and it’s been a ritual I’ve carried through to adulthood. I even have my favourite place to hide amongst the trees on the edge of the grasslands, and watch them. The Antlered Woman, my Horned God, the Cailleach, and The Daughter of Bones are all associated with the Deer.

In the Highlands, Deer are associated with the Sith – Faerie – and Scottish folklore is littered with tales of them being Faerie Cattle herded by Faerie Women, the Glaistig, the Bean Sìth and the Cailleachan. Not only would the Sith eat the roots of Silverweed and the stalks of Heather, but they would milk Red Deer Hinds; When they couldn’t find milk spilt on the way from the dairy, which is Theirs by right. Faerie woman often assume the shape of the Red-Deer, and in that guise they were often encountered by hunters, traveling folk, and those that have lost their way. It’s not only Faerie and Gods that appear as Deer, but the dead can too. It was firmly believed in the British Isles that ghosts could appear in many different forms, sometimes in human shape, but at others in the shape of Birds,  Dogs,  Cattle and Deer.

Deer calls to us from the Otherworld… and invites us to look beyond the material, beyond the superficialities of life, toward the heart of things, toward the realm of causes rather than effects. Poised in moon- or sunlight, Deer invites us to begin an exploration of the Otherworld, the spiritual dimension of life.”  ~Philip & Stephanie Carr-Gomm

The Deer is also an animal of healing. There are many charms and  remedies  which call for Deer bits ‘n’ pieces. For instance to cure a sprain, one would tie three knots into a thread made of the sinew of a Stag in rut, whilst reciting a spoken charm, and then tie it around the effected limb. Deer tallow was used to protect the skin from the harsh Scottish weather during the Winter, and Stag Horn Jelly was a stable of the sick. It was said that “Geir féidh a-muigh ‘s a-staigh, mur leighis sin thu chan eil do leigheas ann”. ** Newly cast antlered were smashed with a hammer and boiled in water for a few hours. Candied sugar and vinegar were added, once the water had been strained,  then brought back to a roiling boil before being allowed to cool and set into a thick jelly. This was given to the infirm by the glassful, with the addition of The Water of Life, what I like to call the ‘The Cailleach’s Cure’ – Whisky! Which no doubt helped it to go down easier and taste better.

So Mr. Stag arrived a while ago, and was given a good clean! He was dirtier than I expected, but I didn’t have any ‘Stag Brain Soup’ to contend with. He was given a few baths and scrubbed down, carefully with love and attention, with a soft bristled tooth-brush, then set to dry naturally(which meant being caught out in an unexpected Lightning Storm – Gotta love Ohio – and having to dry again). He was then given a lovely bath in Hydrogen Peroxide to brighten him up a little and to sanitize him completely. The next job on the agenda is to ‘Redden’ him, and start the process of ‘calling a Spirit back’, which I spoke a little about in my post about Mr. Jackdaw and my Crow friends. Sometimes it’s the Spirit of the ‘actual’ animal that wants to stay around, and sometimes it’s a ‘Spirit Friend’ who wants to use the vessel/fetiche as a home from home in the Otherworld when they come to visit. This is by no means a ‘Spirit trap’, as the Spirits should be free and unchained to go about their business. It means invoking and banishing/saying goodbyes when you want to work/commune with a certain Spirit. Unless it’s Mr. Jackdaw who comes when he pleases and heralds Cernunnos’ arrival, or Mr. Carrion who only shows up when the Cailleach is around.

So, this evening Mr. Stag was smudged with Juniper and given his first round of offerings, welcoming him home. Spring water, fresh Watercress, wild Scottish Mushrooms, Rowan berries and Heather (a gift from Ms. Graveyard Dirt) were given. My beast will continue to be lavished with offerings and gifts, and I’ll keep you all posted as to how our relationship develops…

TRANSLATIONS FROM SCOTS GAELIC:

* I’ll not permit my herd of deer / My herd of deer,  my herd of deer / I’ll not permit my herd of deer /To lick black shells in ebbing shore.
I stole no little creel of dulse, / Creel of dulse, creel of dulse, / I stole no little creel of dulse / Nor did I steal one scrap of kale.

They’d much prefer green watercress, / Green watercress, green watercress, / They’d much prefer green watercress, / That’s on the bank of the mountain stream.
**Deer fat outside and inside, it that doesn’t cure you there’s no cure for you.

***