The Ancient Art of Wheat Weaving

There was three kings into the east,
three kings both great and high,
and they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn must die.

They took a plough and plough’d him down,
put clods upon his head,
and they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.

                                              Robert Burns

The domestication and cultivation of wheat began approximately 12,000 years ago, and archaeologists believe wheat originated in a mountainous region of what is now southeastern Turkey. The Egyptians were the first people to use wheat to bake raised (leavened) bread.  They created thWheate first ovens that could bake multiple loaves at a time.  The practice and art of wheat weaving also started thousands of years ago. It is linked to the preservation of the spirit that was believed to dwell within the wheat itself.  Created from the last sheaf of wheat in the field, wheat weaving was a way to house the spirit of the wheat over the winter in a decorative work of art.  Starting at a time when survival depended on a good grain harvest, the wheat within the weaving could be sown back into the ground come spring and served as a blessing or promise of prosperity to the community.

This magical aspect of wheat weaving sparked my interest in this art lost to time.  Designs vary by location but they are always tied to this idea of the spirit of the grain and the fertility of the earth. Many early beliefs about wheat in Egypt and Greece tied this grain to a female deity, mainly Isis and Demeter.  Demeter actually means “wheat giver,” and she was revered as a goddess of agriculture.  Rituals and symbolism surrounding the Isis earth-mother cult were tied to grain.  Even Ceres, the Roman goddess of the fields, follows this pattern.  We have even derived our word “Cereal”  from her name. At that time, accounts point to extravagant woven centerpieces displayed on harvest tables made in tribute to her.  The addition of red ribbons to wheat may have also come from these early decorations, a tradition that continues to this day.

In Europe the wheat spirit was revered.  More personal than an agricultural goddess of the grain, this spirit was believed to jump from sheaf to sheaf as it was cut.  This cutting angered the spirit and the last section was cut by a group so the spirit could not single any one person out.  This final cut of wheat was fashioned into a weaving that trapped the spirit until it could be replanted in the spring.

harp
Faery Harp

Eventually, other reasons for weaving wheat became popular.  Not only was wheat associated with the harvest but also as a courting favor.  Young women would wear simple plaited designs woven by their sweetheart.  Many courting favor designs were developed so the weaver could be identified by the plaited wheat.  Interestingly, some of the older forms of wheat have been preserved to this day in these intricate braids.

Today, the main functions of wheat weaving beyond artistry are house blessings, love knots, and harvest decorations.  Many pagans do house blessings anyway so weaving a blessing into a wheat decoration seems appropriate.  Spells associated with love could be woven much like the courting favors of old with fine heart shaped plaited sheaths.  I have mostly used wheat for blessing my home, and a Welsh fan hangs from my front door. A great online resource for just starting out with wheat weaving from The Woodland Elf can be found here.  She also has other videos on how to make the faery harp and Welsh fan pictured in this post.  A fantastic book on this subject is The Book of Wheat Weaving and Straw Craft by Morgyn Geoffry Owens-Celli.  This can be found on Amazon and is also sometimes found on Etsy.  This is a gorgeous book with amazing wheat and straw projects.  This craft is relatively easy and very rewarding.  Happy weaving!

Surviving Activism

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,

committed citizens can change the world;

indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

                                                          Margaret Mead

Any type of activism is hard.  It is made harder by the shear number of issues in the world today.  At its best activism will be uncomfortable and at its worst it can leave you with real emotional scars.

I don’t know the exact moment it happened but I can remember scrolling through my animal rights groups on Facebook and not being able to watch or look at half of what was there.  I had reached a point where I was scared to death of what I may find in the dark world many of our animals live in every day. I was consumed by a sort of anxious dread and  became hopeless and unfocused.  Many people who deal with daily trauma of living beings can become “compassion fatigued,” which is a type of traumatic stress disorder not unlike PTSD.  This can leave one feeling hopeless, depressed, and unable to make decisions let alone create real change in the world.  Here are my top ways to get out of that funk.

  1.  Have other interests beyond activism.  I have such an intimate tie to animals in all areas of my life it was hard to have an outside interest that was unrelated.  Fortunately, I am also a decent artist which is a great escape from the realm of animal rights and environmental issues.  Have an interest far removed from the activism you are doing.  You will need this kind of rest to be most effective.
  2. Find your focus.  It is easy to get overwhelmed by all the groups out there.  There are wolfliterally way too many issues for one person to have any hope at all of solving.  The old saying “an inch deep and a mile wide” seems fitting for the kind of impact you will have if you try to get involved in too many issues. I had no idea initially how to narrow myself down to a few issues that I could really get behind.  One way of doing this is to advocate for something close to home. If animal activism is something that interests you then why not choose an animal that needs help in your area?  This makes your work relevant on many levels.  I have recently chosen the Mexican Gray Wolf as a species that I want to help primarily because their range is close to my home.  Choosing animals or issues in your area automatically narrows down the myriad of issues to something much more manageable.  I still sign petitions for everything from elephants to honeybees but my primary work is very focused.
  3. Take care of yourself. Make your favorite tea and read a book of pure escapism.  Take a bubble bath. Go to a movie. Rest. Self care is paramount to dealing with stress and disappointment, both of which are common in any kind of activism. Take time to rejuvenate so you can give your best to your chosen issue.
  4. Work some magic. If you live a magical life use this to your advantage.  Simple spells work wonders.  I have created shrines to specific animals that I advocate for.  I have spent many days lighting my dolphin candle during the Japanese hunting season and calling on deities to come to their aid. Use your gift.  It works.
  5. Turn Sorrow/Anger to your advantage.   Turn your anguish into action.  There is actually a lot of energy that comes from anger and emotional hurt.  Use this energy to take action on an issue.

Above all, never, never, never give up.  The saying “it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness” should be your motto.  If you light a candle someone will see it and light their own.  There seems to be a real awakening in the world and just a few people can have a huge impact. Never underestimate the change you can make. You are a powerful and positive force in the world!

Resurrection of the Meadow

“Faery is a world of illusions,

of inconstant shapes.

But then, the same may be said about the world of mortal men.”

Robin Artisson The Resurrection of the Meadow

When I received this book, I thought it was very short indeed and a bit small.  I soon realized that it was small like a precious gem is small, a tiny jewel of a book with beauty all its own.  If you are lucky enough to have a wild place or meadow near your home, you have a very special place where the magic in this book can smolder and grow over time in a strange and wonderful way. Robin Artisson has crafted a delightful book of thirteen rituals that are based in the faery faith of ages past and told in an arcane language that seems very fitting for a book of this sort.  In addition, the illustrations by Lee Morgan are hauntingly enchanting and very fitting for a more traditional path.

This book is described by the author as thirteen occult formulas and charms of art.  It is definitely a book with charm as it reveals these rituals that interact with the unseen world of the fae.  Artisson has created a wondrous grimoire of this forgotten faith complete with instructions of how to perform the ritual and a purport, or significance for doing the ritual.  Artisson claims that traditional witchcraft is by and large a path that seeks hidden realities.  By accessing these realities, a witch can come back to the mundane world with powers that were encountered on the “other side.”

Some of the strange and wondrous rituals in this book are, The Petition of the Verbena Weird, a praise to the spirit of the Vervain  herb upon the taking of a potion of the plant, and A Charm That Shall Protect the Meadow, a honey spell that can protect an important outdoor space.  Other rituals in this book are, A Feery Feast, a rite from which all other meals shared with the unseen world are derived, and the Feast for the Convocation of the Meadow, where a sacred cairn is constructed to create a space to interact with the Powers of the Land.  It also contains some powerful crossing charms and the creation of The White Mommet, which gives detailed instructions for creating a poppet for performing sympathetic magic be it good or ill.

Honestly, I loved this book and look forward to buying the hard cover version, as well as, performing some of the rituals. The author’s enthusiasm for the topic is obvious throughout which adds to its appeal…enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Flower Face

From winter’s chill

You emerge

In verdant hue

Maiden Fair

From soft slumber

You rouse me

And place feathers

In my hair

by Elisa from Flower Face

I have been stalked by owls for a long time now.  The first time I stumbled upon one was about four years ago.  I was investigating a community garden near my home and it happened that there was a male and female burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia) near it.  This type of owl lives and raises their young in abandoned mammal burrows.  I watched these owls and photographed them for many years.  Then miraculously, in a crack in the ground right across from my house, another one made an appearance.  Somehow this bird widened the crack into a hole and raise a brood of young owls last spring.  owl4

I have watched these animals  and found that they are resourceful, passionate, and despised by other birds.  They are avid night hunters who sometimes bring birds half the size of themselves back to their burrow.  They have elaborate mating rituals with unique calls, dances and displays.  I have also seen other birds pester and annoy burrowing owls.  Once I even observed a hummingbird flying wildly around an owls face and chattering.  The owl remained unruffled and stared past the hummingbird seemingly unaffected.

I had to ask myself, what do all these owls mean?  What am I supposed to do with owls?  Do they have a message for me or are they calling me to work with some deity related to owls?  There happens to be a wonderful Welsh goddess Blodeuwedd who seems to fit the bill.  On the surface, her story is one of an adulterous wife, but look further and she echos freedom, sovereignty, and liberation.

In the Welsh legend, Blodeuwedd’s story is told in rich detail. This legend is as much about Blodeuwedd’s freedom as it is about her husband Llew’s struggle for kingship. The Goddess Arianrhod, Llew’s mother, tried to prevent Llew becoming king by cursing him to be unable to receive his name, and his arms unless she gave them to him.  In addition, he could not marry a mortal woman.  This rendered him powerless to become king.  Fortunately for him, the magicians Math and Gwydion took pity on him and fashioned a bride for him out of Oak, Broom, and Meadowsweet. She was called Blodeuwedd or Flower Face.  This may be the ancient name for owl as the feathers of the owl make a flower type pattern around the eyes.  In any case, she fulfills his requirement for marrying the land as she is made out of the flowers of the earth.  owl5

Unfortunately, however, Blodeuwedd does not have a say in any of this and is never asked if she wants to marry Llew or even if she loves him.  As it happens, Blodeuwedd is left in the castle one day and meets Gronw Pebr as he is out hunting and falls madly in love with him. They conspire to murder Llew in order to remain together.  Llew has a bit of magic protecting him, however.  He can only be killed under certain conditions.  Blodeuwedd tricks him into divulging the unlikely circumstances and Gronw throws the prescribed spear.  Llew doesn’t die but he turns into an eagle and flies away.  He is later nursed back to health by Math and Gwydion.  The two lovers are ultimately tracked down.  Gronw is killed by Llew and Blodeuwedd is turned into an owl by Gwydion, cursed to live a solitary life.

Given the circumstances surrounding her creation, Blodeuwedd was only fashioned to fulfill a requirement for Llew. Her thoughts and wants were not even considered. Some see her betrayal of her husband as a way that Llew could experience death, healing and rebirth, common requirements of kingship in Celtic legend.  Still others see her betrayal as a decision that ultimately leads to her liberation and freedom. In the book Flower Face, published by Ninth Wave Press, Blodeuwedd is seen as a Sovereignty Goddess empowering us to find our own freedom.  She also embodies the light half of the year in her flower aspect and the dark half of the year as an owl.  I personally love this portrayal of Blodeuwedd and highly recommend this book. It also contains songs, poems, prayers, and artwork dedicated to Flower Face.

My relationship with the owls and Blodeuwedd is just beginning.  I envision a twisted path of self discovery and liberation that will undoubtedly lead to wisdom.

Here are some wonderful links to everything Flower Face.

Blodeuwedd Statue

Blodeuwedd Perfume

Blodeuwedd Ornament

Blodeuwedd Candle

Blodeuwedd Print

Flower Face: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Blodeuwedd

Owl Ring

Meadowsweet Cologne

 

Wandlore: The Art of Crafting the Ultimate Magical Tool

You ask deep questions,

Mr. Potter.  Wandlore  is a 

complex and mysterious

 branch of magic.

Mr. Olivander in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 

by J.K. Rowling

 

Wandlore has a five star rating on Amazon for a reason.  It is the ultimate book for crafting a very ancient tool. Easily one of my favorite magical books of all time, and that is saying something as I have quite a few!  Complete with lore from many traditions but told effortlessly from a Druid’s perspective.  That being said, anyone from any tradition can use this book and the rituals therein.  


Obviously, Alferian Mac Lir has created countless wands and while doing so discovered magical things about the woods he was using. Central to this book is the belief in waking up and working with the dryads of the tree from which the wand is shaped, as well as, the spirits of stones, crystals and metals.  All these can combine to create a wand with the characteristics of each, woven into a powerful tool.  


Wandlore covers the magical attributes of many trees, as well as, the magical properties of stones, and metals.  He goes into depth about the process involved in making a wand complete with directions for taking the bark off (or leaving it on), sanding, shaping, and carving, and the tools one would use to do this.  I really liked the fact that he divides the wand up into 4 parts; the tip, the shaft, the handle, and the pommel or reservoir.  He also explains how to set a stone or crystal into the tip or the pommel, which is helpful, as well as, discusses  many types of symbols and runes you could carve into the wand.  In fact, this book is so complete in everything “wandish” that you probably don’t need any other literature on the subject.

I was so inspired by this book that I went out into the woods shortly after finishing and collected a nice sturdy branch. I spent countless hours peeling the bark off and sanding it to a shiny gloss.  I ended up staining mine and wand4painting it into a serpent wand complete with eyes and scales.  I would have never thought to set a stone in the pommel but I ended up fixing a rough garnet crystal into the end.  It turned out absolutely beautiful.  I also used the rituals in the book to wake up my wand and enchant it.  This is also a major section in the book and a very important part of wand creation.  

The aesthetics of the book are also amazing.  There are many close-ups of woodcarving in  progress and beautiful full color images of finished wands, as well as, wonderful sketches.  It will truly take your wand making abilities to the next level.