Danu's Cauldron: Wisewoman's Ways, and Wild Fey Magic
Living in a sacred landscape, walking between the worlds in the veil of Avalon Glastonbury. Where the old gods roam the hills, and the sidhe dance beneath the moon...wander into the mists with me and let us see what we may find...
Avalon Midsummer potions ....
Midsummer runs riot all over this land, the winter lakes have long gone, giving rise to verdant fields and hedgerows, swathed with elderflower, cow parsley and meadowsweet like white foam. Comfrey flowers blush purple in the shadows. Glastonbury Tor truly becomes the Glass Castle of British myth at this time, entrance to the land of Faery. On Midsummer Eve, as the dusk gathers, the hill comes alive, pilgrims climb the summit to drum the sun down, somewhere in the woods that sprawl around its base, a fire is lit in vigil, as it has always been at this time. A new generation take over the duty every so often, each person called to the task by something inside them, a compulsion, a call from the hill itself. All who come to sit by its flames bring wood to burn, drink to share, a tale to tell… This night, and all through the season, the veils between the worlds are thin, or thinner still. This land of water and mist is only ever half a human place, the Summer Land – the county of Somerset- rises above the lakes when summer is at its height, to sink beneath the waters again when autumn comes. But for now Jack in the Green, Jack Stag as he is known here, is having his day…
I make my way along the labyrinthine tracks, climbing along the hill's steep sides singing old songs to the spirits as I gather elderflower (Sambucus Nigra) for cordial and medicine. Blossoms fall like tiny stars as I reach precariously over brambles and nettles, I wind a strand of my hair over the branches in thanks for their gift. The apples nearby are swelling and green, not ripe for a few months yet. The promise of harvest can be seen on the horizon, but for now, for me, it is the time of the elder tree. Sleeping beneath an elder was said to lead someone into Faery never to return, and sitting below the tree at dusk on Midsummer's eve grants a vision of the faerie hosts. Here at this liminal time, as the wheel turns, on this Sacred Isle the realms of the Sidhe, of Faery, are close at hand. All who wander here step on to their Green Road, if only for a while.
Elder is a very important in British folklore, associated with not only with faeries, but with the ancient Celtic goddesses. She is the home of the Elder Mother, a being of great power that watches over the woodland and cares for all who live there. The Elder Mother is said to be the special friend of mothers and children, and in our old tales She would rock the cradle while everyone slept. She was especially revered by woodcutters, who would never cut down an elder tree without Her permission, and without some kind of ritualised exchange. Later tales fear the Elder Mother, as the wild spirits became demons in the eyes of the Christian clerics, but Her power as never been forgotten. Having an elder growing by the back door conveys great magical protection, as well as a sign of faery friendship and I was truly blessed this year to see a sapling has self-seeded by my garden gate. She was a foot tall in March, and is now taller than me.
I find a secret, quiet place, and weave my magic with the Elder Mother, and with the Sidhe of the hill, growing drowsy with Her heady Elder perfume. And when it is time, I make my way home with a basket of blossoms. I make Elderflower tincture to help with fevers and summer allergies, cordial, as a special summer treat, and elderflower water and salve for my skin, and as gifts for friends. (Bathing or washing ones face in elder flower water, or dew from the blossoms is said to confer the beauty of the goddess upon you.) As I work steadily in the kitchen, the whole house begins to smell of elderflower, evoking the goddess and reminding me of all the women who have worked in this way before me. I feel the spirits of the Tor gather around my home for a while, adding their magic to my brews and potions, and I thank the Elder Mother for all She’s taught me. It’s a beautiful path to tread, the long Green Road; spiralling the hillside, in this glorious, Summer Land.
Elderflower water recipe: Shake the elderflowers and check them for insects, then place in a stainless steel or enamel pan, and cover with spring water. Cover with a lid and bring to a gentle simmer for about 10 minutes, then leave to steep overnight. The next day, strain carefully and bottle in a sterilised glass bottle and top up 50% with vodka as a preservative.
Elderflower cordial recipe: Prepare the flowers as before with the addition of some sliced lemon, before steeping overnight. Then after straining the next day return to the heat and gently dissolve enough caster sugar into the mix to make a syrup. Being careful of the heat, taste occasionally- you may need to add more lemon juice to suit your pallete. Store in sterilized glass bottles. Dilute to taste in water, or pour over ice cream.
Always give thanks to the tree for its gift, and always gather wild flowers and herbs responsibly.
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