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...

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Danu Forest

Danu Forest

Danu Forest wisewoman, witch, seer, walker between the worlds, healer, druid, priestess, teacher, writer, gardener, herbwife, stargazer, faery friend, tree planter, poet, and wild woman lives in a cottage near Glastonbury Tor in the midst of the Avalon lakes, in the southwest of England. Exploring the Celtic mysteries for over 25 years, and noted for her quality research, practical experience, as well as her deep love of the land, Danu writes for numerous national and international magazines and is the author of several books including Nature Spirits, The Druid Shaman, Celtic Tree Magic, and an on going seasonal series 'the Magical Year'.

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Lughnasadh, the first of the harvest festivals is traditionally held on the 1st of August. Lughnasadh/ Lúnasa, now the modern Irish name for the month of August means 'the commemoration of Lugh'. Lugh, or Lugus, is a god of law and skill, who in the Irish tales gained the knowledge of agriculture from the tyrant Bres. Lugh is commonly associated with the sun and Lugh is often thought to mean 'bright' in Proto-Indo-European, although it may also be related to 'leug' meaning 'to swear an oath' and even 'leug' meaning black. There are none the less other pointers to his solar nature, at least in Britain and Ireland, such as in his Welsh version Lleu Llaw Gyffes, meaning 'bright one with the strong hand' and the fact that his most famous possession in the Irish lore is a fiery solar spear. That said, connections may also be made between Lugh and the often forgotten Irish god Crom Cruach / Crom Dubh, whose name 'crooked head ' or 'dark crooked one' is also connected to the bowing grain and is remembered at this time on Crom Dubh Sunday, the first Sunday in August. Lugh has traces across Britain and Europe, with several inscriptions to him found in the Iberian peninsula. Depictions of him in Europe are often tripartite, or triple headed, suggesting a triple nature, so this is a god that is hard to get to grips with if we take the original evidence into account, and it may be that this dichotomy between the light and the dark is part of his nature.

In the Irish tales Lughnasadh marks the funerary games of Lugh's foster- mother, Tailtiu, who died clearing the land for fields. It is said that so long as she is remembered, 'there would be milk and grain in every house.'- that is, the land would be fertile so long as we honour her. Another name for this time, 'Brón Trogain' refers to the pains or sorrowing of the earth and reminds us that this time of abundance is due to sacrifice, of the wild earth and also of our own labours, so at this time of summery celebration there are traces of something more sober afoot. After all, solstice is passed, and the days will be darkening all too soon. It's later name, Lammas from the Anglo-Saxon 'hlaef mass', or loaf mass, shifts the focus from the wild earth to the gifts of agriculture, and the sacrifice of the grain spirit.

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In the Celtic tradition, the Sun is female, a divine light and life bringer, so the Summer Solstice honours this season as a time of great fruitful goddess energy, but also a time of great power. In Celtic times summer solstice fires would be lit on beacon hills and high places to honour the sun and ward away evil, as this is a time when the veil between the worlds is said to be thin, encouraging interchange between the world and the spirit realm.

Sacred hills such as Cnoc Áine in Limerick, Ireland, named after the sun goddess Áine, were places of great ceremony in Celtic times, with fires lit there until at least 1879. Áine was also known as a Queen of the Faeries, the Sidhe, and one tale tells of how she emerged from the hill to ask the revellers to head home early so her people could come out for their own celebrations.  Her sister is the Goddess Griéne, meaning 'Sun' is associated with Cnoc Griéne , also in Limerick. It's likely that both these hills were once beacons hills with Fires lit to honour the solstice since ancient times. 

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  • Tony Lima
    Tony Lima says #
    This day I wonder if she really cares about being honored. Keeping her secrets in knowledge of time and place, yes - a vital esse
  • Tony Lima
    Tony Lima says #
    This day I wonder if she really cares about being honored. Keeping her secrets in knowledge of time and place, yes - a vital esse


This May I was blessed to be asked to teach at a wonderful event at Dunderry Park in County Meath in Ireland. 'Animystics' was a two day event that wove together various Celtic traditions and earth based practices to really deepen our connection to the earth and our own souls. My session was all about connecting with tree spirits, and the tradition of the Bile, or sacred tree, clan totem and representative of the world tree in the Celtic Traditions. Standing there, in a field on a beautiful May morning, I was struck again by how such simple acts as breathing and being present to nature can restore our balance, and by extension our connection to our own sovereignty, our own souls, and the soul of the earth Herself. Dunderry is just a few miles from the hill of Tara, said to be the ancient seat of the semi- mythical high kings of Ireland, and I felt the ancient ancestors, with their passionate love of the land reach out to us, to remember, and honour Her again as a way to restore ourselves in these often troubled times.

Tara is such a special place, a wide green hill that overlooks a vast and verdant landscape. On a clear day it is said you can see all of Ireland from it's summit. Once an Iron Age hill fort, it is also home to a Neolithic burial mound, 'the mound of the hostages', granting access to the womb of the earth, the realm of the sidhe, and the Lia Fáil, or Stone of Destiny, said to have been brought from the otherworldly city of Falias by the Tuatha de Danann, the Irish gods. The Lia Fáil is said to cry out when the rightful king stands upon it. Once it stood beside the mound, but now it stands sentry a little further off, overlooking the wide plains below. Whether this solitary monolith was truly the ancient mythical stone will always be up for debate, but standing there touching its weathered grey sides, sensing the endless generations that have come here, and used this as the touchstone, the still and central point to anchor their spiritual and earthly selves together, to find that link to sovereignty in a world that tries to take so much soul and so much power from us, is always a healing and humbling moment.

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The 1st of May marks the ancient Celtic fire festival of Beltane, once honoured on the 5th of May, or the nearest full moon when the hawthorn is in blossom. The Beltane season is traditionally a time of lovers and the sensual, erotic lure of nature as new life bursts forth all around us and the promise of summer unfolding ahead of us raises both our spirits and our life force. Ancient festivities for Beltane included leaping the Beltane fire to receive the blessing of the sun god Bel to mark this rise in our vigour. But this is also a time traditionally related to the sacred marriage, the union of the god and the goddess of the land to bring us all fertility for the coming year- partaking in the 'rites of May'- heading off into the woods and the wild to spend the night with your lover at this time was in many ways an established custom all across Europe for hundreds of years, and is mentioned in Shakespeare's 'A midsummer night's dream' as an explanation for the lovers disarray when they are discovered.   

Beltane and May Day lore always involves some kind of dissolution into our primal selves, where every man and woman may embody the divine for a while and partake of this sacred marriage within our own souls as well as with sexual partners. Traditions from adorning and worshipping at the phallic maypole, and crowning a May Queen to represent the old pagan fertility goddesses remain a fixed feature of many May Day celebrations in the modern era, but stranger ones such as the Cornish Padstow Obby Oss have also survived and seen a passionate revival in modern times, reminding us of the inherent chaos and wildness of the season- beneath all the May Day fairs and village cake competitions there is still a suggestion of something strange afoot- this is a spirit time, when forces beyond our everyday world may still make themselves felt.

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The spring equinox this year falls on the 20th of March. This is a time of youthful exuberance in nature, when all of the green world seems to be springing back into life. March wind and rain may still keep many of us indoors on some days, but if we venture out into the wild we will be surprised by what we encounter. Blossom will be erupted from every tree and hedgerow,  and the forest floor begins to be carpeted with primroses and anemones, celandine and of course daffodils, which spring up everywhere along verges and gardens as well as the wild with equal ease and sunny glory.

Mad march hares can be seen sprinting across the brown fields, and boxing off unwanted lovers as the mating season gets underway in earnest. One of my favourite places to see the hares is at Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire, though they can be found all over the UK.  Sighting the hares is a regular part of my spring pilgrimage to this exposed but beautiful ancient site.

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The 2nd of February is of course, the Celtic festival of Imbolc, which means 'in the belly' referring to the pregnant ewes giving birth at this time. One of its other names, Oimelc meaning 'ewes milk', also referring to the birth of the lambs, and the return of milk to the household. Sacred to the goddess Brighid, who became St Brigit with the coming of Christianity this time is known as   Gŵyl Fair y Canhwyllau in Wales, and more generally the Christian festival of Candlemass.  

Brighid may well have given her name to Britannia the sovereign goddess of Britain, but she is best known as a goddess of the hearth and home, as well as milking, midwifery, healing, smithcraft and poetry. Brighid is a fiery goddess, connected to the rising Kundalini in the earth at this time, bringing the spring. She is said in Scottish folklore to have to defeat the Cailleach or goddess of winter each year to bring life back to the land. 

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The Winter Solstice falls this year on the 22nd of December. The shortest day and the longest night of the year, the sun is now at it's very lowest point. For three days, it's position in the dawn sky will appear to 'stand still' in the furthest south-easterly position of its it's cycle, before it begins to be seen rising ever so slightly further north each morning until the summer solstice, or longest day.

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