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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The equinoxes have been marked across the British Isles since the earliest times as agricultural markers, revealing the times of seed sowing and crop reaping as well as honouring the patterns of growth and decrease in our lives. In Ireland the Neolithic burial complex at Loughcrew known as Sliabh na Callighe of  'the hills of the veiled one' contains many astronomical alignments, and the interior of one of its structures, known as Cairn T is illuminated by the equinox sunrise, revealing spectacular designs carved into the rock over five thousand of years ago.  Archaeology reveals that Loughcrew has been a place of ritual and ceremony at the equinoxes for much of that time, a tradition that has been revived enthusiastically in the modern era, the footsteps of the pilgrims today walking the same paths as the ancestors thousands of years ago.

Another lesser known ancient place aligned to the equinoxes is West Kennet Longbarrow, part of the Avebury sacred complex, now a UNESCO world heritage site. I've spent many a night here, in communion with the ancestors, and to me this is a place where the barrow forms a recumbent goddess, receiving the spirits of the dead to return their spirits to life in the spring. 

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As the last of the summer fades away I always look forward to the autumn ahead as a time of real sensual delight. In this the first of a series of blogs from me celebrating my favourite season I look at how to make it relevant to you, no matter where you live, and whatever your spiritual path.   

Autumn is a time of rich abundance. The freshening air after a long summer can reinvigorate us, and encourage a more wistful, reflective state of mind that can help us develop our awareness to a deeper level. The scents of wood smoke and ripe apples waft over the countryside. The leaves begin to turn from green to golden, and the berries ripen on the branches in purples and scarlet making this a delicious, sensual time of year. A good opportunity to tune in to our wisdom of our bodies.

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The summer solstice has been honoured around the world for millennia. In Britain and Ireland its marked by hundreds of earthworks, henges stone circles and rows, and it has a history of celebration from the Neolithic going through the Iron Age druids, through folklore and into the present day where it is honoured by pagans and heathens of many varieties. Solstice means solar standstill, and at this time the suns position from dawn to dusk does its highest arc in the sky, from its most north  easterly at dawn to its most north westerly at sunset, before gradually rising further south day on day until the winter solstice. During this time when it is at its most northern arc, its position at dawn  appears to 'stand still' until its journey south becomes discernible again. In many ways this can be seen as time where life force and the solar energies are at their height- a time of enthusiasm, celebration and empowerment, but also a time out of time, when the spirit world and our connection to our own souls may become more apparent.

Lighting fires has always been a popular practice at the summer solstice, and one that survived through to the modern era before being taken up with increasing enthusiasm in recent years. In Ireland there are many hills and ancient monuments sacred to or astronomically aligned to the summer solstice, but there are two especially famous hills, Knockainey, sacred to the fire goddess Aine, a faery queen, and Knoc Gréin, sacred to the solar goddess Greine. These two hills near each other in county Limerick were likely to have been beacon hills long ago, with twin fires honouring the sun at this time. Across Britain there are also many 'beacon' hills which are likely to have been used for the same purposes.  An agricultural tradition across Britain and Ireland was to drive cattle in between two fires at this time to purify and bless them, and a custom among young men in particular was to leap the flames as well to be blessed and as a sign of fiery prowess.

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May in Britain sees the hawthorn      ( Crataegus Monogyna) in flower, frothing down the lanes in clouds of white tinged with the deepest pink. So important is the hawthorn that in our indigenous traditions, the festival of Beltane cannot happen until the full moon after it blossoms, highlighting its significance to the goddess of Beltane the lady of sovereignty who goes by many names in British and Irish lore. At Beltane the goddess marries the sun god Bel, or sometimes oak king, or jack in the green, to bring fertility to the earth, and this is a highly erotic tree, associated with female sexuality and life force.  Known as the May tree, and the goddess tree, it is also the original Faery Thorn, marking places sacred to our Otherworldly kin. In Britain and Ireland there are many 'faery thorns' which are honoured as sacred magical places, and are protected even from roads and other development by their local villagers even to this day. Hawthorn blossom should never be taken inside the house lest the faeries wreak havoc on your home. However, the hawthorn is a powerfully magical tree to have as an ally and friend.

One of the greatest Celtic seers, Thomas the Rhymer, who lived in the early 13th century met the Queen of Elfland beneath a hawthorn tree, growing near his home in the Eildon hills in Scotland,  revealing its nature as a marker between the worlds and a tree beloved to the faery queens, preserving its place in our traditional sacred faery lore.

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  • Helena
    Helena says #
    I loved this entry! Thank you for the information about clooties - I did not know the real purpose behind them. From now on, I wil


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In this the second final part of my blog on working with ancient sacred sites, I look at offerings and how to approach the powers of place with the right attitude...

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  • Danu Forest
    Danu Forest says #
    that sounds great Natalie- i often leave hair too, its quite literally a gift of myself, and green too! I know modrons well i visi
  • Natalie Reed
    Natalie Reed says #
    In the mid-90's I was fortunate to visit the southwest of England on a tour of sacred sites. One of those sites was Modron's Well
A guide to working with Sacred Sites and the Powers of Place- part 1

I spend a lot of time in 'sacred spaces', especially ancient sacred sites.  To be able to visit somewhere sacred that is thousands of years old is such a privilege in the modern world. To be able to spend time somewhere set aside from the everyday world, a place for sacred activities and communion with spirit is a wonderful thing. Yet we often we know little about what protocols were used there in the past, especially when it comes to the ancient Celtic, Bronze age and Neolithic sites so common across the British Isles. We can know a lot about the archaeology of a site but spiritually, psychically, energetically it's a different matter. These places can be so evocative, yet somehow remote from our lives today. So in this first of a small series of blogs on working with sacred sites I thought I'd start at the very beginning, and discuss a little about how to approach these sacred places, to get off to the best start with the 'powers of place'. I work with ancient places in Britain and Ireland primarily, but in my experience the same goes wherever you are.    

I've seen people relate to ancient sacred sites in a variety of ways, and its always interesting. Sometime's the genius loci, otherwise known as the local residing gods or 'powers of  place' work their magic on us even when we don't realise it, and sacred dramas, lessons and healings  play out without any conscious awareness- people lose things, cars don't start, cameras and phones run out of batteries, people feel weepy or angry, push their own agendas too heavily, or feel so intimidated by the idea of unseen presences that they lose all ability to 'act natural'-and either assume the mantle of ego driven spiritual expert or spiritual supplicant,  consumed by self doubt or even fear just by being there. Our model about how to be in a sacred space, is for many of us at least, guided by experiences of being in churches, where the spiritual hierarchy and etiquette is clear. But it's not the same in ancient sacred sites, there is rarely a human priestess or shaman for example residing there to oversee or guide what we do.

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Ancestral hearths- A wisewomans Cornish Retreat.


This winter has been a season of wind and rain, and I've been lucky enough to spend some well needed time really seizing this opportunity to look within, to seek vision in the deep silence of the fireside at night, and take some time out to go on retreat on the wild Cornish coast, a place of pixies, ancient tin mines that stretch for miles filled with the ghosts of times past, and tales of pirates and shipwrecks.

Cornwall is an ancient land, where Celtic villages like Carn Euny and Chysauster can still be found. Their stones walls breaking through the hummocks of turf, it's possible to stand by their hearths and look out to sea, as they did long ago. Traders with the Romans, Greeks  and those who came before, these were a proud and clever people. They mined their land for tin,  copper and even gold and lead, and were skilled metal workers with trading links all across Europe. Sitting sheltered from the harsh February winds against their strong walls there is a still and steady presence, as if the passage of time can be cast away and it is possible to sense their lives all around.

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