The Wisdom of Barley

As I relaxed in my new hammock the other night (very comfy!) with my cat on my lap I could hear the slow rumble of the combine harvester in a nearby field. This is early, I thought.  Last year the wheat crop came in early because of the nearly two-month drought and extensive heat wave, which meant the stalks stopped growing at the beginning of June and just dried out early. But this year we’ve had just a little less than average rainfall, mostly in the evenings, and everything is looking really good. But some crops are still ready early, and this wheat field was no exception. Perhaps due to climate change, farmers in my area can get their crops in earlier, to reap earlier. It’s a bit risky, but when you need to rent that combine harvester, you won’t have to be fighting all the other farmers who also want to get their crops in, if you’re a couple of weeks early!

And so today I went for a walk, to look at the harvested field. The low grey clouds scudded the brow of the hill, and poppies and other wildflowers lined the footpath that divided the large field area into sections. Walking past the growing onions on either side, when I reached the top of the hill there, on the left-hand side, was the section of the field now bare of its golden treasure. There’s a certain feel and smell just after a harvest; a good smell and also a kind of empty smell, if that makes any sense. What was there was no longer there, and the scent left in its wake will soon also just be a memory.

I always feel happy and melancholy when I look out over the harvested fields. I love this time of year, when summer truly has settled in, and the warmth really kicks in; the flowers are at their peak, the young birds are on the wing. It’s a joyous time, when the thick, lush green canopy of the trees hangs heavy, the air warm and sometimes humid. And yet, when you stand on the edge of a cut field, you feel all this amidst a sort of sadness that flows from the heart, because you know that the height of summer has passed, and the harvest has begun. I can be both joyous during harvest time, and also sad, for soon it will all end.

I suppose it’s a lesson in mindfulness, to be present in the moment. If I’m too sad about the turning of the seasons, I’ll miss the joy right now. And if I don’t honour the poignant time of the beginning of the harvest and simply ignore it, then I will be missing the important time of the turning tide of the seasons, and also the lesson of impermanence.

So I will visit the fields in turn, and listen out for the big machinery. Walking home past a field of barley, I could sense it would be a couple of weeks yet, but it was coming. But the barley whispered to me, “Don’t be sad now, for the sun is shining and we are ripening. Turn your face to the sun, and allow it to bring to fruition that which you dreamt of when you were just planting the seeds of your intention. And when the times comes, and it will, you can reap the harvest of what you have sown with joy and compassion.”

Barley is very wise.

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New Patreon Page

Hi all! This is just a quick note to let you know that I have a new Patreon page, where you can help support the work that I do across various forms of media. I’m about halfway through a video series on Modern Witchcraft, entitled “Witchy Ways” on my YouTube channel, and am looking forward to recording and editing some more videos soon. I’m also recording the next audiobook which will be available on my Bandcamp page and I’m hoping to put up a new podcast series there as well. As well, I’m still trying to contribute as much as possible to my blogs, here at Down the Forest Path and at Pagan Square, which all takes quite a bit of time! An author’s income is not a heady one, so I’ve diversified and am enjoying using other forms of media.

You can start from as little as $1 a month; simply enter the amount you wish to provide when you click on the “become a patron” button.  And so, if you can support me across these endeavours, it would be greatly appreciated!

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Beltane and the Faeries

The waxing moon of Beltane is upon us – a great time to honour the Fair Folk of your land… with all due caution and respect, of course 🙂

Sneak peek at some of my new book… Beltane Ritual!

hedge-druid-cover   This ritual is not for the faint-hearted. For at Beltane, the portals between this world and the Otherworld are wide open, and the Fair Folk are out in abundance. Here we will go out into a wild place and seek out a companion or guide of the Fair Folk: one that can offer advice, wisdom and intelligence on the locality of place, what is needed and what can be offered in return. Meeting one of the Fair Folk can be thrilling, but can also be a little scary. They are like and yet not like us, as described in the previous chapter on the Fair Folk in Part One of this book. They have different agendas, and may or may not appear in human form. Yet Beltane is the traditional time for encountering the Fair Folk, as is Samhain. So here, with caution, we will attempt to meet one of them, to gain some insight into the work that we can offer to the Fair Folk as well as the spirits of place, and what they may ask of us (and what we may receive in return).

This ritual is ideally performed outside, but can be accommodated for those who are unable to do so. You can perform this indoors, at your indoor altar if you wish, and take a similar journey in your mind to a destination of your choosing. Instead of a fire, you can have a candle upon your altar as the focal point.

You may prefer to fast during the day of this ritual, if you are able (if in doubt, consult your medical health practitioner). Drinking vervain tea before the ritual or taking a few drops of the Moon Elixir (see end of this ritual on making your own Moon Elixir) might also aid in your working. It is important to ensure that you do not have any iron on your person, or in the ritual area, as this is reputed to drive away the Fair Folk. If you feel the need for some protection against the Fair Folk you can carry a pouch of St John’s wort upon your person, though this may affect some of the fey who wish to communicate with you. This protective herb has its good qualities, in keeping the harmful away but may also deter those whose intentions are entirely neutral or as yet unclear.

Good places to hold this ritual are in wild places, or liminal places such as a forest edge, or the seashore, or on a hilltop. Other places could be at ancient sites such as tumuli, barrows or stone circles where it is often said the Fair Folk gather. You could also hold this ritual near a hawthorn or an elder tree, as these are trees associated with the Fair Folk. You may also choose to perform this ritual by a hedge.  In any case, wherever you hold this ritual, ensure that the fire you create is safe and contained. Otherwise the Fair Folk might become angry with you, and this is certainly not what you want! I’ve even performed this ritual in my own backyard, with great success after a Beltane rite with friends and consequently meeting one of the Fair Folk for the very first time: he came through the hedge and stood under an apple tree, clad in shades of brown.

For this ritual, you will need:

  • An offering, such as butter or honey
  • Somewhere where you can sit outside for part or all of the night and have an outdoor fire
  • A mugwort smudge stick, or cut and dried herb to be burned in a censer
  • A handful of vervain
  • Some food and drink for yourself

Designate the sacred space as you normally would. When doing so, focus on inviting those of the Fair Folk who are in tune with your intention alongside the spirits of place, and who wish you no harm. That way, you may filter out unwanted attention from those who may not be so beneficial to you or your work. You might like to say something similar to what is offered below as you set up the space and after calling to the spirits of place:

I honour the time and tide and the beginning of Summer. I also call to the Fair Folk, those who hold the knowledge and wisdom of this land and of the ages. Those who come from between the worlds, I seek your blessing on this rite, and also your friendship. Those who are in tune with my intention, be welcome here in my rite.

Take as long as you need to settle and attune yourself to the place. Let yourself become a part of the landscape. Then light a small fire, and gaze into the flames. Take your time with this ritual; it might take all night, or at least a couple of hours. Allow yourself to really open up to the time and place, and do not rush anything.

When you feel ready, take the mugwort smudge stick, or burn some mugwort in a censer, and sain yourself with the smoke. (Saining is like purifying – allow the smoke to rise and flow over all your body, cleansing your body and soul.) Once you feel cleansed and purified, sit down for a few moments and just breathe.

Now call to the Fair Folk, first throwing a handful of vervain upon the fire (or the censer, if performing this indoors). Say these or similar words:

I now call out to one of the Fair Folk, you who would be my guide, who would share with me the wisdom of the Otherworld. In return, may the work that I do benefit this world and the Otherworld, and may there always be friendship between us.

Wait as long as is necessary. Someone will come to your call, whether in a human form or in animal form, or as a light breeze or a wind that caresses you, but touches nothing else. You might hear music, or laughter, without actually seeing anything. All these indicate the presence of the Fair Folk. Open your mind to any messages they might have to offer, or simply become aware of their presence in your life, in this place and time. At this initial meeting, a simple greeting might be enough, and a lengthy communion unnecessary. You can work and converse with the Fair Folk at length in later rites and rituals, but for now you are simply opening up your awareness of them, and of one in particular who wishes to work with you.

You may ask them for their name, but they may not give one to you, so don’t be offended by this. Simply acknowledge them as they appear, as your guide from the Otherworld. When your encounter is over (and it may be brief for this first time) slightly bow your head to them as the meeting comes to a close. Show gratitude towards them for making themselves known to you: give your offering in a suitable place for the Fair Folk and the spirits of place, acknowledging the beauty and gifts that have already been shared. Remember, don’t say “thank you”, for that may put you in their debt! Simply give the offering with a feeling of gratitude.

When you are ready, eat some food and have something to drink, and then put out the fire and ensure all safety precautions have been met. Close down your ritual space, and give a final thanks to all those who have been a part of your ritual. Know that you can return to this place to commune further with your Otherworldly guide. In future meetings they may set tasks for you to perform, in return for their wisdom. These might range from cleaning up litter in the area, to coming at certain times such as the full moon or at special holidays. They might ask you for protection of their space in your world, and you may need to seek out local authorities to communicate with and ensure that the place is protected and kept safe for generations to come. They might simply ask for further offerings of honey, whisky or mead, or poetry, song and music. Work with them to the best of your abilities, ensuring that no harm comes to yourself or others, the Fair Folk included. Ensure that you keep up your relationship with them; do not take them for granted, nor ignore them or allow the friendship to cease due to laziness or apathy.

If you need to sever the relationship for any reason, return to the place where you initially held this ritual. You may be moving to another part of the country, or have found another path. It is important to say farewell to your fey companion, and being polite to the Fair Folk is of utmost importance.

Witchy Ways Video Series: Ostara

Hi all! Here’s my latest video in my new YouTube series, exploring the “witchier” side of my practice 🙂  Blessings of Ostara, and the full moon to you!

The Law of Attraction

dfp1Many within Western Paganism have heard of the Law of Attraction, especially if you have been working magic. However, I often see this oversimplified in books, stating that “if you put good energy out there, good energy will return” and vice versa. Not only is this trying to oversimplify the law of attraction, but it’s actually incorrect as well, in my opinion. I know plenty of good people who have bad things happen to them, and some bad people who have good things happen. I know,  not all people are good or bad all the time, but it’s just a thing: we live in a shared reality, where we can’t control the actions or behaviour of others  and so sometimes, no matter what energy we are putting “out there”, things will happen that will be contradictory to what we are attempting.

It’s similar to the notion that posits “we create our world, that we create our reality”. To an extent, this is certainly true, but then we have to realise that this is also a shared reality, and so will be influenced by other people. As such, there is war, racism, sexism, etc. and people, no matter how lovely, compassionate and beautiful, will fall prey to these circumstances, despite what they are trying to create in their own world/reality.

There is, however, an aspect of this which is very significant, and which is the most important to work with, in my opinion. It’s all about focus. Now, this may not be applicable to the horrendous examples in the previous paragraph, but in a less extreme circumstance, what we choose to focus on can and will determine how we work with energy, and what the resulting reality will be for us.

Say we stubbed our toe getting out of bed. Ouch. It’s pretty bad, and we’re limping around, swearing or just trying to breathe through the pain (or both). Finally we make it downstairs, and taking the orange juice carton out of the fridge, we drop it and it goes all over the floor, giving us a nice, sticky mess to deal with while we’re already late for work. Then our train gets cancelled, and we’re over an hour late, and the battery in our phone is dead so we can’t even call in. We get to work and tell everyone what a shitty day we’re having, wondering what awful thing will happen next. You get the picture.

But what if we changed our focus? Okay, all the crappy things that happened before work still happen. We get to work, but instead of telling everyone how we’re having a really, really bad day, we just get on with it, turn our focus to our work and our colleagues, and at lunch go outside and see the first daffodils of the season? In the previous example, I doubt one would even notice the daffodils, or even go outside if they were set on the theory that this day was, indeed, terrible. Things can snowball, depending on our perspective, and a lot of it has to do with our choice of reactions to things. Because we chose not to focus on the negative that happened during the day, we were able to see the positive, the beautiful, and be inspired.

Because with things like this, it is a choice in how we react. We can continue to focus on all the bad, negative things that have happened to us in our day, or we can choose to focus on the daffodils, the colleague that helped us out, the boss that understood the trains were cancelled and said it was okay, etc. Our focus in all important. And when our focus shifts, we bring into our lives and notice more that which we are focusing on. So, in this regard, the law of attraction does, indeed work.

Remember that, for the most part, it is a choice. Some bad things happen that we cannot choose to settle our focus on elsewhere – some things are just really, really bad. But we cannot allow ourselves to stay drowning in the negativity when we have the option of choice. Use the law of attraction to your benefit, and to the benefit of the world.

Blessings of Imbolc

Bright blessings of the returning light to you all! We’ve been filming this morning, for our Druid College Online Course which we hope will be available next year. Here’s one of my favourite spots…