The pool of Connla lies in the heart of the Celtic soul surrounded by nine hazel trees laden with bushels of nuts. A rowan tree stretches up before it, with a canopy full of white flowers and bright red berries bound together by the darkness of the moon-lit sky. Oak roots stretch around the well securing and binding its foundations with the power of the Green world and apples shimmer in the distance beckoning us to brighter realms and far-off Isles that reach beyond to shoreless seas and vast expanses.
Mysteries of Elder
In our last Woodland Bard session we entered the Green wood with a poem that was said to be uttered by Sweeney Gelt who ran off into the depths of the woods after a terrible battle, a common theme throughout history where trauma directs us to seek healing in Nature. You may not be able to go out at the moment but you can close your eyes, smell the scents, touch the barks and experience the wooded landscape within you as your own memories enliven.
Thou oak, bushy, leafy,
thou art high beyond trees;
O hazlet, little branching one,
O fragrance of hazel-nuts.
O alder, thou art not hostile,
delightful is thy hue,
thou art not rending and prickling
in the gap wherein thou art.
O little blackthorn, little thorny one;
O little black sloe-tree;
O watercress, little green-topped one,
from the brink of the spring.
O apple-tree, little apple-tree,
much art thou shaken;
O quicken, little berried one,
delightful is thy bloom.
O briar, little arched one,
thou grantest no fair terms,
thou ceasest not to tear me,
till thou hast thy fill of blood.
O yew-tree, little yew-tree,
in churchyards thou art conspicuous;
O ivy, little ivy,
thou art familiar in the dusky wood.
O holly, little sheltering one,
thou door against the wind;
O ash-tree, thou baleful one,
hand-weapon of a warrior.
O birch, smooth and blessed,
thou melodious, proud one,
delightful each entwining branch
in the top of thy crown.
The aspen a-trembling;
by turns I hear
its leaves a-racing--
meseems 'tis the foray!
My aversion in woods--
I conceal it not from anyone--
is the leafy stirk of an oak
In the heart of the Celtic tradition when we remove a more classical interpretation there is no hierarchy, gender or concepts of positive and negative, we are not looking to praise a God or a Goddess but to share our lives with the spirit of all creation.
The Celtic stories start with the land, this is viewed as a constant that has and always will exist. It is the relationship that we and all the ancient races of time have with the land which is of paramount importance.
The land is often depicted in a female form but may sometimes also be depicted in a male form coming up from the depths as an underworld strength that pulses through the mountains, rocks and trees and as the two concepts of male and female blend together as one as they reside in us all.
This time we shall call to the directions through four main Celtic male deities experienced in the elements and directions.
As we listen to the wind caressing the trees and waters, the voice of Oengus Og can be heard in the East speaking of birth and of song and in the South the sun rises from the heat of Lugh Lamhfada speaking of passion and of war and in the West we experience the vision of Manannán mac Lir in the waves of the sea, speaking of sorrow and of dream and in the North the form of the Dagdha speaking of life and of death in the eternal landscape.
Connecting with these deities and seeing them in the elements we can then enter a state of meditation on the Elder.
Mysteries of Elder Meditation.
Before you is a pool of water known as the well of Connla (described above). The river Boyne flows in and out of the well and nine hazel trees and a rowan tree grow beside it. In its centre are the salmon of wisdom and memory. As you gaze into the waters and watch the rippling surface, a doorway opens into your soul landscape.
You enter the door and follow a path with the intention of meeting the Elder Mother. As you approach the tree you show respect and honour her.
The elder tree can look untidy, it may be crawling with insects and buzzing with flies, can you still approach the tree in kindness? Her blossoms and fruit are beautiful and her corky bark and soft pith show her vulnerability.
When one approaches the elder we do so by putting all judgements aside and connecting with all aspects of nature. We accept whatever form she appears to us as, whether it be dark or terrible or kind and forgiving.
Meditate with elder accepting all the forms and temperaments of Mother Nature.
Sitting under her boughs you may wish to reflect on:
Have I any unfinished business I need to attend to?
Do I need to contact a friend or family member to make amends?
Can I reflect on those actions where I have been unfair or even cruel to others?
Am I honestly doing all I can to reduce my impact on the natural world?
Once you have finished reflecting make an offering to her that you truly cherish, it may be a quality rather than a thing or a commitment to help the Earth. Pause for a while and then accept her advice or gift to you which may be in the form of a feeling, thought, picture or words.
Come out of meditation and contemplate your experience.
In the next session we will continue exploring the mysteries of elder through the healing of the world soul enabling us to connect with the waters of life through the goddess Boan and sending healing to all the world.
Hope to see you next time.
Poetry of flowers
Join me to explore the flora of the British Isles on this blog. My intention is to attempt to capture the unique quality and beauty of each species of flower, tree or shrub. For every species featured I will be growing many more wildflowers to celebrate the joy of their existence, their intrinsic conservation value and bewildering array of uses. For nearly 30 years I have noted, studied and explored wildflowers in the field much to the patience of the walker beside me. To share this passion is a heartfelt plea to respect, preserve and care for all British Wildflowers no matter how common they seem.