The Old Tree and the Carpenter

The Old Tree and the Carpenter

One day, a carpenter and his apprentice were traveling through the countryside. They came upon a beautiful ancient tree standing by an earth altar. The carpenter’s apprentice was admiring the ancient being but the old carpenter exclaimed: look at that useless old tree, it is no good for anything. If one was to cut it down to build a ship with it, the ship would soon sink or if one were to make tools from it they would soon rot, it’s a completely useless old tree.

Later that night the two retired at an inn nearby. During the night the old carpenter had a dream. The old tree appeared to him and spoke: You want to compare me with your domesticated trees, like hawthorn, pear, apple or cherry or whatever else bears fruit for you? No sooner as they produce their crop for you they are abused and violated. You cut their branches and slice their bark. Thus their generosity is their own demise. By merit of their gifts, they endanger their own lives and rarely reach their ripe old age. Such is common practice. Therefore I have long since tried to be as useless as possible. You, mortal! What if I had some use to you – I would never have reached this age and size, I would have been cut down for my wood a long time ago. And besides, you and I are creatures alike, why should one creature pass judgment upon the usefulness of another? What do you, a mere mortal and useless human, know about the ‘useless’ trees?

When the carpenter woke from his dream the next morning he thought deeply about its message. When his apprentice later asked him why this tree, in particular, came to serve at the earth altar the carpenter answered: quiet, now, let’s not speak about it anymore. The tree chose to grow there because otherwise, those who did not know him would have abused him. Had he not grown by the earth altar surely he would have been cut down for his wood and died.

We tend to place more value on the things that can be fashioned from plants than on nature herself, or the plants on which we depend. But, all of nature is sacred and has an innate and inalienable value, which it is not for us to judge. 

 

Happy Beltane!

Happy Beltane!

On May 1, we celebrate Beltane, the festival of spring. 

The earth is clad in her most beautiful flower gown and the birds are singing from the trees. The heart rejoices, the spirit soars. At Beltane we celebrate the miraculous powers of regeneration, of fertility and of abundance – the lushness and beauty of it all. The God and Goddess are in love and wherever they go, they spread the sparkling glow of their ardour.

This is a good time to celebrate life. We share in nature’s passion and are full of zest for life. Companionship, love and merry-making are the order of the day.

This is also a good time to nurture young seedlings and budding projects. It is nurture and love that turns intention into manifestation. The power to work this magic lies in our caring hands.

Spiritually, this is a good time to reflect on nature’s generosity and to practice gratitude.

Easter/ Oestara

Easter/ Oestara

For many Christians, Easter is an even more important festival than Christmas. Easter is a festival of sacrifice and resurrection. We commemorate Christ’s sacrifice on the day he died on the cross as Jesus, the man, only to be resurrected as Christ, the son of God and redeemer of mankind. In Christian symbolism, the cross commemorates the crucifixion. However, the cross is a much older symbol and in pre-Christian traditions it was more often associated with the cosmic order, the four directions, the axis of time and space, and the sacrifice of the ego, which is bound to the material world.

Sacrifice, in the symbolism of the ancient world, was not a celebration of death, as it may seem, but of life. A sacrifice was a way of giving back, to offer life to life, so it may continue. Death and rebirth as two sides of the same door. Life feeding on itself and continuously regenerating itself.

A sacrifice had to be something special. Not any old rat would do! This was a gift to the Gods! So, it had to be the very best, something precious! Originally, it was the king himself. Later, it became the his first-born. Eventually, animal tokens were used instead of the self. At Easter, that sacrificial animal was an innocent lamb. Even today’s traditional Easter feast often features a lamb roast as the centre piece. A distant echo of this ancient sacrificial tradition.

Easter is a movable feast, which is a clear indication that it is a festival that dates back to pre-Christian times. The date, which changes every year, is determined by the first Full Moon that follows the first New Moon after the Spring Equinox. Originally, Easter, or Ostara, as it was known, was the festival of the Goddess Eostre, a pagan Mother Goddess that has been linked to the Great Mother Kali.

Her sacred ‘Moon Hare’ has become the ‘Easter Bunny’. And as for the eggs, they are a symbol of life. The egg represents unborn potential, and the promise of rebirth. Traditionally, the eggs would have been dyed red, the colour of life. To give these as a gift is a blessing: Life! Abundance! May your potential unfold and blossom!

Source:

The Woman’s Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets, Barbara G. Walker, HaperCollins, 1983

Spring Equinox

Spring Equinox

Happy Spring Equinox!

A new cycle is beginning – but what a strange beginning it is, with half the world in lock-down! The earth is waking from her winter retreat. Persephone is returning to the upper world and life is ready to burst forth again. At Spring Equinox, the forces of light and dark are hanging in the balance. But with every passing day, the sun is gaining strength now. Birds are returning and are singing their little hearts out to welcome the spring. Buds are bursting and Mother Earth has donned her cloak of early spring flowers as she turns the land verdant and fertile once again.

This is usually a joyful, busy time, full of expectation. This year is a little different. It feels cathartic, rather than light and joyful, the way it usually does. And still, the garden is calling, eager to receive the seeds as soon as the soil has warmed up. This is also a time of spring cleaning, purification, painting and decorating. It is a time to get ready, so everything is set on GO! These are things one can still do, locked down or not, in anticipation of the coming spring. 

Physically, that means boosting your energy with the fresh vitamins and nutrients of the early spring herbs. And this is especially true this year. Boost your immune system and don’t give that virus half a chance!

Mentally, this is a time to be strong and focused. Check on everything that you have planned for and make sure that the pathway for your intentions is clear.  The crisis will pass eventually and there is a light on the other side. Good planning prepares the way to success.

Spiritually, the Spring Equinox augurs new beginnings. We can turn a page and make a new start. It is also a time to celebrate the eternal life-force and the powers of self-renewal. 

Imbolc Awakenings

Imbolc Awakenings

Imbolc is the time of the light maiden Brighid, a virginal Goddess that appears as the returning light. Quite noticeably the days are getting longer, by a few minutes each day. It is still the midst of winter and yet, if you look carefully, the buds are swelling. Some precocious winter flowering plants defy the odds. Here and there some particularly perky wildflowers are peeking through the snow or old leaf litter:  snow drops, winter aconite or dwarf crested irises, perhaps. Deep within the Earth, the life-force is stirring, the seeds are soaking up the waters of the thawing snow and begin to germinate. The wheel of the year is turning. Slowly the sap begins to rise once more.

Imbolc, or Candlemass in Christian terminology, is the festival of growing light, of cleansing and  purification. It augurs the time of Lent, traditionally a time of abstinence and fasting to purify body and soul.

In the olden days, people would fast or restrict their diets in order to cleanse the body of all the residues of heavy winter foods. To practice a little self-care in this way is to prepare body and mind for the new season.

It is a also a time for scrying and divination, for visualising in your minds eye the possibilities that lay ahead. Take a little time out to prepare yourself for the challenges and opportunities yet to unfold. Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses, on good and bad habits, and on making a commitment to your soul journey. What kind of nourishment do you need to feel fulfilled? What kind of meaning are you giving your life (or want to give your life)? Are you walking your talk?

Imbolc is a good time to charge the seeds that you want to flourish with intention and to foster your inner flame. Take care of that light through the dark of the night. Soon the sun will soon rise again.

 

The Signs of the Times

The Signs of the Times

Today is a big day, in Astrology. While Astrology is not normally my topic here, I feel compelled to talk about it.

We have all noticed the build-up of political tensions in the last 2-3 years. There have been outbreaks of political uprisings everywhere, from Hong Kong to Chile, from France to Iraq. There has also been a rather alarming rise of populism which promises easy answers to complex questions.

Astrology relates these happenings in the world to the coming together of two pretty heavy-duty planets, Saturn and Pluto, which, as it happens, finally form their closest aspect today.

The energy that these two planets together convey is of restructuring. When certain structures no longer serve their purpose because they have become too hollow, corrupted or meaningless, it is time to rethink them. To be sure, structures are vital, not just on the level of society, but also on the level of our personal lives. Without structure there is nothing and nothing can’t take action. Form and function are always linked. But to serve their purpose, they have to also be able to adapt to changing circumstances.

All planets have multiple faces and even a planet like Saturn, which signifies a tendency to become too rigid, can change. And Pluto, which has a tendency to be quite radical in an ‘all or nothing’ kind go way, can be transformative without throwing the baby out with the bathwater. But it takes skill and awareness to utilize the energy of these planets in this way.

What is clear in this picture is the fact that change is unavoidable. Repressing it is not likely to turn out good as repressed energies have a way of biting us in the bum a little bit later on  (when we thought all was under ‘control’). So, how can this energy be used constructively?

Firstly, we need to become aware of it, by examining the aspects of life that seem too rigid to fulfill their purpose. Sometimes we make commitments which later on become suffocating. They no longer work to mobilize us or to provide useful purpose but become a chore and a hindrance to development and growth.

These aspects of life need to be examined. Ask yourself what kind of structure you would need in order to make full use of your creative powers. What is hindering you now and how this can be transformed so that the structures in your life become supportive and facilitating rather than oppressive.

This particular time is not easy for anyone. The planetary dance we are witnessing is having an impact on the geopolitical and well as on the social level. And we are the actors that are acting it out, albeit, most of us unwittingly. It will also have a generational impact and it would be good to consider how the changes that are taking place right now will impact the generation that is born now, or for whom it figures large in their native horoscopes (e.g. Those born in the late 80s and early 90s.).

Something to remember is that no matter what changes are taking place now, they won’t be forever. Time moves on and so do the planets. Somewhere down the road the new structures that are replacing the current older ones, will be reexamined and will also have to stand the test f time.

Nevertheless, this is a time of change. But we’d better be sure that what we bring in to replace the old is truly an improvement and authentic at its core. Just a new lick of paint will not cover up anything that has outlived its function and value.

Above all, remember: if you are going through a difficult patch right now, take solace that these are the signs of the times. That does not mean we should just sit them out. Rather, be brave and take a long hard look at the things that genuinely need changing, but resist the urge to throw everything under the bus for the sheer hell of it.

Change is the only constant.