Our relationship with plants changes with the weather. Now that it’s wet and stormy, a tree has blown down in our garden. The autumn colours are beautiful, but there are no more sweet perfumes in the air. I long for the smell of jasmine, hyacinth, honeysuckle…
Plants have been on my mind too because of two communications I’ve received in the last week. This wonderful book by the Seed Sistas… and news of a great project involving Natural Dyes…
The Sensory Herbal Handbook is a pleasure to hold and leaf through. Beautifully illustrated with a very contemporary feel, it’s – as its blurb says – “written for anyone who has heard the whispers of the wild and has been stirred to know more, for those with a political conscience and for lovers of the outdoors. Whether you are new to the ways of herbs or already a practising herbalist, it explains how you can take your physical and mental health into your own hands using the plants that grow around you. Sensory Herbalism is a unique system of health devised by the Seed Sistas over 20 years of practice. It combines traditional herbal knowledge with an understanding of how the elements (water, fire, air, earth and spirit) and the ever-changing seasons interact with the human body. Their approach blends science, medicine, creativity, ritual, magic and fun into practical, easy-to-use tools that guide readers in developing their own relationship with plants.” I can’t wait to get stuck in!
The other project I’ve heard from is The Wild Dyery who teach natural fabric dyeing and offer workshops, dyeing kits and so on. Justine from The Wild Dyery was interested in the references to natural dyes in The Druid Plant Oracle. Have a look at their website here.
In this 100th edition of Tea with a Druid I talk about the time I spent today with animal psychic Susie Shiner. Her website is here. And I talk about the Stag from The Druid Animal Oracle. We then have a meditation to sense a majestic stag in our sacred grove. Unfortunately the broadband went down and that section was missed out. Here I’ve fused both broadcasts together… you just need to bear in mind there was a few minutes gap in between!
At the end of the broadcast I mentioned Rupert Sheldrake’s experiment. In the video below you can learn about it and the rather hopeless attempt of a skeptic to debunk it. More info on this here.
Many of you will remember RoMa Johnson from Tea with a Druid 93. RoMa is holding a wonderful Writer’s Retreat on the Isle of Lewis, very near to the magical Calanais Stones! Don’t miss out on an inspiring Bardic experience – details below!
Have you always wanted to write?
Are you a hidden writer wishing for community and feedback?
Do you want to be inspired and encouraged?
Treat yourself to
WINTER STORIES WRITERS’ RETREAT
Tutored Workshop with RoMa Johnson
~~Time to Write
~~Time to Share with Other Writers
~~Suitable for all levels and genres
~~Beautiful inspiring location
Friday, 6 December – Tuesday, 10 December, 2019
Doune Braes Hotel, near Calanais Standing Stones, Isle of Lewis, Scotland
All Inclusive: 4 Nights Hotel Accommodation and Meals
Workshop and Coaching Tuition
£100 deposit required by 1 November
To register contact: Eileen MacDonald
(To learn more about the hotel: www.doune-braes.co.uk)
There’s always work to do on yourself and in the world – ways to improve, to heal, to change. But one of the gifts a spiritual approach to life can give us is the recognition, and hopefully the experience, that at the deepest level, all is well – you are ok – there’s nowhere to go, nothing to do, because you’ve already arrived. When this idea works for us, there can be a fantastic sense of relief: the constant striving for improvement and transformation ceases for a while. It’s like sensing all your muscles relaxing deeply when you didn’t even know you were that tense. After bathing in that ‘Heaven Within’, at some time you switch to feeling that something needs ameliorating: the state of the world, the state of your emotions, or perhaps just the state of your hair. Whatever it is, your focus changes and here we go again: our life of moving and thinking and doing in the world. This is normal. The art of learning how to live well, as far as I see it, is to encourage that sense of sinking down into a state of okayness, of ‘good-enoughness’, of not needing to get something, whether an idea, a feeling or an object, and to do this as often as feels helpful to us. This is the value of meditation because it can get us to that state of awareness.
Tea with a Druid 93 features my guest the artist and poet RoMa Johnson. To read her poems you hear in this session click here.
I have been asked to contribute to a book that explores Britain’s relationship to Europe that will be published at Samhain, with all profits going to refugee charities. It will be called ‘A Love Letter to Europe’ and published by Hodder & Co. Here is my contribution:
Love seems to work best when we cannot fully understand what is going on – that delicious sense of mystery, of irrationality. My falling in love with Sofia was like that – drawn to the shabby chic of the buildings, the complete lack of ‘customer care’, the simplicity of the food, the warmth of the people once you gained their trust. And from that first visit in 1974 the love grew, and I would go every spring, when the cherry blossom filled the streets, and Mt Vitosha shone white with snow on the horizon. And I would go with my friends on the ski lift up on to the mountain and look down on the city, or I would sit in the crypt of the Alexander Nevsky cathedral bathing in the golden glow of its icons.
It was all impossibly ‘Other’ – so near to Europe and yet so different: the Iron Curtain, the sullen policemen, the stories of life under the dictator Todor Zhivkov. Drawn to this strangeness, flirting with learning the language, even with eventually living there, I got closer to a world of people yearning for Western freedoms, but also often loyal to their Russian friends who had saved them from 600 years of Turkish domination.
The darkness of this world that I had been enjoying as a visitor, amused and intrigued by its otherness, reared its head brutally when a friend was suddenly arrested in the summer of 1981. Months later, the doorbell of his apartment rang, and his wife and daughter were handed his clothes by a soldier. On the top of this neatly folded pile was one bullet, the one that had been used to execute him as a ‘traitor’.
At that time it seemed impossible that the regime in Bulgaria would ever change. But it did, in 1989, and since 2007 it has been a member of the European Union – not freed of all its problems, but freed of the repression of a regime that killed its detractors.
The Bulgarians have a long tradition of mysticism. It was here that the Bogomils, precursors of the Cathars, challenged the theology of Constantinople. It is in its southern mountains that the ancient city of Perperikon, the ‘Machu Picchu of Europe’, lays claim to being the legendary Oracle of Dionysus. And still today the Bulgarians’ passion for the mystical can be found in their love of another kind of oracle: reading the coffee grounds.
And so, when I drink a Turkish coffee on the streets of Sofia, and eat a banitsa – a national delicacy, a sort of croissant made with feta – I can look up at the cherry blossom and further on to the snow on Mt Vitosha, and still enjoy the uniqueness, the otherness of this place. But I can also do something I couldn’t do before: I can enjoy the feeling that the people here are at last free, and are part of the wider community that is Europe today. And I can look down into the coffee grounds in my empty cup and try to divine the future of my own divided country, caught as it is between dreams of past greatness and the fear of irrevocable loss.