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Dance as Catharsis

May 1st, 2018

(Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash)

 

Do you know what I’ve learned? That although ecstasy is the ability to stand outside yourself, dance is a way of rising up into space, of discovering new dimensions while still remaining in touch with your body.  When you dance, the spiritual world and the [physical] world manage to coexist quite happily.”

-From “The Witch of Portabello” by Paulo Coelho

 

I was fortunate to grow up in a culture that valued dance. Every weekend, the whole extended family would get together at a relative’s house, eat together, socialize, and dance. After everyone had had time to chat and digest their food, we’d all pitch in to help move the furniture to the outskirts of the room, thereby creating a dance floor. The record player belted out Top 40 hits, world music, dance music, and all sorts of other eclectic beats and sounds; we’d easily go from Michael Jackson to Julio Iglesias in an evening! Although I confess, I was never much of a Julio fan, the adults in the group certainly loved him. And that leads me to the other brilliant thing about these evenings: they were multi-generational. The kids danced with the adults, teens, and elders. Everyone was included.

This went on until I was about twelve years old. I knew that something was wrong in my extended family when people stopped gathering as often. But I knew that something deep was at work when my family stopped dancing altogether. Internal family conflicts divided people and they simply did not know how to utilize the dance for anything other than celebration and personal expression. They didn’t know that dance was therapy and that they could dance through anything and come out the other side of it more balanced than before. I often wonder what might have been different and if communication would have improved if they had had this knowledge at the time.

It took me about sixteen years to recover my love of dance after that. I found myself attracted to non-choreographed dance modalities such as belly dance, rave, and trance dance. I’ve been dancing 5Rhythms (www.5rhythms.com) for almost two decades now and it is a practice that has supported and moved me through some serious transitions in my life. I’ve danced through tremendous grief, exhaustion, fear, sadness, joy, rocky love relationships, moving away from my family, and healing an addiction. I dance because my body doesn’t lie to me like my mind does. It is utterly honest. When I come to dance an issue in my life, my body tells me exactly what is going on as I move the way it wants me to. My body tells the story of what is out of balance and gives me clues for what I need to do to regain my centre. It does not use words so I’ve learned to uncover the messages of the somatic language of feeling throughout years of practice.

Going to class isn’t a “So You Think You Can Dance” sort of atmosphere. It is the polar opposite of competition, showing off my steps, or learning rigid dance moves. It is a spiritual experience where my body literally moves and heals me. All I have to do is follow my feet and my instincts. Often, I can feel burdens lifting off my shoulders and emotions leaving the hidden caves they’ve been trapped in- sometimes for years. I never know what is going to happen and that unpredictability is a part of the attraction for me. The unknown is where we heal, learn, and grow. They body knows how to move us in that direction if we surrender to its non-linear intelligence.

Dance, rhythm, and music have been used since the beginning of time by shamanic cultures throughout the world for healing and celebratory purposes.  These elements were and are often entwined in ceremony and guided by the culture’s medicine person.  Shamanic cultures the world over weave these three practices into their daily lives because they know of the increased health and well-being they bring into the lives of the people.  These creative modalities give the body and the psyche expression without words. In short, they take the ego mind out of the equation so we have a chance to experience our true selves.

It is fair to say that most people in the Western world are disconnected from these readily available healing tools.  One need not have extensive formal training in any of these modalities to receive healing benefit from practice.  This is intended as an invitation into a spiritual experience that has no dogma and is not affiliated with any religion.  Everyone can practice it.  It is through the experience of it that healing naturally occurs and since no two people are exactly alike, each person will have a different experience.

When in the midst of dance, we can heal without words by learning to tap into the body and spirit wisdom that is lying dormant inside of us.  Along with patterns that don’t serve us any longer, we have a chance to witness those that do.  The beauty is that it is never too late to heal pain or celebrate victories from the past.  Indeed, engaging in this ceremony takes courage and willingness to show your true self; that is a huge victory in and of itself! Dancing within a ceremonial context is very different than a class; however, practicing in dancing meditation classes is a good way to connect with our bodies if this is a foreign concept!

These days, I lead Soul Vine Dancing Ceremonies, which are done in a spiritual container of safety with a very specific alchemy. Folks come and dance at their own pace in a way that works for them, their bodies, their hearts, and their psyches.  Most of all, I encourage folks to be gentle and to forgive themselves through the practice.  They can allow what’s there to be there: joy, grief, sorrow, anger, boredom, exhaustion, resistance, or sadness.  This includes negative inner dialogue.  We can keep moving through all these; they are indicators that something is shifting!  We can talk to our High Selves while we dance for guidance.  It’s safe to let go of the past and move that healing right through our beings.  We dance for and with ourselves because we are all worth it.

*Part of this article originally appeared on the author’s blog in August 2014 (https://jenniferengracio.wordpress.com/). The author has added content to the original for PaganPagesOrg Magazine.

***

About the Author:

Jennifer Engrácio has been a student of shamanism since 2005. Jennifer is a certified teacher who has worked with children in many different education settings since 2001. She is a certified shamanic coach, reiki master, and lomilomi practitioner; in addition, she runs Spiral Dance Shamanics. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, she now lives in Calgary, Canada with her life partner.

Engrácio participated in self-publishing three books that are now available:

The Magic Circle: Shamanic Ceremonies for the Child and the Child Within”

Women’s Power Stories: Honouring the Feminine Principle of Life

Dreaming of Cupcakes: A Food Addict’s Shamanic Journey into Healing

Click Image for Amazon Information

For more information go to: www.spiraldanceshamanics.com

 

(en)LIV(en)ING with the Muses:The Hymns of Polyhymnia

 

(Image: Sculpture from the State Hermitage Museum)

This is the Sixth posting of the (en)LIV(en)ING with the Muses Series

Each time I have lost myself in the beauty of music, Polyhymnia has been whispering in my ear. Her name is derived from the Greek, “poly” meaning “many” and “hymnos” which means “praise. Her name is alternately spelled Polymnia. She is attributed with many gifts and depending on the territory of Greece that she oversaw, her garb and visage was adapted. Her primary creativity flowed through music, song and dance and in the more traditional sense she became the muse specifically of religious hymn and praise.

Unlike her sisters, Polyhymnia was depicted as more pensive in her demeanor and of an almost meditative and spiritually charged seriousness.

She was a daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the Titan Goddess of memory and remembrance as well as attributed as the inventress of language and words. What more beautiful expression of her mother’s gifts than to be the child that brings adeptness and creativity to the sacred words of devotion and hymn.

Polyhymnia was consort of Oeagrus, the King of Thrace. In some myths he and Calliope or Clio were the parents of Orpheus. In others, Polyhymnia is appointed as the mother of Orpheus. This gives testament to the cross over and threads of community that the Muses held. All having many of the same gifts, but their expression and who they were attached to in the mortal realms meant that as mothers or aunts, the shared the parenting of many of the offspring attributed to one muse or another.

In other myths she is identified as the mother of Triptolemus, the first priest of Demeter and inventor of agriculture and working the lands. This birth was by her union with Cheimarrhus, the son of the Greek God Ares.

(Greco-Roman mosaic from Vichten C3rd A.D.. National Museum of History and Art)

The Greek Historian, Diodorus Siculus writes…

“Polyhymnia, because by her great (polle) praises (humnesis) she brings distinction to writers whose works have won for them immortal fame…” 1.

Not much has been written of Polyhymnia, in contrast to her sisters. Nonetheless, she remains a muse whose essence continues to flourish with each writing and composition of any work of devotion. So the next time you are inspired by song or feel the rising of your Soul’s desire in response to music’s harmonious flow, offered up gratitude to Polyhymnia as she whispers gently in your ear.

The next post will focus on the Muse, Urania and her Gifts of Astronomy

References:

1. Diodorus Siculus, Library of History books III-VIII (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.).

***

About the Author:

Robin Fennelly is a Wiccan High Priestess, teacher, poet and author.

She is the author of:

 

The Inner Chamber, Vol. One

It’s Written in the Stars

Astrology

 

The Inner Chamber, Vol. Two

poetry of the spheres

Qabalah

 

The Inner Chamber, Vol. Three

Awakening the Paths

Qabalah

 

A Year With Gaia

The Eternal Cord

 

Temple of the Sun and Moon

Luminous Devotions

Click on Image for Amazon Information

 

The Magickal Pen, Volume One

A Collection of Esoteric Writings

 

The Elemental Year

Aligning the Parts of SELF

 

The Enchanted Gate

Musings on the Magick of the Natural World

Click on Image for Amazon Information

 

Sleeping with the Goddess

Nights of Devotion

 

A Weekly Reflection

Musings for the Year

 

Her books are available on Amazon or on this website and her Blogs can be found atRobin Fennelly 

 

Follow Robin on Instagram & Facebook.

 

I am writing this article on Boxing Day or Annandag Jul in Swedish (our family is in Sweden).

I always pay close attention to dreams and my dreams last night were full of children.

I am wearing a warm furry silver cloak and walking around a forest. There is a spectacular night sky overhead. The stars are reflected by the ice crystals trapped in my cloak meaning that I myself am sparkling with star light (not unlike a Christmas tree!) I am Mother Winter! All around me child spirits are darting around and playing in trees: luminous, joyful but also “ghostly”, as-yet-unborn. I open my cloak and give them all a place to gestate safely, in the Womb of Mother Winter…

The central event at Christmas is, of course, the birth of a Divine Child. For Christians this is a very particular child: Jesus Christ. However, the concept of a Divine Child exists in other cultures and belief systems as well. Here is a blog that provides a good overview:

http://mythicspiral.blogspot.se/2013/02/gods-divine-birth-in-religion-and-myth.html

It explains how many of our world’s myths and religions start with the birth of a Divine Child who grows up and becomes a Saviour God as an adult. This Divine Child or god, incarnated on Earth, usually does not have an easy time of it. Often it comes close to being murdered and faces an evil ruler (sometimes its own human father). Miraculously, this child does survive and becomes a revolutionary who plants the seeds for a new paradigm and new ways of collective thinking and dreaming.

The Divine Child exists in alchemy as well. It is often seen as the offspring of the alchemical marriage of opposites or opposing forces: sun and moon, light and dark. You could say that the whole sacred art of alchemy is contained within the image of a magical or divine child because it holds the key to processes of transformation and transmutation.

What if some of the children leading tough lives today are here to become our future world leaders?!

Christmas is a good time to reflect on the fate of children in today’s world. My husband got our three children up before dawn this morning to perform a pagan family ceremony by the nearby lake. They considered themselves hard done by, being lifted from their warm beds before sunrise!

Many children all over the world face serious (real) hardship today as well as every day and night of the year. They grow up in war zones, politically unstable regimes or places of extreme poverty and deprivation. They are at risk of losing their lives, their parents, families, homes or livelihood.

Even in the more affluent Western world many children suffer abuse at the hands of the very people who are supposed to love and protect them: their own parents. The so called “festive season” tends to increase family tensions meaning that for many children Christmas is not a happy time. Instead it is a time of increased physical and emotional abuse. Alcohol use increases too and that is never good news for children.

So today I invite everyone reading this article to spare a thought for the children facing hardship almost beyond human comprehension. Also for the spirits of children who died young or where aborted, who live on as spirit children in other worlds. For more about this I invite you to watch my 2014 art video:

 

SPIRIT CHILDREN

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpSLQLHN2B4

 

 

I am a presenter Year of Ceremony with Sounds True and the title of my Full Moon Ceremony) on January 31st is Drawing Down the Divine Child. I invite everyone to check out this wonderful program!

 

http://affiliate.soundstrue.com/aff_c?offer_id=124&aff_id=2260&url_id=86

 

In a way all children are divine children because a divine spark glows in their heart (as it does in adults). Might it be the case that some children choose to come to Earth to hold up mirrors for all of us and expose injustice?

Might it be the case that soul groups of children incarnate collectively to bring specific issues to global attention? If so, could we find ways of honouring this sacrifice?!

Our word sacrifice is derived from Latin and literally means: making sacred by offering to the gods.

We are all on Earth for a relatively short time before we become ancestors for those who come after us. Do we give enough thought to those future generations, the children of our children’s children and beyond? Do we actively try to create the right conditions on Earth for their arrival?

Shamanism teaches that we can step Outside Time. Once we do so we can work with both Past and Future. Many spiritual schools of thought teach that Time is an illusion and that Past and Future co-exists in parallel dimensions. (Personally speaking I think of Time as an organising dimension on Earth, not as an ultimate reality). If this is so, it means that we can already connect with the children waiting to be born. We can communicate with those souls and find out what they need from us, what seeds they need us to plant for their future existence.

These are some of the issues we will engage with during my Full Moon Ceremony for 31 January 2018!

For today I invite you to do a meditation (or shamanic journey) and seek guidance from spirit on how you can reach out to one child (or several children, (or even a group of children) today and make a difference. Could you be a mentor, provide a listening ear or a sanctuary? Could you be an ambassador working in a different way: speaking, writing or campaigning? Is there some unique contribution only you can make? The lives of many children have been turned around by having access to that one crucial person who was there for them and provided unconditional support. That person is not always a parent, often this is a neighbour, teacher, aunt/uncle, youth leader or grandparent.

If you are a holistic or spiritual practitioner already working with children I invite you to join a closed Facebook group I recently created (and there is some lively thought-provoking sharing going on there!) The idea is to connect people and map where everyone is, so referrals can be made and experiences can be exchanged.

 

GLOBAL GRID OF SPIRITUAL PRACTITIONERS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1084444561692912/

 

All of us grown-ups are ex-children. Somewhere within all of us lives the Divine Child!

I will close with a beautiful poem that friend and fellow author Laura Perry brought to my attention:

 

For So The Children Come

By Sophia Lyon Fahs

For so the children come
And so they have been coming.
Always in the same way they come
Born of the seed of man and woman.

No angels herald their beginnings.
No prophets predict their future courses.
No wise men see a star to show where to find the babe that will save humankind.

Yet each night a child is born is a holy night,
Fathers and mothers–sitting beside their children’s cribs feel glory in the sight of a new life beginning
They ask “Where and how will this new life end?
Or will it ever end?”

Each night a child is born is a holy night–
A time for singing,
A time for wondering,
A time for worshipping.

 

***

About the Author:

Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of shamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books in 2016.  She is a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit  2017 as well as on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. She is currently working on her second book Sacred Art: A Hollow Bone for Spirit (Where Art Meets Shamanism)

 

For Amazon information Click Image

 

 

www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk  (website)

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/  (blog)

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=imelda+almqvist  (Youtube channel: interviews, presentations and art videos)

http://affiliate.soundstrue.com/aff_c?offer_id=124&aff_id=2260&url_id=86 (Year of Ceremony)

 

 

Septarian

In my opinion this stone is truly fascinating. I have on many occasions gotten lost in the patterns that occur naturally in this mineral. Septarian consists of a combination of Calcite, Aragonite and Limestone along with other minerals depending on the particular stones origins. It’s also known as a Dragon Stone because it’s thought to contain all four elements, but doesn’t it look like a dragon’s egg? Especially when it’s in the form of an egg! It brings to mind what I imagine a dragon’s egg would possibly look like, or at the very least a prehistoric egg of some sort. It really is a striking stone.

It’s said that this stone is millions of years old, made from molten lava melting the perfect combination of minerals to create this earthly gem. With that being said, I was surprised to find that Septarian’s weren’t listed in many of my crystal books. Not that I believe what’s written is always correct, or that its the only way to define a crystals purpose, but it is nice to have a starting point or additional information when you purchase or receive a new crystal. I’m hoping the authors will someday write a revised edition to their books to include this lovely gem.

This stone is said to be used by Shamans for grounding during their journey work. My personal experience with this crystalline structure is when once held, I felt immediately grounded and in sync with the rhythm of the Earth’s energies. On occasion when I have to go to a party or social gathering and I’m feeling a little self conscious or unsure, I will add a Septarian to the stones that I already carry for security and protection. Another reason to carry this crystal is to help boost your self confidence. Whether you’re at a social gathering where many of the attendees are unknown to you, or you’re at school or work and have to speak in front of your peers, this stone will be an asset to help you gain the confidence and conviction to do just that. Septarian’s are really just an all around fantastic stone to have and I hope to add many more to my collection very soon.

***

About the Author:

Shiron (Shi) Eddy hails from the Pacific Northwest and shares a home with her husband, a Great Dane and a cat. Her love for crystals and minerals came from her dad who was an avid rock hound in his younger years. Shi happily shares her knowledge of crystals with anyone who is drawn to them, but especially loves to help people connect with minerals that involves their metaphysical properties. When she’s not networking with other crystal and mineral lovers, Shi can be found making jewelry, painting, crocheting Goddess dolls, selling her wares at shows or spending time with family and friends. You can find her jewelry in her shop ShiJewels or follow her on Instagram.

DOES MY LIFE BELONG TO ME?!

 

We are on Easter Break. My 17-year old son needs to do revisions for his upcoming A Levels in Physics and Further Maths. He works best alongside someone so we divide up the kitchen table between us. I decided to write this piece because I had been pondering the question for some time. My son decides to play some music to help things along. “Is that Shakira?!” – “No Mum, it is Fat Rat! That is a DJ by the way. I doubt you know anyone I listen too…” I adore silence when I am writing but, as usual, it was not to be!

 

This may sound like a weird question with an obvious answer! Of course my life belongs to me, right?!

In theory it does yes, but being alive means making choices and choices bring commitments. The moment I choose to have children, those children are entitled to a large chunk of my time, energy and life force. The moment I choose to get married, a new unit with an overarching spirit all of its own comes into being: The Marriage (as well as two separate individuals). This is why the sum is always more than the parts combined. The dynamic multiplies again once a couple has children: there is now a Family, as well as two, three, four or five individuals…. There are now five people having relationships with four rather significant others.

The moment I choose a profession and invest in training in that profession I need to accept the demands and boundaries of that profession. Being a medical doctor, nurse or midwife will mean working night shifts in hospitals. Even a plumber will get phone calls about emergencies at all hours. An undertaker cannot so easily take time off either as people will not stop dying over major holidays.

As a shamanic practitioner I, too, used to get emergency phone calls at all hours. As a mother of young children working from home (with no hospital and no team to divide the workload) I eventually learned to take my home phone number off-line and to make an agreement with myself regarding what “opening hours” I operated and how many emergencies a week I can fit in at short notice (if any!) This is called drawing lines and operating healthy boundaries! (By now I also have a team of three people dividing up work in my practice).

So yes my life belongs to me but for my life to belong to ‘me and me alone’ I would need to stay single, not have children (or elderly parents) and perhaps embark on a life as a self-sufficient recluse in a very inaccessible area. (And when emergencies occurred I would have to deal with those on my own – or not be able deal with them and perhaps suffer serious illness or injury without receiving medical attention or loving care from another person). Yet, these are choices some people make to get away from the maddening demands of modern life. (A percentage of people have always done this, long before “modern” times, they have become trappers, sailors or “desert saints” and walked away from their communities). My own husband has one brother who went to sea at age 16 and reappeared years later with a Japanese wife (he then abandoned to raise three children completely on her own in Sweden). Today we call this commitment-phobia and yes, commitment is scary!

Yet, there is a level even beyond this web of social interactions, beyond being a member of a family and community. This is the point where people who follow a spiritual path may well see things differently from what is considered the norm in our society. Since western society embraced science as ‘our new religion’, the Church and priests have lost the control they exerted for many centuries. We no longer believe in Hell or live in sin. We don’t go to confession either. Only few people today believe that a male fearsome god will judge our souls once we die. In many ways this has liberated us and allowed a much higher level of individual expression, which can only be a good thing (to my mind). Having said, that: collectively speaking we have also lost the concept that we owe gratitude to our Maker and that we did not incarnate on this planet just to please ourselves and inflate our egos…

It is my personal belief, shared by many people following a committed spiritual path (of any description and not necessarily a religion!) that we come to Earth to be of service. That we all have unique gifts, our own unique energy, that is required at this time. This is because we all vibrate and operate in a larger Web of Life where all sentient beings are connected and together create (co-create) both reality and the future, the world our children’s children are to inherit.

Therefore I believe that I am here to serve and to evolve (meaning to learn, to grow in awareness) but I am also here to play my part in a larger whole. This means that I am currently wearing a human coat here on Earth for reasons beyond the personal level of relationships and raising children and so forth.

I have an on-going dialogue with my helping spirits about this and they say that I am here to be a spiritual teacher and teach others about living from a place of profound creativity and joyful creation. Along the way I also turned out to have a bit of a “freak talent” for healing work – but personally I see that as the journey back to creativity and living in joy. Being ill or dis-eased is the flip side of that coin. Once people re-discover their innate ability to create they can create healthy vibrant reality (as well as art, poetry or music etc.) and this will trigger the process of self-healing (activating the Inner Healer). Once I became aware of this key principle I switched my focus from offering one-to-one healing sessions to teaching larger groups.

The spirits making my life purpose crystal clear has been helpful because it has allowed me to focus and drop many things that are not my cup of tea in this lifetime. Out with dinner parties but roll on classes and powerful ceremonies!

The fly in the ointment is that “the hermit gene” runs strong in me. Before I fall asleep I fantasize about retreating to place far (FAR) from civilization and turning my back on the world. I am a profoundly solitary person, happiest alone in my studio or alone in the Forest. My idea of heaven is to be dropped in a completely inaccessible place with enough food supplies, fire wood and art materials for months – so I can immerse myself in creative process without distractions. It is when we are truly alone, without company, without internet, without external noise that we hear the voices of the spirits more clearly. So yeah, that is my dirty secret! I find it hard to always be on call. As a mother of three teenagers this is and will remain my reality – and I actively (happily!) chose it! The contradiction runs deep in me and this solitary trait runs in my family. My middle son has got a bad case of this “affliction” as well!

Having many students (and some clients) as well as children means working long hours every day again (often including weekends). I often look around me at people I perceive to have “easier lives”. Hang on! Let me rephrase this: lives with less pressure and way more leisure time. Here I am thinking of women who call themselves a “full time mother” of two teens aged 16 and 18 (with one about to leave home!) Or a woman whose children left home 20 years ago but she never returned to work (in the conventional sense). She shuttles between her garden and her yoga lessons. To my mind these are ladies of leisure. You may of course disagree.

On one level you could say: they raised their babies and their husband earns good money (so there is no financial need to work) – why not settle into a life of gardening and coffee mornings? Or another level I think: but aren’t they uniquely positioned to really make contribution to larger society? They have good health, many skills and financial security… they HAVE IT ALL! Why not use these things for the larger good of others than themselves?

Am I being judgemental here?? I know this is and remains one of my shadow aspects, (the flip side of being visionary) so it is a definite possibility. Not everyone has my driven personality and (what some have called) a supernatural energy level). Not everyone feels called to grapple with the bigger issues in our world (such as clearing family lines of centuries worth of accumulated trauma or contributing to paradigm shifts – or at least imagining that one is doing so!)

Cycling back to where I started, I think the question this article poses can only be answered by individuals in a very individual way. We all have different personalities, different star signs and different circumstances and dreams too. What I do know is that in my own life I continue to learn (fast and furiously) because I am a teacher, because I am in constant interactions with students and teens from a place of holding responsibility. It has been said that we teach what we most need to learn and probably my greatest passion in life is learning and becoming the best person I can possibly be, by the time I die. (And what I am in the process of becoming is not going to please everyone!)

I also truly believe that if everyone embraced life in this way – the world would be a better place. I am not going to apologise for thinking that! So… to answer my own question: my life force belongs to me (meaning I choose what – and whom! – I spend time and energy on) but my life ultimately belongs to Mother Earth and Spirit as much as it belongs to me personally. I am in service to Life – not the other way around. I would not have it any other way…

 

My son has decided to go on break. He says: “Mum, could you please take over as my dragon slayer for a moment because I need to nip out for a moment?!” Fat Rat has gone silent. Outside the window snow is falling upwards…

*Imelda Almqvist, Sweden, Easter Sunday 2017

***

About the Author:

Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of Norseshamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans: A Spiritual Toolkit For Life (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon Books in 2016.  She is a presenter on the Shamanism Global Summit  2017 as well as on Year of Ceremony with Sounds True. She divides her time between the UK, Sweden and the US. Her second book SACRED ART, A Hollow Bone for Spirit : Where Art Meets Shamanism will be published in December 2018.

Click Image for Amazon Information

www.shaman-healer-painter.co.uk  (website)

https://imeldaalmqvist.wordpress.com/  (blog)

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=imelda+almqvist  (Youtube channel: interviews, presentations and art videos)

 

 

Notes from the Apothecary: Honeysuckle

What a sweet name, conjuring images of bees and summer and jewel like flowers dripping with nectar, while butterflies gorge themselves on the sugary goodness. According to sacredwicca.com, honeysuckle is a Beltane flower, which makes sense as I remember the intricate blooms beginning to open in my grandparents’ yard around this time of year. We would sit in the pale English sun drinking in the smell of the nectar and the gently, bustling hum of honeybees. This exotic looking but fairly common plant holds a great deal of nostalgia for me, and the connection to my recent ancestors makes it an appropriate choice to write about at this other time when the veil is thin; Beltane, the opposite side of the wheel to Samhain, when the fae and their kin are strongest.

The Kitchen Garden…

Eat the Weeds tells us that honeysuckle is ‘iffy for foragers’, basically meaning that it’s one of those plants that has so many varieties, some of which are edible, some of which are not and some of which are downright poisonous. Because of this, if you are planning on cultivating honeysuckle for eating, you should ensure you absolutely know what variety you are growing. Lonicera japonica, or Japanese Honeysuckle, has leaves that can be boiled and eaten, and the flowers are so sweet and delicious they are enjoyed like candy. Lonicera villosa, or waterberry, has edible berries, but is often confused with variants which are not so tasty or even bad for you.

The upshot of this is, don’t eat any part of the honeysuckle plant unless you are one hundred percent sure that you have an edible variety. If in doubt, just don’t. Don’t be disappointed about the dubious edibility of this beautiful plant though. There are many great reasons to have a honeysuckle plant in your garden. As a climbing plant, it’s often used to hide unsightly walls or old fences, replacing urban grimness with nature’s treasure. As well as this, it attracts bees and butterflies, essential pollinators, filling your garden with colour and sound. This in will attract birds, and bats in some climates, so honeysuckle is a great addition to any wildlife garden.

Some species can be invasive, so it’s recommended to keep it away from fruit trees and the like as it can literally use their trunks as ladders to climb, which is not so healthy for your poor fruit trees. But with some liberal pruning when needed, honeysuckle is a beautiful, practical plant which brings a sweet fragrance and a splash of summer colour to any garden.

The Apothecary…

Mrs Grieve, in her Modern Herbal, tells us that there are over 100 species of honeysuckle but that only a dozen or so are used medicinally. She tells us that the fruits have emiticocathartic properties, a word which is not common in modern usage but presumably means honeysuckle berries can be used both as an emetic and a cathartic. Emetics cause the body to expel toxins, either by vomiting or defecating, and cathartic work solely on accelerating defecation. This sounds pretty grim, but emetics are often used if the patient is known to have ingested something toxic which needs to be expelled quickly. Of course, the berries cause vomiting because they themselves are toxic (some varieties; see above) so shouldn’t be consumed at all, really.

Other traditional remedies include using honeysuckle leaves or flowers as a diuretic, to ease asthmas, and to help with cramps and even bad skin.

The Witch’s Kitchen…

Honeysuckle is a climbing plant, and reminds us that we have to start at the bottom and work our way up. It is a symbol of perseverance, determination and hard work. Rev. Carol A. Ingle tells us that the plant is associated with the tarot card, The Chariot, allowing you to focus on having discernment, authority and mastery of any task at hand. She also recommends the use of honeysuckle in good luck spells and also bending others to your will. The plant is also great for protection magic.

Culpepper claimed it was a ‘herb of Mercury’. This plant, therefore, is often used in money magic, to attract wealth or new opportunities leading to better prosperity, such as luck for a new job interview. Mercury is also all about clear communication, so meditating on honeysuckle can allow you to open up your mind to allow the words you need to say to someone to come to the fore.

Named Féithleann in Irish, the plant is also known as the Irish Vine, so if you work with the Celtic Tree Calendar, honeysuckle is a great substitute for vine. Please note, I find the Celtic tree Calendar a thoroughly modern construct, as there is no evidence the Iron Age Celts followed a year split up into tree-based months, however it is a lovely construct and one that clearly means a great deal to many people. The magic of trees and plants cannot be disputed, and if this is a way that some practitioners connect with that magic, I have no problem with that. As long as it’s clear that it is not a reconstruction of what our Celtic ancestors followed it is inspired by their reverence for trees and plants, which in itself is a lovely idea.

Home and Hearth…

Irish folklore states that honeysuckle around the door of a home will prevent a witch from entering. Of course, the protective nature of the plant is actually that it will prevent negative energies from entering your house, so this is still great advice!

Bring honeysuckle flowers from your garden into the house to attract money. Keep the flowers in water, then as they start to wilt, immediately discard them, either in your compost disposal or in the eastern side of your garden if possible, to represent the manifestation of your desires.

I Never Knew…

Honeysuckle is much enjoyed by livestock, including chicken and goats. Indeed, the Latin name for one species, lonicera caprifolium, comes from the Latin for ‘goat’s leaf’.

Image credits: Lonicera x heckrottii ‘Gold Flame’ by Wouter Hagens, public domain; Lonicera caprifolium by Sten at Danish Wikipedia; Lonicera nigra by Nikolaus Joseph Jacquin (1727-1817), public domain.

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About the Author:

Mabh Savage is a Pagan author, poet and musician, as well as a freelance journalist.

She is the author of A Modern Celt: Seeking the Ancestors and Pagan Portals: Celtic Witchcraft.

Follow Mabh on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

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