names

Rune Activism for Fallen Trees

June, 2018

Rune Activism for Fallen Trees

In Germanic regions, it was believed that mankind was created from tree trunks, echoing the perception that people and trees have much in common.

In Sweden, some trees were considered ‘wardens’ and could guard a home from bad luck. The warden was usually a very old tree growing on the lot near the home. The family living there had such great respect for the tree that they would often adopt a surname related to the name of the tree.

A well-known sacred tree in Norse mythology was Yggdrasil, a giant ash tree that was said to link and shelter the nine worlds that were believed to exist.

https://blog.pachamama.org/people-and-trees-intimately-connected-through-the-ages

Earlier this year I wrote a blog titled Novena for Fallen Trees. This blog follows on from that article.

My (Swedish) surname is Almqvist: it means branch of an Elm tree.

My maiden name is Berendsen : it means son or child of a bear.

A few days ago I walked up the forest track right next to our house. I was looking for large smooth rocks that might volunteer themselves as spiritual boundary markers for our property (I am collecting 24 of them and painting the 24 runes of the Elder Futhark on them).

In horror movies there often is a scene where an unsuspecting person is walking in the forest and feeling completely relaxed, but ominous music starts playing (obviously not heard by this person!) – the viewer grips their seat and fears the worst…

As I saw one particularly suitable rock and started making my way to it I heard a roaring noise and saw a massive machine rolling out of the forest towards me. I took another leap aside but it veered too and continued to come directly at me.

I am all alone in the forest in a pretty remote place. What now?!

The machine stopped. A set of green metallic steps was lowered and a large man climbed out. We were face to face, the Logger and I. He offered me his hand and said: I am Sten – who are you? (The name Sten means Stone!) I stood there cradling one large rock like a baby and said: “I am Imelda, I am collecting large rocks”. He nodded as if a woman holding a big rock as if it is new born baby was a normal event in his life. He then proceeded to tell me that he had not seen a human being for four days. He had been working 14-hour days logging away, all on his own. He was desperate for some conversation and a human face.

This encounter reminded me of coming face to face with a pack of hunters in the same forest, in October last year. This was after waking up to a gunshot outside my window and then finding a dead young deer on the track in front of our house. I set with this deer for a while and spoke some prayers.

The forest that surrounds our house is owned by two large local country estates (essentially two aristocratic families). Everyone who owns forest land must file a plan with the forest authorities (a family friend who owns forest land has explained this to us). Sten is just doing his job. He works for the logging company that was hired to turn mature trees into logs. Those logs might then become buildings (or IKEA furniture).

There exist many myths throughout the world that say human beings are descended from trees, and these are particularly prevalent among Indo-European cultures. In Völuspá the first humans, Askr and Embla, are created from pieces of wood, and in Gylfaginning Askr and Embla are created from driftwood logs found on land by the sea. The three gods credited with their creation include Odin, and either his brothers Vili and Ve or companions Hœnir and Lóðurr (believed by some to be Loki or, by others, Frey). Each god endowed the first man and woman with different attributes.

http://www.thesoulofbones.com/blog/the-world-tree

I had briefly contemplated doing something heroic, like dramatically throwing myself in front of his death-machine. However, Sten doesn’t call the shots, he does not have the power to reverse any decisions. He is only doing his job….

Yesterday evening I decided it was time to check how far the destruction had reached. I brought a candle, red paint and a huge drum with 24 runes painted on it.

Things were even worse than I thought. My youngest son has a favourite hang-out in the forest that he calls Lynx Rock. – Lynx Rock is no more – it has been raised to the ground.

This week I had a dream where I was painting the rune Eoh (Eihwaz in the Anglo-Saxon system) on the tree stumps of fallen trees. Eoh represents the world tree and world pillar or axis mundi. So I used my red paint to do this. I turned one large tree stump into an altar where I had my candle burning while drummed loudly enough to raise the dead. I half expected the loggers (holed up in their caravan) to come running and investigate what was going on – but they stayed away.

I drummed. I chanted. I prayed. I asked the spirit of the world tree for regeneration and healing of this land. I apologised to all the animals, plants and creatures that had just lost their homes.

I took a moment to connect to tribal peoples all over the world who have lost their trees and way of life to loggers and deforestation.

As the world axis, the World Tree runs vertically through the centre of the cosmos and links the heavens, earth and underworld together. Holding the many worlds within its boughs, it is the connecting point between all realms. Its branches (or, in some cases of inverted world trees, the roots) stretch into the realm of the gods while its roots reach into the depths of the world of the dead. It also functions as an anchoring point – a sort of “world nail” or “spike” (Old Norse veraldar nagli) – around which the firmaments revolve. It is sometimes represented by the Pole Star, or North Star, since the skies do appear to revolve around this central, fixed point. As Åke Hultkrantz mentions in a discussion about world trees and pillars in shamanic cultures, the world tree and world pillar/nail were probably two distinct concepts initially which eventually merged together.

http://www.thesoulofbones.com/blog/the-world-tree

When all that was done, I made my way home down the forest track. The daylight was going. I was still extremely upset but I felt better for having performed my vigil and “rune activism”.

In Old Europe there were many ancestor cults involving trees. It was believed that after death the souls of the ancestors took up residence in trees. This is why many forests and groves were so sacred and there were severe penalties and punishments for messing with trees.

What if the Old Europeans were right? What if Heaven does not exist or Heaven turns out to be a forest in this world where our souls take up residence in trees after death so we can continue to watch over the living (and pray that they pay attention to our loving guidance)?! Do we give this ancient belief any thought before we decide to decimate forest land?!!

Today I will take my son to where Lynx Rock used to sit in a forest glade and where he would tune into Forest Magic and Lynx Medicine teachings. You can see him in action here and hear him explain what he is doing here:

I am not looking forward to seeing his face…

***

About the Author:

Imelda Almqvist is an international teacher of Northern Tradition shamanism and sacred art. Her book Natural Born Shamans – A Spiritual Toolkit for Life: Using Shamanism Creatively with Young People of All Ages (Using shamanism creatively with young people of all ages) was published by Moon 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 : A Hollow Bone for Spirit (Where Meets Shamanism) will be published in March 2019. She is currently working on her third book: Medicine of the Imagination.

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)

 

Tink About it

June, 2013

Who am I? What am I?

 

People like to label others, probably to get things clear for themselves. It’s understandable and doesn’t have to be a problem, as long as you don’t get too rigid about it. Labels can change, because people change. The label ‘female’ is permanent (well, most of the time..), but the label ‘friend’ can turn into ‘acquaintance’ or even ‘foe’.  I know I use labels for people; it’s hard not to, but I try to keep them flexible, unprejudiced and stay open to change.

 

Pagans are just like people… 😉 Whenever I introduce myself as a witch among other pagans, there’s always someone that asks which path I walk or something of the like. My standard answer is: my own path! True of course, but not very clear to the questioner. In fact they are trying to label me. I don’t mind, but the thing is I have a hard time labelling myself too sometimes! I have been practising for quite some years now and I’ve tried and learned about different paths, traditions, etc. From all of it I incorporated things into my own cauldron so to speak. They can replace other things, just add something new, or create something completely different when added to the mix. It’s a perpetual movement, ever changing… sometimes in a subtle way, sometimes in a major sense.

 

My basis and starting point has always been witchcraft and its fundamental principles. I have been raised Roman catholic, but somehow I always missed things there, although I liked the rituals. When I was about 6 I asked my dad: ‘How do you know that god is a man? You have never seen him. Maybe it’s a woman!’ My parents always supported me in finding my own way. Discovering paganism felt like coming home, finding my true path. I feel comfortable as a witch and with the way most witches work. Of course the different ways are up to discussion too, but that’s not where I want to go now. I’m talking about the general things, not how they are individually practised. I emphasize on the similarities, not the differences. So, I’m a witch. If I can only label myself with one word, that’s it.

 

Within witchcraft I’ve explored and tried a lot. Finding out what you don’t like or want is important and rewarding too! One of the major focus points of my life is balance, in all area’s and all ways possible. My spiritual path is no different: to me both goddess and god are equally important.  It doesn’t feel right for me to just focus on one of them all the time. I have no problem working together with witches that think otherwise, I adapt easily. People have their reasons and beliefs and if it works for them, that’s fine with me! Personally though, I see goddess and god (or god and goddess) as one, they need each other, they are two halves of one whole.

 

When I was looking around, trying things, working with others, etc, I noticed that a lot of witches work with foreign deities: Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Celtic, Indian, etc. Although I’m very interested to learn about them I discovered I wanted to connect with my own heritage and that of the place where I’m living: The Netherlands! Looking for local deities, legends, spirits of the place I found a mix of Celtic, Roman and Germanic ones. The last ones appealed to me the most, they felt familiar and close. I got in touch with Asatru. They work with the Norse/Germanic pantheon and I learn a lot from them. This part is important to me, so I add something to my label: I’m a heathen witch.

 

But there’s more of course. I’ve studied and tried druidry, shamanism, traditional wicca, gnosticism, other pagan paths and all kinds of pagan-related stuff. I read, do workshops, discuss and try things out in different ways. I discovered and met my power animals. I found out shamanic journeying works better for some things than meditation, so I use both. Stirring in my cauldron…  I mix and match while doing my best to respect, honour and do justice to the individual parts. I try to get the hang of things, always learning, always wanting to know and/or do more. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about this path it’s that you are never ready. The more you learn, the more you realise how little you know. Inquisitive as I am, I like that! I don’t want to be limited by one path, tradition or group though. Therefore I add one last part to the label: I’m an eclectic heathen witch.

 

So think about it: what would be your label?

 

B*B, Tink

Mugwort Chronicles

March, 2013

What’s in a Name?

Have you ever wondered just why herbalists refer to plants by both common and Latin names? When I was first learning about the properties of plant medicine, I was often frustrated by references to the long, difficult-to-pronounce Latin names. After all, why not simply say, “Chickweed” or “Dock”?
Plants, like trees, animals, birds, fish and everything else in our environment were named by the local people who interacted with them. Sometimes the same name was given to plants that may seem similar but have very different properties. The Hemlock tree (Tsuga) was given its common name due to a similarity in the smell of its crushed foliage with that of Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum). However, an important distinction is that while Tsuga is not poisonous, Conium maculatum is quite lethal.
Red Root is another great example. In some areas, Red root refers to Ceanothus americanus, a member of the Buckthorn family-a wonderful lymphogogue used to treat conditions such as sinusitis, tonsillitis, mononucleosis.  Ceanothus americanus is considered a fairly ‘safe’ botanical medicine. Now compare this to another plant sometimes also referred to as Red Root: Sanguinaria canadensis, a member of the Papaveraceae or poppy family. Although more commonly referred to as Blood Root, this plant is administered as a drop-dose medicinal, can be quite toxic in larger doses and should only be used by experienced practitioners.
I became more aware of the disparity of using common plant names when I was discussing herbal medicine with one of my coworkers. She grew up in the southeastern part of the United States and referred to Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus) as “Blood Root”. Not knowing she was referring to R. crispus, I was alarmed that this budding herbalist was making a potentially toxic medicine using Sanguinaria canadensis. It was only after some in-depth discussion that we realized we were discussing two entirely different plants.
Usage of common plant names can also present potential problems when you refer to herbals written during earlier periods in history or in different geographical locations. Common plant names just do not translate well across continents or historical times.  However, Latin binomial names are consistent throughout the world.
So, just how did plants become endowed with those challenging Latin names? We have Swedish botanist Carl Nilsson Linnæus to thank. Born in 1707, Linnaeus, known as the “father of modern taxonomy” laid the foundations for the modern naming of plants and animals by grouping species according to shared physical characteristics, beginning with his work Species Plantarum in 1753.   Using a two-part or binomial name consisting of the genus name followed by the species name or epithet, Linnaeus developed a system of classifying organisms which would eventually become universally accepted in the scientific world.  Linnaean taxonomy classifies nature by a hierarchy, starting with the broad Kingdoms (plant, animal). These are further divided into , then into Orders, Genera and finally, into Species. Plants are sometimes further classified into Varieties.
You can think of binomial Latin names in much the same way as we refer to ourselves. For example, if your last name is “Smith” this would be your genus name and your first name, “Mary”, your species name: Smith mary.  Your children, John and Beth would be species of the genus Smith:  Smith john and Smith beth.
As botanists discover new information, older taxonomic references are changed to better reflect this new knowledge. Although botanists embrace these changes, the older botanical names and references often continue to be used in books and plant catalogues which can cause confusion.  For example, plants in the Parsley family, including Angelica (Angelica archangelica) and Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) were considered members of the Umbelliferae family, a reference to their umbrella-like flowers. However, contemporary botanists now refer to plants in the Parsley family as belonging to the Apiaceae family.
Taxonomic names are italicized, with the first letter of the genus name capitalized, but the species name written in all lower case letters.  Sometimes, in place of the species name you may see the abbreviation, “spp”. This simply means there are many species with similar properties. In our example above with the Smiths, reference to Mary, John and Beth would be written as Smith spp (spp is not italicized).
You may see the word, officinalis or officinale in place of the species name, as in Valeriana officinalis (Valerian).  Plants which were used for medical purposes were given this distinction.
Sometimes the genus name is abbreviated once it has been identified. For example, in an article discussing Oregon Grape, after initially identifying the plant as Mahonia aquifolium, it may be then referred to as M. aquifolium.

Species names are often descriptive of the plant, such aquifolium which suggests that the leaf is holly-like , but literally means, ‘wet foliage’ (Mahonia aquifolium or Oregon Grape), montana which means, ‘from the mountain’ (Arnica montana) or purpurea, meaning ‘deep pink’ (Echinacea purpurea). Susan Mahr (University of Wisconsin) wrote a very good article entitled, “What’s In A Name? Understanding Botanical or Latin Names” which includes a list of some of the more commonly used descriptive names: http://wimastergardener.org/?q=PlantNames
Sometimes the species is named for the individual who discovered it, such as the Douglas Fir tree, Pseudotsuga menziesii. Its common name honors Pacific Northwest explorer, David Douglas, but its Latin epithet is named for naturalist Dr. Archibald Menzies who first described the Douglas Fir. Pseudotsuga means ‘false hemlock’ and to add just a hint of confusion here, the Douglas Fir is not considered a true fir tree either.

I can hear some decidedly unhappy sighing right about now. S-I-G-H….Latin…how am I ever going to pronounce these unpronounceable names? Simple.  In the words of one of my beloved mentors, “just say it as you think it should be pronounced, with conviction and confidence.” If you really look at the name, taking it one syllable at a time, it is not that difficult. After all, just how many folks today will know exactly how Latin is supposed to be pronounced to correct you?
If you begin getting into the habit of writing the taxonomic name after the common name (at the very least when you first mention the plant you are referring to) you will be able to learn them rather quickly. Another method is to write the taxonomic name on one side of an index card with the common name on the other and periodically, test your knowledge. I’ve also learned that whenever I discuss herbs with anyone, I always say both the common name and the taxonomic name at the beginning of our discussion to avoid any confusion.
OK now, repeat after me: Hypericum perforatum, Avena sativa, Althea officinalis.
This information is offered for educational purposes and is not intended to take the place of personalized medical care from a trained healthcare professional. The reader assumes all risk when utilizing the above information.

Copyright© 2013 Louise Harmon
All Rights Reserved

References:
Elpel, Thomas. (2008). Botany in a Day. Pony, MT: HOPS Press
Tilgner, Sharol. (1999). Materia Medica: http://www.herbaltransitions.com/BotanCom.html
Pojar, J., Mackinnon, A. (2004). Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Auburn, WA: Lone Pine Publishing
Wikipedia: Binomial System:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binomial_system
Accessed 16 February 2013

Wikipedia: Carl Linnaeus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Linnaeus
Accessed 14 February 2013

Wikipedia: Tsuga: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsuga
Accessed 18 February 2013

Myths and Legends: Journeys Through Time

July, 2012

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name wold smell as sweet;”– Juliet to Romeo in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet Act II Scene II

The quote above is slightly out of place. It pertains to the fact that Romeo and Juliet are from opposing families. Romeo believes that their lives would be easier if he had a different name. Juliet is pointing out that she loves Romeo for simply being Romeo…not because of his family name or who his family is. In a way much of the same can be applied to Greek figurine Cassandra. All versions of the myth paint her as this madwoman, a lunatic who does nothing but rant and rave about things that haven’t yet happened and never will. Until it does happen. In Greek mythology Cassandra also known as Alexandra, was the twin sister of Helenus, who was the son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy. Troy….the very same Troy of the Trojan War of which Cassandra played a very big part. However…her part is often glossed over in favor of players such as Achilles (immune to all forms of injury to any part of his body save for his heel, which was the only thing that wasn’t dipped into the Rive Styx when he was born), Paris (Who abducted Helen of Troy and started the whole mess), Helen of Troy (who was so pretty, a man was willing to and did risk war for her), and so on and so on. Instead the majority of the information about Cassandra focuses on how she was crazy, mad or insane…and how she came to be that way. There are two version as to how she received her gift of prophecy. One version says that she spent the night in Apollo’s temple and serpents licked her ears clean, allowing her to hear the future. In the other version, her beauty (She was considered the “second most beautiful woman in the world. Helen of Troy was the first….beaten only by the Goddess Aphrodite in beauty) caused Apollo to fall in love with her. He gifted Cassandra with the gift of prophecy in return for her promise to love him and pretty much be his. However she spurned his advances and he cursed her. It’s interesting to note that in both versions of the myth, he cursed her the same exact way, yet the origins of the gift are different. He allowed her to keep her gift of prophecy but twisted it so that no matter what she foretold, she would not be believed.  She was the one who predicted the Trojan War, the out come of it and the various things that would happen, yet because nobody believed her, she was powerless to do anything about it. She could do nothing but stand by and watch as everything happened exactly as she said it would. Due to these predictions, everyone wrote her off as crazy or a doomsday sayer. As with all Greek names, every name has a meaning. Two known ones of Cassandra are “Shining upon man” possibly due to her beauty and “She who is ignored” due to her speaking but nobody believing her. Cassandra also has two additional meanings “she who entangles men”which is an ironic meaning; she was beautiful yet scared men off when she spoke her prophecies and prophesied their deaths and “Someone who’s true words are ignored” which goes back into her curse.  Ironically enough…sometimes when I was growing up I had a few of my own “Cassandra” moments..especially where my siblings were concerned. It’s a good name but it does make one wonder from time to time.. Does the name make the person? Or does the person make the name?

http://www.mythindex.com/greek-mythology/C/Cassandra.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassandra

http://www.arthistory.sbc.edu/imageswomen/papers/fittoncassandra/intro.html

http://www.pantheon.org/articles/c/cassandra.html

http://www.enotes.com/shakespeare-quotes/what-s-name-that-which-we-call-rose