Category Archives: Druidry

Lughnasadh ramblings

Just felt like posting a few photos today, of herbs grown, found or harvested recently. Also to mention that I now have more availabilty to run workshops and walks, so have set some new apprenticeship dates for September – October and will soon be setting some Amsterdam herb walk dates.

Bumble bee on teasle flowerhead

This summer, I have been spending lots of time at my volkstuin. Teasle (Dipsacus fulonum) is a tall wild flower, not best known in gardens because it tends to do its own thing, growing exactly where it likes, often at the edge of where humans would like to walk, and as the plants develop the often lollop over paths and catch on humans clothes. Clearly, this is not always desired (although this makes/made teasleheads perfect for carding wool – the Dutch name for the plant is Kaardebol – literally carding ball). Anyway, I love teasles and tend to encourage visitors to work around them and admire them in my garden, rather than pulling them up. They don’t transplant so well for me. People transplant with far more ease.

Dried teasleheads in a carder. Photocredit: Pinterest

I love watching these plants develop through the year, from their characteristic sturdy seedlings in spring to tall summer beauties. They always get me excited – in a herbalist kind of way. How tall will they grow? How many flowerheads will each plan bear? Will they make it through possible summer storms? Will I tincture the root of a two year old this autumn? How many bumblebee species will visit them this year? Is there a way to encourage more flowerheads on one plant? and so on..

Last week, each morning that I woke at the gardenhouse, I pulled back the curtain and lay in bed admiring the bumblebees as they worked the teasle flowerheads. As you can see here, the flowerheads are made up of tiny pale purple flowers, apparently around 2000 per flowerhead, arranged in a phenomenally pleasing arrangement which seems to me to match the Fibonacci series. They open in sequence, as a ring, starting low on the flowerhead and day by day this ring to move up the flowerhead. Sometimes several rings are progressively ripening, moving up the flowerheads. The cause of this is progressive maturation of the tiny flowers, from the base to the top of the flowerhead. I looked up how this happens. For those of you interested in this, here’s an interesting research paper about the patterns of development in teasle flowers.

The bumblebees are essential to the process of pollinating those tiny flowers. They busy about, over the purple rings, from about 8am, each day that there is sun. As they wander around the flowers, burrowing in for nectar, they also kick off the dead flowers of the day before. They do literally seem to kick them off. If you manage to watch a teasle being “worked” one morning, you may be lucky enough to see the tiny purple flowers falling to the ground, as a bumblebee wanders around the flowerhead either biting or kicking them off. This appears to be pure symbiosis and is a great pleasure to observe. It puts the day to come in perspective and I recommend it!

Meadowsweet – Filipendula ulmaria

Next is Meadowsweet. I adore this herb. She is the absolute Queen of the Meadow in my eyes. She smells sweet and dreamy, is as tall as many teasle plants, is slender, takes away pain, eases the stomach and aches and pains of joints. She is oh so light and yet strong, effective and intoxicating. I make my mead when Meadowsweet is in bloom. I see these flowers as an essential ingredient in any mead. Perhaps that’s just me. This year, the fruits of my previous Meadowsweet planting labors have been rewarded as I now have several garden areas where the meadowsweet is flourishing. Meadowsweet is also beloved of bees, hoverflies and many other insects. The OBOD Seedgroup which I run, is also called Meadowsweet. We met amongst the flowers this weekend, to celebrate Lughnasadh, Druid-style.

Potentilla indica. Photo credit: Livvy de Graaf

These beautiful berries are growing throughout the beds at my volkstuin. They have almost no flavour and belong to the wild flower Potentilla indica (Schijnaardbei). It creeps between other plants, has trifoliate leaves and small 5-petalled yellow flowers, At this time of year, they may develop into bright red achenes which are fruit, covered with tiny seeds. The leaves, flowers and fruit of this plant are edible. The leaves are quite medicinal and can be added in small quantities to soups but in my opinion the best way to eat this plant, is to preserve the ripe fruits
in local honey or in a Rumtopf.

From September this year, I will be working only three days a week at school so will have far more time for running herbal workshops and walks. Many dates are already booked up, but if you are keen to book a walk during the autumn or winter, let me know and I hope that we can organise a green exploration together. I also offer private consultations. Please see my events page, or join Meetup.com for Urban Herbology happenings. Apprenticeship meetings are already listed there until end October. Meadowsweet OBOD Seedgroup gatherings are not listed there. Please contact meadowsweet.amsterdam@gmail.com, if you would like to be informed of open gatherings, for those interested in nature-based spirituality, and the closed gatherings which are only for OBOD members.

Llyn y Fan Fach

This has been a busy year and yet I see that I have not updated the Urban-Herbology blog for a long time. Rather than give a summary of the summer, I would like to share with you a potted version of the Welsh legend of the Lady of the Lake at Llyn y Fan Fach, it’s intimate connection to the famous Physicians of Myddfai and my decision to join Herbalists Without Borders.

Carline thistle (Carline vulgaris)

I read about Llyn y Fan Fach (a lake of about 6 acres, in the Black Mountain region of the Brecon Beacons National Park) quite some time ago, whilst busy with Druidry studies. I was captivated by the tale and found that the lake is a comfortable drive from my parents home on the Wales-England border. So whilst visiting them last week, my parents, my daughter and I went to Llyn y Fan Fach, I swam in the lake and then we visited Myddfai. It was a wonderful experience. We walked the mile and a half track up to the lake from the nearest car park, enjoyed breathtaking views of the clouds and sunlight playing across the Welsh hills, and I enjoyed spotting sheep-grazed herbs all the way.  The Myddfai visitor centre closed at 4pm, 15 minutes before we arrived so my wander around the tiny village was self-guided and didn’t lead me to the graves of the last known members of the Physician’s family. Or if it did, I didn’t realise it, so that will have to wait until next time.

The Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach
A poor sheep herder called Gwyn, who lived with his widow mother, would visit Llyn y Fan Fach regularly, as he tended his flock. One day he saw the most enchanting woman he had ever gazed upon, sitting on the smooth surface of the lake. She was all he had dreamed of and he longed to marry her. Gwyn offered her the only thing that he had to hand, his bread. She refused it, saying that he would have to try harder than that, and that the bread was too dry. He returned the next day with a less dry bread, duly provided by his mother. The Lady of the Lake reappeared and told him this time the bread was too moist, it was like dough, and that he should try harder if he wished to deserve her. So he returned a third time with bread that was just right and indeed to his utter delight, she agreed to marry him. She brought her beautiful prime farm animals out of the lake to join them in their union. However, she told him that when he had struck her three times without cause, during the course of their marriage, that she would leave him directly and return with her animals to the depths of Llyn y Fan Fach.

Time went on, they lived happily on the land and prospered. They had three sons who the Lady of the Lake taught the healing virtues of plants and water. Gwyn was always watchful not to give the Lady of the Lake any cause to leave him but over time three fateful events indeed caused him to touch her without kindness.

Firstly, upon attending a christening, she foretold misfortune for the child and her husband chastised her as he tapped her on the shoulder. Secondly, attending a wedding, she foretold sadness for the newly wedded couple and sobbed pitifully during the event. Her husband again urged her to conform with convention as he touched her on the shoulder. Thirdly, at the funeral of a friend, she laughed heartily among the sad mourners and told her husband this was because the dead have no more worries and are free from pain. He touched her again on the shoulder as he urged her to stop laughing and she replied that this was the third fateful blow. She would then leave him and return to the lake with her animals. And so she did. She returned the way she came, her animals followed and her plough dragging ox, carved a deep everlasting furrow into the mountain that drops to the depths of the lake.

The Lady of the Lake left her husband completely devastated and her sons distraught. It is said that as she left, she commanded her sons to hone the skills and knowledge that she had given them. She told them to heal the ills of all who sought them out and so they did. They lived just six miles from the lake, in the village of Myddfai and became known as the Physicians of Myddfai. For generations to come, they passed on their herbal knowledge, recording it in now famous texts and healed all who needed them. However, there was one person who they could never heal, their mother, the Lady of the Lake, for actually there was nothing wrong with her.

St. Michael’s Church Myddfai

Many wonderful Celtic themes and learnings can be taken from this legend. The tale at first glance can seen irrelevant to us today but I feel that it has a great deal to teach. For a detailed version of the legend (including some direct translation from the Welsh), I recommend a blog post by Rambling Man’s Adventures.

Herbalists Without Borders
After my cleansing swim in the waters of Llyn y Fan Fach, I decided to join Herbalists Without Borders. This is an excellent organisation, striving for health justice and holistic health access for all, around the globe. I look forward to getting involved in HWBs existing activities and developing ways to enable more people to access herbal medicine and knowledge here in Amsterdam or wherever I happen to be As part of this, I am offering payment for consultations on a sliding scale, to those who need this facility. 

Healing waters flowing downstream of Llyn y Fan Fach

I hope that you can take something useful from the story of the Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach and that it will not be so long until my next blog post.

Journey well.

Imbolc

Galanthus – Snowdrops at Imbolc. Photocredit: Olivia de Graaf

What a special time of year! This, although it may not feel like it with frost on the ground, is the very beginning of spring. As you wander through city parks and green edges, at the start of February, notice just how many signs of spring there are about us. Wild garlic / Daslook is now up, standing young and proud. Cleavers has started to spread, seeking taller plants and fences to scramble up, and stinging nettles (which never really seemed to go away this winter) are looking delicious!

I enjoyed sharing some of my favourite winter urban foraging plants with you over the past few months. Those still hold true as we gently move into the spring which we will all recognise, full of flowers and fresh leaves. I will start sharing ideas for spring cleansers over the coming weeks. A lovely and helpful herbal pastime, is to eat a little herbal foraged cleanser, every day between Imbolc (start of February) and Alban Eilir (Spring Equinox). So today, I’ll be looking to add a little bit of one of those mentioned herbs, to my food or drink. And will aim to do so until the 20th March.

Celebrating the turning year
I enjoy celebrating the changing seasons alone and I also greatly enjoy marking them with like-minded friends. Yesterday, a group of us shared an online celebration of Imbolc, following the basic format of druidic seasonal ceremonies – interesting via Zoom but it somehow works. I am setting up a group to keep this going, under the very helpful umbrella of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD). The group is called the Meadowseet Seed Group. The intention is for people in Amsterdam who are members of OBOD, to have the possibility to meet in person, within the city, to celebrate each of the eight seasonal festivals together.

The intention is for the seasonal celebrations will be outside in Amsterdam and for full moon meditations to be mostly at the same time each lunar cycle but conducted physically apart. At some of the celebrations, as yesterday, other folks who are not members of OBOD but are interested in the spiritual path will be welcome to take part also. If you are an OBOD member in the area and are interested in joining the group, or would like to attend some of the seasonal celebrations, please contact meadowsweet.amsterdam@gmail.com.

Imbolc Celebration

My students and friends are warmly invited to…

Druid Celebration of Imbolc – Online

Sunday 31st January – 17:00 – 18:30

We will greet (seeing how everyone is, saying hello!), then I will lead a short Ceremony (which will start at 17:15 – sundown) which everyone can participate in from the comfort of their homes. Then we will have a simple Eisteddfod

An Eisteddfod is a traditional Welsh gathering and is often quite competitive – where individuals take turns to present something that they have created or simply want to share with the others. Ours will not be competitive but it should be fun! Classically these sharings are read pieces of literature, poems, playing tunes, singing etc. They are lovely events which celebrate creative expression. Do not feel that to join in the Imbolc celebration, you must also have something to share, but feel free to do so, if it so moves you!

For the ceremony, please have a candle at the ready
Bring a little food and water
Wear whatever you feel comfortable in

Those following my courses, may like to read through the course unit about Imbolc before attending. I will update it again, in the days leading up to Imbolc.

Link for the Imbolc Celebration

urban.herbology.lynn@gmail.com

The Druids Prayer

Grant, O God, O Goddess, O Great Spirit, thy protection;
And in protection, strength;
And in strength, understanding;
And in understanding, knowledge;
And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice;
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it;
And in that love, the love of all existences;
And in the love of all existences, the love of God, Goddess, Great Spirit, and of all goodness.


We swear by peace and love to stand; Heart to heart and hand in hand. Mark O Spirit and hear us now. Confirming this, our sacred vow.