Category Archives: Wheel of the year

Midwinter Herbology

It was such a pleasure to take a group of 9 people around the woods for a herbology walk recently. We found a lot of beautiful plants and some delicious fungi. Unfortunately, the second planned walk had to be cancelled as the latest Dutch lockdown restrictions came into effect overnight. I hope that we can schedule some more group walks together very soon. In the meantime, I am able to offer 1:1 herb walks, as during the previous restrictions. The cost for a one hour 1:1 walk is €60. If you would like this, please email me so that we can schedule a time. If you would like to be alerted when the next group walks are set, please sign up to my Meetup group.

The shortest day in Amsterdam this year, was relatively cold, bright and delightfully crisp. The drop in temperature showed that Yuletide had arrived and made it easy to identify with the time of natural darkness, inner reflection and allowing things to brew within the inner cauldron. I took a walk through the park, bathed in the sunbeams and enjoyed the shortest day. I also ate rather a lot of this year’s Yule log. Holly and it’s berries (on our cake) are not edible but they certainly belong to Yuletide festivities though. The berries were returned to the local birds when the cake was eaten and the holly leaves are now around our Yuletide candle.

Aside eating chocolate cake, it also felt good to make some incense, so I crafted some from a handful of dried roots, bark, berries, resin and leaves. Incense making is a real multi-sensory pleasure. After grinding the ingredients finely enough, and balancing the scents and colour, I combined the mix with some secret sauce before forming my Yuletide incense and allowing it to prove for a while before use.

Gelatinous fungi have been quite a foraging feature recently. The weather must have been just right for them. Here is a photo of a bright orange Witches Butter (aside another gelatinous snot-like fungus) and the other two photos are of a fungus, which I am currently trying to identify. It is quite beautiful, with rings, a sort of shag pile velvet atop a sturdy jelly bracket type of body. It is growing along my favourite Wood Ear fungus Elder tree, in Park Frankendael. If you happen to know the name of the fungus, I would also love to know it and share it here. Witches butter (Tremella mesenterica) is (in principle) edible although I find it rather watery and best left on the tree. It apparently feeds on other fungi. I much prefer eating Wood Ears or Jelly Ears (Auricularia auricula-judae). They grow on several tree species, the most reliable being Elder. These are closely related to the mushrooms of Chinese Hot and Sour Soup fame. They are fairly bland, but have substance to them; bound gelatinous substance. With a heavenly velvet outer membrane. They smell of the woods, dry well for storage (in a paper bag) and give a very pleasant crackle sort of experience when bitten into. They also explode (a little) when cooked for long enough. Not to everyone’s taste, but I like them a lot. They also have cardiovascular health benefits.

The Wood Ear tree gives me the feeling that it has not too long left to stand. We have been very fortunate to have such a generous tree close by for the past years. My feeling is also that the mystery fruiting fungi is indicating the beginning of the next phase for this tree.

I do hope that you can get out in the fresh air and enjoy Yuletide and I would love to know what kinds of plants, animals and fungi you have been noticing in your area. There is so much to see even in the middle of winter and always something to help us connect with nature. Journey well and see you soon!

Winter Solstice Walk

Saturday 18th December 2021
13.00 – 14.30
Park Frankendael, Amsterdam
€15 per person (my apprentices – free)
Booking through Meetup

As we approach the shortest day of the year, I invite you to join me for a wander around the woody parts of Park Frankendael. We will be looking at the edible and medicinal plants which can be found at this quiet time of the year. Park Frankendael is a great place to learn about ethical foraging, to find out what’s “in season”, how and where to find it and how to use it.

The walk will go ahead come rain or shine so please be prepared for that when you book – a great opportunity to get your wellies or boots out if there’s a bit of rain – we will stick mostly to the paths though. I forage in all weather’s but the walk will not happen if we have a storm, because we’ll be in the woods and falling branches are not fun – so keep an eye on your messages after booking, just in case.

Booking for my walks are through Meetup

[I am a druid, herbalist, teacher, mother and have been teaching ethical foraging in Amsterdam for the past eleven years. Living in harmony with local nature, and helping others to do so, is my purpose. The aim of these walks is to pass on that enthusiasm and some degree of self-sufficiency to you. If you would like to know about my foraging and herbalism experience and the courses that I offer, please take a look at the about page.

Witching Season

Update: 02/09/20: This series of events is already fully booked. If you would like to be on the waiting list, please email me and I will let me know if places open up.

Have you also noticed that the Witching Season has begun to creep in here, in Amsterdam? Seeds and berries are maturing, leaves are yellowing, pumpkins are ripening and the smell of soil sometimes completely fills the air. The wind can be fierce and yet the air is still warm, the rain may hammer down for hours and yet the sun still has plenty of power.

I adore this time of year. For me it is a time of deep connection to nature, before the time of greater seclusion. And, as we gradually move from the Autumn Equinox to Samhain (Hallowe’en), it becomes ever easier to connect with the many dimensions from which this world is woven, and to make peace with our need for quiet through the coming months.

Throughout this Witching Season, I will be holding three small gatherings in Amsterdam, to help others to find ways to nurture their nature based spirituality through the autumn and winter. We will explore a number of local magical herbs, tune into the powers of nature, develop a moon practice to help you become more empowered as each month turns, and celebrate the very different qualities of Mabon and Samhain. We will walk, connect, enjoy some simple peace-filled ritual and outdoor crafting together.

The number of places available for these gatherings will be limited. The total cost per person is €45. Each meeting will be two hours long and will embrace whatever weather is present! They will take place on weekends, in Park Frankendael, Amsterdam Watergraafsmeer (or other special places very close to the park). We will start the gatherings late afternoon and end at about twilight.

If you would like to join this special group, please email me (mentioning Witching Time) at urban.herbology.lynn@gmail.com

Dates (all late afternoon – twilight)
Sunday 20th September
Sunday 11th October
Sunday 1st November

Sweet Midsummer

I haven’t posted anything for a while although have been out in the plants a surprising amount, especially considering I’m now classroom bound five days a week. Yesterday was midsummer so I held a small gathering in Park Frankendael. I felt so honoured to be surrounded by such lovely people and freely the urge to share a free photos and words about it.

We gathered early, soon after 5pm under the grandest Lime trees in the park. I laid down an old, well loved and patched gold-threaded Indian quilt on the grass and we spread out the food. By Lime trees, I mean Tilia, linden. Amazing trees, here’s a post I wrote 8 years ago about them if you’d like to explore some of their numerous gifts and folklore.

Sameena came prepared as ever for some ceremony. This time with a sweet ripe melon, orange and apricots. She scooped out enough of the melon and Livvy poured in sunshine coloured fruit juice. This sat in the centre of the quilt, we sat circled around it age then Sameena added a slice of dripping orange and an apricot for each of the group.

We joined hands and shared thoughts about the sun at midsummer. One by one the group swelled in number so extra slices of orange and more sharing of thoughts.

After, we supped from the melon bowl and ate the orange and other foods. Such a simple, homespun and effective ceremony.

I’m dramatically reducing my stocks of herbal concoctions at home right down; pairing it right down to nothing more than I need for one season. My library is also being shared so more people can benefit from it and my energy has more space to expand – More on that from this lovely new post by apprentice and illustrator Hannah McDonald.

I’ve been holding onto some magical homemade mead for quite a long time so last night was the perfect opportunity to crack them open and enjoy. I believe that there’s little happier in the glass kingdom than a bottle of home crafted ferment, being steadily shared between freinds. First to be sampled was a very low alcohol but high energy Elderflower mead. The colour was just right for the bright early evening sun. Later, as the strength of the sun waned, a deep red heady and potent concoction was downed, sip by sip.

Photo credit: Sameena. Midsummer 2019 – Livvy, roly-polys and daisies.

After some wonderful tree song singing courtesy of Grace, lime leaf munching, pistache shell ephemeral creating, catching up on thoughts, roly-polys and eating, we packed up camp and took a stroll through the River of Herbs orchards, just in time for the sun to set over the Limes. How wonderful the herb gardens look too! Full of frogs, scents, flowers and energy. The River of Herbs Monday morning team are doing such an amazing job of caring for them. More help is always welcome to get in touch if you’d like to be involved. I look forward to joining them more during my summer holiday.

We explored the newly crafted fairy homes, harvested a little Motherwort and Bay and observed the Lotus blossoms in the small pond, close up over the time that we were there.

All in all, a beautiful evening with beautiful souls. We’re hoping to meet again for Lughnasa. If you’d like to join, keep an eye on the Meetup group or get on touch.

Wishing you a sweet, wonderfilled midsummer.

Earth Pathways Diary

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I am so happy to tell you that eight pages in the 2017 Earth Pathways Diary were contributed by me.

The festival pages which I submitted, covering the main eight seasonal celebrations of the pagan calendar, were selected and are now beautifully published. They reflect how we can celebrate each passing season in an Urban Herbology way. So simple meaningful rituals suited for urban (and country) living.

Earth Pathways diaries always contain an inspiring selection of writings and artwork based around the natural year. Several years ago, I found it to be a lovely balance of spirituality, information and expression without dogma.

The diary will be available to purchase from me here in amsterdam from September 2016. If you would like to purchase directly from me, it may save you postage and will help me to earn a little income for writing those pages.

To find out more about Earth Pathways and to see some sample pages please see here.

Price including p&p to UK: £14
Price including p&p to Netherlands €16.50
Price including p&p within rest of mainland Europe: €16.50
Price for collection from me in Amsterdam: €14

Payment can be sent via my shop (which accepts paypal and credit cards) or direct bank transfer upon request

Please email me for further details.

Imbolc

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Sap is rising

Sunlight grows stronger. Spring’s first stirrings can be felt as rising sap, throbbing through the land. Blackthorn blooms, Ramsons emerge, lambing season begins, trees bud and Birch blood begins to flow. Life quietly builds in the cold fresh light.

Now is the perfect time to refresh our internal and external environments. Dust off the cobwebs, take stock of your chattels, diet and health. Gracefully shed what no longer serves and clear space for nourishing growth. The steady, building energy of Imbolc helps new projects and good intentions to manifest. A time of strong beginnings.

Tidy up potted herbs: Dead leaves and seed heads are valued by birds and bugs but make some space for fresh green foliage to emerge.  Welcome green life back to your world.

At Imbolc, try to walk barefoot in nature. Smell the rising sap and feel it throb beneath your soles. Visit local water sources; babbling brooks, wells, springs, ponds. Light fires and welcome the return of heat.

Spring greens

Aim to eat nourishing local greens daily, at least until spring equinox. Cook them or enjoy clean and raw in smoothies, juices and salads. Stinging Nettle, Cleavers, Chickweed, Bramble leaf, Birch twigs, Hairy bittercress and Ramsons are wonderful spring beauties. Nibble as you walk and harvest just a little. If you can’t forage them, purchase local greens from organic markets.

Enrich your soups with Bittercress & Chickweed leaves. Float fresh, organic Pansies or Violets atop. Bathe your cells in spring green nourishment. Taste your land!

 

Samhain

The very end of October is marked as the end and beginning of the Pagan wheel of the year. The Wild Hunt is said to rip through the world at Samhain, claiming those souls who have passed from their physical bodies that year, gathering them up and taking them safely to the Otherworld. Often at this time of year the wild hunt is clear for us to see;  autumn storms may tear through city streets, bringing majestic trees to their knees, traffic to a standstill, damaged buildings and causing long lasting change to small urban pockets of woodland.  It can appear to be devastating but of course out of change, new things can emerge.

By Samhain, autumn is well and truly here. Even if storms pass us by, the weather has turned. Leaves swirl, branches fall, we want to sleep more. Quite naturally we want to turn our attention within. Nature is preparing for the cold to come. Many animals are laying on back fat, hiding nuts and seeking out nests. We can help them by leaving quiet piles of leaves and sticks tucked behind pavement garden shrubs. For this reason, I nestle rosemary, sage and rue prunings discretely behind my geveltuin herbs each year and I leave tidying any messy balcony cupboards until spring.  Plants also react to the shorter, cooler days. Some do this by dying back or withdrawing their energy reserves to tap roots or trunks. Others seem to flourish more than ever now, perhaps taking advantage of the increased light in wooded areas. For me, this always seems a time when I can move around more unnoticed than usual, due to the wind, light and temperature. I like that. This is the ultimate witching time of year!

Rosehips and hawthorn

Twighlight
Samhain is a time of death and life – two sides of the same thing. It is one of two hinges in the year when the veil between the worlds of the living and otherworld is most thin. It is the twilight between summer and winter. The time when the dead may visit us with most ease, if they so wish, to help and guide us. The other point when the veil is thin being Beltane (May Day).

Many historic Pagan customs aim to help the recent dead to pass over to the other side. Perhaps set a space at the Samhain dinner table for a departed ancestor to be nourished. Or make glowing lanterns and trails of buried tasty apples, to guide their souls to your home or to the Isle of Apples. The apples help sustain them on their journey and may help us to let them go.  Samhain is the time to honour our ancestors and visit our beloved dead. Death and the dead are not to be feared, but should be respected. Friends and family who have died are still our friends and may be welcomed and thanked. This is a lovely time to visit resting places of our ancestors or of other people and animals. We can thoughtfully tend their graves, plant organic spring bulbs as an expression of our love and thanks to them. We may leave graveside bread plates, covered with gathered flowers and herbs. Samhain is also a lovely opportunity to look at photos or mementoes of our ancestors and consider the good qualities which they have enriched us with.

Isle of Apples
I find that this is the loveliest of associations with apples, it reminds me of the most wonderful parts of my years in Somerset and fills me with beautiful images of warm summer orchards, gentle hills, mysterious burrows, sweet scented herbs, peace, love and light. The Isle of Apples is the orchard of the Goddess where many Pagans believe they will go when their body dies. Here, apples bear fruit and flower at the same time. The dead wander peacefully through the orchards. Their souls become younger in this exquisitely beautiful place, until they are ready to be reborn again as plant, human or other creature. This is the Summerland, Avalon, Tir n’a Nog, the place of happiness and youth between lives. Each life teaches us new lessons so we are always growing wiser.

Schellingwoude apples

Samhain Foraging
Try to harvest what you will likely need through winter, before Samhain. There used to be considerable ill feeling towards the plants that were left unharvested in the fields at Samhain. This is quite logical as many staple crops such as wheat will either sprout on the mother plant or rot, if left standing at this time. So try to harvest what you can beforehand but always consider how you will store it and use it before you set out with your foraging bags.

At Samhain each year, I still find enough apples, rosehips, quinces and wild berries around to satisfy my needs. I don’t harvest many as the local wildlife needs them more than I do. So, I pluck only a few to enrich my diet and keep the local soil within me.  Turkish hazelnuts and gingko nuts are often plentiful on city streets at this time and Hawthorn berries are often perfect. Hawthorn is one of the trees associated with the veil between the worlds. It is certainly a plant spirit to spend time with at Samhain, if you so wish. Herb Robert, Feverfew, Dandelion, Black Horehound and Comfrey are also generally to be found at this time. Samhain is my last chance to make comfrey salve, herbal honeys and elixirs. Plantain seed spikes are easy to forage and store. I use them for simple enrichment of winter soups and porridge.

Bread of the dead

Bread of the Dead
Sweet bread called Pan de Muerto is made by some cultures at this time of year. Often shaped like people, bones or simply a big bun. It is eaten in the run up to Day of the Dead along with the favourite foods of dead relatives. I make mine in the shape of a person and enrich my usual bread dough with a handful of grated apple, soaked raisins, de-seeded rosehips and whatever other sweet treats come to mind at the time.

Whatever you do this Samhain, I wish you wonderful endings and beginnings.