Birch – Herb Lore

birch-tree

The Birch tree is a truly beautiful and very magical tree indeed. One of it’s folk names is ‘Lady of the Woods’, and it’s not much of a struggle to see that being silvery in appearance, it has lunar, and therefore feminine associations. In Tarot Birch corresponds to the Star, and also to Venus in planetary realms.

betula pendula

Birch is a tree of strong Druidic Ogham associations and indeed it represents beginnings, and is the first Moon of the Celtic year (24th December – January 21st). It is one of the nine sacred woods of the beltane fire, and one of the three pillars of wisdom (Birch, Oak, Yew – also corresponding to the three ages of man).

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“Birch trees often have tree spirits attached to them and the “Lieschi” or “Genii of the Forest” are said to dwell in their tree tops. The Ghillie Dhu (pronounced “Gillee Doo or Yoo”) are guardian tree spirits who are disguised as foliage and dislike human beings. They prefer birch trees to all others, and jealously guard them from humans. If the spirit of the Birch tree touches a head it leaves a white mark and the person turns insane. If it touches a heart, the person will die.” – dutchie.org

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Birch twigs have been used to exorcise spirits by gently striking possessed people or animals, since the birch has purification abilities. The tree is also used for protection, particularly against lightening (it is sacred to Thor). The traditional witches broom is made of birch twigs, ash staff and willow binding and these were particularly powerful in magic.

Images from Wikipedia, sources Cunningham Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Dutchie.org, Druidry.org

Winter Solstice – Out with the old and in with the new.

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As I look out of my window I see not the world descending into fire and brimstone, not do I see rogue planets crashing into us. Not even alien saviours or horsemen of the apocalypse. Just rain.

The world has not literally ended. However, in my house on the winter solstice, I always like to remember what, in my book, this time of year is really all about. What our actual ancestors in this country did to mark this time of year (although midwinter rites are practiced all over the world in every country), and where many many Christmas traditions originate from.

Yuletide was about communities not being certain they would live through the winter, and certainly not that their animals and crops – their livelihood – would survive either. With the winter solstice being the longest night, marking this time by making offerings and being thankful when the dawn broke, marking the beginning of a new cycle of lengthening days, and light returning was an important point in the year. Many people starved between January and April so the Midwinter feast was about observances connected to giving thanks, hoping for regeneration, life-death-rebirth cycles.

So being as I am not believing in a Christian God, I see 25th December as a time to gather with my family and friends and let them know how much I love them. But it is the 21st December that I like to sit down and write a list of all the things I am happy to let go from the year, and all the things I want to achieve, change or gather to me in the following one.

When I look back at 2012, in many ways it was the most personally challenging year I can remember. I won’t list all the difficulties here but it has at times felt like one more bloody thing after another. But on the other hand I have had amazing gifts and opportunities.

As far as Mother Eagle is concerned, this has been 12 (13 really) months since giving up full time work and within that time I have refined and honed my style; Defined who I am as an artist, what my creative voice sounds like (still working on that though); Mother Eagle sprang forth from her magic tree as a fictional muse and creative narrative running through all my work and always inspiring me; I’ve stopped and restarted fresh; I’ve made new friends real and virtual (sometimes the same thing); I’ve made some money doing what I love; I’ve spent more money doing what I love; I’ve rested; I’ve stopped waking up with the weight of stress and fear on my chest; I’ve become closer to my family and deepened my friendships; adopted two beautiful, funny, sweet, naughty little Bengal kittens.

Life is good.

So here’s my list of things I will be striving for in 2013:

  1. Feel more confident to share my work with other people

  2. Make the national press – 1 craft related, 1 fashion related

  3. Have my collections stocked in 1 shop

  4. Have my work in 1 art show

  5. Create a great new studio

  6. Learn to ride a bike (really)

  7. Finish the year making a profit (or just breaking even)

  8. Create 2 new jewellery collections

  9. Do at least one course (maybe RCN)

  10. Rediscover my interest in cooking and do more exercise! (everyone says that don’t they?)

What are you reaching for next year?

 

15* Potential Projects :)

I thought I would just share with you my stash of gorgeous antique lace and crocheted doilies. Over the next lifetime few months I will be transforming these fabulous fabrics with embroidered art.

Why yes, I am keeping it real with my excellent brand of camera-phone photography. You can see in most of these my foot-long ruler which gives you an idea of all the different shapes and sizes I have to work with.

It’s true that some of these aren’t really doilies. We also have some antimacassars, place mats, handkerchiefs I suppose. I’m not fussy. They are all however pretty old (1940s-1960s), all very fine linen or cotton, and all hand made/embellished with a variety of traditional techniques – Mountmellick work, crochet, hand lace…

This one in particular I’m really inspired by – 9 teeny panels to do embroideries on, all linked by beautiful crochet. What do you think I should do? I’m thinking either a series of tiny poisonous mushrooms and plants, or a series of anatomical studies? Framing this one up is going to be an absolute bum hole though.  Any ideas any of you embroiderers? I thought maybe I’ll need to tack the whole thing to another piece of fabric and put the whole thing in a slat frame, so I will be stitching through two layers of material?

Nice cross stitch on this one. I remember reading a blog of someone I admire a lot who was berated quite rudely by some commenters who felt it was absolute arrogant sacriledge to ‘defile’ her collection of vintage embroidered tablecloths, by cutting them up and making them into patchwork quilts. She quite rightly in my humble opinion said firstly they are are rotting in a drawer and this way they have a new life (I hate the word upcycling), and second – really? there are far worse things in the world to get upset about.

Not sure if I can or will do anything with this little one as the panel is kind of embellished itself.

First up this weekend I think I am going to do a full skeleton on one of the long thin ones.

*17 really as I have doubles of 2 of them. I may do a pair!

Who is Mother Eagle?

Hello all,

Just a quick post to invite you to check out the new ‘Who is Mother Eagle‘ page on this blog. I have had this story rolling around in my head for a few months really and she has finally become fully formed, a muse for my embroidery work and a thread to tie all my creativity together. I hope you enjoy.

Also, as coincidence would have it, you can also read more about the Mother Eagle business over on Etsy, as those clever people have just created a new feature available for all sellers. So do please take a look.

Finally, I have had my March Hare piece featured on the lovely &Stitches blog…so go there too.

Off for egg and chips now.