Ice Moon Magic…

Tonight’s Full Moon, the first after the Winter Solstice, is known variously as the Ice Moon, Cold Moon, Quiet Moon, After-Yule Moon or Wolf Moon.

Wolf Moon conjures up images of wolves howling in the hills, their spirits wild and free. Those of you with the wolf as your totem will know all about that! I find wolves fascinating. They have highly developed senses of hearing and smell. (It’s said that their sense of smell is 100 times greater than ours). So, the Wolf Moon message might be that this is a time to trust our own sense of hearing and smell: to listen to the part of us that knows and understands the Spirit of the Wild – and to act in accordance with it.

My favourite name for this first post-solstice Full Moon is the Ice Moon. At this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, the light is cooler than at any other. Walking at night brings many glimpses of blue-white, icy light, even when temperatures are not freezing. Streams glint, branches flicker and last year’s beech nuts crunch underfoot as crisply as though the path were strewn with frost.

One of the old beliefs was that Fire and Ice accompanied the beginnings of our World and that they will accompany its end (which in turn will lead to new beginnings). Ice Moon draws the mind back to our beginnings just at the time when the earth is about to start rumbling with signs of new life. The darkest days are over and spring is daily nearer to hand.

Ice Moon magic says: winter is here and frost is at hand, the nights are long and the earth is hard, but life stirs under our feet!

This year the weather here is remarkably mild, so Quiet Moon is the best description for tonight. All is certainly quiet out in the woods, because a thick mist came rolling up the valley at twilight, muffling all sounds. There is no wind either. As night deepens, owls emerge, flying like giant moths through the trees. One moment their calls sound as though they are far away. The next they are above my head.

That’s one of the things I love about walking in moonlight (even when it is filtered through layers of mist): somehow the world feels even more full of wonder than ever, its sounds, smells and sights filled with sudden surprises.

I wish you a Moonful of magic, whether it is Icy, Quiet or filled with the howling of wolves!

Essi.

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Fairy Folks in Old Oaks!

Winter Oak

Continuing on with the theme of Oaks that seems to have been running around my mind as we approach this Solstice, I thought you might like this old rhyme, originating from the New Forest in southern England:

“Turn your cloaks, for fairy folks are in old oaks!”

The Old Belief was that by turning your cloak or coat inside out you would ward off the chances of being whisked off by the sidhe, or fairy folk.

The Oak was the tree of the druids, containing much magic. Perhaps this is because it is one of the most mighty and magnificent of trees, but there is more to it than that. It lives longer than most trees and in its acorns it carries hundreds of symbols of fertility. In one oak you’ll see more birds, caterpillars and other creepy crawlies than you will in a dozen Ash trees. So, it makes sense that the tree has long been regarded as a symbol of generation and life.

One old custom was to carry an acorn in the pocket for luck. Today you can still see acorns carved on the pillars of gateposts as well as in the ends of window blinds. Both of these practices are echoes of the old view that the Oak held deep magic and great power in warding off evil spirits (gateposts and windows being entry-points).

Derw is one old British word for Oak, Duir is another (this one taken from the Tree Ogham, an alphabet made up of tree names). The word druid is almost certainly a derivation of derwydd, which meant Oak-Seer.

I’ve always felt the Oak’s energy is very male (as compared to, say, Beech or Birch) and once had a very strange experience when I climbed inside one. The tree had been struck by lightning, severing it almost in half and leaving a hollow some five-foot deep inside it. Climbing in, I was surrounded by the growing remains. It was dark and dank in there, but not silent.

I had not been inside the tree for long when an overpowering sense of a strong, not altogether welcoming, energy fizzed through my body. So I jumped out quick! Since then I have had a great respect for the big old Oaks that grow in the heart of our woods. Their magic is strong indeed.

Many people enjoy trees in the spring and summer when they are covered with leaves, but the winter is a wonderful time to experience them too, because you can see more of them: a bit like seeing an x-ray of a body. Their branches sweep up into the sky and down to the ground, like vast lungs bearing hundreds of bronchial tubes and alveoli, all of them breathing out the oxygen on which we depend.

I hope that our wonderful Oaks survive the current attacks on them by various diseases. Our landscape would be so much poorer were they to go the same way as the Elms that graced us with their stately presence when I was a boy: and a slice of real magic would be lost.

With best wishes,

Essi.

Herne the Hunter

“The rider rode up beside them, reining in when he reached the hilltop.  For a second or two he looked out on the valley below.  Then he turned and looked at the children and as his gaze met theirs, a green light shone from the eye-slits in his helmet.”

(Extract from Watchers, by Essi Tolling)

There are many stories surrounding Herne the Hunter. Often he is portrayed as a shamanic figure (a real person dressed up as part of a ritual). In Watchers he is more than this. He is the Lord of the Wild Things, both Green Man and Spirit-of-the-Woods – and he is not to be crossed lightly.

He wears a holly-green cloak and rides a flame-eyed horse. At his side hangs a great, curved horn. Around him run a pack of spectral hounds, each one of which is milk-white with red-tipped ears. Sir Herne can move through the fields and woods without making a sound. Nor does he leave any footprints in the dew-wet paths.

As such he is a dangerous fellow to meet on a dark night, especially if you are not one for showing compassion to wild creatures…

Herne the Hunter, by Meraylah Allwood

Find Watchers on Kindle here: amazon.co.uk or here amazon.com

Deep in the Countryside…

“Deep in the countryside, something remarkable was happening. A bright light was pulsing in a chamber hidden inside a hill. It rippled and shimmered, filling leaf and branch and root and twig. It gleamed and sparkled in the waters of a fountain that rose and fell beneath the outstretched arms of an enormous oak. Unseen, but not unfelt, the bright light hosted magic of the deepest sort.”

So begins the tale of Tilly Greenway and the Secrets of the Ancient Keys.

Watch out for magic. It’s lurking everywhere, hidden inside every nook and cranny, waiting to pop out and surprise you!

The Cathars believed that to sit beneath an Oak Tree was therapeutic, especially for people with psychological “issues”. Now that we’re beginning to catch up with things our ancestors knew all too well, we know that simply thinking of a plant lowers blood pressure and helps relax the brain. Magic, mysticism and science are once again walking hand in hand.

Here is a Winter Oak Tree for you, bringing a bit of magic of its own…

Best Wishes,

Essi.

Winter Oak