It was sunny but rather chilly up at Coed y Wenallt this weekend, but a great little group did a short ritual, and a chocolate Equinox Egg Hunt. There was also a (tongue in cheek) re-enactment of the story of Pwyll and Rhiannon with full audience participation. Special thanks to Cheryl playing Rhiannon, Richard as Pwyll, Ronan and Rachael as Mr & Mrs Tiernon, and our very own Rhiannon and her girls as Pwyll’s servants. Phil was narrator and also played ‘The Claw’. Afterwards we got warm again and enjoyed Rhiannon’s baking at the Black Cock Inn just down the road.
Coltsfoot also known as Horsehoof and Foal’s foot because of its hoof-like shape Leaves. They are mild green and smooth on top, covered with white down.
It is commonly known as ‘Son before Father’ because of it’s unusual method of growth, with the flowers appearing with the first fine weather in February (early spring), and the leaves unfurling from June onwards, after the flowers have faded. The flowers are gathered before they reach full bloom, from the end of February to April and dried in the shade. The leaves are collected between May and July and are chopped and dried. The fresh leaves can be used until Autumn. Coltsfoot is a very common plant, it’s habitats including riverbanks and ditch as it is fond of damp areas, it is happy on both sandy or clay soils.
Coltsfoot is an ancient British plant which was used by the Celts for it’s herbal medicine properties. Coltsfoot of ‘sponnc’ (Gaelic) is a herb associated with Brigid. It is known as a herb of Venus, moves emotional and physical stagnation and is used magically to gender love and to bring peace, therefore is linked with Imbolc.
Coltsfoot is also edible. The flowers can be tossed into salads to add aromatic flavors and the young leaves in small quantities can also be added to pancakes, fritters etc. The young leaves can be added to soups or stews. Washing the leaves after they are boiled will remove the bitter taste. The dried and burnt leaves are used as a salt substitute.
The parts used are the flowers and leaves, dried, to make either tinctures of hot infusions, commonly used to treat respiratory conditions such as Bronchitis, laryngitis, pertussis, asthma. It is particularly helpful in cases of spasmodic bronchial cough. Its leaves can be smoked to relieve irritating coughs. Fresh bruised leaves can be applied to boils, abscesses and suppurating ulcers.
It’s main actions are relaxing expectorant, antitussive. demulcent, anti catarrhal, mildly diuretic
30g Coltsfoots leaves
10 gr Marshmallow root
25 gr Balsam shoots
25 gr Ground Ivy
10 gr Liquorice root
1 lt Water
1 kg Natural honey
Put all the ingredients in a pan and boil for 15 minutes. Strain and add the honey. Gently melt, simmering over a low heat for 20 minutes. Cool before bootling. Store in the refrigerator. Use within 3 months.
This has taste and is a treatment, but beware (herbs can interact with other medicines and health conditions)
According to the little we know of ancient Druids (and Bards and Ovates too) , it took 30 years apprenticeship to become one. I suspect the same is still true – even more so if our apprenticeship has to be alongside kids and day job. All titles and bits of paper really just signify our hope one day to become one…
But re Bards in particular, my thought is that in the old days, they took their stuff seriously. Didn’t just learn oodles of tales by heart, but actually believed in it I mean. Seems to me that in general we don’t really “believe in” the lore we’ve inherited. It doesn’t make it any easier that what we have ‘inherited’ is fragmentary, written down long after it was believed, and via hostile redactors. We do ourselves of course have to live immersed in, have been educated in, the modern world-view of scientific materialism. This makes it very difficult to believe that the stories of old are in any way ‘true’. Sometimes we adopt a Euhemerist approach (that is, taking the lore as a confusion of actual history). Also standard nowadays is the Psychobabble viewpoint (oops, my prejudices are showing…) in which the figures in the lore are treated as ‘symbolic’ or archetypes’ and so on. It really isn’t easy for us to comprehend a space in which the lore, or more generally, all/any concepts of God/dess/e/s can be ‘true’. Within NeoDruidry, there seems always to have been the strong tendency to syncretic Universalism as the way to deal with this.
Another problem for modern NeoDruidry is that we have a plethora of lore. Even before we go beyond the ‘Celtic’ we can choose stuff that is Welsh, Irish (the best marketed for sure – compare “St.Patrick”’s Day with that of “St. David” in public image) or Scottish, plus smidgeons of Cornish. Manx and Breton, ancient Gaulish, and so on. The adventurous (or heretic) can compound this with, say, Norse lore – where many themes are strikingly similar (and their peoples not-very-distinct three thousand years ago). The lore we do have is so utterly confused with modern interpretations and syncretism. For example, I recently spotted a website authoritatively describing ‘Ceridwen’ as, amongst other things, a ‘Triple Moon Goddess’. Now unless they have a heap of manuscripts otherwise not known to the light of day, our only lore of Ceridwen is from Hanes Taliesin (plus a tiny other fragment), where She is very clearly a Mother, and in no way a Maiden or Crone. Nor does She have anything I can see to do with the Moon (or the Sun either!).
So what is a poor Bard to do? How can we tell these stories in a sacred way if we don’t actually believe in them? Storytelling generally is having a bit of a modern revival, but seems to me that this is primarily one of ‘entertainment’ (psychobabble optional). The Story of Taliesin is surely one of our mainstays – yet how can we re-tell it if we don’t have any real conviction as to what it means? Even if we could know what it meant to those who told it of old, must it mean the same to us now? I suspect that when Bards were respected, it was felt that they were ‘truth-tellers’ – like the famous Thomas The Rhymer after his return from Faerie. If we cannot justify similar such respect, where is our Bardship?
No answers here! You could of course still be a Bard by using new material wholly of your own inspiration. But I suspect the public (including ourselves) tend not to go for that. The old stuff has such ‘morphic resonance’ that we cannot just avoid it. If you want to tell the stories you must immerse yourself in them, learn as much as can be. Then (and simultaneously) you must ask for personal gnosis. Nowadays, we often criticize the work of Robert Graves – but at least he did have both knowledge and inspiration, and he did believe in the stuff he wrote (even if we should have a pinch of salt handy…)
Is there even one of the Shining that you could call for guidance? Maybe on Lugh, if He has time off from all his other skills. Certainly not on Gwydion, better known for fibs. Bragi you quite likely think ‘out of context’. Bridget you might well rely on, even if some think She’s an invention.
Nonethless – Call to them with with a True Heart and True Voice Be Your Blessing.
In ancient times a Bard was a poet and storyteller who had trained in a Bardic college. In modern times, a Bard is one who sees their creativity as an innate spiritual ability, and who chooses to nurture that ability partly or wholly with Druidism.
In ancient times the Bards were the keepers of tradition, of the memory of the tribe – they were the custodians of the sacredness of the Word. Although they probably represented the first level of training for an apprentice Druid, we should not make the mistake of thinking that a Bard was somehow in a lowly or inferior position.
Bards – Poets, Storytellers, Verses, (spoken or musical) Keeper of the Traditions