In the middle of May, I was walking through the Valley Road park here in Nottingham, when I saw something unexpected: mugwort leaves!
Did you know mugwort can be made into tea, flavour beer and even be smoked as tobacco? Watch out though, it contains thujone which makes it a good insecticide but is toxic to cats and can damage the kidneys and liver in humans if taken in large quantities. It is thought to encourage menstruation, perhaps leading it to one of its many names: motherwort.
Had I not looked into the properties of Mugwort, I would have disregarded it as ‘another weed’. Because that’s the way when we aren’t familiar with something. We either take interest and learn to know what something is, or we dismiss it because it isn’t important to us.
I have reached a stage in my Druidry where I am now exploring both plants and trees. And even though I previously knew some of their names, I was completely ignorant of other species. Sure, I already knew of birch and sycamore and oak. As much as I already knew about yew, dandelion, buttercup and nettle. And this exploration has influenced a lot of how I now approach my blog over the past year.
As my knowledge and understanding increases, the landscape becomes more familiar, the fog of ignorance melts away. Becoming acquainted with the flowers, the plants and wildlife allows not only a growing familiarity, but an appreciation and most of all…. respect.
Last week, in building up to this month’s new moon, the British weather had shown every example of its arsenal. Almost one for each day!
Beginning with spring’s warm sunshine giving way to chillingly cold winds, crispy frost, to swift flurries of snow, pockets of rain and gusts of wind. Blue sky being obscured by thick iron clouds…. to give way to blue skies again. And remember…. Blue skies don’t necessarily mean they are warm days.
The weather, here in the UK, is often a talking point because it changes so regularly. So we often talk about it, apparently we’re renowned for it!
It was walking in the frost that inspired this post: frost and ice can preserve on what it takes hold. In some cases it keeps things in stasis, in its extreme (like all things) it can kill.
In the case of looking at the dead nettle (its not actually dead, this is the flowering variety that doesn’t sting) being covered in frost one day and for it to be free the next, this brought to mind the nature of change.
Oh, for sure, the lengthening days, growing green and variety in birdsong are all indicators of the change of season, but even beyond the vernal equinox: winter hasn’t fully loosened it’s grip.
Humanity spends much of its time in keeping things as they are. Where stasis has become our way of telling ourselves that we control the world. But time, experience and the world teach us this isn’t so.
Night gives way to day, winter gives way to summer, youth gives way to maturity…. many die and many are born. What was old gives way to the new, relationships and friendships form, others break. A forest becomes a wasteland, which then becomes a park that becomes a nature reserve. The young can take something old and look on it anew.
As we grow, we too change in the course of our lifetimes: who we were as children isn’t who we are now. We may be the same person in our core, as much as a tree is always a tree, or a dead nettle is always a dead nettle.
But as time goes on, the experiences we go through, our victories, our losses, our lives change us as time goes on.
Yesterday, just before lunch-time, I was on my way up to the local golf course for a stroll. I hadn’t even got past the council houses when I saw something scuttling further ahead.
At first, I thought it was a tortoise-shell cat, but when I looked again, it was a bit bigger and the tail was definitely bushier. It was, of course, a fox! Must have been a juvenile one too as it’s fur still had blue-grey patches.
But there he was (or she, could’ve been a she), head and tail down as if trying everything to keep a low profile despite the bright sun of the approaching afternoon. The fox made its way into the hedge of one of the houses on the road and then I saw him/her no more.
And so, I took the rest of my walk in contemplation.
I’m not one for thinking that every encounter with an animal needs some shamanic interpretation.
But I am one for thinking that every encounter with wildlife is a gift.
There is indeed a fox den, if not a few more around this part of Nottingham. Devi and I have witnessed them in our back garden, seen the cubs play, heard them cry and yip. Devi’s even witnessed them playing with Ron (one of the Apex Predators) and Bailey (she was our lioness trapped in the body of of a blonde domestic house cat) when she was with us, rest her soul. We’ve also found the holes they’ve dug in the garden- cubs practicing for their cache skills no doubt!
In the Druid Animal Oracle, Fox has the associated words of Cunning, Diplomacy and Wildness. Fox is about knowing the difference between staying hidden and when come out into the open. When to use your knowledge to solve something, not to deceive or be sly.
Fox, in England, has a bad reputation: for being cunning, killing for sport and a trickster. Compare this to the Fox-spirits of China and Japan, where the Fox is not only a shape-shifter, but has magical powers. Some can be mischievous, others can be friendly. Like Humans, really. In Native American cultures, Fox can be a trickster and even the thief that gave the gift of fire to Human-kind. There was even a Gallic chief whose name translated as “Son of Fox” and because he was an exceptional negotiator, so did the fox become associated with diplomacy.
The associations of Fox being cunning comes from the Fox’s ability to adapt it’s hunting and living habits to it’s environment. You can find foxes in both urban or rural areas, the desert and even in the arctic circle- they are like us: adapting to our surroundings. The fox will hunt it’s area for food and shelter. If the food is in a man-made container such as a bin (trash can), plastic bags or even a coop, then it will figure a way of getting to it. And if successful, they store it in a hole for another day.
They have a great sense of play and this is most likely where the ‘mischievous’ nature comes from.
Fox has made itself known to me for a while, but it’s only recently I have understood it’s message:
“Stop trying to force your routine onto where you live. Look around you and see how you live: shape your life around that instead.”
Fox may be about cunning, wildness and diplomacy, but it is also adaptation, resourcefulness and play.
In these tumultuous times of ours, perhaps there is much to be learned from what the fox says: adapt and survive.
It’s been a busy day at the Devi-Locksley household, a busy time in the past few weeks as well. It’s also been busy for both of us in our working lives too.
In the late afternoon, I was taking the rubbish (trash) out and made my way back for the recycling. So far, so-nothing-special, right? I was already aware the sun was going down due to the pink in the clouds, and that darkening that means the lights need going on.
On my way back inside, I could see the thin pale sliver of the waxing crescent moon. And instantly, I was to take a few minutes to just…. stop.
It was my day off and today’s chores were almost complete. I also had an evening of script reading ahead in preparation for this weekend’s recording.
And in this moment, I could see the crescent moon clearly through the bare branches of next door’s Rowan tree. And so, I decided to take just five minutes.
I could see the colours of the sky shifting, even the first star of the dusk reveal itself (the Stellarium App tells me this was Jupiter, pointing South/West towards the constellation of Saggitarius on the horizon). I could even see the robin land on the bare elder tree! I could hear the evening birdsong as they called out to each other, the breeze in the remaining leaves as well as the vehicles on the road. I could smell the ozone of the cool air (It feels more like late autumn than early winter) and I could already taste the tea I was desiring to make. Though the air was cool, I could feel the warmth under my jumper (sweater), my blood pumping through my veins: I was at one with Nwyfre.
The world holds so much beauty, so much life to behold, and in our busy lives, we pass it by. This is why it is important for us to take time out for ourselves…. even if it’s for five minutes.
So Devi and I did a crazy thing and got married in Scotland. We went to the west coast of Argyll where we could see the Paps of Jura across the sea-loch. So yes, we got married on the beach! I’ve always had a fondness for the Autumnal Equinox, and as our wedding took place on the day after, it now holds a special and meaningful place in my heart.
As there isn’t much time to do my usual writing, I thought I’d share some pics instead. Enjoy.
All photos taken by Locksley and Devi, wedding pic by Devi’s Mum and ring pic by Kelly.
The Autumn Equinox is a time of change where we mark and can actively see the shift of the seasons. As the days become cooler and nights become longer, now is the time for letting go of that which no longer serves us. Now is the time we can begin something new.
Like the fruit falling to the earth, like the leaves changing colour and like the low setting sun, we enter this time of transition. As the season transforms, may we also allow for transformation within ourselves.