What are your nine powers? Name them… one…

oak heaven: our lady of strength

I arise today through

The strength of heaven

the power of me

all gog and magog

you were agog

at first

you thought the strength 

was for you

that i was to heal you

but no-one asked me

i got bored

if you know duir

you know all the trees

but you never got

to know “me”

never put the work in…

you can’t trick 

your way to 

sovereignty

yet you tried

you decorated your head

with my leaves

but the tallest

also attract the 

lightening

and are worshipped by the goddess

of thunder

it wasn’t revenge

it was justice

i was always a flowerface

even before i 

became one

you cannot 

build a just 

world 

from humiliation

my lady of the sliver fortress

you remain

____________________________________________________________________________________________________

Oak is power. Oak has over 500 species. One of them is called Quercus – a beautiful word. She is one of the keystone species – sign of a mature forest. She is linked to Jupiter. Loved by the gods of rain and thunder. Her high water content and height attract lightening. They are often the tallest beings in the landscape. In Somerset the two oldest, huge oak trees are called Gog and Magog, named after the last two giants in England. Oak leaves were once worn as a sign of victory. Those Romans.

Named duir in the old language of ogham. The word druid takes its name from her, in part. Knower of the oak. And, they say, “those who know oak know all the trees.” Held sacred by many, she is linked to early worship in groves. Where the early churches were then built. Oaks would have been used to build some of these. She has sheltered us. We valued her strength for ship-building too. We use her acorns for food for pigs. We have survived on flour from the same. We have used her honey-coloured bark for tanning. We have taken her for medicine. For strength and for gum problems. Equally for smelting iron or making charcoal. Look up through her twisting branches and you know she will hold you. Oaks are known for long, slow deeply-held wisdom. In Bach Flower remedies, Oak is for dutiful people who never give up. Who refuse to rest until past the point of exhaustion.

In fairy tales she dishes out justice. Sometimes in cahoots with holly. She protects foxes. She has killed men with her branches. She is on every other flag or symbol or crest. Everyone wants to be oak, but few have the honesty or gumption.

My lady of the silver fortress is a nod to Arianrhod (her name coming from the Welsh “silver,” and “wheel”). She is the prequel to Blodeuwedd’s story. Blodeuwedd’s husband’s mother. Europe has lost its origin stories but its landscape is littered with tales that point to patriarchy getting its feet under the table. The sly thing about these is that they are presented as origin stories. Take Adam and Eve. The blatant lie of women’s origin as man’s rib, when we all know where babies come from. There is a longer analysis of the woman-blaming narrative that isolates us from the land and our fellow beings that share it. But this is not for now. This is patriarchy getting its own way differently.

Arianrhod is the story of many things. She has a foot in an older, different world. Some say she linked to the stars, lived on a magical island that was also the underworld and wove life. She valued her independence, surrounded herself with women and had a lot of sex, especially with mermen.

Gwydion is a man for our times, incredibly clever but morally bankrupt. He uses magic and trickery, possibly raping his sister, and humiliates her at Math’s court. He asks her to step over a magical rod to “prove” her virginity. She does so and gives birth, the first flees and becomes a sea god. The second, maybe even the afterbirth, is taken and raised magically by Gwydion. With this, he redefines her “virginity” as we now do, reliant on men’s sexual action, rather than on her own definition. When she rejects her second born and curses him three times, he tricks her into breaking these. He replaces the respect for knowing who has birthed us, matriliny, with the importance of men. Blodeuwedd is one of the consequences of this.

Arianrhod spends the rest of her days in her castle (Caer Arianrhod) until the seas rise and her realm is engulfed.

Let’s not forget that Arianrhod’s mother is the Earth herself, Don.

Interesting writings on these stories by Lorna Smithers at:

https://lornasmithers.wordpress.com/2019/05/10/the-trickery-of-gwydion/

https://lornasmithers.wordpress.com/2020/08/06/the-strange-birth-and-death-of-lleu-llaw-gyffes-part-one/

The call of Blodeuwedd or… naming our nine powers…

She gets a raw deal. Or does she?

Blodeuwedd was made from flowers. By a magician, Gwydion. Who had a nephew, and maybe a son, Lleu Llaw Gyffes. Cursed by his own mother, Arianrhod. She, in turn tricked by her uncle, Math, and her brother, Gwydion, into giving birth to him.

Arianrhod curses Lleu in three ways. The last one is that he cannot have a wife. To get round this, Math and Gwydion make Blodeuwedd from nine flowers. Chestnut for longevity, meadowsweet for grace, nettle for practicality, broom for vitality, oak for power, corn cockle for pride, bean for soul, primrose for enchantment, with hawthorn crowning her as Queen of the May. He enchants the flowers and she is alive. She is Blodeuwedd, “flower face” in the Welsh of the Middle Ages.

The story unfolds. There is drama. A lot of drama. There are lessons. A lifetime of them. The main one being that you cannot “make” a woman, you cannot make her love you and you cannot stop her from having her way. Blodeuwedd does not act “flowery”. She is no sugar and spice. She has an affair. Plots with her lover to trick and kill her husband. She nearly succeeds. But, not quite.

As punishment, Gwydion wreaks a nasty, murderous revenge on those close to her. And then he turns her into an owl. A flower face of a different kind. The old name for owls. There’s talk of all the other birds hating her. But does the prey not always hate its hunter? And, now, suddenly, the tale is different. Blodeuwedd steps into myth big time. As spring steps into autumn. She is the goddess of all seasons. She is underworld and surface-dweller. She is birth and death.

In the Dark Goddess tarot by Ellen Lorenzi-Prince, Blodeuwedd is the eight of earth. When she shows up, you have choices. You can:

“Recognize all the powers that are part of you, the events, the people, and the talents that have made you what you are. Name your powers. Name nine of them. Find a representation for each one.”

“The Deer’s Cry,” is a traditional prayer attributed to St. Patrick. In it, you can call to nine elements. You can ask to combine with their forces. You can ask to embody their natures.

I arise today, through

The strength of heaven,

The light of the sun,

The radiance of the moon,

The splendor of fire,

The speed of lightning,

The swiftness of wind,

The depth of the sea,

The stability of the earth,

The firmness of rock.

The next nine posts combine the nine flowers with the nine elements. In these I name my nine powers.

Hail Blodeuwedd!

Owl photographs by Brad Wilson