What are your nine powers? Name them… six…

wind primrose: our lady of swift enchantment

I arise today through

The swiftness of wind

i make the invisible

clear

teardrops of the goddess

i have held

if you see me

you know it’s ancient

i am the first

and the last

a bunch of me

or nothing

thirteen

and the fairies welcome you

offer me at midsummer

to the green woman

garlands at her feet

to see me

you’d think sun

but i am as deep

as the moon

black and grey

I will give

my silver crown

my golden ring

and my black hair

to get you back

from your own

dark enchantment

my sister

who is gold

and needs to shine

with help from

earth

sea and

sky

we will rescue 

you from the

black swan

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Primrose for enchantment. The first rose. Primula. And she is the first of the year. Racing with the snowdrops to break through.

You are the rebirth of Spring. The keys to Spring. The first sunny hello to regrowth. A small cheer in my heart. The sunny enchantment after the stillness of winter. You are eternal love. A courting gift. Small fairies and gnomes use your flowers as dwellings. Freyja, the Norse Goddess, loves you. As she flies over the earth in early morning, she weeps a morning dew. You fall from her hair. Freyja’s Tears. Her gracious gift to us.

We have a long history of complicated connections to and from the fairy world through you. A connection we seem to want and yet don’t want. Your display is protection from fairies for us and for horses, cows and sheep. Suitably Primrose-garlanded, you will protect them from pixie mischief at Beltane.

Conversely, you make the invisible visible, your oil will help us to see fairies. 13 or more flowers will guard us from evil magic but let the good stuff through. Under 13 and we are taking our chances with bad luck. The right number in a bouquet lets us into the fairy rock, the wrong number and we are doomed. The crossing of boundaries is a precarious business. An elf princess was turned into a primrose flower for falling for a mortal.

The tale in the latter part of the poem is a Grimm one, Primrose and Feather. You’d think sun for Primrose for their timing and colour. Interestingly, the tale has Feather as sun and Primrose as moon. This gives her different depths. It is a beautiful tale about two sisters, love and going through grief.

It talks of inter-species communication and cooperation. In exchange for Primrose’s treasures, a magpie, a mermaid and a giant offer help in the search for her kidnapped sister.

Lots of shapeshifting. A sorcerer who changes himself into a black swan in order to chase, but never catch, Feather, who he has turned into a white swan. In turn, under chase from Team Primrose, even more. Her net cannot capture him, the magpie helps lift it higher. The sorcerer falls into a river, becomes fish. The mermaid catches him but he changes into a deer. On land, the giant picks him up and eats him. Feathers transforms back into herself. Her beauty shines like the sun.

What are your nine powers? Name them… five…

lightening broom: our lady of vitality

I arise today through

The speed of lightning

it disturbed me

me

who held everything 

together

for so long

i grew too quickly

no-one’s fault

just

the nature of magic

i always wondered if

you knew

i was a little

psychic

oh

i knew i

intoxicated you

who wouldn’t have been?

but hallucinations

can’t last forever

i died a little

after that first

flush

three flowers broke the spell

i was always going to

have to shape-shift

after that

it’s not your fault

you just couldn’t 

hang on in there

you should have burnt

me to calm the breeze

but you threw me 

into the air

and i raised the wind…

i raised hell

and swept you out

the door

just like i swept you

off your feet

a lifetime ago

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Broom, she is vitality. Cytisus scoparius. She is a broom in so many languages. Besom, butchers-broom, balais, besen. And that is how we have put her to use. Sweeping. Sweeping to clear in ritual too. She holds purification and protection spells. Can exorcise ghosts and poltergeists. You burn her to calm the wind and throw her to raise it.

In German, as in Scottish, the later use of besen and besom, respectively, was different. Both terms aimed at women, maids or young servant girls contemptuously, deeming them unworthy characters or of loose morals. The domestic unleashed on us.

I don’t get the impression that she cares much, if at all. She is a large shrub that grows quickly. Invasive in some parts of the world where she has been a later introduction. She covers disturbed areas well. Sometimes we have called on her to do exactly that. She also spreads along highways and in meadows. She is hardy. She has wide, branching roots and think, tenacious stems. She dies back in dry weather to preserve her energy. But serves us well as erosion control holding the earth together around her. She has a fibre like flax. Once was used to make paper and cloth. She smells of vanilla. Sometimes she was the wedding bouquet. She can make you a decent coffee substitute. If you want.

In the tale, Tamlane, 3 broom flowers break a spell. A true love is brought back from a fairy queen in the underworld. His human love triumphs. The power of 3s.

What are your nine powers? Name them… four…

fire corncockle: our lady of splendour

I arise today through

The splendor of fire

born of pride

born of rebellion

my eyes

black

hard

what kills

is

also toxic

butterflies

and moths

love me

couldn’t get enough

of my nectar

deep in the bottom

of the

bright pink

i was everywhere

now i’m not

The bright pink flower is not a corncockle, I just liked the forceful colour (ceci nest pas un corncockle!)

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Corncockle is for pride. Agrostemma githago. Agro (field) stemma (garland) gith (plant with black seeds) ago (resembling). The black glint of a horse’s eyes.

6,000 years ago she travelled from the Middle East to Europe. Until recently, very common in Europe. Now, sadly, scarce. She no longer grows in the wild in the U.K. Her relatives are the pink and carnation family. She was very good at living with crops, like cornflowers and poppies are. So she would spread herself far and wide. Sometimes her seeds would mingle with the flour for bread. The seeds were toxic but only in doses far huger than we ever ate, and, on the upside, also killed intestinal worms.

Her skill extends to treating growths (cancer, warts), jaundice, paralysis, gastritis, coughs, fluid retention, menstrual disorders, bacterial skin infections and haemorrhoids.

She gets a mention from Shakespeare in Coriolanus. She is referred to as “the cockle of rebellion”, as there is so much of her in the fields. More recently, the British press panic-wrote some articles about how toxic she was. I can’t help but see the parallels to the fear of uprising of the masses. She is not even a mass anymore. But then, neither are we.

It is possible that she has a wicked sense of humour. she holds her nectar at the bottom of the bright pink flower. A tube so long that the bees cannot reach it, but the butterflies and moths can. They, like me, love her.

What are your nine powers? Name them… three…

radiant grace: our lady of the meadow

I arise today through

The radiance of the moon

i am grace

what did you think?

that i would trample so easily

underfoot?

that you could pour

me down your throat

and i would soothe all your ills?

lie as flowers

along the tracks of 

your body?

in that heady scent of

courtship,

could you see further than 

my sweet scent,

my pendulous breasts?

did you really think snakes 

avoided me?

or even that they were evil?

tut… 

dollof…

but i knew what makes the spell

breaks the spell,

i was always a floating thief.

later, my bruised flowers,

like the prism of marriage,

gave off a different smell.

my hanging roots

blackened and stained

did you think 

i would ignore my very nature?

not use my scent 

to put you to sleep?

my goddess-given skills 

my birth right

my crown.

elmlike, 

i slid under your eyelids, 

held you fast

until you swore you saw fairies.

did you think 

i would find it difficult?

you were easier than a baby.

i, 

whose garlands bestowed courage

i, 

who calmed the battle rage 

of cuchulainn himself.

that almond scent

can mean many things,

and yet,

i am grace

Dress and shoes photo from installation at Federica Tamarozzi’s “Les fabriques des contes” exhibition at the MEG, Geneva.

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Meadowsweet. She is grace. Filipendula ulmaria. The word combines the hanging threads of the roots and being elm-like. She is made of many things, like slippery elm, one of these is salicylic acid. A painkiller, the basis of aspirin. Her medicine is varied and endless. From reducing fevers to soothing the mucus membrane to detergent. The flowers’ scent is heavy. She can send you into a sleep from which you will never wake. Or give you second sight or an ability to converse with the fairies. Equally, if you are under the fairies’ spell and wasting away, someone can bring you back by slipping her under your bed. You will be right by morning.

She has strange cousins, the family rosaceae includes apple, quince, strawberry, almond, rose, hawthorn, rowan, cherry and peach. She herself has an almond flavour. She can be added to wine, beer as well as soups and fruit desserts. Meadsweet – used to flavour the mead, a fermented honey drink. Listed by Chaucer as 1 of 50 ingredients in one old mead recipe.

Meadowsweet. She pops up in the dampest places. Pride, or Lady, or Queen of the Meadow. Her time is Lughnasadh at the beginning of August. Lugh, whose son was Cú Chulainn, hero/god in the ancient Irish tales. Who was and yet wasn’t the same person. Cú Chulainn was an ace in battle. He went into a frenzied rage or ríastrad. After which the only thing that could calm him was to bathe in meadowsweet. Sit with her and she will give you her generous lessons on anger and peace.

Bridewort – used in bedchambers and garlands about the churches for weddings. She was Elizabeth I’s favourite strewn flower. The heady scent of the flowers, courtship, the sharp smelling foliage, marriage. The roots make a black dye, with the right mordant. She is a protector of women, animals other than humans and the environment. Bunches were placed next to bodies by our Neolithic ancestors. She is a grave flower, a flower for graves. As you can see, this is never going to go well for Gwydion and Math!

What are your nine powers? Name them… two…

a hawthorn sun: the queen of may

I arise today, through

The light of the sun,

you never paid me the proper respects, see?

i was an impossible task but,

had you shown me the deference due,

not bow before me,

although that would’ve been a start,

just, say, walked around me seven times

clockwise and barefoot, 

my shawl of flowers 

would’ve sat lovely round his shoulders

alive an’ all

i would’ve bloomed for him

my thorns burst into white flower

you could’ve told him to 

call me by my secret names,

the old ones,

tied me up in ribbons, then undone them

we could’ve abandoned ourselves in each other 

i would’ve been medicine for his empty soul

but you enclosed me

my thorns weapons the poor boy could never surmount

a hollow reed cannot love a real woman

and, yes,

why would i not love another hunter?

the dark to my depth

you destroyed all those i had grown to love, and more,

but no hardship in the end,

surprisingly,

i am warm in my feathers

my flowered face shines bright at night

the queen of may

it is fitting that i become the wild i always was

unbindable

finally i know release

and you,

where are you now?

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Hawthorn. You are the Queen of May. From the Anglo-Saxon, “hagedorn”, meaning hedge thorn. Also crataegus, from the Greek kratos for strength and skis for thorn. There is a saying in Swedish that loved children have many names. And you have so many. Quickthorn, mayflower, whitethorn, hagthorn, thorn-apple, azzy tree, bread and cheese, agags, boojuns, army-garzies, thornbush, Holy Innocents. You are Huath in the ogham alphabet or the letter “H”.

You are medicine for a strong heart. You are a balm for abandonment and a boon for fertility. A talisman made from one of your twigs will preserve boundaries and offer spiritual protection. But the masters ill-used you as hedges to mark the boundaries between the commons and the enclosures. Your thorns kept us for our land, our birthright, and we found it hard to love you when your strength was used against us.

Truly you are the most wild, enchanted and sacred of trees. We revere you in your lonesome state. We dance around you at Beltane, adorn your branches with ribbons and red rags. You are the gate to the underworld. The fairy tree. We could be whisked away for good. If we dare to destroy you, as with the other “thorns”, we will regret it. John DeLorean tested this tale out and found his business destroyed within 4 years.

Your tales are many. Grimm reworked Sleeping Beauty as a tale where you, hawthorn, guarded her for 100 years, your thorns bursting into white flowers after this time. That I would be protected so when I sleep. In Fairy Shawl, you are respected by circling 7 times. The girl who does this gets help from the little people for an impossible task and a shawl made of flowers. That I would earn such a garment. My Queen.