What are your nine powers? Name them… nine…

rock-chestnut: our lady of doing what it says on the tin

I arise today through

The firmness of rock

and we thought those

flowers wouldn’t last,

but you didn’t know

i was a keeper,

and then again,

not.

i was a big-boned then

and the dust ground was

useful, edible.

i think you thought

you’d fatten me up,

let me circle with

my thoughts.

i don’t think you meant

to hold me in that fine 

web,

but that was what i

felt.

forty years before i would fruit and i

might’ve lived for 800 years,

or more. 

growing and growing.

blessed with the expansion of jupiter.

but inner growth stopped,

what could i do?

where could i go?

i had to go on,

i had to get bigger.

you, on your own,

you were never enough.

and look…

here we are.

Swiss wooden masks from traditions such as Tschäggättä, some still going.

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Chestnut is longevity. From the older English term, chesten nut. Handed down from the Greek, to the Latin, to the French, before it found an English home. The Latin is also the genus, Castanea. There are different types all over the world. We have eaten it for thousands of years. Roasted, candied, pureed, boiled, fried, grilled even made into flour. Bread from chestnut flour keeps and keeps.

In Japan it represents success and hard times. They cultivated it there before they even thought of rice. Alexander the Great and the Romans planting them on their travels made sure they were widespread in Europe. Predating the transplanting of potatoes in Europe, it was used as a hardy carbohydrate.

Chestnuts are in it for the long haul. They are slow growing and can take their sweet time to bear fruit. The tallest species in North America reaches 100 feet and some species can reach 800 years of age. They are hardy. The wood is durable.

In Bach Flower remedies, four of the thirty eight are chestnut ones. Sweet Chestnut is for those who have reached the limits of endurance, who have explored all avenues but cannot see a way out.

Beloved of Jupiter, like Oak. Sometimes confused with Oak. So many of its attributes are interchangeable with Oak’s… Which brings us full circle.

So… Hail Blodeuwedd! Queen of the Difficult. Refuser of Limits. Chaser of Danger. Follower of Bliss. Queen Bitch. Lady of Light and Dark. Summer and Winter. The Eternal Flower-Face.

And Hail Arianrhod…

my lady of the sliver fortress

you remain

What are your nine powers? Name them… eight…

earth-nettle: our lady of stability

I arise today through

The stability of the earth

i am old.

i stand tall,

only a slight stoop.

years of breaking 

through the rubble.

i am prolific,

but only in the 

borders and badlands,

the straight

ordered rows

were never for me.

although i was happy to

throw a few wild babies in.

a “contaminant” 

they called my children,

but 

i called them loved 

and

round 

and 

full of life.

see what they offer you –

strong blood,

bones and muscles.

you need no other lovers.

my flowers could build a robust girl or two,

or three,

or thirty.

but not ones to be ruled over

or squished into

shapes of male desire.

no,

not my girls.

we are generous.

we slide over our edges.

we are abundance 

but

please do not confuse us with 

common.

tough,

they called me.

troublesome.

but that was only 

because i

am wilful

and uncontained.

have you seen 

my sturdy yellow boots,

and my beautiful threads,

fine as silk or

strong as rope?

but 

I understand.

i can curdle milk

with a look.

i can sting

like a hollow bee.

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Nettle for practicality. It was always so. From the Old English, “netele”. The root, “ned” meaning to bind or tie. Lady Urtica Dioica. A good name. Urtica from the Latin meaning to burn or sting – the tiny aggravating hollow hairs that can itch like crazy. To nettle also meaning to irritate or provoke. Dioica, from the Greek, meaning of the two houses – having separate staminate and pistillate plants. If you want to pick her, do not do so cautiously, for she will sting. Hence the phrase from Aesop’s tales, “grasp the nettle”. Be direct, as she is.

Nettle is a plant of the egdelands. Of forgotten places. She grew in abundance at field edges but not so much in the crop itself. She likes riverbanks, hedgerows, near buildings (especially empty ones), in rubble and grassy places. She is seen as a weed. She is seen as troublesome. But really, she is just incredibly tough.

She is full of iron, calcium and magnesium. Use strong infusions of her leaves and she will supercharge your adrenals. Her stems will provide fine linen and rough rope. She has strong yellow roots and creeping stems. Her seeds can sit dormant for five years and still be ready to be activated. Her rhizomes overwinter well, even when broken up. She re-roots easily. Poking green shoots in spring, dying back above ground each year. Her light seeds catch on fur or clothes to hitch a ride to the next growing place. Or in worms, cattle deer and magpies. They can float on water for week, waiting to find their new homes. In earlier times, she was used as rennet to harden cheese. Her tiny, hollow hairs sting like a hypodermic needle filled with histamine and other chemicals.

She is called upon in the Anglo Saxon “Nine Herbs Charm”, in the Lacnunga, a 10th century manuscript containing 200 charms and recipes for healing. It is at once an incantation and recipe for medicine against poison and infection. The words contain lots of references to threes and nines, sacred numbers in those heathen times. In Old English she is named stiðe:

The herb is called nettle, it grows upon the stone—

standing against poison, crashing against pain.

It is called stiff, dashing against poison,

avenging cruelty, casting out venom.

This is the herb that fought against the worm—

this can avail against poison, this can avail against contagion,

this can avail against hated things that fare throughout the land.

Their and Loki fashion a magical fishing net out of nettle. In The Wild Swans fairy tale, a sister sees her brothers turned into swans. She has to gather, spin and knit coats of nettle for them all so that they can turn back into humans. Whilst not speaking. She nearly manages it, but runs out of time. Her youngest brother is left with a swan wing. It speaks to the courage to bear pain. Of inner strength. Of the use of silence to keep safe. Of how gentle persistence can win.

Nettle, your magic is comfort and duality. Know that I honour you.

What are your nine powers? Name them… seven…

sea-bean: nameless one of the deep

I arise today through

The depth of the sea

nearly 100 million years ago

pockets of gold

music to stir your soul

food for your senses

curled up

foetal

in your hand

tiny umbilical cord

i keep you

as you keep me

treasure

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Bean, you are soul. Faba. Your family name is fabaceae or leguminosae. Even your name sounds fabulous and luminous. We couldn’t have evolved without you. And we didn’t! Our destiny is entwined with yours. Even though you are older and wiser than us by about a mere 80 million years… or so…

You have been a staple food for humans and other species for millennia. You are still 27% of our crops now and half of our diet. You also give us oils, fibre, fuel, fertilisers, timber, medicine and chemicals. You are entwined symbiotically with the rhizobial bacteria that clings to your roots, bringing nitrogen to the thirsty soil. You come in 40,000 varieties. In Rajshahi, Bangladesh alone, 32 of your species are used by local healers to treat asthma, colds, dysentery, skin diseases and leprosy. You can do more or less everything for us – from anti-bacterial to oestrogenic. You truly are multitudes. Pythagorus didn’t know what he was missing, when he refused to eat you.

You are one of the three sisters cultivation systems, described so beautifully by Robin Wall-Kimmerer. Maize standing tall, squash spreading out, and bean climbing up the maize.

Sicilians have a special place in their hearts for you… after fervent prayers to St. Joseph in a Medieval drought, it finally rained. The fava beans were the only survivors. Saving many lives in the process. To this day, Sicilians place them on alters on the Saint’s day. They are sown on All Souls Day, when fava shaped cakes are baked in their honour. Beans of the Dead, “fave dei morti”.

Beans really are magical. Just ask Jack and the beanstalk that grows overnight. You are never really poor with a handful of seeds. “Sow beans in the mud and they’ll come up like trees.” So says an old English proverb. Respectful relationship with that which feeds us is part of seed stewardship and sovereignty. Seed rematriation is the future… as Rowen White explains in the link below… so mote it be…