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,


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 


but that was what i


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.


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,


i called them loved 




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.


not my girls.

we are generous.

we slide over our edges.

we are abundance 


please do not confuse us with 



they called me.


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?


I understand.

i can curdle milk

with a look.

i can sting

like a hollow bee.


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


in your hand

tiny umbilical cord

i keep you

as you keep me



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…

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


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


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


sea and


we will rescue 

you from the

black swan


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


who held everything 


for so long

i grew too quickly

no-one’s fault


the nature of magic

i always wondered if

you knew

i was a little



i knew i

intoxicated you

who wouldn’t have been?

but hallucinations

can’t last forever

i died a little

after that first


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


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



what kills


also toxic


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!)


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


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


could you see further than 

my sweet scent,

my pendulous breasts?

did you really think snakes 

avoided me?

or even that they were evil?



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.


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.


whose garlands bestowed courage


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.


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,


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


finally i know release

and you,

where are you now?


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.

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 


yet you tried

you decorated your head

with my leaves

but the tallest

also attract the 


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 


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:



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