It's hard to talk around my big toe. Or maybe it's my heal? Either way, I have my foot firmly lodged in my mouth and the words are as clumsy and as sticky as primordial ooze because it's about that far I’m going back here. Back at least six million years when the salmon swam fresh and young and bright buttoned eyed up the river under the reflection of the dancing triad of elder trees, red, black and blue. And all those other Old Ones. Holding forth. When the salmon spawned and danced for death and the fauns and dryads frolicked about in celebration of growth and the fey wrung mysteries of mischief and the Elder swung open the gates to and fro and looked upon the nature of things and held her stag pipes upwards. I'm going back to when the old magic was the only law and all knew their nature irrelevant of the dance they played around it. It's a different thing to know the laws before you be breaking them, rather than just for the breaking, in of itself. There’s a reverence in that that's far removed from the politics of church and that's what the old magic speaks of and what we’ve long forgotten. And here I find myself, with Elder looming large pushing in the telling, so, while I’m birthing this little offering of something that's lost behind the big mist of my modern mind I have to tell you, it's not a graceful or dignified thing, my language will be flawed. Rather like the time I was six and doing forward rolls on the living room floor in my nightie and my mother gently told me to go and put my knickers on. It doesn’t matter how innocent you are, there is still the nature of the thing and us poor gibbering monkeys, not wanting to look in its wrinkled, brown-rimmed eyeball. And I would like to blame it on our hairless speech or dexterous thumbs or just the fact that we are here to up-end the whole applecart but either way we still have the blessings, we still have this endless love of the wise, these ancient keepers of the lore, these million-year-old sentiment beings, that somehow keep tolerating us, so on I goes with my story of Mother Elder despite feeling like an ant describing the statue of liberty, the perspective being very skewed by what I know and I so full still of I shall and you should in this tale. And Elder, well she just be insisting on what I am.
As a diaphoretic and febrifuge Elder is a master conductor of ending and beginnings. To marry the whole, Elder brings to the surface that which is hidden in the depths of my being, opening up the periphery for release, perspiration and dispersion. I can let go although it often creates a stink.
As I am particularly hard-headed (so good for doing stuff my way!) my first real interaction with Elder was incredibly unpleasant. I was in a room full of folks meditating with the plants and at the end of the morning we did a quick round with Elder and passed around the elderflower tincture. Oafff. As soon as I closed my eyes I saw her righteous annoyance, heard a hurummpff and a verbal yell “ Well Finally!” and I saw her, as if for the first time and then bang, she took me straight to my birth and the incensed rage I was experiencing, right then, as a little baby, a child just born, who somehow fully understood that my mother wouldn’t keep me and that that was what I was entering into. The whole experience took about 30 seconds and I sat, eyes closed, shell-shocked, until we broke thankfully for lunch where I could stumble off, and finding a blessed swing set I rocked back and forth, weeping for that rage and that baby, who, up until then, had a detached recognition of being born, which started with a happy adoption, that I had, my whole life been on peaceful terms with. It began to become a little more complex. A little richer. A little more me.
And I understood that baleful glare that I had encountered from Elder. That angry “well finally” as I finally saw her. For my whole hippy happy nature loving good recycling privileged person life I have been best pals and buddies with elder, knowing the daily gossip, boasting about her european qualities as a newbie herbalist in america and how back in the old country, where we grew up chugging down her cordial (the best!) and tossing fried flower pancakes around like frisbees, how she was, like, a really meaningful part of my life. Even though in my heart I had felt I her sigh as she watched my efforts to harvest her flowers so the kids and I could make herbal soda, felt the endurance as I talked about respecting the plants and saying thank you while breaking branches and not once knowing myself of her, from her. She had witnessed and tolerated me playing at being a part of this earth, my earnest, yet such bloodless shallow gestures - such good intentions - and now finally, finally I had shown up with just a scent of respect and authenticity and she got to have her say.
I was devastated and also wholly enlightened. Plant communication is unmistakable, shakes your cellular interceptions and changes you irrecoverably. Talking to the Other in this “only us” world hits you beyond mind. And my early rage revealed just explained so fucking much about the following of my life. In this world of glamour, the truth is such a gift. And believe me I now approach slowly and no she is not my friend. Take this lesson and learn it well says Elder. Staff and rod, severity and mercy, cycles and mystery and I can barely get the nerve to look her in the eye, knickers or not, often preferring to sit small and quiet, eyes closed and body alert and at her bidding. Yes Mam.
Elder opens up all channels of elimination - Matt Wood
Its a glamour that holds my story in place yet when I feel safe enough to reveal my vulnerability, show my heart flesh and bone without expectation it helps the cracks open a little within those masks - the victim mask that shows itself in confusion, the serenity mask that reassures the weeping children that everything will be fine or my personal favorite, the hero's mask that means all the answers are the right ones, however high they reek of the shit they're coming from. As a wounded being I have many masks to cover the hurt but every now and then I can be witnessed for all my flaws and imperfections and dance in the beauty of it and allow myself to sit in the flow as I move the magic through, as it flows from the stars through me and out to all other living light beings curiously clustered in these various lumps and shapes that we call reality. Yes, of course, it helps to be tripping. The revival of Aya and the old messengers is no coincidence. And if we get curious enough, safe enough, the alkaloid crutches can fall away and you can call it into yourself, you can step into the flow of it all, that somehow you can slow down enough to show up to yourself enough and you can be opened to the Other. I feel the breath of the mystery flow through the pipes of the elder tree, the mysterious cycle of the void that is the pool by which Elder resides, the well from which we all fall into and from which we are all birthed, watched by Hylde Moer with her wide, wide arms and scents of ambrosia, honey, piss and musk.
Elder has an innate ability to disarm and interrupt the invading nature of viruses, recognising the trojan in the horse, the knowing of what not to invite into yourself. Part of this ability is understanding the nature of concealment.
We live within systems that support and conceal those that never face the consequences of the harm that they have done. The old magic has been hidden behind mountains of comfort, convenience masking a tight grip on control so instead of the Other, we have the other us and our endless scapegoats of judgement and fear. A system that is out of balance, a system driven without regard for the whole or regard for the balance but instead fueled by a driving unquenching thirst for more, a consumption that never ceases and is firmly seated in being separated and cut off from the roots of belonging to whence from it was born. The invaders rifling forth, jihadists raging through the territory, grasping all they can. A system born from great hunger, which, as any lost and forgotten ghost can tell you, a hunger changes all priorities. Without the old magic, that which calls forth the nature of a thing, that which is not meant for humans, we have become a system that is not well seated, not placed or honoured. The trojan is in and the horse has become the house and evil looms large and it is of our flesh, its all there is and we've become so disconnected so much as to elect it, vote for it, so our tenders of the law can act out of the agony of forgetting. It has become too fierce a tenant, bending and stretching the host until that will be reduced to a husk. And the glamour is so large, large enough that as I write the words and you might read them, I will still pull at the handle to drive a car that sucks from the earth and pay my taxes to a system that is an unabashed corruptness reeking of evil. A glamour so large that every day I play part as I bite into the sugar coated cookie that is my fear dressed up as my reward and my worth with an algorithmically logoed label reading "enjoy your poison - made just for you". Just as the constant smoking of marijuana brings the nighttime dreams into the sunlight and reduces the twilight hours empty of mystery, this fierce denial of moving through remembering reeks of the glamour of the now departed faeries, who are transmuted onto the silver screen, Hollywood style, the mirror gaze that has us entrapped, full off the endless dancing and feasting and dancing and feasting where no one is sated or merry, where the putrescence is slick under the heavy perfumes of gauged comparison and curiosity is punished with banishment until the steps are learnt and the motions mastered and most importantly nothing dies while the night goes on and on and on and we can spin around with our fanciful fixes and props while our generosity of spirit becomes as atrophic as the fay folks' once human walked realm. Elder holds the door of transformation, the door that swings back and forth between this world and others and it's that perspective, that tunnel of transformation, that ability to look from there and to here, that entanglement with Other that is how we discern, where the glamour is revealed and truth is felt.
Elder can reset, restore and revitalize the immune system by which it increases the effectiveness of how the whole body works
We are long gone from where we can rely on something other than ourselves to bring back balance. It's the hardest part of my relationship with Elder. She is not here to fix, she is here to remind me that I am the conductor of my well being which relies entirely on how I balance the environment around me. I can barely hold onto my shadow let alone anything that feels effective. What is real in all this glamour? Even as I say that I know instantly in my heart what is richness and I am reminded each time I breathe in the scent of my cat's paws filled with deep forest loam.
But how to start propping each other up so the ant can look into the eye of liberty? Held up by community rather than buried, or divided or derived? While my instinct screams run or I want to hide with like-minded folk, so my gaze can be reflected and I don't need to know what is beyond the garden. I know such intentions will become its own cancer. I know that integration is life.
There are no “mine” paradigms that are going to matter or really function right now. The wound of one is the wound of the whole, undeniable, as I have felt my strands of being woven into the interplay and so, even overwhelmed I trust. Even disgusted, I trust. Hylde Moer, older than my remembering stands there with me. Allows me to call her in while I trust that we are navigating a new age of listening. We are calling the Other back to aid us in navigating through our Severance and Shame. Calling them in as we pull together to demand that we are accountable to all our peers, to address our balance in our environment. The putrescence requires pressure for it to surface, requires lancing for relief and healing. Requires a good long look at ourselves, an embracing of our shadows, eye to eye contact, the hard long account of feeling ourselves. knowing the nature of who we are.
All parts of the Elder can be used, depending on the kind will depend on what you receive. Flowers, berries, bark, leaves roots and even hosted fungus have found their uses, reminding us of the many supporting the whole. Some elements bring purging and catharsis, some bring nourishment and enlightenment, all bring forth that generosity of spirit to embrace the other.
And so I adhere, let the guidance come through, carry on singing into the mystery, carry on exploring my roots, minding my safety so I can remain curious to be able to see and then maybe recognize patterns. So I can read the environment around and carry on digging deeper into the nature of myself, leaping up on that part of the spiral as I circle round, bringing my ancestors forth while I reach out to the future letting the present flower. Know the land, feel my belonging so I can become the support. Listening, learning, due respect, ridiculous failures, silly stumbles, tangled sex and raucous stories feeling into the nature of things to better know the balance. To know how to interrupt and shift, sometimes with destruction, sometimes with the silent placement of rocks on the shoreline, always to sing the song, give voice to the essence of ourselves and the matrix dance, the mystery, fed by ceremonies and movements that in turn give us story and shape which in turn gives us ceremony. Even on the periphery, I can catch a hint of tone, a glimpse of the shimmer and a whiff of the scent of the Other. “The old magic has a will of its own, it may work to your need but not to your command and again there are memories above the old magic that wake when it moves*" Elder remembers that magic, she holds those memories and can see the stag and rider hunting through the night and hear the call of the horn. It's in her bones and roots and is passed to her offspring and it is not lost to us. And as we explore and share and support each other in our reawakening of this, celebrating the different parts of the story we are given to carry, as we cultivate generosity of spirit we can listen to each other, to the landscape around us, and let it lead us, each of us, into balance.
*Alan Garner, The Moon of Gomrath
Also gratitude for the resonating and inspiring words and work of Matt Wood, Kiva Rose, Ylva Mara Radziszewski, Scott Kloos, Nessa Emrys, Martin Shaw and Daniel Foor that helped shape these thoughts.