Friday, June 19, 2015

A Midsummer Night's Tea Party: Under the Stones and Sky

ParaYourNormal Blog is hosting a Blog Tea Party in honor of the Summer Solstice, 
and I am thrilled to be brewing my own pot of tea for it, along with some special treats at the end of this post!

The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year. In Celtic tradition, "midsummer" is the time to celebrate the strength and warmth of the Sun, which could banish negativity and bring abundance of blessings.
 Bonfires are lit and the Oak King, the King of Summer, is crowned at this time. 

So it would seem fitting to have a Midsummer Night's Tea Party in a magical grove
 underneath an old oak tree. 

Perhaps with some fairies to dance with...

“The lunatic, the lover, and the poet, are of imagination all compact.” 
William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream

But I want to take tea with you somewhere else.

I've mentioned before my memorable trip to England with my husband in 2003. On that trip we took a magical tour called "Stones and Bones" which brought us, among other places, 
to Avebury and Stonehenge.

The Avebury Stone Circle is the largest in the world, split in half by road and town. 

One of the most powerful ley lines in Britain tracks through its entrance stone. In the center, a "male" stone aligns itself with the "female" Goddess stone. I have a great picture of my husband resting in front of the Goddess stone, facing her with his head on his could actually have a tea party or picnic in this circle. (We opted to have a pint at the Red Lion Pub instead...the only pub in England that sits inside a megalithic henge!)

Our guide gave us dousing sticks, and sure enough, they spun around and aligned themselves to the energy path in the earth. (Unfortunately for this blog, my pictures are glued in a scrapbook. This is before we had a digital camera. So these are all from Pinterest!)

 We were privileged to be inside Stonehenge at sunset with a "special access" tour. 
We watched the magnificent sight of the sun lowering between the stones as our guide playing a haunting tune on his fife. 

Here is an excerpt from my scrapbook:
"The great expanse of land and sky that is Salisbury Plain made my soul billow out like a great wind. I caught my breath when I first saw the massive stones standing alone, waiting....The area has been etched in time; as I turned and looked at the plain around us, I could see several barrow mounds sloping the land. The Heel Stone in the distance marks the processional entrance to the henge. In fact, I could still see the creases of this road, the "Avenue," in the grass as it stretched out beyond the marker. This is the way that is aligned with the midsummer sunrise. At the Altar Stone in the center of the circle is a convergence of several ley lines -- so strong that I could feel the energy rumbling under the earth, and I lost my balance momentarily there. I will never forget that mystical feeling of standing on the track, and the magic touching me, moving me."

So I invite you to take Midsummer Night's Tea with me here, under the stones and sky on Salisbury Plain, so we can watch the Sun rise together along the ancient track.

“My soul is in the sky.” 
William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream

In honor of the Summer Solstice, 

The Wood & Stone Series Part Two is now up for PRE-ORDER on Amazon Kindle, and will be released on June 28th.

"He carved and sobbed and bled. He breathed stardust from the singing stone." 

The stones sing to William, filling his blood with music, compelling him to bring forth the magic in their timeless depths. But an appalling betrayal leaves the apprentice mason with terrible scars on his hands and a heart as hard as the stone creatures he carves. Banished from the cathedral guild, he is sent away in disgrace to work under another Master Mason, in service to the lord of a faraway town. 

But things are not quite what they seem to be, here in the town at the forest's edge...not the manor's statuary nor the ancient apple tree. And certainly not the Lord and Lady of Tylwyth Manor. What secrets do these hunters hold behind their strange eyes? 

Within the stone walls of manor and town, Will's heart must be healed for him to understand and control his developing power. And when a dire threat emerges from the forest to wreak havoc on the town, can Will use that power to save all that loves from destruction? 

Songs Within Stone is Part Two of Wood & Stone, a series of connecting tales of folkloric transformation, startling self-discovery, and love as timeless as a sarsen stone, told in medieval and modern settings. 

is on a 
Only from June 20th until June 27th midnight, 
so get it while it's hot! 

"Centered on the very soul of myths and legends, the Celtic world, magical beings, life, tragedy and the final ultimate enchantment of happiness is full to overflowing with the magic of Lori J. Fitzgerald’s words." Amazon Top 500 Reviewer 
"Love Lies Breathing vibrates with magic. This story BREATHES." Christine, Reader 
"Beautiful imagery and a unique fairytale-esque world." Alyssa, Reader

Monday, June 1, 2015

Sacred Groves and Writing: On Ravens and Alder

My favorite story in The Mabinogion, the collection of Welsh myths that influenced medieval Arthurian literature, is the tragic tale of Branwen, daughter of Llyr and sister to King Bran the Blessed. Bran means "raven," and his sister is White Raven, with "wen/gwyn" meaning "white" or "fair." Here is a wonderful video presenting their story:

The video does not mention the one part that always broke my heart in the story: "When Branwen saw her son burning in the fire, she made as if to leap after him from where she was sitting between her two brothers, but Bran seized her with one hand and his shield with the other....As each man went after his weapons Bran protected Branwen between his shield and his shoulder." I always imagined Branwen's struggle against the arms holding her, crying and desperately attempting to reach her dying son, who was probably the only light in her life. Branwen's son was named Gwern, which means "alder tree."

 The raven and the sacred Alder tree are entwined in their own Celtic knot.

The Celtic God Bran and the raven are both connected to the concepts of prophecy and fate. As the video mentions, Bran's prophetic head was buried at Tower Hill, where the ravens are cared for even today. In 2003 my husband took me on the trip of my dreams to England, and I saw those majestic birds firsthand. They took my breath away. It bothered me a little to see them caged and know their wings were clipped, but I got the impression they are well-cared-for, even revered, by all. The Tower Ravens are symbols of the timeless magic of myth and belief.

In Love Lies Bleeding, a raven draws Aislin's attention towards the door in the oak, sealing her fate that she is "destined for the forest."

The Cad Goddeu (The Battle of the Trees) is a Welsh medieval poem attributed to the bard Taliesin (who, by the way, is one of the seven warriors who survive the battle and return to Wales with Branwen and Bran's head). In the poem, Gwydion the enchanter animates trees to be his army. Gwydion identifies the god Bran as a raven and gains power by also identifying him with the alder tree, thus revealing his "secret" names:

"Sure-hoofed is my steed impelled by the spur;
The high springs of alder on thy shield; 
Bran thou are called, of the glittering branches.

Sure-hoofed is my steed in the day of battle:
The high sprigs of alder are in thy hand:
Bran thou are, by the branch thou bearest."

In the Ogham alphabet, alder is "Fearn," one of the peasant trees and representative of the letter "F." It likes to grow at the forest's edge and especially on riverbanks. Like Bran, who used his body as a bridge for his warriors, it was often used as material for bridges and viewed symbolically as a bridge between land and water as well as this world and the Otherworld. The alder is a tree of prophecy, like Bran's head and the raven that loves the alder's dark, damp groves, because it gives us a way to access the knowledge, tales, and energy of the Otherworld.

Alder was also the preferred wood for making shields for Celtic warriors. When cut, the alder's white inner wood turns red, thus "bleeding" and conferring magical protection upon the warrior who carries the shield. Alder is a warrior's wood, one of protection, defense, and preservation, just as Bran relied heavily on his shield to protect his sister.

The Alder Tree can protect us on our journeys and help us find the way to hidden knowledge. Follow the Raven lurking in its branches as it takes flight, for it can also lead us to the right path as we seek out life's mysteries to find who we really are. And speaking of which...

Introducing CORVUS CALLING, 
the new White Raven Writing Newsletter!
I named my shiny new email newsletter after the bird family that includes the mystical ravens. 
Get a glimpse into the "Otherworld" of my stories with exclusive content and first looks before they are announced on social media channels, as well as fun offers just for fans! 

Those of you who follow my Author Page on Facebook may have seen my lovely Oak Ogham pendant by
Bev Halstead, the talented crafter and shop owner, has created these stunning pendants especially for White Raven Writing...

Bev is also willing to PERSONALIZE this pendant for the winner!
Check out TOUCHWOODCRAFT SHOP ON ETSY...all her materials are made with local, sustainable sources, such as recycled Welsh oak, and she uses the old art of "Fire Writing" (pyrography). Bev is absolutely lovely to work with. And there is also an Alder Ogham Pendant for sale...unless it's been snatched up already!

TO ENTER simply SUBSCRIBE by typing your email address on the sidebar under 
Corvus Calling, "Subscribe to Our Mailing List."
Flying Raven Pendant Giveaway ends June 4th, 2015.
Winners to be announced in the first newsletter and contacted by email.

~ fearn ~

If you liked this post, scroll down to check out On Ogham and Oak, the first installment.

Works Referenced and Recommended:
Celtic Tree Magic by Danu Forest
The Mabinogion translated by Jeffrey Gantz

All pictures are from Pinterest, except the pendants courtesy of Touchwoodcraft. If a picture is yours and you do not want it used in this blog post, please contact me and I will remove it. Thank you.