Tuesday, 23 September 2014


Recently I have started doing archery, which for me is deeply redolent of Robin Hood, Artemis, Shen-I the Excellent Archer, and other mythological figures. When I am doing it, I am totally in the moment, totally focussed on hitting the target, and how my body fits with the bow (though probably insufficiently focussed on the latter). I am not thinking of anything else. For me, archery is embodied spirituality in action.

Spirit of the Woods,
I hear you breathing.
You are in me,
in the wood of the bow,
the taut bowstring,
the flight of the arrow.
I am in the moment,
focussed on the arrow's point.
I am in you, the endless woodland,
where the Hunter and the hunted are one.
May the skill of my arm increase.
May my body move in harmony.
May I be true as my aim is true.
So mote it be.

Monday, 22 September 2014

The Rose

(this article was originally published in Pagan Dawn)

Rosa acicularis 8448.JPG
The rose is the flower of Venus and the symbol of love in all its delicious variety.  It is symbolically linked to Adonis, Aphrodite, Dionysus and Eros.  Greek lovers gave roses as a courting gift to their eromenoi.  “So must you beautiful boys arm yourselves with roses,” wrote Philostratus in the second century CE. 

According to mythology, Aphrodite trod on the thorns of a white rose-bush when she rushed to succour her mortally-wounded lover Adonis.  Her blood stained the petals red, and this is how the red rose came to be.  The red rose is sacred to Venus and Aphrodite, who rule over love, life, creation, fertility, creation, beauty and virginity.  The open rose is a symbol of the feminine, while the rosebud is a symbol of the masculine, and suggests same-sex love, especially in the Middle East.  In a sixteenth century text by Mehemmed Ghazali (d. 1535), the relaxed anus is compared to the “laughter of a thousand roses”, and the closed anus to a “silent rosebud”.  In nineteenth-century French bohemian circles, men-loving men were dubbed “les Chevaliers de la Rosette” (the knights of the little rose – the little rose signified the anus).  The rose also symbolises the short intense life of a beautiful being who does not bear fruit – the eternal ephebe.

In alchemy, the rose symbolised the Divine Androgyne, and both Rosicrucian and Sufi writings make extensive use of rose imagery.  In the Rubai'yat of Omar Khayyam (a Sufi poem), the rose represents the ephemeral nature of life:

Look to the Rose that blows about us---"Lo,
"Laughing," she says, "into the World I blow:
"At once the silken Tassel of my Purse
"Tear, and its Treasure on the Garden throw."

Similarly, in an Irish ballad, the rose symbolises regret at the passing of youth:

'Tis the last rose of summer left blooming alone
All her lovely companions are faded and gone.

In Rosicrucianism, the rose-cross contains the mystic rose as the wheel and the divine light of the universe, and the cross as the temporal world of pain and sacrifice.  W B Yeats evokes these themes in his poem, To the Secret Rose:

Surely thine hour has come, thy great wind blows,
Far off, most secret, and inviolate Rose?
The Compass Rose or the Rose of the Winds represents the cardinal directions and the winds, and is used as a symbol of the circle in the Cochrane Tradition.

The rose is also a symbol of secrecy – the term 'sub rosa' denotes this, and a carving of a rose is hung in council chambers as a reminder to be discreet.  In Alchemy, it was also a symbol of wisdom, and the rebirth of the spiritual after the death of the temporal.  In Egypt, the rose symbolised pure love freed from carnal desire, and as such, was an emblem of Isis and Osiris (Aset and Ousir).  In Hebrew symbolism, the centre of the rose is the sun, and its petals are the infinite variety of life.  The Adept's Rose has 22 petals (one for each Hebrew letter and path of the Tree of Life); the inner ring of three petals denotes Air, Fire and Water; the middle ring represents the seven planets; and the outer ring represents the twelve signs of the zodiac.

According to Persian legend, essential oil of rose was discovered at the wedding-feast of the Princess Nour-Djihan and the Emperor Djihanguyr.  A canal was dug, and the surface of the water was covered with rose-petals.  The heat of the sun caused the oil to separate from the petals and float on the surface of the water, and the production of rose-oil began soon afterwards.  Essential oil of rose (extracted from Rosa damascena and Rosa centifolia) can be used to purge the vascular and digestive systems and soothe the nerves.  It regulates menstruation and is good for genito-urinary infections and as an antiseptic.  It is also an aphrodisiac.  Rose water reduces inflammation and can be used as an eye bath for conjunctivitis, or in a poultice applied to the temples to relieve a headache.  Rosehip syrup is an excellent source of vitamin C.  Red rose petals can be used for dyeing cloth, and any colour can be used to make rose-petal wine.  Rosaries were originally made of dried rosebuds, and the beads are still carved in the shape of rosebuds.

In magic, the thorns of the rose are used for protection.  Rose petals and hips are used in healing magic, and to relieve stress.  Drinking rosebud tea before going to bed is said to induce prophetic dreams.  Planting roses in the garden is said to attract faeries, and rose-bushes are said to grow best when they are stolen from another garden.

Yvonne Aburrow


Aburrow, Yvonne (1993), The Enchanted Forest: the magical lore of trees.  Chieveley: Capall Bann Publishing.

Conner, Randy P., David Sparks, and Mariya Sparks (1997), Cassell's Encyclopedia of Queer Myth, Symbol and Spirit: Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Lore. London and New York: Cassell.

 Fitzgerald, Edward (trans.) The Rubai'yat of Omar Khayyamhttp://www.armory.com/~thrace/ev/siir/Omar_Khayyam.html 

Yeats, William Butler, The Secret Rose.

Friday, 18 July 2014

A prayer for the environment

There have been a lot of messages lately about the nature deities and spirits and the environment, including a dream that I had. Recently, three people posted a thought for the day in the Centre for Pagan Studies Facebook group about Pan. And I also had a message in ritual from the god Frey, who cares for green things.

So this is my prayer:

Lords of Animals, Ladies of the Flowers,
Gods of green growing things and goddesses of wild animals
Teach us to tread lightly on the Earth,
And walk in harmony with Nature.
The earth, the fire, the water, and the air:
All are sacred,
And the fifth sacred thing is spirit.
Once we were wild,
and instinctively knew
how to walk in a sacred manner.
Now there is so much destruction,
that some are already in mourning,
believing that there is no hope.
I still hope, but I also fear.
May our hearts be open to your promptings,
May our hands be ready for your work
May our minds be in the service of healing
So mote it be.

Thursday, 12 June 2014


Consider the power in your hair
Whether dark or ginger or fair
Or short or long, up or down,
Or springy or curly or straight
Or red or blue or green or brown,
You can use it to weave men's fate:
Unbinding your braids can open the gate
Of birth, and unleash the power of your sex.
They say that the wildness of hair
Can cause destruction and death
Oh the mysterious powers of hair!
Delilah knew all too well
The powers of hair to weave a spell:
It crackles with magical power
Like fire from Rapunzel's tower.
Hair like the wings of night
Can cause a terrible fright
As it shines in the pale moon's light
Unleashing bats and owls
As we dance with cackles and yowls
About the full moon fire.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

This is how the message ran...

I had an amazing dream this morning. I was standing on top of a city that consisted of a collection of small houses, which we realised would have to be turned into a tower for defensive reasons. Just then a tiny spaceship about the size of a coffee pot came and settled in my hand. It started making a humming noise, so I put it to my ear and I could hear a message. The message was that we must stop hurting the Earth. The aliens who had sent the message had despoiled their own planet with pollution and carbon in the atmosphere, and they wanted to save us from the same fate.

Friday, 21 March 2014

The seeds are sprouting

We are telling ourselves a story of inevitable destruction,
that the environment is doomed,
but the seeds of a new way of life are sprouting
beneath the cracks, beneath the concrete,
and the rivers are rising,
the Earth is protesting,
the winds of change are blowing.

The spirits of place are calling
for a new story, for a new paradigm.
A story of hope, a story of renewal.

Ancient Goddess of Earth,
hear our desire for change,
forgive us for wounding you,
over and over.

We begin today to tell a new story, a story of hope, a story of renewal.
The wheel turns, the fire burns, the winds of change are blowing.
The spirits of place are calling, the seeds of change are growing.
We dare to dream, we dare to hope, we dare to change.

~ Yvonne Aburrow

Inspired by this article by Nafeez Ahmed: The global Transition tipping point has arrived - vive la révolution

And this blogpost by Sophia Bonnie Wodin: Story: the bigger picture

Friday, 28 February 2014


The festival of Borrowed highlights the idea that we do not own the Earth and its finite resources, we only borrow them, and share them with all other life.

The world hangs in the balance,
a blue bauble on a pendulum
swinging in the void.
Change begins with a butterfly's wing,
a tiny flutter gathering into a storm.
We can all be butterflies.
If you worship the green growing things,
if you honour the three-toed sloths
and the hummingbirds and the pandas,
and the strange beasts of the deep places,
the furry, scaly, leafy textures,
the divine exuberance of life,
then please remember
we are living on borrowed time,
borrowed places, hallowed spaces,
and tread lightly on our sacred home.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Ned Ludd

The machines must be fed constantly
not just with oil - they take the arms and fingers
of those who tend them. They invade the dreams
of the workers, who hear their clattering
even in the furthest reaches of sleep.
So we creep by night into factories.
Ned Ludd - general of the armies of night -
is with us. His strength was in my arm
when I smashed the machine loom, smashed and smashed.
Strength like the grip of ivy, crushing
stone and metal. The power of roots is in him,
relentlessly pushing up from the earth.
He is the land fighting back, rising up.
against the encroaching iron and steel.

by Yvonne Aburrow

Inspired by A choice of worldings by Rhyd Wildermuth

Friday, 24 January 2014

Vox clamantis in deserto

The wilderness is not desolate when
it is illuminated by one who
sees every leaf and branch for its own self,
and patiently teases out its meaning.
The prophet’s voice is heard, speaking softly,
close to the earth, divining the waters
that well up unseen. Softly the creatures
of the wild places gather to hear him,
eyes like lamps in the night as they hear his song
re-enchanting the world, weighing its meanings.
One day the waters will run free again,
awakening the land from sleep. Till then,
listen to the man who sings of trees and stars,
waters and woods, a voice in the wild.

(for Andrew Brown)