The Wisdom of Weeds illuminates the Utter Darkness

The Wisdom of Weeds illuminates the Utter Darkness

Ever since I first encountered Cerridwen and her story, I have felt drawn to the aspect of Morfran, or Afaggdu. The fierce protectiveness of a mother defending her son, a son who was mocked, derided, overlooked by others… that particular energy of Cerridwen is one I feel so strongly and  for which I am incredibly grateful.

I find lessons from Morfran, too, as my Priestess service shapes and develops. I am often nudged to work with the unseen, the unheard, the oftentimes invisible, the overlooked, the underrated, in particular. I draw great strength in that work by connecting to both Morfran himself and also to Cerridwen in that wonderfully protective state.

It was no real surprise therefore, throughout my training, to feel distinct nudges from Cerridwen to work with a couple of plants which are almost universally decried as weeds or pests, but which can, if we champion them and protect them, bring tremendous healing benefits of all kinds.

Late last summer I set aside a day to go out and gather Fireweed – preparing in advance over the preceding nights in prayer and conversation with Cerridwen, who guided me in the practicalities she wanted me to include. I share here with you a little about my gathering exercise, but also the very clear messages that came through from both the Fireweed and another plant ‘pest’ – the Himalayan Balsam.

Both Fireweed and Himalayan Balsam are everywhere to be found in my part of the world (the west coast of Scotland) and, I am sure, far beyond. They are exceedingly pretty plants to look at, but they are generally considered to be invasive pests.

On the day I’d set aside to gather Fireweed from the hedgerows, I felt a clear push from Cerridwen to obtain some Himalayan Balsam too.  Cerridwen was clear that I was to make mother essences with both plants and she guided me to incorporate a number of personal elements in my preparation as well as others which connect with our wonderful wider Cerridwen community.

My gathering bags came from Avalon. The Himalayan Balsam was gathered on the shores of Loch Fyne, right from the hillside where my father spent his childhood and where my ancestors farmed.  The Fireweed was picked at the top of a hill on the other side of the sea-loch, overlooking the sheep farm where I spent my first few years from birth. 

In the crane bags, awaiting the harvest, nestled a little Cerridwen figure and a piece of Healer’s Gold crystal, ready to welcome the plants and start working with them to help them release their full potential as healing essences.

Cerridwen directed me to mix water from the local River Add (so named for its snakelike shape) with drops from the Red and White Springs and Lake Bala. The vessels used to hold the mother essences belonged to my Mum. All of this brought together as many elements as I could possibly find, to add healing and love and power for the essences that the gathered plants and mingled waters would become.

This is all simply by way of background – the most wonderful part is the messages that I received from the plants. They communicated with such energy and power, and they were clear that their message was not just for me but for everyone, and for the Cerridwen tribe who are learning and working with plants to bring healing into the world.

Below are the messages from Fireweed and Himalayan Balsam – they came through so fast that it was challenging to write them down quickly enough.

Message from Fireweed:

Image by author. The beautiful Fireweed plant which gifted the petals for the mother essence.

We rejoice!

We are so glad that you are working with us and that so many of your sisters are working with us too. We are especially grateful that your teacher has brought us into her work specifically and into yours and others learning. This is important. This will help to teach many about OUR work.

You have found us in the countryside where nowadays we are largely left alone. This is good but we would like you to work with us when you find us in our ‘natural habitat’ – the places where we spring up in defiance of man’s destruction. What men build crumbles but we spring up, colourful and beautiful.

It is no surprise that we start to come to life in your tradition’s season of Fire. And now, when you have come to us, we are getting ready for our own season of death and rebirth. Look how our flowers are starting to turn into seeds. Soon they will be carried away by the wind and it will be as if we were never here. But we will be back, again and again! We will reappear from the ashes of destruction in a new season.

You too must carry our message of healing into the world. The work you are all doing and your learning is showing how much we want to help you.

Remember that as well as a destructive force, fire is used as a beacon, a signal. We have been signalling with our bright, tall blooms. We are heralding the possibility of a new way. A way where the world of humans works with us, and the forces of nature, rather than against us. That is why we grow out of the ashes of the crumbling structures that were built. That is why we rejoice in your learning and your sharing about what we can do. Stand tall and bright like us to signal all of this to the rest of the world.


Message from Himalayan Balsam:

I am hidden in plain sight, just like the anxiety you are so ashamed of. Like this anxiety, which I can help to heal, I can be invasive, pervasive, damaging, overwhelming. Did you notice today when you were looking for me, I was hard to find? Unlike yesterday when you saw me everywhere. But when we did meet you knew it was right and you felt the peace.

I can bring peace to your anxiety if you work with me and not against me. Anxiety and I can each bring you many benefits – sharpness of thought, quickness of mind, swift decision making powers. Yes, left unchecked, both of us may take over. But remember that anxiety in the right measure, the right balance, can keep you safe and protected.

Over this past week you have felt my nurturing, gentle qualities call to you and you have taken time to get to know me. Now you know what healing I can bring and that I can actually be food! Do not worry – I will not hide from you again, I will work with you, and I will not overwhelm you unless you are forgetting what lessons you have learned.


Wisdom of Weeds Crystal Bowl

Added to my water mix, the gathered flowers spent some time outside under the sun when I got home. I worked over them with a tuning fork and played a heart chakra singing bowl to them for a while, to allow those healing vibrations to contribute to their brewing.  They are now two wonderful healing mother essences – with some more work and magic, they will birth tinctures and essences, which will share the healing powers of Fireweed and Himalayan Balsam. Sharing their real nature with the world and offering us ways to work with them, rather than overlooking these plants and seeking to destroy them without care or thought.

If you too can find Fireweed and Himalayan Balsam where you live, perhaps you would like to try to connect with them too. Like Morfran, they are often misunderstood and mistaken for ugly, useless things. Like Morfran, they hold great power and want to heal – all we need to do is look, listen and seek to learn from them.

Notes on Fireweed and its benefits:

Fireweed’s full name is Rosebay Willow Herb. The Fireweed name arose from its tendency to spring up in the waste ground left after fire had ravaged a building or an area of ground. Every part of Fireweed can be used – its leaves can make tea, its roots and stems can be made into cordage, and its flowers can be used for essences, tinctures and balms. It can help with digestive problems, inflammation, headaches and various skin issues.

Himalayan Balsam is commonly eaten in India where young leaves are used in salads and older leaves are included in soups, stews and curries. The petals are used to add colour to drinks. Both the flowers and leaves have cooling properties and other parts of the plants can be used to help urinary complaints. It is also used to treat anxiety in homoeopathy. When picking the flowers, they gave out a smooth, soft oil which felt wonderful on my skin – and that’s something I want to explore with this season’s flowers!  


Aileen, Priestess of Cerridwen

Argyll, Scotland

Instagram @crone_in_training

Samhain is one of the most magical times of the year. Often considered the Witch’s New Year, it’s a time to take stock, to reap the last harvest of the year and, of course, to take a look ahead at the year to come. In Pagan communities of all kinds, people will come together particularly at Samhain for celebration and ritual. What if, though, you’re not part of a like-minded community where you live? What if you’re still in the broom closet, but really want to mark this new beginning, to make the most of a magical space and time where the veils are gossamer-thin? What if you’re just starting out and you don’t have any special magical tools? This little ceremony is for you. It is simple and you need only a pen and paper. It can take as long as you wish it to, or it can take a few snatched minutes in a private space at work – what’s most important is the intent, the energy that you put into it. You can do this alone if you want, but you can also build it up into something bigger and do it with other people. We work with Cerridwen, so if I was doing this, I’d start off by saying a prayer to her. She is a Goddess who understands how it feels to be working hard without a break. She understands what it’s like to feel separate and different to the other people around you. She is a Goddess of transformation, of renewal, and Samhain is her time…when you call on her, especially when setting intentions for the year ahead, she can help. You can use your own words or if you would like, I have included the kind of words we might typically use if we were starting out on a ritual with Cerridwen. Welcome Cerridwen, Mistress of Magic and Mystery. You are at the centre of all that we do. We ask you please to bring your healing to this space. To let your magic flow all around us, and work its wonderful transformation and renewal that is so needed in a world that hurries and pushes. Lady, please bring to us the creativity and regeneration that comes from spending time with you. We stand before you, still and quiet, as all of that wonderful power ebbs and flows around us, ready to restore and renew. We breathe your magic in. Hail and Welcome, Cerridwen, Mistress of Magic and Mystery. We bring all of that energy to our centre now, with gratitude. Blessed be. We can draw on these energies, from the Goddess, not only here today but when we leave this space, when we return to daily life and go about our business. Remember that all of this magic has been called in for you, today. We are now going to ground and centre - when the world pulls at us and makes its demands, it can be easy to forget just where we truly are. And where we are, at all times, is connected to the earth itself, and to the skies above. We have both roots and wings, and we will take just a few moments to remind ourselves now. If you can, close your eyes, but if that’s not possible, then please simply relax and listen, again. Focus on your breathing and allow yourself to breathe gently, slowly, naturally. As you give yourself that gift of deep, nourishing breath, notice how you start to feel more relaxed, calmer and more at peace with yourself. Feel where you are connected to the earth - through the soles of your feet, where you sit, where you place your hands. Feel strong roots of connection growing through your feet and reaching down, down to the very heart of the earth, where there is warmth and the love of Mother Earth herself. Feel that warmth and love travelling all the way back up through your roots right into your body and up into your heart, that wonderful direct connection with Mother Earth. Feel a thread of energy travelling up now, up through your body and through the crown of your head, reaching all the way to the stars where it wraps around and connects with one bright, shining star. Feel the lightness and wonder and magic that comes to you, right from the star, as its loving energy travels down that thread and back to your heart. You are beautifully, wonderfully connected to the earth and the stars, right here, right now, and at all times that you take a moment to ground and centre yourself, to give yourself this gift of reconnection, in this way. Bring your focus back to your breathing, slow and gentle. Wiggle your toes and come back to the place where you’re sitting. But know that you come back with all the power of that grounding and centring, that connection, along with the wonderful Goddess-energies that we called in earlier. Now it is time to do some work! With the help of Cerridwen, we are going to think about some of the things that may have held us back over the past year. The things which have not yielded any fruit or useful harvest for us. The things we want to let go, as we move into a new time, a new year… Cerridwen is known for her mighty cauldron - the cauldron that brewed the Awen, the magical inspiration for so much creativity that exists in the world today. Her cauldron is also one of transformation and release, magical alchemy working with us to identify things that no longer serve us and help us change them into more helpful patterns. Today we are going to put into the cauldron some of those things! Take your paper and pen, and take a few minutes to write down five or six of the things that you would like to let go of. These could be things like anxiety, procrastination, fear… or anything else at all that you can see isn’t serving you, or your highest good. Take as much time as you need and, when you’re done, take a look at your list for a moment. Now - for the next few minutes, make a new list on another piece of paper. This list is all of the things that will help you overcome and work towards transforming those challenges. Perhaps it is courage, or boldness that you need…or something else altogether. But please take time to write these down. Now you have two lists - well done for taking this time to focus on yourself , for taking stock and for thinking about the positive things you would like to bring into the year ahead! Look at your first list - the list of challenges and difficulties. We are now going to put those into Cerridwen’s Cauldron – metaphorically speaking… Look at the first item on your list - take your pen and very carefully, deliberately, score it out. (If you have a felt pen like a Sharpie, that would be ideal!). Score over that word until it is no longer visible. It is going into the cauldron to be transformed. Now, do the same for each item on your list. Score them out, with each stroke of your pen think of these challenges becoming less and less... With each stroke of your pen, imagine that these challenges are being burnt away, in a cauldron, going through the transformative, cleansing, renewing, bright energy that Fire brings, to help you move these on. Now, please turn to your second list - the list that will help you to overcome those challenges. Take a look at each of the things you have written down - take time to speak them to your heart and soul, you do not need to do this out loud right now but please do so when you can. Look at each word you have written down. What do you need to do to make them reality? Give these written words value and importance - draw around them, a circle, a heart, any pictures that might help you to bring them to reality. Make them beautiful, for they are beautiful things, and they can be good and helpful companions to you as you set out on this new, fresh time in your life. Keep your list and add it to a journal if you have one, or keep it somewhere safe where you can look at it and be reminded of this time you took for yourself today. Look at it again - add to it if you want, drawing on the energies we have brought to this space today, remembering how peaceful and inspired you felt. These are qualities that we want to keep, we are not throwing them to the fire, but we will ask Cerridwen to bless them. I have added the kind of words that we would use, but you can use your own too. Cerridwen, we have given to your fire those things which no longer serve us. And, inspired by you and supported by your energy, we have set out the things which will help us, which we will work towards, to support us in future times of challenge and to help us grow in joy and vitality. Lady, please consume in your fire that list of challenges. And Lady, please bless the work that we will do to grow and thrive. Blessed be. We hope that this short ceremony helps to restore you and provides inspiration and support to draw upon in the days to come. We can never completely avoid busyness but we can take time out for ourselves so we can cope with it. Thank you for taking that time for you today. As you return to your day and the days to come, I hope you can keep the peace and nourishment of this sacred space and time in your heart. Aileen, Priestess of Cerridwen Argyll, Scotland Instagram @crone_in_training

3 thoughts on “The Wisdom of Weeds illuminates the Utter Darkness

  1. Fireweed makes lovely tea, twisting the leaves before drying improves the flavour. Was used as everyday tea in Russia, hence it’s name Ivan’s chai. Off to brew a cup c

    1. Thanks Cate, I didn’t know about its Russian links. I tried tea last summer but it didn’t work so well – so thank you for the tip about twisting the leaves, I think that will help! I hope you enjoyed your cup. Thank you for reading – Aileen

  2. I first heard about fire-weed in a children’s program called Molly from Denali. The natives of Alaska use it for drinks, ice cream and other foods. Late last summer i found it growing in a field in my back yard. I can hardly wait until it blooms this year so I can connect with it and all the magic it has to offer.

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