The Expectation of Huath

Huath is the 6th few in the Ogham alphabet, but the first one of the second aicme. It’s tree is the hawthorn.

There are many things we can’t see the outcome of, and yet we are expecting something to happen. Can’t do much about it, or even prepare – how do you prepare for the unknown? You won’t know what it’s like until you get there and experience it first hand. But until then, you just wait. That’s my life right now; I’m expecting my first child, been waiting for almost nine months (yep, not so long now). You hear stories about what it’s like to be a parent and have a baby and you studiously soak up all the theory about the subject, but until it actually happens to you, you don’t know. Life will change drastically, but I don’t know what that change is going to be like. I know it’s going to be tiring and frustrating and yet also “ultimately worth it”, but I have nothing to compare that with, so can’t really prepare myself for the experience. I can but wait, but I can say it’s the most interesting waiting experience I’ve ever had!

The Flow of Saille

Willow is the tree associated with Saille, and as such its symbolism is very watery, since willows are often found growing by rivers and lakes. Their form also evokes a “flowing” sensation, with long, elegant leaves and flexible branches. This also evokes traditional (stereotypical?) ideas of femininity.

This ogham few also expresses for me the essense of aikido. My sensei often says that the best aikido is a woman’s aikido. In general, men are encouraged to be aggressive and competitive, and to some extent dispassionate with other people – martial arts like karate or jujitsu tend to come easier. Aikido is much more of a challenge for a “typical” man, though women have their own challenges in aikido, perhaps relating to the more martial aspect of it.

Aikido, a martial art based on peace and harmony, cultivates more “feminine” qualities of gentleness and compassion. Many times I’ve been pracitising a technique and even if technically it is correct, my sensei still corrects how I do it: “Too rigid.” – “You’re using too much force, it wouldn’t work if your opponent were stronger than you.” – “Adam, there’s too much tension and aggression. Relax, breathe.” Not corrections you’d recieve in most forms of karate.

In aikido we are taught to flow, not use force or strength, to work with dynamics and movement, to be “like water”. Aikido still remains a martial discipline – a certain confidence and directness is involved – but it always based on a principle of non-harm and fluidity.

The Advice of Fearn

The tree associated with fearn is the alder (Alnus glutinosa) and the meanings associated with it are advice, oracules, protection and guidance. It’s the protection that comes with good advice, friends and family that’ll look out for you and give you shelter if you need it. If you find yourself unsure or confused, you may seek out counsel, perhaps from other people that you know, or perhaps from other ways of knowing that we are not used to, something slightly more intuitive. We have the habit of thinking that the conscious mind is all there is to “who we are”, but there are other insights and resources within us that we haven’t tapped into. An aperture apears in the limits of identity and knowledge, and we find solisism isn’t an option in this world of many different beings.

If ever my pride gets in the way of listening, I shall endeavour to remember fearn‘s advice!

Today’s meditation gave me an insight about the first five fews (the first aicme), beith, luis, fearn, saille and nuin. There is a sense here that corresponds with the process of individuation. First we begin with beith, starting on the journey, being purified and initiated for it. Next comes luis which offers us some protection and definition of a psychological/psychic kind. We could say that the individual has begun to define themselves through the ego. Next comes fearn; now that we have defined self we can come face to face with other. This can be other people or, since I mention the ego, the unconscious. The ego must begin  to reach out and define its relationships with other and become conscious of the unconscious – the latter is achieved with saille, which provides “non-rational” ways of knowing, through dreams, symbols and art (which may be confusing without the protection and guidance of luis and fearn, self and other). The ego learns to be more flexible and fluid, following its intuition. Next nuin gives a link of communication and a synthesis between conscious and unconscious, self and other. Nuin can sometimes be found after luis, so we may say that the process of linking started then, but it is fulfilled at the end. It’ll be interesting to see how this process is reflected through the other aicmes.

The Transcendance of Nuin

Nuin, whose assigned tree is the ash tree (Fraxinus excelsior usually) has historically been placed as the fifth few of the Ogham, as can be seen in most ancient documents, but some have speculated that it was in fact the third few. The first three fews then become BLN, which has been linked to the Celtic sun-god Belenos, which may not be “academically correct”, but at least has interesting symbolism connected to it.

The ash tree is tall, seeing far of lands, other perspectives, allowing us to transcend our limited point of view and expanding it but connecting and communicating with other points of view. For this reason it has been connected to the World Tree (though the yew tree is also a fair candidate). If ever we feel stuck, within a certain situation or even our own psychology, the ash tree may help us break free with its spear-like strength and accuracy (its wood was, in fact, used for spears).

Keys are also significant in connection to ash; the unlock doors, allowing us to access other spaces, so that we can move around. But keys are also the name of the seeds peculiar to the ash. They have little “wings” allowing them to float far away from their parent tree, reaching low to the ground, connecting upper to lower, which then grow into tall trees, connecting lower with upper again. It is a tree for “thinking globally and acting locally”, finding the synthesis between the two perspectives.

The Magic of Luis

Today I present some reflections on the Ogham few luis (pronounced lweesh). It’s assigned tree is the rowan (Sorbus aucuparia).

Protection, magic, enchantment, control of the senses, discernment. These are the associations I have read up on and used in my meditation.

“Control of the senses” brought to mind all the advertisement we see on TV or plastered around our towns and cities. We are “invaded” by it, enchanted by it, controlled by it. There are other things, signals and messages, that come in “under the radar” of our consciousness, not just in advertising, but in our media and everyday relations. We may be completely unconscious of them, take them for granted or simply don’t see them as important, though they affect us more than we think.
The protection of Rowan isn’t passive, like a shield or stone wall, it has to be active and conscious. It’s the protection of discernment, and analysis, remaining aware of what is happening to us, and counteract anything that will influences us in a bad way. In ceremonial magic a circle is often drawn to delineate “inside” and “outside”, keeping malefic powers at bay. We only invite in what we want within the circle and reject anything we don’t want.
Bit by bit, as we become aware of what influences us and how, we integrate their lessons and their enchantments subside. The unconscious is a great aperture through which anything may enter unnoticed. When we become aware of the unconscious and begin to analyse its dynamics and the comings and goings within it, we can begin to control what influences us, not letting our sense become overwhelmed or overridden by undesirable forces.

Studying Ogham: Beith and beginnings

I’m taking part in a study of the Ogham on the Ancient Order of Druids of America’s new forum:

Each week a different few will be studied and meditated upon. Here are some of my reflections:

This morning I sat and did a meditation, repeating the name “beith”, visualising the image of the few at the same time and letting thoughts and images come to me.

There are no birch trees where I live; it is too hot and dry for them. But what there are are Aleppo pine Pinus halipensis, or “white pine” as we have nicknamed them, since it is paler than the red and black pines(pinus sylvestris and pinus nigra). Fifty years ago the land where I live was bare, covered with terraces for cultivation. Fifty years later, it is forest dominated by Aleppo pine, the first stage in the recovery of the forest. I wrote a blog about it here: (just realised that this was written exactly a year ago!)

Last night, I went to a place which for years has been too thick with undergrowth to access. Last night I managed to enter and find a few interesting places, and reach a terrace that I had only reached from the other side before. Ideas have come to me, and its an interesting place to get to know and begin to discover it.

Most important beginning for me is the one I’m expecting in Nov/Dec. Me and my partner are expecting a baby, a girl. We’ve been together ten years (5th Dec ’06 was when I first came to live here, close to the expected birth). It’s a new phase in ours lives and our relationship, and extremely new and different one. Our baby has already taken a place in our hearts, and I’m looking forward to fatherhood. Not just the beginning of a new life, but a new beginning in my life!

Beith: Regeneration of Forests

Valleys covered with Aleppo pine.

Valleys covered with Aleppo pine.

In both Britain and Spain there is a common phrase: there was so much forest that a squirrel could have gone from the South to the North without touching the floor. Nowadays we cannot talk of a continuous forest but of landscapes dotted with woods,  very few of which are ancient. But nature regenerates and renews itself, and that is the message of Beith, the first few (or letter) of the Ogham, an old Celtic alphabet, which is well known for its association with trees – though there are other lists, like birds, colours, lakes, tools and so on.

In the Tree Ogham Beith corresponds to the birch tree, which is quick to propagate and grow. Where there is no forest in North European countries, this will be the first one to establish new forest and pave the way for other species, hence its association with regeneration and renewal. But in our part of the Mediterranean there are no birch trees since it is far too dry and hot for them, leaving Beith without a tree. Enter the Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), resistent to heat and dry weather, and also a tree that will quickly cover forest-less landscapes. Here, we refer to it as the “white pine” (distinguishing it from “red” and “black” varieties), further strengthening its association with the birch tree.

Spain, like many places in Europe and the world, has been subject to a lot of deforestation from the times of the Romans onwards, so only the fastest growing trees would come back, like the Aleppo pine, leaving slower growing trees struggling to recover.

I was looking one day at old aerial photographs of the valley where I live and was amazed to see that just a few decades ago there were hundreds of terraces used for hazel, olive and apple orchards. Now, all this land has become forest, and the terraces are hidden beneath a skin of Aleppo forest. The forest is regenerating!

When I came from England to live here, I didn’t appreciate this pine enough, since I was used to deciduous, broad-leafed forests with a lot more greenness and humidity – knowing what I know now, I can appreciate it more. The land has been cleared of forest, but now it has been left to its own devices, and the Forest is coming back. Long may it continue!