I am drawn to write again about the elder, the tree of the caileach, or crone (1). In my sixteen tree mandala of the year, it covers the period from 24 November to 16 December. I am writing on the last day, tuning into the image more deeply, open to an intuitive personal response.
I see grief, loss and limitation there, in a face both haunted and haunting. Survival at a price. It is what it is. I see neither the pretence of a good time, nor the shadow of self pity. The tree is alive and bearing fruit – alchemical fruit which is poisonous raw and safe after cooking. Perhaps it is the fruit of severity. In the face of a sacred tree, I see a face of the Goddess – an ageing, winter face, yet one that is strong and indomitable. I see this mirrored outside, and also within. Something in me is like this too.
From about the beginning of November, I have been dealing with a succession of minor health problems, not dangerous, but draining in their cumulative effects. I have had frequent experiences of lethargy and a kind of fog in the brain. I move between fundamental acceptance of the experience I am given, and a pragmatic need to push back. I am working at reduced capacity, I have some frustrations about this, and I am finding a new balance. I am glad to have made the core of my life and practice simple and easy to maintain. For me, simplicity allows focus on what really matters. Focusing on what really matters is what I need to do.
(1) The image is from: John Matthews & Will Worthington The Green Man Oracle London: Connections, 2003.
(2) This mandala is based on my personal experience of trees in the neighbourhood as well as traditional lore. Moving around the wheel of the year from 1 November, the positions and dates of the trees are:
Yew, north-west, 1-23 November
Elder, north-north-west, 24 November – 16 December
Holly, north, 17 December – 7 January
Alder, north-north-east, 8 – 31 January
Birch, north-east, 1 – 22 February
Ash & Ivy, east-north-east, 23 Feb. – 16 March
Willow, east, 17 March – 7 April
Blackthorn, east-south-east, 8 – 30 April
Hawthorn, south-east, 1 – 23 May
Beech & Bluebell, south-south-east, 24 May – 15 June
Oak, south, 16 June – 8 July
Gorse, south-south-west, 9 – 31 July
Apple, south-west, 1 -23 August
Blackberry & Vine, west-south-west, 24 August – 15 September
Hazel, west, 19 September – 8 October
Rowan, west-north-west, 9 – 31 October.