October Totems: Hazel

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. October’s totems are Salmon, Hazel, and Lapwing.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Salmon – (Bradan) oldest animal; wisdom, knowledge, inspiration
Hazel – (Coll) wisdom, intuition, creativity, divination, the source
Lapwing – (Curracag) resourcefulness, distraction, wisdom, divination

Hazel

The Hazel is deciduous and grows to the height of a small tree/large shrub – 12-20 feet tall. Hazels are plentiful in copses, oak woods, and hedgerows, and they thrive in damp places near ponds and streams. Their bark is smooth and light brown with lighter brown specks that are the pores of the tree. They have tough, elastic stems and slightly heart-shaped, asymmetrical leaves.

Hazel’s magical associations include fertility, wisdom, marriage, divination, healing, protection, intuition, dowsing wands, individuality, finding the hidden, luck and wishes. Hazel’s atmosphere brings exhilaration and inspiration, and it has been called the ‘Poet’s Tree.’ It has associations with faerie lore and entrance into faerie realms. It is aligned with the element of Air and with the feminine.

Hazel is one of the “Seven Chieftain Trees” of the Celts, and the unnecessary felling of hazel trees brought the death penalty in Ireland.

The Hazel is considered to be the Tree of knowledge for the Celts. Its nuts are ultimate receptacles of wisdom. Hazelnuts were considered the food of the Gods.

Hazel was used in combination with other woods (oak, apple and willow) for various magical purposes, and it has associations with love divinations and love wands (possibly due to the shape of the leaves).

Because it is plentiful near water, Hazel is associated with wells and springs. For example, nine hazels of “poetic art” surrounded Connla’s Well, the destination and home of the first salmon. Magically speaking, silver snakes and silvery fish dart around its roots, which signifies swift energy. Hazel brings speed through the air and water.

In Cornwall, it was used for dowsing (to find water, ley lines, thieves, murderers and treasure). In France, it was used for beating the bounds (to define the boundaries and make sure they didn’t fall into a state of neglect). In Wales, twigs were made into wishing caps.

Hazel’s healing qualities were used to cure fevers, diarrhea, and excessive menstrual flow. The kernels were used for clearing cough and head congestion. The nuts were used in divination rituals, especially concerning love.

Hazel wands or rods bring poetic and magical inspiration. They can also be used as “talking sticks” for order in large group discussions. The Druids also believed they could achieve invisibility from hazel rods fashioned in a certain manner.

October Totems: Salmon

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. October’s totems are Salmon, Hazel, and Lapwing.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Salmon – (Bradan) oldest animal; wisdom, knowledge, inspiration
Hazel – (Coll) wisdom, intuition, creativity, divination, the source
Lapwing – (Curracag) resourcefulness, distraction, wisdom, divination

Salmon

The Salmon is the “Oldest Animal” in Welsh mythology and is critical in the search for Mabon. Salmon is a symbol of wisdom, inspiration and rejuvenation.

The Salmon will return to place of its own birth to mate (often with great difficulty) and is, therefore, a reminder that we need to journey back to our own beginnings to find wisdom. The Druid quest is for wisdom and knowledge, leading eventually to the Oldest Animal.

It swims in the well of wisdom (Connla’s Well) at the source of all life, a sacred pool that has 9 hazel trees growing around it. Fionn MacCumhaill received the wisdom of the salmon when he was cooking the fish for someone else. The juice splashed on his hand, and he got the knowledge of the fish when he sucked the burned spot.

Samhain Totems: Crane

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. Samhain’s totems are Toad, Elder, and Crane

The totemic associations are as follows:

Toad – (Buaf) transformation, inner visions, death and rebirth, hidden power and beauty
Elder (Ruis) – death and rebirth, change and transition
Crane – (Corr) longevity, remembrance, past lives, secret knowledge, patience

Crane

The Crane is an ancient and powerful symbol to many cultures. To the Chinese, it is a solar symbol, one of justice. It is also a modern symbol of wildlife conservation (and a deeper spiritual practice, too, of recovering what is becoming extinct within the self). The Crane represents longevity and creation through focus. In Celtic lore, Cranes are often associated with the Underworld and are thought to be heralds of war and death.

Cranes are protective/secretive parents. They lay two eggs, but raise only one, which gives them the connection to focus and undivided attention. They are also associated with perseverance due to the fact that they will stand for hours looking into the water and waiting for the right time to strike at fish. The Crane can help us to concentrate without distractions. They also represent longevity of life span. There is a crane, for instance, on the island Inis Kea who has been there since the beginning of the world, and it will stay there until the world’s end.

The Crane symbolizes “secret knowledge” which is represented by the Ogham script of the Celts.  This form of text is said to be based on the shapes of the Crane’s legs as they fly, and one can say that learning the secret knowledge of the Crane is learning to read the “book of nature.” The phrase “Crane Knowledge” indicates the knowledge of the Ogham alphabet, but it also implies an understanding of the world that goes deeper and has connections to many Realms – including past-life knowledge, predicting rain storms, etc.

The Crane bag is the Druid’s medicine bag (in which he carried his Koelbren lots – or carved Ogham staves). The Crane Bag is a symbol of the fetal sac or womb and has connections to the things we carry from one life to another. Certain Gods are said to have carried a Crane Bag. Manannan’s contained his own shirt, a strip from a whale’s back, the King of Scotland’s shears, the King of Lochlain’s helmet, the bones of Assail’s swine and Goibne’s smith-hook.

The Crane is often a guide to the Underworld, whether at the time of death or during an inner journey. These birds are often shown in groups of threes. For instance, three cranes protect entrance to Annwn, three cranes appear on a bull’s back in several drawings, and three cranes guard Midhir’s castle. Furthermore, cranes are said to dance and fly in circles (and are, therefore, said to be the basis of the triskele symbol).

November Totems: Rowan

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. November’s totems are Rowan, Raven, and Fox.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Fox – (Sionnach) trickster, invisibility, shape-shifting, diplomacy, wildness
Rowan – (Luis) protection against enchantment, psychic power, self-control
Raven – (Bran) underworld messenger, shape-shifting, trickster, initiation, protection
Rowan
The Rowan is sometimes referred to as the “Tree of Life” or the “Lady of the Mountain,” this tree is thought to protect against enchantment. The wood of this tree was often used for rune staves (sticks which are engraved with the Ogham or runs and used as a divinatory tool) and as a divining rod for metal.
Also used as a generally protective talisman, the branches of the Rowan Tree are hung over the doors of houses and barns to protect the inhabitants. It is planted in cemeteries in Wales to guard over the spirits of the dead. Babies’ cradles are often made of Rowan wood, as it is thought to keep death and harm away from the young. Some references claim that Rowan wood protects one from the Faery.
The Rowan berry has a pentagram in its center and is red in color. A necklace strung of the berries is said to protect the wearer from harm.
Rowan indicates an ability to contain control of your senses, provides protection from harm and a protection when engaged in battle. The element associated with the Rowan is Fire, and its gender association is male.

November Totems: Raven

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. November’s totems are Rowan, Raven, and Fox.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Fox – (Sionnach) trickster, invisibility, shape-shifting, diplomacy, wildness
Rowan – (Luis) protection against enchantment, psychic power, self-control
Raven – (Bran) underworld messenger, shape-shifting, trickster, initiation, protection
Raven 
The Raven is the most sacred bird of the British Isles. Raven is a bird of magic and mysticism, shapeshifting, creation, birth and death, healing, initiation, protection and prophecy. Raven is great at vocalizations and can even be taught to speak. She can use tools, is not intimidated by others, is fast and wary, and does not make easy prey for other animals.
In the Near East, Raven is considered unclean, due to the fact that she is a scavenger. In Norse tradition, Odin had 2 Ravens as messengers (Thought and Memory). Furthermore, Odin was known to shape-shift as a Raven. In the Pacific Northwest, Raven was the bringer of life and order. She was the bringer of sunlight. Even in British tradition, Raven is seen sometimes as a bird of morning, sunlight and joy. In the tale of Beowulf, Raven helps Beowulf to victory.
Bran the Blessed, whose name means Raven, was sometimes known as the Raven King. He was beheaded in battle, and his head was buried in White Mount, which later became the hill on which the Tower of London was built. His head was placed to face the enemies and protect England from invasion. In fact, both London and Lyons had Raven totems. Furthermore, both cities were dedicated to Lugh who was warned of the approach of the Formorians by Ravens. Another legend claims that King Arthur became a Raven upon his death.
Ravens are often associated with death and the Underworld. The cries of Ravens are heard before death in battle, and Ravens are often said to bring messages from the Underworld. For this reason, they are bird of prophecy and divination. The Raven has the ability to see the past and the future, while living in the present.
In this way, the Raven is a bringer of Initiation, both little “i” and big “I.” Initiation is, after all, a death of one thing and the birth of another. 
Raven is strongly associated with Morrigan (and one of Her particular aspects, Badb). Morrigan appears on the battlefield as Raven (or Scald-Crow), bringing havoc and fear in the enemy. Linked to their presence at or proclamation of Death, they are associated with deep healing (the kind of healing that comes from radical confrontation with the hidden), the type of healing offered by the Morrigan. 

February Totems: Cat

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. February’s totems are Cat, Willow, and Owl.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Cat – (Cath) mystery, magic, secrecy, independence, sensuality
Willow – (Saille) divination, lunar magic, healing, night
Owl – (Comhachag) wisdom, magic, night, inner visions, change

Cat

The Cat is an animal of mystery and magic, largely because she is more active and communicative at night. She is capable of observing multiple worlds (physical and non-physical) at one time without making decision or passing judgment. She is very independent, accepting affection on her own terms and warning of caution and respect. The Cat is also a symbol of guardianship, attachment and sensuality.

The Cat is shown in folk tales from around the world. In ancient Egypt, the Cat had special privilege. Bast was shown as a Cat or as having a Cat’s head. In Scandinavia, the Cat was associated with Freya (Goddess of fertility). Her chariot was pulled by the cats Bygul and Trjegul (Beegold/Honey & Treegold/Amber). Shasti (Hindu childbirth Goddess) was shown riding a Cat.

In Celtic world, warriors carried the skin of a wild Cat. The Cat’s qualities of curiosity, 9 lives, independence, cleverness, unpredictability and healing would have been helpful to a warrior.

Because Cat can see and work in spirit world (which lead to the Church torturing and killing thousands of cats in Britain and France) it was believed that witches could take form of Cats. This lead to the belief that a witch’s pet Cat was her familiar (spirit in the form of a Cat).

The Cat is associated with the Goddess and the feminine. Brighid had a cat as a companion. Cerridwen (as the great sow Henwen) gives birth to a wolf-cub, eagle, bee and kitten. The kitten grows into the Palug Cat – one of the 3 Plagues of Anglesey.

The Cat is a fierce guardian (guardian of Otherworldly treasure) in the immrama of Maelduin. And the Celts have many sightings of Cath Sith (Faery Cats), which are Big Cats.

February Totems: Willow

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. February’s totems are Cat, Willow, and Owl.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Cat – (Cath) mystery, magic, secrecy, independence, sensuality
Willow – (Saille) divination, lunar magic, healing, night
Owl – (Comhachag) wisdom, magic, night, inner visions, change

Willow

    The willow has very feminine overtones. It is strongly lunar in its energy pattern. Willows are found at the edges of streams and lakes, giving them the elemental powers of both earth and water. The willow is a water-loving tree and responds to the lunar cycle.

The Anglo-Saxon welig (willow) means pliancy, and withy branches (or osiers) are cut from the willow to weave baskets, mend fences, and form frames for coracles. A coracle is a small keeless boat fashioned from a basket of willow withies and made waterproof by the addition of a tightly stretched hide.  No nails are used in the construction of a coracle, rather the entire boat is bound by weaving and plaiting.

    The willow is thought to have healing properties over diseases of a damp nature. It is considered as a symbol of fertility and the female cycle. A chemical called salicin is extracted from the bark of the willow and used for the treatment of pain and fever. It is similar in chemical construct to asprin.

    The willow can bring an awareness of your feminine side and is often associated with the Goddess Brighid because her festival of Imbolc falls within the influence of the willow tree.  In our tradition the willow, also known by its folk name “the tree of enchantment”, is sacred to the Black Goddess.

As trees of enchantment, willow groves were used by poets, artists, musicians, priest and priestesses as places on meditation and inspiration.

Wands cut from willow are known as “willie wains” and are said to contain the powers of water and the moon.

To make a wish, tie a loose knot in a willow branch on a living tree, and state your wish, charging the knot.  When your wish comes true return to the willow, untie the knot, and make an offering of thanks for its aid.

Witches brooms are bound with willow, usually with birch twigs serving as the brush, and ash as the stave.  These three trees are the trees sacred to and surrounding the month of March, sacred to Hulda, mistress of the broom.

Magic mists are raised in folk tales by aid of the willow, and many stories tell of willows that uproot themselves at night to stalk unwary travellers.

March Totems: Hare

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. March’s totems are Hare, Birch, and Goose.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Hare (Gearr) – lunar magic, fertility, sensitivity, swiftness, intuition
Birch (Beithe) – new beginnings, healing, cleansing
Goose (Geadh) – feminine power, springtime, questing, vigilance

Hare

Rabbits are notorious breeders, and are a symbol of the fertility of spring. The expression“mad as a March hare” comes from the rabbit’s habit of fighting, courting, and mating during the early spring. The tradition of the “Easter bunny”, or Eostre rabbit, reflects this springtime symbolism.

Rabbits have always been associated with witchcraft.  They are sacred to Hecate and have the peculiar habit of gathering in a circle, the “hare’s parliament”. Witches are often thought to be able to transform into a rabbit.

“I will go into a hare
with sorrow and sighing and mickle care,
and I will go in the Devil’s name,
aye ’til I be fetched hame
– Hare, take heed of a bitch greyhound
will harry thee all these fells around
for here come I in Our Lady’s name
all but for to fetch thee hame”

–Robert Graves, “The Allansford Pursuit” (which is based upon a shape-shifting incantation of Isobel Gowdie, a seventeenth century Scottish witch)

Many cultures perceive the form of a rabbit in the full moon, and thus the rabbit is associated with lunar magic. So associated with the moon and old goddesses of Europe is the hare that it was once forbidden to eat its flesh in Britain and Ireland.  In Kerry it is still said that to eat a hare is “to eat one’s grandmother”.

Rabbits bring great fortune to those who associate with them, due to their fecundity, and perhaps to their association with witches. Thus it became lucky to carry a rabbit’s foot, especially during games of chance.

Rabbits could curse as well.  It was considered very bad luck to even mention a rabbit when at sea, and pregnant women who had a rabbit cross their path were said to give birth to babies with a “hare lip”.

Rabbits are most active during dawn and dusk, the liminal times, and their burrows are sometimes said to be entryways to the underworld or fairie realm. “Going down the rabbit hole” is a metaphor for entering into trance consciousness.

Rabbits have an old association with cats.  They share the nicknames “pussy” (from the Latin lepus) and “malkin”.

March Totems: Birch

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. March’s totems are Hare, Birch, and Goose.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Hare (Gearr) – lunar magic, fertility, sensitivity, swiftness, intuition
Birch (Beithe) – new beginnings, healing, cleansing
Goose (Geadh) – feminine power, springtime, questing, vigilance

Birch

The Birch Tree is the first tree of the New Year according to Robert Grave’s Celtic tree calendar. It has a straight white colored trunk and branches, and its leaves are bright green. Birch Trees represent the Otherworld. This tree is the first to bud and is considered a sign that spring is just around the corner. The Birch is considered a protective wood for women, as it is associated with safe childbirth and protection from the Underworld.

    The Birch is the symbol of new beginnings, the start of new plans and taking significant steps in a forward direction. It is the wood most commonly used to kindle the magical fire. The Maypole is frequently made of Birch, with pagans in Wales preferring to use living, standing Birch Trees for their Maypoles. Birch is the wood burned for the Beltaine fire. It is also the wood used for correction or punishment. Until recently, canes and rods made of Birch were the instrument of choice for schoolmasters and law enforcement officials in the British Isles.

    Birch indicates fortune, change and good luck. The element associated with the Birch is water. Its gender association is female.

March Totems: Goose

In our tradition we divide the year not only by eight solar and agricultural holidays, but also by the Kalends. We celebrate twelve months of the year by the common calendar, plus a special thirteenth month for Samhain.  These month cycles are associated with different totemic spirits. Each month is assigned an animal, a bird (or other flying creature), and a tree. March’s totems are Hare, Birch, and Goose.

The totemic associations are as follows:

Hare (Gearr) – lunar magic, fertility, sensitivity, swiftness, intuition
Birch (Beithe) – new beginnings, healing, cleansing
Goose (Geadh) – feminine power, springtime, questing, vigilance

Goose

Frau Holt by Nigel Jackson

The goose is the companion of that ancient and powerful goddess, Hulda, as Mother Goose. The goose is a fierce defender of its family and territory, and many ancient gates and warrior’s graves have been adorned with the motif of the goose. We often speak of “a wild goose chase” as geese are notoriously difficult to capture or kill.

Several goddesses and witches of folklore have been identified by their having a goose foot (La Reine Pedauque), and thus the goose is a symbol of defensive feminine power.

The call of the goose in flight is said to be the same as the baying of the Gabriel hounds of the Wild Hunt. Hulda, whose bed is made of goose feathers, is said to lead this ride.  When she shakes out her bed the snow falls from goose feathers.

The goose is a symbol of early springtime, as it denotes both snow and returning light.  The goose who lays the golden egg is laying the growing sun of spring.

Geese mate for life and are associated with marital fidelity. Geese are also known for their furious mating habits, and a “goose” is sometimes used as slang for a prostitute. Their feathers are often used in bedding to bestow blessings of fertility and fidelity on the couple who sleeps there.

Geese are the symbol of migration, and therefore represent both the changing of the seasons, and the call to quest.  It is unknown how geese navigate over long distances, returning year after year, but return they do. This is symbolic of the dedication of the initate to remain true to the path.

When flying geese travel in a V formation. This way of flying makes it easier to travel long distances without fatigue, as it puts the greatest strain on the leader who “cuts”  a path through the air for the followers to more easily travel behind. Thus, the goose can be a symbol of leadership.

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