It Begins in the Void Time

Greetings, my name is Sara, and welcome to the blog for Flying Rowan Healing Arts. While I would like to explain succinctly what this site is about, and what you can expect from this blog, a bit of an aside is necessary. Allow me to spend some time to discuss what I like to call the Void Time.

In the beginning…

So goes the Judaeo-Christian creation story that has dominated the western mythos for two millennia. From the velvet darkness of nothingness emerges all that we know. Yet of course this concept is not unique to this story, and is a common thread across many traditions. It is a logical conclusion, since we all emerge from the nothingness of pre-existence in the womb into the clamor and chaos of life.

So, too, must an idea gestate in the dark before it can emerge. What better time to allow a nascent concept to form than during this time of year, during the liminal period between Fall and Winter, when the leaves of the previous season are falling and forming the compost that will nurture and feed the coming generation of green life?

The Moon nymph
*oil on canvas laid on board
*76 x 51 cm
*signed b.r.: FALERO / PARIS 1883

As I write, it is early in the afternoon here in the Puget Sound region, yet the sun is already edging lower toward the horizon. In two hours’ time it will begin to get dark. During this rare break in the weather at this time of year, it is possible to appreciate the sun’s warmth more than ever, knowing that it will increasingly diminish over the weeks and months to come.

Yet as much as the light is so treasured, I know that there is value in the dark to come…the balance in polarity is needed, after all. Whether I feel ready or not, the Void Time awaits, with all its challenges, ordeals–and potential gifts.

Flying Rowan Healing Arts is a creative and collaborative endeavor that is beginning to emerge, beginning first as a series of dreams, and then conversations with the land, and now into something that finally feels a bit more concrete. It has already existed for some time in the Void. Yet now that the season of the Void is upon us, I feel like what has so far only been an abstraction is starting to make itself known in more detail.

So, again…who am I, and what is this site and this work all about? Here’s a bit of an overview, although things are still very much forming and shifting as things do while they are still percolating in the realm of ideas:

  • It involves the creative expression of visual art in the form of drawings, paintings and more. It also involves the use of divination, poetry and other manifestations of the written word.
  • Physical materia from the natural world, including herbs and stones, are incorporated into charms, spell kits and herbal blends with respect given to these potent allies, with the intent to bring benefit to all.
  • This work is inspired by the energy in the land itself and by the awen, the original source of inspiration that permeates all things, and from the Celtic mythos- in particular, the ogham alphabet system and the symbolism of trees.
  • The work is intended to heal the psychic rift that most of us feel these days, under the illusion that we are separate from nature.  Through the use of magical symbolism and practical application in a co-creative fashion, the hope is to restore a sense of connection to natural world in a supportive way.

As for me, I am simply a witch and a mom who has felt called to create artwork and make magic a part of my everyday life. I have always felt inspired by nature, and my most profound childhood memories revolve around experiences of looking up at the night sky or marveling at a field of golden poppies.

If you are looking for artwork that will inspire, uplift and enchant, or would like to learn more about how to forge a meaningful connection with the nonhuman world, I am hopeful that this site and my services will be of some interest and assistance.

So, venture with me now into the Void. What will you see peering back when you look into the inky darkness that is the Mystery itself?

The Awakening Call

(Originally posted on my personal blog site:  www.saraolwen.com)

It’s been some time since I last posted, and a lot has happened. As you may have guessed by my long absence and my last announcement, my son was born in December of last year. Nearly a whole year has passed, and my what a year it has been. Through the roller coaster of highs and lows, dealing with milestones and sleep regressions, I have primarily been operating in survival mode.

Now it feels right as the days shorten and we descend into winter that I am starting to look forward to the year ahead. I have a lot of things I would like to start on once more, and I am itching to get back to work, following the awen.

But the main reason I am coming back now is because what I have at times referred to as the awakening call is now being felt within me far more strongly than at any other time. From what others have told me, they are feeling it as well. Perhaps it has something to do with a bunch of planets finally settling back into direct motion, or perhaps it has a lot to do with the chaotic state or world appears to be in, but many people now seem to be having that wake up call, that pulse that cannot be ignored to get to work and to find others who want to pitch in.

What is the call? I feel it is part of the paradigm shift that has been occurring for some time now, where more of us are becoming aware of the need to reconnect with the earth and to honor the sacred relationships that our ancestors once maintained. We understand now how close we stand on the edge to peril and ecologic collapse, and to ignore this any further is to put all future human lives at stake. How we respond to this call may have enormous consequences.

I think we are being called in different ways, to step up in our own way. Some of us are taking direct action as activists challenging the status quo, while others are dreaming of a new way forward through our inspired words and works of art. Some of us are simply passing the word on to those around us and acting in their own small yet significant ways at home, one by one spurring the sea change that must occur.

For me, a major part of this shift is a return to a more holistic and animistic way of thinking. Instead of viewing ourselves as separate from and dominant over nature, we are being called to remember our place in the web of life. Instead of seeing our animal and plant kin as dumb resources to exploit, it requires us to consider our actions and their consequences, and whether or not we are acting out of balance.

I don’t know what all the solutions are, but like many others, I feel deeply that the change must come, and it will require many hands working together and many different ideas brought to the table.

For my part, I have been spending a lot of time over the past year speaking with the land in my immediate vicinity. It has told me, through impressions and various signs, about the stain of disenchantment that has caused so many people to forget the sacred heart of the land and how alive everything truly is. It has also expressed that a key component of the healing process is to rekindle a sense of magic and enchantment, for people to believe once more in the mystery of life and nature itself. Magic and ritual are not mere superstition; they are ways of creating a more poetic and subtle interface through which we may encounter the nonhuman and the other and gain a deeper understanding than the rational mind alone can grasp.

Therefore, the work of the magus and the witch are indeed an important part of this transition, as are the works of the artist, writer, poet and all others who are moved by beauty and inspiration. Without them, we are blind in forging our way forward and are numb to the living pulse that is beckoning us to return.

As I return to writing and creating artwork, I will admit that I have no idea what it will all entail. There are plenty of things that inspire and excite me, but ultimately I am allowing the way forward to be directed by the unfolding vision from the land itself. I know it is calling me to connect with others, both those who have felt the awakening call themselves, or those who are yet to be made aware. Together I hope that I will have the chance to assist in this great in necessary work, lending my talents however I can, toward restoring this sacred co-creative relationship between the earth and humanity.

I welcome anyone who’d like to join me or who would like to share their own insights. May we all spin a web of light in this darkness, spun from the strands of the sacred power within the land and from the awen itself. Here’s to the year to come, and to awakening enough energy between us and all around us to truly shake ourselves free from the slumbering stupor of disenchantment and despair.

The Ogham of Sleeping Trees

There’s no question that many trees undergo an amazing transformation each year in preparation for winter. Most deciduous varieties lose their verdant leaves that provide them with their energy, causing them to go into a dormant state. Like many animals, they experience a sort of hibernation that protects them against the effects of the dark and the cold.

I grew up in Southern California where this shift isn’t so extreme. Because much of the year is so sunny, even trees that have adapted to colder climates rarely lose all their leaves. Sure, there may be some color shift here or there, but in reality autumn in this part of the world is more likely to see palm fronds falling than the gorgeous orange and red hues you’d expect in some other areas (there’s a raking joke in here somewhere).

Because of that, I never really came to appreciate the remarkable changes that so many trees undertake until I moved to a climate that is quite a bit cooler–and a lot darker– during the winter months. While the Pacific Northwest is nowhere near as cold and wintry as, say, Minnesota or Sweden, we do experience many months of chilly, gray weather where not a lot of sunlight penetrates the thick blanket of clouds. As a result, the trees have good reason to lose their primary source of photosynthesis and turn inward during this time of year.

Frosted leaves (big leaf maple) along West Forks Evans Creek.

The big-leaf maples seem to get the hint first, sometime in late September or early October when they begin to turn a dozen vibrant shades of gold, orange and russet brown. They then drop their massive leaves in droves, followed by the balsam poplars, alder and others. The characteristic douglas-firs, cedars, and spruces of course retain their foliage, which is why Washington continues to be called the ‘Evergreen State’ even as the primarily deciduous lowland-forests become more and more bare.

The climate of Ireland and Great Britain in many ways mirrors that of this particular region. It too has a primarily maritime/oceanic climate type (I challenge anyone who dares to call the PNW area a ‘Mediterranean’ climate, although global warming could affect that). This means that the winters are cool and moist with largely temperate summers. As a result, its many species of native trees have also reacted to the changing seasons by dropping their leaves around the same time of year.

When discussing the ogham and tree lore in the Celtic tradition, I like to keep the natural history of the trees and the bioregion in mind. After all, the folklore was based largely on the collected observation of people who lived on the land over many generations, making it difficult to separate one from the other. When a good chunk of the trees lose their leaves in the fall and winter, we may wonder just what this means on a symbolic level and whether or not different characteristics of these trees become more prominent than at other times of the year.

Image result for rowan tree

One great example of this is the rowan tree. During the spring and summer months, this small tree tends to be rather nondescript. Sure, it has attractive pinnate leaves and has the interesting propensity to grow out of some of the strangest places (such as the crooks of other trees or even out of cracks in boulders), but it can be easily overlooked.

Fall and winter is when this tree truly stands out, however. As other trees in its community start to lose their leaves, rowan bursts forth with brilliant crimson-red berries in great clusters at the end of each branch. This attracts a multitude of birds and wildlife, who are happy to feast on the tart berries. The berries persist for a surprisingly long amount of time, and in winter become an important food for many animals that could otherwise starve. For me, the meaning and context of rowan shifts throughout the year as its role in the environment changes, and when dealing with its symbolism, I like to keep this fact in mind.

Even the coniferous trees aren’t completely static through the seasons. Most types produce pine cones, usually in the autumn, while others emit copious amounts of pollen during the spring and summer months. They, too, undergo changes–although these may appear to be more subtle in nature.

For me, winter generally brings out the more subtle aspects of the trees that are not as apparent when they are bursting forth with life. I take this into account with the ogham and in my readings, and this can add surprising depth when I consider the meanings these trees that on during their dormant period. Ailm, the pine, rises to the position of authority as the lone tree with greenery during this time, while the mighty oak recedes into itself and becomes suddenly introspective.

This winter, I invite you to notice the ways the trees adapt and change to cope with the reduced sunlight and the cold. If you live in an area where the temperature shifts aren’t so drastic, you may find changes are still occurring on even a subtler level. Understanding the trees themselves as living beings is the first step toward understanding the tree alphabet. Allow them to work with you and to shape your perspective and you may be surprised at what you discover!