Happy Imbolc

Happy Imbolc

and welcome to the first great fire festival after the Winter Solstice.

I can’t believe that it was already a year ago that I wrote in detail about Imbolc/St Brigid’s day. It is a particular favourite of mine as it heralds the coming Spring, the return of the light and Imbolc is a day for blessing springs and wells. We spent the morning down at our local sacred well doing a little clearing and some anointing with the waters.

Many old wells that are healing or sacred wells have fallen into disrepair, or the stories and healing knowledge associated with them is becoming lost with each generation that passes, and as the wisdom and magic of Albion is slowly obliterated and withers under the desiccating and over-masculinising energy of our indifferent culture, we need to re-invigorate and bring new energy to these old, venerable sites and dig deep into learning the healing powers and rituals that accrue in these places of gathering.

Writing back in 1988 in the wonderful volume Secret Shrines, John Michell comments that:

‘200 holy wells are still known in Cornwall and the Scillies, and with them is preserved the ancient, sacred spirit of the west. They are the true wealth of this country. In their pure waters the old people found healing and inspiration.’

Traditionally wells and springs have been associated with particular deities, later specific saints, and also healing or curing specific ailments. The sacred well in Ashburton is dedicated to St. Gudula, the patron saint of the blind (see photos), and many old wells are called eyewells. This made me think of sight and the seer, and how at this time of year, we are emerging from our caves and beginning to blink our eyes open into the newly increasing daylight and think ahead, to plan, to scheme, to vision our next year. Our eyes need to become as clear as the sparkling spring water, lucid, shiny and full of life. Paul Broadhurst; the author of Secret Shrines talks about how these holy wells may link us back to the past, to distant memories –

‘the waters that flow through the veins and arteries of the planet were revered by our precursors as the Elixir of the Earth, responsible not only for life itself, but essential for the fertility and health of the people and the land which they inhabited…’

‘…Apart from their curative properties, the people of old regarded wells as gateways to the Otherworld, where the vital flow of Life-force could be used to penetrate the veils of matter to experience amore formative reality.’

So in many ways these ancient wells and springs act as a kind of aqueous lens through which we can see the past, present and future. In the Celtic tree calendar Imbolc is associated with the Rowan tree – the tree of Intuition, insight, increased psychic powers, visions and portents of the future. Working with Rowan at this time of year helps us to receive forewarnings and knowledge, and connects us to Brigid, maiden goddess of poetry and illumination. We can receive new inspirations, divinations and visions if we can trust our intuition and our psychic abilities and communications from the Otherworld. Springs and wells are the conduit for this channel. Listening to a talk last night about plant intelligence and being at the well today made me realise just how many gifts that Nature offers us, and just how we are truly blessed with so much abundance from Nature – water to drink and heal, and plants and fungi to feed and heal, and everything else that Nature shares with us so open-heartedly, we are so lucky, so loved, so cared for. What could we offer in return for this unconditional abundance?

sacred well imbolc forest bathing

sacred well imbolc forest bathing

Thresholds #2

Thresholds #2

Happy New Year to you all, it feels like we have crossed some arbitrary threshold based on the Gregorian Calendar from the debris of 2023 into the unknown and precarious expanses of a new year and who knows what it will bring, but my prayer is for peace – both personal and global for all of us, and a shift towards a mature response towards planetary health and global conflict.

So, what does it look and feel like to enter the liminal space passing over the threshold. In my book Wild Life I talk about what happens at the threshold as being the place where the golden corn is brought in, the place where the whole community gather to witness and participate in an ancient ritual; a metamorphosis, and it is this metamorphic aspect that is key to understanding threshold experience. When corn/grain is cultivated it is growing ‘a golden treasure in the field’, rooted in the soil, drinking water and sunlight, it is still in the domain of the wild gods; of Pan, Ceres (from where we get cereal) and John Barleycorn, it is untamed and inedible. By harvesting it, bringing it to the threshing floor, we literally beat it to death with sticks and then grind it up to powder, to alchemical gold dust, it is transformed into the domesticated flour to make bread; the staff of life. When we cross the forest threshold we are, in a sense reversing that process, undomesticating ourselves, rewilding our psyches, re-membering our wild mind, foregrounding our instinctive self that seeks connection with life in all its manifestations.

There is no way to predict or pre-determine this transition, it is distinct from the very deliberate threshold of intention we may set individually or with a group, where participants have a choice to leave their worries behind and step over a physical boundary. Both can lead to the same outcome – it is the threshold in the mind that needs crossing to enter this imaginal realm.

As practitioners sometimes all we have to do is to offer permission, to make the subtlest of suggestions, merely an indication of welcome, of stepping beyond, that invitation to regain the magic freedom of childhood, and to shed skins, like heavy–laden old overcoats thrown off – unshackling ourselves simply by passing over and across the threshold that is in physical representation. Our participants are eager to step beyond the mundane, beyond the chronic coping and conforming, and into a curious surrender, handing over control to the wild force.

Here is an excerpt from one of our graduate’s sessions introducing threshold to a client:

‘I got as far as finding a Threshold to step/climb/crawl through, and Kate* was off. I did continue to explain that we would examine it, touch it, come to understand it, before stepping through, yet I could see that Kate was no longer with me – she was utterly absorbed in finding her Threshold.

I abandoned trying to explain ‘my’ Invitation, as it was obvious she had a clear and compelling journey of her own in mind, that presented itself to her in that moment, and I needed to stand back and let her shape it.’

*not her real name.

The feeling is one of being led by the hand through the forest without conscious control, senses become acute, noticing things sharply as never before, each phenomena glowing with iridescence and sentience. This is animism at play, our sensory apparatus reaching out into unseen realms of consciousness and vitality, and being met with the warm embrace of Woodbine, Ivy and Honeysuckle. The Christian mystic writer Cynthia Bourgeault, when describing the imaginal realms, is similarly enchanted by this quality of light and aliveness…’interpenetrating, cohering, filling things with the fragrance of implicit meaning…’ she proceeds to describe how these imaginal or more subtle realms of energy can influence us.

‘Experientially, received within one’s own quiet subjectivity, it appears as an allusive aliveness, a meaning presenting itself in “glimpses and visions,” a foretaste or reminder of a higher order of being to which the human heart actually belongs to and from which it responds, with infinite tug. The imaginal nudges us, beacons us, corrects us as we stray from our authentic unfolding, rewards us with dazzling glimpses and reassurances of that “other intensity” to which we truly belong, and in whose light the meaning of our earthly journey will ultimately be revealed, like the treasure buried in the field.’

A question may then arise of who is the crosser of the threshold, who is this person and how are they different on either side of the portal or membrane, what qualities of being and aliveness do we encounter within and without ourselves in this experience? How are we changed, and ultimately how may we retain a small reminder of this ‘aliveness’ when we must return to our ordinary lives?

We hear about returning via a threshold of incorporation, but I strongly resist this idea, preferring to let the magic unfold organically, not needing to signify the transition back to everyday existence, like leaving the salt on your skin after a glorious dip in the sea. Another example of how I’m affected by the forest is that I don’t sense any energy discord when I enter, but struggle with roads and technology and urbanism when I leave the woods behind, so something has shifted, softened, recalibrated – if only we could stay in that state.

Our complex, harsh lives may gradually erode or pollute our sensitised bodies, and so we must return again to the woods as Thoreau reminds us: ‘I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.’

This realm that we enter, or seek, or fall into, this land beyond the threshold is real, it is an objective reality, not merely a psychic manifestation. It is a subtle place beyond the margins of ordinary consciousness and yet it comprises an ontological reality, a generative causality that initiates significant shifts in consciousness and influences our outward reality when we are ready for change. It can come to us in dreams, visions, metaphors and symbols – think of the early Christians and others who may spend days alone in the desert or wilderness, or on an island or in a cave. Nature communes with the communicant, offers graciously the Eucharist.

At this time of year we often construct elaborate New Year’s resolutions, and like me draw huge spider diagrams and lists of various departments of my life, seeking to concretise our hopes and ambitions for the year ahead. Yet to change can be so hard for us, we may want to change, understand the need for change (get out of that destructive relationship/stay and commit to that loving relationship and stop the pattern of running away etc.) and may see how we are sabotaging ourselves, but somehow all our efforts to change merely lead us back to where we find ourselves enmeshed in conundrums and cages of pain and limitation.

I think our efforts to change are thwarted because they arise from the same level of consciousness that happily maintains the familiar status quo, John O’Donaghue comments on this too –

To change is one of the great dreams of every heart – to change the limitations, the sameness, the banality, or the pain. So often we look back on patterns of behaviour, the kind of decisions we make repeatedly and that have failed to serve us well, and we aim for a new and more successful path or way of living. But change is difficult for us. So often we opt to continue the old pattern, rather than risking the danger of difference. We are also often surprised by change that seems to arrive out of nowhere.

This reluctance or resistance to change can be frustrating for those around us who can see only too clearly what we need to do, and I think it is because we cannot step outside of ourselves and see the whole picture, see our patterns of habitual self-sabotage or limitation, we cannot see an alternative to our patterns of dealing with life, our personalities resort to the known and trusted methods of avoiding change, whilst attempting to initiate change.

Crossing the threshold then becomes a potent opportunity to stand outside of ourselves, to witness our existences from an angel’s perspective and have compassion towards our suffering. We are not imprisoned within our conditioned perspectives in the liminal or imaginal space in Nature, we are able to see, to have vision, and take that gift back with us, that glimpse of higher us.

This is not a selfish act of individual transformation, this is the Universe speaking direct to our hearts, this is part of our collective evolutionary journey as participants in the universal story. When we are attuned to the offerings and messages within Nature we can achieve heightened states of consciousness without resort to entheogenic substances – we simply plug direct to source as part of our planetary and inter-planetary unfolding. Nature encourages us to open and soften our hearts and I will leave the final words to the wonderful John O’ Donoghue –

‘Each life is a mystery that is never finally available to the mind’s light or questions. That we are here is a huge affirmation; somehow life needed us and wanted us to be. To sense and trust this primeval acceptance can open a vast spring of trust within the heart. It can free us into a natural courage that casts out fear and opens up our lives to become voyages of discovery, creativity, and compassion. No threshold need be a threat, but rather an invitation and a promise.

Whatever comes, the great sacrament of life will remain faithful to us, blessing us always with visible signs of invisible grace. We merely need to trust.’

Samhain Blessings

Samhain Blessings

Happy Samhain/Hallowe’en/All Saints Eve.

Here in Catalunya families celebrate All Saints Day, not so much ‘Dia de Los muertes’ as they do in other Latino cultures. The honouring of the dead is done with families attending the local cemetery and taking flowers for their deceased loved ones, but also remembering their ancestors. Here, high in the mountains in rural southern Catalunya and throughout Spain, the ancestors are never far from the dinner table conversations. Generations of the same families have lived in this village all the way back to the 1500’s, so there are so many rich stories of hard lives, joyful lives, but always lives lived with the land here, the soil, the plants, the mountains, the animals, the water – precious water. The past is alive and tangible, and nowhere more so than during the harvest.

We have arrived in time to help with the last of the walnuts and almonds, and it’s a wonderful process of gathering the fruits of these generous and abundant trees, as so many have done in the past, re-enacting these rituals between people and the trees. (I call it tree-fishing) This year all is not good though, and many of the nuts have been literally burned inside their shells (see photo above) The sun has been so strong and hot, that it has burned right through the walnuts green case, brown shell and many of the nuts are black inside. This has never happened before, and yet another stark reminder of the climate change – not that we need any more indicators of the Earth heating up. The question here is how to adapt, protect the trees, grow different trees/plants, breed drought and heat resistant trees, or give up and let Nature take its course, and witness the landscape change again. One thing is for sure, we are witnessing global changes at local levels, not just climatically, but socially, politically and demographically, and later ecologically as life responds to man-made change. This place here is called the Silent Valley because the village sits within a sheltered bowl between the mountains which encircle it, I hope that future generations can experience the peace and silence of this beautiful location.

Back to Samhain and the first of the Celtic fire festivals, the herald of a new year beginning, and the time when the veil is thinnest between this world and the world of those who are in spirit. Samhain is a liminal or threshold festival not only between the old year and the new but between 2 worlds. It is a time to pause and welcome the darkness, to draw in and take stock of our lives, and to remember those who have now passed on, those we hold dear, and maybe those who’s lives were difficult or full of antipathy, and those for whom death felt like a relief, an unshackling of the spirit from the corporeal world.

Just as the Celtic day started and ended at sunset, so the Celtic year starts at the end of the harvest and the onset of winter, Samhain marks that transition from the bounty of summer to the hibernatory and gestatory period of darkness that ends on May 1 or Beltane.

But what of the trees? I wonder if you can imagine being a large old broad leaf tree, registering a fading of sunlight, and preparing yourself to let go of all your thousands of mini solar panels, your energy creators. Shorter days and colder nights trigger the tree to start this process of shutting down photosynthesis, reducing chlorophyll (green pigment) that then enables other chemical constituents such as anthocyanins to develop the bright reds, oranges and purples of autumn. Your tree will be restricting transpiration; preparing to shed each leaf by sealing off the leaf stalk at the base to prevent any water being lost, and generally bedding itself down for a reduced growth period, as it has done for maybe hundreds of years, trusting that it will endure the winter cold and emerge again with fresh shoots in the Spring. What an amazing process, one which is revealed in the growth rings of the tree – hard winters and the growth rings are tighter together.

So I am inviting you to become this tree, to prepare for winter by seeing how these arboreal processes can be useful metaphors for our own lives, letting drop that which we no longer need in full trust that come a new spring in our lives, we will grow and blossom again. Even the walnuts here will be doing that for as long as they can.

What Is Japanese Forest Bathing and How Can It Improve my Health?

What Is Japanese Forest Bathing and How Can It Improve my Health?

Episode two of our newest podcast series, Roots & Ritual, explores Shinrin Yoku, the traditional Japanese practise of immersing oneself in nature.

Trippin’s co-founder Yasmin Shahmir and co-producer Robyn Landau, speak to leading experts and locals to uncover the origins and delve into the science behind Shinrin Yoku.

Our special guest on this episode is Stefan Batorijs, Nature Therapist and Shinrin-Yoku practitioner.

Listen to this episode on all streaming platforms, as we explore themes around Nature Restoration, Embodiment, Spiritual Well-being and the Environment.

What Is Japanese Forest Bathing and How Can It Improve my Health?

Nurtured by nature


Nature’s Nurturing Touch: Soothing Dementia, Lowering Blood Pressure, and Boosting Immunity.

Discover the hidden wonders of nature that have the power to calm minds, heal bodies, and rejuvenate souls.

Dive into our insightful article and unlock the secrets of finding solace in the great outdoors.