Working with Earth, Sun and Moon with Willow as Our Guide | Seed Sistas Working with Earth, Sun and Moon with Willow as Our Guide | Seed Sistas | Herbal Evolutions Cultivating Change

Working with Earth, Sun and Moon with Willow as Our Guide

 

Working with Earth, Sun and Moon with Willow

by Kim Creswell MNIMH

How still one can feel on a calm moonlit night as this beautiful blue-green planet spins through infinite space, circling our sparkling star,  accompanied by its only natural satellite reflecting solar rays from a mineral lunar surface. Cycles within cycles, each bringing rises and falls, expansions and retractions. Plant your feet upon the ground, hush the busy noise, feel the conjunction of Earth, Sun and Moon, and tap into the natural energy which affects all life around us. Our plant allies are well accustomed to these patterns, attuned to the ebb and flow of shining celestial bodies.

Willow was old when our species was in infancy, with molecular estimates now placing its Northern hemisphere origins 43.8 million years ago. Due to willow’s ancient and ubiquitous nature, the plant has become a keystone taxa, especially important in sustaining ecosystems, with a myriad of specialist insects forming the basis of food chains above the ground, and root systems benefiting soil integrity and associated microorganisms below. Willow nurtures all, and we are no exception. From prehistory, humankind has recognised many ways this tree has made our lives more comfortable and, as we seek to understand the world by recognising patterns,  have come to associate willow with flowing water, the moon, and the feminine; with emotions, intuition and cycles. Willow offers to be our caring guide as we navigate our time on this planet with grace and efficiency.

Earth rotates, creating night and day, concurrently revolving around Sun whilst being tilted on its own axis. The period of orbital revolution being just over 365 days, and the tilt of Earth creating the seasons. As Earth orbits Sun, Moon orbits Earth – a complete revolution being 27.3 days, but, due to the simultaneous spin of Earth, appearing to take 29 and a half days to complete the eight phases: waxing from new moon to full moon and waning back to new. During this journey, it appears that Moon changes shape, but it is only our perception which changes. The angle of sun, in relation to moon, lights different regions of the lunar landscape as we perceive it from Earth.

When Sun and Moon are aligned on one side of Earth, we don’t see the illuminated side, and Moon is a ‘dark moon’, or ‘new moon’. Increased illumination enlarges the bright face of Moon as it moves around Earth, with progression to waxing crescent, first quarter (which appears as half moon), gibbous moon (bulging but not quite full), and a full appearance as it stands opposing the sun with us between, before continuing the orbit to display waning gibbous, last quarter, and the crescent known as ‘Balsamic’ phase before completion of the cycle. Each of these lunar phases offers the chance to balance internal and external manifestations as we align our intent with cosmic energy. Willow is historically recognised to offer flexible support when working with cycles and emotion, associated with Moon, and the flowing water it favours. Willow does not appreciate stagnation. Moon and Sun do not work in isolation, but dance with powerful interaction. As well as monthly lunar cycles, each of the eight phases of Moon is associated with one of the great fire festivals, which mark the passage of our home around our star.

Most obvious of these solar celebrations must be the two solstices; ‘solstice’ meaning ‘stationary sun’, the shortest and longest days of the year. Also known as mid-winter and mid summer, the march of time appears to pause. Half way between each of these, the spring and autumn equinoxes, one feels a quickening, and the light of night and day are briefly equal. Bisecting those major cyclic quarters are the cross-quarter fire festivals, equally important and each marking a shift in nature’s vitality.

The cross quarter fire festival associated with endings is also that of new beginnings, and has come to be known as Samhain (pronounced ‘sowen’), Hallowe’en, All soul’s Night, the Festival of Remembrance. Believed by many as the start of a new year, and with recognition that death is the end of one cycle and beginning of another. One of the two annual nights when the veil between the world of matter and the world of spirit is at its most gossamer. The end of light time and beginning of deep darkness. This is the time when Willow is shedding leaves and reserving energy to carry it through the winter, ensuring stores enough to revive when conditions allow and, working with Earth energy, we would be wise to do the same. The moon phase connected to this fire festival is the dark moon/new moon… a time of introspection, of honouring death, and fortifying oneself for the dark times to come.  Ridding ourselves of things no longer useful, setting out intentions and preserving a bounteous harvest ready for hibernation. Do not fear the shadow side, look to yourself with nourishment and preparation. Willow takes its vital spirit safe underground, into the roots, while the upper parts fall into slumber. This allows us to cut the plant without causing harm.  Salix shares its shoots, and while we cut, bundle and handle the rods, whose flexibility gives them such strength, we can process grief and loss, to be ordered and manageable. A time of enforced adjustments which may herald potential yet unrecognised.

When winter solstice arrives, time seems to stand still, summer so long ago and far away… a time to pause and check in with others, to see how they are faring. The phase of the moon to consider here is waxing crescent, as the darkest day passes and the light slowly begins to return; although we have slowed, we begin to be curious and motivated, to consider growth without moving too fast, as energy must still be conserved… a time for plans and dreams, for resolutions, for intent. Outside osier cuttings may be placed in the ground, to remain in stasis for the moment. By the flickering fire of the winter hearth, baskets are built, round and round rhythmically repeating, back and forth, while mentally establishing learnings and wishes for the future. We weave wonders in preparation for future harvest.

Bisecting winter quarter is the fire festival of renewal, often known as ‘Imbolc’, associated with reemergence and the first quarter moon phase… the coming of the maiden, glamorous and creative, the first signs of spring, the light at the end of the winter tunnel. Energy begins to flow, sap begins to rise, first buds begin to grow. Time of initiation, as seeds cautiously begin to wake, and planted willow cuttings gingerly send forth exploratory root shoots from their subterranean nodes. Time will seem to speed up from now. It is time to initiate action, to carefully grow and develop strength.

Suddenly, the equinox is upon us, the willow tree is adorned with fluffy aments, nourishing the emergent pollinators, and it is the first day of spring! Everything in nature is awaking, and the waxing gibbous moon encourages us to align and refine our desires. This is the time for action, the time for riding the spring tide. Plants of the moon are associated with sight, with vision, with intuition. The rising sap in the willow tree can be tapped and used to clear cloudy sight, while the catkins of the willow can be used to balance excessive sexual energy and flow. Willow helps us with clear vision and balance of enthusiasm.

Then bounds in the spring cross-quarter fire festival: the festival of expectation, the beginning of the merry month, a festival for friends and lovers, the balance to Samhain known as ‘Beltane’, when the veil between the worlds is again at its finest.  Hear the cuckoo and wear the green to celebrate nature’s new adornment, her height of energy and power.  Full moon revelry is now an especially potent potion; we on Earth benefiting from the gentle caress of the sun and the joyous light of the fully illuminated moon. Energy intensifies, emotions amplify, desires become clear, we celebrate the Mother in all her loving glory. Willow bark is, at this time, rich in the analgesic and inflammation resolving constituents it is famous for. Willow drives away our aches and pains, and cools our fevers, caring for us as children, to make us feel young again. Now is the time to reach out for that which will make your heart sing.

As we become accustomed to Gaia’s gorgeous garments, time again appears to pause, and nature’s force slows momentarily, as the summer solstice marks the longest day.  We turn towards the heating summer, the peak of expression, expansive energy and concentrated growth.  Look to the waning gibbous moon, which supports transition into wisdom.  While we appreciate attainment, we must seek balance, the slightly declining moon encouraging us to share our successes, to look within, to give thanks.  Willow’s prolific coppiced stools now stand thick with graceful maiden whips, who sway and whisper in the summer breeze, sharing cooling shade, moon energy balancing heat of the sun. Their leaves, offering healing febrifuge and antibacterial properties, to aid with the heated fevers or infections which may fester in the coming summer months.

Early harvest begins at the summer cross quarter, the festival of the first fruits, a celebration of the first grain harvest which has lent this fire festival it’s name of Lammas, from the Old English phrase of ‘loaf mass’. The seventh moon phase, the last quarter (waning half moon), reminds us that during this time of abundance and surplus, although the gold and green summer feels eternal, it is slipping away. We must use this time of plenty to prepare for harder times to come. Pack your willow baskets with the ripening harvest, filling them with thanks for the generosity of Sun, Earth and Moon. Face your fears whilst standing in sunshine with a basket of abundance. Celebrate, dance and play as time picks up speed and hurtles toward the autumn equinox.

Day and night are in balance again, the harvest is reaching an end. Willow leaves aren’t quite as bright and green, as their texture becomes leathery as the chlorophyll takes a step back, allowing the autumnal flavonoids their glorious show.  The tree releases leaves and pulls its energy downwards. We are entering the time of retraction, the time of Earth, the time of roots. The lunar phase, which supports us at this time, is that of the Balsamic moon…soothing and restorative; the last phase before the dark moon, a time of adjustment and prepared transition between past and future. Be still and silent on the leaf littered ground. Feel the pull of the Earth, while enjoying the last of summer’s warmth, knowing that the next fire festival will be the end, and the beginning – death and rebirth.

Recognising and working with the  synchronised cyclic combination of Earth on which we stand, the fire is our star, and mineral, which is our Moon. All the while being supported by a wood so closely aligned with water, and with our own essential being as part of the global spirit, is indeed an awesome elemental tool to handle. By aligning our energies with those of the cosmos, we add power to our intent and manifestation.

Each ancient plant ally has it’s own character and strategies for survival; each has something to teach. Willow is nourished by Earth and Sun,  associated with Moon, with an affinity to water; she is nurturing, cooling, balancing heat, supporting vision, intuition, emotions and cycles. This brief discussion is a mere strand of the wide web which connects cycles within cycles. Does willow sing to you or is there a plant calling with a louder voice? I urge you to listen carefully!

Biography:

Kim Creswell is a willow sculptor, painter of horse drawn caravans, medical herbalist, and author of ‘A Celebration of Willow: The Definitive Guide to Sculpture Techniques Woven With ecology, Sustainability and Healing’, published by Aeon Books: London.

Kim’s unique skill set has been refined by her deep green lifestyle, submerged in the British countryside, working with the wilds.

Deeply held environmental and political beliefs led Kim to a nomadic life at an early age. Travelling for many years with a horse and wagon, on the peripheries of main-stream society, allowed the development of abilities often lost – a connection with plants, animals and the twitching web of wyrd which can only be found with long term immersion.

During her thirties, Kim purchased a plot of mono-crop land at auction and, employing traditional methods, has actively supported its regeneration. Twenty years on the land is now an off-grid nature reserve and small holding which supplies a vast array of food, medicine and craft materials.

Kim lives with her horse companions alongside hares, barn owls, badgers, bats and foxes at their bucolic oasis, and is active in the local community raising awareness and promoting biodiversity.

Signed copies of Kim’s book, ‘A Celebration of Willow’, can be ordered at

https://kimcreswell.co.uk/product/a-celebration-of-willow-the-definitive-guide-to-sculpture-techniques-woven-with-ecology-sustainability-and-healing

Copies are also available direct from Aeon Books ( https://health.aeonbooks.co.uk/product/celebration-of-willow/95240 ), and from all big book sellers across the world.

 

 

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