The Goddess Tree


“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” ~ Rachel Carson, Author of Silent Spring

The year we moved into our home, an ash seed pod or ‘key’ fluttered down from the tree over the wall and took root in a crack in the concrete floor of our yard.

A year later, I noticed the sapling struggling, so I propped it up against a milk pail. It almost reaches the second floor of our house now.

The young tree’s silvery bark and soot-black, pointed buds – each of them imprinted with an embryonic copy of the branch they one day dream of becoming – somehow remind me of the limbs and hooves of a fawn. I feel that this makes sense, somehow, since deer and ash grew up together, evolving from the same forests.

Known as the Goddess Tree, the cosmic Tree of Life in Norse mythology and the Druidic World Tree, spanning the universe with its roots deep in the earth, the ash tree stands for strength, connection and rootedness in wisdom. Indeed, the creation myths of many ancient world cultures display a belief that the essence of humankind itself originated from the ash tree.

Somewhere, long ago in the dreamtime, we grew up together.

And yet today, ash is threatened with extinction. Hundreds of lichen, fungi and insects depend on ash for survival; it is a vital part of our ecosystem. Without it, we also suffer an immense spiritual loss.

Jane Gifford writes in ‘The Wisdom of Trees‘:

The ash is a key to healing the loneliness of the human spirit out of touch with its origins. It can provide a sense of being grounded and of belonging… so that we can better appreciate the many ways in which positive thought and action today can create a brighter tomorrow.”

The ancient cultures believed that the wisdom of ash teaches us that unity and harmony with the natural world is our heritage and our birthright. The Goddess Tree speaks of connection and belonging – our kinship with the great family of all things – and stimulates our soul-psyches into a kind of remembrance which bears great relevance today.

When we heed the magic of ash, we sense that our innately human strengths of compassion, courage, innovation, creativity and cooperation empower us all to affect great change. Despite a narrative of fear which seeks to convince us that we are separate, lost, and helpless, we may remember who we really are, and recognise our own power.

The future may look uncertain – but there is hope. Respected ecologist George Peterken says: “There is genetic diversity in ash… I would expect them to evolve their way round the fungus.”  Perhaps we, too, will evolve our way round this intense and challenging time.

As for my baby ash tree, for now I shall love it, water it and grow flowers up around it in the hope of brighter days ahead. For as long as I can, I will let its buds live out their dream of someday becoming branches, leaves outstretched, dancing in the bright summer sun.


Rewild Yourself

“May you live every day of your life.” – Jonathan Swift


There are places in you

Where thousands of bright, tiny flowers

Open each morning to the sun

In meadows as vast as the sky.


An ancient alchemy courses through your bones.

It speaks in feathers and stones and

precious metals and the footprints of mandalas

left by the stories we tell with our lives.

Rewild yourself.

Until green tendrils sprout from your fingernails

And lichen swathes your eyebrows.

Rewild yourself.

Until your roots spread and uncoil and

Writhe down through soil and rock.

Rewild yourself.

Rise up into your magnificence and

Take your place among the constellations.

Rewild yourself.

The Earth is her own medicine.

Be yours.


“Within every woman there is a wild and natural creature, a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. Her name is Wild Woman, but she is an endangered species.” ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Sometimes the chaos, noise and haste of the human world make me long for the solace and wild spirit of nature.

I long to sleep out beneath a wheel of stars in the enchanted desert night; to walk in a verdant forest where wild creatures roam.

I hunger for real darkness, for wilderness, for lost horizons, and for the mystery, wisdom, perspective, freedom and beauty that only the natural world offers.

I long to…

“… come into the peace of wild things.” ~ Wendell Berry

I have recently been inspired by movements such as Rewilding Britain, and TreeSisters.

These collectives, and many more like them, are working to re-establish wild spaces in nature, planting trees, re-introducing indigenous species, restoring broken ecological relationships, repairing the Great Self to wholeness.

Some call this the Great Work of our times.

“Rewilding offers hope. It offers the hope of recovery, of the enhancement of wonder and enchantment and delight in world that often seems crushingly bleak… It offers us a chance to replace our silent spring with a raucous summer.”

~ George Monbiot, A Manifesto for Rewilding the World

We can all outwardly play our part in this positive story by striving towards a more harmonious, integral relationship with the natural world. But rewilding is a process which begins inside.

Rewilding is a spiritual attendance to the interconnectedness of all life, which transcends separation and fragmented notions of us/them and humanity/nature.

Desert, forest, mountain, grassland and ocean — the archetypal wildlands or Soulscapes of Mary Reynold Thompson’s deeply insightful book on spiritual ecology Reclaiming the Wild Soul — are places within all of us.

Through slowing down, listening, opening, surrendering, connecting, being and asking what really matters, we can access these places in deep and profound ways, giving rise to great journeys of the soul and enabling bold leaps of creativity, compassion and courage.

“Spend time out of doors, praise the earth, love the wild migrations of your own imagination, and be grateful for every leaf you meet. In this way, you will inevitably become part of the great rewilding of our world.”

~ Mary Reynolds Thompson

In doing this, we may reclaim the wild through our own psyches. We may become wildflowers in the wasteland. We may come fully into our power, and realize our potential to be the medicine the world needs.

Put simply, what we do to the planet, we do to ourselves, and vice versa.

“Let the great rewilding of the world begin with you. Let yourself be absorbed into something larger and less tame than your isolated self.” ~ Lorraine Anderson



First published at

Imbolc: a poem


“Spring has returned. The earth is like a child that knows poems” – Rainer Maria Rilke



I am the dream of awakening.

I am the returning of the light.

I am the tough green shoot pushing up through the pavestones, I am the first kiss of sunlight on the unfurling petals of the snowdrop. I am the wind which whispers the gentle pull of home to the migratory bird.

I am the drop of ice melting on the mountainside with its great dream of the ocean.

I am the sap rising in the blossom tree just before it reveals its sticky buds to the sky; I am the riotous celebration humming away beneath the earth’s mantle of frozen sleep.

I am the rousing of the bee from its winter slumber, and the soft pad of the mother-wolf’s paw on the snow as she prepares to birth her pups.

I am hope, potential, rebirth and promise. I am the kindling breath which transforms the flicker of inspiration in your creative core into a blazing torch.

Give me the silent crescent moon rising over the sea and I will build you a bridge of silver light so you can walk up and lie in it.

Give me the frost-hardened wilderness and I will breathe radiant green life over it.

Give me the healer, the writer, the craftsperson and the storyteller, and I will replenish her essence and make her new again.

I am Brigid, Bast, Inanna and Hestia. I am the fierce protectress of the sacred fire.

Tonight I bestow my gifts of power and courage at the hearth of your soul: power to step out of the shadows of self-doubt and negativity which have held you in darkness for too long, power to shed all that which no longer serves you, and courage to clear your heart and mind for the dawn that awaits you.

I am the time to honor your unique gifts for their true worth and to protect and nurture your creative self as you would a child. I am the deep longing of the spirit which refuses to be consumed by a narrative of fear and chooses instead to place itself vivaciously on the side of love.

I am the stirring in your belly which knows exactly what you are capable of — and that it’s time the world found out.

I am the fire within which will not be contained any longer.

I am the quickening, I am the serpent uncoiling, I am Imbolc.

I am the dream of awakening.

Originally published on Rebelle Society at

So You Dated a Girl Who Travels, Settled Down and Had Kids. Now What?


You fell in love with her free spirit and the sparkle that lit up in her eyes every time you said: Let’s just go.

You were seduced by the way she smelled: of sweat and sea air, essential oils and sun cream. You watched the sunrise over the mountains together and lay beneath a blanket of stars by firelight in the desert. You swam in turquoise seas, lived in an old 1950s bus and made friends from all over the world.

You missed her when she disappeared for a few months at a time—but knew better than to try and stop her.

When you couldn’t get away in winter, you watched movies about faraway places and drank chai and Spanish wine and ate exotic food and fantasised about your next trip.

She thought she’d never be tied down.

She had too many adventures to go on, too many places to see, too many stories yet to be told. And yet, somewhere along the road, your hearts entertwined. Perhaps inevitably, you began to put down roots. You created a home together and grew a garden around it.

And then the most magical thing happened: you started a family.

And just like that, the rip cord marked Eject!, on which she’d kept one finger lightly resting all these years, vanished.

She learned a long time ago that life really is much, much too short for regrets. Besides, it’s not in her nature to look back. She’s more in love with life now than she’s ever been—and when she loves, she loves with every spark of fire in her being.

That’s not to say that, from time to time, she doesn’t question whether she’s wandered too far from her wild nature. She looks at old photos and sometimes wonders what happened to the girl with the tanned skin, the flat abs, the anklets and the golden glow of the sunset in her eyes.

Of course, she plans to travel with her children. Chances are they’ll grow up with their noses in many books and their toes in lots of different oceans.

And motherhood has in itself, without doubt, been the richest and most life-affirming journey she’s ever been on.

But for now at least, the spectacular privilege of being able to hop on a plane with a few clothes, a toothbrush and a passport, and emerge hours later in a different world, with different rules—to leave it all behind and just go—with no idea where she might end up, has been put aside.

Because babies and children don’t really work like that.

So she keeps the soul-flame alive by traveling any way she can: the inner journeyings of meditation, learning, reading, writing, dreaming. And she dreams of travel. With her children. With you. Alone. To the faraway or, at the very least, the elsewhere.

Disregard these dreams at your peril: they reside at her core and pull on the sinews of her heart.

She needs movement. Encourage her to sustain a yoga practice, to go swimming, to run, to dance. Without it she will turn to stone.

Go on family camping trips and listen with her to the sound of rain on the canvas. It takes her to monsoon in the jungle and springtime in the mountains.

Don’t bat an eyelid when she quietly slips off her sandals to walk barefoot through the park. And if she takes off her shoes at a wedding or in an ancient woodland, don’t bother asking why. She will never quite be able to reconcile being in a space she considers sacred with having her shoes on.

Hold her if, for some unfathomable reason, she grows desperately sad at the sight of raindrops on still water or if you catch her standing motionless among the spring blossom as it flutters down like snow.

Let her haggle in a completely inappropriate upmarket shop, and be surprised when, in a spirit of fair play and friendliness, she manages to shave a few pounds off the price.

Understand why she’s looking at flight deals online even when you’re struggling to pay household bills. Part of her needs to fly—even for pretend.

Climb hills. Visit beaches. Watch moonrises. She needs horizons like you need air.

And, as far as possible, travel. It will feed her spirit and enrich your whole family.

And if you can do all this and more, you will be rewarded with the rarest and most precious of creatures.

For she is capable of love without limits.

For she will pass on the breadth of her experience to your children and make each day with them a fantastic adventure.

For she has learned the wisdom that the real journey often starts when you stay in one place.

And above all, for she has chosen you to travel alongside her on the greatest trip of them all.

Just go with her.

This piece first appeared on

The Elder Tree: Recipes for Summertime Magic

“He said, “Above all, watch with glittering eyes the world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl

There are two trees which hang over the back wall of my courtyard garden, giving shade and height, making it feel like a lush woodland. One is an ash (the ‘Goddess Tree’), currently covered in thick clumps of winged seeds, with a resident blackbird who serenades the rising and setting sun every day with its beautiful voice. The other tree is an elder, and at this time of year, between beltane and the summer solstice, it is just coming into flower.

All parts of this ‘Queen of Herbs’ can be used for medicinal, culinary or practical purposes. It’s a veritable herbal medicine chest, acting as an effective remedy for colds, flu, sore throats, fever, cystitis, infections, constipation, eczema and chickenpox, to name but a few. A tea made from the flowers brings down a fever, and elderflower ointment soothes and tonifies the skin. The purplish-black berries which appear on the tree at the other end of summer, around September, also have curative properties and make delicious jams, compotes, syrups and a rather pokey wine. So many gifts!

Magical lore states that any elderberries found during December are particularly magically endowed and that a tonic wine made from the berries can, when taken cautiously, enhance psychic powers. If you’ve ever consumed too much elderberry wine in one sitting, you may have found this out for yourself…

Elder is found in country lanes and cottage gardens, steeped in folklore and magic and believed by many to be imbued with witchy qualities. Ruled by Venus and presided over by The Elder Mother, named Hyldemoer or Hulda (mother of the elves in Scandinavian folklore), elder has strong associations with the regenerative Crone aspect of the Goddess – especially, I think, in the colder months when its tangle of untamed, arced branches grow wild and crooked against the winter sky.

Here at the gateway to summer, however, the tree brims with stories of fairy, dryad (female tree nymph) and nature spirit magic. It’s a tree of protection and connection to other realms. Legend has it that if you stand beneath an elder tree on the night of the summer solstice and inhale the sweet scent of the blossom, you will catch a glimpse of the fairies. I might give this a go with my two year old little girl (who naturally sees fairies everywhere) this year!

As well as obligatory fairy-spotting, I’ll be inviting the wonderful energies of this tree into my life this year by harvesting the flowers to make cordial and champagne. For me this is the quintessential taste of summer, made from the creamy, frothy, upside-down umbrella-shaped flowerheads or ‘umbels’ which comprise hundreds of individual, five-petalled blooms. I’ll also be coating the flowerheads in light batter and frying them to make yummy fritters.

A couple of simple elderflower recipes:

To make elderflower cordial at home, harvest 20 open flowerheads which are heavy with pollen (you may have to wait a week or two, as the flowers are only just out here), gently shaking them to remove any tiny creatures. Add 1.5 litres of water to 1 kg of sugar and heat until all the sugar dissolves. Add the zest and slices of 3 lemons, 50g of citric acid and finally the flowers, and stir. After 48 hours you can seive the liquid into sterilised bottles and mix it with still or sparkling water, delicious with ice and a slice of lemon.

For elderflower fritters, sift 50g of plain flour into a basin then add a tablespoon of oil and 80ml of sparkling mineral water. Stir in a tablespoon of sugar then beat an egg white and fold it into the batter. Rinse 6 or 7 elderflower heads, snipping them into individual florets, then dip the elderflowers into the batter and lower them into a pan of hot oil. Fry until the batter is pale gold and crisp and eat the fritters while they are hot and crisp, sprinkled with sugar or drizzled with honey or agave syrup.

Wishing you joy on this full moon x

New Moon, New Year

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.” ~ Albert Camus

Yesterday I walked through a churchyard teeming with snowdrops. I stopped to watch a bumblebee rolling around in the pollen of a clump of crocus flowers, a technicolour explosion against the dank brown earth.

I walked beside the fast-flowing, tidal river which ebbs and turns and reverses its flow with the cycles of the moon. I felt the cool air reach the bottoms of my lungs and the fresh, oxygenated blood redden my cheeks and the sinews of my hips begin to loosen as I set intentions for the new moon and the year ahead.

The light is slowly returning to my shade-shrouded, north-facing courtyard garden. Flowers come later there than they do to sunnier spots, but the sharp little beaks of the tulip bulbs I planted in the autumn are poking their heads up, hungry for the light, along with the green shoots of narcissus, alium and bluebell which wait eagerly for spring. Colour and song comes from the bluetits, blackbirds and robins which grace my bird-feeder every day, along with my favourites, the starlings – chattering, shimmering green and purple creatures who gather over the sea at sunset to swarm in beautiful murmurations known in Scandinavia as the Sol Sot (Black Sun), a dance of collective joy which looks, I have always thought, like classical music in motion.

On crisp, sparkling mornings the low sun breaks through the February clouds and catches the underside of the needles on the Scotch Pine tree, making them glisten with gold. It’s a time of great hope and promise, a feeling which inspired a recent piece I had published on Rebelle Society:

I love the winter; the time of darkness and dreaming, of turning inward, reflecting and gestating new ideas. But the world is changing; spring is coming. Today is a new moon which heralds the start of the Chinese New Year and also the Tibetan New Year celebration of Losar.

My personal intentions this year are around finding peace and stillness – refuge from the storm – through yoga, meditation and the harmony of nature, cultivating my creative voice, and nurturing contentment in my friendships and family life. I’m also hoping to have lots of fun! But more specifically, I intend to make more time to write and to get more work published, to send my words out into the world and see where they take me. It is the season to plant seeds of love, change and inspiration in the fertile ground. What intentions are you setting at this potent time?

Love Letter to Tea


“(Tea) is not a drink, it is meditation; it is prayer. Listen to the kettle creating a melody, and in that listening… become more silent, more alert.” ~ Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

The kettle splutters and rumbles to a halt. As water falls on to the teabag, ethereal tendrils of steam spiral upwards and the voyage, the ritual, the alchemy begins.

The liquid blushes honey and cherry amber, deepening then to golden brown.

I wait. Patience, time, slowness. Tea cannot be brewed in a hurry.

I pour in the milk. Pockets of creamy cloud billow outwards to create a miniature weather system, a tiny stormy sky in my china cup. A gentle stir clockwise and calm is restored.

I cradle the cup in both hands and bring it to my lips. I close my eyes and taste the hours of sunshine and the fat drops of rain which nurtured the tea garden; the dance of the elements and the seasons which brought us to this moment.

Wonderful tea: bright, comforting and refreshing. You remind me to be thankful. You freshen my perspective. You restore me to myself.

“Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world.” ~T’ien Yi-heng

I first inhaled the soft smell of you on my mother’s breath as I lay as a baby in her arms.

As a child, guests in our home were no sooner through the door than a cup of tea would be offered. And so I grew to learn that you, dear tea, mean hospitality. As Ben Okri has said,

“Hospitality begins in the soul… it is a way of being. We are all guests in life.”

In a culture where the rites of womanhood are seldom afforded due prominence, drinking you with the grown-ups was a passage into adulthood. In times of celebration, upheaval, loss and great loss: on went the kettle.

I drank you green in the far east, red in South Africa, thick with sugar and mint in north Africa and spiced and tooth-achingly sweet in India.

You warmed my hands and my heart on the chill, misty Himalayan mountainside and I walked on green hills where you grew, watching in fascination as women in brightly coloured clothes picked your leaves. I will always cherish the wisdom of strangers and of long-lost, treasured friends made around the chai shop. And I will never forget the welcome call of the chai-wallah after a ropey night in second class sleeper: “Chai chai chai!”.

You were always there to welcome me home.

When the nurse brought me my first cup of you after I gave birth, my new life as a mother began. It may have been average, hospital grade tea in a not-particularly-generous cup – but it was relief, joy, immense gratitude and exhaustion all at once.

Gentle summer rain on the parched earth of my lips.

In the haze of early motherhood and the sleepless nights which followed, you were both balm and tonic, ally and trusted friend.

Like most grown-up relationships, ours is a complicated back story. You tell the tale of a journey from the east, used as medicine, currency and ceremony; ancient magic brewed for the gentry and the priesthood. It’s a story of trade and colonialism, shadowed with the darkness of slavery – even of war.

And yet to me, today, you speak of peace. You beseech calm and reverence in a frenetic world. You offer delicious moments of solitude amidst the noise and haste. You gently urge us to pause, turn inward for reflection, come together and wonder at the preciousness of everyday things. You are made with, and of love.

You are a thread in the tapestry of my life. Plants are healers and you, my dear, are a queen among them. The world needs you now, perhaps more than ever. Because, in the words of a fellow tea drinker:

“Where there’s tea there’s hope.” ~ Arthur Wing Pinero

This post originally appeared on Be You Media Group at

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