Tag Archive for: Druid

Meeting the Eastern Hemlock

Eastern Hemlock branch covered in snow with cones hanging below

The abundance of cones this year was what drew my attention to this Eastern Hemlock.

It was an abundance of tiny pinecones dangling below the branches that brought my attention to the tree this winter. I had not paid much attention to this tree in the past, mostly because it was just one of the many evergreens that grow here, and I had not spent time getting to know them individually. It is probably no coincidence that the tree came into my awareness now when I have just stepped onto the Druidic path.

After some research I discovered that the tree was an Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis), whose common name came from the poisonous European herb, perhaps because of a similar smell. This Hemlock tree is a pine. The branches are pretty and lacy, and the tree is loosely pyramid-shaped.

I was curious about the noticeably large number of cones this year but read that the Eastern Hemlock likes moist soil. Last summer was cool and very, very rainy. It seemed there were few hot, sunny days. I kept wishing it would dry out for a bit, but I guess the tree was happy.

The seeds in those cones are popular with some of the local wildlife, including red squirrels. My little friends must be eating well, as scales (the “petals” of the cone) litter the snow under the tree. Mice, voles, and even snowshoe hares will pick up any seeds that fall to the ground. A few of the winter birds, including black-capped chickadees and dark-eyed juncos, also enjoy the seeds. I also learned that porcupine like to dine on the bark and twigs of the Hemlock, but I have not seen one here.

Hemlocks grow slowly and make take 300 years to reach maturity. The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, an aphid-like insect native to Japan and accidentally introduced to North America, is decimating our Hemlocks. An infestation leads to decline and mortality within ten years. Hemlock trees are dying all along the east coast of the United States. Because the cold seems to be the only thing that stops the Woolly Adelgids, the Hemlocks here, in the Adirondacks, have been spared. Since the average temperature is rising due to climate change, our Hemlocks may not be safe for too much longer, though.

I will be monitoring my new acquaintance, the Eastern Hemlock, for signs of Woolly Adelgid while I observe the tree’s seasonal changes. If watching the tree means I am likely to spot a red squirrel scurrying across a branch, all the better. I feel blessed that I was invited to meet this tree.

Imbolc 2022: Meeting Brigid, Again

My year of Druidic studies was intended to be ecology-focused, but I find I am curiously revisiting the Celtic pantheon as well. The goddess Brigid, who is honored at Imbolc, was one I had gotten to know in 2013. I opened my journal from that time and saw that I had noted that after Imbolc that year I had been drawn to all things Celtic and Druid for a while. Funny how I find myself there again.

Brigid is one of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the fey who ruled Ireland until Milesius’ invaders (the “final Irish”) sent them into hiding in the fairy mounds. She is a mother goddess with three aspects. She is the patroness of poetry and the creative arts, and was revered by the Bards, who memorized her in poetry in the Druid oral tradition.

Brigid the patroness of healing and fertility, particularly the fertility of ewes, dairy cows and other livestock. Herbal medicine and midwifery are part of her healing arts. She is also the patroness of smithcraft and the martial arts, and so was honored by the warriors who, at the time, would have battled with swords.

candles and a Brigid's cross made of twigs

My 2013 Imbolc altar included a Brigid’s cross I made from twigs found here.

Fire, particularly the hearth fire, is associated with Brigid. At Imbolc, her fire energy is represented by lots of candles, and some people include making candles for the year ahead as part of their Imbolc activities. Although the fire that warms our house is hidden in a furnace, I have an appreciation for the importance of the hearth fire for comfort and survival during cold North Country winters.

Brigid is also associated with water, but mainly wells and springs. These are thought to be portals to other worlds and are a source of wisdom and healing. There are many springs in Ireland named for Brigid. Her ties to both water and smithcraft may have given her a place in the Arthur legends, which I love. Some believe that the Lady of the Lake, who forged Excalibur, King Arthur’s unbeatable sword, was Brigid.

Imbolc crafts include Brigid’s crosses, small, equal armed crosses typically woven from rushes. The crosses were hung on doors and windows of homes and barns for protection. She was so beloved that she was made a Catholic saint and Imbolc is now called St. Brigid’s Day in Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and some Anglican churches.

Please celebrate Imbolc with me, virtually, on Thursday, February 3, 2022. Visit the ceremonies page for details and registration.