Winter Solstice Poem with Harp

I (Jane) wrote the following on the Winter Solstice itself — the sentiment remains!

It’s been pouring here on our little island, with no chance to see the Jupiter-Saturn “Christmas star” conjunction. But I want to wish you all a Merry Midwinter and Joyful Winter Solstice. Today was the shortest day of a very long year. May blessings and beauty abound through these hallowed nights and days when the “sun stands still,” and may they spin us into a year of bounty, health, peace, and well-being for absolutely one and all.

Poet Kevin McManus and I have been collaborating across land and sea (Ireland and the U.S., respectively), with me putting harp to his rich earth-based poems. Please enjoy this video that I put together today. Kevin narrates his poem. Harp music, art, and photos are by me.

This poem is from Spirits in the Forest: A Collection of Poetry by Kevin McManus, available on Amazon UK and Ireland and Amazon US.

Honoring our Ancestors video: Follow the Deer

Last year I (Jane) put together an audio to celebrate the Ancestor time of year (late autumn, aka now). “Follow the Deer” honors the depth and breadth of our heritage, and this year I added some video. As beings of the earth, even the stones, plants, animals, and bio-regions in which we live are family. Illustrations, photos, narrative, and harp music are by me. This video is only two minutes long.

Celebrating Samhain and Venturing Past the Veil

Jane hosts and produces Forest Halls Celtic, a streaming radio show devoted to Celtic music, folklore, and other greenwood magic. This program is available on demand for your listening pleasure. Listen to the shows here.

Coming up on Forest Halls Celtic

For the next few weeks we’ll be celebrating Samhain and venture past the veil between the worlds. You’ll be able to hear these shows on demand for two weeks each. Each show is an hour long.
Starting Sunday, Nov. 1: Show 36 – “Foraging” and Show 15 – “A Wondrous & Spooky Samhain”
Starting Sunday, Nov. 8: Show 37 – “Kin” and Show 32 – “The Veil Between the Worlds”

Come enjoy the magic of the greenwood!

When the Veil is Thin, We Meet Anew

Rowan – Sorbus aucuparia – European Mountain-Ash (we have an American Mountain-Ash too) is a tree highly regarded as protective in Celtic herbal lore.

Dear Ones,

The veil is thin. Do you feel it? This is a time when our Beloved Dead seem close to us, close enough to speak with and perhaps for us to hear or feel some response in turn. This is a time when we may look at our hands and see our father’s hands in them, look in a mirror and see our grandmother’s eyes, or our great-uncle’s nose. A time when we look through old family photos and see our children or grandchildren in the faces and bodies of our great-great-great aunts and uncles. We know in the marrow and minerals of our bones, at the hearthfire of each one of our cells, our Ancestors within us.

And we recognize within our imaginative and joyful hearts, in the weaving of thought and memory, those whom we have loved who have gone before — be they friends, teachers, or connected by other means to our souls and lives. These Beloved Dead live on in us, even as they live on in some other form where we cannot go (for now).

This is a time when the dark takes hold of the light and expands into shadow and into the deep soul of the earth, when mystery widens and takes hold of the stars. This threshold time is when we can turn our faces toward the wind, and catch our Loved Ones’ voices in our beings. It’s a time when we glimpse them in the movement of branches and hear them in the call of Owl, and when we meet them in our Dreams.

Everywhere I poke and prod into the cultural ways of my lineages — from my Irish great-great grandmother to my many generations back German ancestry to my Mexican heritage to my own more immediate Catholic heritage — this is the time when we honor All Souls, as a collective, but also specifically as Loved Ones in our lives full of personality and rich in quirks. If you look in your lineages I’m sure you’ll find this awareness too. It seems to me that to honor our Dead, to respect our Ancestors, to speak with them and our own urge to invite them to the table is an urge woven into the fabric of our human family. By definition one’s family in both the nuclear and species sense includes the Ancestors — and the Future Generations too, I might add. Whether we are consciously aware or this fact or not, we are embedded in generations. This is true Family Nature.

This is a time to feast our Beloved Dead and to know them to be caring for us still. This awareness makes and keeps us strong. As the turning of the earth and her passage round the sun carries those of us in the Northern Hemisphere into the Dark of the Year, how are your departed Loved Ones speaking to you? It may be through a certain songbird drawing close, or the unfurling of a particular flower by which you know them. It may be in your dreams, or in a feeling as you stand at the stove, stirring with a particular wooden spoon. You may feel the hand of your Loved One holding yours around the spoon, and the two of you preparing the food together. You may know them in the golden light of sunset, a comforting sweep and sigh of cloud.

Go outside, open your senses, feel yourself in your bones and blood and cells, and in the aurora borealis dance of your thoughts, imaginings, and emotions. How do your Beloved Dead still show up for you? How are they speaking to you right now?

Here is the secret that is woven into this time of year: The veil is always thin. This threshold time of year, autumn moving into winter and the en-darkening of the year invites us into the truth and awareness that this is so.

Plants to Honor our Beloved Dead – Rose, Rosemary, Rowan, Red Cedar

A Celtic Herbs and Healing Ways Workshop to Honor Our Beloved Dead

Greetings, Friends,

Erin and I are excited about our upcoming workshop, and hope you’ll join us. Here’s info about it:

Through the lens of Celtic heritage, we’ll honor our Dead within an expression of an intimate conversation woven of community, the land, and the Sacred, and shepherded by the generosity and blessing of the herbs and trees. We’ll touch into Scottish, Irish, and Welsh folk customs, myth, music and plant lore not to imitate or appropriate, but to awaken our hearts to celebrating our beloved Dead in spontaneous, deep-felt ways, and to them perhaps celebrating us. Our day will be interspersed with solo time outdoors and in reflection and simple ceremony.

The workshop takes place on Saturday, Oct. 31, from 9am to 3pm PT via Zoom. Fee: $65. Partial scholarships are available. Find out more/register at here.

Immerse Yourself in Hildegard’s Rose

What do you love about Rose? Such a glorious flower, one that speaks to our spirit, hearts, and mental and physical bodies too. Revered for generations, the “queen of the flowers” as been used medicinally throughout the ages as well.

Hildegard von Bingen was a 12th century German Benedictine abbess, mystic, composer, skilled healer, and saint. In this video we share and teach a little of Hildegard’s chant and how she used Rose medicinally. We also make an oil with Rose.

This video is a preview of what we’ll be teaching at the Pacific Women’s Virtual Herbal Conference taking place on Sept 25-27, 2020.

How do you work with and enjoy Rose? Please share your experiences with this lovely plant. Viriditas!

You and A Little About Us

If you’re here, we imagine you love chant, are fascinated by Hildegard von Bingen (12th c. abbess, composer, physician, speaker, mystic, saint) , or are curious about herbs and their medicine. You love the garden and nature, are striving to live a life attuned to the Sacred, or a combination of all the things mentioned here!

Maybe you are fascinated by the medieval mind, or of ancestral ways of knowing, and maybe you have a regular practice with healing, giving and receiving. Likely you want a better world to flourish that includes all humans, all beings, and serves as a true gift to our beautiful and generous Mother Earth.

Maybe you sense — or know — that other ways of engaging with the world can lead to peace and wonder. And maybe by stepping into these other ways of being, sensing, perceiving, and expressing, that new thoughts can come forth, new ways to work, engage, and play and celebrate the music of life with one another,

We are Erin Durrett, cantor, chant specialist, and vocalist, and Jane Valencia, harper and herbalist. We love to discover and share what chants and plants reveal about our world and our deepest nature.

We delve into Hildegard of Bingen’s music and herbal medicine, medieval and Celtic chant and herbal traditions, into myth and lore, and beyond. Chants and plants can help us experience the soul of the land, the sacred of nature, and to discern the mythic and sweetly personal that surrounds and includes us in every moment. You’ll find all this and more as we grow this site.

We’d love to hear your thoughts, your experiences, your discoveries as we head out together into the realm of Chants and Plants. Please introduce yourself. We’d be delighted and honored to get to know you!

Honoring the First People

We honor the indigenous sx̌ʷəbabs (Swub Áhbsh) people and acknowledge the fact that Vashon and Maury Islands are within the area where the sx̌ʷəbabs have built homes, buried their relatives, told stories, celebrated, fought battles, made art and medicine, and lived in unity with the natural world since time immemorial. These lands on which we now live are the traditional lands of the sx̌ʷəbabs and remain a vital part of their cultural sovereignty to the present day.