from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Saturday 29 December 2012

flowers of the dark time

When Persephone (Proserpine, to give her the Roman moniker) was abducted by Hades (Pluto) into the Underworld, fertile life above ground was suspended by her grieving mother, Demeter (Ceres). When Persephone was at last released, a deal was struck whereby she'd spend six months of the year in the Underworld of winter (and the unconscious) in exchange for the restoration of flowers, crops and abundance above ground. We could say that the 'young' part of us, the ego, needs to make the descent into the Underworld and soul as part of the journey to wholeness, in order to flower and fruit as we need...

Persephone's flowers include the iris, and I see that they, in our courtyard garden, are already pushing up strong little spikes (her fruit is the pomegranate, and I like to include that in my solstice/Christmas feast).

Yet even this dark time has its flowers; the more special because they are few. Here in southwest England, the gorse, as almost always, sprinkles its deep yellow flowers over the hillside, and tattered little flags of red campion nod in the hedges. The hazel catkins have been shaking themselves out for a month and more now.

I was delighted to find at Christmas the tightly folded green flowers of the hellebore near here (the one I've posted at the top was photographed one early January in the oakwoods of the Lot in southwest France; it's raining so hard here in Devon I have little inclination to trudge a mile on very slippery tracks to get my camera wet today. The one here has darker fatter leaves and is more upright.) Its cultivars are known as the Christmas Rose, and the flowers can vary from green to pink to deep red-mauve. I don't know if I've remembered this or simply made it up, but I believe that hellebore is an Underworld-type Persephone flower too.

Update 30th December – here are two pictures of the local hellebore:

green hellebore, Devon December 30th 2012

Gerard's Herbal, first published in 1597, says of the hellebore: 'A purgation of Hellebor is good for mad and furious men, for melancholy, dull and heavie persons, and briefly for all those that are troubled with blacke choler, and molested with melancholy.' It was also used to drive out worms and evil spirits; being poisonous, this sometimes worked by killing the sufferer, which is I suppose one way of achieving a relief from madness, melancholy and parasites, material or spectral...

One of my very favourite shrubs is the beautiful hamamelis, or witch hazel. It so cheers me to see this one coming into flower at this time of year in its blue pot. The flowers are delicate and scented, and witch hazel tincture has been one of the mainstays of my first aid natural remedies kit forever. I use it so much – as a toner for my face, as a soothing tincture for any bruise, inflammation, swelling or soreness where the skin is not broken, on human or animal. Here it is, from just now, blurred by rain.

Time now, well past time now, to persuade the dog she'd really like to go out for a brief run and a pee...

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