Friday, May 13, 2011

In Praise of the Elder Mother

The Elderberry bush is starting to bloom. There are clusters of tiny, ivory-colored florets dotting its voluminous dark green surface.

Friday the 13th is a good day to pay a tribute to the Elder Mother, since both the day and the bush represent ancient earth powers which have been made malevolent for reasons too deep to speculate on here.

Friday is "Frigga's Day," the Teutonic goddess of love, marriage, and fertility. And 13 is not an unlucky number in the old reckoning of goddesses, since there are 13 moon cycles in one journey round the sun -- each 28 day moon cycle evoking the normal menstrual cycle, also, of course, closely linked to fertility.

The lore surrounding the Elderberry bush seems to come mostly from Europe, where peasants were careful not to arouse the ire of the rather cranky Elder Mother by clipping her branches without a really good explanation. In a well tended hedgerow, Elderberry bushes were allowed to sprawl, and were considered places of mystery -- an opening to other dimensions. If you fell asleep under an Elderberry bush on Mid-summer's night you might well see faeries and elves celebrating.

And the most powerful and dangerous wand in the Harry Potter saga is the Elder Wand, made from a branch of the Elderberry.

Personally, I prefer a practical, modern approach and look upon the attractive shrub in our backyard as the Western Blue Elderberry, Sambucus cerulea, with beautiful flowers and dark blue berries that draw the birds. I have no intention of falling asleep under there, especially since C. is fond of that spot for his doggie ablutions.

However, I do let it grow unchecked, and I do find it very interesting that the rising sun of the summer solstice hits the fence right where the Elderberry bush opens its curved branches, forming an entrance to the mysterious green cave of light underneath.

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