divination, Plants and Herbs

Gorse, and Ogham-led Healing

I’ve been doing A Thing.

Every day, I meditate. The form that takes may differ from one day to the next, but I’m still as consistent as possible. Lately, I’ve been using my little bag of driftwood Ogham staves to guide the process — I draw one, I interpret it, and I seek out a guided meditation that focuses on that meaning.

It’s a small thing, but it keeps every day from feeling the same. That’s something that I’ve really struggled with during social distancing, more than anything else. I like structure, but I chafe under sameness. I thrive when I have a schedule of some sort to stick to, but I need variety. Consistency is a blessing. Monotony is a curse.

My intuition is pretty good at guiding me to what I need.

Yesterday, it was Onn — the gorse.

It’s a bit hard to believe, looking at these thorny plants with their needlelike leaves, but gorse is a sign of hope. Even in Bach flower essences, gorse is indicated “when all hope is lost.” Gorse has also been used as protection, particularly against spiteful fairies and witches.

Their bright yellow flowers are associated with the Sun, but the plants themselves have a prickly, forbidding look. (So much so that it was said that gorse needed to be “subdued” — the old growth burned so new, tender shoots could take its place!) These spines serve two functions: they keep grazing animals from eating the plant, and they minimize water loss, allowing it to flourish in some of the most inhospitable areas. Despite its spines, gorse is excellent, nutritious fodder for animals, provided it is properly prepared.

All of these things mesh with gorse’s meaning as a symbol of hope. It grows in poor, thin soil in salty breezes, where other plants wouldn’t stand a chance. Its flowers arrive in spring, when the chill of winter is fading. It’s thorny, but those thorns hide sweet-smelling flowers, a source of food for large animals, and protection for small ones.

My therapist advised me to try to do one thing each day that is a source of joy. As time goes on and each day stretches into tedium, finding those things has become more difficult. (Familiarity breeds contempt, after all, and the things that brightened April’s days have lost some of their luster in July.) Gorse is a reminder of resilience, of hope, and of the cycle of the seasons. Things kind of suck right now, but this, too, will pass. It might require burning a lot of things down to the ground and starting over, like the new, tender gorse shoots, but it will pass.

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