12.07.2009

Wreath Woman


I’ve been thinking more about wreath-making, and the classic Evergreen wreath with its wonderful symbolism. I am picking up from a few posts back… where I shared my own tradition of wreath-making with family and friends. I’ll get to the Evergreen wreath in just a bit, but first a little more background on my own wreath-making story.

Yesterday, I was going through old photographs of wreaths I made and sold about 10 years ago. This is how Golden Flower Studio began, by the way -before I was ‘card woman’ I was ‘wreath woman’. And way, way before that I was flower woman (as in floral design... but that's another story – see post below). Yes, I woke up one day and decided that I would combine my love of craft with my love (ok, maybe obsessions) of nature, earth wisdom, myth and magic and use the wreath form symbolically... to celebrate, to recognize and to bless.

By this way and that a life is lived and the soul advances.

Like an old medicine woman, I whispered and chanted and blew prayers into the bundles of preserved and dried flowers and foliage to infuse with special intentions – each and every one. Tied little secret charms into the branches. I studied the background and stories associated with each plant - most were grown or harvested from my own region. I traversed new landscapes getting to know the plants in their habitats… bushwhacking through hillsides of manzanita or climbing along stream banks, visiting gardens with names like La Mera and Green Wizard. I made wreaths of every shape and size, custom flower ‘crowns’ and ‘scepters’ for girlfriends on their birthdays. Even botanical dolls – spirits of Autumn, Love, Magic, and an old grandmother doll carrying blessings. What fun, what crazy fun I had! And then one summer I was designing a little catalog describing all these wonderful plants and their symbolism, and creating cards to attach to each piece… and I got the idea: I’d love to make cards - cards with flowers and prayers and blessings. And… well...  fast forward to the present and I've become ‘card woman’.

Excuse me this diversion. It’s the old pictures that do it to me… bring back those scents of cedar, feverfew, eucalyptus, pennyroyal, yarrow, and the many artemisias. I'm a scent-driven person, I admit. Sitting at my worktable lost in  quiet, steady motion, adding bundles around a circle, layer upon layer (I have a thing for layering). A circle is how a wreath begins... or continues. A circle has no beginning so you're always jumping in somewhere to a space that's already whole and complete.

The Power of the World always works in circles and the world tries to be round.” Black Elk

From my wreath catalog circa 1999: “The Wreath is truly a wheel of nature’s glory – an offering, holding intentions. As a circle it represents wholeness, containing all cycles and changes leading to rebirth. Throughout time and across traditions, the wreath appears at rites of passage and seasonal rituals, at celebrations, ceremonies and other important events. Wreaths were used on houses for protection and good luck. Individuals were honored or recognized in life and death. Marriages were blessed. The gifts of Harvest displayed.”

Now for the Evergreen part. This time of year we are likely to use a lot of cedar and pine. In Oregon we have incense cedar, Port Orford cedar, red cedar and many pines: ponderosa, white, sugar.

Cedar: Revered as sacred by many peoples East and West. Used by Native Americans for cleansing and protection.

Pine: Numerous practical and healing uses. Prominent in Japanese folklore. Symbolizes immortality and vitality, undying spirit. Its flower essence is thought to help guilt and self-blame.

You can find countless meanings, stories, background on 'Evergreen' but basically they represent lasting life. Enduring through the seasons without change or dormancy.

Whether you begin or repeat a seasonal ritual this year be mindful of the symbolism behind it. Or start with a story, myth or symbol that holds meaning for you and build a ritual around it. Rituals and traditions that use elements of earth reconnect us to the earth or as Thomas Berry says, "re-enchant us" with the earth.

"There are occasions when you can hear the mysterious language of the Earth, in water or coming through the trees, emanating from the mosses, seeping through the undercurrents of the soil, but you have to be willing to wait and receive."  John Hay, from The Immortal Wilderness

In memory of Ted Andrews, author, naturalist, storyteller, wildlife protector, who recently left his beloved wild earth. I've used his books for many years as a trusted reference on earth and animal wisdom.