On the Calendar
November is a time that is betwixt and between. After passing through the gateway of Samhain, we have come into the dark of the year. As the days grow cold and the nights long, we await the rebirth of light at Yule. Although the earth begins her winter’s rest, there are quiet reminders of ongoing life. November is named from the Latin novem, meaning “nine,” as it was the ninth month on the Roman calendar.108
On the Calendar
November 1 and 2: Day of the Dead/All Saints Day and All Soul’s Day
The days following Samhain continue to be important for honoring the dead and purifying for the future. Like many spiritually important observances, these were adapted into the Christian calendar. On All Soul’s Day, it was common practice to place chrysanthemums on the graves of loved ones. See “October” for details on this flower. Until the eighteenth century in England, fires of gorse were lit to lead departed souls to their former homes.109
Common Gorse (Ulex europaeus)
*Also known as broom, furze, golden gorse, prickly bloom, and whin
Gorse is a spiny evergreen shrub that reaches five feet tall and wide. Its densely packed branches are prickly with half-inch spines that grow amongst the leaves. The gray-green leaves resemble spruce needles and are shorter than the spines. Gorse was introduced into North America as an ornamental hedge plant, but its invasive nature caused it to fall out of favor. Although it produces a profusion of bright yellow, pea-like flowers in the spring and early summer, it often blooms throughout the year. The flowers grow singly or in pairs.
Folklore from various countries indicates that gorse was an effective plant to use against fairy mischief. Dreaming of gorse means that good fortune is on the way. Picking the flowers in your dream indicates prosperity. In Ireland where gorse blooms year round, a sprig in a bridal bouquet alluded to the saying that kissing was out of fashion only when the whin was out of blossom. However, in England, giving someone gorse blossoms was considered unlucky because it would make people quarrel. In some areas of England, children were afraid to pick the flowers or go near the bushes because it was believed that dragons lived or were born in gorse thickets. Called fuzz moots, gorse roots were dried and burned as fuel.
The name furze was derived from fyrs, the Anglo-Saxon name for the plant.110 It is sometimes called broom because it is similar in appearance and is often confused with the plant more commonly called broom (Cytisus scoparius).
For protection spells, carve its associated ogham character on a yellow candle and place gorse sprigs around the base of it. Place gorse spines at each corner of your altar for defense against dark magic and for help to remove hexes. Bury a sprig of gorse in front of your house for protection. If you find a bush that is in bloom, use the flowers in love sachets or scatter a few in your bath to increase personal power for magic. Burn a few leaves and/or spines for help in getting out of a rut. Place a sprig or two in any area of your home where energy has stagnated. Use gorse branches to symbolically sweep your altar and ritual area, cleaning and clearing the way for the sun’s return at Yule.
Gorse is associated with the element fire. Its astrological influence comes from Mars and the sun. This plant is also associated with the deities Aine, Arianrhod, Belenus, the Dagda, Freyr, Lugh, Jupiter, and Thor.
Figure 36. Gorse is associated with the ogham Onn.
November 11: Lunantishees
This is one of the days that blackthorn trees should not be cut. Lunantishees were believed to be a tribe of fairies and guardians of these trees. See the entry in “May” for more information about blackthorn and the Lunantishees. To honor these fairies on this day, tie a black ribbon around the trunk of a blackthorn tree and wish them well.
November 25: The Celtic Month of Elder Begins
Although it is not in bloom or fruiting, the elder is celebrated at this time of year because it is a tree of the Crone. In many areas, an old female spirit was believed to call the elder tree home. In Germany this spirit was known as Dame Ellhorn. In England, cutting down an elder without asking for the Crone’s permission was considered very unwise due to negative consequences. Elder trees were also associated with witches, and planting one near your house was believed to aid in seeing them. See the entry in “June” for more information on this tree.
To find out if you are permitted to take a branch, stand in front of an elder tree and close your eyes. Hold your hands in front of you with your palms facing the elder as you reach out toward it with your energy. When you can sense the tree’s energy, ask the Crone if you may take a branch.
If you may, place it on your altar at home to represent her through the dark of the year. It will help you call on her wisdom and power. At Yule, return the branch to the tree and place it on the ground underneath. If you do not have an elder tree in your area or did not sense an affirmative answer from Dame Ellhorn, carve elder’s associated ogham and/or rune into a brown taper candle. Light it every third night until Yule. Spend time in meditation with the Crone as she beckons: “Come into the darkness, explore what lies within.”
Don’t feel discouraged if you did not receive permission to take an elder branch. It may mean that you are not ready to work with the energy of the Crone through this tree. Spend time in the presence of an elder tree to open yourself to its energy. When the time is right, the Crone will let you know.
Figure 37. Elder is associated with the ogham Ruis (left) and the rune Fehu (right).