Focus Tree- Elder
Meeting at the Pine Grove
This week each group had a mixture of natural materials to play with. I really like the stamp made with a stone rubbed with chalk and then stamped on to the back of peoples hands
Due to the storm during the week the forest floor look like Autumn except all the leaves were green and the seeds were bright and fresh. The children found seeds that they hadn’t seen before as they were usually up high in the trees.
There is so much to learn during free-play. Today I saw children climbing and balancing in areas that they would have been afraid of a few weeks ago. Their imaginary play had really developed.
We found and Elder tree in full flower. Mother Elder must be asked permission before taking anything from her tree so the children took some leaves to examine having asked her politely. They squeezed them, smelt them and rubbed them on their skin as it is very good as an insect repellent. We had a smell of the flowers. Everyone loved the smell.
For break we tried a cold and hot drinks from Elder cordial.
Once, long ago on a windy and wild afternoon just as the sun was about to set, three brothers and their hunting dogs went out to catch a rabbit for their Mother’s pot for her supper. She called to them, “Now don’t be going on this night near the Wild Woods my boys, and beware of the Elder Witch for it doesn’t take much to anger her if you don’t give her due respect!”
Now just as they came to the edge of that dark wood, a rabbit ran across their path and the dogs made chase — straight into the woods! Without thinking the boys followed the dogs’ tracks, whistling and calling, “Bran! Coll! Meg!” But the dogs, noses down and ears alert, were at the scent and weren’t for calling back. The boys just had to follow. Step by step took them deeper and deeper into the heart of the dark woods and no sight nor sound of the dogs. “Our Mother’s not going to be pleased with us – losing the dogs – and no rabbit to show for it! What shall we do?” said one of the brothers. “We need a whistle to call them, remember how Dad showed us how to hollow an Elder branch to make a whistle” said another, and without a thought he snapped off a branch from an Elder Tree. But he hadn’t thought to ask the Elder Mother’s permission, and now he was regretting it for there she stood larger than life, green skinned and ancient as the hills on which she stood. By her side she held the boys’ three hounds. “Ah you should have thought to ask before you took one of my boughs. If you bring me three gifts: a magical whistle from the Golden Elder Tree; The Heart of a Boar; and finally a Prince who knows how to make me young again, then maybe I will think of giving your hounds back! And where you will find these gifts? Ha! That’s for me to know and you to find out. Now you have till the sun rises to complete this quest.” And the Old Cailleach disappeared into the trunk of the Elder Tree and was gone from sight.
The boys walked until the dark veil of night was wrapped about them, and in that darkness they heard the most beautiful music, like the birds of the air were singing all together. And so the boys walked towards the sound and saw in front of them a Golden Elder Tree. And in its boughs a red Squirrel played a golden whistle. “We seek the golden whistle for the Elder Witch.” they said.“Well, if you can solve this riddle you may have it! Riddle me ree, riddle me rye, what am I? I am always restless and always free, I bang on doors and sway trees?” “The Wind!” shouted the boys and the whistle was theirs for the taking. On they journeyed until they came to a cave. Thinking that they might sleep safely in here for a spell in they went, deeper and deeper down a long tunnel. And when they reached the end of the tunnel they found a beautiful carved wooden box, and in that box was the heart of the Great Boar of Celyddon. But a great dark spider held it in her web. Knowing they had found their second prize, they blew the golden whistle and the spider was lulled by its sweet music. The boys snatched the box from her grasp and ran as swift as the North wind away from the cave. and on they tramped, their feet sore and their hearts weary, until they came to a deep chasm. Across its waters they spied a great castle. There a Prince was held captive by a Giant and it was that Prince they were searching for and must take back to the old Elder Witch! They blew the golden whistle and the Giant was lulled to sleep and the Prince ran from his prison, crossing the river by a bridge of a single hair!
The Prince was so thankful to the boys that he came along with them as they retraced their tracks to the place where the Elder Tree stood. And one of the brothers blew the golden whistle and the old Cailleach appeared. The Prince bowed, then putting his hand in his pocket drew out a cluster of fragrant white flowers; elder blossoms, and offered them to the Elder Mother. And in the twinkling of an eye she became young and bonnie with white Blossoms adorning her dress and crowning her head.
“You have done well boys. You are free to take your dogs in exchange for these three gifts. But always remember the Elder Tree Mother, for our flowers, berries and bark can cure many human illnesses, and misuse can bring bad luck!” The boys promised to always remember the Elder Mother’s generosity and off they and their hounds went, for they still had to catch a rabbit for their Mother’s pot for her supper! And finally they arrived home, and what a tale they had to share that night!
Having asked Elder Tree Mother first we cut some of her branches. We looked at the soft pith in the middle. This is what we did-
- Pointy sticks
- Elder sticks
Cut Elder sticks the thickness of an adult finger and approximately 30 cms. long. Use pointy sticks to hollow out about 3 cm. from the top. Find feathers, grasses, dandelion seed heads for the top of the wand and insert into the hollow. The bark can be peeled away in parts to create patterns on the wand handle.
Inventiveness at base camp.
Using branches to do sit ups.
On our way through the woods coming back with our Elder branches I passed a whisper down the line. “If we stay quiet we might see wildlife”. Yes, as soon as we were quiet we saw so much more. The children were so excited. We watched two grey squirrels jumping from tree to tree and a robin followed us.
The children played with their wands and made lots of magic.
Written response from last weeks sit spot-
“Sit. licen to the birds. I rember how my life is so importint. i am cam i do my mideful brething. I thik of things. i wish that hazely was in my group and i relax!”