Grandmother Mugwort

By Jack Wolf

Björn stood silent for a moment before his candle-lit Harrow in the otherwise dimly illuminated room. Before him, on the darkened wood of the Harrow’s surface, lay several implements: in the center on a stand, resplendent in primeval red ochre glyphs, sat a large, bleached bear skull. Slightly above this on a wall mounted rack, was an ornately carved mead horn. To either side were red glass chimneys, each bearing a brightly flickering beeswax candle and on one side also sat a finely carved wooden statue of a grizzly bear, one of Björn’s animal teachers.

Before the bear skull sat a dark brown bowl, deeply glazed and filled with smoldering matter. Combined with the sweet scent of the beeswax the mound of mugwort in the bowl filled the room with a mystical sweet-pungent smell.

Björn took up the object that lay on the very edge of the Harrow; just before him where he stood. It was a finely wrought long-knife which he had recently received from the artisan who had made it for him. It was a fine blade with a bright finish which had come in an ornate looking brown hide covered scabbard.

Björn reverently lifted the blade in both hands; one on the hilt and the other, with a piece of soft cloth upon it so as not to stain the metal – beneath the tip end of the blade.

Björn held the blade thus and bathed it deeply in the wafting coils of the mugwort smoke. We stood silently in the room for a long while as he held the blade – as though waiting for it to absorb as much of the sacred smoke as possible.

Finally, he spoke:

“My thanks to the Elder Kin and the spirits of this place and to the spirit of the earth and the fire-people; to the spirits who helped in the making of this blade. My thanks to the craftsman, may the spirit of his ancestors be always with him, and to sacred Grandmother Mugwort for bringing the cleanliness to the spirit of this room.”

In a moment more he sat the blade down on the edge of the Harrow and nodded his head in respect. We stood there again in silence for a short time, before Björn turned to me and smiled. He had somehow suddenly had two small ceramic cups in his large hands and offered one to me.

“To the ancestors and the Elder Kin” he said, clinking his cup to mine and raising it to his lips. I did not have to ponder for long about the contents of the cups for as I put mine to my lips the potent scent of spiced Shoyaa arrived before the liquid hit my tongue. I drank and relaxed into the experience that comes as the liquid fire of absinthe, tempered by a mixture of mead and spices flowed into me. I became one with that place and with my Hearth Brother and indeed, with his newly honored blade.

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 Mugwort was very sacred to our northern ancestors and indeed continues to be so today. I have been told many times that it is the Nordic/Germanic equivalent to the white sage which is so popular in North America and to use it one will quickly discover why this is true: Burning mugwort will quickly clear a room or any other space of negative energy and replace it with a fresh, vibrant feeling.

I think of mugwort in the feminine sense as this is the understanding I have with this particular sacred plant teacher. Mugwort, to me, has many ‘grandmotherly’ attributes in that she is venerable and potent; having many applications to which she can be put: As an energy buffer/cleanser she is efficient at sweeping and charging a sacred space. She creates an atmosphere of mild relaxation in those who have spent any time in the clouds of her cleansing smoke.

As a dream-tutor she can assist in taking a Farer on more lucid dreams. I am told that the growing, green mugwort plant, kept in a room at the bedside, is quite capable of enhancing the dreams of the nearby sleeper.

Used as incense or as a tea, Mugwort can be used to enhance focus and clarity for those who so partake. I personally have found her most useful in helping me find insight during various writing endeavors.  Smoked or taken as a tea in more concentrated amounts, I have noted some people she can even have an experience quite similar to those had with marijuana.

Grandmother Mugwort is wise yet wily, holding back her teachings to some degree to those new to her, and yet also appearing to be quite open to any who come to her. Like many grandmothers she is patient and kind, doing her job with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of deepening spirit.

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About Jack Wolf

Canadian author Jack Wolf has been a practicing Pagan for over 30 years, walking a path that encompasses both his Northern European and Native American heritage. He counts the late Heathen Goði and writer E. Max Hyatt, Professor Mark Mirabello, Dakota tribal Chief William Hoff and American author Allan Cole among his mentors. An avid outdoorsman, Jack has spent a considerable portion of his life exploring the deep wilds of British Columbia, a vast province on Canada’s west coast. He brings a great deal of his wilderness experience to his spiritual path. Over the past 15 years Jack has studied and written about a number of northern pagan traditions, having published for the most part independently or in small journals, blogs or websites. His recent works for Mandrake of Oxford Have certainly opened up his writing to a larger audience. Jack is also the author of several other books, including Circle of Bones (2012), The Way of the Odin Brotherhood (2013), Blood and Stone (2014) co-author of Tales from the Red Moon Lodge (2014) and co-editor of A Voice from the Thornwood (winter 2014). Forthcoming works include The Thornish Path, Ullr’s Road and The Urban Tribalist, all of which are planned for a mid-2015 and early 2016 release respectively. Spiritually, Jack identifies himself generally as a Deep Tribalist and more specifically as Thornish. He is a member of a primal pagan tradition whose spiritual path involves questing for the First Knowledge – that held by our most ancient ancestors whose hearts and spirits were deeply connected to the land. The Thornish path is the way of the warrior-steward; a Deep Tribal tradition which Jack has practiced since the late 1980’s Jack holds a degree in anthropology from the world renowned University of British Columbia and has long held an avid interest in history, tribal peoples, spirituality and the reawakening of pagan peoples worldwide. He currently resides with his wife and co-author Cassandra Wolf and their daughter, in Squamish, British Columbia.
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