Monday, 8 December 2014

The Doors To The Wild Self

"The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious.  If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door.  If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door.  If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door" 
- Clarissa Pinkola Estes

These photographs are not a tacit invitation to imbibe hallucinogens, I have never done so and most likely never will.  However, even without taking them; Fly Agaric have always been a doorway for me.  They seem to me to be wild and wise and incredibly ancient - always asking difficult questions and expecting an answer.  Asking me to connect to the sacred aliveness of the land and honour it, know that I am part of it and it is part of me.  Protect it. 

We all know the earth is in trouble and it seems that there are a multiplicity of ways that we could (but don't seem to) help - or at least be less of a problem.

The above link is to a talk by the extraordinary mycologist Paul Stamets, it's called '6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save The World' .  There is also an article in the most recent edition of The New Scientist that details new research that has been done into the plant kingdom that shows that plants definitely respond to all sorts of stimuli and can be shown to see, hear, smell, taste and touch.  The article also suggests that plants have consciousness - not news if you are a Shamanic Practitioner but this is 'Science' making these assertions.  Plant consciousness - our Grandchildren will learn about a very different world to the one we think we know.

Will they see the spirits in the trees?  Will they speak and more importantly listen to these incredible repositories of wisdom?  Will they truly know themselves to be part of the land, part of the planet, nothing more or less than another piece of an incredible, living whole?  Sadly it doesn't seem that likely.

 So what does it take to change this?  It is my personal theory - and one that I know is shared by a number of other women working at the moment - the first one to spring to mind in particular is Clare Dakin of Tree Sisters (if you don't know about Tree Sisters please look here) - that the only way to get back into connected harmony with out earth is to get back into connected harmony with ourselves.  We need to discover our own interior flora and fauna and learn to feel our own seasonal rhythms and hear our own silent symphonies.

If we can re-connect to ourselves; swim in the deep oceans of our grief at the destruction of our inner forests and wild places and release what we can through the containers of our tears.  (These transmuters of passions, bringers of flow are a potent way to release, to change.) If we can re-member who we really are, then our wild selves will not be able to do anything else but start to once again nourish, nurture and serve the magical web of interconnection that is our beautiful Earth.

It is frequently being said at the moment that human's are too selfish to adequately respond to the climate crisis - but imagine if we understood that we are the planet and it is us.... what then? 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Box of Shame

This is the box of shame. It is sitting on my doorstep waiting to be collected and my heart feels heavy with the weight of it's contents.  The moment of collection will be cause for significant relief and rejoicing.

You see, this box contains a tiger skin. (Please read the rest of the post before you send me an abusive e-mail.)  I inherited it a few months ago and the awfulness of having such a thing has tracked me in my dreams and in my waking.  My Mother didn't know what to do with it when she had it; it sat in a canvas bag in the attic.  My Grandmother didn't know what to do with it either; it was in a store room in that same canvas bag.  My Great Grandfather shot it in Nepal in 1904.  I know that those were different times but I still cannot excuse him.  I have known of it's existence all my life and it has always made me incredibly sad.

Until now.  The reason the skin is sitting in a box on my front doorstep is because it is being transported to another part of the country where a shamanic practitioner who works with Tiger as an ally will keep it as a sacred object.  This person would never have wished for such a thing, they would never seek it out, but the synchronicities arranged by the spirits (or so it seemed) were so perfect that now this poor old skin - a skin that has waited solemnly in a bag for over a hundred years - will at least be honoured and respected.  Given that the tiger was shot and preserved this feels like the best outcome possible.

As I was taping and addressing the box of shame for it's departure, I was content in what I thought was the knowledge that this sort of thing doesn't happen any more.

Oh dear, how very wrong I was! There is a new petition from the International Fund for Animal Welfare - it reads like this: "I was shocked to learn about the scale of wildlife trade over the internet. The International Fund for Animal Welfare’s (IFAW’s) recent report entitled ‘Wanted – Dead or Alive’ alarmingly shows that their investigators found 33,006 endangered wildlife and wildlife parts and products [for sale on the internet]....  The investigation looked at 280 online marketplaces in 16 countries during a six week period in 2014 - so this is just the tip of the iceberg."

"This trade in wildlife ..... is taking place when the poaching of endangered wildlife is reaching unprecedented levels and the existence of the internet is providing an expanding platform that is seeing traditional crimes transforming in scale."

Specifically, the IFAW are asking the Government to make it a criminal offence to advertise an animal, or its parts (listed under either Appendix I or II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) if the advertiser does not include a valid CITES permit number within the advertisement.  They would also like it to be a requirement that online marketplaces have alerts on their sites regarding the possibility that advertisers might be breaking the law and links to details about the specifics of the law.

The petition is HERE please support it if you can.

The tiger skin is a perfect example of everything that is sickening about the trade in endangered animal parts, not least the fact that an animal was killed for the gratification of one individual's desires, nothing more.  His flesh was not eaten, his bones were not ground for medicines, his pelt was not used to keep anyone warm.  It's a thought that is coming to me more and more these days; not just "do I really need this?" but also "what will be done with it when I die?"  I truly hope that the Tiger has taught me a lesson learned well enough that there will be nothing to bring my descendants cause for shame when I do eventually join my Great Grandfather and that he will be pleased to see me, despite our differing views.

Monday, 10 November 2014


On a still sunny and unfettered autumn afternoon a raggle-taggle band of wayward and wildish folk gathered amongst the trees near here to help out some friends. 

We came from here and there, through the chinks and the cracks in the boundaries between this world and the other to help Rima and Tom make a film.  They are hoping to convert a beautiful 1960s Bedford RV truck into a travelling circus/theatre/home.  This is the plan; to turn this....

into this!

We gathered under the trees, an uncanny community of strangeness and creativity,

some human, some not.

There were wonders aplenty .... an Elven Princess and an magical Owl Woman on patient and tireless Gypsy horses.  Jugglers, magicians, clowns and strong men, musicians, dancers and curious circus acts, all carrying a little bit of 'other' and of 'edge' within their being.

The idea is - "to make something amazing, a device for spreading beauty and kindling imaginations, a spectacular creation to reignite the old enchantments hiding at the edges of things, and bring wonder back into the greying world."

Hedgespoken by starlight

"With its drop-down stage, fancy awning and proscenium arch, Hedgespoken will serve as a stage wherever it goes. Whether it’s Tom and Rima telling tales and making mischief with handmade puppet shows, or it’s other actors, musicians or sword-swallowers using the stage-space as part of the Hedgespoken travelling show, our aim is to spread a little old magic by doing what we love. Hedgespoken has the wherewithal to act as a mini-theatre, a cabaret stage or acoustic music venue, anywhere. Perhaps your village green, or that disused urban space, wayside or park – Hedgespoken arrives, makes magic, plants seeds of imagination, and then leaves, in the tradition of wandering bards, travelling storytellers and itinerant puppet theatres and circuses that are so much part of our heritage."

By the end of the afternoon we had made a film (under the expert guidance of film maker Annabel Allison of Wax Films) which is what launched Tom and Rima's crowdfunding campaign.

The film is here.  it's well worth a watch just for it's own beauty, but please do donate if you can.
I'm the crow banging a drum!

Monday, 27 October 2014

When Death Comes

When death comes

like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,

and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.
-Mary Oliver

Here is Honesty, so named because it's seed pods look like shiny silver pennies.  If we are to pay for our passage through the enchantments that lie between this world and the next, this is surely the currency.   

The old year is dying, the first of the autumn storms blew by and took half of the leaves, revealing skeletons like anatomical drawings , hidden things, forgotten vistas.  I could as easily write about how half the leaves are left, the land is still green, the trees are half full, but to me the trees are half empty.

The naked bones of the land are being laid bare, she is becoming stone woman, bone woman, keeper of mysteries and revealer of secrets.

My soul longs for the darkness, for the boundless infinity contained therein, as much as it revels in the green/grey/copper/gold/russet patchwork of the ever changing land.

Halloween is nearly upon us, the leaves turn, the year turns, the veil grows thin - our ancestors await our acknowledgement.

These stones are the remains of an ancient Bronze Age settlement on Shapley Common, near here.  Standing in this place every fibre of my being knows the presence of the ancient ones. I feel their long-gone breath on the back of my neck and hear them whisper a plea - asking for a re-membering of the sacred.

Outside the hut there was a trail of wool leading to an eloquent pattern of bones, (the squeamish should look away now).

It felt very fitting, alongside the visceral feeling of the aliveness of my ancestors, this dead sheep. Everything must die, in its time.  Every thing shall be remembered and the spark of remembering will light the bone fires -  honouring those who have gone before us.  In remembering what has gone- before I ask you to consider what is to come; to see us all in the great river of time and to make a promise to those for whom you may be an ancestor - that we will try our damnedest to leave them a world where there is still beauty and sacredness and a place for the strange two-leggeds who are so dangerously close to making a mess of absolutely everything.
A musical p.s.  

As I was writing this I had  Barrow Song on constant repeat in my head.  It was written by Andy Letcher and performed by his band Telling The Bees (a lovelier bunch of people would be hard to find).  I decided to put it here for you to enjoy and discovered that it is followed by Beautiful on their wonderful first album 'Untie The Wind'. Clearly the thread of my thoughts is common enough.  A third album is underway from Telling The Bees and will be released soon,  I can't wait! 

Monday, 20 October 2014

The Anatomy of Trees and the pathway down.

The Trees are un-leaving, revealing their anatomy,

leaf by leaf they un-peel summer from branch and twig,

their strong bones begin to appear in the land.

There's a queer dichotomy here as the dark draws nearer but the autumn light is newly falling on the freshly decorated ground. The green tunnels that wind their way round every hillside hereabouts are starting to open outwards into inspiring multicoloured carpets of leaves and nuts, twigs and stems. The hedgerows slowly unveiling their architecture under chilly white skies.

There are chinks appearing in the boundaries that separate this world from the other, the fast approaching darkness of winter is calling us inwards, downwards. The slow spiralling flight of a leaf from sky towards earth always makes me think of 'The Descent of Inanna'; " From the Great Above she opened her ear to the Great Below, From the Great Above the Goddess opened her ear to the Great Below, From the Great Above Inanna opened her ear to the Great Below"

These are strange times when the veil grows thinner and the old Celtic year comes to an end. Samhain approaches; the moon is still awake at lunchtime, owls call in the morning light.

It's time for un-doing, to find the broken threads of myself and follow them down, into the underworld or the unconscious (anywhere there might be wisdom), learn from my own stories, and from those ancestral tales so generously bequeathed us.  For re-weaving something beautiful, powerful and potent from the chaos that it's so easy to become.

It's a time when even the trees have tongues

And here a drop of nectar, for that healing sweetness that the right story brings.

Monday, 6 October 2014

The Blackberry Hound

Bumbling across the fields and down the lane, basket in hand in the still warm afternoons of early October has been such a joy. I find myself mooching along with a smile on my face, utterly content.  I feel I would have been very happy to have been born a hunter-gatherer, I like gathering and I'm bizarrely accurate with a bow and arrow, which is odd because I've never had any archery lessons and can hardly throw a ball into a swimming pool I'm such a bad shot.  I digress.

The last of the blackberries have been collected.  We have made blackberry wine and bramble jelly, blackberry crumble, blackberry pie, blackberry vodka and my favourite Hedgerow Jelly. 

Blackberrying has always been one of those things that I do in a dream, not really paying attention necessarily to each and every blackberry, just happy in the hum of the hedgerow.  This year is has been different - firstly there has been competition from unexpected sources!

Daisy has always liked the odd blackberry, she used to wait for us to pick them for her and would delicately snuffle them from our proffered hands.  This year she has been too busy with her head in the hedge herself to worry about us picking them for her, although if there are a good crop but all high up then she will allow us to offer her some.  Mostly she clearly finds the service too slow!

It seems she has become something of a connoisseur, and it is this part of her blackberrying that has changed mine.  She bobs along the hedge, nose delicately sniffing at each blackberry, touching some like a little blessing and pulling others out with her teeth and eating them.  These one's were left - even though they were just the right height for her.  When I  picked them and (of course) tried one, they were bitter.  So I started wondering how she can tell.

The best pickings can be found where she stops to blackberry, and of course it's to do with what you can smell.  Ripe blackberries smell lusciously and richly of blackberry and unripe or over-ripe one's just don't!

 Druid was previously not bothered by fruit of any description but this year Daisy has been so enthusiastic that he's joined in too - just a little bit.

Thank you Blackberry Hound.