Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Solstice Slow Time

Happy Solstice!

This morning at dawn and intrepid band of travellers braved the elements to walk to Scorhill (on Dartmoor) to greet the dawn. It was so windy that a friend's smallish daughter was blown over and nearly everyone there remarked at some point that we must all be completely bonkers.

It was incredibly beautiful. Wonderful to be out in such extreme weather to a place where wildness lives.

To be reminded that this is the time to stop.

Or at the very least slow down.

Take some breaths of the howling, thrashing air and remember;

Few things really matter, but love matters and you and I and all our relations (human and other-than-human) matter. And none of these would be anything at all without Earth - who IS us and all our human and other-than-human relations, everyone from cats to carrots. And so she matters most of all.

Merry Mid-Winter - however you celebrate it.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

For My Ancestors And For My Descendants

Happy Halloween, or Samhain, or whatever you chose to call this day when the veil between this world and that other is at it's thinest and the old year dies. The apples are picked, the firewood is stacked and it's time to draw-in, to simmer down, to reflect.

I've been 'haunted' for the last few days. My paternal grandfather has been popping up everywhere in a most persistent manner; a few days ago I looked at a basket that I use for recycling in the kitchen (before it's taken to the box in the shed), I look at that basket ten times a day but suddenly I remembered that I had given it to my Grandfather for his 80th Birthday and filled it full of home-made goodies. I heard a Carly Simon song on the radio and remembered that he had given my my first ever album as a young teen. I noticed that you can still buy a 'Freddo' frog shaped chocolate, when I was little these were his favourite and I would delight in buying one for him with my pocket money. Memories came crowding in and I realised that he was trying to get my attention (or more accurately The Spirits - the wise compassionate, all knowing, utterly loving Spirits - who are individuated only so that we may understand, were trying to get my attention).                                  

I spent many hours with him/them last night. First I was asked to light a fire. I did so with due ceremony - a fire in honour of The Ancestors - both personal and general, both recent and ancient, this is well within my comfort zone and my 'normal'. I was then sent to collect a small leather case which is filled with old photos, letters and documents. There are (or were) all sorts of wonders in this suitcase. The Spirit that I was identifying as my Grandfather, who my brother and myself called Grandadda, was getting more and more impatient with me; it had taken me a long time to do as I was asked, he'd been asking for days. His impatience increased as I opened the case.

Immediately the case was open it was clear that what was required of me was that I burn the contents. Whatever recoil from this instruction you are feeling as you read this is unlikely to be as strong as mine was. I have been raised in a family who's feeling for what some of my family call 'La Generosa' (The Generous Ones the one's who came before us and to whom we owe our-selves) has been very much at the forefront of my up-bringing. On my Mother's side of the family my GrandPop was an Irish tale-teller and story lover who had a history to relate for nearly every eventuality and who kept the stories of the generations alive by constant recounting. My maternal grandmother was on the one hand descended from Robert The Bruce and on the other from Italian nobility. You simply don't, you really DO NOT destroy family records or memorabilia..... history is how we learn. So - being asked to burn the contents of the case was horrible. Beyond horrible.

I couldn't do it. I spent hours reading all the letters, looking at the documents and the photographs. Grandadda was getting crosser and crosser, more and more anguished as I refused to do it. I would not understand unless I did as I was asked.

So we reached a compromise. I would burn all but two of the letters that were written from 1905 to 1911 by my Great Grandfather Edward (Ted) to my Great Grandmother Fanny. They were sweet letters, mostly concerning themselves with the presents various people were giving them as they got married. He signed himself 'Your ever faithful sweetheart' until they were married, were-upon he signed himself 'Your ever faithful ex-sweetheart'. These were lovely people, kind people, people like you and me. Reluctantly I put the letters on the fire. And the minute I did so, the penny dropped.

In the verbal histories of my family my great great grandfather is referred to as The Old Bastard (that's him, above). He - like my Grandadda (Ed) and his father (Ted) was called Edward Snow. When Ed's father Ted died (when Grandadda was three) he left his share in the family business to Edward Snow - his son. But Edward Snow - his father - took the inheritance. Hence the less than adoring title of Old Bastard. Now that the letters between Ted and Fanny are (mostly, but for the purposes of the lesson - completely) gone all that remain are equally loving letters from The Old Bastard to Fanny enquiring about her health and that of his grandchildren. So history has been changed. My son's will inherit a suitcase full of another story entirely than the one I was raised with - because I'm pretty sure they haven't heard the 'Old Bastard' story and now the evidence is that he was a kind and caring man. One who sent his granddaughters coats and his daughter in law money. This is not fully the point of the 'great burning' (I still can't quite believe I did it - in some small ways I will probably regret this for years). What Grandadda was trying to make me understand (and I'm not sure I'm managing to convey it at all) was that in looking back at the Ancestors as individuals or as a 'culture' we will only ever keep repeating the same stories, make the same mistakes, create the same reality.

At this time of year we honour our dead, we stand in gratitude for our place nearest the fire, honour our bodies and our inheritances. If we are wise we look much further back than those we know as ancestors, to the common ancestors, the small tribe of people to whom all of us ultimately owe our genetic inheritance. People who knew the Earth as alive and sentient, people who we like to think and certainly hope behaved with grace and respect for hundreds and hundreds of generations. BUT - we must also look to the future, to the descendants for our wisdom. They are the ones who are truly inheriting the terrible dislocation that the last thirteen generations have engendered. In the letters it became clear that these people who lived 100 years ago hardly differ from the majority of the people of my generation in the west at all, obviously they couldn't operate a blog without a serious up-date but they are pretty similar in their concerns. My sons and their friends seem to me to be a different kind of human completely. At the forefront of their concerns are the whole tribe of Earth Dwellers and the Earth herself. I thank the Goddess for them, for all of them, and I will be looking forwards for my wisdom, not backwards, whilst thanking those who have gone before me that I am here at all.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

What we've been up to!

Blog posts here have been a bit thin on the ground lately, not for the lack of things to blog about - but for the lack of time. I've been a busy bee - making, making, making: Rattles,

 Large piles of home grown vegetables.....

 Stacks of freshly made drums......

There's been quite a bit of painting, both of drums and walls - Fergus has been making himself a workshop in our tumble-down 'barn' - or rather a lean too next to that. Exciting! (This is him in the kitchen, the workshop has not got to the place where you could paint a drum in it yet.)

I've also been making A New Endeavour. I'm not quite ready to let the cat out of the bag yet, but there are 'things afoot!'  When it comes to birth I will share it here, and I hope you'll be as excited about it as I am.

So, now you know!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Autumn Equinox

Summer has been sitting on the gate these last few weeks, this morning she got down and tucked her dress into her belt, pulled her shawl around her shoulders and set off striding out across the fields turning the edges of the leaves to russets and browns as she went, blowing them off the trees and along the lane.  

Autumn arrived with a freezing wind and a typical Dartmoor recital of rain/shine/rain/shine... Today is the Autumn Equinox - that moment when day and night are of equal length and we start moving into darkening.

The sky is full of rainbows and the hedges full of spider's webs. Daisy and Druid have their noses in the hedge picking blackberries and we have been harvesting and gathering like creatures about to hibernate (wouldn't that be lovely).

This is a small portion of the chilly crop which I couldn't help playing with.

The last of the beans - which will be runner bean chutney.  This is a Devon speciality and well worth a try if you don't know it.  One of the nicest ways to use up the stringy end of season beans and so delicious you might even spare some of the less stringy ones for it. The recipe is here for you.

Two lots of Hedgerow Jelly are sitting in the larder already, waiting for homemade bread to be toasted and laden with butter on a winter's evening.

Out walking this morning I came upon this - a most beautiful acorn.

And it served to remind me that the seeds of next year's growth are always present in the dying of this year.  That there is always something cooking away in the belly of the earth; perhaps to be delicious today, perhaps waiting for exactly the right moment to pop up in the far distant future.  On this day, when the light and the darkness are of equal length what will your prayers be?  What will you take into the darkness with you so that it can rest in the arms of the Wild Mother as she prepares to sleep? What needs nurturing?

Thursday, 13 August 2015

The Great Conversation

"We have broken the great conversation. We are only talking to ourselves.  We are not talking to the rivers, we are not listening to the wind and stars."  Thomas Berry

It seems that we are not seeing temples in the trees and messengers of the spirits in every living thing we encounter on any given day.  Instead we see 'real estate' and 'commodities'; they have a value but all too often it is not intrinsic but requiring the destruction of the very thing that it is in order to make another 'thing'.  And we're rushing, always hurrying - no time to stop and talk.

For me the importance of The Great Conversation, the daily chat between us and a living, enspirited, sentient world, is hard to overstate. If we know the world to be alive then we are not 'talking to the hand' when we engage it in conversation, we are talking to a friend, a neighbour.  So then we surely cannot be so thoughtless with the common ground - the dwelling place we both share and are part of.

As Dr Martin Shaw so eloquently says - "When I write of the pagan imagination it is to illustrate the earthy spaciousness that really grounds a human: not as a remote island to themselves, but a charmed, invested, lover of place. Pagan not as a religious persuasion, but the feel of one who strolls, complete, under the grey teeth of the rain, or who places a hand on red turf and feels the subtle disclosures of an old friend; or who points at the night sky and knows not unutterable distance but that the stars are shield-rivets of the sun, and that they themselves shelter under the vast indigo tent of the sky. They are one who dwells." 

"One who dwells".  I love that.  It speaks to me of something so much deeper than the every-day. We dwell here, we are part of the whole of all that is.  Just a part of it.

Part of all that is, all that has been created, all that comes from The Cosmic Womb.

And so we are part of the dreaming-into-being of the Gods. And we are part of those gods.  So it matters what we do. And it matters what we say. And it matters who we talk to.

I invite you to enter the time outside of time; between the tick and the tock and beyond the face of the clock. Not the time of Chronos, but the time of Mythos and wild deep magic.  What if you had time?
Time to start a conversation........

Friday, 17 July 2015

There are no un-sacred places.

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill - more of each
than you have - inspiration
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity…

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensional life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

Wendell Berry

Out of the silence came horses. In this sacred place the herd emerged from the summer air, shimmering with equine magic. Their soft eyes and inquisitive noses probing 'other than horse' with gentle questions. 

For me the horse has always carried the energy of The Goddess.  In my personal mythology the name of that Goddess is Danu Anna, the Mother Goddess of The Tuatha de Danann - the people who are my ancient Celtic ancestors. 

I have always agreed with the sentiment that "horses make a landscape look more beautiful" (I'm sure you know -it's the name of a collection of poems by Alice Walker - none of which are about horses). 

Over the years various of these wild Dartmoor Ponies have come to me when I needed them.  In times of trouble, especially if you are dissociated or suffering from soul loss, ponies will respond to your energy by coming to stand in companionship and compassion with you.  They will also come simply to be; inquisitive and gently probing with their soft noses and their kind eyes they are one of the most beautiful ways I can think of to engage with the more than human world.  Whether you are sad or full of wild delights - find a pony and tell it your name, who knows what might happen.  

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Tending The Bees

For the last few weeks we've been spending happy hours cleaning and flaming old bee boxes and assembling extra frames of foundation for our Hives.  There are two of them, 'Wild Hive' and 'The Hive of Transition'.

The last year has seen me working harder than ever before whilst distracted by illness (not mine but one beloved and close) and also made timid around the bees by discovering that I am in fact allergic to bee sting. I now have to carry two epi-pens with me everywhere.  I have not been a good bee-keeper and I have been full of grief, berating myself instead of acting and dithering uncertainly on the edge of multiples of possibilities about what it might all 'mean'. I am initiate of The Path of Pollen, an ancient form of Shamanism that has at it's heart the Honey Bee and The Hive.  How can I be allergic to bee sting?

It was late in the year for these activities - they would have been better done in early spring.  In every moment is the opportunity for being totally here, totally alive to the moment - this is the only place where anything is truly happening. So I let go of all the beratings and inner torment and instead stepped forward into "what is needed now?"  I met the milk of kindness to humans within the hive; there is nothing to fear, there is only love, get on with the work.

To some extent I have been spectator more than participant - Fergus being the one who opens the hives - but placing my attention exactly where it should be (at a moment before the moment that is 'too late') has been balm to my grief.  The Hive of Transition has a new queen (it was briefly queenless and full of drones - not good), she is mated and happily laying comb after comb of healthy brood.  Wild Hive has all the space it needs to make more precious, nourishing, honey. The workers pour in and out of both in golden lines of busyness bringing pollen and nectar for their common good.

Apis Mellifera is a generous Mistress and both hives are now thriving.

If you love Bees, or indeed if you just love exceptional writing, I encourage you to read 'The Bees' by Laline Paull.  It's an extraordinary book and reading it is quite possibly one of the most accessible ways I can think of to understanding some of the practicalities of what goes on inside a hive.  I've made it sound dry - and it is anything but that.

If you are curious about The Path of Pollen read 'The Shamanic Way Of The Bee' by Simon Buxton. It has much to teach you, carefully hidden in eloquent prose and a beautiful story.