Monday, 31 December 2018

Wishing you Love (and Grief) in 2019

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

- Wendell Berry

Perhaps you will think it a cruel thing to say - I wish you, with all my heart, a 2019 that begins with love and with grief. Not just any old grief, I do not wish bad or sad things to happen to you, but I do most sincerely want you to understand the bad and sad things that are already happening to all of us. That will get worse and worse if we don't act now.

I hope you will forgive me. There is no malice whatsoever in this wishing - it comes from love and only love. I wish most of all that you fall in love with our beautiful planet, with your world, our world. I wish for you to love it passionately, with all of your heart. All of it, or just your own little patch - either will do. 

Then my wish for you, dear friend, without the slightest hint of bitch or witch, is that you grieve. I wish that your heart will feel like it's breaking with the pain of our broken world - because if you feel like that, it's because you understand what we have done; you know about the sixth mass extinction, about global heating, know about the storm and starvation scenario that our children have to look forwards to. Know that those who are children now are going to be living in a world which will be effectively habitable for humans, or not,
depending upon our choices right now. 

If you feel grief, then perhaps you will know that water is sacred. That water is life. That if we carry on polluting the water in the way we are currently then our descendants will inherit a planet in which there will be wars over water and in which even we, the rich ones, the ones who currently have everything, are quite likely to be starving, wanting for even the basics. 

When your grief spills over, and tears come, then my wish for you is that anger follows. Anger at what we have done, what we have allowed to be done in our name. 

And that out of anger, comes action.

My dearest wish for you, for me, for all of us, is that we start ACTING, right now. We know what needs to be done. We know that much of our current life style is totally unsustainable, and it's very clear that our Governments are not going to do anything like enough. So it has to be us. We have to be the ones to choose what our future looks like. Each one of us has power, especially as a 'consumer' to make a difference. If we keep buying chickens who have been raised in sheds where they see no daylight, have hardly enough room to turn around, are fed growth hormones and penicillin routinely, are smushed into a machine to be plucked while they are still alive and are then placed on a plastic tray and wrapped in more plastic - then that is what will be in the shops. If we keep buying washing powder, or water, or sugary drinks, or even yoghurt in plastic bottles and tubs - then we will live in a world where the seas are dead and the beaches are covered in plastic.

If we keep buying more and more and more and throwing the 'old' one 'away' then more and more and more of our land and sky will be full of these things, either buried exactly as they are or burned and released into the atmosphere or washed into the sea. There is no 'away'. There is only a place you cannot see from where you are standing.  Someone else's door step.

If we do not chose to reduce, re-use, re-cycle, re-purpose, re-invent, redress - who will chose it for us?

Every single one of us needs to give our very serious consideration to -
not getting on an aeroplane,
not buying anything sold in the kind of plastic that doesn't stretch when you push it with your finger - this is the stuff that's easy to recycle,
not taking the car if there's any alternative (walk, bike, bus, train or even - don't go!),
not leaving the lights on, changing to a sustainable energy supplier,
not turning a blind eye when our office/shop leaves the lights on,
not buying another one, a newer one, a better one of something that works just fine, buy only what we really need, and then consider buying second-hand/used/vintage/antique,
or from a local artisan maker who's creations are ethical and sustainable.
Not washing our clothes unless they are actually dirty or smelly and then washing them on the shortest, coolest cycle that will get them clean.
Not using chemicals - on our bodies, in our homes, on the food we buy, 
Not endlessly updating our wardrobe.

 If what stops you from buying organic food is the cost then I most respectfully suggest that you need to ask yourself what you mean by 'cost'.  Is £1 more or less today worth trading your future for?

Is the palm oil in your convenience food worth the destruction of thousands of lives half a world away?

Is the beef in your burger (especially if you are in America) worth the loss of the Rainforest? Is it worth the loss of the lungs of the world? Is it worth the carbon that won't be sequestered by those trees, now that they are gone? The spiralling temperatures, the storms, the floods, the famines...

Do these questions not fill you with rage and grief? If they do not, you have not been paying attention. Please go and find out why they should - on our children's lives, I beg you.

My prayer for 2019 is that we pay attention, remember the next generations, change the ways we are behaving.

Most of all, I wish you love.

May 2019 be full of it,
for all of us.
And all our relations. 

Monday, 12 November 2018

The Power of Beauty

He and I have been courting one-another for about three years. I saw him first as a young fawn, nosing around in the sparse grass under hazel and oak, ears twitching at flies. I saw him again as the small herd made it's way up and down the hill; more grass at the top, more shelter at the bottom. He was more visible still as the leaves started to fall and I caught a glimpses of him and his fellow bucks (a male fallow deer is a buck, not a stag) tangling antlers in play, scratching the soft down off them on the trunks of the patient trees, and then this year he clearly fought for the right to mate. About a month ago I saw him following an exquisite little white doe, my heart danced for joy at the sight of her, and then leapt still higher as I heard their mating, which was surprisingly brief and surprisingly grunty!

This morning he simply stopped and stared at me; not running, not moving, just watching with those beautiful soft eyes. Then Druid dog ran up to see what was keeping me and the moment was over, he didn't see the deer at all (he's very small and the undergrowth is quite tall, a fact that obscures much of life from his view!)

Walking with a glad heart I was then taken with the beauty of the trees, stopping to simply admire the extravagant gorgeousness of autumn leaves in sunshine. The south westerly wind rustled his fingers through the branches and for a moment it was raining red and gold. I tried to capture tumbling leaves with my phone but had missed the moment, and I stood remembering how as a child I had run around after leaves, believing that I would be lucky all year if I could catch one. I always got one in the end, and I've always felt incredibly lucky.

I remember hearing the Dine elder and wise woman Pat McCabe speak about 'trying an idea on' - thinking something and wondering whether it's true or not, thinking it and seeing what happens when you think it. So there I was wandering along the lane, feeling full to the brim with the beauty of autumn, and wondering if actually this was the correct way to be feeling at this time. How can my heart be so happy, singing with the trees here, when trees in the Amazon are being cut down at a rate of more than 150 acres every minute of every day and 78  million acres ever year? How can I fill my lungs to sing when the lungs of the Earth are being destroyed? 

I looked at the trees and the leaves and the sunshine and the words "Changing Woman" came to me. I saw that the Earth herself is 'Changing Woman' - there are only two things that are certain in this life, one is death, the other is change. Everything changes, everything must change; life is dependent upon change.

So perhaps it's utterly appropriate to be happily in love with the Earth, with all of it, and in particular with this little bit that I have the honour and good luck to live upon. Not to spend my time in grief, bemoaning the loss of things I cannot see from here, but to wander - heart-full - in my own place, and to sing out that love, and live that love with every thought and deed. And as I had this thought a beautiful leaf landed on my heart, and the sun came out.

I feel I have my answer. I know that grief immobilises me, that when I attempt to face all the horrors of the cataclysmic changes going on in the world I can come up with nothing more useful to do than what I already do: I'm trying to be zero waste, I don't buy plastic, I do buy organic, I try never to drive my car for only one reason, I haven't been on an aeroplane since 1998, the list goes on. And the more I walked this morning the more I became absolutely certain that unreservedly loving and celebrating my patch of land is the best, most useful, thing I could possibly do.

I'm not suggesting for a second that this is something to do instead of trying really, really hard to be a blessing not a curse on this land - I'm suggesting that the more we fall in love with Earth, the more we celebrate our indivisibility from all else that is here, the the more we (or I, certainly) will feel able to do what I already do and find the strength for more, and more, even knowing that it makes the very small difference that it does. I will remember also that the difference between life and death is a moment, or a millimetre, and so each small choice by each person counts - could be the difference between life and death for all of us.

Sunday, 21 October 2018

It's time....

Back when God was a boy, back - in fact - when God was a Goddess; juicy, ripe, fecund and overflowing with bounty - the necessities of life were seen as gifts from Earth. Mother Earth, Ma, Madron, Britannia, Rhiannon, Elen, whatever we chose to call her she provided us with everything we needed.  As far as we can tell from this end of history - we were in love with our Earth, we were grateful for her gifts and counted our blessings.

We seem to have viewed Earth as Feminine - it makes sense, women are the one's who give clearly comes through the female. We scratched our gratitude as magical fertility symbols into the soft clay of pots, carved the curve of round bellied women in clay, wood, stone, antler and bone and wove it into the very fabric of life. Our gratitude, our reverence, and our constant hope that She would continue to provide.  We were in relationship with the Sacred Feminine.

When farming came along - if you have ever actually tried existing as a hunter-gatherer you will understand with piercing, tummy-aching clarity what the advantages of farming are - these freely given gifts slowly embarked on a journey that ended when they became 'produce'.  As someone who partly grew up on a farm I don't see that farming and respect and gratitude for Life are incompatible, but somehow it has mostly worked out that way. Farming became agribusiness.

Clever little beans that we are, as our population increased and we strayed into territories that were not necessarily as fertile as the one's we had left, we found a way to increase the odds of there being any given foodstuff where we wanted it when we wanted it.

Sadly, over time, we have become so disconnected from the original 'source of all' that we fondly imagine we are completely in control of the process. We feel that as we buy and sell and hoard our 'goods' we are making the world a better place, few of us noticing that it is to the advantage of the few not the many that these things are organised. We have fallen out of relationship with The Mother of All Things.

Farming originated in Sumer around 4,000 years ago, and it seems from the records that as soon as we started to farm we changed from a society with equal rights for everyone to one that started to dis-empower and denigrate the feminine. Agricultural surplus meant that particular landscapes became worth invading and fighting over. War was what made men great, and military leaders became more important than the goddesses of the land.

There is an often relayed myth that says in early Celtic society land had always been owned by women and passed down through maternal blood lines. There is apparently no written evidence for this assertion, but scholars suggest that there may be considerable truth in the 'myth' simply because it has been related as fact so frequently in what was written down. Either way, times clearly changed, and even among the Celts the rights of women were eroded. Goddesses were conquered by Gods, women became chattels.

Time passed in an increasingly masculine world until according to a book written in 1777 (by that prolific author 'anon') "in Saxon times, the rank and consequence of women appear to have been considerable..... the Norman invasion was fatal to the rights of women." With the Normans came a lineage of brutal Christian kings and the 'Doomsday Book' - a giant list of all the things that these kings had dominion over. It is interesting to note that it was the Church that owned one quarter of all the land in England.

In these islands of Britian the dis-empowerment and denigration of the feminine reached it's height during the 'witch trials' of the 15th, 16th and 17th Centuries. Christianity had arrived here in dribs and drabs with the Romans in the first century AD, but really gained a hold in 597 with the arrival of Augustine. Much of Europe and small patches of Britian were not officially Christianised until as late as the 11th Century but churches were built upon sacred places, local Goddesses were turned into Christian Saints and the feminine became not sacred, not even just a little bit less good than the masculine - but the very embodiment of Evil.

Christianity speaks of the Father of All Things, not The Mother. The followers of this father and his son took it upon themselves to root out belief systems that did not concur with their own. Before Christianity the majority of healers were women; among the healing wisdoms of such women were the herbs, charms, positions and potions required to bring a child safely to birth - they were honoured and respected until the Inquisition announced that no-one did more harm to the Catholic faith than midwives. A new law was passed saying that anyone who was 'curing' without having studied at a university was a witch and must die. Since most women were barred from university this was a guarantee that women's healing powers and relationship with the healing properties of plants, spirits and intention would have to either end or hide.

As women's power was taken away from her so was the land taken away from the people - and vice versa. The first enclosures of common land that we know of here in Britain happened in the 12th Century. Enclosure meant farming that was undertaken by the many became to the advantage of the few. Vast swathes of common land and 'open fields' were enclosed and access to common land severely restricted. Access therefore to free food and medicine and engagement with the land as Sacred Ground became made smaller and smaller as the rights of 'owners' became more and more violently enforced.

Rebellion was frequently followed by charges of witchcraft and hundreds of women were killed and many thousands more silenced by violence. The global figure for women executed for witchcraft is thought to be something like 9 million. We actually got off very lightly here (if hundreds of women dead rather than millions can be called such a thing). Torture was not a legal way to extort confession and being tried as a witch in The British Isles was not necessarily a death sentence - only about 25% of those tried were actually killed. The story is not the same elsewhere in Europe and America where horrific tortures were endured and death was the almost certain outcome of an accusation of witchcraft. We get the expression 'the third degree' from these times - people, mostly women, were tortured in ways that every part of me cringes away from, I cannot even write about it. Many confessed having been tortured once, most confessed having been tortured twice, everyone either confessed or died having been tortured three times.

It is no co-incidence that one of the most powerful symbols of 'witchcraft' is the cauldron. What is a cauldron if not a creative container - a wombic space? It is the creative nature of Woman and her connection to the Earth and the Cosmic Womb that the dominant paradigm has sought to limit. We have been persecuted for our authentic power; for living our creativity, our sensuality, our intuition and our wildness. For far too long now it seems that the toxic male has sought to dis-empower the female and attain 'power over' - because he does not have 'power of'. Our history has been moulded by misogynists and as it is always written by the winners we have suffered grievously at it's hands. The Malleus Maleficarum (a handbook for witch-hunting and identification) was written in 1486 by two monks at the instigation of Pope Innocent the 8th and it singled out women as the primary practitioners of witchcraft. This one book was responsible for generations of children watching as their mothers, sisters and aunts burned at the stake throughout Europe and the New World. Between 1486 when it was written and 1735 when the Witchcraft Act was repealed paganism became devil worship and what little remained of our 'folk' customs, and our living relationship with the Spirits of the land, became heresy.

The enclosure of our common resources; from land and forests to the inhabitants of the oceans and the water itself, is still happening now. All things are increasingly creeping into 'private' ownership. Our sacred relationship to the land is our power, but more than that we ARE the land; we are Sovereignty. I hesitate to use that word 'resources' - I don't mean it in a 'productivity' sort of a way, but in the sense that we are resourced both by the generosity of  Life; in that we need food, water, air etc. to continue to live, and in the sense that we are energetically resourced by our connection to All that Is. It is only when we are disconnected from our sense of being indivisibly interwoven with everything and everyone else that it becomes possible to control us. We too become a resource, we become produce. 

By 'we' I do not exclusively mean women, I mean the feminine in all of us. This may well sound like a polemic against men but I assure you it is not. It is not even a polemic against the masculine or indeed one against Christianity. We are all of us a balance (or an imbalance) between masculine and feminine energies. Typically but not exclusively the feminine will be most powerfully expressed by a female body. But the land belongs to all of us, she has given birth to all of us, she is our most ancient ancestor. The de-humanisation and subjugation of half of the population is the de-humanisation and subjugation of half of all of us. The feminine has been dis-empowered, or at least our connection to her deep authentic wildness has. The common ground of our humanity has been fenced. We and our land to which we belong are being abused; we know this in our bones, in the very beating of our hearts. Bones and a heart that are made out of the same stuff exactly as all the rest of creation.

HOWEVER - In actual fact, women in the west have more rights at this moment in history than at any time in the last 4,000ish years. There are women in positions of power from Germany's chancellor to Canada's 50% female government. I believe that this is 100% connected to the land. When survival was an issue the feminine was honoured -  when we invented farming survival was not an issue in the same way, it didn't feel necessary to acknowledge the power of the land, of Earth, of the feminine, so we stopped. We forgot our lives depended on Her. Now, our survival is once again in question. Humanity has brought Earth to the brink of collapse. Species are being wiped out at a rate of dozens every day as a result of our treatment of our home, the biosphere is clearly unstable, global warming is quite possibly out of control and it might be too late. Self interest is reviving our connection to the Divine Feminine. We've remembered we need her.

What's needed now is for us to move beyond patriarchy and beyond feminism to the place where the feminine and the masculine are honoured in all of us, and exist not in warring polarity but in balance. Only then will we start to be able to create a world where respect and tolerance are the norms, and where 'all that is' can exist peacefully. Everything is made up of the same stuff, everything has spirit, everything IS an emanation of The Divine. Perhaps if we can bring ourselves back into balance then we can bring our world back into balance. If we can re-empower the feminine, love and honour  Mother Earth and remember that we are, all of us, responsible for patriarchy - then we can change the outcome. Or, even if it is the End of Days, let those days at least be days of beauty and of peace between us and each other and our Earth.

Here, I've picked you an apple.

It contains neither knowledge nor shame.
But wisdom.

The knowing that you and I and everything else are related. All one family. All one.

Shall we love each other as though this were true? Shall we treat each other as though we all belonged here, to the Earth?

My deepest longing is that it may be so.
What is yours?

Monday, 27 August 2018

Unweaving The Witch Wound

The interweaving threads of many conversations both in embodied reality and in the world of the inter-web have been presenting me with a recurring theme: It seems that NOW is the moment for us to heal from 'The Witch Wound' - that powerful thing that we have inherited from our Grandmothers, and they from their Grandmothers. Figures vary, but it seems likely that in excess of 13 million women (and some men) were burned at the stake, drowned or hanged for being 'A Witch' and the fear that we have inherited through our DNA (I'm sure you've read about the recent research in epi-generics that shows how we inherit trauma) and through our cultural stories that something similar might happen to us is pretty understandably more than enough to motivate many women to stay small. 

Throughout the last two thousand years or so there has, slowly and inexorably, been a systematic invalidating of the gifts that are seen as 'feminine'; receptivity, intuition, harmonising, healing, collaboration, nurturing. The feminine body during the time of the witch trials and beyond became little more than a 'possession', not for the woman within but for the man who owned her - either as husband or master, and her embodied knowing of her inter-connectivity with all of life was disavowed, disapproved of and eventually destroyed. In exactly the same way that women's bodies were colonised and enslaved so was much of Earth. The witch burnings are congruent with slavery on an international scale, the colonisation of continents and the rise of the power-over paradigm which encouraged ownership and the acquisition of wealth as things to aspire to. We forgot that we are the Earth, we are nature, we are the environment. Remembering was potentially fatal. 

But there's so much more to this than simply the denigration of the feminine. Or rather there's so much more to this than just the denigration of women. Because the feminine doesn't only exist in women or in female bodies. We all contain masculine and feminine energies, no matter how 'butch' or how 'girlie' we see ourselves; every male body contains an inner feminine (receptive, intuitive, nurturing, the be-er) and every female body contains an inner masculine (active, striving, protective, the do-er).         

So the witch wound is not the exclusive domain of those in a female body, but something affecting all of us. It separates women from their power and from their innate connection to Earth, it separates men from the feminine and from their innate capacity to protect that Earth:The earth of our bodies, the earth of our home. 

The statistics for violence against women make blood chilling reading, depending on where you look for your figures anywhere between 35% and 70% of women worldwide have been subjected to violence during their lifetime, much of it sexual violence. More women die by violence than are killed by cancer or heart disease or any other single disease. Although the majority of violence globally is done to women within the supposed safety of their own homes there is also increasing evidence to suggest that violence against women as a tool of war is on the increase. In a twisted way this makes perfect sense - women's bodies, like the earth, reproduce. We are the cauldron, the container from which life flows. We are the Earth. So to make war upon women's bodies and suppress them is to make war upon the spirit of the land itself, to make war upon the sacred.

The duty and job of the masculine (in all of us) is to protect the creative ground of the feminine, literally and figuratively. When the masculine performs this function and does it with deep honouring the feminine can fully surrender under his care. Thus he is created King - he is The Guardian. The land, the feminine, women's bodies - these are sovereignty; sovereignty being "absolute, supreme and ultimate dominion and authority".  WITHIN EACH OF US - The Guardian must protect The Land.

In order to recover from this terrible wounding, this utter separation from our true state, we need first to understand that it's not a 'woman's problem' or indeed some idea discussed only amongst Wiccans and feminists. Its OUR PROBLEM. All of us. To begin our healing we need to activate both the Feminine capacity for receiving; for feeling our connectivity to all of life, to each other, to the past, to our conditioning and our blood inheritances -  and the masculine capacity of transmuting, activating change, protecting the world with love and through this potent balance between sovereignty and service. 

The nature of the wound to the feminine means that whether you are in a male or female body you fear this receptivity, this connection. And so too many of us are not listening to the cries of Earth as Her body becomes more and more ravaged by our lack of reciprocity. We are taking, but we are not giving back.. 

Healing is a thing that happens when masculine and feminine are brought into balance. The Healing is both received and Activated. If you are not open to receive it you won't, if you don't undertake the 'integration work' required by The Mystery then what you have received will simply slip away. Healing can only operate through reciprocity. The Mystery, The Spirits, The Ancient Ones provide us with a miracle (reality is changed) - having received it, in order to keep it, we must offer something in return. 

We need to be willing to heal this wound, to face it and say - 'yes, this is my wound too'. Then we can remember that the body of the Earth and our body is the very same thing, and that when we experience ourselves as separate from her we are effectively a 'lost soul part' of that body. 
In coming home to our remembering of our indivisibility from Her we come home to her in exactly the same way that a soul part comes home in shamanic healing. She will receive us home, she will hold out her arms to us and say 'welcome'. And then it's up to us.... to Activate, Integrate, Re-Member who and what we are. We must become a voice for one who is not voiceless at all, but who's voice is not being listened to by a powerful part of the many. Humanity needs to unblock it's ears and listen, before what we're hearing is the dying embers of our capacity to be part of Her. She is speaking to us in every moment, through all that lives. Through the fires, the droughts, the floods, the extinctions, the volcanoes and earthquakes. Everything is an omen and all the omens are saying that there's a paradigm shift happening right now. 

Are you in? 

Speak up. Act now. Re-empower the Feminine. 

Monday, 9 July 2018

Roses in July

June's blazing embodiment of Summer has hummed her way into July with her arms full of sunshine and scented petals.

When I can gather my summer-scattered wits and am not reeling from the heady mix of warmth and intoxicating perfumes I've been collecting and drying them to make confetti for a friend's wedding.

The roses in particular have been heart-heaven-healing as they fill our house with the smell that we call love, and I wondered - aside from the obvious fact that they smell so delicious - why do we associate roses with love?

Roses were sacred to Aphrodite and to Venus - both Goddesses of Love - but that doesn't really explain how they are still associated with it. We no longer look at Hares and see a sacred creature, or a predictor of outcomes, or even our grandmother... mostly, so ancient precedent is clearly not enough to explain the enduring association of the rose with love.

Which takes me back to the smell - I think it might really be as simple as that: We are an animal, a human animal, and scent affects us.

The cells in our nose that detect and enjoy smell are linked to one of the most ancient parts of our brain (evolutionarily speaking) - the limbic system. The olfactory bulb (smelling bit) sits close to the amygdala and the hippocampus - this part of the brain is the same one that governs emotions, memories and behaviour. Which of course also explains how it is that smells so often trigger memories.

For me any discussion of smell immediately reminds me of my grandfather - because he was a wonderful gardener, smelt of a heart-filling mix of 'garden' and my grandmother's cooking - mostly of the ingredients that he had grown - and it was in his garden that most of my early scent experiences were had. The various smells that make me happy were almost all found there.

Along with many flowers, the smell of beans makes me happy!

As do foxgloves, and of course roses! I hope today is 'coming up roses' for you.

If it isn't - you could do a lot worse than going to find a rose to rest your hooter in.

It might just fill your heart with love.

And that makes every day a better place!