Four Magpie Brothers

Four young magpies, brothers, sat upon the porch roof this morning.

Squabbling, squawking, pecking the tiles.

Wicked, so they are. Lads and louts.

Waiting to see what I will do.

I go to the window.

They’re watchful

But I get there before they see,

Chuckling with delight at the four young bucks

Performing on the roof.

‘Whooooosh!’ I hiss loudly from the window.

A flurry of black and white and shining blue

Flies up

Squawking, chattering, screaming, laughing.

‘We got her!’ they call to each other.

‘We got her’.

Image: Magpie Mandala by Danielle Barlow
Land Song Series © Elen Sentier 2017 all rights reserved
#mondayblogs #poetry-daily @Poetry_Daily ‏ @MondayBlogs 

Dragon Bones

River rushing, tumbling streaming

Flowing faster than your dreaming

River runs between the stones

Washing clean the dragon’s bones

Forest crowding round the brink

Will you swim or will you sink

Trees and water, bones of earth

Cross the bridge to find rebirth

Land Song Series © Elen Sentier 2017 all rights reserved
#mondayblogs #poetry-daily @Poetry_Daily ‏ @MondayBlogs 

Memory Lane … Thoughts about DTWAGE

Long ago and faraway … well, actually back in the 1970s and early 80s I used to spend many a lunchtime in science fiction bookshops in central London, near where I worked. My favourite was Dark They Were And Golden Eyed, and during the 1970s it was the largest of its kind in Europe. The place was in St Anne’s Court, Soho, and to get there, you went up this alley between Dean Street and Wardour Street, between strip-joints, film studios and music places – all the stuff on which Soho thrived in those days – climbed some rickety stairs and found yourself in two floors of sci-fi fantasy heaven.

The bookshop took its name, Dark They Were And Golden Eyed, from Ray Bradbury’s famous Martian novel, the bookshop took the name, it was my most favourite bookshop ever. the place itself lived up to the promise. It’s gone now, went bust in 1981, I miss it still.

Now, if you want sci-fi and fantasy you go to Forbidden Planet but, like Martin of Den of Geek says, “… the industrial numbers of available books at Forbidden Planet seemed to diminish the value of all of them …” That’s sad. I don’t find FP to be a browsers shop. I couldn’t nip in there in my lunch break and end up being late back because I’d got into conversation with the bloke who ran it! Not like in DTWAGE. It was a source of Roger Zelazny and Ursula le Guin and many, many others for me. The folks in there were very knowledgeable and seriously intelligent, great fun to chat with as well as excellent sources of info on what was new and good to read. And you made friends with fellow customers too. Not like that now.

Again, as Martin quotes Douglas Addams, “… the universe is too large a place, and most people move somewhere smaller.”

Here’s Martin’s musings on DTWAGE …

But the most poignant part of any lost idlings around Soho is my inevitable pass-through of St. Anne’s Court, which defies its grandiloquent name by actually being a fairly dingy little alley connecting Wardour Street to Dean Street. Here you will pass some anonymous glass business façade that once held a place that – to me – was an Aladdin’s cave of geekdom…

Dark They Were And Golden Eyed was a delightfully shambolic two-level science-fiction and horror bookshop that resided in that spot from 1970 until its decline in 1980, and whose polysyllabic name derived from a short story by Ray Bradbury. Myself, I visited the shop only a couple of times, with my sword-and-sorcery obsessed father. Since our interests diverged, I would end up perusing its vast shelves by myself and pouring pretty much any pocket-money I had into the old tills at the end of the ramshackle queues of geeks.

Back then, you were aware that science-fiction was counter-culture, despite the popularity of Star Wars; at DTWAGE the space-operas nestled in crudely-opened cardboard boxes sat cheek to cheek with the cross-hatching of Robert Crumb, punk and new wave fanzines, as well as surprisingly glossy magazines devoted to (strictly theoretical) instructions on illegal horticulture of all kinds. Put simply, the market for sci-fi was a very retrospective one, and no shop of that size was able to carry on regular trading solely off the back of geek wares.

It was here that I found the Alien movie novel for a fiver, which was sort of an extended ‘Bunty’ photo-strip, but with a bit more blood and death, featuring over 1000 full colour photos. On my second trip I followed up this purchase with the excellent Alien: The Illustrated Story, a graphic novel of the movie apparently based on an earlier version of the O’Bannon/Shusett script, as it featured the ‘Lambert-slap’ which was not to be seen in the original until the special edition DVDs twenty years later.

And I wonder if I will ever be made as happy as that again for a fiver. Even accounting for inflation.

DTWAGE was finally bought by its suppliers and morphed into Forbidden Planet, who by the early eighties had split its trade between the flagship ‘purist’ sci-fi shop near Charing Cross road and the more movie-oriented Forbidden Planet 2 in Tin Pan Alley.

Then, as now, I found FP’s endless acres of sci-fi novels so overwhelming that I frequently left with nothing. I don’t know if it was chronic indecision, information overload or just the fact that the industrial numbers of available books at Forbidden Planet seemed to diminish the value of all of them, and in truth I usually only exited the shop with a novel that I had expressly gone in to buy. As Douglas Addams said, the universe is too large a place, and most people move somewhere smaller.

 

Being Human – Human Being

A lovely breath of fresh air … Celtic Earth Spirit talking about Human Seekings, Human Doings, Human Beings they really have got the handle on this – read more here

The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘Pagan’ as being “A person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions, especially nature worship” – no sharp pointy or bright sparkly things (in the past the term was used in a derogatory sense to denote anyone who wasn’t a Christian), it also traces the word back to its origins in ‘Late Middle English’ from the Latin word ‘Paganus’ – a villager or rustic, and the word ‘Pagus’ – a country district. This takes us back to the Old Ways of our ancestors who were country dwellers living in close relationship to and harmony with the land and nature; this relationship and the knowledge of ‘how everything worked’ (both in this world and the Other-world, both mundane and magical) infiltrated every aspect of life and has been passed down to us (especially in rural areas) by both word of mouth and by being hidden in plain sight in such things as our customs, folk-lore and practices.
“A person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions, especially nature worship” –
no sharp pointy or bright sparkly things (in the past the term was used in a derogatory sense to denote anyone who wasn’t a Christian), it also traces the word back to its origins in ‘Late Middle English’ from the Latin word ‘Paganus’ – a villager or rustic, and the word ‘Pagus’ – a country district. This takes us back to the Old Ways of our ancestors who were country dwellers living in close relationship to and harmony with the land and nature; this relationship and the knowledge of ‘how everything worked’ (both in this world and the Other-world, both mundane and magical) infiltrated every aspect of life and has been passed down to us (especially in rural areas) by both word of mouth and by being hidden in plain sight in such things as our customs, folk-lore and practices.

Bean-Sidhe Drumcraft 3

With Fiona Dove

And again, things have moved forward since I last wrote and I’m now back home in Hereford. Reminder … Fiona is in process of getting 3-day workshop together for this autumn, the dates are the evening of Fri 20th October to the morning of Tue 24th. She’ll have the details up on the Bean-Sidhe website soon, I’ll give the details here and Facebook/Twitter, but if you’d like to come on it contact Fiona now as there are only 4 places and I think one of them is gone already ????. Contact Fiona at at beansidhedrumcraft@gmail.com.

 

So now, back to what happened up in Scotland, I’d just finished about us working with earth and fire …

Fiona began lacing the drum. She was using an inner ring to lace to rather than cross-lacing, the drum-spirit had asked for that. We both like it too, it seems to form a more stable anchor and handle for the drum. We’d considered and spoken with the drum-spirit about using, making, a wooden inner ring out of twisted birch or willow but this drum didn’t want that, it asked for metal so that was what we gave.

Lacing, again, isn’t rocket science but it does require focus and concentration, it would be too easy to suddenly find yourself going the wrong way about. Whether or not to twist the lacing was another consideration, some drums like it and others don’t so we’d talked about it the night before. Both of us are also spinners and weavers so the concept of “twist” has more meaning for us and we got into a “how many twists” thing as you do when spinning … LOL. This drum wasn’t really into twists but it’s something Fiona intends to talk about on the workshop as some will be.

Lacing the drum is such a sound thing … air thing. It’s all about tension, and the sound. As you start the process you feel you’re working with something like a hundred miles of lacing as you pull the whole jolly boiling through each hole. About two thirds of the way round your feelings go 180 degrees and you begin to panic that you may run out and not make it all the way around! It’s somehow weird, you begin thinking you have far too much and then you worry you don’t have enough – where has it all gone? Then you realise you need to be centring that ring, and adding some tension as you go to hold the ring in position … and, in doing so, you give yourself more lacing. For me, it’s rather like a breathing process, in and too full, out and too little, but like breathing you begin to get a rhythm to the whole thing. And, in Fiona’s case, a little humming song. You sing to the drum as you bring it into a state where it can sing back to you.

There was a quiet “phew!” as she got all the way round with the lacing for the first time. Then she picked up the drum and tapped the hide. “thwuck” it said, flatly, no singing voice there yet, so round she went for the second time, tensioning each thread … and acquiring yet more lacing back as she did. Hide stretches, skin stretches, especially well when it’s wet, that’s what enables you to put the tension in. at the end of the second round she tapped the hide again – this time the “thwuck” was a little brighter, his voice was coming but it wasn’t with us yet. Third time around, more lacing and … this time … it was a “thwunk”, there was tone in there, a sound more than like the slap of a wet fish.

Now’s the dangerous and difficult time, the time when you could easily over-tension and ruin the drum! Fiona sat with the drum and asked, “Are you ready?”. It asked for the tiniest, teeniest bit more tension, a very delicate job that requires you to keep tapping and listening as you go, and not always in a simple circle round, it may also need more tension in different places. And then … “THWUNK” said the drum, ringing softly. He was done.

We put him in a cool dim room to begin his long drying process, then took him back to Fiona’s home at the end of the week to another cool, dim room.

He sings now, a lovely deep and ringing voice ….

 

Next job is to begin to make his beater and we’ll be writing about that sooooon  …

 © Elen Sentier & Fiona Dove 2017. All rights reserved.

Brisingamen

A taster from the novel I’m currently writing …

Brisingamen

The thirteen golden moons shone out in her memory. Where were they, what had her mad red-haired brother done with them? She lay back in the bed trying to remember. No, it wasn’t him, it was the three Jotun women, they had taken it back, taken it away. He’d brought everyone gifts, lovely dwarf-made jewels that glittered and sparkled with their own light but, as ever, he’d forgotten her. Who needed a brother like that? Well, she would teach him, show him, she would have something even more lovely than anything he had brought the others, she would have the thirteen golden moons. Each of the moons was a different shade of gold, red, orange yellow, even a greenish gold, and the patterns that ran through the gold suggested each moon, wolf moon, snow moon, hunter’s moon, and all. Yes, she would find it and bring it and wear it. She would show them all.

The cats drew her chariot out from the stronghold in the pre-dawn glow. Huge they were, striped black on the long red-brown fur, their fangs gleaming, satisfied growls told they were pleased to be out. They raced across the land.

She went everywhere, all across the nine lands but no-one knew anything, no-one would help her, none had seen the Jotun women in an age. Until, one day, she came across a boy herding his goats on the hillside. He was brave although so small, he stood with his big wolf-friend between her cats and the frightened goats. ‘No!’ he shouted, before the chariot had hardly stopped. ‘No! You shall not have them. My goats are not for you.’

She climbed down from the chariot, laughing at his pugnacity. ‘We do not want your goats,’ she told him. ‘They’re weak and stringy, no food for warriors there. But …’ and now she came up close to him, ‘maybe you have seen, maybe you know.’ She bent towards him so he could smell the lovely perfume of her skin. ‘Have you seen the Jotun women? Do you know where they went?’

The boy shivered slightly and his wolf-friend gave a low growl in the back of his throat. ‘I … I …. m-maybe the dwarves will know,’ he managed at last.

‘What dwarves,’ she snapped, taking hold of his chin and forcing him to look up into her eyes. ‘Tell me of these dwarves.’ And she thrust the boy backward so he sat down abruptly. The wolf growled again. It was odd, she thought, but somehow the wolf reminded her of her brother, perhaps it was the red fur.

The boy got his breath back and struggled to his feet. He didn’t like this woman, she was cruel. ‘The dwarves the other side of the mountain, yonder.’ He pointed away across the valley to a huge peak that stood up like a wolf’s tooth.

Now, suddenly, she was satisfied, she knew in her bones that was the place. One long finger stroked the boy’s cheek softly then she reached into her pouch and drew forth a gold coin, tossed it to him.

She leapt into the chariot and immediately the cats set off, flying across the valley, galloping along a stretch of gossamer cloud that made a road through the sky. The boy stood watching. Neither he nor the wold would touch the gold.

The other side of the mountain was very different. No longer softly green with deep oak forests cladding its side, now it was harsh, stark, bare rocks, empty streambeds long dried up, and a great, dark hole in its flank that seemed to suck up all the light. She left the cats to guard the chariot and went warily into the cave-mouth on foot.

Just as it seemed she would no longer be able to see the light from the cave mouth she heard the footsteps coming. A soft plap-plap-plap, like leather slapping on stone, not like men’s feet at all. Light flickered around a corner ahead of her, reddish with the black tinge of smoke, and she could smell it. She mustered her courage and stood up straight and still. The plapping sound grew louder, it sounded as if there were many and a many of them, and then there they were in front of her. Dwarves indeed, but not like the red-skinned dwarves of home nor their black-haired cousins, these were white, pallid, flabby with huge bulging pale eyes that reminded her of dead fish.

‘What is it, lady? What is it you want?’ The first of them stopped in front of her, too close for comfort but well close enough for her to smell him, and he was very obviously male. The end of his organ began to twitch, to stand up to look at her from its single eye. A glance showed her it was the same with all of them. She pressed the image of a steel rod down her back bone and stood straighter still. ‘I’m told that you know the whereabouts of the three Jotun women,’ she said imperiously.

A chuckle began in the leader’s throat, spread amongst his comrades. ‘The Jotun women, is it? And what would the likes of you be wanting with them?’ he replied.

‘Do not argue with me, wretched earthlings,’ she said loudly. ‘Tell me where they are.’ But her voice cracked slightly, giving the lie to her authority.

The chuckle ran through the dwarves again, deeper this time. A hungry interest gleamed in their pale eyes which looked her up and down, undressing her. ‘Why yes, lady. We know the Jotun women. They are friends of ours.’ He paused, glanced at his companions. ‘But if you would like to find them then it will cost you. We always give information, or anything else, but always for fair trade.’

‘What …?’ she managed.

‘Why that you will come with us, spend seven nights with us, that you will give us the joy of your company.’

She was not fooled. She knew what they wanted, but the thirteen moons shone bright in her mind’s eye. She wanted them. ‘I will come,’ she said.

For seven nights she pleasured them, doing whatever they asked. All the time, she held the vision of the thirteen moons fixed inside her head so she hardly noticed what she was doing. On the seventh night, the leader told her where she could find the Jotun women. He led her back to the cave-mouth, holding her soft white hand all the way and, as they first began to see the gleam of light from the outside world he demanded one final kiss. She gave it, trying not think about the way his long, tube-like tongue searched her mouth.

The cats purred and licked her as if she was their kitten. She allowed them to wash the stink of the dwarves from her skin, then she climbed back into the chariot and pointed the way. They flew again, the cats galloping on shreds of cloud-road high in the sky until they came to the mountain. Strange it was, as she looked at it with her sith-sight she could see that it was upside-down, as if it had been tumbled over when the jostling land-plates knocked against each other back in the mists of pre-time. And then she saw them. So huge they were that it seemed the rocks that made the top of the mountain moved, but they were not rocks, they were the Jotun women. One after the other they stood up, watched the chariot fly towards them. There was a flat space where the cats landed the chariot and she stepped down.

With the dwarves, she had towered over them, now the Jotuns towered over her. They were like part of the mountain themselves. ‘I want the necklace,’ she shouted up to them before her courage melted away. ‘I want the thirteen moons.’

‘No, you don’t,’ the smallest of the three told her. It was like being spoken to by thunder.

‘But I do!’ she shouted back, amazed that they would deny her.

‘No, you don’t’ repeated the second one.

She stamped her foot, too angry now to be frightened of their hugeness. ‘I do,’ she cried, ‘I do! I do!’

‘No,’ said the largest and eldest of the women. ‘You don’t. Wait,’ she held up her hand, ‘and listen. The thirteen moons are not for such as you. They must hang in the sky, giving time and seasons for all life. They are not a bauble for you to wear.’

‘But I want them,’ she cried, tears of frustration falling down her cheeks. ‘And you are wearing them, so they don’t have to hang in the sky. That’s a lie!’

‘I wear them now, because you have come. This is a turning point, a threshold. If you succeed in your demand then the power of the moons will be changed. And you do not know them, if you did you would not want them, not any more than I do. You would leave them be. To take them from their purpose brings only sorrow and despair.’

For just a moment, that stopped her. But only a moment. ‘You can give them to me, can’t you?’ She began to sense a cunning in them, they were trying to trap her but she would not be stopped in her purpose. ‘You can. I know it. So give them to me. Now!’

The youngest and smallest tried one last time. ‘If you take them now then the thirteen will give you all the power you want but the price you pay will be despair,’ she said as softly as a gale blowing through pine trees. ‘Go hme now, we beg you. Take on your falcon form and fly home. The cats will follow you but you must fly away now. Go, child, go.’

‘No, I will not. Not without the thirteen moons. Give them to me. Now!’

At that, the golden necklace fell from the eldest giantess’ neck and into her hands. It lay there, tingling, sending fire through her skin, a feeling of aliveness such as she’d never known ran through her. She put it on and leapt back into the chariot.

They flew over mountains and lakes. At every pool, she topped to admire her reflection in the water. She even stopped at little duck-ponds so enamoured of herself was she. But every time, after a few moments of looking at her lovely self in the still water there would come a change. A wave would rise, steep and huge, flowing across the lake, threatening to engulph her, she would leap back into the chariot and back into the sky to escape.

Finally she arrived home. There she found all her family weeping and mourning. She had been gone a hundred years and they had all thought she was dead. Her husband was gone, gone searching for her not long after she had run away. Her daughter stood, grown up now and a woman herself, staring at her mother, staring at the thirteen moons around her neck. Then the girl turned away, went indoors, her weeping ceased and her face hard and ugly with disgust. For a moment she almost tried to follow her daughter but her feet would not move.

Then she leapt back into the chariot and headed for the upside-down mountain. ‘Take it back,’ she pleaded with the Jotun women. ‘Take it back. I don’t want it. The price is too high.’

‘We told you so,’ the youngest said, her voice now like a spring breeze through the oak buds. ‘We did,’ the second joined her. ‘We did, indeed,’ the eldest affirmed. ‘We cannot take it back,’ she went on. ‘You chose your way. You chose for all your kind. Now you must bear it. There is nothing we can do.’

Wearily, she got back into the chariot, headed for home again, not stopping anywhere this time.

The oldest one, the seer of the family, still stood in the courtyard. He watched her land. She went to him. ‘How can I get them back?’ she asked him. ‘How can I undo what I have done? How can I find my husband and my daughter again?’

‘You cannot,’ he told her. ‘From your actions, your husband is now everywhere. Everywhere in all the worlds. He is everywhere you, and we, have not looked, in every place we have left. He is gone from the world of our knowing. Those who seek him shall never find him.”

A single tear tracked down his cheek and flowed onto the necklace. It lodged there, like a diamond.

 

 

 

 

 

Lady & Lord in Herefordshire

In what’s now called the Golden Valley are two little churches, either side of the Dwr river , Turnastone and Vowchurch. When the Normans arrived here sometime after 1066 they misinterpreted this Welsh word dŵr, which means water, for the French d’or meaning golden, and so misnamed our valley. In Vowchurch church, on the north side of the Dwr, are two amazing figures of the Lady and the Lord.

They’re very special; she is a Sheela-na-gig and he is a phallic man but, at some time in the past the bottom parts of these figures were removed presumably due to misinterpretation and prudery.

Their local story is interesting and amusing …

Like most married couples, they didn’t always get on and to make the partnership easier they each lived on their own side of the river. The story also says they were giants (there were giants in this world, as is told all through our legends) so, rather than throwing crockery at each other when they had a row, they threw great rocks.

Now, on the north side of the river is the remains of an ancient standing stone. It’s an upright which seems to grow out of a huge disc-like stone. If you stand on the disk and sense down into the earth you awaken a spiral energy which courses up through you and wakens a sky-spiral with which it mates. The two energies then course through you, like a double helix. This stone is one of Watkins’ originals, from his first studies of ley lines, and he, too, noticed the spiralling. Legend has it that the big disk is a stone the lord threw across the stream at his lady, when he’d got one on. She decided to deal with him, and it, in a very firm manner so she pinned his rock to the ground with her own spear-like one.

To many this may seem sort of backwards. We associate the feminine with the disc and the cup, the womb symbol, and the masculine with the spear, the penis symbol, but think about it. Everything contains both feminine and masculine so it’s really a rather wonderful image that he throws the womb to her then she stabs, and maybe also impregnates, it with the spear.

Sheela-na-gig at Kilpeck

When christianity came to these borderlands where I live I can well believe my ancestors agreeing with their mouths to follow the new religion while, in their hearts, they still held to the old ways. Indeed, my own family followed the old ways, very quietly, for many generations and I know the same happened for many of my friends. So, the old ones built the chrisitian church, and they carved the figures of the lady and the lord but likely then, as now, the chrisitans called them Adam and Eve.

But there they are, in the church, and you can still see (partly from their rather smug expressions) just what they’re about even though the bottom halves of them have been cut off. And the most famous Sheela-na-gig over at Kilpeck is only about twelve miles away.

And then there’s the old story. The god lived on the Turnastone side of the river, said to be so called because he turned the stone; Vowchurch is where the goddess lived and so called because, after christianity, they said she vowed to build a church where the god’s stone fell. It’ll do, it’s good enough for those who don’t wish to recall the old ways. But go and stand on that stone, see what you feel …

#FolkloreThursday #MondayBlogs @ElenSentier

Blackthorn Ceridwen

Blackthorn flowers before the leaves come and may flower as early as Imbolc, especially now climate change and global warming are well underway.

The two British thorn trees, blackthorn and whitethorn (otherwise known as the May Tree and hawthorn) hold the energy of two of our old goddesses, Ceridwen holds blackthorn and Blodeuwedd holds hawthorn, the tree of May. At Imbolc, Ceridwen hands over the cup of winter to Bridey so she can bring in the spring and, for me, the flowering of the blackthorn, coming as it does before the leaves, really holds this feeling. I watch for the blossom in our local hedgerows, and partly with a view to harvesting the sloes come the autumn and winter to make sloe brandy. Sloe brandy is even better than sloe gin for my taste buds.

Ceridwen holds and carries the energy of the dark en-wombing of winter from her feast of Samhain around to Imbolc. She is in her crone-form, the ancient wise woman who can link us with our ancestors and our roots. Like nature does over winter, it’s good if we humans also spend time during this season going back over ourselves, our lives and relationships, to see what needs to die, be left behind, recycled, and what we can bring forward into the new year. I’ve certainly been doing this, a form of early spring-cleaning, and I find it very valuable. It clears my head – too often stuffed with “bright ideas” so there’s no room for inspiration from otherworld to come in! I often find that, once the clear-out is done, real new ideas do poke their heads up out of the ground like the snowdrops, or blossom on the bare branches of my inner blackthorn tree.

Ceridwen is an amazing presence, energy. She’s closely connected with where I live and introduced our local Merlin – we call him Dyfrig – to beginning the teaching school he created just up the Wye valley from me. He was born in my local village, so living here, in his place is inspiring, instructive and generally delightful for me.

I’m going out this afternoon, now the rain’s stopped, to have a look at our local blackthorn hedges … hope they have lots of blossom.

#folklorethursday

So-called Renewables …

This article set me off today, it begins … “Expansion of renewable energy cannot by itself stave off catastrophic climate change, scientists warned Monday.” Who, in their right minds (!), ever thought it would? I’m now about to trample on a whole bunch of toes …

It seems that green-folk mostly live in a non-real world and somehow believe everything “will be all right” without enormous and fundamental changes in attitudes, and the whole way human beings think and work. As Einstein said “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Yet that is what they, and we, all try to do.

How will renewables put back all this ice, for instance ???

When I was born, circa 1950, there were 2.5 billion people on Planet Earth. Now, a mere 66 years later, there are 7.5 billion people gorging on the Earth. Does that not tell you something? Or are you afraid to look at it because it horrifies you to imagine the sudden deaths of 6.5 billion people? That’s what it will take to put the Earth back in balance again. The Earth cannot support more than 1 billion humans, not if the resources – the basics, like air and water! – are going to hold out, let alone food! And that’s not even thinking about anything else except ourselves. If the rest of the Life, which has lived on Earth since millions and billions of years before we apes stood upright, is to continue to live here then we have to get out of the way and that’s going to be hard, if not impossible, for most people.

For me, there are a lot of basic attitudes that must change.

  1. We have to stop the infantile and wrong idea that we humans are “top species”.
  2. This, in turn, means we stop trying to prolong our lives and stop people dying. We must let nature take her course.
  3. We must eradicate the idea of “progress” in the economic and social and success senses. And drop the whole idea of “growth” along with this.
  4. We must totally eradicate the idea of “profit motif”.
  5. We must lose the idea of social hierarchy, ladders to climb and getting on.

I think I’ll stop there for a moment, it’s probably blown a few minds at the idea of such radical changes.

We also have to stop twisting the truth to fit with our own ideas of how things should be – like renewables will sort the climate change and global warming problems. That means losing the whole idea that we control anything! As most people are brought up to be control freaks (if only by adhering to being PC!) that is likely to be another non-sequitur for many. We really do have to get completely out of our heads … and that means most of the currently popular “green” ideas too.

I’ll just consider energy for a moment. Renewables. Windfarms. Wow! Bollocks.

For one thing, windfarms are largely a waste of space and time and money. They make profit for shareholders while losing masses of energy in cable-loss from the farm to the consumer … did you realise that? Additionally, the energy footprint of making one of these ghastly enormous tower-machines is ineffective to put it mildly, along with the servicing costs. Why don’t we all have one of the neat little diddy jobs on our roofs, along with PV panels, and make our own energy, for our own home, with little short cables from machine to power sockets so the loss is absolutely minimal? Why not? Because that doesn’t make profit for the big power companies and their shareholders … no surprises there then.

Add in the idea that we’re mostly conditioned to believe that somebody else should be doing everything for us and if things don’t happen it’s somebody else’s fault. Think of all the injury compensation lawyers who make a mint out helping you con somebody that it wasn’t your own clumsiness and stupidity that made you fall over? Or drive your car into a tree! Grrrrrrr!

I’ve lived my whole life with scientists, mostly good ones. They are renowned for their honesty, for saying when they get things wrong and putting people right when those people jump to the wrong conclusions. The news-people rarely report them accurately because they’re far more concerned with growth of readership, profit and all that list of things I mentioned earlier. But many, most, people believe what they see/hear/read in the news … another good reason, in my books, to get rid of most humans.

I’ve been observing the coming of climate change about since 1990, when I watched our eucalyptus tree threshing about in the wind … in June! Back in those days, if you can remember, that was unheard of, nowadays people take it as normal. Last winter, 2015/6, we had no frost at all here in Herefordshire, that was unheard of too. I found it seriously scary because I know a bit about how nature works, about rainfall and flooding and crops and sowing, and how the temperature of the soil helps or hinders plant growth, as well as what diseases become prevalent over warm winters. But what do we get on the TV weather? Oh it’ll be nice and warm, no nasty frost and ice to drive on, etc, etc. but your kids are permanently sick, full of colds and flu … and so is your garden, and the farmers’ fields.

So, WTF do people think renewable energy is going to do to stop any of that? And why do they cling, like the drowning man clings to the straw, to the ideas that such things can make such changes? They will do bugger all, and for one reason, there are 7 times too many people on Earth. Until that changes nothing we do will make a difference. Except that it might get those of us who will survive the coming cull (from Mother Earth, not stupid humans) to have more nous and kenning about how to behave, how to work with the Earth instead of being arrogant and stupid and selfish in thinking we can control her.

I now need a pot of tea and a cuddle from the cats to get over my anger at humanity …

 

Bridey’s Flower: a blog for Imbolc

In my end is my beginning … Eliot again, now at Imbolc as at Samhain. And now again, the story ends and the story begins, turning and cycling round the seasons.

Hiding in the bushes beside the clearing where the well stands, I watched. Fingers blue with cold, teeth beginning to chatter, the snow cold and dank, sending its freezing tendrils up through my boots. But I wasn’t going anywhere, not yet. They would come, along with the dusk, and I was going to watch them.

The sun slid down the sky, sometimes hiding his face in the clouds. The cold became bitter then, even the robin’s song would stop for a moment at a time. The blackbirds would hush in the bushes, watching the dying of the light. It must be four o’clock, the dusk was beginning and the sun clipping the horizon, soon to go down into the womb of darkness. I shivered.

‘Have ‘y come to see the snake then, boy?’ The voice cackled, croaked like an old crow. Somehow, despite being near frozen to the spot with both cold and fear, I turned. Back she was, hooded and with beak of a nose on her very like to a crow. The dark cloak covered most all of her bar her face. She cackled again. I watched the black and yellow teeth behind the blue lips and gums. ‘Yere, then,’ and she put out her claws to catch my arm, pull me along with her into the glade.

There was nought I could do, old she might be but she was strong. And, anyway, it was where I wanted to go despite my entrails’ protests, they roiled in my gut like a seething whirlpool. ‘Come ‘y yere, boy. I needs the cup. Will’ee get un for me?’

She let go of me. I was free, I could run. Except I could not. I tried putting a foot away from the well but nothing happened, the foot wouldn’t move. I tried the other way and the foot would go, towards the well. Leaning over the rank, dank breath came up from the depths almost choking me with its bitterness and cold. The rope on the bucket was already skimmed with ice, and the iron handle of the winch burned as I gripped it but I hung on, began winding. The winch creaked and groaned like an old man, or a donkey, as I lowered the bucket down into the dark. On and on it went, the grating sounds of pain, and then there was the sudden splash, the bucket had arrived at the water.

‘Hold un still!’ the old crone said sharply. ‘Wait!’ I clutched the burning iron handle, pulling it to a halt, feeling my hands must be frozen into it, stuck to it, never to come off again. And then I heard it, a soft whooshing noise followed by a brief whinny. The kelpie had come, up out of the depths. Then there was a clunk as something metal was dropped into the bucket. ‘Now! Quick!’ she commanded, ‘afore he climbs aboard! Ye dinna want a see him, laddie, indeedy not!’

I wound the winch the other way, winding the rope back onto the winch. It was heavier work now, fighting gravity, but also it was more than the bucket that I was pulling up, it felt like much more, much more than just a cup.

He came with a roar and a growl, shifting all the while, one moment a pretty black pony, the next a huge writhing serpent breathing fire, and leapt from the bucket straight at me.

‘No!’ she said. Quiet almost but such power. The twisting black shape stopped, hung in the air between the well and me. Its eyes moved, red and with long lashes of black flame, looked at her. She moved past me, came close to it and began to stroke its ears and face. ‘He’s mine,’ she told it, ‘doing my work, fetching my cup. You leave him be.’ Slowly the kelpie transformed, becoming again the pretty black pony. Except his eyes were red. ‘Get my cup,’ she commanded me, and I could move again. Dipping my hand into the bucket, I touched the cold hard thing and drew it out. Dark, black silver so it seemed.

The daylight was all gone now, exchanged for the dimming light of the waning moon, risen high now over the treetops and shining down into the glade. How long had we been there? It seemed only a moment ago that it was dusk, before the old woman came, and now the moon was high and already setting her path down into the west. I shook my head, what did it matter? Time was, time is. I am where I am, and when. And I was holding the cup in my hands.

The moon was lighting a trackway through the trees on the other side of the well and, it seemed, there was flickering movement on the track. I peered at it, a soft chuckle sounded behind me. ‘y can see ‘er then? Can’ee boy?’ I could indeed.

As the old one behind me was dark like a crow so the one coming down the track was bright like a star. Despite she walked the moon-track it was like she made her own light. Somehow I was afeared, I crept backwards towards the well, still holding the cup.

‘Good even, sister’ said the bright one as she came out into the glade. ‘Good even, indeed,’ croaked the old one. They stood there, the dark one in the east, heading west; the bright one in the west and heading east. The kelpie slithered away from the crone and round the edge of the glade to stand opposite me so he now held the north. Step by careful step the two women came towards each other, both of them smiling. The old one stood straighter now and the hood slipped back to show her pale silver hair. The young one looked older, a woman now and not a girl, her black hair shining like a crow’s wing in the moonlight. Together and together so they came, until their fingers touched.

And somehow, I knew what to do. I turned and dipped the cup into the bucket, filled it with water. As I leaned over the well it smelled sweet, like spring flowers, all the rankness gone. Slowly, my hearting beating as if I’d just run a mile, I stepped towards them, holding out the cup. They took it, both together, and gave each other to drink from it, then they turned and held it out to the kelpie. He snorted, then hoof by careful hoof, he stepped towards them. The women dipped their fingers in the water and stroked his ears, down his neck and shoulders, down his back, and then they let him drink.

It was like smoke, white smoke. It began to curl from his nostrils, then his ears, it steamed up from his shoulders and his hooves, all down his back until his tail was a shimmering fall of smoke. And he shrank, down and down into nothingness.

The women went down on their knees beside where he had been. ‘The snake is here,’ said the bright one, ‘just poking his head out of his hole.’

I came to watch. There was nothing there … but then, yes, there was. The tiniest glimmer of white was pushing its way up out of the black soil, I bent with the women to watch. It was a snowdrop, its white budding head resembling as snake’s head, a tiny snakeling birthing itself out of the ground. Its green body followed until it stood proud and upright, the head opened up, sending the three white sepals outwards and uncovering the three green and white petals, which opened in their turn to show the six golden, pollen-covered stamens.

Suddenly I saw it, the black serpent becomes the white snake who puts his head out of his hole at the turning of the seasons when the Winter crone gives way to the Spring maiden.

I had come to see them, to see the snake put its head out its hole as the signal that spring was come, but I hadn’t expected the kelpie, nor the transformation, nor what the snake would be. I realised the two women had stood up, were looking down at me, kindly-like and smiling. Clumsily, I got to my feet. They gave me the cup, ’Take it back’ they said, ‘put it back. We won’t need it again for a year.’ It was different now, the silver shining and the darkness too. I took it back to the well, dropped it into the bucket and let the bucket down again into the water. When I drew it up this time it was light, easy, only some water in it. I was thirsty, so I drank. I turned in time to see the women kiss and, as they did so, the moonlight shifted and became a dazzling, sparkling whirlwind that encompassed them both and took them out of my sight.

The moon was sinking fast now, little light coming between the branches. I scurried back down the path to the village like a rabbit with the fox after it, but nothing was chasing me but my own fears. A candle stood still in the window, and no-one had yet barred the door. I slipped inside, the warmth hitting me, pulled off coat and boots and went to sit in the ashes of the fire.

It was done … the end had happened and the beginning had come, as ever it does, turn on turn of the wheel. The crone had given the cup of winter to the maiden of spring; the dark kelpie had transformed into the white snake and had put his head out of its hole to tell us all that spring was here. Bridey’s flower had come, yet again.

#MondayBlogs #FolkloreThursday #folklore

Bridey’s Worm

Driving up to Cheshire last week we knew the moles had woken up, molehills everywhere, yards and yards and yards of them, in every field and even along the grass at the edges of the road. Well, it is that time of year! Moles wake up soon after the light begins to grow, after sun-return. Even more importantly, worms wake up too and, as moles eat worms, the two naturally go together. The molehills are signs of the worm-larders the moles build.

And it is that time of year, in fact it’s just about Imbolc. This is Bridey’s feast, the goddess Brigid – she, the goddess, was Christianized as “Saint” Brigid. At Imbolc, we make Bridey crosses and a doll-figure of her, called a Brídeóg, which we parade from house-to-house so she can visit everyone’s home. She’s greeted with a bed and folk leave her food and drink, and clothing is left outside the house for her to bless as she’s a protector of homes and livestock; her tylwyth (what you might know better as “totem”) is the white cow. Holy wells visited and dressed, and it is a time for divination, for asking what the future holds as well as what the Earth needs from us at this time.

Nowadays, many people celebrate on 1 February, but in older times our day began and ended at sunset – as the sun passed down into the dark – so celebrations begin on Imbolc Eve, the 31 January. Timing might likely be more fluid too, based around the actual seasonal changes as well as the astronomical ones, and far less concerned with man-made-calendar dates. Imbolc is linked with the onset of lambing which, in the days when we still followed the seasons, might vary by as much as two weeks either side of 1 February. It’s also linked to the blooming of the blackthorn, Ceridwen’s tree, which signifies her transformation from crone back to maiden, the cycles of the year, and it’s also when Ceridwen gathers her firewood for the remains of the winter. If she chooses that the winter shall last a good while longer then she makes sure the weather on Imbolc is bright and sunny, so she can gather plenty of firewood. But if Imbolc is a day of foul weather it means the she is asleep, not gathering firewood, so the winter is almost over. On the Isle of Man, where my granny came from, Ceridwen is known as the Caillagh ny Groamagh, who takes the form of a gigantic bird carrying sticks in her beak. This always reminds me of the ravens who are doing their courtship in January; the male will bring new twigs to refurbish their nest (they mate for life) to show the female he still loves her and is a good provider.

One of the Imbolc stories I love is of Bridey’s Worm. It was, indeed still is, a sign of how the weather will be for the spring. We watch to see if serpents (or badgers) come out of their winter resting places; this may be a forerunner of the North American Groundhog Day, and for the same reasons as us. This Scottish Gaelic poem gives the idea …

Thig an nathair as an toll

Là donn Brìde,

Ged robh trì troighean dhen t-sneachd

Air leac an làir.

The serpent will come from the hole

On the brown Day of Bríde,

Though there should be three feet of snow

On the flat surface of the ground.

So what might this serpent be? Post-Norman literature tends to try to make us think of dragons but our ancestors were very practical folk, and very connected to the Earth and her rhythms – which brings us back to the Gentleman in Black Velvet, Mr Mole. Worms are a form of “serpent”, tiny serpents unless you happen to live on the planet Dune! That trip up to Cheshire told us very firmly that the worms were out and about again, and that the moles know it. Look at that poem, “the serpent will come from the hole on the brown Day of Bride”, and brown says “soil/earth” to me, especially looking at the molehills. It’s worth noting that a major component of a badger’s diet is earthworms so they, too, will be watching for them, sensing for them. The badgers will wake and come out of their setts when there is food for them, to maintain their energy, once the worms are hatched and moving again. And the worms won’t come until the soil is warm enough and there is sufficient light-energy from the sun.

When the ground gets really cold, and when it freezes, some worms (depending on their species) lay eggs and then die as the ground becomes too cold for them. Others burrow very deep, some as much as six feet under, and survive there through the cold spell. Either way, as the soil begins to warm, as the sun shines for longer each day after sun-return, the worms know when it’s warm enough either for the eggs to hatch or for them to burrow back up to the surface. And when they hatch or re-emerge they “come from the hole”, and the moles know it too, hence the molehills which are worm-larders.

So many of our old traditions show us how to live successfully with our Mother Earth and they are so worthwhile knowing. Yes, it’s good to celebrate the Mother in all her forms of which Bridey is one, but our old ways here in Britain are “and/and” – we don’t do this or that, we do this and that! So, we celebrate Bridey with our gifts and food and beds and, at the same time, we celebrate her by being very observant, by watching for the molehills, watching to see how the soil is warming up and how the worms are working. That helps us know when to plough and sow to get a good harvest.

As followers of the old ways, we don’t try to “manage” nature, or force her into working how we want her to with crazy chemicals and horrible deep ploughing which wrecks all the “threads”, the mycorrhiza who carry food and information between the plants. No, we watch the land around us, we watch the stars above us, we watch how the moon turns and we “work with”, we do not try to control.

So go watch the molehills, learn from them … much more fun than your X-box !!!

#MondayBlogs #FolkloreThursday #folklore

 

 

Shapeshifting for Writers

I enjoyed this blog.

I especially liked “Surely it is the role of a writer to take that leap of imagination and empathy into another body and soul, and in doing so, show that it is possible to see through another’s eyes, though we may be different. We may find in doing so that we are not even that different. We are all humans inhabiting Earth, are we not? We know each other through what we empirically observe as ‘other’, but also through what we recognize as the same in ourselves. And if there’s a characteristic that utterly revolts you in someone else, that you feel you could never possess, let alone comprehend, it’s a pretty safe bet it’s because that very trait lies lurking somewhere in your own psyche. It is a writer’s job to animate those shadows.” That’s shapeshifting for me! And it’s what we all do, as writers … and not even just fiction writers.

And I take extreme exception to that American (and possibly elsewhere too) school of thought that claims no voice should speak for another, particularly if that other is oppressed. White must not write for black, man cannot write for woman, nor able-bodied for disabled; it’s offensive and damaging, they say, for a man to fabricate the voice of a female rape victim. I have several issues here: I’m crippled (I so dislike being called disabled!), I’m old, I’m currently wearing a female body, just to mention three of them, there are others too. And I’m a spirit-keeper, that’s what we indigenous Britons call ourselves, those of us who do, indeed are, what you might know better as shamanism. And there’s another issue … many of you may try to tell me I’m not indigenous! All the gods help you if you do.

But back to women writing men, and/or vice versa, or writing gay when you’re straight, or of some other country than the one you were born into. You know, I’m damned if I’m going to be hobbled by some politically correct twat and forced to live their script, ideals and prejudices. You may have gathered the mere thought makes me rather cross.

Writers are all shapeshifters, able to transport ourselves elsewhere, into other places, times, cultures, genders, sexual orientations, religions, faiths, creatures, and other human bodies too. Didn’t you know that? It’s one of the skills we have to learn, and mostly by on-the-job training as the various academic courses usually seem (to me anyway) to produce stultified, cardboard cutouts, rather than real characters. Oooops … ranting again LOL.

Let’s just think about one genre … fantasy and sci fi. How can you possibly write that if you can’t shift yourself there? Ok, let’s do another one, historical novels … when was the last time you were a Roman soldier, Chinese prostitute, Elizabethan explorer. And when were you last a Russian spy, or even a British one? The author must transpose their consciousness into the space-time of whoever and wherever and whenever they are writing. And that is a skill, some folk might even think it a scary skill because you do, indeed, become the character, thinking like them, acting like them, speaking like them. You also learn to come back to yourself, to be you again, so you can chat to the postman, buy the groceries, cuddle the cats, even talk to the husband, from your normal everyday self. That’s shapeshifting.

Shapeshifting isn’t necessarily about physically becoming a dolphin or an eagle, or even only travelling within an animal’s psyche although it may be. I’ve done those too, with the permission of the beasties concerned, and enormously exciting it is too. But shapeshifting is also about being able to feel into another person, a form of empathy if you like, where you seriously do feel what they feel. Writers, fiction writers especially, are often café-people. We can sit in a café for hours, watching and listening to the people around us, hearing tricks of speech, watching mannerisms, learning body-language. We do it on trains, and at bus stops too, in fact we do it all the time, everywhere, so watch out if you’re with a writer, they’re certainly picking up “stuff” from you that will go into a book.

Watching people, listening to them, is a way in to learning to shapeshift, and one I use with my students. It’s also very useful as a people-skill for everyone … if you can feel like the person you’re with then you’re less likely to tread on them accidentally!

Life, nowadays, is so often concerned with privacy that we have separation forced on us … not the same thing as privacy! We “keep ourselves to ourselves” to such a degree that many, many, people feel very isolated and out of touch. A good writer cannot do that. Why do we write? Strangely enough, not for fame and fortune (although all of us would probably like that!) but because of the deep inner urge that we have something to say that we want (need, even) others to hear. We want to be read, more than anything else, more than money, more than fame. So, we need to know people, the readers, those who may already read us and those who we hope will do so very soon. To know people means you have to climb out of yourself and get into the skin of others, even when that’s completely repulsive to you! You’ll never write good if you can’t feel the character you’re writing.

So … I write men as well as women. I’ll shift into any character who wants me to write them, and while there are some I’ve loved dearly there have also been those who make my personal skin crawl. I’ve learned, like all good writers, to be a shapeshifter.

Robin Song

Sometimes the simple call of a bird transports me across worlds, to another time, a memory time …

I’m suddenly back 50-odd years, walking a lane in deep midwinter, snow piled up along the hedgerows, clear over my head, and ruts a car’s-width wide channelling along between the high white banks. Icicles hang from the bare, black thorn-branches overhead. There’s a fluttering up there, brown wings carrying a small round body to just above me. Then the song. His little scarlet breast quivers as he sings, calling to me. I reach into my pocket and, yes, there are some crumbs – more than crumbs in fact for I put the last crust from the cob loaf in my pocket before I came out. And there’s some cheese rinds too.

I take off my glove and collect some crumbs and a bit of rind on my hand, stretch it out where the bird can see. Down he comes. Tiny, delicate claws grip my finger, the sharp pointy beak pecks at the crumbs. He stops, turns his head to look at me, a piece of cheese rind dangling from his beak, then flutters back up into the tree. And more flutters follow, another little brown bird is up there. Peering, I see her as he dips his head, offering her the cheese. She takes it, delicately, chirps a thank you.

And down he comes again, eats some crumbs for himself and then grabs another piece of cheese rind to take up to her. I can see her better now, she’s come down to a lower branch ans perches there, dipping and fluttering her wings like a chick asking for food. But she’s not a chick, this is their courtship, he is wooing her with cheese rind. Her red breast quivers as she cheeps imperiously, ‘Bring me food!’ she demands of him, for he must prove himself, show her he will be a good provider before she will consent to mate with him. And back he goes, bearing rind. She opens her beak and takes it from him, then sending him off again for more.

I’ve frozen stiff. I don’t want to move, to scare them. I want to watch, and the cold is helping me be still, so cold I don’t even feel any ache in my arm as I hold out my hand for the robin to take food to his mate. It’s early, so early, although the snow is late this year. Other years it’s well gone by now, the end of February, but not this year. How is it the robins are mating now when there seems no chance of food for the chicks, at least not yet. What do they know that I do not? And how do they know it?

They’re tuned in, always on the thread, always connected to the Earth and everything around them. They know without needing to know how the weather will be, when the spring will come. All the need to do is touch into those threads that spin their web through the air and everything as mycelium spin through the soil, spreading the word throughout all the living things. Except ourselves.

We humans have lost it, lost the plot. Once we knew, as the robins do, what was happening throughout our planet. Then we decided to see if we couldn’t do better than she, better than the mother, and control her, make her do what we wanted. Well, we’ve screwed that up! We now haven’t a clue, we need machines and programs and algorithms where once we knew in our bones. We no longer trust our bones, our guts, our instincts. We only believe in our minds and they’re not much cop for connecting to everything else that lives.

I learn from the robins. As those tiny claws clutch my finger I let him speak to me with his touch. ‘Listen!’ he tells me, ‘Listen. And look. And smell the air, feel the wind in your hair, the touch of a snowflake as it lands on your skin and the sensation of it melting.’ I hear him. I stand, frozen cold outside but burning with life within. I will listen …

3 Kings Night

Big day for us here today, with lots of biodynamics to do. We’ve spent the past 11 days stirring Prep 500 (horn manure) each day … one day for each month of the coming year … and today is the final day. And today, we also stir the 3 Kings Prep. That’s made from gold, frankincense and myrrh, usually homeopathic gold, i.e. the energy of gold rather than the real stuff, but the herbs myrrh and frankincense are the real thing. Making it, as you can imagine, surrounds you in the most heavenly scent.

You might be thinking, “What’s she doing, doing a christianny thing? Thought she was a pagan through-n-through!” Well, I am indeed pagan, of the land …  but this is not a christianny thing. Like just about everything they do, they nicked it from us … sigh! … just changed the names and the stories to fit their way. Everyone who could get it has been using gold, frankincense and myrrh since time out of mind, they are indeed special and one of our old British stories tells us why. You can read my version of it HERE, it’s the old, old story of the roebuck in the thicket and the battle of the trees.

It tells about Gwydion and his brother, Amatheon who brought us the 3 basic needs of agriculture … the lapwing brings the starlight-fire in her crystal egg, the roebuck brings the ancestral bones, and the bitch-dog brings us the clay which binds the energies of the Earth (bone) and the Sun (crystal) together, and also enables them to be used by all the plants and animals. Deep stuff in a wee little story, but so it always in the old ways, and the old ways of all traditions not just ours here in Britain. As ever, in our old ways, we work with the Earth and the Sun, weaving their energies together to make good. It works scientifically too, read about it, especially the use of clay, in my Gardening with the Moon & Stars.

Now, gold, frankincense and myrrh represent those three basic needs of agriculture too, and take them to another energetic level. Let’s have a look at some correlations …

Silica Clay Calcium
Frankincense Gold Myrrh
Potential Manifestation Ancestors
Upperworld Middleworld Lowerworld
Maiden Mother Crone
Power Love Wisdom

In biodynamics, we use silica, clay and calcium through the preparations, most of us do this with relevant stirrings each month and through how we make our compost. I find it quite lovely and amazing how I connect with the 3 worlds, the 3 faces of the goddess, with the world of potential and the world of the ancestors, as well as middleworld where I live and work. And that goes for all the biodynamic folk I know.

The same happens, but up several orders of magnitude, when I stir and spray the 3 Kings prep, so today (6th Jan 2017) is going to be a full, exciting and slightly overwhelming day! I’ll be connecting to all those things in the table above. It’s like journeying but you don’t go off in a trance. You’re awake and aware all the time … with one foot in thisworld where you’re stirring preps and then walking round the garden with a bucket and wallpaper brush, sprinkling the stuff on your land. But, at the same time as you’re stirring and walking and sprinkling, you have the other foot firmly in otherworld, indeed across the worlds, in company with Arianrhod and her spinning tower, the place of potential, in upperworld and, at the same time with Ceridwen in lowerworld, drinking from her cauldron of wisdom. Woof! You have to hang onto your hat! But wow, is it fun, exciting, glorious and completely magical! Oh yes! No way would I miss out on this!

Putting the 3 Kings on the garden (or your farm or whatever your land is) does things to help the energy spirits of your land. The little ones of the soil and roots who we call gnomes love it, it sparks things like the mycorrhiza as well as the worms, bugs, insects and all the things that make the soil fertile for the plants. The leaf-spirits, who we call ondines as they have so much to do with water, get a lovely jolt from it and begin to make themselves ready for the changes coming at Imbolc. In their turn, the flower-spirits who we call sylphs also get a buzz, and they will be ready to give us Bridey’s flower, the snowdrop, for our Imbolc celebrations. And the fruit spirits, fire spirits, who we call salamanders also get all stirred up so they’re ready for the coming changes of springtime.

holding the 3 fires

Yup, it’s a big day, lots happening, lots to do. And I hope I’ll have enough energy to get off to our local wassail at an orchard about half an hour away come 6pm tonight. The wassail is all part of it, it celebrates the Apple Tree Queen, the goddess’ representative in the orchard and, as I live in a cider-producing county that’s quite important! The wassail uses the 4 elements too – the tree growing from the soil, the mulled cider for the water elementals, the cider-soaked toast hung on the tree for the robins – the air elementals, and fire in the torches we carry to the orchard, and the 13 fires for the 13 moon-months we light around the old tree.

Oh yes, it’s all there … hidden, unless you want and are ready to know. And it’s fun too, we sing, the Morris side dances, they do the mummers play which, at its roots, is about the bringing together of darkness and light who are the ultimate goddess and god. The play is also very funny and rude, we all heckle and shout like mad, joining in. and then, when it’s over, we go back into the pub for a sing. Our old ways are deep, but they’re also full of laughter and joy, and they can involve anyone, at any stage of their development along their path. Our ways are inclusive, not exclusive. And although we’re deadly serious about what we do, we’re not solemn and po-faced!

So, here I go, getting up, getting breakfast, and stirring, stirring, stirring, followed by a lovely walk round the garden, feeling all the little ones, the elementals, touching and breathing on my face and hands. Waling between worlds.

And then off, to have a whale of a time with a couple of hundred laughing people, from babes in arms to grandmothers like me. Oh yes, this is certainly the life …