Sunday, 22 May 2016
I love Beltane, it's one of my favourite festivals. For one thing it's such a beautiful time of year here in the UK. For another, I like the way Beltane and Samhain balance and complement each other, doorways into Summer and Winter respectively. In years past, I would make a special effort to rise before sunrise on Beltane morning, going out into the pre-dawn darkness to experience the gradual lightening of the sky, the first tentative birdsong swelling into a glorious dawn chorus, the magical dew-soaked, mist-wreathed, blossom-scented break of day. As the sun rose I'd wash my face in the Beltane dew then cut some sprays of hawthorn (may) flowers and tie them to my front door with a red ribbon as a token of welcome to summer. And then, cold and dew-drenched and exhilarated I'd tiptoe back into the house and creep back into bed for a couple of hours more sleep before the alarm went off.
Later in the day I would do a ritual to celebrate Beltane. Sometimes alone - a simple blessing, or meditation or trip to the bluebell woods - and sometimes with fellow Pagans marking the occasion by dancing the maypole or leaping the bonfire or simply making merry.
This year, I did not get up early to greet the dawn and bring in the may. Nor did I meditate or dance or celebrate in any way. I noted the date and gave brief, regretful thought to the days when it wasn't totally impractical for me to get up before dawn to wander in wet grass listening to birdsong and picking flowers. A long, tiring week of work meant I just didn't have the energy to get up in the middle of the night. I needed all the sleep I could cram in. A local Pagan group invited me to their Beltane celebration, but I couldn't go as I was working. The Monday after Beltane was a Bank Holiday and we discussed the possibility of combining a working party (on a friend's garden) with a celebratory bonfire and combined garden/Beltane blessing but in the end it rained and my friend was ill, so those plans were abandoned too. And that was my 2016 Beltane.
I imagine it is that way for many of us. Life gets in the way, as we say. And paradoxically, that is not necessarily a bad thing. After all at Beltane, as the natural world is springing into the full fecund glory of summer what are we celebrating if not life? Yes, it would be lovely to celebrate with flowers and singing and rainbow-ribbon bedecked maypoles, but if that just isn't possible I don't think we should be beating ourselves up.
Celebrating the Wheel of the Year is important work, in the sense that it connects us to the changing world around us and keeps us in relation with the Earth and the web of life around us. And yet that can be done in a million tiny ways, as well as observing the eight big festivals of the Pagan Year. I celebrate this time of year by rejoicing at the returning swallows, sniffing the faery-scent of bluebells, wearing my favourite summer dress for the first time of the year, loving the sight of mayflowers in the hedgerow and apple-blossom in the orchard, eating fresh locally-grown asparagus... Mindfulness is the key. Any of these things becomes special, sacred, celebratory when it is done mindfully. Even work, household chores, family obligations can be re-framed this way. We work because we need the money to feed, house, clothe ourselves. In so doing we are exercising self-care, honouring our own lives and those of our dependants. Household chores keep our living spaces clean, pleasant, sustainable, marking our place in the world and how we choose to live in it. Family obligations - be they childcare, elder care or simply cooking the evening meal for those who share our lives - are the glue of community that holds us in relationship with our ancestors and descendants, small yet immensely important acts of love and care for our loved ones. Sacred work indeed.
Nor do I believe that our deities would judge us for missing out on celebrating festivals when we are overwhelmed by our other commitments. They know even better than us of our frailties and struggles. A tiny murmured prayer before falling into exhausted sleep is as valid as a big, elaborate ritual when that is all that your time and energy levels will allow. What matters is that you are giving to the best of your ability at the time. As long as we treat our deities with respect and love, I do not believe we incur their wrath or disappointment.
Perhaps next year, my circumstances will allow me to mark Beltane with a ritual. Perhaps not. But even if I am over-committed and exhausted next year too, I will still note the date and the turning of the Wheel. I will still watch the swallows and feel joy, observe the beauty of the bluebells and mayflowers and apple-blossom, enjoy the sensation of sun on my bare arms, and rejoice in the return of summer. When 'life gets in the way', don't use that fact to beat yourself up. Celebrate instead that you have a life, that you are here and now in this beautiful world experiencing it and all its unpredictable and messy entanglements. Experience life mindfully and it becomes a celebration of itself.
Friday, 15 April 2016
This morning the sun turned the hillside to magic, dew-shimmered gold.
Clear, pale light stroked the smooth, bare limbs of trees; lengthened shadows in the secret hollows.
Celandines and windflowers smiled joy from the roadside.
A wren sang fierce beauty outside my window.
A lone first swallow swept overhead and away into possibility, leaving behind a splash of early bluebells. Soon a flood of them will pool the woodland floor, seep along the hedgerow.
Today I am faery-sighted, and my heart sings the song of the awakening earth.
Monday, 29 February 2016
"Join us in the wild hills of West Wales for a day of magic!
Working with the spirits of the land and the stories of Pwyll, Arawn and Rhiannon we will delve deeply into working with the Spirits of the Land and developing our own practices for building and deepening our relationship with those spirits and powers.
This one-day event is in the tradition of Reclaiming Witchcraft in which we often honour the “Spirits of Place” or the “Spirits of the Land”, so in this workshop we will explore what this means and ways in which we can recognise and honour those spirits who graciously allow us to work our magic in their homes, and who support us as we do.
BOOKING ESSENTIAL - Limited places available!
More details to be found here: http://haloquin.net/
Wednesday, 10 February 2016
I started this blog in 2007 just after Imbolc, so it is now 9 years old. How time flies! I'm not really sure why I started. Several of my friends were blogging and it looked like fun. Also, I had always wanted to write and I thought it may be a relatively pain-free way of getting feedback on my writing.
It turned out it was, but really that was only one of the many benefits of blogging that I discovered. I found a voice, for one thing. I found that people liked my writing, which was a confidence-booster. That in turn led to me having the courage to attend writing classes and workshops which I have enjoyed and learnt a lot from (including the fact that you shouldn't end a sentence with a preposition - but hell, rules are made to be ignored, right?). My writing has improved, and my confidence has grown so much that I am actually working on writing a book, something I have wanted to do for many years.
Reading someone's blog is a little window into their world, giving an unexpected sense of intimacy at times. I have deliberately guarded my anonymity on the blog, being vague over the details of my and others' real names, or the exact location of Halfway Up A Hill. And yet reading over old posts I am sometimes astonished at how much of my inner self and feelings I have revealed. Possibly much of that is because just over a year after starting 'Moonroot' I suddenly and unexpectedly found myself in the middle of a divorce. The blog was and is a source of comfort through difficult times, and looking back I'm certain that it was therapeutic during some of my darker days to be able to write about them in the way I have. That's not to say I haven't self-censored; there is stuff in my personal journal that I wouldn't dream of sharing with the rest of the world. But looking back I find that I have shared far more than I would have expected, and I think it has been positive and healthy to do so.
Blogging has also helped me with journalling, oddly enough. I always loved the idea of journalling but the perfectionist in me wanted my journal to be a thing of beauty, not poorly constructed rantings and crossings out. The journals that people share pages from are usually works of art, poetry, insight. Every journal I started before I had a blog, I began with such high standards that I couldn't possibly maintain them and invariably gave up shortly afterwards. Blogging has no such drawbacks as unlike writing with pen and ink, things composed on a computer can be retrospectively edited, cut, pasted or deleted without spoiling the overall 'look' of the thing. But then when I found myself unable to access my blog for whatever reason, I missed it so much I still needed an outlet for all those thoughts and ideas rattling around in my head. So I bought a cheap notebook and some pens and started noting it all down. And before I knew it, I was journalling. Now I can't imagine how I would cope without my journal and have already decided that should I ever appear on Desert Island Discs my luxury item will definitely be an inexhaustible supply of pretty notebooks and nice pens.
I have also met many wonderful people through blogging, either through commenting on their blogs or through their comments on mine. Some of these people I am still in touch with - though we have never met - and others have dropped away over the years. And I miss those who have dropped away. I enjoyed the glimpses into their lives, I felt that we were friends even though we had never sat down over a cup of tea together. If you're on my blog-roll, even if you haven't posted for years, I'm still hoping I'll hear from you again one day! I guess this is one of the weird side-effects of the digital age, where we can share so much with total strangers, feel such intimacy yet lose touch so quickly when our point of contact - e-mail address, Facebook page, blog etc gets deleted. Even so, on balance, I think this sharing with strangers is a good thing. I have had insights into other lives all around the world, views through different windows. People I have never met have shown me great kindness in difficult times (and I hope I have done the same for them). If this sharing means better understanding between people, greater compassion, more empathy then I do not think it can be a bad thing, even if the relationships we create turn out to be ephemeral.
So here's to blogging and its many blessings. Long may it continue.
Friday, 1 January 2016
Oh dear. I really wanted to blog more regularly in 2015. Things went OK until June when life sort of... took over. 2015 was a good year for me, more or less. The downside of it was a lack of time and money. Up until the middle of the year, I wasn't by any means feeling wealthy but I had just about enough and was even paying instalments towards a late-summer holiday. And then I was suddenly struggling. In a short period of time I lost two clients who no longer needed my services due to changes in their circumstances, and at the same time got hit by a couple of unexpected bills. All of a sudden I was no longer floating along serenely, I was struggling to keep my head above water, sinking lower and lower each month. Luckily, the story has a happy ending. My lovely sister (with whom I was going on holiday) lent me the money I still owed on the trip until such time as I could pay her back. And I managed to find a new job, working a couple of days a week in a jewellery shop (which I love). It was still a difficult few months as I was working three jobs over a six day week without much to show for it except exhaustion and a gradual easing of my debts. At the same time, IB was having employment dramas of his own and we were seeing very little of each other. I am happy to say though, that I am now solvent again, both job situations have settled and I have managed to re-jig my working week so that I get two whole days off. The storm has abated and we are back on an even keel - for now, anyway!
But those were the difficult times. In between them 2015 gave me many beautiful experiences and memories, lots of good times with the people dearest to my heart and also new and wonderful friendships. Which is really what I wanted to come here and write about...
Some of the highlights for me were finally reaching what has often seemed like the very distant shore of 'Acceptance' following years wading through the swamps of 'Denial', 'Bargaining', 'Anger', and (seemingly interminable) 'Grief' caused by my divorce. Yes, to anyone making this journey themselves, you will get there in the end. I promise.
Then there was my magical trip to Glastonbury in the spring.
In June by pure chance I ended up making a visit to the beautiful Rheidol valley, which just happened to be one of the rivers featuring in the folktale we were due to work with at Dragonrise Witchcamp later in the summer. The weather was perfect, the river was beautiful, but more importantly what I learnt about the river that day ended up being an important part of the work we did at camp. Such wonderful serendipity!
Trip to the Rheidol Valley
The sound of children laughing under the oak tree.
The swell of grief for the rivers.
Butterflies in the meadow by the stone circle.
The serenely flowing brown Borle Brook.
The fey whispering, bubbling in the woods.
Talking, crying, laughing, dancing with Rheidol; picking wildflowers with Her.
Making magic potions.
Singing, singing, singing.
The dance of the Salmon.
The Rivers and the Mountain.
Owls and woodpeckers and swallows and buzzards.
A river of stars in the night sky.
A circle of smiling faces in a fairy-lit yurt.
"The sun is shining... I'm so sexy! this is my tree!" (translation of birdsong!)
Holding space, drumming a heartbeat while the magic swirls around us.
The moon through the trees.
"The journey doesn't end when the river meets the sea"
Brewing Magic Potions at Dragonrise
At the end of September, we took our much anticipated holiday to Gozo. I fell in love with the place. It's kind of wonky and quirky with a definite attitude of 'manana', but that fitted perfectly with my desire for a laid-back, relaxing holiday, which was exactly what we got. There is also a sense of timelessness from the ancient land beneath your feet, a sacred, magical place... I cannot put it into words. Victorian nonsense-poet Edward Lear also gave up, describing it as "pomskizillious and gromphiberous, being as no words can describe its magnificence". The Arabs named it 'Ghawdex' which means 'joy'. And I jotted down a few more notes which tried to capture the essence of the place:
Water reflects ripples on stone walls.
Bougainvillea petals on stone.
Lizard sunning on the wall.
Turquoise pool, sand coloured stone.
Clouds drift over in the blue, blue sky.
Rustling palm fronds.
Coffee and olives and tomatoes.
Big yellow butterfly, hovering black bee.
Pomegranates and carob, prickly pear and loquats.
Azure sea, ancient land.
Slanting shadows and the sound of crickets in the fields.
Other highlights this year have been lovely birthday celebrations with friends and family, a trip to Kent to stay with my sister, making new friends, a wonderful extended Christmas with the family and the addition of two kittens to the household, now taking the feline headcount to six. I am definitely becoming a mad cat lady!
Today, I'm counting my blessings again. Each year is different, some easier, some harder. On balance my 2015 was one of the good ones, the struggle outweighed by the serendipity. Thank you and farewell 2015, and welcome 2016. I wonder what you will bring?
Friday, 26 June 2015
It is now only just over a month until Dragonrise Witchcamp begins. I spent some time earlier this evening talking and planning with my fellow Path teachers Elinor and Shira, amongst other things deciding on chants we will use. We are teaching 'The Waters of the World' Path and it is shaping up to be something wonderful. The camp itself is working around a wonderful folk story from Shropshire about three sisters who are rivers, and their father, a mountain.
This is from the Dragonrise website:
Come sing with us, sing with the rivers, with the mountain, wrap your arms around the land and feel your home.
Together, as we find our path, the rivers of the land are our teachers and allies, empowering us to step into our birthright.
All is alive.
Join us in rural Shropshire, as we journey with the sister-rivers, Severn, Wye and Rheidol, and their father, the mountain Plynlimon.
We will work and play with the story of how the rivers came to leave their father, each following her very own, unique path from mountain to sea, to step into her birthright.
As the rivers wend their ways to the ocean, with their support, we too will find our own paths through and with our more-than-human world.
The Wild Mystic Path
with Cypress Fey and Raven Wolfsister
Deep in our bones we know we are connected to the Earth.
Deep in our intuitive souls we know the Earth can hear us.
Deep in our history, our ancestors honoured the Spirits of the Land
High above the stars circle
High above the winds blow
High above the birds call greeting to the dawn.
Here in the middle we stand at the crossroads
Here in the middle we can dare intimacy with something greater
Here in the middle we can stop and touch the earth.
Earth Mystics seek the language spoken by birds, trees, and soil.
Earth Mystics embrace the values of intuition, stillness, and observation.
Earth Mystics run with the spirits, knowing that the land is alive, accessible, and conscious.
The Wild Mystic Path will focus on the learning the language of birds, and recognition of the life that surround us.
We will learn the skill of crafting our energy ‘profile’, so we are no longer outsiders, but are an integral part of the whole.
We will open our eyes and hearts to the wild and mysterious all around us, honoring them as companions and powerful allies.
Through the workings of this path we will hone our inherent skills and deepen our knowledge and connection with the natural world.
We will sing, journey, hold silence, and experience the joy and wonder of knowing we are not alone.
This path is open to adults who have a previous grounding in the tradition of Reclaiming.
It is an all weather path. We suggest you bring comfy shoes, raincoat, sunblock and hat as well as a journal and water bottle.
Persons interested in this path should be prepared for moderate activity.
Waters of the World Path
with Susan Moonroot, Shira, and Elinor Prędota
Come dance with the Waters of the World in all their manifestations: enter into and understand your relationship with water.
In this path, we will connect with and come to understand more deeply how water flows in our lives both as a magical element and a practical reality: how it affects us, and how we affect it.
We will work with the water cycle in its many forms, experiencing the different aspects of water in a hands on way, from rain to spring to stream to the sea and back again.
We will touch water, sing to it, pour it, and let it move both our bodies and our souls.
This path is suitable for all ages, and all levels of magical experience and skill. Some of our time will be spent outdoors, so please bring appropriate clothing and supplies.
If you would like to join us on this exciting journey, see the Dragonrise website for more details, or you can download a booking form here.
Tuesday, 23 June 2015
Last Night - Three crows fly across a silver crescent moon. I blow a kiss of blessing. Sleepy chickens murmur as they settle for the night. A frog peeps from the long, damp grass.
Today - Sunshine and storm clouds. The taste of wild strawberries and the song of skylark. Honeybees in clover. A jay flashes through the trees. A kiss from a cat. Laughter with friends.
So much beauty. So much to be thankful for. I count my blessings carefully. There are many of them, and they are all precious.