Tuesday, 25 March 2008

I'm a Daffodil!

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

I found this bit-of-fun quiz at This Garden is Illegal, via Moncha at Dreaming of Avalon. I'm glad I'm a daffodil, they're always so cheery, yet down-to-earth - and of course they are the national flower of my adopted homeland. Actually, I'd probably be happy to be any kind of flower - although I don't feel glamorous enough to be an orchid, or brash enough for a dahlia...

What flower are you?

Sunday, 23 March 2008


Today we have had brilliant sun and brief, fierce snow showers. Both bring a smile to my face.

Yesterday some good friends from Witchcamp who are visiting Wales this weekend stopped by. Today I met up with them again and they ended up coming to us for lunch. I made leek and potato soup which we ate with crusty bread, cheese and salad and the cake, chocolate, fruit and juice they brought along. It was a laid-back, laughter-filled meal with conversation both fascinating and hilarious by turns. We talked about plans for another Summer Gathering. Something else to look forward to this year.

This weekend I have spent with T (who actually took some time off work and more amazingly didn't spend it all working!!!) and with my lovely friends. It is a bank holiday so T will still be here all day tomorrow. Next weekend I will be spending with my family. And then it will be Avalon Spring. There are Easter Eggs to be eaten. And the sun is still shining between snow flurries.

No wonder I have a big grin on my face.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Sad Anniversary

Five years ago today, I awoke to hear that the war on Iraq had started.

I went into Carmarthen and joined the protests there, which made me feel at least a bit less isolated and despairing.

Five years on, we are told the war is over, 'mission accomplished', job done. Yet the troops are still there, there are new atrocities on an almost daily basis, the weapons of mass destruction never existed, the 'intelligence' that led us there has been proved to be a web of misinformation and it is generally agreed that conditions for the average Iraqi have deteriorated during that period.

I don't know what else to say. I wish I had something wise and helpful and insightful to say. But I don't - I am just angry, and sad that it has been five years since we got into this mess, and we don't seem to be making things any better. Just a lot worse.

Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will live as one.
- John Lennon

Tuesday, 18 March 2008


Last night as I went out at twilight to shut away the chickens and geese, I was stopped in my tracks, delighted. After the rain we had at the weekend, the stream was flowing strongly. The sound of tumbling water mingled with the resonance of birds passionately singing the day down into night. It was a beautiful, enchanting music in the fading light.

As I came back up the hill I became aware that the birds had fallen silent, hushed by the oncoming darkness of night - but for a tawny owl who was beginning her watch with some soft, quavering hoots.

It was only a few minutes, yet in that time the switch was made from day to night. And I didn't notice exactly when it happened, only that it had.

That was the liminal time, the inbetween time, the time when it is neither day or night. A time of magic when anything can happen, the time between time.

In folklore and fairy tale, the liminal times and places - Samhain, midnight, dawn, threshholds literal and metaphorical are where the magic happens. In permaculture, it is understood that the edges (between say, woodland and field, or water and earth) are the richest in biodiversity. There is magic, tangible magic in the inbetween places.

Tonight I will listen more closely, pay attention and see if I can perceive the imperceivable. And if I can, perhaps one day I may slip through the crack between here and there.

If I do - what will I find?

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Paganism and the Art of Poultry Keeping

I've often wondered if one reason the book 'Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance' sold so well was that people bought it because they were intrigued by the title, juxtaposing as it does two such apparently disparate subjects (no offense intended to the writing skills of Robert Pirsig). And now I'm pairing Paganism with Poultry keeping. What link could there possibly be between them?

Firstly let me define what is important to me about Paganism: for me Paganism is about seeing and acknowledging the divine within the world - not conceiving of divinity as something external and discarnate. It's about tuning into the cycles and patterns of nature, understanding my place within this incredibly complex and beautiful, yet finely balanced web. Knowing that the divine is here and now, and that I am part of it.

The difficulty is in the many little obstacles that get between me and my connection to the web of life. Perhaps out of a fear of mortality, or our apparent insignificance within the Multiverse, society throws up a myriad of distractions - things and activities that conspire to keep us from being in the here and now. TV, shopping malls, mobile phones, office blocks, iPods, multiplex cinemas, gyms, books, supermarkets, radio, email, Ebay, computer games, cars: each of them isolating us in our own little space, cut off from the breeze, the birdsong and the pull of the moon in our blood.

"So where do the chickens* come in?" I hear you asking - good question! Well quite simply keeping chickens turns out to be an excellent way of rooting oneself in the natural cycles of life. It's not the reason we started to keep them in the first place - that would have been the eggs - but it is an unexpected side-benefit. Let me explain: chickens need feeding and watering daily, shutting into their house at night and letting out again in the morning. I also give them an afternoon treat of wheat or mixed corn each afternoon. That means that at least three times a day I go out into the garden - sun, rain, wind, sleet, snow or hail notwithstanding.

This routine becomes intimately tied in with the daily cycle of the sun, the weather and the phases of the moon. The chickens are let out as soon as it's light in winter (although admittedly in high summer when it's light before 5am they may have a bit of a wait until I crawl out of bed). Their afternoon grain is given roughly an hour before dusk to ensure they have full bellies overnight. As soon as dusk has fallen they are securely shut away from the fox. And so I have found that at any time of year I can tell you what time it gets dark, and roughly what time the sun will be rising. I can tell you if there was a red sky at sunset, signifying a fine day tomorrow. I can tell you whether there is likely to be a frost. I can tell you when I see the first sliver of a new moon, when it is a full moon, and when she is diminishing back to her dark phase - all without the aid of a moon diary!

Going out into the garden several times a day in all weathers, I notice when the first bulbs are nosing up from the frozen earth in spring, when the first leaf buds begin to break, how the fruit blossom is faring, when there is finally a patch of daisies big enough to lie in, and when the blackberries start to ripen. I can tell you when the autumn leaves begin to redden and fall, and when we have our first hard frost of winter.

I see the birds collecting nesting materials, the wheeling aerial courtship of ravens and the first lambs in the fields in spring. In summer I see the rabbits in the fields at dusk, and the return of the swallows, and the flutter of tiny bats. I see the swallows replaced by starlings over the winter and the red kites coming down off the hills in bad weather.

Much as I may have appreciated and thought I understood all of this on an intellectual level, there is nothing quite like getting out there and experiencing it with all the senses. And though it would be a wonderful idea for me to be disciplined enough to get out there morning and evening every day simply for my own benefit, I have to admit that on the first rainy morning I would probably pull the duvet up over my head and make an excuse. Because I have to get up and see to the chickens every day, skulking under the duvet is not an option.

Another side-benefit is the constant interaction with another species. Although chickens can undoubtedly be more than a little bit daft at times, I have also come to really appreciate how clever they can be. Learning their sounds and body language has revealed their different personalities, in some cases quite startlingly different. Recognising and empathising with the desires, needs and emotions of a different species shifts me into a less human-centric world view - which I think can only be a good thing.

I have never been great at maintaining a daily spiritual practice - at different times in my life I have tried morning meditation, daily divination, dream journals, prayer beads etc. None have lasted. But now I realise my daily spiritual practice is poultry keeping. Because I have no choice but to be out there three times a day, connecting with the earth and sky and moon. And the chickens.

Blessed Be the Pagan Art of Poultry Keeping!

* My poultry keeping of course includes not only the chickens but also our Brecon Buff geese, Buffy & Angel. For simplicity's sake I've only referred to the chickens here.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Book Meme

I have been tagged for a meme by Anne at Blog o'Gnosis. It's a book meme and the rules I have been given state:

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.

3. Find the fifth sentence.

4. Post the next three sentences.

5. Tag five people.

Sadly, after my last post I'm going to end up looking like the Reclaiming-obsessed saddo I undoubtedly am. Because the nearest book was Starhawk's 'Twelve Wild Swans' which has just been returned after being borrowed by a friend. The upside is that the next nearest book would have been a cookery book which couldn't possibly have competed with the following extract for sheer out-of-context weirdness:

"The monster, which was blobby and changed form rapidly, sat on me to smother me. I began to call for my mother, as I had the first time I saw the monster. But when Mother appeared, I realized it was foolish to ask her for help, since she seemed just as harmful to me as the monster; in fact, she seemed to be part of the monster."

See, you always knew us Pagans were a strange lot.

I'm now supposed to tag five more people, but as most of those I think would like to take part seem to have done so already, I'll just say: if you'd like to do this one, consider yourself tagged.