Monday, 30 June 2008


"I am confused. I lived in the big shed with all my sisters, crowded in, beak to tail. It was hot and noisy and bright. We ate and squabbled and laid eggs. That was my life, until today.
Today a man came into the shed and grabbed me and three of my sisters. It hurt as he held us roughly by our legs and took us from the crowded shed into big, wide-open space. I was dazed and dizzy as we all four were thrust into a box and the lid taped down. Then it was dark for some time. There were strange sounds and the box moved as if we were in motion.
Then the box opened and a woman I had never seen before lifted us gently out into brightness. The air moved strangely, ruffling my feathers. The ground beneath my feet was strange, soft, tufted green. My sisters and I stood, dazed and confused, huddled together not knowing what to do.
Other beings which looked a bit like chickens watched from a nearby pen. But they do not look like any real chickens I have ever seen. They are covered in feathers with no bald patches, and they move confidently over the strange green ground, scratching and muttering happily to themselves, and gazing curiously at us.
We huddle together for comfort wondering what strange place this is, and what will happen here.
I am confused. Is this heaven or hell?"

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Sun, Surf, Saints

The sun was warm, but the wind was strong and the horizon hazy. Along the cliff tops I wandered with my friend Elizabeth, as the surf crashed on the rocks below us and the sea birds soared, crying overhead. As the wind whipped our hair and the sun burned our noses we ambled and talked, pausing now and again to admire the view or examine a wildflower along the way.

We were at St Non's Bay, having first visited the village-city of St David's, founded by her eponymous son, the patron saint of Wales. On the cliffs overlooking the bay is a holy well dedicated to St Non, and the ruins of a chapel set within a stone circle where St Non is said to have given birth to her famous son during a thunderstorm.

There is a Catholic retreat centre nearby, and the well seems to be visited by both Christians and Pagans. I assume the offerings at the statue are left by Catholics and those around the well by Pagans, but that could be oversimplifying things. We both revere the Divine Female after all.

Along the clifftops things are much simpler. The wind scours us clean and the sound of the waves soothes us. There is the smell of seaspray and wildflower honey. We only need to be dazzled by the sparkle of sun on water and to relax in the warmth of friendship to know in our bones that the Divine has many faces and is in all things, and that to split theological (or even thealogical) hairs is to miss the point: it doesn't matter how we see it or what we call it, only that we acknowledge it and value it.

Blessed Be.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Growing Goslings

T just took this photo of Buffy, Angel and the goslings - thought you might like to see how they're growing. They're now coming up to 5 weeks old.

Summer Solstice

Yesterday I celebrated the Summer Solstice (Litha) with other members of the Carmarthenshire Pagan Community. We gathered for a ritual in which we intended to "Celebrate light and life, taking the life force of the sun and putting it to work in our lives".
Many people came early to help set up the space, which made a nice, friendly, informal start. We ended up with five beautiful altars dedicated to the elements (Earth, Air, Fire and Water in the four corners of the room, and a central Spirit altar). As more people arrived we realised that despite the terrible weather, people were keen to be a part of this event (luckily we had elected to hold the ritual indoors!). People had come from as far away as St David's, Aberystwyth and Cardiff, which was absolutely wonderful. We were all particularly pleased to see G, who moved to Cardiff about six months ago and hasn't been able to come to the Moots since. His arrival was a lovely surprise and he was greeted by many enthusiastic hugs!
The central meditation focused on Litha being a time of love and joy, and encouraged people to notice the everyday things that are such a source of joy, yet often get overlooked. Afterwards we raised a big juicy cone of power by chanting and dancing - D had brought his guitar and P and I had brought our drums, which all really helped to get people into the spirit. We used the power raised to send positive energy out into the world, and also to charge some candles with blessings for some good friends of the community who could do with an extra 'boost' right now. We will burn these candles over the coming weeks until they are completely burned down, releasing the energy to go where it is needed.
After we had finished the ritual, devoked and opened the circle, everyone enjoyed themselves eating, drinking and socialising. Most people had brought food contributions, so we had many delicacies to share including biscuits, cake, fresh strawberries and other fruit, juices and some wonderful home-made mead.
Sadly we had to eventually pack away and depart to avoid getting a parking ticket! Here's looking forward to whatever we get up to at Lammas...

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Strangled Squeak-Whoop!

That's the excited noise I made this morning when I found my name had been picked out of the hat to win a 'creativity package' from mccabe's delightful Dancing Mermaid blog. I left a comment on her very moving Father's Day post and hence got entered in the draw. I'm so excited, it's the first time I've won anything like this.

I'm also excited because I'm going through a 'creative' phase at the moment. I love to do creative, craft-y things but find inspiration often comes in waves. At times I just can't stop making-painting-playing-gluing-weaving-sketching-shaping, and at others the well dries up and my fingers keep themselves entertained by gardening or writing or cooking or if all else fails, doing the housework!

I am already engaged in making a fairy jar for a friend's birthday and creating some images of Brigid for a fundraising project. And this morning I woke up with my head buzzing with ideas for new masks. My fingers are also itching to get back to the knitting that got put down when things got really busy in the garden. So I think it's safe to say I'm in a creative phase, and this give-away couldn't have come at a better time!

The photo is of a 'Blodeuwedd' mask I made just over a year ago. It's made of papier mache, decorated with paint, feathers and flowers.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Bruce Springsteen

I first discovered Bruce Springsteen in my teens nearly (gulp!) 30 years ago. I saw a clip of him playing 'Rosalita' live on TV, and I was hooked. The energy and enthusiasm of his performance, the swirling music, the quixotic lyrics, the tightness of the band, his dynamism... magical!

I bought all his albums, and whenever a new one was due for release I would count down the days and be there at the record shop to snap it up. And I tried to get tickets to see him live - how I tried! But every time they would all sell out before I could get one.

I continued to love Bruce over the years, and continued to try and get tickets to see him live. I'm not a great concert-goer to be honest. Over the years I've seen some big names perform - Yes, Jethro Tull, Madonna, Peter Gabriel, Bjork - but most of those it has to be admitted were because I was tagging along with someone else who wanted to see them. But ever since seeing that clip of Rosalita, I really, really wanted to see Bruce Springsteen live.

Well, last night I finally made it! T and I went to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band live in Cardiff... and it was magical. Every bit as wonderful as I'd been hoping all those years. Bruce and the E Street Band may have an extra thirty years weighing on them, but it doesn't show. They're as tight and energetic as ever, and still played a magnificent 3 hour show without a break.

And guess what they played as the last song?* Yes, 'Rosalita'. For all I know Bruce and the band may finish every set with 'Rosalita', but I felt like he was playing it for me. I travelled home with a grin ear to ear, and I'm still smiling now, though this morning my shoulders ache from clapping and arm-waving, and my voice is hoarse from singing along.

Thanks Bruce - you're the Boss!

P.S. Here's a short clip of the original live version of Rosalita I saw all those years ago - for the full length version, go to:

* Actually, after I Googled 'Bruce Springsteen Cardiff' and found some other acounts of the evening, it turns out 'Rosalita' was not the last, but the penultimate song. I hadn't realised, because we had to leave at that point in order to catch the last train back to Carmarthen. I guess years ago I'd have been happy to miss the last train and kick my heels in the station overnight for just one more song - is our decision to leave when we did a sign of the wisdom or the feebleness bestowed by age? Either way, I'm still glad I got to hear 'Rosalita' when I did. It seems even more special, somehow. Bruce moves in mysterious ways!!!

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Danger, Hidden Currents

Recently someone asked me how I got my position within British Reclaiming. This left me somewhat non-plussed, as I didn't realise I had a position within British Reclaiming, or certainly not in the sense that the questioner meant - a position of power and authority. I wasn't really sure how to answer.

I have never been a person who sought out power (actually, even writing this I'm wondering if it sounds too much like I'm trying to blow my own trumpet. I'm not. My natural inclination is in fact to put the trumpet back in the bag, hide the bag behind my back and pretend I have no trumpet - but I digress...). I remember a few Witchcamps back when we were drawing tarot cards at the beginning of path (morning class). I drew a couple of cards which were interpreted for me as meaning, 'great power and authority'. My reaction was to shrink away and protest that I didn't want those cards, they must be meant for someone else!

And yet the question about my position within British Reclaiming got me thinking. I do have several different roles within the community and I suppose this raises my profile. I can see why that may be interpreted as my having some kind of position of power. And yet from where I sit, it doesn't feel like power. The different 'hats' I wear feel like work to me. Work I do willingly and joyfully, because this community and the different ways it comes together are important to me. I readily admit that there is selfishness in my actions: I enjoy working Reclaiming-style magic and ritual, I enjoy Witchcamp, I enjoy the Gatherings, I like - and in many cases love - the people I know within Reclaiming; so in order to maintain and nourish that connection I'm willing to put in the work to ensure it continues. I edit the newsletter, co-moderate the yahoo list, co-organise events and co-teach. In each case, I have started work on these projects simply because it needed doing and I was able to help - and somehow because of this I am perceived as having some kind of authority.

Well, I suppose in a way I do. But it isn't what I came for.

For me one of the attractions of Reclaiming has always been the emphasis on sharing power. In the kind of community I want to be part of, leadership roles are shared. For example, co-teaching is encouraged to model this kind of shared power. Furthermore, if you want to know more about drumming, or priestessing a ritual, or leading a spiral dance for example, those with the expertise and experience will point you in the right direction, offer mentorship and pass on their skills, without being precious about hoarding their knowledge and experience in order to gain an advantage over others. Even initiation is optional and confers no special status on the initiate. At the same time, those with expertise to share hopefully don't feel they must downplay their skills to avoid diminishing others. Of course we all have different levels of knowledge and experience - we are all at different skill levels. That doesn't mean we have to get caught in the 'power-over' paradigm. The Reclaiming Principles of Unity state explicitly that "We strive to teach and practice in ways that foster personal and collective empowerment, to model shared power and to open leadership roles to all. We make decisions by consensus, and balance individual autonomy with social responsibility."

But of course there are also more insidious hierarchies like being in with the in crowd. The danger with this kind of invisible, unspoken hierarchy is that it elevates the few whilst being difficult for 'outsiders' to break into and become part of. Reclaiming is by no means perfect (we're a work in progress!) so this does happen sometimes. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I'm perceived as being part of an 'in crowd' or two myself. The presumed 'in crowds' I'm in don't feel cliquey from my perspective. I think we're friendly people who are open to and inclusive of others. And yet, we have a shared history. We have weathered some pretty severe storms collectively over the years, which has helped to bind us together with mutual trust and respect. No one joining us can share what's past. Does that make us cliquey? Not intentionally. We look forwards as well as back, and we will build new bonds with new people over time. Nevertheless, I understand that our closeness could look daunting to others, and this is problematic when the mere appearance of exclusivity can so easily become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So I am perceived as having both a position of power and powerful friends. And with power, just like popularity, appearances count for a lot. So does that mean I actually have 'power-over' type power? I don't think so, and yet if people are treating me as though I do, isn't that the same thing? How to handle this unexpected and unlooked for responsibility? I want to be an ethical person, but power-over is notoriously slippery to handle, a double-edged sword which subtly corrupts. How best then to negotiate the hidden currents and avoid being submerged in self-importance, or overwhelmed by discomfort over the disparity between how I see myself and how others do? Luckily this is one area in which community can provide its own remedy. At Avalon Spring this year, we worked with the notion that we need our community, in part because 'we cannot see ourselves by ourselves.' I have my own vision of myself, but it is neither 20:20 nor 360°. Luckily I also have wonderful and reliable family and friends who see me clearly. Whilst I can rely on them to hold my hand and tell me I'm wonderful when self-doubt and my inner critic are giving me a drubbing, I can also rely on them to call me on my shit and tell me honestly if I'm getting self-important or smug. Hopefully together we can navigate a relatively straight course with sails neither over-inflated nor deflated. This is truly shared power. And I think I can be comfortable with that.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Gosling Update - and Herbert

The goslings are now two and a half weeks old, and are growing rapidly. They spend most of the day outside the shed with Buffy and Angel , eating the lush early summer grass, snoozing cuddled up to Mum, swimming in the pond and learning goose behaviour and etiquette from their parents!

I find it most amusing that they both copy Buffy and Angel's 'get away from our precious goslings!' stance when they see either of us coming. This entails extending their necks and, in the case of Buffy and Angel, hissing in a threatening manner. In the case of the goslings, it's more of a cute squeak.

This brings me nicely to how their little bodies are changing shape. When they first hatched they were ovoid little balls of fluff with a head and feet. Now they're developing longer necks and their bodies are elongating into a goose shape. They've still got quite a bit of growing to do though.

Thanks for all the suggestions of possible names. I'm actually thinking of calling them Snowy and Sunny, as one is distinctly paler with a white bum, and one is darker with lots of yellowy bits. I'm not sure if this may be sex-linked, as I have no clue as yet to their gender - another good reason for choosing non gender specific names.

Anyway, here's a couple of photos so you can see how they're growing, including one of them doing the 'big scary gosling' pose.

Finally, for Herbert fans, I have at last managed to get a photo of our handsome hero, in typically laid back style:

Monday, 2 June 2008

Litany of the Spring Flowers

It goes like this:

First, snowdrops stand alone against the winter.

Then pussywillows, primroses, daffodils by the roadside.

Next, lesser celandine, delicate windflowers, sweet purple violets.

(A gradual greening of the hedges and trees)

Blackthorn blossoms. A sudden abundance of dandelions.

Cowslips, lady's smock, daisies, forget-me-nots.

Stitchwort stars the bank, speedwells sprawl in grass, ferns unfurl tender fronds.

Bluebells, Queen Anne's lace, red campion, buttercups, jack-by-the-hedge, ramsons.

A froth of sweet-sickly hawthorn flowers.

Red clover, Welsh poppies, ox eye daises, early purple orchids, greater celandine, columbine, wild strawberries.

The momentum increases and as summer erupts I am overwhelmed in a profusion of foxgloves thistles woodruff meadowsweet birds' foot trefoil tufted vetch corn poppies knapweed rosebay willowherb purple loosestrife wild roses honeysuckle brambles mullein figwort...

...and I find myself out under the sun walking barefoot on soft grass listening to birdsong and smiling at the foolishness of lists.