Friday, 26 June 2015

Dragonrise Rising!



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: 

*****
CAMP DESCRIPTION
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.
PATH DESCRIPTIONS
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

Precious



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.    

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Baby Steps




One of the strange things about depression is that whilst you're in its grip, you don't necessarily realise that fact. You don't always feel yourself slipping down into the pit, and even if you do recognise that you are down in those murky depths, it is usually only when you have managed to extricate yourself that you realise just how far down you had slid. Which is probably a good thing. Recognising what a long hard slog it is going to be to reach daylight again would be enough to put anyone off even trying.

I did not realise until recently how depressed I had become over the last few years. It started of course with my divorce, which was not only the end of my relationship with T but - and this is probably the bit it took me longest to see - the end of the life I had been living here at Halfway Up A Hill. While T was the breadwinner, I led an idyllic life tending the garden, growing herbs and veggies and caring for the animals. My schedule was flexible and I could concentrate on the things I most enjoyed (gardening, animal care and in my spare time, writing). I think coming to terms with the end of what I thought was a stable, happy marriage was the most obvious mourning I had to go through, but the loss of the life I thought I had was actually harder to come to terms with and took much longer. It will be 7 years this summer since T walked away, and it has taken nearly that long to fully come to terms with everything and joyfully embrace the life I now have instead of mourning the old one.

Things were complicated of course, by starting a new relationship with IB. That was - and continues to be - a source of great happiness, but starting as it did fairly soon after T had gone, I hadn't really had enough time to process my feelings and regather myself. And because I was in a new, happy relationship many people seemed to think that everything was magically fixed. It certainly helped, but I was also struggling to come to terms with the loss of my idyllic lifestyle. 

This is a beautiful area of the UK, but it is not an easy place to find employment. That, added to the fact that not having worked outside the home for years had left me (a) with outdated qualifications and work experience, (b) lacking in self-confidence and (c) in quite a quandary as to what to actually do. The upshot has been that while I have found employment, it has been in menial, low-paid jobs. I am often tired, usually short of money and always short of time to do the things I would really like to be doing. The worst part of depression is the way it leaves you with no energy or enthusiasm, and the result here at Halfway Up A Hill has been that my beloved vegetable plot and polytunnel are now neglected and overgrown and a backlog of maintenance tasks has built up to mammoth proportions.

Which all sounds incredibly gloomy, and yet it is not. This has all been part of my healing process, my journey back up out of the pit of depression and back into the sun. And now I am truly, truly back in the sun these challenges no longer seem overwhelming. They seem like - well, challenges, but challenges I am finally relishing getting my teeth into instead of ignoring in the vain hope they'll go away.

Baby steps are what I'm taking, instead of trying to tackle the whole big mess in one impossible super-hero style whammy. That is never going to happen. But baby steps added together, one after another are enough. Each little task sorted, each little improvement or repair made adds up to get us a bit closer to the goal of bringing Halfway Up A Hill back to life again.

Last year we tackled the patio area which had become overgrown with brambles and buddleia. After much cutting back and weeding, we have transformed it into a productive herb garden with a sitting area overlooking the valley. And we have enjoyed many barbecues there on sunny evenings! Recently I have added new flowerbeds by the garden steps that lead down to the house and they are looking gorgeous in full bloom. The overgrown area outside the kitchen window has been cleared of junk and nettles and is now neat, weed free and growing a fine crop of lavender, pineapple mint and sugarsnap peas. Working from the house area out, tackling one area at a time, eventually we will get to the vegetable patch and the poytunnel and the orchard. But for now I am proud of what we have achieved, and every time I go out to feed the chickens in the morning, I make time to take a little stroll around these reclaimed areas and enjoy them.

The magical thing is that each little improvement gives me encouragement and incentive to tackle something else. I am reminded of the old Greenpeace slogan, 'The Optimism of the Action is Better than the Pessimism of the Thought'. It is my belief that in difficult times the best thing is to do something. Even if that something is merely weeding the herb garden or feeding the birds. Each time you do something, you remember the power that you have, and remembering that you have the power gives you access to more power.

My final step back up out of depression occurred in January this year. I was driving back from work, feeling blue for no obvious reason, and thinking 'I just wish I could get back to my old self!'. A voice in my head said, 'Why would you get back to your old self? You have been changed by the things that have happened to you. You are not your old self and can never be again. Embrace who you are!'. And it was like a light-bulb went on. Of course I am no longer that same person. Of course I have been changed by events in my life, events I did not necessarily have any control over. But I can own that, accept it and choose how to move forward from here. The changes in my life have made me stronger, wiser, more compassionate. And that cannot be a bad thing.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Real Miracles



Yesterday, IB and I watched in fascination as what seemed like hundreds of mayflies danced past on the breeze. The life story of the mayfly is magical - their eggs are laid in water, and the 'nymph' stage of the insect lives underwater for about a year before developing its wings, at which point it emerges from the water and hides in vegetation for a few hours until it sheds its skin once again to reveal its final, adult form. These adult mayfly tend to appear in great numbers, for they live for just one day and in that time they must mate and produce eggs. So single minded is their purpose that they have no mouths and do not eat. But as they dance and drift in great numbers their fleeting, fragile lives are a reminder of so much that is beautiful, precious, ephemeral.

Last year a story about a photograph that allegedly shows fairies appeared in the press and was shared widely on social networking sites. My initial thought was that the photo was of mayflies, although it now appears that they have been most likely identified as midges. I thought it was a cute story which showed how beautiful and magical even humble insects could be when caught in slanting sunlight and seen in an unfamiliar way. I was amazed to find though, that some people were insisting the photo showed actual fairies. My amazement turned to real irritation when I saw the photo shared on some Pagan pages on Facebook, with people leaving comments like 'This photo definitely shows fairies', 'I believe!' and 'Don't try to tell me these are insects!'. My irritation was because most Pagans would say that Paganism is a nature religion, that we honour and worship the Earth and all Her creations. And yet here were people saying that insects were too mundane and that they wanted fairies. 

I think the ephemeral miracle of mayflies should be magic enough for anyone, without having to turn them into Tinkerbell. There are so many fabulous, amazing and even miraculous natural phenomena in this incredible world we are lucky enough to inhabit. Octopi change their markings as camouflage, make 'gardens', squeeze through the tiniest cracks, use tools. Peacocks display the most amazing plumage. Spiders weave intricate webs from silk that is stronger than steel. A bluebell wood in full bloom. Morning glory clouds. The Aurora Borealis. The changing seasons. The scent of honeysuckle. Bower birds. The unfurling of a fern frond. Sequoias. Platypuses. Rainbows. Albatrosses. The individuality of snowflakes or fingerprints. Otters. Seahorses. Blue whales. Hummingbirds. The dawn chorus. Honeybees. Snow. The miracle of life unfurling from a humble seed...

When I watched the film 'Avatar' for the first time, I was entranced by the beautiful world that had been created for the film. But then I wondered, if I lived there, would it still seem so magical and wonderful? Does familiarity breed contempt? Is that what the determination of people to believe they are seeing fairies instead of midges is telling us?

It is a shame if people feel their lives are so humdrum they must Disney-fy them. It is a shame if people are so out of touch with the world around them that they fail to see the magic that surrounds us. It is especially sad if those who claim to love and worship the Earth don't find its reality enough for them.

Perhaps we need to let go of Tinkerbell, stop clapping our hands and chanting 'I believe, I believe!'. Then maybe we can release the fantasy and open our eyes to the amazing reality that surrounds us. And if we do that we will be able to truly treasure the Earth and perhaps use the energy we have been wasting on Tinkerbell to protect and nurture our amazing Planet.


P.S. You may also like to look at these images of woolly aphids to see how fairy-like insects can appear in the right light. But they are still insects, all the same. 

Friday, 1 May 2015

On Finding Grace in Glastonbury



I first visited Glastonbury over 30 years ago, with my then boyfriend. On the way back from a holiday in Cornwall, we visited the Tor - he being a big fan of all things with an Arthurian connection. I was less enthused, especially when confronted with a large hill to climb. Nevertheless, climb it we did. It was a bright, beautiful day in May. When we reached the top of the Tor the landscape spread before us, stretching out in all directions. Swallows swooped low around our feet, chattering joyfully. As the wind whipped my hair I was filled with an ecstatic feeling - anything seemed possible. I wanted to launch myself off into the air and glide with the swallows. That was my introduction to the magic of Glastonbury.

*****

A few years later, my brother and sister, a couple of friends and I went on a camping trip to Glastonbury. The friends were also Pagans - I had in fact discovered the existence of neo-Paganism when I went to their wedding ceremony which (as they were Viking re-enactors) had been described to guests as a 'Viking wedding' but which actually turned out to be a handfasting performed by a member of their coven. I was fascinated and the rest, as they say is history. The camping trip was basically a chance to hang out, drink cider, visit the Tor/Chalice Well and, of course, shop. Back in those days - the late 1980's - it was hard to find Pagan books, magazines, paraphernalia or indeed fellow Pagans. Glastonbury was like a great cornucopia of Pagan goodies just waiting to be explored. We ate in hippy cafes, drank water from Chalice Well, sniffed incense, drooled over books, athames, jewellery, wands, crystals, cauldrons... On that trip I bought two books that made a huge impression on my early explorations of Paganism - 'The Spiral Dance' by Starhawk, and 'The Mists of Avalon' by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

The magic though, happened the first night we were there. After pitching our tents, cooking dinner and imbibing a few drinks, someone said 'Let's climb the Tor!'. Which we all agreed was a great idea. My memory is that we merely scrambled through a hedge and found ourselves at the foot of the Tor - although I'm sure it can't have been that simple. We began to climb in the gathering twilight. The climb was steep but relatively quick (then again I was a lot younger!). We arrived at the top breathless and exuberant, and turned to look back in the direction we had come. The most beautiful full moon, huge, yellow, was just rising. Dumbstruck by magic and beauty we stood in awed silence. We had not planned this, we hadn't even registered that it was a full moon that weekend. Serendipity had led us to this moment. The magic of Glastonbury, again.

*****

Later, Glastonbury became a place of pilgrimage for me. I visited alone and with friends, usually managing at least one trip a year. When our friends Kevin and Ann's children were younger, the group of us spent some memorable camping holidays there. Later, I discovered Avalon Witchcamp (later Avalon Spring) which was usually held a few miles from Glastonbury and my pilgrimages became tied in with an annual visit to Witchcamp.
Then the kids grew up and the camping holidays petered out. Avalon Spring ran its course and came to an end. Life got in the way and trips to Glastonbury became less regular. Until this year, when my friend Suzanne suggested a trip together. And so we agreed to go to Glastonbury...


*****

Thursday, 9th April
From the outset, everything runs smoothly. The weather forecasters warn of changeable conditions, but we have glorious sunshine the whole time. I am delayed leaving home and worry that I'll be late picking Suzanne up from her train at Bristol, but somehow I arrive with 5 minutes to spare and find a parking space right by the station although the car-park is packed. On arrival in Glastonbury we head straight for the wonderful Rainbow's End and treat ourselves to a delicious lunch. Then a bit of retail therapy and on to our B'n'B which is delightful and conveniently located.

Fabulous mask spotted in a shop window

At the B'n'B I make use of the free Wifi to check in with the rest of the world, discovering via Facebook that our friend Naomi is also in town, although leaving tomorrow. We send her a message hoping we can meet up that evening, and also contact my brother Mike (who lives in Somerset) and my friend Becky who has recently moved to Glastonbury.

We don't hear back before going out for dinner to the Who'd a Thought It in Northload Street, but who should walk in just as we are finishing dinner than Naomi! It turns out she isn't leaving until the following afternoon, so we make arrangements to meet on the Tor for a picnic tomorrow.

Friday, 10th April
Up and out bright and early after breakfast to get some goodies for our picnic. Then on to the tranquillity of Chalice Well Gardens, a place that somehow draws me more these days than the Tor. I have visited the gardens more times than I can remember over the years, but today is special. We arrive just as the gardens are opening, and have the place completely to ourselves for a little while. We make straight for the Wellhead at the top of the gardens, often crowded with people. Today it is just the two of us, though posies and candles remain from previous visitors.


We sit in silence, listening to the threads of birdsong weaving around us and the timeless flow of water through the Well; ever constant, ever changing, eternally flowing. Relaxing, I close my eyes, feeling such a sense of peace and healing. Be here now, the place says to me. Healing is here for you, freely given. The source is constant. I often have a hard time accepting gifts, help, kindness, compliments, nurturing from others. I am more comfortable giving these things. But this time, at Chalice Well I am able to relax and accept what is being offered me, and I can feel it sinking into me, my heart, my blood, my bones. Deep healing, long overdue. I know it is OK to relax and accept this gift, so freely given.

After a little while more people begin to appear in the gardens, obviously wanting quiet time of their own at the Wellhead and we move along, back down through the gardens, following the flow of water. I pause at the Lion's Head spout to anoint my third eye, throat and heart with wellwater, then drink a glassful, consciously taking in healing. We sit for a little while under the yew trees by the waterfall, usually my favourite spot, but today I am restless and want to move on. I listen to my inner voice and follow its promptings, which lead me to the Vesica Pool at the bottom of the garden. Usually this is another busy place, but today it is just Suzanne and I sitting on the sun-warmed benches listening to the gentle splash of water, the birdsong and buzz of bees. I soak up the peace, drink in the tranquillity, allow the sense of being healed to pour into me. Time passes. I allow myself to not care, to drop the mantle of responsibility and anxiety and clock-watching and just be here now.  

*****


We climb the Tor by the long, slow, path. I'm not sure which path is hardest, this or the short, intense one further up the lane. Panting, sweating, we stop frequently for breaks. These bodies aren't as young as they once were. Even a little way up though, the views over the town and the Somerset Levels beyond are amazing on this bright spring day. We persist, and as we crest the hill, we are greeted by singing. A young girl with a guitar and a beautiful voice is singing in Spanish in the ruins of St Michael's tower, taking advantage of the acoustics. We sit and listen while we catch our breath, then find a spot on the grass outside for our picnic. The Tor is busy with a constant stream of visitors. Naomi joins us and we talk and laugh and eat and catch up on what we have all been doing. We think it must be at least three years since we were all last together, maybe more. By the time we are finished eating the wind is getting fierce. We gather up the leftovers before they can blow away and make our way back down, the wind lessening as we descend. Children pass us, running up the Tor like mountain goats, and we laugh at their exuberance contrasting with our own more genteel pace.



At the bottom we notice that the White Spring opposite Chalice Well has opened its doors to visitors - an irregular occurrence. We enter the dim chamber, filled with the sound of running water and voices echoing in the dark. Altars have been set up in alcoves, and candles lit. I especially like the altars for Brigid and Gwyn ap Nudd who is said to live under the Tor, and with whom I once had  strange encounter in this very place.

Altar to Gwyn ap Nudd in The White Spring, Glastonbury

We emerge from the subterranean gloom back into dazzling sunlight. It is time to say our goodbyes to Naomi and drag ourselves from the magic of windswept hills and flowing water.

Later that evening we enjoy a lovely meal at La Terre in Glastonbury High Street, and arrange to meet Michael and Becky the next day.

*****
Saturday, 11th April
We have arranged to meet my brother Michael in Crewkerne this morning. The drive down is lovely, winding our way through pretty Somerset villages and open countryside. We get a little lost in Crewkerne itself, but manage to find the car park where we are to meet Michael just as he drives in behind us. We wander through the town to Bilby's coffee shop, where my brother recommends the Somerset Apple Cake with clotted cream. Although it's not that long since breakfast, Suzanne and I give in to temptation and are not disappointed; the cake is delicious and the clotted cream goes with it perfectly. Although we don't have long in Crewkerne - as we are due back in Glastonbury at lunchtime to meet Becky - time seems to stretch to accommodate us and we have a lovely, relaxed visit with Michael and still arrive back in Glastonbury in time to meet Becky and her new baby daughter, Berry.

We meet in Rainbow's End where somehow - Somerset Apple Cake notwithstanding - Suzanne and I manage to eat another yummy lunch. I get to hold Berry, a delightful, happy, relaxed little soul who snoozes happily in my arms while we chat. Becky tells us about her move to Glastonbury and how everything seemed to fall into place once they decided to make the move - I feel a little envious and mentally flirt with the idea of moving to Glastonbury. Would the place still be so magical if it was my everyday? A strange coincidence occurs when we realise the caravan Becky (who does not know Naomi) is telling us about selling as part of her move is the very same caravan Naomi has told us about buying.

After lunch we say our goodbyes to Becky and Berry, and Suzanne and I make a visit to the Glastonbury Goddess Temple. This is another oasis of calm, somewhere I always try to visit when I'm in the town. From the courtyard below, we climb the wooden stairs to the Temple. Inside, there is the smell of incense, soft music and the glow of candles. There are altars and artwork, chairs and soft cushions and rugs to sit on. A temple 'Melissa' is in attendance, sitting quietly and holding the space. I find a place against the lilac coloured w
all and sink back into the cushions. Again I feel the sense of being nurtured, healed, held. I relax into it again, and initially tears well up - the tears that come when someone offers unexpected kindness in a time of hardship. But the tears soon dry - perhaps they are the last shred of my resistance to accepting the Grace that is being offered me here in Glastonbury. I sit in contented peace, sometimes with eyes closed, soaking in the calm; sometimes gazing at the flickering candles, the beautiful altar, the other people in the temple (including a crawling baby quietly exploring the world at floor level and a little girl, very intently making a drawing which she later presents as a gift to the Melissa). When we leave, the atmosphere of quiet calm comes with us. 

*****
Sunday, 12th April
On our last morning in Glastonbury, we have a few last visits to make before we begin the return journey home. Firstly, we drive the car up Well House Lane to take one last look at the Tor and say our goodbyes.




Then we turn back into town and make our way to St Margaret's Chapel and the Magdalene Almshouses. Neither of us have visited the Chapel before now, but Becky recommended it to us and we are curious. We arrive before opening and wait in the sunshine for the key holder to arrive. The Chapel and Almshouses are tucked away behind a building at one end of the High Street - easy to miss unless you are looking for them. The Chapel stands at one end of a small, but beautiful garden along one side of which run the Almshouses. As we enter the garden, my eyes are immediately drawn to a beautiful carved wooden finger labyrinth. I drop my bag and begin tracing the winding paths with my index finger.


Halfway round, I become self-conscious. Does the key-holder who has just let us in think I am being disrespectful by ignoring the Chapel and rushing to play with the labyrinth? Should I have stood back and asked Suzanne if she wanted to trace the labyrinth first? Another part of me is saying that this too is sacred, a sacred journey that I should perform mindfully, that I should respect the magic of the labyrinth. But ignoring those thoughts I rush to complete my tracing of the paths. I have reached the centre, no time to pause and reflect, to listen to the labyrinth's message - hurry to trace the return journey, get out of the labyrinth. And then something strange happens. As I wind around the paths, I expect to be led back out of the labyrinth again. After all, labyrinths have only one path which leads into the centre and back out again. And yet... I find my finger has traced me back to the centre again. I wasn't aware of losing my way and yet somehow I have. I smile to myself. I should have listened to the voice telling me to slow down and do this properly, respectfully. I was taught to treat labyrinths with respect and I have failed to do so. The labyrinth is letting me know there is no point in rushing, it is done when it is done - and it is not done yet. I lift my finger from the centre, but consciously accept that I am still 'in' the labyrinth, it is working on me, within me. I surrender to it, accepting what it has to teach me.


Suzanne traces the labyrinth, we wander the garden, explore the Almshouses (one of which has been restored to its original condition - tiny yet serene in its simplicity), and I think what a haven this place must have been to the poor and needy in the days when there was no Welfare safety net for them. We sit for a while in the Chapel, which like Chalice Well Gardens and the Goddess Temple is another place of serenity and I feel the touch of Grace again. I light a candle as an act of gratitude.

And then, sadly it is time to go. I do not want to leave this calm sanctuary, I do not want to leave Glastonbury. And as I am thinking these thoughts, I see - very briefly - two swallows fly overhead and disappear. The first swallows I have seen this year. The sight I have been waiting for so impatiently. The swallows I wrote about wanting to see (strangely enough) on our first night in Glastonbury. To me it is a sign of hope and promise, and a sign that our trip is at an end. It is definitely time to go.

 

Well, almost... there is one final thing to do before I can leave Glastonbury. I take my place back in front of the finger labyrinth. This time, I do it properly. I relax, breathe, and place my finger back in the centre of the labyrinth, where - I notice - a heart is carved. I listen. Do not rush the journey. It is not about reaching the goal, the centre, the prize. It is about the journey. Experience the journey, let it take as long as it takes. Take the time you need for yourself. Accept the gifts that are offered to you. Accept that you are loved and no more or less deserving than anyone else. Learn to accept what is offered. Remember the heart at the centre of the labyrinth. I take another deep breath and trace my way back out of the labyrinth. This time it is easy, effortless, and I find myself exiting more quickly than seems possible. I have left the labyrinth, but I take its message and its spirit with me.

We leave Glastonbury then, and begin our return journeys home, me to Wales, Suzanne to South London. There is much to ponder as I drive back along the motorways that lead me westward. I feel I have been given so much, I have healed wounds I didn't even realise were still sore. Such unexpected magic and serendipity. So much Grace, unlooked for yet gratefully received. 

I think of the heart at the centre of the labyrinth and smile.     
   

*****

If you would like to know more about Glastonbury and its sacred places, this is a great resource. 



Saturday, 18 April 2015

Every Day, There Is Something New...

 


Every day there is something new. This morning, the first cowslips. Yesterday I heard the chatter of swallows for the first time this year (yes, they're back!). And before that, lady's smock, blackthorn blossom, the smell of newly-mown grass, magnolia flowers, a slow worm basking in the sun.

New, and yet familiar. Because I have seen all these things before, they are familiar. But they are new again each year as the seasons turn and the Earth and her beings cycle through life. What a miraculous paradox we live in - and how strange and yet natural that we should take it for granted. It is, after all, the reality we live in.

Thinking on this, I imagine the span of my life like the tightly coiled loops of a telephone cord (yes, the old-fashioned ones when telephones still had cords!). The spiral grows in length, but it coils round and around, coming back to almost the same spot yet NOT the same spot. Somewhere the same, yet a bit further on. Somewhere different, yet a place that can be recognised because the spiral has travelled this route before.

Sometimes the path of our lives is like this. We all have patterns of behaviour that repeat, and sometimes these cause us problems. And it can be so hard to see that it is our repeating patterns causing the difficulties in life. If the same problem in different guises keeps cropping up, it is worth examining it to see how you yourself may be contributing to the dynamic. Recently, I have ended more than one 'friendship' after realising that my role as a 'people pleaser' was enabling certain people to take advantage of me and that I needed to be more firm about my boundaries. My desire to please was leading me to say yes, whether I wanted to or not. It can be hard to make such changes, but it can be done - and we are all works in progress!

And so we continue on, spiralling around and further along. The spiral sometimes makes it hard to see how far we have come, yet look back along its length. Who were you 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago? The same, yet different. Always growing, always changing, always revisiting what needs to be revisited, always finding a new way to travel the path.

Every day, there is something new...


        

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Impatient

Spring is unfolding in every hedgerow. Suddenly there are celandines, raising bright shining faces to the sun. The fields are green, bees nuzzle honey from heather, and even the thorn-harsh thicket offers tender new leaves. 

I am watching, waiting for the first swallows, eager as a child is for Christmas. Surely they will come soon, and my heart will leap in welcome. It has been so long, a whole winter long of longing for spring. When they come, they will swoop in joy, and there will be apple blossom and bluebells and beech leaves, warm nights and long days. 

But for now I wait, and count every sign of spring, squirrelling them away like precious morsels to remind and reassure myself that soon the swallows will return, and summer in their wake.


Sunday, 22 March 2015

On This Bright Spring Morning


On this bright spring morning I peg out the washing, the sun warm on my back though there's frost in the fields. I listen to the song of small birds, the contented chicken murmurs, the cry of lambs and the sound of distant church bells. I notice the fattening buds on the trees, the hazel catkins and the daffodils raising their faces to the sun. One of the cats rubs against my legs.

All's right with the world on this bright spring morning.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Dragonrise Witchcamp 2015




Walking to the Stone Circle in the meadow at Dragonrise in 2013 
 
I am very happy to announce that I will be teaching at Dragonrise Witchcamp again this summer. This will be my second time at Dragonrise (you can read about my first year here).
 
 
 
Dragonrise is a long-weekend family-friendly camp full of magic!

The next camp will take place between 30 July to 2 August 2015 at Wildways on the Borle in Shropshire.

Dragonrise is open to all ages and experience levels and has already built up a reputation for being accessible for newcomers, challenging for more experienced folks and welcoming to all.

Together we will learn magic, weave stories and grow. In 2009 we began a new adventure, a family friendly Witchcamp in Britain, originally called Sunrise. We would love for you to join us this year as we spread our wings again. Our goal is to be eco-friendly and as affordable as possible, while facilitating a magical experience for all who join us.

A Reclai
ming Witchcamp is an intensive period of time working together with like-minded individuals within the context of a story. You choose which path you would like to take throughout our time together and each morning join teachers who will guide your learning. Each evening we come together in ritual based on the story of the week.

Throughout the camp you will learn new skills, meet new people, forge new friendships and grow in yourself.

Our first camp was in August 2009, in our previous incarnation as Sunrise Camp.

Our second camp was in August 2011, under our new and permanent name of Dragon Rise. We worked with the wonderful story, Dragonhearted, by Suus. Witches and witchlets arrived in the hills of Snowdonia from all over Europe, finding our dragon wings and opening our dragon hearts.

Our third camp was Catching the Tale in August 2013 at Wildways where we worked with Lugh and Brigid and the power of stories, rewriting our own in the process!

Witchcamp will change your life, just like magic!

This year we will be working with a beautiful myth from Shropshire and it is looking like it will be a wonderful camp! If you would like to join us, booking details can be found on the Dragonrise website here: http://dragonrise.spruz.com/downloads.htm. Click to download details and a booking form.

 
 

The Skylodge at Wildways, Dragonrise 2013
 
 
 

Sunday, 8 March 2015

The Owls

 


The owls announced it first, twitting and quavering back and forth across the valley to each other. Engrossed in my task of chopping wood I hadn't even noticed, but they prompted me to look up and register the oncoming twilight.

The sun dropped behind the hill and daylight gradually drained away into the west. As I stacked the logs and put away the axe, I listened to the birds singing the sun to bed, the rooks gossiping as they settled in the rookery for the night, the owls greeting each other in the gloaming.

I listened intently to the sounds of oncoming night, smelled the woodsmoke on the breeze, watched the darkening sky.

As a last, tardy wren flitted to her roost, the stars appeared: first bright Venus following the sun, then more and more pinpoints of light like tiny guiding lanterns. Orion was completely visible by the time the birds finally fell silent.

I shut the chickens away and walked back to the house, the comforting glow of light in the porch beckoning me in.

Good hunting, owls.


Thursday, 26 February 2015

Winged Messengers

 
 
Snippets From my Journal...
 
This morning a heron, grey as the sky, rose up out of the mist and flew before me, great slow wing-beats into the trees. There is magic everywhere, look for it and it is there.
 
This morning, two bluetits perched on the windowsill, not a foot away from where I sat writing. Cheeky clowns, hanging upside down and chattering with each other, tiny bright-eyed balls of feather and bustle. Remember that joy and play are as much a part of life as seriousness and work.
 
And now, as I write, the heron flies overhead again as if in salute, or acknowledgement, or benediction. I am blessed.
 
*****
 
Starlings gleam in the slanting sun, their wings translucent gold silhouetted against the sky. Magical, mystical, fairy tale birds until they land and become once again, a small flock of garrulous fallen angels. The divine is immanent, if not always obvious.
 
 



Sunday, 4 January 2015

Quick Update in Photos

As I mentioned in my last post, I was unable to post new photos to the blog for a while. So here are a few that I would have posted, had I been able to. It also serves as a quick round up of what IB and I have been up to.


 
In the spring, during a visit to a nearby farm I unexpectedly found myself helping deliver a calf  as the cow was in difficulty and an extra pair of hands was needed. Luckily all went well and the photo shows both mother and baby both fit and well a short while afterwards.

 
IB and I spent an idyllic afternoon in May wandering in gorgeous bluebell woods. I could hardly bear to leave.

 
 
We have had many lovely times with friends in our local Pagan community - there have been Moots (monthly social gatherings), seasonal rituals, meals out to celebrate birthdays, and workshops - this photo is from a wand-making workshop.
 

 
There have been lots of interesting places to visit - to Brecon with my parents to meet up with my sister and brother-in-law...

 
...to Castell Henllys in Pembrokeshire to see Robin Williamson perform (a magical bardic evening in an Iron Age roundhouse by firelight)...

 
...to the beautiful Aberglasney Gardens to wander in beauty and enjoy a delicious meal on the lakeside terrace...

 
...and another trip to Madrid...

 
...to see the ever-wonderful Rubinoos...

 
...and a Winter Solstice visit to see the Mari Lwyd at the National Botanic Garden of Wales (where we also enjoyed a fabulous exhibition of Jackie Morris' paintings).
 
 

Friday, 2 January 2015

Better Late Than Never

 
Mandrake showing remarkable restraint around Christmas decorations

It has been a while since I posted. For a large part of last year I was beset by technical problems. My computer decided to deny me access to my photographs, and I could neither upload nor download photos. Hence most of the photographs in newer blogposts have been recycled from earlier posts. I couldn't even share photos of our new kittens (well, new in Autumn 2013) - be warned, that will soon be remedied!

Then my email vanished into the ether when my email provider was bought out by a bigger company who promised 'nothing would change' and then promptly disabled the service with no warning, explanation or apology. Then I managed to get locked out of my 'alternative' email address when it prompted me to change my password then steadfastly refused to recognise either the new or old passwords.

My misery was compounded when my broadband suddenly ceased working. This was complicated by the fact that the account was still in T's name, as it had been set up some years ago as part of a phone package he had bought. The broadband was free (this was when they were trying to get people to switch to broadband) so I hadn't wanted to rock the boat by changing the name of the account holder in case I would have to start paying. IB and I tried everything to fix the broadband before finally having to get T involved. He very kindly investigated for us, only to confirm that it had been disabled as that tariff (i.e. free!) was no longer available. So I then had to search for a new provider. I got one arranged, but a couple days before it was due to start, there was a big storm during which the house was hit by lightning. Luckily, there was no damage except for the phone line which was fried (no I can't believe it either). That took 3 weeks to get fixed.

All in all, it seems like events were conspiring to keep me away from my blog. So it has been a lo-o-o-o-o-o-ong time between posts. But it is a new year, I am back and will be hopefully making up for lost time over the coming weeks.

In the meantime, kitten pics!!!


 
A sleepy baby Woodruff

 
Despite being from different litters, Mandrake and Woodruff are inseparable

 
The candle is much shorter these days, and Woodruff is much larger! I will have to take a new photo for comparison.

 
Woodruff being adorable.

 
Mandrake is always in search of fun.

 
Mandrake.

 
A bit older in this one..
 

 
Nearly fully grown!

 
And as you can see, they have settled in well with the rest of the household...

 
...which doesn't leave much room on the sofa for the humans!