A tale for Imbolc

This is a bit late again but here is my latest seasonal story offering. It is probably the most personal one that I have written so far, as well as the longest. I hope you enjoy it.

Spring blessings to all.

A Tale for Imbolc

The grey sky filled the expanse of window. Jenny watched as the winter winds blew another blanket of thunderous clouds across her vista. Normally she loved to watch the world from her window seat it; never normally mattered if it was the rain beating against the glass or the sun shining in her eyes as it sailed across the day. It was usually an endless pleasure watching the hills and trees change colour and cast incredible shadows with the shifting sunlight; the crops in the fields growing and changing from season to season, and all the routines and squabbles of the birds and animals as they went about their daily lives, Jenny watched it all from that lofty perch; it had always made her heart sing, but not today. Today there was nothing to see but the endless grey. She felt restless, imagining herself as a tiger pacing a groove behind impenetrable zoo bars and resenting the people free to wander beyond the confines.

The wind and the rain had been relentless, for weeks on end there had been no let up. She missed being outside, she felt trapped, worse she felt bored.  Despite all her pleading and promising to be careful her mother would not let her go out walking, because of all the flooding she said, so she had been relegated to the house. Mother had tried to placate her trying to persuade the girl to make cakes with her and the boys, but Jenny wouldn’t be shifted from her ranker and had stomped off to take a moody refuge in her room.

In sullen mood she viewed the patch of garden below her window, it looked battered and sodden; even the chickens would not come out of their hen house to rummage through the boarders, it was so wet. She sighed, wrapped her arms around her knees then rested her chin on them. She could hear Joseph and Jamie running about the house making their usual racket and resented their lack of concern for the enforced imprisonment.

“Boys” she snorted and dove deeper into the dark well of resentments against the weather, her mother and the world in general.

“If Dad was here he would let me go out”. But he wasn’t here was he, and there was another resentment to add to the list. She buried her head in her knees and let the tears fall.

“So much pain in a little heart”. The soft voice penetrated the darkened room. Jenny opened her eyes and glared into the gloom “Mum?”

She must have been imagining things, had she fallen asleep? She got up carefully unfolding her stiff legs, rubbing at her cold arms as she searched for a cardigan.

“It’s been a long dark winter, hasn’t it child?” Jenny span round, her heart pounding out of her chest, and glared in the direction of the voice. It had come from the darkest corner of her room. She could just make out the shape of the chair that resided there and the shadowy figure of a woman.  She seemed to be watching the girl impassively from the shadows.

Who was this and what was she doing in her room? Jenny felt the rise of righteous indignation at her space being invaded by a stranger.

“Who are you? I didn’t hear you come in and why’s my mum let you come in here without asking me first?”

“Your mother doesn’t know I am here.” The voice was soothing and utterly unconcerned by the girl’s bluster. “I’m here for you Jenny. I heard you crying. I felt you needed me.”

“But who are you and how did you get in here without mum knowing?”  the girl’s voice vibrated with confusion and fear. “And how could you’ve heard me crying?”

“I hear all those in pain and in need of healing. Jenny there is so much pain in this house I could not just walk by, not on this evening.”

“I don’t understand, I don’t understand what you’re talking about and I don’t know how you got into my room. I’m calling mum.”

“She wont hear you.”

“Mum, mum there’s someone in my room, mum.”

The child backed up against the door keeping her eyes fixed on the shadows and waited for her mother come running. When nothing happened she dragged the door open and launched herself out of the room expecting her mother to meet her in the hallway. She stopped short in the middle of the empty space, the house was eerily still and quiet. There was no sound of the boisterous brothers charging about the place, no radio or T.V, either from the kitchen or lounge, nothing at all. She threw a glance back at her room then charged headlong for the stairs.  Leaping down the stairs two at a time she landed hard at the bottom and headed for the kitchen where her mother was most likely to be found. She skidded to a halt in the kitchen doorway transfixed by the scene that greeted her.

The kitchen was a frozen tableaux of chaotic events. Her mother stood at the kitchen table still as a statue frozen. Her body was contorted from trying to steady herself and the table whilst avoiding the boy shaped missiles that had fired through the room, and at the same time she was trying to wipe her face with a floury hand. The table was awash with cake baking stuff all of which had been knocked for six: butter, sugar, flour, tins and paper cases, all in various states of tip and slide. Jenny noticed that eggs had broken and were also mid slide heading for a messy rendezvous with the floor.

The culprits for the disarray, her brothers, had been caught like a 3D photo, in the act of barrelling around the table having knocked it sideways. One of the boys, Joseph, was now hung in the air, suspended in the act of falling. His face was contorted with the certain knowledge that a world of pain of various kinds would be dominating in his immediate future. Meanwhile his twin, having made it safely to the other side of the table, had pulled up sharp and was mid turn toward the action behind him. The girl looked at his curious expression, it seemed caught between several emotions.

Jenny stared wide eyed and open mouthed at the frozen room. Curiosity overtook fear, she walked carefully into the room afraid to disturb the air lest the whole scene should collapse. She bent and looked at her falling brother’s face and laughed. She examined the frozen drip of egg white and spray of flour suspended in mid air. Every detail was crystal clear, a moment trapped in…trapped in what? She moved further around the room examining everything in detail ending up beside Jamie. He was looking at their mother, his expression was so confused, Jenny was not sure why her stomach turned over as she studied his face. She could see in his eyes the feelings of hilarity at his brother’s falling, also the knowledge that his mother was going to be so mad, but there was something else. When she looked deeper and could see an edge of fear and confusion in his eyes, she followed his gaze.

Her mother was the fulcrum point of the chaos. It all pivoted around her, and as she studied her Jamie’s expression was more understandable. Their mother’s eyes were red, she was crying, tears where in the process of making tracks down her floury cheeks. Why was her mum crying? She never cried, she shouted and yelled and told them to get out, but she never cried. In all that frozen chaos her mother, in tears, was the thing that struck Jenny hardest.

“She does cry  you know, all the time, but only when she is alone.”

Jenny drew in a sharp breath; she had forgotten about the woman in her bedroom. A tall, elegant woman stood in the kitchen doorway dressed in clothes that seemed out of date by a hundred years. Her skin was old and almost as white, like snow; the effect was etherial, she almost shimmered. But it was her dark, deep set eyes that had made the girl gasp. No whites, there were no whites to her eyes! The woman made no move into the room, but stood regarding Jenny with gentle concern.

“Who are you? And what’s happened to my family?” The child’s voice was full of confusion and fear. “I don’t understand what’s happening, how is this happening?” She caught a sob in her throat not wanting to give the woman the satisfaction of seeing her cry.

“I am here because you all called me.”

“I don’t know who you are or how I could’ve called you and I don’t care right now. What I do want to know is what’s happened to them?” She thrust an indignant finger toward her family and went to continue.

The woman raised her hand to stop the indignant railing. “They are fine, they are not hurt, just suspended. Every one of you, in your own way, has called me this past year. I heard your prayers as you sat by the well in the garden. You gave me offerings, flowers and coins, but I can’t give what you have asked for. I can’t turn back time, I cannot bring your father back and take away all the pain. This pain is a gift, though you will not understand that for a long while, just believe me one day it will help you.”

Jenny stifled another sob rising in her throat and blinked back a tear. “The well in the garden?” She whispered remembering how she had sat for hours talking to the water, they had all done that? Mum and the boys too? They had all felt the same?

They had all known the stories about the White Lady of the well, how she helped people, could this really be her?

The well itself was far older than the house and in the spring every year they would dress it with flowers and sing the old songs; it was a tradition in the family. Grandma and grandpa had done it, and their parents too. “Honour the Lady of the well, tell her your troubles,” grandma had said whenever Jenny had regaled her with how cross she was with her brothers or her parents, “she’ll always listen, even if no one else will.” So she always had taken her cares and woes with a flower or a coin down to the well.

This past year she had needed to talk to someone so many times when she was feeling alone, adrift. Dad was gone, mum was angry all the time and the boys? They were just too young and, well, just boys, how can you talk to them? So she had talked to the well, there had been no one else to understand or so she had thought, till now.

But, she says, they had all called her? Did her brothers feel the same as her?She had often caught one or other of them watching her out of the corner of her eye as she leaned over the well’s edge, looking into the water through the iron grill. Were they waiting for her to leave, or wondering what she was feeling? She hadn’t imagined they thought or felt anything at all, how can you feel anything crashing around the place as if nothing had changed at all? Were they really that unhappy too? Was her mum just as sad and lonely as she was?

All these thoughts flashed through her head. She questioned every feeling, all the sense of loss, anger and upset she had believed to be her’s alone, now she realised that wasn’t true, everyone had been feeling the same. They had all felt every bit as unhappy it was just that no one had known how to speak to anyone but the White Lady. She looked around the room at her family and felt a pang of guilt. She looked at her mother and realised how hard it must have been to hold it all together on her own. She had never regarded her mother as having feelings before and she wondered how she could have been so blind.

“You mustn’t think that way Jenny.” The gentle voice chided. “You have been a child and entitled to think just of yourself for a while, but you are changing.”

She stepped forward into the room and took the young girl’s hand and continued. “You are ready now for the transition from child to young woman. Soon you will want to put childish things to one side. You are more open and able to feel and see things than you have ever been, which is why I can help you. You have the power to help yourself and all of them too.” As she was speaking the dark eyed woman swept her gaze around the room looking at each person, coming back to rest on Jenny’s puzzled expression. “It only takes one small act of kindness to change the world, but it takes a brave person to make it happen. How brave are you Jenny? Can you find it in yourself to change your world?”

“I don’t understand, what do you want me to do?” The girl was feeling overwhelmed and intimidated by all this, this weirdness, what did this woman want? Why was this all happening? None of it made any sense.

“I want my mum”. She cried, the sound coming right from the bottom of her boots, up through her gut and out through her mouth.

“I want my mum and I want my dad and I don’t want this. I want everything to be ok again.” She howled out a cry of raw pain and she kept on howling.  Her knees buckled as out of her poured every emotion she had been keeping to herself since her father’s.

The world exploded, the silence shattered into a riot of clattering tins, falling eggs and children hitting the floor all at once. From far away Jenny heard her mother shout. “Oh my god girl where the hell did you spring from?”  At the same time Joseph yelped in pain as he hit the cold tiles.

The children’s mother’s instant reaction was practical first, making sure Joseph was not badly hurt, before turning back to Jenny sobbing on the floor.

“Jamie put the kettle on will you and get me a cloth please.”

“Ok”

Jamie filled the kettle and retrieved a cloth from the sink, whilst Joseph sat on the floor rubbing his elbows looking from Jamie to his mother and then to his shuddering, howling mess of a sister, he was utterly confused.

Jenny felt her mother lift her onto a chair and stroke her hair, then set too mopping up the scrambled eggs under the table; it took her a few minutes to scrape up the sticky mess. As she sat on the chair Jenny realised the only real sounds to be heard in the kitchen were that of the gas under the kettle, that was building a head of steam, and her own sobbing. The atmosphere in the room had become calm concern, everyone was watching her. A sudden urge to make a bolt for the stairs and the sanctuary of her room rushed over her.

“Do you have the courage to change your family’s future Jenny?” The voice was in her head, she knew it, but she looked around the room anyway.

Another loud sob caught in her throat as she took the plunge into the resentment well’s depths. She couldn’t look at her mother as the verbal rush of feeling spilled from her, everything she had thought or felt or wondered in the past year spluttered out between the heavy sobs. How angry she had been with her parents, both her dad for dying and leaving them, her mum for always being angry, her brothers for being boys, it wasn’t fair, none of it was fair. “Why couldn’t it all just be like it was?” She had wailed.

Her mother stood listening quietly until the tirade abated then she pulled another chair close to her daughter’s and sat down, wrapping an arm around the girl, then beckoned the boys over to join them. They held each other for a long time as the kettle whistled away on the stove and Jenny sobbed into her mother’s lap.

Jamie was the first to break the spell, he pulled away from his mother’s arm to turn off the gas, silencing the whistling demon. He made them all tea and put the mugs down amid the scattered remnants of the cake baking, then he began to clean up the kitchen.

“I am so sorry, I promise you things will be different this year.” Their mother’s voice was hoarse and faltered as she spoke, “This year has been so hard I have been angry and sad too. I thought if I just kept life normal we would get through and everything would be okay.” She sniffed and wiped her nose with the eggy cloth.  “It doesn’t feel normal though does it? And I really don’t think any of it is fair either?”, she looked down and stroked the tousled head buried in her lap. “It cant ever be like it was Jenny, you know that, we all know that. Daddy can’t ever come back. We have to let him go and get on with living our lives without him; you, me and the boys together.” Her voice caught in her throat as she spoke the last sentence.

Joseph drew closer still to his mother and brushed some of the flour off of her face. “S’all right mum” he grinned “we’ll manage, you’ve got us to be men of the house now, hey Jamie?”

“Yup” Jamie confirmed as he picked up the paper cases and dropped them back in the baking tins then went to the fridge to find some more eggs.

“Oh, no more eggs, shall I go and see if the hens have laid any more mum?”

Mum looked down at Jenny who was mostly quiet now, only the occasional shudder of emotion.

“Maybe Jenny wants to go?” Jenny lifted her head from her mother’s lap and looked into her eyes. “ You wanted to go out earlier and it’s still just about light enough to see, you could put the chickens to bed if you like.” They both managed a weak smile.

“Ok”

“Make sure you put your wellies on love.”

“I will”

“And your coat, and don’t go too close to the well, it’s really treacherous out there with the water so high.”

“I won’t”

“Don’t forget the egg basket”

“I’ve got it” And the backdoor slammed behind her.

Making her way across the twilit garden toward the henhouse, Jenny breathed in great lungfuls of cold, clear air. Her head was spinning from tiredness and spent emotions, but it felt good to be outside.

What had happened? Was any of it real? She must have fallen asleep on the window seat and had some kind of mental dream. Maybe she had walked down to the kitchen while still asleep, at least that would make some kind of sense.

“Cos none of it makes any sense, things like that don’t happen, life just isn’t Harry Potter, is it?” She threw the rhetorical question at the chickens as she rummaged about the nesting boxes gathering any eggs lying hidden in the straw. The chickens stayed remarkably mute on the whole subject obviously preferring to keep their normally raucous observations to themselves for once.

Jenny exited the hen house and made sure the bolts were firmly slid into place; much as she loved the foxes they were not going to make a meal out of her chickens. She picked up the egg basket and was on her way to the backdoor when something stopped her dead in her tracks. A movement over by the well, turning slowly she imagined seeing a fox or badger on patrol. A little early in the evening for either of them though, she mused, then almost dropped the egg basket. Walking toward her was the woman from her dream, at least she thought it was the same woman.

As she drew closer Jenny realised the woman was wearing a dark cloak with the hood raised and, even though the wind was still quite gusty, the cloak hardly moved at all.

The woman’s face and hands were not covered by the cloak and her white skin seemed to shine even brighter in the open air. She smiled broadly at the girl and reached a slender hand out toward her. Without thinking Jenny took the proffered hand and allowed herself be lead toward the well; her boots splashing through the pools of standing water. As they walked she gazed up in stupefied admiration at the woman’s beautiful face. It was younger, less weary worn than before.

“Why wouldn’t you tell me who you were earlier?”

“I didn’t need to tell you child, you already knew.” The woman laughed.

“You were old before.”

“I still am, but the world is turning and things are changing, so I will look younger day by day for a while at least.”

They reached the well, the water was almost overflowing. Jenny had never, in her whole eleven years, seen it so high. It made her feel uncomfortable as the muddy earth sucked at her boots; now she understood why her mother was so touchy about her getting too close. Jenny’s boots were immersed up to the middle point, but the White lady’s feet seemed to be a dry as a bone.

“Life is not like Harry Potter” the girl intoned inside her own head, but another look at the lady’s apparently dry feet put pay to that statement.

“This place will never harm you Jenny, it loves you as much as you love it, but listen to your mother anyway. I wanted you to know you did a brave thing today. Someone needed to say the things you said.”

“I didn’t feel brave” the girl protested, “I felt angry and frustrated, it wasn’t brave to shout at them all.”

“Sometimes words that seem angry are actually full of love. If you learn to truly listen you will begin to feel the real meanings beneath the overflow of emotion; you will come to hear more than just the words the speaker says. If you can respond with kindness you may just give them the chance to view their situation with more clarity. The well of emotions will often overflow, but if you are careful it need never overwhelm you. Today you lifted a dark cloud from your home and made some clear air for your family to breath again; if you keep talking and listening to each other, you will all be fine.”

“Jenny, where are you? You’ve been out there for ages.” Her mother’s voice was strained and sounded cross.

“Cross or frightened?” The white lady smiled.

“Both I think” grinned Jenny. “I’d better go”

She set off through sucking mud as quickly as possible, trying desperately not to loose her boots or the egg basket on the way; after a few steps she turned to say thank you, but the woman was no where to be seen.

“Jenny?”

“Coming”

“You’ve been up by the well, I thought I told you not to go too close”

“Sorry mum I thought I saw something, I’ve got the eggs”

“Come on get those muddy boots off and leave them out here. What am I going to do with you?”

Jenny stood on the back step and looked toward the well again, she whispered “Thank you” as she pulled off her boots and went in side.

“So this is the new normal is it? Well, maybe life could be just a little bit Harry Potter after all.”

by Cerri Lee

The Longest Night

 

 

solsaccardweb

by Cerri Lee 2013

She waited patiently. The temple tomb built by her people so many years before was where she chose to await his return. The shortest day retreated allowing the land to slip back into the wide arms of night. In the sky tiny sparks flicked into vision. They gathered in ones and twos at first, gradually building in number in the deepening gloom; like an excited audience gathering for the event they danced and sparkled. In their lofty patterns she could read the ancient stories, the histories, legends and myths of all the lands that lay below them. Intermittently the twinkling sparks would be obscured by great white clouds harried and driven by an irritable Zephyr. She was impervious to the irascible wind that whipped at her corse, dark hair and set her green raiment rippling across her belly. Nothing could distract her from this night’s vigil, not this night. This night above all other nights, was theirs.

Far in the distance came the sound she had been waiting for, the faintest sound of chanting voices, thrown on the turbulent air. It had begun.

The clouds above took on a reddish hue, the fires had been lit. Soon her people would come, but only when they had sung and drummed and danced around the sacred fires. And then, after they had spoken the sacred words, laid the bones in the rebirthing cauldrons, and all ritual completed; after all that, he would seek her out, she would know his touch once more.

The orange glow on the clouds grew brighter, the smell of wood smoke and burning animal flesh filled the air. The animals had been sacrificed the day before, their calls and cries had been heard for miles around. They had not suffered unduly, their souls had been released with as much reverence and ritual as any human’s passing, allowing them to traverse the veil into the Summerlands as companions and guides. All would find their place in that new adventure, all would be ambassadors from this life into the next. They too would come to her.

The night deepened and as the stars tracked their celestial paths, the hypnotic rhythms of drum and chanting became more distinct. As the night wore on the shamans built the energy to frenetic crescendos, holding the energy until the dancers found themselves utterly at one with drums. Then the beat would fall to almost nothing, a whisper, teasing the feet to find the sound, only to rise again wilder and stronger than before. She could feel the whirling dancers beating their feet on the earth, hear their ecstatic calls and whoops as they cried to the spirits of the dead, the elements and all the forces of the world seen and unseen.

The stars span on in that endless night that seemed to be stretching its arms wider than ever before, the Hunter strode majestically along the horizon and the Plough cut its furrow across the blackness, she ached for the dawn. The drummers and dancers muscles ached, their throats were parched from smoke and dust and song, but they went on. They would all be glad of their mead when the morning came, but would never stop before the shaman’s drum. What if the dance was stopped for the simple wants of an aching body, if the songs were not sung because of a dry throat, if the sacrifices were not made, what then? What would become of them? Would his return? Would the dead be reborn? Aching bones or no, the dance would go on, anything else was unthinkable.

So the drum sang, they all sang and everyone danced for the Sun’s return, the wounded light of the heavens who’s time it was to die. He could do no more so they would aid his transition to a new cycle. He would be renewed and in his new life would come the rebirth of all that had passed through the veil and the quickening of the land. They sang to re-kindle the flame that would warm the seed in the belly of the Great Mother who waited in the temple. They danced for their beloved dead and for the healing of the land, they called to all of the powers of the seen and unseen worlds to aid them in this darkness.

Flames leapt and fire sprites danced spiralling up from the fires as more wood was thrown on and within the circle the dancers were joined by ghostly shadows. The dark shades grew from dust covered feet, every movement made by flesh and bone was echoed in exaggerated shadowy limbs that whirled and circled about the fires. The dark figures growing as tall as giants against the standing stones or shrinking to nothing against the floor, as all spun and leapt in the firelight.

It was at that moment the dancers knew the ancestors were with them.

Long years the temple to the Great Mother had stood beneath the stars. It had been built with love and dedication by all the tribes for her, a home for the dark times. She had been drawn to their magic and had listened to their prayers. In their way they understood her cycles and the need for his return. When the temple to her creative power had first been completed she had entered in and explored. It was then he had found her. Oh the joy of it!

She had taken on the human aspect if only for a short while, focusing all thought and feeling in one tiny space, at one moment in time, then he had come as heat rising inside her and struck at that sweet place. In that moment of union she had truly felt it all, their fleeting lives, their hopes, dreams and fears, so many fears. So profound, so passionate all over and done in the blink of an eternal eye.  And so she returned year after year to claim that one brief and blissful moment.

The wind had calmed by degrees so the clouds had slowed to an easy glide across the firmament. Finally it seemed that the darkness was beginning to lift. The light from the fires began to diminish as did the sound of the drums. No longer wild or frantic drum rhythms or whopping voices, they were barely audible now, just a low susurration on the gentle breeze. They would be coming soon and so would he.

The shamans had been watching the sky. At last the horizon had begun to change hue; the light was rising. They began to slow the rhythm, the dancers matching their pace, tired limbs, heads still whirling, yet dimly aware their part in the ritual was coming to a close. Slowly they began to make the last sacred gestures of the dance, honouring the sky above and the earth beneath them. Finally bowing low to their shadowy companions acknowledging their presence and blessings on the rite. The shades echoed back the acknowledgment but did not fade. All knew the ancestors would join the procession to the tomb, they always did.

A signal was given and the tribes to gather for the procession, the lines of tired people stretched far in the distance. All the tribes of the lands were there, arrayed with torches and banners. At the head of the line came the sacrificial bones, the bones of those who had died at the time of the summer solstice. Their deaths had been auspiciously timed for their tribes. Dying on the day of a solstice, particularly a summer solstice, was unusual. It marked them as an ambassador for the tribe, it would be their task to take messages to the Sun and the Great Mother at the next solstice. In their death throws they had been attended with much ritual and had painfully memorised the ritual pleas and bargains to be offered. After death their bones had been prepared and honoured throughout the ripening times within the solar rituals. They brought with them the full power of the Sun in their bones. Now, in this final ritual, their task would be to reside deep in the belly of the Mother and commune with the Gods, until the next ambassadors were chosen.

With flickering flame and dancing shadows the procession moved through the avenue toward the grass topped temple. The flames of the torches were burning low as the procession reached the dark mouth of the temple tomb. The great, green mound was silent, the bare trees, no longer tortured by the wind. The utter darkness of the entrance seemed to pull the eye, but repel the mind. The procession stopped, the shamans and bearers of the bones stood before the black opening. A low hum from the people and the crackling of dying torches was all the sound to be heard, the two lines fanned out on either side of the mound. The shamans turned to look at the horizon where a glow of pale light shimmered, they turned back to the entrance and signalled the bone bearers forward. Accompanied by a slow heart beat on the drum the bones were carried up through the passage. The dwindling torches lit up the ancient spirals and lines engraved on the walls. They seemed to dance and move across the walls, sharing their secrets to those who could read them. Within the chambers, with great reverence the bones and goods of the travellers were laid in the stone cauldrons. The drum fell silent, the prayers to the Great Mother were spoken and all torches, inside the chambers and out, were extinguished, only the two shaman would stay in the darkness.

Then and for the longest time, the whole landscape seemed to hold it’s breath.

She felt the seeds deep inside her, heard the heartbeat of her people. The stars left the sky one by one, it was not their place to witness this reunion. She could feel him rising, his warmth touched her skin, the slow caress of his fingers as his traced the curve of her body.

First to break the silence were the birds, the chorus began with a single song and grew to a cacophony with every kind of bird calling to wake the Sun. He responded, striking great fingers of light up through the clouds, washing the sky with pink and gold. The people drew in a loud breath of wonder as his golden crown broke the horizon in a shining blaze of glory. The fiery orb rose majestically sending shafts of gold across the land bathing it all in fire. The eastern sky radiated a kaleidoscopic vision of oranges, yellows, pinks and blues. The beauty of that dawn burned away all cold, pain, fear or sorrow. Even though the winter still held sway over the land, this moment was a promise of summers to come, of all the summers that had ever been. It was the promise of a new harvest, of plenty, if the magic had worked. They looked toward the entrance of the tomb and they all prayed that it had.

She lay beneath him and they were all fire and passion as the golden light pushed gently through her. With ardent, questing energy he found her secret, sacred places and filled them with his potent energy. She sang her joy with the voices of the birds. In that union all life was born.

The two shaman emerged from the tomb and signalled the successful completion of the rite. The Sun was reborn and the Green and Bountiful Mother would once again bear the fruit of their union. Now they declared, it was time for joyful celebration. Hope had been reborn for another year, time now to share food, drink and peace across the land.

 

A Samhain Tale

Samhain
 
 The shiny, dark grey gravestone sat looking slightly forlorn covered in the wet leaves that had blown across from the tall Beach tree across the path. It was new to the grave yard and not yet fully bedded into its place at the head of the fresh grave. All around there were many patches of ground in various states of repair, but this patch was fresh; the ground only just settling back into place after the coffin had been placed within. The gravestone felt into the earth beneath and tried to make a connection with its charge, but she was sleeping soundly and not very communicative. The little stone had her name, date of birth and death and a legend emblazoned across its face, so tried to gage an understanding of her from the words that the family had committed to the stone. She was loved that much was obvious by their words; A wife, mother and a grandmother ‘taken before her time’, so she had lived not so long, by these days reckoning at least, but it seemed a happy life. That was good, a happy task for the little grey stone, marking the place of someone who had loved and been loved.
 
 The wind blew another handful of wet leaves that slapped against the face of the stone. Some slid down to join the soggy mess already accumulated at its base whilst others pressed flat to the stone’s face, like a man afraid to fall from a high ledge. It was late autumn now and would soon be winter. The little stone had seen so many winters on the mountain side, watching the seasons, the aeons and epochs pass. The ice age had come and gone leaving scars carved across the mountains, changing the land. The animals had come and gone with the varying weather patterns, fragile and changing like the leaves on the trees each season budding, bursting, living and dying all blown on the winds of time. As part of the great landmass it held so many memories, but most of all it remembered feeling part of a whole, part of the mountains, the very bones of the earth. Being a tiny piece of stone in a graveyard would take some adjustment.
 
 The new environment was full of tiny slivers of ancient mountains cut into various forms. There was the tall and imposing angel that stood behind with one arm raised to the sky, the other reaching toward the grave below her. Her pale stone skin looked soft after the years of weathering and was covered in patches of yellow and white lichens. Her eyes, gentle and beneficent, gazed down on the scruffy patch of ground beneath her plinth; she seemed resigned to her vigil. On either side of the fresh grave there were two more established, their stones larger and with more names engraved on them. They too were softer around the edges, but still their faces’ had a shine to them. Whole families lay beneath at final rest together in death as they had been in life. Further out across the hallowed ground lay older stones reaching back through the centuries. Some who’s faces had faded to the point where the names were nothing more than a faint impression. No one came to clear their fallen leaves or place new flowers any more, the families were mostly deep in the soil themselves, but still the stones held the vigil. That was their task after all, to proclaim the memory, continuing to silently voice the name of the incumbent, calling attention to anyone who would walk past, for only when the name is lost are they truly dead. And, once in a while a descendant from a far off place would make a pilgrimage to the graveyard. Having traced their roots they would wander through the graveyard to find their families’ sentinel, having found it, they would reach out to trace the words etched upon it. No matter how grand or modest the stone, they were connected with an older part of their ancient story, understanding more of who they where and from whence they had come.
 
 Footsteps sounded along the tarmac path and then ventured gingerly across the wet grass to stand beside the new grave. The old man bent and brushed away the sodden leaves from the gravestone and placed some fresh flowers in the pot beside it. He spoke softly to the sleeping form beneath the damp earth, patted the little stone and then went to sit for a while on the bench under the Beach tree, and read his paper.
 
 Beneath the stone the slumbering soul stirred then, as a ghost of the woman she used to be, rose up and made her way through the soil and leaves. She moved silently on the breeze over to where the quiet man sat on the bench and watched as he read his paper. She touched his face and he looked up and smiled absently, then looked puzzled, his gaze went straight through her.
 
 After a while the sound of young children rode up on the wind. The couple looked down the path to see a young couple with two young children making their way toward them. The ghost watched as they greeted each other with hugs and kisses the children jumping boisterously clamouring for their grandfather’s attention and waving the pictures they had drawn, one him and the one for their grandmother. He took the pictures and appraised them with exaggerated care giving them due praise for their sterling work. Then the children looked at their mother who nodded and they all walked over to the grave and the ghost followed. They all held hands by the grave, the younger man bent putting a hand on the earth above his mother’s sleeping form and spoke in the same soft, loving tones of his father. She bent down and whispered words that were whipped away by the breeze. He lifted the stone pot for flowers and looked at the quiet sad faces of the children. They bent down and placed the picture for their Grandma under the pot and told their Grandma they missed her. They told her their news from the week, how boring school was and how “Mummy and Daddy and Grandad were a bit sad, but not to worry as they would look after them, and they would come again next week and tell her what they had been doing and bring her another picture”.
 Then the boy grabbed a handful of wet leaves to throw at his sister who screamed and ran off, laughing loudly as she speed across the grass to avoid the next leafy assault. The adults all laughed, but after a few moments they did not fight the urge to let the tears fall as the children ran around the grave yard shrieking with laughter and playing, they all agreed on how much Mum would have loved to see them grow; Mum agreed.
 
 The rain began again in ernest so the adults called the children to come along and say goodbye to Grandma as it was time to leave. They grumbled but dutifully headed back to their parents, said their goodbyes to Grandma and kissed the little stone. The woman sat on the little stone and together they watched the family walk back along the path. The ghost looked down at the little picture under the pot as the rain splashed down on it and sighed, time to sleep again. After a time the little grey stone reached out into the earth below and felt the contentment of the sleeping woman and settled a little deeper into its place.
 
 
 
 

Sing an Ancient Song

As Samhain approaches I have been pondering on the nature of how we connect with “the ancestors”. Having done the Nat Geo, Genome project I am aware that I have some pretty varied ancient genetics, including the newest version of human to be discovered, the Denisovian, in fact more of this than the Neanderthal.
This information now consciously connects me with a broad sweep of the Earth’s land masses, and probably explains my curiosity in so many different ancient cultures since I was a child.
We are all a hotchpotch of genetic markers and at the root we are all connected, therefore our stories, wants and needs are too.

With so much angst and division in the world at the moment, which is fuelled mostly by fear; Fear of other religions; Bigotry of other ways of being; Fear of loosing oneself in a world that is no longer certain, where too many ideas overwhelm what our cultures have held dear for many generations; Fear of the out and out greed of the business minority that affects the animal, mineral and vegetable majority, to the point where we seemingly have no power or control; I feel the need to focus my Samhain ritual energy into a calling to the ancient ancestors across the thinning veil, asking them to help us learn how to bridge the gap of seeming opposites.
To understand how they managed to connect, live and even love between different species, let alone cultures!

I need to feel some hope as the world is a scary place right now. People seem to be in free fall heading into paranoid, fundamentalist fervors that are entrenching into hardcore and even violent opposition to ideas that do not match their own. That kind of fear threaten everyone’s safety and liberty. It is time for those of us, with enough presence of mind, to pull the parachute cord putting a brake on the free falling and find a way to calm the fears of loss of identity; Loss of meaning in one’s life as the world becomes too large and too diverse for a, still pretty much, tribal mind set to cope with.

It may sound like a “hippy dippy” thing to say, but I don’t care; Love, openness and tolerance are the keys to happiness and feeling safe. Without these things the human world is lost.
Righteous anger is good, but only if it is backed up by actions that can result in a harmonious outcome, where all parties can find some kind of peaceful accord. I am aware that this sounds naive, idealistic and probably impossible to achieve, but I think we have to try to look at the root causes of another person’s, or even our own, fears and try to allay them: First by acknowledging there are many view points of any situation and then by trying to see things from all sides, whether we understand their side or not. Even if we meet with hard, unreasonable resistance, we must keep trying with as much patience as we can muster, to battle ignorant or bigoted protestations with calm reason and factual evidence. Only if all the calm voices join in a chorus of harmonious song, can we calm the deafening, fear filled and discordant clammer that is all around us.

Let the ancient, ancients be our guides, the ones who walked across great landmasses and bridged huge watery divides to find other cultures and join together. They are the roots of all our genetic trees, the progenitors of all our stories, and they may have something to say about how we can re-find some kind of peace in a human world that is so at odds with itself and the Earth right now.

This is an interesting link that sparked some of the ideas above:  http://www.ancient-origins.net/news-evolution-human-origins/new-evidence-ancient-humans-crossed-significant-sea-barrier-00948#.UmNpFhTl6_c.facebook

An Autumnal story

nature.jpgAs promised, although a little late due to lots of fabulous adventures travelling, more of that later, here is another little seasonal story to tickle your senses from my keyboard, I hope you enjoy it.

An Autumnal story

The apple trees bowed their bejewelled crowns, nodding as the man walked through the orchard’s avenues. He drew a deep lungful of the earthy smelling air and knew without a shadow of a doubt that autumn was here. The apple harvest was nearly on them, there was so much work to be done at this time of year bringing in the fruit harvests, soon there would be a veritable hive of activity in this quiet place.

He found his favourite spot, put down his heavy burden and sat down under the ancient apple tree to contemplate the year that had flown by. He looked up at the mistletoe hanging in the branches and mused out loud to the tree about the ancient lore that bound the two symbols of peace and love together.

“Time was when no sword would be drawn under the branch of the mistletoe, no bad word spoken. Mind you the old ideas still linger some how in our bones, we do at least try to have peace and good will under the bowes at Yule these days. And how did the apple so beloved of the Gods become a symbol of evil? Ah yes the miss translation of a word, apple/fruit/evil, no wonder the ancient ones were wary of writing things down. Funny how even though it was a symbol of rebellion and marked as forbidden by God to Adam and Eve, we still grew it and ate it regardless!  Some things just go beyond the bounds of written lore and the truth of the apple is in the eating, so to speak.” he laughed at himself for such a weak word play.

The tree didn’t seem to mind the play of words and dropped an apple into his lap. “Thank you I will take that as a gift of the old ones” he smiled and bit with relish into the fruit.

The flesh was crisp, sharp and juicy and he revelled in the taste and textures that assaulted his tongue.  “Truly a gift of the Gods and one gift deserves another in return!” he exclaimed.

The sun was dropping lower in the sky and the shadows started to lengthen, the man finished his apple then turned to the large bundle he had placed on the ground beside the tree and began to unwrap it. He loosened the ties and pulled aside the thick covering, cooing gently to what lay inside.

The sun shone a beam of light through the lower branches of the trees and lit up the carving on the harp, a slight breeze plucked at the strings and they made a faye song in the air beneath the canopy.

The harper sighed and pulled the harp closer to him, ran his fingers lightly up and down the taught strings checking the sound, before he committed his fingers to finding the tune that lay hidden within the orchard.

The first strings were plucked with a searching, a questioning hesitation, looking to find the harmony of time and place. He hummed softly as he plucked at the strings of the harp, looking up into the tree canopy, following the branches reaching out to the sky above, reaching out with his heart and mind, he followed the roots deep into the soil.

He drifted with the breeze that sent the green and red jewels bobbing and swaying above his head and in the creaking of the bowes, he began to hear the song of the orchard. The resonance and the melody found the fingers and spoke to the soul of the man, he was transformed and transported across time and memory.

From ancient forests of central Asia, the trees had travelled and grown along side man, they had become a treasured and guarded prize, the food of immortality for many Gods, a symbol of love, magic and healing for all.

In the song of the orchard the tale of the apple was unfolded to the bard as he played and sang in the dwindling light of autumn. The smell of the forests, the heat of the sun and the march across continents, time and space, all the memories of the trees came to speak through that melody. He sang the tales of Idun and Aphrodite, the Golden Apples of the Hesperides, the Silver Branch of the Faye, the Isle of Avalon, all the tales of magic and mystery held within the healing fruit fell from the lips and strings of the enraptured bard.

And, when the song was sung, the last notes fading from air ladened with the rich, earthy autumnal atmosphere, it seemed that a collective sigh was released from every tree. The bard sat in silent revelry for a while letting the breeze play over the harp strings. He watched as the last of the suns rays pierced the branches intensifying the dancing shadows of the tree’s leaves on the grass all around him.

Then as if to confirm the end of the song and the end of summer, cascades of brown and yellow leaves leapt from the branches, like so many acrobats in a circus finally, tumbling in graceful, gliding motions toward the floor to be caught by the green arms of the dampening grass, their life energy spent, their dance was done.

The bard stood and bowed to the orchard, then he wrapped up the harp and heaved it onto his shoulders, then humming the melody he had been given, he walked slowly along the leaf speckled avenues back toward the farm house.

Cerri Lee 2013

Politics, Petty tyrants and Pure Frustration

robinhoodI am feeling, like many angry, beleaguered and frustrated by the constant stream of dire information on just how this country is being run into the ground. The illogical decision, in the face of all the evidence, to promote Fracking on this tiny island, trying to tell us that it is safe and finically viable, when people in countries with this stuff happening are suffering gas coming out of their taps, whole towns being shut down due to the water sources being utterly dried up, because to run one drill, in one day, takes more water than the whole town uses and they have thirty drills! Even the financial incentives are falsified and ridiculous as one financier in an open letter to the Financial Times newspaper, pointed out.

The out right arrogance and temerity of attempting to rescinding much of the Freedom of Information act and the Human Rights act, telling people that the idea of a minimum wage was affecting the growth potential and Britain’s financial recovery! The intention to cull Badgers, in spite of the experts saying it was the wrong decision and could make things worse, Eric Pickles setting a president to allow quarrying in Ancient woodland……shall I go on and on and on?

I have seriously considered running for local government as there seems to be no one in power who actually seems to give a flying **** about really changing the desperate status quo. Even the Green party have denounced their own man in Brighton, for bringing the party into a bad light with his high handed and ill judged ways of dealing with things.

To be truthful I don’t have the capacity of strength or will to run for local office and deal with the incompetent jobs-worth dinosaurs, “here is my hat and clip board which entitles me to say No, you can not do that perfectly sensible thing, because I have the power of a petty tyrant and enjoy making your life difficult, and because its in the rules that I can,” that inhabit the halls of power, but if I were a younger woman, maybe……

I have always been reasonably politically and ecologically aware and the injustices of this modern life have always torn me emotionally, I do what I can to make my bit of the world better, but like many of us, if I am honest, not as much as I could.
There are facts of existence in the modern world that mean there are compromises and pay offs that you choose to make in order to keep a relatively clean conscience.

I choose to be aware, to try to educated people with gentle information and by example where ever I can. When working in “mundania” I have had many deep conversations with people who have changed ways of thinking when provided with more balanced and comprehensive views of what ever”Newspaper Headline” information happened to be prominent at the time. I am happy that in small ways I have had some positive affect, but the larger picture still worries me.

I wrote to my MP (a tory) when they first got into power and were wanting to sell off all the publicly owned woodlands, which they have been doing by stealth ever since the noise died down, and I said that they were making the same mistakes that the last conservative government did. He told me that I was living in the past and that I could not visit those mistake on this new government! Well he is going to get another letter shortly, I will try to be polite, it will however state that in my opinion, his government have done even more to ruin and reduce the state of this country than the last conservative one did. In short they have sort to return the country to the Victorian ethos of one rule for business and one for the rest of us, i.e money rules, at any cost, that they have learned nothing and care nothing for basic human, animal, vegetable or mineral rights if is cost or can make pounds, shillings and pence.

Their policies are unsustainable, they are sweeping us closer and faster than anyone ever has, to the brink of devastation. We need a new way of being, a new way to deal with commerce and the consuming of energy. A quick profit now means a long term cost and our grandchildren will curse us all for our lack of understanding or back bone in standing up and shouting for common sense and reason when we had the chance, just like many of us are doing the same to our previous generations short sightedness!

The only way we can change this is to use our hard won rights to vote at the next elections, not for the one who seems most charismatic, but one who is sincere and has common sense. Also to encourage our societies children to become politically and ecologically aware, by our own example, encourage within them a fire, a passion for change. We need to invest in our young people, see them as the future politicians and decision makers. In this way they will begin to see that they have a steak in the world, that rather than the apathy that exists toward voting in the youth of today, if we do this they will start to say “hang on a minute this involves us too and we can make a difference”.

In short we need to take the power back and remind the politicians that they are public servants, not petty tyrants with the power to do as they will. We must make them respect their employers…..which is by the way Us!

 

A Lughnasadh Tale

I have set my self a task to practice writing and I have chosen to start with a short piece for each turn of nature’s wheel. Here is my starter for Lughnasadh, Lammas, the first harvest, though I have to say before you begin, that I make no apologies for the over use of adverbs. I had been listening to Terry Pratchett all afternoon and he uses adverbs liberally and I love his writing, so this is also partly in honour of Mr T Pratchett who continues to inspire and entertain me.

A tale for Lughnasadhcrowprint

“If you stand here for long enough all life passes you by,” he expounded sagely to no one in particular.

The golden barley swayed in the gentle breeze. It’s collective bearded heads nodding in what appeared to be, at least to him, considered agreement.

A large dragonfly hummed past, skimming the heads of the barley.

“Well at least they seem to be doing alright this year,” he said to the world in general. “Its been a hard few years for them, well, for everyone really, my oath it has. I don’t know, Summers are not like they used to be.” He rambled on in the time honoured fashion of old men who lean on fence posts everywhere.

“I remember a time when Summer meant warmth and sunshine, long hazy days, children running in the fields, and the happy sounds of bees buzzing through the crops. These days it seems to be one long winter with a brief break for rain instead of snow!’ If he could have shaken his head ruefully he would have done.

The Barley continued to nod thoughtfully as the sun beat down on the field.

“Mind you,” he continued informationally, “there was a time when the fields where not so big and the weather was just as dodgy as it has been lately. I think they called it the ‘little ice age’, snow drifts up to your arm pits there was. Seems to me the weather patterns are up and down like a doxies bloomers, if you take the long view, not that I know much about doxies you understand,” he said and chuckled.

The barley pointedly said nothing on the subject.

A pair of sky larks rose up out of the field and began to sing incessantly, flitting back and forward, landing on a post or taller plant here and there, then rising up again, renewing the frantic song.

“Whats got their tails in a twist?” he mused.

If it had been possible he would have craned his neck for a better view into the barley, but he settled instead for a guessing game as to who had disturbed the little pair. “Might be a stoat, or could be a weasel, might be one of them cats from the farm yard, wandering about causing trouble.”

The birds seemed to quieten down after a bit and settled back into what ever it is that skylarks are want to do.

“Oh, whatever it was has got bored and left them alone, well that’s my bit of drama done for the day then,” he sniffed disconsolately.

Presently a cat came sauntering out of the barley and stood in front of him. “Ah it was you was it?” he said. The cat looked up, eyed him suspiciously, then sat down to lick its paws and clean its face.

“I hope you haven’t been murdering any of those little fledglings,” he said reproachfully to the preening cat. “I have been watching them grow all season and I have grown fond of them little tikes.”

The cat ignored him and continued to clean assiduously before finally standing up, and with a contemptuous flick of its perfectly groomed tail aimed in his general direction, stalked off.

“Charming!” he thought.

The sun was high in the sky, the shadows almost non-existent, the air was still, leaving the barley almost motionless.

“I am glad of this hat to keep that sun at bay, battered and torn it may be, but there never was a better hat than this, had it for years I have.  And this old jacket too, though the buttons could do with a bit of attention, hanging by a thread one of them. Still keeps out the worst of the weather.” He assessed his apparel with some pride.

“I dare say some would venture as its, a bit the worse for wear, but it does for me working out here in the field.”

The sultry afternoon wore on, the shadows lengthened and he watched as the light began to throw an orange glow into the golden barley.

“You are ready old friend, I know that colour in your beard, you and me John, you and me, we will take that long road together.” There was a wistful note in his words and the barley seemed to whisper in accord, and, as if to echo the sentiment, a crow issued out a long, low throaty call across the field.

“They will sing to you old friend, that they will. There where three men came out of the west, their fortunes for to try……” He sang with a dusty voice. “I love that song, that I do,” he laughed.

“But no song for me though eh John? No song for me.” There was no bitterness in his words “I don’t mind, really I don’t. I love my time here, and like you, I will be back next year, though I would like it if they would sew my button back on, maybe patch up these trousers a bit, them mice have made fair ol’ mess of ‘em this year and no mistake.”

“Hurry Daddy, I want to see ol’ Charlie.” The scruffy child ran ahead of her father who was walking through the barley, feeling the heads and smelling them.

“I’m coming; ol’ Charlie’s not going anywhere, is he?” he called and continued his amble through the field. He wanted to taking his time, drink in the atmosphere, the marmalade light, the smell of the barley and the baked earth, all of it made his heart sing.

“Come on” the impatient child urged. Her father laughed, he looked to see where she had gone. He looked in the direction of ol’ Charlie’ and saw the barley moving under the onslaught of the robust and determined six year old.

“Look Dad, there have been mice living in his pockets again, we will have to get Mum to sew them up.” The girl looked up at Charlie for a moment, then turned and threw her arms around her Dad’s legs.

“We will make him again next year wont we Dad?” her face almost pleading.

“Of course,” He confirmed “you can’t have John Barley Corn alone in the field, wouldn’t be right!”

“And we will still burn him when we have cut the fields, just like last year?” she looked so seriously at her father, he did not laugh.

“You know we will, he has to take our messages and gifts with him doesn’t he?” The farmer said “It’s what we have always done on this farm, when you make a bargain you keep it, especially if it’s with the one who keeps you in food and lodgings, it doesn’t do to make Her sad by forgetting your promises. We will make sure his hat and clothes are nicely cleaned and mended for next year, but the rest of him will go on the Lammas fire, and, this year I have decided to write him a song to send him on his way. Now come on lets get back, your Mum will have tea on the table soon and I am starving, race you!”

Ol’ Charlie watched as the pair ran back across the field, “My own song eh? Well there you go, did you hear that John? I will have a song after all.”

A fat pigeon came down and landed on his arm which creaked under the weight. The bird eyed the field, “You can bugger off an’ all” said ol’ Charlie.

The Crow

I have been toying with the idea of writing for a long time and have several things in various states of incompletion, but there is always a sensible reason to not give them time or attention. There is and always will be a voice that says “you have too much stuff to do, you don’t have time for this kind of indulgence!”

Last night I had a lovely chat with a friend telling her how much I wanted to write and that there just wasn’t the time and and and …… What she wisely said was ” Stop making excuses and just do it!”

So this morning I have put gaffer tape over the sensible lips that chastise me for self indulgence and sat down to pound the key board for a while, just for the shear enjoyment of putting words on virtual paper, and this is the result. It is short and not very sweet, but I hope you enjoy it.

The Crow762px-Corvus_corax_in_Akureyri_4

“Raaackkk, raaaaack, raaack” the crow raked the air with his call, issuing a challenge to the wind, who duly responded by tearing at his foot hold and feathers.

“noooo….” came another moan from far below. The crow eyed the distant figure through the gnarly branches and called again.

“Raaaack, raaaaaack, raaaack.”

The wind re-doubled it’s efforts to dislodge the bird from the high branch. All the branches bent and whipped like so many bowstrings being stretched and released in the heat of battle, but no arrow hit their mark.

The crow was smug.

The body made a rhythmic thud against the trunk of the tree as it swayed in the wind, the beat was accompanied by the syncopated sounds of breath being beaten out, then pulled sharply in.

The sound was hypnotic, the heartbeat joined the assemble as did the sound of blood pulsating through a swollen head, the wind, the tree and the grasses all added their accents to the grandeur of the symphony. He exulted in the death throws.

The crow intrigued flew down from his lofty perch. He landed on the pendulum, flapping slightly as the body bumped and swung. Still he found good purchase on the chin and cocking his head on one side, looked down into the red and ragged hole that had once contained an eye.  He then looked into the remaining whole eye, there was still a little life in there yet even though it stared blankly at him. So he pecked at the blooded hole finding a loose morsel of flesh.

“Raaack, raaaack, raaack.”

The call split the night and called back the Sun. The music was shattered and a thousand, million stars exploded, time and space revealed themselves and the one eye saw it all.

The crow was startled and indignant as life returned to the promising meal, he raised iridescent wings to leave the body, but was caught by a swift hand clutching at his feet. He flapped and twisted, pecking at that one good eye which now stared back into his own black bead with full and conscious vision.

“Calm yourself little crow” the pendulum whispered, “I have come back from the edge and you were my guide, we are bound together you and me.”

“Raack?”

The hand slipped away releasing the crow, who, both bemused and curious, flew to a low branch and watched as the body stretched out to the grassy floor below and snatched up the blood soaked, fallen twigs that were scattered beneath it.

A scream of triumph and elation rang through the battered branches and greeted the Sun as it broke the horizon sending shafts of light across the earth.

“Raaack, raaack, raaaack” the crow chorused, and wondered what the body would do next.

 

 

 

Journeys to meet the Ancestors

By the time we left the house each day the sun was high in the azure blue sky and casting a wonderful golden light over the landscape, this caused the verdant foliage and wild flowers to radiate with an astonishing beauty. A chorus of bird song serenaded us on our travels and whenever we stopped to take time, to wait, watch, and listen at each place, we marvelled at the agile swifts diving and sweeping through the myriad of midges swirling and dancing over the lakes and streams all about us, or the ducks weaving through the great labyrinthine beds of bull rushes wishing we could follow.

The waters lapped at the shores with a gentle insistence, but no aeroplanes, cars or manmade sound battered at our senses for long moments. And in those moments I thought, all this has been happening for thousands of years, on this same spot an ancient woman could and had that same sense of calm, heard the same bird songs, saw the swifts arrival bringing the final confirmation of summer and the waters would have been a mirror to the same sky.

I was connected through my senses, and beyond time’s boundaries, directly to that woman standing on the shores of a votive lake, Llyn Cerrig Bach, a lake that had swallowed hundreds of offerings of great beauty and price, imbued with the wishes and prayers of the tribes and chiefs who may have travelled for many hundreds of miles. Precious items handed over to, and thrown in by, the druids with great pomp and ceremony, unused and perfect into the inky depths.

I have the pleasure of being good friends with two lovely people who live on Anglesey – Ynys Mon, who graciously played host to myself and two other friends over the past few days. We spent time in the glorious sunshine walking in the landscape where the ancient druids lived, loved and died. All the while Kris relayed the stories, folklore, the archeology and legends associated with each place we visited. Time and history parted their misty veils and allowed us tiny glimpses into an ancient way of life and it was a true joy.

There is nothing so potent and tangible as this kind of experience, no matter how many times one reads an ancient tale, such as one of the four branches of the Mabinogi, it is almost impossible to feel the vibrancy of it until you have stood in it’s landscape.

Moreover blatantly risking imminent discovery, as you remove most of your clothes and walk into the bitingly cold waters of Lake Bala – Llyn Tegid, letting the waters feel your passion for your path. Then to sit on the sunny shore allowing the air to gently caress your skin dry, feeling free and empowered by the breaking of small social conventions that, all too often, keep us withdrawn and cloistered from the natural world.

Freedom of the heart and mind comes from days like these, I will forever be grateful to my friends who I share these journeys with.

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Ladies of the Lakes

I have been on a bit of a voyage of discovery for the past few years which has brought me to a point of conclusion, kind of.

I have, on my meandering pagan path, wondered into and journeyed through many an old tale. These explorations have always given me the option of following a fascinating criss cross of pathways that lead on far into the realms of pan cultural myth and legend, and so it feels, deeper into the psyche of our distant ancestors.

As ever with this kind of exploration the mind can work overtime on personal ideas of what “truths” may lie buried beneath a crossroads where folklore, story and myth from different cultures connect with others of the same ilk. And this is my passion or curse, to be ever looking for the root of the “thing”, something that is undeniably connective on a fundamentally human level.

For me these explorations are akin to archeological digs, stripping down through years of overlay to find the story’s origins. As you are working through the various versions you can see the change of cultural attitudes over time, also of place as the tale travels, first by word of mouth and then eventually becoming part of our written histories.  Now here I must confess to a level of distress at the dichotomy within the binding of a story in the written word and the freedom and colour of the oral tradition.

On the one hand I am thankful to those who loved or felt it valuable enough to commit the story to parchment, paper or velum so that I may in modern times enjoy a tantalising glimpse of those gone before, feel their pains and joys so like my own. But on the other hand it fixes the narrative, somehow holding it prisoner within paper walls, subject to scrutiny and questioning. Leading to a judgement of correct content or even dismissal of validity if deemed a corrupt version.

A collection of words on a page are an allegory of human emotion and experience that for me come to vivid life when they are spoken aloud. When a talented story teller takes the words and gives them life and character, there is no magic greater for me, which is why I listen to a lot of audio books. Anyhow I have digressed into an area which I didn’t mean to go, back to my point!

If you have read any of my previous posts then you may have seen that I began a journey a year or so back on the Arthurian tales. In a ritual space I asked for a guide through this journey and was given the Lady of the Lake. She stood in the deep shadows, shrouded in deep blue and holding a silver hand mirror. She seemed insubstantial, enigmatic and her purpose with me I found hard to define. But I was grateful for her wish to guide me and spent much of this past year wondering what she meant me to see. In truth most of the time I felt I was letting her down as I felt utterly at a loss as to where I should be looking.

It has taken me some time to understand this journey and the conclusion it has presented to me may be one that many people have come to before, but to my mind, in order to fully comprehend an idea you must have a personal experience of working through it yourself.

I have found that there are many Ladies of the Lake within our myths and legends. Ladies that come from the Otherworld to offer us gifts of love, healing, insight, creativity and a glimpse into things initially beyond normal human achievement. They come and stay for a while and then being flawed and clumsy we break a promise or are negligent in some way and they leave us, bereft and heartsick, though often their children stay and are given powers that help to grow the human understanding.

There are legends of Goddesses/witches/priestesses/fairy women who live on sacred isles, with the gifts of prophecy, healing, craftsmanship and shapeshifting that go back at the very least as far as AD 43. There is often the number nine attached to these groups of women and always they are there helping, guiding and interpreting for us across the years and from beyond the mists. They are independent, strong, cultured and brook no discourtesy to their person. The evidence of them survives in the names of countless stone circles, place names and threaded through our most treasured tales, despite years of many trying to erase or disfigure or besmirch their character, they have persisted.

They are Ceridwen, Brighid, Vivien, Morgan le Faye, the Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach and so many more, who lived by the deep lakes, crannogs and islands of Ireland, Britain and Brittany’s ancient past. They have in one way or another continued to hold us with their magic and their mystery, guiding and assisting us all with our intuitions, dreams, creativity and connection to the magic that is all around us in the natural world and beyond.

There is always a moment in life when you find yourself lost, when answers to questions seem so far away as to be unattainable. But should you find yourself standing beside a body of water such as a pool, a lake, a well, or even the great ocean, whether it is still or the waves are restlessly crashing at you feet on the shore, you will find a stillness within. It becomes a mirror for the soul.

Che Guevara says in his Motorcycle diaries ”For me, the sea has always been a confidant, a friend absorbing all it is told and never revealing those secrets: always giving the best advise – its meaningful noise can be interpreted any way you choose.” (Thank you my lovely daughter Rosie for providing me with this quote)

So that is my conclusion, the many and varied Ladies of the Lake are the embodiment of a stilling of the troubled waters, a moment of mirroring for the soul on the lake of life’s sometimes troubled experience. In the past there were dedicants of a feminine mystery, who resided in these isolated and watery places, all we are left with now are their myths and legends and that may be enough as they still touch our hearts and minds so deeply.

My journey with the Ladies is by no means concluded, far from it, even though I have found an answer to why the Lady did me this honour I still have more exploration to do. It just may be a little more focused a journey now.