Balm for my soul 


The wind last night was a howling energy

that ripped, slapped and brought fear of the trees in me

Wild, they rattled and shook

Threatened to throw themselves at me and hurt

Recklessly, carelessly they did not know me

I asked them, remember? It’s me. Please don’t hurt me,
Ignored, they tore at their limbs, threatening
Threatening
as I cowed my head and ran, terrified
Wild

Wild
This morning, Baby-time not knowing how early it was,

Clocks change but not for us.
Pre-dawn perfection, stillness, darkness
Calm again in the trees and air
I thought the leaves will have dropped now,

trees bare and Winter-clad

We walked out and found a flint from
Thousands of years ago
Deep Time ancestors left this for me to find today
Milling about, I wait for the sun to rise,
Four dippers squabble, chase, chatter, play on the river
My heart leaps, for this is what I need to see
There is magic in this world,
It is not dying, it is glorifying its aliveness
All of it, the wild raging winds and the still cold dawn
All of it
Wild

Wild

At last the Sun rises,

Golden and joyous
There are still leaves yet on limbs
as the Sun turns the trees into balls of brilliance
Fire from below as flaming fallen discarded the whole world turns bright

I sob to see this

Just me, Dog and sleeping Baby
Steps take a living Age to complete
For how can I do much else but look and wonder at it all?
For this is what I was made
Senses to see,
To hear the call of the dipper
To be blinded by sun through silvery birch
To smell kicked-up mulch of the forest floor
To taste cool air
To feel

To feel

And to weep at it all

Even at the creeping cold of my toes

Advertisements

I never left

“Forgive me if I am meddling in matters I don’t understand, but looking back at what has passed, I think….. Merlin, what I am trying to tell you is this, that I believe your god is with you still.”



The Question: why do Brits think we do not have an indigenous spirituality and why are we importing other people’s? Why do those who do recreate pre-Christian practices get such bad truck from the overarching culture of the day?

Ok, it’s a big hope but surely it’s not impossible to achieve to answer these questions? I tell myself that it is doable, reachable, worth it, enlightening and won’t it just free us once and for all from this self-rejection?

Here are the short answers: Yes, we have an indigenous spirituality, it’s just been very well hidden; we’re importing other people’s because we are unaware of/ or rejecting of our own; those who recreate it are challenging a Big Fat Myth.

This myth that has been carved out of the marrow of our souls, when once we fought it with our own blood and flesh, for we knew it to not be true. But now it’s a myth so powerful that we just regurgitate it verbatim as if there were never another truth. We have forgotten because we have been led to believe that there is only toxic indigenousness of being British. Nationalism, racism, fascism, ignorance and poverty. You even say the words druid, witch or pagan and our morality bristles tingle with negative revile: Satan worshipping, make-believe, dark magic, wrong.

The myth has been so beautifully carved, so ancient have been the lies that we have lost the sight needed to look into the deep past. Did you even know that the Romans did not find a savage, uncultured, immoral peoples here? Did you even know that? Of course you did. Why, we have many documentaries about the wonders of Stonehenge, of the burial practices of the Bronze Age, stone circles and winter solstice alignments. So of course we knew. We know all this, we have acclaimed professors who tell us all about the interesting things ancient Britons did. We’ve even heard of the ‘Druids’ that Tacitus, that Roman observer/propagandist writes of, and how robe-clad well-to-dos in the Victorian era circumambulated Stonehenge, dressing up in white robes and being all sombre. Yet all of this is seen through a variety of prisms. first, one of an anthropologist looking at arcane practices that as an observer they assume the observed culture will simply not affect, they remain untouched, clinical in their observing. Other prisms are that of science, that dearest of churches that clearly we must believe in, even though it gave us phrenology and eugenics. The Church itself, rational thought and platonic investigation, that anything cultured meets certain criteria of analysis and reductionism. Except if it is of mythic, esoteric, unseen and unknown matter? No, this has been denounced as quackery or worse. Our culture is disdainful of anyone who lives a path that it feels should be assigned to the history books and left there. 

It behoves us to ask, why? Why must we be so doggedly intent on denying our own indigenous roots? Why do we ascribe negative associations with them? Why are we so utterly incapable of accepting our spiritual belonging to this land? Why have we been fed the line given to us by our conquerers and why on Earth do we still regurgitate it, without a second thought, in order to disclaim, denounce and deny our own indigenousness?

This question is now critical to discuss and to explore. This is because of the very reason that the brilliant mind of Woman Stands Shining, Pat McCabe of the Dine’ or Navajo tribe puts so well: the greatest challenge of our current situation is to find a way to live sustainably. Therefore we need to learn from those cultures who have proven sustainability credentials as they have lived and remained in one place for many thousands of years. These are the indigenous peoples of the world. Yet we are either appropriating their wisdom or we are destroying their cultures. So how can we possibly learn from them?

I have some theories. Our current cultural view of pre-Christian spirituality in Britain is forged by the colonial assumptions of the early Industrial Revolution. To excuse the rape and destruction of other cultures, British explorers reduced these people to sub-human, curios, enchanting and odd. Dangerous, yes, but primitive. The prevailing western culture would sweep them aside, convert them to Christianity and teach them to read, in return for vast wealth and control. This was a learned behaviour dating to the Roman period, where ‘divide and conquer’ was a military tactic to subjugate the indigenous cultures in Europe, in the way of the empire-building and expansionism of the dominant culture of Rome. Early ‘pioneers’ of the Industrial era simply continued this. But guess what? They’d kept on doing it to the indigenous culture of the Motherland of Britain ever since the Roman occupation in AD43.

Here is some evidence for this continued subjugation: the adoption of Pagan (and therefore pre-christian) festivals into Christian ones, such as Christmas and the arrival of the Sun God in the shortest day, the May Queen and the phallic Pole turning goodly villagers toward the safety of the manicured village green and away from the erotic sexiness of the blessings of the fields by Cernonnos the Horned God and his Divine Consort, and of course Samhain becoming the greatest woman-bashing of the year: the Black Witch, all evil and ugly, treacherous and wicked. Where, pray tell me are the White Witches, the Golden Witches and Green Witches, the bright and beautiful elements to the sacred Feminine that we hold within us? Where are the healers and midwives, the gardeners and physics? Where are the blessing-givers and the wise women? (When I dress up and go Trick-or-Treating I am going to give a gift of a blessing, not just take their sweets.) I give you also the witch trails of the 15th and 16th century, when witchcraft was made illegal in 1563, and during this entire period around 200,000 women (and some men) were killed in some form or another in western Europe. See also the raping of a wife only made illegal in the twentieth century, where before that it was deemed a woman had ‘given herself in this kind unto her husband, which she cannot retract’, noted by Sir Mathew Hale in 1736. How about the Harvest Festival, where the abundance and utter selflessness of Earth is not even given lip service in Church, where we use Her bounty as evidence to give thanks to an anthropomorphic male God, oddly reminiscent of someone who looks very western, very rich and very austere. That healing with hands (just as Jesus and John the Baptist did) was made a heretical act, unless you were doing it through the church.
Oh, I could go on.

You’ll see that the evidence I am giving has a fair share of evidence of subjugation of women in it. This is not a coincidence. The denial of indigenous wisdom and spirituality is part and parcel of the way women are treated in society, because women are the holders of ancient wisdom. This is seen in almost all surviving and recorded indigenous cultures in the world. Women were the drummers while the shaman danced. They hold the circle, they feed the people, they make the babies and tend the sick, they impart the wisdom of the fireside and are holders of the stories and songs, sang to their children. So, to reclaim our own indigenous roots is to finally listen to the women, not to hide them, belittle and control them. 

The hole that was left when we lost our belonging has been filled by the Church, nationalism, rational thought, science and a distancing that we are comfortable with, because it is now acceptable to be interested and fascinated by our pre-Christian culture, as long as we look on the surface like it isn’t seeping into our bones, making us gaze in wonder at the moon and to want to dance around the Guy Fawkes-torturing fire (not a whiff of Paganism there.) We wave our sparklers and take astronomy evening classes to try to understand the itch. Yet we know that our heritage is not a test ground for theory and science, it is a rich mess of wild love for our place. The enforced narrative that kept indigenousness from threatening the dominant culture is cracking: ‘long-forgotten culture’ or ‘prehistory’, the words we use to keep the past from grabbing us, slowly, slowly we are finding a new narrative. One that is richer and more alive: shamanism, rites of passage, wedded to the land, these are things we can understand from our own lives, for we all have stories of this, if we look back. Shamanism of childhood, our teddybear who spoke to us, the trees that were our friends. We have lived it, and the past is myself. 

Then, finally, what of our own indigenousness that we have and how do we really feel about embracing it? If we could ask ourselves to be honest, how easy would it be to slip away from the negative associations in our minds? What if I wrote hedgerow medicines, celebrations, community, wise women, storytelling, songlines and nursery rhymes, grow your own, take care of Earth, revering our ancestors and loving with all our hearts those who came before? These are indigenous practices, that we still embrace today, that we need in our lives. They enrich our baleful money-making daily lives and we should be able to breathe, finally and say ‘I come from a long line of indigenous wisdom that is unbroken’ without feeling fraudulent. Why is it that people are taking DNA tests in their droves, to thrill at exotic blood, yet feeling a slight disappointment when it turns out they’re actually quite British? My only answer to that is that the negative associations with our indigenous roots are too negative to swallow. 

Yet, the Deep Time has ever been there, waiting to be refound and reborn in our consciousness. Before the myths that the Romans gave us, then the Church, then the Enlightenment and rational thinkers, before the great Industrialisation and Enclosures Act. Before they ever were, we were indigenous, we protected this land, fed off it, nurtured it, grew from it and returned to it. The greatest challenge of our lives is to become sustainable in our days once more, so that finally we can become a restorer species, not a consumer species. We do not need to look elsewhere, we need to just look back in time.
 
Quote from ‘The Last Enchantment’ by Mary Stewart, 1980, p 207
(I highly recommend you read these books! Merlin of the Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills and this final one).

A calling to become a Tree Sister

Imagine a reforestation revolution ignited by the shared creativity and courage of a global network of millions of women.

TreeSisters is a non-profit organisation aiming to radically accelerate tropical reforestation by engaging the unique feminine consciousness, gifts and leadership of women everywhere and focusing it towards global action.

TreeSisters are planting over a million trees a year, and they are now calling for women to plant a billion trees a year, by becoming a treesister and contributing monthly to tropical reforestation.


www.TreeSisters.org

From their campaign literature

I have followed TreeSisters for some time now, but with the continuing onslaught of reckless powers on this beautiful planet, I have been called to do much more than I am. So I have become a Tree Sister. To plant trees! To give back, to rewild this amazing home of ours.

If you feel interested, please clic on the link above, or if very curious and you have the time, why not attend the online event tomorrow evening, details of which can be found here https://www.facebook.com/treesisters/

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 10.58.11

Consumer Child

Children speak the truth. They speak the truth that sometimes is a slap around the face for an adult to hear. Today my eight year old spoke her truth.

It all started because of poetry. She had to find a poem that she liked for homework. Delightedly, I pulled out book upon book from the case. Oscar Wilde, Tolkien, traditional ones, fairy tale books, Shakespeare, Whitman, Frost. Any and all magical writers I thought she would be thrilled to learn from. But no, she wanted to look online for a poem and then write it out on the computer. In theory I have no problem with online research, but really, when it comes to poetry, a book is best. So I said so. Which she didn’t like.

Cue tears and sadness. Cue wallowing in the depths of despair that only a child being refused something can sink into. Head on the table, with open tomes scattered all about, a wailing emitting from her, as if I’d truly broken her heart, she was distraught.

As if her bibliophobic response wasn’t bad enough (in a house with a great many books in it it didn’t go down well), as we walked to school she dropped the ultimate truth-bomb:

“I’m so sad that I want you to make sure you have bought a special surprise for me when I get home. Because I want you to buy me something that will make me feel better. I feel really unhappy everyday and only a thing that you buy for me will make me feel better”.

Consumerism. In a nutshell. From an eight year old.

It didn’t help that I suggested she go and be outside when she is feeling down. That if she feels bored or that things are a bit samey she need only go and explore the world. Only last week she had a terrible dream where a tree had spoken to her that it was being hurt. The dream so unnerved her that immediately I said to go outside and to tell the trees in the garden all about it. She did this, coming back inside twenty minutes later, feeling much relieved. She knows that the trees are always there, she knows that if she is feeling down that to make a den, to dig a hole in the lawn (which forever annoys my long-suffering husband), or to collect the windfalls, will guarantee to make her feel alright again.

Yet, what I think she was touching upon is something deeper. Something that we need to question. It is of course a natural and thoroughly normal response for a child to want to be distracted by a new thing. We all know that we get a rush of happy-hormones, endorphins, when we buy or receive a new thing, and this is no different for a child. They thrill when receiving a new thing. The high is real and it probably can be a very helpful sticking plaster over a specific, negative thing that a child has experienced. But it does not last long, this feeling of newness and euphoria. The question is: why do adults act like eight year olds? When should we have dropped this behaviour, in favour of the woods and the mud in the garden, telling our bad dreams to the trees? Ten? Eighteen? Twenty? At what stage does an adult turn and say, I bought this thing and it did not relieve the wanting. When, if ever, do we reach this point of rejection of the myth, if we have been allowed, no encouraged, to keep feeding it? The myth that buying things will make us better, and if we buy all the time, then we can string all these little flashes of endorphins together so there is never a drop in this feeling of wanting for something. So we will be forever happy and satiated.

Seventeen years ago the newness of a mobile phone was incredible. I bought my first one in 2000. The fact that there was no mobile coverage in Cumbria didn’t daunt me, I simply walked it up Blencathra until I had a signal and then rang my mum, just to tell her that I was up a mountain, ringing her. What a giggle! What an amazing advancement of technology for me to be able to do that! The endorphins rushed and rushed for a very long time. Then I bought another one, then another, this time with a grainy, ridiculous camera on it. Even though the photos it took were indistinguishable blurs it was still an incredible rush. Which ebbed each time I ‘upgraded’.

The history of my consumption of phones in the twenty-first century is the history we all know, and probably share. I succumbed to technological advancement which took me further and further from the true need for one, which was just to communicate with a real person, about the shopping or a rendezvous. Now I have a phone so I can share my pictures far and wide, read worthy and deeply important articles, listen to music, giggle at friends’ antics, do a runic spread or tentatively learn Welsh from an app. My consumerism has changed. It now is no longer about the casing of the phone itself, I no longer have any wish to buy or change the thing itself, it is the content that I crave. It is the power of the things behind the screen that I have been conditioned into desiring. It is the music, the words, the people, the magic. These things are what I crave.

And if I am frank, that is exactly what my daughter wanted too. A two-step desire: to be on her laptop, to touch the buttons and connect to something bigger than her yet does not exist without her; and to also access the poetry of the greatest, online. Her assumption was right: to have something will make her feel better. Yet this is a Great Myth. Although it is true in the immediate realm, the irony is that it keeps us from being truly happy and crucially, it keeps us from being free from the wanting! And the silly thing is, WE KNOW THIS!!! Yet why is it so pervasive? In my opinion, this myth is so great, so big that we think we cannot get off from its back, because what we have been led to believe is if we do get off, beyond it is the swamp of crusty, antisocial disenfranchisement, no ladder to climb, no self-worth, no standing, no place. A good myth not only keeps you connected to it, it also repels you from any alternative. Yet it really is a myth. And beyond it, below it, around it, is solid ground. Ground that is beautiful, growing, rich in all we would ever need. Ground from which we can turn and look at the desperate souls piggybacking on Consumerism’s back, clinging on, wearing their good clothes in their fully connected homes, their eyes screwed shut.

The eight year old consumer within, even though it has been allowed to continue in our psyche, has to be gently and lovingly put aside. Children are our saviours but they are within us all, the best and the worst of what we grew from. Yours will cling on if the is no grown up to tell them to leave. Yours will try to keep you in the playground, wanting friends, things, grades, to be picked first, to be first in the dinner queue, showing off trinkets collected, tears demanding to be stopped. Yet sooner or later, the grown up has to look deeply at all the assumptions they are making, those they think are keeping them safe, secure, enriched, valued, then throw them away. Then, and only then, will that adult be standing on the real, solid ground that has always been surrounding that Myth. Finding that it isn’t populated by the disenfranchised or forgotten, the antisocial or unloved, but that here are wise souls, open hearts, bold thinkers and lovers of the Earth. These are the people with whom to grow up, into the bright, shining human we were always born to be.

Ash leaves spiralling down

With something to say to me whispered clear as they tumble to Earth

I just can’t hear it when they’re all up there together

They say 

Fly, let go, be golden, be old, be enough, be the end
I catch them all talking as they fall

One turns into a butterfly as it spins
And their silence is complete once they land

Until they are so many that the ground is not green

It is yellow with mingled haw and ash on the path

So much golden light just lying there

Redundant

Finished

Complete

Done
The golden glow of release and richness

Lying discarded on the path for anyone to trample heavy feet upon

Slow rot begins and turns this into soil

To dirty dog’s feet and make worms for the robins
Grief of it all envelopes me 

Of departed days and ended months that

Whisked themselves from my attention while I was distracted

Days gone and people gone and souls emptied one by one and in droves

This is a mixed up muddled up shook-up world except for the trees

And I am grieving

For lost days and discarded gold


From ‘Lola’ the Kinks