On portals and radical reawakening

I’ve always had a thing for gateways. There aren’t any stone circles very close to where I live, without needing to drive a little way. I’m never more than about ten miles from one, I have to say, they litter this northern land. But I digress. Instead of stone circles, I have taken to finding the old stone uprights that demarcate an old footpath, too narrow for corralled sheep to squeeze through but perfect for a foot-traveller. They are a sure sign that travelling on foot was not only normal, but so ordinary as to be an integrated part of fencing when land became enclosed.

What came first, the tracks or the fields? It’s a combination of both; footpaths are ancient ways, yet many were officially rerouted, or turned into larger carriageways, big enough to carry carts and carriages or became drovers’ lanes. The Enclosures Acts were a series of Acts passed between 1604 and 1914, which slowly or drastically, in their turn, made it legal for landowners to put up hedges, walls and fences, although the act of enclosing land really began with the Bronze Age stone clearing. In order to make fields more workable and productive, they moved the rocks lying scattered in the land and built stone walls with them. In fact, some of the still used dry stone walls are over 4,000 years old. In the Middle Ages it became a norm to have open fields, stripped into tilled areas, communally worked by labourers and local families. These open fields were subsequently removed by the Enclosures Acts and many of the field systems we see today are the outcome of this aggressive succession of Acts, and many of the land workers and their families left to find work in the larger towns and cities. 

Yet the tradition of keeping trackways open, like a thread puncturing the walls with a string that traverses this land, endures to this day. I walk these ghostlike trails, sometimes nothing more than a half-pipe of flattened grass, that join the punctures in the hedges. Some of the uprights are held on either side by robust walls, some stand utterly alone, where once a wall must have stood. Some are ancient posts in modern wire fences. Yet many are guarded by Hawthorn, Nettles and Brambles, which tells the traveller of very ancient roots

It was the Hawthorn that grabbed me today, as I stepped a foot onto the makeshift stile. Caught in the act of passing over, Hawthorn punctured my skin on the wrist and held me to a charge. Eat one of my berries, it said. Take my flesh beyond this portal, and only then will I let you pass. 

I took my foot off the stile and turned my attention fully to the bush. Its bright red berries are turning now to a glorious Burgundy colour, and taking one in my fingers I could feel how soft it was. Telling the Hawthorn that this is the berry I had chosen, I gently tugged and it came away into my hand. I nibbled it, around the stone in its centre. A wave of delicious, fleshy autumn filled my mouth. Hawberries taste a little like avocado, yet a wild, potent sort that is so good for the heart that I have made a remedy with it before. It is a beautiful kind of hedge medicine; hawthorns can be used in many of their forms; eaten as blossom (the delicate petals are rich with natural sugars and are really tasty), or their berries and leaves can be collected for lowering blood pressure and assisting with opening the arteries. It is potent, though so if you already take medicines do research if taking hawthorn is a good idea on top of what you already take.

I then passed through the portal. I repeated this ritual at every stile, noting how these uprights form the skeleton of human movements over the long centuries. OS maps show just how criss-crossed our land is with these footpaths and I feel that we have a duty to tread them. Not all paths lead to significant, historical places, yet all can lead us back in time, or to the now. Even if we don’t travel more than a mile radius from our home, but follow these ancient ways as they turn and cross, then we will be opening up a box of delights. What a gift our ancestors have given us!

Perhaps I am drawn to write this at this time of year, of the end of things and the beginning of things. Winter is the time of deep sleep and we can see it, feel it, in the world all around us. How vitally important it is to sleep. Yet there is another portal that I have been through. The portal of reawakening to the dread of climate chaos this is coming ever nearer. How can I sleep when I have been reawakened? I am being pulled both ways and I need to come to find the balance in this. I have a feeling that I am not alone. More than ever, we cannot go back to sleep, because very soon, if we do not pull back from the precipice, we will enter into full ecological collapse. And trust me, that won’t be pretty. Climate migration, agricultural collapse, famine, job losses and riots, economic collapse, the living world will collapse which means no fish, no crops, no fuel…. Just very desperate people in a dying world. 

That’s what is over the precipice. And, no, sorry guys, I’m not going to pull any more punches. This is how it feels to be awakened. 

Yet, we can and MUST draw back from that precipice; buy local, till your own land, work in communities to produce food and fuel, no more flights, no more fossil fuels. Keep the bloody stuff in the ground. Did you know that when fossil fuels were laid down, there were no mammals because the atmosphere wasn’t breathable and the mean temperature was simply too high? Those trees, which we are so blithely burning, made our atmosphere perfect for mammals by absorbing carbon dioxide and turning it into their own bodies, and still are doing so. The act of burning that carbon simply puts it back into the atmosphere, thus raising the temperature and eventually making our own world uninhabitable in the process. So KEEP IT IN THE GROUD! Change your energy supplier, walk, cycle, have webinars and don’t travel, buy local, organic food. Change the way we farm and divest from entirely fossil fuel-dependent agriculture. (How much farming does your local farmer do without his tractor, quad, bought in feeds, industrial fertilisers etc? Not much.)

This is a portal that I have been very unceremoniously shoved through. Yes, the turning of the year suggests that it is time to rest, but our human-made crisis is shouting the opposite. It’s time to listen, to walk our land and fall back in desperate love with it and our own survival, then to act

http://www.risingup.org.uk

http://www.activehope.info

Get involved or get educated and I’m here to support you, make small but significant changes but firstly, it’s time to acknowledge that things are moving fast.

 

 

 

 

 

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When the wind rages outside

It’s early morning on a Tuesday in the middle of half term holidays. The children have already bickered about a cardboard box and decaf tea. The baby has turned off the TV that they are watching, scribbled allover my to-do list and wants more of what everyone but he is eating for breakfast. It’s chaotic in here. Even the dog is agitated. Tempers are high, we’re all being too loud. It’s barely 8am and I’ve already had enough.

Outside the sun hasn’t even risen yet. Its light has been growing for the last hour but still there is no point of light in the clear, scattered and shredded sky. The wind is high, it has been all night. Beautiful Cherry, who has been growing quietly all these years in my garden while I’ve learned to love her, clings desperately to her last reddened leaves, refusing to let the wind snatch them from her. She is a tough thing, that Cherry tree. She is one of the first to come into leaf in the Spring and one of the last to lose them in the late autumn. Her delicate little fruits are so bright red. When they turn into that deep maroon colour, if the blackbirds leave me any, I like to take a couple. They’re sharp and sour, with a hard juiciness that wilder varieties still retain. Not like the shop-bought ones, but the ancient, British ones, almost unpalatable to our modern senses. We don’t like our food to be uncomfortable. Sweet and juicy is pretty much what we demand from our fruits now. But my garden reminds me of how sour our food once was, before our tastebuds modernised.

Blackbird is watching me through the window.

When the wind is high the whole world is in movement. Our little bodies are buffeted, even from within four sturdy walls. For my part, it doesn’t take much external, wild, planetary force to dislodge me. My being becomes unravelled and rudderless at the slightest thing. Over the years I have developed practices which keep me connected to myself, this life, so that my being doesn’t get lost amongst the ragged clouds. When the wind blows my mind flies into the four directions. When the sun shines or hides my heart bursts into tiny pieces. When the new fruits burgeon in Spring time my knotted intestines release with a song of creative joy. When the bitterest snow falls I can barely breathe. For I am a child of the Earth, just as you are. My water is this Earth’s, my cells the soil. What happens to Her, happens to me, to all of us.

The practices I mentioned, these are things that have been freely given to me. Kind souls’ wisdom, that need to be shared, for us to return to ourselves. I meditate, bang a deerskin drum, sing wordless syllables, walk the Earth, move my body through Yoga, play music, listen to others who can bend sound to connect us to that which is greater and more eternal than we. And I find a community and gather those dear souls around me. For if I am a child of the Earth, then we all are and when we come together we can hold each other in a safe container, where we can open to our connectedness.

We are not here for all that long. Probably less than a century, possibly our time on the apparent plain is nearly at an end and we don’t even know it. Perhaps we do. What matters is what we are. Not what we’ve done, as achievements are half chance. But what we are. The verb ‘to be’, the latin root is ‘essence’, ‘essential’. What is my essence? It is to live humbly, simply. To love.

I love this world so much that I have faced my untold grief and I have somehow managed to retain shreds of sanity. Not all of it was blown into the scattered clouds, when the ferocity of the wind of knowledge blew through my mind. I still have that little red thread, as the late George Michael described it. What is that? He said it was like a line that he had to follow that came out from his body and led on. If he followed it then he would become successful, become the man and artist we knew him to be. My own little red thread was there all along, when I wanted to be a nun when I was a very small girl, it  was there when I lived in a spiritual community in Scotland, it pulled me through my chaotic twenties and into my thirties. It pulled me unconsciously through until I began to investigate my own subconscious through meditation and ritual. Then I came to see it for what it was. It wasn’t a thread that was leading me to a career, or lots of money, like George. No, it was a thread that connected me all my life to Truth. Not everyone else’s I’d surmise. This isn’t a sermon. Yet mine. Though one that I have a suspicion that I share with a great many of you.

This Truth is so obvious that I have to keep excavating my own bullshit to remind myself of it: the pulse of life that is within me is within every single thing. You too, dear Reader. It’s in you too, and you looking out, it’s in me too. And so the ripples of realisation keep expanding.

I’ll just allow that to sink in a moment.

When I remember the simplicity of this, that my beautiful Cherry tree lives because it should and does, just as much as me or you, or my chaotic kids, then everything falls away. The world, the Universe, becomes a network of complex living pulses of essence. This is the truth that keeps me utterly in love with being alive. What a gift we have been given. To have these senses, this body, this world in which to live and learn. Do we even see what a great, unbound gift we’ve been given? In all honesty, no, I doubt it. I doubt that we give thanks. To what? To what should I give thanks? To Life itself? A God? To my Ancestors for going through joy, fear, utter horror and many, many moments of sheer boredom just so there may be the possibility that I could live and that my children would be born? We live for the descendants we will never know. For we are the living Ancestors.

To give thanks is in itself to tread every footfall with reverence. Every breath is filled with Divine purpose of life itself. I for one will give thanks to the Earth. I come from a line of consciousness that has never been broken, from the very first minerals turned carbon into living, organic matter, billions of years ago. So in very real terms I AM the Earth. As are you. Our Deep Time Mother IS Earth, and that is another simple Truth.

Our actions speak volumes about these Truths. Should I pollute the air, that is my Mother? Should I cut down that tree that is as alive as I? Am I treading lightly? Is my footfall reverent? Can I leave here one day, having left only love, when I die?


The wind is still raging. I must walk the dog, he’s as agitated as I am. I think everyone needs a bit of buffeting, now that the sun has risen. Slowly Cherry tree is losing her leaves to that tenacious wind and I should go out and greet the morning.

A new path is opening up……

  • This is a heartfelt blog post. Thank you in anticipation for reading it.

I have completed my Hatha Yoga teacher training! How fantastic this feels, not just because it means I can ‘teach’ classes in a more traditional, formal way, but it also means that I can use the Eight Limbs of Yoga to influence my work from this point onwards. There will be seven of these limbs that many of you perhaps are not aware of; the part called ‘asana’ is what many of us know to be the moving part of yoga, that of the lovely movement, meditation and relaxation of a class. These ‘limbs’ influence all other elements of our lives and Yoga as a way of life is truly complete.

Where does it fit for me? I am a practicing Druid, as many of you now know. I haven’t ‘come out’ with this news in any special way, it has seeped more and more into my way of being as the years have gone by. I have spent many years of journeying through a variety of approaches to Spirit; many of them deeply influence me still, such as Quakerism and Tibetan Buddhism. Through Druidry I have come to be a Celebrant, a Healer, a meditation facilitator, Earth Ambassador, and ecotherapist. Now I am qualified to teach you yoga! Of course I am following a Way which continues to develop; I still have sound therapy skills to grow and I have my first wedding booked to perform next year! Yoga is part of a complete picture: that which opens us up to the Earth, to each other, to OURSELVES once again.

You are all welcome to come along with me. Together, we can get out of our own way, to let go of our backstory and our futurecasting, let ourselves find that sweet kernel of wonder for the world once again.

It is at this juncture that I must declare that I know with all of my heart and mind that we are walking into a crisis on a global scale and we can only really address this by looking deeply into ourselves and finding the heart within us and to fall once again in love and wonder with our world. Only by truly rejecting this madness can we begin to collectively say enough is enough. Time for a new way to bring all our humanness to each other; of compassion, tenderness, deep, deep love, and JOY back to those who have the capacity to protect those who desperately need our love, and back to ourselves. But we can’t love the world, each other and the great Mother if we don’t love ourselves first. Yes, even the bit of you that’s grumpy before you’ve had a coffee, that’s had one too many tragedies in your life, those parts of you that yearn for self-forgiveness, self-compassion, and self-love. It really is quite simple: when we love ourselves, we no longer look outside for acceptance, because we’ve given it back to ourselves. And then we’re unstoppable.

Ecotherapy, Celebrancy, Radical Joy for Hard Times rituals, Yoga and celebrating through heritage workshops our connection to the land all ask for a significant change in the way we interact with our world. Being honoured to help be part of the narrative of wisdom, self-compassion and collective love for ourselves and this incredible, UNIQUE planet gives me goosebumps!

With outdoor yoga, wilderness walks and meditation, sound therapy, one-to-one energy healing and group meditation I can offer something for you in a more official capacity. Many of you have known that I have dabbled a little here and there as friend and confidante, but I have always shied away from the BIG label, of Priestess, or Therapist, Ritualist, Minister, Witch or even Druid. I still don’t have a label, by the way, what would fit?! Harriet will do.

Other workshops which will be facilitated by myself and others who have important knowledge and want to share significant teachings about how we can return to ourselves, our community and to the world of Nature. This is therefore a call-out to anyone who wishes to offer related teachings and workshops! Get in touch and we can work together to make this happen! teesdalehealing@gmail.com 

I have a new name for all this too: Wild Us. Because we are wild, bold, free, gentle, compassionate, loving and amazing creatures of this blessed Earth! Wild kids, who talk about the earth with reverence, who show us their favourite tree, who have school meditation classes, yoga workshop and Earth spirituality as part of their normal lives. Adults who return to the Earth, guided to reconnect with love and wonder. This is the way I envisage to serve you. I will offer weddings, handfastings, baby namings, funeral celebrancy, rituals of transition, be that the end or start of a job, the beginning of a relationship, becoming a Crone, or a Teen, the motherhood transition. Transitions of initiation and of release. I offer also yoga classes on a regular basis, sound therapy, meditation, heritage workshops and ancestral walks through the land. I am currently in Teesdale, county Durham, and I will work in the near vicinity for now…..

Watch this space guys!!! And THANK YOU for giving me confidence in myself over these years. You’re beautiful souls, every one of you.

Cailleach hair

Head bowed down to inspect the mole hills, I walked to the gnarled old Oak. It said

If you keep looking for the humans, you’ll miss the Sidhe

Looking up, I saw Cailleach hairs of long, thin and tangled grey, caught high up on its bark. Too high for a woman to have reached, too far from any path to have been a chance catching. This is faerie hair, I knew.

I didn’t touch it. To eat the food, or to take anything from a Sidhe is to be taken from them for years of our time, when only moments may pass in their world. I didn’t want to chance it and miss the kids’ growing. Anyway, what if she had a sacred task to fulfill? To gather all her stray hairs and to weave them into a cloak for her enchanted lover, to free him from a terrible spell and to let him smell the pure, clear air of freedom? How could I dare to take a trinket for my windowsill and rob someone of completing such a terrible and arduous, vital task, simply for my spiritual vanity?

No, that hair was too precious, too doom-ridden to bear taking. It put me in mind to not take anything I didn’t need for my own task, for who am I to rid anyone of their own sacred work? Sacredness does not exist purely for my gratification; others weave cloaks that I have no business in meddling with.

I jumped over a wall and climbed up the bank by a waterfall. I sat down on the soggy ground; lying back the rain tickled my lips. Rumble of waterfall, cold ground, chaotic drips on my face, slowly I disappear into senses and input, no more me. Roaring, dripping, warming. Tickling lips. Roar. Drip. Peace.

A sheep skull covered in green, except white teeth. I put it on the wall I jumped.

The Sidhe are an ancient race of Irish mythology, the faerie race. Pronounced shee, they live in a parallel world to us, one that we can access any moment, by entering into ring forts or by accidentally stepping over a veil.

Dishwasher Magic Farewell

Dropped off the dishwasher at the tip today

Heavy with Baby no. 1 I got that machine to

Lighten the domestic burden and to

Free me for Very

Important

Stuff

Like not doing the washing up

 

365 days times nine

Must be a lot, 3000 perhaps, give or take

Hours, perhaps more

Of a co-creativity,

That hum and splosh,

Swoosh of watery cleanliness so I could bake or

clean or

drive the kids somewhere

 

Oh, Dishwasher

Your magic was not to free me of the shackles of domesticity

As you can see I am chained by more than just dishes

But to be my friend

A friend in the kitchen you were

 

 

The voices of women through time

Arms deep in suds and

Raw hands praying to the Goddess of freedom for

those who were to shackle themselves next in line

I can hear their voices in your rumble

 

Farewell, as I drive away

Good, beautiful little machine I

Thank you

 

 

The Year is Dead, Long Live the Year

As the year turns, many are conscious of a long-drawn out process of multiple ‘new’ years. One would be forgiven to think that many in our society see the year itself differently, almost as if we don’t all see things the same way. Yet surely we were all celebrating the ending of one year and the starting of a new one. Samhain, or Hallowe’en is celebrated as the end of one year, as it is traditionally seen as the end of harvest and abundance and the beginning of the fallow months. This seems a fitting end to a year; the ghosts of our ancestors walk amongst us, our trails have reached fruition and have been harvested. Yet, not all ‘paganic’ spiritualties would say this was the year’s end. Instead the long, darkening months of November and most of December are seen as the death rattle of the year. We cannot truly die until we have been dying awhile. Then comes the solstice, when darkness is complete. A point is reached in a very real sense, far out in space, when Earth is at the zenith of her orbit, far, far out into the desperately cold wastes of Nothing. This is the physical end to the year, for this marks the point where we can’t get any further from the Heart; it hereby all gets lighter, brighter, we as a planetary consciousness are invited back into the warmest embrace of the Sun’s hearth.

But then we have the mythological birth of the Son of God. The ancient, shattering importance of this moment rings through the ages, so important it was that the invading Christ chose this moment for himself. To be born anew on this Earth is so brilliantly pure that all are drawn inexorably to honour this moment. Christians, pagans, atheists, Gnostics and mystics are all drawn to the simplicity of this moment: a god-child is born on Earth, a star has been moulded into human form to live a life of challenge and pain, to remember his godhead, to fearlessly share the Truth and to ascend into enlightenment. This is not a mere two thousand years old story and we know that, deep in our bones. Whenever we hear carols at our door, or see the Nativity scene of parents and child, gifts from Mages and of simple herdsmen we hear angels speaking to us from aeons past. This speaks a truth so simple that it transcends learning and dogma, it dares us to believe that this year, this birth, is one of hope. Not of some god, but our own birth, our own hope. This is the true message of Christmas; we all have stardust in us, we all are the Baby, born at the return of the light to Earth to awaken into our embodiment of sacredness, to live and to die enlightened.

Then we have the official end of the calendar year and many westerners really allow themselves to let their hair down at this one, as this is the Left Brain saying it’s OK to know that an end has come. It’s written into bank holidays and work patterns, so it’s acceptable to allow the cells to realign.

Then January 2nd comes and it’s back to work we go. Nothing much has changed at all really, has it, even with the obligatory New Year’s resolutions? Still the same job, same family, same alarm sound, same commute. No Thing Has Changed. No wonder we suffer so terribly from a malaise of the spirit at this time of year like nothing else collectively felt. It even has a name: Blue Monday. It falls on January 15th this year and it is the most depressing day of the year (Watkiss, 2018), although this ‘theory’ has been debunked by many a psychologist. Although contested by psychology, it doesn’t take away from the reality that something is amiss with our collective happiness levels. Here I must acknowledge that not everyone feels this dip. Some sail through the festivities and into January without so much as a backward glance. Not all see this time of year as this heart-opening and I understand this. The problem comes if this is a deliberate act, in order to actively avoid the magic, the Mysticism.

Why may this be? It may just be the weather and the dark, we’ve over eaten and spent too much, but there is more to it than this, I believe. It is as if so many feel all these feelings of peace and hope and joy, of renewal and all the other lovely things we’ve actually allowed and encouraged into our hearts, only to find that the ‘real’ world has no capacity at all to let us embody this. People kindly ask if I had a good holiday? Was Christmas stressful? Did I eat too many mince pies and drink too much wine? My mouth says lightly-fashioned quips, while my heart wants to sing: I danced barefoot in the ice and snow under a waxing moon, my children held candles and blew away the-end-of-things wishes they no longer needed, I cried as I played See Amid The Winter’s Snow on the piano, I made love to my husband for the last time before the solstice and then again when it had turned to greet him back into my being, I vowed to be more grounded this year and to be more Druid, I gazed with love at the moon at New Year’s Eve and I was called by the stars to remember my birth and I did, I did and I do. 

Our heart language is muted by normal life. The change-over from heart expression to mind and logic is managed in the only way we know; by silencing our hearts, falling into a muted depression and silently despairing until we finally forget that we ever dared to believe in the miraculous births of our own majesty and soul’s potential. January is littered with the corpses of good intentions that we simply cannot sustain, we were manipulated into opening our hearts to the magic and we find out that this is not actually very acceptable, because the world we have created around us has long conspired to keep our souls silent and under strict control, let out only for state-endorsed national holidays and times like Christmas when we are actually allowed to let our hearts speak and be spoken to. One of the significant messages our hearts receive at this time of year is one of self-renewal. We actually glimpse the mystery of our souls; the magic of the Birth works!! We aim with all our hearts to sustain this, by going vegan, losing weight, giving up the booze or volunteering at a local charity.

Once our hearts were opened and gloriously, wildly in charge at Imbolc and Beltane, even at Samhain. This beautiful ceremony. Oh, if only we put our heart-feelers out there we would feel the loving embrace of our ancestors. Instead we have been conditioned to fear Death, covering up the true value and potential connection to our own mortality and the miracle of living by plastic-coated ghosts on 99p brooms in Scream masks.

What solutions should I propose? Any quick Google search will return many, many suggestions for detoxing and for ‘beating the blues’. Yet, these suggestions are body-bound, looking to shed weight or save money, to kick-start a ‘new you’ (as if the real you is too wild to make friends with). These are of course valid and sensible ways to realign us after a particularly spectacular splurge. Yet, this malaise of which I speak, one that psychologists are reluctant to endorse, for fear of devaluing the grave and serious nature of the mental health crisis that is depression, can only be addressed if it is truly acknowledged. And it is this: we are manipulated into cracking open our hearts for consumerist purposes, only to have them slammed shut by the world, once the tree has been chipped and the cards cut up for a craft project.

My response to this is: light a candle at the Solstice and then blow it out at the very darkest point of the year. Feel the darkness and know that it is from here that all light comes. Then light it again, inviting the small pinprick of light into your vision, your sight and heart. On Christmas eve walk barefoot in the garden under the moon and feel our being becoming renewed again, work further on the light ceremony of the solstice, think of your own body being born again, starlight made human. The Baby is you. Then, finally, when our culture, friends, calendar and everyday life celebrates the coming of the New Year, you have been readying for this moment, twice already. In this way, you have three-fold opportunity for moving down the birth canal of renewal. Every year this happens. Every year we are given this extraordinary opportunity to go within, into the darkness of our souls, three-fold, through music, light, gifts and birth. The angels truly have given us the darkest moment of the darkest night, to be born anew, time and time again. It is our gift to ourselves to be born to ourselves and to each other, once we step once again into the world, to touch that magic and to bring it back, blinking into the light.

Reference

Watkiss, J, 2018: When is Blue Monday 2018? Five ways to beat the January Blues http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/news/cambridge-news/blue-monday-2018-five-ways-14089982

A winter wonder

Winter has tripped and fallen headlong, cold and sharp on the retreating wet heels of Autumn. There has been no respite between soft, mulch, wistful leaf release and throat rasping air. I for one am glad. For Winter is probably, most likely, my favourite of all the seasons. Not a human soul around in the wildness so that I can enjoy the greatness of Earth in peace. I say peace, but it is far from peaceful out there. This is the season of the birds: ravens caw, scattered and tumbling in the sky while tits and sparrows barge the blackbirds in the hedgerows for the last, juicy, gratifying frozen haw berries and sloes. The odd starling sits high in the naked tree, imagining a host to murmur with. Kestrel hunts rabbits and mice, now used to mine and dog’s presence. A whole collection of collard doves sit, plumped up and resigned on our empty apple trees.

Baby is growing reddened, northern cheeks, wind-raked and dry.  The wind comes from elsewhere at this time of year. More than any other time, I can hear its call to me, of where it came from and where it is going. It rips past my skin, heedless of how noisy its message to me, careless of the calling. Telling me of frozen northern mountains, tempestuous seas and lonely bird call, it passes our safe little place by happenstance and I can not follow wherever it is going and it leaves me here to trudge home, wingless. Drawn ever onwards, to beat against the southern shores of another land, the wind is not of this place. More than anything, I feel its foreign presence and I want to find out where it came from.

I tilt my head upwards A sharp, fine rain falls on me, not nearly as strong as the biting wind, it even smells of the north. We say, it looks like snow, and we mean, this is northern air, come to remind us of our glacial past. This land is just having a short respite, between eras. Better be prepared for it. Whatever happens.

There is a small wood in a quarry, near my home. It sits on the bank of the river. The other day, small icebergs floated like frothy dress rehearsals downstream, to catch on the bank, or to dribble downwards, past the bigger places and towns, out to the icy sea. Barely capable of holding the weight of a wren, they were so vulnerable, soft forms of ice, that were simply gone the next day. Yet, the river had frozen, just a little. I wanted to head upstream, up north, to the source. Where the ice formed and the weight of the water sent them down to me, to learn of how they formed, why and how it got so cold that the river gave up running.

Snowfall in the night means that I can follow the deer tracks today. Four I spy, two very small prints of newer fawns and two who know the lie of the land. The rabbits that Kestrel hasn’t got yet. Cats’ paws on their midnight prowling. A fox or two. Mine, graceless, looking back I can see the slight limp from my nearly-healed leg as it draws a line in the snow. Dog, leaping, being happy, catching the ball and pissing against tufts of nothing he discerns must need his scent. He chews the hind leg of a very dead rabbit until I yell at him to stop.

We disturb a heron, a cormorant, another big bird going the other direction, but what it is I cannot glimpse through the bare canopy. Passerines raucously squabble all around. Winter is so alive, vibrant, noisy, dripping, treacherous, nothing is safe and warm here, everything is fighting. This is the place to be, to feel how powerful is the urge to survive. Earth Herself says if you don’t have the wish to live then I will kill you for your complacency, so you come out here and meet me on my terms. Or hide away in front of your warm fire, cosy with your whiskey and TV, while I run the world. I want to run to Her, to see the sun through the trees and feel the wildness on my skin, to run and not come home.

I am in love with Earth. All of it. The sensual, long summer evenings, sunsets over Mull, the dawn chorus, snowfall spitting sloshy wetness down the chimney, leaves falling, the way the chickens put themselves to bed, dippers who simply must dip (who told them to do that? What came first, the dipping or the dipper?) glaciers and ice melt, snow down my neck, foreign winds, mud-turned-ice-turned-mud-turned-grass, the elusive otter, the first buds of Spring. All of it, from here, from my little corner of the universe, I can feel it all. All, in the sharpest breeze that sings against my cheek, in the coldest snowball my eldest throws at me, in the softness of a primrose’s petal against my tongue, as it bursts its sugars in my mouth. Yet, although the blowsy delights of Spring and Summer cannot fail to entice, it is the season of darkness that holds the greatest light.

I think I am very lucky to have the eyes to see, the heart to burst, the soul to sing the song of the north wind, when it comes to me.

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

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/

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