Monday, 2 January 2017

A Gewessi Yule tale - part 4

How the Magpie showed Justice, Knowledge and Loyalty

A long, long time ago the people and animals hadn't talked for so long that they had forgotten that they used to speak to each other. Sometimes they could still be friends and talked in sign language. In Poitou, in Southern France, you will see heather and laurel tied to the top of the people's houses or a high tree as a sign to say they are friends of the Magpies. It all started in Chauvigny where there was a little boy who was friends with Mr Magpie. Every morning as he headed towards the fields he would give Mr Magpie the nod and throw him a piece of his breakfast. For this Mr Magpie would follow the little boy and keep an eye on him as he tended the herds of sheep in the fields. The little boy used to get bored watching the sheep and would think up tricks and games to keep himself amused. So one day the little boy saw a Knight riding up on his strong white horse and in his hand was a long straight spear. The little boy thought he would play a trick and ran back to the village crying
"Wolf, wolf!"

All the people in the village ran to get their weapons to chase off the wolf. Now Mr Magpie knew the little boy was being naughty, even though he was his friend, and he quickly gathered a twig of Ash tree, flew to the top of the highest tree and dropped the twig in front of the villagers whilst scolding the little boy. The villagers ignored the Magpie and followed the little boy to find the wolf. They were very angry when they realised the boy had tricked them. Then the villagers realised that Mr Magpie had been telling the boy off, and they remembered the Magpie had dropped a twig. They said
"Aha Mr Magpie knew the little boy was lying and dropped the twig of Ash to let us know that a Knight was coming. Everyone knows that a Knight's spear is made from Ash because it grows so straight."

A little later the boy was bored again, the sheep were grazing quietly, when he saw a Druid coming down the road to the village. He ran back to the village as fast as his legs would carry him…
"Wolf, wolf, WOLF!!!!"
The Magpie had already picked a twig of Yew tree - as everyone knows that Yews are sacred to Druids. He flew to the top of the nearest house, scolded the boy and dropped the twig in front of the little boy's parents. The villagers were all running from the village until they saw the Druid!

His parents were very cross and said
"You naughty little boy telling us the Druid was a wolf! It was lucky the Magpie warned us that it was the Druid that was coming."

After that the little boy didn't like Mr Magpie and threw stones at him whilst calling him names. However Mr Magpie continued to keep an eye on the little boy because he was a loyal friend. A few days later a pack of wolves started attacking the sheep. The little boy ran back to the village shouting
"Wolf, WOLF, WOLF!!"
but the villagers ignored him expecting just another visitor. Mr Magpie had quickly picked some Whitethorn and flew with the little boy to the villagers dropping the twig at their feet and chattering loudly at them. The villagers seeing the Whitethorn and hearing his 'Caw, caw, caw' said
"Oh he's brought Whitethorn which means bad luck, the boy must be telling the truth! Quick there must be wolves in the field."
They ran off to chase the wolves away. The boy was busy crying
"Why did no-one believe me?"
An old man in the village heard him, picked up the boy and said "Because you cried 'Wolf' when there was no wolf. The Magpie knew you were lying and told the truth because it was the right thing to do. Even though you stopped being his friend, he remained loyal to you and helped you in the end."
The little boy asked how he could honour his friend, Mr Magpie. The Magpie brought him some Heather and Laurel. Heather to heal him when he's feeling sad and Laurel to stop lightning hitting him (for it was said that he would be killed by a bolt of lightning). So the little boy tied it to the top of his house and told the rest of the villagers that if they wanted a Magpie to warn them of visitors or wolves they should tie a bundle to their house or tree.

A Gewessi Yule tale - Part 3

How the Magpie showed Honesty, Honour and Hospitality

After the Buffalo Race the people and the animals started to drift apart. They stopped talking to each other and were forgetting how to be friends. 

 Now Tigers have always thought of themselves as Lords of the forest, which means they think they are better than everyone else and can do what they like. The Woodcutter was a good, but poor, man and lived in the forest with his sick mother, wife and three children. One day he was walking through the forest deciding which tree he needed to cut down when he heard a terrible noise, a bit like the sound of a police siren underwater
"Owowowowowow, how dare those, those people mess with MY forest" and "Oooooooooooo, they shouldn't be on my land owowowowowow".
The Woodcutter rushed towards the sound where he found a tiger with his paw caught in a rabbit snare. The Tiger shouted at the Woodcutter
"Is this your snare! It has caught me, you people are so careless leaving traps all over my forest!"
The woodcutter replied politely 'that it was not his snare as he didn't use them'. Mr Magpie, who was passing by, shouted down to the Tiger
"Nope Mr Woodcutter doesn’t use them!"
The Tiger shouted back
"Well, my man, get me out of this infernal contraption IMMEDIATELY!"
After thanking Mr Magpie for his honesty the Woodcutter knelt down and released the Tiger's paw from the snare, the Tiger's paw was badly hurt and he couldn't walk. The Woodcutter kindly decided to look after him until he was well. He chopped down two saplings and by tying them together made a harness by which he could carry the Tiger back to his hut. He invited Mr Magpie to come back for some lunch.

When they got back to his hut, the Tiger had complained the whole way, the Woodcutter put on the kettle and offered his guests something to eat. For Mr Magpie he prepared nice fresh eggs and for the Tiger a leg of pork. Mr Magpie thanked him gratefully, as any good guest would, but the Tiger just snatched his food and started eating without so much as a 'Please' or a 'Thank You'. Mr Magpie noticed the Woodcutter and his family were eating plain rice and beans as they had given their eggs and meat to their guests. He thought how hospitable the Woodcutter was in giving him the eggs and promised himself that he would repay the Woodcutter for this debt. The Tiger stayed for some days at the Woodcutters house ordering the Woodcutters family around without so much as a 'Please' or 'Thank You'. He even ordered the Woodcutter's sick mother to fetch him some water from the well!!! Finally the Tiger could walk and left the Woodcutter's house and the Woodcutter's mother shouted
"Good riddance to bad rubbish, you rude ingrate!" after him.

A few months passed and the Tiger was out hunting, it was the time of year when there weren't many deer in the forest and the Tiger was quite hungry. Suddenly he saw a man cutting wood in the forest
"He will be enough to fill my belly", thought the Tiger.
He sneaked up behind the man, and with a quick wiggle of his bottom, pounced on his victim. The Magpie, meanwhile, had been hunting in the forest for fruit, eggs and shiny things but at that moment was busy watching the Woodcutter at his work. Suddenly he saw the ungrateful Tiger about to pounce on the Woodcutter. With a loud "Caw, caw, caw" the Magpie dove at the Tiger saying
"You ungrateful wretch! After all the Woodcutter did for you. He saved you from the trap!"
and pecked him on the head. Still the Tiger pounced. Mr Magpie flew back and pecked him again
"You rude, ignorant boor! The Woodcutter carried you to his home and all YOU could do was complain!"
The Tiger had stopped but Mr Magpie was still so angry at the Tiger's in-hospitable action that he felt honour bound to peck him for a third time saying
"And this is for your lack of manners as a guest! The Woodcutter gave you his best food & bed to help you recover and this is how you repay him."
The Tiger, who now had a very sore head, slunk off back into the forest. The Woodcutter thanked Mr Magpie profusely. Who replied that it was nothing. In fact it was the least he could, in all honour, do after the hospitality shown by the Woodcutter and his family.

A Gewessi Yule tale - Part 2

How the Magpie showed Bravery, Creativity and Discipline

The Buffalo used to eat man. The People argued with the Buffalo saying
"Why do you get to eat us and we don't get to eat you! We shall have a big council to decide who eats who."
Mr Magpie and the Hawk were on the side of the people, for neither ate the other or the people. At the council they determined that a race would be held, the winners to eat the losers. These two birds flew away from the council between animals and men undecided as to whether they should enter the race. Mr Magpie was scared of being with the People when the Buffalo seemed so confident - but was determined to stay with man because he didn't eat magpie's.

The course was long, around a mountain. The swiftest Buffalo was a cow called Neika, "swift head." She believed she would win and entered the race. On the other hand, the People were afraid because of the long distance. They were trying to get medicine to prevent fatigue. Mr Magpie had watched Neika race before and thought up a clever plan. If he flew behind Neika he could shelter from the wind and save his energy for a last sprint at the end.

All the birds and animals painted themselves for the race, and since that time they have all been brightly coloured. Even the water turtle put red paint around his eyes. The magpie painted himself white on head, shoulders, and tail. At last all were ready for the race, and stood in a row for the start. They ran and ran, making some loud noises in place of singing to help themselves to run faster. All small birds, turtles, rabbits, coyotes, wolves, flies, ants, insects, and snakes were soon left far behind. When they approached the mountain the buffalo-cow was ahead; then came the magpie, hawk, and the people; the rest were strung out along the way. The dust rose so quickly that nothing could be seen.

All around the mountain the buffalo-cow led the race, but the two birds knew they could win if they saved their energy for the finish, and merely kept up with her until they neared the finish line, which was back to the starting place. Then both birds whooshed by her and won the race for man. As they flew the course, they had seen fallen animals and birds all over the place, who had run themselves to death, turning the ground and rocks red from the blood. They did not panic on seeing this but stayed behind Neika.

The buffalo then told their young to hide from the people, who were going out to hunt them; and also told them to take some human flesh with them for the last time. The young buffaloes did this, and stuck that meat in front of their chests, beneath the throat. Therefore, the people do not eat that part of the buffalo, saying it is part human flesh. From that day forward the Cheyennes began to hunt buffalo. Since all the friendly animals and birds were on the people's side, they are not eaten by people, but they do wear and use their beautiful feathers for ornaments. Another version adds that when coyote, who was on the side of buffalo, finished the race, the magpie who even beat the hawk, said to coyote,
"We will not eat you, but only use your skin."
Ever since the Cheyenne have loved the magpie for his bravery in taking their side in the race, discipline in saving his energy and creativity in thinking in how to win the race.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

A Gewessi Yule tale... part 1

This is a kid's story I wrote years ago, when my children were young. It brings together world myths under a Gewessi theme and as Yule time is a time to tell tales then it seemed appropriate to dust it off and put it on my blog.

Magpie becomes sad

Once upon a time in the long ago, when all the animals and people were equal and could talk to each other, there was a magpie who was tired of the dislike of the other creatures in his part of the wood. Whenever he would approach they would shout "Thief", "Blackguard" and they would call him other names :- "Good-for-nothing!", "lowlife" & "mischief maker" all because magpies like pretty, shiny objects and take things from nests when their owners were not playing with them or looking after them.

Others would shout "Gossip", "blabbermouth!" and they would call him other names:- "Busybody", "snoop" and "telltale." All because Mr Magpie liked to talk and to talk about everything he'd seen and heard.

These names all made Mr Magpie sad and he would swoop back to his Wife with his eye not as bright as before. As he came in his tail would droop and his Wife would say
"Have you been listening to the small minds again? Remember we are magpies and people have always disliked us." He would say to her
"But why does it have to be this way? Can a Leopard not change his spots? Is there no way to change?"

He would hop to his branch overlooking the sunset and his tail would droop, whilst his eye would not be as bright as before. He would sigh and say
"I wish I was as bright as the sunset and golden as the dawning day, for everyone loves those things."

One evening as Mr Magpie was sat watching the sunset with his dull eye and drooping tale Ostara the Queen of the Dawn walked past. She pulled her forelock (as you must always do to Mr Magpie when he's on his own) and said
"Evening Mr Magpie! How's Mrs Magpie and all the little Magpies?"
"Oh well enough" he said
"I'm glad to hear it," said She "but why the dull eye and the drooping tail?"
"Oh I'm fed up with all the people calling me names like thief, bad-egg, rogue, gossip, backbiter and everything!"
"Oh!" said Ostara and she fell silent while she thought for a bit.

In fact she thought for a long time. She went to the feasting hall of her clan and discussed it with Tor, Allvater, Briggi, Freeya and for a long time with Logi. However they all said
"But he is a magpie and that's what magpie's do! Most magpie's are happy with what they do and don't care that the rest of the people don't like them."
Except Logi, who felt rather sorry for the little magpie, he said
"But WHY??? Can a Leopard not change his spots? Is there no such thing as change? He is very unhappy - it's not fair for him to live without hope."
The rest of the clan discussed it generally
"Hmmm if he can change would he still be a magpie?" said Allvater
"But still he must be allowed to change." Briggi his wife said and on that they all agreed.
"What would he have to do to prove he'd changed?" asked Ostara.
"He would have to live an exemplary life true to our clan's 9 ideals:
Bravery, creativity and discipline.
Honesty, honour and hospitality and finally
Justice, knowledge and loyalty!"
On this they also agreed. They took an oath that if the magpie could change he would receive a reward.

Ostara went to see Mr Magpie watching the sunset, sadly with his tale drooping and his dull, black eye and she sang him this song...
"If you be true and want to be liked
then navigate nine, roads to rule your life,
At first there are three, thus for thyself:

Be Brave and be bold, no cart to the crowd,
Creative too, called the herald of hope
Discipline or duty, a foundation for faith.
Contained in your cauldron, they brew a great beer.

Our next are for others you may meet and greet:
Honesty is healthy, so talk of true things,
Of Honour keep hold - wealth is your word
Hospitality too, give to your guests.

Last is to live, life the great game:
Justice a jewel, in the golden ring of right.
Knowledge a key, the choice to choose well and
Last is for loyalty, tied fast between friends."

Mr Magpie's tail perked up then and his eye became bright with hope. So throughout his life Mr Magpie then lived according to the nine. Here are just some of the things that he did in his travels round the world to prove that he had changed…

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Appropriate at Samhuin

Walking through Postman park in London, experiencing the city and marvelling at majestic Plane trees I came across this. A park, a hidden bit of greenery, as interesting & surprising as the vistas at Stowe within this city scape.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Samhuin seed thought : Ikigai A Reason for Being

In French you might say your raison d'etre, your reason for being.  It's rare to know this from a young age and sometimes just when you think you know what it is when you get there you realise it isn't it.
Which is a complex one, the drive to do more than just survive and be happy doing it.  Within the Japanese word there is a certain joy in finding this.  However, as usual, the internet explanations are simplistic.  Trying to soundbite a complex viewpoint.

Within the Gewessi world knotwork art becomes a mandala, the world is a complex weave and finding the thread of Ikigai for you and keeping it can feel like dancing on a knife edge, the various knots of life try to unbalance you. You become a hinge or unhinged within the pattern of the weave.
Which is where a spiritual structure can maintain your Ikigai so that it doesn't become lost in the noise of our society.
  My structure is yoga, meditation and celebrating the wheel of the year, my Ikigai is cycling, my wife and the drive to create - whether that be gardening or virtual systems it is the creative aspect that appeals.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Deus sive Natura

"God is Nature, as Nature is God".Spinoza
  Thoughts on Nina Lyon's 'Uprooted' on the trail of the green man. 
It is weird hearing about integral events in your life, such as the rave scene & the 1988 Summer of Love and its impact on the modern world from the perspective of someone 10 years younger, your life as history.  That's getting old I guess. Being taught by people younger than you, whilst in your head you're the same age as them.

What is interesting, I find, is kicking against the perception that each generation grows up thinking it can change the world.    Mine didn't, I remember our head of History a young 30 year old, so ancient to our 17 year old minds, railing at our cynicism & belief that little we did would change the world.  We'd seen the various waves of young adults like the hippies, punks and others fight the system, the man and seemingly lose or even worse become ' the man'. 

O Fuck it, we weren't gonna do that.  I became an 80's yuppie by day and raver by night.  There were a lot of us, ecstasy was our drug & it turned haters into friends, opened closed minds & we became one people.  Then we discovered we had power.  The police had to be cautious of violently break up a rave of 1000s of people from all levels of society - there were Lords & Ladies, children of judges alongside those from the poorest estates, gay's with straights, Chelsea and Arsenal fans hugged.  Everyone was behaving peaceably, loved up and would be dressed in anything from DJ and ball gown to a fully fluorescent outfit.  No one cared, the dance was everything.  A few police couldn't incite us as the repercussions of attacking a mob high on amphetamines would've been too great.  Many of us were the children of the Tory establishment not poor Labour miners who they could brutally attack & then lie in the media to get away with it.

The establishment were scared.  They changed the rules, allowing night clubs to stay open all night as well as banning raves to remove the reasons for raves to happen.  The world was changed, football violence declined, it was a step change in the acceptance of being different.  There's some power in a youth movement not thinking they can change their world and managing it by accident, only realising it as the world turns and they look back.

As we reach the equinox, the time when the Green Man dies in some traditions, it is appropriate to think of these transitions.  As I move into my Gold Days/Golden years so my son moves into his Beltaine years.  The cycle within & without a cycle.
I liked the book, it reminded me of ZAMM , Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, but for a neo pagan world.  A philosophical critique of where it is right now, as well as a warning for the future.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

St. Nectan and his glen

Now if you listen to Druidcast you may have come across St. Nectan, where you can hear the wonderful vocal tones of Roland Rotherham talk about him it starts at Druidcast 99, and I had the joy of visiting his legendary glen. It sits between Tintagel and Boscastle, between the myths of the ancient British King Arthur and the Witches museum. Walking up to the glen brought back memories of playing in Cornwall's granite and quartz laden streams, there is even traces of gold in the rocks too.

Nectan is also a water deity within the Irish mythology. Which would make the waterfall at St. Nectan's Cleave or Glen a pool of the well of wisdom. It is certainly a place of pilgrimage to many folk who visit. In this respect it has been treated as a Clootie Well for healing and spiritual help.

It is undoubtedly a place of magic and mystery, although we failed to get down to Rocky Valley

, pics from here, due to the lateness of the hour when we left the Glen. The carvings are Neolithic, 4000 years old, and provide links between ancient Crete and Glastonbury too.

The stacks of 'fairy' rock formations within the glen add to the magical feeling as you walk to and from the waterfall.

Ultimately for the strong spirited the waterfall and it's cold, cleansing waters are the main attraction:
This is the upper part of the waterfall, the plunge pool is shallow enough to stand in but deep enough to become immersed in the water. The afternoon we spent there was certainly a special one. Whilst there is a car park where you can walk to the Glen for the stronger walkers I would recommend it as an essential mid-walk stop on the coastal path between Boscastle and Tintagel.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Belated Lughnasadh seed thought - being happy in the moment

The Lughnasadh period is a busy one for anniversaries; Lughnasadh itself is my wedding anniversary, with a break for the 2nd August and then in sequence my departed Father's birthday, a good friend's birthday, my wife's best friend deathday and then a breather until my birthday. Which this year was a significant one. As it also aligns to summer holidays it is a busy time of year.

Whilst mindfulness has now become a widely known meme, as such ripe for parody, it is still a useful technique for dealing with stress. I have become unemployed for the first time in my life and as such it is easy to become prey to anxiety and my internal negativity. It was as I contemplated the garden, the worry of still not having a job lurked like a sinister mould at the back of the fridge, that I remembered to focus in the moment. It was sunny, I had completed many of the jobs in the garden and I had applied for a number of jobs. There's enough money in the bank too, so I was...

Being where you need to be

If you are, like me, something of a mental list maker then you can become subject to the tyranny of the to do list. Whilst a list can be useful in knowing what to do next it must not be allowed to ruin the moment with self negativity. I used to do this a lot, particularly around the garden...I should have planted those seeds, weeded that border...aarrrgh the hedge needs pruning.... Who was I hoping to please with this? Me, the kids don't care, my wife cares about the garden sporadically and only the bit she can see. The hedges don't care if they look neat to the human eye and we will not starve if I forgot to plant the brassica's. I've earned the money sitting in the bank so I can live without a job for a few months (not that I intend to do that) so I can...

Allow yourself

The garden is not perfect and is not finished, I've not written a blog post for a few weeks and probably gamed a little too much but I've not had a whole summer off in 30 years. I think the last summer I had off was in 1985 when I spent much of it sailing, including racing J24 yachts.

So for Lughnasadh choose a day to throw off the shackles of the mental to do list, enjoy the moment and prepare for the work of the harvest.