Friday, 22 May 2015

A whale shaped hill

Whilst out riding I looked back,
I didn't just see, I saw
and remembered.
The post I posted,
but a few months ago
I did not know
My Sussex ancestors revered whale
like hills for holy harrows.

Wolstonbury Hill sacred to me
swims free of its Downland pod,
like a barnacled Bowhead.
In that moment, I saw
and remembered.
We cannot know,
but I feel my Sussex ancestors
had Wolstonbury harrows...

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Beltaine seed thoughts

From my notes here are a few poems and seed thoughts..

Beacons at Bealtaine

by Seamus Heaney

Uisce: water. And fionn: the water's clear.
But dip and find this Gaelic water Greek:
A phoenix flames upon fionn uisce here.
Strangers were barbaroi to the Greek ear.
Now let the heirs of all who could not speak
The language, whose ba-babbling was unclear,
Come with their gift of tongues past each frontier
And find the answering voices that they seek
As fionn and uisce answer phoenix here.
The May Day hills were burning, far and near,
When our land's first footers beached boats in the creek
In uisce, fionn, strange words that soon grew clear;
So on a day when newcomers appear
Let it be a homecoming and let us speak
The unstrange word, as it behoves us here,
Move lips, move minds and make new meanings flare
Like ancient beacons signalling, peak to peak,
From middle sea to north sea, shining clear
As phoenix flame upon fionn uisce here.

In the Celtic calendar that once regulated the seasons in many parts of Europe, May Day, known in Irish as Bealtaine, was the feast of bright fire, the first of summer, one of the four great quarter days of the year. The early Irish Leabhar Gabhála (The Book of Invasions), tells us that the first magical inhabitants of the country, the Tuatha Dé Danaan, arrived on the feast of Bealtaine, and a ninth century text indicates that on the same day the druids drove flocks out to pasture between two bonfires. So there is something auspicious about the fact that a new flocking together of the old European nations happens on this day of mythic arrival in Ireland; and it is even more auspicious that we celebrate it in a park named after the mythic bird that represents the possibility of ongoing renewal. But there are those who say that the name Phoenix Park is derived from the Irish words, fionn uisce, meaning "clear water" and that coincidence of language gave me the idea for this poem. It's what the poet Horace might have called a carmen sæculare, a poem to salute and celebrate an historic turn in the sæculum, the age.

Beacons at Bealtaine source text is here Phoenix Park, May Day, 2004
One ancient Irish name for Beltaine was Cedsoman, which today has become Ceadamh, meaning literally "the first summer". In Irish, May Day is La Bealtaine. The name Beltaine contains the element taine, which means "fire". The first element is that of the solar deity who is called variously Beli, Belinus, and often closely associated with Lugh,

And as Nigel Pennick surmises, in Pagan Book of Days:
The Celtic willow month of Saille ends on 12 May, followed by the hawthorn month, Huath. This brings protection of the inner and outer realms and is sacred to the hammer gods of thunder, Taranis, Thunor, and Thor. Its sacred color is purple.

Rain in May assists the full growth of the crops. This is recorded in the country adages "Water in May, bread all the year" and :
Mist in May, heat in June
Make the harvest come right soon.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Of Nimrodel & Asphodel an Eostre Soul Ride

As I travel through the woodlands throughout the Eostre period I have a recurring meme that pops into my head. It's 'of Nimrodel and Asphodel' from the Lord of the Rings (LotR). I can't remember whether it's a chapter name or referred to in dialogue or whether I have made it up! For me the Wood Anemone's are Nimrodel and Lesser Celandine are Asphodel. Here's a view of the Wood Anemone's in the local woods

It has been running around my head for several years, writing this blog has encouraged me to use the powers of Google to search the one Wiki to rule them all...

And I find that Nimrodel is a Wood Elf who is beguiled by the stars into a deep sleep and loses her lover. So that explains why my subconscious had linked the white star flowers of the Wood Anemone with Nimrodel. Now to Asphodel, which I discover is a yellow-white flower that Frodo and Sam come across in Ithilien. Which would link the yellow of the Celandine with the white of the Anemone. Here's the Celandine:

Eostre is traditionally the time when I renew my commitment to the Gewessi path, it's become traditional for me to do this atop Wolstonbury Hill by a Hawthorn and Elder tree. This year I was a bit late as Eostre itself I met up with old friends for a great ride in the west, a circuit from Cocking looping by the Devil's Jumps.

The Devil's Jumps sit on Treyford Hill, they are a sequence of 5 ancient bell barrows. Now the view up on them hills is lovely and the woodland forms a circle creating a peaceful place where Thor himself used to sit and ponder what Giants, over in the East, to hammer next. Thor dozed off...
thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, thump
Thor was jiggered and opened an eye to see the Devil hisself jumping from barrow to barrow and he was boco mispleased at this willicky behaviour
"Oi Devil, you dursn't leap from those totties. Garn with you, surelye waken the dead."
The Devil jeered back "Ha old man bet you're too old to have leaping fun"
Thor looked down and found a gurt big slab of flint, he hoisted it in his mighty hand and threw it hard at the Devil. As the Devil was mid-jump it caught him hard in the midriff. The Devil hit the ground hard and cursing set off towards Merricur as fast as if a swarm a humbledore's was after 'im. From the woods there was the sound of Yaffle's laughing.

Today I finally got up to Wolstonbury and had a brief moment to cast the circle, touch base with those two trees, internally remark on the difference this year to previous years and re-affirm my commitment to the Gewessi path. The circuit round Wolstonbury is hard, dry, bumpy from all the horses but marvellously fantastic. Big soul happy grins and quick photo' of the gorgeous diddy Cowslips that cover these hills at this time (that'll be my glove next to it and I don't have big hands)

Friday, 10 April 2015

Musings on the Hearg

A couple of posts ago I mentioned Harrow Hill, the holy Hearg in the open landscape. Sussex Archaeology have more detail here. It is likely the Anglo-Saxon Hearg stood within the late Bronze age square hill fort. There is a possibility that our Briton ancestors used it for ritual purposes, which provides an intriguing possibility of a continuum of worship there from the Bronze age through to the late Iron age/early Medieval period. The final piece of folklore about Harrow Hill is that it's the last place that fairies lived in the whole of England. I was brought up with the folklore that as Sussex was the last place in England to convert to Christianity it has kept more of it's heathen superstitions which would explain why the last of the fairies are here.

The question that I'm interested in is who was it that our Anglo-Saxon ancestors worshipped there?
There are clues I think in the landscape and the folklore, unlike Thundersbarrow Hill where Thunders links it to Thunor or Thor, there's no clue in the name. I think the clue is in it's location and that piece of folklore. The land is also not great arable land but is good for livestock; horses and cattle. So I am looking for a heathen deity who is a leader of the fairy folk, holds horses and cattle dear to them and has holy places within enclosures.

Within Bede's history there is a story of the conversion of a heathen priest, called Coifi, who goes back and then destroys the temples sacred to the heathen gods. As Coifi was not allowed to carry weapons or ride horses it is thought he was a priest to Ingvi-Freyr. It is known that horses were kept in sacred places and that the horse was central to heathen religion. There are tales of horse phalli (phalluses?) being used in heathen ritual and the original Saxon leaders Hengist and Horsa's names mean stallion and horse. Ingvi-Freyr's Hall within Asgard is known as Alfheim, the home of the Elves who we now think of as the fae-folk or fairies. There are also linguistically many places across the Nordic countries that indicate Freyr's sacred places were fields, ancient or enclosures. Ingvi-Freyr is also attested as being worshipped in mounds. Harrow Hill is an ancient mound, home to faeries and a suitable place for cattle and horses to live.

So in a moment of wod, odr or awen it is interesting to think that Harrow Hill could have been sacred to Ingui Frea, the Lord Ing, the horse lord and leader of the fairies.

Ingvi-Freyr's "earthly avatars were worshipped within the mound, just as the alfs were. Through his role as god of the barrow and fro of Alf-Home, Fro Ing is also tied to the living might of our fore-gone kin and to the inheritance of udal lands. In the sagas, his friendship preserves the lands of his followers; but when his wrath is roused, he drives men from their lands." from Teutonic Religion by Kvedulf Gundarsson
For a circular walk that passes Harrow Hill have a look here

Turn the Cup Over... a Sussex Drinking Song

appropriate for Eostre when the weather opens up and travel becomes possible again...
I've been to Haarlem,
I've been to Dover
I've travelled this
Wide world all over
Over, over, three times over
Drink a glass of lemonade
And turn the glasses over
Sailing east, sailing west,
Sailing over the ocean
Better watch out when
The boat begins to rock
Or you'll lose your partner
In the ocean

Thread from

Friday, 6 March 2015

Cissbury Ring and its location in the landscape

So I was back working with the National Trust at Cissbury Ring, clearing scrub to allow cattle grazing and a restoration back to it's managed environment.
To the North, on the horizon, you can see the beech hanger that is Chanctonbury Ring a Romano-British temple and thus the temple for the people who built Cissbury. The suffix bury, in this context, comes from the term Burgh to denote a fortified place. Chancton may well come from the Old English meaning Chanc's ton where ton mean farmstead. Cissbury means Cissa's burgh, Cissa is one of the legendary three sons of the South Saxon leader Ælle who is recorded in the Anglo-Saxon chronicle as invading in CE 477.

The use of Burgh may well denote their implementation by King Alfred the Great as fortified places to halt the Viking incursions. Cissbury is a defensible high point where the views to the East, South and West would provide good warning of any attacks. Chanctonbury, to the North, has views right across the Weald to the North Downs. There is a clear track, almost a cursus, between the two places and it would seem sensible for our ancestors to combine their need for defense with a their spiritual needs. Cissbury itself is very ancient and was first a centre for Flint mining before the defensive ramparts were built in the Iron Age.

Eastwards you can vaguely see the rise that is the next old hillfort at Devils Dyke. A couple of hours by mountain bike and a fairly hard walk for most people even along the relatively easy South Downs Way.

Southwards the view is over the coastal towns of Lancing and Worthing, the -ing suffix denoting their pagan Anglo-Saxon origins, and the sea of the English Channel. Which would give plenty of warning of any coastal raiders.

Westwards you can see the Long Furlong and then onwards towards Harrow Hill, Harrow probably coming from the Anglo-Saxon hearg meaning a holy sanctuary it does have the following features in addition to an ancient enclosure where evidence of Anglo-Saxon ritual feasting has been found. "One of the distinctive features of what seem to be genuine heargs is that they are prominent hills. And these hills are often, though not always, of a distinctive 'beached whale' shape...The hearg seems to have constituted a naturally significant location that formed a place of gathering and ritual for many generations over a long period of time." from here You can also see Sullington Hill along the South Downs Way, a similar distance to Devil Dyke, which has a series of Cross Dykes that are thought to be defensive structures controlling the boundaries or trade routes.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Tribal ways

The Eagle showed me
When you rise above the mockers who mob
And climb the mountain
Then the tapestry of creation unfolds for you.

The Salmon took me
On a journey to the Sargasso sea
And back; the life cycle
Where no point in the loop is the same.

Which is the point.

Friday, 6 February 2015


Searching through my old notes on my spiritual journey I re-discovered Frank Herbert's Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear from his book , Dune. In order to learn you have to fail, most people fear failure and that fear grows with age in my experience. It ties into my youthful philosophy around improving my skills as a sailor, windsurfer and cyclist - if you don't crash you're not trying hard enough. Now I'm older my body physically can't handle the crashes as well but that's no reason to stop pushing your limits, it's just about knowing where they are...

"I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."

Monday, 2 February 2015

Imbolc blessing

Smooring the Fire

The sacred Three
To save,
To shield,
To surround
The hearth,
The house,
The household,
This eve,
This night,
Oh! this eve,
This night,
And every night,
Each single night.
Awen, Awen, Awen.

Adapted from the Carmina Gadelic number 84, I was reminded of this blessing by Michael on the OBOD forum. Our boiler had broken and it was the first time that I'd started a fire in the fireplace. This seems the correct blessing for damping down the fire before going to bed on the night of Imbolc.