Friday, 6 March 2015

Cissbury Ring and it's 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.

Imbolc seed thought - silence

The snowdrops white flower heads are here, closed against the icy wind. The dark Hellebore flowers have just appeared and the other bulb's green shoots are nosing their way towards the light. Here in mid Sussex the sun is promising the warmth of spring whilst the north wind is keeping it's icy grip and the feeling is wintery. It is perfect Imbolc weather. The seed thought came to me yesterday morning as I rode through my local country lanes. These ancient lanes from the low Weald to the high Weald give mixed views of arable land, hedgerows and are interspersed with the narrowing vision when the sunken lanes are held deep within a tree lined tunnel. The leafless branches forming a lattice work overhead.

One of the nice things about a single-speed bicycle is that, when set up properly, they are almost silent. With gears, derailleurs and longer chains, comes flexibility and with it rattles and creaks. The tight chain line of the single geared bike has no sound. Just the occasional light clattering as it races down the pot holed, rough and loose tarmac of a downhill section. The silence of the bike gave space to hear the world, up some of the short, steep climbs of the high Weald the focus was internal - the beating of blood in my veins, the gasping for breath and the hammer of my ageing heart. On the flat all that could be heard was the whisper of my tyres, the bluster of the wind across the landscape and various songs from the birds. The bird song that reappears around Yule, having faded at Litha, now has more desire and urgency within it. Certainly not the full chorus that is here between Eostre and Beltaine but it brims full of the optimism that the returning sun brings.

In the narrow tree lined lanes, banked higher than my head with my eyes at root and burrow level I could reflect how nature rapidly breaks up mans effort to control the surface.
In the narrow lanes in this cauldron of silence, speared by the midday Imbolc sun and with the cleansing sword of an Arctic blast I could reflect upon the opening gateway to the year that is Imbolc.
I could travel in the peace of Frige
Then narrow lanes opened, revealing open countryside and the green walled vista of the South Downs and the warmth of home, the heat of the hearth and the love of my loved ones. Thankfully I could return there.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

A Gewessi prayer translated from Sigrdifa's invocation

Heill dagr! Hail the day!
Heilir dags synir! Hail the day's sons!
Heil nótt ok nift! Hail Darkness and her daughters!
Óreiðum augumlítið Behold us lovingly;
okkr þinigok gefið See to gift success
sitjöndum sigr! to those sitting here
Heilir æsir! Hail the Gods!
Heilar ásynjur! Hail the Goddesses!
Heil sjá in fjölnýta fold! Hail the excellent Earth!
Mál ok mannvit. With wit and wisdom,
gefið okkr mærum tveimok See to gift our speech
læknishendr, meðan lifum. " And life long healing hands.

Inspired from Joanna Van Der Houven's book about Solitary Druidry.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Moving through shadows, the nihilism of negativity

"the assorted activities of Druid work, provide a toolkit of stuff to move beyond blandness (or nihilism, if you wish)."
Indeed my own spiral down into darkness during the Ovate work involved interminable rounds of inner questioning "what am I doing this for, why am I following this Druid path, is it relevant" made me delve deeper and focus on what was important to me and why I started on the path in the first place. I had to learn to step back from, whilst still being in the, feeling of the moment. So that I could objectively evaluate and re-evaluate my feelings, Druidry and it's role within my life. I could then gain confidence in where I have got to as a Druid almost like spiralling back down to the start and back to where I was but within a shorter time span...

What is important to me:

  • Respect for the earth
  • Walking as lightly as I can upon the earth
  • Balancing all the aspects of my life as a human: husband, father, friend, worker, Gewessi Druid and mountain biking cyclist

How do I express this?

  • I'm a member of Greenpeace and as active as my work contract will allow. Balance this against being more active and the impact it would have on the people around me (wife & children)
  • Charities such as the Wildlife Trusts, Wildfowl and Wetland Trusts</li>
  • Cycling, buying locally, my vegetable patch balanced against the energy I consume and my ecological footprint (I do own a car and live a modern life with electrical equipment)

Why am I a Gewessi Druid?

Druid philosophy and spirituality enhances my life. This, personally, is the key focus and the sword against which I can review my involvement. For example, must I attend group Druid ritual? Not if it detracts from my life and relationships. This sword is the edge that controls the negative inner monkey that chips away at confidence by saying "a proper Druid does xxxxx" in a whiny, nasally voice pouring the hemlock of negativity into me. It allows me to focus on the rock of my approach to being a Gewessi Druid; I follow a solitary Druid path, a Druid hermit in some respects at this moment in my life.

Because this Spiritual Order provides structure in the Wheel of the Year rituals, practice of mediation, exercising in both Yoga and Mountain Biking as well as the study of Druidry provide a focus to my life that can reign in the wild horses of my mind. These wild horses lead to the internal chaos of self-destructive behavioural patterns. The Druidry based structure controls the negative and provides a beacon of light in positivity; the answers to soul problems and bad behavioural patterns.

It furthers understanding of my life. I have built great relationships with my Pagan deities, the land I live on and with my ancestors that are important to my health and happiness as a human being. With my Gewessi deities I have a cycle where I start falling into a more atheistic view, that they are internal human brain constructs, and then a transrational experience happens and I return to my belief that there is a connection between my spirit and the universe. With the land I have much greater knowledge of the ecology of my local landscape and the spirits within that landscape such that I have tree friends (and it seems natural to talk about tree friends) and my ancestors have helped me review both my family tree heritage and my wider genetic ancestral patterns to understand with a certain humility

The whole process had moments where it was opening up old wounds, with which to scour them clean, so that they could heal properly. That healing and confidence building process has been important and painful at the same time. It has meant I have gleaned a deeper confidence in walking my spiritual path.

The triad of the tribes:
The Stag says as above so below,
The Owl says in darkness be the light,
The God/Goddess/Spirit says the mote is within me.

Reflection, think upon these when lost in the wight world.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Loca - The one who closes

Is my resolution for this year.   Finish what you started, fix things when they break and don't procrastinate! This is a year of new beginnings I feel.   For too long I have come up with excuses for delaying things, usually because I can't afford it right now.   However, I never seem to factor in the emotional and personal cost of the annoyance and frustration when things aren't working.

Yule was the driver for this, along with my previous post on Loca, when the toilet finally broke having been limping along... if you half press the handle 9 times, say a little prayer then it might just flush properly.   I had to panic, get a plumber at short notice who got it working before my mother came to stay.   Mother is stressful enough without the additional stress of things not working.   Enough, is enough, especially when the bath taps aren't working the shower unit broke at the end of the summer and all not fixed because we'll have the money after Yule.   We work, we have credit so fix things otherwise you waste energy in frustration and unfocused irritation and I'm not a teenager with energy to spare.

....And Relax

So a list of things to finish this year:

  1. Fix bathroom taps and shower - bits bought, plumber to arrange
  2. Fix Mountain Bikes - Fuquay (send brake to Hope), Spesh Enduro Fox rear shock and strip rebuild the rear hub on my Slingshot
  3. Fix the last drip from my shed roof
  4. Complete the guttering, painting and decorating of my shed
  5. Complete my OBOD Ovate work and write to my tutor - now I've done what I promised at the start and stopped smoking
  6. Garden 1 - revamp the Soft Fruit Area to add in fruit cages
  7. Garden 2 - buy bricks and pave the fire area
  8. Garden 3 - create an attractive water area
  9. Garden 4 - complete the wind chime project that's been lurking in the undergrowth of the greenhouse
Which should keep me busy, particularly alongside my other goals of riding my bike more and getting fit enough to solo race the Brighton Big Dog.   In addition to my usual yearly vegetable gardening, to be covered in my next post.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Yule - The Yew, Sirius and Loki; the closing of the year

It is Yule the Gewessi closing of the old year and the start of the 12 day interregnum before the start of the new year.   During this time the old sun dies and the new sun is born.   The Yew in my worldview is Yggdrasil rather than the Ash and as Yggdrasil the Yew is the gateway to the cycle of life and death.   The Yew is my soul tree, the tree that speaks to me more than any other in the same way that Loki has involved himself more than any other in my life.   He is one of my patron gods, of my work, his capriciousness suits as I am an I.T. architect.   His role in many myths, including Ragnorak, is to bring things to an end, however, he also has a role in creation; as Lodur he brought life and looks to the first people.   Thus the Yew, Loki and the Yule time period are all intertwined.

The Yew

"The yew has always been a symbol of death and rebirth, the new that springs out of the old, and a fitting tree for us to study at the beginning of the new year. As the days now grow longer with the beginning of a new solar cycle, we move into the future on the achievements of the past, new creativity springs forth grounded in the accomplishments of the year gone by." taken from Mara Freeman's excellent article on the OBOD Druid Tree Lore site here.

Loki / Loca

This interregnum period has long been regarded as a topsy-turvy time, when the rules of the traditional order are replaced and the Lord of Misrule reigns.   Which again provides a link to Loki at this time of year.

For me, it is appropriate to think of Loki, Loca in the reconstructed Anglo-Saxon heathen view of him.   Loca means the one who closes and it is his role at the beginning and the end that is apparent in all the lore.

Over the years I have accumulated a lot of information from web sites that are no longer extant, so I can't provide references.   This next paragraph is taken from Lokesblót by someone whose screen name was CoyotePup "The connection between Loki and Sirius is real.   In addition to its association with trickster gods around the world, the Old Norse name for Sirius is Lokabrenna, "burning done by Loki." According to legend, the winters were once so cold that the oceans would freeze over and the farmers would die simply checking their mail. One year, when the winter was so cold it froze the fire in the hall, the people called upon Loki, whose primary role, like any good trickster, is to provide (and he's a fire-god), to warm winter up just enough so that the people living in the Mid-Garth could,well, live.
Therefore, Loki placed a torch in the sky, and it warmed up the land just enough to make winter livable. However, it moved with the stars, and six months later, towards the end of the summer, it was next to the sun (as could be visibly noticed every sunrise), and began heating up the already warm days. The string attached to Lokabrenna was that, while it warmed the winter nights and let the people live, it also warmed the summer days and drove the people mad."


As ever this shows Loki's trickster status, that each of his gifts has a light and dark side.   Sirius is the dog star of the Canis Major constellation which along with Canis Minor run at the feet of Orion the great hunter who stalks the winter skies of the Northern Hemisphere.   Here's a map of the constellations from StarryNightEducation

So look up into a clear night sky and you can see Orion striding across it with his two dogs hunting the Stag who stole the sun.