And my heart has always been heathen
Since I first flew across these fields
With my ancestors; Cisse’s wild clan
In youth; many moons within the mind.
There are 5 streams that fed the Well of Segais. This is where the 9 hazels trees of Wisdom dropped nuts into the pool that the Salmon fed on. Allegorically we could consider the 5 streams to be the 5 senses, maybe this represent the search for wisdom via experience?
We would then need to interpret what the 9 hazel trees represent. Within the Germanic world there were 9 realms or worlds. Within the Celtic world we have the 3 realms of Earth, Sea and Sky plus (arguably) the 3 realms in the Circles of Abred. The 9 trees could come from a 3x3 and so maybe the 9 hazels represent the sum of all knowledge across all the realms?
The Salmon, by eating of the nuts, acquires the sum of all knowledge. Maybe the search for the salmon is the method of inquiry?
In this respect it would be how Fionn accumulates such Druidic knowledge and wisdom - through experience, knowledge and inquiry. The Salmon is a special, magical being because it starts in a small inland stream and then travels, across the ocean, far to the west (if you live in north-western Europe) and perhaps to the location of the Summer Lands. It then returns older and wiser ready to start the next generation.
In the Celtic tales, such as Culwch and Olwen, the Salmon is one of the oldest beings asked questions by the heroes. In the Norse Volsungasaga the tale starts when Loki kills an Otter (Ottar) eating a Salmon. Except it’s a Dwarf/Jotun who could shape change into an Otter. Loki then has to pay a weregild for the killing. Later on Loki becomes a Salmon himself when attempting to escape the wrath of the other Gods.
Funnily enough down here in Sussex we don't have Salmon but do have the Salmon-trout which is a Brown trout that spawns and spends it's youth in the freshwater rivers, when it matures it migrates down to the estuary and then spends most of it's time living in the sea. Sometimes they migrate far upstream during the winter floods and then
get trapped in pools, the wider stretches of the stream as the floods subside. I was reflecting on this as I passed some of our local Hazel trees that are laden with nuts.
As with all of the Celtic stories the allegory seems very obscure and tenuous but there is also the thought that the reason why the Druids were against writing their esoteric knowledge down was to encourage each generation to hunt for wisdom, knowledge and truth. That way it remains alive and reflects the needs of each generation and does not become Dogma from being written down.
Watching Chelsea Flower Show and the gorgeous Togenkyo, A Paradise on Earth, garden reminds me of the similarities that living on an island, or archipelago, brings. There is a similarity between "the fable of Togenkyo, a place of beautiful scenery that can help people to forget their troubles and strife, but that once visited cannot be revisited" and many of the Celtic stories of people visiting the Summerlands and the otherworldly people who dwell there.
Which brings me to the English Garden and Gertrude Jekyll. I think she would have approved of the Zen philosophy of Wabi Sabi. I was at a garden plant swap / sale this weekend where the garden seemed to fulfil the Wabi Sabi principles.
It was a fine day, a strong day, a bright day and sat atop one of the Neolithic dykes where I could call the quarters and re-affirm my commitment to the Gewessi path atop Wolstonbury hill. As ever a guilty voice of negativity arose that I should be at the Anderida Grove's open ceremony by the Long Man. My Gewessi voice suppressed it with the need-fire rule...
Prioritise what is needful - each action causes an effect. In this case my needful tasks were to trim the hedges, mow the lawn, prune the ivy and virginia creeper. Tasks delayed through procrastination, weather and illness during the Eostre part of the year. To attend the Anderida Grove's ceremony would have taken a day out of this long weekend. The needful tasks would not have been done, which would have caused stress and had a negative affect. I did the needful tasks which allowed time for this excellent ride and time on Wolstonbury. So once the heavy lifting of those big tasks are complete there was time for a bit of weeding and pottering...
As I sat in the garden thinking about the relationships in my life I realised that this relationship with the garden is one of my more important ones. It has taught me to work with nature and thus influenced my gardening style. My wife commented about how when I started in this garden I used to put things in a regimented style but now manage to plant bulbs much more naturally. In addition much of the garden is now full of plants that started off as weeds but are now in a place pleasing to the eye, well I think so! In addition, now we're down to one old cat, the wildlife has come out. We had a blackbird nest by our lounge window. I think this was a second generation Hen who 'knows' us or rather knows we're not a threat. The birds were funny about us watching them go to the nest but were not flustered by our being outside, in the garden. The three chicks have now flown and I am constantly finding them around the garden as they mature from fledglings into adult blackbirds.
The Wrens and Robins are nesting in the garden also, whilst the Slow Worms in the compost are doing well too. Even the volume of midges that sucked the blood out of my exposed calves (owwwww the itching!) indicate a garden full of wildlife. Which makes me happy and that is what I see as the purpose for this modern small garden, it as a natural oasis and refuge from the stresses of this world. I strive for a balance between my interference to create areas of aesthetic interest, the needs of the wildlife in it and the desire of certain plants to dominate the whole garden.
So this celebration of the the outward rejuvenation of the land occurred just as I was getting 'flu. Another year with no cycle ride up Wolstonbury Hill to avow my commitment on the Gewessi path, although this time the conditions were good it was just me who wasn't. A week of getting ill, one week really being ill and another week recovering with no energy. During that recovery week, my Eostre holiday just putting two posts in the garden exhausted me! This left everything else behind, as my holiday goals were to get the garden in order. The remaining three weeks of Eostre have been spent just catching up.
My first MTB ride was a great reminiscent ride over to Houghton Forest with my friend. A route that revisits the Yew that helped push me onto this path. It was good to see it still standing in the forest. Our 'traditional' circuit I've not ridden for a few years now and the memory of the route has faded in certain places. Fortunately between my friend and I we corrected each other's mistakes. As we struggled up the impossible climb at Droke it struck me that we've been riding these trails over in West Sussex for over 20 years now, building a relationship with landscape and a knowledge of its ways. The memories of previous experiences and youthful vigour along with the comparison of where we are now were interesting. Part of the ride's aim was to see the bluebells in the forest above Upwaltham, sadly they've never recovered from the logging / clearance a few years ago. However, their blue carpet and heady Hyacinth scent have been spectacular for my commute to work. At Upwaltham we took time to remember the tragic last flight of Lancaster DV382
Eostre was a transitional period as ever from the winter to summer. On the plus side it has been the season when the Narcissi bulbs I planted in the front garden have popped up. To some the garden will look messy but in this part of the year I wanted it to look like a pretty naturalistic woodland glade with spring flowers in amongst the shrubs. There's still some work to go this autumn in achieving this affect.
However, Eostre has it's compensations in the Hot Cross Buns from my local baker: