The car drivers, in derogative cyclist's terminology known as 'cagers', driving north from Brighton on the A23 don't realise that within a stone's throw of their headlong rush there is a beautiful haven of Imbolc beauty. For only a couple of weeks a year does it wear this gown before returning to it's guise as an unremarkable copse of the ancient Anderida forest.
Thursday, 13 February 2014
Olvaldi is the father of Thjazi, father of Skadi the Ice Giantess, Iði and Gangr who are all storm giants. Hraesvelgr is a giant, in the form of an eagle, who sits at the top of the world and causes the winds to blow when he beats his wings. In the cauldron of my Gewessi thoughts I see Hraesvelgr as controlling the jet streams. It is the jet stream that modern Logos has discovers controls the winds and thus the weather around the world. So why are these Jotun's in my thoughts?
Because the Ents, Giants or Jotun's personify the natural forces that are outside of human control and Hraesvelgr and Olvaldi's sons apply specifically to winter in North Western Europe. If the Eagle beats his wings one way then the Jet Stream moves allowing Thjazi, or rather Thjazi's daughter to control the period from Yule to Eostre. As happened in 2013 when we were plunged into a very cold period of ice and snow.
Hraesvelgr beat his wings another way this winter and instead we have been at the mercy of Iði and Gangr who have wrought storm after storm over us causing floods and havoc. They started just at Yule, although the Christian / St.Jude storm was a precursor before Samhuin, and have continued through to Imbolc. It brings to mind the Anglo Saxon Riddle (answer storm):
Sometimes my lord corners me;
then He imprisons all that I am
under fertile fields - He frustrates me,
condemns me in my might to darkness,
casts me into a cave where my warden, earth,
sits on my back. I cannot break out
of that dungeon, but I shake halls
and houses; the gabled homes of men
tremble and totter; walls quake,
then overhang. Air floats above earth,
and the face of the ocean seems still
until I burst out from my cramped cell
at my Lord's bidding, He who in anger
buried me before, so shackled me that I
could not escape my Guardian, my Guide.
Sometimes I swoop to whip up waves, rouse
the water, drive the flint-grey rollers
to the shore. Spumming crests crash
against the cliff, dark precipice looming
over deep water; a second tide,
a sombre flood, follows the first;
together they fret against the sheer face,
the rocky coast. Then the ship is filled
with the yells of sailors; the cliffs quietly
abide the ocean's froth and fury,
lashing waves, racing rollers
that smash against stone. The ship must face
a savage battle, a bitter struggle,
if the sea so buffets it and its cargo
if souls that it is no longer under control
but, fighting for life, rides foaming
on the spines of breakers. There men see
the terror I must obey when I bluster
on my way. Who shall restrain it?
At times I rush through the dark clouds
that ride me, churn the sea into a frenzy,
then afterwards let the waters subside.
When one cloud collides with another,
edge against sharp edge, the din
of destruction, a mighty noise, echoes
above the dwellings of men; dark bodies,
hastening, breathe fire overhead,
flashing lightning; thunderous crashes
shake the sky, then growl darkly.
The clouds do combat, dark drops
fall, rustling rain from their wombs.
A fear-tide flows in the hearts of men,
a growing terror - strongholds succumb
to dread - when that ghastly troop goes
on the rampage, and shrithing evil spirits,
spurting flames, shoot sharp weapons.
A fool is unafraid of the death-spears,
but for all that he will die
if the true Lord lets fly the arrow,
a whistling weapon, straight through rain
from the whirlwind above. Few men
survive if they are struck by lightning.
I am the origin of all that strife,
when I rush through the concourse of clouds,
surge forward with great strength, and fly
over the face of the water. Troops on high
clash noisily; then afterwards,
under cover of night, I sink to earth,
and carry off some burden on my back,
renewed once more by my Lord's power.
I am a mighty servant: sometimes
I fight, sometimes wait under the earth;
at times I swoop and sink under water,
at times whip up waves from above;
sometimes I stir up trouble
amongst scudding clouds; swift and savage,
I travel widely. Tell me my name,
and Who it is rouses me from my rest,
or Who restrains me when I remain silent.
Friday, 24 January 2014
A beautiful concept
I have recently had a lovely weekend course making a stool at the Windsor Workshop , done using the same traditional wheelwright techniques used to make Windsor Chairs. It has reminded me of the Japanese concept of Monozukuri, the process of making or creating things. The Windsor Workshop seems to be following monozukuri. The stools we produced were his improved stools in the nature of their design and build.
The literal translation in the title does not convey the real connotation of monozukuri. The word has a more intense meaning; monozukuri is about having a state of mind, the spirit to produce not only excellent products but also to have the ability to constantly improve the production system and its processes.
Professor Takahiro Fujimoto (Manufacturing Management Research Center, University of Tokyo) has defined monozukuri as “the duplication of design data into a material.” or the "art, science and craft of making things." The Japanese Institute for Trade and Organisation (JETRO) describes monozukuri as: ‘having the spirit of producing excellent products and the ability to constantly improve a production system and -process.’
From the linguistic point of view it is interesting to note that the syllabic writing Japanese ( hiragana ) allows a duality of interpretation that extends the semantic sphere of the term. In fact, the first part of "mono" (もの) can find phonetic correspondence with the ideogram 者 (= person) and imply that the 造り zukuri (づくり) includes people and things. To distinguish with accuracy the two possible meanings, the word also came hitozukuri , transliterated from Japanese 人づくり. In this new entry, the first graphical symbol is in fact the character 人 = ひと · hito = person.
Albeit partially, this aspect of indefiniteness and versatility can be traced back to the matrix of Shinto religious culture in Japan. It provides for a fundamental gratitude to every creature and item in creation, which is given special attention. In this sense, it is right to understand that "monozukuri" denotes a philosophy and a "spirit of intent" not closely denoted by the edges, rather a commitment to a specific and limited physical correspondent relationship. It implies a tangential view of each object (material, equipment and systems, components and finished product) which reaches out to "take care" of what you have available . Hence being careful not to waste and also to pursue continuous improvement ( kaizen ) in all daily operations, management and organization. This vision has resulted in industrial management developing methodologies and techniques that aim at efficiency, increasing productivity and quality, reduce costs and, in general, focus on the elimination of waste ( muda ). These were born from the culture of monozukuri management. These systems are universally known of, e.g. the Toyota Production System and "lean thinking" or Lean Six Sigma.
The old British philosophical equivalents to Kaisen and Monozukuri would be around "Waste Not, Want Not" and "If you're going to do something, do it properly." In my professional life Process Improvement is what led me to these concepts and subsequently to their wider philosophical meanings. Now I've had the chance to apply them to a physical 'thing'.
Is Spiritual Progress, or a seeming lack of, important?
Yes it's a tricky one, how to use my time? Do I sacrifice physical well being (cycling), our family environment (gardening), family time itself or money and lifestyle (work) for dedication to a spiritual path? Obviously, family comes first then work (to an extent - but being mindful of the work / life balance) which leaves personal time fairly short. This personal time has to be split into physical well being which for me is cycling, environmental well being which is the garden and spiritual well being (Gewessi) which is a mix of Druidic and Heathen work.
My spiritual work is broken down into:
small regular practice - meditation around 3 times per week usually in the bath after cycling, monitoring of the forums I look after on the OBOD forum website
more detailed ritual - the 8 fold year Blot's recorded on this Gewessi blog
wider themes - such as the Druid Ovate work which has to fit in around other things - practically this means that I only progress this work over the winter as in the summer gardening and cycling fill my personal time.
For me the Gewessi worldview is that spirituality should enhance your life and relationships (this is key for me) and also be integrated into your daily life. So each mountain bike ride into Nature is in itself part of my spiritual engagement or Gework with the land where I live, gardening is part of my Druidic practice and the herb work informs my Ovate studies.
Even things like waiting to pick the kids up (from school, clubs etc...) can be a 10 minute downtime to compose a little bit of Bardic poetry or meditate on the natural world around me.
So have I completed my Ovate work as quickly as I'd like? At 5 years plus now that's a no...,
Do I write to my OBOD tutor as often as I feel I should?.. no,
Are my rituals as elaborate and significant as I would like...no
Does this really matter? Probably not; as long as Gewessi is enhancing my life & relationships (including that with the land), making me more balanced as a person and through this I am reducing my family's impact on the planet and current eco-systems. The Gods, Land-Alfs and Ancestors know that I remember, honour and respect them and I feel that this is sufficient, they do not demand more.
Gewessi is a path for living life not subsuming it into a religious fervour
A dream is soft skinned
An irregular egg, serpentile.
A soft sack with a precious cargo,
needing a mother's care;
the correct heat,
a regular beat,
An incubatory treasure
ready to release into the world;
see your created thing.
Friday, 3 January 2014
Here's a brief synopsis around types of meditation, although the author is biased as the article promotes the heart meditation over the other types...
Types of Meditation.
Within Druidry the usual type of meditation is a form of Guided Visualisation with a western mystical focus, typically a type of Kundalini meditation on the light body or internal cauldrons, see Erynn's excellent text on the Cauldrons of Poesy, which precedes the Guided Visualisation and enables the practitioner to settle into their meditatory context before the Visualisation.
During a self-guided visualisation meditation the question arises around one's experiences within the visualisation - do they come via a connection to some 'Otherworld' or are they just made up imaginings from the brain? Usually there is a tone of the sarcastic modern atheistic sub-text or rationale that it's all just from a fevered imagination and thus without relevance or importance to the person or the 'real world'. Given that our experiences within the Guided Visualisation may well include advice and guidance for the 'real world' from beings met within the 'otherworld' the question of it's importance and reality do need to be addressed.
This understanding of the inner meditatory world fits into the grey area, I believe, of the transrational. One of the things that I like about Druidry is the lack of a defined position on this. Each Druid has to reconcile their Druidic transrational experiences for their self which leads to the 'herding cats' approach to Druidic dogma, no two Druids will agree as each Druid has reconciled and understood their inner world themself without the intervention of some priest to tell them what to think.
So does my brain just put an imagined experience into the meditation? Are the spirits real and is the otherworld really there? Does it matter?
These are big questions and maybe breaking them down into bits will help:
- What do we mean by 'brain'? Brain could mean the conscious, subconscious or the physical grey stuff. I think it means our whole being, our physical and non-physical self, in this context
- Then there's 'put' - even if we take the atheistic worldview you could view it as 'access' rather than 'put'. 'Put' implies a conscious act of creating something without a basis in the real world, however, I think that 'access' is closer and suggests that it's from the subconscious which has a basis in a real world that our conscious can't get to
- And also 'spirit' - which is a definition that can be argued about incessantly. For me I think that spirits are energies or patterns that bubble up from within our subconscious. I do not know how they get into the subsconscious
- Finally 'does it matter' - I think it's part of the Druidic experience to come across these transrational questions and to try and find a reconciliation that satisfies you. Personally I think it is important and that yes it does matter. It is how we access a deep and ancient wisdom via a subconscious mechanism. How that subconscious mechanism works I do not know - it could be linking deeply held genetic patterns or some Akashic record or there really could be an otherworld or higher plane that is accessed
Monday, 23 December 2013
Yule recognises the death of the Sun's cycle, the shortest day of the year. In the Anglo Saxon calendar Yule is a period in the calendar, undefined as far as we know. However, my Gewessi interpretation is this...
At the sunset of the day before Yule wreaths are hung on peoples doors to mark its passing. This death releases the chaos of the Wild Hunt to take reckless souls with him. This year's Yule's eve was calm, the one before the Wild Hunt stormed their way over the land. Down here in Sussex I believe it's led by Freyr, 'The Lord', also known as Ing or Scyld. This year it is proving to be a long and very wild hunt. The Xmas street decorations are thrumming, everything static is shaking with the wind. The rain beat relentlessly against the glass making one and all grateful for a warm home and hearth, that the wailing sounds of the emergency services are for others and not them.
24th December it is ModrasNacht, Mother's night or Xmas Eve to the Christians. Time to honour Frij or Frigga with good food, mulled cider or wine and final preparations for the rebirth of the Solar King, the Bright One whose death we celebrated 3 days earlier. She is his mother and it is right to honour her.
Then there is the Xmas, x being the rune gebo that is the rune of giving, the exchange of gifts and friendship, with the traditional feast that accompanies such exchanges. Just like the feast in Beowulf where gifts are given in exchange for loyalty, to Gewessi folk this feast is just as important as for the Xtians who appropriated it around the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine. After 3 days it is noticeable that the days are not getting shorter, the circle has turned, the sun is reborn.
The time in between Xmas and the Gewessi 12th night, New Years Eve, is the chaotic dream time. To plan the year ahead, dreaming of success in the goals and tasks that the individual chooses. This is an important time, it should not just be spent feasting, socialising or just watching TV / gaming / indulging (although these downtime activities also have value). Dreaming realisable goals takes creative time for that 1% inspiration then a lot of planning for the 99% perspiration.
For me, this year, replacing the battered old shed at the end of our garden with an outdoor room for gaming, training and crafting with occasional spare room use is the goal. Designing and building it myself, with help from my teenage sons is the dream. Finances dictate that to deliver my goal I must realise my dream. This is the root of need, or necessity, the energy driving us on.
Finally the Gewessi 12th night, New Years Eve, arrives and with it the celebration where people can finish the night with a traditional
Toast, Boast and an Oath.
The toast is traditional or personal, the boast is to recognise the goals you achieved in the year past and the boast is for the goals you will aim for in the next year.
So use this Yule dream time, when the last year's work is done and next year's work is not begun to let the Awen, the Wod, the furious inspiration flow and I wish
A blessed Yule to all.