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 Lokesbl√≥t 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."

Sirius

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.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Alchemical change for Personal Transformation

This is a full write up of my notes from Druidcast 92 all about Alchemy.
Alchemy is traditionally about the transformation of base (negative) to gold (positive) but is important in this context as an approach to personal transformation. The Alchemist is a person attempting to transform their base nature, negative character traits or bad patterns of behaviour into their higher nature by understand and awakening their inner deity. Fundamentally the alchemical process is about making positive change.

The Alchemical Pattern

Alchemy says that there is only one way to learn; through action. The ancient emerald tablet was supposedly created by Hermes/Thoth and describes the alchemical process. Essential to understanding the view of Alchemy is Pattern recognition that fire (for example), whether it be real fire or emotional fire, behaves in a similar way. The principle is that similar elements behave in similar ways.

Speaking out loud is the Mercury/Hermes method for the great transformation of human wishes into divine intentions and back into human reality whilst “Thoth was the god of writing and knowledge. The ancient Egyptians believed that Thoth gave them the gift of hieroglyphic writing. Thoth was also connected with the moon.” After Alexander the Great when his Greek successors became kings of Egypt Thoth became associated with Hermes and thus a written method for Alchemical change.

The emerald tablet allegedly contains the wisdom of Thoth, or his ancient priesthood. They were written on green stone (emerald in the ancient world could cover green jasper or any other green stone). The earliest known versions of the tablet are from the early medieval period. This is the new translation from Fulcanelli:

  • 1) It is true without untruth, certain and most true:
  • 2) that which is below is like that which is on high, and that which is on high is like that which is below; by these things are made the miracles of one thing.
  • 3) And as all things are, and come from One, by the mediation of One, So all things are born from this unique thing by adaption.
  • 4) The Sun is the father and the Moon the mother.
  • 5) The wind carries it in its stomach. The earth is its nourisher and its receptacle.
  • 6) The Father of all the Theleme of the universal world is here.
  • 6a) Its force, or power, remains entire,
  • 7) if it is converted into earth.
  • 7a) You separate the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross, gently with great industry.
  • 8) It climbs from the earth and descends from the sky, and receives the force of things superior and things inferior.
  • 9) You will have by this way, the glory of the world and all obscurity will flee from you.
  • 10) It is the power strong with all power, for it will defeat every subtle thing and penetrate every solid thing
  • 11a) In this way the world was created.
  • 12) From it are born wonderful adaptations, of which the way here is given.
  • 13) That is why I have been called Hermes Tristmegistus, having the three parts of the universal philosophy.
  • 14) This, that I have called the solar Work, is complete.

So how does all this Alchemy relate to our brain functions?
- Left Brain/Right Hand & Masculine learning which comes from text books (e.g. The Alchemist)
- Right Brain/Left Hand & Feminine learning which comes from art (e.g. the Azoth Mandala)
The alchemical process is about harmonising our masculine and feminine energies to bring about the child of change.

The Alchemical Flow

In the Alchemical Mandala the 7 rays move in a pattern starting at Saturn / lead and moving onto Jupiter/tin, Mars/iron, Venus/copper, Mercury/mercury, Moon/Silver and finally Sun/Gold.
The alchemical flow is a way of resolving problems such as personal ones. These are the steps in the Alchemical process which can have both positive and negative aspects...

The 7 Steps or Changes

Thinking - Saturn & Lead - Calcification: these represent heavy dense objects that won't move e.g. inertia or the leaden ego. Willfulness in the rejection of good patterns often heard as the chilidish inner voice that stamps it's foot saying I don't want to, bad habits and depression can be aspects of this inertia. Fire is the energy to transform the darkness, the first step in the alchemical process is recognising it though. Burn into a powder, once burnt it can be usable as a powder. This may represent getting angry about the blockers in life. The shadow side is in staying inert just thinking or just staying angry and not harnessing its energy.

Feeling - Jupiter & tin – Dissolution: (feel it) this effect can be seen in our big blusterous over-inflated ego. Tin looks like silver but is a cheap, weak imitation. The leftover ash of the previous process is used here. Add water to dissolve it, this dissolution can emotionally be the shedding of tears. The letting go and flowing (tin is easily melted) of water. The shadow side is to get stuck in a pattern of feeling sorry for yourself, to stay crying and not moving forward.

The 2 above are the dark phases but all good stuff starts in the s-h-one-t! Philosophically the flower representing this in the eastern tradition is the Lotus and in the western tradition it is the Rose. Both of these need murky mud at their roots for their heads to produce glorious flowers. Once the two steps above have completed a dark soupy liquid is now created, like oil which can be an explosive mixture. Caution is now required when moving through the next step...

Rationalising - Mars & iron – Separation: the mixture is now full of power and charged with energy (iron is magnetic). Once you can see the real situation and your emotional responses to it then the rational intellect (the iron rod) can be used to categorise and understand it. Mars' shadow is the self destructive reaction to steps 1 and 2. Notice that the process of change doesn't start with the intellect it starts with the problem or situation and your emotional response to it. Only once you've dealt with these two can you start separating what you have found. Now the desire to move forward, the light phase, comes once you can see clearly...

Rectifying – Venus & copper – Conjunction: The root of this is the love or emotional desire to change. Now the you have all the essences separated but which parts do you want to discard and which to recombine? Conjunction is which direction you want to go and the desire to move in that direction. Venus' shadow is the profligate side which is dangerous, leading to a lack of direction. The conjunction allows paths to be chosen... remember the right path is usually the harder one.

Now the masculine, Mars, and the feminine, Venus, have been harmonised the 3 steps below are the light phases of the flowering of the desired change now that the elements are ready to be worked...

Dreaming – Mercury & quicksilver – Fermenting. Now is the dreamtime; to see the vision, get drunk on it and communicate it. In fermentation something has to decompose before coming to life again. Mercury becomes the god of awen for finding your direction, it's about building the dream and discovering the direction to bring it to life. Fundamentally this is the part of identifying the divine intentions (as each person has the divine within) but the shadow side is analysis paralysis; too much thinking about it and not doing it, whatever it is.

Condensing - Moon/silver the mirror, subconscious reflective side - Distillation. The process of change but the shadow side is to be like narcissus looking into the pool and keeping a static view marvelling at how far you've come but not completing the journey. Condensation is a reflection of the dream but the way to move it forward is via the divine water. The moon controls the tides which reflect the moons energy & movement as the fastest of the alchemical planets. The point is that sometimes you need to keep going, despite the highs & lows of the tides. See the bigger picture of the motion of the tides not the emotion of a low or high tide.

Realising - Sun/gold the visible completion - Coagulation. Blood starts off as liquid but coagulates into a solid. It is about allowing the process to work, not seeking to control the flow but allowing the natural realisation, or making permanent, of the previous steps. If the coagulation doesn't work it usually means moving back to a previous step and fixing what failed. The coagulation is the bringing forth of the change into reality – ensuring new positive patterns stick and become permanent. When I stopped looking I found what I was looking for.

Other References - The Emerald Tablet by Dennis William Haulk

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The auspicious hawk

As, suddenly, I watched the Merlin chase and fail to capture one of our garden birds, a sparrow or a blackbird, I reflected that this has been a Hawk year for me. I have seen so many this year.
As Merlin's migrate to warmer lowlands in the winter it is little surprise that it is around Yule I see them. It reminded me of this poem which I wrote upon seeing a Merlin...

Merlin I see you!
Your speckled cloak of feathers
covers your hooded eyes
that hunt fleeting silver Awen doves
through winter's bare leaved Ogham groves.

Merlin you see me!
With faun coloured poachers coat
Wrapped tight against cold
that sends shivers through wintery copse
and darkly haunts my frigid corpse.

Merlin in besom bosk#
together we hunt winter's break;
the revelation
of inspiration, the Darkling Thrush
on coppice gate, a hidden hope to brush.

Image is from here
#besom = bushy, bosk = woodland

Friday, 28 November 2014

A Shed Obsession - part 5 - The Shonky Shed

I then had to spend a couple of weekends with friends, already arranged, but niggling at the back of my mind was that the weather was so good for building. The final finishing; getting all the windows in, the door on, filling the gaps between frames and cladding, sealing the windows all took much longer than is expected. Getting a single piece of wood the correct shape to fit could take an hour by the time all the measuring, shaving with a wheelwright plane, and fitting was done.

Here's a view of the skylight central panel in the roof... Over the weeks into October these jobs were all done and I could down tools until my next holiday and enough time to fit the green roof. Then it was search for, plan and order the green roof for the my son's half term holiday. Typically it arrived in a storm during the school run, my son's half term being a week earlier than the local primary school's. Which meant a mad hour of shifting 7m2 of Sedum turf. That left me knackered for most of the rest of the day. The next couple of days meant laying the waterproof membrane, putting the insulation layer up, the root protection layer on and placing the turf on top. I could only manage to lift .5m by 1m sections of turf up the ladder.
Finally the facia boards were on and the gravel, for drainage, placed around the sedum turf.

I could then turn to the interior fittings - finding boards to hang the bikes off. Laying a concrete render over the floor and insulating the walls.

A Shed Obsession - part 4 - Main Build Phase

Over the next days of the plan, until the end of August, it was all the complications of putting the pallets up, preparing the main roof rafters then fixing in the cross braces and the decisions around that process, particularly using recycled wood where the rafters are not exactly the same size, some aren't exactly straight. All of this plus my learning curve as I'd never built any structure before, I've built bicycles and fixed cars and that's it.
It was days of grunt, but the weather was sunny and progress was being made. Although slower than the plan, much like the costs the time was working out to be roughly double. It was not a huge surprise, I'm an experienced estimator in my work and the old paradigm of take your initial estimate and double it is about right. Particularly when you've never done it before. Reusing the old shed wood for all the internal structures (window frames, in-filling structure that the pallets didn't fill) was satisfying but slower. Finding the wood, removing old nails and then cutting it to size made it slower.

By the end of the 5 days the posts were up, the pallets in, the walls mostly completed and the roof structure beams with bracers done. I'd sourced some plyboard for the roof cover but didn't think they'd be wide enough to cover the whole roof. A friend then suggested a roof light, to sop it being too dark... which inspired a change in the design of a middle clear section rather than a solid roof. Solving two problems at once as it also solved my concerns about the weight of the green roof in the middle of the structure. It also meant that having windows East and West facing with an additional central roof panel was letting a lot more light onto my vegetable patch.

All Druidic practice was subsumed into my shed obsession. My inner guides, accessed in meditation, helped me with such pieces of problem solving. My holiday over I then had to go back to work, but the light, warm evenings of the autumn were used to continue the build. The waterproof membrane was cut and stapled into place wrapping the building. The battens went over the membrane. Fixing the plyboard sheets for the roof was done the next weekend as well as painting them with bitumen to make it watertight.

The plastic corrugated roof went sheets down the middle, it was the first real test of the roof structure as it had to take my 80kg weight, shimmying on my belly down the flat roof to finish the bitumen painting and then fix the plastic roof sheets down. It was a great feeling to get off the roof alive and with no disasters. I was becoming convinced that I'd actually created a structure that could support a green roof.


It had all been stress and worry up until then. It was satisfying to have some proof that I could build a solid structure.
The evenings were spent cladding; measuring, sawing, fixing . My old shed fence walls provided the feather lap cladding for the rear of the building (that most wouldn't see) and then I bought cheap, sustainable pine tongue-and-groove cladding (you know from where!) for the sides and front. This is where the fence post issue really bit and the reality of how un-perpendicular the posts were. The word, shonky most probably comes from a mix of shoddy and wonky. The name for this building was being formed...

A Shed Obsession - part 3 - Prep & Go

The preparation phase went roughly to plan. The current shed was emptied and then knocked down, the groundwork phase was changed to completely dismantling the old shed with an aim to reuse as much of the wood as possible. I didn't do any groundwork due to the time it took to break the old shed down into reusable pieces of wood, plus a stack of unusable wood.
Bike riding had gone on hold for Shed building and the good weather was both a blessing, from a building perspective, as well as a curse because I couldn't ride in this beautiful weather.

The details of the plan also became refined as I decided to reuse the windows from the old shed as well as a door from the outhouse. Brighton Wood recycling was contacted and wood was chosen to be delivered alongside the pallets. We could spend a long weekend in Berkshire, whilst our son was at Reading Festival.
Already compromises were coming. The costs were increasing - £500 was plainly un-realistic for the whole shed given the time & quality. With the cladding, which had to be bought new, and purchasing a green roof, once again new, the cost was going to probably double upto £1000. However, given that this is a bespoke sized insulated outdoor space with a green roof, a grand is still cheap.

Then it was time to start. Buying the posts, the wood getting delivered and clearing a working area. The difference between planning and reality started to hit. I had 18 pallets all the standard 1m x 1.2m in size but apparently there are at least 18 ways to build a standard pallet. Which meant the bolt-them-together approach was not going to work.... this was the start of the problem solving on the build. I went for various types of metal plates to screw the pallets together which I discovered in B&Q. It was lucky one had opened just 10 minutes drive down the road. I would be there quite often during the build.

Then getting the posts up and straight was not as straight forward as my thinking suggested. Queue the first of the time & cost vs quality compromises. The posts weren't quite straight, the physical constraints of building alone drove this compromise. This was the end of Day 1. I was already a half day behind schedule.

Friday, 7 November 2014

A Shed Obsession - part 2 - The Upcycle Shed Plan - Pallet Built


The inspiration for this pallet Shed came from here 
 http://ruralroutediaries.weebly.com/pallet-shed-building.html
and started with a simple  to do list...

  • Check Friday-Ad / Gumtree / Freecycle / for Doors/Windows &
  • Get Pallets from Brighton Wood recycling = £12 delivery
  • 4 concrete in posts for ground  £40 plus concrete & sand say £50
  • 12 pallets, 6 per side wall 3m wide by 2.4m high for two rows of 3.
  • 3 pallets for back wall 2.4m wide by 1m high then use 2x4 framing lumber for rest, inc window frame.
  • 2 pallets for front wall 2m wide by 2.4m high then use 2x4 framing lumber for rest inc door frame
  • Wall Breathable Membrane 30m2:
http://www.branz.co.nz/cms_show_download.php?id=eb8db874ba698df2552caa2cd854a56290656fd4
cheap = http://www.diy.com/nav/build/building-materials/bricks-blocks-lintels-damp-proofing/damp_proof_membranes/NDC-Vapour-Barrier-Roll-Green-9707871?skuId=10078608  £40 + tacks

  • Wall cladding :
http://wenbantimbershop.co.uk/timber-cladding-sussex
http://www.englishwoodlandstimber.co.uk/products/cld-cladding/
  • Internal walls - recycled plywood 2 walls @ 10m² plus 2 walls at 2.5x2.5 = 2 x 6.75m² = 13.5m²
  • Roof - 6 2x4 sideways of  4m length : 3m long, .3m (1ft) high  for a min 6% angle on a flat roof
         - 10 2x4 flat of 3m length (1x4 if not going for green roof)
        -  plyboard 4m x 3m   =12m²
        - roofing felt 5m x 3.5m = 17.5m²
  • Green Roof
http://www.redroseforest.co.uk/web/images/stories/downloads/Quick%20guide%20-%20Little%20Green%20Roof%20on%20pitched%20shed.pdf
http://www.bbc.co.uk/gardening/basics/techniques/gardenstructure_greenroof1.shtml

Door - You may use any size of door, but make sure it fits well in the frame. The trim size frame should be at least 10 mm (3/8") wider and 10 mm (3/8") higher than the overall size of the complete pre-hung door.
Window - The trim size of the frame should be at least 10 mm (3/8") wider and 10 mm (3/8") higher than the overall size of the whole window.

And a simple Schedule :

Preparation
Weekend 1  = 2 days - empty current shed (9th/10th August)
Weekend 2  =   1 day  - knockdown current shed & prepare groundwork, 1 day  - groundwork   (?16th/17th August?)
In-between - freecyle for windows/doors

Main Phase = 5 days Day (26th August - 30th August)
0 - Delivery of pallets, hard/plyboard, wood
1 - put up posts and secure, build roof rafters over the top
2 - fill in with pallets, prepare window & door frames
3 - hardboard/plyboard the roof, cover roof with waterproof.  Deliver external wall cladding.
4 - attach wall membrane to pallets, attach battens to membrane for external cladding
5 - put in the windows & doors, attach external wall cladding
---------------- Main Build Phase Complete --------------------------------------------------------------------
Secondary Phase
6 - stuff insulation (free/recycled) into pallet walls,  line the walls with hard/plyboard
7 - complete the green roof.  Ready for sedum delivery.
------------------------ Main build + 1 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Internal Phase
-- put in bike storage, organise work space

A Shed Obsession - part 1 - Planning

So, the Blog has been quiet of late, since Lughnasadh really.  The hints were in my earlier post <here> of plans for the year.   I've had a shed obsession.  From late July through to October all of my spare energy and focus has been on this 'Shed'; however more of a man-cave than humble shed.  It needed to do 3 things:
  1. Securely store my bikes
  2. Provide enough space to work on bikes
  3. Provide a flexible space for winter turbo-training (riding a bike without going anywhere!) and as a gym
  4. Optional extra - somewhere to start growing Tomato's earlier in the season

The plans really started to take shape during August when I had to settle upon a type of build.  Obviously, coming from a Gewessi mindset, ecology had to come into the mix along with practical time and cost considerations.   A set of principles formulated themselves:
  • Use recycled wood where possible
  • Cost to be ca £500
  • Timing - allow a week for primary build phase
  • Green roof
  • Time & Cost to prioritise over Quality; the quality aim is functionality with a nod to the aesthetic

Looking at the YouGov planning reg's the eaves height needs to be no greater than 2.5 metres.

So an initial plan was drawn


Then Design Options were reviewed; from building a high quality aesthetic matching the plan with all new wood, to a fully recycled wood shed.   A combination option, the middle way,  was chosen.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

The Wanderer

I was reading a side by side translation of this poem and became frustrated at some of the discrepancies I could see between the Anglo-Saxon and the English so I translated some of it myself. The problem with translating the old poems, I am more familiar with Anglo-Saxon and Norse, is that the original poems were created by one, or more likely many, brilliant poets. Sadly their translators (I suspect) are more qualified linguistically than poetically. Add to this the scops and bards love of multiple layers of meaning via their kennings and a true translation becomes a virtually impossible task. However, here's my translation of stanzas 1-28 of the Wanderer...  

The Wanderer vs 1-28
my translation

Often the recluse
remains honourable
with a resigned attitude
though they be much caring
though they're beyond the sea.

Long I sculled
crucified amid the oars, shaking,
wading wretchedly
Across the cold rimed sea;
"wyrd drives ever forward".

Quoth the world-walker
mindful of misfortune
and the shore of slaughter
and decaying wine mates:

Often I sculled alone
in the morning, everyone
of my cares released.
I am not able, now none is alive,
to say my mind;
I don't dare declare
my spirit plainly.

I know, in truth,
it is courtly conduct
that a man's fears are locked,
fastly bound,
held in his heart's locket,
where he keeps his soul.

A weary soul has no desire
to withstand his wyrd
neither can a thin will
help free him;
Indeed, doom desirers
keep dreary thoughts
fastly bound,
held in their heart's locket.

So my inner heart,
often scolding and sad,
deprived of hearth,
far from friends,
is fettered and sealed.
Since long ago,
my gold and wine mates
I laid in the dark earth's bower.

I, humbled and destitute,
sadly sought a new hall
of a blood baron
a bright gold giver.
Where'er, near or far,
I might find
he in the meadhall
of my mind; wise
and offering friendship.
Consolation to a friendless man.
 
Of course Tolkien famously translated and used some of the later Stanzas in his Lament for the Rohirrim in The Two Towers. It's part of the reason I stopped where I did. I don't think I can compete with him...  

Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing? 
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing? 
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing? 
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing? 
They have passed like rain on the mountain, 
like a wind in the meadow; 
The days have gone down in the West 
behind the hills into shadow. 
Who shall gather the smoke of the dead wood burning, 
Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?

A full translation of the Wanderer is here