Friday, 1 August 2014

Tranquilo Lughnasadh

Wolstonbury

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.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Gewessi lore - the Salmon

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.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Kite flying

There is a constant depressing message of the nature that we are losing...
but little on the success stories.  One of these is the Kite:

I first saw a Kite at dusk, after a long day MTBing, in a little graveyard near Llanwrtyd Wells in Wales over 20 years ago.    At the time I did not know it was one of these marvellous raptors  - I thought it was a beautiful carving on a headstone.  It was only the next day when I passed the same graveyard and the bird was gone that the excitement hit...  I'd seen a Red Kite!    At that time this was the only place you could see them, there were only a handful of breeding pairs in the UK.  They had almost been hunted to extinction on this island.

Move forward to this summer and I am sat in my back garden and look up to see one drifting over my house in the Low Weald of Sussex.  Then I saw two whilst out MTBing near Amberley on the Downs followed by many whilst driving up the M40 to Oxford.

The dedication of the various groups who have protected and re-introduced this marvellous bird have provided this success story for the Kite.   So that it can now be seen across the UK.  Image from here. My ride that day across the Downs brought a little bit of Awen...

Thermal drifting,
Windward drafting,
Lazily floating,
The kites hang high.

Wild recursive wings
Impossibly hang
Sickle tail drifts
The kites float by.

No string to anchor
Or gravity suck
A pair free floating
The kites hang high.

Loping along hedgerow the hare stops, stares
At high hanging raptors.  Flicks black tipped ears
And races dusty trackways back to his field of cares.


Friday, 20 June 2014

Hymn to Sol or Sunna at Litha or Alban Hefin the Summer Solstice

Taken from http://www.pinterest.com/pin/337699672030798190/


Hymn to Sol
(inspired by Rig-Veda Book 1 Hymn to Surya)

Your bright beams, aloft are born
fairest of face, the bright fulgor;
Grace-shine the bringer of beauty.
Across Ymir's day-nascent skull -
Your rays herald like hunting horns
So refulgant from afar.
Beacons that burn and blaze.
Swift and sublime, you are Sunna
Maker of light, illuminator.

You brighten Gods, lighten all beings
traversing sky, bring day to birth
with brilliance your beams mark days
over the business of being.
Early To Wake and Very Quick
bear your wagon, the lovely wheel
across the sky, God-blithe Glen's wife.
All-Bright remove my hearts disease
with your all-conquering vigour.

Wassail Sunna with awen, awen, awen
 


Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Round the Barrows

It was a hot sunny day and I was back amongst the Tumuli of my Sussex ancestors at the Barrow Cemetary at Sullington Warren. I was working with the National Trust to keep this as heathland against the encroaching woodland. The morning was hard graft with a mattock which is like a pickaxe but with a broader, flattened adze like edge. I was removing young trees from one of the Round Barrows, they were mostly Oak with some Rowan and other trees such as Holly and Buckthorn. I was working on the dry part of the heathland sitting on the Greensand ridge.
The Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) notification says "This area of scrub supports a varied invertebrate fauna, and two invertebrate groups well represented here are the Aculeate Hymenoptera (bees, ants. and wasps) and Coleoptera (beetles). Of particular interest is a locally uncommon beetle Apion fuscirostre which lives specifically on broom and has been recorded at this site."
It felt strange, as a Druid, to be killing young Oak trees and yet without this work a rare natural habitat for heathland flora and fauna would be lost. It felt right as a Gewessi to be clearing the burial mounds of our Pagan ancestors with hard graft. For a, normally office bound, middle-age modern Pagan swinging a mattock in beautiful Sussex sunshine was a mix of the beauty of Vanaheim and the heat of Muspelheim Applying a little Logos to the situation there is an area for the Oak and deciduous trees on the site, which is protected as well as an area for Pine. The aim with this work is to retain the balance between Oak, Pine and Heathland on the site so that it can provide benefit to all. Here's the barrow we cleared:
The afternoon was then spent in the wet more boggy heathland nearer the Pines - removing the young pine trees attempting to take over. Here the humidity and dead heather made it a different kind of hard, scratchy work. We made in impression on both sites helping the wardens to manage the sites. The heather is dead, above the ground it has been killed by Heather Beetle. What the heathland needs now is a good fire to cleanse it BUT with a small nature reserve surrounded by houses a controlled burn is not an option the heather needs to be managed in another way, by people. Which all reminds me of the Rush song...
"The Trees"

There is unrest in the forest
There is trouble with the trees
For the maples want more sunlight
And the oaks ignore their pleas

The trouble with the maples
(And they're quite convinced they're right)
They say the oaks are just too lofty
And they grab up all the light
But the oaks can't help their feelings
If they like the way they're made
And they wonder why the maples
Can't be happy in their shade

There is trouble in the forest
And the creatures all have fled
As the maples scream 'Oppression!'
And the oaks just shake their heads

So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights
'The oaks are just too greedy
We will make them give us light'
Now there's no more oak oppression
For they passed a noble law
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, axe and saw.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Island mentality and Wabi Sabi

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.

The principles seem also very Druidic to me. On care.com I once found this as a summary of the principles involved:

Zen’s seven ruling principles

  • Asymmetry (Fukinsei): Stiff, formal symmetry, suggesting frozen finality and artificial perfection, can be fatal to the imagination. Asymmetry lets us be loose and spontaneous—more human than godlike. It means we can get by with one—or three—candlesticks, and all the china doesn’t have to match.
  • Simplicity (Kanos): Zen eschews gaudy, ornate, the over embellished in favour of sparse, fresh, and neat. It’s the triumph of craftsman style over the cluttered Victorian parlour.
  • Austerity (Koko): Zen asks us to reduce everything to “the pith of essence.” Don’t love it? Can’t find a use for it? Let it go.
  • Naturalness (Shizen): Zen is artless, without pretence or self-consciousness. It is bare wood, unpolished stone, and flowers from the backyard.
  • Subtle Profundity (Yugen): Within Zen lies a deep reserve, a mysterious, shadowy darkness. The hint of soft moonlight through a skylight would be yugen.
  • Freedom from Worldly Attachments (Datsuzoku): The Buddha taught us not to be bound to life, things, or rules. “It is not a strong bond, say the wise, that is made of iron, wood, or hemp,” he said. “Far greater an attachment than that is the longing for jewels and ornaments, children and wives.” It’s the simplicity movement, not keeping up with the Joneses.
  • Silence (Sejaku): Inwardly oriented, Zen embraces the quiet calm of dawn, dusk, late autumn, and early spring.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Beltaine Need Fire

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...

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...

A weed is just a plant in the wrong place

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.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Eostre - is this a pattern?

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:

Friday, 14 March 2014

Blackthorn bloom

Brilliant White blossoms crown
pauper hedges in albino down,
warm returns,
winter's strafe is done.
This bridal hedgerow conception
in anticipation of autumn's sun,
fruit cycle,
of round, deep blue sloes.
The bloom belies the black thorn's woes;
strife and straif
of the shillelagh storms
and Lepidoptera worms.
But now the Northern Cherry shines
and brightens Albion's climes.