Vestal Crones

From hearth to heart: A paradigm for action.

We are familiar with the story of Vesta and the virgins who tended her sacred fire. Some are familiar with St Brigit’s nuns who tended a flame in her honour that has been rekindled. It is from this image, of the enclosed fire tender, that I move from here.

Now is not the time for us to tend only the fires of our hearths, when we get past the years of youth and direct familial responsibilities. There is a time when we reach a certain age, when the Cailleach comes calling, whether we like it or not. As I have been leaning to move with her, my work with Brighid, but not as a hearth goddess, has begun in earnest.

Although Brighid has been around me for some time, I have a different relationship with her now. A deepening relationship with she of the forge and healer and poet, whose fire burns in me in the dark shadow of the Cailleach.

It is time for action for us to wave the fire brands of our pens and torches of courage to light the hidden corners of distress and fear in our world for healing to begin. To bring the heat of passion against injustice and for equity, for true equality is not possible because we are not the same. We do not have the same gifts and graces and one cannot legislate for them. What can be legislated is equity and equitability. These are what we must fan the flames for to save our world.

These are days for action: Political, social, creative, economic, ecological, environmental, spiritual, personal, national and international.

We must light and tend the fire that heats the cauldron of our passion. Passion in its broadest possible understanding. For this deep and expansive passion leads to action on large or small scale. The fire the heats the forge on which our resolve is formed and shaped.

The following thoughts were written as I tended a physical fire in my hearth several weeks ago, and in them articulate how I perceive this role as a starting place. I use the image of fire lighting, tending, igniting as a metaphor. In no way am I advocating a brigade of blue rinsed pyromaniacs storming around the country burning buildings of power or incinerating objects of distaste. I do not want to hear of my sisters running riot with zimmer frames being arraigned for arson. Yes, we must light a fire in our soul, in our heart, in our belly and head, but it must lead us to considered, if radical action, but the fire remains within us. We use it to speak out, to write out, to walk out, and thus challenge the status quo. I am not advocating anarchy. I am calling for considered action, honest communication and a resolve as strong as steel set to flame, forged and quenched.

We will each of us carry not a flint, but a living ember in our heart, one we can fan into the flame of action when necessary at a moment’s notice, for we may have only a moment in which to act.

At times we many burn white hot for a time, but then the flame goes weak, we have spent our fuel and need to recover our sense of self, so we are not destroyed by selflessness. So we smoor the fire within us. We seek that which will nurture and nourish us, gather kindling and find the logs we will need in the time ahead. The ember, however, will be kept warm and pulsing as long as we live and breathe. But there are times when it need not flare and flame. Sometimes it is fine to let it die back, but it will never go out, once you take the steps to walk and live the path of the Vestal Crone.

Fire is dangerous and compelling. Beautiful and terrifying.
Fire enables life as we know it and takes it as well.

It is not something to be careless with. We must understand the medium with which we work, whether it be literal or figurative.

There are sparks and spitting fuels. There are comforting fires and ones that are restless. They are unpredictable and cannot be tamed, only managed with care. So it is with the fires we are going to light in our hearts and souls.

One cannot begin and then stop, the fire must be tended regularly. Meditation, visualisation and of course action which is at the core of this paradigm.

Kindling, logs, coal, open fire, campfire, wood burner . . . all are ways to see the work, some more or less constrained. A wildfire is deadly, and extreme. I am not advocating stating wildfires.

I will be exploring this image, pondering ideas further, but I think it time to set out this vision, my vision for being as one touched by Cailleach, and holding the fire of Brighid within me.

© Aurora J Stone 2017

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Remnants of My Love

From paranoia to delusion,
to ill made choices
life changes made from a place
of psychological disintegration.

What now remains?

Face like thunder,
a storm waiting to break
the inertia of self-indulgence,
denial held and truth avoided.

Heart like flint,
sharp knapped edges,
shards piercing ever deeper
poised to destroy the essential self.

Soul like ash,
encased in ice unmelting,
frozen solid unable to blow free
for the phoenix of the self to be reborn.

Only these and my compassion,
and the remnants of my love.

Winter’s Cold

Winter’s cold weaves
expanding icy lace
barely visible, upon
dark needled yew,
bare branched ash,
berried brazen holly,
spreading fernish tendrils
patterning across surfaces,
setting miniscule shards
of crystal standing upon
leaves alive and dead,
making no discernible distinction.

Winter’s cold rests
in places saturated by preferences
eons old and untamed still,
raises misty on the rimes
bounding fields again water swollen
too sodden for any but the swans,
when night-water standing shallow
transubstantiates to ice
slippery and shining
seen in unexpected beauty
on the dawning of the day.

Winter’s cold steals
upon and over roads and pathways,
undetectable until too late,
ice black as night
as dangerous as
frozen projectiles thrown
by no hand seen by human eyes,
plummeting,
from eaves and rooftops
crashing to break the quiet
impaling the unwary.

And now Winter’s cold
drapes shoulders undetected
and gloves fingers invisibly,
it can steal into the Self,
it can freeze the soul
with discontent,
it can freeze the heart
with regret,
it can freeze the mind
with memories,
if one be not careful
it can reach out grabbing
the joy, the hope, the wonder
from the season’s bright festivities.

Be wary then and watchful,
though most of all,
be bold with wonder,
be extravagant with joy,
be generous with love,
be not afraid,
embrace with delight Winter’s gifts,
short lived each year,
filled with immense mystery
and the deepest magic.

We say we know

We say we know,
but we do not understand the way,
we do not perceive the paths
torqued and tortuous
through the deeply shadowed
regions of the self,
the secretly inhabited
landscape of the soul,
the mysteriously wrought
structure of the heart,
where desires dwell
where hopes haunt
where wishes wander
unvoiced unfulfilled unannounced
to the consciousness of the mind,
which could not bear the revelation,
could not endure the unveiling
of the hidden terror
of the unacknowledged fear
of the dangerous truth,
that we are all more
than who we appear to be
and less than we believe we are.

Animāginē

On my birthday the end of April when I was walking on a south coast of England beach I collected 13 heart shaped stones or shells and other bits of scallop and oyster shell, as one does. And here are a few examples:

Black heart   Oyster heart   Three hearts

Usually I find one or two, but since I’d not been to the beach in many months, perhaps I was being caught up, as it were. When I got home, I put them all in one wooden salad bowl, which I use to place such things. The two big ones have bigger bits from different collecting forays or walks, and the individual sized ones have bit from specific collecting adventures or small pieces. They are all over the house, but mostly in the kitchen and my office/library/altar space room.

The other day I was looking at the birthday collection and found this, though the photos don’t quite capture what the physical eye sees, but you might get the idea:

Drummer 1     Drummer 2

 

Drummer 4       Drummer 3

I had not seen the image before, and maybe it’s not all that clear to anyone else, but it is very apparent to me. I now understand it to be a spirit image or animāginē, from the two Latin words of the same meaning where in this case the lines indicate long sounded vowels. Only now it seems she wanted to be make herself known to me. Sometimes she seems to be playing a drum and at others she is scrying or writing. I write. I use my drums. And whilst I don’t scry I do see things in showings/visions, which is a bit hard to represent otherwise. She is presented on a bit of oyster shell. As an animāginē she is very powerful. I am not sure what our journey together is, but in my experience such energies, presences, guides do not come on a whim. They do not just show up for a cup of tea and a bit of chitchat, they come for a reason. They bear a message, warning, gift, invitation or . . . At this point I’m not sure which in this instance.

Just now I turned the shell over and there is another female looking animāginē:

   Guardian 4   Guardian 2

Oh my, a twofer! I’d not seen the second one until just now. She seems to represent an older energy or presence. She is more shrouded, more enigmatic, more mysterious. I have no idea what to make of her, and to be honest I’m not all that sure what to make of her sister on the inside face of the shell. And as I type this maybe that is part of understanding the meaning. The animāginē on the outside face of the shell would be more hidden, less obvious, a protectoress of she who works on the inside. Again seen with the physical eyes she appears to be one thing, but the camera’s seems to show a dragonish face, so maybe this is a shapeshifter.

I am simply putting forth ideas here since I have not begun to work with either of them. I shall certainly have to spend time questing with, journeying with, pondering upon the nature and meaning of these two. I know what to call how they are presented to me; I am not at all sure what to call what they are in themselves, what manner of being nor the name behind who and what is represented. I have no idea what I shall find. I have no idea if they are related tightly to the sea or whether the sea, the great representation of the unconscious, is part of what the meaning holds. Could she be some aspect of me trying to push forth, who is well protected by the outside energy? Could she be a teacher? I have no idea at the present.

So many questions and so much intrigue. So much is revealed, or presents itself with the intention of or desire to be revealed or known if we only pay attention with our eyes, our ears, our minds, our hearts and our intuition. I am sure I will share more about her/them as I work with these animāginē.

Dance with the dryads

Dance with the dryads.
Skip with the stream.

Enter a hallowed world
walk through this portal,
acknowledge the rowan tree,
may she allow you to pass.

Duck under enleafed boughs
a path darkened in summer’s deep shade,
only farther along will shadows dapple
playing hide and seek with sunlight.

Dance with the dryads.
Skip with the stream.

Who is it who calls me
insistently bidding me release
the bickering in my mind,
pulling my thoughts
and intentions that tie me in knots?

A stream runs by this path
north from the small bridge
away from the village the fields to greet,
willow shed of catkins,
elder holding brown flowers ,
hawthorn bearing green berries,
hazel with pale blushed nuts,
brambles soft flowers hidden with thorns,
then holly, ivy, ash and oak,
though a break in the trees
looking skyward the yew ogham
written in crossing contrails.

Dance with the dryads.
Skip with the stream.

Divine through the waters
ovatically listen
there is speech in the streamcourse
pushing past corners
tumbling over obstructions
given voice for its wisdom
a message you could not read
in the shrew’s entrails
so listen to me.

Abandon your camera
take out your pen
see with your ears
hear with your heart,
record and remember the
strange language spoken
between muddy banks
the speech of the waters
addressed now only to you.

Dance with the dryads.
Skip with the stream.

Pause here as the waters pass rushing
no longer a whisper, a hum, or a sigh
here the stream runs shouting
demanding your attention
near the end of your walk,
where two close set stones
guard a wooden armed bridge
and the two hawthorns
bend together to shield the way,
turn then return now.

Going back keep you mind calm,
do not let the old arguments
pick up where you left them,
step by step to straight-trunked poplars
sentinels conversing in whispers,
hoping not to be heard.

Dance with the dryads.
Skip with the stream.

This walk has now ended for the light
once more bright shining,
bird song is louder,
gravel crunches under your feet.

Remember the lessons
so much like a dream
the trees of this pathway
engaged with the waters
affirming your intuition
heightening your knowing
enriching your life.

For you danced with the dryads.
You skipped with the stream.

You opened your heart

For some time, meaning a quite a few years in this instance, I have struggled with how to identify myself on the paradigmatic timeline of the stages of a woman’s life. I am well past menopause, but I neither look nor feel old nor haggard. I have tried to live with the Crone but I am not her, not yet, not for a long while yet the goddesses willing. Just in the past few days I have come upon the designation of Queen as an intermediate between Mother and Crone.

I realise this is not a new idea, it has been floating about for many years, only it hadn’t until last week floated to me. I am a believer that things come to one at the right time and not before, no matter how impatient I am, if an issue is not ready or I am not ready for it, then it’s not going to arrive. That has caused me much grief and pain in the last several years, but it is one of the truths of my life. There are things I could not do when I was not whole enough to do them, not present enough to present myself. (I hope you caught the change in inflection there).

Two days ago I went to the local small orchard woodland space on the near edge of the village. I went to the Beech tree who has been companioning me for several months.

 

Beech 2

After discovering the Queen paradigm or archetype, whichever — and there is probably an important technical difference between the two — I had to seek her out, because I sensed the reason she had been nudging at me to come into communion with her. I had no expectations of the encounter, when I approached her, I went ready to be . . . What happened was a remarkable incidence of relating to another being at a profound level. I have had deep and profound encounters with Yew trees, for which I have always had an affinity, and for many years I have been struck by the sensual beauty of the Beech tree. I just never thought it related in any way to me personally — how wrong, but it was not then time. I could not have handled the influx of energy, the depth of the knowing, the intensity of the revelation.

In reading about and exploring intellectually the new paradigm/archetype it seemed that it was a fit, one that had been missing. But it was not tangible, tactile, tensile. I was not able to hold the reality, feel the reality, experience the tension upon which such a reality balances and exists. Then I followed my intuition, always strong and getting stronger as I’ve gotten stronger, and went to see Her. She opened her heart to me. In so doing, She changed my life forever.

(This is a place in Her barkskin that looks like a heart, an open one, that inspired the poem.)

Beech heart

You opened your heart
you gave me a name,
a way I might address you,
no longer simply
The Statuesque Beech Tree
in the Orchard Wood.

You opened your heart
and in so doing enabled me
to speak aloud your name
Dew’Featha, O Queen of my Wood,
as I circled you on the
slope of the hillside
running my hands
over your barkskin
I felt your presence and power
I felt my presence and power.

You opened your heart,
Dew’Featha, O Queen of my Wood,
speaking instruction
articulating introduction
affirming intuition
that I might listen and learn
the lessons I require.

You opened your heart
Dew’Featha, O Queen of my Wood,
you are willing to share
that I might understand
what it means to be a Queen,
Sovereign of the Self
standing tall as yet unbent,
reaching forth to the sky
dancing in the breeze.

You opened your heart
Dew’Featha, O Queen of my Wood,
that I might access
ancestral knowing,
ancient knowledge,
deep-rooted wisdom.

For all this you opened your heart
Dew’Featha, O Queen of my Wood,
shared yourself with me,
fractured my mental
barriers to acceptance,
shifted my spiritual
perceptions to acknowledgement
that I am not old though no longer young,
that I have a place
of self-acceptance
self-understanding
and ongoing outgoing.

You opened your heart
Dew’Featha, O Queen of my Wood,
and in doing so allowed me
to share with you
what it means to be Queen
in our presence and power.