Chalice Well

Monday we went to Chalice Well, a favourite haunt in Glastonbury, where we are Companions. Whilst I did not initiate the idea of this venture, not that far from where we live, I was enthusiastic. When we stepped into the space I understood the reason it was so important to go there, though that was not known to me until we arrived.

My partner lay in the sun on the hill at the bottom of the precinct near the new gift shop. I, however, had things to do, things to hear and I had to do them alone.

First of all, I went back to the entrance and bought a small bottle to collect water from at the lion head fount. Then walked back up the incline to stand between the two yews that stand sentinel as one prepares to go to the healing pool. They had been staunchly reassuring as I came to stand with them occasionally during the nearly six months I had to await the final decision on my application for Indefinite Leave to Remain. They had assured me that I was rooted here. That my roots were entangled with those of the gods, ancestors and spirits of this land. They made it clear that no one had the power to remove me once I had been thus claimed. And yes I did trust them, but part of me wondered how the Home Office officials would know. Given they were working with documents well prepared and presented I must say by my immigration solicitor, who to be fair also thought I would have no trouble, but you never knew for sure until they said yes.

Moving with deliberation and openness I walked past the pool and instead took of my shoes and socks and walked in the water that flowed into it from above. It was cool and refreshing. There it was clear to me that I was cleansing myself of all the accumulated gunge that had adhered to me in the 15-year process to gain settlement in the UK. That was granted on the Autumnal Equinox, though I did not find out about it until the day after the 15th anniversary of my arrival in the UK. In the flow of that water that had stained the surface of the trough a rusty amber colour over years of mineral exposure I found I was walking into a new life. It was a stunningly simple act, but one with complexly amazing ramifications. For a while I just sat.

When it felt the time was right, I moved on up the steps to the lion’s head where the two glasses sat waters from the spring lemniscating between them. I sat on the bench hidden by the beech bower. I wrote in my journal. I was clear that a bargain had been struck between me and the gods, ancestors and spirits of the land. In that clarity I knew that because they had kept their word to me, I was now free. Freedom, however in this and every other instance entails responsibility. My freedom is granted so that I might be able to fulfil my destiny, in its fullest and broadest, widest and deepest sense. I just sat there staring at the water pouring through the lion’s mouth. Grateful, humble, terrified, cautious and joyful.

In that frame I walked to the fountainhead. I first took a drink out of each glass, then replacing them filled my little official water bottle with some lemniscated water. I washed my hands and with the glass poured water over my forehead and let it run down my face. It was truly a baptism, a cleansing and dedicatory action. I drank some more water then went to sit down before proceeding to the final stop on this impromptu pilgrimage.

Again, waiting until I felt the time was right, I moved on to the Chalice Well herself. I was able to sit with the Vesica Piscis facing me and under another yew. I just sat and listened. The birds sang and I heard sheep bleating.

The Well gave me one message: I am a Well of Wisdom, who partakes of my gifts receives my blessing. For you it is the Awen who flows from my depths. This is a source place for you and so you must come here often. I am for you the Mother of Awen.

What can I say to that?

Except to express my gratitude by honing my gifts and strengthening my creative skills. Write poems. Write stories. And, write more. Learn the art of linocut, become a more proficient calligrapher and accomplished photographer. In all things be humble and live in a state of grateful awareness.

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Closed for the Night

Recently, I have been allowing myself to open up more to the world around me. To the dancing of the wind scattering the long strands of my hair into wondrous tangles. To the patter of the rain on my back as I work in the garden. To the summer sun, with whom I have an uneasy truce. To the mad chuttering of the squirrels, impatient calling of the magpies and the sweet songs of the small birds who visit our feeders. I am able to do this from the time I get up in until the sun goes down.

From sunset to sunrise, I find that I have close myself off and down again, to anything beyond the safe walls of my home. I sense quite acutely now the creatures of my immediate and farther landscape. But for now I will not allow myself to extend, because I daren’t engage with the countryside in my county. The Badger Cull has returned.

I simply cannot bear to hear the silent cries of the dying or feel the agony of the wounded. I learned this last year. I am not strong enough to endure this once more. At sunset, I offer ‘prayers’ to the gods and spirits of the land that the Badgers do not suffer when they are exterminated. It is, I admit, the request of one who knows better, because there will only be suffering. No only for the Badgers killed, but for the members of setts decimated in the nightly carnage.

In the morning, I wake to the beauty of the sunrise, the bird song, the view of my yew and apple trees, but I am still haunted by the knowing that so may of my Badger kin will never know the feeling of the wind over their backs, the rain on their noses or the sun warming the entrance to their sett. I pause and as I give thanks for another day, I whisper farewell to those who have died during the night in a misguided attempt to control a disease that has by now in the land itself. harder still is that we will never know how many healthy Badgers died, and died in vain.

 

Beyond the Day of Balance

Yesterday was an amazing day, the beginning of which I wrote about and posted in the morning.

It was of course followed by the rest of the day . . .

A day marked by intensity and contrasts, of emotions and reactions. I felt myself open, or being opened to a far deeper experience of the world around me, particularly the natural world. The terrain of my gods, those of this land and its memory. The landscape of my ancestors here and their wisdom. The spirits of the land upon which I live and who share with and sustain me as engage them walking  the fields and the footpaths near my home.

The opening up further, sensing more deeply, apprehending more fully came as a bit of a shock. I heard more that would be unuttered but for the the rustling Maize Maidens in the wind, the beating of the bird’s wing, the whistling of the breeze through the corvid feathers in my hat (that sometimes I mistake for the buzzing of bees). The longings of the small ones to be safe; the worry of the badgers, tucked in their setts along the path I walk, for their kin in the midst of the cull; and the relief of the apple boughs released from the burden of the fruit bending them nearly to breaking.

The happiness my cats feel at the demise of the fleas that have tormented them and me for too much of the summer, is palpable in the cottage. Their purrs are freer and more freely given as they stretched out in the morning sunshine in the middle of the floor in the same room within touching distance of each other. This I rejoiced to sense and to hear – their gratitude.

I looked at the various writing projects that have stacked up for far too long. Projects I could not face. Did not know where to start engaging. I looked at the stories and the worlds renewed before me. The characters, whose names I have heard for so long, reached out to me from the pages both typed and handwritten. I was able to renew the relationships, friendships with these individuals who have trusted me for so long to share their lives in story, history, poetry and song. Again, profound gratitude and a sense of responsibility — trusts remaining unbetrayed, and promises made, yet unfulfilled. I hope they wait in an orderly queue.

I am ready, with the experiences of yesterday, to embrace the disciple to fulfill those promises and keep faith with the trusts granted me. And for me to write more poetry, and share my insights in case there is meaning in my words not only for me, but for you who read them.

I feel still as if either I have burst some inhibiting bonds, or they have been shattered for me. And ultimately, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what I do with this newly found and new felt freedom. It is the time to do, more than to be. For me being, in the sense of the opposite of doing, is not a good place for me to stay. It is stagnating. I need The Awen to flow,  and more importantly, for me to flow with and be immersed in it. I can no longer just watch it go past, or ride it but to no creative result. The flow has certainly burst its banks. I have engaged The Awen and pledged myself to its work for me, but until yesterday I was somehow constrained in the fulfillment of my pledge, unable to work constructively with the energy. Even though I knew and know it is the energy that is at the centre of my life, the core of my being and the shaper of my soul.

I don’t really have any idea what happened in the intervening months, but they are then and this is now and yet beckons me onward. I am sure there were some lessons I had to learn, and I sincerely hope I have learned them and have, in ways I do not comprehend, assimilated them into my life to help carry me onward.

Beyond the Day of Balance is living with the full awareness that whilst balance allows renewal, it is not a place to create from or in, but a place to go where insight flares demanding acknowledgement, then from the few hours of refuge to begin once more the journeying forth into the next adventures and even more meaning.

An afternoon at RSPB Swell Wood

First I want to thank my friend who is an administrator for the area RSPB for taking me on this wonderful adventure, since I don’t drive.

When we headed out from my cottage yesterday afternoon, it was a bit mizzly so we went to plan B – Swell Wood, plan A was Ham Wall. That’s for another day. It had nearly stopped when we arrived at the car park where there were only two cars.

Arrival

From the time we opened the doors, and in spite of the road noise, bird song filled the air. Since the feeders were empty, she filled one of them with sunflower seeds.

Our first stop was the hide for the heronry. With all the leaf cover it took a few minutes to locate the nests. And, I forgot my binoculars so we shared. Saw several nests heard lots of calling from the treetops. Saw an egret nest and egrets flying off as well as heron. There were other little birds in closer as well.

We then walked around the top walk and at one point the road noise vanished. The atmosphere was magical. Once we’d made that circuit we took off for Scarp Trail, lots of up and then lots of down, followed by way more up to get back to the car.
Virdiditas 3Virdiditas 2

All around there were delicate grasses, yellow archangel and remnants of bluebells, and one lone cuckoo-pint.

Grass with seedsGrass with multiple seeds

Yellow archangelCuckoo pint

Saw Alfred’s cakes and for the first time knew what it was that I’d seen a few times before.

Alfreds cakes

The ivy twisting around the tree trunks looked like Celtic knot work. I have wondered before if it is not where the idea for such patterns originated.

Knot work 5Knot work 4

Knot work 3Knot work 2

Knot work 1

The views across the Levels were amazing. Hard to believe how recently they were under water for weeks and weeks.

Levels 1Levels 2

I marvelled at the beetles on the green leaves, and what I think are musk beetles, though I didn’t get a photo.

Red beetles

When we got back to the car after filling a second feeder my friend moved the car to the other side of the car park and we waited to see who’d take up the offer of food. It didn’t take long for a pair of Chaffinches to arrive and work the ground for what had fallen from the holes in the feeder right in front of us. Then to the other feeder a Greater Spotted Woodpecker arrived. We heard some hungry noises coming from a hole in a tree before we were back at the car and figure this must be a parent bird.

Greater spotted 3Greater spotted 2Greater spotted

At the same time a squirrel showed up with the Chaffinches and worked the ground. When the woodpecker moved to the closer feeder another visitor took over the second feeder.

Squirrel 4Squirrel 1

Squirrel 2Squirrel 3

For those brief few hours, I soaked up the tranquillity and the virdiditas. Tall trees reaching up to embrace the sun, which wasn’t much in evidence, linked like the ribs of a vaulted cathedral ceiling. Air slightly moist and smelling sweetly clean. It was an opportunity to relax and allow the spirits of the wood, on the edge of the Levels, to reach out to me as I opened to allow the connection and communion. There was the low strong murmur of tree speech all around me. I felt welcomed. I felt at home. I felt the presence of dryads and woodland sprites. I sensed the dancing energies of trees and of the bird life all about me. Chirrup, song, melody was all around me heard with my inner and outer ears. Vision, vista, beauty were everywhere I looked seen with my inner and outer eyes.

I was walking in Swell Wood and I was walking in The Wood, if that makes sense. I was there and beyond there. The magical nature of this small, magnificent gem of a woodland opened the portal for me to enter a Wood much larger and far more complex. I was moving in two realms, happily nattering away with my friend and at the same time communicating in silent presence with the greater energy of where I was, beyond where I was.

I was very aware of being on the edge of the Somerset Levels, a place of fascination and enticement for me. Although I am not able to get down into them without much travel and expense on buses, I love them. They are a place of particular mystery and wonder. There are connections I’ve not had the opportunity to explore fully, but I feel the pull. I it feel more strongly now. The gods and spirits of the Levels are calling me and I know I need to find ways of entering the openness of this landscape and meet them more fully. Yesterday, as we drove back through the spaces they inhabit I heard whispers and echoes reaching out to me, calling me to engage with them. It is another calling I am not going to be able to pretend I don’t hear for very much longer.

The deep Mystery of Willow is present in the Levels in a way that I sense is unique. Where I live I tiptoe on the edges of it, does this sound familiar? But I have not allowed myself, and also at some profound level of my being not been allowed until now to contemplate such a connection.

I have made deep links with Yew and Beech already, but Willow only by a gentle touch not mutually deep exchanges between self, being and presence. And it’s not only the mystery of the Willow; there is other mystery and magic there for me. There is something about the land itself, even beyond the surface and visible landscape that calls to me. From where I sit now it is ephemeral and insubstantial, but it is surely real, reaching out and pulling me to explore.

All of these experiences are intensifying my practice of Druidry, enriching my spiritual and religious path, as well as my self-understanding as a Druid. They show me I have so much to experience still and only hint at how deeply these realities and experiences will take me into the realms of the gods, the ancestors and spirits of this land who frame, shape and ground my life and being as a Druid, as a person.

All this wonder, enrichment, challenge, awareness from a brief journey to and through an RSPB reserve.

Immanence and Transcendence – One

I have been pondering these two words in relation to spiritual beliefs and religious practise for some time off and on, now and then, here and there. As these things happen they came back to me as I was bent over cleaning out the cats’ litter trays late last week.

I have ruminated about the nature of earth based and book based belief systems. I have pondered upon the impact on the peoples from earth based and book based religions with regards to migration. I have wondered how to frame an understanding of immanence and transcendence that works for me and in my religious and spiritual life as a Druid.

For me immanence is about the deity being close to me, a presence not a million miles away, as it were, in some heaven of harp strumming angels and much alleluia singing, usually pictured as up. Immanent Deity I experience by closeness to nature, the environment, this land where I found the depth of my spiritual and religious life and being. I also experience immanence through the spirits of the land and the ancestors whose energy is still a vital part of the whole. It’s sort of the difference between dew on the grass and clouds in the sky.

I tried to explore these ideas in an essay form, but they would not allow me to shape them into any sort of coherence. Therefore, I am using poetry to express what I feel and how I perceive the Immanent Deity, who can Be through a host of gods or only one goddess. As I continue my journey to understand the differences between the Deity Immanent and the Deity Transcendent I intend write more poetry, hopefully some more specific, addressed and responding to the Immanent Deities who companion me and accompany me on my earthly sojourn.

Immanent Deity

You are with me always
close as my skin to me,
essential as breath to my being,
entering my soul
as I accept your presence,
leading my body
as I respond to your call.

You are felt
viscerally through emotions’ gamut,
tangibly through a rose’s thorn,
tenderly through a lover’s caress,
harshly through the north wind,
gently through the spring shower

You speak
in the singing of birds,
in the beating of drums,
in the buzzing of bees,
in the crawking of ravens
in the sighing of wind.

You move
in the flitting of butterflies,
in the gliding of swans
in the soaring of buzzards,
in the dancing of humans
in the swaying of barley.

You live
in the fertile soil,
in the evening shadows,
in the pummelling rapids,
in the rolling fog,
in the bountiful harvest.

You are the Immanent Deity
who inhabits the land,
who travels the ley lines,
who journeys in reaches out,
who walks again with my footsteps,
who sees anew through my eyes,
who loves through my loving,
who lives on through my believing.

Any Wednesday

Today I walked with the gods, ancestors and spirits who dwell in the landscape nearest where I now reside.

I walked passing houses storied by the people who live in them. Storied by their inhabitants through acts of love, violence, indifference, hope, and despair. Storied by those who chose wisely and with honour, and those who are trapped in decisions made in haste and acts of self-indulgent deceit.

I walked beyond these and also by the hedges and banks that are home to the small ones, furred and feathered, sheltering from the increasing and inconsistent cold. I walked alone. I walked shedding feelings of sadness, of promises made to me and not kept, of days never allowed to achieve the potential invested in them. I shed these. I walked. I took photos to focus my intention and attention on the world of nature all around me.

It was any Wednesday
as I left the tarmacked road
and moved along a different trail,
but it was not what it seemed.

It was any Wednesday
as I followed the beckoning of the stream,
and moved along the muddied way,
but it was not what it seemed.

It was any Wednesday
yet bore revelations most profound
through the yawning gate of deepest winter,
and I saw with newly opened eyes,
and I heard with unblocked ears,
and I felt with reawakened senses,
walking with and amid those
who long before walked paths
not so different from my own
in following the lure of the winter’s day.

I watched the robin watching me,
saw the wren dart past from a withered hedge,
listened to the wind in the bare branched trees
and through dry hedge leaves,
I saw the preening swans and flying ducks,
and heard the stream coursing relentlessly to the sea.

We do not know the musics
our ancestors sang to
nor the languages of their song,
but we can know what inspired them
in the squelching mud,
the sharp bite of cold wind,
the warmth of midwinter sun,
the tumbling of the stream’s waters
and the calling of the wild things:
the quacking of ducks,
the cackling of herons,
the crawking of ravens,
the thrumming whoosh of swans skeinning low,
the howling of hounds.

We can still see bold oaks
twisting ivy and whithered bracken,
a cheeky robin,
a furtive wren,
a flitting band of sparrows,
but we must open the inner eye
and allow the deeper ear to hear
and the mind to pause its ceaseless doubt;
we must be willing to walk and pause,
to greet and be greeted
to watch and be watched
to wait upon and welcome
those unanticipated,
those least expected,
those who are willing to pull back
the curtain between now and then
as yet is a step we take together.

It was any Wednesday
but no Wednesday nor any day
will ever be the same.

Thirteen Years

Thirteen years
time spent and life lived
through dreams formed and lost,
but dreams still remain.

A day of bittersweetness,
the complicated day-taste,
mixing the sweetness of joys
with the sadness of disappointments,
whilst meaning vanishes slowly
in pungent autumnal mists,
homecoming
heartlosing
soulfinding
rooted – these gods holding
grounded – these ancestors claiming
held – these landspirits embracing,
harking thenward
to the mythic
bidding yetward
to the neomythic,
the age of new mything
endeavouring to capture
ways to comprehend
nature’s forces
in postindustrialmodernity
the gods ancestors spirits
enlivening this land,
rewriting their histories
retracing their storylines
rendering their meanings
and ultimately our own,
through the lay lines of the land
echoing calling reaching
through the meridians of the body
energy tracks and traceries
mirroring shadowing flowing
just beneath the soils
no less than our skins.

Thirteen years
time spent and life lived
through promises made and broken,
but promise still remains.