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

Elements Meditations

In the past few weeks there have been many things to think about and so I’ve not been doing as much writing. It’s been a matter of consciously processing ideas and experiences, coming to terms with new ideas and ways of being, different ways of perceiving events and incidences/co-incidences that have been presented to me recently.

Some of them I have tried to write about, realising only after agonising for what seems like hours, but in truth is only moments, that it is not time to articulate for myself and communicate them for others.

I find this immensely frustrating.  Often infuriating, but I have to trust the process of revelation and its inherent timing.

There is one thing I can share, and will keep sharing now and then . . . I have a new mediation focus: The elements. This discipline came to me as I was sitting looking at my altar in an unfocused way a little over a week ago. I noticed that I had been gathering bowls that represented the elements, collecting them not really consciously. Some I’ve had for many years, but most have come to me in the last year. It seemed no accident; such things seldom are for me. I knew as the recently acquired ones began arriving they represented elements, but had no idea how I’d use them, beyond how they looked and resonated with me visually.

When I discovered there was one bowl  for six days of the week, I had to delve deeply to discover for me what was the missing element, what in the early days phlogiston was to those trying to understand the processes of life and nature. At last I realised that what holds the world together for me, though I understand much of the science, is Mystery. At that point I immediately picked up the Iona bowl off of my altar and knew this was the missing element, the one that holds the whole cycle together. So obvious it was hidden in plain sight before me.

I dowsed to choose the day for the meditation both morning and evening.

Sunday: Mystery, a bowl thrown, fired and glazed on Iona, a place of mystery for me.

Mystery 1Mystery 2

Monday: Fire, I picked this one up last year at the village Folk Festival.

Fire 2Fire 1

Tuesday:  Metal, from a charity shop for a few quid, and its song when thumped is wonderful.

Metal 1Metal 2

Wednesday: Wood, I got this last winter, its Yew my favourite turned wood.

Wood 1Wood 2

Thursday: Air, this one came the same day as Fire.

Air 1Air 2

Friday: Earth, this one is very heavy, rough and substantial.

Earth 2Earth 1

Saturday: Water, the most recent addition and to me a perfect representation.

Water 1Water 2

So, I began the meditation cycle last week and recorded the uses or significance of the elements. The lists are quite long. Things taken for granted every day, year after year suddenly have links and connections of amazing complexity. Whilst an individual element may be the substance to an item, it is only by employing products of others that enables humans to craft the various items. All things are linked.

I have not gotten any further than this rough appreciation of what we do, how we use, what the purpose is of each item from these elements. It is how the elements presented themselves to me. Without fail as soon as I sat with the bowl images and words poured into my awareness, always in pairs, some with an obvious association, others paradoxical and challenging. I never pushed this or sit down to think: Okay, so what do we use you for? I simply settled with as empty a mind as I could manage, not easy as my mind is always chattering away, busy.

I will share the contents of these lists as I ponder them in the weeks ahead. Having a list as a prompt in no way will diminish for me the profound wonder of looking closely at the products and natures of the elements that for me make up the world, for I cannot see atoms. And I still marvel that as closely as I may hold the bowl there is always an atom unimaginably thin, a membrane separating us. And it is the same with holding one’s beloved and anything or one else. Also I know that the elements’atoms are always in motion, dancing, shifting and darting about within the bowls, and in us. To me this knowledge just adds to my appreciation for everything around me, and makes the knowing that arises from my meditations far richer.

Doing this even this little while, and not going deeply into structure from an energetic perspective has made me see everything with fresh eyes. Another aspect of my reawakening, my re-emergence, my ongoing journey of anamnesis.

Awen and Creativity

Always the challenges for me as a creative person:

Not to resist the Awen’s insistent bidding.
Not to let the inspired thought slip away.
Not to assume if I wait a few moments, hours or days it will still be there.

The Awen’s spark of inspiration is just that, a spark, an ember of an idea flying through the air. If I’m not the tinder waiting, if I’m not the patch of ground so long dry, ready to explode with the intensity of the vision or idea and be engulfed by its wild ferocity then what might have been will never be. I will never know where the journey through the flame of creation would have led. I would have denied the git of Awen its due.

That is what I find hardest in dealing with the Awen, with the flow and fire of creative inspiration. It is a sacred moment and a sacred process. A moment and process I yearn for, one I seek and at times shy away from; but, it is what offers me the opportunity to be my truest self, most fulfilled and most at one with all creation and every creature, all Knowing and the Knowers.

I have too often in the past let the ember die. Not allowed the winds of desire to create something fan the tiny flame into an all consuming, passionate expression of what I felt in the heat of dancing embers all around me. This has left me frustrated and separated from the Divine Energy of Being. I try now harder not to let the ember die, though it is not always easy to do despite my best intentions.

When I wait too long I am left with a burn mark in my being where the ember landed and faded. It feels like the way a fleecy top looks if a spark from a campfire lands on it – a hole with a melted edge. Sometimes if I just stop long enough to make a note, jot the gist, draw a quick sketch, then I can come back and tend the low burning fire in the hearth of my being.

This morning walking to the bus and watching the sky, as I do, the ember flew and caught the tinder. Fanning the words gently to keep them alive until I got where the bus would arrive in its time I hurried on, still gazing at the sky. Rehearsing the words as I walked, getting to the bus stop I tore out the notebook I am never without. And I wrote. What I wrote is not great poetry; it will win no prizes. What it is though is taking something I saw, that I experienced and was able to record to share. The image was clear, the words flashing quickly, no slow burning fire this one. Flaring, searing the mind, and once recorded the fire burns on through the words and images, but it no longer burns me. It was made of the tinder, the small twigs not the giant logs great halls require for warmth and feeding — those are the fires required for longer works, prolonged explorations and creative projects. This small fire has burned and warmed me and here I offer it that it might warm you a bit as well. Even if not, in this poem, as in every creative work, the fire still burns and will never cease.

Sky scrawled oghams
vapour trail gibberish
ephemeral glossolalia
undecipherable
even as the clouds approach.

To discern such is not possible,
lines hither and thither
crisscrossing the pale sky
a bit of Phagos,
perhaps that was Furze
or maybe Ailim,
surely Duir.

There was no real way
to hold the atmospherically drawn
messages whose messengers
do not realise
they send and carry
forth mysterious meanings
thrust before the clouds.

Frustration at insufficient clarity
through my intuitive senses,
or perhaps because the sharing
and the wisdom is meant for another –
straight lines traced
back and forth crisply
only to diffuse,
scattering upon the currents
the earthbound cannot feel,
do not perceive.

Quickly the dispersal begins
lines smudge smearing into patterns
reminiscent of pictures
a child’s chubby crayon
draws but unlike
those images this one
cannot be saved and cherished.

Lasting only moments,
a moving message
written in shifting vapour
upon the sky.

Clouds & Fire, Shadow & Smoke

On walk a week or so ago I was observing and pondering different phenomena of the world around me, letting myself try and understand forms of being, entities of energy that are alien in their expression of existence, but in their own ways alive . . .

I followed the clouds
scudding across the summer blue sky
chased the shapeshifters unsurpassed
moving clumsily in comparison
unable to glide
from field to pathway
to landscapes shorn of grass
to the road
though fields studded
with black wrapped
silage bales waiting
immobile
the grasses and flowers
unable to sway or bend
in the breezes
unable any longer to breathe.

The clouds moved ambushing the sun
turning day to dusk
and magicking away shadows,
those deceivers of form
who lengthen and shorten
from hour to hour,
who blinked out
and as soon winked back
into sight once more.

Clouds and shadows
playing
each with the sun
using greys and white
light and darkness
as pawns in a game
seeking and hiding
teasing the spirits
tempting me to follow,
irresistible
in variants of grey,
so many and only one word
to span the space
between white and black
mixtures of both in degrees
of intensity and neither
at the same time.

All the while
so many words for beige:
ecru and sand,
oatmeal and stone,
tan and taupe,
but only a single word
for the shades and subtly
of tone and concentration
for all those colours
strung in space
where white and black
mingle but do not meet
cannot connect in
absence and presence untinted.

I chased the clouds in wonder
and followed them amazed,
until I turned a corner
and found a fire,
dancing danger
in the orange shards
that have no form
but possess for an instant shape
melding and fracturing
in ceaseless motion,
reckless restless gestures,
flickering and twisting,
contorted flame throwing heat
producing waves of distortion
the hedge behind
shimmering into invisibility.

Rough pieces of flame
tearing from the firebase
like bits of fabric
carelessly tossed aside
the conflagration mesmerising
daring me to watch
taunting me lest I turn away,
transfixed I am unable
to move when a sudden shift
brings a moment of wind
that calls forth smoke
to join the fire in its
flirtatious dance
and as it seems to see me
it overtakes me
and I am wreathed
in the visible choking scent
dry wood and drier grass.

Then as suddenly as it joined
the dance the smoke cleared
leaving only the flames
visible to me,
rising high extending
breaking free the escape
gravity’s pull vanishing into
emptiness
not bound by the forces
holding me earthbound
keeping me together,
still the frenzied dervish
of red yellow blue
spins and twists
reaching forth as if
to grab the clouds above my head,
yet the fire cannot
for all its mad straining
span that space before
vanishing angry and unsubdued
until its food runs down
and only frustrated embers
remain when flame and raging
are only memories
and the clouds
have shifted shape
a thousand times
and shadows in their turn
receded.