Elen of My Way

As I recently blogged I am now traveling with Elen, or perhaps have acknowledged that She has been traveling with me for nearly five decades.

For many years I have had a connection to Brighid, not the least since one of the names on my parents’ short list for me was Brigit. When I began to walk my Druidic path I approached Brighid to see if we might have some sort of relationship. Having Welsh and Irish ancestry She became an important link. As a result, I have been engaged and working with Her for the longest of any of the goddesses of my panthean (yes, the spelling is intentional from thea the Greek word for goddess).

Another of the goddesses I have a relationship with is Nemetona. Not surprising really, since my space is Important to me and is also sacred. With her guardianship of the sacred grove and by extension the sacred space I live in and that is in me. When I leave and enter the house I affirm three things: Nemetona bides here. Badger wards here. Awen flows here. I picture a triskele as I say this and it affirms the presence and protection around me and my home. Again, I invited Nemetona into my life.

Cerridwen is the member of my panthean whom I invoke as I begin an important project. Quite literally I do this sitting before my cauldron. I place the notes, jottings of ideas, or just the name of the project into the cauldron and meditate on where I wish to go with it, or ask that it take me where it wants to go.

The fourth presence with me now, and I did not invite Her, but given my age She just showed up and said: ‘I’m here, and you are going to have a relationship with me’. Who was I to argue? A presence not to be messed with. A presence of force and wisdom. The Cailleach.

And now Elen. Unlike the Cailleach, Elen did not just plonk down in my life, She hunted and haunted me for all those years. She sought me out. After many years since beginning my journey to find my true spiritual home, my real soulscape, it came at last to turning and facing one whom I can no longer deny or ignore. I have been reminded and nudged that there are certain things I must do. Activities, creative works and workings, that I must engage in or my body will pay the price. Well, now it is paying the price, and the only way to change that is to engage faithfully, and fully with those activities I have been told and shown that I must. The goddesses have been patient, well one goddess has been patient, but They/She are no any longer willing to wait. I have been confronted. I have been challenged. I have been called. I can no longer pretend that I have not been.

Now that Elen has made her presence felt in a way that is unmistakable, in a manner that is unavoidable, I have to turn and face what I have so far managed to duck away from, the full understanding of what I must do and how I must do it. And I must do this in a way that is rigorous, disciplined and radical. Radical in the sense of fundamental, not necessarily outrageous, although I can’t say for sure it won’t seem so to others.

In my original About page, I said I worked shamanically, but changed the wording at one point, because I was not a shaman. The word not being that of my ancestral lineage. It was a borrowed word and concept that, in my opinion, has become well recognised and too well and easily used in the past twenty years. Besides this, I couldn’t really use the term then in good faith because I was a casual traveler, using the methods and techniques to put me in touch with the source of creativity for me. Now I am called to be more than that. I am called to work in ways that are ways my ancestors in these islands worked, both Welsh and Irish. My religion is Druidry, but my vocational path has a different name – a name I have flirted with, but not been able or willing to commit to until now: Awenydd, to become a Awenyddion. At some point, I may have thought I was ready and may have said so, but I now know that was not the case. Now, in turning to embrace the reality and persistent presence of Elen, by beginning to work seriously with Her, I can take the steps to making an open eyed, open hearted, open souled commitment to follow Her where She will lead me as I follow Her trods.

I am still adjusting to all of this. As I am becoming more open, as the barriers I built over the past decade and a half are crumbling and disappearing. Day by day I am more and more able to sense and feel the world around me. I can sense and see energies better. I can hear again behind the words, and see beyond the projections. I can feel what rests more deeply beneath the surfaces of things and events. This is not always comfortable, and in some instances downright unpleasant. But it is the way I am learning to live.

There are consolations as well as challenges. There are delights no less than dangers on the Way of Elen as I experience Her. She showed extraordinary patience no less than persistence, and I honour that now by following Her leading. Her way now frames all the other relationships I have with the other goddesses to whom I turn and who uphold and companion me on my journey. And, it feels right. In saying so I am admitting there has been something subtle and essential missing in these relationships: The Context. The Matrix. The Shaping.

That is now present, though I do not fully comprehend and apprehend the nuances of this context shaping matrix, I know it’s there and and I accept the unfolding mystery it presents. As such, I have reason to give thanks. More reason than ever before to move onward in gentleness and genuine humility.

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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.

 

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.

The Ancestors

LISTEN! Listen. listen . . .

Do you hear them . . .
the whispers
screams
laughter
shouts
the weeping?

Are you paying attention
to the ancestors calling?

SENSE! Sense. sense . . .

Do you feel it . . .
the fluctuating of energies
the altering of dynamics
the shifting currents?

Have you noticed when suddenly
absence transmutes into presence?

WATCH! Watch. watch . . .

Do you see . . .
their memories hovering
over the water
as autumnal mist
drifts on a cool morning;
their stories lingering
on the air
as bonfire smoke
curls on a hazy evening;
their presence persisting
upon the land
as the teasing light
dances on a cloudy afternoon.

Are you awake?
Are you alive?
Are you alert?

For they are all surrounding
if they choose to be heard
if they desire to be felt
if they wish to be seen.

When they are ready
to reveal their mysteries,
it is for us to be ready
to receive their revelations.

From an Encounter with a Four-leaf Clover

I have not done a great deal of truly deep thinking lately, but I have done quite a bit of broad sensing. By that I mean extending myself, reaching out the energies around me farther from me. I was aware about not doing the thinking bit, but only realised in the past couple of days about the sensing part. Or at least how the extending part seems to be working for me, with me, in me.

Extending my energy is a way of pushing my boundaries and in moving them incrementally farther beyond my normal edges I have expanded my awareness. This I realised on my walk the other morning. For almost a week I had the sense that I would find a four-leafed clover. It’s not really a big deal, but the sense was quite strong. There is one embankment along a lane I walk down that is covered in clover leaves, many more leaves than clover flowers. I have been walking past and along this section of lane for months now. Only in the past week did I feel that there was a four-leaved clover hiding somewhere in the mass of its three-leaved companions.

Since becoming aware of the treasure hiding in the bank of green I have been scanning as I walked along. For a week I saw nothing. Then a few mornings ago I hardly had to look at all and my eye went right to it. Yes, I did take it with me. It had been there for some time, because its stem was about ten inches long. I was delighted. It is only the second one I’ve found, ever.

It was a reminder to me that I do know things, am aware of them before they happen. This is not a new awareness for me. I’ve seen snatches of the yet, whilst in the now for years. I was delighted with the gift of the clover, but also did not gloat, because it was a sobering reminder for me. There are things I have ‘seen’ upcoming that are not happy things. At a time when I was doubting whether my seeing is ‘true’ or not an experience, seemingly insignificant happens. In the insignificant experience comes the realisation that only in its time will any event unfold, be revealed, occur.

A little over a month ago I was standing with one of the trees I know and heard: It is easy to remember the past; it is not so easy to remember the future.

As those words, a bit enigmatic and certainly profound echoed inside me, I thought about the fact that I am a rememberer, one who lives increasingly in a state of anamnesis, an unforgetter. Unforgetting  works two ways for me, in my experience, forward no less than backward. It has made me more aware that time is not one way ever going ahead. Time as I experience it, curves around on itself, it is more of a spiral journey. Time as I use the word here is not about clocks or marking day and night. It is more mysterious than that and maybe time is not the proper word, but it is the one I am used to using when I ponder these phenomena and live into the reality of them.

From where I am now I can perceive then as well as yet, provided I am granted the window or portal to see/sense, at any given place or position I am experiencing/perceiving  existence. At some points on my journey what was at a discrete moment is clear, depending on where I am the quality of the memory is stronger or weaker, full or less full of detail, context or conversation. The same is true for what will be. There are moments where I can feel and perceive the context and event more or less vividly, depending on where I am in relation to that fragment of future.

Remembering the future means that in some sense it has already happened in some mysterious way and I am simply on a journey to meet it. It is not deja vu, although I have that experience as well. Remembering the future is when I experience an event I have seen before, in a dream, in a showing, in a vision and often for months or longer before I am in the place where I meet the event. Sometimes I get a sensation or know going past somewhere that the space has a history in the future, and I know the difference between knowing that and that it had a history in the past. My body reacts. My stomach tightens in a certain way. I get nauseous sometimes at the place, or around the people. I will get anxious or feel distressed or sad, if it is a bad thing. If it is not a bad thing I get a deeply settled feeling. For the past and the future these sensations are subtly different and from experience I can discern the difference.

All this becomes more and more refined as I seem to be learning to extend my boundaries. All this more and more as I learn to listen and trust what I see. All this more and more as I come to realise what I know is real, in the yet and the then, as I journey in the now.

All of this from a four-leaved clover found on a morning walk on a late summer morning.

The day the War began

When I first went outside this morning I could feel something different. A different energy. A false calm, and artificial pausing of the frantic energy in all the life forms around me. My walk was a challenge this morning. Too much was seeping into my awareness, to many images began to flood my interior vision, to many sounds assaulted my internal ears. I seemed to be walking in a daze, walking here and walking somewhere far away, in an alien landscape. My soul ached

Yes, the birds sang – muted songs.

Yes, the butterflies danced, but it was not the same sort of dance they danced yesterday.

Or maybe I perceived them differently . . . for though this morning was glorious, memory makes it harsh. Remembrance makes it terrible.

I watched the clouds tower up, rehearsing, remembering the rising storm clouds of the early morning of this day a century ago, that broke before midnight.

It is not possible for me to think back and not feel, feel things I shouldn’t possibly be able to feel. Not to know things I can’t possibly know. Perhaps because I have touched some to the history, lived and worked in the shadow of the energy of this day for many years, three decades ago. . .

In San Diego I worked for a woman whose stepmother was Helen Hayes Gleason Johnson, whose first husband (who died of typhoid in the 20’s or 30’s) was Arthur Gleason. He was a reporter of Colliers Magazine during the WWI and she was an ambulance driver behind the lines in Belgium. I worked for her step-daughter in the house Helen’s second husband built for them and that was their home in the 30’s to the 60’s by which time both my employer had inherited after the deaths her father and Helen.

Helen drove for the Red Cross. She was decorated by the King of Belgium after the war, being the first woman to be decorated as a Chevalier. I was privileged to have read all of Helen’s letters from the war and was supposed to get them to do something with prime source materials — an historian’s holy grail, but only a week before I had arranged to take them, the water heater blew up in the basement and flooded where the trunk was kept. The whole lot was soaked beyond retrieval.

But, several months before the water ruined everything, I spent a week going through the material. Two things stand out for me to this day, clear and in sharp relief. One was the letter I read that Helen wrote on a train going through France the day the war was declared and second was the piece of shrapnel, a chunk of metal the size of the palm of my hand that nearly killed her. I can’t remember the words Helen wrote, but I remember the feeling I had as I held the letter in my hands. I recall the sense of despair and the fear the leaked through time to me as I read the words — that letter opened a portal for me that has never really closed.

As others have commented there is no such thing as a glorious war, nor glorious warrior. The propaganda used to get young men to sign up and the fury unleashed on those who for conscience sake could not take up arms were both skillfully wielded to manipulate the masses.

I feel all this more keenly here, living in the UK, so much closer to the places where this frightful conflict unfolded and stalled and was pressed on. Trenches and gas and barbed wire and no man’s lands, and mayhem and palpable fear and bitter resentment.

What was lost to the world, to families and the sciences to literature, to medicine, to music — these are also things I think about. Also that without WWI and the misery and loss there might not have been the fictions of Tolkien; a terrible price to pay for Gandalf and Frodo and Aragorn, the Elves and the Orcs, Fangorn and Rivendell, Minas Tirith and Mordor. We might by now have a cure for some dreadful disease that threatens us. Would the Spanish flu have taken so many, wearied by war and weeping, bereft and unable to find hope and a reason to go on.

There is so much we might elect to conjecture and so much more we might wish we never had to consider, including that the so called peace at the end of WWI sowed the seeds for the rise of the Nazis and the Second World War. For, not one bit of this happens or happened in a vacuum. Not one little bit of that could have occurred without lots of other little bits that seemingly might, on the face of it, appear completely disconnected.

What is it then that I remember today? I am a rememberer. I am one who is called to live in a state and in the reality of anamnesis, of unforgetting. Today there is much to process. There are many threads to untangle. There are wide vistas to take in and the small sheet of paper, written with a pencil in a train carriage chugging through the French countryside, as the harvest was about be taken in, which landscape was soon to be altered beyond recognition. The ensuing conflict ruined lives and reshaped the entire social and political structure of Europe. This conflict toppled monarchies. This conflict bequeathed us Fascisms in Germany, Spain and Italy, and the rule of the Proletariat in what was at the time still Russia that in time transmuted into global Communisms.

What do I remember today? The weeping mother and the sobbing wife, the orphaned children and childless parents — on both sides of that War that did not end anything but our innocence.

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.