My friend Lisa, who is a wonderful photographer, captured some lovely moments this weekend during our morning-long ritual for Alban Eilir, the Spring Equinox. Thank you, Lisa – the photos are wonderful!
Here is a new short film I did, inspired by the gorgeous Suffolk countryside on a beautiful late November morning.
The ancestors are all around us. Traces of the ancestors of the past, of those that lived upon this land, whose stories are heard upon the wind, whose lives are still reflected all around us can be still found if we simply open our senses to them. At this time of year, as at any other time of the year, I walk with the ancestors, yet when Samhain approaches the urgency of their presence seems to fill my mind. I feel such a strong connection to the ancestors, of past, present and future. A simple walk to the pub reveals the very real existence of the ancestors on the land where I live.
The Suffolk landscape is often synonymous with Saxon culture and history, from the graves at Sutton Hoo to the palace/village/town found in Rendlesham forest. But echoes of those who were here before the Saxons, the Celtic tribes still remain. Though the term Celtic is currently undergoing much investigation, there is still much evidence of Iron Age life (and even before that) in this landscape from those who lived here, fished these rivers, walked this sandy soil. When we think of the Celts today, we most often think of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. But here in the East of England the ancestors are all around us, from the history of Boudicca’s uprising to the gentler, untold stories of daily life in the marshes and heathlands that abound in this land.
A simple three mile walk to the pub can reveal a very deep connection to those who have gone before, and who are still present all around us.
Last night a couple of friends and I went out onto the heath to celebrate the summer solstice. We have a tight-knit little group of friends, who feel a deep and abiding love of this land and who choose to celebrate it with spontaneous ritual. Tired as we were, we decided to forego the planned ritual in the backyard around the firepit and instead sought the wildnerness of the heath.
The clouds came in and it looked ominous, but we just smiled and headed out into the wilds with our drums. We came across small herds of young deer almost straight away, maybe a year old, hanging out together like many teenagers do. We made our way to a small wood of beech and pine trees, just before the rain began to fall softly.
The smell of green and growing things was all around us, the canopy of beech trees waving in the wind above us. Beneath the tall, grey trunks lay the remains of a fallen tree, a perfect altar around which we stood, pulling our drums out of our bags. Without a word we spread out around the altar, pulling drums out of our bags and beginning to drum softly, the heartbeat of the land at dusk.
Warming to the heartbeat, we let it die away into the quiet of the deepening dark. We then took a few deep breaths, allowing the energy of the land and the time of year to infuse our spirit. The drums then began to beat again, a rising rhythm of joy and celebration, ringing out to all who could hear. And indeed, many did hear – a herd of young deer came running over to us, to see what was going on, their inquisitive eyes watching us, then recognising us and resuming their normal business.
We began to chant, a chant to Elen, which merged into a chant of the summer solstice. We sang of the land around us, honouring all that was happening in that moment. Fully immersed in the serpent energy swirling around us at this sacred time of the year, we allowed the awen to flow through us, as vehicles for the inspiration to come through and be expressed in deep reverence and joy.
As the darkness deepened we moved to a lighter patch beneath the beech trees, and began to dance. We dance the sacred round, hand to hand.
We then moved out onto the open heath, the wind picking up and the setting sun glowing in the north-west. The crescent moon appeared every now and then from behind tattered clouds in the west. We spoke of our thanks for our blessings, of the courage to walk into the dark half of the year, of the brilliance and our thanks for the light and for the teachings of the coming darkness.
As the sun disappeared beneath the horizon we made our way home, across the sandy soil and past the field of green barley, harvested last week. Where our bodies were previously tired, smiles now replaced yawns, and our bodies hummed with the wonderful energy of the summer solstice.
May we be the awen.