Reblog: Darkness and the Winter Solstice

Here is a reblog from today’s post I put on on DruidHeart, my blog for SageWoman Magazine at Witches and Pagans…

The solstice season is upon us, and it’s only a couple of weeks before the longest night of the year here in the northern hemisphere. It’s a season of darkness and cold, where we are given the opportunity to find the gifts that darkness brings. It can be hard, when the rest of the world seems to be doing their best to stave off their fear with bright lights, noise and extended shopping hours, but if we are able to push beyond that we can see the sacredness of this holy time, and the exquisite power that it brings.

I am mostly a diurnal creature myself. I prefer to go to bed early and rise early, rather than staying up late. However, at this time of year the darkness catches up with me, and by 4pm it is pitch black out there. My usual sunshine nature turns inwards, and time for reflection and contemplation kick in. But that is not all there is to the darkness that pervades my life at this time of year. The sweet relief of darkness beckons me to release into its embrace, when edges are abandoned and we are allowed to float free in space and time.

Darkness breaks down edges and boundaries. Our visual nature cannot cope with darkness; our low-light vision is pretty terrible. We can’t see where the edges of things are, and they all become one in a tapestry of shades of black that we are unable to penetrate. This causes many to panic, terror rising in our bellies as our instinctive fear of the dark come to the fore. Through many millennia of existence, we have been creatures of the daylight, and know that our soft bodies are food for many things after the sun sets. This instinctual fear is still deep in our genes, as anyone who is out in the woods with bears and cougars at night can sympathise. Deep in our bones, we know that there is danger in darkness…

To read the full article, click HERE.

 

Reblog: Ancestors and Integration

© Photography by Emily Fae, www.photographybyemilyfae.com

Here is a taster from my latest blog post at SageWoman – I’ve also got an article coming up in the next print edition of SageWoman magazine, so keep an eye out!

I learned something fascinating this weekend. I learned that as women, when we are in our mother’s womb, we already have all the ovum (eggs) that we will release during our fertile years. So, to put that into context, when my mother was in my grandmother’s womb, I was also there, partly, as one of the eggs that would be fertilised by my father. This link only occurs in women, and it just blew my mind. I was in my grandmother’s womb.

Our lines of ancestry can be glorious and transformational journeys of discovery. Not only in a historical sense, exploring records and genealogy, but also connecting spiritually with our ancestors. As the darkness creeps in and the days get shorter, in the cooling air with the harvest being taken in the fields all around me, my thoughts turn to my ancestors and to the self, releasing into the approaching autumn and finding great comfort and joy in the letting go.
In order to release that sense of self, however, we must first come to know our self.

Exploring who we are, where we came from, what makes us “us” is key to this work. Understanding circumstances, experiences, lines of ancestry can enrich our lives and help us to uncover depths of our own soul that may have previously escaped our notice.

To read more/full article, click HERE.

Samhain, Death and Dying

Raven’s Hollowby Wyldraven © Wyldraven 2011- 2014 http://wyldraven.deviantart.com/art/Raven-s-Hollow-208469580

In a blog post written last year, I wrote about my contemplations on the Samhain tide of the year, touching upon the nature of death and the Otherworld.

As the darkness closes in with earlier nights and later mornings, thoughts and feelings seek out the lessons to be learnt in the growing dark, where boundaries fall away and where we know nothing at all. Walking through the garden at sunset, shuffling though the fallen beech leaves, greeting my cat at her gravesite (who passed away last Yule), watching as my garden plants return the energy to their roots, I am surrounded by death as much as I am surrounded by life.

Thoughts inescapably turn to death during the Samhain tide, where in Druidry it is recognised and not shuffled away, never to be spoken of in conversation, turning it “morbid” or filled with superstition that the mention death will bring. Death comes to us all, whether we talk about it or not. Might as well talk about it.

My first thoughts turn towards the concept of the Otherworld. Many within Druidry believe in such a place, or places, where our soul goes to rest, to party, to do whatever it is we believe it does, perhaps before we reincarnate. While I do believe in reincarnation, my belief is much more simplistic that this.

More and more I come to realise that, at least for me, there is only this world. There is no Otherworld. There is no veil between the worlds, for there is only this world. And what a wonderful, awe-inspiring world, filled with gods and ancestors and life and death.

The belief in reincarnation, that our soul lives on to occupy another body at a certain time either in the future or in the past, is based upon the belief that there is a place where our soul goes when we die. For me, there is no such thing as “away”. We cannot throw our garbage “away”. We cannot be “away” with the faeries. Our souls cannot go to a resting place before coming back to this world. There is only this world. Let me elaborate.

Using nature as my teacher, I look deeply at how death occurs, the process and the stories that unfold. Death is all around us, from the earth we walk on that is made up of millions of dead things, to the death that we ourselves create with our very existence. Life is also all around us, things coming into being and growing, being nurtured and nurturing in turn. When something dies, it returns back to the soil, to transform into another way of life. Essentially, for me this is what reincarnation is all about. Changing our form. When I die, my body will be devoured by bacteria and worms, become plant food and be drawn up through the roots of trees to be exhaled into the deepening twilight. This is change, this is reincarnation, becoming incarnate in another form, becoming incarnate in a legion of other forms.

My body is made up of a similar legion of other forms, dating back to when we were all just star stuff. Everything on this planet has an original ancestor of star material, and whatever came before stars. My body is made up of living things and dead things. In my bones are stars, in my blood is iron from the hills where I grew up. All these things are living through me, and will continue to live even when I die to be expressed in a different form. They don’t go anywhere but right here.

The human crisis of self-awareness has led to a clinging of the ego which convinces us that without the idea of a separate identity, a sense of self, an “I am” we are simply lost in complete annihilation upon death – that we cease to be. Screaming for attention, it feeds upon the fear and insecurity that the knowledge of our own deaths bring in the darkness. A few religions, philosophies and spiritualities overcome this fear, learning how to transcend the ego, to let it go in order to become one again with the universe. As a Druid and Pagan, this feels right to me, for this leads to a life that is completely integrated with the natural world around us. It drops the illusion of barriers between us and the environment, and allows for full immersion into the present moment where we can be awake and aware to every shimmering drop of existence.

Yet in modern paganism the focus is usually on the “I”, the personal transformation into a better being and a better Pagan, to search for the truth of our souls and to live that truth honourably in accordance with our tradition. Self-actualisation is a big thing, not only in Paganism but also around the world. Based on concepts of the self, a return to the self and coming into our own power, we work on our selves constantly. This in itself is not a bad thing, but for me it needs to go one step further. We have to look inside our selves to understand the nature of the self, and then we can be rid of it. Emma Restall Orr discussed this in a very poignant essay, “After Paganism”, in Moon Books’ Essays in Contemporary Paganism (2013).

Many would query the validity of this, as for them the be all and end all is their sense of self, what they can do and what they have achieved in the world. Without this sense of self, would they be able to make their dreams come true, to work for political and environmental causes, to further their own desires and needs?

While I do not, as yet, have an answer to this question, it is still one that is worthwhile in the asking. I truly believe that we can, at least for moments, perhaps days or weeks, months or even years to drop that sense of self in order to integrate fully with the world. When we have, we can come back to the world with a sense of self that is not separate, that observes but does not judge, that is wakeful and aware without needing to fight for its own existence.

Returning to the subject of death and dying, if we have sufficiently come to terms with the notion that the self is not separate, and that there is no need for an individuated self to exist then when we die, we simply return to the earth. That spark that is human consciousness, that allows us to think about life and death and the self, that too returns to the earth. I seriously question whether humans are the only beings on the planet with the capability of questioning on these subjects, for it my belief that we simply have not been able to language this with other species, out of ignorance or human arrogance, or perhaps both.

Everything returns to the earth. Everything. My consciousness will seep into the soil even as my blood and bones, hair and nails. In this, complete and utter integration will occur, a reincarnation into a myriad of forms. My songs will blow with the wind. My eyes will be in the heads of flowers. My heart will be deep in the darkness of the soil. I will not leave, I will forever be here, in this world, in a multitude of forms. The ego “I” that I speak of will be long gone, released willingly into the night, but the sefless “I” will still be here.

There is comfort in this, in the knowledge that when we die, we don’t go anywhere. The ancestors are always with us, everywhere. Everything that has ever lived and ever died is still here, in another form, whether pebble or mountain, horse or mouse. You can’t create something out of nothing. You can evolve, but that’s a different story – our story is one that is shared universally.

Some would say my thinking is based upon a materialistic view of the world, however, when everything is inspirited, when everything has a consciousness that is not separate, there can be no question that it is wholly animistic. It’s not just the case of “the worm crawls in, the worm crawls out, the worm plays pinochle on your snout” – there IS more to it. Death is not stopping. Death, or dying, is an event that takes place – it is not a “forever”. Death is not the opposite to life – the opposite of death is birth, a singular event. Life has no opposite.

If there is no opposite, then there is no need for other worlds. Everything is right here, right now. The gods of nature are all around us, in the sunshine and in the rain, in the air that we breathe, in the storm and in the drought. So too are the ancestors, our ancient ancestors and our grandmothers who all are letting go of their stories into the soil, to be told again in other forms.

I realise that my words may not be in tune with the majority of Pagans, however, they are spoken with the utmost respect. And in the darkness I breathe, deeply, until there is no longer anyone breathing.

Reblog: The Blessing of Samhain… If You Dare…

This is a reblog from my channel, DruidHeart, at the Witches and Pagans website. To read the full article, click HERE.

Here in the UK, the weather has turned and the colder air sweeps down from the North. Nights are longer, as the sun jumps along the horizon with each rising and setting, heading further and further towards the south. Trees are changing colours, and plants are beginning to die back, the green fading into golden and tawny hues, foliage less dense and earth beginning to peek through the underbrush.

The tide of Samhain has begun, when, after the autumn equinox we prepare for the darkness to come. The balance has been tipped, and we have tipped with it, our internal clocks trying to adjust to new temperatures and light levels. Often, we try to establish our centre, attempting to find some foothold or handhold in the coming darkness, our egos crying out the great rallying cry of “I AM!” The darkness, however, knows the folly of this, and smiles as it creeps ever closer.

In the darkness there are no guidelines. There are no boundaries. There is no up or down, no left or right. There is only impenetrable night, a sweet release from the constraints of the known…

To read the full article, click HERE.

Reblog: Autumn Equinox and the Serpent Energies of Albion

This is a reblog from my channel, DruidHeart at SageWoman Magazine’s section on the Witches and Pagans website.

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The autumn equinox is upon us today, and we stand on the knife’s edge, leaping, stumbling, tumbling or diving down into the long nights. I love this time of year, as many of you know. The scents of leaves decaying in piles on the forest floor, the brilliant colours and the crisp air fills my heart with such joy. It is a wild cacophony to the senses, one last “hurrah!” before the silence of winter descends.

 
I love the retreat back into the earth, feeling my energy sinking back into my roots. The crazy time of summer and festivals, camps, parties and revelry has passed, and now it is time of reflection. We turn ourselves inwards, away from the social gatherings and noise, and focus on our own inner selves and what we have achieved. We take stock, we sum up, we begin the journey down into the darkness where one by one our senses are lost, eventually dreaming into the winter and letting go during the peaceful rest of deep sleep.

 
During the spring months, when the earth was warming under the eye of the sun, I felt Brighde’s energy rising, a large white dragon/serpent beneath the land that connected all of Albion. Dancing in the energies of midsummer, she then slowly began her retreat back into herself, and now at the equinox I feel her pulling back into the earth, the wild ride of her energy sinking back into the soil, the serpent retreating back into the cool nourishing earth, preparing for slumber. I too feel myself riding these serpent energies, ready to dream big this winter with wonderful new plans awaiting me.

 
Brighde is ancient. She is, for me, the British Isles. She is the bones of this land. She is not a mother goddess. She does not follow cycles of maiden, mother, queen and crone. She always was and always will be. She is as young as the snowdrop and as old as the hills. She has no relation at all to the Bridget of the mixed, revealed Christian and Pagan mythos. She is not all loving, she is not a warrior queen, she is not human in any way. She is the land, in a vast and exceedingly simple but elegant way…

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To read the the full article, please click HERE.

Visiting Sun Rising Natural Burial Ground

The car park was empty as we pulled in, closing the gate behind us. The weather all weekend had been typically variable, with bright sunshine and threatening clouds scattered across the horizon. We went to the office to see if anyone was there, and found it empty and closed. The wind carried the scent of rain and wet newly mown hay.

We made our way to the main path that lead to the roundhouse, which stood beautiful and serene, blending in with the landscape, made as it was of natural materials and covered in climbing roses that offered a delicious, soft scent in the late afternoon breeze. Around the structure were graves that were covered in wildflowers, with trees planted on the right-hand section where, in time, a little wooded area would grow. The view was simply breath-taking, allowing the eye to roam for miles across the gently rolling countryside, settling on the far hills in the distance with the songs of life and death and the continuous cycle carried between them in their undulating energy.

The calm energy and serenity of the place filled the soul with such exquisite delight, showing that in death there is beauty, as in life. The living and the dead, in the constant process of change, of transition, their songs blending in with one another, were held in each other’s embrace Clearly this is place where ancestors are honoured, not only those who lie newly buried in its soil, but also those who worked the land for thousands of years before, and those ancestors of tradition who uphold the sacredness of their duties to the land, their gods and the ancestors.

There was a war memorial off to one side, and at the bottom of the first field a newly built pond, which was filling up nicely, long grasses waving in the wind and the late afternoon sunlight sparkling upon the water’s surface. The bees in the apiary were hard at work not far away, providing honey for their young and also a small income through the excess for the burial ground itself.

We said our prayers for the dead and for the living, held within that sacred space and honouring all that there is with all that we were. It was so heartening, so inspiring to see what a few dedicated people could do, in a life utterly devoted to their principles and their gods, the ancestors and the world in which they live. It was simplicity and truth, shaped in the landscape that holds those in their new transformation, their new reality within the rich soil of this land, and inspiring those who still walk upon it. It was pure awen.

Read SunRising’s blog HERE

Visit SunRising’s website HERE

 

Midsummer

Ah – midsummer. I remember when I first moved to these isles over 16 years ago from Canada – it was a cold and wet summer, and I wondered just what on earth I had done. And yet, the light fascinated me at that time of year, and later at the winter solstice, the darkness. It was so much more than where I grew up – the twilight of midsummer and the barest space of total darkness, the unrelenting darkness that forces you to face it head on in winter. The difference in latitude was a great teacher – (Montreal, 45.5N, London 51.5N).

 
The current is running strong in the British Isles right now. As I go to my outdoor altar every evening, laying my hands upon the soft, mossy earth I feel the white dragon that has risen to the surface and is dancing in the ethereal currents of energy crisscrossing the land. It is a time of great joy, of celebration.

 
This is a time of year to be proud of what you have done so far in the year’s cycle. But beware – the carpet can be pulled from underneath you, and the harvest may not quite be as expected. For this brief moment, however, we can perform this wonderful balancing act, in a liminal time before the tide tips over and we tumble headlong with it. It is important to be proud of what you have achieved – it is too easily done to become prideful.

 
Stand and feel the earth beneath your feet. Feel the serpent energy rising, the dragons of these lands, filling your soul with this time of year. Reflect on your achievements, and state them aloud under the eye of the sun. Confirm for yourself the good that you have done for the world, for your family, your community, for yourself. Let the sun’s rays witness this confirmation.

 
On Saturday I will be reflecting on the good investment of my solar panels – this time of year it is especially rewarding to know that the longer daylight hours are helping others in the village, ie. local businesses. I will take a bow for the two books published (and doing well), and the third and fourth on their way. I will applaud the money that has been raised for various charities through a lot of hard work in fundraising, events and suchlike over the course of the year. For this brief moment, I will take pleasure in my achievements, and remind myself that this is why I do the work I do, and live the life that I live. I will remember this moment in the darker times, to guide me through them and out the other side.

 
And then I will immerse myself once again, into the landscape, losing that sense of self and becoming a part of it, letting it guide me, teach me, blend with my blood and my bones with the whispers of the ancestors blessing it all.