the magickal cottage on Beltane begins…. okarnill on C – Circles within Circl… moonchosen on C – Circles within Circl… okarnill on Touching the Underworld melissa on Touching the Underworld
Well ‘Dawned’ is the wrong word since on waking up, late, because the main alarm didn’t go off, I discovered that it was chucking it down. Needless to say after a family meal the night before I had done nothing to get ready for the revelry part of Beltane, planning on getting out at four and collecting greenery for a chaplet. So out into the dark and very cold morning, with a torch, offerings, and half wondering if it was actually going to be worth standing around in the cold and wet watching the dancing…….. yeah must have been early to have those kind of thoughts!
Then the normal and very mundane rush of someone late, getting ready in less than half an hour, house wrecked as I charged through collecting supplies and changing plans on what to wear (serviceable jeans and wellies, which goes really well with a flower chaplet, I’ve found..!) Plans to meet a friend at five were never going to happen since it was five before I could leave. Fired up the car, shot out of the gate and away. By the time I left, the darkness had lessened to a dull grey preceeding actual dawn, practical issues of getting there aside, with the increasing light so came increasing excitment. Arriving at the park it was noticeably warmer and dryer than at home, we locals maintain that the village has it’s own weather system, normally two degrees colder, by comparison Ampthill was quite balmy!
It was still before sunrise, the lightening sky giving a hazy almost purple light, it’s only a short walk from the car park to the dance area, by Katherine’s Cross (for one of Henry vii’s wives , Katherine of Aragorn who lived in the local castle for a while) hoping I wasn’t too late to see morris side Hemlock, march in from the woodland, led by a flaming beacon held aloft, with their Green Man capering in front. I just made it, as did my friend and her family, it was lovely to see them and have company as, predictably, the slightly odd apparition of a jeaned and wellied figure with a flower chaplet had illicited sarcastic comments from one group ‘oh yes I suppose it’s sort of pagan isn’t it” (no, really? what was your first clue?) and ‘well yes they’ll all be round stonehenge won’t they” (well yes but that’s more associated with the solstices…) I tell you, you need to have a thick skin to be openly Pagan sometimes! The same group, btw, were seen opening a bottle of bubbly and later I found the discarded cork..!
Hemlock’s arrival really set the scene, as always they marched out of the gloom, the distant bells, drums and whistles being the only clue that they had begun, out of the darkness, the tune so compelling, so ingrained in british culture and bones, a link to a history of folk dancing that means more than mere enjoyment, it’s Celebration, linking us back through time to those who first worked the land and cared for it. It’s tradition, we grew up hearing these tunes and learning to dance to them, and it’s symbolic of so much more than ‘just a dance’
(my apologies for the quality of both videos and pictures, the mobile camera really isn’t up to pre sunrise distant shots, and you can’t get too close to a Morris side or you’re likely to get whacked with a stick!
Redbornstoke got underway with the first dance.
Followed by the wonderful Hemlock. They danced an energetic first dance, to waken the Spirits, then their Green Man scattered blossoms Deosil around the Circle, and they called to the Spirits of the Land, of Summer and of the Dance. A magical moment! I love Redbornstoke for their tradition, but Hemlock are something else, from their rag tag black, purple and green motley, to their face paint (glitter, same colours in swirling spirals and stripes) to their energy and their sheer Spirituality.and genuineness, as my friend said ‘they’re Dancing for the right reasons, the Ancient Ones’ Morris dancing in it’s essence, is truly alive and well with this side!
My photos don’t do either side justice, nor the atmosphere as the still sleepy audience slowly woke up and focussed, smiled and tapped a foot. After the subdued start to the day the energies could really be felt as the light grew stronger, and although there was cloud cover we knew the sun was up. The audience were very mixed, I think probably about thirty or so to start with, it’s hard to tell as people sidle up whilst walking the dog (sometimes the lingering disdain for Morris that harks back to the eighties is still seen in a reluctance to actively say ‘I’ve come to watch’ as opposed to the british ‘oh well I was just passing, isn’t it nice’) stay to watch a dance or two then walk on. Some were openly enjoying it, others, tucked into thick scarves were more subdued but by the end pretty much everyone was smiling. Usually Redbornstoke and Hemlock join together to do a crowd participation dance, very simple, consisting of stepping four paces in to the centre of the Circle, clapping, stepping back, then ladies, then the gents. Then a bit of ‘circling’ or ‘chaos’ as I think it was.. It certainly was a welcome warmup and I was only sorry that they only did one dance like this (think last year there were two but the weather was much better)
Some more shots from the morning.
A pretty Maiden enjoying the dancing 🙂
Then it was back to the very pretty and historic Queen’s Head (Katherine again) for a full english breakfast. The chat was about the dancing, the turnout, who was going on to other May Day events, a good old chat with tea and coffee or something stronger thrown in, despite the fact it was only about half past seven in the morning!
Hemlock danced again outside the pub – ostensibly to ‘wake the neighbours up’ but a sharp landlord gets all the help he can get in this day and age and neighbours doesn’t mean human ones! Luckily I was outside and able to watch and get yet more pictures – with a bit more definition than the sunrise ones.
One single dance to stir the Spirits . a Toast, a jangling of bells, all tried and true ways of petitioning the spirits of Place and Land. Hemlock, you’re fooling no one lol.
Not with any particular plans for the rest of the day I decided to take a walk through the woodland in the park on the way back to the car, a truly magical choice as the lighting and the early summer green really added to the feel of the morning. My connections to the land, my path were renewed. The walk was a perfect way to leave the frenetic beltane energy of the Dance, the Other of the whirling steps and clashing sticks, calling up the Sun and echoing back over the ages, to the here and now, the energy of the wood, of the slower pace of the trees, of plants growing and seasons renewed. By now the clouds had cleared and the sun was shining full on the day. Warming skin and emotions. Mind you I was still wearing that chaplet (coz it’s a pain to carry) and by now the locals were up and about, as apparently were lots of not so locals who were headed to a dog show being held in the same park…. nonetheless I headed right through the middle of them and greeted everyone with an enthusiastic Happy Beltane or May Day depending…(bearing in mind, jeans, wellies…flowers. ribbons….) actually got chatting to a few people, funny how they’ll either talk to someone different and really engage, or they’ll refuse to make eye contact and find something fascinating on the path in front of them! I did of course take the opportunity to get some more photos hopefully showing a bit of the atmosphere and magic of the place.
The Wooded path
Oak and Holly interjoined, The everlasting dance between the two.
I went back to the dance area, deserted now, bar dog walkers and the occasional jogger, stood for a few minutes in the centre of the blossom Circle, made my own connections and personal devotionals, retrieved the cork! Thought a few uncharitable and decidedly un beltane things about those who had left it whilst being SO judgemental….then sat for a while to contemplate life looking out over the stunning view from the ridge that the park is on.
A view that sums up the area, mixing natural, manmade, eco, industrial.
I hope everyone had or is having a wonderful Beltane and that you are feeling renewed and energised by that powerful Beltane energy!!
This Beltane is bittersweet, but no less powerful for the life changing events that occur in everyones lives.. Got to adnit that I havent been particularly looking forward to this one, and circumstances dictate that this one is to be more introspective than most, but the dance of life that took me as I caught the last setting rays of sunset, the heady scent of the Hawthorn, the May, in full bloom and the screech of foxes doing what they do at Beltane reminds me that life goes on, the wheel turns, and joy can still be found. There is beauty in the Green Earth, and the White waxing Crescent moon among the Stars. The Old Gods await their marriage of Spirit and nature. Rain and dry earth, leaf and bud bursting out in the great joyful release of Beltane Eve.
But for now I wait, the hearth decorated, the meal served to family blissfully unaware of the deeper meaniing
Tomorrow morning, if I can get up, because as usual blog posts demand to be written at midnight and sunrise is a mere few hours away, tomorrow I will be up before dawn, out in the chill that reminds us that winter wasnot that long ago, out in damp dewy woodland, standing on the brow of a hill awaiting the march of the Mortis Dancers who repeat the complicated dance steps year after year, bells jangling and sticks crashing. Calling up the Sun, calling up the joy in our hearts and reminding us that the Dance is within us all, we who remember and honour te Old Ways and understand the rituals, and meanings, hidden in an old British tradition, and just maybe one dancer will be moving withjust a little more intent. Blessed Be!
As the sun goes down on the last day of April we prepare to celebrate one of the loveliest festivals of the Wiccan year. For me Beltane Morning starts by attending this, held in a local park. Come and say hi if you can make it, I’ll be one of the ones wearing flowers and pretending to dance as well as the pros!
This is held in Ampthill Park near Bedford UK, Out of bedford via the old A421 and through stewartby
Hope to see you there! If not a very Blessed Beltane to all readers, near and far, and a Blessed Samhain if you’re in the South of the world.
Note that For UK folks that’s Full moon at 00:33, lunar eclipse at 00:44 and the comet at 08:00 all on the 11th. Lets hope for a clear sky!
Just to let you know that I’ve been through the links on the right, deleted those that are no longer active and added some more. The blog and site will be slowly updating over the next few weeks as I add content and extra links that I think readers may find useful.
There are some nights when you just have to get up and write a blog post…. this seems to be one of them.
Two hours ago I was about ready for bed, sleepy, long day, the usual mundane life tinged with the magical, but even witches need to sleep lol! Evening stables are complete, a much easier evening stables since the investment of a surface capable of keeping the Bedfordshire Clay at bay, and outdoor lighting, transforming our little field from ‘passable’ to ‘hey, it looks cozy and welcoming’ – the lights shining in the damp, mist filled darkness. as the horses pick their way down in the evenings, knowing that feed and warmth awaits. The first lighting in years in the Little Red Mare’s stable came as a stab in the heart, a sharp reminder of who was no longer standing up to her knees in straw munching on hay and feed… but there are the two still here, the Fiery Red Horse and the Big ole Red boy. Those now nod wisely over their doors, or, more likely bang their feet and wave their heads in mock threat of imminent starvation!
The previous year has been filled with huge and incredible change, that’s not ‘change’ in small lower case, sitting quietly on the page, it’s CHANGE!! in huge red letters scrawled on protest banners, it’s the shock of a vote to leave our neighbour countries, it’s the incredulousness of an unknown quantity suddenly elected President of a superpower, it’s the CHANGE of public figures we knew and loved, grew up with, idolised in some cases suddenly reaching the end of their earthly journeys and moving onwards. CHANGE. The very word throws fear into our hearts because, as humans, on the whole we tend to prefer routine and stablity. Do you remember stability? the last twelve months we seem to be feeling it less and less.
Change has also happened in our little corner of the world, the Coven has undergone massive changes in the last few years. Some of them expected, as friends left when age and illness, or difficult decisions, meant they no longer felt they wanted to be as involved in coven life as they had been, others come at you sideways on Coven nights and swipe you into startlement and confusion. and yes let’s be honest, a fair amount of panic!
Suddenly from being ‘one of the number’ I am put forward into a leading role, and with it comes the self doubt, the worry, the sheer panic of how will I do this? A feeling fairly well being echoed in so many ways, both big and small, all over the world recently. How will we cope with this Brexit? How will we cope with the government cuts? HOW will we cope with this new President? For some, how will I cope without this person still in the world. It seemed that everyone I know was affected in some way in the last twelve months, and not little lowercase changes, the sort that cause excitement and hope and joy, but huge great shaking Life Changing ones that cause confusion, withdrawal, worry and added stresses to lives already at full capacity with the pace of modern life.
So, at Imbolc it seems a good time to take up the reins of this blog again, and although I shall be writing from a different point of view, that of leardership rather than a ‘Member’ I hope it will be no less useful for those out there on the path. Over the last few months, (when was it I was last posting regularly?) I’ve thought several times about how to expand it, adding pages for festivals and contact details, and every single time some other big Change has come up and I have had to stay that idea and shelve it again for another time ‘when things settle down’ – ya know what? It’s thinking like that that means we spend half our lives procrastinating about ‘what we will do when the time is right’ the time is NEVER right, I should’ve learned that one around the time of my first Initiation! things ‘weren’t right’ then either, but I said at the time that if we waited then that time would never come, and boy I wanted that Initiation! – looking back I’m fairly sure I might have been mad………. nope, not mad, just keen lol. Seeker, you might want to read that over again, write it down, memorise it… it ought to scare the living bajaysus out of you!
This path changes you – that word again – it changes you in ways you never dreamed, I’ve got a saying in our group that ‘we don’t get challenges that we pre approve’ meaning we dont get what we think we ought to want, we get what we need. Sometimes we Really Wish we didn’t need ’em too (trust me on this) but rest assured, if you walk this path you are, by nature, brave, because the sheer amount of change and development you will go through will leave you standing in some completely alien place to where you started, looking back on that naive, young, wide eyed Seeker and, basically, not even recognising him or her. We are the same people, outside. Older, hopefully wiser, but inside? inside we’ve been to hell and back, probably twice. We’ve doubted, we’ve got cross, sad, emotional, sometimes furious, frequently Blessed, but we’ve also been joyous, amazed, humbled and ultimately awed by the sheer complexity of this path and where it leads you. It truly is Magical.
It’s also an interesting thing that once we are on this path we find others out there, sometimes under our very noses! Our Moot, for the last year or so having been forced through lack of numbers and time, to take a back seat to the rest of coven and mundane life, has suddenly had more interest in the last few months than we have had in years. It seems that the tide is indeed changing again. Perhaps a sign of good Change? I think too that the sheer uncertainty in the wider world has caused some to seek others out, to indeed not wait ‘until the time is right’ or, perhaps, for you, the time really IS right! To those I say please be patient a little more, understand that we have not forgotten the wider community nor abandoned it forever, sometimes families have to adjust to the change within themselves, before they can offer guidance to the change within others. What we can offer is electronic contact so if you have any questions or want to talk things through then do please contact us and we can have a chat, even if, and I do apologise (because this is how I would much rather do things) the warming cup of tea and fresh baked cake will have to be imagined for now.
So we reach Imbolc once again. The text books tell us that it is the ”beginning of the end of winter’ and that although the snow still holds sway, that the first ice melt has begun high in the mountains and shall soon be filling the rivers with the swift flood of spring..” so, who remembers the Great Blizzard of 2017 in the UK then!? MK got what, an inch? Sometimes I think people find it hard to equate what’s in the books with what’s going on in their mundane life, the reality is all too often that the mud is still there, the car still has half an inch of road dirt all over it, the kids still need getting to school and them NOT walking there in the rain would be Really Nice for once, and no one’s got any money either…. It can be hard to stay true to the path faced with all the complications of a mundane life. You try so hard to ‘get it right’ pagan style, but the kids are screaming or are sick, meditation went out of the window when the baby got old enough to toddle, or the animals still need a walk and a cold wet nose has never done anything at all for ‘grounding and centering’ in the history of mediation, climbing off the light fittings isn’t exactly condusive either! But, you know what? that is OK, We all get that feeling of fighting the tide, trying to stay afloat and feeling that Everyone Else has it all under control while we don’t. Trust me. Its not just you!
I’ll tell you what Imbolc is to me. If you’re reading this for the first time we’re country folk here, and we have horses (yeah blog name’s a bit of a giveaway there) and cats, and house rabbits, and a messy house, I like to think an open heart and empathy too, but you’ll have to make your own minds up about that! Horses – with all their associated magical lore and mystical appeal are, by their very nature, good teachers on a mundane level, not in the ‘he spoke to me’ kind of way, but in the observances you make about life when you’re around them. They take a heck of a lot of looking after, of mundane tasks that have to be done, twice a day, day in and day out regardless of weather, illness, crisis or dodgy US voting systems. Anyone that has horses around this area can tell you that the one feature of winter is not the ‘lovely mists and frosty mornings’ its mud. sticky, thick, clinging mud. It drags you down, making even the simple task of ‘walking accross the field’ so many tijmes worse than it ought to be. It gets everywhere, including all over the horse because nature in her infinite wisdom decided that a horse should enjoy a good mud bath at least once a day, and if it’s possible to stick bits of twig and thistle into the mane and tail as well, ensuring any attempt to remove it is accompanied by yelps and swearings under the breath, then all the better. I tell you nothing tests fortitude and devotion to the path like looking after a horse in winter! (now all those of you anti horse or whatever, stick with it, there IS a point to all this..) Winter for the ancients was sheer hard work, I am sure they probably did enjoy the snowy mornings and wintry sunsets just the same as we do, but I bet they were also blimmin cold, wet and just wanted to get their day’s hard graft providing food for the family over with pdq and get back to the fire like the rest of us! How did they mark spring? Well how do we? we go about our everyday lives, and suddenly have that ‘feeling of spring’ That subtle shift of the energies regardless of whether or not we’re walking the magical, pagan path, we look forward to it the minute Yule is over (often before if illness or age make the winter months harder than for most) in mundane life people come back from deep within themselves, they look around, they notice the sunsets, sunrises, gorgeous mists, and, hey, other people! They are reminded of the promise of spring. The mornings currently are typically damp and misty, but in that mist is indeed the beauty of the land and the time of year. The sun may or may not be plainly visible in the sky, but you can feel the slightly warmer temperature, the very mist tells us that the land is beginning to warm up or we’d be getting the frosts that we had in the last few weeks. Look at the trees and bushes around you, there are buds, tiny, likely to be nipped by the next frost, but they’re there. As the books say, Imbolc is a time when winter’s grip begins to lose it’s hold, we begin to shake off the doldrums that winter can bring. We think about emerging from our coccoon Thoughts turn towards plans for ‘when the nights get lighter’ and indeed, that lift of the heart, the planning for the warmer months, and the brightening of the days and also, our thoughts, tells me that Spring is around the corner. Take heart from that fact and begin to live again, in these troubled times perhaps reach out and look for the light rising in each other’s hearts. Just last week I thought I felt the stirrings of spring. The horse’s step on the, then, frozen ground, that bit springier, the sharply pricked ears and the thought that ‘he feels good’ The noticeable warming of the land and the sun. I was once again humbled by the wistom of the Ancients, truly close to the land as in the very week before calendar Imbolc, the lessening of the grip of winter was noticed, and welcomed with joy and love.
Please excuse my ramblings, it’s been a while….
Blessed Be upon your paths whatever they may be!
As the dark of winter tightened it’s grip over the land, the damp and cold got into our hearts, the mud dragged us back and down, unwilling to release it’s grip and every step was a fight, but at Imbolc the warming sun reminds us that that mud may cling now, but it will soon dry, and the grass grow back, what was brown and dark will once more be green and lovely. take hope and look foward to brighter, lighter days. BB
Well that’s mentally if not physically – so much for updating regularly!
Things have been all change here – I’ve been meaning to write a blog post that starts ‘if you feed the Uffington White Horse apple juice you get given an arab’ – and still tempted to do so regardless of common sense or possibly laws. That however is going to wait, right now its what the natives are calling a Supermoon – the Wiccans are enjoying thankee very much, and everyone is remarking on how big/bright/amazing/powerful the moon is tonight, and I fancied finally writing a blog post to say hey – yup still here. We lost the Little Red Mare at the end of last year, gained the Fiery Red Gelding (arab…looks like Shantih for those who read the relevent books, acts like her occasionally too) but more on himself later. In the meantime I shall share a picture, and just say a shout out to all those out there blogging away – cept we’re all probably just outside somewhere watching the moon, talking about what we’ve just experienced or getting ready for when it gets around to your neck of the woods.
Thats the Fiery Red Gelding – being not fiery but hey ho.
The land has turned near full circle since my last post, and so many changes here with more still to come – some of them horrible (poor little mare) some of them wonderful – did I actually want an arab? well he was free and I’ve always believed that they find you… half the tracks and bridleways we used to ride are now technically out of bounds…technically. But the link is still there.
So for now – enjoy that moon everyone, Blessings on your workings!