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
The sun has sunk below the horizon in a blaze of winter pink, blue and gold. The dark has crept across the land enveloping us in it’s blanket, we are deprived of sight, moving through the dark relying on instinct or artificial lights. The shadows surround us and the sky is but a shade paler than the silhouetted trees and hedges.
We keep vigil over the hearth awaiting the rebirth of the sun at tomorrows Sunrise. Blessed be to all.
During Yuletide we tend to forget the deeper meaning behind all the sparkly lights, the spending and the endless pressure to provide the ‘perfect christmas’ but as pagans we try to keep the Old Ways alive, remembering the nature spirits and nurturing them too.
I hope everyone has a very blessed Yule, and if you celebrate it a wonderful christmas too!
Sorry for the silence…it’s been a year of very high highs and very low lows. On the plus side we are up one fiery Arab horse, but in balance to that we lost our little red mare at the end of November. I have been meaning to post here for a while but in the meantime this has been shared on facebook and is of interest to horse obsessed and not so obsessed pagans and witches 🙂
Preparations abound here, so much to do and not enough time to do it! The early start I planned just didn’t work out, illness, difficulties, challenges…. think that’s going to be the theme for this Samhain but even so, the Ancestors should be honoured, the earth tide acknowledged and the darkness embraced. The Goddess is making her way to the underworld, the God awaits her as the Dark Lord.
and just to test your observation….what are these? (the answer is not obvious)
Oak at Sunset
Autumn for the horse rider is often a time of extremes, some days the wind whips around you and dances in the treetops scattering leaves and twigs as you pass. Any horse you are riding is convinced there are trolls or horse-eating dragons lying in wait in the hedge – not for nothing do more experienced riders say ‘sit tight’ to younger ones when the wind gets up. Last sunday had been typical contrast to that, bright, sunny and almost completely still, with slow mares tail clouds drifting across the sky forming patterns that told of an silent current higher up in the stratosphere. A lovely slow day of taking time to notice the small things, to take it easy and spend time in reflection and contemplation… at least that’s the excuse I am using to explain why – when the weather was perfect for riding – I STILL didn’t manage to get up to the ‘Loan Horse’s yard until nearly sunset!
In case I haven’t mentioned her before the Loan Horse is known as the ‘Huge Black Mare’ (actually her name is Aurora or Rori for short, but in keeping with the other idiosyncracies of this blog she’s also the ‘huge black mare’, mostly because that’s what people generally say when meeting her for the first time) she’s over seventeen hands, nearly coal black, of a type that is described as ‘weight carrying’ (just as well!) and can either move like the clappers or progress along with all the urgency of molasses being tipped out of a jar. She loves people and hates cows. Ollie the Red Horse adores her and one of these days I’ll post a pic of the two of them greeting each other, it’s like a scene from romantic movie. I ride her twice a week so Partner and I can ride out together since the Red Horse is singular and the Little Red Pony is far too small and dedicated to pulling her little exercise cart not carrying weight around the countryside.
Anyway – I was late, the light was fading but I reckoned I could get maybe an hour’s riding if I didn’t waste any time tacking up and getting on my way. The HBM was agreeable, huffing happily in my face as I bridled her and bustled off down the road with a jaunty step despite her field mate yelling abuse from behind the hedge declaring loudly that ‘HIS Mare was being Abducted!’ – he’s a character. We were riding alone that night, the Red Horse enjoying a day off while my partner worked on a project that needed attention.
It turned out to be one of the best rides of the year. The mare is often lazy herself and early on she’d changed her mind about the idea of being ‘out’ suggesting through slow plod and ears flopped sideways like a donkey that ‘molasses ooze’ was the speed we ought to be going, with me in contrast trying to wake her up and insist that if we want to get back in reasonable light, she’d better get a move on. It was still bright with the low sun throwing long shadows across our path. It being a sunday evening, all was quiet, most (sensible) people are at home mourning the end of the weekend and preparing to face the encroaching week. Some farmers are still out in the fields completing the last of the ploughing while the weather holds, such is the nature of farming. Their engines a companionable, distant hum that contrasted nicely to the silence around us. The pale spun gold of stubble fields being transformed to neat brown plough framed by the dark green hedgerows and trees not yet into their autumnal flame. Hawthorn and blackthorn, oak and ash fading out to yellows and deep though muted greens. As we ride up steep inclines with the landscape spread out around and below us the land is a changing patchwork that has moved from corn gold and bright summer foliage to browns, dusty greens and yellow.
I was reminded of the time that all of this farm work was accomplished by heavy horses, the Shires, Suffolks and Clydesdales that are rarely seen outside of agricultural shows these days. Ploughing then would cease at sundown with the horses being returned to warm lamplit stables for a feed and a good grooming (perhaps the HBM remembered this since she is of a breed that used to work the land in Holland) The pace of life slower and more companionable. In England the Ploughman held a status within rural society that was all his own, not a ‘landowner’ nor a ‘tenant farmer’ nor even a labourer insomuch as on he and his team’s existence relied the fortunes of the farm. Without the working horses nothing could be achieved on the land in in the quantity required to see the farm, village and community through the winter. All work, be it ploughing, spring sowing, turning and harvesting was accomplished with horsepower. We owe them a lot. As I rode through the evening sunset I pondered on what those ploughmen of old would make of todays intensive farming methods, of bright almost laser beams piercing the night as tractors growl their way across the much bigger fields at an hour that would have been sacrosanct to relaxation – or sleep – two hundred years ago, their livelihood now remaining alive only as a competition – for fun – at agricultural shows. With that thought in my mind we rode along the darkening tracks. The light was fading much faster now, with the clouds making dark, looming patterns across the sky, and the sun flaming it’s last fiery blaze over the distant horizon, burnishing the sky with gold while the deep blue of night chased it to ground.
There is a point during dusk that is time between time. Between the worlds. The sounds of day, of birdsong, of buzzing insects, rustling of tiny creatures about their lives, slows then ceases, even the wind seems to ease off on days when it makes it’s presence felt. A silence descends. It’s a time of magic, a time Between, it feels like a time of waiting, very similar in fact to the moment of full Eclipse when all creatures hush and the world waits for what comes next. It’s also a wonderful time to be out riding. The light may not quite have gone, the sky still bright enough to see the path dimly ahead, but even so, those creatures of the earth and air know that now is the time to take cover in silent hedges and trees, to wait out the night in safety and sleep.
Hedgerow at Dusk
Horses are very much creatures of emotion, they take fright easily, that fleeing movement is fast, frenetic, they can whip around and run before their rider is even aware of the first ear twitch, or by contrast they can laze away sunny days in tail swishing comfort and pollen dusted grazing.
They can also tell you when the Dark Time comes. When the ploughmen of older centuries were tucked up in bed that was a time when The Dark was full of dangers and fears, a time of belief in malevolent unseen forces (the horse brasses on the harness a charm to protect against such things) This season – Autumn – brings that feeling starkly to the forefront as the wheel turns and the veil begins to thin. Death and sacrifice have already been seen in the harvest, the cutting of the corn and the ploughing of the remains back into the earth to await their own transformation. The realm of the Underworld is brought forth.
The Underworld, represented by the night – dark – the Shadow, is a place of unknown and of going Within. It is not something to be feared although a healthy respect is recommended. No need to be a ‘Fool’ on the journey! A healthy respect is also what is shown by the Horse when the dark comes. As full dark descended on our ride she showed me, in her own way, how to go forward. She quickened her pace – unasked – from a relaxed walk to a purposeful march. Her ears flicking back and forth as she continuously monitored the landscape about her. She was prepared to meet what she found there and take evasive action if necessary. The sound of cawing crows that had accompanied us early on ceased, to be replaced by the hoot of a Tawny owl hidden in the dark of the wood, their calls echoed over the valley and hill as we descended towards the wood. We heard the shriek of a Little Owl on the hunt. In one dark field I saw a white shape, tall and erect standing motionless on the plough, a grey heron stood guard on our path, he watched us for a minute or two then rose into the air and flapped off like some huge throwback to the pterodactyl! Heron, standing on Earth, a creature of the Water removed from his domain, the nearest large body of water about a mile or more away, but yet part of the landscape still, a creature of the West and the Mysteries of Death and Rebirth, guarding our path and finally allowing us passage. HBM knew full well he was there, his pale form a phantom in the dark, a few seconds later in leaving and his flapping would have alarmed her and we may well have been forced to turn back.
We continued on our way, suddenly both of us jumped when a pheasant, either disturbed by a hunting fox or unexpected hoofbeats near his patch let out his raucous challenge, an unusual night sound. HBM startled, then gave a huge derisive snort and walked forward again. I laughed. Something small in the undergrowth panicked and fled. I thought it kinder to remain silent after that, my communication with the mare now mere whispers and nudges from seat and hands as we made our way through the night. Another lesson ‘Keep your Nerve’
We pushed on for speed to try and get home before her people missed us and began to worry, moving faster over firm ground, there is nothing like cantering a big black shadow through the dark. Her hoofbeats muffled by grass as she powered along. For a mare who shies and takes fright at many seemingly unassuming things during daylight she showed herself to be brave at heart. A horse has far better night vision than man although it’s different of course, but we’d been transformed from horse and rider to One. A single being with two minds journeying through the darkness, each relying on the other to see us home safely. Her eyesight, my guidance on her rein, each other’s presence a reassurance, and both of us following instinct and watching for familiar landmarks to choose our way, working together to keep us safe in the Unknown of the darkness that had been somehow transformed into a representation of the Underworld. At any moment any unfortunate event would have sent us plunging off the path and into true unknown, riding is often like that, even on a placid animal one knows one is only an unlucky moment away from panic. Another lesson, ‘move forward for fear will hold you forever in one place if you do not face it’
The unseen dangers of Wolf and Boar that haunted our ancestors are present in spirit, and in the racial memory of horses. Equine fear of moving into dark overhung places stems from a very real danger of something large and predatory dropping from a tree onto their backs, their fear of being alone in the open stems from being caught away from safety of the herd by wolf packs, in the minds of humans fear of the Ancient Forest, of the Unseen are still there, still present even in todays age of computers and illumination. The urban world has largely lost it’s ability to deal with darkness as every nook and cranny that still harbours the shadow is thought dangerous and to be illuminated with stark halogen rays as a deterrant to the modern ‘wolf packs’ – the gangs and malevolent individuals who would harm us. Light used to overcome the dark.
On the path we as witches, Wiccans, druids, shamans and pagans walk we remember that the dark is part of the light, the Yin and the Yang balanced as one. We do not walk blindly into the dark any more than we would walk blindly into a quiet alley in the middle of a known bad area in town. Equally we do not expect the light to overcome the darkness at every turn. The dark is a place of rest and rebirth, the moon is renewed each month during her dark phase as a new life is created in the darkness of the womb. The Underworld is merely the facing of your own personal demons, it’s part of your unique journey. Respect the darkness in your life but don’t fear it, try to learn to work with it.
The journey that the HBM and I took that night ended as we made our way to the road, leaving behind the hidden world of the night dark fields, and re-entering the realm of Man. Steel shod hooves rhythmically clopping on the tarmac as we trotted for home (not far, less than 150 yards) the lights of the four cottages and one farmhouse shining brightly as beacons. The HBM’s familiar home gate and the welcoming neigh from her fieldmate, the rote of evening stables, grooming and bedding down, the smell of hay, horse and damp earth from recently turned fields all served to ground and centre me in the ‘now’ of routine.
Outside the circle of light from the stables the inky sky hid the first phase of the moon, only just turned from Dark to New – and bringing with it the promise of the season and a touch of the Underworld. May your own musings on this tide bring you enlightenment and the truth of Self Knowledge.
The HBM in brighter light!
When I started this blog over a year ago it was intended mostly for me to join in with the Pagan Blog Project, as with most things that need regular attention, if it’s not got legs and a mouth that needs feeding then it gets relegated down the pile of Things That Need Doing, somewhere before ‘tidy anything in the house’ but way below ‘clean out the rabbits’ Since I had to let regular posting on the PBP go in favour of my sanity, but to keep writing as and when I got the chance or the muse struck I never dreamed I’d get actual regular readers who want to read what I’m saying – somewhat amazed that I have more than one, and now they come in tens….
From the heart of a sometimes blogger – thank you! I hope I can keep writing things that keep you mildly amused, and hopefully with a laugh along the way. If nothing else this blog will teach you patience as regularity is not one of it’s features lol
Blessed Be all of you 🙂
This post is part of the Pagan Blog Project http://paganblogproject.com/ (and if anyone has thoughts about the topic I’d love to hear them – good or bad)
Our coven runs the local moot – a ‘moot’ if you haven’t heard of one is a regular local gathering of pagans of all paths, sometimes it has speakers, others are just a get together for a drink and a chat. They’re a great first stepping stone to the local community if your local occult shop is not being very forthcoming or you’re convinced you’re the ‘only witch in the village’ as you might not be in the next one over!
I’ve been to several moots in my time, there was the infamous one held in <coughlocaltowncough> that usually dissolved into a chat about the latest episode of the reality tv of the moment – for a wide eyed pagan newbie that was a bit of a disappointment I can tell you! There was I all bright eyed and keen and hoping for a bit of talk about the merits of circle casting or not, or hand mixed incense versus a shop bought version…and what did I get? Two hours of ‘what x did on Big Brother and who was going out with whom this week’ I remember sitting and thinking ‘I got the horses in early and a tenner out of the bank for *this*?’ On wider investigation in the pagan press there was another moot in a further town, I bit the bullet, pointed the Very Old Car’s nose in the right direction, navigated the usual municipal ideas about ‘come visit our town’ versus ‘yes but don’t bring your car we’ve built on all the car parks and those that are left require half your salary for thirty minutes’ and dutifully arrived at the set place.
First find your pagans….. we’re a hidden lot when we’re not at Pagan Pride! I hunted here, I hunted there, just how difficult can it be finding pagans in a small pub anyway? Apparently quite hard when you miss the bit in the ad about ‘upstairs room’ – No real surprise that the guy at the bar kept giving me funny looks all night when I popped back to buy my round when I’d asked him ‘um – where’s the pagan moot?’ Is it my fault he was in black jeans and t shirt, with plenty of silver adorning his person? Ahem..
Anyway yes there they were upstairs having a lovely time. In my opinion Real chat about Real Paganism. There was a druid, a couple of witches, several people from the other moot who’d found their tongues AND their practice it seemed. lots of others at a similar stage as me. All in all a mixed group who were enjoying a chat about the last Sabbat they’d been to as well as the usual catching up about family and friends.
Of course the real problem was the setting. At the time I was too new and frankly naïve to realise that. Most folks on this path are hidden, usually with good reason. It ‘Does not Do’ if your beliefs and practices are labelled as ‘wacky’ at best and ‘dangerous’ at worst in society. Several decades ago there were some nasty cases about child abuse linked to pagans in the gutter press, the usual hoohah and serial stirring by those wishing to write a sensational enough a piece to sell a few newspapers. Thankfully with the work of the Pagan Federation those times are largely over but there are those still within the community who remember, and Keep Silent. We may have it easier than many of our American friends but you can still get the odd idiotic comment and outright abuse. The previous moot I’d attended was a few people around a table in the public bar. This one was upstairs with relative quiet and privacy. It made all the difference.
The third moot was the best, a purpose built stone circle in a fairly remote setting (who said they had to be ancient? ALL stone circles were new once!) a fire in the centre and people who Knew what they were Doing each month. This one took the form of monthly moon celebrations organised by different people or groups so one got an idea of how different paths approached each celebration and early inklings – for me – of what working in a group could be. Here there was a sort of freedom as well. The location was such that anyone passing was either there on Moot business or unlikely to bother anyone because the group was quite large. With a 9pm start (remember – pagan time!) it was also held late enough that most other folks were home by the time it got going. The dark and the fire and the stones worked their magic, the circles were large enough that those on the opposite side were merely gently firelit shadows and you couldn’t even really see the people right next to you that you were holding hands with. Darkness is a form of freedom and people relaxed and opened up more while they were there. After the rituals were over the feasting and spending time together afterwards was part of it, and of course as many of you will know the energy that is apparent in large focused groups leaves a happy relaxed group afterwards who will chat about ritual and magic in a way they perhaps won’t in other settings. As far as I was concerned I’d come home.
The fourth moot is the one that our coven organises. Right from the start (about eleven years ago I think, it predates me) the emphasis was on service to the community. Monthly speakers were organised, at first they were from the local community and surrounding areas but more recently we’ve been able to host such illuminaries as Ronald Hutton and the Doreen Valiente Trust, Lois Bourne and Vivianne Crowley as well as musical evenings with Damh the Bard once a year. Pretty good going for what is essentially a local moot.
The worrying thing is that we’re losing numbers. The entrance fee is a mere four quid which gets you the talk of the evening, a cup of tea and a slice of homemade cake at the interval. Personally I think that’s pretty good value but…perhaps not. I don’t know . We are currently not covering the cost of the hall let along putting anything by to pay the travelling costs and sometimes the fee for speakers. I’ve no idea if it’s a sign of the worldwide recession, a reflection on the current stresses that most people suffer daily or perhaps something we as organisers are doing wrong. Repeated requests for feedback on various social network sites that it’s advertised on have yielded…very little. Support from the wonderful regulars but from the many many others who have ‘liked’ or are members of the group – nada. It’s looking like we may have to close the moot down, or relocate it which we don’t want to do for the above reasons of settings. I should say this one is held in a community centre with plenty of parking and a private hall with a manned door. The building is ours for the duration with no interruptions.
I suppose the purpose of this post is to remind folks out there in the blogosphere that if you’ve got a real life pagan community or organisation that’s trying to keep it’s head above water and keep an event going for the whole of the community then try to get along to one of their events once in a while. Blogging and online discussion is good, but for getting out there and experiencing and learning you can’t beat actual personal interaction with other people on a similar path to you.
Organisers of moots work hard in the background, ours is planned something like six months to a year in advance and we need to be continuously asking people if they’d be willing to come and talk, and negotiating fees and travel expenses. I’d hate to think of others in the same worrying boat as we currently are. As a coven we support the community as we feel it’s part of our path and a part of ‘giving back’ At the same time with the best will in the world we can’t afford to keep putting our hands in our pockets and neither can we afford to keep organising the best speakers – because understandably a lot of them don’t come cheap – for seven people to turn up.
So – as confirmed blog authors how many of you gentle souls are tempted out to local events? are there any local events to you? do you wish there were? Did you try one once and hated it? Just not got time? Not interested?
On a final note I’d just like to say, support your real life community if you’re lucky enough to have one. I know I’d have been overjoyed to find this moot when I was starting out you know the old adage of not knowing what you had until it was gone…:(
Blessed be and thanks for reading
The Red Horse and the Red Pony this morning (I reccomend clicking on the pic for full benefit 🙂 )
The wheel has turned, the wonderful warm, still day of the Equinox has passed, and the mornings are now wreathed in a fine mist that adds a beauty and mystery to well known hedgerows. Tiny insect life that has gone unnoticed all summer is now starkly revealed in it’s sharp beauty. Nature’s wonder revealed by simple water droplets. It won’t be long before those droplets are the fine fingers of frost, but for now I am enjoying the mellow autumn mornings.
The bright dawn of the Autumn Equinox showed a promise that we here in the UK hadn’t seen in a few weeks. The early mist heralded a bright and wonderfully warm day that was like a jewel amongst the damp days preceding it. With it’s usual contrariness it seemed that the UK weather had jumped straight from ‘summer’ to ‘winter’ and skipped autumn completely, but in one of those gifts from Spirit that lift and sustain you, today has been a Good Day.
In the warm morning sunshine the Red horses were groomed and mucked out, enjoying a rare day of peace since they’d worked hard the previous day, I admit the mucking out took rather longer since the bramble bushes are laden with fruit and the path to the stables and facilities involves going past a few….it’s amazing how many handfuls of sweet fruit you can eat without really realising it! A sudden flash of joy as I caught sight of a rare butterfly for our area, I thought they had begun their winter sleep with the cold and wet weather, but apparently not, on a bramble bough sat a bright spot of colour amongst the autumnal greens, blacks and grey. A Comma, bright and shining like he’d just emerged from his chrysalis!
Partner and I came home to some time spent listening to the latest Druidcast podcast while I cleaned and readied several pounds of ripe elderberries that are destined to become the Coven’s supply of elderberry syrup. It wards off colds and sneezes better than most of the chemical remedies available over the counter. The gathering of them has become one of those seasonal jobs that I look forward to, although it’s a bit of a race to fit harvesting them in around other commitments, too early and they look ripe but aren’t juicy enough, too late and they go hard and wizened within what seems like hours!
The day progressed, necessary chores were completed, in bright sunshine and warmth that had everyone smiling, for me this year it’s very much a time of balance and knowing that the scale is about to tip, that something is afoot and the path is set, change is coming and all focus is on that future point where things are completed and the family can sit back and relax, but for today it was time to put my energy and time into my Spirituality, a time for Me, for gathering and honouring the turning wheel with our wonderful group. The ritual was due to be held in the early evening to accomodate as many people as possible as some had to work. Setup began as the sun was sinking towards the horizon, which added to the magic. Bright sun slowly waning to a warm golden glow as it sunk towards the horizon, the quarter banners were hung, and the bright coloured altar cloths laid over the table. Incense placed ready and brass candlesticks reflecting the dying sun.
The candles were inscribed and consecrated, the quarters and Altar decorated with corn (the harvest being so late here in some fields are still the pale gold of stubble rather than the uniform ploughed brown they usually are by equinox) and with fresh apples and blackberries, wildflowers still bloom by the quarter posts adding their own colour and joy to the celebration. Those who set up the space sat and enjoyed a quiet cuppa while waiting for the rest to arrive, the quiet moment a time for inner reflection, preparation and readyness. We just *look* like we’re sitting and drinking tea!
One by one they arrived in the deepening dark, making their way across the land to the circle, carrying robes and equipment, food, athames, chatting and picking their way with care (the red horses having done a particularly good job during the deep mud months and the year being such that we couldn’t get the roller onto the land much less the ramp to the top field!)
Once we had all gathered, caught up with our news, reforged those all important connections between our coven family, and put the finishing touches to the circle by adding the firedish, a wonderful artefact that has come down to us from it’s creator, a previous High Priest – trust me you can’t beat a firedish in circle, big enough to build a fair sized fire, and safe enough not to have to worry about scorching the ground – we changed into ritual robes and gathered in the Circle.
The night was perfect, the sky clear enough to see many stars, and bright enough to able to see outside the reach of the flickering candle light, the moon would bathe us in her silver light later in the evening as our high, protective blackthorn and hawthorn hedges take her a while to rise beyond their shadow. Not a breath of wind, the uncovered altar candles flickered many times but burned with a strong flame that never faltered.
As night descended further, reminding us that from now the scale tips towards the encroaching dark as we spiral towards Samhain our ritual progressed, blessed by inspiration, the energy of the fire, the bright sky and the spinning universe. We chanted, we danced, we spoke of balance and sacrifice, the seasons and the turning wheel, we remembered the creatures of the land and the spirits that live in this place. We celebrated the Sabbat.
Once it was over we laughed, we feasted (and drunk more tea!) and we talked, but most of all we sat together under stars and moon, and spent our time with our small community of coveners, reweaving our connections to each other and our path, and once more remembering and keeping alive the Old Ways.
…and then, because no one really wanted to leave, but needs must we parted and I came home and blogged it, because the magic of the season is here and I don’t really want the day to end!
Pagan Federation International
Hili, member of PFI Israel Team is conducting a research on
Pagan Leisure. We would be grateful if you could collaborate by answering the form she has facilitated (It’s 100% anonymous):
Pagan Leisure Research Questionnaire
My name is Hili, I am a MA student at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and I conduct a research on Pagan leisure.
This questionnaire will help to have a better understanding of the activities Pagan usually pursue in their leisure.