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Action!

Image from the Macclesfield Express

We’ve been invaded by a film crew this week,they’re shooting a film called The Messenger, which is a thriller about a young boy who sees dead people .. or does he?  They’ve been using the Crematorium Chapel to shoot some interior shots (mainly the catafalque by all accounts) and the Anglican chapel for the exterior (this has been converted to Offices so the inside wouldn’t be suitable) The Cemetery Supervisor has been pulling his hair out as they couldn’t decide where they wanted ‘the grave’ dug and he had to open three different plots.

A local undertaker was hired to provide the hearse, cars and coffin. He’s spent most of the day either waiting at the catering wagon, or lowering and raising the coffin in and out of a grave. It seems filming seems to work on the principle of ‘hurry up and wait’ I think all the days shoot will only make three or four minutes of screen time in total.

Unfortunately I was stuck in the Office and missed all the excitement (and the grub!)

 

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We had another busy weekend, as it was the London – Surrey 100 sportive. Mr Stoatie has been training for this for over six months, but he had a run of injuries in July and we were worried he wouldn’t make the big day. Thankfully it all seemed to come right just in time.

We stopped over in a Travel Lodge about four miles from the start point in the Olympic Park, so he could ride down from the hotel. We had to go and register on Saturday morning and the weather was absolutely beautiful, warm and sunny. Unfortunately we knew it couldn’t last, as we’d been tracking ex hurricane Bertha crossing the Atlantic. The trade stands were doing a roaring trade in waterproofs and overshoes as people prepared for the worst.

He estimated that the ride would take him about seven hours and so after he left on the Sunday morning, just after 6.30, I had a few hours reading before heading out to the British Museum. As I walked across Russell Square the heavens opened in a biblical deluge and I got pretty soaked. When I emerged later it was different again, the sun was shining and everything was drying out nicely. I decided to head over to The Mall and spent about three quarters of an hour watching the cyclists. I was about 100m past the finish line. The first things most of them did were to turn off their Garmin, get their mobiles out, take a selfie and then call someone. See the photo above!

IMG_6329 They then had a walk/ride down to the area where there were stewards handing out the medals.

IMG_6334 I was undecided whether to hang around or move on when I spotted someone familiar. In a stunning piece of serendipity I was there just as Mr Stoatie finished. He was much faster than his estimate, even taking into account the fact that the course had been shortened by 14 miles as it was deemed too dangerous to let the public up the two steepest hills in the stormy weather.

IMG_6337 It took us another 45 minutes to meet up again in the Meet and Greet area. It absolutely hammered down which was a bit of a drag as I’d only just got dry. It was a shame the weather was so changeable, but I think a lot of the riders got an additional buzz from battling the elements. It will certainly  be the one Prudential 100 which gets talked about for years to come!

Steve's Prudential Medal

Lindow Wreath

Well, as promised, this post is going to be a bit of catch up. Mostly to fill you in with what I’ve been up to in my Druidic life these past few weeks! – I’m afraid it’s going to be a bit wordy!

The keen eyed amongst you may have noticed that I removed any references to the Setantii Grove from the blog at the beginning of April. Following an experience I had at the Call of the Druid workshop at Cae Mabon, I realised that my own personal practice was drifting away from the Grove’s. I co-founded the Setantii, and facilitated their rituals, for almost seven years, so it was a bit of a wrench to leave. I can’t really go into all the details because it was an intensely personal experience, but suffice it to say that I decided to take myself off into the Wildwood for a bit of soul searching. Deeper into the dark and the wild.

Whilst I was running wild in the woods, I had plenty of time to think about what I was going to do next. A little bit of me felt it would be rather nice to do my own thing with no ties and no responsibility, but after going to the Summer Assembly, I realised that I enjoy being with other people too much to be a Hedge Druid or Solitary. But I also knew that if I belonged to another group it would have to reflect my own practice and I wasn’t sure if this would resonate with anyone else! You only technically need two people to set up an OBOD Seed Group so I started to put the wheels in motion, with a lot of encouragement from the Groups Coordinator and other OBODy friends around the country. It was talking to the lovely lady who gave me a lift to the Druid Remembrance Ceremony at Arlewas that made me realise that there were probably others that felt the same way as I did. so having gained heart from Lindsey, the next day (July 6th) I posted this on my facebook time line -

‘’Hi friends, just to let you know I’m in the early stages of forming a new OBOD Seed Group out here in the Wildwood. My intention is to meet for ritual, to make a deeper connection to the spirits of the land, to honour the ancestors, and to establish a working relationship with the Fair Folk. I will be wandering the sacred landscape here in East Cheshire and celebrating the festivals on the Edge, at Lindow Moss and at various other sacred nooks and crannies in the area.
I envision a glorious raggle taggle group of fellow seekers walking the sacred landscape, building a relationship with the earth through ritual and practical workings (even if it’s ‘just’ litter picking to begin with!) and engaging with other local shamanic & druidic groups, and the wider community when the opportunity arises.”

 

Dawn - Lindow

I was delighted that a few old friends decided to join the Group and find out more. I was starting to wonder what to do about Lughnasagh when a couple of weeks later (July 20th) I was approached by a member of Transition Wilmslow to see if I would be interested in facilitating a ritual for them. They were organising a dawn walk around Lindow Moss to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the discovery of Lindow Man, and to raise awareness of the importance of preserving what remains of the Moss – currently under threat from development. Of course I said yes straight away, and what is more, all the wonderful folks who had joined were up for it too!

This solved the problem of Lughnasagh, as the walk was on the 2nd August. Instead I set about writing a completely different ritual.  The transition Group were meeting at 4.30am and were having a guided walk around the Moss, stopping for readings and poems along the way, and finishing up where the body of Lindow Man was found. Here we were to hold our ritual of remembrance for him. I was asked if the group could join in the ritual for 15 minutes and then leave because it was felt that they wouldn’t want to be standing around after having walked about for so long.

Needless to say I had a different view! I definitely didn’t want them to arrive when we were in the middle of working. One of the interesting things about performing ritual is that you become so absorbed in it that you completely lose track of time and so I was sure that I could squeeze out a few more minutes without them realising! I decided that the best thing would be to wait until they arrived, welcome them warmly by forming an arch with two staffs and drum them in until they formed a circle around the central altar and we were ready to begin.  

 

Lindow Altar 

The first half of the ritual was to be dedicated to remembering and honouring the ancestors, in particular Lindow Man, I thought it would be a good opportunity to pause after this to allow anyone who wished to, to leave and then continue with the second part which was to begin a healing of the land by asking that the waters be allowed to rise. About 3-4 foot of peat has been extracted from the Moss, and there have been attempts to drain the water. There can be no restoration if the water level isn’t raised.

 

Lindow Moss 7 

I had no idea of how many people were planning to get up at the crack of dawn and walk round the Moss, so it was a bit of a shock when I found out the night before that there were to be over 40, of all faiths and none! And it was to be led by some rather eminent professors! Our appearance was to be a surprise to most of the Group and so I wasn’t able to share all this on the blog just in case it got back to them. There is a piece on the BBC site which gives a bit of detail about the Moss and mentions the walk. I think it was prepared beforehand as there’s no mention of Druids!

We met up at the other side of the Moss from the Transition group, and walked straight to the site. Lindsey and I had spent a few  hours there at dawn the week before, so I had a good idea of where I wanted to site the circle. Last week it had been beautifully clear but yesterday we had clouds and a few drops of rain. We got everything prepared and then spent a few minutes individually gathering our thoughts. We spotted the Group in the distance and when they began to move off towards us we began to drum. Unfortunately my skin drum was rather grumpy and damp ( – time to treat myself to a new all weather one!)

As they approached the Archway some of the folks looked a little apprehensive, but everyone seemed happy to enter and the Ceremony began. I deliberately didn’t give out scripts as I wanted them to enjoy the experience, by eye and ear, and not get distracted trying to follow the words. I did however produce enough so that they could take one home with them if they wanted. The first half of the ceremony went really well – although my casting the circle with a copper knife may have fazed some of them! Paul did an absolutely fantastic job of speaking unscripted for Lindow Man. At the point where we paused to allow folks to leave, only three people left!

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We continued with the ceremony, calling on Anu to restore the waters. We’d each collected water from local rivers, or from our gardens. I got stung by nettles persuading the Undines of the River Dean to let me take some of it’s water – it’s the nearest river to me. Fortunately the little brook at the bottom of our road was more amenable. It’s an offshoot of the Red Brook, whose main body flows into the Lady Brook (appropriately!), then the Micker Brook and then into the river Mersey. I’d  also brought water from the Red And White Springs at Glastonbury. We had rainwater, water from the Moss, from the River Bollin, and from the River Dee. All these were gathered in a bowl with spoken intent and then poured onto the Moss as a symbol of the return of the water.

At the end of the ritual I was relieved to see that everyone seemed to have enjoyed it. A lot of people came up to thank us. The Transition Group finished off by casting a wreath into one of the pools in remembrance of Lindow Man – top photo – it was made completely of flowers and reeds gathered from the Moss. Absolutely stunning.

We were very kindly asked if we would like to join the group at their breakfast after, which was held at the Friend’s Meeting House where I go to drumming each month. We were made to feel very welcome and answered a lot of questions about Druidry and the Wildwood Seed Group and enjoyed some delicious food and a welcome hot drink.

It seems difficult to believe that we’ve managed to form a Seed Group and perform such an important, purposeful, public ritual, all within the space of a month. I am completely amazed that my intention, as outlined in the facebook blurb, has manifested so completely. I’ve been blessed to find people like Ruth, Guy, Wendy, Paul and Lindsey who have a similar shamanic-druidic path to myself and who were completely unfazed by some of the additions to the ritual. I think all of us agree that this was just meant to happen, and that Spirit has definitely  been driving it forward. I can’t wait to see what else the Gods have in store for us!

Ritual Booklet

Lindow Moss 1

Demeter

Actually I ought to say Lughnasadh or Lammas Blessings, but I found this picture of Demeter and since she’s cropped up in my journeying a bit recently I really wanted to use it. It’s a little bit Druidy, look, she has a sickle!

Sorry it has been quiet on the blog for a little while, there’s been a lot of Druid stuff happening in my life recently. In particular an exciting event that’s happening at Dawn tomorrow which I can’t talk about yet! I’ll spill the beans over the weekend :)

 

Wheat

You’ll be pleased to know that I managed to get there and back without pranging  the Scooby Van, or traumatising Mr Stoatie :) Although I had one interesting moment when the plastic ball bit on the end of the gear stick broke in half just as I was negotiating a major roundabout. Who knew that could happen? Luckily it was declared a flook and I was cleared of any responsibility!

We stayed at a beautiful, tiny campsite just outside the village of Ashwell in Herts. It was part of an arable farm and one of the outbuildings had been converted really well to hold the facilities. Because his Nib’s foot was so bad we didn’t really do anything but visit his grandparents, the rest of the time was spent lounging around the van (him) and walking the dogs. Fortunately there were miles of footpaths to explore and not a sheep or cow in sight!

The weekend was really hot and sunny so most of the walking took place at dawn and dusk, hence the rather dull photos. The landscape was gearing up for Lughnasadh, the rape was ready to harvest but the wheat and barley needed a little more sun. I had a great time identifying the wild flowers in the hedgerows – St John’s Wort, Meadowsweet, Black Byrony, Scabious, etc. The hawthorn berries were already turning red , the hazel bushes were heavy with nuts and there were some of the fattest sloes I’d ever seen on the blackthorn.

I was wondering if there were still ash trees by the wells when I booked the campsite. Actually the predominant tree in the area is ash, coming from Cheshire where we have oaks everywhere it was really noticeable! Sadly, visiting the many wells and springs in the area will have to wait until our next visit when hopefully Mr Stoatie will be able to get about more!

Rape I hadn’t realised how tall rape gets, this was over my head.

Barley John Barleycorn

 

Black Byrony 

Black Byrony, this will look stunning when those berries turn red. It’s very poisonous though!!

 

White Byrony 

White Byrony – equally poisonous!

 

Meadowsweet

Meadowsweet

 

happy stone

I found this happy little chap on my wanderings too!

camper

We’re off for a long weekend in the van, hurrah! It seems such a long time since we’ve been away. The bad news is, Mr Stoatie has a poorly foot and I may be forced to drive. I’ve only ever been allowed to drive twice, and the longest journey was just 15 minutes. I’m not sure he can cope with me doing a four hour road trip – I’d better get him some valium and the head sized paper bag!

Last Saturday I joined over fifty other Druids from various Druid Orders at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, Staffs, to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the Great War with a ritual of remembrance, healing and peace.

I’d never been to the Memorial Arboretum before. It’s a huge site, around 150 acres, and is built on land reclaimed from gravel extraction. The area around the entrance is kept smart and tidy, like a formal park. But at the edges, close to the lakes and rivers are various wilder areas. The trees are still quite young as the Arboretum was only opened in 1997, they reckon to have planted around 50,000 trees so far.

I was surprised at the huge number of memorials which ranged in size from the huge Armed Forces Memorial, situated on top of it’s mound, down to tiny individual plaques against trees. Geoff Boswell, who organised the ritual (from The Druid Forum and the British Druid Order) chose to hold it at the British German Friendship Garden. This is a ring of building stones from the original Frauenkirche in Dresden, which was destroyed by bombing in World War Two. They’re surrounded by two rings of young birch trees, with more stones and a young Dresden Oak in the very centre. It was definitely a very Druidic location.

Druid Remembrance 2

It was a beautiful place for a ceremony and the ritual itself was very moving. Despite there being so many different types of Druidry represented, the ceremony seemed to flow effortlessly. We heard beautiful and moving contributions from those speaking for Remembrance, the Ancestors and for Peace, and were blessed with poetry and song. Before we closed, the Last Post was sounded, and the notes echoed out amongst the trees and stones to contrast with the rousing military music, which had been playing softly in the background at another event all afternoon.

Our presence was accepted without question by the other visitors, most of whom were from the military, past and present.  A few people asked us who we were and said that if they’d known it was happening they would have come and joined in. Some asked if we were doing it again next year – I don’t think Geoff was planning to, but I would be happy to see it become an annual event!

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