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Alban Eiler altar 

On Saturday the Wildwood held our Alban Eiler Ritual up on the Edge. We had it a week after the actual Spring Equinox as someone was off gadding at the Druid Gorsedd that weekend! (more about this in a later post!)

Unfortunately the lovely  spring weather of the weekend before didn’t hold, it was blowing a gale and raining steadily. I didn’t bother spreading the green cloth I’d bought for the Altar as it was so wet. Instead we had the natural carpet of oak and beech leaves. The white eggs were duck eggs, they have a wonderful pearlescent shell – especially when wet -  which unfortunately the photo didn’t pick up. The grey ‘ball’ is actually the round end of a large marble egg. That bowl was full of water by the time we’d finished!

Traditionally in this ritual we plant seeds to symbolise the plans we’re hoping to nurture to fruition during the year. However I was more drawn to explore the theme of balance, which seemed particularly apt given the solar eclipse here in the UK, which coincided with the Equinox this year. I’ve been to many Alban Eiler rituals where eggs are used as decoration or simply as a symbol of Spring, but I wanted to make them the focus of this ritual. The Cosmic Egg after all, holds the balance of all things, light and dark, male and female, conscious and unconscious, expansion and contraction. An egg is potential life, holding the promise of renewal. At this time of Spring, all our plans, which have been incubating in the dark of the year, can now be hatched, brought forth into this, the apparent world.

I adapted the following poem by Nicky Martin and included it in the ritual. The hare of Eaostre was replaced by ‘I am Gaerr, the sacred hare’.

 

I am the hare of Eostre

I am the sweet maidens messenger

I am springing over the fresh green shoots

Look at me run in exaltation

Sun shines brightly

Solar powers ascends

Sap rises urging creation

Surging power, flowing growing

I am the egg potent power protected.

 

egg makingeggsFollowing on from the egg theme I thought it might be fun to make an egg for everyone. I included a little packet of seeds – nasturtium and sunflower mixes, and also a photocopy of one of the bird cards from the Druid Animal Oracle, as well as a chick, a chocolate representation of the Sacred Hare :) and the obligatory eggs .

It’s always interesting to see what lessons and associations you can discover from the card you ‘pick’ I had a really lovely time sitting making these – it’s about as crafty as I get!

Before we left the Grove we visited Bride in her bower and left her the tulips for company.

Bride doll

It was a lovely ritual and the gusty wet weather just seemed to enhance it.

Sticky Bud

I’m pleased to report that we have bread and cheese on the ‘early’ hawthorn hedges, and so Mr Stoatie has officially declared it Spring! Hurrah!!

The horse chestnuts have wonderful sticky buds at the moment, I couldn’t resist touching a few whilst walking the dogs, I’m still a little kid at heart! You can make a homeopathic remedy by boiling them up in distilled water and then bottling the liquid with a little brandy – this acts as a preservative. You can add four drops of this to water or juice, or take them under the tongue, 3-4 times a day. It’s used to treat people who worry repeatedly over the same things or who keep making the same mistakes. It helps clear negative thoughts, improves clarity and ‘resets’ the psyche. You can make a similar tincture later in the year by using the flowers.

We’re off in the Scooby Van tomorrow – five days on Anglesey and hopefully a visit to my friend in Snowdonia :)

Bosley Stone

Last Sunday the Wildwood met up to explore Bosley Cloud, a  hill that stands on the Cheshire – Staffordshire border. It’s quite a landmark locally, looming as it does over the area and it promised fantastic views. We had quite a gentle walk up to the summit through woodland. As you get closer to the top the trees thin out and there is heather and whinberry.

Local historian Doug Pickford claims that the Cloud was the the central site for a Celtic tribe called the  ‘people of the cat’ Apparently they worshipped a cat god called Catha, and there is a stone on the Cloud with the face of a grinning cat called the Cat Stone where they congregated – I’m not convinced! There are quite a few stones on the western side of the hilltop which do seem to form a circle.

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We made a close inspection of several large stones but couldn’t find the cat :)

IMG_7460 This young pine had a geocache under it. I thought these things were supposed to be hidden, they always seem to be littering the surface!

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Another of the stones, this had a crow feather stuck into the ground beneath it.

Bosley Cross Stone

This is a stone by the path which is cut in a cross on the top. Possibly a border marker.

Bosley the view

The summit of the hill has a trig point and a view finder

Bosley View finder

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t very kind to us, we got to the trig point and only had a quick glimpse across to the Roaches before the cloud came down. Then it started to hail, tiny pieces of ice which were flung into your face with such force they really stung.

Thankfully Jane had brought a packet of chocolate biscuits with her so we were able to fortify ourselves for the walk down.

IMG_7471 The stone here is a variety of millstone grit called Chatsworth Grit which was formed in the carboniferous period. It was quarried to form the canal locks at Bosley and following the introduction  of the railway a huge amount was used to build the ‘Twenty Arches’ viaduct at North Rode in 1849. The operation to remove this caused a groove down the face of the hill. As cradles of rock were lowered down on an aerial ropeway.

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At the foot of the summit rocks there are several interesting carvings. Some of us found the way down too steep and had to be carried!

Dog rescue

The photo below doesn’t do the wonderful fan shaped vaults justice. For some reason it also seems to make the overhang look very shallow, whereas it was quite cave like and sheltered in reality.

Bosley sandstone

The day got progressively colder and wetter as it went on, but despite the weather we had a wonderful day, lots of fun and laughter. Fortunately there was an opportunity to dry out afterwards at The Young Pretender in Congleton. I only wish I’d been able to try some of their huge ale selection, I shall have to take Mr Stoatie there for a treat!

A Bit of a Catch Up

Hazel Catkins from jabblog

Things have been rather hectic at work and I’ve been struggling a little with my health, so I’m afraid the blog has been neglected for a couple of weeks. I wish I could say everything’s on the mend, but I have a week’s holiday booked from this Friday so I’m clinging on, and hopefully five days away in the van on Anglesey and maybe a visit to my friend’s small holding in Snowdonia will see me on the mend!

I had a great day out with the Wildwood which I’ll write about later on, but I haven’t really been up to much else apart from crawling in and out of work and swallowing paracetamol. The boss is on holiday and as usual I developed the flu. I only ever take one or two days sick a year if that, but you can practically guarantee that if I do get struck down with something it will be when I’m alone in the Office or there is something only I can deal with. At the moment we have the Auditors in and I’ve spent the last six weeks having my head pecked to produce x y or z. They’re running up to their deadline and so I felt I had to go in since I’m the only one left who can help them. This is the second time I have been audited in my working life and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Talk about stress.

Anyway on a slightly jollier note, some signs of Spring. We had our first lamb in the field behind the house on the 21st Feb, and this morning there is frogspawn in the pond by the house. Mr Stoatie is making noises about ‘doing the garden’ now the nights are getting lighter. I wish I could feel excited about this but I really do find gardening a struggle!

Bluebell Cottage CampsiteMy Mum has been hinting for some time that she’d like to go and visit her brother and sister in law over in Blackpool. It is a bit of a hike to drive over for the day and so we thought it might be an idea to try and find a campsite nearby, that way she could spend a couple of nights with them, and we could have a weekend away.

We managed to find a very small site about 40 minutes away in Knott End, which is on the top of the Flyde peninsular. There were only five hard standing pitches with just us and a rather large and luxurious motor home on site. The field backed on to farmland, with a distant view of hills. The first night we were there, we were entertained by a huge flock of pink legged geese which were feeding on the fields. There must have been over a thousand of them and there was a continual background noise of whistles and calls. Every so often they would up and fly off, to return a little later. I always find the gliding flight of a descending goose very reminiscent of a Klingon Bird of Prey, it always makes me smile.

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As well as the geese there were some rather noisy cockerels which began crowing around four o’clock and then competed to see who could be the most annoying, seagulls, some pigeons and pheasants and the occasional cry of a lapwing or oyster catcher. It was actually a treat to be able to lie in bed and hear the dawn chorus without it being drowned out by traffic noise.

It poured with rain the evening we arrived but Saturday and Sunday were wonderfully dry and sunny. Mr Stoatie had brought one of his bikes with him and took off on a long ride on Saturday morning, while the dogs and I headed to the seafront which was a five minute walk from the campsite. There was a tarmac path along the top of the sea defences, at the bottom of which was a muddy, grassy expanse before the sand began. We walked out along the path and enjoyed the views across the estuary to the Lake District beyond and then came back on the mud. The dogs tore up and down until Tilly did a complete somersault into one of the rills, which I thought was a bit much for an old dog and I popped them back on their leads. Right out on the sands there were quite a few horse and riders who seemed tiny, although you could hear the noise of their hooves quite well. I’d noticed some old mugwort plants on the way out and I stopped to collect a length on the way back. I’m hoping to make a wand.

When Mr Stoatie got back we decided to cross the River Wyre and visit Fleetwood. A pedestrian ferry runs across the estuary every hour on the hour when the tide allows. It is only a five minute trip if that, but it saves a drive of 26 miles to the nearest bridge. On the way I spotted a Little Egret on the marshes at Knott End, I think this is the higher end of it’s range so I was really pleased!Fleetwood Ferry 2

Fleetwood Ferry 1

Tilly hated every minute of the crossing, which was a shame, as we knew that she’d have to do it all over again in an hour! Charlie was a lot more philosophical about the whole thing. It was £1.50 per person and 50p for bikes and dogs. Charlie Ferry

Charlie is looking rather brindled in this photo. Mr Stoatie jams his bike between the seats in the van and as Charlie usually tries to sneak between them to sit in the passenger foot well, it meant he got liberally coated in bike oil every time we went out. I’m hoping to persuade the OH to buy a bike rack for next time!

Cleveleys Beach 2 This morning was another beautiful day. We decided to see the sea and stopped off in Cleveleys, which was the only place we could find that had parking right on the front. We enjoyed an invigorating stroll along the beach and a coffee and toastie in town. And I only picked up one pebble!!

Cleveleys Beach

Cleveleys Prom

We had a lovely break but I think that this was probably the most disorganised trip we’ve ever made. Yet again we had to sleep on a (clean!) dog sheet as I’d forgotten to bring a bottom sheet. We thought we’d left the wooden spoon and sieve behind, only to find them the next day when it was light. There was no washing up liquid (borrowed for the house and not replaced) and we forgot to keep the box of clothes out in the van. I honestly don’t know where our heads were! Hopefully we will be much better for our trip next month.

Wildwood Day Out

 

Marton Church

A couple of weeks ago now the Wildwood decided to get together for a bit of a social. After much discussion we settled on visiting the village of Marton, which is the home of what is claimed to be the oldest timber framed church still in use in Europe, St James & St Paul’s, and one of the country’s oldest trees, The Marton Oak.

The village also has a pub and a tea room and we started off the afternoon by indulging in coffee and cake. The cafe was surprisingly busy, but we managed to squeeze the eight of us in. Unfortunately the high ceiling meant it was difficult to talk, especially as there were a large group of excited cyclists behind us, it’s hard to get cross with them though, I think cyclists keep a lot of these small places going! After we’d finished up the drinks we walked across to the Church.

The exterior was ‘restored’ in the nineteenth century, but most of the building is still the original timber from the 1340s. I ‘borrowed’ the photo below to show you the interior. It’s a much better shot than I could have achieved!

At the bottom of the bell tower were two effigies of medieval knights. They’re made from the local sandstone and in rather a sad state of repair. I wonder if at one time they were outside, they look a bit worn. They’re resting on the Davenport Coat of Arms so it’s been presumed that they represent Sir John de Davenport and his son Vivian who founded and endowed the church.

Davenport effigy

The bell tower has a ring of six bells, one of which is dated 1598 and has the inscription ‘God Save the Queen and Realme’ I didn’t go up the ladder to look as it seemed far too rickety!

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stained glass 4

This is the stained glass in the window above the altar.

wall paintings Marton Wall paintings found under the plaster at the rear of the church during restorations in 1930. They’re thought to represent The Last Judgement.

stained glass 5There were stained glass windows along each side of the church. Each window was different. If you’re a fan of Alan Garner, these windows are the ones described in Strandloper.

‘William looked at the border of the window in front of him. It was a gold Crown of Glory , against a brown field, with cross hatching above and below, and two small roundels of clear glass in the brown.’

stained glass 2

‘Cockle-bread and green wood; Man of leaf and golden hood’

 

stained glass 3

 

stained glass1

‘there ran a wavy line, and in each bend a single dot’

 

IMG_7332 The shaft outside the church was once a cross, and is thought to date from the fourteenth or fifteenth century.

Gravestone MartonThere are some very old grave stones in the churchyard, some dated from the 1600s. This stone caught my eye because of the hearts and cherubs, it’s dated 1740.

yew Marton

The obligatory graveyard yew, this was a beautiful tree.

 

Marton Oak 5

After exploring the church we set off to find the Marton Oak, it’s actually in a private garden and you have to ask permission to visit it. Fortunately we were allowed in! The tree is also part of Strandloper.

Marton Oak1

The oak is estimated to be 1200 years old. It actually looks as if it is three trees but this is because of the way it’s rotted from the inside out, these pieces are all connected at the roots. It is a sessile oak and still produces acorns, it looked pretty healthy considering it’s so venerable. There were signs that some limbs had been removed and one piece was propped up by an old telegraph pole.

Marton Oak 2

Oak trees tend to rot from the inside out.

Marton Oak - Branches

Marton Oak 3

Inside were a carpet of cyclamens. A rambling rose was being trained over one side and will make a lovely arbour if it establishes. In the past the tree has been used as a chicken coop, a sheep pen and a Wendy House. There was also both holly and ivy growing inside.

Marton Oak 6

The plaque at the bottom of the tree states that in 2002 the Queen designated it ‘One of the Great British Trees in recognition of its place in the national heritage’ Fifty of the UK’s trees were considered worthy of these plaques, which are also inscribed ‘The National Grid’ as they sponsored the whole scheme. I don’t know why they thought sticking a plaque on it would make it any more special. It’s presence alone brings a feeling of wonder and awe. It was a privilege to spend time in it’s company.

Fortunately the weather couldn’t have been better, the first sunshine for weeks and quite mild. We had a lovely stroll around the village, caught a glimpse of early snowdrops, were serenaded by starlings and treated to a flypast by a young buzzard. All in all a wonderful day out and hopefully the first of many for the Wildwood!

Wildwood – Imbolc Ritual

Imbolc altar

This morning saw the Wildwood Seed Group back on The Edge to welcome Bride and to celebrate the return of the Spring. There was still plenty of snow on the ground, it was pretty overcast but managed to stay dry. Thankfully the cloud had seen off the forecast frost, but boy was it cold!

The altar looked rather pretty. I am determined that one year I will actually find sheep’s milk for Imbolc, but this year I got as close as I could by using goats milk from a dairy just a few miles away. Lindsey provided her delicious oatcakes which we used with the milk as an offering to Bride, fortunately Lindsey had another secret stash so we were all able to sample some afterwards!

Bride Dol

There was a white candle in the lantern for Bride, my little sheep jug to represent the lambs (filled with a bit of greenery collected on the way to cheer it up) and the obligatory snowdrops. Claire had crafted a beautiful Bride Doll from straw, swan feathers, crystal and silver. There is a long history of creating images of Bride from straw in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands. She is processed around the houses by young girls and greeted by the women of the house with butter, milk, cheese and oatcakes. At the end of the evening she’s laid to rest in a cradle.

Grove 3

Appropriately, when we called in the Light the sun appeared!

Grove

During the Ceremony we had space to recite poetry, which is particularly apt for this rite with Bride, being goddess of poetry and learning. We had a nice selection of poems.,

Jane chose Fiona McLeods ‘Brigit Speaks’ and made a brilliant job of the Gaelic!

I am older than Brigit of the Mantle,
I put songs and music on the wind
Before ever the bells of the chapels
Were rung in the West
Or heard in the East.
I am Brighid-nam-Bratta:
Brigit of the Mantle,

I am also Brighid-Muirghin-na-tuinne:
Brigit, Conception of the Waves,

And Brighid-sluagh,
Brigit of the Faery Host,

Brighid-nan-sitheachseang,
Brigit of the Slim Faery Folk,

Brigid-Binne-Bheule-
Ihuchd-nan-trusganan-uaine,
Brigit the Melodious Mouthed
Of the Tribe of the Green Mantles.

And I am older than Aone (Friday)
And as old as Luan (Monday)

And in Tir-na-h’oige my name is
Suibhal: Mountain Traveler,

And in Tir-fo-thuinn, Country of the Waves,
It is Cu-gorm: Gray Hound,

And in Tir-na-h’oise,
Country of Ancient Years,
It is Sireadh-thall: Seek Beyond.

And I have been a breath in your heart,
And the day has its feet to it
That will see me coming
Into the hearts of men and women
Like a flame upon dry grass,
Like a flame of wind in a great wood.

Snow

I chose Caitlin Matthews poem, which has more of the feel of a traditional Celtic Blessing:


Brighid of the Mantle, protect us,
Lady of the Lambs, protect us,
Keeper of the Hearth, kindle us,
Beneath your mantle gather us,
and restore us to memory.
Mothers of our mother,
Foremothers strong,
Remind us how to kindle the hearth,
To keep it bright,
To preserve the flame,
Your hands within ours,
Our hands within yours,
To kindle the light
Both day and night.
The mantle of Brighid about us,
The memory of Brighid within us,
The protection of Brighid keeping us
From harm, from ignorance, from heartlessness,
This day and night,
From dawn till dark,
From dark till dawn.

Bride Doll cleft

After the ritual we all repaired to the cafe to thaw out, although one of the group did remain to watch over the Grove!

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