A couple of weekends ago I attended the ‘Spring Into Life’ Shamanic Retreat, which was facilitated by Jason and Nicola from Way of the Buzzard – these are the lovely people that lead our Drumming Circle! It was their first residential workshop and was held at Roeburnscar. We ate and slept in the bungalow but held our workings in their beautiful new bell tent and out in the surrounding woodlands and moors. Roeburnscar is sat on a cliff overlooking a valley carved out by the Roeburn River, which runs merrily past the house. It was such a lovely sound that my room mate and I slept with our patio door open so we could hear the water.
The bell tent was well equipped with a dinky little stove which threw out quite a bit of heat, especially if the door was down. There was a beautiful altar in the centre and blankets and sheepskins over the floor, it was wonderfully calm and cosy, I think we all secretly wanted to sleep in it!
This blackthorn hedge was full of insects enjoying the sunshine. I loved the furry lichens on the branches.
Jason took some much better pictures of this than me, and you see them on his website here, where he describes his encounter with the Butterfly Ancestor.
There were a series of pools and boggy patches in the gardens, fed by streams running off the hillside. These had many ornamental water plants, the absolute stars being these Skunk Cabbages which added an almost prehistoric look to the gardens. They did have rather a peculiar smell but it wasn’t too bad! Their other name is swamp lantern which is a little more poetic. The leaves were really glossy and firm, while the flowers were almost waxy to touch. It’s a native of North America and related to the arum lily. It was introduced to the UK in 1901 and there are populations of escaped plants in Hants and Surrey as well as the North West.
Apparently it causes a burning sensation when eaten because it contains calcium oxalate crystals. American Indians used it as a cure for headaches and coughs, and for treating burns, and for more prosaic uses like wrapping foods when baking and to line baskets.
As part of the weekend working on the Saturday we each had to find a spot in Nature to contemplate/meditate. I went down to the river and sat on the bank in a tiny hawthorn grove.
The water looked very inviting – there are pools higher up where you can swim but I had to make do with a little paddle. The bottom was full of round slippery rocks, and It was freezing!
I spent a lot of time lying on the second stone from the right with my eyes closed. :)
On the way back I came across this piece of rock which made a lovely mossy chair.
Wood Sorrel growing in the moss on a fallen branch.
The veranda ran along the back of the bungalow and was a very popular place to sit and relax – our bedroom had a door that opened onto it too. Jason and Nicola had brought along a large selection of books and it was nice to be able to dip into them. I was especially happy to find a copy of Meeting Fairies by R. Ogilvie Crombie which has been on my to read list for ages.
And this is the view up the valley from those chairs!
A patch of a comfrey type plant by the wood shed, which I keep meaning to look up and identify properly!
On the Sunday I got up early (six o’clock) and decided to go out for a walk. I headed up the lane, when I got high enough I looked back towards the Lake District and spotted a hot air balloon in the distance. It turned out to be rather an eventful walk, I had no idea where I was going, but I had the vague idea that I would be able to find a footpath over to the river and then come back along the water.
I seemed to spend rather a long time walking away from the valley. I was just debating whether to turn back when I saw a patch of gorse in flower by the lane and decided to go just that far – I’m very fond of it for various reasons! When I got there I found a new born lamb in the field on the other side of the lane. It was still damp with amniotic fluid and had a long umbilical cord. I took this to be a good sign and carried on.
Further up the road I looked up to see a hare slowly lolloping down the tarmac towards me, it paused and then jumped into the hedge. I walked up a little way to look into the field for it, and then spotted a bridle path sign pointing in the right general direction so I headed off through the fields. There was a lapwing calling and making a display flight above me, I followed the path which was along a ridge which may well have been the remains of a dry stone wall. Every so often there was a lone hawthorn tree – fairy tree – along the way, so I was feeling confident. At last the path entered the wood and ran down a hillside. At one point I had to scramble over a fallen tree with two trunks, then I wandered over a tiny meadow and finally came across the river.
For a minute I couldn’t see how to go on, but then I realised there was a small stile in the fence and suddenly I was on my way downstream. I was walking above the river through another meadow, it was here I found a wonderful large heron feather. A little further on I entered the trees and I came across a roe deer. It stood in the woods in front of me and then walked slowly up the hillside, on a parallel path to me as I walked down. There was somebody bivvying in a hammock tent, slung between three trees on a knoll by the river bank, but the path I took headed back up. At the edge of the wood there were the very first bluebells just unfurling into flower.
The whole walk had an almost otherworldly feel to it and felt almost numinous. Certainly it was a brilliant way to start the day. A gentle reminder that there is magic everywhere, providing that you get off the sofa and go and find it!
I had a lovely relaxing weekend, and enjoyed good company and great food. Saturday evening was another highlight, as we enjoyed a bonfire following the ritual, and sat together under the stars. It was almost dark enough to see the Milky Way and we caught a glimpse of a shooting star. I watched an iridium flare – I wouldn’t have known what it was but for the fact that Mr Stoatie used to drag us all out to the hills when the kids were younger if he knew one was due. I had a very gentle magical weekend and am happy that the effects seem to be working their way through slowly this time round, last April it was a tad more dramatic!