We actually held our Alban Arthan ceremony on December 14th which seems months ago now! In the end there were only six of us who could make it to the ritual which was rather nice for a change – it reminded Bracken and I of the early days – we had to double up on the parts and shimmy around the circle.
It was a very gusty day which made decorating the altar a bit of a trial as bits kept flying off. We managed to find both the logs and decided on a double storey version. An important part of the ceremony is extinguishing our lights, this is symbolic of both an acceptance of the dark and also as a letting go of the past. When the Mabon arrives they relight our candles as a sign that the sun will return. This proved rather tricky in the wind – we would have struggled without Badger’s paraffin lantern!
Talking of whom, the magnificent Setantii Bard performed a suitable poem for the occasion:
The Darkling Thrush
I leant upon a coppice gate
When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.
The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.
At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small,
In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
And I was unaware.
I included The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper in the ritual:-
And so the Shortest Day came and the year died
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive.
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, revelling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – listen!
All the long echoes, sing the same delight,
This Shortest Day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, feast, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And now so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
After the ceremony we shared a stollen that Jules had brought with her, which was delicious. There were no squirrels in the Grove which was rather strange as there had been packs of them on the walk through the park. We left the nuts behind for them, although we worried that having an urban diet of left over junk food their teeth may not be able to cope!