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Archive for the ‘Festivals’ Category

Alban Arthan 2016

In December the Wildwood celebrated Alban Arthan at our Grove on the Edge. The weather was kind to us and we stayed dry which is always a bonus. The altar was decorated with evergreens and fairy lights. The mistletoe was a large bunch from the OBOD Winter Gathering in Glastonbury, and was cut from an apple tree in the same valley as the Stanton Drew complex of stone circles. It was lovely to be able to share it with everyone afterwards.

The rune stick Guy had left at North was still in situ but the little straw figure of Bride we keep in the cleft of a Beech tree had disappeared. A fingertip search revealed her swan feather gown and a length of gold ribbon on the floor – now tied on to the nearby holly as a cloutie. There was nothing at all in the cleft, not even the greenery we use as decoration which was very strange. Either everything had been removed deliberately or it had succumbed to the weather. Maybe the little Bride doll’s time had simply come to an end.

In the Summer we’d noticed that someone had left a Green Man on one of the nearby Rowan trees. This is on a little hummock behind Bride’s tree, overlooking the Grove, and is a lovely place to meditate. There is a little oak, ash and thorn growing on it and it’s very fey. It’s interesting that someone chose the same spot as ourselves to work, considering how big the woods are. The masculine energy of the Green Man compliments that of the Goddess (of course!) and we’ve grown quite fond of him.

Image may contain: tree, plant, outdoor and nature

Our next ritual is Imbolc, which is dedicated to Bride and will be held in the Grove. We’re planning to make another little Bride doll, with input from everyone, and shall be installing her back in her bower.

As part of our Alban Arthan ritual we always recite the poem, The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper, each taking a line until it’s finished.

 

The Shortest Day

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, fest, give thanks,

And dearly love their friends,

And hope for peace.

And so do we, here, now,

This year and every year.

Welcome Yule!!

 

Susan Cooper

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shrooms 1

Last night we held our Samhuin ritual, as usual, on Lindow Moss. It seems a bit weird to say ‘as usual’ as it only feels like we started the group a few months ago, but this actually our third Samhuin together. I really think we ought to consider ourselves an established Grove by now!

The pathways across the Moss are always a good place to spot Fly Agaric toadstools and it’s lovely to find them left to go about their business. Too often any found near ‘civilisation’ tend to get kicked over and destroyed. We spotted quite a few but the most jaw dropping was a cluster of seven, which was pretty apt as there were seven of us in total. The largest – in the photo above – was the size of a dinner plate!

We set up the circle on the junction of two paths which was a T junction rather than a crossroads, with one path going through the circle east-west and the other arriving from the North. We found that there was quite a lot of spirit traffic along these routes last year. It’s a liminal spot because of the tracks, and also because we’re surrounded on all sides by the Moss, which is a few feet lower than the roads, hidden by the darkness and the mist, brooding in the background. There is the constant sound of trickling water which at times became voices having a conversation just out of earshot.

samhuin 2

I decided to bring along a pumpkin, it’s practically a Samhuin ritual tradition for me now! The rite itself was unscripted and after opening the circle we offered bread, salt, wine and honey to the departed and remembered our loved ones together round the fire. Penny kindly brought along offerings of yew and rosemary which were cast to the flames. Unfortunately our tiny fire couldn’t really cope with them, and almost every time Paul had to coax it back to life. Once we had said goodbye to the dead we took the opportunity to cast those things we wished to get rid of into the fire – by imbuing sticks with our intent and burning them. Offering them up to the Calliach so that she can scour them from our lives as surely as she scours the leaves from the trees.

It was a beautifully mellow and poignant ceremony, lightened by fellowship and fun.

samhuin 3

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Barry Eisteddfod

Just a few photos from the Summer Gathering Eisteddfod, some of which are a bit over exposed (sorry!) I’m pretty sure that they’re not in the right order but never mind!

First up are a few shots of Barry Patterson who was performing poems from his new collection Freed from Distance which is available from his website Red Sandstone Hill Absolutely fantastic as always and I can really recommend both Barry’s poetry books and especially his book, The Art of Conversation with the Genius Loci.

Barry Eisteddfod 2

The instrument below is a guitar zither that a friend of Barry’s found in his Mum’s attic. I think you’re supposed to pluck the strings but using a drum beater  produced an interesting effect!

Barry Eisteddfod 3

Followed by a shot of Ritchie who managed a great performance despite his nerves – it was his first Eisteddfod!

Ritchie

Blanche sang a beautiful set a cappella.

Eisteddfod

I can’t remember this guy’s name (I think it may be Steve?) but I’m pretty sure the lady was called Marietta and they sang some wonderful songs.

Eisteddfod 2

The welcome return of Paul Mitchell. Hurrah!

Paul Mitchell

James J Turner got everybody up and dancing.

Eisteddfod 3

There were also wonderful performances from ZZ Birmingham and Damh but we were too busy dancing for Mr Stoatie to take photos! Apologies to anyone we missed – there were two very good (lady) poets in the first half whose names I didn’t catch and whose photos were too poor to publish!

If anyone wants to help me out with the names, leave a comment and I’ll edit the post!

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Beltane Greenman

This morning we had our Beltane Ritual on Lindow Moss. The day started out with clear blue skies, but by the time we were parking the cars it had started to drizzle and it kept it up for a few hours. So much for the summer weather!

I spent ten minutes in the garden just before I left, to gather some bits and pieces for the Greenman. I’d spotted a little bit of early may in bloom in a local hedgerow and stopped off to cut a little. There were plenty of buds but only a few flowers, I looked through my photos earlier, and the last time we had swathes of may blossom was in 2009! That year we had headdresses, decorated staves,  a huge display round the altar and plenty to hand out in the ritual itself.

Lindow Moss

Our work to restore the Moss is on-going, although there has been more peat removal and drainage channels dug, the actual area around our ‘grove’ has mysteriously been left alone and the greenery is starting to make it’s way back. I just wish the whole area could return to Nature.

What would the world be, once bereft

Of wet and of wildness ? Let them be left,

O let them be left, wildness and wet ;

Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

(Gerald Manley Hopkins, Inversnaid)

Lindow Pine

This pine was growing here 5000 years ago!

May Tree

At the entrance to the peat workings there are three little hawthorns. The first was just coming into flower, so I could have saved myself the stress of searching for blossom!

This year’s poem is described as a Druid’s Devotional and is apparently from the Solitary Druid Fellowship, although I can’t find a working link to them. It may originally been used by the ADF.

I breathe in the fire of the sun!

This world is alive, and I am alive with it!

The fire in my heart is a Beltane fire,
A fire raging with passion and purpose!

Today I honour the sun,
And the movement of the earth.
The Earth Mother provides,
And the Sky Father encourages
New life on the land.

This is the moment to remember
That even while I practice in solitude
I am a living being, interconnected with all life.

I am the tree. I am the river.
I am of the earth, growing into fullness,
Supported by the Kindred.

Hail, the fire of Beltane!

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Bride Imbolc

The Wildwood held it’s Imbolc Ceremony last weekend, at our Grove on the Edge – as it’s dedicated to Bride it seemed fitting! The Bride doll is still in situ and has survived a year remarkably intact, although the large quartz point she was holding has disappeared. I’m thinking it may have slipped down into the bole of the tree – there is a deep hollow filled with water under the ledge where she sits. It’s rather comforting to think of it safely resting deep in the black water.

Unfortunately we didn’t have any fine Spring weather, just more rain, which took the form of one of those really drenching drizzles. Despite this we had a wonderful turn out, including two new folk –  I just hope getting so cold and wet hasn’t put them off too much! A hot drink at the cafe afterwards seemed to restore everyone’s spirits.

Lindsey had baked fresh bread and to this we added goats milk as an offering. We had grand plans to make Bride’s crosses from drinking straws but in the end it was just to cold and wet to stand around. Plus a few of us were beginning to lose the feeling in our hands!

As Bride is the goddess of poetry, we shared a few poems during the ritual. I read out this poem which I found on The Melbourne Grove’s Website:

 

The Quickening

Although the chill of winter

Is still settled like a cloak

Resting its cold folds upon the earth

Beneath, her heart is beating

Just waiting for the sign

That signals it is time for life’s rebirth

 

For the seed of light is growing

It reminds us of its warmth

Whisp’ring to new shoots to show their face

And the seed of life now quickens

Responding to its call

Stirring from within earth’s safe embrace

 

The wattle it hangs golden

See it gracing every bough

A promise of the spring that’s yet to come

And the life still lying dormant

Starts to shift in winter’s sleep

Responding to the newly growing sun

 

Each seed has rich potential

Now, to grow into new life

So set your year’s intent without delay

A time so rich with promise

Feel it echoed in our lives

May Brigit bless our growth and light the way

          Jowen, Imbolc 2009

 

We all felt the urge to set an intent for the year and spent a few minutes in contemplation before The Closing.

Imbolc Altar The poem I found for our ritual booklet was this one:

 

Kindling the Fire

This morning,

As I kindle the flame upon my hearth,

I pray that the flame of Brighid may burn in my soul,

And the souls of all I meet today.

I pray that no envy and malice,

No hatred or fear,

May smother the flame.

I pray that indifference and apathy,

Contempt and pride,

May not pour like cold water on the flame.

Instead may the spark of Brighid light the love in my soul,

That it might burn brightly through the day.

And may I warm those that are lonely,

And whose hearts are cold and lifeless,

So that all may know the comfort of Brighid’s love.

 

I thought I’d include a photo from our Alban Arthan ritual which was also held on the Edge and which I missed writing up. We’re planning to resume our nomadic ways for the next nine months, so it will be a while before we hold ritual on the Edge again (although many of us visit the Grove on and off during the year to meditate, perform workings or make offerings) We will be holding our Alban Eiler ceremony on a sandy bank, close to a grove of hornbeams, in a piece of ancient woodland.  Just by the junction of two rivers which meander through our part of East Cheshire, can’t wait!

Altar

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Altar 1

We weren’t actually planning to have an Alban Elfed Ritual as such this year. As the Warrior’s Call are organising their Beacons in the Dark event next week we thought we’d do that instead, to follow on from the Earth Web rite we performed with them last year. We were all set up for a ritual on the Edge when The Way of the Buzzard invited us to join them at their event and as their land is currently under direct threat – licences to test drill have been granted – we thought it would be good to support them, so instead we’ll be travelling over to Lancashire and holding our ritual there!

However, some of our folk are unable to travel so far and after a short think we decided to hold an Alban Elfed after all. It turned out to be a good decision because after frantic discussions on when and where to meet, we had our largest turn out so far!

Awen Honey Bread

It was a beautiful warm and sunny day which was really welcome. We decided to visit our Grove on The Edge and were delighted to find our Guardian still in her bower in the beech tree.

Sarah made a wonderful honey loaf, complete with Awen symbol and we were spoilt rotten by having honey cake and gingerbread too (thanks Dawn and Claire!).

This ritual is the harvest rite, a time when we reflect on what we have brought to fruition from the seeds we sowed at Alban Eiler, the Spring Equinox. It is a time of brief balance, but also the time that the dark begins to gain strength and Nature begins to wind down for the winter months. Plants die down and return to the earth, seeds sleep in the soil, the womb of the Earth Mother, and we too are held and nourished in her arms during the darkness. To dream and heal, rest and revitalise.

The main symbol in the rite is that of the grain of wheat held out by Ceridwen, ‘the seed of wisdom’ and I was happy when I found this poem by Starhawk which combines the themes of seeds, darkness and balance beautifully – I always try to print something appropriate on the spare page at the end of the script!

 

Earth Mother, Star Mother

You who are called by

a thousand names

May all remember

We are cells in your body

And dance together.

You are the grain

And the loaf

That sustains us each day.

And as you are patient

With our struggles to learn.

So shall we be patient

With ourselves and each other.

We are radiant light

And sacred dark

– the balance –

You are the embrace that heartens

And the freedom beyond fear

Within you we are born

We grow, live, and die –

You bring around the circle

to rebirth

Within us you dance

Forever.

Starhawk

 

 

Bride Guardian

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Lughnasadh

It’s hard to believe, but the Wildwood is now a year old!

We decided to hold our Lughnasadh ceremony on Lindow Moss, as our first ritual together was held there last August, to honour Lindow Man on the 30th anniversary of his discovery.

The vegetation around the Moss has thrived this year – we had difficulty finding the usual gap onto the workings – but unfortunately the peat extraction and drainage continues. There were great heaps of peat waiting to be taken away.

We had our ritual in the evening, under the almost full blue moon. I’d worked it completely around Lugh, since it was his feast day. I felt the need to emphasis the masculine, this ritual being a counterpoint to Imbolc, which is all about the Lady, so I felt justified in honouring the Lord of Light. An apple figured heavily in the rite – hence those on the altar. I got out my blingiest plates and the red cloth to emphasis the sun. The evening was so still and calm I had the luxury of striking a match and lighting the candles first time which felt rather weird. Normally you have the traditional huddle round the flame to keep it alight!

Claire had brought some linen squares with her which we placed on the altar.

Healing squares

“ Textile energy healing spirals. Hand stitched and dyed in natural plant dues, by Textile Artist and friend Kate, she has donated them for use during/after our ritual, the idea being to tuck a few away in discreet places on the Moss and as they slowly decompose, the healing energy lovingly hand stitched into them transmits into the Earth”

These were so beautiful and smelt slightly of patchouli, it was bit of a wrench squirrelling them away as we left!

Claire also brought one of her dolls to grace the altar:

lughnasadh doll

The body is a corn husk, with a poppy seed head and lavender arms. Coincidentally she is dressed in red and gold, although Claire explained that this represented the root chakra and was also to accentuate the feminine. It seems the Goddess infiltrated the ceremony after all!

We were joined by a special guest, the Setantii Bard himself, Badger! Who very kindly gave us a spontaneous recitation of Song of Wandering Aengus by Yeats whilst we were drinking bubbly and eating birthday cake to celebrate our anniversary after the rite.

 

The Song of Wandering Aengus

 

I went out to the hazel wood,

Because a fire was in my head,

And cut and peeled a hazel wand,

And hooked a berry to a thread;

And when white moths were on the wing,

And moth-like stars were flickering out,

I dropped the berry in a stream

And caught a little silver trout.

When I had laid it on the floor

I went to blow the fire a-flame,

But something rustled on the floor,

And someone called me by my name:

It had become a glimmering girl

With apple blossom in her hair

Who called me by my name and ran

And faded through the brightening air.

Though I am old with wandering

Through hollow lands and hilly lands,

I will find out where she has gone,

And kiss her lips and take her hands;

And walk among long dappled grass,

And pluck till time and times are done,

The silver apples of the moon,

The golden apples of the sun.

William Butler Yeats

 

Afterwards we had a wonderfully atmospheric walk back to the cars in the dark, under the guiding light of the Bright Mother. What a wonderful evening!

Lughnasdh Moon

All photos except the altar are used with the kind permission of Claire Gerrard!

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