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Archive for the ‘Grove and Seed Groups’ 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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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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Yesterday the Wildwood and our friends met up at Tegg’s Nose to participate in the latest Warrior’s Call anti-fracking event. This event, Voices on the Wind, called on pagan groups and solitaries to perform ritual and magical workings to prevent fracking and to provide blessings and healing to the land. We’ve previously worked with the elements of water, earth and fire, and this year it was the turn of air.

The brief was to gather at a high point with flags, banners and musical instruments of all descriptions and let our voices carry our message around the globe. I enjoyed writing a ritual which included calling in the Four Winds to the circle, in order to make sure our voices were well and truly borne to those who needed to hear them. Making the flag was another matter entirely, but I got there in the end (even if the kitchen counter got liberally coated in acrylic paint!) The design is the Warrior’s Call sigil.

We met up in the car park and the afternoon started well, with the sighting of a single buzzard, which was circling and making it’s distinctive mewing call. I also saw four cormorants flying one behind the other towards the west, I just love these intelligent, heraldic, prehistoric birds (bet you didn’t know that they can count!)

Tony knew of a quiet, sheltered hollow just below the Country Park and as we were unpacking all our bits and bobs we were surprised by Badger and Daisy from the Setantii Grove. The intrepid duo had driven down (at speed!) from the Nos Coryn/Way of the Buzzard event at Anglezarke Moor that morning to join us and had brought it’s banner and energy with them.

Tony Johnson - rainbow 2

After the Four Winds were called in to the circle we had 20-30 minutes of drumming, rattling and yelling to add our voices and intent to the wind – we managed to attract a small audience who were probably wondering what the heck we were doing!

The wind was blowing from the west, from behind the hill we were sheltering under and which the sun had dropped behind. The opposite side of the valley, to the east, with Macclesfield Forest and Shutlingsloe’s triangular peak in the distance, was bathed in sunshine and looked beautiful. Reminding us of all the other wonderful places on this sacred land of Albion that we were working to protect.

As we were drumming, an incredible and rare metrological phenomena was occurring in the west. Firstly the wind blew cirrus clouds in a glorious fan shape,  centering perfectly around the hill’s summit. Then the sun’s rays formed a halo which morphed into a small rainbow, whilst a second larger, brighter inverted rainbow formed over it. Tony managed to take these two photos – no filters, no effects just quick point and shoot, snaps.

Tony Johnson -  rainbow

We felt that we had received a blessing from the wind and that our work and that of all those who had contributed to the Warrior’s Call had been recognised and acknowledged by the Otherworld.

So an inspiring and magical ritual. Many thanks to all who attended, especially those completely new to Druid Ceremony who cheerfully agreed to tackle parts and did a brilliant job!

Special thanks to Tony Johnson for sharing the photographs, all rights remain with him!

To finish, here’s the poem that I included in the ritual:

 

It was the wind that gave them life

It is the wind that comes out of our mouths now

that gives us life

When this ceases to blow we die

In the skin at the tips of our fingers

We see the trail of the wind,

It shows us the wind blew

When our ancestors were created.

Navajo chant

And the poem I included in the booklet, which we spontaneously decided to speak together at the end:

Teach your children

what we have taught our children –

that the earth is our mother

Whatever befalls the earth

befalls the sons and daughters of the earth

If men spit upon the ground,

they spit upon themselves.

This we know

The earth does not belong to us,

we belong to the earth

This we know

All things are connected

like the blood which unites one family

All things are connected.

Whatever befalls the earth

befalls the sons and daughters of the earth

We did not weave the web of life,

We are merely a strand in it

Whatever we do to the web,

we do to ourselves.

Chief Seattle

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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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On Saturday night we held our Beacons in the Dark ritual up near Anglezarke Reservoir with our friends form Way of the Buzzard. Actually we had two rituals, there was a Heathen Ritual held at The Pikestones which was followed by a journey to the Ancestors/Spirits of Place and then the Beacon lighting and Druidic Ceremony down in the valley.

The Pikestones are the remains of a huge long barrow (150ft long and 60ft wide) which was aligned almost North to South on a high ridge on the slopes of the Pennines. There was a fantastic view across to the west, and you could make out both the Welsh hills and the Lake District mountains as you looked along the coast. The Pikestones are the only example of a Cotswolds/Severn type barrow in the north. All that remains are the huge slabs which formed the burial chamber at the Northern end of the barrow and a few random stones scattered around. Apparently you can make out the remains of a walled enclosure which would have formed a forecourt similar to Belas Knap at this end too. We didn’t really have too much time to explore and I would dearly love to go back and have another look.

The Heathen Ritual led by Linda was the first I’d ever attended and I really loved it. She had prepared pebbles gathered from the surrounding moors by painting the rune Othala on them. This is the rune which represents connection and had been chosen specifically to help us with our journeying, which was led by Jason from Way of the Buzzard. We all returned from the Otherworld with messages that were surprisingly similar, although the symbols and images given to each of us were very different. I think that they could be summed up by saying that instead of letting ourselves be overwhelmed in the  face of what seems a really insurmountable threat we should raise our voices with those of others and join together in the spirit of Unity. This standing up for ourselves – denigrated into ‘making a fuss’ – is something that I feel has been almost bred out of the UK psyche over the years. How often do we put up with bad behaviour because we shouldn’t interfere, and how often do we go along with authority figures because we’re told that they know better than us? It’s time all the small voices joined together and made a huge roar. I think we all agreed that the silent majority needed to be woken up and given the means to express themselves.

As we worked the fiery red sun slipped into the sea and the almost full silver moon rose behind the woods . You could sense the threshold between worlds, and the many spirits gathering to join us.

Sigil stickThe second part of the evening was our Druidic Ritual which was held down by the Reservoir. We worked to call in the Fire elements to bless the Beacon and then addressed the Warrior to bring in his powers of strength, endurance, determination, drive and action to help us in our work against fracking and to protect the land. As part of this ceremony we cast sigil sticks into the fire, these were sticks or branches that we’d worked anti fracking energy into and which we burned to release their protective powers. I used a length of beech from our grove on The Edge which I’d sanded and painted with various symbols (including of course the Warrior’s Call sigil) before waxing with beeswax and decorating with ribbons.

After we’d finished the ritual it was time to sit around the fire feasting and sharing stories in the moonlight. It was a really intense few hours but I think everyone felt a lot more positive and energised about the situation and we all left  forming plans as to how we could manifest our ideas into action.

The poem I added to the Ritual Booklet was this one:

 

Teach your children

what we have taught our children –

that the earth is our mother

Whatever befalls the earth

befalls the sons and daughters of the earth

If men spit upon the ground,

they spit upon themselves.

 

This we know

The earth does not belong to us,

we belong to the earth

This we know

All things are connected

like the blood which unites one family

All things are connected.

 

Whatever befalls the earth

befalls the sons and daughters of the earth

We did not weave the web of life,

We are merely a strand in it

Whatever we do to the web,

we do to ourselves.

 

Chief Seattle

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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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