Archive for the ‘Poems’ Category
This is the second part of our trip to West Wales last September.
Whilst camping in Carmarthenshire we managed a trip to two local cromlechs, this, the larger of the two is Pentre Ifan and is supposedly high enough for a man on horseback to stand under. As it’s just eight foot I think they may have meant a man on a pony.
The monument is on a hillside with an amazing outlook over Fishguard Bay – a tomb with a view! It was constructed around 4000 years ago and is the remains of a long barrow. There would originally have been a mound of earth over 120’ long laid on the top and which would have extended around the entrance to form a courtyard a little like Belas Knap. The huge capstone, which looks delicately balanced on the tips of the surrounding stones has been estimated to weigh 16 tons.
There is a connection with Druids, as according to W.Y. Evans Wentz, writing in The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries
"The region, the little valley on whose side stands the Pentre Ifan cromlech, the finest in Britain, is believed to have been a favourite place with the ancient Drulds. And in the oak groves (Ty Canol Wood) that still exist there, tradition says there was once a flourishing school for neophytes, and that the cromlech instead of being a place for internments or sacrifices was in those days completely enclosed, forming like other cromlechs a darkened chamber in which novices when initiated were placed for a certain number of days….the interior (of Pentre Ifan) being called the womb or court of Ceridwen. "
Of course it could have been re-used by the Druids for this purpose, it would have been ancient and probably disused even then.
In June 1884 it was named as Wale’s first scheduled Ancient Monument.
Another fascinating thing about it is that it’s a focus for fairy sightings. One of which described them as being as small as little children, dressed in clothes like soldiers’ clothes, and with red caps.
Waldo Williams, one of the greatest Welsh Language poets of the last century was born in Preseli, which is just up the road from Pentre Ifan. He was predominantly a folk poet (Bardd Gwladd) and his verse celebrated the locality and the people who lived there. The following poem was inspired by the monument.
Before the sun has left the sky, one minute
One dear minute, before the journeying night,
To call to mind the things that are forgotten,
Now in the dust of ages lost from sight.
Like foam of a wave on a lonely seacoast breaking,
Like the wind’s song where there’s no ear to mind,
I know they’re calling, calling to us vainly –
Old unremembered things of humankind.
Exploit and skill of early generations,
From tiny cottages or mighty hall,
Fine tales that centuries ago were scattered,
The gods that nobody knows now at all.
Little words of old fugitive languages
That were spritely on the lips of men,
And pretty to the ear in the prattle of children –
But no one’s tongue will call on them again.
Oh, generations on the earth unnumbered.
Their divine dreams, fragile divinity –
Is only silence left to the heart’s affections
That once rejoiced and grieved as much as we?
Often when I’m alone and it’s near nightfall,
I yearn to acknowledge you and know each one.
Is there no way fond memory can keep you?
Forgotten ancient things of the family of man?
Translated by Tony Conran
The second cromlech was closer to the coast, near the River Nyfer’s (Nevern) mouth, in a small field by a housing estate in Newport. It was tiny in comparison to Pentre Ifan and you had to hunch up to get under the cap stone. It reminded me of a toadstool, I absolutely loved it, there was such an amazing and friendly energy to it.
Both these cromlechs are aligned with the nearby hill of Carn Ingli (‘Hill of Angels’) which is part of the sacred landscape, although it is difficult to envisage Carreg Coetan’s position in respect of the others, enclosed as it is with hedges and houses. Carn Ingli would have been a great place to visit as it has a large number of interesting monuments - neolithic tombs, standing stones and an Iron Age Hillfort. It apparently takes it’s modern name from the antics of a local Christian saint, St. Brynach, a great friend of St. David, who used to climb the hill to converse with angels.
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.
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.
An Exchange Of Gifts
As long as you read this poem
I will be writing it.
I am writing it here and now
before your eyes,
although you can’t see me.
Perhaps you’ll dismiss this
as a verbal trick,
the joke is you’re wrong;
the real trick
is your pretending
this is something
fixed and solid,
external to us both.
I tell you better:
I will keep on
writing this poem for you
even after I’m dead.
Image from here
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last weekend I headed to the North Yorkshire Moors to meet up with other northern Druids at Barmoor, a Quaker Retreat Centre just outside Hutton Le Hole. This Northern Druid event has been running for four years now and this is the first time I’ve been able to attend. It’s a sad fact that most of the Druidic meet ups seem to happen down south so it was great to follow signs to ‘the North’ for a change!
We had a weekend of companionship, activities, an eisteddfod and workshops. My friend Caryl aka The Reindeer Druid gave a fantastic workshop on rune working, Badger the Setantii Bard, facilitated an inspiring, awen filled poetry workshop on the Wheel of the Year, Hannah from the Arturian Grove led a fascinating one on dowsing and I led everyone into the Realm of Faery. I loved each and all of them!
Badger had everyone spellbound with his recitations of Seasonal poems and managed to get us writing poetry (of sorts!) We each had to choose our favourite time of year – which was difficult as I would have liked to write about all of them, but in the end I chose Lughnasadh. It’s funny but it always seems to be a time of beginnings rather than endings for me – both the Groves I helped to begin – the Setantii and the Wildwood, began with this festival as our first ritual.
Here is my effort, dashed off in a couple of minutes.
It’s the one day of Summer you recall, the one perfect day.
Not the weeks of rain.
The one day of constant sun,
heat, dust, the endless fields of gold.
Not a cloud in the sky
Collapsing in the shade.
Hail Lugh! Stick around a bit longer this year!
Interestingly we had no takers to write about Samhuin!
I managed to escape onto the Moors for a while on Sunday when the weather cheered up and the rain had passed.
Barmoor is an Art and Crafts house built in the early 1900s. The main entrance is actually at the back of the building, with a fantastic view down the valley . It is a peculiar house with lots of corridors, doorways and staircases, but it makes sense when you remember that it’s actually split into family and servants quarters. Outside the double garage and chauffeurs flat has been converted to a brilliant workshop space. You can just make out Geoff taking up the labyrinth he’d laid out for the weekend and which we’d all enjoyed walking very much.
This is the altar I put together for my workshop. I went on one of my “borrowing’ missions, with the intention of bringing the outside inside. I tried to capture a the feel of the moorland itself. I have to confess that I would be hard pressed to chose between the moors or the seashore as I love them both!
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.
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!
Followed by a shot of Ritchie who managed a great performance despite his nerves – it was his first Eisteddfod!
Blanche sang a beautiful set a cappella.
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.
The welcome return of Paul Mitchell. Hurrah!
James J Turner got everybody up and dancing.
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!