All spring the cuckoos have been calling, an aural game of tag across the valley, "here I am, where are you?" Louder and more present here than ever before they embroidered every hour with their cheery call, now that they have gone there is an emptiness to this solstice day that feels sad. Perhaps it's because instead of the glorious hum of happy insects on a sun-drenched summer's day all I can hear is the tang and hiss of the very rainy rain and the rummaging of fretting dogs on the sofa. They are rearranging the cushions, searching for comfort when really what's wanted is to go out, but it doesn't matter how many times they go to the door wanting a walk, when the door is opened there is still rain outside and canine minds are swiftly changed!
On this day, when we tip from up to down, from the increasing light to the decreasing light, the still-point at the centre of the year (Solstice comes from the Latin; Sol - the sun, sistere - to stand) it's good to take a moment to be grateful for our Sun. Even on a day when you cannot see it through the clouds, cannot feel it for the rain, to remember that without the sun there would be no life on this planet. No-thing.
The gate between this world and the other would be firmly shut!
Traditionally here in Britain the celebrating of Midsummer begins the evening before. This is the most auspicious evening of the year to gather herbs, these will be the most potent for use in the making of incenses or medicines for use during the dark months.
The dawn of the longest day is celebrated by the lighting of fires, kindled by the sun himself, to light his way downwards. The Oak king has been usurped by the Holly King and will go to wait for rebirth at the Winter Solstice in the wheel of the stars. The Holly King will oversee the gathering of the harvest, the coming of the darkness, the turning in. The Oak King, the young king, brought us the up-rising of all that has grown. His union with the land has been fertile once again, the world continues to turn.
This solstice eve coincides with a full moon, one of those rare occasions when it is said that mortal men can watch the Faeries dance. Make sure you leave them an offering so that they don't take offence. Faeries don't really like to meet a human eye.
Let your eye rest instead on the glories that the sun brings us, as he pours himself down onto our Earth.
Wherever you are, you and everything you can see depends on the Sun's proximity to the Earth. We are indivisible from her and dependant on him.
Once the herbs are gathered, the fires lit and the faery-customs observed, tradition has it (hereabouts at least) that the day should continue with a swim.
A custom observed by all sorts of people.
When the day is done; gather some of the water (or midsummer morning dew) and mix is with the ashes from your fire and offer it in all the directions, that you may be protected and peaceful for the coming year.
So may it be.
Tuesday, 14 June 2016
There was a gathering of magical women on Sunday, in the company of magical plants.
The relationship between people and plants is older than time, and plants have provided us with food for body and soul since before Eve ate the apple. We were being guinea pigs for Danielle Barlow while she tried out her Incense Making Workshop prior to running it at Green Hill Arts in Moretonhampstead on Saturday 2nd July.
It was a day spent with the magical and aromatic native plants of this land; of here, now. The burning of plant parts, whether they be leaf, flower, fruit, seed, bark, resin or root, is known across the whole of Earth to be something of which the Spirits most heartily approve. It is, and ever has been, a way to help us change consciousness, focus attention and intention and dedicate and clear space. The space clearing part is literal as well as figurative as some plants have been proven in ethnopharmacological research to have a cleansing affect on air. This is St John's Wort, half ground in my mortar. (Above)
The beautiful green and pink of Dartmoor Heather, so recognisable even as powder!
We were in the hands of a woman possessed with both an incredible clarity and an exceptional connection to the work that she does. On the one hand she trained with the RHS and knows a very great deal about plants and their uses, on the other she has been riding and walking the land that she's living on for most of her life and she truly knows it. Questions that she can't answer immediately can be answered by the store of books that we were invited to browse through if we wanted to.
There was a limitless supply of tea and cake and the company was superb.
Mine was a 'Dreaming Incense'. I forgot to take photos once I'd turned it into little pastilles ready to put above a flame or on top of charcoal. It's drying at the moment and will be ready for use in about six weeks, I'm looking forward to that day hugely, if I could send you a waft over the internet I would, it smelled of magic and the richness and beauty of the bountiful land.
If you're anywhere near Dartmoor on Saturday 2nd July at 10.30 for a couple of hours, come and take this workshop, I promise you beauty in abundance - not least because it is taking place within the context of the Widdershins exhibition. Danielle's art will be part of this exhibition alongside artists and makers from around Dartmoor all of whom work from that liminal place that a good incense may well be part of! My drums and rattles are also available, for the duration of this exhibition, in the shop there.