Vanishing

I was blessed with a beautiful glimpse of the vanishing moon – the waning crescent – this morning. The last, or maybe penultimate, sliver before she enters her dark phase. Sadly I have no photo due to our brilliant little camera being away at the camera hospital, having accidentally met with my arm and then the kitchen floor. Can I blame pregnancy for such clumsiness? Let’s go with yes.

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A Great-Grandmother Moon from a less clumsy time in my life. This morning’s moon was leaning back a little more, and the sky a little darker with Venus shining brightly quite nearby.

I correlate the dark phase of the lunar cycle with the Winter Solstice in the solar cycle, so today we’re around similar times in both. I hold the word vanishing in my mind and think about its correlation to my own life right now: the vanishing days before the Solstice and Christmas is upon us (why am I not more organised for these events by this point in December?! And why do I leave it so late every year?!), the vanishing weeks before my baby is due to be born, my seemingly vanishing energy in the evenings. The vanishing sense of anxiety about it all as I realise that, really, almost everything that’s truly important has been done; by the time baby comes, we’ll be ready to welcome them.

Back outside, the colour is fast vanishing from our garden as the last of the nasturtiums have died and the green leaves are pretty few. The piles of crisp, vibrant leaves on the ground are vanishing into brown soggy mud and mush. The light starts vanishing not long after 3pm. “Come inside,” it all whispers sleepily, “find a blanket. Rest and dream”.

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Rethinking midsummer associations – fire and water.

Our garden is all planted, and too full for anything more. It just begs for water, water, water. And it’s water that I’ve been thinking more about this midsummer than other years. I’ve always associated summer, and Litha (the summer solstice) with fire; the time where the weather is hot and we celebrate the sun being at its strongest. It seems obvious. However, it was whilst learning about Ayurveda that I first considered the water aspect to summertime. Pitta, the dominant dosha right now, is comprised of fire and water. Water is liquid and Ayurveda connects this to the melting power of heat. Water is heavy and I guess Ayurveda would attribute the heaviness we tend to feel now to the presence of water in this season’s Pitta energy.

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Of course water has a balancing effect to heat too and I think that this is where the association of water with midsummer from a pagan perspective rings true for me; we associate summer with the seaside and with boats and shells and pebbles and fish, we think paddling pools and water-play for our children, we know we need to drink plenty of the stuff. The association is also relevant to the story of the year as told in the analogy of the goddess reproductive cycle; she is heavily pregnant and waiting for labour to start – the first sign of which is often the waters breaking. Fluids – and fluidity – are then quite symbolic of the birth process, including the fluidity of time and perhaps reality that many women report experiencing when they are in labour. Indeed, such fluidity seems quite pertinent to summertime itself, for our usual routines, activities and times that we do things warp a little with the long hazy, dreamy days (or if we are on holiday). Midsummer has long been associated with the fairy world and their magic and mischief: further blurring and dissolving of reality, time, space, form, and boundaries of possibility.

This theme of fluidity – ie: motion – is kind of incongruent with the call for stillness and slowing down that I also feel at this time of year. That the word solstice comes from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still) impresses this for me. I guess this contrast gives me more food for thought and discoveries to make as my journey with my own spirituality continues – or is maybe a call to not get too hung up on associations at all, but to take each year for what it is and where I’m at, listening to the unique messages that year brings.

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dark moon theme: transformation

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Right now, the moon is in it’s dark phase: the waning crescent is no longer visible in the morning sky and the new moon’s waxing crescent does not yet grace late afternoon. It’s an in-between point. A transition. A time of transformation.

I generally mark the dark moon as a 3-4 day period; even on clear days there will be this length of time where I can’t see a moon. I correlate this phase of the lunar cycle to midwinter in the cycle of the sun and to the bleeding days of the menstrual cycle. In the cycle of our lives, I see it as the time between death and rebirth. I see it as a time for rest – which seems paradoxical as transformation would appear to be a somewhat active thing! But Eastern philosophies have long held as sacred (and beneficial to health) the power of stillness and “not doing”; yoga teaches of the magic of the moment between in breath and out. The dark moon always feels a very potent time for me. This time often gifts me special insights, bursts of energy, heightened intuition and/or creativity.

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I see the cycle of growth, fruition, decay, death and transformation as ever-present in all of nature around us. This new garden feature of a small compost bin – my husband’s latest pallet-recycling creation – means that we as a family can now engage with this cycle by transforming our food and garden waste into compost for growing more plants. Although I don’t believe that my son needs to fully understand death yet (or is able to) at his young age, I see a lot of merit in his day to day life having connection with composting, recycling, repurposing, mending, stillness (ha! If only you’d met this little dynamo…), cooking, natural healing and creative mediums that explore the idea of transformation. As a society, our huge focus on growth and fruition in everything massively disconnects us from the other side of the cycle. Who knows what beautiful possibilities there would be if we were to allow room for them. ♥

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What the tree said

20140504_141313Many people associate Early May – Beltaine-tide – with fairies and nature spirits, believing this to be one of the two magical points in the year when the veil between our world and others is at its very thinnest. The other time is Samhain (Hallowe’en), which sits opposite Beltaine on the wheel of the year.

I certainly find that, at this time, I see a lot of shapes, faces and figures in nature – in trees in particular. On a family picnic last week we walked and played in a little wild area by a stream where these tree roots made me think of fairy arms reaching out from the bank –

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– whilst one tree in particular displayed forms that seemed very in keeping with the Beltaine theme of sexuality and sensuality:

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I’m quite aware that one explanation for me perceiving these representations in an old tree’s lumps and bumps is perhaps found in the fact that more than one of my old school reports state: “Morwenna has a vivid imagination”. Some people may suggest a residual effect from past chemical recreational pursuits. My own explanation is that these are a medium through which nature speaks to us. Nature, who has in recent months awoken from sleep and started to stretch out and get to work. Nature who, right about now, is looking beautiful and luscious. The message that I hear from these forms is one reminding me of my own creativity and fertility; am I nurturing it as I need to? Is it blooming in the ways that it could? I also hear a call to connect with my body, with my femininity, with my sexuality. I hear a reminder of the approaching time of the maiden-mother transition as the goddess’ pregnant belly gets fuller and rounder.

It’s my personal belief that there are spirits who reside in trees, rivers, caves and wild places. I feel that these spirits may deliver the messages that Nature wants to remind us of – after all, we are all part of Nature; we are Nature. I believe those spirits show themselves to us through forms and faces like those in the photos above, they may appear as fairies or phantoms or they may whisper and sing to us if we listen closely to the wind and the waves. I feel that, at Samhain, Nature and the spirit world encourage us to turn inward to listen to and learn from our inner selves, to reflect and to study. At Beltaine, the invitation I receive is one to hear and see messages from outside. Not that I don’t reflect or study at all, but that the emphasis is on conscious activity, on my physical senses being open wide and on receiving external wisdom and inspiration.

And of course this beautiful tree with all its many sturdy branches very, very clearly invited us to come connect with it through the medium of climbing!

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20140504_140811Wishing you days of sunshine and inspiration! ♥ ♥

Awake

ImageBeing outside right now often brings to my mind the Ted Hughes poem Wind that  I studied – and loved – at school. Unromanticised nature. Nature that humbles me and sharply reminds me of my gratitude for the comfort of home. And hot chocolate.

These buds are on our blueberry bushes but it’s all the daffodil buds I’m waiting for. I almost want to sit and watch for the moment sometime very soon when those buds will just…… POP!! For now they’re holding themselves together tightly, as a lot of us people do when out in these winds. I’m sure that I’ve massaged a lot of shoulders whose stiffness is in part attributed to being hunched up around the ears throughout the colder months!

These buds, awaiting their showtime like actors ready for their cue to get on stage, speak to me of emerging; of waking up and stretching out. Of that point where we leave our dreams but haven’t quite opened our eyes (I’m picturing here the slow, tentative process that is my husband’s way of waking up!). I also feel this sense of awakening in my journey into this year. Some changes in our life in early January meant that we had to make a few alterations to aspects our home rhythm and how we spend our time. We’ve had a few minor teething problems, some trials and errors, all hampered by each of us getting a bug, Ugh.

In the last few days, as each of us has our health almost restored, as realisations have been made and discussed, as plans have been revised and tweaked, I’ve felt more in tune with this new song of ours. I can’t quite say I’ve got the steps to this year’s dance nailed, but i’m humming and tapping along with open eyes, ready to emerge.

Our pagan advent

IMG_1845As a church-going child, I did always enjoy the sense of expectancy that lighting each advent candle brought; each one a marker that i was getting closer to the time of family, presents and a break from school – and all the craft makery that that would entail! However, since i realised that my spiritual path was not a Christian one, I guess I kind of shelved advent. Until this year. This year I’ve realised that I actually have my own kind of advent and, although I don’t want to offend any Christians by putting the word “pagan” and “advent” next to each other, this is the term that, for me, best describes what I’m celebrating.

It started with advent calenders – again, something I’d pretty much shelved since vaguely becoming an adult. Yet, in parenting I find myself kind of gradually unpacking the magics and wonders of childhood all over again – definitely one of the biggest perks of the job! I wanted to make Dylan an advent calendar, one of those lovely fabric ones with a numbered pocket for each day to hold a little treasure or treat. When I inevitably left it too late to get round to doing before December started, I started to justify my failure-to-be-supermama guilt with “well he’s only just turned two; he wouldn’t really understand anyway”. Or would he? Would he enjoy the countdown to something special? Would such a thing actually help to explain to him the various sights and happenings of festive preparation going on inside and outside his home? Would he simply enjoy it as something fun to do in that minute, even if it was quickly forgotten about? All of those reasons for seeing a smile on my boy’s face sounded good to me.

This little thought ramble then returned to the idea of advent symbolising a journey leading up to the festive celebration, be it the Solstice or Christmas Day. I prefer the word “journey” to “countdown” as the latter, to me, feels like the time is being wished away. Advent in the non-liturgical meaning is (as http://www.thefreedictionary.com puts it): “the coming or arrival, especially of something extremely important” and I realised that my Decembers are always sprinkled with days of festive preparations. The busyness of gift-buying and making, festive meet-ups, special cooking and creating decorations for our home can easily feel stressful and very intense, but I find so much fun and sparkle in these things; they are each delicious ingredients in the feast of love and celebration we are cooking up.

And so I wanted Dylan to be stirring that mixture with me. For him to walk through the journey beside me even if he’s still to young to have read the map. I do hope that I’ll get round to stitching the gorgeous fabric pockets of my advent dreams next year, but I’m pretty happy with this year’s effort. I thought up a 22-letter phrase to sum up the idea of the sun soon being reborn. 22 because I see it that the solstice is the darkest day, so the light starts growing from the day after. Each letter got stuck to either a section of an egg box that held a little treat (like some dried fruit, or a coin, or a bulb to plant together), or to a folded piece of paper that detailed a festive activity (such as Rob’s family’s big meet-up that we had last weekend, or a day where we make presents or attempt making Stollen). I don’t think he quite understands, (although he may do as more days pass), but he does enjoy….and so do I.

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I also made an advent wreath, maybe just to re-ignite my childhood church-going memories. (Because, in spite of me no longer holding with that religion, I do have many good memories and lessons from those days). Steiner-Waldorf practices are a big influence in my parenting and I recently read of how, in schools and homes that follow Steiner’s teachings, the first advent candle (and objects that may be placed with it) represents the rock and mineral world, the second candle the plant world, the third for the animal world, fourth for humans and the central fifth of course for the Christ child. I liked the idea of honouring different life-forms in this way but guessed that the order was representative of the Christian creation story which is not what I personally believe. I also felt that I didn’t want to separate humans from being part of the animal world.

So my advent wreath has 3 spaces; one for each Sunday before the solstice. (Sundays still tend to be a more gentle, more family-centred day in our household). The first and second Sundays honour the same as in the Waldorf tradition, and the third honours the animal world but with humans included in that. My central fourth candle honours the spiritual world, lit on the day of the sun return, still in the same week that so many people are celebrating the birth of their divine bringer of hope, goodwill and light – and when many others are perhaps simply celebrating.

Happy advent ♥

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retreat

“The time is long overdue for a little housekeeping of the soul. We all get so complicated in our lives. So walk and just walk, sit and just sit, be and just be…”      Bonfire, Lamb

Retreat is the word that’s been on my lips this week. This cold, dark week, where my garden has felt the first little frost of this year: the sign from which I take my cue to welcome winter. Non-calendar Samhain, if you like. I see nature retreat inside herself; she pulls herself under the soil, back into the tree branches as they become barer, into hibernation, into the roots. We retreat inside our homes to nurture ourselves through the dark evenings. Those of us who are so inclined “turn inward” through reflection, meditation, divination and such arts. This week, I’ve found myself pretty deep inside my own head – you know, where the really old cobwebs are. Where the stacks of uneasy memories, unfinished business, losses and grudges all await their fate. Will they be resolved with a healthy sense of closure? Will they be forgotten completely? This is one of those times that decides. This time of transformation, as new dreams and ideas are peering round the corners, checking out if there’s any space yet for them to invite themselves into the new year. Welcome, welcome: I’m making room. I’m making room by, among other things, having retreated to my mum’s house for a few days. Because I’m breastfeeding Dylan, he and i don’t have more than about 6 hours or so away from each other, but my mum’s a kind and creative lady. Whilst I’m here, she’ll take him out for a bit, bring him back for when he needs, be generally wonderful with nappy changes etc so I can get a little time to write, to make, to catch up and to just have some space for “a little housekeeping of the soul”. I feel that nature is inviting us to retreat at this time, to curl back into a dark but nourishing mysterious place to nurture ourselves and prepare for rebirth. Welcome, winter. ♥