The Summer Solstice, aka: Midsummer, Litha, Litha-tide, Alban Hefin or Alban Heruin.
By the time this blog is posted, the summer solstice has been and gone. Here in the UK, it took place on Saturday 20th June at 22:43 hours. There was even an eclipse and a solar flare too! Although both would have been seen in different parts of the world.
I might have mentioned before that I co-run a Pagan Moot here in Nottingham, it goes by the name of The Robin Hood Moot, so called because we (before Lockdown took effect) would meet at the Robin Hood Statue just outside of Nottingham Castle to celebrate the Wheel of the Year. Adapting to not being able to meet up in public, we took to having our celebrations online and started hosting meetings on the Full Moon.
The RHM hasn’t had it’s solstice celebration yet, we’ll be doing that tomorrow night, we’ll be riding the energy of the solstice. Mainly because everyone will have their own celebrations going on the Saturday and today is Father’s Day. Experience in the days of being a member of the now defunct Grove of the Corieltauvi taught me: People prefer to be with their families at this time. And so they should.
My friend and fellow RHM member, Tony, asked the question: “Yes, the Solstice is on Saturday, that part I know…. but was under the impression you do the sunset on the eve and sun rise of the Solstice?“
As we know from the photos of the media, Stonehenge is normally swamped with people who had come to welcome the dawn of the longest day of the year. A tradition started relatively recently: it was William Stukeley during the 18th century who proposed that Stonehenge was used to observe the solstices. He was right, although scientists argue that the structure was geared towards the sunset for the Winter Solstice. The logic being that in knowing the shortest day had arrived, with it comes the promise of the lighter nights and the coming of the summer months. Hope; in other words.
Realistically, it appears to be facing both the sunrise at midsummer and the sunset at midwinter.
So, to celebrate the summer solstice at the dawn or the evening?
If you want to get technical: its all about rotation. The summer solstice happens in the northern hemisphere when the sun is at its highest point, the furthest from the Equator. When the North Pole tilts towards the sun directly at the sun at 23.4 degrees, that’s when it really happens.
The actual point of solstice didn’t occur until 22:43 BST last night.
Whether you chose to celebrate the dawn or the evening of the longest day was totally up to you. Some even do both!
For me, the summer solstice is about the victory of the longer days, the celebration of the season of summer itself. For keeping the inner flame going and being thankful for everything and everyone I have in my life. I also acknowledge the passing of time and even though I’m raising a glass to the fire or to the setting sun, I’m accepting that from here, the nights will become longer once again. And so the cycle continues. That’s what I like about the solstices, they are the tipping points to the times of light and times of dark.
Yogic sun salutations, rituals both simple and complex, energy work, chanting, having a picnic at your house, lighting bonfires or candles are all perfectly valid ways of celebrating Father Sun. However you celebrated or marked the occasion, I hope you had a good one!
If it’s one thing I have learned during Lockdown, it’s that there is much that can be learned from our senses.
I originally wanted to write about the five senses and using Cormac Mac Airt’s journey to the Land of Promise as an example. But looking into this story a little further has revealed more meaning.
It’s easy in our Western Modern world to think of ourselves as separate from nature and that the world is entirely separate from us. It’s also easy to want to pursue any path of Paganism by wanting to connect with some unseen and powerful force.
I do believe that the world is a wonderful thing, and by connecting with it, there is much to learn.
By connecting with it, I don’t simply mean that we somehow mystically connect with the spirit of the Earth. Rather I’m talking about actually paying attention to what is in front of us and what is around us.
By being still and closing our eyes and breathing naturally, we will be assailed by all of our senses at once, the best thing to do here is to select one at a time and then work with the rest:
Feel the solid ground beneath us, the wind blowing around us, warmth, cold, any aches. These are the things we become aware of when focussed on touch.
Hear the wind about us, the wind in the trees, the creaking of any doors or fences, birds, distant vehicles and people, any machinery, the buzzing of insects, whatever else you can hear.
Smell the air you take in and what comes to mind? The smoke of someone burning wood or trimmings? The wet grass after the rain? The scent of your skin in the sun?
Taste is a little more tricky, but it’s one I tend to go with what comes first: I taste my mouth for any flavours: mouthwash, tea or coffee, what I ate, maybe nothing at all. I also look out for any flavours that I crave. Sometimes there’ll be a scent that’s quite strong and you can both smell and taste it. Both are linked after all.
Sight, isn’t just taking in what you see. In relaxing your eyes and focussing my vision on something before me allows my peripheral vision to take in: the flying of insects and birds, a weed growing amongst the flowers, the prowling cat in the shade…. the world happening when we aren’t just looking at what’s in front of us. Even with our eyes closed we can still see light and dark, colour and shade, bursts of light in the dark and the reflection of our own veins and optic nerves.
And if we pick up on something, we can try and find the source: which direction is the wind blowing from? Do I need a jacket when going out? Where is that bird flying to? Was that buzzing a fly or a bee? Where did that smell of burning come from? And what IS one of my cats prowling after!?
When the Irish High King, Cormac Mac Airt went in search of his wife and children, he found himself in the Land of Promise and saw three strange and wonderful sights. The second of these was a pool of water being fed by five streams. Around this pool were nine hazel trees, the nuts of which dropped and the salmon in the pool left behind the husks of the hazelnuts. At least, this is the version from Lady Gregory and I, in turn, learned another variation of that story (in the older editions there were three wells, each denoting the kind of generosity a person can be, the last being the most greedy). Regardless, Manannan Mac Lir explains to Cormac that the pool he saw was the well of wisdom.
By attuning to our senses, we find the world is richer than it first appears. When walking in Bulwell forest about a month ago, before the golfers returned, I could see dark clouds on the horizon, I could feel wet on the wind and about halfway I saw magpies and swallows taking shelter, even though the rain was in the distance. By the time I turned back, the rain had already started and the smell of petrichor was in the air. By the time I got back, I smiled in knowing why the birds had took to the trees and that I’d recognised it.
In being aware of our senses, we become mindful of our surroundings and less wrapped up in our own thoughts. When we’ve quietened down the internal monologue, then we free ourselves to be more observant and open to inspiration. And who knows- by becoming more aware of what’s going on around us, we may gain a glimpse of the magical.
I am very fortunate during Lockdown to be able to pursue my interests as well as keep myself busy.
The trick is to not get yourself overwhelmed.
Between a current project and my acting classes (online), I have been learning how use my smartphone as not only a film camera, but an editing studio too.
I’m a great believer in Druidry not only respecting the past, but being in the here and now. As I’m discovering: my performing and technical learning are complementing my Druidry, the reverse is true also.
Awen: As well as my creative juices now flowing again (I’ve had a bit of a dry patch for well over a year), Awen hit me in the most unexpected ways.
I was in my study doing some basic physical exercises (week 12 of recovery and seem to be doing well so far!) last Thursday and then the Awen flowed, it hit me: Make a storytelling slot on Facebook every Sunday during lockdown!
The Awen struck my mind with that thought and then it snowballed into an idea: I can record stories of myth, legend and folklore and even make this into a YouTube Channel!
Getting in contact with my friend Dee, who was interested in my idea for such an idea, she agreed to edit my footage and make it look good.
And so, Story Sunday was born and I put the first story out on both social media platforms, on YouTube it’s under my channel: Knight’s Tales, but the Story Sunday has it’s own playlist and category. The idea being that I’ll be able to add other storytelling performances (hopefully) under one heading.
It’s basic right now, but hey, it’s a start. And with the blatant advertising out of the way…..
I wrote the above with no smugness, I wrote it hoping to be inspirational: if a technophobic mug like me can learn how to do all that, so can you.
You see, the Awen doesn’t just mean “Inspiration”. It also means “Spirit” and shares the same root word in Welsh as awel or “breeze”.
And as I’ve been weeding (Devi calls weeding and planting “proper Paganism”…. I don’t think she’s wrong) a lot in the gardens too, I felt inspired to compare Awen to the humble Dandelion:
Dandelion: Dandelions are brilliant, they’ll grow anywhere, usually between other plants- so watch out for what you’re digging up! But bees love them so I left the ones with bees alone.
Awen is like the Dandelion: it grows, it flowers, then it changes all of a sudden into many different ideas to take seed and then it’s gone!
Blackbird: Most likely because I have been weeding, there has been the same Blackbird coming to the house everyday. Looking for food and nesting materials, he’s been really close to the house. I was removing several invading dandelions (For ideas can be unwelcoming too) from the potato patch and the Blackbird was there, at least 2 meters from me, just watching. It appears he was as curious of me as I was of he, we pretty much circled each other. He even made himself known when I was weeding the cherry tree today (he was close, by at least 4 feet!) he wouldn’t stay still for my camera though.
Because he comes so close and he doesn’t seem to care about the “Apex Predators” of the house, I decided to call him Plucky.
So, be like Plucky, dare to explore new ideas and methods, let inspiration take you and see what ground the Awen takes seed.
Hello everyone, I have a full moon special this month. For those who follow my blog, you may remember I was starring in a drama documentary called ‘A Druid’s Pilgrimage‘ made by the Lost Histories team last year? In fact, I wrote about it here.
It was supposed to have premiered on the 28th of March, but due to Covid-19, it’s screening was cancelled and it will be released on YouTube instead.
If you press the link below, it will take you to the Lost Histories website where you will find the link for the film. It will be active on Saturday 11th March, 19:00 hrs GMT.
Note from Locksley2010: Ironically, I wrote this before the UK went into lock down and set it to publish automatically. Where ever you are, dear reader, stay safe! Tues 23rd March, 08:12 GMT
This was supposed to be a post talking about the renewal of spring. It still is in a sense, but considering what’s going on in the world right now, I thought I’d share what I learned from the little walk I did and how it may help these times of ours.
I was in town (before the full seriousness of Social Distancing was recognised by HM Government) and was thinking about everything I needed to do. It was a warmish and sunny day, so I walked through the Arboretum and visited Young Birch.
As I stood there, breathing slowly and being still, I saw movement amongst the daffodils: worker bees doing their thing! I also saw a Mr & Mrs Blackbird looking for things, food, I’d imagine. I tried to get a photo of them, but they weren’t having it.
I gained a sense of calm from these beings and learned the following lessons from them and how they can help us….
Birch:Be calm and be flexible. Through stillness we can collect our thoughts and gain perspective. Things might not be as we wish, but we can reorganise and plan around what outcomes may come forward. If the birch can venture into new territories to grow, so can we. If you are in Self Isolation, see if you can take the time to learn a new skill or language.
Bee:Be patient. There are certain things we can only do when the conditions are right. And when the opportunity presents itself: get it done. The hive of the bee is an entity in its own self, each part serving for the whole as well as helping others (pollenation). Like the bee, we must do what must be done when the time is right. This might involve social distancing or waiting until we can pick up the pieces again. If able, help others: even if it’s just communicating with them or doing something for them.
Blackbird:Keep active. These guys work and stay in the UK all year round, through all the seasons. For those off work, it’s important to keep yourself busy. Not only for getting things done, but for your mental health too. Get yourself organised, see what needs doing and if necessary: learn how to get them done; or do that thing you always wanted to but never got around to doing.
Friday the 20th was the Spring Equinox, the time of balance and everything beginning anew. Right now, things have gone a bit topsy-turvy. See if you can turn this time of chaos into some kind of benefit for you and others. Don’t panic and remember:
Another one inspired by being out doors! Seriously, being out in the world is the best way to connect with it and give you something to write about. When you’re someone whose as much as a book-thinker and over-thinker as I am, I’m now all for accepting the experience of things….. I believe that’s what’s called…. adventure! This originally took place on Tuesday 18th February 2020.
Inspired by this morning’s conversation with Devi about getting out of the house, I decided to go for a walk about town and the Arboretum. Well, as far as I can physically go, I did take regular breaks as I’m still recovering from my hernia operation.
As soon as I got off the bus, I was approached by two Christians from the church up the road. Two friendly lads called George and Miles. They asked if I had anything they could pray for. My response: “There’s nothing to pray for directly for me, but if you could pray for people to think rightly about climate change, that would be awesome“. They seemed very pleased with that and invited me for tea at the church whenever I liked. I didn’t see the point in telling them I wasn’t Christian, I figured that if prayer could help inspire people in doing what they could with the crisis, then I might as well steer the Church-goers in that direction.
After a nice sojourn around the Arboretum, I found beauty in the young birch, and was impressed it was still standing after the storms, an older tree wasn’t so lucky and another young tree is now growing diagonally, almost horizontally. Young birch was very pleased for company and its spirit told me of the winds.
The sign regarding kindness is from the cafe Fox Talbot’s, here in Nottingham. The cafe is a place that is both welcoming and has a relaxed and kind atmosphere, especially when I went to close the door (twice) and ended up opening it for two older ladies as they came in. The timing was impeccable.
Sometimes, all you need is fresh air, beauty in the world and spreading kindness.
I’ll be aiming to publish my blogs on the New Moon now, as it feels right to do so.
I will confess that I was struggling to think of a subject to write about. As usual, nature provided the answer!
As I looked out of the kitchen window to see frost upon the ground and the sun ascend the sky, I was happy. The cycles of nature and our seasons here in the UK are temperamental at best; we’ve had a warm winter so far here in the Midlands and very few frosty days. Every time I see the Christmas cards come out for December, I see the images of snow and ice and think: Was it ever like that, or is it what we expect? Winter here doesn’t normally bite until January/February. I recall having to stay at my previous boss’ house around this time in 2018, the snow was bad enough to cancel the buses from Derby back to Nottingham. I remember that because we don’t often get snow.
And so far, we’ve had a few frosts, but nothing permanent. I made my annual FB comment for Imbolc, using the snowdrops as a metaphor for seeing light in the dark, as well as heralding the ending of Winter, and just a way of getting people to appreciate the world around them. I also commented about how they had awoken early by at least a fortnight.
And there in lies the trap of expectation.
In modern Paganism and in Druidry, we have the festival of Imbolc on the First of February, as this is how it was worked out in accordance to our Gregorian Calendar for when La Fheile Bride (The Festival of Brighid) took place in Ireland. Similarly to Christmas, Imbolc has the conjured imagery of snowdrops growing around this date. It turns out snowdrops (aka Galanthus) flower anytime between January and March.
So, my innocuous FB post was in fact wrong. The snow drops grew exactly when they should, the fact we hardly had any snow this winter probably allowed them to have more light, and if their flowering time begins in January, then they are well within in season.
If we are serious about living with nature and being part of it (and no, I’m not saying we should give up having material possessions and eat only berries and wear tie-dye) then we ought to pay attention to the seasons around us more carefully in what grows, what dies, what migrates and what returns. If I am observant enough to know the idea of a “White Christmas” is now a myth, then I am observant enough to look out for the snowdrops being the signifier that the ending of winter approaches. And that these changes of the seasons do not conform to our dates.
Written Thursday 6th February, 4th Waxing Gibbous- ♋.
Breaking my usual tradition of drawing my annual Druid Animal Oracle Card for the New Year, I felt the pull to draw out the card for my focus in 2020 on the Midwinter Solstice instead.
For 2019, I had drawn the card of the Fire Dragon where it focused on the points of:
Definitely a big one this year as I have both transmuted and transformed in more than a few ways! I had come back to working in Nottingham after the opening of our new store there. As much as I enjoyed working in Derby, it was finally a relief to not get up at the crack of dawn for two bus journeys then be home for 8pm. This also enabled me to go off my own knowledge and gain full confidence in my working self, especially after helping develop a new team.
More importantly, I moved in with Devi and so we are living our lives together, cats and all. Living in a forever house is very different than living in rented home, and I’ve had some growing up to do. This has taught me a lot about priorities in the difference of what must be done and what is desired.
My acting has changed too, it’s not a priority in my life at the moment, although I have plans to take on storytelling again. I haven’t stopped acting because 2019 had it’s projects, its just I’m not actively hunting with it.
My divorce came through this year too. That chapter in my life is now officially closed.
As well as learning about prioritising, I had more get-up-and-go with my Ovate course. Still in the single digits of the Gwers, I have already learned much about myself and have become more settled in who I am. By exploring the forest, I have become more grounded; I’d say my Devi has had a hand in that too.
I don’t think I have mastered anything this past year, but I have taken my Druidry a lot more seriously in:
Creating the Robin Hood Moot here in Nottingham. Nothing to do with seeing Robin as a woodland deity, more named after his statue next to the castle which is where we hold our open public ceremonies.
And I even performed my first hand-fasting!
In short, I have become a lot more responsible and have even learned something about myself: I am the cause of my own anger a lot of the time.
As mentioned before in previous posts, I am an impatient being and am true to being a fire sign. There are many who know me as being kind and patient, there are a few who have even described me as wise. But I will fly off the handle at the slightest provocation of my patience being tested. The second a machine doesn’t perform as it should, my inner petulant child comes out yelling in full Anglo-Saxon (in other words, effing and blinding). And I get defensive when people ask why I’m doing something a certain, unnecessarily complicated way. This past week, I realised this comes from anger at my own self. That customer who said that passive-aggressive comment? I probably should have made it clear I was walking away to show them something. That computer program which doesn’t work as fast as I want it to? Did I press the wrong buttons again. My boss and my girlfriend asking why I’m doing something a certain way and I snap at them? It’s because I put myself under pressure to get it right the first time. Then there’s the imaginary arguments with people I have in my head…. why am I doing this to myself? Stop, chill and let go….
…..which is exactly what my hernia has taught me. Yep, I presently have a hernia. An Inguinal Hernia to be precise. It’s a weakening in the abdominal wall that causes my intestines to slip into my groin. On a good day, it’s manageable as long as I don’t walk fast (I used to power walk everywhere, taking pride in getting to places by foot quicker than the predicted time) and avoid lifting (I used to enjoy carrying heavy loads, probably how I got it in the first place). On a bad day, it’s like having a constant stomach ache and the strange sensation of my guts being both heavy and feeling “pulled” down. I have to sit until I feel right again.
It’s ok, I got word recently that my operation will be at the end of January.
And it’s taught me the value of stopping. Which is a big step for one who, such as I, is used to doing a million things all at once until I burn myself out. Remember my friend, Artemis? When we were housemates, she always said it would take being hospital ridden for me to stop. And she was right.
The hernia has taught me to slow down in my life, to know when to stop, to delegate and to ask for help. It has also taught me to find being useful in other ways just because I can’t get physically stuck in.
Really, I have learned to master my energies as well as transmute into something better.
2020: Boar (Reversed)
As soon as I flipped the card over after the sun had gone down on the Midwinter Solstice, I knew he was there. He made himself apparent when Devi and I spent a few days in Scotland and we tried out Kintyre gin from Beinn an Tuirc (Hill of the Wild Boar- the pic for the distillery is on my beanie!). I felt I’d see the Boar and there was apprehension at it being reversed.
The description of the card speaks of entering a breakdown, of allowing something deeper to enter my life after the storm has hit, I’m paraphrasing of course. It also speaks of the fool and that what might seem like madness actually denotes wisdom.
Whatever comes, I intend to meet it dead on with learning from the positive lessons of the card: Leadership, Warrior Spirit and Direction.
In Celtic Mythology, the Boar is a destructive force that must be faced and leaves destruction in its wake. For those who manage to stop it, kill it or even direct it (for if you can’t prevent an unstoppable force, I guess you either direct it or ride it out) they take it’s symbol denoting great strength.
At the Winter Solstice of 2020, I’ll let you know how it went.