A Walk in Sherwood Forest

We’d arrived in the morning, it was grey and a little misty and autumn had claimed most of the leaves on the floor.
Me and my brother changed our trainers for brown leather hiking boots which meant wearing thick woolen socks to make sure we didn’t get blisters (didn’t always work).
Mum opened the lunch box and gave me and my brother a ham sandwich each.  Dad cracked open the brown thermos and poured us a cup of vegetable soup.  Once ready, we got our bikes unloaded and me and my brother tore off, mud flying by the sides of us, the winter breeze hitting us in the face and the smell of mulch in the air…

Is one of my coherent memories from my childhood of going to Sherwood Forest.  I hadn’t been for decades and in all the six years of living in Nottingham, I haven’t been there once.  Until today.

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Photo by locksley2010
Me, Mum and Dad went there for a walk, because that’s what we used to do.  And we like going for walks in the country or any woodland to be fair.
This time around, it was the end of winter and we had no soup, sandwiches or bmx’s.  There were blue skies, sunshine and lots of birds.
There’s a lot of birds, well it is ‘t’woods in’t it?” Said Dad in his Yorkshire accent which, I’m afraid to say I’ve lost touch with and had to get both parents to repeat what they had said numerous times.  Been away from Sheffield too long, I have.  Dad was right though, there were a lot out on the bird tables now in place: Coalmine tits, Great tits, Blue tits (Meantam Gorm in Cymraeg), Robins, and some speckled species I’m not familiar with.  Even the pigeons looked… well, healthy.  “What’s tha’ there, a pigeon?”
“Yes, Dad. A clean one.”

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Photo of sculptured wood by locksley2010.
The bird tables were made from the wood of the forest, in fact it looked like Sherwood Forest had gone eco: flattened paths, grazing areas, natural habitats, dead trees left bare because they support life systems of their own (insect nests, animals, bacteria, that kind of thing).  Many of the smaller tree stumps were carved into all kinds of shapes and designs.  Many dormant trees showed their wonky beautiful shapes:

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Wonky Trees by locksley2010

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Herne’s Head by locksley2010

In fact, where the Herne’s Head Tree was, I remember a huge fallen tree showing all of its roots being around there, me and my brother used to have to get off our bikes to go around it.

We didn’t go to the Major Oak, personally I think it should be left to fall and die like it wants to instead of being kept up just for tourists.

Sherwood Forest was very different from the 20+ years ago since I last went, but I am glad it is being looked after and that it encourages eco living and working with your environment. There are even notice boards educating about local wildlife and plants, apparently Sherwood Forest is even home to a spider that has only its Latin name. Me and Mum thought it should be called the ‘Fly Agaric Spider’ due to its abdomen… and a play on words.

And I didn’t mention Robin Hood once… bollocks!

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Photo by locksley2010

Imbolc lessons…

I write this now after coming in from the cold and the wind.  I’ve just eaten yesterday’s leftovers of my homemade carbonara and a fresh mug if tea at the ready.

Its been a trying day today.

Today is Imbolc, from the old Irish for ‘parturition’ (birthing), it is the feast day of Brighid and the beginning of the end of winter as well as the start of lambing season.

Brighid is the goddess of poetry, smithing, healing, midwifery, magic and divination.  There is a well named in the honour of St. Brigid which echoes back to the old Celtic way of naming rivers and lakes after a deity.

I booked the day off especially so I could create a ceremony for my allotment group, here in Nottingham.
Only three of us could make it, which didn’t cause a problem.  When calling quarters, we could call upon land, rain and sky instead of the usual four.

I had it all planned out:
1: Build a fire
2: Call for blessings from the three realms.
3: Give offerings to the allotment with what we wanted to contribute.
4:  Make the ceremony about connecting with our inner flame and waters of life.
5: Celebrate with tinfoil wrapped spuds warmed in the fire that we could enjoy with butter and homemade tuna mayonnaise and a flask of hot tea.

However, it appeared Brighid had plans of her own…

Our third member text me saying he had a stomach upset and thought being at our allotment was probably not the best place to be.

I text Pindsvin (Swedish for ‘hedgehog) the news and prepared my OBOD Elemental Weaving Ritual as a back up to do in case I was going to be the only one turn up.  My rucksack ready to burst, I was ready to go! Until the zip broke on my green fleece jacket.  So I threw it off, got my blue one (which is ready for washing), put my waterproof jacket over that, boots and bag on and my hat. Now I was ready to go!

I’d just left the house (an hour later than I would have liked) when I received Pindsvin’s text saying she’d be going, just a little later than planned.  No worries! It’ll just be us then.

On the way there I contemplated the Druid Plant Oracle card ‘The Banes’ when I asked that deck if performing the weaving ritual would be a good idea.  It is a card about taking control in a positive way and about receiving unexpected help or aid.  It appeared that with Pindsvin joining me she would be crucial to the original Imbolc ritual I had planned; I had no idea the card would be so prophetic.

Our allotment is huge.  The two newer parts to it are around the same size (approximately 70-80 square feet, each!).  The original part is for growing stuff, the second part is ritual area and the top part is, at the moment, cultivation zone.  We began with grabbing kindling in the form of birch twigs that had blown off and scattered.  We got some wood from the cultivation zone and snapped it to fit into the fire pit.  Today has been glorious with sunshine and lots of wind, so much wind that my hat kept blowing off and putting out our matches!  We spent at least an hour trying to light the fire.  I was getting annoyed, I’m normally good at this.  The wood was in the right place, as was the kindling including the cardboard I brought, but the wind kept blowing out the flame.  Pindsvin had the insight to start gathering dead dried leaves and stuffing it into the pile… the cardboard caught, the leaves caught… but the wind just kept blowing it out just before it was intense enough to light the birch twigs.  On and on this repeated, until the matches were all gone… it was a fresh new box!  I was very annoyed at this and even threw my lighter at the grass in a total paddy, snarling at the sky “D’you want a fucking ritual!?”
Pindsvin reassured me in saying that what if it just wasn’t a day for a fire? She was even all for leaving me alone to do my OBOD ritual if that’s what I wanted to do.  I told her I was disappointed and that I wanted this to be better (I was being a mardy arse at this point).  Then she said something.  Something that made me stop being a big baby: “Well, if you still want to do an Imbolc ritual, why don’t you do it in the Sunlight? The Sun is more powerful than a fire.” Genius!

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Pindsvin looking ahead,
Picture by Locksley2010. 1/2/2014.

I looked to the growing ground and saw the clouds being pushed away by the wind to reveal gorgeous, golden sunlight.  The photo doesn’t do it justice.  My spirits were instantly lifted and I had a new energy as the ceremony would carry on, just without jacket potatoes warmed in a fire.  We got our things and went down to the seating area (where we used to do the ritual stuff before we had the official ritual area) and I improvised an offering bowl from the remains of an old mug that had come up from the topsoil movement.  We had an Imbolc ceremony and it went as thus:
1: We asked for the blessings of land, sky and rain and greeted them.
2: I said my Brighid’s prayer, asking for her blessings and inspirations.
3: We drank water from a flask, saluted Brighid, then I called this the ‘blessing of water’ ah, Brighid was giving inspiration!
4: We turned to the Sun and meditated on its light and warmth connecting with our inner fire. “Blessing of the Sky”.
5: For the “Blessing of the Land” we gave offerings. To the Guardian of the place, the Silver Birch, I gave honey and milk (supposedly traditional Druidic offerings), Pindsvin threw seeds for the birds to eat.
6: Any more to say: Pindsvin said she wanted to connect with the Smith aspect of Brighid, to go ahead and do stuff.
7: We said thank you to Brighid and the three realms.

And boy, did that feel good! Yes, similar principle to the original, but we totally winged it.  I never intended to work with the realms of sky, land and rain (normally sea, but we live in the mainland) as the actual structure of the ceremony, I’d like to think that was Brighid’s inspiration.

Pindsvin was indeed the unexpected aid and relief I needed today.  She performed her role admirably and had another revelation for me.  Her version of Brighid being a ‘Triple Goddess’ goes: Poet, Smith, Healer.  After the ceremony, she asked which of Brighid’s aspects did I want to work with this year.  I originally said Poet, as in the focus on my acting this year.  Pindsvin told me that I already have the inspiration for that, surely it was the doing it I needed. Agreed, I settled on Smith.

So there we are, a day that originally would have left me sulking at home instead of inspired (Awen/Imbas) and rejuvenated. 

As it was, I learned lessons today:

Things won’t go as planned.

Build a fire in a sheltered space and don’t burn all your matches.

When things piss you off, what are the gods trying to show you?

Help comes from the most unexpected of places, a friend, your environment, old pottery.

Get over yourself and go with the flow.

Brighid has three aspects: Poet, Smith and Healer… which one will you work with?