Category Archives: Druidry

A Cardinal Point pt.2: The Four Fabulous Cities of the Tuatha Dé Danaan

Inspired to carry on the Cardinal Point thing as a theme (starting here), I decided to look to the tales of the gods of Ireland (and Great Britain- I believe the Tuatha Dé Danaan had their counterparts in our country too, it’s just the Irish and Welsh were better at recording them. Another blog post for another time!) to see if there was any hint of the Cardinal Directions having the same elemental associations as the present.

According to the Lebor Gabála Érenn (Book of Invasions of Ireland) The Tuatha Dè Danaan (People/Tribe/Nation of Danu) were the fifth wave of people to come to Ireland, the fourth being the dreaded Fomorii. The Tuatha Dé came from other lands, calling in at the ‘Four Fabulous Cities’ bringing with them their Four Treasures or ‘Four Jewels’.

Pic by Marg Thomson

The ‘Four Fabulous Cities’ were: Falias, Gorias, Murias and Finias (sometimes Findias and Findrias). We don’t know much about these cites, except that each city had a wise man whom taught the Tuatha Dé knowledge and skills. And from each city came one of the ‘Four Jewels’; supposedly, these cities were located to the Far North.

City: Falias. Tutor: Morias. Treasure: Lía Fáil.

City: Gorias. Tutor: Urias. Treasure: Sword.

City: Finias. Tutor: Arias Treasure: Spear.

City: Murias. Tutor: Senias. Treasure: Cauldron.

Although, to add to confusion sometimes the sword and spear are the other way around! In some versions, the spear came from Gorias and the sword came from Finias. Even the names of the wise men or tutors were different in some translations: Morias/Mórfessa, Urias/Esras, Arias/Uscias and Senias/Semias. Considering stories are told by word of mouth, sometimes things get swapped.

In a telling of ‘The Earth Shapers‘ by Ella Young, an Irish poet and mythologist, she wrote (reprint of the 1910 edition):

“Ogma brought the Sword of Light from Findrias the cloud fair city that is in the east of the Dé Danaan world; Nuada brought the Spear of Victory from Gorias the flame-bright city that is in the south of the Dé Danaan world; the Dagda brought the Cauldron of Plenty from Murias the city that is builded in the west of the Dé Danaan world and has the stillness of deep waters; Midyir brought the Stone of Destiny from Falias the city that is builded in the north of the Dé Danaan worldand has the steadfast of adamant.”

It is very tempting to look at this and find our elemental correspondences. Especially when we have a blatant example of the described elements to do with each city: Finias as a city on high ground? (Air: East?) Gorias as a city in sunny climes? (Fire: South?) Murias as a City by a great body of water? A great lake? A Sea-side city? (Water: West?) And finally, Falias as a Fortress city? (Earth: North?) Certainly, the Four Treasures match both the cardinal direction associations within the Modern Craft and the Tarot: Sword/Swords/Spades, Spear/Clubs/Wands, Cauldron/Cups/Hearts and Stone/Pentacles/Coins/Diamonds….. but remember, the sword and spear could have been reversed meaning that the spear would then mean air, and the sword fire. It’s such a shame that Young’s version is the only one I can find that actually gives each city an elemental description. However, hers is also the only version that includes other members of the Dé Danaan’s taking each of the Treasures. Normally, Nuada has the sword, The Dagda has the Cauldron of Plenty, and the Spear is later given to Lugh.

The Lía Fáil (Stone of Destiny) is said to cry out loud when under a king. Can we take Falias to mean “stone”? More likely it is from the Irish fál which can mean ‘fence’, ‘hedge’, ‘enclosure’ and ‘wall.’

Gorias is thought to come from the Irish adjective gor meaning ‘pious, dutiful, filial’.

Finias can be linked to fin, meaning ‘white’. It also means ‘fair’, ‘pale’, ‘fair-haired’. Now, this would make more sense if the sword did come from Finias. Another name for the sword was ‘Claíomh Solais‘ or ‘Sword of Light‘…… especially if the ‘fin‘ in Finias was referring to the white heat needed for iron smithing. The Celts did discover how to make items with iron, after all.

Murias can be linked to mor, which can be either ‘great’ or ‘large’ and ‘increasing’ can be linked with Muir (sea). Mur which means ‘wall, or ‘rampart’. Then there is the wise man of Falias, Morias. Don’t forget his name is sometimes written as Mórfessa. With the Irish fes meaning ‘wisdom’ or ‘knowledge’, his name could mean ‘Great Wisdom’ or ‘Increasing Knowledge.’

One of the differences of the wise men’s names intrigues me. This is Arias, or Uscias of the city Finias. Uscias could come from the word uisce or ‘water’. This is also the same root word for whisky! If the variation and translation are indeed correct, then this could put the association of the sword to the south…. the sword once forged needs water to cool down.

And what of the Four Treasures themselves? I have also described the ability of the Lía Fáil. Each of the Treasures or ‘Jewels’ had their own powers: The Lía Fáil, was a device of Sovereignty, to signify who is worthy to lead it would ‘cry out’ or ‘moan loudly’. The spear is sometimes referred to as ‘The Spear of Victory’ as it made its wielder unbeatable. It is debatable as to whether or not this is also the same spear Lugh charged the sons of Tuirenn as part of the eric-fine for murdering his father, Cian. The ‘Sword of Nuada’ was said to be ‘irresistible’ in combat, being unstoppable the moment it is drawn from the scabbard. The Daghda’s Cauldron of Plenty, though, is always full and those who approach it never go away hungry.

Would I compare the Cardinal Point references of modern Pagan practices to the ‘Fabulous Four Cities’? No. There simply isn’t enough about them to give us any insight. The nearest we can compare them to is the Four Treasures, even then two of them appear to be mutable. Although, if anyone was to make a ceremony using the cities as a basis, then why shouldn’t they? It would make a great theme, allowing for some theatrics, too! Perhaps then, if we are looking for the Druidic Cardinal points we need to look at something else the Celtic people deemed more proper in relation. Something measurable that can be felt and heard, but not necessarily seen or smelt. Perhaps we need to look to the wind…..

Part three coming soon!

Sources:

Ella Young ‘Celtic Wonder Tales’, Dover Publications, Inc. New York, 1995. (Reprint of 1910 version)

Web Links and references:

I don’t actually speak any Irish, so to help me I visited Wikipedia (say what you like, but their etymology is pretty good) for…..

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuatha_D%C3%A9_Danann

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebor_Gab%C3%A1la_%C3%89renn

But a big thanks goes to these guys who wrote these articles, without their translations and knowledge of the Irish language, I would have struggled:

The Four Jewels Or Treasures Of The Tuatha Dé Danann

https://storyarchaeology.com/four-cities-four-teachers-four-treasures/

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Magic Pigs

I originally wrote this for the blog of the Grove of the Corieltauvi. If you would like to read more on what we have done you can view it here.

Meeting took place on Thursday 12/04/18. 3rd Waning Crescent

Attendees: Danceswithweasels (welcome back!), Greenfingers, Locksley, Teller and Vyvyan (Darth Vyv). Big thank you to Teller and Vyvyan, for allowing us to use their place for hosting and for supplying bacon cobs after my talk. Especially when Teller is veggie. For those not familiar with East Midlands speak, “Cobs” are the local term for rounded bread rolls. Some other places call these “baps”, “rolls”, “buns”, or as my family in Sheffield call them “Bread-Cakes”. To any of the readers outside of the UK….. you wouldn’t BELIEVE how many arguments this causes…..

Anyway, Locksley, shut up and get on with the post!

Title Photo Credit goes to Greenfingers for allowing me to use his photograph.

Introduction

In all honesty? I thought it would be a laugh. At the AGM, I was handing Green Fingers our actual Magic Pig (a little bag for which we use for the collection of subs for us to purchase anything The Grove needs). I realised then that I actually hadn’t taken a meeting in a long time and wanted to do a talk on something and Magic Pig seemed to be as good as any. That and it seems to be a creature associated with many gods and heroes within Celtic mythology. Why was this?

Our Porcine Friends

Starting at the beginning, I read out the description of Sow from the Druid Animal Oracle. To make it fair, I read out both upright and reversed meanings. So we see the Pig as being associated with abundance and plenty, nourishment and sustenance, renewal and creativity.

The Reverse of this gives us a warning against relying on our vanity and “Pig Ignorance” to take other people for their worth, not just, their looks. Danceswithweasels quite rightly corrected me this was Sow and not Pig. True, but I wanted to keep it as the positive aspect of the animal, for the time being. Especially when we have a lovely picture showing said sow pretty much smiling as her litter run around and eat Beech nuts.

My original deck just had a small box and a booklet with the brief descriptions. I now have a second identical deck with a larger box and a book that goes into more detail…. Even telling of the sow, Henwen being linked to Ceridwen. More on this later.

Pigs are evolved from the Boar, which still exist today, they are intelligent, omnivorous and can have litters of up to a dozen piglets. Like us, they can adapt to any environment, and affect the local environment. If there are too many wild pigs foraging, then the nutrition count in the local area drops. This has a detrimental effect on the plant lives and eco systems of said area. If the nutrient levels return, then pigs will increase in population. No wonder we started eating them!

Grave Offerings

Whilst Boar bones are a rarity at burial sites, it appears pig bones and even joints of roasted pork were buried with the chiefs and warrior elite.

Professor Ann Ross writes:

… as suggested by the evidence from graves, where the placing of joints of pork beside the elaborately equipped chieftains indicates that this was intended to be the food for the feast beyond the grave, is bourne out to a striking degree in the Irish Tales. Here pork is the proper food to be served at the feast and in the ritual of hospitality in the courts of kings, and in the dwellings of the gods.”

It would seem that if pork was the best meat for the ruling and warrior castes of Celtic society, then it was good enough for the gods and for giving to be eaten in the Otherworld when the person is reborn in that world. Bit chewy for a newborn…. a gift for the family on the Otherside perhaps?

From The Otherworld

According to Irish myth, Pigs were brought with the Tuatha Dé Danaan, both The Dagda and Brigid kept pigs and boars. Considering the Boar was around in Both Great Britain and Ireland at the time, it would be interesting to see when breeds of pigs were introduced. Even if the Tuatha Dé Danaan didn’t bring pigs with them, somebody did…..

In Welsh myth, It was Gwydion who told Math, Son of Mathonwy of these strange little creatures called “pigs” or “hobeu”. They were the property of Pryderi, son of Pwyll, who was given this gift of pigs by Arawn, the lord of Annwfn (a realm of the Otherworld). So in both Irish and Welsh myths, we see pigs as being the property of supernatural beings, therefore linked with the supernatural in themselves.

Indeed, pigs in Celtic mythology seem to have magical abilities of their own:

Henwen– (Ancient White One) a sow under the protection of the Powerful Swineherd (Pryderi?) goes into the sea. She then comes to land and is not only pregnant, but brings both wheat and a bee to Gwent. She then goes to Llonion in Pembroke where she brings grains of wheat and Barley.

Pursued by King Arthur, she is never obtained by the King or his men, but she gives birth to a wolf cub and an eagle and a kitten. Each of these is given to a Prince, bad luck befalls each person who raises them. There are two Triads describing this tale, one tells of Henwen, being protected by the Powerful Swineherd (and in typical classical Celtic fashion, is not very clear on this title as being one person or three!) and that King Arthur is unable to obtain even one of the pigs through force or guile. The other describes Arthur as being after Henwen in order to kill her for carrying the ‘Womb-Burden’. But nowhere does the tale link with Ceridwen, at all. Vyvyan pointed out that it was Robert Graves, who had linked Ceridwen with Henwen. Personally, I think her name has more of a connection to the moon than the pig. Especially when her name can translate as either “Crooked (bent) Woman”, “Crooked Fair/white” or even “Poem Blessed”.

Pig of Duis– In the ‘Sons of Tuirenn’, the Sons attack Cian, father of Lugh (who tries to escape in the shape of a pig) but they murder him. As a fine for this, Lugh, chief of the Tuatha Dé Danaan charges them with the task of finding the skin of the Pig of Duis described as:

The skin of the pig is that owned by Duis, King of Greece. In whatever stream that pig walked, the water turned into wine, and the wounded and the sick became well when they drank it.”

The skin is also said to be as thick as two oxen hides, perhaps this is also a reference to death and burial rites once associated with the graves of warriors and chiefs?

Cormac’s Glossary describes pigs (especially red ones) as included amongst the animals whose flesh (along with cats and dogs) could be used for a method of divination called the Himbas Forosnai. This practice involves the chewing of the meat of one of the animals, puts an incantation on it and offers it to the gods and leaves it on the threshold of the door. Calling spirits, the poet is supposed to gain knowledge to what they seek. If that doesn’t work he says incantations over his palms, calls his spirits to help him and puts the palms over his to fall into a trance in order to gain the visions he seeks. The idea was to gain glimpses of the future through dreams.

Regenerating Pigs

Other magical pigs include the ability to be regenerated whole the day after being slaughtered and eaten. The Dagda supposedly had pigs and fruits that when roasted never diminished.

Usually there were conditions:

Cormac and the Fairy Branch: Pig, When King Cormac MacArt foolishly traded his family for a magical stick, he goes in search of his family and finds himself in the Otherworld. Invited into a hall, before him stands a man with an axe, a log and a pig. The man cuts the pig into four pieces with the axe and places the log under a cauldron of water. The man explains he helped a farmer regain his cows and that the farmer had given the pig, the log and the axe as a reward. The man tells King Cormac, that if he cuts the pig with the axe, and speaks a truth over the log, then, it will cook the pig and he shall have both again the next day.

Pigs of Essach– were slaughtered every night and cooked, but as long as their bones were whole and not gnawed upon, they would be alive again the next day.

We’re Going On A Boar Hunt…

Boars were seen as more aggressive and warlike. Indeed their physicality is different from pigs they have tusks, spiky hair and are sleeker in their build. Pigs have more fat whereas boars are leaner.

Boars in Celtic myth were described as fearsome creatures with tall black/dusky/even purple bristles on their backs, some had up to nine tusks in their jaws. Often a trail of destruction followed them, killing 50 warriors and 50 hounds in their wake. All the more terrifying as if to paint why the creature had to be stopped. The boar hunt was seen as one of ultimate skill, in some cases it was the initiation rite for the new chief…. if the stories are anything to go by, boars fought back!

Certainly, the Hero’s Portion was the prime cut of pork served at the feast to be given to the best warrior. The chief would take the next best, cementing that pork was the food of the chief and warrior classes before anyone else could have some. It is fitting then that boar imagery featured regularly on Celtic coins, weapons, altars, armour and even cauldrons.

The Boar hunt can be epitomised in the story of Culhwch and Olwen: Culhwch is charged by the terrible giant Ysbaddaden Pencaw (with no intention of these being possible so Culhwch cannot marry his daughter, Olwen) with many tasks. One of these was to hunt the dread boar, Twrch Trwyth, in order to obtain the razor and shears behind the creatures ears. Twrch Trwyth was a badass! Culhwch had to leave Wales for Ireland with King Arthur and a lot of his men in order to find him. Twrch Trwyth was kept for a time by Brigid along with two oxen, even in this form he was still fierce and ill-tempered (and responsible for some kind of weird demonic noises). Culhwch, Arthur and the men chased him around Ireland, back to Britain and Wales and after a huge fight resulting in the death of Twrch Trwyth’s piglets and plenty of Arthur’s forces the boar runs off into the sea. Turns out that Twrch Trwyth was actually a Chief who was turned into a boar for his wickedness, the same with his sons, yet was regarded chief of the otherworld boars. This entertained Teller no end as he quipped “I’ll still be a king even when I’m a boar, fuck you!” or something to that effect.

Bizarrely enough Culhwch’s name may have been an indication as to what his destiny held…. Culhwch’s name translates as “Pig-Run”!

In the Welsh tales, Gwydion after telling Math he will return with the pigs, goes to Pryderi with a band of travelling bards. Approaching Pryderi, Gwydion asks him for the pigs only for to be refused the request as they cannot be given until they are double their number. Gwydion then convinces Pryderi to exchange the pigs for twelve magnificent black and white horses, twelve magnificent white-breasted hounds and twelve magnificent golden shields as an exchange. The problem being that Gwydion had conjured up this illusion, which will last only a day. Pryderi pursues but was by Gwydion in single combat…. only Gwydion had used his magic once again to deceive so he could deliver the coup-de-gras. In this tale, the boar hunt is twisted into an act of cunning and deceit rather than skill. Certainly, this is an act of dishonour, resulting in the death of part of the three-fold Powerful Swineherd.

Also, the hero Diarmaid was fatally linked to the Boar he kills…. only to kill himself in the process as their lives were bound. The boar was in fact Diarmaid’s illegitimate half-brother who was magically changed into a boar by Roc, the boy’s father. Roc had been having an affair with Diarmaid’s mother and was shocked to see the boy flee a pair of hounds by going through Diarmaid’s father’s legs. In a moment of harboured jealousy, Diarmaid’s father began to crush the boy. Roc, using a magic wand turned the boy into a young boar-piglet and uttered a curse that the boy would grow into a fearsome vengeful boar and that Diarmaid would hunt him…. only to be killed by one of the bristles on the boars back. Bit harsh, especially when Roc could have used the wand to have healed his son instead of transmogrifying him.

So, forget turning people into toads, kids! Turning people into boars is where it’s at and this leads very well into the next part….

Shape-Shifting

Changing into other creatures is something that happened a lot in the old myths, the tale of Ceridwen and Gwion Bach, for e.g. has plenty of shape-shifting in it. In the tale: ‘The Sons of Tuirenn’, Cian shape-shifted into a pig, in order to escape his attack.

As we have seen, pigs and boars were a favourite creature to turn people into as punishment. Which implies an execution of sorts: their fate was to be killed in the hunt.

Twrch Trwyth was originally a king, but he and his sons were turned into boars for some unmentioned misdeeds. Despite being kept by Brigid, Herself, he still became the chief of the otherworld boars.

Gwydion, as punishment for both murdering Pyderi and for the rape of the maiden Goewin, was cursed into the form of a stag; along with his brother and accomplice, Gilfaethwy, a hind and they procreated. After that they were turned into a sow and a boar, repeating the cycle of bestial reproduction, taking turns on being male and female.

Madness

Speaking of shapeshifters, the wizard, Merlin, went mad for a time, the only creature he would talk to and with was a small piglet, to this pig, he shared his prophecy:

Listen, little pig,

Don’t sleep yet!

Rumours reach me

Of perjured chieftains,

And tight fisted farmers.

Soon, over the sea,

Shall come men in armour,

Two-faced men,

On armoured horses,

With destroying spears.

When that happens,

War will come,

Fields will be ploughed

But never reaped….

Listen, little pig,

Oh pig of Truth!

The Sybil has told me

A wondrous tale.

I predict a summer full of fury,

Treachery between brothers.

A pledge of peace will be required

From Gwynedd,

Seven hundred ships from Gynt

Blown in by the North wind.

In Aber Dyn they will confer.

Supposedly, this madness was brought on by grief, making Merlin live for a time in the woodlands where he would speak only to the animals he came across.

Why madness? The female pig can attack piglets in times of great stress, sometimes even eating them. According to Wikipedia, 50% of piglet deaths are caused by the mothering sow either attacking them or unintentionally crushing them. During these times of stress, perhaps people saw them as being mad…. another trait comparable to Humans.

In Conclusion

Both the Pig and the boar were seen in great esteem by our Celtic ancestors. They were respected for their fierce natures and strength. They were prized for their meat and fertility of litters. Neither was seen as a filthy, stupid animal The fact wild pigs and boars can have a negative effect on the land if they become too populous probably gave rise to descriptions of the destruction they supposedly brought with them. Hereby making an occasional cull of the species not only a necessity, but one to be seen as a test of strength, skill and courage.

As for the associations of the Otherworld, especially when the Boar was already native to Britain and Ireland, perhaps there is some truth in pigs being brought over, even if the memory had faded as to who this new breed came with. I think Anne Ross puts it best with her comment:

The favourite food of pigs is the acorn, and their passion for the fruit of this most venerated tree, the oak, must have increased their supernatural associations in the popular mind.”

Especially when we consider the oak as not only being revered, but was thought to represent the god Bilé, whose name means ‘Tree’, the consort of Danu. It was Bilé who brought the souls of the dead to Her.

Sources:

Books:

DAVIES, SIONED, The Mabinogion, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2008.

ELLIS, PETER BERRESFORD, The Mammoth Book of Celtic Myths and Legends, Constable & Robinson Ltd, London, 2002 ed.

GOMM, PHILLIP & STEPHANIE, The Drud Animal Oracle Deck, Illustrated by Bill Worthington, Connections Book Publishing Ltd, London 2005 ed.

HAMILTON, CLAIRE, Tales of the Celtic Bards: Myth and Music, O Books, Ropley, 2003.

MATTHEWS, JOHN, The Little Book of Athurian Wisdom, Element Books Ltd, Dorset, 1997 ed.

MATTHEWS, JOHN & CAITLIN, Celtic Myth and Legend: A definitive source book of magic, vision and lore- compiled, edited and translated by the Matthews, BCA, 2004 ed

ROSS, ANNE, Pagan Celtic Britain: Studies in Iconography and Tradition, Cardinal, London, 1974 ed.

Internet Links:

https://www.behindthename.com/name/ceridwen

https://www.ciwf.org.uk/farm-animals/pigs/

https://www.timelessmyths.com/arthurian/merlin.html

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceridwen

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pig

Two-wit Two-woo (or how I drew the same card as last year!)

Well that’s a first! During the annual fortelling of my focus for the year ahead I’ve, so far, drawn a different animal card from my DAO deck, and some have even been reversed. I have never drawn the same card twice, however. Even if the meaning is slightly different.

The Cailleach hasn’t finished with me it seems…..

2017

Was a year of mixed blessings, so the whole given meaning of ‘Turning a disadvantage into an advantage….‘ was very true:

I auditioned for The Last Revolution under the impression of not singing…. but I did! It totally pushed my boundaries and was a brilliant experience!

I was moved stores (again!) But have learned much about my working self and have even been inspired by my team. I also learned hard truths about myself, so that worked out well. Bizarrely enough, I have whole heartedly adopted the ‘Viking Mentality’ work wanted us to take for our busiest season. Mainly because this resonates with my beliefs anyway: be courageous, never give up, seek wisdom, seek challenges, respect others and yourself, seek opportunities, value loyalty, let your actions speak for you, live the life you want, and above all else…. turn disadvantages into advantages!

I’ve spent most of the year fighting with Impetigo. An infection that can most definitely go fuck itself off. However, it has shown me how to be cleaner than I already am…. ok, I’m struggling to find a positive on this one…. all I’ll say is I’m now a member of the ‘Wash Your Hands After Going Anywhere in Public’ club.

The card also speaks of being drawn to the study of esoteric lore or even Clairvoyancy…. I don’t know about that, but I have:

  • Learned about looking after myself after burning out.
  • Helped my Pagan group with spirit problems. The Prayer for Peace is awesome for this.
  • Developed my ‘Five Senses Meditation’.
  • Followed my inspiration to lead the Samhuinn ceremony for my Druid Grove.
  • Followed my gut……

Not only did my gut dare me to go for the audition, it also dared me to ask Devi out for a drink. ‘Go on….’ it said. ‘Ask her if she fancies meeting up with you for a drink. You’ve only met her the once, a few years back, and briefly spoke to her last Samhain…. Go on, you won’t regret it….

…..and I haven’t regretted it one bit! Devi is the love of my life and she’s amazing. We met for our first date back at the end of April, we found we really got on. In time we discovered we connected on so many levels and haven’t looked back since.

2018- Owl, Reversed.

Yeah, I think I laughed out loud after I put the card back in the deck, turned all the cards the right way round, shuffled them, split the deck, turned one half upside down and shuffled them again until one refused to go back in….. I wasn’t expecting Owl again.

Owl reversed still contains elements of the upright, so turning a disadvantage into something positive, as well as development of one’s intuition still applies. It mainly speaks of a warning against seeking detachment as an escape and to seek the bright side as changes happen….. and with the Owl card being the harbinger of change, changes will indeed come.

Midwinter Solstice 2017- Lessons from the dark

I was going to put the ‘Yule’ chapter of my Wheel of the Year series as this festival’s entry, but it needs one hell of a re-write and, quite frankly, I’m not in the mood to rewrite pages of material.

Thursday marked the Winter Solstice and it was a dark, damp cloudy day. I was inspired! I wrote a piece for all my friends in Facebook land, I like to spread hope where I can.

Light, dark, balance is what counts. Lean too much towards the former and we see everything with rose-tinted glasses. There is no wrong in the world. Ignorance is bliss. Lean too much towards the latter and, well, there is everything wrong with the world.

I managed to get out of the house to take a walk in Highfields Park, just outside of Beeston, Notts. Although by the time I got there, the sun had already set and dusk would soon give way to night. This reminded me of the Owl card that I had drawn at the beginning of 2017. The concept of ‘Owl Time‘ was not lost on me.

Realising I was rushing through. I stopped and took in 9 deep breaths and closing my eyes. After that, I heard the sound of something in the lake. I turned and found a whole group of ducks swimming by the side of the man in the wheelchair being pushed by another. The ducks recognised him and were expecting to be fed…. their disappointment was evident when they started waddling along the embankment and quacking amongst themselves. A black bird with a white bill and stripe on its forehead ‘Pinged’ at the ducks. The scene was reminiscent of a uniformed official trying to keep order of loud football fans and the fans ignoring him as they pass him by.

Later, as I walked, it was getting darker but I could see to my right two white specks moving uphill. Two hares making their way. Do hares hibernate? I didn’t think so.

I went onto the small island where, surrounded by six tall Yew trees, I performed my ‘Five Senses Meditation’. By now it was dark and yet through the clouds, I could see cracks of a lighter sky. Night had not yet fallen.

Going to the lakeside, I made sure I wasn’t giving a false impression to the ducks (no snacks from this two-legged who didn’t think to bring munchies for the birds), bent down toward the water and held my right hand over the surface. Here, I gave my respects to the Lady of the Lake. When I was done, my hand was warm. And it was time to go home to perform my Ovate ceremony to greet the Solstice.

On my way home, I could see a clearing in the clouds getting larger until I reached my front door and the clearing revealed the sky as a teal-greeny-blue, right on the clock as the Solstice begun.

I came away from the park with these two lessons:

The importance of stillness.

There is always life, both in winter and the dark.

And as I was performing my personal ceremony, I was taken by Awen as I said out aloud and made the following observations :

In the dark, there is rest.

In the dark, there is the hidden.

In the dark, there is fear.

With fear, you can either run, do nothing, or take a stand.

Sometimes we must run, there is nothing wrong with a tactical retreat to fight another day. Sometimes we can do nothing but let the threat pass over. But there comes a time when we cannot run and we cannot do nothing and we must make a stand.

I said out aloud my fear and decided to take it on with the lesson I have gained from this year: Nothing is Accomplished Without Action. It was then the candle was lit.

Sure enough, the day after the Solstice was bright, the sky was clear and the sun shone with brilliance.

Merry Yuletide, one and all!