A Journey With Blackbirdowl

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Oh I take it all back … I did it!

Now there’s no stopping me.

Chirp chirp chirp

Blackbird Owl

Scowl …


That’s me screaming by the way! This b***** web site! It’s soooo inaccessible.

Sorry to go on about it but, so that I can really work out how to blog independently, I need to post again. So I am.

Blogger web site folks, if you’re reading this – We NEED TO TALK

Flustered Blackbird Owl (chirps crossly and scowls ... do birds scowl???)

Conserving and researching …

Having begun the London Pilgrimages, I’m itching to do more. But it’s raining cats and dogs today and all possible companions are not about! So, in keeping with this time of year and as the nights draw in, it’s time to conserve, preserve and cogitate about what next.

First things first, a bit of research is in order. I was pleased to find that the Peter Ackroyd book “London: A biography is available in audio – so it’s on its way to me as I write. Although not a pagan reference book, it does explore the pagan history of London, alongside the rest. My companion of last week did a bit of hunting around on the net and came up wit some useful links, which I will get from her and explore for myself. So I am at leisure to do a bit of research and plan further trips in more detail, even though the access to ink print information issue will make this a more difficult task.

Whilst it’s raining and no one is about, it’s an ideal time to learn how to use this web site. I’ve been rather hesitant in having a go, believing that it is not accessible. But I’ve decided not to limit myself and to try it out. Not sure I’m up to downloading word blogger or whatever it is called though so I’ll confine myself to producing entries off line and pasting them in And if you’re reading this on the blog, I did it!!!.
And whilst I am doing all than, my mind is turning to how I can meet the Goddess much nearer home … It’s not known as an official sacred site but I have created my garden in honour of the Goddess. Perhaps I need to journey with her there as well?

Another thing I can do whilst grounded, so to speak, is to explore more, the beauty of invocation and prayer, so I’m not going to be idle in these few weeks.

So, why don’t you tuck yourself up at home in the warm and join me as I journey inward and around my home and in my researches. I’ve also been thinking that it might be helpful to put up some map details of where to find where I have been so far and also any useful web links, so that will happen in the fullness of time too.

Thoughtfully and purposefully

Blackbird Owl

Monday, November 20, 2006

The stone and the tower

We had walked a long way this day. The sun had gone and the wind was up, but there were still two more places to find.

London Stone is set in a wall behind a grill and a glass. For many centuries it was believed to be the stone of Brutus, brought by him as a deity. So long as London stone is safe, so long shall the city flourish, so it is said. It has survived being moved and being bombed and some believe that it is hard to destroy. Peter Ackroyd writes “It was once London’s guardian spirit and perhaps it is still. It is at least a material remnant from all the ancient legends of London and of its foundation.”

There was nothing for me to see. I could only poke my fingers through the grill and wonder what the stone felt like. As my companion read to me from Peter Ackroyds book, we were interrupted by an older gent, his chest covered with what my companion said looked like military-style medals. He was proudly and volubly showing a friend the historic sites of the city. He proceeded to lecture us all on the stones provenance and properties, before cheerfully bidding us goodbye and taking his friend off to Pudding Lane.

After they had gone, and we had finished hearing what Peter Ackroyd had to say, we stood and made a quiet prayer to the deities of the city. We prayed for the survival of the city, despite those who would threaten its population and way of life. We prayed for all those who fled to it, seeking shelter, tolerance and acceptance. That done, we walked on to our last destination, the White Mound at Tower Hill.

No pilgrimage is complete without a shopping opportunity and this was duly observed in the gift shop at the tower. That done, we made our way to the riverside and the two tall old trees standing on grass close by the traitors gate, where we had done ritual in response to the London bombings. I leant against the tree and reflected upon the day.

I was born in this city. There are a million reasons why I love it. Walking its streets today and exploring just a few of its sacred sites in a small and simple pilgrimage to find the Goddess, I fell in love with it all over again. How wonderful to have the streets secretly capillaried by rivers and streams, springs and wells, all hidden underground, slowly flowing and moving through the clay. And under that, an aqua table of water like a great big lake, which despite the lack of rainfall, has still so much water.

And as I moved closer to the river and listened to the tough little waves splashing rebelliously upon the shingle below, I thought of how the city had opened its arms to those fleeing tyranny. Today we marked Transgender Remembrance Day. This was a good day to renew one's acquaintance with the city through connection with its water and rocks. Quietly, ignoring the proximity of camera toting tourists, we began to sing to the river.

“The River is flowing, flowing and growing,
The River is flowing, down to the sea.
Mother Earth carry me, your child I will always be.
Mother Earth Carry me, back to the sea.
The Moon she is waiting, waxing and waning,
The Moon she is waiting for us to be free.
Sister Moon shine on me, your child I will always be.
Sister Moon shine on me, until we are free.

Tired but replete, we turned from the river and walked back into the scurrying London streets, past people dressed up to the nines in evening gear, confused tourists trying to find the bus stop and a long, long walk to a tube station that would get me home, on account of the engineering works and it being a Sunday! And as we walked, we planned our next trip – the sacred sites of Hamstead Heath, the Wells of London? Greenwhich – the Green Village perhaps? Whatever, I’ll let you know and tell you all about it.

Blackbird Owl

The Temple of Mithras

Having made a right exhibition of ourselves in front of loads of tourists at St Paul’s, it was the matter of half a thought to decide to wriggle under the barrier that separated the ruins of the Temple of Mithras from us. Excavated during rebuilding work in 1957, this formally, partly underground, small temple was moved from the original site on the Eastern bank of the Walbrook, to an elevated one just down the road. The temple, built in the early third Century was dedicated to Mithras and possibly other deities popular with Roman soldiers at the time.

Gingerly, we walked the exterior of the temple which is now only a rectangle of rough stones. Having made certain that we were not going to break our necks on crumbling rocks, we climbed inside and sat down by the semi circular flat alter, to attempt to cast a circle.

But the wind had another idea. It snatched at the match flames and extinguished the lighter. We decided to give up on candles and incense, figuring they might be considered too namby-pamby for such a butch god as Mithras as this and contented ourselves with laying out the rest of our tools. Resigning ourselves to being with the fierceness of the sharp November wind, we pulled our coats more closely about us.

It was dark and cool in the temple but the air was heavy with the sweet sour smell of blood. Laid out on the floor in front of me were the corpses of two brutally murdered people – a tall woman and a teenaged boy, presumably her son? Outside, I heard a shuffling and then on a breath, the beginning of a low moan. The sound of many feet tramped slowly and the moan rose higher and higher and became louder and louder until the very walls shook with the sound of it.

Crawling out of the dark temple, I blinked in the brightness of the daylight. The wailing was deafening and I felt my whole body shake with its impact.

The building was surrounded by two circles of people, the outer what I took to be very tall women in long dresses and the inner, what I initially took to be young boys in the shorter tunics of men. All linked hands and were moving slowly as they keened and wept. The circles moved counter to each other in a mesmerising constant flow.

As each moved past me, I saw their faces ravaged with grief. With a shock I realised that the young boys were in fact women, dressed in men's tunics and the tall women, crossed dressed men. As they passed, they pointed back to the temple I had emerged from, their sorrow breaking in anew upon them.

Then I knew. The slaughtered pair lying on the floor had died because they tried to live in the gender they had not been assigned at birth. I was there to watch them in their death. I climbed back down into the dark temple.

The wind tugged sharply at my coat, my ears stung and my nose felt icy. My eyes were moist. It was 4 o’clock on a November Sunday and judging by the falling temperature, it was getting dark.

As I shared with my companion my feeling of sadness, somberly we closed the circle and stiffly made our way out.

The stag at St Paul’s

Tourists crawled all over the Cathedral, shuffling about and rubber-necking the congregation in a slightly self-conscious way because religion was going on rather tunefully in their presence! Camera crews surrounded half the building and outdoor tourists bobbed like pigeons haphazardly in front of us as we made our way to the cathedral garden.

Not content with the humble bench suggested by my companion as a suitable place to sit, I demanded a tree. We found a clump of four yew trees, interwoven and intimate, into which we climbed, not caring what the tourists thought as we lit incense and candle and cast our circle.

As soon as I touched the yew tree, I knew it was the place to be. The branches forked and crossed each other, feathery with leaves and mossy to touch. I lent into the tree and wondered if this was how antlers might feel.

All around us, people scurried by, traffic roared in the distance and the wind rustled the leaves. If people stopped to stare, looked sideways at each other, pointed, muttered darkly or even laughed out loud, I didn’t know or care because I was somewhere else.

I was hiding amongst branches, in a tree rather like these ones, but older and thicker and much, much bushier. I heard hooves thundering in the distance, growing nearer. They stopped by my tree. Full of curiosity, I slipped out into his presence.

There in front of me stood a huge, proud and noble stag, his antlers filling the sky like bare branches on a winter’s day. Awe-struck and silenced though I was, I felt a strong urge to go with him.

Somehow, I climbed upon his back, and clutching fast his antlers, we pounded off, his hooves seeming to shake the very ground. Through fields and woods we tore, passing settlements whose inhabitants hearing the hooves came out to stand in reverence at this magnificent creature. Others gave chase, even tried to shoot at us with arrows, but we always got away.

I was as high as a kite. The wind rushed into my face, the power of the stag inspired me with a huge feeling of being gloriously and abundantly alive. Life was fabulous.

A sonorous yet exhuberant peal of bells brought me back to the present. Leaning gratefully into the embracing branches of the tree, I breathed the crisp November air, and felt the rough bark beneath my hands as I stroked it gently. Beneath my feet, the soft earth held me tenderly as though I stood on the palm of Her hand. Life was indeed good and I was glad to be who and where I was right now.


Emerging into the sunshine, slightly dazed by the vibrancy of the day after the peace of the crypt, we made our way up the road to Ludgate Circus. Until recently, the only thing that marked the presence of King Lud was a pub of that name, now long gone.

Ludgate Hill is so called because this is where King Lud was buried. He is said to be a generous geezer and general good time guy. He also gave London its name.

Lud became famous for building and repairing towns around Britain. Most important of these was Trinivantum, where London is now. It is said that he built massive towers around the city, erected lavish homes for the peasantry and held a lot of parties!

But there was no feasting for us today as the restaurant that stood in the place of the old pub was firmly closed. We contented ourselves with dancing a quick jig and humming a snatch of “Old King Cole”, necessarily truncated due to neither of us being able to remember all the words. That done, we skipped off to the next site.

St Bride’s well

Bach boomed gloriously as we slipped past the chattering congregation and headed for the crypt stairs. Down below St Bride’s, a mini museum, with most things behind glass, charted some of the story of the church. We made our way past piles of stones until we found ourselves in a quiet little chapel, far beneath the city streets.

It is said that you can hear the spring gurgling when sitting quietly in the crypt. Unfortunately, the building’s heating system was grumbling away behind a closed door nearby. The stones still hummed with the residue of the Bach fuge. We had to imagine the sound of water.

A wreath of roses lay on the square alters. We lit our candle, incense, laid out our water and stones, and cast a circle. My companion commented on the bricked up door upon which a cross had been fastened, wondering if the spring lay beyond.

All was quiet. Even the heating system seemed to whisper. Slow, soft footfalls made their way towards us and a woman appeared and sat quietly with us for a short while.

I drifted, held in the depth of the stones.

I was walking slowly down uneven stone stairs. The walls all around me were sturdy rock. The spring bubbled and its soft gurgling bounced sibilantly from wall to wall.

I heard a baby’s cry, piteous and mewing like a desolate kitten. My chest constricted with grief. In the dark, I could make out nothing, yet I knew that the baby and I were not the only souls here. There were others, their grief thickly silent in the dense, cold vault.

I felt a sharp breeze on my face and opening my eyes, I found myself now out in the open. The sky was the high grey of an early February dawn. I stood alone in a field, by a spring spilling up amongst a small outcrop of stones. As the sky lightened, figures appeared and began to gather around the well. They didn’t seem to notice me so I just stood still, holding my breath in expectation. They linked arms and began to dance, growing faster and faster as the day warmed.

Then they were gone and I was once more alone with the spring. I looked down, and at my feet, the smallest of snowdrops shone gently white against the dull green grass. I knelt and tenderly touched a petal and my heart was lifted and gladdened.

Softly drifting incense brought me back to the here and now. My companion and I shared briefly our thoughts before closing the circle and taking our leave. As we moved back through the crypt, I memorised the way for I knew that I would be back again to sit in this gentle place to dream of a well, a baby, the dancers and a snowdrop that is the Lady herself.

London Pilgrimage 1

The forecast was for rain this weekend. The weather gods must have known of my intention to do a pilgrimage to sacred sites. The sun I hoped for, showed up and shone. Thanks weather beings!

My companion and I decided to walk from Ludgate Circus to Tower Hill. En route, we would visit St Brides Well in Fleet Street, Ludgate Circus, St Paul’s Cathedral (the site of A Dianic Temple), The Mithras Temple Ruins, the London Stone and the White mound at Tower Hill.

Clutching an A to Z, a dog-eared copy of Peter Ackroyd’s London: A biography, and assorted print outs of a range of bits from the net, we set off from Holborn station on a blustery, sunny morning.

19th November being Transgender Memorial Day, in a rather loose fashion, we dedicated our pilgrimage to the remembrance of transgender people who were victims of transfobic murder. At the different sites, we connected with aspects of the experience of transfobic violence and did workings to honour grief and mourning, pride, strength and healing.

Already an accomplished exhibitionist, I was in my element! Boldly, I cast circles in churches, climbed over barriers to forbidden ruins and clambered around in full view of curious tourists and church-goers in a clump of yew trees whilst meditating! My companion, being sighted, was slightly more disturbed by the curious stares, puzzled head-shakes and sometimes outright hilarity caused by the sight of two middle-aged women, eyes-closed and muttering, waving around a rattle, a candle, incense and other assorted impedimenta of the impromptu alter variety! Soon though, even she like I, was lost to whatever was going on around us as we slipped more and more easily into that other place where anything can and sometimes does happen.

So settle down and read/listen to some of who and what we met.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Hurlers, Bodmyn Moor

Friday November 10, 2006

11 am

The sky felt hopeful as we drove west towards Bodmyn moor. No sun today, but although there was a "ceiling" on the world, it was not a low one.

The dark, dark earth was soft and springy underfoot as we walked across the tussocks. The stones felt scattered and difficult to sense as circles until we had walked the perimeter of the site. Passing two stones that seemed to stand sentinel at one end, and rounding the edge, we entered near the south.

I walked around the inside, touching each stone as I passed. Some stood tall almost as a human, others lay flat or were sunk to ankle height in the mossy grass. In the middle of the central circle were two stones, one prostrate and one standing. We sat down on the flat stone and prepared to cast a circle.

In the distance, voices drifted on the breeze, growing louder and more distinct. A party of teenagers with teacher were heading this way. Before long, they had gathered outside the stones and teacher was instructing them in a classroom clear voice what they must do.

My heart sank. Gone were my hopes of a peaceful vigil, a gentle connection with the spirits of the land. I considered my options, then decided to continue. This land was surely big enough for all of us.

Unobtrusively I rattled and cast the circle. The wind blew out the candle and refused to allow the incense to light at all. Still, I set out the stone, the shell (with water) on the rocks beside me and called to the spirits of the land whilst the young people climbed the stones, laughed and took photos of each other.

In the dream, it was long, long ago. There was a hot sun, or was it a huge fire, I couldn’t tell. It was very, very hot. I lay naked, spread-eagled on the earth, vulnerable yet strong in my body. I was not afraid. The sounds around me, many voices, many presences, songs, shouts, thudding, sometimes close, sometimes far away, held me in that place.

The world turned, my skin hardened and dried, my muscles atrophied, my bones turn to stone and I became part of the landscape. I became a smoothe rock, then roughened by the weather, hewn by the tongues of many bitter winds and sleet of a thousand winters. People sat on me, animals grazed about me as I lay under the moving grey, blue white light or dark open wide sky.

And the wheel turned and two women came, one walking with a stick, guided by the other, and spread a black plastic cape with a hood and bell upon my surface. They sat themselves on me, futilely attempted to light a candle and an incense stick, spoke softly their prayers to the land and to me and sat dreaming in the November wind. And as they sat in meditation, a group of teenagers poured through the stones, chattering and laughing, tumbling together in an exuberance of joyous, glorious youth. With them, part of them but not noticed by their peers, walked one or two, quietly and lightly on the land, softly and reverently. Briefly, they cast their eyes towards the two sitters and the stone upon which they sat, and a silent connection was made.

It was time to go. I was in danger of missing my train if I did not put my skates on. Breathing in the wild ebullient air, I opened the circle, thanking the elements, the spirit of the land and the young visitors. Gathering up my things, I rose and made ready to leave.

We walked from the stones, across the tussock grass , back to the car. And as we did, my companion turned and saw that two crows had just descended upon our stone, looking for food, she supposed. Two crows, sitting where we sat. Two crows where often one only comes. Two crows sharing what we had shared.

I walked steadily on and began to sing in quiet thanks, a song I learned one year at The Goddess Conference.

"This sacred land I walk upon, it is the body of the Goddess.
I feel the earth beneath my feet I walk her hills, I walk her valleys.
And she reveals her body to me, it is the sacred land I walk upon.
And as you lay yourself before me, I honour you in all your glory, I offer you my body Goddess, to dance your spirits through me.
This sacred land I walk upon, it is the body of the Goddess.
I feel the earth beneath my feet I walk her hills, I walk her valleys. And she reveals her body to me, it is this sacred land I walk upon.

As I finished, I stopped, knelt on the soft ground and put my forehead to the earth in honour and reverence of her beauty and continued graciousness.

Sitting on the train writing this account, my face is warm and stinging from the fervent kiss of the wind, my body is still and at ease and I feel complete within myself. I'm going home to London and my different oh so different life there, but I'm also leaving my home, my home that is always for ever with the goddess.

Blessed be the land of Cornwall. May her spirits spin in the wild wind by the dancing seas upon the craggy rocks.

Rocky Valley Labyrinths

Thursday November 9, 2006:

4:45 pm

The sun was low in the sky as we stood at the mouth of Rocky Valley. A stream bubbled briskly to our right as we made our way down the steep rock-strewn incline. Over the bridge we walked, up , over and down and along, stones shifting dangerously beneath our feet, treacherous mud tugging at our balance. But still we walked, purposeful and careful.

The sides of the valley seemed to rise to hold us in a safe embrace, funnelling us down towards the northern dancing sea, hinted at in the salt-tang of the breeze.

WE found the labyrinths on the rocks by the ruined mill. Many others had journeyed down before us, leaving their offerings on little ledges all around. Above us, coloured rags waved hello from tree branches and a pumpkin lantern grinned wickedly down at us.

We crouched beside the rocks and traced the journey made by another’s hand thousands of years before in the rock with our fingers. The grooves and ridges were smoothed by hundreds of other fingertips following the convolutions of another time. How many hands had touched and how fitting that I, of necessity so good with my fingertips should be here doing the same.

I sat down on a rock and wrapped my coat around me. I bowed my head and retreated into my hood to escape the gathering coldness of the days nearing end.

I dreamed I fell headlong into the labyrinth, spinning around and around turning back on myself and then about facing, till I found the middle. I was back in this valley, seated on the still stones watching the craftsman chiselling and furrowing the rock. His intensity of concentration caught me and held me in wrapped stillness.

Then the scene shifted to night, the deepest of darkness and a shadow, a presence ahead of me in the dark. I felt an immanence – something awe-filling. I bent low and knelt to it in reverence, suddenly feeling tears prick my eyes. Then I rose and returned to the labyrinth journeying out again to the rock and the present. Stirring and stretching, my companion said that night was falling and we needed to leave, if we were to find our way out. And so I rose and began the journey back with her.

Merlin’s Cave

Thursday November 9, 2006:

10:30 am

How amazing! The sky is so high, I'm told it's a lovely blue with just a hint of cloud, whisping along in the stiff little breeze. The sun slants low across the land, like a finger of warmth. We head for the North Cornish coast where we will climbed down into a rocky cove and sit in Merlin’s cave. And it’s my birthday!!! Wheeee!

Tintajil has that glittery, tinsel sound about it. The place of new age fluffiness, mixed with antiquarian interest with a slight dash of edge uncomfortable nationalism of the more unpleasant kind. But there is still an attraction for these old sites, especially those hewn from the rock by hand of human or the elements. Merlin's cave, running under the headland from a small cove to a more rugged coastline, right under the castle, is one of these.

Well I climbed down the stairs, didn't seem to be such a big deal after all, despite warnings, I decided as I moved closer to the sound of the sea. Then my companions told me about the rocks!

I stepped unsteadily onto the first, feeling my thigh and buttock muscles stretching as I reached down with a tentative toe. With a companion on either side, I wobbled my way down, heart in my mouth, wondering if this were the day when I would break my bones and wondering how they would get me back up the cliff again before the tide came to snatch me off to the sea.

I thought of my goat (one of many animals that sometimes accompanies me on my spiritual travels, and my feet became steadier. I won't say I leapt down the rest of the rocks, but I knew, even as I balanced on one foot, the other poised and feeling out for the next rock, that thanks to the goat and my two companions, I would not fall.

The cave was high and arched. We stepped from rock to rock, to the edge of the retreating sea, just out of the splash of sunshine reaching into the depth of the cave from the other side. Finding a flat rock, I sat down, laid out the alter on it's purple cloth, cast a circle and called the spirits of the place.

The sea splashed and boomed, loud and vigorous one side and softer and murmuring on the other. I breathed the tang of salt sea on the brisk breeze which moved through the cave and felt myself going down, down beneath the rocks under my feet.

I was on a rough hewn flight of stairs, slippery with damp. I clutched a slimy wall as I made my way gingerly down them. The passageway was uneven and wet with condensation. It was low and I had to bow my head slightly to avoid hitting it on the craggy ceiling.

I began to walk carefully along, placing each foot with intention, listening to the walls and beyond them, a deeper booming roar which must be the sea all around me.

The walk was long, and I wondered what I would find as I edged my way forward. I kept on walking and walking and walking till, reaching out my hands instinctually to feel an unseen obstacle that I had sensed bat-like, I felt the roughness of a wall. I stopped, feeling around to my left and right, it was right across the passage, I could go no further.

Then I became aware of a thinning of the darkness, a beginning of light, a change in the air. It was coming from above and the booming sound seemed to be light and sharper. Peering around I noticed rough steps. Climbing carefully up these, I felt the space begin to narrow as they spiralled round. They became more indistinct until they became a steep ramp and then just a narrow chimney that I had to squirm my way up somehow.

As I wormed and wriggled, the light became brighter, the air changed and the sea sounds became more and more distinct. Eventually, with hands, knees, back and every other part of me engaged in the struggle, sore and chaffed, I reached up and grabbed an edge, a sharp jutting out rock. I pushed hard against the walls and somehow managed to wriggle into a position where I could lift myself out of the chimney. It felt as though my shoulders would tear, but breathing hard and pushing, I managed at last to swing up to sit on the chimney edge.

I looked around. I was on a rock and surrounded by sea. I crawled away from the chimney and sat down, my back to another rock facing back to the land. On the cliff top, the ruins sat. On the sea edge, the rocks over which we had clambered, and the entrance to the cave, but no stone or wooden steps or any other modern buildings.

I sat back, breathing in the salt-sea air, watching the waves rise and fall and waited. In time, I heard a fluttering of wings and then a rock dove or pigeon fluttered down in front of me. It stood bowing and bobbing and droo-drooing gently and quietly. In my head I asked it, "What wisdom do you have to offer me this birthday?." It cooed gently and softly and just sat there. I got the sense that it wanted me to sing, so I echoed it's cooing and we sang to each other for a while. I slipped deeper into a restful dream-like state.

Time passed and the sun moved lower. All at once, the bird had gone. I got up and scrambled back to the chimney. It seemed easier going down. I eeeled my way down the chimney, along the passage and up to the rough steps at the way back into Merlin's cave.

Sitting on the rock, experimentally at first and then with more confidence, I relaxed my throat and began to tone. My voice bounced around the cave and was tossed back to me. Beside me on the rock, my companion joined her voice with mine and we entwined a gentle invocation to the cave, the see and the spirits of this place. When we fell silent, the rocks seemed to sit gravely waiting. I closed the circle and reluctantly got up to leave.

Emerging from the cave, we clambered back across the rocks and sat down in the sun to feast on chocolate and fruit in honour of the day, before making our way back to civilisation.

Duloe Stone Circle

Wednesday November 8, 2006:

4:30 pm

My companions had dis-remembered where these were, so it was some little time before we came across them, standing in a small field by the edge of a road.

As soon as I walked into their centre, I felt a stillness. I travelled clockwise round, touching each stone and then set my alter in the centre, where others had worked before. I spread my plastic cape and lay down.

Lying flat on my back, my companions sitting quietly beside me, I felt myself sink down, down, down into the earth. I lay still and flat, held as though in the palm of Her hand, quiet and at rest. Softly, one companion described the setting sun as it sank into a red and grey striped sky, whilst birds chattered amongst themselves, cows lowed in a nearby field and sheep called to each other on the hillside. I allowed myself to lie still and be.

I don't know how long I lay there. I only knew that I was being held by something in a very loose disinterested way. I was conscious of the others, the ancient ones also lying under the earth in this place, for it is suggested by some that this might be a burial ground. I felt an immense sense of rest.

The day moved on and it was time to leave. The sun sank behind the stones and the air grew cool. Gathering up my tools, I left the quietness of the circle, taking with me that stillness and softness that, in life, I know will bring me rest and opportunities for reflection.

St Keyne’s Well

Thursday November 8, 2006

2:30 pm

St Keyne’s Well lies beside a road, which on this sunny November afternoon had some traffic and the occasional walker on it. To get to the well, we had to climb down a mini amphitheatre of steps. Set in the ground, this still seeming pool is surrounded by a little stone tower with pointy roof.

I sat down on the steps setting out my tools and prepared to make my circle. The place was held and cosy and as I called the quarters and invited the spirit of the place to join us, it felt as though some unseen arms were hugging me in a gentle way.

The sound of trickling water from a nearby garden joined with the soft chirping of birds and the gentle rustling of the wind in the trees. I sat down to dream.

It was a long time ago. A clear day. I stood by the well, the square pool of slightly swirling water. There was a different kind of cover to it, not the stone one here now. I bent low, and dove into the water.

Swimming like a fish, I swam deeper and deeper, through tunnels, caves and chambers, high roofed or low, close or cavernous until I glimpsed daylight. Swimming upwards quite vigorously now I emerged into a small circular pool in a garden edge with creamy stones and a smooth lawn.

As I stood up in the water, I noticed on the pool’s edge a large rock, and wondered what it was. It looked like the rough stone carving of a figure. On closer examination, I made out a curling fish tail, and a lot of hair falling over shoulders and breast. Looking closer, and reaching out to touch with gentle fingers, I discovered the rough hewn face and saggy breasts of an older woman, her features blunted and weathered by the seasons, as though she was wearing a veil.

She was beautiful, and still. I stood in the pool and just was with her.

I don’t know how long I stayed, wrapped in her still presence.

Eventually, stirring, I remembered I had some purple wool and I looped a length around her shoulders, before bowing and returning via the water to the well and to today.

We closed our circle by each taking and drinking a shell full of the water. It was clear and sweet.

Before leaving, we read the following inscription which was on a nearby wall:

The spell of the woman of St Keynes:

“The quality that man or wife
Whom change or choice attain.
First of this sacred spring to drink,
Thereby the mastery gain.”

Wednesday November 8, 2006

10:30 am

Starting out!

Far too excited and disorganised to go to bed at a reasonable time. Finally made myself lie down at about 1 am. Lay and twitched for an hour before sleep overtook me.

Slept fitfully for four hours, waking twice to worry about the time, fear I might oversleep. But I was up and out of bed before the alarms had more than an opportunity to shriek once.

At six am, I stood by my rowan tree in the garden and listened to the blackbirds and robins gossiping in the trees. Such a truly joyful sound, cleansing my mind of body of sleep and anxiety. I breathed the early morning air and then retired to my bath.

Now I don't normally bath in the morning. That habit is for those who are about to linger. Me, I'm a frantic lick and promise person, with a great deal of bad temper! But today, it was by way of a purification.

Enfolded in the gentle warmth, I lay and thought about the whole process of starting out. This first pilgrimage, if a little precipitously planned was very important. I really wanted to respond to the moment, to allow myself to be in beautiful sacred places, I also was anxious that I really use the experience. I had planned to write the whole ritual, composing a wonderful invocation and deciding exactly what to do. But I hadn't had time. I gave the anxiety to the water and decided that I would just be open and allow. I smiled to myself at that thought, and wondered how often I had resolve to be flowing in the moment and gone into one of my special Blackbird Owl flurries … but I could ponder no more, it was time to get out and get on.

Text magic is a wonderful thing. I often use it for myself and others. How it works is, you think of what you want to respond to a situation of your own or another’s, focus on the intent, record it in a text and send! Simple really. I had mainly used text magic for others, but decided today that I needed it. So I sent myself a text.

"Waiting. Excited. I call love for my safe journey this day. May all assistance be easily forthcoming, may all transport be timely and I be serene, no matter what happens. Blessings for the pilgrimage."

And as I sit writing this on the train, apart from minor delays, and some panicking assistance staff at Paddington, all is well. I'm on my way!

1:15 pm Plymouth

Oh silly me. I’m arriving in Devon but I’m not staying here. I am staying with a friend in a house on Kit Hill. I will be in Cornwall these next few days! That’ll teach me not to check where I am going!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Sooo much to doooo … soooo little time!

Not that I’m panicking or anything but …

One of the places where I do path workings or journeys is the sauna or steam room. I guess I kind of think of it as a mud-free sweatlodge with the ceremony being invisible (as I’m doing it all in my head whilst looking like butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth)!

After a rough work out at the gym this morning, I sank down gratefully on a steam room bench and composed myself to dream up the basis of the ritual I would use at each of the sites I visited this week. I had spent the weekend at the first part of a Shamanic Practitioner’s course and had honed my journeying skills somewhat. I decided to go and get some more information to help me decide what I needed to do. To cut a long story short, this is what I got from a new guide I only encountered for the first time yesterday.

1 Invoke the Goddess in your own way. You have the words, use the power of song!
2 Allow yourself to be still in each place so that she may be able to come to you.
3 At each site, leave a gift for her. It can be something you have made or which is dear to you. Be aware of the environmental impact however of what you leave may have on the land.

Fabulous! So I now know what to do. May the “keep it simple and bloody well get on with it” goddess be with me to help me do it!

Blackbird Owl

Oh wow! It’s all coming together.

I don’t know how this happened, but I have a volunteer who works with me who is a Cornish Nationalist! She’s also pagan and friendly – which is something I didn’t bank on when first I began to work with her.

Anyway, after we had done what we normally do together on a Monday morning, I mentioned that I was about to go off and do this pilgrimage to sacred sites in Devon. I told her I was very drawn to Cornwall, where some of my ancestors hail from. She got v excited. Her health and grand parenting responsibilities means that she just can’t do it but she knew a woman who might! .

But then I had an idea. Maybe she could manage trips in London, given plenty of notice. She said she’d be up for that.

So I’m now planning some London trips too. I think I will theme them, wells one week, trees another and so on. There’s someone else to go with and I’m sure that others will join if I let them know what I am doing. And in the meantime, R, my volunteer, is on the case and is bound to dig someone out who can help me.

My big learning this morning is, tell everyone who would be sympathetic about what I am doing. Someone is bound to want to help.

And now I’m going to skip off to the gym … boing!

Blackbird Owl

Monday, November 06, 2006

And next?

Ok now where were we? So my plan was to visit the sacred Goddess sites of the UK – in a pilgrimage in celebration of my initiation as a witch. There was just one problem, being blind, the idea of solo pilgrimages, whilst an adventure, was beginning to feel more and more scary!

I asked friends for recommendations. I particularly wanted to go to Cornwall, the country of some of my ancestors.

A friend suggested heading for the Toe of Cornwall and checking out the Merry Maidens stone circle, the Men-an-Tol (the standing stone construction of which the centre stone is a circle, like a standing-on-end hoop that a thin enough person can crawl through), and Madron well, the sacred well just north of Penzance. Someone also mentioned fugous, which are sites where you somehow crawl underground which also sounded intriguing.

Of course the usual other main sites were also mentioned and they all sounded tempting and yet somehow I just didn’t do anything with the information. I guess I was just not feeling up to heading out into the unknown by myself, landing up at some quiet B and B and then striking off across the hills all hope shining and white cane a-waving. There has to be a balance between adventure and trial and safety and possibility. I just couldn’t find it yet.

I talked to friends who lived in places where there were sacred sites. This with a view to staying with them and then marching across the hills all by myself. And yet, I still did not act.

And if I was anxious about the wild blue yonder, perhaps I could pilgrimage at first to sacred pagan sites in London. There was less likelihood of having to yomp across a bare hillside – although trying to find Boadicea’s mount on Hampstead Heath might be a challenge in itself – let alone clambering over the railings to get to it.

I fantasised about whether it would be possible if I had a large ball of string and a compass or horror of horrors (for I am *not* a dog gal) a helpful guide dog even. I had recently been exercising my mind on just how a blind pagan could spend time in nature without the assistance of the two or four footed variety. I confess that I had speculated on whether having a dog would help me meet the Goddess in some of London’s many green spaces that I found so hard to go to independently. But then I came to my senses and remembered that dogs come with large licking tongues which don’t seem to mind what they lick and lovely doggy breath which they like to greet you with first thing in the morning, and I thought better of it.

Sooo, I set my trusty Virtual Assistant onto the case and began to find out about pagan sites in London.

There are sites of many sacred wells, a number of promising mounts, the remains of some standing stones, and some interesting trees of an ancient kind, the glorious great River Thames and a whole heap of history. And still I did nothing!

Finally, it came to me that I was scared – and reasonably so perhaps you might say. I just couldn’t’ think of a way to do it.

I had to face it; this solo pilgrimage lark wasn’t going to happen in the truly solo sense. Then a friend said: “think of all this as an extended honeymoon with the goddess.” And I thought “yes”” I don’t need to be alone because She will be with me all the time. And you know, I expect She won’t mind in the least that I bring someone along with me, as long as the special time I spend with Her, I can give Her all my attention. So could I organise my support so that I can have that time alone with the Goddess – even if physically my helper is right there next to me? Of course! This is the way to do it. I could still pilgrimage in an accessible way and it would be as powerful!

And then I realised that it was soon going to be my birthday. My best mate had announced that she was going to spend it somewhere else and I had thrown a strop! Tempting though it was to slam the door and go to bed for a few days, grumbling about how no-one loves me (sniff), I thought, bugger it –I’ll go off to Devon and stay with a mate. I’ll hire a p.a. and go and do all the goddess sites on the North Devon coast, whatever I can find on the moors and anything else that takes my fancy.

And so that’s what I am going to do. I have precisely two days in which to prepare. I have to sort my Goddess honeymoon trousseau - (ritual tools, robes, wellies, waterproof cloaks and umbrellas, not to mention walking sticks, thermal vests and hot water bottles), prepare the rituals I will perform and much more. So, the honeymoon is about to begin!!!

A very excited blackbird Owl

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Journey with Blackbird Owl … The Beginning:

Wednesday November 1, 2006:

When better to start this new blog than on the Witches New year!

May the wisdom of the ancestors and the silent swan lead you safely through the threshold to a wonderful New Year.

Standing amongst the trees on Hampstead heath last night, I called to the ancestors beyond the trembling veil. As I walked through the veil into the New Year, I touched upon the wisdom that is in their bones, their breath, blood and spirit, knowing it will guide me safely on this new path. The bats flew across the moon lit sky and the trees stood like stones in their stillness on the newly sleeping earth, and I knew that the Goddess was watching and waiting for me to begin.

Soon after my initiation as a Priestess of the Goddess, way back in February this year, I had the idea that I would celebrate the new me by taking a series of journeys to Goddess sites in the UK. An easy thing to do, you might think? I guess it might be, but for the fact that I am blind and, as part of the decision, resolved that these would be solo pilgrimages.

Before sitting down and rehearsing all the reasons why this would be a difficult set of journeys for a blind person to do, I made up my mind that, if the Goddess had given me this quest it must be possible to do. The interpretation of solo itself might be qualified in some way, I knew this, but I also knew deep down inside that I could probably find a way to do this practically and safely, without compromising the sacred and solo nature of these pilgrimages.

I thought about it all for a few months, made some initial plans to get info, talked a lot with myself and some others, but nothing really happened. Six months on and I feared that it might just be a pipe dream – something nice to do and indeed honourable, but something that never happens because life gets in the way.

Determined that that would not happen, I then decided that the only way I would really do this, would be to get a witness. I thought long and hard about whom that would be. In the end, I decided that it would be you, the readers of this blog, “A Journey with Blackbird Owl”. I would write all that I was thinking, feeling and actioning, to make this sacred quest come to life. Because you are reading this, you are witnessing it and it becomes real. I look to you to silently encourage me to make these sacred journeys. I imagine you all sitting round in a circle, as though by a dancing fire at night, wrapped in the enfolding stories of my ventures.

So settle down and be here now as I begin to tell my tales.