Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Jester and the ‘Obby ‘Oss

Tuesday May 1, 2007

The pre dawn air had a cool gentleness about it. The sky was moving from dark to greying as I climbed onto the back of my companion’s motorbike, clad in my Beltane green motley jester’s outfit. It was four am and we were going to join the “Obby Oss” procession on Hampstead Heath.

As we drove carefully through the north London streets, blackbird after blackbird lifted up their song to the coming dawn in an arc of liquid sound as though to say “this way, this way!” The cool wind bathed my skin beneath the bike helmet and I felt my face split into the biggest of grins ever. A milkman called a polite and slightly surprised “good morning” to us as we nosed past his float and I felt laughter bubble up inside me.

We strode after the dancing ’Oss as we processed up Parliament Hill. All around the birds were belting out their morning song and in the distance the ducks and geese chorused their “hello” to the Beltane revellers.

Standing on Parliament Hill with London spread out in the greying dawn before us, we sang a song to the summer and I felt as though I was on top of the world. At the pine grove, the youngest amongst us taught us to sing a German song about laughing in the fields for summer was coming, and a stranger approached and asked if he could join us.

The beings of the heath watched us from amongst the trees as we moved up to Boudica’s Mound. I was relieved to find that some more of the fence spikes had been sawn off. The scramble over had been made more dignified by the bench outside the fence and a strategically placed old tree trunk within.

Safely over, we gathered round the ‘Oss to remember our dead and make our Beltane wishes. The trees and their beings watched.

I was filled with an immense sense of joy. It felt to me that the land held me as I stood upon it. Amongst the trees, something shifted on heavy feet. At the very edge of my hearing I felt, rather than heard a large animal brething. In gratitude, I sang out a meditation to the land learned long ago in Glastonbury:

“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.
And as you lay yourself before me, I honour you in all your glory.
I offer you my body Goddess, to dance your spirit 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.”

The sky was lightening; the sun was edging over the horizon. We climbed back over the fence and performed a salutation to the sun. quietly, my companion described the scene.

Backlit by the rising sun, the tall dark pine trees were gilt edged. The breeze prodded the dew wet grass into movement and the may flowers glimmered milk-white against the green. In the distance, the sun moved and tipped the very top of Canary Warf with gold.

And in my heart I sang to myself
“Morning has broken, like the first morning.
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird …”

Resolving to learn the rest of the words, I followed the ‘Oss as, carried by a new member of the group, he made his way cheerfully across the undulating heathland. We were heading for the Kenwood Spring.

The ground beneath our feet was dry and already beginning to crack. We had had no real rain for at least a month now. All around us, trees in their spring leaves shook in the gentle breeze, blossom drifting silently on the wind. The sky, apricot in the east, lightened, and as we rounded a belt of trees, the sun raised itself above the horizon in a golden gleam shafting across the green heath at our feet.

The spring gurgled cheerfully. We dipped our fingers into its rusty smelling coolness. Took spring water dampened hands and danced around it in clumsy merriment. A jogger passed and we called a May morn greeting to him. The city was stirring. The beings on the heath bowed and waved as we began to walk. It was time for breakfast.

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