A Journey With Blackbirdowl

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The circle of Bears

Thursday august 16,2007 ((Broadoak,Dorset)

It had stopped raining but the mud-matted grass was waterlogged. I stood in the middle of the circle, the bear mask upon my face, feet hip width apart, hands held by navel, head thrown slightly up and back.

The rattles rasped their insistent beat, their voices loud and strong, urging me to dance, to dance and never to stop.

The fire licked my paws as I stumped around it, at first clumsily, for I was trying to catch the rhythm and the mood of the dancers, and then, with more confidence as I began to bounce. Oh but it was so hot!

Round and round we dance, the other bears and I. Courteously nodding as we passed, we brushed fur on fur as we wove between each other. And as I moved, I knew that she, the great mother bear was watching.

She watched to see we were safe. She watched to see we did it right. She watched to receive our homage to her, our acknowledgement of her sovereignty and her primal power.

A fierce mother, she protects her young, as the fierce bears in the forests defended the trees from those who would lay waist to the lungs of the earth.

I danced to honour and preserve the fruits of the forests, to honour the trees themselves and all the other creatures who lived there. I danced to honour the land and those who dedicated their lives to its protection. I danced for myself, that I may continue to do this work for the greater good of our community and I danced for the love of life which I had thought I had lost but had discovered was still with me.

And the rattles stopped and we came into stillness. The others gathered close to me and heavy paws rested on my shoulders as we connected in a close circle, growling our appreciation of each other, of ourselves and of the great mother.

Dancing In The dark

Wednesday August 15, 2007 (Broadoak, Dorset)

Close to the small fire, we gathered. Beyond our circle, the dark night held us. The oil smeared on my forehead was aromatic and fresh. The juice of the fruits of the hedgerow, sweet and thick upon my tongue.

“Cernunnus, Cernunnus, Cernunnus come!”

The night was filled with the chant.

“Cernunnus, Cernunnus, Cernunnus come!”

I stamped my feet and started to rock back and forth.

“Cernunnus, Cernunnus, Cernunnus come!”

The drums kicked in. Urgent hands beat out the rythmthe insistently. There was no way to stay still.

Each footfall thudded damply in the mud-clogged grass. The earth yielded and held, supporting me as I moved.

I raised my head and smelled the night. The fresh green smell of the crushed grass laced with the dusty damp smell of the mud, merged with the minty oil and the sweet taste of the red berry juice.

The shadows shifted and a tall figure stood in front of me. Taller than a human, he watched me, his head held high, his horns dark against the black night sky.

I began to swing my body, felt my tail slap against my legs as I moved, in a dance of joy and worship.

Shrieks pierced the air, insistent and persistent, breathtakingly prolonged, filled with utter, utter wildness. Then I realised that it was I who was shrieking and I threw back my head and shrieked some more, riding the incredible sense of release that came with each cry.

And still he watched me as I danced in front of him. And the beat careered on, faster and faster.

As suddenly, the drums died away and my harsh ragged breath and rhythmical thump of my feet remained. I slowed and then stopped, falling like the night into silence.

Obediently, I moved when bidden back to the fire. Puzzled, I wondered where my tail had gone. I drew closer to the fire and silently thanked the night for my dance, a dance which confirmed the joy of living and the beauty of the natural world.

Happy Dancing Bear

Wednesday August 15, 2007 (Broadoak, Dorset)

I scrabbled my way eagerly down the dark tunnel, knowing this time where I was going. My paws caught at the rough rocks and loose earth. Reaching the brilliantly flickering fire, I stood up on my hind legs and entered the dance.

WE stamped our paws, raised our heads to the moon and growled. I heard my rough bear’s voiced roaring away with the others, felt the pain lift from my heart and began to leap across the high twirling flames.

Dark against the old gnarled tree she sat and watched me. I danced for her and for myself, revelling in the energy of release, the ecstasy of perfect love, knowing that the place of release and of worship was in the dance.

Sweat poured down my naked body. My breathing came fast and harsh. I had to leave the heat.

The relief of cool water was intense. Like a small bear, I rolled in the shallow pool, laughing and splashing my companion as we frolicked in the early morning drizzle. What the fuck if it was raining, it was a bear’s life, and that was good!

Dancing For the Mother Bear

Tuesday August 14, 2007 (Broadoak, Dorset)

In the dark warm yurt, the drum beat its insistent heart beat. I stood in a green space, a grassy circle amongst the trees. There, between two dark trees was a darker space, a tunnel or cave. I bent down and edged in.

It was so dark, so very dark. I reached out and touched the walls, trailing my fingers to guide me. I put down each foot purposefully, splaying out my toes, the better to steady myself in case the floor fell away beneath me.

The black turned to dark treacle brown, then lighter, to amber as I moved forward. Ahead of me I saw a yellow-orange flickering light, brilliant, moving and inviting.

It was a huge fire. It threw dancing shadows across the clearing in the woods, bronzing the trees that watched. Amongst the flames, shadows flickered and, as my eyes grew used to the light, I saw that they were moving figures.

But I was looking for something else and I moved through them to the other side. There she was, big, old and dark, sitting against an ancient tree. Her stillness an invitation to come closer.

I knelt beside the great mother bear as she sat watching the dancers. Slowly, I crept forward until I could smell her and reached out to tentatively touch her fur. It was so warm.

Silently she bade me rest against her, and moved to hold me there by placing her great heavy paw across my bowed shoulders. I breathed deeply and was still.

Her fur was rough against my wet cheek. I felt rather than heard her heartbeat, and knew the undulations of her breathing through the rise and fall of her chest against my body.

As I rested there, into my mind came a thought.

“Love is what is needed. Offer love and comfort to others. Allow yourself to receive the love and comfort of others. It is a gift that they want to give.”

I felt a load lift. Reluctantly I moved away from her, turned and saw that the figures dancing round the fire were young bears. I turned back to her as though to ask permission and receiving it, threw myself energetically into the dance.

We danced round and round, capering and twirling, weaving in and out of each other as we circled the swirling fire. The dance was joyful yet majestic , a speeding procession, full of reverence.

The dark sky, spangled with stars, the slither of a new moon gleaming down upon us, began to lighten. Dawn was a short dance away. I stepped out of the circle, stood an bowed to the dancers and to the great mother bear watching and turned to go.

I scrabbled through the dark tunnel, my paws scratching against the shifting soil and hard rocks. Emerging at the other end, I shook the dust and mud from my fur and stood up on my hind legs, passed through the tree gateway and into the warm, dark yurt in which I was sitting.

What the Crow Saw

Monday August 13, 2007: (Broadoak, Dorset)

This morning I had company. My companion and I settled ourselves down on the tarp and I caste a circle and called the directions.

My pectoral muscles felt so strong. I felt them rippling across my chest as I spread my great black wings and took off from the ground. I soared high into the sky, looking down upon the field, the trees and the place where we had all camped. It was empty. Only the long grass danced in the brisk little breeze.

I alighted on the hedge and began to study it. A myriad of different greens interwove to make a thicket of a wall between me and the outside world. Hawthorn, beech, oak and rowan laced together with ivy, nettles and brambles, rioted up and out towards the sun. Everything was so green and alive!

My eye was caught by a curiously shaped tree and I flew across to it. Its trunk twisted gracefully, spiralling gently like a great serpent growing into the hedge. I landed on the ground before it and feasted my eyes on the intricacies of its growth, studying how it related to the hedgerow in which it grew so that I would remember it, because the tree felt special.

But there were other things to examine and I flew off to another part of the hedgerow. Here, a spider had woven her web, there, a little white feather was caught in a clump of brambles. Every little thing I saw was beautiful and I cawed with satisfaction at seeing it before me.

Sitting on the tarp in the middle of the field, I heard a crow caw. Into the space left behind it, a robin trilled joyfully. I turned my face to the direction of his song and blew him a kiss. “Hay Sam”, I called, remembering the Robin’s boy who would never camp in a damp English field again. All hail the birds of the skies, whether cheerful robin or curious and gruff crow, I thought as I opened the circle. Life is good!

The Giant’s progress

Sunday August 12, 2007: (Broadoak, Dorset)

It had rained in the night. The air positively zinged with the green freshness of the world. Overhead, a crow cawed. In the distance, cows lowed and a car hummed on the nearby road. I settled down on my tarp to connect with the land.

Powerfully I strode across the land, my head on a level with the swooping and soaring birds. How magnificent the world looked from this vantage point.

Carefully I placed each great foot upon the undulating green land beneath my feet. On tip toes, I edged past the winding green and brown tracks, the ankle height great clumps of trees that were the forests until I reached what I had seen in the distance, the glittering dancing sea.

I stepped down easily from the high cliff and strode out into the moving waves. With great swinging strides I pushed against the heaviness of the water, until it was deep enough for me to swim in. Then, with a gasp that blew the clouds along, I immersed myself in its chilly freshness and struck out to sea.

Now I floated on the water, light as a feather. The mighty sea bore me along easily. As the tide returned, I drifted back towards the land. I came to rest upon the sea floor, my head pillowed on a great rock, the shingle moulding to the shape of my body.

There I lay for thousands of years, caressed by the waves, buffed by the wind and warmed by the sun. Birds perched on me and at low tide humans clambered upon me.

On a bright freshly rain-washed August morn, a seagull landed on me. She sat for a while before off she flew, soaring into the clear blue summer sky. And on this day, I who had slumbered so long, went with her, became her, flew high above the spinning land below, back to the field where I sat on my tarp, dreaming in the early morning sunlight.

The Grass Forest

Saturday August 11, 2007 (Broadoak, Dorset)

The camp was stirring. Small children swung in the nearby trees, calling happily to each other. I sat in a pool of sunlight in the long grass, dotted with thistles and breathed in the freshness of the morning. Around me, rustles and shifting told me I was not alone.

I moved through a dark green tunnel out into the open. The trees were very odd. They were tall and green and they waved and swayed as I moved through them. The sun’s inquisitive fingers poked between them, splashing cheerful yellow pools at my feet. I ran through them, laughing out loud for sheer joy.

A Thicker taller tree, with hairy trunk, cast its shadow suddenly across my path. Tired, I sank down under it to rest.

As I got my breath under control I became aware that I was being watched. From the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of little bright eyes in a greenish triangular face, framed in leaves. I turned to look but just the strange flat smooth trees greeted me.

And then I knew where I was and what was going on. I was tiny. These strange trees were the grass and I was resting under a hairy thistle! I began to laugh and again was aware of the little triangular faces, now peeking out from all around me which disappeared if I consciously looked.

I got up and bowed to the hidden faces in thanks for showing themselves to me and walked back to the day.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Wood’s wisdom

Wednesday August 1, 2007

I began to beat a heart pulse on the small deer skin drum. “I journey to harvest the learning of grief on this Lammas night”, I said aloud. Our Lammas celebration this time was a meditation or journey on something we have harvested or are harvesting. I shifted from foot to foot, moving with the rhythm of the drum beat as I began to dream.

Immediately I found myself in a cool leafy tunnel of tree branches which led me out onto a rough heath land. All around me, the shaggy velvety meadow grass covered land undulated like a green furry sea frozen in time.

In the vale, lay a small wood. I walked through the trees until I came across a huge jagged holly tree, dark and shiny in the dappled light of the wood. I stopped before it and saw that it was also a figure. I felt the urge to bow, so I did! In my mind came the thought; “channel the intensity of your grief into action for change.” Taken slightly aback by this, I thanked the tree and turned to move on through the wood.

Right in front of me stood a middle-aged rather than ancient oak. It was straight and strong. Was that the structure of trunk and branches, dressed in leaves or a figure or was it a trick of the light? “Hail Oak King” I said to the tree, bowing. Into my head came the words; “Learn to live in harmony with the circumstances that fate may have put in front of you.” I stared at the tree, holding my breath as the words arranged themselves in my mind in order to make sense. I sighed, understanding at last, and thanked the tree, turning once more to move on.

My foot was caught by a thick leafy vine of ivy. Reaching down, I gently disentangled it from around my ankle and noticed that it had twined itself around the oak and the holly, uniting them both. “Strength grows when you allow others to support you”, came the thought as I traced the ivy branches around the two trees. I ran my hands along the thick stems and stroked the heart shaped leaves as I whispered my thanks for this wisdom.

The thin, elegant branches of a rowan caught in my hair as I stood and turned to move on. The feather dark leaves and clumps of bright red berries, gave an almost festive air to the woods. I leaned over and stroked her smooth trunk, fingered her feathery leaves, and ran a tentative fingertip across the little clumps of berries, clustered amongst the leaves. “Know that you are protected”, the tree seemed to say to me as I touched her. And I knew that I was safe. I bowed and thanked her and sat down at her foot. I needed to rest and Wanted to think about what I had found here.
Time moved on. The leaves of a bush shook as something large pushed its way through. There in front of me was the tusked, whiskery old boar. Our eyes met and I understood that I was to go with him. I struggled up and began to push through the shrubs after his rapidly retreating back.

The white path snaked through the trees, which grew closer now. Brambles snatched at me as I pushed through, but the woods did not feel unfriendly.

Emerging at last into a small clearing, I saw at its centre, a white stone bowl into which a spring trickled. I was hot by now and gladly knelt down beside it to quench my thirst.

When I had drunk my fill, I looked up and saw that the boar had disappeared. On the other side of the glade, between two large trees, stood a white figure watching me. I got up and walked towards it and saw that it was a woman, naked and with long white hair. Then she moved and I saw that her head and torso was that of a woman and her body, the graceful curves of a white mare.

Awe-struck, I knelt before her, unable to speak. “Come, ride with me” she seemed to invite. I moved cautiously towards her, for she was a large horse. Looking at her closely, I saw an equine but beautiful face, solemn eyes regarding me quietly. Then she tossed her head and I knew that it was a command rather than an invitation.

With some considerable difficulty, for I am no horsewoman and she was a very tall horse, I clambered upon her back and we shot off across the glade, through the trees, up onto the heath land. Here we had a clear run and we thundered across its undulations, leaping obstacles, dodging others. I clung on for dear life, fearing I would fall, but still we pounded on, and the ground raced beneath us like a video on fast forward.

My pulse raced. I was exhilarated, yet terrified. I wanted it to stop and I never wanted it to stop. In time, her pace slowed and she trotted back through the woods, stopping at the holly, oak and rowan and let me get down off her. I felt a huge surge of relief. I was so glad to be back on terra firma. Turning to thank her, I found myself bowing to thin air. She had gone. I turned to walk back, my whole body remembering the ride, glad to be alive as an urgent drum beat called me back, back to now.

The Boat Sanctuary

Tuesday July 31, 2007:

As the drum began to beat, I breathed deeply and connected with my intention.

“I journey to find my place of safety”; I said to myself three times.

I stood in the clearing on the side of a lightly wooded hill. The grass was long. The sun eased itself between the trees, lighting up a gateway between two of them, dark and mysterious.

I moved through the trees into the dark shiny cave and began to hunt for a way through. Each tunnel led to a dead end. Once, I caught the glimpse of dark water but I could not reach it.

In frustration, I retraced my steps, squeezing my way past the trees and clambering up the steep side of the rock. The rock fell away sheer to my right and I had to cling on, leaning to the left as I crawled round. NO matter how hard I climbed, the other side of the hill was always as far away as ever.

For Hours and hours I crawled on. My knees became sore. The thought that I might never get there chewed away at my resolve, but still I scrambled on.

There had to be another way. I looked down at the almost perpendicular drop and my head swam. It was such a long way down. But I was so tired of not getting anywhere. ON impulse, I stood, stretched out my arms and leaped.

I was flying, flying high above black shiny rocky hills, down towards the glittering sea. And then I was edging my way along the black sheer cliff, with the sea tossing vigorously below. My head swam again and I pressed back into the rock, determining not to look down.

Step by step I made my way down to a triangular green grassy patch above the foaming sea, tossing over jagged dark rocks. This was not it. I lowered myself down into the agitated waters and struck out against the current. I edged the rocks, clinging to their sliminess as the water tugged at my body.

The rock I found was flat, a few feet above the dancing waves. I wriggled onto it and lay down. And all around me, the seals came and lay down with me. But this was not it. I had to move on.

I slid back down into the wild sea, swimming once more through the archipelago of rocks, scattered like discarded teeth at the end of the world and there it was. A small, simple wooden boat, bobbing amongst the rocks. I clambered over and into it, and finding a rough old blanket folded neatly in its stern, wrapped this around me and lay down.

The boat rocked and swayed and I lay back, allowing myself to go with the motion. The sea danced and tossed the boat. I lay and allowed the movement, resisting nothing and therefore never being in danger of falling out. I rolled over onto my stomach and noticed that all around me, seals and dolphins swam, as though guarding me. I dipped my fingers into the cool waters and crooned to them in the roof of my mouth. I was utterly at rest.

This was it. My place of sanctuary. I lay in the bottom of the boat and allowed it to carry me wherever it wished, it didn’t matter. All I had to do was allow.

I could have stayed for ever, but I was being called back. I took one last look around, and stroked the boat and its neatly stowed oars, and returned, running over the sea, up the cliff and back into the little wood and the clearing.