A Journey With Blackbirdowl

Saturday, October 27, 2007

She who is the dark, dark earth …

Queen’s Wood - Saturday October 27, 2007:

Carefully we picked our way over leaves smeared by the recent drizzle, down the steeply sloping footpath. The woods were damp and pungent under the grey still sky. The traffic faded behind the watching softly breathing trees.

Holly snatched at our faces as we ducked to scurry into a new place to circle. An elicit fire was smouldering innocently on one side of the space; the womb of immortality (a pop up tent) was being erected on the other. I leant against an oak tree and felt the earth beneath my feet and knew I stood, held on the palm of her hand.

From the dark wet earth, from the underside of glistening fallen leaves, from amongst the moss and the mushrooms on the fallen trunks, she came, stepping quietly and purposefully into our circle. Veiled with softly falling leaves, she stood amongst us as we circled the fire, her voice our voices raised in chant she, the smoke curled around me. She held me, I was hers totally.

Voices united, breaking into harmony, the words the same
“Hecate, Cerridwen, dark mother take us in.
Hecate, Cerridwen, Let us be reborn”

I crawled into the womb and lay down flat on my tummy. Rough wool scratched my face as I curled into the curve of her belly. And it seemed she held me and the earth moved beneath me gently like the slow deep breathing of a slumbering woman.

Whose heavy arm was that laying across my shoulders, pinning me to her belly? I breathed her musty, earthy smell and felt safe. Rocked in the arms of the dark mother, I lay and was still. And an old, old, old voice whispered over and over again;

“You are love, you are loved, know this and let go, let go, let go.”

The voices rose, holding the space in song. Reluctantly, I crept out of the soft warmth into gentle hands that stroked and rubbed me, tenderly bringing me back into the world.

I crawled through the hands and climbed to my feet. In front of me, a rough oak tree with bulbous root ball at its base, soft with moss invited me to sit. I leant into the tree and raised my voice with the others.

Later, we circled the fire and the alter, dancing a stately spiral, raising our voices to the loosely falling leafy canopy, to the watching trees, the soft loamy soil, to the fire, the sky, the gentle not quite rain and to each other. And she who was all of these and more watched and listened and was.
“The blood of the ancients, it flows thru our veins,
The forms change, but the circle of life remains."

And I bent down to the ground and pushed my fingers into the leaf-mould. I scooped up the loose rich earth, raised it to my face, the better to breathe in its dark richness, then opened my fingers and let it trickle back to the ground.

“You are love, you are loved, know this and let go, let go, let go”, I heard the earth murmur. Tenderly I touched the small twigs and fragile leaves scattered there and was suddenly overwhelmed. It was so simple, so simple.

We feasted amongst the watching trees and then crept back to the world through the snatching scratchy holly trees, our feet slipping on the still smeary footpaths. Behind me, the ever-changing, always beautiful woods lay, for ever a symbol of her.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Carn Euny Wells

Thursday October 18 2007:

The three wishes

The path between the hedge was ankle deep in soft mud. Our boots sucked and squelched as we stepped gingerly through it. Carefully I climbed down the narrow steps to the main well and sat down. My companion sat on the step before me leaning against me.

The rattle was gentle but insistent. The water dripped and gurgled. Nearby, a robin sang. In the distance other birds joined in. The day was drawing towards its close.

The water shimmered. A white mist rose and resolved itself into a slim veiled figure, rising like a column, elegant and swirling. At first I thought she was PROBABLY female but there was a DEFINATE air of androgen ABOUT her.

She slowed and stilled in front of me. Without words, I came to understand that she offered me three wishes. In no particular order of priority or importance, the wishes were these:

That I allow myself to experience intimacy with others platonically.

That I deepen my craft as a Priestess of the Goddess with purpose.

That I bring my body to physical fitness.
Deeply moved, I bowed to her thanking her for helping me find these wishes. She dissolved and sunk back into the well.

The Hawthorn Cloutie

We climbed back up the steps and followed the stream down to a Cloutie tree hard by its banks. The ancient hawthorn tree had several spreading branches rising from a low trunk. It was covered with clouties, old and new. The colourful ribbons danced as the early evening breeze caught little bells hanging from the branches.

The stream gurgled contentedly. All around, amongst the trees, I felt the presence of small beings dancing. The place was positively jumping for joy.

Between the arms of the hawthorn, I found myself dancing. My companion, caught by the mood of the place began to sing like a small girl. In time we stilled and, dipping our own clouties, the ubiquitous purple wool strands, into the stream, we draped them on the tree, adding our prayers to the many already there.

The Little Well

We picked up the candle we had taken, amazingly still alight, from the first well and began to process up the banks to the second well, singing as we went:

“We will never never lose our way to the well of her memory.
For the power of the living flame it will rise, it will rise again.”

The second well, hardly bigger than a washing up bowl, was edged with a low wall. Two tiny steps led down to the water which was clear and silent. We placed our candle on the water’s edge and sang to the well once more, honouring it for its contribution to the well being of those who bilt and used it. We asked blessings on our onward journey and bade farewell to this magical place and left.

A cow lowed in a field hard by. I stopped in the lane and made my companion listen to the liquid song of the blackbird singing to the setting sun. I bowed to him and moved on. The birds song followed and a presence behind made me stop. I turned, asking my companion what was there. She saw nothing, but I knew that a figure watched us. I bowed to it and turned to walk on.

The calm gaze of cows held us as we changed our muddy boots and I felt nourished and filled to overflowing with love. Time to return to the busying world. I resolved to take that gentle cow energy with me to sustain me on my way forward.

Carn Euny Fogou and Underground Chamber

Thursday October 18, 2007:

Dark Mother

Carn Euny is the site of an ancient Iron Age village. The nearby Bronze Age Fogou is quite spacious unlike many others found in Cornwall. A metal grille has been placed in the ceiling of the underground corbelled chamber allowing light to illuminate the interior. It is thought that the underground chamber was built first with the west and east entrances being added later. The settlement is in very good condition - possibly due to its remote location. It lies mid-way between Sancreed and Land's End Aerodrome near the hamlet of Grumbla.

We walked a path strewn with wild Camomile and climbed a Cornish Stile to get to the village. A pattern of six or so round houses, their lower walls still remaining spread out before us. In one corner, the Fogou and chamber lay.

The creep passage had recently been reopened and I scrabbled down it bottom first, landing in a muddy patch. Without difficulty, I could stand and walk through the Fogou passage, but we had to bend to get into the underground chamber.

Under the grating, a small puddle glimmered. We set our candle there, made a purple wool spiral and scattered some flower petals. I gave to the water the sprig of camomile I had gathered on the walk here in honour of the sleeping earth.

We sang to the round walls, calling to the dark goddess to be with us.

“”Hecate, Cerridwen,
Dark mother take us in.
Hecate, Cerridwen,
Let us be reborn.”

I was lying curled up on the floor. Women sat around me. There was a fire. Hands massaged my body, wrapped me in warm cloths. A song, whose words I could not hear echoed through the chamber.

In the centre of the room, the shadows shifted and a tall figure stood, veiled in grey and purple. The women brought me before her and I knelt at her feet.

She reached out and touched my forehead with the palm of her hand and I felt her warmth move right through me. Taking a bowl, she sprinkled something on me and seemed to ask me to rise.

I got to my feet and she turned, indicating that I should follow.

I was back in the chamber again. This time I was alone. I lay in the dark and waited.

The gloom began to thin and I heard footsteps. Someone entered the chamber. She was veiled like the other one, but wasn’t her. I got up, I new I had to follow her.

She indicated that I should exit via the Creep passage. I crawled up it, through the mud and stones pushing myself out on hands and knees, out into the dawn of a new day and a new life.

There were voices outside and shuffling footsteps. Others wanted to come in but were nervous of the strange women with their odd singing. I bowed to the chamber, giving thanks to the dark lady and my dream. We got up to go, leaving our petals floating in the puddle with the purple wool spiral spread across it.

Cape Cornwall

Thursday October 18, 2007:

The crane and the mermaid

We climbed carefully across the rocks at the side of the slipway. The tide was out and the beach was littered with pale round egg boulders. Larger flat dark ones bounded the seaweed smeared rock pools, skirted with shingle. It was hot and, as I tottered and sank down to rest on a round rock, I wiped perspiration from my face and began to struggle out of my jacket and jumper.

The wind had dropped. The sea was still; only where it met the harp rocks did it crash noisily. My hands reached out to the rocks and I stroked them, picking up a rugby ball shaped one and cradling it in my arms like a baby.

I was balanced upon the round boulders. They tumbled and shifted beneath my claws. Longleggedly, I stalked towards the sea. In the deep pool, my reflection shimmered, grey, austere and long beaked. I arched my neck and dove in.

Smoothly I moved, my fish tail flicking, my arms cleaving the water. I swam out between the jagged rocks, was pushed about in the strong cape currents, out to the big round rock that looked like a fat belly sticking up out of the water.

I swung myself onto its rounded top and sat, tail curled around me watching the sea. At first I only saw his nose for he was bottling just a few feet away from me. Then he began to circle the rock protectively as I gazed back to land.

On the beach the woman was sitting, face quieter, eyes closed, still as though in prayer. Around her, the rocks sat, round like eggs, the bounty of the beach. The woman stirred, shifted and reached out to stroke a nearby boulder.

I slid off the rock, swimming fast, looping round past the seal still patrolling the rock. I darted through the currents, between the jagged rocks, back to the deep pool where I gazed up at myself as the crane staring at my reflection in the water. Carefully, so as not to slip, I turned away from the sea and Stepped from round rock to round rock, moving back to the woman still absorbedly stroking the large egg-shaped rock.

As I told my dream to my companion, she recalled a stone with a crane pattern on one side that she had seen earlier. She got up in search of it. My fingers reached out and enclosed a smaller palm-sized egg shaped stone, warmed with the sun. I held it and remembered the other crane dreams where the strange bird protected a large egg. On this beach filled with stone eggs, many dreams could and would hatch for all who searched for them.

But right now I was hungry. It was time to eat.


Thursday October 18, 2007:

Sea Commitment

The night had been cold. The day arrived gleaming, brilliant in the autumn sunshine. Under a perfect picture postcard blue sky we climbed beneath the feeble little piece of rope down onto the rocks at Landsend.

The sea roared against the sharp and torturous rocks below, calling to me to come closer, come closer. I found a rock and perched on it, face turned to wards the sea, sun brushing my left cheek.

I scattered seeds and dried fruit in honour of the goddess. Curious crows appeared and a hooded one sat himself on a rock opposite me to watch.

I went to the sea and into the waters. There I was amongst the rocks, floating on the surface, brushing up against their hard rough surfaces, allowing myself like the sea, just to be. There was nothing to do, nowhere to go, just be, just be.

And the sea stretched out before me. Miles and miles till the next land. I sent my wishes out on the moving water, to spread like ripples in a pool into which a pebble has been dropped. Silently, I renewed my commitment to connect with the natural world, to the goddess and to myself, to draw strength from this, to go out into the world and work for social change.

Voices behind me woke me from my reverie. A couple were noisily indulging in a scenic photo opportunity. I threw more seeds to the crows and the one who had watched me throughout, turned and flew away. Silently, I thanked the sea and got up to go.

The Seal at Newquay harbour

Wednesday October 17, 2007:

I had demanded seals as part of this pilgrimage to West Cornwall. A busy little northerly wind snapped at us as we walked along the quay in search of them. As we picked our way past ropes and cables, the reek of rotting lobster pounced and momentarily, I gagged.

Seals were often to be found at Newquay Harbour. They followed the boats in, hanging out for fish that might fall when being unloaded. There was even a notice reminding the public that seals were in fact wild animals and that getting too close might not be a good idea.

We sat down on a bench and waited, my companion scanning the water for any signs of seals. The wind got up, biting at hands, ears and noses, but still no seals. The sun moved round, darkness was approaching. We decided to leave and made our way disappointedly back down the quay.

Two fishermen standing on the edge of the quay were talking of the seals. One had just come into the harbour, they informed us. WE ran back to our vantage point, but no, nothing there. Turning away to leave, my companion cried out suddenly. She had seen him. We returned hastily to the waters edge.

Some thirty feet away, a single young adult moved in the water. He dived down becoming a grey shadow under the smooth surface and then he popped up again, this time with a distinct splash. My companion began to sing a gentle, mournful eulogy to the seal.

As though he had heard, he came closer, lying on his side and flapping his flipper, rolling over noisily, dipping his head into the water and bringing it up with a splash and a bubbling snort. He rolled over and the water moved with him, rippling with every move he made.

I listened as he displayed himself. My companion described the scene, the seal seeming to accompany her narrative with sound effects of his own – although of course it was the other way round!

He didn’t seem to be looking for dinner, just hanging out in a peaceful harbour. He seemed to revel in the attention of the admiring onlookers.

And I couldn’t help smiling. The seal, symbol of so much sadness, is also a playful creature. Lumbering on land, he is full of grace in the water. Today, he was content to play and my heart was warmed by his presence, even if I could only hear him. And perhaps, since seals are normally quiet, he was noisy in honour of me? I like to think so.

The seal turned once more and with another noisy splash dived down and disappeared. We turned and walked away, my wish fulfilled. The harbour was full of the spirit of the seal. I was happy.

Holywell Bay

Wednesday October 17, 2007:

Enfolded In the Rocks

We climbed the grassy dunes and sat down on the warm sands to eat our lunch. The sun was hot on my neck, the rocks warm against my back. The sea was still, the sky high. All was quiet.

Holywell bay on the North Cornish coast is a wide bay edged with dunes and cliffs. The Holywell, fresh water spring, drips down from the inside of a deep cave at the far edge of the bay.

In the cave, I stripped off, the better to climb the wet rocks. The water was cool. Smooth stones beneath my feet shifted as I moved across to the slippery rocks. I climbed up on hands and knees, at times squirming my way up the rock face, once, losing my grip and slithering down gracelessly with many shrieks of laughter, to the pool at its foot.

Now, the rocks were covered in a slimy weed, making safe movement across them almost impossible. I clung to the wall and heaved myself up to the next level.

I could go no further. The rocks were too slippery. I truly feared falling. I found a flat rock and shifted my bum up onto it.

Fresh water dripped from above me. Another trickle moved across the rock upon which I sat. I listened to the steady drip, drip, drip of the spring echoing around the cave, merge with the whispering call of the sea outside.

Around me, the rocks were carved as though folded with the flow of the water over thousands of years. Grooves were cut in their surfaces, curves smoothed across them, dents - like natural libation holes - bored by the insistent water.

I leaned against the cool rock and tucked my legs decorously about me. Still and quiet I sat like a mermaid carved into the rock.

My companion began to sing – her voice bouncing off the high arches of the cave:

“One drop of love,
Flows like a stream,
Flows like a stream to the ocean.”

Our voices entwined in the simple melody, we sang to the water, to the sea and to the spirits of the place. And as we sang, the rocks whispered back, the sea beyond ebbed and flowed, and time moved on.

But then, the sea called. I slid down the rocks on my bottom, feeling with my feet, bracing with my hands lest my descent become too rapid. Eventually, I felt soft wet sand under my feet. I stood in the open air, the sun warming my shoulders, listening to the sea and the gulls.

We moved swiftly across the wet sand and into the water. The sea licked between my toes, wrapped around my ankles and seemed to coax my calves to move me forward. The sea bounded up to me like an eager puppy, its merry little waves breaking higher and higher onto my body. When I could no longer resist its touch, I took a deep breath and ducked under the water.

Surprisingly, its cool touch did not freeze. Rather, my body yearned to be totally emerged. I ducked below the surface again.

My companion, full of good songs began to sing to the sea:

“We thank you Goddess of the sea.
We thank you Ocean mother.
WE thank you for setting us free.
Ma ma ma ma ma ma”.
(Copyright Sally Pullinger)

Time to get out? Maybe. I moved reluctantly towards the shore, then braking free, I ran back and rolled in the sea, allowing myself to be tossed by the waves. I threw myself forward into the water again cackling like a mad thing, submerging then breaking free, letting the sea carry me forward till my belly was on the sand and I lay giggling with delight, feeling for all the world like a large beached whale.

Another wave came to shove me forward and I sprang to my feet and danced in the shallows. My companion sang:

“Webbed feet, I’m a Merwoman,
Seaweed hair, I’m a daughter of the sea.
Webbed hands, I’m a mermaiden,
Mother Sea, live in me.”
(Copyright Sally Pullinger)

The wind nipped at our web bodies, stinging and slapping, reminding us that it was time to move on. Emerging reluctantly from the sea, we dried and dressed and made our way back along the wet sand.

Under the cliff, sea caves curved their way back into the rock. I climbed in to what felt like a vulva shaped opening. Bent double, I pushed forward, edging my way into an inner chamber where I could stand. The rocks, curved and columned by the sea, laying folds all around me. I stroked the curves and bulges, protuberances and crevices. I was held, safe from harm amongst the rocks. But the tide had turned, the sea was coming back. We had to go.

Carn Gluze or Ballowall Barrow

Wednesday October 17, 2007:

Ballowall Dreams

Situated on the cliff-tops overlooking the Atlantic Ocean just south of Cape Cornwall, lies a unique complex chambered cairn dating from the Neolithic or Early Bronze Age era - about 2500 BCE to 1000 BCE. The centre was a mound, surrounded by two dry stone walls. Contained within it were five stone lined chambers known as cysts. Two pits forming a tee shape were also there. Two more cysts were built against the stone apron surrounding the central mound which included an entrance grave.

The rain had washed the world clean. We drove through the green countryside under a startling blue sky, the sun shimmering on the deep blue sea. The sky was high, a small wind tugged at our jackets as we strode across the grass to Ballowall Barrow.

We climbed the barrow and, carefully avoiding the cysts in the outer wall, began to walk counter clockwise. My hands touched rough piled stones and soft grassy moss. Clambering over and down some rough stone steps, we walked along the inner wall, past other depressions or cysts, my hands exploring the crevices between boulders, stroking the soft moist moss and lichen that covered the stones in places. The sun warmed us as we walked and an occasional seabird called from high in the sky.

Stiffly, I climbed over and down into the Part grass part stone central pit; this oval shaped space was sheltered from the cliff breeze, yet big enough to receive the autumn morning sun. At one end, a cavity, possibly another grave or cyst offered itself as an alter space. I climbed up onto the grass topped wall surrounding the pit and lay down, my face turned to the sun.

It was another beautiful day. I revelled in the solitude of the lonely cliff tops. All was quiet.

A small figure, yellow dress blowing about sturdy little legs, long red hair hanging about her shoulders scampered across the grass in front of me. A little girl at play in the morning sunshine. I called a greeting to her and she turned.

The face of a man, perhaps thirty years old, framed with dishevelled red hair gazed back at me mildly. Momentarily, I faltered, my insides somersaulting with shock as I stared back at the adult face in the child’s body. What I had taken to be a little girl had a perfectly proportion child’s body and the full grown head of a man. His hands and feet were in proportion to his body and the yellow dress was a loosely arranged piece of cloth draped about his torso. Returning to my senses, and remembering the advice of a witch friend upon meeting anything one did not understand on the astral plain, I bowed respectfully to him and he turned and ran of towards the barrow.

I watched him go before turning to the sea. It danced back and forth and up and down. It seemed to me that the sea was dancing for me in a joyful performance, glittering in the sunshine, white horses dancing on the tips of the waves. Awe struck, I watched for a while until remembering my manners, I bowed in thanks to it and moved on.

I lay peacefully in the grass gazing up at the sky above me. Something tickled my faced, tall grasses leaned across and stroked my cheeks; I reached up and returned the caress.

Something tugged at my left boot, I moved my foot slightly. Then many small hands seem to take my body and raise it up off the grass. With a huge effort I relaxed myself and allowed myself to be Bourne away, swaying and rocking as I was lifted.

And then I was sinking down, down and down into the earth, down into darkness and into rest. I lay there forever it seemed, resting and replenishing myself in deep and peaceful sleep. Time moved on and I was rising, moving up through the grass and out into the light of a new day.

Lying on my back, I reached up and began to plat the grasses together, with quick and eager fingers. I breathed deeply and easily, absorbed totally in my task. When it was done, I rolled over onto my stomached.

I felt the earth grip me with a fierce embrace, pressing my face into the grass with such intensity that I could hardly breath. A great sense of sadness engulfed me. I clung to the earth desperately.

Time moved on again. The pain receded into a dull ache in the pit of my stomached. With a huge effort of will, I pulled myself back to the hear and now, rolling over and sitting up. My head ached. I massaged temples to relieve the pain.

Overhead, the birds who had been singing all the while I had lain still, stopped. Carefully, I felt around me, touching the grass and the piled stones, reminding myself that I was here now and not away with the beings of the land.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sancreed Well and the Blind Fiddler

Tuesday October 16, 2007:

The Blind Fiddler

I was curious to find the Blind Fiddler. In order to reach him, we waded through a muddy field of the most enormous cabbages. The constant rain had pulled the great cabbage leaves, like distorted elephants ears into the most incredible sculptured shapes. Pools, as small as a few drops and as big as a soup dish shimmered silver against the dark green leaves. I stroked their surfaces and the leaves shivered at my touch.

The Blind Fiddler stood, large and solid, by a hedge surrounded by wild brassicas , their pungent odour intermingling with the damp muddy smell of the churned earth beneath our feet. I lent against him and wondered what the story behind him was. Alas there was no time to hang about. The rain poured down relentlessly and we trailed back through the mad looking cabbages, our feet growing heavier and heavier with caked mud as we trudged on.

Sancreed Well

We squeezed ourselves along the path to the well. It ran between two houses and was at first flanked by new fences – the compromised reached after a great battle to keep the path to the well open. Climbing over a Cornish stile, we pushed our way between wet nettles and briers, dodged the snatching fingers of hawthorns and squeezed round young trees. Carefully, I edged my way up and down uneven steps, fearing lest I slip on the mud and wet stone beneath my feet.

The well steps were narrow. I squeezed my way down and sat at the entrance. The rain plopped into the water, echoing around the little enclosed well house. I took my rattle and began to cast a circle, my voice, the drops and the rattle mingling and weaving in and out of each other in a tapestry of soft sounds against the hiss of the rain falling outside.

The line of women snaked down the path. Quietly and slowly they walked, each carrying a small bowl, softly singing as they walked. One by one, they knelt at the water’s edge and filled their bowl, raised these to their lips and drank, symbolically splashing themselves in some form of silent self-blessing.

IN turn, I knelt and dipped my bowl into the water. I sipped its cool freshness and then anointed myself. In prayer , I stayed a while at the well’s edge.

My eyes watched the waters swirl. I became aware of another presence. Raising my eyes, I saw the figure in the shadows, sitting and watching. Looking more carefully, I saw that she was a mermaid, her long hair trailing across her bare shoulders, her tail tucked neatly around her. Water snaked across her naked breasts. Our eyes met and she smiled.

I sat still, unable to move and gazed and gazed. I felt warm tears mingled with the rain. I felt my heart shifting and shivering within my Brest. Overwhelmed with love, I held my breath and feasted on the vision before me. The walls echoed softly then a clear voice began to sing:

“Cool rain, hot tears splash,
The mermaid sings
Love is here.”

Time past. I sat still, mesmerised by the beauty of Her. At last I came to my senses, picked up my bowl and walked after the others back to our gathering place. All the while, the image of the mermaid, vivid in my mind, her haunting song, echoing in my ears.

Rain seeped into me, finding unguarded places reminding me that it was cold. Bowing low to the place where She had sat, I said my farewells, closed the circle and climbed back up to the top of the steps. At the top stood a Cloutie tree, its offerings waving in the light breeze. I found a piece of purple wool and tied it to the tree, giving thanks for the power of water and the power of love to cleanse, comfort and soothe.

The Boleigh Sacred Way

Tuesday October 16, 2007:

There may be a sacred way from Boleigh Fogou through the Pipers and Merry Maidens to Tregyffian Barrow and Gûn Rith. It was too wet to walk it this day.

Boleigh: Tregyffian Burial Chamber
Hard by the Merry Maidens, the Tregyffian tomb is a 4,500 year old example of the Scillonian type of tomb or barrow. north-west of Lamorna village, it lies on the grass verge next to the road.

Gratefully, I climbed down and sat under its huge sheltering stones - The three slabs, set slightly apart did not provide complete shelter but they were enough for now. I sat, propped against the sides, legs outstretched and breathed in the musty, mouldy smell of underground chambers.

Despite the crampness, I found myself drifting off. I was hiding in the chamber. I was safe and not to be found. It felt comfortable to curl up here and just listen to the wind and the rain and the occasional passing hoofed creature. All was peaceful, but I would have to get out and face the music sometime. It might as well be now. I climbed up from the chamber, my woolly hat, moss smeared and green with lichen, and began to march damply across the fields.

Gûn Rith

Gûn Rith stands sternly if neatly in the Cornish hedge, its feet surrounded by briers, near the Maidens. Today, as I stood with it, it offered no wisdom. I stroked its rough surface and moved on.

The Pipers

The two Pipers were another matter. Standing tall and wide, the first Piper acted as plinth to a seagull with an eye on the aesthetic – it posed against the dark grey sky. This stone was scored deeply, the runnels encrusted with snails trying to keep out of the rain. I patted it, thanking it for being there for the seagulls and snails.

We moved across the field to the second stone. Wider but shorter, this one stood at an angle and seemed to offer shelter. I leant against her whilst my companion receipted Doreen Valientee’s Charge Of The Goddess.

All around us the rain fell softly. I breathed in The crushed grass’s sweet odour. Behind my closed eyelids, a tall curved presence rose up, mantled, flowing, arms held in front of her as though giving or receiving or even already holding something. An inner peace fell upon me as I received Her presence and I bowed low in reverence to her. She stood and just *was*. She observed but I did not feel scrutinised, simply *seen* - and I allowed myself to accept the gaze in humility. All was still till, with another squally gust, the rain spat in my face. Time to go. Bowing low to the great presence still standing in front of the second piper, we left to walk back to the car.
Holed Stone

On the way, my companion spotted a holed stone. It was acting as a gatepost. It is traditional for lovers to clasp hands through the hole to symbolise a handfasting. I put one hand through and grassed it with the other as a symbol of my commitment to myself. “For that which you seek you find not within yourself, you will never find it without.”, I thought speaking the pledge to myself.

The Merry Maidens (Boleigh)

Tuesday October 16, 2007:

Dancing with the Maidens

Probably one of the best known stone circles of the Land's End Peninsula, The Merry Maidens, a circle of 19 standing stones date from about 2500 BCE. They stand in a field near a road, hard by a burial chamber and some mênhirs. We were not required therefore to yomp across Mooreland which was a relief as it was by now pissing with rain!

We scrambled over a Cornish style (a series of rocks set in rough steps) and wandered around the circle, greeting each stone by touch. Like nineteen hoydens without hats, they stood about brazenly not caring if they got soaked or so it seemed to me.

Drawn to the middle, I found a rain filled depression and began to dance around in it. I moved counter clockwise and my companion skipped about the other way. As we danced, she sang as many songs about circles as she could dredge up. Laughing, I joined in.

Like two carefree four year olds, on and on we circled. The rain fell and my feet splashed in the puddle. As we danced , it seemed to me that the stones danced too. In three circles alternately spinning, we moved, a never ending swirl of complete endless joy.

I was young again. I was from another time. Nineteen maidens were indeed dancing round me in celebration of something – was it of me?

I stopped and the world danced on. Staggering slightly, I stood in the very centre and allowed the spinning core to slow and still. Time to go. Still laughing, we walked back through the exit, turning to bow to the stones in thanks for the great dance.

Boleigh Fogou
Tuesday October 16, 2007:

The Earth’s Embrace

Boleigh Fogou is on private land, hidden amongst gorse and ferns, shaded by low trees. A Fogou is basically a low tunnel leading to some sort of underground refuge. Boleigh Fogou is thought to date from either the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age and so is 3000 years old. Fogous are thought to have been used for ceremonial rather than burial purposes.
It had begun raining just before I alighted from the train at Penzance. I welcomed the cool clean drops. It would wash the land and keep away tourists. Also we were more likely to have the damp dark green country to ourselves if it persisted.

The sky hung low and heavy, the drizzle fell determedly as we pushed our way through the overgrowth. The entrance was slippery with mud. Carefully, we edged our way underground. AS we moved forward, bending down to get in, the fogou signature smell, moss, earth and decay laced with crushed herbage met us. I breathed in deeply and felt myself go down, down, down into the earth.

I sat below the dripping ceiling and cast a circle. Unconsciously, evoking fire first, I moved counter-clockwise through the quarters inviting the spirits of the place to come and join us. My companion found herself a relatively dry patch and sat down.

Beneath my prone body, the earth held me like an expert nurse. I felt safe – all was still and quiet save the deep, deep rumbling from beneath me, as though a great creature was breathing without moving.

How long had I been here? Days, weeks or just hours or minutes? It didn’t matter. I was here and that was all that was important.

Something rough caressed my bare cheek and I nuzzled it. Conscious of nothing else, I lay and was. I sunk down into deep, deep sleep.

In time, thought came and with it, a sense of ease, as I focussed my mind on how I was feeling right here right now. Contentedly , I shifted to make myself more comfortable.

And then I heard her. In a low, rasping, deep down in the belly of the earth kind of voice came these words, half intoned , half growled.

“The mud, the stones,
Her flesh, Her bones,
The earth’s embrace
Is love.”

A cool drop smacked me on the cheek. Outside, the rain was falling heavily. I rocked myself into a sitting position and reached out to touch the Fogou’s walls. Impacted mud, bound with tree roots offered a strong shelter. Stone slabs and piled up rocks, stacked one upon another, embraced the space. I felt humbled, held as I was inside her. I felt her compassion and in turn brought it into myself for myself.

Love is at the bottom of everything, I mused as I opened the circle and prepared to make my way out. It couldn’t be any plainer could it?

Tuesday October 16, 2007 – 06:35

The scared landlady

I stretch and shake my stiff shoulders. The train rocks gently, wheezing and whining its way through the Cornish countryside. My face aches –I’ve been grinding in my sleep again. Not surprising since I had been scrunched up for the last six hours, clinging onto the buck to stop myself rolling out whenever the train turned a corner.

Unlike my prospective landlady for the next few days, the sleeper staff are manically cheerful – nothing is too much for them. They are kind and practical. My mind turns to replay the “difficult” phone conversation with Mrs B and B the evening before. There couldn’t be a greater contrast.

“My husband tells me that you’re blind” she starts, her voice thinned with anxiety. I sigh and take a deep breath.

“Yes that’s right,” I force reassurance into my voice. My stomach begins to wriggle, “oh-oh” I think to myself.

“But how will you be able to manage” she wails, her voice rising in panic.

I imagine her imagining herself, eyes squeezed shut, hands outstretched, stumbling through the newly foreign landscape of her house, its familiar contours hidden beyond her closed eyes. She shuffles along in terror – fear fuelled by ignorance or a too-vivid imagination.

“Hey, I’ll be fine” I breathe, calm reassurance lacing my voice.

“Can you see at all” she plunges forward blindly, so to speak. My stomache flaps with despaired, she’s not going to like the answer. I contemplate lying but can’t bring myself to do so.

No, but I stay in a lot of strange places” I say brightly, hoping my smile can be heard and she doesn’t take the bit about staying in strange places the wrong way.

“But there’s ten steps and one in the middle of the corridor” she moans – as though this is absolutely the last straw. My inner mule sets all four feet down purposefully and sticks his head forward.

“I’m going cliff walking you know. I’m hardly going to find your steps a problem.” I try to dampen the crossness in my voice – losing my temper won’t get us anywhere especially as my inner mule has just caught a glimpse of hers!

“Yes but” She counters – “you wont’ be by yourself on a cliff will you?” I can hear her almost framing the question … “Can’t you bring a friend – or better still, not come at all?”.

I decide that perhaps when she sees me she won’t feel so bad. At least she’ll be able to count the fact that I’ve only one head and am, like many other blind people, quite capable of getting round a small house without mishap. I suggest that we discuss it when I get there, tell her I’m looking forward to meeting her (like hell I am) and hope that her husband isn’t as freaked out as she is.

A knock on the door brings me back to the here and now. A cheerful steward hands me a cup of tea and proffers a contraband bacon sandwich – which I refuse with much thanks and explanations of my long-standing vegetarianism. I wish him joy of his sandwich and make ready to leave the train.

On this, my penultimate journey in this year and a day pilgrimage, I am returning to West Cornwall , to wander amongst the fogous, standing stones and wells of West Penwyth, ready to encounter the goddess in all her forms. I am impatient to get started.