Sunday, November 18, 2007

Farewell to the hills

Saturday November 10, 2007:

It was another good day for hill climbing. Sunshine peeked intermittently between clouds driven across the sky by the still brisk northerly. We had been given permission by the owner to walk Challis Hill. Unfortunately, the gate over which we needed to shin was covered in barbed wire so we persuaded a kind resident of the nearby Ashram to let us through over his fence.

In single file, singing as we went, we walked through a copse of sweet chestnut trees, up a steep grassy slope to the beech trees. From time to time, my companion stooped to gather up feathers scattered in the long grass.

Picking our way through dried ewe poo, we reached the summit and sat down to rest. To my left, the dragons back of the Tor rose up above us, ahead, beyond a stand of bare branched trees, the Somerset levels stretch. To my right, lay Wearyall Hill, the swan’s neck facing away from us. The dying stand of beech trees stood to our right and behind us, beyond some houses and far in the distance, rose the Mendip Hills.

I lay down, face to the ground, spread out on the pregnant belly of the goddess. All was quiet, but for the wind shifting the trees below us.

She stood in front of me, tall, white and noble. Half horse, half woman, she was bare-breasted, her long white hair streaming over her shoulders, her horse body strong, muscular and gleaming. I climbed upon her back and we rode hell for leather across the countryside, moving as one. Then she became a huge white bird, soft and downy beneath me, her powerful wings beating fast as we soared above the hills. Then I was falling, falling, landing in soft dark mud, where I lay safe and cocooned, and never needing to move again.

But I did need to move, because I needed to dance. I leaped up and my companion and I pranced round the hillside singing:

“Ride on the dawn of a new day.
Fly with the dreams of the future.

And we whirled and whirled, with the wind as our dancing partners, skipping over the ewe poo, circling the summit coming to rest still and quiet on the land, to drink tea and give thanks before moving back down the hill.

The hill fell away sharply and the great roots of the old trees stretched their gnarled limbs out to trip us up. The wind blew bristly and the branches waved and I began to sing to the trees:

“With your feet in the earth and your head in the air,
The wild wind blows through your dancing green hair.”
Some trees had fallen, their great trunks lying amongst the grass, their roots bare. We climbed amongst them, laying hands gently on their old old bark in sorrow at their falling. But already, things had begun to live in them and their wood would be used for something else. I began to sing to them:

And as time goes on and the world turns round
You fall to the earth and you feed the ground.”

Moving down towards the sweet chestnut copse, my companion began to sing the Reclaiming chant in honour of the hill:

“When we are gone, they will remain, wind and rock, fire and rain.
They will remain when we return, the wind will blow and the fire will burn.”

Safe in the car again, my companion read me the passage from Kathy Jones’ book, “In the Nature of Avalon” where she describes the landscape as the goddess.

“As many people have noticed, the great mother appears in the form of a giant woman lying on her back on the flat Summerland meadows of Glastonbury. In this goddess image, her head, shoulders and right arm sink back into the earth as the folds of Stonedown, the lower hill on the North Eastern side of Glastonbury Tor. The Tor itself is the great mother’s left breast, reaching up to the sky with an erect nipple created by St Michael’s Tower, visible from miles around. And just like any woman who lies on her back, the great mother’s right breast has slipped round to the side, becoming flattened and not so visible as the left, but still there.

Challis Hill is the mother’s pregnant belly, a soft and dreamy hill filled with all that is new and awaiting birth. Wearyall Hill is her left leg with it’s knee slightly bent, the foot sunk down into the earth near Bride’s Mount, while her right leg is tucked under as St Edmund’s and Windmill Hill. As she lies on the earth, the mother goddess continually gives birth to the Town of Glastonbury from her vulva beneath Challis Hill.”

Now all that remained was to visit the Goddess Temple, and I would be done.

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