Friday, November 02, 2007

The Loving Lime

Hampstead Heath

Wednesday October 31, 2007:

Someone else was occupying the pine circle we had selected for the focal point of our working this evening. No matter, the rest of the heath, its hills and valleys, copses, paths and streams lay waiting for us. Our walk of attention, our promenade with the ancestors could just as easily be done somewhere else.

When my companion and I had walked these hills four days before, soft driving drizzle riding the blustery wind had plastered hair to skin, and jeans to legs. Rain had crept surreptitiously into trainers to chill unwilling toes. Under a low grey sky we high-stepped the long grass and thistles, and stroked the damp trees. This night, shod in walking boots, we walked under a clear sky with an old moon grinning crookedly down from the sodium splashed heavens.

We went to the gentle sheltering lime tree. Standing in a circle under the spreading boughs, we laid hands on her trunk and breathed in the green fresh gentle odour of her dampness. Patiently, or so it seemed to us, she listened to our simple prayers for the dead we wished to acknowledge. We touched her arching branches and with tender hands tied on our clouties. Each spoke out her intention and the tree lovingly accepted them. As we finished, a sudden little breeze caught the tree and she clapped her leaves together as though in ovation.

We moved and formed a line. Each woman touched the one in front of her; we swung off, our attention placed lightly in our feet. Taking the pace from the slowest one, moving with soft steady beat of the leading woman’s drum, we began to snake our way across the soft thick grass.

Out of the darkness and the quietness, they came, my father, grandmother and many friends and comrades now dead. They fell in beside me, walking, limping and rolling in solidarity as I wandered across the heath. And as we moved, I went back through my life, to the times when they were alive and knew that I was different because they had been in my life. This was their wisdom, their healing gift to me this night.

Slowly we moved on. AS I walked, I made a promise to hold this space on the heath each year at Samhain, so that others could find wisdom and healing in a walk with the ancestors. Returning to the tree, we quietly circled her, drawing closer, laying our hands on her trunk, joining each others hands to fully encircle her. And we spoke of our dreams and we sang to each other an the tree, the sheltering canopy holding our soft, harmonious voices.

I leaned into the tree and held her. A voice began, gentle at first then growing stronger as I joined her, the beautiful Sweet Honey in the Rock Song,

“Listen more often to things than to deeds.
Listen more often to things than to deeds.
Tis the ancestor’s word when the fire’s voice is heard,
Tis the ancestor’s word in the voice of the water.

Those who have died have never, never left,
The dead are not under the earth.
They are in the rustling trees,
They are in the groaning woods,
They are in the crying lands,
They are in the mourning rocks.
The dead are not under the earth.

Listen more often to things than to deeds.
Listen more often to things than to deeds.
Tis the ancestors word, when the fire’s voice is heard.
Tis the ancestor’s word, in the voice of the water. …”

And the tree listened, it’s canopy held us as we sang, shared our prayers and then opened the circle and made ready to leave. Ducking out from under her embracing boughs, we walked back down the path.

The young people in the circle of pines had been quiet for some time. As we approached, I distincly heard a voice calling out then the whole group chorused in unison;
“Merry meet, merry part …”

And as we drew close we joined in; and merry meet again!”

The group were a coven just finishing off their Samhain ritual. Bedecked in their long black cloaks, with fiery cauldron and pomegranate juice in challis, they told us of their adventure with a group of tourists on a Hampstead Heath Halloween Tour, who wandered right through the middle of their ritual at the most sacred part. WE offered them our pumpkin lantern, wished them Samhain blessings and made our way back to the world.

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