Thursday, January 17, 2008

Dark and light Yule dreaming - The magic Wood, Hertfordshire

Friday December 21, 2007:


Mist spiralled the trees as we walked through the dark wood. The boys scampering ahead, looking for the perfect place. We came to halt in a small clearing beneath a tall oak.

Standing before the tree, I cast a banishing circle. It was time to journey through the dark wood to the place to lay down our loads. I drummed a heartbeat and said:

“The wood is dark. Fog weaves between the trees. The moon pokes fingers of light between their branches, lacing the path you are walking down with silver. The ground is soft beneath your feet and the place smells of that earthy, slightly mouldy smell of a damp wood at night.

You are looking for your special tree, the one with the old gnarled bark and the hole in its base. The woods are quiet.

Suddenly, something runs across your path. You stop and hold your breath, following its progress with your eyes, not daring to move anything. What is it? A small creature scurries away, crashing through the dried leaves. You walk on, following the path, keeping a look out for that tree.

The quiet of the night is shaken. Above your head , the twigs crackle, a bird sings out. What is that bird? You stop still, the better to listen to his song. When it is ended, you move on once more down the path.

Rounding a clump of low bushes, there it is, the gnarled old tree, the one you have been looking for, sits waiting for you on the edge of a small clearing. You look at it carefully and se the darker place at its foot which is the hole. It looks awfully small, but the magic of this tree is that somehow , you will be able to get in whether it be because the hole is big enough or you have temporarily grown small.

You get down on your hands and knees and crawl in. Oh, it is so dark inside, and oh it’s much, much bigger than you thought it would be. It’s a big chamber and in the centre is a spiral stairway leading downwards. You put your foot on the first tread and look down into the black hole before you, then you step forward and down, down and down for ever and ever and ever.

Your legs begin to ache but you step on and on. Eventually, you stand on the bottom, on a trodden earth floor, in a large chamber with earth walls. You are way down deep in the ground and it is incredibly dark and so quiet.

You move on through the chamber, following the earth wall with your outstretched hands. The chamber becomes a tunnel and then is so narrow you have to squeeze your way through, which you do, arriving in a small round chamber with a little flickering fire in one corner.

You look around and, in the shadows, you see her, dark and still. You go over to her and kneel and lay down your load. She gives you something in return, what is it?

You stay a while kneeling before her, being with her, receiving love and comfort from her. Then it is time to go. You get up, bow low in thanks and leave, retracing your steps through the narrow opening, the long passage leading to the big chamber and the spiral stairs which you climb. Up and up and up you go, your legs hurting with the effort until you come out at the top, get down on hands and knees and crawl out into the open air.

The wood has changed, the sky has lightened and the birds are all singing. It is nearly dawn. You walk back through the wood, past the tree where the bird sang, past the bit of the path where the creature ran in front of you, back to the clearing, to this tree and to our small circle.”

The boys shifted and drew closer. One by one, we gave to our circle the thing we had come to leave. The circle received our sadness, arguments, conflicts, worry and bad things. I beat the drum faster and we called out that which we no longer wanted, chanting for it to be gone, growing louder an louder to send it away, echoing into the night. And then it was over, in the silence, I opened the banishing circle and began to sing.

“Light is returning,
Although it seems the darkest hour.
No one can hold back the dawn.”

“I have another song like that” said the older of the two boys. He began to sing of how the dark and the sadness is going and the light and the happiness is coming. When he had finished, he shuffled up to me and flung his arms around me in a spontaneous gesture of thanks.

We lit our makeshift fire, a biscuit tin with tea lights in it. It shone in the gloom, lighting up the tree and the ground around it. We cast an evoking circle to begin our light Yule celebration.

Each held our found object, our gift to another in the circle. I asked us all to gaze at the fire or imagine it and think about the thing, the quality or feeling we most wanted for ourselves, to really feel it in our body whilst watching or imagining the flames. When it was strongest in us, it was time to give it to the object we held. Taking the stone I had chosen, I held it cupped in my hands and blew sharply three times into it. The rest of the circle followed suit.

“The best gift of all is to give something that you prize dearly to someone else” I said. In turn, we turned to the person on our right, gave them the object and explained the quality we had given it. Self love, happiness, understanding and love were sent round the circle.

I beat the drum and began to sing:

“Celebrate the birth of the sun.
Light the way oh Lucina.
Dance around on Sabbath night.
Blessed be the great mother.”

We jigged about singing until it was time to stop. Opening the circle, we put out our biscuit tin fire and set off for a dark and brambly tour of the woods, to visit trees that the boys found special and wanted to show me.

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