Sunday, February 10, 2008

Snake at snow well – Greenwich Park and Blackheath

Sunday February3, 2008:

The motherstone lay in a curve of the land, a hill rising up behind her, an old holly tree standing sentinel. Slowly I dripped moon blessed water into her bowl as I offered up a prayer.

“Dark mother, I thank you for my learning’s on this painful journey into my new life after my father’s death. May the deepest depths of my despair herald the transformation to come. May I die to what no longer serves me and give birth to what shall sustain me.”

One by one, we stepped forward, offered our waters, lit candles and said our prayers. For we were saying goodbye with heartfelt thanks to the crone, the Cailleach, the dark mother who had been with us over the long nights of winter. We were making space for the little maid, the leaping lamb, and the silken snowdrops to return.

“Hecate, Cerridwen, dark mother set us free.
Hecate, Cerridwen, now we are reborn”

“Oh!” said our priestess, “there’s a robin in the holly tree!” And I imagined him; a splash of red against the dark shiny prickles, his bright eye eagerly watching the procession. Raising my face in his direction, I blew him a kiss in memory of the Robin’s Boy, he who had brought a community together in response to the murder of five young women. A man would stand trial this very week, accused of their murder.

Wind whipped bitterly about my ears as I tramped after the others up the steep hill to the top of the Park. Near the burial mounds we struck off across the grass to the dip in the round belly of the hill, the crusty naval of the goddess as she lies spread out on the landscape of south East London, hard by the great snaking Thames.

The Snow well was dressed in dead autumnal leaves. A small log lay rotting amongst them.

Like a tree, I stood still, my feet buried ankle-deep in dead leaves, my arms outstretched as I allowed the current of energy to draw up through my body. “This is for the trees” I said breathing in the life giving energy of the earth.

In my mind I saw myself, a woman strong, shapely and beautiful, branches held up to the sky curved like a great challis, legs sweeping down to bury long roots in the ground. And as I watched myself, I saw myself, half woman half tree; give birth to a silver snake. I felt it uncoil inside me and move through my body, watched it stream out from between my legs, flowed to the dip between my roots and coil like a silver snake in the centre of the Snow Well. It spiralled round and round before disappearing down deep into the earth.

Burrowing deep, it moved through the moisten dark soil. Down it pushed until it found an underground stream to carry it onwards towards the great river.

Her naval now was scattered with dried flowers. In the turf about her, three shimmering white snowdrops had been planted, all soft and vulnerable against the rough grass.

We moved off across the undulating body of the goddess, through a gateway out across a road. Moving across the edge of Blackheath, we trod single file along a narrow path, down treacherous gravel scattered steps, across another road and into a wide flat field circled by trees.

Here on the springy soil of Maidenstone Hill near Blackheath, we honoured the well beneath with songs, poetry and stories. Bridie crosses planted, rose petrels scattered, chocolate shared, we gave thanks for the season and the day.
Striding back across the park, I saw in my mind’s eye, a stern but kind face, dark eyes watching, horns shining in the evening light. I saw him run, hooves thundering across the hills, his dogs streaming about him. And as I walked, I swear I heard the hounds baying, or was it distant bells, echoing across the land. The dark mother’s stone, the snow goddess’s well, Bridie’s Hill and Herne’s hunting ground lay all about me. All was watched by the trees, the standing people who had been here before we ever came and would remain long after we had gone.


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