A Journey With Blackbirdowl

Monday, August 17, 2009

22 Sylven Dove

Friday August 14, 2009:

Soundlessly and carefully we walk across the damp grass to the central fire. The rest of the camp sleeps beyond their tent walls. Stiff from lack of sleep and damp camping, I am tottering, rocking from side to side as I put one foot in front of another. Finally, I stand by the crackling and snapping fire, a centre of comforting heat against the chill morning air.

We’ve gathered to meet the folk of the land and in particular to communicate with beings who have revealed themselves to one of our party. More naturally a lark, I am happy to be up at this hour, even if my body protest. I am eager to know more of the spirits of the land.

WE walk into the other field, it is empty of tents bar a shrine and the workshop yurt. It feels damp and cool, solitary and a little bit unwelcoming. WE stand in a circle as one of our party speaks of his experience and invites us to call to the folk he has met.

His folk are an ungentle people, fierce and earthy. They are noble too. Tall and horned, through him they dance and stamp, growl and snarl, and we do the same.

The circle we have made breaks as others rush off in all directions. I stand still, beating a tattoo with my feet on the ground, growling a welcome and an invitation to these folk to come to me.

A presence stands before me. He or maybe it is a she, is tall, very tall, perhaps about twelve foot high. I crane up and see the face, lit by the grey morning sky, pale and thin. Wild hair or a main frames it, horns poke through from amongst the hair. We gaze silently at each other and I am transfixed. I stop growling and hold my breath.

Suddenly the being strides off across the field and scales the fence. He disappears into the woods beyond. I wait, for I don’t know what else to do.
I can hear a wood pigeon cooing. Another answers and then a wren trills in the hedgerow to my left. From the woods I hear the caw of a crow and in the distance the insistent cocadoodledoo of a nearby cock.

I stand on the earth, soft yet unyielding, the tuffety grass rough and hummocky under my feet. The green freshness of crushed leaves wafts softly on the cool morning air and I breathe gratefully their sweet perfume.

From under my tongue I begin to coo, piping and round, soft and tremulous. High up in a tree an answering coo comes. We duet for a time as I stand waiting for I know not what.

The grass whispers, the presence stands before me. The cooing is close, I stop and hold my breath. I focus on the sound and see ,held in long gentle hands, a quivering soft grey pigeon. She sings softly and I sing back.

Did the being stride up to her in a tree and just pluck her out? I imagine him selecting his bird like picking an apple from a tree. I wonder if the bird had any say in coming along.

The hands come closer to me as the presence leans over and offers me the bird. I reach out cupped hands and receive the soft warmth. I bow my head in thanks as I bring the pigeon to my heart.

The pale face with its matt of hair and shiny horns watches me. My heart is warm as the pigeon nestles against me and seems to melt into my heart. I am overwhelmed with a sense of love. I sigh deeply for my heart is full. I hold my hands over my breast and rocking gently, begin to coo.

“Droo-droo-droo-droo-droo” I coo. I rock gently and the being watches me silently.

“Sylven Dove” something says in my ear. “Sylven dove”, I say to myself, “Sylven dove, welcome,” I whisper softly.

I raise my eyes to the level of the beings face, but he is gone. I have a new name! I know not yet for what purpose, I know not if it replaces any other name I have, I roll it around my mouth repeatedly, as though savouring a tasty morsel of delicious food.

Sylven dove, tree dove, wood pigeon perhaps? I speculate upon its meaning as I repeat it over and over again. I smile. It’s beautiful, it’s loving, it’s gentle, I like it!

The circle reconnects and we link hands and stand quietly, holding our experiences and dreams as we give silent thanks. The field is quiet and still. The wind rustles the trees and only the occasional call of a wood pigeon breaks the tranquillity.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

21 Dancing Game birds – Hampstead Heath

Saturday August 1, 2009:

In defiance of the lowering sky, we gather on the heath to mark Lamas. We stride across the wide heath land and into a copse to find a circle amongst the trees.

“this is the wake of Lugh the sun King,” says the ritual leader, and I think of the sun gone into the grain, the first harvest, the blackberries and plums that are ripe and round an ready to eat. I think too of the game birds, plump with their feasting, ready to be harvested too.

“Eeyon, Eeyon, Eeyon” I peon as I call the hurtling ones, those who dodge through the undergrowth, across the gorse covered heath , who perch high up in the leafy trees calling to the sun as the red legged partridge calls across the flatlands of East Anglia. I hear the heavy beat of wings, feel their presence as they stalk around the circle we have made. I call them to honour them, they who will soon be chased and hunted down by toffs and their cronies across the heath lands and woodlands of these isles. Lugh has given his life as the sun has gone into the grain and the game bird will lose his life for a greedier harvest.

We dance and sing, solemnly and quietly, striding carefully on the uneven ground. Behind me I feel the birds dance a solemn dance too. I imagine them plumply stepping, stamping and bowing to each other, serious and purposeful.

We give our grief’s to the water, sprinkle it on the ground like tears. Our tears feed the earth for water is life giving too. We pass the Lamas bread and offer up our gifts and the trees watch us and the birds watch us, standing amongst the trees.

The year has turned, the days are growing shorter. The sharp west wind with rain on its breath is also cold. We are moving towards the dark, the dying.

“Bang!” the birds outside our circle shriek and rise, fluttering into the treetops with alarm. But this is a starter pistol not the first salvo of the guns. Someone is having some kind of athletics competition and some energetic souls are pelting round the running track below.

I pick up a drum and begin to sing and play. The circle of witches join in and we sing with great gusto:

“hoof and horn, hoof and horn”
all that dies shall be reborn.
Corn and grain, corn and grain,
All that falls shall rise again!”

Around us, the birds strut and bow, encircling purposefully outside the circle of trees.
“Eeyon, Eeyon, Eeyon” A bird flies across the open heath land beyond our copse. I bow to it as it passes and hope it gets to a place of safety as it seems to be in a bit of a hurry. We open our circle. I nod to the birds watching from amongst the trees as we settle down to feast, but they are gone.

20 the slumbering Pigeons

Tuesday July 28, 2009:

I am so tired. It’s been a hard day. I’ve chaired a heavy meeting about domestic and sexual violence as experienced by older and disabled people and it’s really done my head in. I’ve chaired a another tough meeting and have then staggered around endless badly maintained South London streets, trying to find a tube station. Every hump and bump in the pavement, every change of surface and every veering around crap dumped on the path has torn shrieking aching pain from my poor knees. Now, when I really want to saunter along a beautiful nature reserve and enjoy the waning of the day, I can hardly walk.

I stagger along beside my patient companion as we move along the Parkland Walk. We’re going to find pigeons to commune with. It’s late, almost dusk. The hedgerows are ominously quiet as we stump past them.

Still it smells like summer, all green and sweet. And it’s not actually raining for once, although the sky lies low over our heads in a rather threatening manner. Blackberries are ripening on the hedges. WE pause and my companion feeds me a ripe one, small, sweet and tart all at once and intensely blackberryish.

Finsbury Park is populated with groups or individuals occupied variously in marshal arts, football, jogging, screaming at the ducks and trying to push each other into the pond (that latter group, a gaggle of teenage girls!). I grumble as I walk slowly along, wishing I’d not had this idea for one more commune with the birds but gone straight to bed. My mind is full of examples of abuse and I can feel tears not far away. I don’t know if they are for me, my knees or those who have experienced such abuse. I can also feel a seething anger bubbling somewhere inside me. I breathe and we walk on.

I have to sit down. We find a bench and sink down on to it and cast a circle.

“Come feathers on the wind, fluttering and scirring, circling and descending, gentle, soft in the dawn light, grey like you are, come fluttering ones, come!

Come gilded winged ones as you soar into the noon day sun, dark against its brightness, your wings aflame with its rays, come glittering ones come.

Come swooping and curving, fly low over the water and watch yourself shining there as you fly, cooing your liquid song. Come flowing ones come!

Come, you who walk the earth, feet firmly on the ground, strutting, bobbing and bowing, pecking curiously at anything edible. Come strutting ones come!

And you who circle and spiral, in the wind, under the sun, over water and on the earth, spiral an circle and connect. Come spiralling ones, come!”

We scatter seeds and crumble fairy cakes and sit back and wait. The shouts of the footballers pierce the air. A panting runner pelts by. The traffic on Green Lanes hums as the wind dances in the tree tops.

Nothing. Not a chirrup, a coo or a flutter. Only, so my companion tells me, the silent cautious approach of two crows, come to check out what’s on offer and to stand guard so no other bird gets it.

“go to the trees”, comes the message. We get up and walk towards trees. And then I hear a gentle cooing. My companion tells me quietly that we are near a tree upon which three pigeons sit and that there are others high up in the trees here.

We stand beneath them and scatter more seeds and cake. And we wait. The wind shakes the trees. The footballers are now charging around the running track. A dog is barking and an owner barks back a command witch is ignored. I breathe and tune into the quiet energy of the birds above me.

Slowly I relax. Slowly, I feel the pain in my heart slip away. I close my eyes and I can feel the soft fluttering wings touching, stroking me, soothing and gentling me. Softly, in my ear they coo as though to say “there-there, there-there” and I feel comforted. And I say silently to the birds:

“Stroke me with your wings,
Tender as the breeze
Feathery caress
Gentle me to sleep”

The dove is associated with love, peace and gentleness. In my bird oracle it is also associated with forgiveness. I can’t bring myself to forgive those who perpetrate such terrible acts against others made vulnerable by their situation, but I can soften my heart towards myself, forgive myself for being so hard on myself, because I too have been so hurt. I coo softly to the silent birds, now settling down to sleep.

And out of the sky, from high up in another tree, a final, triumphant deep brurring coo, “droo-droo-droo, droo-droo” comes. I bob my head, pigeon-like, and make my farewells. How fitting, at the end of pigeon time, to meet them at their bedtime, I think, as we leave the park.