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.


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