Saturday, June 26, 2010

6 Solstice Faerie fire – Battle, East sussex

Sunday June 20 and Monday June 21, 2010

“A ring of hands connect
Enclose and hold the Solstice fire
From Dark to dawn
From light to dark and back again
They turn the wheel of life.”

The evening air is gently warm. My companion says that the sky above is partly covered in soft cloud and the half moon is beginning to sail between the trees. It will not rain tonight.

I totter precariously upon the jagged ruts carved by a heavy wheel into the soft earth of this field embraced by trees. Here amongst the folds of East Sussex, within sniffing distance of the sparkling sea, I join radical faeries to make a queer spirit circle to honour the sun.

The fire is already roaring. It’s the solstice fire I have dreamed of, burning merrily and fragrantly into the falling night. I sit down by it and get out my knitting!

Gathered together, we take each other’s hands, breathe as one and call the directions and the spirits of the land to be with us. Our intension is to take the dusk to meet the dawn with a fire to celebrate the sun and all it brings to us for now and for the coming dark.

I think about the sun dying at Solstice and the gift of energy to the growing world. Still the sun will shine for the rest of the year, though the days grow shorter. Its heat will nourish all growing things; feed them so that they may feed us in the winter months. Until the cold days of winter are upon us, we can still celebrate being outdoors under a kind sky with a cheerful fire to keep us company.

The faeries are jovially chatting away. I let my irritation leave on the evening breeze and allow the circle to be. Someone is drumming. A song starts. The first of our fire repertoire unabashedly misremembered unites us all.

“We will rise up from the flames,
Higher and Higher and Higher.
Fire’s strength we will reclaim,
Higher and higher and higher.
We are the witches, who will never be burned (never be burned again).
We are the witches
Who have learned how it is to be free!”

I struggle to remember the other ten verses and then let the anxiety go. This is not a choir rehearsal! It’s a celebration and it doesn’t matter if the songs are not perfect!

Into the soft drumming, I remember a fire chant. Taught by a friend as we coaxed an illicit fire on Hastings Naturist beach into being, under a fierce wind. It’s a short chant with a complex rhythm and everyone attempts to sing it, producing their own variations on the theme in a counterpoint of bold uncertainty which brings life to the chant.

Make of my heart a burning fire, fire.
As from the Sun, the moon, the stars,

I sit and knit. The fire sings. We sing. Around us the land is putting itself to bed. In the distance an animal cries, piercingly, plaintively, wildly. Is that a fox, I wonder, or a querulous dog? I stretch my ears beyond the singing chattering circle as the voice of the wild cries to the night.

I dredge another fire song from my memory and give it to the circle. Three dykes, all of us enthusiastic singers lead our fae brothers in the song.

“Fire, sacred fire, burning through the night
Come to me in the dreamtime, bring me visions of light.
Circle round, spiral down to these arms open wide
Healing light, burning bright, dry these tears that I cried.”

The night moves on. The drums fade into silence and then are enlivened again by another hand. Someone starts a song and the circle takes it up. In the distance, beyond the voices, I hear an owl hoot.

The fire crackles and spits. The soft ashy thud of a branch submitting to the flames blows a fragrance of resin sweetness to me. I breathe in deeply and see in my mind the wood uncurling, letting go of resistance and falling deeply into the energy of the fire.

We sit in silence. The fire sings to us. The owl calls beyond the tree. Something else shrieks, a game bird perhaps or a lost seagull confused by the lightness of the night sky?

Soft feet pad on the grass behind me and I know that the folk are present too. I incline my head, stretching out the edges of my closed eyes without turning to “look”. In the shadows, they move and I am sure I can see their eyes shining in the firelight.

What has fire to teach me, I ask myself, my fingers twisting and turning the wool as the shawl, blanket thingy I’ve been knitting for two years, slowly increases in size? Another log rolls over and gives itself to the fire. I imagine the flames licking hungrily at the wood, consuming, transforming, purifying all.

Putting my knitting down for a moment, I reach out to the fire and draw its heat towards me. I spend a lot of energy effecting change in the world. This is my Work, I know. But sometimes I struggle to transform that which cannot be transformed, wasting vital energy that could be used for something else. I am often engrossed by the stupidity of everyday inaccessibility and exclusion, so that I’ve no umph to fight the bigger fight. I give to the fire that sense of frustration and ask it to help me let go of the frustration of exclusion.

We sit on by the fire as the night sky begins to lighten. From time to time, a song breaks out, dances with the beat of a drum and then falters into silence. All around, quiet conversations move and shift gear. The air begins to thin.

An owl screeches. Another hoots. In the distance a golden arpeggio of song breaks into the coolness of the pre dawn air. A blackbird begins to sing.

I turn to hear him better and catch the owl hooting back. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard the blackbird and the owl duetting! Inside my chest I feel the two parts of me unite and move together as though to dance a little silent jig of delight and discovery. I feel my face split into the most enormous happy smile.

“Listen,” I say to the assembled company, “I can hear the blackbird and the owl singing together!”No one takes any notice, but I don’t care. I am whole and perfect and content. I’ve brought the dusk to meet the dawn and the sun is about to rise.

Later, on the 05:31 train to London from battle I sit amongst silent strangers. Half asleep commuters shield themselves with their newspapers from the reality of another day and the rest of humanity. I breathe deeply, and behind that warm alkaline smell of newsprint, I catch the softer smokier perfume of the fire.

“Blessed be the fire of our desire.
Blessed be her courage, blessed be our love.”

Ah, I’ve remembered that chant that has been on the edge of my memory all night. I hum it quietly to myself as I settle back in the train seat to snooze until London.


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