A Journey With Blackbirdowl

Saturday, November 19, 2011

28 Dancing Green Ribbon

28 dancing green ribbon
Monday October 31, 2011:
"SCATTERED with the bleached heads of dried thistles,
the quiet heath, Is like a dark sky full of bright stars.
Through the veil of the cool breeze,
THE ground soft beneath my careful feet,
I walk in remembrance of my beloved dead.
A green satin ribbon dances,
spiralling in the wind,
a shining tribute to a life too soon extinguished.
The pavements are stencilled with the outline of fallen leaves. The rain
must have plastered them to its surface. The wind has set them free to drift
away, leaving only their shadow behind.
Lights twinkle from a pumpkin set upon a doorstep. A silent group of zombies
slip past on soft-soled feet. The quiet street echoes with a sudden burst of
cackling laughter.
The night is warm and cloudy. It does not rain. We seem to have the heath
pretty much to ourselves. Walking up the hill is like climbing the rounded
belly of the goddess. London disappears behind the screen of the trees and
fades into silence.
We have the ducks, geese, owls and rustling, scurrying creatures to
ourselves. The thistles have dried up. Their bleached heads shine in the
dark in a startling meadow of pale dots. The grass is long and springy.
It holds us as we walk.
The ash tree waits for us. We circle it and cast sacred space. We call our
beloved dead and our ancestors. The wind touches my skin. I feel the
spirits of those we've called, cluster around us. The wind whispers in the
grass like the sound of a silken robe swinging around a walkers legs.
Led by a solemn drum beat, we move through the veil and across the heath.
Dressed in her beautiful green ordination robe , she walks with me. She's
stately and composed. She exudes compassion and serenity.
As one, we step into each other's footsteps, linked by frail woollen ties to
remind us of each other. Far away to my left, I hear an owl hoot. Further
away, another answers. We swish our way through the dried thistle heads.
They snatch at our legs, snagging trousers, reluctantly releasing us to move
My mind chatters away, images of my beloved dead come to place themselves
before me. So many were so young. Their passing is forever a loss to the
world. But I am different because they were in my life. I can continue to
carry the memory of their wisdom with me on my journey forward.
We proceed circling through the field of thistles and back through the veil
to the ash tree. I hear her deep voice addressing me; I ingest what she says
though I am not conscious of the words. I immerse myself in the deepness of
her voice.
Hand in hand, we circle. Our beloved dead stand amongst us. I feel their
presence like the coolness of the gentle night air. We speak of our
experiences, of those we've lost and mourned and what they have given us.
I speak of the sense of compassion and serenity that Vijayatara has gifted
me. I tie a wide green satin ribbon to the tree in remembrance of her. It
swings and spirals in the breeze, as though bowing and stepping, turning and
reaching up in an exquisite arabesque of perfect grace. I cup it's moving,
waving self loosely so that I might feel its dance against my palms.
I sit on the soft grass. Somehow I feel sheltered here, closer to my beloved
dead, who cluster around me. We offer thanks to the spirits for being with
us this night and open our circle.
On the way down the hill I hear a duck cackle manically. The trees hold
their limbs up for us to pass under. We stand amongst fallen leaves to say
goodbye to the heath, taking the bond of our connection as protection to
guide our ways home.

27 Fire Lodge

27 Fire Lodge
Saturday October 29, 2011:
We circle the pyre, each woman picking a rock, blessing it with a quality to
bring to our sweat this evening and laying it carefully on the logs.
"The release of tears," I say, gently laying down my rock. The line moves
round and I stand with a magnificent rock in my arms.
"Revolution" I yell, capering forward and depositing it upon the steadily
growing pile. I am satisfied. I step back, brushing off my hands as though
to say, "Job done!"
The fire, skilfully built begins to sing as soon as a light is put to it.
We have stacked the wood and balanced the rocks. I say "we" though I've had
no actual hand in doing it, being employed building a beautiful alter to
celebrate the turning seasons.
We sing to the fire as the flames begin to dance amongst the structure of
rock and wood.
"Fire, sacred fire burning through the night.
Come to me in the dream-time, bring me visions of light.
Circle round, spiral down to these arms open wide.
Healing light, burning bright, dry these tears that I cry."
The air has thickened and deepens. Night has fallen. The circle of women
stand by the fiercely burning fire. I am naked. The cool evening air
touches my warm flesh. It is delicious.
I move closer to the fire. It's heat touches me purposefully. A small
westerly wind growing bold now blows smoke towards me. I stand in it's hot
gust and allow the breath of the fire to embrace me. I turn and turn in the
glow of the fire.
Sweet burning wood melts into the distinct herby perfume of sage. I feel
the outside world fall away with the reminder of my intent this evening.
Something else lies amongst the smoke. It is the warm dusty smell of the
hot rocks. The smell of a rocky outcrop on a hillside under a hot sun, I
think as I stand and am cleansed by the smoke.
Humbly, I crawl into the lodge. The earth is cool under my forehead as I
rest it in supplication on the earth.
"For all my relations", I say out loud, dedicating my prayers and my sweat
this night to everyone, for my growing changes all who encounter me.
The dark, bitter-sweet smell of damp earth and crushed grass fills the
space. Another indefinable scent lies across it, a reminder of the softness
of women's perspiration. Soon, the hot dusty rocks will fill the chamber
with heat.
"Hot rocks!" shouts the fire keeper as solid heat is rolled into the pit in
the middle of the circle of women. The rocks pile up, the door is closed,
and our prayers begin.
I don't know what others can see. I imagine the dark denseness. I imagine
that there are grades of darkness depending upon where one is looking. I
see in my mind's eye the bright shining hot rocks, shimmering in the pit
before us. I see them, red, pink orange and even blue and green as they
radiate different temperatures. Like dusty hot jewels, they offer their
heat to help us give of our sweat to the service of prayer.
I thank the rocks for their gift for, in time, the repetition of heat will
crumble them and they will return to dust, from whence they came. And with
that thought, I think of the wood that feeds fire that heats these rocks.
Outside, I can hear it singing. It hissing, zings, gutters and roars, for
the wind goads it on to greater heat. I place my hand on my heart in
Women's voices rise in tuneful song. We sing. I feel my chest and throat
open as my voice, strong and confident, weaves a harmonious path amongst
Sweat begins to run between my breasts. For the moment, the thin cotton of
the sarong upon which I am sitting, shields me from the cold touch of the
earth. I reach up and touch the bent hazel branches, stroke the blankets and
tarps that make the wall of this domed space in which we sit. It feels like
a round belly, the womb of the earth and I her child sitting, singing,
praying and waiting.

Water on rocs hisses. As more is applied, the air becomes moist with its
breath. The heat rises.

The door is flung open. Cool air slips in. Someone describes the fire,
framed by the door and a thin moon somewhere overhead, for the clouds have
cleared. More hot rocks are borne in upon shovels and tipped into the slowly
rising pile in the pit. They smell of the earth and also of sun-warmed rocks
on a beach.
I am moving down an almost vertical tunnel, but I am not falling. I find
myself in a low passage and am forced to crawl. I don't feel confined by
this though.
The tunnel opens out into a chamber about the size of this sweat-lodge. I
sit and wait. I am naked.
A paw comes through another tunnel on the other side. It reaches for me.
It's followed by a muzzle and then the whole head of the bear and then its
body, slowly crawls in. She is big for the space but she doesn't fill it.
She sits down and I lie on her belly. my hands in her soft fur. I rest
there, listening to her blood beating, being moved on the gentle rhythm of
her breathing as her stomach rises and falls.
Something heavy leans upon my knee. I reach out to feel it and touch the
bony scull overlaid with soft velvetiness that is my wolf. We lapse into
Time moves on. I am still, in the dark. I lie contentedly with the bear
and the wolf and together we listen to the earth turning and time spinning
The quality of darkness thickens. A new coolness of moving air arrives,
along with it, the scent of something new. I feel both wolf and bear lift
their muzzles and sniff. I lift my nose and do so too.
And with that movement, I stir properly, roll over, separating from both
furry warmness's, and touching briefly, hand on heart in grace and farewell,
I move away.
Remembering the near vertical passage, I pause wondering how I will get out.
My wolf and the bear gently move on either side of me and steer me another
way. I find a less steep tunnel up which I crawl with ease until I come up
between the hot rocks, (which do not hurt me) and back into the lodge and my
circle of women.
I think about stillness. I think about touching a leaf, getting lost in its
simplicity. No matter how depressed I get, I can do this, surely I can do
Everything seems easy tonight. The sweat is hot. The prayers are strong.
I forget the discomfort of sitting on the ground for nearly three hours.
Somehow the magic cushions my body and I forget the physical pain.
I give away what I don't need and call in what I do. I offer my use of
words and power as a lover of women. I plant the seeds of my career as a
powerful, potent, wise, trustworthy champion of the disadvantaged.
I climb out of the lodge and stand before the fire. I am naked. The fire
warms my skin and the air cools it too. Drawn to the fire, I lean into its
heat, turning in the power of its breath as I thank it for its work this

26 Who is the Maggon?

26 Who is the Maggon?
Sunday October 1, 2011:
I stand bare footed on the cool wet grass. The sun streams down
unseasonably. My face is hot with its fierce caress, even though the
morning is not yet advanced.
I listen to the drum and feel my feet on the ground, my toes spread. The
bumpy dry earth lies beneath the soft grass. Small stones bite into my
tender soles. Gingerly, I dance. .
Through caves organically curved like a great vulva, I move into an arched
womb-like chamber. Dark and pulsing, it is empty. Beyond this, a sheet of
water that I must get across, bars my way. But I am a confident swimmer and
this is no barrier to me.
I immerse myself in its aloof coolness, cleaving through the water
effortlessly, revelling in the sense of power my warm blood zinging through
my rapidly cooling flesh brings.
It is dark on the other side. The pulse of my blood meets the rhythm of the
earth upon which I stand, mingles with the beat of the drum, and
involuntarily I move my feet. Dancing is everything, she dances too, and
she might be a flamed haired, flamed wearing goddess, swirling as I swirl.
Our dance is joined by a strange black and white creature with wings; a long
spiny tail and a beak come muzzle both dragon and bird like. Maggon (a
dragon-magpie or magpie-dragon) dances before me in a swirl of black and
white, illuminated by brilliant flames.
Who is this creature, what does he stand for? Dragon hoards, guards its
treasure. Magpie is enticed by bright shiny things. What does this mean
for my life?
I collect careers, activities, objects and skills. To my critical mind,
nothing is done to great expertise and I can't even describe myself by one
or two words even.
Yes I am a lesbian, a queer pagan, a witch, but I tread many paths. Yes I
advise institutions, coach people, train others, but I have many fields of
I've often longed for an all-consuming hobby, one thing I am am expert on,
birds of Britain, world music, playing a single musical instrument perhaps.
I enjoy all these things but am mistress of none. This is the same in my
professional life. I am infamously ubiquitous. My need to collect and
hoard spans from clothes, careers, pagan paths, personal growth regimes and
even my own fat.
My mind spins. We dance faster and faster. The maggon and the flame-haired
goddess do dance battle. Each swirls, leaps and arabesques, vying to outdo
the other. Their competition is fierce. The flames on the goddess sigh
shiver and diminish as the Maggon's stark silhouette gains dominance.
I dance on amongst them, helpless to do anything. Hours, days, week's even
years seem to pass as though but a second of time. The Maggon begins to
change as he melts into the flames. His dark outline merges with the
brightness of the fire.
My chest hurts. I am filled with pain, like heart-ache as though losing
someone dear. Maggon, austere in look, flamboyantly "bling-bling" in
pursuit is shrinking in front of me. I struggle to release that
aquizatorial tendency which I know now no longer serves me.
"But I want to do well in the world," I think as despair goads my heart.
"Why must I let go of this creature who has served me so well?"
We dance on; I focus on moving all parts of my body, as many parts of my
body at once. Am I trying now to collect multiples of muscle movements?
"Dance is the answer," I think, purposely seeing just how many limbs and
muscles I can shift at the same time, heedless of the possibility of pulling
a muscle. In the heart of the fire, where my feet stamp and swivel, she,
flame haired, flamed dressed goddess dances, her full attention on me,
loving me for who I am and how I am throwing myself into the dance.
The Maggon has gone! Behind, he has left a beautiful dancing fire goddess.
Enchantress of the fire, enchantress of my heart and destiny, we dance on
together. Behind the regret, the sadness, a new joy shines. I can dance
into my power as a woman.
Old habits have served me well. The MAGGON has been a fierce friend,
working only to support me in the only way he can. I no longer need that
which he has so long done for me. My mind whirls as I release old fears. I
dance in love of self, dance away from fear and restrictions, which leave me
as I dance into freedom.
Breathlessly, I stand slightly swaying upon the now warmed and trodden
grass. Sweat runs down my face in warm rivulets. The morning sun moves
across the sky. I hold my hands over my heart and bow to the sun and to the
shadows behind to the place of the Maggon for all he has done for me.

25 Equinox Fire

25 Equinox Fire
Friday September 23, 2011:

Tumbling leaves race playfully
along the gritty pavement.
Wood-smoke drifts in misty clouds,
around the quiet garden."
Conscious that I am repeating my year with fire (for I have lost focus for
the second time), I yearn to celebrate the equinox under its influence. Two
others and I, the embryonic beginnings of a possible new magical coven,
gather in my garden to contemplate this. We make fire in my cauldron and do
a working about equinox, balance and what we want from our new connection.
The fire is held by the roundness of the cauldron. Soon it is in fine
voice. It roars and hisses exuberantly. The wind spirals the heat and smoke
indiscriminately between us.
We sit in a triangle round the fire connected by three sticks pulled from
the wood pile. We contemplate our personal journey, that of the group and
what we feel is needed for the world. It feels important that any magic I do
has all three focuses.
I'm walking above a deep chasm over a narrow bridge with no sides. Below me
lies certain death, should I fall. There's something dark and threatening
in the chasm below, I can hear a faint menacing roar. I know that if I can
keep on the straight and narrow, everything will be alright. The bridge
however seems endless.

On the other side of the chasm is a place of dancing, of wildness yet
somehow of equilibrium. I dance amongst the flames, lost in their
spiralling contortions. Here lies certainty, purpose and adventure. It is
also enticingly laced with danger and exposure. I know it could hurt me, get
out of control even. The brave part of me speculates what that would be
like. The reticent part of me flushes hotly, scared to be exposed to such
volatility as seems promised by the fire.
Fire, smoke and wind in turn touch the three of us sitting in circle, and
from time to time come between us as though reaching to greet others amongst
us, unseen perhaps because they are not yet identified.
"Equality, inclusion, respect for difference, challenging patriarchy and
misogyny." The fire and its shadows seem to sing out to me.
"Ah, I'm on home ground", I think and feel comforted.
Beyond the circle around the fire, the garden is still and quiet as though
it is a dark night rather than an early weekday afternoon. From out of the
silence, a magpie frantically saws the air with his clattering song.
Further away, another answers in equal staccato.
"And what of balance for the world" I muse, nuzzling the smoke with my chin,
turning my head this way and that. Voices above us on the Parkland walk
break into our silence. They drift away on the wind and are overtaken by
the rhythmical sound of a rap song coming from over the garden fence.
The fire calls me back. I sing to it, stirring its tongues of heat with my
hands. I wonder idly why I don't make fire more often in my garden even by
myself, since I now know how.
The voices above us and the music from over the fence have broken the spell.
The fire has settled down into a gust of heat in the bottom of the cauldron.
Far away, a phone rings insistently. I remember I'm meant to be working and
drag myself back into the present.

24 Autumn Gratitude

24 Autumn Gratitude
Saturday September 17, 2011:
Walking through the woods, the hard edged noises of traffic moving through
suburban streets are abruptly swallowed by the trees who sing with the
softness of the wind. Acorns rain down from the oak boughs above our heads.
Damp mushroom odours, wind in and out of sharper green smells, misted by the
air into something hinting at autumn. There are not a lot of birds, and as
yet the children and dogs are not in evidence. We miss our way and end up
coming out of the woods and walking down the road.
A small group gather for the ritual. We agree and adapt what we will do to
suit the unexpectedly small numbers of participants.
Sitting back to back on a rug on the still warm earth, I draw strength and
comfort from my neighbour's strong back leaning against mine. The woods are
quiet aside from a small child in a red dress fascinated by our peaceful
circle and whose voice charged with questions pipes clearly through the soft

I am small. The rough horned tree sitting before me moves. The Lord of the
wildwood is mellow and benign. He exudes encouragement, reassurance,
steadiness and strength. Breathing the muddy, mushroom, loamy smell of him
edged with something muskily potent, I feel calm. In my hand, the smooth
round acorn is warmly silky. My skin in contact with it, tender.

My mind is in turmoil. My thoughts shove each other out of the way
chaotically. It's hard to articulate what I am searching for; the thing I
feel will help me through the winter into the uncertain times ahead. In the
end I describe it as a desire to throw away the agitation that makes me
overeat. I fling away my acorn and immediately feel better.

Walking into the labyrinth, I turn the notion of how agitation affects my
behaviour. I would not have described myself as an agitated person; I am
often externally commanding and confident. The knowledge that there is an
underlying state of agitation and anxiety is one that is familiar to me.
Purposefully I step forward, weighing, examining that agitation and anxiety,
cast it off for it does not serve my purpose as a whole human being.
It had its purpose once. There was a time when it was the most rational
thing to do, but I don't remember how it came to manifest itself as a useful
behaviour, I only know I don't need it anymore.
Because she is silent, I am unaware that the strikingly fae red clad child
from earlier is walking the labyrinth too. She steps solemnly, deeply
focussed on her own internal process. Her mother watches her incuriously and
with delight.

I arrive at the centre of the labyrinth. I feel almost clear of that
anxiety. I light my candle indicating new beginnings, hope in the darkness
and warmth. I start walking back. On the edge of the labyrinth, I stand,
cupping my hands around the flame for warmth, dancing it with my palms, as
we sing:

"Every step I take is a healing step.
Every step I take is a sacred step.
Healing, healing, healing my body,
healing, healing, healing the land."
We stand in a circle, offer prayers for the dead Welsh miners and their
grieving community, the people of Libya, struggling friends and communities.
All around the wind touches the oak boughs and they cast acorns onto the
earth with cheerful abundance.
Holding hands, slowly, gracefully, thoughtfully, we dance and sing, to turn
the wheel, to wind up the connections we brought to it, to weave the magic
into being. We sing:
"Lady spin your circle bright.
Weave your web of dark and light.
Earth, air, fire and water,
Bind us as one."
Like the air, our circle is soft with gratitude. WE pass juice and fruit,
sharing blessings for the winter to come. We thank the earth for her bounty
and sing Pat-Mary Brown's Gratitude Chant:
"Thank you for the good things in my life.