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" If the world is a tree,

we are the blossoms "

Novalis

Persephone

April 12th, 2013

A guest post by Maria Ede-Weavingpomegranate

The Persephone Myth has been an important one for me throughout my life – as is it for many modern Pagans. I got interested in it first through the work of the Jungian Astrologer Liz Greene, long before my Pagan journey started in earnest. She believed that because of the universal, archetypal nature of myth, each of our lives would express a resonance with specific myths, our personal experiences echoing their themes and lessons.

When I first read the Persephone Myth, I was struck at the uncanny resemblance to my teenage life experiences: as a thirteen year old girl I was undoubtedly Kore’s ignorance and innocence. The death of my mother coinciding with the beginning of an abusive sexual relationship with someone older also seemed to mirror quite starkly Kore’s abduction into the Underworld by Hades, resulting in her mother Demeter being lost to her. Also, although my grandparents had all died and some uncles too at that point, my mother’s death was definitely the one encounter with Hades I’d had so far that illustrated to me the shock of my own mortality, the utterly visceral nature of death.

Choosing to approach the Persephone Myth as one of my own life myths was enormously healing; it gave me the opportunity to see my life journey not as a pointless and meaningless set of events but as a story rich with meaning and full of wisdom and potential learning. It gave me a route through the pain and confusion to find depth and understanding.

It is no wonder that this myth was central to one of the most successful Mystery Schools in the Mediterranean: Eleusis. Its power resides in the truth that this myth’s themes are ones that we will all encounter at some point in our lives. We are each Kore’s ignorance of life’s darker lessons; we are also her need to grow. In meeting Hades we confront not only our own mortality and loss but our potential for transformation and change.

We have or will know Demeter’s grief, anguish and depression. The Goddess Demeter’s fruitfulness shrivels into barrenness; loss for us can also mean that the world becomes a place devoid of life. We can become Demeter’s joyless search, her aimless wandering to regain what is lost.

I have found that when innocence is lost; when love and nurturance and protection seem to have abandoned us, this is when Persephone comes into her own in our lives. The transformation from the powerless and terrified Kore to the wisdom of Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, is a saving grace for us all. Kore’s violent awakening to the reality of death and loss is the beginning of her transformation:

I am Persephone and in my suffering I have seen the cold, pitiless face of Death transform into peace and compassion. I have felt the violence of his grip turn to a protective embrace. I have touched his hand in understanding. I have eaten of the dark, red seeds, full of the potential for new life. I have planted them within me.

In eating the pomegranate seeds, Kore becomes Persephone and her fate is sealed to live both in the upper and the underworld but then this was always inevitable; we cannot undo what has been done; we cannot escape death or the wisdom of experience and nor should we try.

The Goddess Hecate’s role in this story teaches this point beautifully. When we recognise it is time to release Kore’s innocence and inexperience and Demeter’s grief and tenacious grip on the past, we – as Persephone – come to the heart of Hecate, to the place of making sense and letting go:

I am Hecate. I am both the moonless dark and the brilliance of my torch. I am the devouring night and the path made clear. I am the web of wisdom that connects; I make sense of every lesson: seed-time and harvest; death and life. I am the perfect love and trust of release; I am the midwife of renewal.

Going through the processes of loss, making sense, seeing the connections, are all part of us eventually returning to the surface of our lives; however, our experience means that we will now always be aware that we also inhabit that inner, sometimes shadowy space –something we may not have been aware of before – and more than this, we come to understand that we can draw nourishment and guidance from it too.

I have felt Persephone calling many times in life. I have lived long enough to know that the most challenging of our life experiences have the potential to lead us to greater wisdom, no matter how much we rail against the journey. The last few months has had me feeling at times both Kore’s fear and Demeter’s grief, and yet, you come to a point when you have to place your trust in the Queen of the Dead, feel her moving into view at the heart of the struggle. The wisdom of Persephone teaches us that in returning from the dark realm of Hades, lit by Hecate’s torch; upheld by Demeter’s love; carried forth by Persephone’s wisdom and compassion, we come to find that we are once again Kore, a new shoot, our old life – broken down in the soil – feeding our new growth. Through Persephone’s journey we find our greater wholeness.

And so, I offer up a prayer to that Goddess of the Land of the Shades –she who seems to have walked so closely by for so much of my life. Through her presence –with compassion and acceptance – I have learned to patiently wait for that moment, that shift, when the darkness brightens and the way is made clear.

Persephone, guide me safely into the darkness.
May I know that for every journey there, you are at my side;
for every moment of fear and hopelessness,
you are there to comfort me.
Great Goddess of life’s deepest mysteries
plant me; enfold me in your still darkness, and with compassion
help me grow towards the light of a new understanding, a new wisdom.
In you I await my new beginnings; in you I find my deepest strength and wisdom;
because of you I will never be the same.
With you I walk the light and the dark
and fear neither;
With you, I journey to the depths, I endure and I survive, transformed and reborn by the experience.
I give thanks that I travel now with a foot in each place,
nourished by both my inner and outer worlds.
I am a bat at home in the darkest cave;
I am a blossom unfurled in the warmth of the sun.
I embrace all that I am and honour all that I have experienced;
in the depth of your compassion may I find grace.

Be Patient…

April 8th, 2013

 the-pathway-ian-david-soar

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart.
Try to love the questions themselves.
Do not seek the answers,
Which cannot be given
Because you would not be able
To live them.
The point is,
To live everything.

Live the questions now.
Perhaps you will then
Gradually,
Without noticing it,
Live along some distant day
Into the answers.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

April 5th, 2013

Common-Buzzard

A Guest Post by Maria Ede-Weaving

I have a love of birds of prey and buzzards are a particular favourite. This passion intensified when I lived on the Isle of Wight for four years; it is home to an abundant buzzard population; sightings are frequent and often at excitingly close quarters.

At one time you could not hope to see buzzards in that part of the country. They have a history of persecution and their numbers had declined but thankfully they are now rapidly rising, so much so that the south has seen their return. I remember my first sighting many years back in Cornwall, mesmerized by an enormous bird sat on a gate post wryly observing me. I fell in love then.

The fine spring weather in Glasgow today brought my thoughts back to a spring day on the Island and a memorable encounter with buzzards. Nature so often speaks to us when we need guidance and she seemed pretty insistent that day with regard to the wisdom that those wonderful birds of prey can convey. Personally, when I see them they remind me to lighten up, to cost the thermals of my own life with a greater ease and skill; taking in that bigger picture but remaining joyful regardless of what that picture might reveal. Watching them circle high in the sun’s light or rising in a vast, clear sky is an inspiring sight, a message from life that its blessings surround and uphold us always; that life is about play and fun too.

I had just been turned away from the Garlic Farm Restaurant. Despite its relatively remote setting, the farm’s café was full. The farm is situated in a beautiful valley at the foot of the downs, not far from Newchurch. That day the valley felt very sheltered and peaceful and looked perfect in the spring sunshine. Driving up the narrow lane, the banks glowed with celandine and primroses; the leaves on the big willow at the farm’s entrance just starting to unfurl in the warmth.

Being turned away proved fruitful. Returning to the car I spotted a buzzard low above me, spiralling in that languid manner that is such a characteristic of their flight. It soon became apparent that the buzzard was not alone. To my absolute joy there were five, circling low; close enough to see the stunning patterns of their feathers; near enough to witness their beaks opening, their mewing cries filling the silence of the valley. They performed the most elegant of spiralling dances, at times weaving intimately between each other, then breaking free and rising on the currents, layered in successive circles, one above the other, drifting free in parting directions only to be irresistibly drawn back together. Each time I assumed they were leaving, they lazily spiralled down to fly over me yet again, the feathers of their wing tips spread like fingers, the grace and ease of their cruising so beautiful and moving.

Falcons are like Spitfires – they have speed and energy; in comparison, but buzzards are B52 Bombers, rumbling along at an unconcerned pace! They always appear so unfazed, completely laid back even when defending territory. I once watched a peregrine hunting on Culver cliff, the impressive speed and agility of its stooping exhilarating to watch. It was eventually interrupted and forced to retreat by the subtle intimidation of three buzzards who launched into view over the cliff edge. To me they appeared on a Sunday stroll, their wing spans stretched into cruise mode. However, the peregrine found them threatening enough to move on.

Buzzards hunt from perches. They can be quite lazy hunters and would just as willingly scavenge on carrion. It would seem then that their coasting of the thermals is not necessarily vital for their survival with regard to food; for me they look like they really enjoy it. It’s fun! It’s thrilling! I like to think of them up their gazing down upon all this beauty, feeling the strength and movement of the air carry them, loving every moment, relishing how great life is.

When life is challenging us – when we are tackling our own difficult or painful issues – it is easy to become a little stuck in one gear, our range of emotions stiffening and becoming less flexible. After years of feeling our defenses up and ready for the fight, we can forget about the simple pleasure of having fun, of playing, of being silly and merely enjoying ourselves for no other reason than because it feels good. Our emotional lives can feel a little like being trapped in a Werner Herzog or Bergman movie: intense and introspective. Such moments of inner searching and confrontation can be tremendously productive and necessary and yet it’s important to let such periods go when life calls for us to do so. There can be a great comfort and familiarity in angst; sometimes it feels a whole lot easier to achieve than joy, and yet it is so vital to experience the balance and the contrast. Perpetual crisis does not reflect the flow of life; we can’t stay stuck in one emotion any more than we can stop breathing; if we try, we do damage to ourselves. Pain teaches us about compassion, depth and empathy; joy and happiness are all the more powerful when we have known the sting and cut of pain. Without contrast we become emotionally one dimensional, missing out upon the diversity of feeling and experience that life offers to us all, no matter what tragedy might befall us upon the way.

During the tough times of these last few years, I have been so guilty of getting stuck myself, letting the feeling tone of sadness or crisis become my default position. It feels good to have this challenged by the presence of others; it feels good to challenge it myself. It takes practice; it takes remembering and reclaiming the things that give us joy, throwing ourselves wholeheartedly into them until we stop thinking and just enjoy.

My beautiful buzzards know the wisdom of timing, their entrances always perfectly synchronous. And so with wing span fully and ecstatically stretched, the sun upon me, the currents beneath me…

From the Cauldron Born

March 28th, 2013

Kristoffer Hughes’ book From the Cauldron Born – Exploring the Magic of Welsh Legend and Lore is now out and is well worth a read. Kris explores the Taliesin myth in wonderful detail, not only deepening the reader’s understanding of the story’s history and Celtic roots but engaging us with the archetypal nature of this compelling myth, enabling a deepening and widening appreciation of this inspiring tale of transformation. Kris also offers rituals, meditations and practical exercises that ground the inspiration, allowing the reader to connect in a personal way to the gifts of wisdom layered within the story’s depths.

We can so often skim the surface of myths and stories, never really touching upon their power. Kris illustrates the worth of delving deep, of immersing ourselves in these magical tales that speak to our souls and that have the potential to lead us on the most extraordinary of journeys; ones that will change us forever.

From the Cauldron Born gets the Awen flowing. A must read for Druids and all those fascinated by the transformative power of myth and story. It is published by Llewellyn and available on Amazon here

 

to the cauldron born

One Tree – Many Branches

March 28th, 2013

Tree%20of%20Life%20Painting

The first One Tree Gathering in this country was organized by OBOD in October 2010 and took place at the Balaji Hindu Temple in Birmingham where our contribution included a Samhuinn ceremony. The event was designed to bring people together from various spiritualities to celebrate their differences and find common ground within the Dharmic tradition which we share. This year the Cornovii Grove will host the second One Tree Gathering onthe 19th May – Unity in Diversity – One Tree – Many Branches. At the request of our Hindu friends it will be held within the beautiful space of Whitlenge Gardens near Kidderminster. The theme will be ‘Nature as Teacher’.

The day will consist of:-
• Ceremony – both Druid and Hindu
• Talks on how we each practise our spirituality in daily life, followed by discussion
• Meditation
• Journeying
• Vegetarian food ( included)
• Evening Eisteddfod – please bring your instruments and inspiration

Places will be limited so apply now for tickets to this wonderful opportunity to share our path with fellow travelers.
More information and tickets (£18) from: Briar, 162 Broughton Rd, Banbury Oxon OX16 9QQ. Tel.No: 01295 264914 or carolnoo@aol.com

The Fabulous Whitlenge Gardens

The Fabulous Whitlenge Gardens

The Bullied and Beautiful

March 27th, 2013

The Ted website – found here – is a treasure trove of truly inspirational lectures and talks. I have posted a few here previously and here is another by poet Shane Koyczan, along with a short biog from the website and his wonderful poem about what it means to be bullied and how we heal and transcend the hurt and damage:

Shane Koyczan is a poet, author and musician. He performed at the opening ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, where an audience of more than 1 billion people worldwide heard his piece “We Are More.” He has also published three books: Stickboy, Our Deathbeds Will Be Thirsty and Visiting Hours, selected by both the Guardian and the Globe and Mail for their Best Books of the Year lists.

In 2012, Koyczan released a  full-length album with his band Shane Koyczan and the Short Story Long. The album includes the viral hit “To This Day,” which highlights the anguish of anyone who grew up feeling different or just a little bit alone. To bring visual life to this image-rich poem, Koyczan invited artists from around the world to contribute 20-second segments of animation to the project. Posted on YouTube on Feb. 19, 2013, by the close of the month the video had been viewed 6 million times.

http://www.ted.com/talks/shane_koyczan_to_this_day_for_the_bullied_and_beautiful.html

Tree Spirit Experience

March 25th, 2013

GSE_No_App_900p_NOtext_WEBOur friend Jack Gescheidt writes: After a decade of making TreeSpirit photos, for the first time I’m hosting a 3.5-day trip: among giant sequoias, the largest ancient trees on earth in the Sierra Nevada mountains of CA.  Each participant will get his/her own unique TreeSpirit photo starring him/herself, and receive a large fine art print for their home.

It’s part adventure, part art-making, part workshop, all fun, and all about trees and people being and feeling connected to each other.

More info/details here: TreeSpiritProject.com

Sounds like a great idea! If I was this guy I’d hate to slip half way up and go sliding down! Ouch!

Jack’s talking about a similar trip in the UK. Watch out for news!

Pagans & Pilgrims: Episode 3 – Trees & Mountains

March 22nd, 2013
The view from within the Yew Gateway at Knowlton, Dorset

The view from within the Yew Gateway at Knowlton, Dorset

The third episode in the Pagans & Pilgrims TV series currently running on BBC 4 was broadcast last night and I watched with some trepidation because I was asked to take part in this one and was interviewed by the presenter Ifor ap Glyn one windy day this January – but had never seen the result.

We drove through awful weather to get to Knowlton, and after a briefing over a pub lunch we set off for the site, which I’d never visited. I learned something new that day: you know those wonderful aerial shots you get in films like this? I thought they were taken from a helicopter, but most times (and in this series) they use a drone: essentially a model aeroplane with a camera in it that is operated from the ground. How clever!

The interview you see was done in virtually one take. The sun was setting, the rain had stopped, and we were all freezing and wanted to go home. After we had walked to the two magnificent gateway yews which from a distance looked quite young, and had been filmed as we looked at them, I remembered the  Ancient Yew Group (started by an OBOD member and friends). Nick, the author of Britain’s Holiest Places, looked the trees up on the website via his phone and we discovered that they are truly old, dating back to the 7th century, or perhaps even earlier since their girths (reaching 23 ft) suggest an even greater age. Both are female, and there used to be a third that was damaged by fire and removed.

At the close of this episode Ifor sums up the theme of the programme well: “Nature belongs to no-one – it is nondenominational. Trees and mountains are beyond dogma. They inspire within us  feelings that are mystical, difficult to explain, but maybe then that’s the point, because nature is so much greater than we are, and it’s in places like this that many of us feel that we come closest to the Divine.”

The episode is up on the BBC iplayer here for the next month and there are 3 more episiodes to go.

The Wild and Soulful Earth

March 21st, 2013

glade

We stand at a junction in history. The old human story is collapsing – revealing itself for its own myopic nature – and the institutions that once held and reinforced it are collapsing with it. The new story that is emerging is the one which calls us into creative kinship with the presence of the world. The druids of old practiced in their Neimheadh, their forest-shrines. Returning to the neimheadh can be a profound metaphor for our return to the life-affirming story that we are now being called to surrender to. It is perhaps no accident that enfolded within this word is another word: neimhe. Heaven. Whether there are actual etymological roots between the two, or if it is just another note within the life-dream to startle us awake, ultimately does not matter. It is an invitation to sit in presence with a very simple fact: heaven has never been far; it is waiting patiently for our return to the wild and soulful earth.

Jason Kirkey