Monday, 28 August 2017

The Occultation of Orion by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


I saw, as in a dream sublime,
The balance in the hand of Time.
O'er East and West its beam impended;
And day, with all its hours of light,
Was slowly sinking out of sight,
While, opposite, the scale of night
Silently with the stars ascended.


Like the astrologers of eld,
In that bright vision I beheld
Greater and deeper mysteries.
I saw, with its celestial keys,
Its chords of air, its frets of fire,
The Samian's great Aeolian lyre,
Rising through all its sevenfold bars,
From earth unto the fixed stars.
And through the dewy atmosphere,
Not only could I see, but hear,
Its wondrous and harmonious strings,
In sweet vibration, sphere by sphere,
From Dian's circle light and near,
Onward to vaster and wider rings.
Where, chanting through his beard of snows,
Majestic, mournful, Saturn goes,
And down the sunless realms of space
Reverberates the thunder of his bass.


Beneath the sky's triumphal arch
This music sounded like a march,
And with its chorus seemed to be
Preluding some great tragedy.
Sirius was rising in the east;
And, slow ascending one by one,
The kindling constellations shone.
Begirt with many a blazing star,
Stood the great giant Algebar,
Orion, hunter of the beast!
His sword hung gleaming by his side,
And, on his arm, the lion's hide
Scattered across the midnight air
The golden radiance of its hair.


The moon was pallid, but not faint;
And beautiful as some fair saint,
Serenely moving on her way
In hours of trial and dismay.
As if she heard the voice of God,
Unharmed with naked feet she trod
Upon the hot and burning stars,
As on the glowing coals and bars,
That were to prove her strength, and try
Her holiness and her purity.


Thus moving on, with silent pace,
And triumph in her sweet, pale face,
She reached the station of Orion.
Aghast he stood in strange alarm!
And suddenly from his outstretched arm
Down fell the red skin of the lion
Into the river at his feet.
His mighty club no longer beat
The forehead of the bull; but he
Reeled as of yore beside the sea,
When, blinded by Oenopion,
He sought the blacksmith at his forge,
And, climbing up the mountain gorge,
Fixed his blank eyes upon the sun.


Then, through the silence overhead,
An angel with a trumpet said,
"Forevermore, forevermore,
The reign of violence is o'er!"
And, like an instrument that flings
Its music on another's strings,
The trumpet of the angel cast
Upon the heavenly lyre its blast,
And on from sphere to sphere the words
Re-echoed down the burning chords,--
"Forevermore, forevermore,
The reign of violence is o'er!"


Shylock’s Speech from the Merchant of Venice (Act III Scene I) by William Shakespeare


Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal'd by the same means, warm'd and cool'd by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.


Friday, 25 August 2017

The Sword and the Stone


“Come over here, gentlemen and put your hands on my sword again. Swear by my sword, you’ll never mention what you've heard.”
Hamlet: Act 1 Scene 5.


The Hearth of the Turning Wheel has since its inception developed, adapted, evolved and assimilated teachings and materials not necessarily apparent upon a cursory examination. Two items of regalia, acquired long after our foundation, serve to illustrate this growth.


The Hearth Sword and the Hearth Stone are a pair of ritual items, which although rarely incorporated into ritual; serve an important purpose and represent a vital theological concept. The Sword as a ritual item is a well-known representation of the masculine principle. The Stone as a representative of the Earth is equally well-known, as a representation of the feminine principle.


The symbolism of swords and stones, their pairing and unification, is a common motif in mythology, both ubiquitous and practical. The most obvious illustration is that within the Arthurian Cycle, where a sword must be pulled from a stone, to confer a valid and rightful kingship upon the bearer. Here, the actual penetration of the rock by a blade, is a symbolic representation of the divine union of heterogender principles, that unification of the Sky Father with the Earth Mother. The Hieros Gamos itself, in which the God and Goddess are conjoined.


By drawing the sword Arthur takes upon himself the role of an earthly representation of the Divine King of Heaven, recognising that his kingship is granted or bestowed by the Goddess herself and this is what is meant when we in the Hearth of the Turning Wheel talk of Sovereignty. To again validate his claim to kingship, Arthur marries a recognised princess and it is the marriage to Guinevere that confirms his rights, for it is She who represents the Goddess manifest on Earth.


Historically this near matriarchal marriage line is seen within the pre-Roman culture of Egypt, although in neither the Arthurian Cycle nor in Ancient Egypt, is matriarchal rule an actuality. The Egyptian line of succession being matrilineal, with the crown passed through the female representing sovereignty but with her chosen husband ruling as king.


The concept of Sovereignty runs through British and Irish mythology like a thread of precious virtue. In the Irish cycle it is the MorrĂ­gan who may represent the sovereignty of the land. In the British Isles and the Arthurian Cycle, that archetypal representation is Guinevere. In the English Midlands it is the Maid Marion that other Queen of the May, who holds that same sacred position and by whose marriage Robin Hood reigns as consort.


Marion is a maid but not a maiden. Her relationship with Robin Hood and her activities within the legends, transcend the social mores of the period. She is mistress of her own fate. Her Maytide marriage to Robin Hood, bestows upon him the right to rule. Maid Marion is the Sovereignty of the Greenwood and Robin Hood as her consort, reigns by right of the Sacred Union. The Merry Men, the word Merry is derived from the Saxon meaning retinue or retainer, serve as their household. The model presented in the Sherwood Cycle is therefore; comparable to Arthur, Guinevere and the Knights of the Round Table in the Arthurian.


The penetration of the stone by the sword is a representation of other symbolic unifications, the lance penetrating the body, is later mirrored in the act of communion in which a blade enters the grail to bless wine. The wine representing both the blood of sacrifice and that of childbirth, for there is perhaps no greater sacrifice than the pain of childbirth to bring forth life, is itself the Sacred Blood of Kingship and Sovereignty.


Within our own practice it is recognised that the Sword and the Stone form a paired treasure, two items of regalia that symbolise what a Hearth is in reality. Wheresoever those paired treasures reside, that is where the Hearthstead is and wheresoever the Hearthstead is, the Kinship and Sovereignty of the Hearth shall reign.


© Daniel B. Griffith the Chattering Magpie 2017


Wednesday, 23 August 2017

THE SOLITARY REAPER BY WILLIAM WORDSWORTH


Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.


No Nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne'er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.


Will no one tell me what she sings?—
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?


Whate'er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o'er the sickle bending;—
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.


Sunday, 13 August 2017

I don’t know how (poem © 2017)


There have been many, many times,
That I wanted to say no;
But I don’t know how.

There are many, many people,
To whom I should say sorry;
But I don’t know how.

There are those, far too many,
To whom I should say thank you;
I don’t know how.

There are those, very few,
To whom I should say I love you;
But I don’t know how.

I don’t know how; to say no.
I don’t know how; to say I am sorry.
I don’t know how, to say thank you.
I don’t know how; to say I love you.
I don’t know how to live or to forgive.
I don’t know how.


© Daniel B. Griffith the Chattering Magpie 2017



Sunday, 23 July 2017

MIDSUMMER 2017

“We will remember, we who dwell,
In this land beneath the trees,
The starlight on the Western Seas.”
J.R.R. Tolkein


As usual and not at all unexpectedly, the Midsummer week of 2017 was for us of the Hearth of the Turning Wheel, a busy one. I had taken a week of annual leave, as had the Defender of the Hearth and this allowed us some flexibility in our arrangements throughout that week. The month itself was finally justified in its epithet of ‘flaming.’ The sun rode high, gardens were full of colour and the countryside was beautifully rich in its own tapestry of hues.


The day of the Solstice was Wednesday the 21st of June 2017 with the sun entering Cancer at 5.24am British Summer Time. It was therefore decided that our ritual observance would take place on the eve of the Solstice and this ran smoothly, with members of the Inner Court and one of our members in waiting in attendance.


The opening invitation of the ritual itself, acknowledges that our gathering was one of anticipation:

“We approach the time when daylight reigns. The Sun God rules strong in his manhood and the land is bathed in glory. Our Gods stand together and as one nurture our land. The grain ripens, the fruit swells; the earth is fertile and full. On this day as the solstice approaches, we ask the Gods to join us.”


The Solstice dawn is an exciting and wonderful experience, it can be a moment of remarkable tranquillity. Our ritual attempts to anticipate this with the inclusion of selected poetry, ranging from modern authors such as Duff, to Tolkien, Kipling and Shakespeare. The Solstices are ideally suited for poetic interludes.


Amongst these interludes is a piece specially written for the Hearth of the Turning Wheel by our Defender of the Hearth. This ‘Lament to Baldur’ is set to the tune of Greensleeves and captures the sorrow felt at the loss of the Bright One.


We of the Hearth have a particular affinity for the Fairy Triad of Oak, Ash and Thorn, this is reflected both in our choice of poetry and often our choice of decoration for rituals. When out of doors may we gravitate towards places where this Triad can be found together and the day after the ritual, we would be looking for such locations on our visit to the Derbyshire Peak District.


“We call Oak and Ash and Thorn,
To bless our circle drawn.
We call Oak and Ash and Thorn,
To guard our circle drawn.
Of all the trees that grow so fair,
Greater are none beneath the Sun,
Than Oak and Ash and Thorn.”
R. Kipling.


Although the predominant decoration for our ritual would be oak, acknowledging that the power of the Oak King is at its apex. One single twig of Holly is placed on the edge of our working area. This is in recognition that although the Summer King reigns, the Winter King now begins his climb to the throne.


“Herein lies wisdom, beauty and increase, without this, folly, age and cold decay.” Shakespeare.


The next day three of us travelled to the Peak District with the aim of an early lunch and an observance planned to coincide with local noon. We meandered through attractive villages, such as Wensley, Winster; the home of the Market House that has the remarkable distinction of being the very first acquisition of the National Trust in 1906 and accidentally, the village of Elton.


Driving past our eventual destination of Robin Hood’s Stride we found our way to the village of Birchover and the amusingly named ‘Druid’s Inn.’ This two hundred year old stone building is an attractive and welcoming hostelry, famous for both its name and its menu. Here we partook of an early lunch, rather fancy sandwiches, a half pint of refreshing nectar and met the locals, free-range chickens and fellow Pagans from Sheffield.


Next to the Druid is one of several rocky outcrops that are found along the edge of the moors and this is now the site of a Victorian folly. Rowter Rocks is a series of caves and the rocks that still bear carvings many thousands of years old. Sadly the Victorian fashion for quaint improvement got out of hand here and picturesque additions have all but destroyed the archaeological context. Even the ancient Rocking Stone is a replacement, fixed in position for safety.


We did not have time to explore the rocks, although it is certainly a place worth visiting. A link to a post describing one of my previous visits is below. Nor unfortunately was I able to show my friends the curious carvings remounted into the rear wall of the nearby chapel but again, there is a link below to a post that includes photographs.


Leaving the convivial atmosphere of the Druid’s Inn we drove back along our original route, parking across from the bridleway. From here we walked the incline towards this famous Derbyshire feature. Legend has it that Robin Hood could stand on one pinnacle and stretch his leg across to the other, so measuring one of his strides. A remarkable feat, a giant of a man indeed.


As is often the case at the more popular sites in the Peaks, we found ourselves in a queue to conduct our own ceremony, another group had arrived before us and were already at work. We settled down therefore, to admire the view.


I was surprised to find that those ahead of us were known to me, a group from the Nottingham area and a dog. They are members of the Facebook group ‘Significant Dates at Significant Places,’ which consists of people who will embark on trips to sites of meaning and significance to hold rites on the festival dates. I include a link to this group below.


Once they had finished their activities we spent a short time chatting, my horn being something of an ‘objet de fascination.’ In the valley we could see buzzards circling, slowly gaining eight on the warm air. Then we saw the most amazing sight, too far away and too quick to get a useable photograph. A peregrine falcon dived upon a buzzard and began to drive the larger bird away. The ferocity, speed and acrobatic skill of the smaller bird was impressive, indeed we as a group were somewhat awed. My last sighting of a peregrine was in May, when we had attended the Garland Ceremony in Castleton.


After this unexpected display we waved off our fellow travellers, as they had to make their way to Matlock and we busied ourselves preparing the area for our own simple rite. This was very minimalistic indeed, with bread and mead. They and their dispensers; a dish and a chalice, were the contents of a small rucksack.


Leaving the remains of our communal meal as offerings on a nearby ledge, we made our way down from the rocks towards the Harthill Moor proper. Here at the base of the tor that is Robin Hood’s Stride, I was lucky enough to see a stoat run across the footpath ahead of us, no doubt chasing a rabbit. There are rabbits and even hares aplenty in the area.


Making our way steadily across the flat meadows of the moor and now starting to feel the heat of the day, we approached the tallest stone circle in Derbyshire. This grouping of four stones is perfectly placed in the most attractive of panoramic scenery. Nestled close to a dry stone wall and a magnificent oak tree, it is one of the most charming stone circles anyone could imagine.


This stone circle has several names and this variety does cause some confusion. One name is Nine Stones Close and that name is shared by another charming circle that I have visited, near Winterbourne Abbas in Dorset. That circle is itself sometimes known as the Nine Ladies and therefore, shares its name with another famous Derbyshire stone circle, this time not on Harthill Moor but Stanton Moor.


An alternative name for the Nine Stones Close of Derbyshire is the Grey Ladies, which I personally prefer. Legend says that these stones dance and it has been suggested that the name ‘nine’ when used in association with stone circles, may actually refer to noon.


Today there are only four of the Grey Ladies standing in their approximate original positions, a fifth is set into the dry stone wall to the south. The missing four were most likely broken up over the centuries, their remains may now lie in the nearby wall.


We spent a short and enjoyable time viewing the stones, all three of us finding ourselves attracted to their pleasant position and general atmosphere. Unlike the more famous circle on Stanton Moor, which is set in a harsh and rather rough landscape. These stones had a certain friendliness about them, a lightness perhaps created by being set in a rich and fertile landscape.


The Defender of the Hearth taking out his rods, set about a little dowsing, teaching our companion the technique as he did so. He felt he could identify the most likely original location of the missing stones, noting that one possible vacant spot, lay between two of those still standing. When placed near the wall however, it was noted that he received confusing and indeed very mixed signals that at first made little sense, if any at all. I helpfully suggested that this could be a spot where remains of the other four stones may now lie, broken up as part of that wall and this seemed a satisfactory possibility to the conundrum of the mixed signals.


Our trip to the Peak District was now drawing to an end, we meandered our way back to the main footpath near the Stride and then made our way down the hill to the road. I stopped briefly to appreciate once more the spectacular Derbyshire landscape and to photograph exquisite wild roses. Sadly we did not have time to explore the nearby outcrop and the medieval hermitage. Like Rowter Rocks in Birchover, my return to both sites will have to wait for another visit.


Our Hearth activities for the week were not yet over, the day after the solstice we held our irregular but usually monthly moot at the Exeter Arms in Derby. We were honoured to welcome guests from Cheshire and Staffordshire, the latter couple making their first (but I hope not their only) visit.


In the more than convivial atmosphere of a town pub, so quaintly and curiously decorated, that it would be more at home in a country village. We held a small, informal social gathering, enjoying good food, fine drink and equally fine conversation.


All things considered, this was a rather pleasant and appropriate ending to our three days of Hearth of the Turning Wheel activities. There was a meeting of minds and hearts before, at and after a time of deep significance. Perhaps a recognition that ‘hearth’ has a meaning all of its own?


“From fairest creatures we desire increase; that thereby beauty’s rose might never die.” Shakespeare.


SIGNIFICANT LINKS

Midsummer Adventures Part One

Midsummer Adventures Part Two

Significant Dates at Significant Places

The Summer Solstice

Rowter Rocks

Nine Stones Close/Grey Ladies

Buzzards, boulders and the return of the May Queen #1

Buzzards, boulders and the return of the May Queen #2

Buzzards, boulders and the return of the May Queen #3


REFERENCES

Duff G. (2002) The wheel of the Wiccan year. Rider, London.
Kipling R. (1906) Puck of Pook’s Hill.
Tolkein J.R.R. (1955) The return of the King.
Shakespeare W. (1609) The sonnets.
Shakespeare W. (nd.) A Midsummer nights’ dream.