Where Were You…

Last night at 10pm, the lights went out across the UK.

In certain regions, a call spread across news networks and social media to switch off all electric light, and instead simply have one single candle burn. This was in tribute to those who fell in World War I, which began exactly one hundred years ago.

Look up the news this morning. MPs applauding, people commenting on the darkened streets, the dramatic drop in electricity from the power providers.

Last night, a single candle burned in so many rooms. We sat quietly, each and every one of us, in that darkness held at bay by one tiny flame. Whether friend or stranger, the shared community of streets, town, counties and country joined together to remember the ancestors.

The power of darkness, of fire, of shared humanity. We remove all the noise of the modern, high-tech world and simply live, as so our ancestors did – through war and peace, times of hardship and plenty.

I considered the world around me now, from that place of silence. So many still suffering in war, pain and terror, far and near. So many who care and do their best, struggling to help against social and political adversity.

We each have our battles to fight. Sometimes removing the distractions helps us to remember, to return to what’s important. To learn, to decide, to move forward, and to live well – alone and together.

Advertisements

Why

I’m not often asked why I do what I do. The more common reaction is appreciation, enthusiasm and curiosity – and then a deluge of questions!

It can be hard work. Some days, I am just worn out and no use to anyone. It can feel thankless.

Then, on days like today, I’m reminded all over again, simply Why.

Invitations to perform Handfastings and Renewal ceremonies. And Funerals. Life-changing moments.

In-depth discussions of the work being undertaken to have Pagan voices recognised by Government. Including the constant striving for legalisation for the aforementioned ceremonies. Lasting change.

Encouraging creativity, seeking inspiration, keeping the tales of this land alive.

Discussing Druidry as it is lived, every day. If I’m being listened to, I’m encouraging others to explore with me.

Hugs and thanks from random strangers who’ve read my words.

And then finally, being unexpectedly moved almost to tears by ‘The Battle for Stonehenge’ documentary (here). Hearing the voices of others with shared belief.

I am just one character in this tale, narrator and player. But I do my best to make what I do count, by its truth. Word by word, step by step. Constant challenge, often battling, moving forward.

Inspiration.

Ancestral Work

This morning, I cast my vote in the European and UK Council elections.

This evening, we experienced a huge thunderstorm, resulting in power cuts.

I’ve been thinking about how so much of what we do in our lives is pretty much the same as our ancestors did. The format or technology might be slightly different, but motivations, actions and meaning haven’t changed as much as we might think.

My democratic mark was made with pencil on paper. I watched in awe as the weather moved past. I prepared candles, books and creativity to keep my evening busy. The simplicity of it was inspiring.

We eat, sleep, interact and go about our days as humans have always done. Every day, we honour our ancestors by these actions. Rather than becoming dejected at the lack of change, I think our constant exploration and discovery, as individuals and communities (be they lone and shared experiences), is rather wonderful.

Still moving, indeed.

Place and Tribe

Today, I drove over 200 miles, a round trip across a good width of this country. County boundaries were crossed, towns and villages navigated. From sun to rain and back again.

I understand that in some countries, this wouldn’t count for much. But here, it’s a long way. I’m pretty tired now.

But such trips are wonderful for exploring the diversity of my lovely homeland… while at the same time, feeling the similarities.

We have our different tribes still. Nottingham is different in mood and feel to Derby (they’re approximately 15 miles apart). Both are far removed in life and geography from London, Newcastle or – crossing amorphous national boundaries – Cardiff or Edinburgh.

Yet, when I speak to people of ‘spirits of the land’, they always nod in understanding. That almost territorial ‘vibe’, made up of the human societies which live in these places and demarcate the boundaries, but not confined to just the human residents. This is still very much felt, whether consciously or when reminded.

The land my partner and I visited today was beautiful – birch and gorse, with a magnificent lake in glorious sunshine (and then an equally marvellous rainstorm!). It had its own definite character, and we were glad to get to know it a little.

As I drove home, I passed way-markers. You are Now Entering Lincolnshire. Then Nottinghamshire. Sherwood Forest. Derbyshire – and home.

I reached out to those ancient trees as I passed. We waved to the magpies and dodged the ravens playing on the roads. I felt the pull of my own little place as I moved nearer. The spirits of the land are clear in this wild countryside, even as the tarmac and concrete of civilization try to tame it. It’s good to explore, to reach out and actively notice, feel that connection.

Back on my hilltop, I breathe deeply. My home, my place, where I am known and held. Before I head out again tomorrow.

SF Bards

I’ve been reading a lot of science-fiction lately. Mostly dystopian in theme, from a variety of countries and eras.

While the ‘must be busy’ part of my brain tells me that I could be doing something more constructive, these stories are engaging me for several reasons, resulting in time actually very well spent.

It’s easy to disparage ‘genre’ fiction, but a lot of these tales are very well told, carefully considered and – yes – following in the ancient Bardic tradition. They satirise the world in which they were written, showing extremes of human behaviour and the potential consequences.

When reading pre-1970s pulp SF, hindsight gives us a certain viewpoint – the technology of The Twenty-First Century can appear ludicrous, and the ‘action’ laughable. But people are still people. Relationships and characters reflect those known to the author.

History teaches us lessons. Future history plays with that idea. Skilful storytellers demonstrate possibilities, to both entertain and make us think. As with most media, we get out what we put in… but the dime novels of the past are now themselves valuable documents. Is our present better or worse than their dream?

We hear the voices of our ancestors, and consider the voices of the future. And hope that it’s not too much like 2000AD.

Traditional Shopping

This weekend, I had the pleasure of doing some shopping. In a place where every single item I bought was directly from the person who had crafted it.

The yarn was spun and dyed by the lady who gladly chatted to me about it, and told me of the reason for the shading in the colours. Some medieval-appropriate scissors were made by the local fellow who was pleased to find someone to tell his story (from office-worker to craftsman). The gorgeous stoneware cup replaced a much-loved one smashed in our recent kitchen accident. But there were also candles hanging from strings, felt or wool hats and leather boots, beautiful linen cloth woven by a smiling Italian chap; even armour hammered by the smith standing proud before his wares.

This was a Living History Fayre, of course, not a supermarket. Such events are dates to be marked in the diary, as traders come together to sell to a particular market – in this case, mostly reenactors and history fans, but also a fair few pagans and simply interested locals.

It was lovely to see the sheer pleasure on everyone’s faces as us ‘muggles’ (ie dressed in 21st-century style) rubbed shoulders with World War 2 soldiers, 14th-century damsels and Tudor ladies. My lack of head-covering was remarked upon – and with my long, unbound red hair, I was merrily accused of being a witch! (Perhaps politer than the alternative…)

This isn’t silly, or escapist. This is people following their passion to learn about their ancestors, their land, the history that is part of us all – and then sharing that with others. Children were running about freely, with one lad being given an impromptu lesson with a sword, others playing proper dress-up with the adults!

And to have a bag of wares that is entirely unique, hand-crafted, each with its story, touched me on a level that simply wandering around a mall will never evoke. We might have easy access to goods from all over the world and all levels of technology, but it’s important to remember what real trade feels like, real relationship between the crafter and the user. I’ll certainly remember that every time those items are used.

I’ll certainly be saving my modern pennies for the next one…

Stories to Remember

As I’ve mentioned often in various places, my main passion in life has always been reading. I always have several books on the go, and tend to get fidgety and unhappy if I don’t have an engrossing tome to hand.

Recently (amongst other things, as always), it’s been the stories of others. This started a while ago with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the Borgias, and Sir Richard Burton (the explorer, not the actor). Rather an eclectic mix, but probably familiar. A more diverse selection was to come.

Caterina Sforza. The Mancini Sisters. Various lady mystics. Princess Alice of Greece. And today, Freya Stark – who has taken up most of my afternoon.

I’m not trying to be elitist or snobby; I’ve deliberately included links to all of these books, as they’re readily available. But none of those names are as well known as the first selection, which is a true shame – because they’re wonderful.

I’m not getting into a debate about feminism and history/herstory today. Instead, I’m being inspired by these stories, simply glad that they’re being told at all. I’ve no doubt that as many male as female lives have been subsumed to time by the more glamorous (or simply louder) ‘stars’.

I hear many personal tales each day – from those in my Inbox each morning, to words from miles away via Facebook friends… and then the printed page. Some of these will go no further than me. Others deserve to be remembered. They are our history, our ancestors, after all.

As well as reading books, I love to share their wealth. So here you go. Investigate these, if they sound interesting. Or rummage in a charity shop, look at online review pages, talk to friends… explore and discover some stories of those you’ve never heard of before. Feel free to share in the comments here as well, of course!

I feel lucky to have found these, and am excited as to what – and who – I’ll discover next. I honour those who lived those adventurous lives, and those tale-tellers who help us remember, as they inspire our lives in turn.