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.

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…