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May 2007
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June 2007

Home again, home again

Grandmum sent me the following clipping from the Daily Mail to help entice me (as if I needed enticing) to come back to Glastonbury, England for a visit. It’s a photo by John Davies:

Magicalmysterytor

My own personal heroine and magical forbear (she’s two generations back in my lineage), Dion Fortune, wrote in her book, “Glastonbury: Avalon of the Heart,” about this peculiar and breathtaking phenomenon. I’ll have to give you a quote from Gareth Knight that paraphrases Fortune because I left my copy of her book in my room at Grandmum’s. These words were delivered at a lecture he gave last year in September and come very close to her own:

But there is one time above all others when it is well to ascend the Tor at nightfall, and that is at the full moon of the autumnal equinox, round about the Mass of St Michael . . . The nights are coming cold then, but the days are still warm with the afterglow of summer, and the cold of the darkness, chilling the warm breath of the meadows, causes a thick but shallow mist to form over the levels.

Through this the cattle wade knee-deep as in water, and trees cast shadows in the moonlight, black upon silver. As the night closes in, the mist deepens. Like a rising tide in an estuary it fills the hollows. Trees and barns slowly drown. Only the few scattered knolls like St Bride’s Beckary remain as islands in the white gloom. Gradually they too fade as the mist thickens, and Avalon is an island again.

Local folk call this shallow mist that lies upon the levels the Lake of Wonder. And then perhaps to the eyes of vision may be seen coming slowly, a black barge, rowed by a dumb man, bearing the three weeping queens who bring Arthur, wounded unto death at Lyonesse, that he may heal him of his grievous wound in the green coombs among the apple trees.

When I took Lugh there the May before last, I “initiated” him to the Isle of Avalon, the single place on this planet most dear to my heart, by running him up the Tor after dark on a moonless night. It was our first night there, and after dinner at the Mitre I suggested we ascend the ancient and foreboding hill. A combination of the dark – there are no lights on the Tor or surrounding countryside – jetlag, and fear of the unknown drove my husband up the steps, me leading, assuring him that no-one would jump out of the hedgerows or giant nettle stands. Of course, the shape of the hill is so steep someone could come up the side and you’d never see them coming, foliage or no (this happened to me once a few years ago, while I was sitting in a little tree, and the pilgrim asked me, in all seriousness, if I was a fairy).

We reached the summit and all of a sudden, there was the stark tower of St. Michael, the wind howling through it, dark, empty (thankfully) and cold. We looked upon the dark Mendip hills and the twinkling night lights of several counties. I’d enjoyed the Tor alone before, but never this late at night (and technically I wasn’t alone!). It was exhilarating, and, as this is the last defiant spot claimed by the old, dark gods – a bit scary in the dark.

Torstmikes

We walked down the more gently sloping spine of the hill toward Chilkwell Street, through the High Street, then up Bove Town to our warm home. Grandad was leaving the next morning for Malta. He was already in bed by the time we snuck upstairs, but I wanted to be up bright and early to spend as much time with him as possible. Now he is 90, and there is no such thing as too much time. Sometimes he appears in my dreams; this worries him.

I could reminisce for many pages about my trips to Glastonbury. But new memories are soon to be created; we confirmed yesterday with Grandmum that we’ll be back this year in late November, to experience a very different personality of the landscape and all its myth-laden monuments while they darkly charge during the slumbering half of the year. It’s a bit late for the St. Michaelmas renewal of the Lake of Wonder, and too early for the blooming of the holy thorns at Yule, but . . . I’m counting the days till I’m there!


15 hours, 3 minutes, 33 seconds

Stjohnswort

One warm morning in mid-May, Lugh walked me to my train. We were on a quiet side street, about half the way to the station, when a gentle breeze stirred the still-new leaves high in the trees. The soft, rushing sound of their languid movement stopped me in my tracks.

“This is it,” I said to him.

“What?” he asked, still holding my hand.

“This is the moment when time starts to speed up.”

He knew exactly what I was talking about. While in my, er, old age, May is quick becoming my favorite month, thanks especially to my biannual trips to Glastonbury in England, the season of high summer still remains at the top of my list, and Lugh’s, too.

And there is always that one warm day in May when time begins to speed up, as the Sun approaches its zenith in the sky, and summer puts out its gaudy riot of colors and smells and sounds, consuming itself in the heat of long, long days. For summer lovers, time begins to run out like sand in an hourglass. The chirp of the cricket, the muscular, flat-topped thunderheads, the deep blue sky, the high pointy corn here in the Midwest – all become as precious as summer peaches and cherries.

Today the Sun reaches its height in the sky. Today is the longest day. We will be fooled into believing that the days stretch longer and lazier, but after today, the hours of daylight become less and less. I always feel a twinge of mourning on the Summer Solstice, when the Oak King, as we say in our tradition, becomes the dark Holly King. Slowly, a few seconds at a time, our Sun’s time with his lover, Mother Earth, and with us, is whittled away. We will harvest the fruit of our efforts and begin to turn inward again as the darkness and cold settle in.

* sigh *

Dandelion

I regret that I cannot be with my Mystery School group when they celebrate the solstice this weekend. But I will be part of another wonderful celebration, with my good friend Wojtek, who just got married overseas and is bringing the party home to us.

Of course, this event will be hard pressed to beat what I’ve long considered the best Summer Solstice-in-the-city activity: beating Mark Caro and Stu Shea along with a gaggle of other men at a nocturnal round of miniature golf, set not without hilarious results to a soundtrack of late-sixties music. Maybe if time and sobriety permit afterward I can round up some players.

In the meanwhile it is appropriate that I should happen upon Summer Solstice 2007 with a feeling of renewal. The last few weeks have found me wondering (Herb Dad calls this ‘whining’ -- he's kinda right) about my place in this world, in herbalism, in magic, in my marriage, as an artist. Spending time last weekend with my beloved Ima and herb class on her farm reminded me that I am, in fact, living my dream, if only I can enjoy it and stop being so obsessed with the end product or how well I am enjoying it.

Herb Dad says, “Keep the energy constant.” The Sun may pull away, starting today at around 1 p.m., but its power doesn’t diminish, just our perception of it. Below the equator, people are rejoicing that today their days begin to get longer. Today is a day to absorb, to charge with, that awesome power of our life-giving star at the height of its journey. I think I’ll skip out of this office building this afternoon to soak up some rays to fuel me, constantly, through the next few months of small but attainable goals – growing, learning, blooming, enjoying, fruiting, harvesting, resting. And I'll take care to store away a little spark of sunlight for the dark and cold in the distance.

Happy Summer Solstice.

*Some solar flowers above: Bringer of cheer and harmony St. John's wort, traditionally harvested around this time of year, and the irrepressible dandelion.


Far Out

Bisondelic


Here's a psychedelic buffalo I painted last weekend. It's for a poster for one of Lugh's upcoming concerts in Colorado. This is the only place you'll see it without all the Photoshopped-in event details!

It's also my reason for not updating last weekend. Stay tuned; the Three Cauldrons of the Druids coming up.