Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Glastonbury - Samhain 2011 & a catch up of 2011

Once again I return to post here, the mundane world of work, stress, crisis and disaster having pulled my attention away from what is truly important, yet only through allowing myself to be who and what I am, by making time to follow my heart will I eventually find a path that fulfills and brings happiness, joy and spiritual prosperity to my soul.

The past 12 months have been an emotional rollercoaster, with family crisis, work crisis and the realization that although I have been with my current employers for 23 years, the company has changed so much that I find myself in personal conflict with some of the policies and the immense workload we are asked to deliver with ever dwindling resources. It has been a year of coming to terms with things, acknowledging that change must be allowed to happen, that I have to change and grow, and that in order to do so I need to abandon the safety and security of what has become the status quo in my life. It has become evident that I have been seduced by the corporate world, by the consumerism and capitalistic nature of our society, and that although I have a pagan heart and soul, that this has been forced (by circumstance outside of my immediate control) into a 2nd place in the way I have been living. Not good, but with hindsight (ah, the beauty of perfect 20:20 vision in hindsight) it was necessary for me to experience the past 12 months before I could be ready to begin to move forwards, before the Old Ones could cast the scales from my eyes and allow me the chance  to see reality and where I have been, and before I could reach a place that will allow me to change.

That change will possibly begin with a change of employer, something I am being constantly reminded of by the cosmic 4 by 2 at every opportunity, and as such I have been looking and had a couple of interviews, that hopefully will soon bear fruit. The change will also encompass a return to utilising my creative side, Ive a couple of ideas for things I can craft that may offer another chance of a career pathway, some of which I shall be starting this week to see whether they are viable products and whether there is a market for them.

The change will also encompass a return to regular Craft practice, I cannot prevaricate and put off those things I am called to do any longer, I need to regain my focus and allow my feet to walk once more in both the mundane and otherworld at the same time.

The change will also herald a return to a greater connection with the land upon which I live, the allotment started off well this year, but due to the internal conflict I have faced and the stress, pressure and hence lack of energy and direction that I have experienced (that has meant I have needed to rest at every opportunity), it has largely been untended, resulting in reduced crops and large weed problems. We've still had some successes, and probably about £900 worth of organic fruit and veg, but this is far down on what we produced last year, so a concerted effort is going to be called for this winter to put it right for the forthcoming growing year, which hopefully will once again re-establish the strong connection that I had with the land hereabouts until getting bogged down in the mundane earlier this year!

So, from where comes this newfound clarity that I now understand that I need to change? Simply from some time away from the mundane, a trip once more to the Isle of Avalon, to Glastonbury for Samhain.

Unlike last year when things were looking good on a career front, this year we were tentative as to whether we should make the trip to Glastonbury this year, as with my job looking decidely shaky at the moment was it a good idea to spend money on going away, even if only for a few days? However, when Lee found a place to stay in Glastonbury itself (5 mins walk from the Chalice Well and 5 mins walk from the town center), for half the price of what we paid last year, we took the decision to go for a couple of nights, travellling down early on Sunday, staying for 2 nights, then coming home on Tuesday, the day after Samhain.

We left a dreary wet Manchester early, had a wet trip down the motorways until we approached Bristol, when the clouds seemed to thin, and by the time we arrived at Glastonbury (about 11am-ish) the rain had stopped, the temperature had risen (18C at the end of October, a repeat of the previous years clement weather!) and although the clouds were still evidnet, they were becoming broken and patches of blue sky were becoming evident, culminating in sunshine by mid afternoon, a pleasant day for browsing around town!

Glastonbury is still full of shops that would empty the purse of any self respecting Pagan, filled with wonderful jewelery, ritual tools, statuettes, clothing, incense and herbs, yet apart from a couple of shops we both felt a little disappointed, the range of stock of some of the shops had definitely declined compared with last year, and the feeling / mood of some of them seemed to have changed, from one of doing this because it is a calling, to doing it in the main to make as much profit as possible! It is possible that this is something that was present and we didnt pick up on last year, but it did feel as though it was a definite change this year, and not one for the better. A couple of shops still had the same atmosphere and although were out to make a profit, they werent profiteering to the same extent as some of the other shops. This left us both feeling a little anticlimaxed with our trip, we had such high hopes of what we would find, yet were somewhat disappointed.

We made our way to the Guesthouse for mid afternoon, dropping everything off and parking the car, before returning (on foot) to town for a deeper look around and a trip to the Goddess Temple to pay our respects.

The Goddess Temple is still a wonderful place to visit, a calming atmosphere, a sacred space devoted to the Divine Feminine, a place to commune with the Goddess in all her forms.

The message I received this year was a lot less powerful than last, I had to concentrate to hear it, yet although quieter, it was still just as personally profound as the louder roar that I picked up last year (in the Chalice Well Gardens - see last years Samhain posts for details).

What I was told was that I need not make special pilgrimage, that I need not hold special Rites, that I need not do anything special, apart from open myself within and allow myself to feel for the voice of the Old Ones, the connection I need is right within me, all it takes is focus and intent to materialise it into being. I began a dialogue at this point, stating that we had made this journey in the Old Ones honour, and was rebuffed and told that we need not make such a journey in the mundane as we could make it in the OtherWorld just as easily, and that coming to Glastonbury for a break and a shopping trip is not the same as honouring the Goddess, to which I had to agree. A part of me acknowledged that we had many reasons for making the trip, some of which we werent aware of until after the fact, some of which were mundane, but also there is a part of us that made the trip specifically to recharge our spiritual batteries and pay homage in the place that has now become the home of the Goddess in the Uk, thats not to say She doesnt have other homes, but this one place is where She is most honoured on a regular basis, and although personally I feel this can be seen as somewhat out of balance (for me both the Divind Feminine and Masculine need to be honoured equally in my own workings), it can be argued that there is a need for this after all the patriarchal masculine dominated religion of these Isles in the past 2 millenia. This I felt was accepted, once I had admitted to myself that coming all this way was not wholly done as a spiritual pilgrimage.

We finished our first day off with a fabulous meal at Ealaichi, a fantastic Tandoori Restauraunt in Glastonbury, followed by a bottle of homebrew Chardonnay at the Guesthouse before an early night.

Samhain morning saw us awake at dawn, greeted with a warm, sunny and fairly still start to the day, we ate breakfast sat outside in the garden of the Guesthouse, which was lovely, watching the squirrels playing and the Ravens dancing, although neither of us realised at the time we were also being bitten by the local mozzies!

Samhain (Monday) morning we made our way to Chalice Well , arriving just as it opened, meeting Brian Conquest at the gate, a Druid and fellow walker of the Old Ways, and after talking for a while we made our way within to pay our respects.

The gardens were once again lovely, but the strong connection that I got last year seemed oddly lacking, the Old Ones were present, but they werent saying a great deal, just reinforcing the message I received at the Goddess Temple, a pleasant visit and an enlightening talk with Brian, but ultimately not as fulfilling as last years visit, however, after talking with Brian and discussing ourselves the out of balance feel that we (especially Lee) had found at the Goddess Hall Rite, we decided that we would return to Chalice Well for the Open Rite that night.

A quick walk back to the guesthouse, then a walk down into town to commence shopping, last year I spotted some gorgeous handcrafted leather bags in Goddess and Greenman, made by Skye Ravenwolf from ethically sourced leather, and whilst looking on Sunday had spied them again, so knowing that I wanted one (mainly to use for carrying Ritual tooks when we felt a need, and secondly as a 'best' handbag  to augment my 'everyday' Hemp bag) we returned again to see what they had. The selection wasnt as large as I'd have liked, but I found one a bit larger than I had planned, with 2 Hares facing away from each other, surrounded with ears of corn and with a moon in the center (similar to the one below)

We had been looking to find a Lord and Lady matching pair of statues (similar the the ones we found in Lilith last year), but alas although there were some lovely Herne and Pan statues, there was nothing that would match in a Goddess statuette, which meant we didnt bother buying any.

Lunch was a fab Pizza and chips sat outside Heaphys Cafe, a fab place to eat! 

Next the 3 large and well established book shops took a large chunk of our attention, with both fiction (Terry Pratchett) and non-fiction (Craft related) books being purchased. Then onto Starchild to stock up on a few herbs and some charcola block for incense use. Man Myth and Magick for some Cone incenses (to feed our delightful Smoking Dragon - bought in June, in Barmouth whilst camping at Shell Island), then back to the guesthouse to rest up before going to the Chalice Well for the Open Rite.

On arriving it was again to meet Brian, this time dressed (as he put it - in his best frock) in Ritual wear, looking resplendant, who welcomed us warmly, and then as we had some time before the Rite began we took a walk around the lamp and candle lit gardens.

Strangely throughout the day the clouds had been gathering and the wind had been getting stronger, yet when we entered the gardens it seemed to drop to nothing, and slowly the clouds cleared to reveal a star studded sky and the crescent moon resplendant in all Her glory!

Walking though the candlelit gardens was worth the entry fee alone, the atmosphere and energy was amazing, charged and calming, welcoming and warm. As we passed through the meadow area it was to the sound of crockets chirruping from one of the flower beds, rather unusual considering it was the end of October and fully dark!

Although we took our cameras to Glastonbury (for the 2nd time running) we didnt actually take any pictures, once again our attention was called to other things rather than documenting what was going on in picture form, which is a pity, because my words cannot do justice to how magical the gardens looked lit in the manner they were!

An older piccy from the net, which doesnt do justice to the reality!

The wellhead, which on Samhain 2011 was lit with coloured candles and surrounded with light from many lanterns, we spent a few minutes here in silent meditation before making our way to the yew trees where the Rite was to be held.

The Rite opened with a procession by a circle of female drummers, whose drumming and singing was totally in tune with the mood for Samhain, sombre, full of power yet joyful, and many of us present joined in with the singing as the words became familiar.

Following this we were greeted by the Host, who then brought in the quarter callers to call in the Elements / directions, done in a honourific and natural way, which not only seemed fitting for the environment and those present, but also worked with our own ways of working (we dont summon, stir and call up, we invite those of the Otherworld to be present, respecting their powers without attempting to compel).

This then brought us to a short period of visualisation / meditation, and here the words started a dialogue with the Old Ones, the Mother spoke to me as She hadnt done so since we'd been at Glastonbury this year, yet again it was gentle and this was a part of the lessons I needed to learn.

'These flowing waters are the waters of birth from which all life flows,
This Ground is my body, from which all sustenance is provided,
The wind on your cheek is the breath from my lungs,
The spark of your life is from my Cauldron of Fire,
Without me you cannot exist, without me you are formless.'

Then next came words from The Horned One, similar to last years message,

'I am He who sets the seed, whose death fulfills lifes ongoing need, whose body is given for others to feed, yet who returns again to set the seed. Without my balance there can be nothing but strife, without my seed there can be no more life!'

Following this we had a chance to visit those of our beloved dead, the form and time allocated were a lot shorter and a lot less strong than we had experienced at last years Goddess Hall Rite, although I got a connection with some of those I have known, it was fleeting and nothing more than a few seconds of vision with each to smile and acknowledge, totally unlike the long and fulfilling journey undertaken last Samhain.

Next we were asked to find those things we needed to relinquish from our lives, and cast them forth into the fires of transformation, with all thats befallen me this year I had plenty to let go of and plenty more to invite in, although the 2nd part seemed to be somewhat missing from the Rite. A summation and thanks given before the circle was uncast and the Rite ended, to be followed by story telling, but we both felt the need to eat and ground, so we left early and returned to the Tandoori to eat and reflect on what we had experienced.

We both felt the setting was amazing, but that the Rite (although couched correctly for a mixed audience of many paths and experience levels) for us did not go deep enough, it left us feeling as though we were lacking something and hadnt fulfilled our own feelings of what we expected. Enjoyable yes, worth attending yes, but fulfilling, ultimately not for us.

Tuesday morning we took a last walk in Glastonbury, checking out the market (some great stalls, some great things and one or two new ideas of things we can make ourselves), then took a wander back up the High St, finding the Book Fair in the Assembly Rooms, where I was to find almost all the Discworld books I havent yet read at a 2nd hand book stall, for a really good price (that even got a further discount for buying multiple books!)

Then we began the long trip home, back to the mundane life, but with a few more days off before we have to return to work.

All in all an enjoyable break, fulfilling in some ways, but disappointing in others, the messages I received were pertinant and couched in such a manner as to be meaningful, I need to learn to listen and look for the small things, to take active part in what is all around me, and not to allow myself to be drawn into the mundane to the exclusion of all else!

Thanks for reading, I shall hopefully return to regular posting in the not too distant future, with perhaps some news on the ideas we've had for some things we are to craft ourselves and whether they will then open up future opportunities for us both!

Hope you had a great Samhain!

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