Gillian Monks

'Making Fairytales Come True'

A New Year… New Decade – Try Something New

Goddess candleDO SOMETHING DIFFERENT!

Positive. Healing. Enjoyable and beneficial. Come Walking With The Goddess! Time to move out of the shade and into the sunlight. Take your life in both of your hands and make a difference… for yourself… for the people around you.. for the natural world.. for the planet. Healing for all the Earth at the deepest, highest level. YOUR world. YOUR choice. Are you ready to dare yourself to meet the challenge? Here is how you can.

This month I am beginning a new on-line series of activities and guided meditations / journeys. I show you how you can access the highest healing energy to make our existence whole again. Introducing archetypes from the Welsh/Celtic pantheon of goddesses, gods and deities I demonstrate how we can ALL take responsibility for the state of our world and make a very real difference.

But I am offering so much more, suggesting many ways in which we can all physically and practically change our day to day lives too. I offer encouragement and support to everyone to make a stand, privately or publicly, in spreading the word throughout your local communities, guiding the attention, activities and responses of our public servants and bringing pressure to bear on businesses, both large and small. I will be facilitating a distance healing group which we can all join with on a weekly basis. There is a Facebook page where we can all share our experiences and findings, suggestions and news, and I will be personally  and privately available to anyone who needs a little extra support and needs to get in touch with me.

Please spread the word and pass this message on to as many people as possible. It is only by coming together and standing up for what is right that we will succeed in mending what we have so thoughtlessly, carelessly and cruelly broken. We have all helped to cause the devastation of our environment. For most of us, it was done in naivety and ignorance, But now we know what we have done, it is time to change our outlook, our way of life, our everyday actions and do something to halt and heal the destruction. This is one of the things that you can do and might be the most important initial action you take.

It only costs £5 for each monthly module. Come and sample what I am offering for February. For more information or to pay for the first month, click here: https://www.earthwalking.co.uk/walking-with-the-goddess/

As always, with my love to you all.

Looking At The World Through A Chocolate Wrapper

Quality StreetDoes the world around us really change, or is it just the way we perceive it that alters? In other words, what do we really see? What is real and what is illusion?

For instance, after the past glorious days of pale spring sunshine, clear blue skies and dramatically clear mountains we are once more plunged into a grey and weeping landscape. This morning, the low cloud has completely obscured Mount Snowdon and the craggy Nantlle Ridge, mist in the valley has blurred all the edges, lack of light has robbed what is left of the vista of its light and skewed what were bold spring colours to paler, washed-out shades.

Yet the landscape itself remains the same. The mountains are still there behind the cloud, the natural world is still beavering away preparing to raise new young and burst out in growth and blossom… it just looks dead… and ultimately so much more depressing. But nothing has really altered… just how we are seeing it today through a different colour.

I always have great fun with this concept at Christmas and Easter or any time I come within range of some Quality Street chocolates. Ever since I was a child I have loved choosing my chocolate, carefully unwrapping it, luxuriating in the sweet creamy confection, and then gently smoothing out the coloured plastic wrapping and looking through it, delighted and intrigued to see how a different coloured filter makes my familiar surroundings suddenly appear so different.

Gazing into a newly opened tin of chocolates is a feast for the senses in itself – the deep jewel colours are glorious to behold – like a chest of pirate’s treasure – and that indefinably enticing scent of… chocolate! Since Christmas I have gathered a little collection of six coloured cellophane wrappers; peering through the blue, purple and green makes everything look cold or as if I was suddenly living in an underwater world. The pink, red and yellow transform everything into an intriguing, enticing, warm or sunny environment. But it is, after all, just the same room or view from my window – it is how I am choosing to see it that is different.

Try it for yourself next time you have access to coloured plastic. It works best if you have several colours so that you can compare the differences… and also compare how your mood also alters with each colour.

Next time you don’t enjoy what you are looking at, aren’t happy with the life that is yours, perhaps you might like to try changing your internal filter. The places around us, the people, the situations we live in, do not change from day to day… just the way we perceive them. Therefore, you have freedom of choice; you are in control – do you put in a nice rosy coloured filter or do you opt to depress yourself by insisting on glaring out on the world through blue or purple? Don’t blame the world you live in – it is your choice – it is entirely up to you.

Today I am definitely drawn to pink!

Happy Distaff Day!

Me stating writing againI must be one of very few people who was actually delighted to return to work on Thursday… in fact, I could hardly wait! When I refer to ‘work’, I am actually talking about my writing and I have been desperate to begin work proper on my next full length book for months, but had to see ‘The Alternative Advent Calendar’ birthed out into the world first.

‘Spring In Your Step’ follows directly on from ‘Merry Midwinter’ so begins at this most grey and uninspiring time of year – January. Memories of my singular childhood are tumbling onto my keyboard along with lots of ideas and observations as to how we can all really enjoy these otherwise quiet, dull days and the true relevance of this first month of the year. As in my first book, there are also ‘Comments from Joan’ and one or two recipes per chapter taken from her manuscript cookery book… hearty sustaining casseroles, comforting hot, sticky puddings and delicious treats to sustain you through the winter weather, whether you are playing in the snow or struggling to work. And there will be more ideas for little seasonal craft projects along the way. If you would like to know more, I will be putting an extract on my blog in the next few days, so watch this space!

Some people are only returning to work on Monday, 6th January (which, ironically, is actually when ‘Old Christmas Day’ would have fallen before the change in the calendar in the 1750’s) but many have already returned in the days since we celebrated New Year. Why bemoan the fact? If you do not actually enjoy what you do for a living, at least be thankful that you have got a job to go to. (Although I have to admit that in these days of zero hours contracts and gross abuse of workers I can well understand why this might not be the case but this is a different conversation for another day.)

Distaff Day is variously placed on different days around the beginning of January and in times gone by was used to celebrate the return of the women to working life after the Christmas revels (as if they had been sitting twiddling their thumbs while all the feasting and celebrating had been going on – who was supposed to cook, bake and provide it all?) Some people refer to it as Saint Distaff’s Day but in fact there is no such saint – it simply refers to spinning (work traditionally performed by women using a distaff, hence the reference in family ancestry to the ‘distaff line when referring to the mother’s or female side of the family). On the other hand, in the agricultural communities the men returned to work on Plough Monday, the first Monday after Epiphany, when their work tools would be blessed, the farm horses dressed up and all manner of joking and hi-jinks entered into.

So celebrate your return to work… or the fact that you have had a good Christmas… or that Christmas is over and you can be left in peace… or that we might get snow in the next few weeks… or that we haven’t had snow to further complicate our lives… but celebrate something. Midwinter and Christmas isn’t the only opportunity to celebrate – if you look hard enough you can always finds lots of wonderful things to be thankful and happy about… celebrate LIFE!

 

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Advent candlelight in the dining room

Advent candlelight in the dining room

I hope that you have all had/are having a wonderful Midwinter/Christmas?

This Advent got off to a cracking and early start with my trip to Germany and the amazing Christmas markets – not to mention lots of time spent with Holger’s family. I have also been invited to more Christmas parties and gatherings than ever before. It saddens me a little that everyone celebrates Christmas in Advent and then, after we get to Christmas Day, there is nothing left to do. All the lovely carols and Christmas music played on Classic FM radio stops abruptly after Boxing Day and people start to talk about taking down their decorations. Some of our decorations were only put up in the last days before the Solstice. Perhaps it is because many put their decorations up so early – end of November and early December? That is what I mean about people celebrating Advent rather than Christmas.

Despite my great love of Christmas, this was actually the first time I have seen a Christmas tree lit with real candles – and I have to say that it was utterly enchanting! Holger and I attended a seasonal gathering for all employees and their families where he works at Trigonos and one of the directors had supplied her own living tree, with presents waiting beneath it for all the children. In true traditional custom, there was delicious food to eat, games to play which generated much laughter and good-natured silliness, and story-telling to quieten us down again. Then, in time honoured fashion, just before everyone went home, the lights were dimmed, everyone came to sit expectantly around the tree and the children were allowed to come, one by one, to light a candle each upon the living tree.  It was magical and the children’s faces were a real picture… as I expect mine was too!

Mince pies

This is what over ninety mince pies really looks like… and I made four dozen mini pies as well!

So far, I have to say that this Midwinter and Christmas has been as near perfect as is possible… and a very welcome break from the outside world into the bargain. With my last blog/Facebook post wishing everyone a happy Christmas, I stepped back from my computer and slipped into the wholehearted loving embrace of my immediate family.

Wreath Cake

Our Solstice cake, lighter fruit cake made in a wheel shape and decorated with fruits and holly leaves fashioned from marzipan.

We had some of our friends from the druid grove here for the Solstice on the 22nd and walked up the valley into the woods which have grown up around the old quarry and gathered among the trees there. As the daylight faded, we lit a small fire and held sparklers in our hands, sharing chocolate Yule log cake and beakers of hot, mulled wine. There is always something particularly special about this one time of late afternoon and dusk. There is something particularly magical about being present in the silent woods as the daylight fades and we find our way home in near darkness, singing and laughing, slipping and sloshing through mud and puddles as we approach the welcome lights of the village. this year, two owls accompanied our festivities with their haunting cries from one side of the valley to the other. Well, we are the Cylch Blodeuwedd after all!

Christmas parcels

Gifts wrapped in recyclable brown paper and decorated naturally.

Just two days later, on Christmas Eve, we gathered around the dining room hearth to share a German afternoon tea with sugary stollen and fragrant spice cakes and chocolate treats of every kind – the fire blazed and the thirty or so candles in the pyramids, flying buttresses and holders cast shadows from all the decorations. We had just paused in our carol singing and were pouring cups of tea while Dafydd was roasting chestnuts on the fire, when a new neighbour dropped in with a card and gift and I suddenly saw us as we must have appeared to him… almost a scene from  Victorian days or a Dickens novel, ha! ha!

This year, more than ever, I have really tried to follow my own growing beliefs about the preparation for Midwinter and Christmas celebration, although seem to have had even less time in which to do so. I made my own crackers for the Christmas lunch table (in which I placed sweeties and questions to ask one another around the dinner table rather than silly gifts which no one wants). I have  made some ‘fortune crackers’ for our New Year’s dinner table too, in which I have written ‘words of wisdom’ for 2020 and jokes to give us all a laugh and start us off on a jolly note! I made some of my own gifts too – hideously late finishing them and the evening of the 23rd saw me sat with my sewing basket expeditiously stitching away.

Fur hat and scarf

One of the winter fake fur hats and scarves I managed to complete.

I didn’t get everything made that I would have liked to, but at least I completed everything that I had started and everyone received something from me. We also tried out having a ‘pledge box’ for the first time ever and ended up opening it as a completely separate activity on Boxing Day (26th December) while we were having afternoon tea. Some very interesting and worthwhile pledges came out of that little box which was decorated and left in a prominent place in the hall a few days before the Solstice. It also struck me as so appropriate to open a pledge box on Boxing Day, when the apprentices and poor of the parish used to be given tips or alms for the year in boxes which had to be broken open.

As a family, we celebrate most of the twelve days of Christmas, which only come to an end with Epiphany on the 5th January. We actually only had our official Christmas Dinner on the 27th December, when close family and friends could join us and we could all celebrate together. I actually opted for the longer version of the meal this year, although as I juggled seven pans across the top of my aga and four roasting tins inside the ovens, I began to seriously wonder if I had finally bitten off more than I could sensibly chew! We began with chicken liver pate (with an avocado pate option for the vegetarians among us), followed by squash, coconut and ginger soup. The main course was roast turkey, sausages and chicken rolls with sage and onion stuffing, bread sauce and red currant jelly with all the vegetables and two kinds of gravy – vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The vegetarian main was a selection of winter vegetables from the garden, roasted and then folded with cheese into a wreath shape made from triangles of croissant dough, which is the lightest and butteryest dough imaginable! There was Christmas pudding to follow, served

Drawing Room

Our (smaller) Winter Tree in the drawing room

with sweet white sauce and dollops of rum butter. Dafydd ‘fired’ the pudding with ethanol from his herbal dispensary… pretty blue flames licked around the dark fruity globe upon the china platter until the tall sprig of holly stuck in the top also caught fire and everything then had to be quickly extinguished! A cheese board, mince pies, fruit, candied fruits and chocolates followed along with a tray of coffee, but these we took with us into the drawing room and gradually picked away at as we opened even more gifts from beneath our Winter Tree… in fact, we were still grazing among the remnants of our ‘Lunch’ at eight o’clock that evening!

This past few days, the games cupboard has also been raided and Holger and I have challenged each other to some games of draughts which I used to play with my father when I was a child but haven’t played for well over fifty years. I no longer had my original board and set so earlier this year I ordered a new one over the Internet – the toy shop in Caernarfon could only supply me with cardboard and plastic – so I found a lovely wooden board which folds into a box in which to keep the wooden draughts, chess and backgammon pieces. Needless to say, Holger won most of the games!  Holger and I went to the cinema one evening to see the new Star Wars film, ‘The Rise of Skywalker’, which I thoroughly enjoyed but found FAR too loud and had to watch some battle scenes with my finger stuffed in my ears!!!

And no, life isn’t quite so perfect… we found that mice had found their way up the wisteria into our loft and chewed a few of our seasonal decorations – the tallest section of wisteria was immediately removed! And our oldest feline member of the family (just turned twenty!) chose this Midwinter to make her journey and pass over into the Summerlands. But these are all a part of on-going life too…

Solstice fire Now it is New Year’s Eve. We might have a small bonfire out in the garden this evening to celebrate, weather depending. Wherever you are and however you might be celebrating this incoming new decade, I hope that you are well, comfortable and at peace with yourself and the world around you.

A very happy New Year to you all… as always, with my love.

A Very Happy Christmas!

Me with Father ChristmasAfter such an eventful and truly magical Advent, nearly all the pre-Christmas preparations and activities are complete.

Today I have presents to wrap and one or two gifts and cards to hand deliver around the village. I have listened to my own advice and ditched my plans to make a wonderful savoury hot dinner this evening set around a festive table – yesterday evening my darling husband made us all chips while I finished making the last of my gifts and this evening, my lovely son is going to do a stir fry for us all while I put my feet up and celebrate Mother’s Night!

All the baking is done (for now!) and later this afternoon, I shall be setting out a grand afternoon tea with stollen, spice cakes, mince pies, biscuits and all manner of sweet delights. As the light begins to fade we shall all gather around the hearth to light the candles and sing carols and open our gifts from friends, near and far.

This is the last day of deep darkness. Tomorrow morning, the Sun/Son will be reborn and the Light truly with us once more. The Earth which has been ‘standing still’ since the Solstice early on Sunday morning will once more move on and we shall begin to travel the long journey back towards the warmth and springtime.

In the meantime, I wish you all a wonderful Christmas Eve and a very happy Christmas. Celebrate truly what is happening around you and within your hearts. As I light my ‘Mother’s Candle’ tonight, I shall think of each one of you and be sending out my very best wishes and love to you.

Good Yule!
Merry Midwinter!
A happy Christmas!
Gillian.

A Very Merry Midwinter!

Flying Above Clouds

Seeing the winter sun set from ABOVE the clouds – perhaps this might be the view seen by Odin, or Mother Holly/Frau Holle or even Father Christmas!

To all my valued readers and very dear friends – both literally and electronically – greetings!

The time is almost upon us… it is the Solstice! Longest, darkest night and shortest day… the turning point when we plunge into three days of darkness before re-emerging to the re-birth of the Light on the morning of the 25th. (Although the natural world has preempted us – as it so often does – and the birds are already singing at the start of their new ‘courting’ season!)

Draw close to your loved ones and savour each precious moment. This is the time to stand still… just as the earth ‘stands still’ – and fully appreciate where we are, what we have got and just how lucky we are.

I wish you all a wonderful Solstice full of peace, enlightenment, joy and love!

The Very ‘Hairy Child’

Front of Bryn at SunsetMisbehaving moustaches, inventive costumes and props, imaginative sound effects and a very supportive audience. All successful children’s nativity plays have a team of hard-working and dedicated adults behind them. Our own Christmas celebration at the Quaker Meeting House yesterday was no exception.

Our Meetings for worship are usually largely silent, but once a year, just before Christmas, we break with tradition. Each year a theme is chosen. This year it was the turn of the lowly shepherds. Interspersed by periods of reflective silence we gustily sang shepherd-related carols, (in both English and Welsh), listened to beautiful music composed by Schubert and played by one of our members and heard a poem by Welsh writer R.S.Thomas about welsh hill shepherds read aloud.

However, the highlight of the whole proceedings was surely the children’s dramatic contribution! Based on a mediaeval mystery play entitled ‘The Hairy Baby’, the story was of shepherds guarding their sheep and the daring – and very desperate man – who comes and steals one of the lambs with which to feed his starving family.

The enterprising thief had disguised himself in a voluminous black cloak and recalcitrant paper moustache which persistently floated to the ground, only to be pounced upon by one or other member of the cast and unceremoniously slapped back into place on the hapless young actor’s face. Gales and winter storms were conjured by use of a long plastic tube which was periodically flailed around the head of the pianist causing the Master of Ceremonies to cringe and duck for fear of getting a clout around his head.

The action took place across the whole of the Meeting Room and we, the audience, sat bemusedly in the round as irate shepherds with a varied assortment of ‘sheep’ – including a large woolly seal and a little lamb which had been sewn to his shepherd’s sock – dashed off amongst us in hot pursuit of their stolen lamb. I am not quite sure how even weary and simple-minded men were supposed to mistake one of their own animals for a remarkably hirsute human child! Eventually the true identity of the baby is revealed and the luckless family left empty-handed as the thief is discovered, only to be saved in the nick of time by the appearance of an angel, come to announce the birth of a much more important baby in a stable nearby. Drama was added to the action by the syncopated and regular sniffs of some of the cast who were recently recovering from heavy colds.

The enthusiasm and flamboyance with which our young members delivered this simple story was highly entertaining but also thought provoking. It was pointed out that here was the nub of the whole message of Christian Christmas. That the inspiration for kindness, humility and love had been presented in a way that everyone – even the lowliest and most humble shepherds – had instant and unquestioned access to. That this humble birth of a carpenter’s son represented a universal hope and entitlement that is as fresh and valued today as it was two thousand years ago.

So I give great thanks to the children of my Meeting for reminding me of this fact… and to their dedicated parents who made it possible. We all had a good chuckle and I am sure that we all were well entertained, but more than anything, I hope that we were touched by this blessed message – that of universal equality, hope and love.

Happy Christmas!

Christmas Grocery Shopping…

Gingerbread stall, Erfurt

A whole stall selling nothing but gingerbread!

Yesterday I ventured out into Retail Land and did my big grocery shop for the Midwinter period. I try to be as organised as possible – write out a schedule of special days for which I want/need to specially cater, decide on menus and write a shopping list accordingly. Most of my purchases are ingredients with which to bake or cook things, so I have quite a task ahead of me in the kitchen! But it is of my choosing and I feel that it is important to remember this.

Wandering around the shops in the centre of town and the supermarkets always has an odd effect on me – I often become very tired and a little depressed. there is just so much and all my senses go into overload. Yes, there are some lovely luxuries and tempting treats but if we all spent a million pounds we still wouldn’t be able to achieve the occasion which so many of us seek.

This is because some of the vital ingredients which go to make up the perfect Midwinter/Christmas celebration are simply not for sale. What really makes a special time are the instances when people come together in common understanding and love… when someone shows compassion or empathy… when a person suddenly volunteers to help or to do… when a habitually grumpy person suddenly cracks a joke and changes the whole atmosphere… when one or more people rally round and jointly make something good. In other words, when humanity shows love and care it creates a magic which nothing else can rival or achieve.

Astonishingly, this magical element is more often found in the most mundane of situations. It is in all the thought and planning and effort… the tidying of cupboards to contain all the extra provisions… the cleaning of the house to ensure that all who enter there at Midwinter are as comfortable and cosy as possible…the extra and unexpected card hastily scribbled… the effort to get all the boxes of decorations out of the garage or down from the loft… the peeling, chopping, whipping and kneading that goes into producing even the simplest dishes… the steadying hand on the shoulder… the wordless hug… the smile which needs no explanation… the unsolicited cup of tea… these are just a few of the tiny ‘magics’ which go to make up the magnificent whole!

In other words, it does not matter a jot what we do, buy, make or have – it is the spirit in which we live our days… each hour… each moment, which makes all the difference and which will ultimately make a wonderful and memorable occasion. It will be the people, the laughter – even the disasters, later chuckled over – which will be remembered long after the wonderful (or unwanted) gifts, the table settings and the decorations have been forgotten. Done with the right approach and in the right spirit of loving and giving, a single candle on a table set with a paper napkin and a sprig of holly… with sausage and mash to eat and little promises of loving or caring actions written on slips of paper instead of lavish gifts can mean far, far more.

However you are spending this time of preparation – of Advent – and whatever you achieve once the time to celebrate actually arrives, make the very most of it. It is actually easier to get the most out of a few dishes, gifts, activities… to thoroughly appreciate and enjoy a single glass of wine rather than half a bottle… truly taste a couple of rich chocolates as you slowly consume them rather than guzzling down the whole box and then finding that you haven’t really tasted or even registered eating any of them. In over-abundance, so much can become obscured and lost.

Stollen stall, Erfurt

Thought that there is only one kind of stollen? Then think again. Here is every varied ingredient and type of stollen you could ever wish for!

Back to the two dreaded ‘c’ words – consumerism and commercialisation – try not to become distracted from the true relevance of what it is you wish to achieve. There are many occasions when the spectacular displays of the commercial world can be both enjoyable and inspiring (as in my recent visits to the German Christmas markets) so, go ahead, feast your eyes, and your other senses too – settle for one or two little treats which you can enjoy there and then or which will lift your special gathering when it arrives.

Remember not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Millions of people earn their livelihood from making and/or selling something, or supporting those who do. Just don’t allow it to get out of hand and, wherever possible, buy from local producers which then directly feeds money back into your local economy and supports your local community.

Lastly, don’t forget to have fun! Whatever you are planning for this weekend, stop, take a deep breath, give a smile, and remember to enjoy it!

Star stall, Erfurt

These wonderful stars really show up well in the dark of a winter’s night!

 

 

Hugs To All!

Sun behind treesJust a quick reminder to everyone that I shall be talking about my latest book, ‘The Alternative Advent Calendar’, with Selina Mackenzie on Talk Radio Europe just after 1.pm. today.

In view of the slight furore which my query about ‘Black Friday’ and observation about the derivation of the name ‘Black Peter’ caused yesterday, I decided to look up what I had written in the ‘Alternative Advent Calendar’ for today. Door number 9 for the 9th December suggests that we give Christmas hugs to everyone. This is particularly good advice as words so often get in the way. How much can be communicated by gentle and loving touch when words just trip us up and obscure our true intentions and feelings?

So, to all my dear friends and readers out there… people whom I literally know or are – so far – only electronic or literary friends  with… there is a genuinely warm and caring hug winging its way to you across the internet and the ether right now. May peace and understanding bless us always… with my love.

Politically Correct?

November Day

Sprinkling of snow on the mountain opposite my living room window this time last year – today everything is very green, wet and windy… but when it comes to a question of black…?

If the use of the word ‘black’ is now seen as politically incorrect (as in the instance of Saint Nicholas and his companion, Black Peter, in the Netherlands), how come everyone is now being allowed to use the term ‘Black Friday’?

Personally, I think that disallowing the use of the word ‘black’ is quite ridiculous and actually draws unnecessary attention to colour prejudice and highlights the problem rather than the reverse. I am not here to debate this question – simply asking why one reference to an ancient custom is no longer allowed (when it harmlessly had nothing to do with race) but is allowed when it concerns making lots of money.

I view Black Friday as very black indeed – appealing to the most base instincts, responses and emotions of humanity – avarice, greed, selfishness, arrogance and acquisitiveness not withstanding.

I love to give. I am delighted to say that on Black Friday, we actually gave away, not fifty, but seventy-six electronic copies of the ‘Alternative Advent Calendar’. I hope that all the recipients enjoy our gift to them and get a lot of fun, satisfaction and pleasure from them.

Meanwhile, it is a very blustery, stormy morning here, although not as cold as it was this time last year as the photo above illustrates! It is the second Sunday of Advent and, as I was in Germany for the first Sunday of Advent, this afternoon I shall be making my wreath and as a family we shall be sitting down by the fire and singing carols around the two lit candles.

Blessings of peace and anticipation to you all – have a really lovely day!

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