Gillian Monks

'Making Fairytales Come True'

Tag: Winter (Page 1 of 2)

It is More Blessed to Give than to Receive

Front: little crackers containing handwritten good wishes and messages. Behind: yule log decoration adorned with natural greenery and handmade decorations. (The small Christmas tree is revolves, is musical and is over seventy years old.)

Well, the title says it all, really. Job done then – I can sign off! (Only joking!!!) But as the hype for ‘Black Friday’ sales gears up several notches, the above Biblical quotation is at the heart of my thoughts today.

Of course those who are engaged in manufacturing and selling are keen to persuade us to buy their wares as much and as frequently as possible. It is their business, their livelihood. But we don’t have to pay attention to them. Christmas/Midwinter is a time for giving, for generosity, for inclusivity, community, friendship, thanksgiving and joyful service to others.

Consider what truly matters in our lives. What is most important to you? To your family and friends? After the basics of a weatherproof home and sufficient food and clothing have been taken care of, it is usually the intangible gifts which spring to mind: peace, rest, friendship, good company, love – and pleasant activities shared with others who also enjoy the same.

So, tear up your Christmas shopping lists, put your purse away. It is time to don the mantle of the Spirit of Christmas Present and begin to make some magic of your own. Get out a clean sheet of paper and a pen and begin to make your real Christmas list!

First and foremost comes ‘Quality Time’. How many friends and relations would love to hear from you (phone or email, etc.) or actually spend time in your company? How many days, weeks, months speed past while we lament that we would love to see or speak to so-and-so but just haven’t got the time? You could probably free up several whole days if you weren’t distracted by fighting through crowds of harassed shoppers, frantically surfing the net, or losing yourself beneath seas of wrapping paper as you attempt to parcel up all the resulting purchases.

Instead, pick up the phone, or better still, go round to visit someone… more genuine joy can be given over a shared cup of something hot (or a glass of wine) and a biscuit, or a good big hug, or minutes spent with a comforting, supportive arm around a shoulder than ever can be bought on the High Street. Remember the pandemic? How many of us would have given anything to be able to physically see and touch a loved one? How many of us would have sacrificed all the rest of the seasonal palaver just to be able to be together?

Well, now you can.

In some ways the pandemic was a blessing in disguise – it allowed us to get our priorities right. Why not carry on in that vein now that those imposed restrictions have been lifted.

There are all sorts of activities and events which can be planned for two or more people – family or friends of all ages, and why not extend your hospitality and include mere acquaintances or neighbours your don’t really know at all. This is the time to change all that – in the season of God Will. Open your home (and your heart) and organise a games evening, (could simply be playing Gin Rummy), or a quiz night – ask everyone to contribute a packet of nibbles or you could bake something to share like mince pies or biscuits or a cake, or simply serve cups of tea or coffee with a packet of biscuits. Light a couple of candles or tea lights, burn some incense cones if you have them, play some festive music in the background and you have instantly created a Christmas atmosphere. Without lots of work putting up decorations or spending a fortune.

There are other activities which can be substituted in a similar way. Even if there are only the two of you – better still if there are a group – ask everyone to bring a Christmas poem or story to read aloud and share. Alternatively, sing and make music. Invite everyone to find three jokes to share. (Laughter is a great gift – and it lowers blood sugar too). Begin your time together by constructing fantastic Christmas hats for each other made from old newspaper or gift wrapping, decorated with bits of tinsel, ribbon or parcel tie.

Arrange to meet up and go for a walk – walks around towns and villages can be exciting at this time of year – a mosey around an Christmas fair or market, a cup of hot chocolate drunk outside in the chilly damp air, a saunter down a road to see everyone’s Christmas decorations in gardens and windows can be very enjoyable, especially when shared with someone dear to you. This is an activity which can be enjoyed by people of all ages, and shared by the generations too.

Organise a shared meal at your house, where everyone brings an edible component, hot or cold, sweet or savoury. We particularly love to do this when our grove gathers; for instance, one person will provide a pan of hot soup, another a savoury flan or bowl of salad, crusty bread, or savoury nibbles, a trifle, fruit crumble or cake, and yet another cheese and biscuits, or fresh fruit. Before you know it, a veritable feast is set before you, one which didn’t cost anyone much time or effort – Christmas Dinner can be approached in a similar way – it spreads the cost, the preparation and work and a great deal of the responsibility and stress. (Just ensure that you know what everyone is contributing beforehand or else you might find yourself with with four dozen pigs in blankets, two boxes of cheese biscuits and a potted poinsettia.)

You may also wish to get together with friends, family or neighbours to make and bake – take a morning, afternoon or evening – weekday or weekend – and have a baking session, or a making/sewing/knitting session. How about you all make Christmas crackers (again, craft materials can then be shared and makes for less expense). Crackers are a particularly good way of parcelling up and presenting small inconsequential gifts – nicely presenting tokens in your new mindfully reduced gifting regime, or conveying something small but significantly special in a unique way.

How about making sweets to give as gifts?

Please do trawl your shops for craft and packaging materials, and support local artisans and businesses as much as possible, but it might also pay you to look on line – if you share similar projects with one or more people you can benefit from buying more cheaply in bulk and dividing the costs as well as the purchases.

Yes, it takes a little forethought and planning, but there is still time. Don’t forget that there are the lovely days between Christmas and New Year to fill as well, or even after New Year as we enter a colder, more inhospitable season. Enjoyment and socialising doesn’t have to grind to a halt and disappear with the last of the baubles into the loft until next December.

Live and love a little! Cancel that. Live and love a LOT!


Winter Greetings!

Days come and go, the seasons turn and we have finally reached the first dark, turbulent days of Winter! Gazing out of my window across the drab khaki-green and brown fields, watching huge purple galleons of clouds majestically sail into view, I wonder what it is about this season which I love so much.

Perhaps it is that I finally get a few days to rest and catch my breath after all the hurly burly of the autumn, culminating in our three day celebration of Calan Gaeaf.

Monday (30th October) was the day we hold our Ancestor’s Dinner, when we gather around our dining table with extra places laid to welcome any shade of family past over who might be around at this special time of the year when the veils thin and loved ones are able to draw closer once more. A hearty meal of chicken pie in thick white savoury gravy accompanied by buttery red cabbage steamed with raisins and apples was followed by spicy Soul Cakes made to a traditional recipe, and numerous cups of freshly brewed Nicaraguan coffee from our local supplier. It is fair to say that I sensed the house to be happily bustling with movement and whispers and my son’s partner, who works from home, was wryly amused when a colleague on a video call asked who was singing in the background – she had been listening to the excited voices of children for some time, although no children have lived here this past thirty years.

The 31st October – Hallowe’en to many – was mainly fun and games for us, out in the darkness of our back garden where visiting children played the traditional games of ‘bobbing for apples’ and chasing the wildly swinging ‘sticky bun’ while we lit a fire and brought out steaming dishes of potato pie and fruit crumbles. Later, after the door had been answered to many excited ‘trick-or-treaters’, we settled around the welcome warmth of the blaze and told stories of the White (headless) Lady and Hwch Ddu Gwta, the tailless black sow who waits for unwary travellers by styles and crossroads (and other liminal places) and carries  them off, possibly to be plunged into Ceridwen’s Cauldron… which might not be as bad as it sounds as it is a magical receptacle of rejuvenation and rebirth. More Soul Cakes were consumed as we sang the traditional ‘Souling Song’. Marshmallows were toasted and sparklers were lit as we all joyfully danced in the night with our brave little lights.

The third and final day was Wednesday, the 1st November. In the past, the old Celtic calendar, and many other cultures of the Northern Hemisphere, began their New Year at this time, with the ending of the harvest, the settling into winter and a break from agricultural activity. The shadows thickened as friends and family gathered around our cosy hearth, the candles were lit, and we shared the first afternoon tea of winter – a hearty affair of savoury pies, pastries and sandwiches, followed by crisp thick shortbreads delicately flavoured with lavender and lemon, sticky dark parkin, and other sweet goodies.

We discussed when each of us personally feels that winter begins and the effects it has on us. I understand that some dislike winter intensely and many suffer from S.A.D. as the Solstice darkness begins to close around us. Which leads me back to ponder why I, conversely, love it so wholeheartedly. Perhaps it is because I begin to anticipate all the joyful excitement and celebration of Advent, Midwinter and Christmas soon to come? Or maybe it is because I hold so many wonderful memories of special loving times around the hearth with my family, talking, making, reading, in our shadowy, candlelit kitchen which felt so very safe and secure. On the other hand, I did also chose this time of year to enter into this life, although that is often a traumatic time for both baby and mother and my advent was no exception.

Whatever the reason, the coming of Winter never ceases to thrill me with all its possibilities and potential for cosy times, the plotting of treats and happy events and the general making of magical surprises. As a fairy-godmother-in-training I delight in helping to make wishes and dreams – no matter how large or small – come true.

I sometimes think that the greatest gift I can give to anyone is to invite them to my hearth, enfold them in shadow and soft candleflame, ply them with lovingly-made edible treats and watch them relax, unfurl and awaken to the gentle magical delights of a Winter tea by the fire. Old memories stir within us at such times, and it isn’t simply the province of visiting ancestors – there is something incredibly fundamental about drawing together in shelter and safety around a brightly burning blaze and sharing good food and good company, while the wind howls and the rain lashes outside. It is the oldest communal activity in the history of the human race, and one which triggers memory held deep in our DNA, and a suitably favourable reaction.

Living fire, living flame might not be so common in our homes now, but you might at least consider lighting a candle in this new winter’s darkness and match it with a flame of loving anticipation and appreciation in your heart… you can also use a candle flame to toast marshmallows too!

Snow Fairies

I love the snow! Still a child at heart, I rejoice in watching the whirling flakes of ice, in observing the ordinary green world as it turns white and vanishes, in seeing the frosted mountains, in smelling, tasting, touching this winter phenomenon.

Unfortunately, with the vagaries of our temperamental  British weather, further complicated by climate change, we do not often get snow here in the far north-western corner of Wales. I miss it. Some winters I end up positively yearning for it and feel out of step… out of kilter… with the rest of the natural world for lack of it.

Even in a relatively cold winter, such as the one we have just experienced, when many other areas of the U.K. have been regularly blanketed under several feet of snow, the closest we have got to it has been on the mountain tops while down here in the valley, we have had to content ourselves with a mere dusting of frost.

Contrary to my usual wishes, when snow was forecast earlier last week, I only felt concern for the wildlife which is already in the full throes of nesting, budding and blossoming, and disappointment that it couldn’t have come earlier in the year,

Then, last Friday morning, I awoke to the vision of thick snow  covering gardens, trees, fields… the whole valley! A blizzard of huge snowflakes danced past my window; the mountains across the valley were totally obscured and the sky was heavy with more snow to come. I sat with my hands wrapped around a scalding cup of tea, entranced at the magical wonderland being created before my very eyes!

As I watched, I became aware that the snow had a true individual presence, a life of its own – a thick layer of seasonal energy, a thronging of tiny, icy winter elemental beings (one for each snowflake, at least), which had come to bless and bestow upon the land the final kiss of winter, and all the benefits which a cold snap can bring. the snow lay, a living coverlet of natural energy, a rightful presence in partnership and harmony with the land.

Presently, the snow stopped, the clouds cleared and the sun came out, as did the village children, shouting and laughing and calling to each other as they slipped, slithered, tobogganed, snowballed and built snow people  in the field opposite my home. Many delightful memories flooded my mind as I sat, a grinning spectator to all their innocent fun.

With the sun, the temperature rose and the world began to steadily drip. Jewel droplets glittered from every branch and surface. My husband rushed out to clear patches of ground in the snow so that bird seed could be scattered, while fat balls danced from the fruit trees and bowls of ice were replaced with fresh water.

As the snow gradually melted away and the green and golden daffodils and primroses re-emerged, I realised that the land looked different – cleaner, refreshed, revitalised, more vibrant. The snow had gone but the elemental life which had arrived with it had transmuted into something different and was still very much present.

Just a reminder that we cannot always see or understand the need for certain events in our life, but there is always a good reason for them.


Wassail, Wassail!

Here we are, already at the last Friday in January. The year is picking up apace! Birds are singing their pre-courting solos, staking early claims to territory for the mating season, snowdrops are in bud, the snow has almost disappeared from the mountains. I sense that the land is almost holding its breath in this last gasp of true winter, as we crest the rise and begin to roll gently down into earliest spring.

Last week, as the light of the short afternoon faded, we ventured out into our garden to celebrate the first anniversary of the founding of our stone circle and to wassail the land. Wassailing is a noisy celebration to begin to awaken the natural world. We lit a fire, shared hot spiced apple juice with the land and each other, sang traditional wassailing songs and made a great hullaballoo with drums, rattles and bells. Special attention was paid to our four apple trees, especially the oldest which must have stood for at least a hundred years and which has rather a crusty, grumpy temperament, but, nevertheless is a good cropper in the autumn.

As we sat in the darkness and talked quietly around the warm and welcoming flames, flakes of snow began to fall and stick to our faces, our hair… the soft kiss of winter.

Wassailing is originally a Norse tradition which I have brought with me from the North West of England to this mountain fastness of Wales. Wassail means ‘good health!’ so in affect, we are blessing the land for another fruitful year. As a family, we have always wassailed the land on the 17th January, but in the recent resurgence in interest and practice of wassailing it can be done any time in January, from New Year’s day right through to the end of the month which then more appropriately spills over into the end of winter and the celebration of earliest spring at Imbolc – or for us here in Wales, Gwyl Ffraid – our next celebration around the wheel of the year at the beginning of February.

There is still time! Get out this weekend and, along with counting your birds for the big Garden Bird Watch for the R.S.P.B., why not acknowledge and bless your land as well? It needn’t actually be your land – simply the land – our land, this Earth which belongs to all of us and which sustains and nourishes us so generously. Even beneath the tarmac of busy roads and the foundations of tall buildings, the heart of the Earth beats strong and true.

Perhaps it is not so much a time to reawaken the natural world so much as an opportunity to reaffirm our connection to it all and to rejoice in it.

Blessings to all!

“Mankind is my Business”

Free illustrations of VintageThe above title is a misquote from “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, words uttered by a miserably repentant Marley’s ghost to an intractable and very unrepentant Scrooge.

The full quotation is: “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business: charity, mercy, benevolence, forbearance. These were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the ocean of my business!”

In earthly life, Marley became far too engrossed – obsessed, even – with his own business of financial profit and the power which it brought him. How much money we earn and what expensive items we own do not define us. It is not what we are but who we are that counts, and that is usually best revealed by our actions.

Far too often we become so totally wound up in our own emotions and challenges that we forget what life is really all about – living the best life that we can whilst reaching out to all around us with love… and that includes not just humanity but all the natural world as well!

Every year, during the winter season, we are ALL reminded of this fact, regardless of our religious practices or spiritual beliefs, and given the chance to enter into practical action… lay aside our grievances, fears and prejudices, and extend the hand of hospitality and friendship. After all, it is a win-win activity because when we bring loving and giving into our hearts and our daily actions, we not only communicate good feeling to everyone around us, but we also end up feeling much better about ourselves too.

Yet, even when we do think about it, how many of us do not generously give our caring and love for fear that it will be scorned and thrown back in our faces. Rejection is a bitter blow to deal with. Is it foolhardy to persist in giving and loving when there is such danger of being so wounded, or a sign of emotional and spiritual maturity?

To quote a Christian concept, remember to always turn the other cheek… give people the benefit of the doubt… if nothing else it demonstrates that you are the stronger, more mature character, as well as being the far nicer person.
And, in the long run, it becomes a habit.

So, how will your ‘business’ flourish this Midwinter? What will you be able to enter in your columns of positive and negative this Christmas? What service can you render to others; what gift of smiles, friendship, forgiveness and love can you distribute far and wide – even to complete strangers?

No ‘humbugs’ here, dear friends!
With my love.

My Little Sacred Garden

Clear skies, drying boisterous winds, temperatures above 21 degrees… it doesn’t sound much like mid-November does it? But that was what we were treated to last weekend and I grabbed the opportunity to spend Sunday afternoon out in all that glorious freedom of unexpected, unseasonal sunshine.

I spent my time working within our little stone circle, repotting our nine oak saplings which form a protective outer circle around the nine small stones within. Oak trees do not like to be disturbed or have their roots touched or damaged in any way, so I had to be very careful – or at least as careful as it is possible to be while forcibly wrestling young trees out of pots they have grown too large for and are now tight and constricting!

I sincerely hope that they are not too traumatised. The young trees have given me a huge amount of pleasure this year, from their leafy lush foliage back at Midsummer through all their autumn colours. The rustle and scent of their very presence has frequently brought a smile to my lips. Now their leaves are mostly brown and the first  are beginning to drift to the ground. One caught and stuck in my hair while I was working – a large curled paper-dry leaf, surely far too large for the tiny tree it had grown on.

Once the trees had been seen to, I planted snowdrop, daffodil and tulip bulbs around the edges of the pots so that – mice permitting – we might have spring flowers in the circle when all the rest is still a little drab.

And then it struck me… I was planting a sacred garden! In my humble opinion, all growth, all that is encompassed by the natural world, all life, is sacred for it contains that element of divine energy which is life itself… life which ultimately can never be destroyed, only change form.

Once all this was done, I then decided that I needed to do something with our tiny firepit in the centre of the circle which was just an irregular rectangle cut into the grass. I enlarged it and turned it, too, into a circle, edged with old red bricks which contrast nicely with the dark grey of the slate stones. Among these bricks are some from the living room fireplace of my old childhood home in Lancashire, providing continuity of hearth as an important focal point.

Here, where we shall sit to warm ourselves at our Midwinter fire, celebrate the return of the light half of the year at the Spring Equinox, and dance for joy at Midsummer in the full light and heat of the sun amidst the blossoms, here I lay the tentative foundations by planting seeds of new life. Tended with love, there can surely be no greater act of faith and positivity than to plant a garden, a burgeoning beautiful symbol that life continues, and that, contrary to popular belief, working in harmony and understanding, together humanity and the natural world can produce something amazing… and thrive.

The First Storm of Winter

A wealth of tasty crops and healthy food to be enjoyed throughout the winter.

What a night that was! Gales lashing the trees to a frenzy and howling around the house from all directions and then the advent of an electrical storm, the likes of which I have never seen in the United Kingdom before. It lasted for nearly three hours – silent, ominous, threatening – great blinding flashes of bright white light which flickered and soundlessly exploded around our valley and across the furthest mountain tops.

In days of yore, I might have been forgiven for thinking that this was an indication of the outpouring of the Wild Hunt led by the mythical Gwyn ap Nudd as their horses streamed across the dark skies, their hooves striking sparks from the clouds as they gathered speed. In the old days it was the souls of the recent dead which they reputedly went to gather in, but with so much personal trauma and dread currently permeating our rapidly failing society and such a weight of chaos and dysfunction in the abilities of our political leaders I am tempted to reflect more deeply on just what Gwyn and his gruesome band of shades might actually be collecting up. Certainly, there is much about our way of life which is out worn, out dated and in desperate need of clearing away and replacing.

The year grows old, the seasons turn… in less than a fortnight we shall celebrate the Celtic new year and the ending of the old worn out cycle of 2022, and the beginning of a period of quiet, of stasis, of reflection and assessment on what has come to pass this last twelve months. A the dawn breaks on a new day, the savage winds have completely died away and the all the lightening has flickered and flashed away – now peace, stillness and quiet reign once more.

I look out on our little back garden and our fruit and vegetable patch in particular. Last week there were still heavenly scented sweet peas blossoming at the top of their vines and scarlet nasturtiums (which I grow as part of our salad patch to include the leaves and flowers  in our salads) had scrambled from ground level up inti the gooseberry bushes. There were even some pale pink roses left in bloom by the old back gate.

The last flowers of summer?

Now, the land has taken on a somewhat more battered and serious demeanour.

We truly are entering winter, but with good provision of crops from the land. Savoy cabbage, curly kale and broccoli thrive and will stand through the coldest frosts. There is still a patch of lettuce thriving in a sheltered corner. The last of the courgettes and beans have been gathered in and the rest of the tomatoes have just been picked from the greenhouse. Squirrelled away in our freezer are many pound bags of succulent mange tout peas, peppery kohl rabi  and green beans, not to mention all the fruit crops – currents, gooseberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, apples, plums, rhubarb – all now changed into cordials, wines, jams , chutneys and preserves in the alchemy of our kitchen, while in the herbal dispensary, many more plants, fruits and fungus dry or marinade in preparation for the coming chills and ills of winter when our immune systems come under extra strain.

I am filled with immense gratitude for all the wonderful abundance of the Earth, yet am simultaneously awed and humbled by the raw power and absolutely energy which Gaia so easily wields. The storm of yesterday evening so amply demonstrated this.

Just for now we shall make the most of the dwindling daylight, the softer rain, the last hours of golden sunshine when we can still feel the real warmth of the sun’s rays. Now is the time to pause, look about us and attend to the pressing needs of the Earth and all who dwell on her, for Winter is surely coming.

Autumn Abundance

Large wreath for my front door – not yet complete – and smaller one for a friend.

A few days ago, a couple of my dearest friends presented me with an early birthday present – a wonderful long, flat wicker basket which they found recently on Ludlow market. As soon as I clapped eyes on it, it was love at first sight! I could immediately think of numerous uses for it – lined with colourful napkins and heaped with fairy cakes for Hallowe’en or piled with crusty cobs of bread on the local market stall…

However, that was not its first assignment. Instead, the next afternoon I took it out into the garden to collect examples of harvest bounty with which to make an autumn thanksgiving wreath – lengths of green aromatic bay to form the main framework, bunches of acorn cups and beech masts, clusters of deep scarlet hawthorn berries, strands of flaming Virginia Creeper, sprays of purple and pale green hydrangea and tiny-leaved Escalonia with bright little orangey-red berries, and so on.

Me this afternoon, about to hang the finished article

With the assistance of my amazing basket I was able to gather and transport everything gently without crushing or crowding, and once I sat down to begin construction of the wreath it made my work so much easier and less fiddly.

And what a lot we have to be thankful for this autumn, for despite the drought in the summer, we have been blessed by bountiful crops and the countryside as a whole has blossomed and burgeoned into a prosperous wealth of rich rewards. As the plants droop and wither, dying back towards the land which has nurtured and supported them and will now shelter their roots or seeds through the resting time of winter, the trees are turning colour and the rich scent of decay fills the woodlands.

Complete and in place

I love to make a wreath to hang on the front or back door of my home – sometimes both. This one is destined for the front door which is sheltered by a little open-fronted porch which means that the fragile flowers will last much longer. They vary remarkably every year, depending on what is available and has done well. Yes, of course the wreath will gradually dry out or wither and some leaves and berries will fall – but in so doing it will reflect the season it was made to celebrate – a land gradually fading into shadows to dream again of the spring and rebirth… regrowth.

This is a good time to rejoice and give thanks. How might you acknowledge the turning of the season and the maturing of the autumn… the onset of winter?

May all your store cupboards be filled with tasty treasures against the shortages of winter… may you bask in the glow of the long-gone summer sun and taste again the rich flavours of the light half of the year… may the autumn treat you gently.

Welcome Winter!

This picture is of my drawing room, all ready and prepared for our rather more seriously adult Calan Gaeaf/Hallowe’en celebrations last Sunday. The first day after the clocks ‘went back’, the end  of the Celtic year and beginning of Winter.

I chose this picture because it typifies how I feel and what I like about this time of year – a drawing in and coming together of friends and family… a time to sit and cogitate, drift and dream beside the hearth… a chance to process all that has happened in one’s life over the light, sunny spring, summer and autumn months…

This is a special time – a few weeks when we can stop and draw breath, reconnect to our roots and grow into ourselves again before all the craziness of Midwinter and Christmas celebration engulfs us. It is a quiet, very personal time. My deeply hidden, secretive and passionate Scorpio self revels in the shadows, the darkness, and all that which is mysteriously hidden and only hinted at. I LOVE this time of year! Perhaps that is why I chose to be born now? But it speaks to all of us.

When I was a child I believed that it was the close proximity to all the excitement of Christmas which made this time of year so very precious and special to me, but it isn’t that at all, just the reverse. Midwinter/Christmas is a part of it, but the deep resonances of heath and home, of ancient connections and ancestors, of rest and rejuvenation and reaffirmation of belief in and love of life reach very much further into our genetic history… our psyche… the very fibre of our being.

Instead of shrinking away from the cold and the dark of winter, I like to enter wholeheartedly into each activity which the change in season and temperature brings. I mark the day when I need to once more get out my thick winter dresses and the evening I first need to wear my warmer nightdresses or fill my hot water bottle. My taste for certain foods changes too, and once more we are into days of baking cakes rich and heavy with fruit, sticky ginger parkin dark with molasses, steaming, savoury stews and casseroles and one of my childhood favourites, ‘taty pie (meat and potato pie) with pale pastry crust and accompanied by well buttered and peppered root veg from the garden.

Longer evenings mean more time to talk and share with the family, to enjoy leisurely meals, to be unhurried. They also facilitate opportunities to plan and create treats for the Midwinter festivities, secret surprises for all to enjoy with all the glee and little or none of the corrosive pressure. And they provide the time and space to settle with a good book, a long neglected hobby, or simply the space to simply be…

So, please don’t reject the winter – grab it with both hands and thoroughly enjoy it while it is here . The long, light, frenetically busy spring and summer months will soon be back with us. Take this opportunity to absorb the nourishing darkness, sink into the shadows, relax and find yourself again.

Greetings For Calan Gaeaf!

Ancestor Table

The Ancestor Table is set and awaits the names, photos and memorabilia of those to be remembered and honoured… a time of soft light and deep shadows.

So, here we are… at the end of Summer and the beginning of Winter. The seeds of all our endeavours for 2020 have been sown – and harvested – and what a curious year it has been.

Now it is time to draw all the threads of our year together. To take all that we have hoped for, striven for and achieved, all we have failed at or lost, and pull them within to be reviewed, reworked and reborn in resolutions for the coming new year. In the summer months of the year the light is all around us… it pervades, intrudes, even disturbs our sleep as it demands our attention and constant activity. But here we are at the very threshold of Winter – with barely eight hours of daylight each day, less in stormy times of heavy cloud and driving rain, and growing ever shorter as we journey on to Midwinter.

The focus of our lives shifts. The undeniable light which suffused us throughout the summer has dimmed. It is time to harvest that too, and take the light within… to shield and nurture it… to sit and be present with it… to bring it to the very edge of our own inner cauldron which represents the roiling, moiling inner source of all that makes us ‘us’ and illuminate what we discover there. For this is also the time of our own inner harvest. Then we may rest, recuperate, and await our rebirth with that of the Sun at Midwinter. Take time to breath and reflect… to decide where you go from here… what you wish to see and do in the new year… and, perhaps most importantly of all, how you wish to achieve it.

Be bold! Be daring! This time of pandemic is not one for holding back and being timid – it is a time of make or break, a time to play your hand and aim for the very highest goals.

As Darkness envelops us (in many more ways than one) and the northern half of the  Earth judders and sighs as she settles for her rest, all that has passed and gone before – along with all possibility of what may be to come – draws near us at this liminal time, the transition from this to… what? It is for us to choose. And at this time of decision, all the Ancestors, our ancestors, of blood, of place, of belief, draw close once more. Do they come to support us? To chastise us for our follies? To seek forgiveness and love? Welcome them. We need solidarity at this particular time. They have faced it all before. They can help to guide us through. Simply open your hearts and minds to them with love. You do not have to know who they are, just acknowledge that they have been… must have existed, or else you could not possibly be here now. Buried deep within your DNA are genetic memories of all that they have experienced, and they will help you remember now, so that you may learn by their own personal collective triumphs and failures what to repeat and where not to go.

I do not wish you a mere ‘good weekend of festivity’, or a jolly, enjoyable or exciting ‘Hallowe’en’ with silly masks and make-up and fancy dress and all the theatricals which humanity employs when it is really seeking to dodge important issues.

I wish you a mind-bogglingly transformative weekend, an experience of such depth and colour that it will take your breath away. But to begin, simply sit with yourself, light a candle, and be silent, with love in your heart.

May the true blessings of Calan Gaeaf / Samhain / Hallowe’en be yours!

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