Some thoughts on Place
A week or so ago I was reading an article by a well-known witch from the US, where she was talking about neopaganism, and how fragmented it was. That’s a big subject and not one I’m going to tackle here – at least not for now. But one thing she talked about was our relationship with ‘Place’. Then a few days later I was listening to a podcast by Emergence Magazine, exploring the relationship with place of the spirit-keepers of the traditional ancient religion of Hawaii, before it was almost completely wiped out, first by the British and later by the Americans. This quote from a Hawaiian elder really summed up my own personal thoughts on place, and our relationship with it:
“We need to become the place. Don’t expect the place to bow down and become you. We become the place. You fit into the natural cycles of the place. You fit into the flow of that land. The way the river moves, the way the wind blows, the trees that grow there, the animals that live there; they are what makes that place alive. Aloha is to love, aloha is to really honour the ‘alo‘ face to face, to know the ahhh, the breath of life. So to recognise individuality and responsibility; and it’s not that we don’t know how. We *all* know how. All of our ancestors, from all walks of life, from every corner of this planet, they knew how.”
You can listen to the podcast in full here: https://emergencemagazine.org/story/the-myth-of-progress/
Earlier in November around twelve of us gathered at the Samhain Dark Moon to pause from our everyday lives and spend a few hours in the darkness, reflecting on the past cycle, what we had achieved, and what we needed to release. It’s always a deep and powerful season, and it’s important to recognise that Samhain isn’t simply the 31st October and the 1st November – the time where folk dress up as ghouls and ghosts and go out ‘trick or treating’. Yet the festival of Samhain only became fixed when the Church imposed their need for a set time for All Souls Night. In ancient times Samhain was a time where nature dictated how and when it was honoured – often it would occur at the time of the first hard frosts, when the animals needed to be brought back in to the paddocks and when difficult decisions made as to which animals would survive the harshness of the coming winter, and which ones would not. When we gather at Samhain – and I almost always hold my Samhain ceremony at or around the dark moon – it the time for us to also look at our own lives and decide what we can no longer sustain so that we can let it go with respect and honour. Often it’s something that’s dear to us, that we don’t want to release – and that can make it a difficult thing to do.For me, then, we are still very much in the midst of Samhain, of sliding deeper into the darkness of winter; and that time will continue right up until we reach the Midwinter Solstice when the days are at their shortest. For some Samhain lasts for the whole of the month of November and no longer, but for me, there is a real sense of the ‘time’ between the beginning of November and Alban Arhtan (the Winter Solstice) as being a season on ‘no time’. It’s a pause between the outbreath of the approaching winter, and the outbreath of an at present distant springtime. It’s the time where the trees and hedgerows release their leaves and turn inward. They seem dead, but they aren’t. They are alive and in good health as they recognise the turning of the seasons, and so take their annual rest. At one time we would have done the same. We would have slowed down (because the fields were cold, barren and frozen!), gathered around fires and shared with community and friends tales and stories to entertain us and take our minds from the bitter cold of the time of year. And at Midwinter – Yule, Alban Arthan, Christmas – we would have celebrated the turning of the tide of light, knowing that the days would, at last, begin to grow longer.
But that’s still a way away yet – though watching the Christmas advertisements you wouldn’t necessarily think that. So, there’s still time to make that release of all the things we can’t keep hold of and can’t sustain so that we are able, when the time comes, to focus on what we can achieve, tending those delicate seeds of hopes and ideas through the harsh cold frosts of winter.
So, just as our ancestors did, and at the suggestion of someone taking the cycle of workshops I’m running, we are holding our own little winter gathering, coming together for a day to share our own stories, songs, myths, and adventures – as well as drumming, dance, food (of course!) and a fine old knees-up! It’s only a week or so away now – on the 1st December – and there are just a couple of spaces left if you’d like to come along. It’s only £15 for the day, to cover the cost of the hall we are using and all the details are on my website at https://mistdancer.org.uk/mistdancer-winter-gathering/.
With blessings of the season,