A Dark moon rises unseen overhead, yet toward the west the sun is barely caressing the upper ridge of my beloved Downs. Having spent a painstaking couple of days deciding on and preparing my Dark Moon work, something from somewhere hit me quite out of the blue and told me to forget all that, take only what you think you’ll need and see what happens when you get there, the security blanket of planned ritual was rapidly pulled out of my grasping fingers, the training wheels were off… and I wasn’t so sure if I could ride this bike without my stabilisers!
I drove to the Coldrum Stones car park and hot footed my way to the lone Yew tree which grows not far from the barrow just a short walk through the woods and over a small stream. As much as I have been actively searching for a regular working site it never occurred to me that this spot, which I visit frequently, is actually perfect. Now, as the peak of summer fast approaches and with all the rain we’ve have, the wild plants which grow in the clearing have shot up to almost waist height and I can tell from the lack of flattened foliage and trodden paths in the undergrowth that this space is rarely visited by anyone except maybe the occasional fox or bumbling pheasant.
It was still light enough to see under the dense evergreen canopy of the Old Girl. Having resolutely declared this spot my ritual ‘home from home’ I set about with a little housekeeping which was mainly clearing large cumbersome branches and stones from underfoot and moving anything which might be considered a trip hazard (for someone as clumsy as me that means pretty much all debris imaginable!) and I pruned some of the lower dead twiggy like branches which jutted out at head height to give me enough space to manoeuvre standing up without losing an eye. (Note: No Yew Trees were harmed in the creation of this working space!)
The light started to dim, even though I could see that out in the open the sun was still bright and not yet hidden behind the downs. Inspiration lead me to do a little decorating so I set about collecting 8 large pieces of chalk from the nearby farmland and arranged them into a circle. It wasn’t long before I realised I was laying my compass round as I placed each stone, calling on the pale ones below, the spirits of the land to gather. Could it really be that simple? One of the (many) aspects of traditional craft which drew me in was the apparent simplicity, focus is placed instead on the inner rather than the outer act. In my Wiccan days, one couldn’t sneeze without ceremony and the reading of a ‘charge’, yet now here I was ‘casting a circle’ with naught but a few lumps of Kentish limestone.
I sat for a while, actively doing nothing, opening myself up to the environment. In the space of 24 hours my plans had devolved from being a well thought out structured ritual, to just a ‘rough idea’…admittedly I was a little stumped without my ‘road map’.
I decided the best thing to do would be to gather my bits and pieces. I set about arranging my ‘altar’ the surface of which was EC’s pelt with his Skull taking centre stage and surrounded by the usual implements of arte…Knife, Cup, plate of bread and so on. Twilight crept over the land like a thief gradually stealing the sunlight. My eight pieces of chalk gathered from the ploughed earth seemed to take on a luminescence as I neatly set out my stall. When I was happy with my arrangement I set a little incense to smoulder and lit the candle, conjuring forth a flame of cunning, a beacon perhaps …two things I had never initially intended to do when I planned the evening, but here at the foot of an ancient lone Yew tree, a candle flame and the sight of sweet scented smoke bellowing up into the lofty branches seemed fitting and appropriate.
Gazing upon the flame, gently flickering in the breeze I slipped away, the twilight thief stealing me away from the mundane as he had been slowly doing with the sunlight. Lulling me deeper still, I listened to the airborne lullaby of bird song punctuated by Crows cawing as they took to roost. Skin crawled and tickled with the occasional insect landing upon my skin, some to feed upon my blood, some landing by accident and goose bumps stood to greet the caress of a cool evening breeze. I had drifted into a semi slumber yet somehow I don’t think I’ve ever felt more awake.
There shortly followed a familiar sense of ‘gathering in’ which always seems to blur the lines between familiarity and fear… a feeling of being watched from afar, the eyes of someone (or something) all around piercing your soul, a something the cells of your deepest self seem to recognise and whose name lingers on the tip of your tongue. I know this feeling to mean one has arrived that must be acknowledged…I call him Ol’ Horny, The Old Boy or more often simply Master.
EC’s skull was consecrated to the spirits of the land with soil, wine, flame and breath and smothered in paste made from a concoction of red ochre, mashed boiled Beetroot (thanks for that idea Sarah!) from the garden and Elderberry wine, an empty vessel of bone once as white as the chalky downs themselves now sat glistening red as blood, no longer hollow … breathing…watching! Then, suddenly in the corner of my eye something darted between the trees opposite, and then again in the incense smoke but gone again as quick as a Hare. I caught my breath and slowly withdrew a leather pouch containing my Runes and, after carving a small circle in the soil, cast them from my cupped hands and watched as they tumbled upon the ground. Everything seemed to go in slow motion in anticipation of Fate’s whim, the weaving of webs and the cutting of threads.
I removed any face down runes and studied what I had been dealt. Having been a somewhat ‘spirit lead’ event I had left the house without a notebook (a lesson in itself) so all I could do was take a photo of the casting to look back at later if necessary and jot down a few scrambled notes on my iPhone.
The mini circle I cast my runes into represents my universe in microcosm, my compass both physical and ethical. Where the runes fall within (or even outside) of that circle means just as much to me as the rune alone might mean. Imagine my surprise when I returned home to find the photo I had taken for reference was actually upside down…either ‘someone’ was playing tricks or I had a ‘dumb blonde’ moment but either way I am now faced with a dilemma…which way round is the ‘right’ way round….?? Perhaps they were meant to be read this way? At this point everything seemed possible.
Bread and Wine were consecrated to the Bright ones, the Pale ones, Ancestors who were and are yet to be and of course dear little ‘EC’ who (thanks to Mrs Graveyard Dirt) had provided me with a delicious feast at Easter, a beautiful pelt and a vessel to mediate the spirits of the land who in turn shared with me their wisdom and guidance from start to finish, even if I am still making heads or tails of the whole experience!
It’s not often I write about personal experiences like this because they are just that…personal! To write about them often lessens or negates the impact. Secondly I actually find these things really quite difficult to articulate at all, some experiences take one beyond the limitations of language and the written word and are instead instinctive, sensual and deeply emotive…even primal. These occurrences are about the relationship between something that is outside ‘normal’ comprehension and the deepest parts of ourselves which existed long before we learnt to box up, label and file everything away with what we humans deemed appropriate nouns and pronouns. Here, however I am making one exception to illustrate the oft over looked beauty of the simplistic approach and just ‘going with the flow’. The art of spontaneous ritual enabled me to shut off easier and quicker…when you have no plan you tend to throw caution to the wind, raise sails and see where it takes you with none of that pesky analysis and troublesome self-doubt getting in the way, and certainly none of the expectations which often blind us to the real purpose and eventual result of any ritual. The art of spontaneity is indeed an art, it requires faith in oneself and an ability to trust in what you’re doing…after all if it doesn’t go according to plan, remember just because it hasn’t gone according to your plan, doesn’t mean it’s gone wrong…when the training wheels come off we are bound to wobble from side to side as I am quickly learning…maybe that’s why this path is indeed a crooked one but one thing’s for certain there always seems to be a helping hand to keep you upright.