Saturday, December 22, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
As we approach the Winter Solstice I am reminded that in the Celtic tradition both the Sun and the Moon are perceived as feminine. Each year, close to the Winter Solstice our group dance the sun up to a very ancient song from the Isle of Barra in the Hebrides. It is a beautiful Scots Gaelic song to the sun, "a `Ghrian".
Failte ort féin, a sharian nan tráth,
`S tu siubhal ard nan speur,
Do cheumaibh treun air sgéith nan ard,
`S tu máthair áigh nan reul.
Thu laighe sios an cuan na dith,
Gun diobhail is gun sgath:
Thu'g éirigh suas air stuagh na sith,
Mar rioghainn og for blaith.
Hail to you, sun of the seasons
As you travel the skies aloft,
Your steps are strong on the wing of the heavens,
You are the glorious mother of the stars.
You lie down in the destructive ocean
Without impairment and without fear;
You rise up on the peaceful wave
Like a queenly maiden in bloom.
This afternoon there was another perfect sunset at Maeshowe.
And for the first time this year the Winter Solstice sunrise will be live on the Internet from Newgrange, see www.newgrange.com/webcast.htm
Friday, December 07, 2007
Anyone who has visited Maeshowe on the Orkney Islands cannot fail to have been deeply moved by this ancient earth womb. The chamber is 35 metres in diameter and reaches a height of 7 metres; the entrance passage is some 14 metres long. It was constructed around 2750 bce in such a way that the midwinter sunset light shines down the entrance passage into the womb.
As you may have read from my post this time last year, three webcams broadcast the sunset daily around the Winter Solstice. This year all new higher resolution equipment has been installed. If you can't visit Maeshowe itself around the Winter Solstice it is best to point your web browser at www.maeshowe.co.uk between 2.30 and 3 p.m. GMT.
In such northerly parts of Brighid's Isles the winters tend to be cloudy and wet. I guess our ancestors must have been people of real faith as they waited for a clear day so the Winter light would pour down the passage and bring new life. Yet, today there was a beautiful sunset. My spirits are uplifted. It now seems right to prepare for the Winter Solstice celebrations. By a strange bit of serendipity I also received my first Winter Solstice card in the post this morning.
Blessed, sacred days.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
It is always a joy to give and receive gifts around the Winter Solstice and I love the adventure involved in searching for beautiful things that will bring a little magic into someone's life.
Here in Brighid's Isles it isn't always easy. Somehow we have all been asleep whilst the big chain stores of the corporate world have cloned our high streets. Now they all have the same stores selling the same boring things, much of it manufactured by women working long hours for poor wages in the far east. In truth our high streets have become battlegrounds of domination and competition aimed at relieving us of our money as quickly as possible.
I live between two cities, Leeds and York and they couldn't be more different. Leeds is a typical british clone town whilst York is filled with small independent shops offering a veritable cornucopia of magic and delight. In Leeds people look rushed and harassed. In York you can see the delight on people's faces and they seem to have time to stop and socialise.
So York seems to me to be closer to a Goddess economy, one based on beauty, magic, nurture, co-operation and real social interaction. In Leeds you go into a shop and buy. In York you still go into a shop and buy; but you also receive gifts, personal service, the delight of an artisan in her own work, the chance to talk and exchange ideas.
By now you can guess in which city I bought my Winter gifts ! However, Leeds didn't seem to be all corporate greed for there was one oasis of difference which made it actually worthwhile to get the bus into that city. The old Corn Exchange is a beautiful building which was a haven for small independent shops selling their own kind of magic and every weekend the floor was filled with artisans selling their wares. The place buzzed and had its own special atmosphere. It rapidly became THE place for the city's teenagers to socialise. A little Goddess economy in a world of corporate greed.
Then came the bad news. It was suddenly announced by the owners of the Corn Exchange that it was "under-performing" and all the small shopkeepers and artisans were given notice to quit. Instead, the Corn Exchange was to become an expensive restaurant and a luxury food hall.
Needless to say "under-performing" is all about greed. As a value added, gift added, magical, Goddess economy place to socialise and shop the Corn Exchange was quite clearly performing very well indeed.
So last Saturday I took the bus into Leeds to visit the only place that made it worth the effort to travel to that city, you guessed it - the Corn Exchange. Over the last few weeks many of the shops had given up and closed and there were few artisans left weaving their magic on the floor.
But, one thing gave me real hope for the future. On a cold, wet, winter afternoon some 300 teenagers dressed in the finery you could only buy in the magical shops of the Corn Exchange stood outside protesting the closure. Their spirits were high and their behaviour impeccable. Three corporate heavies watched them closely, their presence and their attire quite incongruous. I felt really, really proud of our young people and they gave me real hope for the future and for a truly Goddess Gift economy.