from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

merrivale for the midwinter solstice

I walk the dancing circle with its little stumps of stones: widdershins, then sunwise, then widdershins again, and once more sunwise. I stand briefly at its heart, omphalos, the place where heaven and earth meet. 

My fingers are too cold to write. There's an icy northwesterly, the roads I've travelled potentially lethal in places. Bodmin's moors beyond our Dartmoor are visible, receding away towards the Atlantic. My back is giving me some pain, reminding me of the need to slow, to be gentle, to take the journey inwards to the cave bear of the heart.

We're moving towards the shortest day here in the northern hemisphere: point of maximum darkness. Some of the megalithic monuments of the southwest (notably the Cornish fogous), oriented as they are to the midwinter solstice dawn, once served, we think, an initiatory purpose, where the one to be reborn was holed up for three days and nights in darkness, to be baptised by the first new fingers of sun entering the darkness (think of Christ in his tomb for the three days and nights, Odin on the World Tree).

This is my Ground of Being day to mark the turning points of the year and our relationship with the natural world with walking, silence, companionship, writing. R, who hasn't missed a single Ground of Being equinox/solstice day since he first joined us for the autumn equinox 2010 (despite 90 miles each way, despite almost impassable for him and completely impassable for me snow and ice last winter solstice, and despite the fact that I missed another, myself, for illness), tells me that in Chinese thought the solstice is the time when the ascending yang triangle and the descending yin triangle are at their furthest points away from each other. I read this as the impulse of the masculine principle towards heaven/spirit, the impulse of the feminine towards earth, soul.

Mithraic traditions, according to Caitlin and John Matthews*, ascribed to the midwinter solstice in Capricorn the Gateway to the Gods, an individual journey of the spirit of this time: hard, dark, solo travelling towards the returning light. By contrast, the midsummer solstice in Cancer (ruled by the moon, the feminine) is a collective celebratory event of full light, maximum fecundity, the Gateway to the Ancestors.

However, in the pagan Celtic Wheel of the Year, the period between Samhain, the Celtic New Year's beginning, on November 1st, and Beltane, May 1st, is the period belonging to the earth goddess (as opposed to sky god) – an inward time of descent and darkness and rest.

As always I am pulled to the stone in the west; and west is the place of the ancestors, of water, of the feeling nature in the medicine wheel of the year. I think of my mum, having recently joined the ancestors: 

now that she
can’t make the journey
I walk to the centre
for her –
a single heart

I think of my journey from midsummer to here, with its losses, deep sorrows and troubles, and its points of light and laughter too. What have I gathered in, what do I need to shed, what helpers and sources of warmth do I have at this time? 

And I think of all the love that's sustained me through this year, these times; and how love never runs dry, no matter what shape it takes.


On the drover's track, the raindrops on mossy unleafed branches are so spangled with light that I'm dazed, breathstruck. Who needs Christmas tree lights? Who could imagine plastic a substitute?


Tonight the owl’s voice
glitters with frost

I want a dress
the colour of moonshine

I want to slip
the invisible –

I want to be
both found and lost

~ Roselle Angwin 

* The Western Way, vol 11

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