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

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

the returning light, again

From here, down near a roaring sea in Falmouth, Cornwall, where I'm running workshops in poetry and fiction for undergraduates, I'm cheating and reposting my last year's blog on Imbolc, or Candlemas – the light growing stronger here in the Northern Hemisphere now, poised as we are midpoint between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. I wish you light; and snowdrops, and hope.


imbolc, candlemas, the returning light

In the Celtic calendar, the cross-quarter days (midpoint between the solstices and equinoxes) are important fire festivals. February 1st/2nd is dedicated to Bride, Brigid, and I've lit the candles to celebrate the early light of spring, and floated them in hand-thrown little ceramic bowls of water. This is a 'quiet' fire festival, an inward time as befits the winter goddess'reign, and looks to gentle light rather than to the ebullience of fire – this energy builds as we move through the year towards the midsummer solstice, and then wanes again towards midwinter.

In Mexico this is still celebrated as the beginning of the Aztec new year, and it's seen similarly in Tibet. In the ancient Greek world and the Eleusinian Mysteries, Persephone is released from Pluto's underworld kingdom now, and trails with her early flowers. It's also a time for cleansing and purification, letting go of winter's residue.

The last two mornings a thrush has started up a spring song from the ash tree outside the bedroom window. This white month, in the Celtic tree alphabet, is signified by Nuin, the ash tree, which is dedicated to Brigid (as well as the horse goddess), so this makes me smile. Yesterday as I walked along the valley stream a little (white) egret flew up from (presumably) fishing. Little egrets have colonised many of the Devon estuaries, but it's rare to see them very far inland. We're a few miles from the mouth of the Dart, but this egret seems often to roost in the trees here in winter.

And yesterday morning, too, I spent a couple of hours putting myself between the hunt and two hare in the field next to us (I'm delighted to say they survived, although not really thanks to me). Is it a surprise that hare, seriously in decline in England, are also companions of the Goddess?


from 'Entering the Wood'
February is coppicing
            spring-cleaning the wood

                        remembering line, vaulting, architecture
            thinning hazel scrub
                        to let in summer
when it comes

            the pattern of our saws
their dissonant harmonies
                        weak sun on our backs
thin feather of smoke
            and the showers of rufous catkins
   around our feet
                        the mallet’s knock
its echo

                                    on the road the erratic pulse
                        of traffic

                        we think of tidying our lives


Roselle Angwin, in Bardo, May 2011, Shearsman


  1. Lovely, we feel as if we really celebrated Imbolc yesterday as the gentle candle light in our new cabin flickered on the walls and the children's candlemas snowdrops shone quietly on the table. I wrote a little about Thresholds last week Roselle, thanks again for the inspiration and chance to reflect.

  2. Lovely to think of you in the cabin, Henrietta! HOORAY! Hope you're warm and snug. And dear H thank you so much for the lovely, and generous, write-up on Thresholds. So glad you made it. What a great group of people...

    With love



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