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

Friday, 13 November 2015

breaks, ancestral enigmas & the universe

Yesterday my daughter, who's staying with me in her van-come-weaving studio, took me out to this menhir, which I've wanted to visit for a while. It's the menhir de Kerampeulven, bordering a hamlet. The name as far as I can make out means 'the house/town/settlement (ker) by the (am) tall stone/megalith/stone column ('peul' plus 'ven', which is 'men', as in 'menhir', 'longstone')'. As in Cornish and Welsh, in Breton 'm' mutates to 'v' or sometimes 'b' depending on the preceding word-ending. Got that??

It's a beautiful stone in a little glade, with apple trees to one side. It must be 18 or so feet tall – between 5 and 6 metres, I'd guess. There are others in Brittany that are more than twice that height: for instance, the menhir de Kerloas in Plouarzel, which is more than 11 metres tall. Brittany, of course, especially in the Morbihan area in the south, has one of the most dense concentrations of megalithic monuments in Europe. 

It will date from the Neolithic; so at least 3500/4000 years ago, probably more. Who knows what our ancestors 'meant' with these monuments: ceremonial/ritual? Astronomical/calendars for marking the year's turning points? Both? Neither?

On one side, probably much later, have been inscribed some figures: a strange cupped cross, a house-like structure, what looks like a goose (not dissimilar to the Pictish goose), and a pig with a curly tail:

Earlier, I had an impromptu Breton lesson at the organic veg stall in the market. I like to learn the Breton names for things, and an old lady next to me was telling me. As I left, I said 'Kenavo', rather proud of knowing the word for goodbye.

Ah no, she said. That is the literary form. It's softer when spoken, like this – and she said something that sounded like 'Keno am ser vachaine'. It probably wasn't quite that, but I liked muttering it under my breath for the next few minutes; the bur of it on my tongue.

Everyone was kind in the market. One guy gave me some extra of my favourite samphire in addition to what I'd bought of the other sort. Someone else gave me twice as much spinach as I paid for, deliberately. Must be my broken arm.

Of which I'm getting very tired. It's coming up for four weeks now, and as the break is at the top of my arm and basically the bone has sheered right through, it means the whole of my arm is floppy and useless, bar my fingers – which can at least now hold lightweight things, if not actually use them. My forearm is still swollen and many shades of bruise.

But it's amazing how resourceful the human body is at coping. Gradually I'm finding ways round things, and of course I can still walk – with my hazel staff, and much care on the steep stony slippery paths with their mantles of fallen leaves. And courtesy of our walks and my daughter's graft with cooking and peeling we are eating much vegan protein in the form of fallen chestnuts as big as any of the ones you find in the shops.

I wrote in a previous blog how pissed off I was at people saying 'So what is the universe telling you?' It's patronising, it's glib and it's superficial; what my friend J calls the 'fluffy' end of New Age thinking.

But this conceals the deeper truth beneath. If we live in an interconnected universe, as we do, or at least those of us who are not out-and-out Dawkinsians believe, I think, then through the principle of sympathetic resonance there is meaning, there are symbolic truths, in everything. 

I also don't believe we live in a random universe, and nor do I think there are too many random 'accidents'.

The Tao, I think, moves the universe and its inhabitants towards harmony. We humans don't always take too much notice of that – the gifts and curses of free will and reason. 

However, as I also wrote, I believe, the universe has better things to do than deliver me its personal messages; although there are messages in events, situations and relationships, it seems to me, that we would do very well to take notice of. This is a fundamental part of the evolution of consciousness.

So it's rather the other way round: when something happens in the outer world that is, or seems, significant to or for me, it's because there is a resonating harmonic being sounded in my psyche. This is significant: there is something going on in my psyche which, if I can listen deeply enough, will have something useful for me to learn when I stop being so frustrated.

Meantime, the best thing I can do is follow the Tao, or Dharma, as it seems to me to be flowing, without preconceiving what, where, how. 

Easy to know, of course.

And I am managing to type, at least; slowly and clumsily though it be.


  1. That's a very interesting piece, moving from menhirs through the Breton language to the Universe. I love to read how we can see the world and interpret our own individual life circumstances - if we chose to do so. So very many people nowadays attach blame to someone or something they don't like that's happened to them. The ultimate extreme of this attitude being of course the resort to litigation, compensation etc. Pathetic.
    Thanks Roselle and here's healing to your arm. XX

  2. Sarah, thank you for commenting. I agree – blame, including self-blame, is the most unhelpful of emotions (shame, on the other hand can alert us to stuff to work on. Sometimes.)

    Thank you too for your wishes for my arm. rx

  3. Thanks for the invitation to guest on your blog, Roselle, and sorry for the tardy reply. I've been away in Italy, and unfortunately met with illness and family difficulties on my return. Consequently my writing has taken a back seat recently. I would very much like to contribute something on pilgrimage — but it may not be till next year. Thanks again. Robert

    1. Thank you, Robert. I knew from your blog you were walking in Italy, and am sorry to hear of your troubles. Whenever you're ready...


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