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

Monday 29 May 2017

100-word prose poems from Sheena Odle

Sheena has reminded me that way back when some time a few weeks ago I invited people to spend some little time in a favourite spot and respond in 100-word prose poems – a discipline I set for myself and others frequently. Here are Sheena's lyrical contributions:


The woods are singing spring – in cuckoo call, in the juicy green of new beech leaves, in the air that smells of growing things. Perched on a lichened log, I let the life-energy around me flow into and calm my too fidgety mind. I share my seat with tiny scurrying insects; a kaleidoscope of primroses, dog violets, celandines and sorrel lines the path. Behind me the first bluebells are opening and, as the warmth of a shaft of sunlight releases their scent, foraging bees arrive. Bird music, butterflies, all these flowers, the magical and healing trees – I feel so blessed.


Dimpsy – how I love the word, and the time of day. Between dog and wolf a world of wonder lies, as birdsong falls away and the garden holds its breath. This is a potent silence, full of unspoken meanings. The diminishing light is reborn in the petals of white columbines and roses; pale moths appear with the first stars. Now is the moment to wait, to be prepared to learn. Even harder, to believe. At threshold moments like this it seems heartbreakingly possible that we could return to something that we have lost, but know in our hearts to be ours.

© Sheena Odle

Sunday 28 May 2017

Ragbag: poetry and prose; sea and forest; bluebell time; naming

At last. The final draft of my new poetry collection (collected poems from my 17 years leading retreats on the Isle of Iona) has gone off (by invitation) to a publisher. No guarantee she'll like it, but the process of collecting and revising has given me a serious boost at a time when my writing well, other than the work of narrative non-fiction I've been writing in Brittany, is rather dry (that's partly why there've been no blogs).


I've had a dreamy time in the Forest, especially by the local pool, and the first draft of my new book is just about there. As a contrast from sitting and thinking and typing it was a delight to discover the local voie verte, the long-distance green lane by the river, from a bicycle.

Coming back, the sea is once again a mirror; an obsidian mirror this time, black and oily despite, or because of, the haze hanging below the summer heat.

Gannets dive past the bow window where I'm sitting. Off to my left what I think is a gannet primary wing feather drifts past westering, then I realise it's another sliver of plastic off to join the great smother that is the plastic party, happening somewhere in an ocean near you.

What if we established a national group with local branches for a picking-up-plastic beach day every month? Maybe there is such a group?


Now, this May dusk, is the perfect time for TM and I to head out to the little wooded coombe on Dartmoor where we go in May each year for a spread of bluebells (they're later up on the moor) so rich their ultraviolet hurts your eyes.

We trek in a perfect luminous lilac-pink dusk along beside the beautiful brook. (My camera has packed up, so these photos are old ones.)

I love this place. It's a scrap of ancient woodland, with small birches and rowans, the pioneer trees, on the edges; in the heart of the coombe little oaks, sessile and pedunculate, much broader than they are tall, and hosting hollies and ashes in their arms, wrapped around granite boulders.

It's the only time TM does anything other than stride. I need slowness and dreaming time when I'm out walking, so it's a treat for me to stroll, to greet the trees I know so well.

As in this photo, above, the hawthorn trees are drowned in their white blossom. Some among them are pink this year – I never remember why some usually-white blossom turns pink some years – presumably to do with changing seasonal weather conditions, and minerals? If you know, I'd love your comment. (Not enough connectivity for me to check it out on the internet.)
There's a cuckoo; then another. The Dart, where the little brook joins it, has garlands of chrome-yellow gorse and broom flowers tidelining its rocks. We sit and gaze in a dream of silence for a while, until the midges drive us off our mossy rocks.
To my utter bliss, there's a small herd of feral Dartmoor ponies in the coombe. They're plump and glossy – some winters are so hard that they're bony even in May, but not this year.

Horses have played a big part in my life most of my life. I've been deprived of their regular company for 4 or 5 years now, though, and I need a dose of Horse Medicine. (There's an early blog of mine about this here.)

I sit quietly in the middle of the herd on a rock, and the bolder ones approach and sniff my face and hair.

I'm in paradise.

On a different note, I think a lot about naming: I mean the act of giving something a name. I was thinking about this as I greeted the trees, with their species' names.

On the one hand, it allows an intimacy; on the other, it stops us really seeing. (I've written various articles on this and have probably written about it somewhere in these blogs, too.)

I was dipping into a book by the non-dual teacher Adyashanti this morning, and refound this:

'The great spiritual teacher Krishnamurti once said "When you teach a child that a bird is named 'bird', the child will never see the bird again."' Adyashanti continues: 'What they'll see is the word "bird". That's what they'll see and feel, and when they look up in the sky and see that strange, winged being take flight, they'll forget that what is actually there is a great mystery. They'll forget that they really don't know what it is. They'll forget that that thing flying through the sky is beyond all words, that it's an expression of the immensity of life. It's actually an extraordinary and wondrous thing that flies through the sky. But as soon as we name it, we think that we know what it is...' (from Falling Into Grace)

The remedy? Make relationship with the small, the local, the specific. Watch it; learn its habits. Be quick to know its ways; be slow to name it.

Monday 1 May 2017

beltane fires, obby oss & the goddess of the land

Unite and unite, oh, let us all unite –
For summer is a-coming today
And whither we are going we will all unite
In the merry morning of May.

So begins the ancient May Day song of my childhood, for the equally ancient rites of 'Obby 'Oss in Padstow, north Cornwall, as the Old Oss, a fearsome snapping black and red ‘stallion’ of winter meets his death at the hands of incoming summer on May Day evening, welcomed in today.

The Obby Oss* is led on by a dancing ‘Teaser’, who prods him – he is of course in effect a pantomime horse – with a padded stick, or wand. Behind the teaser are the drums and accordions, and the crowds – these days many thousands – sing the traditional songs. All the time the Oss makes dives into the crowd to snatch a girl or a woman to drag under his cape, in a symbolic and laughing reflection of the old fertility rites of Beltane, for some say that this ritual dates back four thousand years (others say it’s more recent).

The whole event which, in true Celtic style, begins at midnight of April 30, involves much drumming, dancing, laughing, singing and general merriment, and even though the days when it was merely an event for the locals, as when I was a child, have long gone, the general excitement and fizz of its original power still remain. The town is decorated with flowers and a maypole – phallic symbol – and in addition to the Old Oss there is now a more recent ‘Blue Oss’, as well as a ‘Children’s Oss’.

In the old calendar, the year begins at Samhain, November 1st. Beltane, in honour of Bel, the ancient sun-god, six months on, is seen as the beginning of true summer.

Traditionally, fires would be lit on the beacon hilltops, and younger people would jump over or through them to ensure fertility. Sometimes pairs of fires were lit, and cattle would be driven between them, for the same reason. (This was also traditionally the time when cattle would be turned out onto summer pasture.)

It’s hawthorn day, that heart-balancer, whose five-petalled blossom represents the Goddess.

At Sancreed Holy Well

And you, solitary waykeeper hunched by this stile

and then again standing proud by the cloutie-well, 

one among multitudes, and yet to each of you 

your own song, here on this granite peninsula

at the land’s edge where you lean to the northeast

in a slant sweep, your compactness

like the people of this land, surrendering 

to wind, to seafret and rainfall, to the deep 

lodestones of the ores beneath your roots.

Midsummer, and your spilt five-petalled blooms 

a bouquet for Her, sparks of milky light 

harvested from sun, from cloud, from the misty

rains that stroll these ancient downlands. 

To you, then, hawthorn, the secrets of guardianship 

of this land, the protection of her sacred

waters, the wisdom of yielding to the elements

without giving up the one place

where your roots are nourished into blossom.

© Roselle Angwin, Sancreed, June 2016

It would be now that the May Queen, she of the hawthorn, may blossom, as chosen representative of the Goddess of Sovereignty, the Goddess of the Land, in early times would lie with her consort, Cernunnos, the Horned One of the Greenwood. This was in order to bestow kingship, sovereignty, on him that he might make a true servant of the land.

The gift of sovereignty was always more than the right to rule over a country and its clan. It was a divine power, bestowed by the goddess of the land in the guise of a particular living woman on the king, who thereafter acted as her representative. 

In his symbolic marrying of the Goddess he was also marrying the land. It was only through such a union – either a recognised marriage or ritualised sexual encounter, but always in the spirit of the Sacred Marriage – with her that the king could rule. By joining with the goddess of the land, he in turn became profoundly connected both to the land and to its people.

One such archetypal May Queen, Queen of the Land, was Gwenhwyfar, she who bestowed kingship on Arthur.

On an inner level, this is a time to celebrate the bringing-together of our own masculine and feminine aspects, or anima and animus, ying and yang; for bringing together our inner and our outer lives. It’s time, too, to close the door of winter, for now, and welcome in the building energies of the summer months.

© Roselle Angwin 2017

* for photos, see: (the essay is slight and not entirely accurate but the pictures are true)

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