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

Thursday 31 January 2019

A Ragbag: imbolc & thresholds; rowan moon; egrets & cranes; a savoury porridge

I've failed to light the fire (wet wood) in my barn study which, not being insulated to house standards, is freezing. I'll see how long my fingers last before heading back to the house with minimal internet (which is why I'm out here).

I wanted to acknowledge the turning year: we're awaiting more snow this afternoon, but it will be as nothing compared with the snow some of you have had. Spare a thought for the new lambs – inhumane practice, lambing at this time of year – who will be getting sodden and then be frozen too. And of course, the increasingly-numerous homeless humans: so many more than any so-called 'civilized' society can justify on any grounds at all. It doesn't have to be like this, but it will take a major change of our values and our economic systems before we start to really address such inequality in any meaningful way.

It may not feel like it outside, but the earth is truly coming back to the light in the northern hemisphere, towards one of the fire festivals of the ancient year: a midway point between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox. Imbolc is a time for candles, for inwardness, for reflection; for remembering that, despite all, the earth will still crack open and offer new life. Here, the snowdrops have been out for a little while, catkins of course, and the first wild garlic shoots are showing, as are new cleaver plants. I shall collect the latter two soon to make a cider vinegar cleansing brew: nutritious and good for both blood and lymph. Then we'll soon have enough garlic and early nettles to make a rich soup with the last of our (pathetic) leeks, and potatoes.

Last year I turned my 20-years'+ Thresholds Imbolc retreat into a solo day retreat. For any of you who can find a day for a depth practice of reflection, writing and ritual, it is available as a download, to put into practice between now and the spring equinox (northern hemisphere only). You can read more about it here, and if you fancy making a Bride/Brighid cross – traditional at this time of year, Bride being one incarnation of the Great Mother Goddess – there are videos of Youtube. Here's mine from last year.


In my Tongues in Trees course, this lunar month is Rowan month in the old Ogham calendar/alphabet supposedly used by the Druids. I found this beauty with her three intertwined trunks up at Blackdown Rings in the South Hams, a particularly special Iron Age camp.


We have two or sometimes three little egrets come up the brook below our house in early January every year, most days. The Dart, like various other Devon rivers, now hosts a colony of them. Our brook is a tributary, and the egrets like to perch in the high branches of a lightning-struck oak.

Around this time last year, TM and I were walking along said brook. I had just completed this sentence: 'Oh, I haven't seen the egrets at all this year' as we approached the brook, when one scooted up right in front of us from the wet undergrowth bordering the water. They've been there most days so far this year, including this morning.

Although they are heron family rather than cranes, the two families are linked. (The latter have long been significant to me, since I first discovered their symbolism, and their connection both with the old Celtic sea-god Manannan Mac Lir, and with the Cailleach, the Crone Woman elder/goddess of Celtic mythology.)

Mythologically, cranes were associated with arcane shamanic knowledge, and it is said that the Ogham alphabet, designed by the sun-god Ogma, was inspired by the ways the cranes' legs bent in their archetypal dance. Cranes are messengers from the gods: psychopomps, we'd call them in archetypal psychology. Hermes/Mercury was associated with them: it is said that he, too, was inspired to create the Roman alphabet from their legs.

The shaman kept his tools of transformation in a craneskin bag; this had to be earned, and was bestowed on him by the initiating goddess. So you can see how magical they are. (A few years ago, I wrote a Crane Woman story, and am thinking of resurrecting it for publication.)

I spent a lot of time in Southwest France in the early part of this new millennium, and a significant time for me was during the spring and autumn migrations of cranes on the flight path over the house. I painted  one of the migrating cranes to give to my friend who lives there: he still on occasion lets me know when the cranes have flown over.

There is a fabulous project on the Somerset Levels to reintroduce cranes to England. They currently have a 'sedge' (the collective noun for cranes) of 40 or 50 birds there, with a few other overwintering birds.


'...The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?'

My new vegan book creeps forward. #Veganuary has been a great success, with more people than ever joining in. On the last Sunday in December, 14,000 people signed up. It's amazing news, in the face of all else, that so many people are committed to finding new sustainable ways forward.

If you, like me, fancy something like porridge for breakfast but find the watery salty kind unpalatable but the sweet kind too sweet, I have just invented a savoury porridge I love.

For 1
Put half a mug of porridge oats (I use gluten-free) into a saucepan
Cover the oats with about three-quarters of a cup of water and nut- or oat-milk
Add a quarter>half-teaspoon of turmeric and a half-teaspoon herbes provencales (or mixed herbs)
Add either a small handful of frozen peas, or a finely-chopped tomato (if they're out-of-season, as they are here, they're so environmentally-unfriendly that you're better using either a dessertspoon of tomato paste or a couple of finely-chopped sundried tomatoes, previously soaked)
Bring nearly to the boil, then simmer and stir for a couple of minutes
Take off the heat, stir in a heaped teaspoon of miso and a tablespoon of yeast flakes.
Serve with nuts or seeds to taste.


Till next time, Imbolc blessings to you.


Sunday 20 January 2019

January poem

‘January’s Full Moon is called the Wolf Moon’

brittle cold
old fireworks lying on the gravel
like spent stars that we stumble over

and old gods looking
both ways

over the trees that came down in the woods
last week

the dog still bellying down in every
rill or puddle, even in frost

I remember dawns so steely we scraped plates of ice
from inside the van’s windows
daughter snug between us
in layers of sheep-oiled fleece

(I remember the moon quickening in my belly,
her tides and flux; and me
struck from her silver coinage)

and bare-breasted mornings working outdoors
bee-languor afternoons under the larch
where you would take me
in your arms and hold me

I have never told anyone I need you              perhaps this has been a mistake

you’re rolling a cigarette,
your feet bare and earthy and wet
against my skin and we’re waiting

in half-light the twin birds of your eyes
are the only things that move in this winter grove

to pass the time you sing
you are a male voice choir of one

and when at last we emerge into spring
Orpheus, I’ll call you; and again, Orpheus

© Roselle Angwin, 23 January 2008/reposted January 2018; in Bardo


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