Tag Archives: Gods

Wam Barrows & the Soul Catcher

I’ve just been down to Exmoor with two friends. This night we were led to Wam Barrows up on Winsford Hill.

It was beautiful when we arrived on the top. We went first to the trig-point. It always feels as though that is the place used as the central spindle for the hill, the place where the vertical-axis energies connecting Earth and Sky go. We asked if we might work there that evening and got permission.

We took our food, along with water from one of the dark and peaty springs nearby, to the hollow on top of the first of the three Wam Barrows. After having our own water and food, we poured a libation and put out breadcrumbs for the gods and the beasts.

Settling ourselves in the darkening land the sky was clear. As we watched it coloured down from turquoise through the blues into indigo-night. Over our heads blazed a river of stars, the Milky Way. As the night drew on, up out of the southwest climbed Gwyn ap Nudd, Herne himself, the great hunter known to astronomers as Orion. He hung in the sky above us.
And then it came, out of the darkness, the sound of the hounds, the wild-geese call. We were visited …

* * *

Soul Catcher

All along, down along, out along ley
Faster than lightning rides the Sidhe.
All along, down along, out along ley
The hounds are yelping across the sea
The Wild Ones come and the souls flee

Mother! The wild Geese are coming!
Hush child, under the covers with’ee!
But mother, I hear them …
Hush child or the dogs will have thee!
‘Tis the Gabriel Hounds will away with thee!

Down he comes, down and down the winding, twisty stairs.
First sunwise then widdershins,
Darkness blinds him but his feet know the way
and make no untimely steps upon the stairs
down deep below Dun Kerry’s halls

In the dark kennels they scent him now,
Remembering forgotten blood-smells.
A whine. A yelp.
“Quiet!” comes the master’s voice “You’ll wake the dead!”

Mother! Mother! I hear the Wild Geese coming!
Hush child! Or the dogs will have thee!

Down and down he comes.
Now ahead he sees the stag’s crown hanging before him.
His hands reach out, pull the ancient helmet to his brow.
The King is come

White tails wag,
muscles ripple under the white fur,
red ears prick and eyes glow like coals in a furnace.
Thirty couple of hounds there are at his wild bidding

Pale in the darkness the white mare gleams like frost in moonlight.
One silver hoof she raises, drops and taps upon the crystal floor.
Softly she calls to him

He rests a hand now on her shoulder.
His fingers entwine the silver mane.
An instant more and he leaps astride her.
The flesh of his thighs caresses her silken coat as he grips her firmly,
knees turning her towards the darkness.
Her silver hooves carry them forward striking lightning from the granite.
The dogs rumble in their throats.
The white mare springs forward.
Earth-Fire rises and the wind carries them out into the world

All along, down along, out along ley
Faster than lightning rides the Sidhe.

Mother! The wild Geese are coming!
Hush child! ‘Tis the Gabriel Hounds.

He sounds his horn as out across the sky they flee.
Yo-yip-yip-yip Yowwww!
Yip-yip-yow the hounds echo.
The clouds muster, gather, bank and mass before him.
Again he sounds his horn.
The hounds tear the clouds to tatters
Ripping apart the decent covering of the night
So Dian’s body round and soft and butter-gold
Shines out above the earth all brazen-bold.

Soul Catcher! she breathes.
Owls and moonbeams tumble from her arms
Horner Woods fills with light and feathers.

The light of night pierces deep down into the graves
and the souls come forth.
Singly now and then in twos and threes
they rise up through the earth like misty goblins,
wandering abroad for mischief.

But the hounds see them.
Working to and fro amongst their woolly flock
they gather in the wandering souls and guide them to the river.
No longer do they fester,
wailing plaintive chants to chill the living,
wandering unknown and unknowing in times past.
Now they hear their Master, the Horned Shepherd-Friend,
and feel his dogs unleashed upon them
but to bring them home.

Quiet now they wait upon the bank.
Soft now he sounds a single note upon the horn.
Then they hear the dipping of the pole
as the Ferryman brings his boat up to the shore.
The dogs nuzzle, nip and push.
The souls crowd the planks and huddle close
for fear of drowning in the river of forgetfulness.

Safe now! he says.

The white mare rears and climbs the skies.
The dogs follow.
A streaming, joyous comet lights the sky
and binds a girdle round the Earth.

Then, sighting the cairn,
her nipple, standing atop the hill,
rising out her heathery purple robe,
he flies towards her.

Soft the troupe,
man and horse and hounds,
sink into the Mother’s Breast.
Down and down they go into the glassy halls.

Dian drifts her naked body across the cloud-wrack, falling homewards.

Mother! Mother! I heard the Wild Geese tonight.

All along, down along, out along ley
Faster than lightning rides the Sidhe.
All along, down along, out along ley
The hounds are yelping across the sea
The Wild Ones come and the souls flee.

© elen sentier 2009   all rights reserved

The painting is by Cheska Potter

Exploring the Ogham

Ogham Wheel
Ogham Wheel

For years I’ve played with, and been played with by, this amazing system of communication. I won’t say writing, it is writing … sort of … but it’s much more about communication – with Otherworld, with yourself, with nature, with other people even.

For many years, academics have tried to form it into a type of writing, alphabet, with varying amounts of success. I’ve read lots of books by those who’ve studied it, and got insights from them, but my main sources of inspiration are …

This year, I’ve been very drawn to going deeper into the language of the trees, of the wood, and the pondering, sitting-with all of it, has just come to fruition. In fact, I got so excited about the whole thing that I’ve set up a year-long internet course for anyone who’d like to walk the path along with me.

So, what happened to get me so inspired? The trees themselves working and sitting with them, asking them to teach me. I have most of them in my garden here at Archenland. The trees for the 13 moon-months … Birch, Rowan, Ash, Alder, Willow, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Oak, Holly, Hazel, Apple, Blackberry, Ivy, Guelder Rose & Reed, and Elder. And the trees for the seasons … Silver Fir, Furze, Heather, Poplar and Yew.

With the five season goes an ancient verse which gives light darkly on the meanings of the seasons. This gives you an idea of how it works with the goddess and the seasons …

Ailm – Silver Fir – Birth – Sun Return – I am the womb of every holt
Onn – Furze – Initiation – Spring Equinox – I am the blaze on every hill
Ura – Heather – Consummation – Midsummer – I am the queen of every hive
Eadha – Poplar – Repose – Autumn Equinox – I am the shield to every head
Iolo – Yew – Death – Winter Solstice – I am the tomb to every hope

I’m still missing Bran’s tree, the alder, although there’s lots of it about in the hedges so I might get a whip this coming spring and plant it in the hedge here. Heather we don’t have as we’re very alkaline here but I must get some in a pot, and the same for furze, that’ll have to be in a pot too. I swap Scots Pine for Silver Fir as I’ve a very deep relationship with the Scots Pine.

I find Graves THE WHITE GODDESS both deep and broad at the same time. He’s very inclusive, able to think of, accept and suggest lots of correlations that others don’t seem to do. His wide knowledge of many ancient cultures enables him to see similarities across them – essential truths, probably, that underlie all traditions on this Earth. I like that. I like the feel of universality and, to me, this is part of being pagan. Like I said in a recent blog, being pagan is being of the Land to me, of this Earth – at least while I’m incarnate on her. Sensing into the depths of her wisdom, with the trees through the Ogham, is just so good for me, inspires me, gets me excited.

So I set off on a journey this Imbolc that has brought me here, soon after Lammas, to a place where I want to share what I’ve found.

The journey began with one of the loves of my life, Gwydion, the master magician of Britain. I know a lot of folk find him tricksy and devious and so he is, but he’s such an excellent teacher because of it. I also have a strong sympathy for him, he explores, goes outside the box, gets into trouble but manages to help people in spite of this. He helps his brother, Amatheon, bring the three secrets of agriculture to humans, stealing them from the Elder gods and so starting the Battle of the Trees … the beginning of the Ogham. The three secrets of agriculture are close to my heart because of biodynamics. In biodynamics, the three underlying principles are silica, clay and calcium. In Amatheon’s story they are represented by the Lapwing, the Bitch-hound and the Roebuck. In the Rainbow Warrior shamanic training I run we do this in depth during the second year but here, through the Ogham I found myself exploring it again, but differently, adding new insights.

The story of Amatheon bringing the secrets of agriculture to human beings reminds me of Hephaestos stealing fire from the gods and bringing that to humanity too. Both get into trouble for changing the status quo, trying to include people, for moving some of the control away from the Elder gods. As a closet-anarchist this pleases me *g*. I like change, growth, movement, growing up. I don’t like having Nanny changing my nappies all my life, I want to think for myself … make mistakes, fall over, get up and have learned something. My Dad always said, “the person who’s never made a mistake has never made anything” … he was quite right! Failure, getting it wrong, screwing up, are the best and most effective ways of learning. Getting it right just gives you a big head *g*. But don’t get me started on that old Obby Oss of mine!

This Ogham journey I’ve been doing this year has brought so much into focus for me. The seasons themselves, represented by the vowels. There are five, yes five not the usual four we know from gardening! What for? What difference to my thinking does the five make? As I pondered and worked with the trees I found it quite mind-expanding, particularly by bringing in the five lines of the old poem that describes the goddess in her own ways. Susan Cooper uses that poem as the basis for her “Dark is Rising” quintet – and that says a lot too! I found I was re-reading Cooper’s books again on the Ogham journey.

Then there are the thirteen moon-months. To start with, Celtic culture so often uses the concept of “a year and a day”. Ceridwen does it with Gwion Bach and her Cauldron of Inspiration … so I found myself back here too! And it comes up in lots of other stories too.

The thirteen moon-months give you 364 days plus one left over … a year and a day. So what happens in the brewing of the cauldron for that year and a day? What do each of the thirteen moon-months give. Aha! The weak 40w bulb flashes briefly on the top of my head as I got to this … there were thirteen fairies at Briar Rose’s naming. Well, twelve were asked but the daft parents decided not to invite the thirteenth fairy and came a cropper because of it! Or did they? Would there have been any change if they hadn’t made that mistake? What connections here? Oh, be sure, there are lots!

That whole piece took me into working with the fairy stories, yet again. I love them, work with them all the time, so much of the Grammarye of our land is held within them.

The trees themselves are wonderful to work with. To sit-with the tree, ask it to show me itself, its qualities, what it does. To listen to it without interrupting and then be able to ask for clarification of the things I didn’t understand, is so good, so insightful. Then, when Tree and I are agreed, I ask if I may have some of its wood for a stave. I never take wood without asking, even a dead branch on the forest path I ask before I take it. Always check! Making assumptions is the way to make lazy mistakes!

So here I am, with the Ogham journey under my belt and a year-long course written and blossoming. It’s very exciting. I hope there are folk out there who would like to work and play with me on this. If you think you would check out …

Ogham  and on Facebook or contact me at directly

Crazy About ACCURATE Paganism In Fiction!

On my first post I wrote about how much “I enjoy fiction that promotes Paganism’s fasts.” Today I want to elaborate a bit more on the topic.

I’ll start by sharing my reaction to paranormal author Marcia Colette’s “The Truth Is Out There”, a post where she suggested that Paganism in fiction might “encourage people to research what Paganism is truly about while dispelling many rumors.” I believe in those words, and that is reason I’m so anxious about the release of STRIPPED, a novel where Marcia “incorporated a few Pagan beliefs to fulfill part of the plot.”

I don’t expect the Paganism in Marcia’s book to mirror my own Pagan reality or that of any other Pagan. But I have a hunch that the Pagan elements she used in her novel will possess enough accuracy to leave Pagan readers nodding in agreement, and non-Pagan readers wondering about what else is out there. I’m saying this because Marcia and I share one belief when it comes to writing, we both “like it when an author gets as close to reality as possible.”

I would hate for anyone to believe that I dislike when authors take liberties with their writing, in order to make their story fantastic. On the contrary, I really like it when authors take Pagan characters and wave their magic pen to successfully place them in unlikely settings. Take Sherrilyn Kenyon as an example. In one of my favorite novels, DEVIL MAY CRY, Sherrilyn tells the story of a Sumerian god who owns a casino in Las Vegas. Sin—or Nanna—still very much the god of fertility known to Pagans, but the author adds a few extra features to make the Pagan character fit the world she created.

I have a confession that involves Sin. I had no face for the male aspect of deity, but after reading about Sherrilyn’s Sin, my male God is a sarcastic, tall, hunk with mysterious amber-colored eyes. The same happened in the case of my Goddess. I worship many goddesses, but Hekate is the one closest to my heart. She was faceless until I read THE ALCHEMYST: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott. After reading that young adult novel, my Hekate became an ever-changing trio: a Crone with no patience for nonsense, a playful Maiden, and an onyx-skinned Mother who protects Nature from those who bite the hand that feeds them.

I understand that not every Pagan shares my feelings about fiction, but I hope this essay can reveal why fiction is so important to me, and why I’m crazy about accurate Paganism in fiction.