Summer’s end. Certainly the wind howled and the rain wept around the house as we gathered in a circle at the hearth to remember our ancestors and those whom we have lost. We explored Samhain in all its mysteries and the sharing around the Circle was rich, deep, heart-felt and very moving. Abigail’s soul-full harp-playing transported and uplifted us.
We took ourselves back to prehistoric times, before the last ice age, when our ancestors roamed this world for millennia as hunter gatherers. Theirs was an oral culture, except for the paintings and the carvings and the few other artefacts that have come down to us – buried bones, scraps of pottery. There is no great myth we can recount from these times for those stories have been lost on the wind.
Sue researched the Palaeolithic period and delved into the stories of hunter gatherer tribes around the world who until relatively recently had not taken to agriculture or mining ores or warfare… and read their myths. From Siberian tribespeople to Native Americans and Australians and African Pygmy peoples there come myths that share many motifs. Taking these and the guesses archaeologists have made about the meaning of the feminine statues and the animal paintings in Old Europe, Sue imagined a story from that ancient period and spoke it through a woman of that time.
For some people it was a tale of continuing loss and disconnectedness; for others it was a celebration of the shamanic life; and for others a realisation that no matter how long ago, the essentials of human existence are still the same!
Sam led us in a very physical meditation where we went out into the wind and the sunshine to move and make sound before embodying ourselves further by giving ourselves some gentle massage from toes to heads. Settling then into stillness and slowly bringing mindful awareness to each part of our bodies from head to toes! We were then ready to open our inner eyes and journey to the depths of inner ancient caves. In our imaginations we walked with our Grandmothers into the dark depths of the Great Mother. We felt the weight of the earth, passed through cleansing waters, felt the space of the air in great subterranean caverns and came at last to an inner cave where fire was kindled and its soft light showed our inner eyes paintings of animals and the handprints of our female ancestors. Some of us felt a real contact with our palaeolithic past as we imagined laying our hands upon those hand prints on the ancient rock. After another twenty minutes of silent time in which some of us walked out into the wild weather, some journalled and drew and others spent more time in meditation, we shared the experiences of our quiet time: bird masks, poetry, insights, meetings and feelings.
We were then ready for lunch – a veritable Samhain feast in glowing colours, tastes and textures: yellow polenta pie; red quince jelly; purple red cabbage; orange spicy beans; green and red dips; brown bread rolls and roasted chestnuts; green salad with red pepper and sweetcorn; cheeses and hummus; intense tomato crisps; traditional Colcannon with divination scrolls and dark seasonal fruit crumble with freshly pressed apple juice.
Full of good food we were ready to work with our hands. Sam had dug up some Devon clay and we used it to each make our own Goddess figures:
There were vegetation figures, wild women, creator goddesses, bird women, fertility totems, women with spacious caves and abundance in their bellies, others with stars in their hair and spirals on their bodies. The diversity of our creativity was inspiring!
Our clay sculptures were laid on the central table and we spoke of how it felt to mould them, with many of us having found this simple, sensual craft surprisingly powerful and evocative of the past, before beginning our closing ceremony of lighting a candle in honour of those no longer with us and setting our intention for the next cycle of the year.
In the glow of the candles as the day drew to a close and darkness descended, we sang of circles and community and the ancient goddess:
May the circle be open
And yet unbroken
May the love of the goddess
Be forever in our hearts
Merry meet and merry part
And merry meet again.
After the Gathering, the 11 people starting the Slow Cook Course – Stirring the Cauldron met for an opening ceremony in which we stated our intentions for this journey together through the cycle of the year and the spiral meander of the Western Mysteries. We wrote and drew those intentions on a card for ourselves and spoke them to be witnessed as we each lit a candle. Our boat was launched onto the starry bog and we do not know which shores it will touch on its journey…but the smell of burnt sage and the compass of the four directions and their elementals are our guides.
Our next Gathering will be on Saturday 21st December for the Winter Solstice and this day will be open to men too – so seize your chance to invite family and friends who would enjoy a soulful day together. Booking essential: firstname.lastname@example.org. Sue and Abigail will be telling the epic story of Inanna in words and music which they recently performed at the Bridport Arts Centre Story Cafe. We will walk out into the dark of the longest night together at this hinge point of the year when the cycle changes direction.