Beltane 2011

Beltane (May 1)                                                        Waning Bee Hiving Moon

A bit about how I got interested in the auld religion, the ancient Celtic faery faith and from it, the Great Wheel.

23 years ago I left the Presbyterian ministry and wandered off into a life I could never have anticipated.  The writing turn I took then led me to investigate my Celtic past, the heritage of my Welsh and Irish ancestors.  I learned about Richard Ellis, son of a Welsh captain in William of Orange’s army who was stationed in Dublin.  After his father’s death, his mother paid Richard’s fare to America, to Virginia, where he was to become heir to a relative’s land, a common practice at the turn of the century since children died so often.  This was 1707.

Also a common practice at the turn of the century was a ship captain’s larceny, stealing Richard’s fare and selling him into indentured servitude in Massachusetts.   Richard went on to found the town of Asheville, Massachusetts and become a captain in the American Revolution.

My own other Celtic ancestors, the Correls, were famine Irish, part of the boat loads forced out of Ireland by the failed potato crop, or an Gorta Mór it is known in Gaelic, the great hunger. (Incidentally, this was due to planting potatoes as a mono-culture, much like we plant corn, soybeans and wheat today.)  They came to this country in the mid 19th century.

I did not go into the history of Wales at the turn of the 18th century, nor did I investigate the an gorta mor and its aftermath.  Instead, I went further back, into ancient Ireland and Wales; in fact I looked at all the Celtic lands, Isle of Mann, Scotland, Brittany and Galicia as well.  What fascinated me then, and still does now, was the auld religion, the Faery Faith, as represented in The Fairy Faith by W. Y. Evans-Wentz, more famous as the translator of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Not long after leaving the Presbyterian ministry I packed my bags for a week + at St. Denioll’s, a residential library in Hawarden, Wales.  While there I wandered northern Wales, visiting holy wells, castles and Welsh villages.  There was also an extensive collection of Celtic material at St. Denioll’s. Read More

In and Down

Fall                                          Waxing Harvest Moon

60 pink daffodils have a new home in the soil surrounding two cherry trees and a pear tree.  These trees are the first ones visible out our kitchen window, so the blooms will cheer us up as spring begins to break winter’s hold next year.  Bulb planting relies on, requires darkness.  Beauty, like Snow White, goes to sleep beneath the autumn sun and lies as dead all winter long.  With the kiss of the sun prince flowers emerge.  Perhaps the years I’ve spent planting bulbs in great numbers, as many as 800 in some years,  triggered my affection for darkness.  In the first few years of daffodils, hyacinth, tulips, snowdrops and croci I often thought of those bulbs, covered in snow and cold, waiting out the winter in their castle of food and nascent stalks, leaves and flowers, a feeling similar to the one I get now when I’m at work in the garden and a bee, a bee from Artemis Hives, alights on a flower near me.  Both of us, insect and human, have valuable work to perform in the garden and we labor there as colleagues in every sense.  The patience and persistence of the bulbs beneath the snows and cold of December and January has always touched me, a sweet feeling, a well-wishing for them in their lonely underground redoubts.

That’s part of the darkness focus.  Another, earlier part, came when I began to feel uneasy with spiritual metaphors that took me up and out of my body.  Heaven.  Prayers that go up.  God being out there.  The minister lifted up above the congregation.  A sense that the better part of existence lies beyond the body and this moment, somewhere high and far away.   I began a search for spiritual metaphors that took me down and in.  Jungian psychology helped me in this search, but the clincher came after I had decided to study Celtic history in preparation for writing my first novels.  A trip to north Wales and two weeks in a residential library there tipped me to the existence of holy wells, springs that had sacred meaning to early Celtic religious life, long before the arrival of Christianity.  Here was a metaphor that went down and if used in meditation, could stimulate a spiritual journey in the same direction, no longer trying to get out of  the body or up and far away.

The spiritual pilgrimage that began from that point has led me on an inner journey, into the deep caverns and cathedrals of my own Self, traveling them and finding the links between my Self and the larger spiritual universe, the connection not coming on an upward path, but on the ancientrail of Self-exploration.  I do not seek to go into the light, but into the caves.

Leeks, Shame and Ancestry

Spring                                                           Waxing Flower Moon

The new dog food must be a mistake.  The whippets did not eat at all this morning, the big dogs ate little.  Hilo (our smallest whippet) is in her crate with what I take to be a belly ache since she doesn’t look seriously ill.  How do I know?  Well, I don’t really, but I’ve seen multiple dogs in extremis over the years and she just doesn’t look like one.  I diagnose it to be a tummy revolt against the salmon and sweet potato I found so alluring.  I bought six bags at 35 pounds a bag.

As any good chef, if the public refuses to eat the food I’ve chosen, I have to have a different menu selection.  In this case it will be food they’ve always liked.  Off to Costco.  Oh, and I can get that salt for the water softener, too.

Leeks, basil, thyme, fennel, marigolds, lettuce and oregano starts sit in the front yard right now, still in the cardbox carriers Mother Earth Gardens gave me for them.  Later today, in the mid-afternoon, when it warms up into the high 50’s, I’ll continue planting this year’s garden.

The leeks especially excite me because I want to learn how to grow this delectable vegetable.  It is, after all, the crown vegetable of Wales.  By that I mean Welsh soldiers would often wear a leek stuck in their hats.  No, I don’t know why, but the leek and Wales have a long standing relationship.  The ancestry I can trace most clearly is Welsh; I can put us in 17th century Denbigh, so I gotta learn how to grow leeks.  Besides, I really like them.  Their delicate onion like flavor is great in soups and wonderful as an addition to vegetable dishes, too.

Welsh Leek on Reverse of 2008 Proof Gold One Pound Coin
Also Used in 1985 & 1990

The time while Kate’s been gone has been busy even adventure packed, though all the adventures were domestic in nature:  hiving bees, doing the complete reversal on the over-wintered colony, buying vegetables and herbs, dogs and their diet and today–the garden.

Forgot to mention something that warmed my heart yesterday.  I called Kate yesterday and she put Ruth (granddaughter) on the phone.  Ruth told me she was about to go gymnastics and a few other things even Grandpop’s good ear couldn’t grasp through cell phone reception and voice quality.  When she gave the phone back to Kate unexpectedly, I told Kate to tell Ruth I loved her.  Kate told her.  Over the phone came a loud and confident, “I know.”  Gossh.

Also, while on the drive out to Nature’s Nectar yesterday I began to analyze my feelings when I get under pressure.  I had a bit of those feelings then and noticed a faint, dull ache in my lower left abdomen.  To make it feel better I could tell my body wanted to lean forward and down, then to bow my head.  Oh.  Shame.  Explained a lot.  Somehow either pressure triggered shame or shame triggered pressure, perhaps both.  So, when did I remember shame and pressure together?

When I was maybe 12 or 13, the Ellis family had moved from rental quarters on East Monroe Street into our first home purchased with a mortgage, and our last for that matter.  This house, 419 N. Canal, has that magical valence that home has.  It also had a basement that flooded during heavy rains.

Dad was not a handy man, if anything, he was the anti-handy man.  When the basement flooded, his solution was to bail it out with buckets.  Yeah, I know, but I’m sure it was the best he could think of at the time or else he considered other solutions too expensive.  I don’t know, but I do know I had to join him often at night  in the damp to carry buckets of water up from the basement to dump outside.  I didn’t like it, hated it in fact.

I couldn’t get away from it though and I remember having more than one fight with him over doing it.  That’s the memory I have, the one that came up when I thought about pressure and shame.  It was the perfect metaphor, too.  Bailing out a flooded basement is what my defensiveness and short-temper try to do when I sense myself backed into a corner.  Too much in the id, the just below the mainfloor area in my psyche, needs to get taken out somehow, but I still don’t like the work.

One solution to this, if I can remember it when pressure hits again, is to stand up.  I’m an adult now, not a 12 year old and I can make my own choices about bailing the basement.  I can choose another option, like, buy a sump pump, put in a drain field, landscape the area around the house so that it slopes away from the foundation.  Lots of options. I don’t have to bend over, bow down and be conflicted.

Just to be clear.  This is not Dad’s fault. It was the way I responded to what he thought was the best way to handle a difficult situation.  One that probably caused him pain and shame, too.