Hibernation

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It always takes me by surprise when, post-Lammas, I find myself swamped beneath a wave of deconstruction and transformation. I forget during the heady growth of the spring/summer months that all will not stay the same. I even manage to convince myself, in my darker moments, that there is no hope of change, ever ; surely I am destined to live a life of mundanity.

I forget that mundanity is sacred. That every mundane moment is a step towards transformation and when we reach the end of the year, if we’ve managed to take enough steps, we will -whether we intend to or not- find ourselves somewhere new.

This year more than any other I find myself in foreign lands with a harvest I could never have predicted.

I am a mother. Mother to a son who can stand and babble and laugh and blow spectacular raspberries. I have never felt more alive than when we laugh together. I have never hurt as much as when he cries. I have never wanted to do less, more than I do right now. I know that this is exactly right.

Creating our little miracle has drained me of energy, time and resources in a way I could never imagine. I do not feel deprived and I would give him more if I had it, but he has made me profoundly aware of my limitations as a human being.

None of this is a bad thing.

It is in fact a perfect thing, a miraculous thing, a truth I have been waiting to encounter my whole life: It is right to rest. To do nothing. To linger. It is a right – not a privilege – to live within our own truth, our own boundaries, our unique wants and needs. All the wild wonderings that have swirled in my gut my whole life, those edges that have jarred so spectacularly with the way our modern world is structured, have begun settling into place and I see myself – through his eyes – in my wholeness. I make sense now. And so too do so many choices I have made in the past that once seemed at odds with what I thought was reality. I realise now they were made by and for the whole person, who was waiting to be realised through the acceptance of her role as mother.

I knew that having a child would be important… I never expected the one to benefit most would be my self.

This isn’t me declaring my commitment to the mummy cause by changing this blog to yet another mama diary (there’s enough awesome ones out there already, like here, here and here). But you are likely to see more mama related writing if you stick around.

This is however a declaration of change. Of the whole blog/brand/being that Walk the Wheel has been until now. This past year has sown the seeds of this transformation; Samhain marks the time of both its ending and beginning.

The time is right, the Wheel has turned and my cauldron is brimming with desire, with determination and with inspiration.

So I will to sink into the dark and quiet of the year, to embrace these stirrings of possibility in all their uncertainty, trusting that something new and better will be born of them in Spring.

There will be a considered and intentional silence both here and on the mailing list and on the Facebook group over the Winter season. I am trusting the Wheel to turn without me.

I look forward to meeting friends old and new when I return. Look out for a face that is similar but not the same. For I am already a new woman, emboldened by my wholeness… Who knows what I will be when I am rested and revitalised, ready to birth a brand new year?

Until then…

 

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Lammas; without expectation

At last night’s gathering in New Mills, a kind soul shared the tale of her difficult day and how she had been forced to spend it in a place she hated, doing things she did not like for the sake of those she loved. The only way to get through it, she said, was to have no expectations and simply see how it would be.

I have written a lot about expectations here, particularly in the early days of this blog, but it never occurred to me until last night how letting go of expectations is such a prominent part of Lammas.

As a celebration of the First Harvest, Lammas always feels to me like the last big blow out before the end of Summer; the big party before heading back to school, that final raucous night before heading home from a holiday. For those in the past who lived by the agricultural cycles, Lammas was a chance to celebrate and relax before the hard work of the Harvest began.

As part of these celebrations they would often perform acts of folk magic to encourage a good yield on the months ahead. They might libate the fields, burn bonfires made of special woods, sacrifice a Corn King (think giant corn dolly, not an actual King!) or bake a loaf to be blessed and shared by the workers. And not just for the fun or the fancy of it all – as we with our supermarkets and seemingly endless supplies might do – but because their survival through the coming Winter would very much depend on the Harvest’s success.

And it occurred to me as we spoke last night of letting go of expectation, that the only way these historical farmers and their families and communities could celebrate at this uncertain time of year, and the only thing that would make their actions feel vital and meaningful as opposed to powerless and futile, would be to release their expectations of what the Harvest could or should be and simply accept the coming of what would be; without expectation of survival or demise but with hope, faith and determination in its place.

Some years it would pay off. Others, maybe not. Either way they had found time to celebrate, to share and to enjoy life and one another, placing their trust in themselves and the cycles that defined them. Which must have made both the rich and the lean times that much sweeter.

So I Give… (a post for World Breastfeeding Week)

It feels appropriate that it is Lammas time and my thoughts and struggles are currently focused around breastfeeding. Even more so that I am writing this whilst feeding my son AND during World Breastfeeding Week. Flow in action!

I have been exclusively breastfeeding my boy for his full 6.5 months of life and feel incredibly blessed to have the support, determination and faculties with which to do so. The journey has not been an easy one – yet I know compared to some it has been terribly simple. I stand by the belief that our success has been largely due to me surrendering control of the hows and  and whys over to little one, right from the word go. At just moments old he was placed naked on my chest and by the time he was 30 mins old he had wriggled his way unaided to my waiting nipple and latched on. It was a perfect latch, a smooth first feed and beautiful to watch.

Since then I have had the immense pleasure of watching my son thrive and nourish himself from my body. I am still overcome on a regular basis by the awesome simplicity of the act. I am also regularly frustrated, devastated and (yep, I’ll say it) enraged by the process and all it entails.

Breastfeeding is – in its own way- an act of sacrifice. I don’t say this to be a martyr, simply as fact. In order to breastfeed exclusively and successfully you have to be willing to give of yourself in a multitude of ways.

Your time: as you feed on demand, at all hours.

Your modesty: as you offer up a private part of your body whenever and wherever it is needed.

Your sleep: which reduces as quickly as breastmilk digests.

Your physical space: as you find ways to hold him close for that perfect latch.

Your mobility and time: each one disappearing as you are pinned to the bed/sofa for the next mammoth clusterfeed.

Your social life: which must be snatched in the spaces between his hunger and must always leave you in easy reach in case he fancies a snack.

And of course you give of your body, your fluids, your vitamins and calories.

You give everything to watch that tiny body thrive.

And sometimes it feels like its killing you. Sometimes you feel your own Self has been devoured along with that last ounce, leaving nothing but a milk-machine in its place. Sometimes you feel physically drained, body weak, breasts soft and empty, mind exhausted to the point at which you feel you might have somehow ceased to exist without realising it.

Yes, it is a sacrifice.

And yes there are ways to mitigate all this, to make it ‘easier’ they say (pumping, bottle feeding, supplementing). But I would argue that each of these come with costs of their own so why trade one set of struggles for another.

In fact I’m proud of my struggles, my sacrifice, not because they make me somehow better but because through living them I am enacting nature’s intentions as closely as I can. And at Lammas time I can take heart in the reminder that the sacrifice of body and energy is what allows for rebirth and growth in to follow. In feeding my son I feel more connected not just to him but to the Wheel itself.

Not a bad reason to stick at it, I’d say.


Lammas – a celebration of grief

 

For me

, Lammas is about loss.

And not just the safe, sanitised experience of ‘losing’ all those pesky disappointments and unwanted occurrences in our daily lives so we can move on feeling lighter and learned. But the brutal disappearance of something that no one is ever, truly really ready to see go : Life.

In story, the Corn King loses his life at Lammas, sacrificing his love and his later years for the good of the Land. He is cut down in his prime, not when he feels ready or has reached a ripe old age. He is at his peak, with the whole gradual descent of age and decay before him. Years of living, of Life. Taken. Given. Gone.

Sacrificed.

Which is why at Lammas I always honour the sacrifice of Life in the name of our continued existence. I acknowledge all the little deaths that occur in plants, trees, animals so that I, and those I love, might be nourished and live. The Land gives up a great sacrifice at Harvest time; so much of what it has worked to produce through the growing season. Do we ever ask how it feels about that? Do we ever wonder if the sacrifice if freely given?

In story, the Corn King is cut down by his lover, the Goddess, the Queen of the Land itself. This Lammas I have wondered much about her loss – a loss of love and of innocence. How does she accept that loss and her part in it? More importantly how does she grieve?

I imagine her grief as a wild, feral thing. A heavy weight that fuels intense action and intense repose. Just as the World becomes busy throughout the Harvest before finally falling, exhausted into slumber, so too I imagine she dances and wails her way across each empty orchard and fallen field. She works hard and long with blood on her hands to honour her loss, to make the sacrifice worthwhile and to experience the grief in all its violent, jagged glory. So that finally, eventually she can move through it, into acceptance and remembrance and gratitude for Life lived (and lost) well.

And only then will the Wheel turn.

Seasonally appropriate

The weather yesterday was a perfect mirror to the themes and energy of Lammas; which always feels like a win on a festival day. Sticky in the golden sunshine and honeyed humidity one moment, pounded by heavy drops of rain beneath an iron grey sky the next. Feet got soggy. Umbrellas worked overtime. But still lots of joy was had.

Sun on Lammas day always reminds me that though Autumn is swift approaching its not here yet. We still have some weeks of flip-flop and summer-dress potential up ahead. The Oak King may have lost his battle, but as I once told in my Equinox tale based around the two Kings, he is not yet buried. He is slowly handing over his duties and powers to the waiting Holly King. He is crafting his legacy, ensuring we remember the gifts he gave so we might welcome him back on another day. In this slide out of Summer he does all he can to impart what is left of his fiery Sun energy so we might all reap the benefit with the coming Harvest.

 

But we cannot forget the rain or the dark, sneaking in on the horizon; made all the more noticeable in its opposition to our doggedly determined summer outfits . It reminds us to prepare for its arrival in the weeks ahead. The glum weather also reminds me of the Goddess in another story; the Corn King’s lover who has seen him fall on Lammas day and weeps for his loss, his sacrifice. She knows – and we all must remember – that loss of life is an intrinsic part of survival. To eat we must take life in one form or another. The rains inspire us to never forget this delicate balance, the gift of Life that the Land offers up at it’s own expense.

So, as I sit upon a bale of hay, alternately basking and being dampened by a grieving rain I remember the beauty and pain, the joy and sorrow, the gains and losses of the year. And it feels just right.

Celebrating Lammas

As the rollercoaster of Summer begins to wind down I am looking forward to celebrating the arrival of Lammas to mark the transition between seasons. Lammas tells me that it is time to start considering the sinking, turning journey into myself and my Winter hibernation. Of course there is a LOT to do before it is time to rest – harvesting, storing, gathering, preparing myself and my stores for the darker times ahead. But Lammas reminds me that the busy, outward pouring of creative energy is done and what follows is the natural return of all that has been put out into the ether; by myself and those around me.

I look forward to reaping the results, to seeing what has been created and what has been dispersed over this last growing season. And I very much look forward to CELEBRATING this festival in a multitiude of ways. Won’t you join me?

1) The ONLINE SHARE SPACE is now active and will be for the next week. Pop over to the Facebook group and delve into the creative offerings of other members, all with a Lammas inspired theme. Maybe add something of your own; the true joy is in the sharing.

2) The Gatherings will take place in Hadfield and New Mills next weekend so do come along if you are in the area. Full details are below and it will be a joy to meet and celebrate with you in person.

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Lammas in New Mills

Saturday 8th August
7pm
Springbank Arts Centre, New Mills, SK22 4BH

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Lammas in Hadfield

Sunday 9th August
7pm
Hadfield Community Room, Hadfield, SK13 2AA

This is a participatory event. Attendees are encouraged to bring their own
seasonal poems/stories/arts/ideas to share with the group.
Cost is £5 per person or pay-what-you-can
Refreshments provided

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However you choose to celebrate, I hope the start of the Harvest is a joyful time for you. As the Land begins to offer up its bounty may we remember the sacrifice of the Corn King. In the spilling of his blood the Land would be rejuvinated; reminding us that in order to thrive and grow we must shed elements of our own selves. Sometimes these elements are old and unwanted – discovered as we seperate our wheat from the chaff. Others we lose with struggle or sadness, truly feeling the power of sacrifice. But all will be composted down to provide fertile growth in the New Year. Until then lets focus on the beauty of the turning season, honour the Land with thanks and begin our preparations for the darker times to come.

Blessed be x

Lammas at Arbor Low

On a bright evening at the end of July I travelled with two newfound friends – and fellow celebrants – to work some celebratory magic up at Arbor Low Stone Circle, in Derbyshire.

We had done some rudimentary planning in advance but the three of us were keen to hold fast to our intuition and the spirit of the place and not have things too rigidly set in stone (no pun intended!). We knew that being outdoors and being in such a beautiful space would spark our hearts and creativity and evoke words of truth and power from us when the time was right…

… we were not wrong.

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After travelling along winding country roads we approached Arbor Low under the shadow of some rather energetic storm clouds, that were casting thunder and rain of quite epic proprtions all around us. The car windows had turned to liquid glass and the roads were slick and (at some points) lake-like. As we pulled into the car park I felt the tiniest tug of uncertainty… what would we do if the rain continued? How would we mark this special time – of Lammas and our first collaboration together – if we had to leave, thwarted by the elements? What would we do if no-one turned up?

Once again the World was asking me to trust and thankfully Jason (driver and fellow celebrant) was able to articulate its wishes wonderfully well. He showed no sign of doubt, certain as he was that the skies would clear for us.

And they did! As we reached a half hour before start time the sky began to lighten ahead and then suddenly, as if someone had flipped a switch, the rain stopped. Instantaneously. I have rarely seen rain behave like this before, particularly in England where it loves to fade in and fade out slowly, but it simply ceased to be, between one breath and the next. It really strenghtened Jason’s previous assertations; that the Land was being cleansed and that once it was ready the rain would stop and we could move out.

So we did; me having gained a needed boost of trust and confidence not in myself but in the Land, in the time and the space and most of all in our intention. We were there to celebate Lammas and celebrate it we would; not just because we wanted to, but because the World wanted us to.

 

As if I needed even more proof of the rightness of the situation, the ground underfoot once we reached the circle was mostly dry and certainly warm. The Sun had reappeared and stayed with us throughout the evening till it was replaced by a beautifully clear waxing crescent moon. We were able to set up our central shrine and gather people together in comfort and ease until finally the drums started and we all (20-30 of us) gathered together in circle.

The variety of participants was inspiring and a blessing; families, solo attendees, couples and groups of friends. Everyone brought with them their own path, their own beliefs, their own experiences and shared them with open hearts; also allowing the ideas and inspirations of we three celebrants to reach in and inspire them with grace and acceptance. There was no sign of resistance or discomfort, everyone seemed to find something they could enjoy, appreciate and connect to. The unified energy was a testament both to the collaborative techniques we employed (inspired by our training with Glennie Kindred and Annie Keeling) and to the Spirit of Arbor Low itself.

 

Arbor Low is one of my favourite stone circles although I have visited only twice. On my first fleeting visit I sensed a landscape that was still very much alive, very much in use and attuned to sacred and spiritual practise. There is a solidity and strength to the stones – which lay flat on the ground, not standing upright – and the earthworks, but also a fluidity and flow that seems to emenate from the pockmarked limestone and pools of water that are ever present.

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On this my second visit, I was able to expeirence all this more fully and directly, by taking part in sacred celebration myself. The Land of Arbor Low definitely knew what was happening and held the space safe and strong for all of us and the energies we raised. I would go so far as to say the Land itself took pleasure in what we were doing. I felt welcomed, accepted and connected in a very simple but honest sense; something which can be difficult at some sacred sites where the mass of people/energies can leave you feeling baffled or overwhelmed.

It was a beautiful place to celebrate and an active part of our celebration, especailly as we honoured and gave thanks for the gifts and the sacrifice of the Land at this Harvest time.

 

Together we blessed and laid a stone on the Earth, as marker and memorial for all the fruits and grains that will be taken and consumed by we humans in the months ahead. We then offered back some of the Land’s gifts with offerings of beer, along with our own gratitude, to the Earth at our feet. And finally we chanted, drummed and sang to honour Lammas, the Land and our own Harvests; raising energy and offering it back to the Land itself in gratitude and with love. Finally we were blessed with Lammas loaves, butter and honey so that we might carry with us the blessings and abundance of this time as we departed from the space.

 

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I was buzzing afterwards, buzzing in a way that only working on the Land can leave you. The thrill of feeling the wind and the ground responding to your words and your heart’s intentions is something that can’t easily be described but is never forgotten once it has been felt. It’s been some time since I’ve celebrated out on the Land, in a wild place, with others present and I had forgotten (until that night) how powerful it can be. The community feeling was strong and everyone was able to laugh and share and smile afterwards. Lots of kind words and kind thoughts were passed around as we slowly packed ourselves away and followed the sinking Sun towards the horizon and home.

 

I am so grateful to Nicola and Jason of Way Of The Buzzard for asking me to co-create this celebration with them. I am also thankful to the Land and Spirit of Arbor Low for being so welcoming and so active a participant in our activities.

Most of all I am grateful to the Flow; for leading me to this time, this place and this happening that truly opened my heart to the Spirit of Lammas and gave me inspiration and energy to feed into the season ahead.

 

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If you want to read Nicola’s account of the celebration you can find it here.

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Photo Credits:
1) English Heritage
2) badwitch.co.uk
3) Nicola @ Way Of The Buzzard
4) great-place.co.uk

Customer Service Announcement

Hello folks,

Yep, I’m still here, still walking the Wheel and still very much wanting to write and enjoy sharing life here on the blogosphere.

 

Unfortunately my laptop disagrees and has pretty much given up the ghost, and things being as they are at the moment I don’t quite have the means to dash out an buy a new one (still working on that lottery win!).

Hence there’s been quite a lot of radio silence here, far more than I have wanted, and it’s been playing on my mind rather a lot over the past month. Especially as so much has happened and there’s so much to share now we’ve reached Harvest time!

But I’m taking all this as a little lesson from the World; to slow down, have patience and accept that things will be as they will be.

It’s working…. sometimes….

… not all the time, as my poor Husband will tell you…

 

But despite the odd technology-depreived meltdown I want to assure everyone that all is well, the blog is still here and the events in the real world are still very much running! If you usually use this site for details you might want to try the Facebook group instead as I tend to have more luck getting on there for a brief speck of time. Just search Walk The Wheel and you’ll find it in Groups.

 

So for the near future there will be less regular updates and certainly all those will be words only as the laptop’s last legs really can’t support pictures!

Please keep your eyes peeled though as I will try and schedule a few posts for the coming weeks to keep us on track with the festivals etc. Lammas has just past and a little run down of what Lammas is and why we celebrate is coming up in a couple of days. Then hopefully there’ll be a run down of a public ritual I co-facilitated at Arbor Low and some bits about my personal celebrations and Harvest thrown in.

 

That being said I make no promises! Only that I am still very much here, very much walking the Wheel with you all and wishing you a beautiful and bountiful Lammas season!

 

Keli x

Copyright

All written materials and images, unless otherwise stated, are property of Kelly Tomlin 2016.

Further reading

We gather together to Walk the Wheel; to share with one another and be inspired.