The Nineteenth Day

He asked to know the day he would die

And received with a certain certainty

The answer “On the nineteenth day”

And thereafter lost his sanity

*

The terror of not knowing when

Of not having a choice of day

Perhaps this terror is what keeps us human

And keeps us thankful every day

*

You can always take the way out that seems sure

As he did, hanging himself (and guess the date of the deed?)

You can plan your whole life up to just before

But then, won’t you be mad indeed?

*

Sweet, blessed bliss of uncertainty

Of accepting fresh gifts with each moment, each breath

Sweet, bittersweet affirmation of humanity

The total acceptance of the mystery of death.

Fires of Ostara

He came, walking, through the forest, his uncertain feet picking their way among the dead leaves. He came, afoot, a long way, longer than he had ever walked before.

He came within the trees. Some with the tips of their branches reaching towards the sun, holding rolled-up new life, waiting to unfurl in brilliant green. Some with no leaves yet, but bedecked all over with delicate white, or deep pink. Some who never lost their dark green fingertips, which rustle softly as he passes. He does not see the many hues of green, the gently-falling petals floating in the light, fresh breeze. He is searching for something else.

“I need gold,” he said, staring with wide eyes, “I need so much gold. My city is burning and I must find a way to save it. I need gold.”

But he found me.

I am the roots of the trees which reach down into the centre of the Earth and then meet each other again in the open air. I am the winding, twisting pathways through the forests of humanity’s dreams; the footprints of the Deer; the fresh drops of dew sparkling in the morning sunshine. I am the slow relaxing of the soil as it begins to warm in the fire of the sun, the scent of rotting as death turns to decay which turns to new life; the bright burst of colour of the flowers of spring.

I sensed his presence in the forest at once, of course – he could not hide from me even if he wanted to, but he was not even trying to tread carefully. The bird and animal folk were offended that he would come so clumsily through our land, but I thought it was cute. He seemed like a lost child, a toddler who has not yet achieved the grace which comes with feeling comfortable moving around one’s environment. I wanted to help him.

********

She came, walking, through the forest, her footsteps so light that she seemed, perhaps, to be floating. But I know that is impossible.

She came, gliding, among the trees, passing through shadows and bright sunlight. Her eyes were large and green, and she had long hair flowing down to her waist, catching the sunlight in different ways so that I was never sure what colour it was; deep black, bright copper-red, or golden-green.

“Who are you?” I asked, trying to keep the wonder from my voice. She was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. But I didn’t know if I could trust her.

“I have many names, and none,” she replied, which did not convince me that I could trust her.

“You perhaps know me as the Queen of the Faeries.”

“You are lying. Faeries don’t exist, except in stories,” I replied scornfully, and turned away, wanting to show her that she cannot use her tricks on me.

“So you have heard stories of me!” she replied, with such a joyful laugh that I had turned back to her before I knew what I was doing.

“I’m not interested in stories,” I said, “I’m interested in my task.”

I didn’t want to say more, but she fixed me with those huge, glowing green eyes, and I found myself telling her everything; how the burning has been going on for so many years, decades and centuries, and how my city is being slowly destroyed, but no one can do anything to stop the fires until we have enough gold to pay for it.

She stood still and listened to me, with an intensity I am not used to. But she said nothing, merely gestured to a nearby tree. The tree’s trunk was huge, wider than five men easily, and as she moved her hand, an opening appeared in the trunk.

I went up to it, curious in spite of myself, and saw that it was the entrance to a tunnel. The tunnel seemed to go straight forwards, further than the limits of the tree, and with a slight curve. Coming from the entrance was a smell so delicious that I stepped forwards, into the tunnel. I had not eaten for a long time, so intent was I on my task.

Indeed, I think I forgot about her entirely as I started walking along the tunnel. It was only dimly lit by some kind of glowing lights on the floor, shining green and blue. I saw as I walked that it had not one but many curves, and every time I came round one, the smell was stronger and more enticing. It was like the scent of all the best dinners you can imagine, all together; and yet much more appetising than that.

Suddenly, the smell became even stronger as I rounded a final corner and the tunnel opened out into a room. The walls appeared to be made of carved wood, and the room was brightly lit with the golden glow of many tiny candles. In the centre was a round, wooden table, festooned with a bright green cloth and a plethora of dishes, each piled high with some kind of food. Some were steaming, some were fresh and green; some looked creamy, some crunchy and some spicy. There were crystal jugs of colourful liquid, and clean bowls and spoons ready for serving.

But none of that is what arrested my attention. What arrested my attention was the sacks, chests and boxes lining the carven walls of this strange room, some of which were open so that I could plainly see they were full of pieces of gold, glowing gently in the firelight. I ran to the nearest sack and looked inside. The gold pieces in here were as big as my fist. I checked the thing next to the sack – a wooden chest whose lid lifted easily to reveal pile upon pile of gold coins.

“What is this place?” I asked aloud, and then spun around suddenly as she answered from just behind me.

“It is my home, and yours,” she said, smiling, “you can take whatever you like. May it bring you what you need.”

I looked at her. I had never encountered anyone like her in my life. I did not know what to say. Of course I was deeply suspicious. But at the same time, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss. I don’t think I really took any time to consider it, in fact. I emptied my pack of everything; all the precious items which I had thought absolutely essential to have with me, even my devices, forgotten in a second. I filled it up until it was almost too heavy to lift, but I managed to return it to my back. Then I filled my pockets, and was looking at my boots to see how much gold I could fit inside them when I realised that I could barely walk as it was. So I turned away from the gold, and walked out of the room, back down the tunnel and into the open air. I didn’t look at the table again once.

Many times on the long road back to my city I thought I could not walk more. It seemed like the load got heavier with every step. But the thought of all the things I could do with the gold helped me to continue.

By the time I reached my city I was weighed down physically, but feeling so light with excitement. Everyone I met with to tell them my news was also very excited. All agreed that the burning would stop imminently. The city would be saved…

But then a strange thing began to take place. Every time I got some gold out to pay someone, it became light and insubstantial in my hand, while my heart grew heavier. I had more and more meetings, and more and more plans were made, and the months went by. Yet the city continued to burn…

********

I did not mean to trick him. Humans always say that us folk are trying to trick them, but I think it is more a case of cultural misunderstanding. When I offered him to feel at home, I was expecting him to rest, eat, perhaps reflect. When I offered him the gold, I knew what it was, but now I think about it, I am not sure he understood.

Now he is probably cursing me for giving him what he thought was a valid human currency, but which turned out to be, in his eyes, worthless. Yet my gift is still helping him, in spite of that. He may not have eyes to see, but others in his city may.

They may see that the gold is the fire; not the destructive, wasteful, greedy fires of the city which have been burning for so long, but the bright blaze of transformation; the blaze on every hill. There are no hills left in his city now, to shine with the yellow glow of the flowers of Ostara. But they are there, ready to sprout in the ashes, once the fires finally go out.

No Room At The Inn

The story goes that there was no room at the inn but there was plenty of room – the town was full of inns, and there were plenty of vacancies.

Some of the innkeepers genuinely wanted to follow the authority’s rules; genuinely believed that we were dangerous people, that we could cause damage to those around us simply because we did not want to take the medicine that so many others had taken, either because they chose to or because someone made them feel like they had no other choice.

I had more sympathy for those than for the others – the ones who said they were really on our side, but who still closed their doors to us. Very sorry, wish you all the best, more than my job’s worth…

By the time we had almost reached the edge of town we were losing hope. Jose was no help, arguing with every innkeeper about our rights as citizens, that we were just normal people, while I bent over, feeling far from normal as I hung onto the poor donkey’s mane trying to deal with the pain. We even started knocking on doors of people’s private homes, but that didn’t go down well at all.

Maybe you won’t understand why no one wanted to take us in. You see, at that time, so many people were living in fear, regardless of their beliefs. Of course, that has changed now, since the birth.

I don’t know what it is that makes us decide to knock on that particular door. We knock, and Iro answers, and Jose starts telling the same story he’s already told dozens of times that evening, while I clutch the donkey and try not to interrupt him too much with my screams. Neither of us expect that Iro will let us in – we are about to give up altogether.

When you look back on those kind of moments, it’s always when you are at the point of losing all hope, of giving in completely to despair, that suddenly the thing you want appears. Sometimes I wonder if there is a way to get there without having to go through all the heartache and pain of hopelessness. But I have a feeling that they are a necessary part of having faith, just as the strong sensations which some women call pain (it certainly felt like pain to me, on that cold winter’s night long ago) are a necessary part of giving birth.

Iro didn’t let us in. He knew the rules as well as anyone, and he knew that if the authority’s agents found out we were inside a building then everyone would be in trouble. So he took us to a stable – it wasn’t his stable, but he knew others who had faith. Not faith in a particular religion or story – that is simply close-mindedness masquerading as faith. It’s more like a general kind of faith in the universe, without holding onto any particular story about what that actually means… anyway I don’t need to explain this to you. Since that time, this is much more common.

Somehow they managed to keep up a network of communications which transcended the control of the authority and the fear of those trying or obey or resist. That’s how Gina found us – Iro managed to get word to her, and she came just in time to catch the baby as I pushed him out, and to hold my hand, and clean up the blood as best she could. The Mages may have been following a real or symbolic thing, but as far as I was concerned, Gina was the real star. Of course, she has been left out of the stories – birthkeepers do generally tend to keep their arts secret.

It doesn’t matter how much time has passed since then. It could have been thousands of years ago, or it could have been last week. People have been trying to keep other people from doing what they want to for all of that time. I like to think the birth of my son has helped more people to transcend their fear and find ways to live in love.

Yes, maybe you too will not be allowed inside buildings simply because of your beliefs. Maybe if that happens to you, you can remember my time in the stable and know you are not alone.

The stories tell about Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh but I don’t remember any of that. Admittedly, I was not in the most aware state – well, I was aware, but only of the miracle of the appearance of a new human into my world. Anyway, the best gift that the Mages gave us – the best gift that anyone gave us – was their trust.

In the end, perhaps that’s the only thing we can ever truly give.

The Equinox and Persephone

As light and darkness come into balance, for a moment, and we (in the Northern hemisphere) begin to tip inexorably towards the dark, I am reminded of Persephone.

I met Persephone one afternoon in early autumn, and this version of her tale comes from that meeting…

Demeter had a daughter, a beautiful girl, full of life, joy and delight. Demeter, being a Goddess of Abundance, gave her daughter whatever she wished for. And so Persephone grew up surrounded by flowers, soft breezes, fresh green grass and delicate birdsong. And the years passed in happiness.

One day, when Persephone was in between girlhood and adulthood, she was sitting in a sweet-scented forest glade, humming along to the song the Naiads were singing in a nearby waterfall. And who should be happening to be walking past, but Hades, the Lord of the Underworld. Now Hades had never seen Persephone before, as he didn’t spend much time in the world of open sky and trees. I am not sure what he was doing there at that time, but let’s face it, being Lord of the Underworld sounds fancy and everything, but it does get lonely. He was probably just looking for company.

When he saw Persephone, he immediately decided that this was the company he needed. More than this, the story goes that it was love at first sight. So he put on his best young, handsome man form, and came sauntering into the grove to say hi.

When Demeter tells this story, she insists that Hades kidnapped Persephone, with the plan to rape her and take her soul for his own. I’m not saying Hades didn’t have bad intentions, but this idea of kidnap seems a little disempowering to Persephone. She is, after all, a Goddess. She almost definitely knew that the beautiful tall, pale youth who appeared in her grove was no ordinary man; she could probably see the death in his eyes. But she was a teenage girl, and she was curious. Perhaps if you have ever been a teenage girl, you may recall the feeling.

So Persephone went off with Hades, who took her into a nearby cave where they came to a deep, cool, fast-running underground stream. With a wave of his hand, Hades caused a boat to appear; a beautiful, delicate craft of deepest ebony, carved into many fantastic shapes at the bow and stern and with a single, strangely white-flamed lantern hanging at the front. Persephone was enchanted. They stepped into the boat, and it began to sail by itself down the river, beneath a glittering tunnel of crystals and jewels.

Hades tried to get Persephone to drink some of the river-water as they were sailing, but Persephone, being a well-prepared young Goddess, had her own bottle of fresh spring water with her, so she refused (Gods and Goddesses don’t actually need to drink to stay alive, but they love the taste of fresh spring water, and wine, and all other pure liquids given in offering). Actually, in secret, Hades was kind of relieved. He was not sure how the river-water would affect Persephone. He knew that it made humans forget everything, but what of Goddesses? He was, in truth, beginning to be a little nervous at this point. Persephone, sensing this, tried to engage him in light conversation, which helped a little, though Hades couldn’t help wondering if perhaps he had bitten off more than he could chew…

Meanwhile, in the world of the living, Demeter came back to the forest grove after a day of ripening fruit in the trees, only to find that Persephone was gone. The Naiads told her that Persephone had left some time ago, with a handsome young man; they couldn’t say where, or who.

Demeter was infuriated. She rose up high into the sky, casting all around her for her missing daughter. From the Naiads’ story, she immediately jumped to the worst conclusion.

“My daughter has been taken!” she raged.

Tears of anger cascaded from her eyes, falling onto the orchards and the fields. As the drops fell, the plants began withering. Where a teardrop would fall on a leaf, that leaf turned yellow and then, slowly, fell from the tree. Where the teardrops landed on grass, it would shrivel up, brown and dry.

“My daughter has been taken!” Demeter wailed again, pulling the different winds from all four directions and swirling them about her, so that she was in the centre of a whirling hurricane. The wind ripped through the land, twisting the faded leaves from their branches, and even tearing off whole branches themselves, if they were already dead.

The fruits and grains which she had previously been helping to ripen began to rot. Grapes which had been round, red and juicy started shrivelling and falling from the vines; apples, pears and figs sprouted worms and dropped from the trees. Still Demeter raged, and as she did so the wind began blowing colder and colder.

“It’s a bit cold here,” said Persephone, trying to be polite.

Her golden skin had in fact turned pale as bone, so long had they been in Hades’ underground kingdom. After the boat ride, he had taken her for a walk through his palaces; a palace of jade, a palace of turquoise, a palace of amethyst. Now they were in his palace of gold. Marvellous it was; every surface shining; pillars of exquisite filigree rising into domed ceilings; riches beyond imagination. And yet Persephone was beginning to miss the sound of birdsong, the scent of the fresh breeze, the sight of flowers.

Hades hastily plucked a robe from the air, deep purple velvet with a silver trim, and draped it gently around Persephone’s shoulders.

“Is that better, my dear?” he asked.

She looked at him. Over the time they had been wandering together, his desire for her had been growing, so much that he was finding it difficult to control his young man form. Now the man whom Persephone saw standing before her was decidedly older, with a hungry smile and bright, glinting eyes. For a moment, Persephone felt a tinge of fear. Who, in fact, was this strange man who commanded so much majesty? But as she looked at him, she saw what his smile meant. He wanted her. The thrill of this realisation was irresistibly attractive to Persephone, but also very confusing.

“Yes,” she said eventually, but then sighed.

“Don’t you have any gardens in your palaces?” she asked.

This was a tricky one for Hades, who could make illusions as sublime or terrifying as he wished to show to human eyes, but who had to be careful with Persephone not to play too many tricks. So he took her to what he thought may be the most pleasing of his gardens, a great, dark cavern made entirely out of the interlocking tendrils of gigantic tree roots, so ancient and sturdy that they appeared to be carved of stone. Entirely filling this cavern and illuminating it with a dim, green-blue glow, were brightly-coloured mushrooms of all shapes and sizes; some big enough to sit upon as a stool, and others so small and delicate that they could fit on one’s fingernail. Persephone was immediately delighted. Throwing off the cape (which, although she did not notice, vanished as soon as she discarded it), she begin skipping merrily among the mushrooms, singing softly to herself. All suspicions and fears faded from her.

As Demeter continued to tear around the countryside in her desolate rage, the humans began to be scared. Then they all came; the farmers and the shepherds; the hermits and the forest-folk, and gathered below Demeter to ask her what was happening. Only the medicine men and women stayed in their forest groves, for they already knew.

“Oh Demeter, we thought you were the bringer of abundance,” the people said; “we saw you bringing warm sunshine to ripen the fruits on the trees, and swelling the crops to great size. Why now do we see you destroying them?”

Demeter looked down on them, these people who walked around as fragments of a multifaceted tapestry believing that they were actually the whole thing. She looked at them, and suddenly all her rage turned to laughter. She even forgot all about Persephone, she was having so much fun.

“Ha!” she cried, swirling the winds about her even more fiercely, “Did you not know that those who have power to grow also have power to stop growth? What did you think, that your fruit would just keep ripening forever? When it’s ripe, you must harvest it, mortal fools, or you are not participating in the abundance of the world at all! What is given, you shall take! I am the bringer of life, did you not think that I can also bring death?” –

At that final word, she stopped. She suddenly recalled her lost daughter, and she knew where she had gone.

In the centre of the root-garden, Hades had seen to it that there appeared a great, round, silver table. On the table were platters of all kinds of fruits – fruits so fresh you could almost feel their juice in your mouth just by looking at them. Plump, dark cherries overflowed from one bowl; peaches seemed to glow with the light of the forgotten sun in another; and in another, pomegranates were split open, spilling out their crimson seeds like jewels.

Hades invited Persephone to sit upon a mushroom-stool.

“Would you like some fruit?” he asked.

Persephone turned to him, eyes shining, still enchanted with the beautiful subterranean garden. She looked ready to follow him anywhere, and it is perhaps at this point that Hades became a little over-confident. He thought he had her in his grasp, you see.

“Here, try a cherry,” said the Lord of the Underworld, taking one himself and putting it between his lips. Persephone looked at the cherry-bowl longingly, and Hades took the opportunity while her attention was not on him to turn his face away, so she did not see the fruit wither and rot in his mouth.

“I’m not sure…” said Persephone. She remembered, being a sensible young Goddess, all the stories her mother had told her about travellers who end up in the land of the fairies, and who, once they eat the food of that land, are doomed to stay there forever.

But this did not seem like a fairyland…

“How about a pomegranate?” asked Hades, holding out the bowl to her.

Now, pomegranates were Persephone’s absolute favourite fruit. As she looked at the pomegranates in the silver bowl, she felt so hungry that she could not take her eyes from them. She did not even register the sound of distant crashing from far above.

“Well…” she said, slowly reaching out her hand – but then hesitated.

“You don’t need to eat the whole fruit, how about just a few seeds?” suggested Hades; “look how juicy they are. I only got the best for you.”

“Well…OK…” she replied, taking some seeds in her hand.

She brought them to her mouth. She put them to her lips. She chewed, she swallowed.

At that moment Demeter came thundering into the garden, and pointed a terrible finger at Hades.

“Give me back my daughter!” she cried.

“Hey, she came here of her own free will!” protested Hades.

Persephone, looking up, frowned at her mother. Why was she so angry?

“I’m not a child, you know, mother,” she pointed out.

Demeter looked from Hades to Persephone, trying to figure out what was going on. Persephone seemed safe and under no great threat – but there was something suspiciously confident about Hades that she did not like at all.

“I know, my daughter,” she said, “but wouldn’t like to come home now to the land of the trees and the sky?”

“Yes!” said Persephone, leaping up from the table and rushing to her mother.

She tried to take Demeter’s hand, but something stopped her – there seemed to be some kind of invisible barrier separating them.

“What’s happening?” she asked, afraid again.

Hades glided up to her, attempting a sweet and soothing smile which looked to Persephone quite sickly.

“It’s just that you already ate the fruit,” he pointed out.

“You what?!” cried Demeter.

Hades threw up his hands as if it had nothing at all to do with him.

“Hey, you know the rules,” he said. “I didn’t make them, but there they are. She ate the fruit, so now she has to stay here…with me,” he added, grinning more wolfishly than ever at Persephone.

But she turned away, tears splashing from her eyes.

“Forever?” she asked, not looking at Hades but at Demeter; “forever, mother?”

Demeter was also crying and glaring at Hades. As the Goddesses’ tears fell onto the black ground, there sprouted tiny flowers, which then faded and died.

“But it was just a few pomegranate seeds!” wailed Persephone.

“A few?” asked Demeter, seizing on this piece of information.

“Oh no,” Hades interjected, “just because she only ate six seeds, doesn’t make any difference – you know the rules…”

He trailed off, realising he had, in fact, lost.

Demeter waved her hand through the air in a complicated sigil. There was a bright flash, and then she took Persephone’s hand.

“Come, daughter,” she said.

“But – hey, wait!” objected Hades, “I mean, she ate the fruit!”

“She did eat the fruit,” agreed Demeter, “so she shall come here for the dark part of every year; one month for each seed. And you,” she added, glaring down at Hades, “have six months to convince her that she wants to join you down here.”

“I’m sure it won’t be that bad,” said Persephone, who had brightened up knowing she could return home now, and was secretly trying to think of a way out once they had escaped the Underworld.

And still holding her mother’s hand, she went back up to world, where spring was just beginning.

Hades sulked for some time after this, but eventually realised that the compromise was a pretty good one, for him.

Persephone didn’t tell me how she changed her mind but when autumn came, she went happily down with her new King to his domain. And she continues to do so still. Some say you can catch a glimpse of her, if you go to the right grove at the right time, when the balance of light and darkness is just reaching its tipping point…

Come and find the Hidden Ways…

Thank you so much to all of my followers and those who have joined me on my wordy wanderings through the forest of this site.

Are you interested in reading more from me? If so, I highly recommend you check out my newly-published e-book novel, Hidden Ways.

What kind of novel is it?

This is a near-future sci-fi adventure story, which I would describe as ‘optimistic dystopia’… There is a dystopian aspect for sure, but I think on the whole the story is uplifting. You as the reader will be the judge of this, though, of course!

An experiment with style

One interesting thing I’d like to share about the book is the style. As those who have read my articles before, language and the power of words is one of my fascinations (as you can read about here and here) . I had a lot of fun experimenting with use of language in Hidden Ways. The entire novel is written in the present tense, and it is almost entirely in first-person perspective from two different characters.

A central theme is that of strangers. How do you know someone is a stranger? Is it their skin? The colour of their eyes? The way they talk? How will you know who the strangers are in this book? I invite you to read it to find out more…

My influences

My biggest literary influence is Ursula K LeGuin, to whom I have a dedication poem on this blog.

Hidden Ways is especially influenced by her ‘Hainish Cycle’ series, so if you are a fan of LeGuin and particularly this series, I believe you will enjoy my work.

Intrigued? Below is the story description and link to buy the book. I would be honoured if you check it out!

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Book Description – Hidden Ways

A flash of light through dark, dripping trees, and suddenly you are no longer being held up. The fragile vehicle you are in begins to break – the sky falls past you as the rain is illuminated by another blinding flash.

Hosha knew he wanted to find the Lost Zones, but he was not prepared for just how lost he would have to get to find them. Now he wants to escape, but how to go about it? When things just keep going round and round…

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How do you know that the stranger is different from you? Is it their skin? Their eyes? The way they talk?

Vai thought she knew. A stranger is anyone who does not live in the Village, whose inhabitants have not left for generations. A stranger is someone who comes from Outside, from another world, someone who must be mistrusted and possibly feared.

In Charlotte Holloway Ashwanden’s near-future sci-fi adventure, we join two strangers: Hosha, a man with a mission he doesn’t understand, and Vai, a restless girl who finds him in the forested world of her home, as they struggle to communicate.

Among the great, rain-dripping trees of a world of endless forest, they begin to discover that perhaps what they knew isn’t all there is to know…

You can buy my book here. Thank you for reading!

A Meeting with the Fire

Fire has always existed; its unburned sparks running through veins of rocks and trees; its unseen flames holding the heart of the very earth.

In a time which is no time, in the eternity of now, the long unbroken moment which is the flip side of the Void, there sit chatting some Gods and Goddesses. They are the keepers of the fire, and they have noticed that humans seem unusually interested in the yellow-red flame-flowers which appear in every lightning-storm.

“Humans can use fire and make many great things,” says Agni, who is reclining with his head on his trusty ram, “As long as they respect our hunger. They must always feed us, even at the cost of feeding themselves, and then we will give them such gifts as cooking and funeral pyres.”

“Cooking?” asks Freya scornfully, her blood-tears flowing from her flashing green eyes as she sits upon a throne of skulls, surrounded by adoring cats.

“Fire is here as a weapon, so that we may rain it upon our enemies. Burn what has gone before, so that new and fresh life may spring up again.”

“Yes, fire is good for cleansing and renewing,” agrees Brigid, who is lounging languidly in a pool of clear water, occassionally sensuously stroking the crystal edge of the pool with her fingers, watching the flurry of colour of the flowers which spontaneously spring to life there, and then with one more motion of her hand eliminating them in a burst of flame.

“But humans already fight enough, we don’t need to help them,” Brigid continues,

“Let them love instead, let them love and worship our fires, and make love by the light of them, so that they bring more light and laughter to the world.”

Lounging next to her in the crystal pool, Nantosuelta laughs in agreement.

“They can love it as long as they respect it!” insists Agni, sitting up. His ram raises its great horned head and looks around fiercely, then lays back down again with a sigh of contentment.

“I don’t see what fire has got to do with humans,” booms Vulcan from his bubbling mass of lava.

“Let them worship or not worship our volcanoes! I don’t care! The volcanoes remain.”

Pele nods in agreement, but Inti frowns and his Otorongo snarls softly, flames flicking around their fangs.

“Yet humans create the spirit-link which makes those volcanoes sacred,” points out Ogun, as he busies himself with using Vulcan’s lava to fashion elaborate hunting-weapons of iron.

“Humans cannot have fire. Fire is mine. Everything is mine. Nobody can take my things,” hisses Chantico, slithering frantically across the floor in her red-snake form, her eyes ringed with worry.

Brigid laughs long and loud at this. The others join in or begin putting forward their arguments again. At some point while the discussion rages, Prometheus and Maui sneak in and, unnoticed by anyone, take some of the sacred fire.

Just as they are leaving, Prometheus happens to catch Brigid’s eye. He freezes for a moment, and for a moment, he is sure he has brought the punishments of the Gods and Goddesses upon himself. He knows he should run but he feels rooted to the spot, caught in the trap of those bright green eyes…

Then, somehow, the spell is broken. Maui grabs his hand, and they flee from the place, to find Coyote and Raven, and distribute the gift among all the tribes of the world…

As they run, Prometheus shakes his head, trying to figure out if she really winked at him or not. Is she pursuing them right now?

And Brigid continues lounging, a mysterious smile playing on her face as she idly strokes the side of the crystal pool, bringing the flowers forth into multi-coloured life, and then extinguishing them in a ball of flame.

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Picture: ‘Beltane’ by Charlotte Holloway Ashwanden

Niños y niñas del fuego

Somos los niños y las niñas del fuego, y hay que quemar-

nos, y las llamas de la verdad no te duelen si tienes el coraje de quedar-

te fuerte en la fe, de ser ti mismo

Y cuando se siente como estamos dentro el abismo

Se siente como la muerte pero es un nacimiento

Se siente como la muerte pero esto es el parto

Somos los niños y las niñas del fuego, y hay que quemar-

nos, y como las fenices subimos de las cenizas para volar

En los vientos frescos del mundo nuevo que podemos crecer

Nos bañaremos en la lluvia de las lágrimas de ayer

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Image by Rafael Moura Sb. from Pixabay 

Want to save the world? Have children!!!

Learning to Give

IF you care about saving the environment. HAVE CHILDREN!

Why is having kids good for the environment?

Maybe you’re not having kids for “environmental” reasons. But why are you trying to save the planet? If you have no investment in it?

Having kids will motivate you to do MORE to protect the environment.

Your caring attitude is a valuable quality. If you don’t pass on your love for the Earth to your kids… what will happen?

Here is the standard (flawed) logic:

“I don’t want to have kids because humans are causing climate change. WE ARE THE PROBLEM so I don’t want to add to that problem…”

Result…

Only people who DON’T care about the environment have kids… and they pass their careless attitudes on to their children.

Lo and behold; The caring meme dies out. And so does the species.

We have to value ourselves!

If we want to…

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A Message from the Earth

“It’s the coldest winter on record,” some say; “there has been snow where we have no data for snow before, and” –

“No! It is the hottest winter on record,” say others, “look at our pale skin burning in the freakishly warm sunshine” –

“It’s a catastrophe! The world is going to end!” they all agree, “but we don’t want it to! What shall we do?”

A silence.

“Demand that the government do something!” a voice cries, and all take up the cry, and the march begins…

I stand on the edge of the flow, watching as people push past me, their eyes full of a feverish light.

They do not look at me. They do not look at each other. They clamber over rocks and push through trees, some so eager to get where they are going that they break the rocks, destroy the undergrowth, pull down branches from the trees. In the dry dust of their wake is a slowly falling, brightly-coloured trail of plastic wrappers.

I want to say something; to try to divert the flow, perhaps, but the people are moving more and more swiftly, and they do not look at me.

“They do not look at me, either,” says a voice, and I turn.

She is standing before me, a tall, beautiful woman, full-breasted, full-bellied, her long hair flowing around her shoulders and down her back, rustling with a sound like the wind in fresh leaves in spring.

“Who are you?” I ask, but she simply looks at me, her green eyes flashing, and I feel with a jolt that her heartbeat is the same as mine; yet also that hers is deeper, slower; that her time is one which is unimaginably different to my own.

“I have many names,” she says; “Pachamama, Gaia, Bhumi…”

As she says each name, her form changes, so that flashing before my eyes I see a woman whose body is the mountains and whose hair is the golden maize, from whose breasts flow the waters of life – she changes subtly and I see her hair, made from wheat now, blowing in the breeze, filling the horizon as far as I can see, as she brings forth fresh, juicy grapes, cherries and pomegranates. I gasp, overwhelmed, and she, seeing this, seems slowly to shrink, until she is standing before me, as beautiful as ever, but now more the size of a human woman.

She still holds a pomegranate in one hand, and she offers it to me. I do not hesitate to take it. One does not refuse gifts from a Goddess.

We sit on a moss-covered rock which has been left relatively intact by the stampede. The people have receded now into the distance; one or two stragglers occasionally wander past, shouting political slogans, but they do not see us.

Slowly, I start to eat the pomegranate. It is delicious beyond words, and for a moment I forget the beautiful woman sitting beside me, closing my eyes in rapture. Soon, though, my curiosity returns. I look around at the devastated landscape, and a deep grief fills my heart. I turn to Bhumi – for Bhumi is what she most looks like now, dark and proud, her neck adorned with many-coloured sparkling crystals – expecting her, too, to be sad.

To my surprise, she is laughing softly, delight shining from her verdant eyes.

“You speak of records as though you know all that has passed on this planet,” she murmurs, and her voice is like a cool spring welling up from among deep rocks, “but you do not even recall most of your own stories. Do you think that your great-great-great-great-great grandmothers wasted time telling of what the weather should not be doing?”

“I… I guess I never thought about it,” I admit, and she laughs again, though kindly.

“They observed what is, and adapted their behaviour to fit in with whatever natural patterns they saw,” says Bhumi, “they did not panic when what they expected did not come to pass…”

I look around again, trying to make sense of this.

“But things were different back then,” I protest, “back then it was easier to live in tune with nature – I mean, with you – we didn’t have fossil fuels or microplastics; we didn’t have factories or styrofoam” –

“That is true,” she says, so majestically that I am awed into silence.

She continues, “and yet, how much of the natural patterns of the Earth are really changing because of what humans are doing? Now, in your arrogance, you think that it is all because of your actions. You do not remember the tales of your ancestors. You do not see that I have my own moods, my own behaviours, and I follow my own rhythms.

Yes, many of you are living out of balance with these rhythms now. You choke Ganga with filth and ashes; you muddy the air through which, before, you could receive messages from Vayu so clearly. These are actions you can modify.”

“So you do think we should change?” I ask, glancing around again at the desolate landscape.

I look back at Bhumi; she appears to be deep in thought, her eyes looking far, far away. I realise that perhaps it was an irrelevant question to ask of a Goddess.

“You gather the effects of your actions altogether into one menace, one thing which you can all point to and blame,” she says eventually, “a danger so huge and abstract that no one can argue about its existence. And yet,” she sighs, a long, long sigh.

Looking down, I see that where her breath touches the ground, all the little bits of plastic rubbish shiver, and transform slowly into multi-coloured flowers.

I look up at her face, and she holds my gaze in hers. I feel the slow rhythmic rubbing of tectonic plates; the rich darkness of dead matter changing into fertile soil; the profound, thirsting questing of roots into the depths. Slowly, I begin to be filled with an understanding – an understanding that as long as we look outside ourselves for the solution of our problems, we can never really solve them. It all seems so clear, like the sweet clarity of the water which she holds deep inside her, water which is still untainted by human touch. I see that while we are worried about climate change we are not looking at Bhumi, but at an abstract idea about our own actions. We need to focus on the actions themselves, and change them if they seem unhealthy. It is all so simple –

She looks away, and I gasp, struggling to hold on to the revelation. Then she looks back and smiles at me. I see she is holding a blue lotus in her left hand. She brings it up to her face, and darkness begins pouring out from the centre of the flower. I watch, entranced, as the darkness spreads, until I am sitting under a deep indigo sky, blossoming with myriad stars.

I look back, and she is gone. I am sad, because I had so many more questions I wanted to ask her, and the clarity of my realisation is difficult to hold onto. I try to find words to describe what I have felt, but the words do not come…

Frustrated, I look around again at the landscape. Something is different about it. Or rather, something is different about me; for this place no longer seems quite so desolate and empty. I can see that in spite of the destruction, it is full of life, and instead of feeling stark and forbidding, it feels welcoming. I can feel it welcoming me, who am part of this great creature we call Earth. Slowly, I begin to feel a deep sense of peace.

Drawing from ‘Elemental Spirits’ by Charlotte Holloway Ashwanden – you can see more at Dance Inspiracy

Poem – Gifts

Gifts

The incense is lit, the smoke rises up

The fruit and grain placed in the offering-bowls

The sacred wine is poured from the cup

Gifts to the gods; to the God, from our souls

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To receive is to give; to hold out one’s hand

Is to hold it out empty, as mine is to you

To receive is to give – this we understand

In our hearts when we listen to that which is true

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And yet you

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Ask me for a gift which holds not this bond

A trinket, toy, gadget; shiny and new

As if the lotus rising above the pond

Petals open to air, wasn’t rooted in mud too

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What can I give you, who ask this of me?

I would give you the jewels of glowing ember-ash,

I would give you sunlight through leaves of the Beech tree

I would give you a shining tear caught on an eyelash

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I would give you a rainbow rising over a hill

I would give you a childhood half-remembered song

I would give you fresh water and the feeling of having your fill

I would give you a hawk’s soaring flight, free and strong

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I would give all these gifts to you, and yet

They are not mine to give, they are inside of you

Beyond the need to always acquire and get

These gifts are nowhere, or they are inside of you.

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