Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Wychbury Hill

So today I went on another jaunt to an ancient site, but for some reason my mind thought that it was closer to my house than it was, just because I can see it from my back window doesn't mean it isn't 2 miles away. The journey was quite interesting as I saw White bryony berries, dog rose hips & crab apples which give you the full on autumnal feel. Not remembering where the footpath started from I thought it was locked so went to find another path in. I did but it was awful boggy  & the entrance to the woods was a little on the steep side as it was a defensive ditch designed to keep livestock out of the wood, but it was on a desire line so I thought that it was where people usually enter if coming from that direction, on entering the wooded part was greeted by the signs that a fallow deer had recently been shedding the velvet off his antlers on a tree which was great start for my actual walk around the hill & woods. It seemed almost churlish not to visit the Wychbury Obelisk or Wychbury Monument as it is more often referred to locally. Even after the renovation of it in 2011 they have not removed the Who put Bella in the wych elm graffiti on it referring to the body found in Hagley Woods nearby in the 1940's. I saw a skylark there as well as a couple of fieldfares. I then went back into the woods up to Wychbury Ring, the main reason for my journey. It is an impressive  feet of prehistoric engineering, it is the first hillfort I have ever been too. I took the lower path from the obelisk around the hillfort just to get the scale of it. It is not the biggest hillfort in the world but it is still amazing, especially seeing the amount of yew trees growing in the area. Taking the path which was steeper than I would normally consider safe to get my clumsy backside down I carried on, surprisingly without falling over. I carried on out of the woods to the man made mound in one of the fields, you can't get to the mound without trespassing onto farmland to decided not to risk a visit. I'm not sure what the mound is but owing to it's asymmetry it is not an 18th Century lawn sculpture, it has been suggested that it maybe a spoil heap from an underground reservoir which is highly plausible as no archaeological remains were found in it. I went back into the woods where I saw in one of the slightly more immature yew trees a goldcrest, it  was a gnat's breath away from me which was quite an exciting moment for me, further along the path I disturbed a female roe deer, I was well & truly in my nature geek element. I decided to climb the hillfort from that end which meant  being a little bit on the flexible side as for me not to injure myself had to find the easiest part of the fallen tree to climb over. It was well worth it & I walked across the top until arriving back at the monument entrance, this time though having seen the relevant stiles knew vaguely where I was going though the desire lines from the stile are not conducive to the actual foot path which I realised when it looked like it was going into a recently planted/naturally seeded blackthorn thicket I cut diagonally across from where I was to the stiles as the other end of the field accompanied by the sound of stonechats & headed home where I had a rabbit dart out in front of me. The place does have a special feel to it though & I will most definitely go back in the spring.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

St Kenelm's Well

So today I went on a pilgrimage with a Pagan friend I made through my paid job to St Kenelm's Well, which is just outside of Clent in Worcestershire. The weather held out despite it being the greyest part of the day, which is probably just as well as neither of us were wearing waterproofs. We walked the slightly longer less scenic route of going by the road (not recommended if you are going at a weekend if you are walking) which was less muddy & passes Uffmoor Wood as featured in a previous article. On the way we say a white feral pigeon (what most would call a dove) acting more like a bird of prey in it's circling & swooping flight, it landed near us on the roof of a shed. The reason why I posted such a detail is that in the legend of St Kenelm when he was beheaded a dove flew out of his severed corpse ascending to heaven & a light shone on where his body was hidden, it was a strange coincidence but cool none of the less. When arriving at the church of St Kenelm it took my breath away it is a beautiful little church from the medieval period made of sandstone with bat like gargoyles adorning it. If you take the path to the right of the church you are going through the main entrance there are some steps leading down to the well, the steps are quite wide & muddy so do be careful. The well has a sandstone rill to a collection point. I collect some water from there in a jar & left an offering of some home grown pea seeds which will hopefully provide a snack for some wild creature hopefully. But we are not the only Pagans to visit the site as many have left offerings tied to the tree some of which are most definitely Pagan some may have been Christian too. The well area is in a bit of a sorry state as some of the decking in the area is rotting & it has become a little overgrown although it doesn't seem wrong for the setting, though the next time I'll go there I will take a set of secateurs with me to cut back a bramble that snags the unwary. It is a peaceful place & you can see why people visit it. After finishing at the well site we went back up to the church & walked to the lost settlement of Kenelmstowe which is now no more than earthworks of where buildings, roads & a stew pond were, some buildings are easier to spot than others. Again we walked back into the churchyard & had a look round there are some really old yew trees in there as well as a small cross which must be it's oldest gravemarker, it certainly looks the earliest & is one of the smallest in the church yard. there is also what looks like a stone bowl to leave offerings in as well. I do heartily recommend this as a place to visit whether Pagan, Christian or just someone who likes quiet reflective time. I will most definitely be returning again.

Trans Deities & Other Religious Figures

Carrying from yesterday's theme from Trans Remembrance Day I would like to take a look at the trans side of religious figures, as if being trans is good enough for gods, goddesses & saints it sure as anything good enough for the rest of us. So where to begin? These are very brief overviews of highly complex mythologies so sorry if they seem to short to hold too much detail

Loki- Loki is a trickster god of Norse Mythology & often tried to curry favour/manipulate the giants by dressing as Freya, he also shapeshifted into a mare seducing a giant's stallion to thwart the giant & became pregnant giving birth to Sleipnir which became the steed of Odin

Dionysus/Bacchus- the Greek/Roman god of wine, ecstasy & liberty was depicted as gender ambiguous as a youth before being depicted as a bearded man in his later years

Athena/Minerva- The Greek/Roman goddess of wisdom, cities, craft & war (more on the resolution via strategy if war was unavoidable than creating violence & mayhem). Athena is occasionally depicted in men's clothing but has taken on male form, most notably in the Odyssey where she took on the form of Mentor, Telemachus, a Phaikian man & shepherd boy as well as other guises.

Inari- the Shinto kami of agriculture, industry & fertility is not given a gender as Inari can appear as a young woman giving out food, an old man carrying a sack of rice & as a blacksmith. Inari's other osscaiation is that of the fox.

Vishnu- a Hindu god who one of his Avatars is that of Mohini, whilst in this form Mohini acquires a pot of Amrita from the demons & returns it to the gods ensuring their immortality. She also tricks Bhasmasura (an ash demon) who is besotted with her into killing himself by getting him to touch his own head turning himself into ash. Shiva too is drawn in by Mohini's look too but later finds out that it is Vishnu.

Ardhanarishvara- is the merging of the god Shiva & goddess Parvati & is shown as an androgynous figure

Uumarnituq- in Inuit mythology the first two humans were male Aakulujjusi & Uumarnituq who were both male they decided to mate & Uumarnituq became pregnant, unable to be able to give birth Uumarnituq was turned into a woman.

Saint Marina/St Pelagia- she was raised a devout Christian by her father, but when she came of age to marry so devout was Marina to faith decided that living as a monk was preferable to marriage, Marina head shaved & in men's clothing headed to Qannoubine. Whilst living living there one of Marina's tasks meant staying the night at an inn as work took Marina out of the confines of the monastery, Marina was accused of getting the innkeeper's daughter pregnant, although the father was actually a soldier who was also staying there. Marina accepted the blame & was subsequently evicted from the monastery & raised the child, after ten years of being a beggar outside the monastery walls she was allowed back in but was given hard labour as penance, it was only at Marina's death did they realise that brother Marina was a woman& mourned at the harsh treatment given wrongly to her.

St Wilgefortis- another devout Christian who escaped marriage, she was the daughter of a Christian mother & a Pagan King prayed to be unappealing to her Pagan suitor & in return sprouted a beard. Her suitor was put off by this & her father was furious & sacrificed her life.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Trans Remembrance Day

Today I wore a sprig of rosemary, in the language of flowers it means remembrance. Trans Remembrance Day should not need to exist as no one should be killed or persecuted into taking their own life because of their gender identity, but it does exist as unfortunately these things happen all to often, so the fact that this day does occur & people care does put a little bit of hope & faith in humanity back in my heart. It started in remembrance of Rita Hester in 1998, the murder is is as yet unsolved, this year 232 trans people have been killed, that is 232 too many. The press are seem to do little to help & in many cases hinder trans rites even in this country, with Lucy Meadows being case in point, harassed by the press so much that she felt that ending her life was her only option. This should not be happening, instead of trans people being an easy target for shaming & persecution they should not be a target at all. I was at a remembrance service today, it was non religious, but the impact was just as great, what was the most saddening part about the whole thing was the number of unidentified people, no family or friends claimed them as one of their own, seeming like they had no one to turn to or had barely even existed. This to should not be happening, regardless of someone's gender identity they should not be treated as outcasts & it saddens me that it does. My thoughts go out to all the friends & families of these people who lost their lives because of their gender identity & my thoughts go out to all those living with the horrors of transphobic bullying.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Wild Weather & Climate Change

Sorry I haven't posted for a couple of weeks I have not had a day off to do so. You would have to have been asleep or permanently high not to have noticed that nature has been a bit rough with us over the past couple of weeks. My prayers & thoughts go to the victims & their families of the affected areas. It appears that our weather is becoming more erratic in recent years & now even scientists are agreeing that global warming is happening & causing catastrophic effects with our weather. For all the money we spend for overseas aid to help the people who have been affected by the devastation, we may need to start thinking about what money we can put to reducing our own personal impact on the planet as far as carbon footprints are concerned. It may be as simple as making sure appliances are turned off when they are not in use or buying local & organic. Sourcing responsibly sourced items or buying in such disposable trends. We can all do our bit by looking at what we can do at home, sometimes the little things can make all the difference because if everyone did them it would no longer be a small thing being done. It would be good to see that if we all act together responsibly that such things won't get too commonplace in the world as no one should have to go through what the people in the Philippines, Illinois or Sardinia. 

Friday, 1 November 2013

Uffmoor Wood, the red path in winter

This was my walk, it was my first ever visit to the wood so did not know what to expect, other than mud & trees, I was warned how muddy it got before hand so donned scruffy trousers, wellies & a waterproof & headed out. What none of the websites tell you is that the first entrance into the wood if you are a pedestrian is about an eighth of the way around the red path & about a fifth of the way around the blue one & leaves you not even knowing that there is a yellow one. I took the red path this takes you around the perimeter of the woods which I wasn't really looking for in my walk but was rather pleasant in places none of the less. You tend to have farmland perpetually to your left which at some points is not even blotted out by trees but there is a spectacular part where two streams converge. There nature part I feel I slightly missed out on being on the outer part as I kept disturbing woodpigeons which then disturbed everything else in front of me, but I did get to hear a great spotted woodpecker, two jays & a sparrowhawk, there as also a portion of the path that had some beautiful plants including a native crab apple which was old & gnarly, I can only imagine what it looks like in spring but will check it out next spring. I probably wouldn't do the whole of the red walk again as it was a little disappointing for a woodland walk, it was more a hedgerow walk that has not been managed well. Back onto the mud it does get deep in one patch which I found to my mild peril as I got my wellie stuck in it & landed hands first when by hadn't quite realised it in time. All in all relatively pleasant if the signage is lacking at a useful point. If you are going in by car you will see a sign saying what is where.


So it was that time again last night, on reflection not bad at all, my ancestor worship went as far as meditating & leaving out a homemade candy skull for them. I was so busy yesterday I didn't feel that I had enough time to do the spiritual side of things before being spark out on the sofa. With an early short shift I thought at work I could cope with what the evening threw at me, but with getting a pumpkin tagine with couscous ready as well as picking a pumpkin that was really a deformed courgette to be a Jack o'Lantern I was exhausted. the house decoration was limited to the pumpkin & & yellow chrysanthemums, I don't really go for the the plastic tat so much especially since we were heading out to a family party where they do go for the plastic novelties, they aren't Pagan & have young kids who they don't want to take out trick or treating as they don't feel right knocking on stranger's doors asking for sweets, which is understandable. What did become apparent from the trick or treaters that arrived at our house is that they appreciated I went to the effort of baking bat biscuits instead of plying them with yet more sweets & I got oohs & genuine thanks off them which actually felt good. I do feel however I felt a little disconnected with the meaning of it this year through pure planning as this was the first time I have lived on a street where there is heavy trick or treat traffic & was more concerned about not having the house egged, than spending time doing ritual, so today after doing the housework I'm going for a walk to feel more connected to nature, though wellies will be required. I kinda feel I have been more of a slave to the commercial side of it this year but held steadfast to my homemade beliefs at the sacrifice of honouring the dead as I usually do. I hope my passing nod in the chaos of the day was sufficient, but will think of them whilst out walking. Take care guys hope you had a good one.