My Trip to Glastonbury Tor

10 02 2007

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As I approached Glastonbury Tor, my mind began to float freely and follow the spiral that my feet ascended up to the top. All around me was still; I had been lucky enough to get to the site early, and no other pilgrims were around. I climbed slowly, listening to my own breathing and the occasional birdsong. Feeling a bit chilled, I realized that I was beginning to walk through swirling mist. It lay thick on the ground, and was beginning to rise like water around my legs. I was slightly concerned, but felt my mind relax into the mist, becoming one with it.

I continued to walk as though by instinct, and eventually reached the top of the Tor. I had expected to find the standing tower of the chapel of St. Michael de Torre, but instead encountered the most curious wall of vegetation. It climbed high above my head and was intertwined with all manner of viney flowers whose faces peeped from within and on the surface of the hedge. I walked around it, realizing that it was some sort of circular wall. Eventually, as I traversed its circumference, I reached an opening. I peered within, seeing only darkness and mist, with a limited amount of light to the left. I turned to look back at the surrounding lands, and noted that the sun was just clearing the horizon directly facing me, hitting me full in the eyes. Dazzled, I stepped back into the opening of the hedge, and it immediately closed, trapping me within the greening corridor. I was frightened. My breathing quickened and my heart pounded.

As my eyes dilated with fear, I began to make out details of my prison. It appeared almost as a hallway, leading to the unknown. I tried to regain the exit, but the opening was now a solid wall and could not be penetrated by my hand, which I plunged into it again and again. Finally yielding, I cradled my scratched and bloody hand and wrist, panting for breath. I saw that I had no choice. I must move ahead. Invoking the goddess and kissing the trio of crystals that I wear on a chain around my neck, I stepped forward.  As I walked, my eyes became accustomed to the gloom and I soon realized I was in a labyrinth. Having walked a labyrinth before, I quickly fell into a meditative state which deepened with each step. Without realizing it, I had begun to chant:

Roots reaching into the earth,
Down to the depths of the Earth
Life flowing from the world’s heart,
Cerridwen, Thou art.

Trees reaching up to the sky,
Trees with their limbs in the sky.
Stars, nestled sweet on thy bough,
Cerridwen, art Thou.
 

This chant was unknown to me. In fact, I was chanting in another language completely. I stopped, surprised, and the chanting immediately stopped as well. I tried to summon it again to my lips in vain. It was not until I walked on and fell back into reverie that I could sing it once again. I was channeling the song, and it felt as though it came straight up from the earth into my chest and out my throat and mouth. I continued to walk, and the chanting became louder, my own voice joined with the voices of others, and although I looked around, I saw no one. The chant carried me along, and suddenly, I was in the center of the labyrinth, standing in a large central clearing. Trees and shrubs surrounded a clear pool, with a tumbling waterfall creating a musical sound that blended with the chant. I moved toward the pool, aware of rustling and movement in the grasses and shrubs around me. I turned my head quickly many times, but caught glimpse of no one. Seating myself on a large flat rock, I dipped my hand into the pool, and drank deeply of the clear water. As I raised my head, mouth dripping, I saw a woman.

She was the most astonishing creature—her visage appeared to constantly change, her appearance first that of a beautiful young maiden, then a woman lush and heavy with child, and then a magnificent old crone. She wore a gown of indeterminate color, but radiant, and a large raven sat upon her shoulder. Her flickering appearance was troubling at first, but eventually my eyes became used to the sight and my brain interpreted her as simply “trinity.” She held a silver bowl out to me.

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“Drink, my lady.” I reached toward her as in a dream. She plunged the bowl into the pool, filling it to the brim, and handed it to me. I took it with both hands and drank deeply. The water ran down the sides of my face as I quenched a thirst deeper than that I had ever known. I felt a sudden tremor and dropped the bowl, sinking back onto the rock. Suddenly I was within and above myself at once, and traveling over the landscape at a breakneck pace. I was held gently within the air, and as I looked down upon my body, I saw silver streams emanating from all of my limbs. I flew, weightless, into the sky, moving across the earth toward the night, toward the stars and the moon on the other side of the globe, and then flew faster and faster until at last I began to uncoil, as does a spool, and leave a trail of silver behind me, seen from earth, no doubt, as a comet or a falling star. This continued for some time as I became lighter and more ethereal. Finally, I began to slow, and I became aware that I had changed. I was pure energy, just a point of pure energy dancing in the great hall of the universe, and all around me I could sense other points vibrating and moving, pulsing toward and away from one another. I was a point, individual and whole, but part of a collective as well. The feeling was magnificent, the singularity and collectivity of childbirth or sexual ecstasy—I wanted to stay in this form forever!But gradually, I could feel the pull of the earth and the tides, and I realized I was moving in the opposite direction, gaining ethereal matter, becoming more substantive, moving toward the sunrise. I traveled long, and landed back in my body, lightly, and with more than a little regret. The woman stood before me, smiling, and holding the bowl.

“Welcome, young one. You are reborn. Go forth in splendor.” I smiled at her flickering selves, and fingered the three crystals at my neck.

“Blessed Mother,” I murmured, bowing my head and closing my eyes. I felt cool dry lips on my forehead. I lifted my head, opening my eyes, and found myself in front of the tower of the chapel. A crowd of tourists was beginning to gather. I decided to skip the tour, and headed back down the Tor, chanting softly to myself.  

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Essential Sloughing

4 02 2007

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It is winter, cold and bitter. The temperatures are far below usual norms, wind chill hovering around zero each day when I awaken. The skies are blue and sunny, but the lie is revealed when the wind hits your skin, fairly shocking you as it pulls your breath away. Winter’s grip is icy and sharp, and has held us for nearly a month. My skin is dry and parched, positively flaking at times. As I await the rebirth that is spring, I wonder: is the Great Mother signaling me that I am ready to slough off this skin, to be reborn?

As I travel ever closer to my first major destination on this grand tour, I decide that I should perform a ritual cleansing, to make ready for a meeting with the Lady of the Lake.

I gather my ingredients:

2 cups sea salt
1/2 cup almond oil
1/2 cup macadamia nut oil
1/2 cup sesame seed oil
1 tsp. vitamin E
1 tb. dried, ground lavender, rosemary, mint
1-2 drops essential oils

I mix them carefully, focusing and holding my intentions for the coming year as I add each one. I end up with a thick fragrant paste. I enter the old bathhouse, and spy Eclectica lounging with a book in the corner. She tosses me a saucy wink and jerks her head in the direction of the pools. I stand naked before the water, summoning thoughts of all that has occurred in the last cycle of the seasons that I wish to cast aside, as a snake casts its skin to the forest floor. Taking handfuls of the salt scrub, I anoint my body and scrub vigorously, feeling the lovely scratch of the salt, the soothing slip of the oil, and inhaling the delicious aroma of the herbs. In moments I am glowing from head to toe, warm and invigorated. I step into the bath and move freely through the warm water, floating as the past year is washed away. I emerge to a smiling Eclectica holding a warm towel, in which she wraps me, saying, “Welcome back, dearie!”

Once dry, I slip on a fine linen chemise, which glides against my silky skin. Eclectica places a flower in my hair and brings me a mug of hot tea. “Brand new, darling. Good as new.” I sigh deeply, and as I close my eyes to rest, I see a swirling mist, and through it, the beautiful face of the Lady.





Trains and Rivers

28 01 2007

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Boarding the train to Glastonbury made me think of the movie “Sliding Doors.” In the movie, different realities occur as doors of a train slide open and closed. Entirely different lives of the same characters unfold based on the door selected and the time at which each character passed through. In my mind, I sometimes engage in some sliding door imagination, envisioning what my life would be like had I chosen different doors. One tends to cheat at this game, imagining that one would end with say, the same children, only later on; or perhaps the same circle of friends, but then, that’s not quite true, or possible, is it?

 

For many years my gameplaying went something like this: If I had just been strong enough to stand up for myself, I would have become a “real artist.” I would be teaching in a classroom every day, and years of study would have created within me a discipline for the daily work of an artist—daily creative work being in no way my forte at the present. My life would have been full of travel, color, eccentricity, and passion. As I ponder this thought, nurturing the deep pain that it brings (has always brought), I notice the train is following the banks of a river.

 

As we know, water is a powerful force, shaping the very face of our world. But it is also a meek force at times, one that seeks the easy way, the way most traveled, the lowest points in any surface, where it settles and waits, reflecting the sky above in its still surface. In my younger years, this was my movement: the path of least resistance, following the way set for me, eventually running to ground, settling and reflecting a life created for me by someone else.

 

As a lake or small pond can do, I settled within my boundaries, satisfied. As water does, I birthed life. Two times, in fact; both delivered in a gush of the primordial stuff, and then I lay still again, waiting. In time, through a process quite mysterious—osmosis, absorption, evaporation, cloud seeding?—(I don’t recall the transformation of matter lectures very clearly)—I once again became forceful, cataclysmic, and I ripped through the landscape destroying many things in my path and forging a new channel in the earth. No longer a pool, a puddle, a still well of liquid, I joined once again with the river—she of many tributaries, she of the rapids, the slow eddy, the small waterfall, the deep and unpredictable currents.

 

So I find myself, now, in this riverbed, this bed of color, unpredictability, freedom, art, and wildness, and I see that moving like water has brought me here, brought me to a place of passion and, yes, instruction. My life is instructive, its course illustrative of one thing—motion, in any direction, brings change. I have movement, flow, power. And as I step off this train, I realize that all doors lead to me.





Astronavigation

27 01 2007

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Capricorn, my personal constellation

Latitude, longitude, declination, hour angle, zenith, horizon…

I sail internal seas, seeking course correction as necessary, looking to the stars, the sun, the moon, the horizon as I steer my vessel. [The geographic position—GP—is the location on the earth immediately underneath a heavenly body, e.g. the sun or a star. That is, the GP is the point where a line from the center of the body to the center of the earth intersects the surface of the earth.] My heart line runs true, through a sea of rippling, undulating grass straight to Vulcan, blowing his mighty breath on earth’s molten liquid core.

[Latitude: 38.971N, Longitude: -95.235W.] Intersecting grids that become curvilinear as they wrap themselves around our mother connect me with all other beings, all other spaces. I am the intersection of time, DNA, cellular knowledge, and imagination. My latitude streaks from pole to pole, ricocheting wildly between two magnetisms, art and science. My longitude is one of many Great Circles, within which I am held.

When I know my position—revealed in degrees, much like truth—I can calculate my azimuth. [The azimuth is the bearing from our position to the GP of the heavenly body.] The azimuth, my quantified relationship to the Heavenly Body, is closer or further from my true position depending on the day, the internal weather, and the inclination or declination of spirit that is present in this vessel. Heavenly Bodies may be static or in motion, leading, at times, to a profound sense of disorientation.

The horizon splits heaven from earth [or sea.] What is possible, what is real, is defined by the horizon. Our expanse can be limitless, carried in the trust that we will not sail off the edge [but over and beyond]; or we may be trapped in fear, imprisoned within the harsh impenetrable edge of our world.

Throw away your charts and books. [Navigating by stars and planets alone.] Make your measurements of stars and planets at dawn or dusk, when the light is balanced, and both the horizon and celestial objects are visible. In the moment of perfection, [light/ dark, yin/yang, male/female, joy/sorrow, birth/death] we see perfectly: our way clear, godspeed, sea smooth as glass.





My guide and companion

1 01 2007

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On this tour, my companion will be my dear Aunt Therese. A formidable woman, she spent time in a convent as a young woman, but shortly before taking her final vows, she experienced an awakening of her personal sense of power. The night before she was to take her vows, she dreamt of a white owl, which flew into her cloistered cell through the small window that was positioned so high, she could not see out. The owl landed on her chest, and she felt its great weight, as it peered into her eyes with its own large orbs. She stared, terrified, and it snapped its beak at her and uttered one word, in a tone full and low: “Freedom.” It flew away then, and dazed, she fell back into slumber. The next morning when she awoke at first dawn, she found a single feather on her breast. She packed her few things, left the convent, and has travelled the world, dedicating herself to a life of freedom and to helping others, especially women, children, and animals, to do the same. She will meet me at designated points along the journey.





Packing my bags…

30 12 2006

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My primary goal on this tour is enjoying what is at hand, so I had planned to pack quite lightly and just take what I felt were the essentials–sturdy clothing, a mess kit, and art supplies. But one day last week, I heard a knock at my door, and opened it to find absolutely no one….however, a large package sat on my stoop, and I brought it into the house with great curiosity. My dog Katy sniffed it cautiously, and I walked around it, looking for some clue as to its origin. Finding none, I retrieved some scissors, and with great care, slit open the brown paper wrapper. Inside was a magnificent carpetbag, woven from some sort of kilim-type fabric, with sturdy valise handles and a bronze clasp that looked like two hands in prayer position. I opened the bag. I could have sworn I felt the faintest breeze, warm and spicy with odors of cinnamon and cumin, caress my face. I felt deep inside the darkness of the bag, and pulled out a garment, plain but somehow radiant, a soft, voluminous fabric that slithered through my fingers like silk. It was a cape! Pinned to the cape was this note:

“Dear Karen: This bag contains everything you need for your journey. You have but to reach inside and you will be given whatever you need–note: I say need–not want. I understand your goal for the journey is to gain a full appreciation for what is, what you have, and what you take for granted. We all wish for the moon, but oftentimes the stars are enough. Journey in good health,”

She Who Is

This journey may be more than I bargained for.