Friday, 27 March 2015

Bonehill and Honeybags

I've been out walking a lot. Walking is a meditation, a soul soothing, a chance to put thoughts in order, or a chance to put them aside.
For me, the walking, the intimate knowing of the land, and just as importantly, the naming of the land, the poetry of place that enables you to lay a map out in your head, is something I've been obsessed with since childhood.
When I was 10 or 11, and first allowed to ride out on a borrowed pony alone, I spent hours carefully copying out sections of the Ordnance survey map, marking bridlepaths and greenways, learning the names of the crossroads  and the tracks, keeping these tiny maps first in the inner pocket of my tatty old jacket, and then, when they disintegrated from use, I kept them in my head.
This fascination with names and mapping continued on - always reading stories about historical routes around our land. A book called 'The Driftway' by Penelope Lively captured my imagination when I was about 10, and by the time I was 14, I had found myself a copy of 'The Old Straight Track' by Alfred Watkins. I studied local maps, learned place names, walked and rode old drovers paths, step after step after step, each footfall taking me deeper backwards into the past as I imagined all the feet that had trod that path before me.

This last couple of weeks I've been wandering over Bonehill Rocks, where I met a pair of Ravens, and on over Chinkwell Tor and Honeybags. Each hill has it's own character, it's own spirit of place. Though perhaps here, at Bonehill, there are many. Everywhere you turn, there are faces in the rocks.

I was tempted to paint them, to draw the characters out of the rocks

but Brian Froud does it so much better than me:

Instead, I played around a little with some rock studies,

trying to capture  the cold wintery light.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Winter doings

It's been a busy winter.  Ordinary tasks seem to take over in Winter - feeding and caring for the horses, walking dogs in the rain, and just keeping the family fed and looked after. I'm an unsociable bod, and when the days are short and the nights long, I am impossible to drag out from the fireside of an evening.

Although I am always happy to be out walking these bleak and beautiful hills in the daylight hours.
I love the way that you can feel them responding to the light returning, in the same way that I feel myself respond, and by Imbolc you know for sure that life is springing again. Even if it there are no visible signs, you can almost hear the energy just below the surface of the soil, the sap rising in the trees.

Here, in our mossy cloaked valleys, there is green even in the deepest winter.

Although the moors themselves are bleached bare, bones exposed.
Such harsh beauty.

However, winter does mean I get much more painting done than I manage in summer! I've been working my socks off, and am well on  the way through the Oracle Deck project. 12 of the 13 Moons are  completed. (I introduced them here: Thirteen Moons project  )

And all 8 of the wheel cards.

As well as that, I've had work published in the new Earth Earth Pathways Diary diary (my favourite ever diary!)

and I have had a couple of book covers published. You may remember , a few years ago, I painted a little picture of Beltane Hare ? Well, that has become the book cover for Moon Song, a brilliant and magical novel by Elen Sentier. There is an excellent review by June Kent, and purchase links for it HERE

And then I went on to paint the cover for Following The Deer Trods, also by Elen. This is a sequel to her book in the Shaman Pathways series, Elen of the Ways. Elen Of The Ways 'fell into my lap' a couple of years ago,  in the way that fate has of giving you just what you need, when you need it! It is a fascinating, well researched and insightful view into our own native spiritual heritage, and it led me to meet and subsequently go on to work with Elen Sentier.

Now, I've got several exciting projects and collaborations in the pipeline, but nothing I can share yet. In the meantime, I've got seeds to plant, and ponies to ride, and a pack saddle project to finish!


Wednesday, 19 November 2014

How to make a dream come true .......

Now, many of you will already know about the Hedgespoken project, as Tom and Rima have been doing their utmost to publicise it in order to make their dream come true.  However, for those of you that haven't yet heard, their plan is to turn this Bedford truck: 

into this fabulous travelling home, and stage, bringing their blend of magic and storytelling to far flung places, and quiet corners of this island:

In order to make this happen, they need to raise an awfully large sum of money, and so, on a sunny autumn day, friends and family wandered along to the little woodland, dressed in their best raggle taggle finery, and in between feasting by the fire, they all helped to make an amazing little film for them.

(photo by Annabel Allison from Wax Films)

We rode out there too, taking Will and Captain, dressed in their best circus pony outfits!

The fey daughter and the owl daughter (living up to their names) wore splendid outfits, mostly made by my sister, Angharad, of Atelier Bee.

A particularly owlish owl daughter with William.

And a quite otherwordly fey daughter, with Captain.

Both ponies took it in their stride - they are well used to this sort of behaviour ;)

And were mostly concerned about how they could muscle in on the feast.

(Virginia Lee and Marja Lee)
Masks, moons, and music didn't phase them in the least, outlandish outfits and fire sticks were considered normal,

But this, the dancing deer woman, bothered them deeply. Not person, not animal, the tall swaying two legged stag silhouette, really disturbed them. Even when she came to talk to them, and show them that it was a human underneath, they were not totally convinced.
Both Captain and Will kept one eye on the 'not person' for the proceedings.


Everybody made music,

and practised their circus skills (this is the Wolf boy, my son)

and ate lots!

While Tom told stories,

And the amazingly talented Annabel, turned a magical day into an equally magical little film!

So please, if you can spare a penny or two, please help them on their way, by donating HERE and even if you can't, if you have been entranced by their dream, please share it far and wide.
Thankyou :)

And if you would like to come and meet Rima and Tom, and many of the other equally talented people who featured in that film, then come along to our Winter Artisan Fayre, in Chagford, on Saturday the 6th of December, where there will be much Christmassy cheer, and many beautiful goods to purchase, and large quantities of homemade cake!

Friday, 17 October 2014

The Thirteen Moons and the Wheel of the Year

 I have steadily been working away on the Oracle deck.
This project has become intensely personal since it began. There was no 'dipping my toes in the water' with it, but instead I have been plunged deep into the waters of Myth, and Journeying, and Soul Searching. If I had known quite how rough those waters would be at times, I'm not entirely sure I would have taken the plunge, but it's been pretty amazing too, so I'm just sort of hanging on in there at the moment!

When I was first shown the deck, in dream, it was very clearly set out, in 3 layers, or subsets. The first of these is the Thirteen Moons.

 Each Moon card represents a full moon within the year, with the first moon (the Quiet Moon) being the one that falls immediately after the Winter Solstice, the start of the old year. Each moon also has an associated tree/shrub. (Although these are similar to those used in the Celtic Tree calendar as set out by Robert Graves, and also have similarities to the names used in other cultures and localities, it is not an identical list, as I am working very much with my own landscape of Dartmoor, and in my meditation and journeying, the ones I have used are the most appropriate for me)
In order, they run:
Quiet Moon : Pine (Dec/Jan)
Rising Moon: Birch (Jan/Feb)
Travellers Moon: Rowan (Feb/March)
Birth Moon: Blackthorn (March/ April)
Potent Moon: Oak (April/May)
Water Moon: Willow (May/June)
Spiral Moon: Honeysuckle (June /July)
Weavers Moon: Heather/Whortle (July/August)
Harvest Moon: Apple (August/September)
Hearth Moon: Hazel (September/October)
Blood Moon: Holly (October/ November)
Cold Moon: Ivy (November/ December)
The 13th Moon, the Singing Moon: Elder, does not fall in every year, and when it does, it comes between the Hearth Moon and the Blood Moon.

   Essentially I am trying to capture the energy and atmosphere of each full moon, and it feels really important that I paint them at the actual time of the full moon. (I missed the Weavers Moon this summer, being too too busy, and will now have to wait until next year to get that one right). I don't usually know the meaning of the card much in advance - I may have an idea, but the real meaning comes as I work on the painting.

 This painting, the Lammas one, happened exactly like that. It was slow and tricky to do. I meditated on it before hand, and clearly saw the elements needed for the card. But I scribbled around with them for several days, trying to get them into a pleasing format which also represented 'abundance' which is what I generally associate Lammas with. It just wasn't coming. In the end, I went with the image in my head (the final design for the painting above) grumbling away to myself as I did so, because it didn't really seem to represent abundance at all. As I worked it, the word that kept popping into my head, however much I tried to dismiss it, was 'implacable'. And so there it is. As usual, the card showed me it's real meaning as I worked it. 'Implacability'.

The next card is one of the 13 moons. This is the Harvest Moon, which fell on the 8-9th of September this year. I stuck with the traditional name of Harvest Moon for this one, as that is what it is usually called, certainly here on my patch of Dartmoor, but actually, in my head, this one is called something else. 
This is the Witch Moon.
This, for me, is perhaps the most magical point in the year. Of all the turning points in the year, this is the one that calls loudest to me. I can feel it, REALLY feel it  - in my body, and my heart and my soul. It is as if there is a momentary pause in the cycle of the year, as if everything is held in balance for a few days, before the wheel rolls on. Maybe it is simply because mid - September is a time of plenty - harvests are mostly in, the hedgerows are full of berries, the living is easy for a brief moment at the beginning of Autumn, and so perhaps it is just that there is finally a breathing space, a time to be still and listen. Even in a busy 21st century life I feel that, and how much more so must it have been for our ancestors? It is a time of edges, and that is where magic is found most easily. In liminal places and times, it is easy to slip between the edges.
In regards to the card, it means it is a time to cross thresholds and embrace transformation.


As well as the 13 Moon cards, there is a subset of Wheel Cards, representing the 8 major points in the Wheel of The Year.
This one is the Autumn Equinox, and it's the point at which I nearly threw the whole card idea deck out of the window! As I mentioned earlier, it has become an increasingly personal journey, and as I work each card, it seems that the meaning of each card becomes an issue that I have to work through myself. It gets a bit intense at times, and this was the worst so far. The meaning of this card is 'Truth', and my, did the Universe throw some stuff at me with this one. I worked through my own truths, got totally sucker-punched by someone else's truth, staggered back to my feet again, to find myself confronted with a whole lot more truth. In amongst this it was pretty hard to find the time or will to work on the actual painting, but I also felt that finishing the painting was the only way to reach the other side. 
Anyway, it got done, and ultimately it was all for the best (yeah, yeah, I know it's all for my own good and growth etc. - but I don't want too many lessons like that please), but it left me reeling slightly, and dragging my heels about tackling another painting!

In the end, the latest card, the 'Hearth Moon' was much more straightforward. The issue here was a more practical one - this card means  'preparation (for a trial/challenge)'. So I can busy myself with practical things this month, and give the soul searching a break ;)


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