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 ;)

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Pony Tales


Well, it's been a long time since I talked about the ponies, so I think it's time I updated you.
(The truth is that the painting work has been painful and personal of late, and I'm not quite ready to explain it here yet !)
Anyway, this is  a great long, rambling post, so please accept my apologies for waffling on ....and on.....
There have been a lot of changes afoot in the last year. I think the last update was here, just over a year ago, explaining where we had got to with Captain. He has gone from strength to strength this year, still ridden by the Fey Daughter, despite having to fold her great long legs up. He has represented our Pony Club in Area Dressage and Mounted Games teams, learnt circus skills and really discovered cross -country jumping.

I'm so proud of the pair of them!

And, despite my slight anxiety, and him being by far the smallest, at 14.1hh, he managed to keep up with all the big horses in the top ride at Camp this year.
Thankfully the fey daughter still adores him, and doesn't want to relinquish him for bigger and fancier horses, for which I am inordinately grateful!


The next project this summer was  Peregrine who I bought at the drift sales in 2010, to keep my own homebred weanling Kestrel company.
Both boys were 4 this summer, and well over-due to start work. Plans had changed somewhat for these two. In the early days I had assumed that we would break them both in, and the girls would ride them on for a year or so, and then I would be selling them to raise funds for bigger ponies. Sadly, I hadn't bargained on the children growing quite as fast as they did - both girls are now way taller than me, despite the owl daughter still being only 12. So this scuppered the plans somewhat.


Kestrel has only made 12.3hh, although I expect he'll come up another inch as he matures. He is very striking, nicely put together, and moves beautifully, and has the potential to show at county level. But sadly, not with us. Luckily, my aunt has taken him on, to produce for her grandchildren.


Peregrine, on the other hand,  surprised us all by reaching 13.3hh. So we broke him in, slowly and gently, and he has turned out to be a superstar. Brave and eager to learn, with an insatiable curiosity for life!
He has been amazing, and we were very lucky to find him a lovely home too at the end of this summer.


However, the most amazing and wonderful story of all has been that of Will. You may remember when he came to us 3 years ago.



These 2 pictures show him on the day he arrived with us.



There was a lot of work to do, and we very slowly began it.
Then disaster struck. He went badly lame - it turned out to be inflammation of his annular ligament (the circular ligament around his rear fetlock, which was in turn rubbing on the tendon). He was very overweight, and that, combined with starting work albeit walking, and moving onto a hilly field is probably what caused it. It tool nearly four months for it to flare up, and go down again, and then the other leg did the same thing.





So I put him on a strict diet and turned him away for nearly 8 months.


When he finally came sound, having lost enough weight to find a saddle that would fit, I began again, and THEN he trod on a blackthorn, which meant another 6 weeks off work.
I was starting to think it wasn't meant to be.


But finally, more than a year after he arrived, he came right in early February 2013, and I was able to start riding him.


Here he is with Captain. The two boys are absolutely best friends. They share everything, even their dinner, with never so much as a scowl at each other.
This was great as we started work. Will was like a big baby - 15 years old at this point but having never done more work than a newly started 4 year old. He was very lacking in confidence - willing, but anxious about doing new things, particularly by himself. 


We kept on working, in my limited spare time. He was still nervous in heavy traffic, but by mid spring he was ready to escort a pony club ride out over the moor (in the most atrocious bitter wind and snow!)





 
By early summer he had come on enough that I managed to persuade the fey daughter to start taking him to her training sessions occasionally.


Slowly , slowly, he began to learn how to bend a little, although he was terribly heavy and on the forehand to begin with.


He even managed to learn to jump a little pole, although I have to admit this was very hard work! It took him a long time to realise that he could pick his feet up, and he although he never stopped, he had a tendency to just bulldoze through obstacles.
However, at 15 years old, and with slightly stiff hocks, I was so pleased that he was jumping at all, and to be completely honest, as I intended him to just be my nice forward thinking hack across the moor, I didn't need him to do more than this.


By the end of the summer, he was well able to do a 2 day camp ride across the moor, 20 miles of rough open moor in all. We had a fantastic time :)


And he was unrecognisable as the horse that first came to us!


By the beginning of this year, the owl daughter had grown far too big for her beloved little Matthew pony, so they were having to share the boys.


Captain and Will learned to do more and more.


By this point in time, Captain was pretty bomb proof anyway. I knew he would be quite happy to do a circus skills workshop, but Will has always been more anxious and spooky, and I wasn't sure how he would cope.


We took it very slowly, and to my amazement, by the end of the day, he was quite happy to have the girls standing on him, hula hooping, swinging pois and waving ribbons all over the place.


Such a brave pony!




In the meantime, the fey daughter wanted to reclaim Captain, as she had teams to train for, and fun to have.


So I had a dilemma. The owl daughter needed a new pony. She was reluctant to try Will, thinking he was big and strong, and wouldn't be any good at Pony Club. I promised I would try and save up for a new pony, but in the meantime, camp was only 8 weeks away, so I persuaded her to try Will, and take him along if we hadn't found anything else to borrow, although he wouldn't be able to jump and keep up with the experienced ponies.



And that was the beginning of a great relationship!


They have got along like a house on fire. To everyone's surprise, after a tricky start, she has taught Will to jump, 


and he has discovered that he loves it!



At pony club camp they discovered that they could do cross country and have joyfully galloped across acres of rolling parkland.
Will's especial favourite was the lake, where he would happily have plunged in and out of the water all day.



By the middle of summer he was ready to lead the others in a 1st world war re-enactment
(he is not scowling at the bunting, but at Toby, next to him, whom he took a dislike to!)


I never thought that this little horse would be capable of doing so much! He is totally amazing :)


And so here are the boys, best of friends. I have completely lost Will to the owl daughter, who adores him, but I couldn't be happier for the pair of them.


 And so, for me, it's time for a new project. As the summer began, I was offered a little horse on loan. She lovely, and I'm smitten with her, but she's not straightforward. She's a Welsh D mare, 10 years old, lovely and kind to handle on the ground, but quite green to ride. She's very nervous with big traffic, and hasn't really done any schooling or jumping. She's pretty anxious about new stuff, and I'm having a bit of a worry about how much I've taken on. She is only on loan for a year, and I suspect it may take that long to get her to settle and start working nicely. It's proving harder than I expected to take on a new horse - the boys have such big boots to fill that I can't imagine a new one ever being as versatile and able as them.



Meet Bonnie - daughter of the great Hendrewyn Deryn



Sunday, 7 September 2014

Whortleberries and wood carving


It's my favourite time of year again (well, apart from all the other times that are my favourite when they arrive!)
In these lazy end-days, we pick whortleberries.

Silent meditative hours, picking away, accompanied only by the bees on the heather. And a lizard, which is a rare and precious sight.


The names of the hills run through my head, like poetry, as we walk them.
There is magic in names.
Birch Tor, Chaw Gully, Challacombe Ridge, Golden Dagger, Vitifer , The Warren and Kings Oven.
These are the paths I tread in the last days of Summer.




With a well earned stop for tea. With unexpected whortles in it!



I have also been preparing for Devon Open Studios which is a fantastic county-wide event. It runs from Saturday the 6th of September until Sunday the 21st of September. There are hundreds of artists to visit - it showcases some of the best artwork there is. I am showing mine at Venue 17, Into the Wilds, which it really is! 


You follow the signposts, out, out, farther and farther from civilisation......


Over the beautiful bridge at Lingcombe (where you can also park your car if you don't want to drive along the rough farm track which follows)


through the farmyard


and on along the stony track (avoid the free range cows)


Until you reach Gorselands, at the very end.



This is where Bridget Thomasin lives, she paints and stitches, and writes the most wonderful poetry, all of which reflects beautifully and quietly, the landscape in which she lives so simply.
If you have an opportunity to come out here over the next couple of weeks, please grab it. Bridget doesn't show her work online, and her latest book of poetry, 'a Small Singing', published by Mudlark Press, is only available through her. It's wonderful!


I have framed up some of the 13 moons paintings for the show.
They are not for sale, but it feels good to show them.

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Greg Abel is a traditional blacksmith from Moretonhampstead.
His organic looking ironwork is beautiful.

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And Sharif Adams is a greenwood worker. He makes these incredibly beautiful turned wood bowls on a pole lathe.


And he carves spoons with an axe!


We will all be showing our work there for the next couple of weeks. It's worth the trip, just to see Bridget's beautiful garden and have a slice of homemade cake!

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