Happy All Hallows Eve (Hallowe’en or Samhain to you)!

Hallowe’en

Punkie3 © Angela Porter 2010

Well, it’s that time of year again isn’t it?  And it’s another time to consider the truth vs. “The Truth“.  “The Truth” is that this is an ancient pagan holiday, mainly thanks to the writings of Frazer in ‘The Golden Bough’ where he cites this as The Truth, yet there is little evidence if any for it being so (see Hutton “The Stations of the Sun’ for more details)!

There were fairs and courts held in ancient Ireland at this time, a time called Samhain by them.

The Venerable Bede writes that this time of year was known as ‘Blod Monath’ which means Blood Month – the month where all unnecessary animals were slaughtered to save fodder and the people would feast on the parts that could not be preserved.

The truth is that it’s actually more of a Christian celebration in origin!  Today is the eve of a major Catholic festival – All Saints Day (1st November) which dates from the 8th Century.  All Souls Day (2nd November) was instituted around the year 1000 as a day to pray for the dead.  In England since the 19th Century, and increasingly in the 20th and 21st Centuries, it has gained a reputation as a night on which ghosts, witches and fairies are especially active.  Why this should be so is debatable, and returns to the truth vs. The Truth.

Different sections of society have claimed it for their own, or are rejecting it as being their own.  Who is right?  Everyone!  One thing is certain, Hallowe’en is big business, especially in America, and increasingly so here in Britain.

There are many traditional events and activities here that are overshadowed by the sheer bad behaviour and malice that a minority seem to partake in with delight.  It is an aspect of this time of year that I dislike…and I don’t need to say any more about that.

I do think it’s good that children can face their fears in a safe, measured and fun way.  We all like to be scared in a safe environment; if we didn’t then the horror films and books and games wouldn’t appeal to us.  It’s part of growing up, learning to manage our fears, to indulge in imagination, to experience a different world of wonder.  It’s not just Hallowe’en that allows children to explore this; the traditional fairy stories aren’t all sweetness and light are they?

As to it being a festival that promotes evil and satanism, well, I don’t think so.  Those who would be drawn to such systems would be regardless of Hallowe’en, lets be honest.

As much as I can be pedantic about ‘the truth’ and I like to know where the traditions and beliefs have come from (the scientist, researcher in me will not be denied), I also know that traditions change and evolve over time.  What is important, perhaps more than anything else, is that traditions link us together.  We can be sure that we are not the only ones having fun at this time, indulging in shared events, and it is that sharing that reaffirms that we are all connected in some way.

Auragraphs

Auragraph for Liz © Angela Porter 28 October 2010

Auragraphs are intuitive works of art that result from a sensitive person ‘tuning into’ another person’s energy, aura, being.  The colours, shapes, symbols and patterns all have meanings that can be interpreted, giving an insight into the recipients personality, life, and potential.  I’ve been experimenting with them for the last couple of months, and yesterday I was showing them to people at an open day at a local spiritual organisation.

A couple I had already done found their way to the people they were meant for.  Orders were taken for another couple, and all the proceeds are going into the organisations funds as donations.  It was an interesting experience for me in many ways.

Giving the interpretation (reading) for the recipient was interesting, and it was nice that they were so right.  Working with someone who wants one done for them and allowing the images/shapes to flow on to paper – just as sketches – and talking about why they are appearing and what they mean, and getting feed back on that was very interesting.

The two ordered have only been done as sketches; they will take around 12 hours each to complete, so that will keep me busy, as will writing down the readings for those verbally given will be interesting!  I really do need to carry my digital dictaphone with me more often I think.

The Ghost Train

Punkie1 © Angela Porter 2010I actually made it to the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway yesterday, after the open day at Treforest.

I didn’t arrive until around 5:30pm and most of the visitors had been and gone.  I did get to read one story to one family.  And that was fine.  Though I did enjoy winding up small children in a nice way, as well as saving them from the scary vampire who was stalking the carriages!  I do hope I’ll get to read some more stories today …

I really enjoy story telling /reading.  It’s another shared activity that bonds people together, allows them to make connections, and it’s also an opportunity for imaginations to be used, something that isn’t done so often these days.

This may be my last time at the railway, however.  I find the connections I once thought I had there are now very weak, if not non-existent.  Things change, which leads me to …

What All Hallows Eve Means to Me

Autumm Leaves © Angela Porter 2010

I always think of All Hallows Eve (Hallowe’en to you!) as mid-Autumn.  It certainly is this year; the world is wearing its coat of glorious flaming Autumn hues!  I love it when I drive along through a flurry of leaves blown off the trees by a sudden gust of wind.  The warmth of the colours envelops me as I journey around the world, a warm memory is being stored to see me through the cold, dark days of Winter.

The Earth is preparing to sleep through those Winter days, taking a hard-earned rest before coming to life again in the Spring.  All that is unnecessary, finished with, complete  is being shed, the falling leaves being symbolic of that.

As this clearing out happens out in the world of Nature, so it happens within.  It’s time to look back on the year, to give thanks for what is complete, finish that which is almost complete, and let go of that which is finished, has served its purpose, that we have outgrown.  In doing so we make space in our lives for further personal growth.  And this is the potted version of how I relate to this particular spoke on the wheel of the year.

For me, it seems the railway is to go.  My SmartCar and all her problems have gone.  I may soon be finished with counselling … but we’ll see about that, there’s still my self-image, confidence, self-love to be worked on.  I’m not sure about anything else, but that will become apparent as time goes on.

Sunday wittering

Trains

Anyone would think Mercury is retrograde with all the transport problems I’ve had lately!

Today it  continued.  I had a talk to give in Cardiff around 11am.  I’d checked train times and there was one from my local station at 10:09 that would get me there by around 10:30am – perfect!  I also have a talk in Merthyr this evening, and so was going to travel by train there.   I wandered down to the train station for around 10:00 to give me time to get tickets for both journeys.

I got there to find that all the trains between Cardiff and Treherbert, Merthyr Tydfil, Aberdare and Rhymney had been replaced by buses.

Wouldn’t have been a problem except the bus journey takes twice as long as the train and I’d be too late for the talk this morning.  So, I phoned the organiser (thank goodness for mobile phones!) who was gracious enough to say not a problem she’d sort something out.  I think phoned the organiser for this evenings talk, and she said she’d come and pick me up and bring me back again afterwards.

Its no one’s fault really.  I knew I should have checked for engineering works over the weekend, and didn’t.  Ho hum!

Personal Progress

It’s at times like this, when I recognise how I would have reacted in the past to these kinds of situations, that I realise how much positive work has been done through the counselling sessions I have.

In the past I would have been blaming myself, really taken myself on a guilt trip that would lead to a dark place.  I wouldn’t have slept, would have worried myself stupid, found it hard to organise myself or do anything by myself.

This time, and this is not the first time I’ve had a car die on me, I’ve coped really well.  I do need to find my insurance details so I can arrange the insurance for the Corsa. I need to find the log-book for the SmartCar so I can arrange for it to be sold for parts/breaking/scrap.  And I need someone who can take the radio out of the SmartCar and install it in the Corsa for me.  I’m fact, I’m quite pleased with myself, and that in itself is a big step forward for me too.

Knitting

I have a couple of premature baby wraps and funeral gowns now made to send to Cuddles.  I have, and am, enjoying the process of knitting.  The book on Mindful Knitting arrived on Friday, and I’ve quickly scanned the introductions and some of the sections about how knitting can be a mindful practice, and I recognise much of it as a process I enter into when I find myself lost in art, not that I’ve done much art lately – wool, knitting needles, patterns, finished items and other paraphernalia of the craft cover the table I usually use to do art upon.  Today, though, I got a small wicker laundry basket that has a linen liner  to keep the yarns and stuff in in an attempt to have them easily to hand but also neatly in one place instead of scattered all over.  That purchase was one of the good things from not going to Cardiff this morning and walking through my town to do some shopping.  I don’t think the basket is big enough on getting it home, but it will help to organise things, so long as the puss-cat doesn’t decide they are there for him to mess with!

Catching up, customs, celebrations.

Catching up…

With the return to work last week, research and blogging has had to take a back seat, especially as my evenings and Saturday have been busy.  I noticed I’ve missed two days of  note in the calendar!

Two days of work and I’m shattered.  Mind you, that tends to happen being  a teacher.  The long summer break gives me the time to rest, relax and almost totally de-stress.  Unfortunately, it takes mere minutes for some of the good work to be undone.  Keeping up with my meditation regimen when I rise and before I sleep, and at lunch or during preparation time during the day usually helps me to keep the escalation of stress to a minimum, but it doesn’t eliminate it totally…not yet.  Recognising the automatic thoughts and reactions and then working to change them to more healthy versions is slow going, my mind has had a lifetime to reduce this self-talk to a susurrus that I have to be very cunning to clearly hear.

Isn’t susurrus a wonderful word?  It sounds like quiet, secretive whisperings.  A wonderful onomatopoeic word!  I like alliteration as well as onomatopoeia!

3rd September – Cromwell Day

On this day, The Cromwell Association commemorate his death with an open-air service in front of his statue outside the Houses of Parliament, London, where they lay a wreath there.  Only members of the Cromwell Association may attend, but the public can see and hear the ceremony from the public pavement.

70013 Oliver Cromwell is a Britannia Class (BR Standard Class 7) steam locomotive.

3rd September – Merchant Navy Day

Merchant seamen have long felt that their service’s significant contribution to the war effort has long been undervalued and it is one of the aims of the Merchant Navy Association to raise the profile of the Merchant Navy and celebrate its importance to Britain, both in the past and the present.  As part of this mission in 2000 they declared 3rd of September to be Merchant Navy Day.  This day was chosen as it also commemorates the sinking of the unarmed merchant vessel the SS Athenia on 3 September 1939, the first day of the Second World War.  All nineteen crew and ninety-three passengers were lost.

4th September – Abbots Bromley Horn Dance

On the Monday following the local Wakes Sunday (i.e. the first Sunday after 4 September, or Old St Bartholomew’s Day), the village and surroundings of Abbots Bromley in Staffordshire, England, UK, are visited by a unique set of dancers.  The team consists of six men, each carrying a splendid pair of reindeer antlers, plus a Fool, a Maid Marian (played by a man), a hobby horse, a bowman (who twangs a bow), a musician and a triangle player.

At 8 a.m., they set out from the village church and perambulates the parish, visiting key houses, farms and other places and at each stop they perform their dance.  It is thought to be unlucky if they do not visit your house or neighbourhood.  Around 8 p.m. they return to the village and perform their final dance in the street.

The horns are kept in the church when not in use.  They are genuine reindeer horns, mounted on wooden heads, with a handle protruding from below to allow the dancers to carry them as they dance.

There is a lot of speculation about the origin of the custom.  Many have connected it to a fertility ritual, an ancient ceremony to ensure successful hunting, or of some common right or privilege in regard to the chase, but none of these ideas is supported by evidence.  It may be that the hobby horse is older than the horn dance, and hobby horses were used in the C16th to collect taxes and dues owed to the lord of the manor; whether the horse made the collections or whether it was there to entertain and sweeten the process of money-gathering is not known.

4th September – Barnet Horse Fair

This horse fair was chartered in 1588 and for centuries was one of the busiest livestock marts in the region, although Barnet’s real fame lay in horse-racing which drew large and unruly crowds from London until it ended in 1870.  A mere shadow of its former self, Barnet Horse Fair is now held at Greengates Stables on 4, 5 and 6 September, unless one of those dates is a Sunday, in which case it continues on the following day.

Trains and seasonal stations

Riding the rails

Sir Nigel Gresley from http://www.copyright-free-photos.org.uk

Yesterday was a bit of a day.  I have a weekly morning appointment that often leaves me feeling very emotional.  I’ve been travelling there and back by train while I’ve been on holiday.  However, next week I return to work and the early morning train journeys will cease as I will have to get to work asap after my appointment.  I went to the Forum Coffee Lounge in Merthyr Tydfil for a pot of tea and some cake – I settled on a flapjack this week.  It has to be said, the Forum has the most gorgeous home-made cakes and traditional puddings, and they are very reasonably priced.

After enjoying the tea and nibble and recording my thoughts in my Luddite-journal,I decided to get a Day Ranger ticket,  and travel around South Wales.  The day was turning out to be a beautiful late summer day, the world lit with a soft golden light that presages Autumn so wonderfully.  I thought it would be nice to just to watch the world go by and for nothing more than the joy of moving from place to place, a chance to get my thoughts and emotions back into order, and to take a day out.  And so I did.  And it was lovely and relaxing.  I wish my train had been a steam train, like Sir Nigel Gresley, an A4 Pacific.  But the haulage by various diesel units was adequate and did the job of allowing me to relax.

I do find train travel relaxing.  I can’t run away from what I need to examine internally or work on creatively while travelling in such a way.  I have my journal with me, I write in it as I need to and work my way through things and find my balance once again.  Steam engines I love, but any locomotive will do in such circumstances.

Changing seasons

Rosebay Willowherb

The world is certainly moving towards Autumn in these here necks of the woods.  The quality of the light is changing, becoming more golden as the Sun’s strength wanes as we move further away from the Summer Solstice towards the Autumn Equinox.  There’s plenty of strength in the Sun to warm the Earth during the day, but the early mornings, late evenings and nights have that wonderful chill that heralds the coming of the magnificence of Autumn.

It really is my favourite time of year.  I adore the glowing warm colours and I start to eagerly look around me for signs of the changes, and yesterday I saw them.

The profusion of red haws on the hawthorn trees like seeds of the fire that will blaze soon.  There were the very occasional flash of  bright yellow leaves on the beech trees.  My ‘flame’ trees (some kind of maple or sycamore I think) were crowned with darker green leaves that had hints of a deep burgundy in them.  Ferns were beginning to turn yellow and then brown after being baked by the Summer Sun.  Fluffy seeds from rosebay willow herb.  Just hints, promises of the beauty of the colours yet to come.

The cycle of the seasons

I’ve always felt a close connection to the cycle of the seasons.  Without knowing why, I’ve always felt a deep ‘attachment’ to the solstices and equinoxes and have had an understanding of how they link to the cycles of human life and experience.

I have my own way of observing these astronomical (and astrological) stations of the year, ways that have developed over the past few years since I started to explore and find ways of expressing my spirituality and beliefs.  It has always seemed natural to me to acknowledge these stations of the year in some way.  As I’ve developed, so have my practices, sometimes I feel guilty about not spending as much time on them, having abbreviated them to the pure essence of what they are about, but I work hard on reminding myself that as we change, grow, develop, so must our practices and the way we do things.  When we learn something new, we do it with great attention to all the details, learning from this, but as our understanding and skill develops, we learn what is truly essential and leave out those parts that are superfluous to ourselves, our individuality.  Of course, they may be incorporated once again later if they are found to be required once again, but I do believe that by cutting away a lot of the faff and fluff you get to the core of the practice and the focus and intent is greater as a result.  The more in tune you are with the process, the less fuss is needed to make the connections that are needed.  But that’s me …simplicity wherever possible.