Let me take you on a walk through a city; am impromptu Imbolc ceremony with a difference. No green pasture this, no village tree surrounded by fields…but, rather, pavements cracked with gold that speak of new beginnings. As ever, my story is straight from real life, its long, its detailed…but no detail is ever superfluous in the rich tapestry of subtle experiences that emerge to make such sense, and draw such hope, out of the ordinary and mundane. Come and spend Imbolc with me…in London, to explore some extraordinary reasons why I came home feeling “everything is going just fine” (not what you hear very often these days). I could try to break this into smaller portions or bullet points but it would really make no sense without the full account I’m about to give you, so settle in.
First let me explain something about myself as a highly-sensitive type. There is something about the lengthening days around Imbolc, the sun “holy day” half way between winter solstice and spring equinox (the first day of spring) that I experience more viscerally than those other sun days (though I feel them all in their ways)…as a fine electric current coming up through my core and into my skin, fizzing in and pulsing away to my finger tips and all my other sensory organs. At times, it also feels like an urgent “shock” or a series of pulses, like when you touch a socket with wet hands, as though designed to defibrillate the nervous system back to life after the stupor of winter. I first noticed these effects years ago, even before I gave much through to pagan calendar days, but once I put it all together with what I observe happening in Nature at this time, it all made so much sense.
Because not only do I feel these effects in myself but I notice them manifesting in nature, as shoots suddenly starting to push up from the soil, accelerating their growth, and birds becoming louder and more animated, suddenly. All around, there’s a distinct quickening in Nature at this time of year, as though an alarm bell has sounded, a signal given. Since I first began to perceive these currents of energy “spark” from the ground into my own nervous system, I’ve wondered “is this it?”, is this what Nature feels as its trumpet call to get going, even when the weather is chill and the days still just as overcast with grey? So, not a visual cue but a felt one, a shock of electricity that finely tuned nerves pick up on and can’t fail to dance to? Because I have been like that, especially this year; dancing myself up out of long hibernation to start a new tempo of life for myself (which has been the running theme of posts in my other blog lately); as though this year is the springtime of all springtimes.
Noticing this has only sharpened my awareness of other signal calls through the subtle nerves of the body; clues to other cycles turning, other calls to awaken…and there is much awakening going on right now, in my view. If you happen to track the rhythms of the Schumann resonance (earth pulse), topic of many online conversations, that has been most interesting lately; and I feel that too, before I even check the charts. Its as though there is an all encompassing signal radiating up from the core of the earth, to all of us to wake up and I notice its effect, a little more keenly, year on year even when the signs of it might be hard to perceive at surface level from “what is going on”. Whether Imbolc means “in the belly” or “budding”, as two suggestions are, the theme of it is pretty clear and its as though we are undergoing the Imbolc of all Imbolcs on some larger cycle right now (see my last post for more on the new sun cycle that is just starting); a gestation reaching its next most natural stage and, like that point when labour begins, (as every mother knows) there can be no change of heart, no avoidance of the inevitable. This thing has got too big now and has to “out”!
For the first few years that I consciously noticed this effect in myself, as actual electric nerve pulses up through my feet and legs (which happened the first spring after I become noticeably electrosensitive to manmade things…I was now super-vigilant to such pulses from all the pain I had been in for months) it was, quite literally, another source of pain and of, ironically, the kind of chronic fatigue that sent me straight back to my sofa again, curled in a ball. That same year, I tried to go to London overnight in February on a fairly spontaneous whim and managed just one day there out of the planned two, unable to sleep at all in our lovely last-minute hotel room and so fatigued the next day that I hardly moved for hours once I got home. As I’d walked the city streets, that Saturday afternoon, it was as though electric shocks were coming up through the pavement cracks, pulsing through my legs from foot to hip until I could hardly walk, it was agonising. That was the first time I got the actual sense “something is coming up at me from under the ground” and I will never forget it, though I have changed my interpretation of it.
A version of the same thing has happened every year since, though I have managed to get my man-triggered electrosensitivity mostly under control (through lifestyle changes and limited exposures). Whatever my progress in this regard, early February has remained the most eventful for the return of pulsing nerve pain and the kind of deep fatigue that comes with it, to the point I became almost reluctant to make any plans around this time of year…at least, not until March, when things suddenly pick up for me around the time of the Spring Equinox, my favourite time of year. These cycles have been pretty consistent for me, for the longest time.
Yet Imbolc is important to me and I like to mark these sun occasions “somewhere special” so I had pretty much decided to spend this year at Glastonbury as we (almost) did last year…well, we were only “out” by a few days due to a logistical hitch and, in hindsight, a very good job too as I was flat-out fatigued and in pain as ever for those few days…you see the trend.
However, this year, fate took a funny twist as tickets came up for a concert I really…I mean, really…wanted to go to and it was at Chalk Farm near Camden in London, over the actual Imbolc weekend. By that point, I was already starting to feel some sort of new potential in the air as we approached 2020; I was feeling daring and quite determined something new was afoot, that this was no time for trimming life back to old fears, so I was prepared to challenge myself regardless. So I took the gauntlet and bought the tickets anyway, yes in spite of my very logical reservations, booking a room on Airbnb to stay the night near the venue.
Perhaps it was because I still had Glastonbury in my mind but something told me I wanted to be on a hill on this Imbolc trip to London; that this would make it all alright, and so I was thrilled to find what was described as a lovely room in someone’s house on Primrose Hill, which I had never been to but I sensed it was a good place for me to be, north of the Royal oddity that is Regents Park, very close to my favourite and quite ancient little church of Old Saint Pancras. I already knew that the Primrose Hill location had associations with pagan gatherings and, well, who knows, maybe I was supposed to unearth that same feeling of sacredness in urban London that I always experience on Glastonbury’s green Tor; perhaps that was the very paradox awaiting me.
But then the host cancelled due to a a hospital summons (I knew this was the reason immediately I got the notification, even before her email followed to explain) and so I looked for last minute hotels, finding one with great reviews directly opposite the music venue (oddly, since I hadn’t come across it when I first looked for accommodation, though I had really tried to get something nearby). It turned out to be just perfect; we really liked the room and, being high up on the top floor, we had a quieter night there than we often get at home; how ironic for the centre of the city. What’s more (so far so good) nothing I was experiencing was too overwhelming for me and the concert, which was in an incredible venue “in the
round”, like an ancient pantheon, complete with domed ceiling, from before the era when the obsession with straight-sided buildings took over (The Roundhouse is an old railway turning shed with typical Victorian elaborations when it comes to internal beams), was superb. Did I mention it was Anais Mitchell…look her up if you don’t already know her (last Feb we were in London seeing her stunning stage show Hadestown) and, well in an oddly thematic way, she was heavily pregnant as she performed but that (as her band members commented) didn’t stop her doing anything…at all. I loved this building or, what was it more like…an ovum or a giant egg, glowing with multicoloured lights on the inside. It reminded me, somehow, of Silbury Hill at Avebury (another place we’ve tended to spend Imbolc) only, whereas that is moated by water when the rains have been heavy enough, as they often are at this time of year, this one was moated by pedestrians and visitors, busy roads and railway track; all the current and flow of city life.
It made me smile that we were situated at Chalk Farm, so named as it was once a settlement (derived from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Chaldecot’ which means ‘cold cottage’ or ‘cold shelter’), so no chalk under foot exactly but, at some subliminal level, it made me feel like I was staying on the Ridgeway or some other chalky hillside, not on a grimy road in London next to a tube station. I also felt as though I was tuning into the place as it once was, or at least the soil beneath my feet, as much if not more so than the present day veneer of traffic and kebab shops and, honestly, I liked the place a lot; it had such a good feel to it.
Because whenever I go to London, its as though I experience its layers (of which there are many) in parallel across a bandwidth of time from the present all the way back to the very ancient times when the earliest humans settled it and worked with the landscape in ways we so conveniently forget about now. Back in the days when we felt the soil beneath our feet, when we noticed the springing and flowing of water instead of marshalling and forcing it into canals and down sewers to suit ourselves, as well as all the telluric energy lines plus all the subtle and variable energy attributes of each location, rather than colonising every square inch of it for maximum “real estate” profit.
As I looked out of our hotel window at the endless scaffolding still populated by hard-hatted workmen, though it was now Saturday, my night-time reveries about sacred hills beneath the sprawl, led by what I felt coming up at me from the actual ground of the place, seemed to grow faint and retreat to the edges of my consciousness again, yet they never completely left me throughout the day, as we wove our way through the crowds of Camden market and jostled with the collective push towards the tube. Our first call, even before breakfast…we happened upon a Vagina Museum which, far from being crass, was full of thought provoking information (the quiz quickly flagged up how little we knew in terms of labelling female biology) and seemed to leave quite an impression upon everyone who happened to be there at the time. If some of the images on products, such as bags and mugs, in the shop were provocative for visitors passing through then perhaps this was the sign that this particular conversation is well overdue; when did we become so furtive about our female body parts? The museum was started by a group of women volunteers in response to the fact that there was no other such thing in the world at that point, which is bizarre when you think about it…how stoutly we all ignore the very thing we all birth from. Somehow, it seemed right on-theme for the day. Yes, we were in the heart of the capital on Imbolc and there was nothing in me that suggested I was in the wrong place. As ever in London, our schedule, as such, fell apart to become this organically led thing, according to what we were attracted to, where we wanted to stop and spend more time, and it was as though the streets were paved with gold…a yellow brick road leading us to where we were meant to be.
And, after all my planning, we were not on a hill but straddled between two of them that first night; with Primrose Hill to the south and Hampstead Heath to the north. There felt like some meaning to being on this dot-to-dot line of high points that pointed towards the epicentre and it formulated itself into a new desire, to join the dots with my feet. By that point, we had grabbed the opportunity to stay an extra night (thanks to our dog sitter) and booked an Airbnb for Saturday night. The decision to stay the extra night was quite spontaneous on my part and I had already acted on it during the half-hour it took out train to get to Paddington, booking the room from my phone. Wait a minute, did I say spontaneous? Who, me? Yet when those of us who are never normally spontaneous get these sudden strong urges, a pulse of intuition that makes itself so very clear, it makes us sit up and take notice, so I could tell something interesting was afoot and I had to follow it.
And the choice of where to extend our stay seemed quite obvious to me when I was scouring the numerous options; it was clearly meant to be Hampstead…that other hill due north of the one originally planned. If Primrose Hill, it turns out, has a long “modern” association with Druids going back more than a couple of centuries, then its also worth noting that the Council of British Druid Orders was inaugurated on the Summer Solstice, on Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath, in 1994 since which the annual ceremony has always taken place on one of those two hills or the other. Ross Nichols, in “The Book of Druidry”, states that Parliament Hill was once marked by the ditches and ramparts of a Bronze Age camp (implied to have been in evidence not so many generations back) which, in his opinion, would have been ineffectual as defences so they must have served as a sacred enclosure. I was drawn to these places before reading any of these quips by the way (I am only reading about the ramparts now as I write this post). Apparently Parliament Hill was previously known as Lan Din, meaning “sacred high eminence” or (as Christopher E Street in his book “London’s Ley Lines” proposes) ““high place of the gods” relative to the whole area” (he lists parliament Hill as a node on what he refers to as the Parliament Hill ley line made up of a series of other key landmarks and hills (including Alexandra Palace which I visited early last Spring…), extending north east to Enfield as part of an “Earth Star” formation of lay lines emanating from the very centre of London). Another article on London’s Celtic Heritage states: “ A ley line between here and the White Hill in the Tower of London is to them the Midsummer’s day azimuth – the line in which the sun rises on Midsummer’s day”. None of this surprises me in the least, nor does the fact my sister just told me she “happened” to visit the Tower of London (a place I find so heavy place…the overlaying effect of history) just yesterday on a rare trip to London, within forty eight hours of me being on Hampstead Heath.
I had been wanting to explore Hampstead for ages and felt oddly drawn to it (I used to have a travel poster with its name brandished on my wall as a teenager). I really loved it the one and a half times I went there in my twenties, the half being a flying visit over night, spent down the pub and sleeping on a friend’s floor but, that other time, I just wandered its streets and sat in cafes all day, loving the feeling of it, lapping it all up. Both times, I declared I would be back yet this somehow went on hold for the longest time. One of my closest uni friends moved there and I never tracked him down but the desire to do so has hovered in the back of my mind for nearly thirty years. Every time I’ve watched a film set there (and quite a lot are…) I’ve felt such a tug and promised I would get back for more thorough exploration soon but never did, until now.
This was clearly the right time and, though we had no idea what the exact location of the accommodation was until the booking was confirmed, it couldn’t have been more perfect, or central, since we were tucked right behind the High Street in a beautifully converted set of serviced apartments down a picturesque side street with cafes and quirky shops all around. There’s a reason Hampstead is still referred to as a village, its like a haven from the urban sprawl and has quite a different energy, almost as though the subliminal shrillness of urban chaos switches off as soon as you enter the zone (or, its pollution gets absorbed by all the green spaces). In fact, if Hampstead’s layout looks like a triangle, we were situated at the very centre of its pyramid, in the very point of its arrow, pointing due north to the green expanse of the Heath, which is where I really longed to go, having never got there before.
The feeling of being “like home” from the moment we arrived, with no surprises and a perfectly positioned cafe next door serving my quirky kind of food, felt like a clue I was onto something. The first thing I noticed was the BT tower in direct view from the window; we were on an uninterrupted line south to the very heart of the city (a similar direction of view to what the ancient folk must have looked along from the top of the heath when only fields and occasional settlements punctuated the panorama).
Then, over my side of the bed, offset by a shelf over the other, was the unmistakable face of Elizabeth Siddal, one of the unmistakable Rossetti redhead artworks I so love; so similar to the one I always had on my wall at the zenith of my long-running passion for the Pre-Raphaelites. This one is clutching a bunch of the yellow lilies so typical around English ponds (the one near my house sprouted a whole crop of them after work was, finally, done to clear it of years of overgrowth and human trash) and, in her hair the seven sisters of the Pleiades…only, one is obscured behind her head (presumed to make reference to the one sister that fell in love with mortal man, with all his inherent flaws, thus her light was “put out”… Siddall, Rossetti’s wife, had recently died from an overdose). Redheads, it seems, were not having their best day in the era of the Victorians; once you look beyond the immortal gloss of just so many paintings of them hung in galleries, the back-stories were often gloomy and a far cry from the redheadedness we associate with the earth-connected females of the past…
Yet, on this particular day, being also known as Brigid’s day, the red-haired woman hung above the bed only made me smile at the synchronicity, not least because of the three-way connection with another redhead I had been obsessing about.
I had spent the night before, in the dark of our hotel room after the concert, avidly researching the location of Boudicca’s grave, which I knew was rumoured to be on Hampstead Heath (except by those who state she is buried beneath platform 9 at Kings Cross Station…). The high-up Heath is said to be where she used to camp her army before sweeping down into the basin of London across the river Fleet (subject of my earlier writing; more on that below) close to where Kings Cross railway station now stands, to take on the Romans. As soon as I had intuited I wanted to stay in Hampstead on Imbolc, it came to me that this was something to do with her and some message she had to deliver to me. Strong-minded, redheaded female icons were with obviously going to accompany me on this adventure and, with my curiosity piqued, I set about observing what unfolded next.
Boudicca (or Boudicea to some), the warrior queen who led an uprising against the colonising Romans in AD60…our first documented European invaders: what do we think of when we conjure the name? I allowed myself to go off on a ramble on this topic, from all I felt I knew at the start of my weekend, without sensor, and here it is for the next few paragraphs…
I can’t help noticing there is an aura of ridicule or sneeriness connected to her; a socio-cultural hint of disapproval for fierce women of her ilk with wild hair and grubby faces, those who bare teeth when they’re angry and who act in an unladylike manner (how she is so often depicted); yes, she probably swore and said what she meant too, good gracious! Perhaps the “moral” Victorian’s instigated this disapproving stance, though she also enjoyed a resurgence of popularity during their era of “Rule Britannia”; those same Victorians commissioned a bronze statue of Boudicca and her daughters fiercely charging on a chariot with two horses, turning her into a national treasure and symbol of empire and, perhaps, missing the very point of what motivated her in the process, as they had a way of doing. I thought back to Rossetti’s “thing” for redheads and couldn’t help comparing this bronze tableau of Boudicca with the kind of redheads that had been reduced to becoming rather bored and emotionally stifled artists’ muses by the time the Victorians were around…not a way of life Boudicca would have related to!
Yet the Romans, and pretty much every era since, has disapproved of such feisty and opinionated behaviour from females, conveniently overlooking the fact that, in Boudicca’s time, this wasn’t so very abnormal. In Etruscan society, for instance (see my post on visiting Volterra last year for more on this), women are known to have lounged about naked, drank beer, openly brought up their children of unknown male parentage without a flinch of shame, taken a much more equal and involved part in marriage and community decisions and, heavens, carried weaponry. In fact, in an article I just happened upon(“Oops! Etruscan Warrior Really, a Princess” on Live Science) about the misidentification of the gender of bodies in graves due to the presence of weapons and jewellery, this trend of interpreting history through the eyes of “modern” values is exposed for the major pitfall that it is since, in this case, the warrior occupant of the grave with the spear turns out to be female, “oops”.
So, Boudicca was probably not such an anomaly in her times; albeit a female leader with incredible amounts of determination and courage. When third century historian Cassius Dio described her speaking to a throng of 120,000 people, this tall figure “most terrifying” with fierce eyes, grasping a spear, and with a mass of “tawny” hair falling to her hips, he was probably not far wrong. For a longer account of her campaign, her victories…which were considerable…and her demise (shrouded in mystery though that is), I recommend the link to this article on Ancient Origins. This woman was a warrior and she meant business; because there was a great deal at stake and she knew it. A lot of water would pass under the bridge before what was about happen would get even close to reversal…this was a man’s world that was coming.
If we are impressed by her then perhaps we should be; she was prepared to stand up to the bullies who were messing with the liberties of her people and their chosen way of life. The sense I get is that, when women fought (which they clearly did), they did so over pressing matters, not matters of greed, control or hurt pride. On this note, and as a measure of just how out-of-hand the use of weaponry has become across the two millennia since Boudicca addressed the throng, both Hampstead Heath and Primrose Hill went on to became well known spots for duelling, that most absurd of methods for settling an argument between men; a practice that no pair of women has (to my knowledge) ever engaged in!
So, more recent ideas of what kind of behaviour “befits” the female of the species have probably cast a shadow over someone who should be regarded, more accurately, as a heroine amongst advocates of freedom. Though, perhaps it is, really, a far more malevolent thing that has actually cast the deepest shadow over her in our national association box; that very same train of association that put women back in their box for the last couple of thousand years by stirring up a deep-seated “moral” disapproval, even amongst women themselves, for those women considered to be too feisty, opinionated or even good at what that do (planting in every girl’s heart such fear that, if they headed that route themselves, nobody would be their friend any more…rather, they would be sidelined, alienated, even burned). Meanwhile, with all that additional pressure applied to the lid of the female casket, in which she was now firmly “put away” for the duration, the distorted masculine aspect remained at liberty to run amok in the world for the next several hundred years, since most women were now too afraid to bear witness or call to account what they saw happening every day for fear of being shunned, pilloried or worse.
This was the very same thing that chased women out of the church, thus out of the centre of communal-spiritual life (they played an active part as priests and spiritual teachers for the first three centuries of Christianity and for very long periods of time prior to that…) and made a prostitute out of red-headed Mary Magdalene, consort to Jesus. Through this conspiracy of silence and fear, women themselves have become the defenders of twisted-masculine ideals of how the world should be run, many of them turning on each other, with their claws out (or, most often, via passive aggressive means), throughout all their schooling years and on into all the various communal and corporate “hubs” of life as adults. In fact, wherever competition, power or control are the prime motivators, significant numbers of women have tended to forget who they are and what they are about and it is only in the last decade or so that we have begun to, collectively, wake up from that stupor to reclaim a more genuine sense of sisterhood, along with the undistorted feminine traits we left behind somewhere in history (which, yes, include more than a smidgeon of feistiness and opinion). Of course, feminine traits are universal to us all (men or women alike) and extend far beyond gender labels, yet women as mothers, sisters, daughters etc. remain the prime role models we use to familiarise ourselves with the traits “in action”; our behaviours in these roles setting the cultural trends for the next generation. So, if Boudicca was to join your community or office hub today, how would she fare? Would she be part of the in-set or would she be the passively excluded dreadlocked female with stubby nails that nobody wants to sit close to or add into their WhatsApp chat circle, hmm?
Whatever it is that she represents, I have always felt quite the opposite to the sneer-factor…rather, so much compassion and awe, such connection with her; this feisty woman who took on the Roman invaders and dared to do what it took to at least try to send them on their way, leaving her story behind as a package wrapped in fuzzy layers of history for future women to pick up again by some other means than via history books (since they are so notoriously unreliable when it comes to female heroines). Rather, we find her via a sense of such deep-seated relatability, an inexplicable resonance in our cells, when we recognise her as that part of ourselves that dares to speak out when something is clearly “off”, that is prepared to be unpopular for a good cause, that risks life and limb, or at least personal comfort, for the higher values of community and family and the right of all to sleep safe in their beds at night, untampered with by physical, or metaphorical, marauders.
She dared to stand for independence; and this too is a problematic word these days for, in our unique times, it has come to stand for particular sides of arguments that some of us don’t necessarily stand for (or care too much about) when we say “independence”; for instance, becoming entangled with concepts like Brexit. This, interestingly enough, had “occurred” at 11pm on Friday evening when I was barely out of my seat at The Roundhouse amidst people who had looked universally jaded by the idea when it was referred to by the artist we had gone to see, who offered condolences met by a somber silence, prior to the finale and a standing ovation that was what we were most likely doing as the non-existent bell peeled the transition (a very good way to spend it). If you want to be independent of perceived invaders these days, in the UK, you are presumed to be a Brexitier and yet, in assuming that association, we loose the thread of a far more subtle argument around what independence really is; one that says that we each have the right to claim our uniqueness and sovereign independence from others “in our own personal domain”, be that our inner landscape or the one we make our home in. This is very different to the political argument that would like to see entire borders closed and all “alien” people and ideas kept out (which, in the end, are political ideals that encroach even more invasively upon the individual preferences of those living under their jurisdiction, who are held captive by the limitation of exposures thus enforced upon them)…but don’t get me started!
What I speak of here is a concept much more fundamental than politics adequately represent anymore; the right to be the determinant of your own life choices, preferences and ideas, independent of marauders (which, as I said, can come in many forms, including, yes, political structures that dictate but, equally, pharmaceutical pressure groups, chemicals added to food and water or pumped into the air, electro-magnetic frequencies that enter our houses and bodies, cameras that capture every movement we make, satellites that launch in such vast number, ready to beam manmade crap into our homes and spy on us, that it mean we can no longer see the stars as we once did, dubious syllabuses enforced in schools, “authorities” that fail to protect nature spots or sell them off for profit, etc). Standing up to such interference is very much a feminine trait, having little or nothing to do with a desire to compete, to argue the toss over “borders” or “ownership” or be the one “in power” and much more to do with safeguarding sovereignty of the body and soul, and of the land (and the air) we all share; the right to choose how we live, how we worship, what medications we and our children take, what we eat, drink and imbibe through the air, who and what gets to influence our children as they are growing up, and so on. I sense these kinds of concerns are not so very dissimilar to those that were primary to Boudicca and her tribe and its unfortunate that she has got caught up in broader and more modern, fixations of “independence” that people now regard, almost exclusively, through political eyes, filtered as they are by a dominantly masculine world viewpoint.
I happened upon an article that same evening I was researching the location of Boudicca’s grave, written by an American, in which she was endeavouring to compare three distinct things: Brexit, the non-validity (in her view) of the popular “story” that Boudicca is buried in a tumulus known as Boudicca’s Mount north of Parliament Hill on Hampstead Heath, where popular legend has it that she was slain whilst making her last stand against Roman invaders, and an experiment to reintroduce grazing livestock onto the Heath (specifically, sheep onto Boudicca’s Mount, to keep the vegetation in check). This writer was likening Boris Johnson to Boudicca in the way he is prepared to lead “his” people through a process of self-destruction in the name of independence from Europe. Yes Boudicca, in the process of taking on the Romans, led huge numbers of people to their deaths and razed London (already a thriving metropolis at that point) to the the ground rather than let the Roman’s claim the city as it was but the two things are really not the same, nor from the same motivation (and likening her to Johnson has got to be the ultimate slur upon her). The exercise with the sheep seems to have been included as a hint towards a trend of romanticising the past at the expense of the present; especially if that past has nothing much in it that deserves to be romanticised. This leads to her account of how, when Boudicca’s mount was excavated by the Victorians, to a sizeable crowd of enthusiastic onlookers, no bodies were retrieved thus, she implies, the whole legend seems to be on an unsteady footing. In other words, she seems to have decided we Brits have got a little carried away in our sense of national identity, rooted in what she considered to be a romanticised past…
I would agree that romanticising the past as a reason to claim “greatness” based on dubious moments of glory that have been embellished by time is not a good reason to pursue national independence in times that should be more about cohesiveness and “joining in” as one giant collaboration focused upon making the world a far better place (something I would dearly love to see; though it has yet to happen via any political format in existence…). The past isn’t there to be idolised for being exactly what it was (we have come a very long way since what happened even yesterday) but to be learned from; especially when we notice running themes and important qualities that have been sidelined along the way. What is being missed here is that the concept of “greatness” and of “nationality” being bandied around these days is not one Boudicca or her people would have related to; she was not worrying about her place in the world or her prowess as a great leader but about her people and their way of life, determined by traditions relating to the practical requirements, social conscience and spiritual beliefs of the community in partnership with the land on which they had lived for generations and which was part of them; which is a much-more feminine way of looking at things than most modern people can relate to. Her priority would have been safeguarding a world in which women and children could be safe, where equality and respect between sexes and age groups was core to societal structures and where the wellbeing of all is the guiding principle (not the enrichment of the few; a way of life that would, no doubt, have been “catching on”amongst the men since the Romans begin colonising Britain some twenty years earlier).
In a nutshell, she refused to assimilate with ways of behaving that were not resonant to her or her people, especially the abuse. She was calling to account behaviours that were not consistent with the values of those people; another key female role in the balance of all things (yet how often have we been silenced in the process). And yes, she was really pissed-off and thus “wild”; let’s not forget that when Boudicca took on the Romans she was was a woman that had been forced to her limits; one who had been publicly flogged and seen her two daughters raped to “put them in their place” after her husband presumed to share his territories between those two two daughters as well as the Roman Emperor Nero when he died (which turned out to be less of a diplomatic decision than he thought given Nero wasn’t a very nice, or honourable, man). After those abuses, she refused to make small what she had just been through (as we women have been entrained to do for all the intervening years; that is, taught to shrug it off as “normal” to be abused at least once in our lifetime as a female, as goes the mindset…an expectation I even heard being regurgitated in a contemporary TV program just the other day.)
In her way, Boudicca was the Me Too movement of her generation and she was out for masculine apology and amends on a grand scale; because she could sense what was coming (and it came flooding in across all our boundaries for the next two thousand years) so she was trying, so fiercely, to stop its tidal wave. We have all (both men and women) been invaded by distorted masculine ideals for all of the intervening time and she was the one prepared to stand on a hillside and cry “stop” for all she was worth. As their leader, she called upon the Iceni tribe and its allies for “unity against tyranny” and this is a classic “feminine perspective” cry in a world where tyranny takes many forms. In her essence, I find part of myself and part of all fierce womanhood as an archetype and I realised, once the synchronicity with Imbolc had occurred to me, that I was in exactly the right place for spending this day, this time around. I wanted to feel the Earth pulse beneath my feet, wanted to respond to it and, above all, wanted to be reminded of all these fierce and feisty “lets take action” feminine qualities. Women may be most closely connected to the Earth, the great matriarch, but that’s not to say we lie passively back and watch anything and everything happen all around us, sad but uninvolved, like some hapless maiden in distress; we get to express and take part in the direction-making process, and to holler when things are being taken down the wrong track!
As it happened, the day of Imbolc itself was a day of settling in to where we were staying and we didn’t head out onto the Heath to “find Boudica” (my plan…not sure it was high in my husband’s thoughts) until the Sunday, though I could somehow sense my proximity with everything to do with her. The change in our plans (not to walk too far on Saturday) happened organically, because I was suddenly swept-off-my feet tired, yet it was OK; by the time we got to the Heath the next day, I was able to discern a trail of others who had been doing their Imbolc ceremonies the day before and it was as though I needed to find my feet in Hampstead before I was ready to go “up there”.
Meanwhile, synchronicities abounded the whole time we were in Hampstead village that afternoon, in ways both subtle and less so. A hub of the arts, literary and music associations, there were two quirky music events to our taste that we could have attended that night, had we been quicker about the tickets…its rare that circumstances so closely match our unusual taste. Once considered a spa after the water from a spring was discovered to have healing properties, the road names all around the “village” allude to pilgrims, wells and flasks (for carrying water?) so, you could say, there’s a watery theme (interesting for reasons I will come back to later). Of course, its an affluent area and a veritable who’s-who of literary types and other well known names who have lived there so the mixture of Georgian into Edwardian and onto the occasional high modern architecture is very much to “my style” (and had me a little green with envy at times). Oh, and the trees….everywhere we went, day and night, the trees were just the most astonishing, mature beauties that I had to keep stopping to engage with; quite fixated by them, as though we had landed in a strange land full of beautiful tall “people”, many of them adorned with fairy lights. Then, one of the things I could hardly wrap my head around was just how quiet the streets were at night; we walked back and forth to our dinner and it reminded me of walking to the harbour and back every evening in a village in Suffolk last year; just the same as then, we were strolling beneath old fashioned lamp lights, peeking into nineteenth century shuttered windows and cottage-style gardens and literally nobody passing us by.
Yet in the daytime, everything was lively. Quirkily dressed women filled cafes and juice bars, many of them happy to sit alone, unruffled by their solitude (whereas woman seem to hate doing this back home…or so they keep telling me lately, though I quite like it), but Sunday was clearly the day for guys with kids to be out pushing those prams or entertaining them over cake while mum did other things. Perhaps all the women were indulging in a bit of self-care; there’s quite the renaissance of plant based food, yoga and mindfulness going on in London generally but this corner turned out to be a hotspot. On noticeboards and in windows, we clocked mindfulness retreats, women’s circles, labyrinth workshops and all kinds of interesting gatherings pointing towards this sense of “remembering in order to reboot” that I allude to in this post; and eager willingness to do the necessary work to get ourselves there, which is much more behind the scenes back home. Perhaps not such a surprise in this capital hotspot; a great deal has been shaken up to the surface and exposed, over the last decade, and some of these old wounds have felt traumatic all over again as they have been invited to heal more fully (a version of which I experienced for myself mid decade), but this only tends to lead into a demand for more therapies, more workshops, more mindfulness practices. Now, we are ready for something else to happen; a graduation of sorts and I could feel that happening in this place; a lightness and a preparedness for “new” hanging in the air like the buzz of a spring day in a field of daffodils.
Because many women have become stronger and, yes, lighter though the exposure of what was once hidden in their pasts (often, for many lifetimes or generations), where their minds had allowed them to be tricked into a furtive kind of shame where compassion should really have been. Many of them have done the work to replace shame with that necessary compassion and with self-love, acceptance, honour, recognition, release, remembrance, empowerment, understanding and much more. Now is the settling-in of those times; the embedding of the seed in the nutrient rich soil of what once seemed to be dark and heavy with old traumas but which now, having mulched down like a good layer of compost, serves as marvellous food for the seedling. As we turn the corner into the new decade, there’s this feeling that we are getting down to business again, so the seedling can grow, and I could feel it more here…because there were more people and far less sense of being so isolated in doing it.
Many of us have come to realise we carry such a seed within us and, whereas we once used to feel pain and heat goading us around those harsh times that are, really, just trying to help us, to urge us, to feel more and to dare to grow beyond our long-held safety boundaries, we are now welcoming those same electric currents into our experience because we realise it is the same spark that encourages birds to sing and leaves to unfurl, the shoot to grow up above the level of the soil, since we are back in sync with the natural pattern of all life. How do we know it’s alright now to surrender to the spark? Because we just know it, in the way that Nature takes care of for us, signalling it to us and us somehow knowing we can trust that signal…like a shoot just knows when to grow… without the need for words or conscious thoughts, at the beginning of every new cycle. Its about having innate trust in Nature; and we all find we have it, inbuilt, once we reach down into the part of us that remembers this. I guess you could also call it intutition. And where there are more people likely to have “done the work” to get there, you can feel it happening more readily than in the kind of isolation I have been in for years. Perhaps the combination of especially pressured lives with access to Nature is a special mix of ingredients for people in parts of the city that are like this; full of trees and with the Heath to walk out on whenever fresh air and birdsong is needed. Perhaps it’s a special cocktail that hastens personal growth for a lot of people, all at once.
When you’ve been out of touch with the seasons and circadian cycles for a long time, their reinstatement can come as a shock (for some mores than others…depending on how extra-sensitive you are), which is a measure of how hard you have been working to suppress your connection to Nature for years, probably because it didn’t work with some corporate office routine or whatever state of disconnect and/or survival pattern you had got yourself into. Once you get over that initial shock, there are treasures to be explored via the reconnection with Earth, which can only ever be a good thing because, when we get back in sync, it works to harmonise our bodies and keep us grounded. A temporary pitfall is that, the more sensitive we become to Nature after a period of disconnect, the more we start to notice “counter-nature” in the form of additives, processed ingredients, manmade EMFs and so on but, in the longer run, our earth connection helps us to mitigate the risks of those exposures…we just have to get through that period of unpleasantness, where sensitivity to the one thing increases our sensitivity to the other, for at least a time.
So, in the interim, it can feel as though there are a lot of people, perhaps especially in cities, struggling with sensitivities and intolerances, their life only getting more complicated as they have to adapt to cope. Perhaps thats why it’s so easy to be gluten free in London; because I find it refreshingly easy to eat my way around as there are just so many places geared for food intolerances of all varieties and for those on special diets which, really here, aren’t that very special; in fact, my (at home, peculiar) way of eating, as a gluten free vegan, is suddenly no oddity at all!
So, everywhere we went, we found “our food” easily in a way that it is so hard to do back home. Right next to our apartment, there were juices, energy balls, chaga coffees and turmeric lattes, not to mention great salads and roast veggies galore. We hopped a short distance on the overground to eat Wild on a Saturday night in our favourite restaurant (Wild Food Cafe) and it was so good…given what I’ve been writing here…to see just how popular wildness is becoming in the context of more Earth-connected eating and living; I just bought the fantastic book written by the restaurant owners, which talks in detail about working with food in close sync with the cycles of the year and so much more that is topical here. Even my preferred brand of GF bread (normally an online purchase because its nowhere to be found in shops) was available to buy straight from the cafe next-door. To feel so assimilated with the rudiments of life before I even got to this place (if not in terms of the required income bracket to make it permanent…that good ol’ masculine-themed spanner in the works) was a marvellous thing for a couple of days!
More synchronicities; we passed the local church, a unitarian (the most resonant type of church I have ever come across, being inclusive of all approaches to the divine), where they had just celebrated Imbolc, according to the noticeboard (you really don’t see that in any churches near where I live) . There I discovered three Burne-Jones windows, the very ones replicated in my kitchen – Faith, Charity and Hope – as well as a William Morris window and a plaque to one time congregant, Helen Allingham…my favourite artist when I was very young (check out her bluebell woods, they were one of the first things to inspire me to paint); these are my peeps!
If disconnect from ourselves really was orchestrated all those many eons ago, to keep the feminine aspect underground, then now I sense we are at the point of reconnecting with the life pulse again; which is to reconnect with the kundalini energy that we feel rising through the soles of our feet, the heat rising up our spines, the electric tingle in our fingers wanting to grasp onto new experiences and to really feel life again, as we dare to embrace and dance with life as we once did, a long time ago. Whether it’s through yoga, spiritual pursuits, drinking juices in cafes, saying “hi” to a familiar face in a shop, taking the kids out into the woods to explore or jogging in the park, its happening in the city (and is certainly happening in Hampstead). The Heath itself is this tremendous resource, astonishing in the middle of a city (even one that is well served with “parks”…the paths here were no neatly gravelled arrangement with trimmed edges and marigolds lined up with military precision; we almost immediately regretted not bringing walking boots). It was like “real” countryside, rugged and a little bit wild in places yet no countryside I have ever been to was ever so populated on a fairly fresh early spring day. There were just so many people out on that Heath, even under a slate grey sky, that it could have been a downtown shopping mall (though infinitely more pleasant); making its muddy pathways properly crowded at times, but in a nice way. I liked the feeling of community (in the true sense of the word since we were all in communion with each other and with all of Nature, as in sharing the “vibe”) as we sipped tea in an over-packed outdoor area with a handful of pop-up refreshment stalls and more than a handful of four legged comedy acts sniffing at the food.
There was even a bird and tree watching group gathering a lot of interest by one of the ponds (and we made quite a few bird sightings ourselves) and just so many people walking their dogs of all sizes, young people, families, couples, the whole range of ages and demographic, all of them engaged with being outdoors in a way that is uniquely London, in my experience (our usual walks are never like this at the weekends; people mostly keep their heads down or act like you aren’t there, walking past them, back home). Maybe it takes city life for busy people to really appreciate Nature, by contrast, and I’m happy to report that both wild and human life on the Heath felt healthy, reassuring me that things are going to be alright; collectively we are getting somewhere important together and I’m heartened by what I have encountered this weekend. Perhaps this particular hill was feeling it too; perhaps, in its own terms, some things (important ones) are getting back to how they were…a long long time ago, when its influence poured down the basin into the city hub nestled in the Thames valley below. Perhaps Hampstead Heath is a font shooting good vibes into the air over the whole urban sprawl.
On that theme, here was another major synchronicity, for me at any rate. Was that the name “Fleet” I saw on a street name? It turns out, the various ponds on the Heath are fed by the two headsprings of the river Fleet, a river I feel just so connected to whenever I go to London (having tracked and traced its various brief appearances within the urban sprawl, which involves having to be prepared to crouch to listen to water beneath manhole covers…this article will give you some idea where to find it), and I always pay homage to its exit point into the Thames at Blackfriars when I pass there), which I wrote about in the footnote of my post Layers in the Landscape – Part One a few years ago. Once a major tributary and thriving waterway dotted with sacred wells where pilgrims would take the waters, not to mention all the usual trappings of river-life…water vessels and bridges…as you would expect, this river was forced underground by the ever-encroaching swell of buildings and its constant pollution by tanners and butchers backing onto it, then finally covered over for most of its length to be turned into a sewer that tips out into the river Thames near the Blackfriars Bridge (close to St Paul’s cathedral, once the site of a temple to Diana). These days, it is pretty much only remembered as its namesake street – Fleet Street – famous for its “gutter press”, which says it all. You can glean the not so subtle metaphor here; like the feminine aspect itself, this sparkling source of water to the city was, quite literally, shut up, pushed down, forced underground and out of sight, now thoroughly sullied by unreliable words and the filthy byproducts of industrialised life.
Yet here, in a series of manmade ponds, created in the 17th and 18th centuries as a water resource for the local population, I had found the source of the river Fleet in its healthiest state which, in a metaphorical sense, felt a bit like I had wound myself back to my own healthiest state, high up above the abuses inflicted by history. These ponds are a thriving resource, not only as a nature reserve but as a collection of outdoor swimming pools, one for men, one for women and one mixed. I recently came across the women’s pool featured in the comedy film “Finding Your Feet” – now one of my favourites – in which one of the main characters regular swims there, which piqued my curiosity, having not known it existed until then – what, really, fresh water clean enough for swimming in London? I was astonished but impressed, which led me to look into it more. Not only all this but I find these watering holes are the spur of quite a bit of local controversy and feistiness, including a local movement called the Dam Nonsense campaign in opposition to proposals to close the pools for “a very extended time” to improve the design of the dams to prevent a flooding disaster which, should it ever happen (which has been calculated to be a likely chance of about one in 40,000 years…) might cause serious harm to local residents. I’m glad to find that this particular feminine trait is alive and well on the Heath (I refer not to the gender of campaigners here but to their spirit), prepared to call-out bureaucratic stupidity and stir the pot when outside interference is at large!
I have to say more about this swimming thing: can you sense the pure magic happening here? I almost feel like saying its the key piece of alchemy taking place in London today and, like the river Fleet once fed the city with holy water, these women are feeding it with amazing vibes. Since getting home, I’ve started to read the book (above) and its delicious before bedtime because, though I struggle to imagine I will ever be able to wild swim in winter given the shock factor to nerves which, in my case, over-react at anything below a comfortable twenty degrees (though I never say never), these women are taking me into their watery otherworld in my sleep. The potential for this entirely visceral thing to be conveyed from one person to another, ignoring the boundaries of body and skin, through the sharing of experiences via delicious and bizarrely relatable sensory descriptions (given I have never swum wild), is all part of this; it’s another “woman thing” and is why the compiling of the book is a genius idea; it needed to happen (and I recommend it). Here are some pearls from its depths (from Esther Fraud, Lou Stoppard and Toby Brothers…which is as far as I’ve read so far):
“When we meet we laugh and congratulate ourselves and remind each other to wipe the mud beard off our chins. And we need to be reminded because when you riseup out out of he velvety water you feel so powerful thats its possible to forget to look in the mirror for the rest of the day.” EF
“Here, my sense of myself was altered, the cold too shocking to focus on sorrow and confusion when the useful thing was courage, and when my heart had steadied, and I realised I was not actually going to die, the exhilaration hit me and I felt dizzyingly grateful to be alive.” EF
“Winter swimmings are there to be alone, together.” LS
“Its never the same, but it’s always beautiful. It’s a welcoming space, it recognises the struggle, the discrimination many women face in life. The Pond can support you through crises. It helped me with the death of my parents. And with menopause, all the mood changes.” LS
“There is something about being in really cold water where you do strip off the shields that we build. You make yourself more vulnerable and so then being able to talk about things that are close or hard is easy.” TB
“If you can hurl yourself into a freezing pond, you can likely do anything you think.” LS
“Our culture deals so badly with ageing and the pond community is full of these shining Oder women.” TB
All sorts of women go there (many more so in the summer but as many as fifty, strike out every day in rain, hail and ice and the numbers have vastly increased in the last 10 years!) including young mothers, suited business women, octogenarians, famous people. Katherine Hepburn apparently used the pool and brought a tin of biscuits for the lifeguards though, I also read, most visitors from Europe or America seem to think its an oddly eccentric English thing to do in an actual pond (no hard sides and plenty of ducks, fish and eels) so they keep away after September. But just imagine it, the sheer potency; the great leveller and pot stirrer of this natural pool set in “a perfect green grotto” (TB) with its velvety brown water that dissolves away the limbs and washes troubling thoughts away; what are we remembering about ourselves in there, something ancient and important, courtesy of all these women? We are remembering how to be together in harmony, yet separate and sovereign, in ways that are crucial for the longevity of our world!
And all this coming from the waters of the Fleet, whose business is clearly not done in this city. Yet, beautiful irony, the Fleet bubbles up from the ground so inauspiciously and without fanfare that, it turns out, I actually stepped over it (as I said before, not being equipped with my boots…something I was already regretting) where it emerges just south west of Kenwood House at the top of the Heath. This enthusiastic ribbon of water was heading down hill, quite determinedly, to join the Concert Pond below (once the backdrop to a scene involving Hue Grant and Julia Roberts in the popular film “Notting Hill” in which a misunderstanding arises due to him overhearing something she says and misinterpreting it out of context…perhaps no more fitting a tableau for the point where this river-emblem of the feminine comes up from the ground, being the long-running “story” of many centuries of miscommunication between the sexes). It seems, I had found the very source of my most emblematic river…and wasn’t even aware of it at the time, though I did send a smile its way as I made my hop to the other side.
Back to Boudicca’s mound; that first night I tuned into it, what was my reading? I felt her energy in suspended animation under the green earth, with, I had already read, a copse of trees and bushes that they say self-seeded there; though what I imagined was more like a collection of tall tree-sentries keeping watch (I hadn’t seen it pictured but this was much closer to what I found when I got there; though I hadn’t imagined the railings I discovered had been put around it). As a focal point for anyone who cares a jot, what does it matter if she’s not actually “in” there (I noticed quite a few people take a moment at those railings…); this mount is a portal of sorts to her energy and I sensed she was waiting for just the right time to emerge from her earth sanctuary…and that the moment is almost upon us now. When it happens, I sense a further layer of energetic shift and a transformation hastening to life, right beneath our feet.
It may sound odd, coming from someone who is usually crowd adverse, but London has always seemed like a sacred landscape to me, ever since I first went there as a girl. It’s as though I experience it in layers, the “then”, the “now” and the “future”, which I regard as surprisingly light filled. The first and the latter have a linkage with each other that sends a current though what I see happening now, with my 3D senses, as though they have more in common with each other than what is currently manifested and yet they are informing it, bringing back into alignment…slowly but surely.
This other layer of experience that I’m party to is like a parallel dimension where things happen for different reasons than the obvious and glow with some sort of golden energy that informs what is happening in my “now” reality to make better sense of it in some much more coherent picture of “events”. I find synchronicity and deeper layers of meaning and metaphor everywhere I go, tuning into patterns and rhythms and place-juxtapositions to glean why this place is like this, why that one has remained like that; such as whether they have stalwartly held onto their green spaces in spite of the ever-pressing forces of commerce and greed (Boudica’s heath is like that…it has been “saved” from development many times over) or whether it has attracted hordes of people (purportedly) because there is a concert hall or a market there yet I usually sense a common thread with some prior use, many eons ago which acts like a magnet tug from beneath the ground (the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm felt like that; it has become quite a hub for encouraging the performing arts for talented young people of all backgrounds, one of whom was the support act for our concert). Also the places that repel, that seem low vibe, that attract unpleasantness; they just feel like the patterns that tell a deeper story of distortion and held-trauma in the body tissues of a city that is only just into its adolescence as we speak; so, as yet to mature into its truly golden age.
Imagine my astonishment, a few years back, when I learned that poet and artist William Blake also regarded London as a golden city, in spite of how heinously bleak and grimy, industrialised and impoverished so much of it was in his day (two hundred years ago). Yet, through his extra-sensory perception, which took him outside of the experience of linear time, he gleaned a golden city, what he called his “Jerusalem” (not in a typical religious sense; he was spiritual rather than religious); the eternal city. He hints at the alchemy of the blackening process, whereby life is turned to “weakness” and “woe”, on the way to transforming into the golden city that lies there, for the moment, out of sight. Bringing such a “city” forward into our reality takes not the bricks and mortar kind of building that would design a futuristic city made of gold but, rather, the cleansing of the extra senses we all have that would allow us to see it is already there, held in pro forma and then gravitating towards it, as a shoot gravitates towards the sun, only to find it revealed to have been there all along:
“If the doors of perception were cleansed every thing would appear to man as it is, Infinite”.
Very hard times, survived and transformed through the power of higher understanding, can do that to a person; as though the landscape reveals what was already there, never actually absent…only we couldn’t perceive it until now. This, in a nutshell, is what happened to me over the last solar cycle and now I “see” so much that I was oblivious to me before, especially in a place as thick with layered meanings, to the broader senses, as London. As this happens, you start to glean hidden patterns in the landscape, via certain landmarks and trends and coincidences of human behaviour that take form before your very eyes in such a thickly populated place; which, to me, is like looking down at iron-filings that move to the shifting of a magnet manipulated under the table, making sense of what might otherwise be perceived as meaningless chaos via an inner force that informs it to be that way (the Earth influences us all with such a force). These patterns form everywhere there is human life, only they become far more discernible where there are many people crowded together and over countless generations of life, repeating similar themes in their behaviours in particular places where a lot “happens”. This is how leyline expert Christopher E Street (referred to above) has managed to notice the pattern of certain landmarks in London that, in his opinion, form an Earth Star. Even where buildings and land usage have been removed and replaced by new ones, similar patterns have been found to play out. Why? As described by John Mitchell, author of “City of Revelation” in his forward to Street’s book:
“London is the creation of thousands of different builders and architects, working over many centuries. Their common humanity has exposed them to a common influence, and thus together they have created a pattern of which not a single one of them many have been conscious…It is indubitably a dream pattern, detached from the mundane reality and far transcending both the imagination and the capacity of any town-planning department”.
What were they responding to; what do we all respond to as we walk those crowded streets and decide to congregate here, not to go there, to live healthy and well-connected, thriving kind-of lives around a particular “village” centre (now a suburb of a massive city) when a mile down the road feels quite different so that you wouldn’t want to be out there late at night? What are we responding to beneath our feet, without giving it a second thought? Some of us, of course, do start to notice this effect…and we ponder about it, even though its ultimate meaning still eludes us (except that it gives a sense of higher purpose to even the most chaotic of events).
Since he was a child, Blake had visions which only became more intense in his adult life. One of these, when he was no more than ten, happened at Peckham Rye, by Dulwich Hill, when he saw a tree filled with angels.
These visions led to the well known words:
The fields from Islington to Marybone,
To Primrose Hill and Saint John’s Wood,
Were builded over with pillars of gold,
And there Jerusalem’s pillars stood.
Her little ones ran on the fields,
The Lamb of God among them seen
And fair Jerusalem his bride,
Among the little meadows green.
Pancras & Kentish Town repose
Among her golden pillars high,
Among her golden arches which
Shine upon the starry sky.
The Jews-Harp House & the Green Man,
The ponds where boys to bathe delight,
The fields of cows by Willan’s farm,
Shine in Jerusalem’s pleasant sight.
She walks upon our meadows green,
The Lamb of God walks by her side,
And every English child is seen
Children of Jesus & his Bride,
Forgiving trespasses and sins,
Lest Babylon with cruel Og,
With moral & self-righteous law
Should crucify in Satan’s synagogue!”
Jerusalem, note, is the earthly “bride” of the divine (and the long-obscured fact that Jesus also had a bride is also alluded to, see my reference above to red-headed Mary Magdalene, also Bride = Brigid, that other earth-hued feminine archetype; earthly not as in less than but because the feminine aspect is inherently earth-connected). This place Blake refers to is heaven on earth, as above so below, the spiritual aspect made manifest!
The fact that Blake saw London as a heavenly city filled with angels and gold suggests he was a visionary and, in that sense, so am I; not through ideas I have with my mind but actual perceptions which I pick up on, beyond the five sensory limitations of conventional, linear, experience, via some sort of visual sense (which strives to interpret much subtler senses as images in my mind) closely associated with my autism. Since I have fully opened up to those, over the last decade or so, my experiences have become so much more interesting and multilayered; especially in London so I always know I am in for an interesting time there…hence my constant, sometime surprising, determination to go there, for all the discomfort its overstimulation can generate. Yes, even when the sensations are unpleasant or physically uncomfortable, they tell me things that a big part of me is desperately curious to know about!
For instance, when I am on an underground train or station platform…but more so on the Northern Line, which goes especially deep… I feel the nerve pulsations that I have come to “read” in everyday life but especially at this time of year, like those electric shocks running sharply though my feet and legs that I began by talking about above, only they are much exaggerated underground and I almost feel almost suffocated or at least pressed to reach reach reach…back up into daylight, to get to the top of the escalator or lift and out onto the surface again as soon as I can. I don’t even notice this effect in the other months but, ever since the fateful trip to London in February four years ago, I have noticed it every time (and, chance would have it, something always seems to bring me to London at this particular time of the year). It’s not the electric lines that the train run on; the overground, also used on this trip, felt fine to me, with none of the stabbing electrical pulses or feeling of needing to get back into the outside air. Its the same feeling that is making me stir-crazy so far this year; I can’t seem to sit still anymore!
Yet when I make it alright; when I allow that it is simply natural to notice this effect when underground at the Imbolc time of year, it doesn’t alarm me any more (I also keep in mind that my actual spiritual awakening, my lynchpin experience of unity consciousness that altered my entire perspective of life via an experience that some people would call “a funny turn”, occurred whilst on a tube train crossing the centre point of London in 2011, as written about many times before). Its easy, and very human, to swing in and out of fear as we get used to these “new” potential interpretations of “odd experiences” in our lives and so have I but, lately, I have re-found the sense of “I can trust what I’m experiencing” and also I just somehow know “its all going to be alright; whatever happens, since its all by design” (and even though we’ve still got a lot of work to do to get this reality out of a fix). So, I have responded to sensations quite differently on this trip and it’s been alright, plus I’m not especially depleted by it….just a little extra tired for a few days now I’m back home; hardly surprising given I walked for four solid hours on the Heath and with all that pavement pounding (who is this new super-energised me?). So, do seeds feel these electrical impulses and the sudden intense pressure of being underground too, coming at them as a clear signal from Nature that tells them to break through the shell, urging them to press their growth upwards “that way, that way” towards the sun? Am I being the seed that’s exploding into life?
This year, I feel the additional link between the potency of Imbolc and the beginning of a whole new solar cycle (an eleven year thing), not to mention the cycle of ages (we are due a massive turnabout or priorities, to get the world back into balance); we have all been compressed for far too long, like the pregnancy that never gestates. For me, in my health, it has felt as though I have been labouring under the longest ever pregnancy, waiting and waiting for something to birth until this point…and now it is here. Now I am feeling some relief, though I know I am still only at the stage of the waters breaking and there’s still a stage to get through but at least its happening. Now I am making some significant changes in my life, as though thrusting my hand through the crust of the Earth to take hold of some things that are evidence of new life in my daily routines (I’ve been writing about what forms this is taking, the new activities I’ve become involved in, on my other blog). The Imbolc sun transition declares loud and clear to all of Nature in the northern hemisphere that “its time” which then sends a current up from the earth that sets thing in motion and we are at that point now; only on a much grander scale, whether we register the spark in our bodies yet or not. We can’t side-step it; its here to awaken everyone!
All of this ties into something else that happened to me recently. At the start of the year my daughter and I had an incredibly powerful conversation that catalysed us both in ways that have powerfully altered each of our trajectories…no exaggeration (we compare notes every few days). In that conversation, she said to me that she missed who I used to be before health made me so quiet and zen-like I seemed to almost disappear. She said she missed my fire, my inner strength, my sheer determination that is like no other she has ever encountered, even my feistiness, my ballsiness, my roar; that these are all qualities she looked up to when she was little, wanting to be “like that” when she grew up. Hearing this really jolted me because I do know I was like that when I was a single parent, doing all I could to survive for the two of us, but have become less and less so with each passing year, the more I pursued spirituality and worked on healing through deep inner calm. In my case, I wasn’t making myself “nice” to please anyone else but to keep my own health steady and to pull back from the aspects of life that I found harsh and overstimulating. A shift has taken place since our conversation and I feel as though my torch has been lit again, inspired by my daughter’s words.
Here’s the goosebump part; this conversation with my daughter took place on 6th January at the very start of a decade that has felt “auspiciously new” in theme since the very moment it appeared on the horizon. The last time I felt like this was exactly thirty years ago, at the start of 1990 when I was just so optimistic and excited about the new decade that I could hardly be contained, though I had no idea why, yet on the 6th January that year, after a wonderful New Year (spent in the centre of London…) I met her genetic father and he spent the next 13 years insisting I put my flame away, that I lock it down, dowse it, hide and abhor it since, according to him, everything about my determination, my feistiness, my creativity and my opinions made me “embarrassing” and “undesirable” to be with (that old story). Yet, exactly to the day three decades later, the offspring of that union (who has unfailing made everything about it seem worthwhile and “by higher design”, since she was obviously meant to be born) told me that she loves and appreciates these very qualities about me more than any others…and needs them in her life!
Honestly, I think we all need them in our lives; the whole planet needs women with fire in their bellies and men would do well to rebalance by healing the feminine part of themselves that will keep their other motivations in check. Lately, I have encountered so many guys who have activated this part of themselves…they increase in number all the time…and its beautiful to behold: they give me such hope that we will all be just fine.
I think a lot of us women bottle up our fire like this for one of a variety of reasons. We do it to be “ladylike”, to be polite, to keep the peace and live up others expectations, to play by societal and corporate, even religious and familial, rules. We do it because we are afraid of what we will unleash, who me might inadvertently hurt, or even because we are afraid that it might be us that takes the hit, from the inside. I know I became afraid that my own body-system couldn’t cope with any more fire running through it; convinced that I was already so burned-out that one more spark would finish me off, like a straw dolly left too close to the hearth. Like bags of dry straw, we think we are a fire-hazard to be around…yet this is only so if we don’t water our lives with the ceaseless flow of earth connection and self-belief that keeps us mindful of who we really are (not what outside forces tell us we are meant to be).
Life dries us out; corporate jobs and family expectations dry us out, health issues and politics (on all scales) and lack of emotional support systems amongst people we should be able to turn to (women thrive in supportive community yet even these have become competitive and agenda driven) dry us out until we become wisened old sticks that fear our own spark.
Or, the alternative is, we get back into the flow of the things we truly enjoy (and get ourselves out of abrasive structures that make us feel so alienated by our one lives, including “jobs” that drain the lifeblood from us). Doing this keeps us hydrated on the inside, and then we start to notice how the flame that we feel tickle the soles of our feet or rising in our belly, climbing up our spine like a hot flush, melting our heart on the way past so that, suddenly, we find ourselves springing tears at the slightest things; that same heat that sometimes floods into our head like a migraine because it comes in so thick and fast, overwhelming us, initially…all of this is just the spark of life that is wanting to resuscitate us. It’s trying to remind us of what we are truly capable of, and that we are connected to the Earth; that she has our back. These sensations are the very same things women complain about…aches, pains, headaches, acid stomachs, unruly emotions…only, given a vastly different interpretation.
Now, when I feel the hot flush coming over me, I pause to be present with it, allowing myself to feel every cell bathed in its life-giving heat and I thank the universe for allowing me to be a vessel of such a powerful life-force for yet another day. So it comes up up up and out of me like a fountain and flushes my cells with the very healing force I have longed for and, moments later, I’m back on my feet again, only stronger and more radiant than I was; I dare you, try it. As well as healing power and rejuvenation, my spark then comes up in me as the flush of love and of gratitude, as warmth towards strangers, as energy connection with Nature and all the patterns of the universe, as laughter and the desire to sing and have fun. We have been told for so long that fierce women are destructive; that, unleashed, we are to blame for all manner of ill-fated outcomes that we forget to believe in these things but now is the time to feel their evidence, as us. The same way a tree must register the lengthening of days and the movement of new electrical currents up its roots and into its branches as the signal to unfurl its new growth at the start of yet another cycle (pushing the old one behind it; now done with all that…a tree doesn’t dwell on last year). We are at that same point. This is the power of the Imbolc transition; we experience it as us…coursing through our veins…whatever hillside, or valley, we happen to be standing on when it occurs, since it is everywhere.
Its time to get over our fear of fire; it is core to everything just as is it core to the Earth. We don’t make fire when we rub two sticks together, it doesn’t come “from outside” of our reality to harm us deliberately; rather, it is always there, held in potential and we merely summon it through our actions…sometimes too much, other times way too little. Women have been caught in an epidemic of fear around fire that has resulted in much too little inner spark going on, for a very long time.
When a woman stops fearing her inner flame, she ignites with new passions that might once have frightened her (product of her conditioned fears) but the effect isn’t to get burned. Once her flame is lit, she is now part of the solution that she has been seeking for just so long (probably from outside sources). In fact, nobody gets to burn us once we light our own match; only, this isn’t the self destruction we’ve been conditioned to believe it would be…its a transformation, into pure gold.
So, when you’re honest with yourself and not in earshot of people telling you otherwise, do you feel the lightening of days? It’s subtle but its there. Not just the arrival of spring as days get longer in the Northern hemisphere but something else; the same but bigger. Perhaps it’s the effect of so many people lighting their own taper; daring to invoke the flame.
Like I’ve written about in my previous post, we are at the start of a brand new sun cycle which (it so turns out) has been frothing like a cappuccino over the last couple of days, trying to produce what looks like a more substantial sunspot than it has so far produced (since typing that, a Cycle 25 related solar wind seems to have unleashed, headed our way). When we set about making the subtle alterations in ourselves and our reactions to things that instigate the kind of change that, in the long view (looking back in hindsight), seems momentous, it can feel a bit like that; a lot of froth and no action but these subtle shifts are important and we are not making too much of them when we notice them as they occur.
Being the kind of person who spends all her time picking up on subtleties relating to my particular way of interfacing with the world (rather than becoming distracted with what other people are doing, saying and fixating on, en masse), this comes easily to me and, in the pattern of those subtleties I find many reasons to hope for a brighter, perhaps golden, future; perhaps one you can start to notice too….and then things get easier; optimism and a sense of direction come back into play and these fuel us like no other source of energy. The more optimistic we are….just knowing, somehow, that everything is going to be alright…the more, paradoxically, we are able to draw the strength to fight for what is so important to us; and we need to play that part too.
What am I really getting so excited about here? Certainly, I have just had one of the best weekends I can ever remember, honestly, a real high point in my life, leaving me humming with a higher-vibration that has had me writing (and tweaking) this lengthy post for three days now as I unpackage all its gifts. All of this from a short city break, though there were no Alps, there was no spa hotel nor flight to an exotic location; astonishing when you think about it but then not really when I think back to some other astonishing times that have unfolded for me via London’s hidden landscape of “clues”. So, I “just” had a good weekend in a nice part of London? No, it’s much more than that. I’m a sensitive who operates more through her finer senses than though her logical brain and, because of my extremely pulled-back life, I sometimes struggle to gain a sense of whether I’m the only one going through these evolutions to become clearer, lighter and more in tune with the cycles of life and the earth beneath my feet (however many layers of paving there may be)…or are there more of us? In fact, are there countless numbers of us responding to the pulse of something new transitioning? Having sensed the upturn in one small corner of the city, I’m overwhelmed with the sense that, if its happening there it must be happening everywhere….at grass roots, things simply don’t feel heavy to the core like they used to do, even if people are quite slow to notice, and appreciate, this.
Oh, and the more optimistic we are, by the way, the more (again paradoxically) we feel able to laugh, to sing, to seek lighthearted experiences and community with others, spontaneous times and playfulness, kindness and community, exploration and beauty and…well, you get the picture. These very motivations have lit my taper, this year, leading me towards the very experiences that inform me the best and which UPLIFT me even more, so that I can feel myself launch with all-new enthusiasm for life, like a rocket taking off. The inner work is what makes the shift happen; and then the reality manifests to fit the expectation (you could say, we create what we expect). It’s a very different trajectory to those who have fallen into the doom and gloom rut, but it’s as real as we make it for ourselves. As Blake said, we see the gold just as soon as we cleanse our perception…and that part is up to each of us.