Archive for July, 2012

Last week it was HOT… A steamy, sultry, stifling hot. So I did the only sensible thing and made my way deeper into the forest, following an ancient path beneath the cool green canopy; a path that has sunk a couple of metres or more into the ground over many centuries, as countless feet trod its way.

I descend…deeper, cooler. Around me, the scent of sun caressed pine trees mingles with something darker, older…centuries old oaks and beeches…, and the sappy exuberance of hazels and birches.
My feet pad softly on the cool earth, crumbling pine needles as I walk.
Birdsong, joyful, riotous, in praise of the life gift of the sun. Yet as I descend further, it seems to soften, as do the shards of sunlight slanting through the trees, turning from yellow-gold to amber.
I hear another sound now. A bubbling, cascading melody that flows through me like liquid, dancing sunlight.
The path has ended. I step off onto an almost invisible track; one made not by human feet, but by those of the forest dwellers, deer and foxes, badgers and wild boar…and perhaps by others less known to humans.

The river lies before me. I stop.
Around me, the forest. Far, far away, humans.
I listen to the song of the river…

I gaze into the water…

I see reflected the greenwood. I watch the water meander on. What has happened to that reflection? Where is it now? Has it gone…a momentary image like a photograph, reflected in water and then vanished? Or is there something else in water…? The Water Element…

Water cleanses, purifies. It carries away all the old, worn out debris of lives. But there is more to Water than that…

Imagine two pools of water. Take one scoop of water from each and pour them into a bowl. Which part of the water in that bowl comes from the first pool and which from the second?…Now take one droplet from that bowl. What is in that one droplet is identical to what is in the bowl….a perfect copy.
Now imagine two rivers flowing to the ocean…

Imagine each river carries in those water droplets a memory of what was imprinted as it passed by…the forest, a mountain meadow, a city…a child bathing, a cow drinking…Imagine those memories washing down into a great Ocean…

I gaze into the river and see water that has come from a spring deep inside the Earth; water that as it emerges into the light of the Sun, has never before been seen in that form by human eyes. It cascades down mountains, meanders through meadows and forests, to flow into the sea…

The next day. Rain clouds are building  in the West. The land is dry and dreaming of rain. The first drops fall……….I turn my face to the rain. Why would anyone want to shelter inside and not feel those soft raindrops upon their cheeks?!

I listen to the song of the rain….A song of deep, dark earth, wild mountains, greenest forest…of drinking deer and spawning frogs, muddy water rats and iridescent leaping fishes…of drowsily meandering river and wide estuaries where the ospreys dive…And then I hear the ocean sing… I hear the roar of the Atlantic; storming, raging waves…furious crests blinding white beneath an icy Northern sky…and then coconut kissed, turquoise hued coral seas gently drifting towards a beach of softest vanilla sand…
I hear the song of the rocky cliffs of Finistere…hear the song rolling in over the magical forests of Merlin, carrying all those memories…memories held within one tiny raindrop, just as within the whole vast ocean…

The first drops kiss my cheeks just as they kiss the earth….

Read Full Post »

Happy Ratcatchers’ Day!

It’s a day worth celebrating. Ratcatchers were courageous people in the bad old plague days…heroes even. And I have to admit to a certain fondness for the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Whether it’s the ‘Trickster’ nature of a mysterious piper dressed in jester-type robes, or the un-Disneyfied harshness of the punishment he inflicts upon the greedy, cheating burghers, or the shapeshifting nature of the Pied Piper, casting his net of enchantment…

Anyway, back to Ratcatchers’ Day. It appears to have been circled in red on my cats’ calendar, because this morning, I found the generous gift of a plump rat with long yellow teeth waiting for me on the ‘breakfast rug’.

Small rat-let inside chicken coop

It could have been worse.
I woke up the other day to the first rays of an early sunrise reaching in through the window. I yawned and turned over sleepily. For a moment, I half opened my eyes…I closed them again…and then OPENED them wide! On the pillow beside me was a severed head.

It stared at me with a dull, glassy stare, tiny teeth bared in a rictus grin…
It could have been worse.

Every night I am woken by the cry « Meeowse! Meeeeeowwwse! » My cats are generous. They hunt for 99% of their own food (Their choice! Don’t report me to Bast!), and have no interest in nasty, bleuchy cat food…except for a soupçon of biscuits, which are eaten as a post-mouse digestif. They worry about my vegetarianism. « Look! She’s eating another green thing! She needs mouse! Poor two-legs. We must feed her…We must teach her how to hunt. »

Fierce huntress showing fangs

On a good night, my food is prepared for me.
I wake. I stumble out of bed. The bathroom is close by, but I know my route will be perilous. One step…two…and ‘SQUELCH’…I step in a strategically placed offering of intestines and gall bladder. I continue more cautiously…One step…another…feeling more confident now…’CRUNCH’. A head. Aaarghhh! I step back. ‘SCRUNCH-SPLAT’. I can feel the wounded looks boring into me. « That was your breakfast !  Why do we bother? »
It could have been worse.

I apparently need to learn to hunt for myself. « Meeowse! » I wake up. « Meeeowwwse ». I wait…An ominous sense of foreboding descends. « MEEOWWSE » Cat is on bed.

What now unfolds depends on which horror film I have been cast in.
Scenario 1: I kick at the covers to remove dead mouse from on top of duvet.
Scenario 2: I kick at covers to remove live mouse from on top of duvet. And succeed.

Scenario 3: I kick at covers to remove live mouse from on top of duvet. And fail.

Scenario 3a: Mouse scuttles across duvet and gets off on its own.
Scenario 3b: Mouse scuttles across duvet and finds a hiding place under the duvet.

Scenario 3b (i): Mouse remains undetected under duvet and builds a new life as a ‘house mouse’ (see later…)

Scenario 3b(ii): Mouse tries to escape by scampering over my body.

Scenario 3b (iii): Mouse tries to escape by scampering over my head.

Scenario 3c: Mouse scuttles under duvet. I am ignorant of this fact. I wake in the morning to feel something odd beneath me. I turn on the light. Squashed mouse. 😦

Once a mouse has run the gauntlet of my hunting capabilities, however, something peculiar happens. The cats appear to have decided as one, that a gift mouse who survives, henceforth has immunity. So any mouse found within the bounds of the house is a mouse in sanctuary.

mouse family eating from cat bowl

Outside the house, the cats are lethal top predators…from cat-flap to supper in less than a minute! Inside the house, however… I hear a scrabbling from across the kitchen. A mouse, happily tucking into the remainder of those digestif cat-biscuits. Another joins him…and 3 more… A couple of metres away sits a cat…watching…beaming with benevolent approval…!

Read Full Post »

Summer has arrived in Armorica! The air is shimmering with butterflies and iridescent dragonflies, contented bees hum a ground bass to the chorus of softly cooing wood-pigeons and exuberant newly fledged song birds, whilst in the meadows, grasshoppers, cicadas and crickets are dancing…And hidden deep within the forest canopy, the golden orioles pipe…
There is magic in the air. The fluttering, shivering leaves are calling to me…

So…this afternoon I followed the call into the forest.

I have a special place there, a secluded glade, inaccessible other than by a small track leading from behind my cider apple orchard. No other path leads there, no wanderer in the forest might stumble upon it by accident…
My path is made by the deer (red and roe), the wild boar, the foxes and the badgers, and latterly by me. It winds through oak and beech forest into this clearing, in the centre of which stands a single very old apple tree.
I follow the path… and stop, just before I enter the glade. I listen. Birdsong, softly rustling leaves…The outside world has gone. No distant rumble of a motorway, no grumbling drone of a plane, none of the white noise/human-debris buzz that you don’t even realise is there, until it’s not…

I move slowly forward. A cloud of butterflies wafts up around me as I walk, billowing up from the carpet of flowers.
Around the apple tree, the grass is flattened into round dents. The deer sleep here. Come softly to this glade in the evening and they’re here, dark eyed and timorous, accutely sensitive to humans.

No photo of this glade here…It’s a place that belongs to something not to be photographed…Something that touches the numinous…

I lie down in the cool grass and gaze up through the branches of the apple tree…Quert/Queirt…
If you’ve read any previous blogs, you will have seen mention of Quasnon/Couesnon, the Fairy Queen, whose domain is a rocky palace that looks down upon the forest. Q is an odd letter in the Celtic tongues. In the Irish Auraicept Na nEces, it’s commented that ‘where C stands before U it is Queirt that is to be written there’.

The letters CU together are a synonym for « warrior », as in Cuchulain. (from the word ‘cu’ meaning hound or wolf).

When you read the word warrior, ‘cu’, substitute Queirt. The apple tree is the spiritual warrior, a tree symbolising the sacrifice of the warrior/magician making the journey to the Otherworld and back. ( « The Spirit of the Greenwood. »..)…and for me, it is a connection to Quasnon/Couesnon.

I lie back…the leaves flutter softly…and far above a buzzard wheels and cries…The oriole pipes again…I blink beneath the shafts of light slanting down between the branches, dappling the forest floor…Something moves…Out of the corner of my eye, I catch a glance…just behind a tree…I see a shadow, catch the dark, potent tang of a stag in the wind…I hear the softest of footfalls…

Read Full Post »

Annie helping me write

Apparently, it was Mark Twain who said « Write what you know ».

He also said « I have never let my schooling interfere with my education »,« It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt. » and « If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first. »

I think I would have liked Mark Twain.

And I think he was right about writing what you know, which is I why I wrote about elemental spirits, dragons, alchemists, magic, trees and animals.

What you know isn’t just the day to day mundane minutiae of your life, it’s all the worlds and lives you’ve conjured up in your imagination. People so often dismiss the imagination, « It’s not real ». Real? REAL? A myth written down, or passed down orally, or a story that resonates, can touch a person centuries later. The world formed in Tolkein’s imagination, is more powerful and alive today than the day that he put the final full stop to Lord of the Rings. He’s dead. The so-called ‘real’ stuff, like what he ate for breakfast on a certain day, a painful tooth, the love he felt for his wife… all just momentary, transient things. The creations of his imagination, however, live on. So, which is actually the more real?

Anyway…back to writing.
When I’m writing a book, I live inside it. This works on two levels.

Tell me more!

The first, is simply that I enact scenes in my books. You know those deranged looking people who walk along the street talking to themselves? That’s me. It’s fine normally. I live in the middle of nowhere, and my dogs are non-judgemental. I talk through scenes as I walk them in the morning, playing all characters, trying out different versions of the same scene until it sounds right. If a stranger, lost in the forest, were to stumble upon these morning walks and hear me, especially the bits where I laugh out loud in the manner of e.g. a cackling hedge hag, then he might jump to wrong conclusions. But it doesn’t happen. No strangers venture this far into the wilds!

I do, however, occasionally have to venture into the land of humans…which is something I find very difficult. In order to cope with the horror of a supermarket -the hideous strip lights, buzzing aircon, chemically smell, nasty piped music and row after row of garishly packaged poison that no one actually needs- I retreat into my books.

So…I’m walking along the coffee aisle. My basic survival instinct guides me to the coffee that I want. But my self-protection mechanism has sent me off to the Arivala Isles in Bryah, where on a beach of rainbow coloured sand, Arin is offering the Scorpion child a song in exchange for his freedom. I speak the words…My face betrays the fear felt by Arin…and then the haughty entitlement of the Scorpion child. I begin to sing Arin’s song………..

The second level, is that I immerse myself in the world I’m writing about. So, for example, for the fourth book, I needed to live as much as possible with the Air element. I read and researched like never before (air element…thinking, mental acuity…), I played with sylphs, got to know the Fool card of the Tarot, (those of you who’ve read ‘The Wakening of the Sword’ will have seen the Fool in there), surrounded myself with airy things: lavender, feathers, yellows and sky blues, strengthened my friendship with the Birch Tree, and since the guide in that book was a bee and bees played a vital rôle, I plunged into bee-dom. I ate pollen pellets, honey, propolis, royal jelly, drank mead, and followed the bees from flower to flower, danced the bee dance…dreamt of bees…dreamt I was a bee…

The Fool from the Tarot of the Sidhe

So, when my hero was saved by a bee in the Garden of the Seed, where the bees dance the dance of new life, I wrote what I knew.

« …The boy opened his eyes slowly. Around him all was dark. He waited, calmly, unafraid. This wasn’t the darkness of a nightmare. It was a warm, safe darkness. He could hear a deep, low humming, a humming that seemed to begin inside his head and then spread out in ripples into the darkness beyond. Then gradually he became aware of light. Very slowly, as the humming spiralled down through him, the darkness took on a deep amber glow. He couldn’t move, but it didn’t actually feel to him at that moment as though he had a body to move anyway. Later, when he tried to explain to his friends what had happened, he skipped over this bit. There weren’t words in his vocabulary to describe the sensation. The closest he could come was that the golden, amber light that rippled with rhythmic waves of humming, was now inside him. As though instead of looking out through his eyes at it, he was looking in. » ~The Wakening of the Sword.

Coming soon… The Mousefather: A terrifying tail. (sic)

Read Full Post »

You may have noticed something missing from this blog so far…The clue lies in my description of myself as a hermit.

Yes. No humans!

There is a very old book in French which describes the area in which I live thus: « Ce pays des plus escarpés, des plus boisés…le Désert, n’était pas sans attirer des ermites, désireux de beaux paysages, de solitude…une région paienne ou était tenace la croyance aux fées… » Roughly translated, this land is a wilderness of forests and steep, rocky places, which attracts hermits looking for beautiful countryside and solitude…a pagan land which clings on to the belief in fairies.

My nearest human neighbour lives in a house called ‘L’ermitage’, the hermitage. (My nearest actual neighbour is not human, but a Fairy Queen called Quasnon who lives in a palace of rock. You will meet her in future blogs.)

I don’t really need to encounter humans very often. I grow my own veggies and fruit, make cider, pommeau and calvados, have hens for eggs, meadows for hay, a well for water, goats for fleece (the latest in neolithic fashion!). And then there’s barter. I swap the hay that I don’t need for firewood and grain (poultry feed and bread making) and give board and lodging to some rather beautiful cows in exchange for their milk and cheese. Honey comes from an old man in the forest who keeps his own bees (bee hives…next on my list of ‘things to do’) and in addition to the forest’s own bounty, mysterious gifts of mushrooms appear from time to time left outside my door first thing in the morning…

Even the internet flies magically in all on its own!

Little need to venture into Humanland…except…COFFEE. And pens…and loo rolls.

As for humans venturing into the forest… My nearest village is an interesting place. Isolated, surrounded by forest on 3 sides, and straddling lands which were once the border between France and England, a priory was built here in the C13th, because it held on stubbornly to pagan beliefs long after everywhere around had converted to Christianity. The priory is now largely ruins, except the part that is now my house…

I don’t know what people’s idea of French peasants is in general, but my experience has been one of surprising open mindedness. After seeing the broomstick outside my door one day, a neighbouring farmer, who refers to people from the next village as étrangers (foreigners), turned the conversation to les sorciers/sorcières.

« It’s fine », he said. « I know you’re one of the good ones. » He took another appreciative slug of my calvados. «A previous owner of this house was a ‘circler’. He could heal a wild animal just by circling them. He was a good one»

« Are there many bad ones? » I asked curiously.

He shook his head. « They don’t last long. Bad things happen to them. »

So…back to humans. No one comes here because they’re ‘just passing by’. I live at the end of a tiny road to nowhere, which branches off a tiny road to almost nowhere, which forks off from a slightly less tiny road to maybe somewhere eventually.

No one, that is, except Jehovah’s Witnesses.

I am prepared.

A car arrives at my gate. Jehovah’s Witnesses.
JW1: (sees sign) « Dragons? »

Me: « Yes »

Pause. JW1 laughs nervously « Is that a dragon? » Points at golden retriever.

Me: « No. A dog. »

Another pause. JW1: « Do you believe in the garden of Eden? Myth or fact? »

Me: « In my world myth and fact are the same thing. »

Blank expressions.
Me: « The garden of Eden is all around me…as are the dragons. »

JWs beat hasty retreat.

Humans. Bizarre.

Read Full Post »

Writing…A blog about writing and I haven’t mentioned it yet!

I probably should.

The Elements series…1100 pages long, just under half a million words…and 9 years of writing. It looks quite a lot, especially when the 5 books are piled up on top of one another. But when I started writing the first book, all that time ago, it didn’t seem like a big challenge at all!

I was at last doing something that felt totally right, and knew without the slightest of doubts, that this was all I wanted to do…And it wasn’t going to be ‘one day, I’ll write a book’, it was ‘I am writing a book now.’

So…Why then? It wasn’t as though I hadn’t written bits and pieces before. What was different about that moment in 2003?

A dream. That was what was different. I woke up one morning with the entire story in my head…beginning to end. And unlike most dreams, this one didn’t fade away as the minutes passed. Infact, the opposite happened and that morning, as I scribbled down the bones of the story in a notebook, I remembered more and more detail.

And that was that. Whether I wanted to or not now, I had no choice really but to write the story… I had been given the story as a gift from the Story Spirits and to ignore it, to not write it, would be to throw that gift back in their faces!

Probably the sensible thing at this stage would have been to read lots of books about how to write books, or even to do a short creative writing course. It certainly wouldn’t be to give up the ‘day job’ and launch straight into a 5 book series. But I’m not a huge fan of the ‘sensible thing’. And I have a sneaking suspicion that had I been sensible and rational about it, the books would never have been written.

I can hear tut-tutting!…

That’s the why. Now the how.

It was obvious from the beginning that this was going to a series, something which has turned out to be a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because no matter how demoralised I sometimes felt, I had to carry on. What would have become of the first 3 books if I had stopped there and left them dangling, left my hero tumbling into a dark hole?
A curse, because no matter how demoralised I sometimes felt, I had to carry on! I could have taken a break, written something else, but hanging over me was the constant spectre of an unfinished series…otherwise known as ‘what if I fall under a bus?’-syndrome.

So…a series, and a series with many different plot threads running through it. I put on an organised head and began to draw up a sort of massive grid system; characters, plot lines, themes, etc. running through all 5 books. And I wrote the end. Not in great detail, but the key points were there. I knew where the story was going to end.
The very last line of the last book reads « This is the end in which the beginning rests ». And so it is. Without the end there would have been no beginning.

Coming up…I start to actually write…Dragons will be involved…

Read Full Post »

Last night I climbed into bed looking forward to a peaceful night of sleep and dreams. I laid my head upon the soft, cool pillow, closed my eyes…’Whooooosh….Whoooooosh….WHOOOOOSH’

I opened my eyes. ‘WHOOOSH!’ Something shot past inches above my head. I turned on the light.

A bat.
Aaarghh and double aaarghhh!

I like bats. We share a house. But when they fly down the chimneys (often), it’s not so good. Round and round and round the room they fly, at an unfeasible speed, sonar so sensitive that they skim past objects, leaving only millimetres to spare…including my head. There’s nothing I can do. If you’ve ever tried herding bats, you’ll understand…

So…back to bed. Eyes closed. Trying to ignore the ‘WHOOOSH….WHOOOSH…’

I wake again. ‘Drip…Drip…DRIP…DRIP DRIP DRIP…*rain noise*’ It’s raining…in my bedroom.

I am prepared. When it rains outside, it rains inside somewhere in my house. So I have buckets, towels and umbrellas at the ready.

The logical and practical person now says ‘mend your roof’. Yes. Fair comment. But, there is a factor that you haven’t taken into consideration. Mother Nature… (read on…)

So, rain catchers in place, I return to bed.

‘Woo..wooowooo…wooowooowooo’. I wake. ‘Woowoowoo’ An owl. I close my eyes again. Living in a forest, I get treated to the Wagnerian owl chorus from Tristan and Isowlda most nights.

‘Aaaaieeeee….AAAAIIIIIEEEAAAAIIIII…SCREECH’…I wake. The barn owls have arrived and it sounds as though someone is being hideously murdered outside my window…and then remurdered 30 seconds later…

Back to sleep….and into my dream comes creeping ‘scrabble, scratch, scrat-scrat-scrat…eeek….eeek…SQEEEeeeek’…I wake. Sigh.

I share my house with mice, rats, dormice, bats, owls, stone martens, spiders, swallows, sparrows, house martens, occasional snakes, frogs, toads…and monsters with hob-nailed boots that stamp on the ceiling above my bed at night. I’m happy to share. It’s no more my house than theirs.
BUT… it’s because of them that it rains indoors. Every time I repair my roof, within a week they are rebreaking it. They like the holes. They act as doors and let in the water to fill their drinking troughs and baths.

If I don’t like it, I suppose I can move out into the barn. There’s nice warm hay there to sleep on after all…….. :-/

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Ziggy Shortcrust

A Life Half-Baked

Edinburgh e-book Festival 2012

Redefining Reading and Writing... virtually


the blog of children's author Saviour Pirotta

Stone of Destiny

Musings of a Polytheistic Nature

Tales from the Magical Forest

Cliff Seruntine

Enter the enchanted forest . . .

Musings of a mad old Pagan!!!!

Just another WordPress.com site


Tarot inspired essays and more

%d bloggers like this: