Friday, 22 September 2017

Mellow Fruitfulness

This is an article from the latest Raven Newsletter, for those of you who miss out on its full fabness.

     I always think that the Equinoxes are the times when you become really aware of the Turning of the Wheel of the Year.
     At midsummer and midwinter there is a delay in the way the seasons reflect the astrological moment. The Summer Solstice falls around the 21st of June, but that is rarely 'midsummer' as far as the weather and temperatures are concerned - although this year June was very warm. It is usually July and August which are the hottest months and hence why we have our 'Summer Holidays' in these two months.
     It is the same thing in Winter: the Solstice falls around the 21st of December and is the shortest day in length, but the coldest weather, and the greater likelihood of snow is in January and February - one of the reasons that Imbolc is called the feast of the White Lady, is because snow is more likely then than around Christmas.
    But the Equinoxes really do mark turning points in the year. In Spring it is the feast of Eostre, the Spring Maiden who brings new life to the world, and this is so easy to see with the swathes of flowers springing up, and trees flaunting their fertility with catkins or flowers.
     And at Autumn again nature obliges by turning the leaves of the trees beautiful colours of yellow, orange and red, then falling in great drifts. Hedges are dotted with hawthorn and elderberries or garlanded with vines of jewel bright, red, bryony berries, our English Mandrake.
     The Autumn Equinox is the festival which celebrates the bounty of the harvest, and the thanks that it is safely gathered into storage. From late July the crops have ripened to fullness and there has been a flurry of activity as fields are shorn of their golden grain. Hops, grapes and apples are also gathered, as are many other crops. These are the foods which will see us through the bleak Winter months, and provide alcohol to feast with and bring joy at the darkest of times. Until the new shoots re-appear once more, next Spring.
     The Equinoxes are times of abundance. Either filling the barns and lofts, or filling the earth with new life. They are also times to give thanks to the Earth for providing such riches for us.
     They also remind us that we are lucky to live in such a place, where we can have food all year, to the extent that we can be profligate and wasteful with it.
     So let us celebrate the time of the Harvest. Thank the Goddess for her bounty and the God for his protection.
     Study a head of wheat, or an apple and above all: appreciate, taste and enjoy your food.

Friday, 1 September 2017

The Wicker Man

Last night there was a rare treat on the tv, a showing of The Wicker Man film, on the Horror Channel.
     This is a film I have always loved, and apart from Edward Woodward's characters demise, burned alive in a giant wicker man figure, I've never understood why it was classed as a 'horror' movie.
     The rest of the film is a wonderful imagining of a Pagan community, where the Scottish islanders are brought up in their ancient beliefs, to understand the turning of the seasons, the old gods and old ways. The music and songs add enormously to the atmosphere of a community in harmony with each other and nature, with the jarring note being the christian virgin police sergeant, who cannot understand the beliefs, or sexuality openly expressed by all islanders.
    It was made in 1973 and is very much of its time, with naked girls dancing around a fire and singing 'Take the flame inside you, burn and burn below, fire burn and fire turn, make the baby grow.'
     The landlord's daughter, played by Brit Ekland with an obviously dubbed voice, is the epitome of female sexuality, and referred to as the goddess Aphrodite, by Lord Summerisle, a suave Christopher Lee.
     I have always loved folk songs, and do sing to amuse myself, so the many songs which link through the film are a real joy. I think the first time I watched the film I focused so strongly on the Pagan elements and the music, that the story barely impinged. I have since read the book by Anthony Shaffer and Robin Hardy, Shaffer wrote the film and Hardy directed it, which I enjoyed but had nowhere near the impact on me that the sound and visuals of the film did - and did again last night.
     I love the idea that the children are taught that there is no death, but that the spirit carries on and goes into the hares and other creatures in nature.
    The eternal cycle of existence is expressed in a song sung while the young boys are dancing around the Maypole, which the girls are being taught is a symbol of male sexuality and the erect phallus.
In the woods there grew a tree
And on that tree there was a limb
And on that limb there was a branch

     The song continues to a nest with an egg, containing a bird, a feather becomes a bed, where a couple conceive a child who grows and dies, and on his grave there grew a tree, and the cycle starts and goes round again, eternally.
    I read that Shaffer and Hardy raided the book 'The Golden Bough' by J G Frazer, a monumental work of comparative mythology and folklore, and took chunks from here there and everywhere. Which put the hackles up of some people.
     The film was not a commercial success when it was first released, and suffered from being hacked rather than cut. The general public didn't understand it (hardly surprising) but it did gain a cult following (again hardly surprising).
     It has been slated over the years for various reasons, some decry its openly sexual nature, some that it is too Pagan, others that it is not accurately Pagan enough.
     Frankly I love it, apart from the final burning scene - and my main objection to that is the animals and birds fastened in the Wicker Man, go ahead and burn the christian (they've burnt enough Pagans, the Goddess knows), but don't harm the animals!