Tag Archives: Hearth

Smooring the Hearth

Solstice Sunset

Resisting night’s gravity

I rise to the Heavens,

clay on boots,

dusk at my heels,

slipping up to the

lonely grove on the brow,

where a year ago,

we planted a circle of hope.

Now I stand alone

in silent vigil.

Aurora of the day

sliding away, behind

Rodborough’s bear shoulders.

It is a satisfying death –

a great actor’s swansong.

A star born for this moment.

The lights fade, and, on cue,

another nova.

No desecrating ruckus

at a stone circle is needed

to mark this annual valediction – leave

the vandals to their

trilithon abuse and stoned selfies.

I have no need of the Am-dram

of dodgy rituals,

the posturing of ill-cast hierophants.

My gaze is for the sun alone.

Quietly, I say goodbye.


Burning News

The old year

is an empty grate,

solstice-black and cold

as a spurned lover’s heart.

Waiting to be filled with

kindling – scrunched news,

or the celebrity tittle-tattle

that passes for it

these days,

fat splinters of shattered tree,

glottal stops of coal,

black bile of angry mines,

the simmering earth

beneath our feet. Its fury

on slow-burn. The fuse of

ancient forests sizzle.

Coal scuttle, clatter and clinker.

With the rasp of a match,

paper curls, catching flame –

spreading like hungry gossip.

Inflammatory rumours

blaze into headlines of fire,

snagging our gaze.

We try to turn away,

but too late.

We’re hypnotized.

Smooring the Hearth

The clock ticks towards

the midnight chimes.

The sands of the year drain away.

Sip your anaesthetic,

reflect upon all that has gone,

the deeds un/done, the words un/said.

Bank the fire down, my friend,

before going to bed.

The memories glow and fade

like the coal, slow time

locked in its fossil heart.

Each a dream, once cherished,

come morn, a pail of dust

to be scattered on the dormant earth.

The day a squall of rain,

the nights come as fast.

The solsticed sun instructs us

to hiatus, to put down our tools.

Endless struggle, surrender arms,

as the Christmas ceasefire commences.

For a while we no longer

have to be anything.

Merely drop down into our being.

It is okay, friend, we can stop buying.

We can stop pretending to be nice,

so desperate to be loved back,

to be popular. For surely,

this is the measure of success.

That, and how much you own.

What you can show off to visitors,

the guests guessing your soul

from what’s on your shelves.

Shallow the depths of society’s

criteria. As though our lives

are no more than a lifestyle magazine,

a trending meme.

The fire dies down,

and what is discarded

slips through the bars of the grate.

Leaving the sine qua non of embers –

the truth only found

at the eleventh hour,

say, on the eve of execution,

when we face the cold, naked fact

of our mortality, our swift sparrow-flight

the length of a mead-hall.

Yet still, we bank the fire down –
thanking the warmth and light it has

bestowed, its borrowed grace –

in the hope that come dawn,

the last star can rekindle

our wintering king,

before it winks out

vanishing with the night.

Poems copyright Kevan Manwaring 2014

Inklings of Spring

Imbolc, 1st February

Today celebrated what is in the Celtic Calendar the beginnings of Spring – although it feels like long way off yet – the Fire Festival of Imbolc, sacred to the goddess Bridghid, patroness of poetry, smithcraft and healing. We could have done with her sacred flame (which was tended by priestesses and later nuns at her sanctuary in Kildare) today as we held a ceremony outside on a bitterly cold winter’s day – the pre-snow (infintesimal flakes  like fairy tears) as delicate as the snowdrops pushing through the slumbering earth. Sue Cawthorne, current holder of the Ovate Chair of Caer Badon, called it to take place at the Beazer Garden Maze with its mosaic of Bladud and six Greek Myths by Pulteney Weir. A raggle taggle circle gathered – many canal folk – huddling together like penguins in the Antarctic. After Sue started the proceedings, followed by a song for Imbolc by priestess of Sulis and Nemetona, Sheila Broun, I asked people to remember Tim Sebastion Woodman, the founder of the Gorsedd – who died two years ago on this very day – crossing over, with impeccable druid timing on Imbolc (as though consciously choosing the day of his death): the first time he’d ever been on time for anything, I joked. And Tim was, among other things, a joker. His irreverently wise spirit is missed. He has a way of puncturing the pomposity of much of the ‘oaky machoness’ as he put it you can get at such ceremonies. The posturing and publicity-seeking. Last year I held an Imbolc Bardic Showcase in his memory in Glastonbury. For me, the festival will always be associated with him – and I think of it, with some amusement, as ‘Timbolc’! Yet the festival for me has been for a long time the one I associate with Taliesin and Ceridwen. It is a poet’s festival and the ideal time to rededicate oneself to one’s path – which for me is the Way of Awen, the way of the Bard. And yet this year there is an extra sadness – locally we are mourning the recent loss from cancer of Dave Angus, who was a great poet and singer/guitarist. He set up a popular open mic event called What a Performance! On Friday there was one scheduled which became an emotive tribute night, following close on his passing. I performed my ‘Last Rites to John Barleycorn’ there – because Dave was something of a Barleycorn figure, as a merry soul who gave of himself freely to his community. Today we made him an honorary Bard of Caer Badon – a gesture to acknowledge his contribution and talent.  During the gorsedd I performed my Imbolc poem, Bride of Spring (below) above the roar of the weir. It was a nice visual fix to have swans swimming close by in the Avon.

Things were quickly wrapped up, for it was seriously cold, and I headed back home to prepare for my wee Imbolc ‘poetry tea poetry’ – a gentle Sunday afternoon affair. The sharing of poems over tea, cake and other tasties. Folk turned up from about 3pm and it was pleasant chilled out occasion, with contributions of song, verse and tale from some of my talented friends.  This is my ideal way to celebrate such times – I’m not one for ‘High Church’ paganism, preferring bardic sharing around the hearth or campfire to the pomp and ceremony. I like to simply gather in a circle and share. As a bard this is how I engage with the deeper meaning of the festivals – by the reciting and listening the traditional tales and songs. And  by the physical experience of visiting appropriate sites – as I did this morning, making a modest pilgrimage to my local woodland spring: a simple Sunday morning stroll on the surface, but for me, a way of reconnecting with the Source.

The Bride of Spring

In darkest hour of the year

she arises.

Casting off her shadowy gown

as she steps over the horizon –

by sun king kissed,

borne by his golden down.

A dress of frosted cobwebs

veils maiden skin.

Within a seasons turning

the crone has become virgin.

Snowdrops touch her and turn into flowers,

as the slumbering land stirs

in these formative hours.

The earth softens at her feet

where buds shake free their winter bed.

Newborn lambs begin to bleat –

insistent mouths by ewes milk fed.

Rooster heralds her on the ground.

Above, the feathered chorus

make naked trees resound.

We awake to a changing world.

Her white magic revealed –

a petal uncurled.

Stone bound man

let your proud bells ring,

for we are welcomed into her garden

as she stand at the gates of spring.

 

The infant year she presents,

placing the future in our hands.

A gift of renewed innocence,

restoring the egg timer sands…

Kevan Manwaring (from Green Fire: magical verse for the wheel of the year)

Solstice Celebrations

Solstice Sunrise

Solstice Sunrise

22nd December

After a busy week, tying up loose ends and completing projects – last classes, admin, the first draft of my radio drama, The Rabbit Room – a flurry of seasonal celebrations this weekend, from which I’m still recovering!

Saturday, Helen (8th Bard of Bath) and her partner, John the blacksmith, held a gathering at their new shared house over at Southstoke, a large house on the edge of Bath owned by Phil and Jenny. There’s about 8 living in this ‘unintentional community’, which has a green ethos as it’s bedrock. Helen read from her new children’s book, Hope and the Magic Martian, plus a couple of her poems by candlelight, and then there were open floor spots. I did a couple – my mistletoe poem (‘All heal’) and ‘Follow the sun road home’, which I wrote after visiting the nearby long barrow at Stoney Littleton on 21st December 2005. Jay Ramsay was also present and performed some of his profound, heart-felt poems. We also had a good heart-to-heart. And it was lovely to connect with Helen and John again – it’s been quite a while, although I saw Helen at ‘Dancing for the Earth’ late November. As with Jay, Helen is completely committed to her path – and performs with absolute conviction. A woman of integrity and talent.

As of happens this time of year there was more than one party happening on the same night, and I wanted to pop into Kim and Phil’s later – but the taxi driver had some trouble finding me, out in the sticks, due to being misdirected by his office. He finally caught up with me as I hiked along the road back to ‘civilisation’. I made it to the second party, high above Bath on Richmond Place at about 11.30pm! Although folk were surprised to see me, the party was still very much in full swing and it was nice to see folk. I didn’t stay too long as I was seriously flagging by this point, and there was alot to do the next day…

As was glad I had done the bulk of preparation for my solstice celebration the day before, as I woke a little late and a little delicate! Still, I managed to give the place a quick clean and have everything ready for when guests would arrive after the solstice ceremony in the Circus, which I dashed to. Here we publicly declared ‘in the eye of the sun’, Master Duncan as the new Bard of Bath, and celebrated the turning of the wheel with a good ceremony from Sulyen Richard Caradon and his partner, Misha, former Ovate of Bath. There was only eight of us but we did the works, and it felt good – especially as the sun came out in the middle of David’s story, right on cue! Hearing Master Duncan perform one of his poems which started ‘There’s too many poets…!’ was great as well – his voice booming around the three crescents of the Circus. I wonder if Nicolas Cage was listening in?

Afterwards, I swiftly made my way back to flat, joined almost straight away by Richard, Misha, Lizzie and Mairead – and so the party began! It was a relaxed afternoon affair – which was just as well after the night before! There was a lovely atmosphere created as folk gathered around my hearth and shared stories, songs and poems on light, rebirth, renewal and winter in general. Mairead led us in some singing ’rounds’. Sheila sang some beautiful Gaelic carols. Richard shared his ‘green song’. Svanur arrived later to share with us an Icelandic tale, which was a treat. Also had Mika, a Finnish research student and his wife, Maarit, present – so with all our ‘tales from the North’ we had a distinctly Arctic feel. Anthony told the amusing story of how the bear lost its tale, and his partner, Kirsty, shared her own funny story. I asked a couple of people to recite SpringFall, my bardic chair winning poem, (10 years old!) and David and Misha kindly obliged. It was a real thrill to hear it being performed by other voices for the first time. It was designed for two actors, a man and a woman, and was originally performed by myself and Emily at ‘Enchanted Wood’, Walcot Chapel, Summer 98. I have just produced a tenth anniversary edition of the booklet, and today was the launch. In the spirit of MR James, I read out the previously unpublished ghost story, ‘Taking the Waters’, from the new edition. All I needed was a smoking jacket!

The gathering slowly wound down by about 7 or 8, which was my intent. The final stragglers left and I cleared up the aftermath – well worth the mess! It was great to have a gathering at the Cauldron again – I haven’t felt like it since last Twelfth Night (my Dad dying five days after). It was wonderful for the house to be filled with awen and good cheer again – the lovely warm atmosphere in the room after everyone had departed was a clear sign it had been a successful event, as was my own ‘warm feeling. Forging such memories fill one’s heart.

After a dark, difficult year in many ways, for many of us – it really felt like a rekindling of the light.

I felt so fired up afterwards, that I typed out my old mummers’ play, The Head of Winter, also performed ten years ago at the first Bardic Festival of Bath in a commedia dell arte style by local friends – it had been hand-written back then and needed tidying up. Having worked on drama for stage, screen and radio lately I found it easy to lick it into shape. The next morning I posted it on the Silver Branch forum – offering my merry contribution for midwinter amusement.

All Heal

 

Between the earth and the stars

it hangs like a threat

of love,

a promise of bliss.

White bubbles to

burst on your lips like a kiss.

 

This is old druid magic, ancient fertility

 rite in your living room,

live in front of plasma screen.

Raise a glass to the golden bough,

to Baldur’s bane,

Aeneas’ passport to Hades and back.

 

On oak and lime and apple

how the mistletoe glows

like a swarm of green bees,

berries of awen waiting

for the glint of sickle

in the virgin midwinter sun.

 

 

Kevan Manwaring

Christmas Eve 2006