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Hathor Blessing: Crop Circle finale & farewell

Salutation to Hathor, goddess of love, music and beauty and Lady of the Stars, whose ritual Menat necklace represents the Souls of the blessed ones

Last week on Friday the thirteenth what may be seen as the swan song of the 2010 Crop Circle season appeared: an Egyptian-style ritual collar with trailing neckgear shining from a Wiltshire field of golden corn. It is the height of the harvest, days before they start wholesale cutting of wheat and barley in the western countryside.

The formation’s simple lines and clear message to crop circle followers may be overlooked among a plethora of dimensional designs which have dominated the 2010 crop circle season.

Linking its unadorned but glorious glittering shape to a Menat necklace — the symbol of primeval mother goddess Hathor in both the Old and New Kingdoms of ancient Egypt — is not difficult. A ritual curving jewelled shoal of splendour, its form is emblazoned in our collective memory, even as a northern species, derived from classical and prehistoric civilization of Europe and the Mideast.

She is the world’s most ancient goddess, embodiment of the planet Earth herself. It is she who cradles the sun each night as he sinks in the west.

Even the current fashion in heavy female neckware harks back to that classical curve: row upon row of minute turquoise beadwork and beauty created to invoke delight in a child, desire and pleasure in a model on the catwalk.

In present-day Wiltshire, we may not admit to being familiar with Egyptian hieroglyphics, hieratic script or deathmasks and tomb-paintings of the earliest dynasties (Great Pyramid of Khufu, 2589 – 2566 BC). But we have dormant memory banks, our bodies contain suppressed genetic code which probably remembers such a time, can ‘feel’ the weight of such a beautiful collar round our necks, desire the touch of such a ritual necklace.

It belonged to the Earth’s primeval goddess, Hathor: bringer of love, abundance, joy, fertility and regeneration.

As a swan song for the Wiltshire crop circle season of 2010, it seems a fitting statement to place at the height of English summer, when crops of wheat, barley, maize and even oats glorify in eight-hour days of beating sunrays pounding health and vitality into their stems and cells, literally seconds on the cosmic clock before the combine harvesters slice through life, growth and celestial graffiti.

Judging by a pronounced extra-terrestrial bent to this season‘s creations — despite a fairly good supporting cast of ‘plankers’ (man-made designs) — and with Science now firmly convinced of genuine CC enhancement in grain nutrient value and crop size by ET’s ‘light treatment’, I fervently hope someone is buying up Wiltshire wheat to bake into ‘DNA-enhanced’ bread, or wonder-pasta for our general wellbeing!

While there have been many man-made attempts this summer to emulate the light-bent nodes of superluminary crop circles, the Beckhampton message from the goddess appears to be genuine.

But, back to symbolism. Why Hathor? Why choose to imprint English fields — and thereby all of croppiedom — with a blessing from an ancient goddess who ruled heaven and earth before most of the western world could write?

Hathor, Earth-Mother Cow-Goddess bestowed bounty

Some time in Egypt’s pre-dynastic past the Goddess Hathor came into being, considered a major force in the creation of the world. Hathor was worshipped for over 3,000 years. Alternate forms of her name are Hwt-Hrw, Het-Hor, Het-Hert, Athor or Athyr.

Hathor, frequently seen as Egyptian Cow Goddess whose horns ‘held the Sun’, is probably Earth’s most ancient female deity. She encompassed so many different qualities and roles that it’s near impossible to list them all. She has been known as Sky Goddess, Sun Goddess, Moon Goddess and Goddess of the West. She was known as goddess of Moisture, and of Fertility, Agriculture and Motherhood; Goddess of the Underworld, Mistress of the Necropolis and, in her role as Protectress of the City of the Dead at Thebes, she became Goddess of the Dead.

Amenhotep III's ritual Menat necklace of bronze, faience, stone, glass and turquoise was gifted by goddess Hathor to pharaoh to engender his rebirth; courtesy Metropolitan Museum of New York

She was worshipped as Goddess of Love, Ecstasy and Beauty, and enriched the lives of her followers as Goddess of Music, Dance, Drinking and Joy. She was patroness of Women and Marriage and Protectress of Pregnancy. Hathor ultimately became special guardian spirit for all women and all female animals, and had such titles as ‘Lady of the Turquoise’ and ‘Lady of the Sycamore.’

The Menat Necklace was a ritual object first seen adorning the neck of the goddess and later used in ritual ceremonies to Hathor. The bejeweled necklace had many strands which ended in a counterpiece that, when originally worn as a collar, would hang down the back of the neck. In later use it had a ceremonial purpose and was wafted and waved as an amulet over the devoted to convey a blessing from the Goddess. The Menat symbolized fertility, and some sources see its offering a mystical union between the Goddess and her followers.

Are we earthlings now ‘followers’ of the wise goddess? Do we rate a heavenly blessing from the most high?

All summer long we’ve been expecting a message from God. Finally, as the year turns to autumn, we get a blessing from Goddess.

Much like the goddess Ishtar, Hathor’s attributes were a complex combination of the sacred feminine, death and the afterlife. It was she who bore bodies of the dead to the Underworld, she who actually took ownership of them. In this role Hathor became Queen of the Underworld.

Sun blessing embedded in a Wiltshire crop circle: Hathor regalia ends the 2010 season

In her association with Sun God Ra, Hathor was granted the title ‘Golden One’, while also sharing the name, ‘Eye of Ra’ with goddesses Sekhmet and Bast. Hathor was Protectress of Horus, the falcon god, and called a wide variety of names in that role. Some attributes appear conflicting and confusing and, as Mother Goddess, Hathor was often confused with both Isis and Nut. What confuses even more is the fact that she subsequently ‘became’ Isis who, in a later period, absorbed and acquired many of the aspects previously attributed to Hathor.

When she governed in her principal place of worship at Dendera, Hathor’s role as Goddess of Fertility, Women and Childbirth was venerated specifically. Her temple there was filled with incense, intoxication and pleasure. At her other temple in Thebes, however, Hathor changed into her robes as Goddess of the Dead, known as ‘Lady of the West.’ In Thebes she cradled in her arms the sun god Ra, as he descended below the horizon in the west.

Goddess Hathor wearing the Menat, holding her sacred Sistrum (rattle)

Hathor has represented the erotic in femininity and procreation, and was frequently identified with Greek goddess Aphrodite, Roman Venus. In her role as Goddess of Fertility, Hathor represented Nature’s creativity, and as Goddess of Moisture, she was associated with the annual inundation of the river Nile. In this aspect, Hathor was linked to dog-shaped constellation Sothis (Sirius, ‘dog-star’) which, at its heliacal rising on the eastern horizon — immediately before the Sun — announced yearly flooding of the Nile in July.

Eventually, in a later period, when Hathor’s role began to change, Isis/Osiris (Serapis) cults gained popularity in Egypt and then spread through the Roman empire and Greece. Because of her fertile and life-bringing nature, Hathor was considered capable of reviving the dead; she welcomed them to the Underworld, dispensed water to them from the branches of a sycamore tree, and offered them food. In various New Kingdom tombs at Thebes Hathor is depicted embracing the dead.

In pre-dynastic times, and certainly in the early dynasties, Hathor is seen as the cow-consort of the Bull of Amenti, the original deity of the Necropolis. As queen or ‘Lady of the West’, her mortuary title as Protectress of the Necropolis valley on the west bank of the Nile, in her role as protector she not only oversaw where the sun (Ra) went down, but this choice location for later kingdoms’ burial tombs.

Amazingly Hathor, one of the world’s greatest goddesses, was worshipped for a longer period than Christianity or Islam have reigned. Hathor’s religion of joy and celebration dominated for over 3,000 years. It continued strong throughout Egypt, and through both Greek and Roman empires, where it spread and became assimilated.

Her cult was in its heyday when the first great pyramids were built and used as sacred pharaonic tombs, and lasted until pyramids were no longer used for that purpose, by which time royal patrons continued under her protection on the west bank of the Nile in the great Necropolis Valley of the Kings.

She is the equivalent in Nordic, Celtic and Anglian territories of the Old Goddess of the pagans. She perpetuated in popular speech, in rituals of hearth and earth, in festival custom with its cargo of symbol and myth. She was seen as the source of life, power and wisdom. People prayed to her for wellbeing, abundance, protection, and healing. They invoked her during birth, and the dead returned to her and moved in her retinue.

They say that the Old Goddess, Crone who rode the winds, caused rain and snow and hail on earth, and that she revealed omens of weather and death and other momentous things to come.

In this sense she and Hathor are one and the same: primeval Eve, Brittonic Bride, Norse Auohumla, the great cow-giant goddess, true ancestor of the Norse gods. She is also Gaia, Sumerian Antu (who later ‘became’ Ishtar, goddess of love and procreation).

Apex of inspirational 'Hathor crop circle' at Northdowns, Beckhampton, Wiltshire, photo courtesy Bert Janssen

It is significant, too, that the ‘Hathor crop circle’ at Beckhampton appeared on a Friday the 13th.

The superstition held today of Friday the 13th being unlucky may stem from the betrayal of the Knights Templar on Friday, October 13th 1307 (Old calendar) when their monastic military order in France was arrested en masse by King Philip. The Spanish, however, hold Tuesday as their unlucky day; so the suggestion is a tentative one. Perhaps ET used the date merely to get our attention. It’s a familiar technique he’s employed over the years to combine crop images and Calendar.

An alternate explanation occurs: in later European tradition Friday was observed as ‘holy day of the goddess’, beginning with its eve on Thursday night. In that sense she is Norse goddess Freyja. The dark of the year was sacred to Old Goddess. On winter solstice nights, she was said to fly over the land with her spirit hosts. Tradition added that shamanic witches rode in her wake on the great pagan festivals, along with the ancestral dead.

Reverting to the Hathor connection, one ancient tale is retold of a group of goddesses, bearing cow horns and playing tambourines who went by the name the Seven Hathors. These Hathors were able to foretell a child’s destiny; similar in many ways to the weaving of the Tapestry of Life by the Fates, the Norns or the Disir. The Hathors were more than clairvoyants who could see into the future. They were questioners of the soul as it made its way to the Land of the West. In addition to knowing a child’s destiny, the Seven Hathors could foretell the exact hour of his death.

Egyptian mythology held that a person’s destiny was decided by the hour of his death and therefore his fortune, or lack of it, stayed with him throughout his life. The Hathors were known to have extreme powers, and were able to replace a prince, born with a bad fortune, with a child born with a good one. In this way they had the ability to protect both the Dynasty and the nation. The Seven Hathors are presently receiving some attention through the works of musician and psychic channeler, Tom Kenyon. When Hathor’s ‘old’ attributes became overshadowed by those of Isis and new kingdom beliefs, the Hathors were sent into the sky. There they have become identified with the Pleiades.

In more northern latitudes, reverence was paid for centuries to the Old Goddess in planting and harvesting, baking, spinning and weaving. The fateful Spinner was worshipped as Holle or Perchta by the Germans, as Mari by the Basques, and as Laima by Lithuanians and Latvians. She appears as Befana in northern Italy and as a myriad faery goddesses in France, Spain, and Celtic countries (Brittonic Bride). In Serbia she is Srecha; in Russia Mokosh, Kostroma or the apocryphal Saint Paraska.

Corn dollies embody ancient goddess Mother Earth

The Old Goddess was commonly pictured as a crone or aged woman, and origins of her veneration are lost in the mists of time. While goddesses of ancient ethnic cultures have unique qualities, they share traits, a deep international genetic root. Old Goddess is like the weathered Earth, ancestor of all, a tangible presence in forests, grottos and fountains. In her infinite guises she manifests countless forms: as females of various ages, she shapeshifts to tree, serpent, frog, bird, deer, mare and other creatures. Surviving the European Reformation, she remained beloved by the common people.

When farmers, and those who worked the land, were less dependent on technology to produce our food, Mother Earth and nature played a much more important role in the annual cycle of life. In particular, the harvest of cereal crops was a major event in the calendar.

We are now three weeks into ancient Lammas, the traditional harvest season.

In pre-industrial times a summertime ‘Lord of the Harvest’ would be given the responsibility of planning the harvest and marshalling the workforce, and when harvest was finally done they would celebrate with a ‘Harvest Home’ feast.

Corn Dolly made from the last (Clyack) cut sheaf, held sacred through winter, a blessing of Earth's bounty

The first and last sheaves of corn to be cut had major significance. Grain from the first sheaf (the ‘Maiden’) was made into a sacred loaf of bread while the last sheaf – the Clyack – was reserved for transformation into a corn dolly: symbolic of Mother Earth and the Spirit of the Corn.

Straw from this last sheaf was woven or plaited into the complex shapes of corn dollies, as cornucopiae, horns of plenty, horse shoes, knots, fans and lanterns. Ultimately, shape depended on local tradition, but in every case a symbolic ‘dolly’ graced the top table at the end-of-harvest feast and was then carefully guarded over the winter months. When spring crops were sown, the dolly re-emerged to be carried round the fields to pray that Nature and corn goddess delivered up another good crop.

In Wiltshire they’ve already started the harvest. Even in my native Aberdeenshire winter barley is going under the combine. Three weeks into Lammas (which pivots round August 1st), harvest is in full swing.

Our consciousness these days has become less aware of such natural cycles of food-cultivating-and-cutting; we are lulled into ignorance of the provenance of our daily bread. Perhaps it is this lulling that the crop circle presence wants to jerk us out of: to rekindle in us an appreciation — even reverence — for Earth’s bounty and her unconditional gifts of life and nourishment. More significant may be the appearance of a ritual symbol in the crop to help us understand our civilization’s most ancient ancestral traditions which show respect for (Earth’s) sacred creator gods.

Hathor was probably civilization’s earliest goddess. Her blessing showered on us now from above, five thousand years after the zenith of her devoted following, emblazoned in golden grain for our delectation and visual appreciation (aerial photographs superbly provided by Frank Laumen and Bert Janssen, thank you guys); it sparks our earliest memories of civilization. Are we being given a futuristic jab in the arm, to trigger our DNA? or to learn to appreciate more fully what our ancestors understood?

Our senses are being stroked, honed, we are receiving her gifts again. Not only was she goddess of birth and death, she was goddess of REBIRTH.

It’s just possible she has returned in essence now to show us that — at the end of the 2010 season of remarkable cosmic signs — our species is poised on the brink of rebirth: that we humankind are jointly headed for regeneration.

Dare we hope? As we come together as a race, as we feel joy in our rebirth, may we also see a faint promise of Hathor’s greatest gift? Immortality?

August 16, 2010 Posted by | ancient rites, belief, calendar customs, consciousness, crop circles, festivals, New Age, ritual, sun | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gab o’ May to Gemini June

Ne’er cast a cloot till May be oot
Old Scots rhyme

May blossom: Kanzan ornamental cherry, cedar and pale green maple leaves

The old Scots of our little rhyme applies not just to the month of May, but also to the hawthorn bush, the Maytree. Thereby hangs a tale.

Gemini offers a kindly doorway to summer: and we are now thankfully a few days into this communicative astrological sign. Gone the stress and hardship of winter, cold spring, slow growth. Enter the Cosmic Twins: dualism, communication, seeing both sides of the same situation. In other words, enter the mercurial element. And warm.

Fingers crossed.

Gemini is usually a forgiving zodiac month. It fills one third of the calendar month of May. Its communication is tangible. Emblazoning shocking pink blooms dance on pale green leafy branches next to russet peeling-bark maples. Purple blossoms shout color from bending lilac boughs. Who wouldn’t want to communicate, yea, rejoice, in May? at least in the latter part of it.

“The world’s favorite season is the spring.
All things seem possible in May.”
– Edwin Way Teale

Not only has the zodiac sign of Gemini the backing of communicative Mercury to support it, but this year Mercury has only recently turned from retrograde to direct. Time for winter silence to end, stilted conversation, lack of fluidity gone; communication can start up again. The earth, too, a little miffed at having to wait so long to see the sun, is throwing caution to the winds, and everything is blooming at once.

As far as I’m concerned, this is a Godsend. It has been a long hard winter. We can all do with some relaxation. A little light relief, duality, multi-vision. Spring, however late, is welcome.

Trees this year are coming into leaf together all at the same time. We are reminded by birdsong of the fullness of life – fresh greenness of trees and shrubs – blossoms open. Life coughs and restarts.

If the oak comes out before the ash – we’re in for a splash;
If the ash comes out before the oak – we’re in for a soak
‘ more Scots wisdom

All trees came into leaf at the same time

In ‘normal’ years, the ash and oak are the last to open leaf and flower buds and rivalry between them to prognosticate rainy or dry weather of this old wives’ saying is noticeable. All beech, birch, lime and cherry buds are in full leaf before bare branches of the oak and ash decide to join them. Not this year. It was like a race had been initiated to see which species might rival the traditional early budders. They all won the contest.

What potent blood hath modest May.
– Ralph W. Emerson

Other aspects of the season begin to rub off on our chill northern disposition. We loosen up a little, feeling perhaps not so obsessed to compete or complete projects under the pressure of frost. Northern character is driven by cold: it precipitates one into working harder; showing that one is capable of braving hardship along with challenging temperatures. Mañana doesn’t work here. No cultural bias here, but who ever heard of a multi-million-dollar operation run by a Jamaican?

Is it any wonder that the Scot is Scotland’s greatest export? And, as a corollary, that the Scots hard-working northern ethos is one which takes well to leadership? Historically, successful world empires have been run by expatriot (and patriot) Scots: think Andrew Carnegie 1835-1918 (coal, steel and museums), Thomas Blake Glover 1838-1911 (Mitsubishi), John Paul Jones 1747-1792 (founder of the US Navy). Or politics, art and philosophy: think Sir Walter Scott 1771-1832 (lawyer, poet, novelist), Adam Smith 1723-1790 (author, Wealth of Nations, first modern economist), John Sinclair 1754-1835 (politician, writer, first to coin the word ‘statistics’). Or naturalist John Muir 1834-1914, founding father of the environmental movement.

That said, the Scots, like the Germans, are addicted to exotic places — but only as a place to ‘chill’, to ‘get away from’ their ‘real world’. Nowadays Scots populate world cruises and Germans overrun southern Italy. But then they come back home.

Mary Queen of Scots, at one time claimed the thrones of Scotland, England, France and Ireland

A friend on a recent visit from the Pacific Northwest made an interesting observation: more of a cosmic comment:

what if Mary Queen of Scots had not been executed in 1587 by her cousin Elizabeth I?

Would we Scots still be the same feisty underdogs, over-achievers striving to pit our wits against the Universe? If she the Roman Catholic queen, rather than her protestant son James VI & I, had reigned in Great Britain, would we be more stay-at-home? more continental (‘auld alliance’ Scotland/France)? more laid-back? less prickly? less worldly or world-travelled?

Would we have been motivated to invent anything? (James Watt 1736-1819, steam engine; John Logie Baird 1839-1913, television).

Would we tolerate living in a climate which supports, in the words of Lord Byron – whose mother came from Aberdeenshire:
“Winter – ending in July
To recommence in August” ?

Is it any wonder we are obsessed with May?

The Gab o’ May is a harsh word for the beginning of such a gentle month, but historically its behavior has been erratic. The ‘Gab’ or ‘maw’ of a new month which perpetuates the weather of its predecessor is given short shrift. Lest the unwary shepherd forget, ancient tales tell of sheep dying in the fields in May.

Aye keep in some corn and hay
To meet the caul Kalends o’ May

The old earthman’s repeated rhyme about the Kalends of May sounds antiquated and without relevance to the modern ear, but in the North of Scotland this year his words had meaning.

Icy April

Weather in this Icelandic neighbourhood reached Arctic climax proportions between December and March. April’s showers were icy rather than gentle and the psyche of the ‘stoic’ Scot hardened and bristled. It’s the traditional way in a northerly, long-suffering people to cope with the harsh realities of living at the 57th degree of latitude and farther north.

The Pentland Firth, chosen to host the World Surfing Championships, presented contestants with ice floes. Not a single tree opened its spring foliage in April.

A swarm of bees in May
Is worth a load of hay;
A swarm of bees in June
Is worth a silver spoon;
A swarm of bees in July
Is not worth a fly.
– Rhyme from England

Not a bee in sight. Not even an over-wintering midge. And May was imminent. Back to the Kalends, though.

Fearless spring inhabitant: peacock butterfly in early May

The Kalends was a Roman term which looks a little anachronistic now on the page of the poem. But it is good to remember that until Pope Gregory initiated a calendar change from Julian to Gregorian in 1582, only a brief time into Scotland’s own revolutionary change — the Reformation, which itself did not fully take hold until 1660 — the Church commanded people’s lives; dictated what was read to them (most of them didn’t read themselves) and what the Church read was Latin. So the first of the month was, in the minds of the rural farmer and countryman at least, still referred to by its Roman calendrical name, the Kalends.

It was the Roman name for the beginning of the month which gave us the word for Calendar in the first place. In Roman Scots it’s the same as the Gab o’ May – Maw of the month – the cold raw maw of May.

So what does it mean?

In times before there were trains, buses, mechanized transportation, when every countrydweller lived close to the land, the only modes of travel other than foot were a horse or a bicycle. And one of the surest ways of surviving was to keep a cow, or a sheep or a goat close to home. It’s what many rural communities still do in countries other than the First World. In Scotland before the 18th century, little “but ‘n’ ben” shacks were built of turf and earth. When stone building became more common at the end of that century, the same structure was converted to stone, but of similar design: a ‘but’, (abutting the ‘byre’ or stable with access to outdoors) where the animals lived and kept the building warm with their cozy breathing; they provided easy access for milking before being put out to pasture in the fields at the end of May. The ‘ben’ was the other part of the house, ‘through’ the house where guest humans went, away from the warm kitchen hearth and adjoining beasts. Until well into the 20th century, ‘company’ were invited into the ‘ben’ part of the house. Only the family spent time in the ‘but’, within soundwave proximity of the beasts. Even after the advent of a more leisured farming class – those in stone farmhouses with separate quarters for farm animals, barns and other sheds – no good practitioner of husbandry would send his animals out into the fields before the end of bad weather.

You kept your feathered friends indoors until all risk of frost was past

When the weather became kindly – as garden centres so often remind us “plant out after all risk of frost has passed”: So with hen, cow, pig, sheep or goat. You kept your life-giving feathered and four-footed companions warm and fed indoors, not venturing to put them out to pasture until all risk of frost was over.

That’s where the calendar and the month of May come in.

The original Roman calendar calculated according to a 13-lunar-month regimen. Julius Caesar, after an extended visit with Cleopatra in Egypt, upgraded the Roman ‘Julian’ calendar in 46BC to run along lines similar to the Egyptian solar one which he admired. The Julian year was on average 365.25 days long. It worked well until extra ‘leap’ days started to mount up over a period of 1500 years. When the Gregorian calendar took over from the Julian calendar, the western hemisphere ‘lost’ 11 days. In country districts in the northern hemisphere – Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Shetland, Orkney, the Western Isles – country people saw this as being robbed of life’s most precious commodity – time.

Because the original Roman calendar had run on cycles of the moon, even the revised version began to clash with solar time and calculation which made sense in the first centuries AD by the 18th century had lost relevance. An adjustment had to be made. September 2, 1752 was chosen as the date on which the old calendar would ‘switch’ to the new. On that day, the British Isles and all English colonies, including America, lost 11 days–September 3rd through 13th. People went to bed on September 2nd and when they awoke next morning, the date had become September 14th.

Country ways: living in harmony with your neighbours

There were riots in rural villages when people thought the government was trying to cheat them out of 11 days of their lives. Though these days disappeared in English lands in 1752, a number had already vanished in other places–France in 1582, Austria in 1584, and Norway in 1700. Tsarist Russian, on the other hand, did not convert to Gregorian until 1918. And the Berber people of North Africa still operate on Julian time.

Naturally they were upset when Christmas fell 11 days earlier that year, Epiphany 11 days earlier the next January and then it played havoc with spring. May started 11 days before the accustomed season and so our title quote, another favored Scots expression, became meaningless:

‘ne’er cast a cloot
till May be oot’

It has often been said that the ‘May’ of the quotation refers to the blossom of the May or Hawthorn and this would tie in well with spring timing. In calendar terms, however, in now (Gregorian) time, the Scots are seen to suggest caution when divesting winter woolies, extra layers of ‘vests’ (underwear) until the month of June has begun!

The original aphorism may have applied to the hawthorn, which did indeed bloom during the latter weeks of May; but when 11 days were subtracted from the old calendar, May became 11 days chillier and so in northern Scotland at least, the hawthorn no longer blooms until the last week of the month or the first week of June.

‘Ne’er cast a cloot till May be oot’
becomes the month as well as the tree. i.e. don’t take off anything until June.

… and now is not the time for me to tell the tale of the Victorian Scots bothy loon (farm worker) who was sewn into his underwear in November by the ‘kitchie deem’ (kitchen lass, maid) only to have the stitches removed the following summer solstice.

I’ll leave that delight for another story-telling session…

May 25, 2010 Posted by | astrology, calendar customs, culture, festivals, organic husbandry, seasonal, weather | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Arbor Day and Earth Week

Trees: without them and our wilderness, we as a species are lost

‘Archetype of our oneness with the earth’

We used to call it Arbor Day. On the hinge between Aries and Taurus, when the Sun enters this celebratory earth sign in the western zodiac calendar: that’s the day John Muir was born in 1838. A native Scot who emigrated to the United States and changed the face of a nation, Muir was the original arborist: lover of trees.

Wolves being hunted to extinction following a change in legislation to the US Endangered Species Act

It wasn’t easy. In early 19th-century Britain or the US, wilderness wasn’t a concept naturally entertained by Victorian huntin’ shootin’ choppin’ mentality. [It still isn’t, one might argue, when considering the recent Obama administration’s upholding the Bush cancellation of sections of the Endangered Species Act: which has resulted in wholesale wolf-massacre in the US States of Montana, Idaho, New Mexico and Alaska].

Muir had similar adversaries. A naturalist and explorer of nature, his favorite wildernesses were in northern California, and it is there that his perseverance eventually paid off.

His activism was instrumental in saving swathes of western wilderness which eventually became the National Parks of Yellowstone, Yosemite Valley and Sequoia NP. The Sierra Club, which he founded in 1892, is now the most important (and vociferous) conservation organization in the United States.

His essays, letters and books have been read by millions.

At first, however, his petitions to conserve large areas of natural beauty were ignored. In the USA, it was a time of railroad expansion, the explosion of large cities, and big business in politics and in agriculture.

In his opinion, the high Sierras and other wild mountainscapes were being ravaged by livestock grazing (especially sheep, which he termed ‘hoofed locusts’). He personally spent weeks, sometimes months, in this high country, documenting and writing about the need to allow areas of such magnificence protection from grazing and (by analogy, its later counterpart,) the human and vehicular footprint.

He was persistent and he was inspired. The wild nature of California captivated him, from his first moment of exposure to its awesome grandeur.

Yosemite by Ansel Adams

“We are in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us” John Muir

He had, after all, grown up in rural (but ‘tamed’) Scotland, where the wildcat was close to extinction, where wild boar no longer existed outside zoos, and where in his grandfather’s time a royal patron, King George I (‘Big Geordie’), had commissioned a granite bridge over a tributary of the River Dee at Invercauld, so he could be wheeled from Ballater to the hide to shoot; and where, incidentally, he is credited with killing Scotland’s last wolf in 1722.

Muir saw huge vistas of the Cairngorms, Deeside, Donside and the Ladder Hills have their natural tree populations annihilated by sheep, deer and rabbit. He dreamed of a world that might be otherwise.

Grandeur of Yosemite inspired Muir's lifelong work for wilderness

Muir arrived in San Francisco in 1868, and immediately set out to spend a solitary week in Yosemite. He later built a cabin there, where he lived for three years. For months at a time he would wander alone in the wilderness, making notes, carrying ‘only a tin cup, a handful of tea, a loaf of bread, and a copy of Emerson.’ It is here that he and his correspondent-in-Nature Ralph Waldo Emerson eventually met in 1871; Emerson traveling from Harvard to meet the man who lived the life he merely wrote about. His visit lasted only one day, but he promised assistance, and offered Muir a teaching position at the prestigious university, which Muir declined. ‘My work is here’, he said.

In 1872, the first National Park was created by federal legislation, on the strength of Muir’s efforts, at Yellowstone, Wyoming. It was to be the precursor of many others in the continental United States, including a total of nine national parks, now administered within the State of California by the National Parks service.

After his meeting with Emerson and over the following twenty years, Muir gathered, collated and compiled volumes of data on geology, natural history and plant and animal life populations of the Sierras. He envisioned Yosemite and the Sierra mountain range as pristine lands where original wildlife might roam, breed and proliferate, unimpeded by artificial (human) regulation. It was a difficult concept to instill. And his vision suffered throughout his life, wherever conflict surfaced between wilderness and ‘business.’

In one respect he was visionary, in doggedly hounding US Congress, and in writing for pro-conservationist magazines and organizations.

‘“Few are altogether deaf to the preaching of pine trees. Their sermons on the mountains go to our hearts, and if people in general could be got into the woods, even for once, to hear the trees speak for themselves, all difficulties in the way of forest preservation would vanish.”


In 1873 and 1874, he made field studies along the western flank of the Sierra Nevada, on the distribution and ecology of isolated groves of Giant Sequoia, one of the few redwood groves left in the world in virgin stands. In 1876, the American Association for the Advancement of Science published Muir’s paper on the subject. In his personal essays, however, he valued nature for its spiritual and transcendental qualities.

Mount Whitney, at 14,500ft, the southern terminus of the John Muir Trail

His work inspired countless Americans, whose culture at the time was focused on the growing phenomenon of sky-scraper building and nationwide travel. He got them out of cities and back to nature. His work inspired photographers like Ansel Adams, painters such as Bierstadt, Jorgensen and Virgil Williams and he might even be seen as the father of the naturalist movement ‘EarthFirst‘. In the words of his biographer Steven Holmes:

“Muir has profoundly shaped the very categories through which Americans understand and envision their relationships with the natural world.”

John Muir in 1907 - wildman to the end

In 1903, after an inspirational (but chilly) night in a tent at Glacier Point with President Teddy Roosevelt, whom Muir was invited to take ‘to the wilderness’, the President rearranged bureaucratic legislation, and consolidated the boundaries of Yosemite, which had been split and decimated for earlier conflicting ‘business interests.’

Many wilderness areas are named after him: from Muir Woods and Muir Beach in Marin County, north of San Francisco, to the 211-mile John Muir Trail, which runs from Yosemite through King’s Canyon NP and Sequoia National Park, to the 14,500-ft peak of Mount Whitney in central California. A glacier in Alaska bears his name. He was instrumental not only in establishing the structure which became National Parks, but in the resulting expansion of National Forests, including areas with protected ‘Reserve’ status. In addition, State Parks now proliferate throughout the US. California, alone, has twelve regions of state parks (CSPs) administering 278 parks on 1.4 million protected acres.

So, what has happened in the bigger picture?

John Muir would be delighted to know that in 1964, the US government passed the Wilderness Act, to protect around nine million acres of wilderness. Arbor Day was traditionally a celebration conceived in the midwestern state of Nebraska (a treeless zone), as a springtime event to encourage the young to plant a tree. And two Earth Days appeared on the American calendar–one ratified by the United Nations and celebrated on equinox, March 21st–when both hemispheres receive equal amounts of light and dark and when the sun appears to stand directly overhead on the equator; the other, April 22nd, has gradually superseded Arbor Day; their celebrations now interchangeable.

Recently, with the advent of the blog, acceleration of internet communication and a focus on Earth-related activities, New Earth consciousness, Earth Day has expanded into ‘Earth Week‘. That, too, would please Muir.

But what of his homeland? the sheep-munched treeless wilderness of northern Scotland?

Cairngorm National Park

Cairngorms National Park was established in 2003, the largest of 12 national parks in Britain at 1400 square miles, literally 10% of the landmass of Scotland. Stretching from Grantown-on-Spey (north) to Glen Clova in Angus (south) and from Ballater on Deeside in Aberdeenshire (east) to Laggan and Dalwhinnie (Aviemore) on the A9 (west). Its supporters describe great vistas, mountainous peaks (all less than 4000ft) and the Tourist Board of Scotland heralds it a shelter for a quarter of Scotland’s threatened species, and home to 25% of its native trees.

That in itself is disturbing.

Its ‘Angus glens’ the ‘haunt of red deer and golden eagle'; ‘heather moor vivid with summer color’, and ‘wild tundra of high mountain tops’ tell the story.

Every last vestige of hunting forest put to the torch by Robert Bruce, 1308

Brief historical recap: in the early 14th century, Robert the Bruce murdered his (Comyn) rival for the throne of Scotland and pursued his son through the hunting forests of Aberdeenshire until he cornered him in his coastal Buchan fortress and – having proclaimed himself monarch – confiscated what was left of Comyn lands. On the ‘royal’ progress north, every last indigenous native Caledonian pine was either burned to the ground or used as live torches to light the way of the conquering army. This deliberate extinction of the species–and the wildlife it harbored–was Bruce’s way of destroying the Comyn hunting forests, themselves a symbol of wealth and source of self-regenerating food and fuel supply. His act (colloquially called the ‘Herschip o’ Buchan’, harrying of Comyn lands in Buchan) totally changed the face of Aberdeenshire, from which it has never recovered.

What Robert Bruce’s actions created – a treeless raised beach from the Grampian mountains to the sea – was not replanted. Except for small pockets on landed estates where tree regeneration was encouraged, an agricultural zeal took over the desolate wasteland, capitalizing on open countryside with few obstructions.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Highland estates cleared out their resident employees–crofters–to make way for agricultural innovation: turnips and sheep. While these ‘clearances’ were more specific to Caithness, Sutherland and the western portions of Scotland, some effects were felt in what is now the Cairngorms National Park. Where sheep were introduced, trees died; were not replanted; not allowed to regenerate. Where deer population had been nurtured and maintained in small numbers in remnant natural forests, for hunting, with the exit of human monitors, they overpopulated and devastated their own environment.

Thus, the Tourist Board’s ‘heather moor with vivid summer color’ and ‘wild tundra’.

Tree planting has begun again in the agricultural hinterland

The tourist brochure’s proclaiming its 1400 sq.miles as “harboring one quarter of the nation’s native trees” is also misleading. One tenth of the landmass containing one quarter of the nation’s pine, birch, aspen and alder? sounds a little drastic. Especially if compared with John Muir’s Yellowstone. Yellowstone’s 2.2 million acres, or 3.5 thousand square miles, has more trees per acre than all of Scotland put together. It is true that Aberdeenshire, a region half the size of Switzerland, still has fewer indigenous trees than it should–for its kindly climate–support. But that number is growing: private plantations are beginning to take hold again.

The good news is the story of Glen Affric: and Trees for Life. This Scots charity has gradually (through donation) been purchasing 600 square miles of ancient Caledonian remnant forest west of Inverness, and has begun the mammoth task of replanting original species of oak, alder, Caledonian pine, juniper, birch and rowan (mountain ash).

Regeneraton of Caledonian pine -- a rewarding task

While their goal is not to service the forestry industry, but rather to provide habitat for original animal, insect and plant subspecies, (with the possible future reintroduction of wild boar and wolf being tentatively suggested), the group recognize that some felling and forestry operations may be appropriate.

‘We envision our work to restore the Caledonian Forest as not only helping to bring the land here back to a state of health and balance, but also having global relevance, as a model for similar projects in other countries.’

Other small parcels–once adjacent to hillfarms, and escaping the ‘set-aside’ agricultural brainstorms of the 1980s–were maintained by individuals, and planted with pines, which are now starting to look mature.

John Muir would indeed be proud of his ancient heritage and the inspiration it has given new groups to start again.

Old growth 1000-year old redwoods felled in early 19thC lumber operations

The best news, however, is back in California.

In Muir’s time, after the (1848) Gold Rush, California was inundated with new immigrants. His beloved trees came under great threat. In the 1880s four hundred sawmills north of San Francisco were churning out lumber from felled redwood giants–a process which accelerated after the 1906 earthquake–in a need for timber to rebuild the city. In 1920, however, the Save the Redwoods League began purchasing groves that would become the backbone of California’s redwoods parks. It continues adding to this day.

In the 1950s–the post-war boom–lumber mills were cutting in excess of one billion board-feet of timber per year, a level maintained until the mid-1970s, when clear-felling vast acreage of virgin trees was still allowed.

…Until science and sense stepped in.

Science argued, but the battle was won by 1990s tree-sitters, those brave souls who camped out in makeshift treetop platforms while Caterpillars, chainsaws and chokesetters bumped and strained and devastated beneath them.

To explain:

Old growth virgin redwoods now protected in State and National Parks

In 1905, the Murphy family started Pacific Lumber, believing that by leaving some of their old growth redwoods standing, they could sustain an industry, well into the 21st century. But Pacific Lumber was purchased (by hostile takeover) in 1985, by Houston-based Maxxam, and clear-felling became the norm. Like the Amazon rainforest, Maxxam were clear-cutting eighty acres of California redwoods at a time–eating into the company’s (and the State’s) last remaining virgin stands. When CEO Charles Hurwitz attempted to clear-cut the largest remaining block of old growth redwood, in Headwaters Forest in Humboldt County, in 1990, tree-sitters — ‘Forest Defenders’ — scaled remaining giants the size of a Boeing 707, and moved in.

They were supplied food and refreshment by allies via pulleys, by night, their hoists and ropes removed and burned by loggers, by day. Tempers ran high; lives were lost; protesters murdered. But State legislature listened and stepped in.

Headwaters Forest was purchased in 1999 by State and Federal government agencies, and put under permanent protection. Clear-felling practice was legally reduced to a 20-40-acre maximum.

The logging industry finally sat up and paid attention. Its own resource was decimated; salmon runs and ecosystems had suffered in a mindless race for economic gain, with only ‘table scraps’ left, in the view of Humboldt State University forest scientist Steve Sillett. ‘The challenge now is to improve management on the 95% of redwood landscape (felled) that is just starting into regrowth.’

Sequoia sempervirens, redwoods as big as a Boeing 707

Growing trees like a crop of grain is no longer the enlightened view. Scientists from HSU have discovered that the older the redwood, the harder and more disease-resistant is the wood, and the tougher its ability to withstand weathering, damage; i.e. you get more value out of one 1000-year old tree than a thousand 10-year olds. Forestry attitudes are changing too. Heavy Caterpillar earthmoving tractors, that caused such erosion (skid trails) and consequent pollution to streams and spawning pools, are being replaced by smaller, lighter shovel loaders on tracks which leave the forest floor intact. State law now enforces a mandatory buffer zone of trees, along streams and rivers, and salmon and other fish are returning.

They are on target to create new forests (in one hundred years) like the ones protected in the Redwoods National and State Parks. Muir is by now roaring with delighted laughter in his (redwood) coffin.

So, when they ask you ‘what did you do for Arbor Day, Mummy or in Earth Week, Daddy?’ it may no longer be adequate to say you took the dog for a walk or raked leaves off the driveway. With renewed focus on the Earth, a show of determination coming from youth groups and in education, we may be inspired to show our ability to replenish, regenerate and restore parts of our planet we’ve been gifted as custodians, to bring back to life.

During Earth Week at least, the gardener in us is being asked to wake up.
©2010-2012 Marian Youngblood

April 23, 2010 Posted by | authors, calendar customs, culture, environment, gardening, history, nature, New Earth, organic husbandry, seasonal, sun, trees | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Ides of March: Prophecy & the Power of Belief

Julius Caesar, iconized and immortalized after his death, Ides of March 44BC

Julius Caesar, self-styled vanquisher of Britannia, those restless natives in the extremities of his empire, would be surprised to learn that, 2054 years after his death on 15 March 44BC, we still remember him, if only for the prophecy that warned of his demise. It is extraordinary that most of the English-speaking world – if they think about it at all – associates the middle of March with that ancient Roman calendar which named the beginning of a lunar month the Kalends, the day of New Moon the Nones and middle (or full moon) the Ides. And, as the Julian calendar had only been established and corrected to include months of 30 and 31 days two years before he died, it seems his prophesied murder had potency because it happened on a Roman full moon.

What is it about phases of the Moon and our need to believe in doom and gloom?

Nostradamus, French apothecary and seer Michel de Nostradame (1503-1566) was famous not only for thousands of quatrains, but for the obscurity and multiplicity of their interpretation. He wrote the following quatrain:

‘The Moon in the full of night over the high mountain, The new sage with a lone brain sees it: By his disciples invited to be immortal, Eyes to the south. Hands in bosoms, bodies in the fire’ Century IV number 31

French Apothecary and Seer, Nostradamus

It has so far escaped attribution. In recent years the most famous of his quatrains (Century I Quatrain 87) has been interpreted (usually by re-writing its context), to apply to the World Trade Center tragedy of 9/11, 2001. In the original it appears:

‘Earthshaking fire from the centre of the earth will cause tremors around the New City. Two great rocks will war for a long time, then Arethusa will redden a new river’

When rewritten to tie more closely into the the Twin Towers scenario, it reads:

‘Sea of fire at the world centre, The tower of the new city will tremble: Two great blocks will be at war for a long time, Then Arethusa will redden a new river

Lost in the thrill of proclaiming the French mystic’s ability to see five hundred years into the future with such precision, the interpreters failed to notice a suggestion by a contemporary volcanologist that Vesuvius is sited between two great massifs, did in fact tremble and erupt shortly after this prediction and Arethusa – a Greek mythological Neried who was turned into a fountain – appeared to influence ‘rivers’ of lava which cascaded down its slopes. Nearby Napoli/Naples, in translation does also mean ‘New City’.

Such is the nature of perfect prognostication.

Its interpreters may never agree. And yet it is human nature to ‘see’ the alternate reality, poised, ready to believe.

In the months following 9/11 public hysteria whipped up by veiled suggestion had books on Nostradamus and those quoting his work catapulted to best-seller status in both Amazon and Barnes & Noble reading lists.

In Nostradamus‘s time, the Scots-Gaelic equivalent of the French prophet was one favored by Clan Mackenzie in their talented son ‘Dun’ Kenneth (Coinneach Odhar), the Brahan Seer. While first reference to him in print does not appear until Thomas Pennant’s ‘Tour of Scotland’ (1769) “Every country has its prophets… and the HIghlands their Kenneth Odhar,” it is likely this refers to Keanoch Owir, ordered prosecuted by Rossshire authorities for witchcraft by two Commissions of Justice in 1577. Oral tradition says he predicted the fate of Fairburn Tower, seat of the Mackenzies overlooking great landholdings in Rossshire river valleys of the Orrin and Conon:

‘The day will come when the Mackenzies of Fairburn shall lose their entire possessions; their castle will become uninhabited and a cow shall give birth to a calf in the uppermost chamber of the tower.

Fairburn Tower where the Seer predicted a cow giving birth

The castle did indeed become a ruin and in 1851, when a cow calved in the garret, it was being used by a farmer to store hay. The prophecy was so well-known that people came by train to Victorian health-spa Strathpeffer and on by coach to see the cow. She had climbed up the tower following a trail of hay, had a good feed at the top and become stuck. She gave birth to a fine calf and both were carefully led down some five days later, allowing enough time for the incredulous to visit and see the prophecy fulfilled for themselves.

A laborer on the Brahan Seaforth estate, Kenneth was summoned by Isabella, Lady Seaforth to give her news of her husband, then on a visit to France. He saw in his mind the Earl cavorting with a Parisian demoiselle and wouldn’t answer his mistress. She threatened him with dismissal and insisted until he told her what he had seen. The revelation cost the oracle his life. Traditional reward for the bearer of bad tidings was death by ‘tarring’ in a barrel of boiling pitch. Before receiving his sentence, he threw his ‘divining’ stone into Loch Ussie and foretold the end of the male line and the extinction of the Seaforths.

In its Georgian heyday, one mile west of Brahan House the grounds stretched to meet the A835 Dingwall-to-Ullapool road. A monument rests by the road. It was here that the Brahan Seer’s final prediction of the fall of the Seaforths became a reality.

When the last Lord Seaforth died (after his four sons) the estates went to his eldest daughter, Mary. She had married Admiral Hood, spending several years stationed in the East Indies. When the Admiral died, Lady Mary Hood, (later Lady Stewart-Mackenzie) returned wearing the traditional Indian white coife of mourning. In 1823 Lady Mary was in control of a pony carriage near Brahan accompanied by her sister, Lady Caroline Mackenzie. The ponies bolted and the carriage overturned. Lady Caroline was thrown out and died of her injuries.

Dun Kenneth’s last words before he was ‘tarred’ were that Lord Seaforth’s possessions would be

‘inherited by a white-coiffed lassie from the east and she is to kill her sister’

Two of his predictions remain, so far, unfulfilled:

‘One day black rain will fall on the City of Aberdeen’

Optimists hope this refers to North Sea Oil and not nuclear fallout. And

‘Rome was; London is; Edinburgh shall be’

While this could refer to the present condition of Scots parliament sitting in the Scots capital, it may imply a future time when Edinburgh becomes more important than the capital of Great Britain…

Scotland’s most famous seer, however, is 13th-century Thomas the Rhymer, Thomas Learmounth of Ercildoune (c. 1220 – c. 1298), from a district now called Earlston near Berwick in the Borders. There is documentary evidence of a Thomas Rimor de Ercildoun witnessing deeds in the 1260s.

Nearly all his sayings have been recorded, and were first published in 1603, but it is remarkable that in the handing down through oral tradition of his many prophecies, the rhyming and rhythm has been maintained, so that his legacy is indeed a series of poetic prognostication.

And, remembering that what a poet, bard or seer of the 13th century was usually expected to foretell was the fate or future of a great house or a noble family, his words have a way of telling an alternative history of ‘lowland’ Scotland stretching from the Moray Firth to the Forth.

Sir Walter Scott became fascinated by him and created the ‘Ballad of Thomas the Rhymer’ to include in his ‘Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border‘, 1802.

Syne they came to a garden green,
  And she pu’d an apple frae a tree:
‘Take this for thy wages, true Thomas;
  It will give thee the tongue that can never lee.’ Thomas and the Queen of Fairyland 17thC Anon

The Queen of Elfland gave Thomas the gift of prophecy

The tale goes that Thomas Learmounth, while out walking near his Tower House of Ercildoune, sat to rest under the ‘Eildon Tree’, a hawthorn, known to have magical powers. While he slept, the Queen of Faeryland spirited him away to live with her, some say for three, others for seven, years and when he returned from what he thought was a nap of a few minutes, the world had changed by several years.

And he returned with the power of prophecy.

The Queen’s gift was bestowed on condition he should always speak the truth, but also on the strict understanding that he would return immediately at her summons.

His elf-given powers predicted some historically life-changing events:

The death of King Alexander III in 1296 in a fall from his horse
The succession of Robert the Bruce as King of Scots
The disastrous defeat of King James IV of Scots at Flodden in 1513
The defeat of Mary Queen of Scots at the Battle of Pinkie in 1567 and
The Union of the Crowns of Scotland and England in 1603.

The downfall of many a great landed family was until the age of film and television attributed to the powers the Queen of Elfland had bestowed on Thomas the Rhymer. Now fantasy is the stuff of moviemakers.

However, some of his prescient pronouncements bear repeating.

The family of Gordon from whom George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron (the poet Lord Byron) was descended, suffered in a typically Thomas fashion:

‘When the heron leaves the tree
The laird o’ Gight shall landless be’

On May 12, 1785, his mother Catherine Gordon of Gight, the last female descendant of an estate overlooking the river Ythan in Aberdeenshire, married Hon. John Byron. The estate was sold soon after the marriage. Tradition says that about the time of the marriage the falcons or ‘herons’ which had built their nest for many years in a ‘fine tree near the castle’, left and took up their abode in the woods of nearby Haddo. Gight is now a ruin. Another, that

‘At Gight three men a violent death shall dee
And after that the land shall lie in lea.’

This prophecy was also fulfilled.

One of the most famous tragedies to befall a family in Aberdeenshire was that of the hereditary Earls Marischal, (former Knights Marischal), Masters of Horse to the Royal Household from time immemorial. The honour was traditionally given to the house of Keith, earlier known as Keiths-Falconer, later Earls of Kintore, Lords Inverurie and Stonehaven, a family with hereditary lands at Dunnottar south of Aberdeen, and Inverugie near St Fergus in Buchan. Their medieval power was so great that when county boundaries were drawn up in the 12th century after Norman nobles moved north with the Court, St Fergus (and Inverugie) was allowed to maintain the status of being part of Banffshire, from where the family originated. It is to this day an enclave of ‘Banffshire’ within the confines of ‘Aberdeenshire’ in this Buchan corner.

Crown Jewels of Scots Regalia, hidden from Cromwell's soldiers in the cellar at Kinneff

The family had been immensely wealthy, with lands stretching from the Moray Firth (Banffshire and north Aberdeenshire) through Kincardineshire (the coastal fortress of Dunnottar) to the Esk river boundary with Angus and the Mearns: an area half the size of Switzerland.

They were trusted, loyal to the Crown, had held their hereditary position as protector of the King’s person and his stable for centuries. They were elevated to Earls Marischal after supreme acts of bravery on behalf of the Royal House, concealing the royal regalia – the Crown Jewels of Scotland – after the coronation of James II in 1650, from the eyes of Cromwell’s soldiers, whose most ardent quest was to remove and destroy them, as they had so recently melted down the English regalia.

Dunnottar - fortified promontory keep on the North Sea - where the Crown Jewels were hidden

The Knights Marischal were the trusted recipients of the precious Crown, Orb, regal Sword and Sceptre after the hastily-conceived coronation at Scone, and they concealed them at Dunottar until it, too, lay under siege. The situation became urgent. The ‘Honours’ were lowered by rope to a serving woman in a boat who took them to the nearby village church of Kinneff and hid them in the cellar. For this act of bravery and allegiance the Keiths – after the king’s “Restoration’ – were elevated to Earls Marischal and once again their power and position seemed untouchable.

Until some of Thomas’s prophecies started to bite.

One relates him standing personally within Inverugie Castle grounds on a huge prehistoric boundary stone revered as sacrosanct in his time:

“Inverugie by the sea
Lordless shall thy lands be
And underneath thy hearth-stane
The tod* shall bring her birds hame.”

*tod = fox

and

“As lang’s this stane stands on this craft
The name of Keith shall be held alaft’
But when this stane begins t’ fa’
The name of Keith shall wear awa'”

In 1715 the Inverugie property of the Earl Marischal at St. Fergus was ‘attainted’ (put in disgrace). This meant that by order of the Crown, descendants could not inherit. The estate at St Fergus was bought from the Crown by York Buildings Co. Trustees of that Company sold it in 1761 to George, Earl Marischal, son of the attainted earl.

The stone of Thomas’s recital was removed in 1763 and built into the church of St Fergus which was then under construction. This seemed to add to the family’s downfall. The ‘new’ owner went into debt and he sold Inverugie in 1764, the year after the stone was removed, to Lord Pitfour, one of the senators of the College of Justice. Inverugie has not been in Keith hands since that time.

Dunnottar, too, fell into ruin.

One of the family’s other houses was at Auchmedden, near Pennan in Aberdour parish on the North Coast.

“As long’s there’s an eagle in Pennan
There will be a Baird in Auchmedden”

Baird was another family name of the Keiths. In historical records of the House, a pair of eagles built their nest in the cliffs near the village of Pennan and the Bairds protected them with the greatest care and fed them by placing daily on a ledge of rock near their eyrie food and tidbits. Willam Baird joined ‘Bonnie’ Prince Charlie as an officer of his bodyguard at Culloden. He continued in hiding for some years after and then lived the remainder of his life at Echt House (central Aberdeenshire) where he died in 1777. Auchmedden was not confiscated, but Mr Baird had to sell it in 1750 to relieve debt contracted in support of the Stuarts. When it was bought by Earl of Aberdeen in that year, the eagles left.

There is one final Keith prediction which may be their death knell, although Thomas’s words do not specifically mention the family:

‘When Dee and Don shall run as one
And Tweed shall run with Tay
The Bonnie Waters o’ the Urie
Shall bear the Bass away.’

The Bass is a man-made medieval mound used to garrison troops of David I (1170). It is situated at the confluence of the Urie and Don in Inverurie which meets the boundary of the lands of Keith Hall, where the Earls Marischal built their glorious edifice after they were elevated and once more restored to royal favour. The Hall is a superb example of 17th century style and elegance and its surrounding woodland reminiscent of once-great royal hunting forests.

The Earl of Kintore, in his traditional rôle as Chief of Clan Keith

It lies on the edge of the modern town of Inverurie and the town is encroaching.

The river floods regularly and in these last floodings, the Bass got its feet wet.

Within the last decade, the great Hall was sold and converted into a condominium; while the Earl and Countess of Kintore remained on the estate – making a comfortable residence in the Stables – they both seemed to have ‘lost’ something in the move.

Lord Kintore then ‘lost his seat’ in Tony Blair’s insensitive reshuffle of the House of Lords and the light went out of his life.

The Countess contracted cancer and was given a few months to live. One Hallowe’en, before events could progress too far in that direction, the Earl took his own life. His wife died within the year. Their son, the present Earl, no longer makes his home in Aberdeenshire.

The lands are walked upon by Inverurie passers-by who use the once-great ‘hunting forest’ to promenade their dogs on weekends, in the evenings; in fact at any time of the day or night. How many of them are aware of the great history that lies under their feet?

“The name of Keith shall wear awa'”

has come true in ways even Thomas could not have imagined.

So, did the Queen of Elfland ever summon Thomas back? Maybe so.

He disappeared one day in 1298 after walking out of his Tower House and was never seen again.

According to legend, he will return and come to Scotland’s aid in the hour of her greatest need…

March 15, 2010 Posted by | ancient rites, calendar customs, culture, earth changes, history, New Earth, popular, Prehistory | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Midwinter Solstice: Return of the light

Sine umbra nihil

Burning the Clavie at Burghead, Moray

MIDWinter Fire festivals were ancient man’s most fervent prayer to the Universe to return the light to the earth after the shortest day.

At 57º North latitude in Scotland, the equivalent in North America of the parallel of Juneau, Alaska, there aren’t a lot of hours of light in December and January. By the time solstice – the day the sun appears to stand still – December 21st – arrives, ancient man was getting to the point where it was going to get dark forever, unless something was done to propitiate the spirit world.

In the earliest known Calendars devised by Arabian astronomers, even the balmy latitudes of the Mediterranean and Arabian Seas saw a dwindling of the light. And so when Neolithic man erected stone circles and sacred precincts of stone leading the eye to the horizon to a point where the sun set on midwinter’s day, he did it for a most urgent purpose: to ask the Light of the Universe, the Sacred Fire, to return.

What better way to kindle the blessing of the gods of light and fire than with fire itself?

In Northeast Scotland, where recumbent stone circles abound, the recumbent or ‘resting’ stone lies in the southwestern quadrant of the circle, flanked by two carefully chosen pillars of stone (quartz, quartzite, granite with inclusions to reflect the light), creating a window on the horizon where the midwinter sun goes down. At 4:00 p.m.!

Aberdeenshire's recumbent stone circles' window on the horizon

It is more than seventeen hours before it rises again. Seventeen hours must have created an enormous hiatus of doubt and disbelief in the minds of ancient communities whose shaman or holy man might be the only one who knew the light would return. But did they? It is no wonder that oral tradition handed down tales of the supernatural abilities of such knowledgeable men.

We have no record of how such workers of celestial magic were named in the time of the first farmers, the Neolithic communities who raised the megaliths of Aberdeenshire.

But by the time of Roman historians, like Tacitus and Ptolemy, who wrote of ancient Britons’ ‘great powers’, Roman respect for the Celtic peoples of Europe and the Druids of the Britannia was great. Ptolemy and Caesar record phenomenal belief by the people in their magicians, their Druids, their ‘keepers of knowledge’ and rightly so. The Celtic traditions known to the Gauls owed their origins to the British druidic élite. Much veneration and respect was paid in Gaul to this small group of islands lying in Ultima Thule, or in Roman slang ‘off the map’ on the edge of the Roman Empire.

Sun and moon markers embedded in stone

Certainly by the time of our Pictish ancestors – those whom the Romans called the Caledonians – stone circles were in constant use for fire festivals and seasonal rites of propitiation for the welfare of the community. The Picts also had their own druidic priest class like those of Wales and other Brittonic peoples. And their power to be seen to command the elements of fire, water, wind and earth were extraordinarily great. Annals and documents from Gaul, Cornwall, Brittany and Rome confirm their hold over the people, not only to guide farming work through the annual cycle, but also to act as advisor to queens and kings.

By the ancient Celtic calendar, known to the Romans as their equivalent of the Julian method of calculation, there were ten months in the year and thirteen moons. Man moved according to the sun for daily light and warmth, but owed allegiance to the moon for rhythms of planting and harvest, the female menstrual cycle and hence the cycle of birth and death. The Julian calendar was a ruling force for fifteen hundred years, until it started to lose time.

By then the Church, mathematicians and enlightened astronomers had stepped in to alter the rhythm to run more closely with human time. Most nations changed over to the new calendar after it was decreed law by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. But the Orthodox Greek and Russian Churches refused to change. Other nations remained staunchly in favour of the older calculation. Among these were Ethiopia and Russia, who did not accept European calendar reckoning until 1750. Ethiopia still does not.

And Burghead in Moray.

In Burghead they burn the clavie to celebrate the return of the light of a dying sun. An ancient rite practised on the night of solstice in pre-Christian times, to propitiate and ask the dying sun to return, its confused calendrical transposition to January 11th can only be slightly rationalized by calendar change. Nevertheless, it is on this date that Burghead has through oral tradition and in living memory rekindled and paraded its torch of blazing fire.

It’s a little more complex than merely holding to the old calendar. Well-wishing for a new year is what we do in the Northeast of Scotland when the calendar points to January. It’s called Hogmanay. It was always so. Or was it?

In Gregorian, we count this as 2009; about to go 2010. It is already 5770 Jewish time. The month of February 2010 opens the Chinese year of the Tiger; on February 22 Islam moves into 1431. For Sikhs, new year (542) comes just before vernal equinox when Hindus (2067) and Persians (1389) celebrate, just as we used to before the Julian calendar adjusted new year from March to January.

Clavie Crew hoist the burning barrel and parade it round the town

This is no surprise to the Clavie Crew of Burghead on the Moray coast. They still run on Julian time.

When Scotland changed calendars in 1660, there was much misunderstanding in country districts – the loss of 11 days was seen as someone in a position of power having robbed them of important events. This was also a period of change in parishes because of the implementation of new church doctrines introduced at the Reformation. Calendars in Church records added to the confusion by writing numbers in ‘Old Style’ and ‘New Style’. It caused so much concern that Old Parish Records (OPR) had to show both systems. Births in the OPR are recorded for several years in both Old and New Time.

Also at the Reformation pre-Christian festivals, such as clavie-burning and fire festivals at Beltane, Hallowe’en and harvest too, were frowned on. On the other hand, local tradition was strong: it was commonplace to mark the return of the light after midwinter in all northern communities and northeastern ports. Such pagan celebrations as ‘fire leaping’ and dancing round the fire within the precinct of stone circles was still known in 1710 and harvest fire festivals continued unabated until the year 1942. Gradually, however, other celebrations and farming fire festivals started to die out.

When the other northern ports stopped their Clavie burning in winter after the first World War, Burghead held on. After the second War, it continued to celebrate as it had always done. It has continued to do so ever since, except for two of the years during the 1939-45 European War.

Now only two villages hold to the ancient tradition: a pre-Christian ritual of celebrating the closing of one seasonal door and the opening of another.

Stonehaven in Kincardineshire celebrates with a street festival of fireball-swingers. Both festivities are awe-inspiring, if marginally dangerous to watch. It must be awesomely perilous for those involved. On Hogmanay night Steenhivers have a street party to end all street parties. Whereas Burghead only spills combustible materials over the shoulders of Clavie-bearers, Stonehaven delights in spinning fire in clumps into an unwary crowd.

Stonehaven has conceded to the newer calendar, swinging its crazy fire balls on Hogmanay; yet it is celebrating the same midwinter seasonal hinge as the Clavie Crew of Burghead: The end of the Old Year; Old Yule: Aul’ ‘Eel.

Burghead is more precisely still counting its eleven lost days.

In Burghead, lighting the eternal fire and carrying it round the town reenacts the celebration of the return of new light after the longest night in the Northern hemisphere – the dark of the Latin quotation often found on sundials: ‘without shadow there is nothing’. Implied, naturally, is the fact that the all-important entity which creates shade in the first place, is the Sun.

To the Clavie King and his torch-bearers of Burghead, this is Aul’ ’Eel, pre-Christian Yule or winter solstice. Yule becomes interchangeable with Christmas south of the border but Scotland has held to its pagan festival of Hogmanay, itself a testimony to and turning point in that Roman calendar.

Fire for the clavie is ritually kindled from a peat ember – no match is used. This is in respect for the spirit of fire itself which is eternal.

The Clavie itself is an old whisky barrel full of broken up staves ritually nailed together by a clavie (Latin, clavus, nail). One of the casks is split into two parts of different sizes, and an important item of the ceremony is to join these parts together with the huge nail made for the purpose. The Chambers’ Book of Days (1869) minutely describes the ceremony, suggesting that it is a relic of Druid worship, but it seems also to be connected with a 2000-year-old Roman ceremony observed on the 13th September, called the clavus annalis. Two divisions of the cask in the Burghead ritual symbolize the hinges of the old and the new year, which are joined together by a nail. The two parts are unequal, because the part of the new year joined on to the old is very small by comparison with the old year which is departing.

Burning the Clavie at Burghead

Clavie King, Dan Ralph and his Clavie Crew heave the Clavie into position

Clavie King Dan Ralph has carried out his duty for twenty years. He gathers together his Clavie Crew and they help each other take turns carrying the man-sized torch: a tar-barrel stoked with oak staves soaked in combustible fluid. It is a feat of human endurance alone to lift what must weigh more than a man, not to mention avoiding flaming drops of leaking fuel. They stagger in unison round the town, dispensing luck as they go: flaming brands from the burning tar-barrel are presented as tokens of abundance to important burghers, including the publican. The bearers keep changing; circling the town sunwise, stopping only to refuel or change carriers. A final free-for-all happens after the clavie arrives at the fire-altar hill, on a rib of the old Pictish ramparted stronghold, which juts out into the Moray Firth. There it is fixed to its fire-altar, the doorie.

More tar, petrol, any source of incendiary fuel is added until the flames reach for the heavens. Then both fire and wooden vessel, the fast-distintegrating clavie, and its lethal blazing contents are left to die.

Happy New Year. Julian indeed.

December 6, 2009 Posted by | ancient rites, astronomy, crystalline, culture, nature, Prehistory, ritual, sacred sites, stone circles, sun | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Expect Miracles 09/09/09

 

Last crop circle before 9/9/9: nine-in-mirror, 12-helix DNA, infinity & ascension?

Last crop circle before 9/9/9: nine-in-mirror, 12-helix DNA, infinity & ascension?

Everybody’s noticing it: 09/09/09. The last single-digit date in the Western calendar for a thousand years.  No wonder the energy gurus are out in force.

Astrology pundits are ready with progressed charts: Saturn and Sun in Virgo, Mercury retrograde.

Numerologists are having a field day: 9+9+9=2+7=9 .  

Crop circles in the sacred sites of Wiltshire have developed to their most sophisticated form: beauty in nature, tantalizing code.

Channellings are coming in thick and fast from the ethers.  

All predict a turning point, the Shift of Ages, new beginnings for the human race.  Ascension for some; a little farther up the ladder of awareness for others.

Naturally there are doubters: media takes pride-of-place in offering fear scenarios.  But even the media is picking up on it: energy is building in remarkable corners of the planet, in all cultures, as we collectively approach the day.

There are further signs that the ascension process is reaching out and touching more people than before.  

In 1987 the Harmonic Convergence of August 16/17 was heralded in esoteric communities like Sedona, AZ, Taos, NM and Mt.Shasta, CA and by New Age gurus generally as the beginning of a new process of awakening for humanity.   Bright planets Jupiter, Venus and Saturn were visible together in the night sky, with believers meditating and sharing a ‘global field’ of synchronized human intent for a positive future for the planet.  July and August 2009 saw similar planetary initiatives (Fire-the-Grid, Infinity-Gate-8, forthcoming Earthdance, September 26th) celebrating if not planetary ascension, then a progression of human compassion and increased awareness that we are all in this together. 

Astrologers have their own explanation: in 1987 a powerful fire trine occurred in August with the Sun and attendant planets in Leo, together forming a trine with Jupiter in Aries and Saturn with Uranus in Sagittarius. On 09/09/09, after a prelude of eclipses, solar energy doorways and planetary conjunctions, the Sun and Saturn stand together in Virgo, the Moon graces earth-sign Taurus, with Mars supporting Jupiter back in Aquarius where he belongs: abundance and plenty for all, release from the old restrictive paradigm, step into the future with joy.

Other calendars agree.  Among older cultures who have predicted this event for millennia, Judaeo-Christian prophesies rival Central American and Native American messages for the End Times.  Harmonic Convergence in 1987 marked the end of Quetzacoatl’s cycle of Thirteen Heavens and Nine Hells. At that moment when the ninth hell fell, the Earth is said to have entered the 25-year culmination of its 5,125-year Great Cycle of History. Twenty-two years on, as we approach the end of the Maya’s 26,000-year Cycle of Evolution, (due to complete on or before 12/12/12) we as a species are being given evidence of our leaving third-dimensional spatial awareness behind and entering fourth dimensional (time) reality.

Scientifically, on a practical level, the Earth is changing.

Until 1987, and for thousands of years previously while the Earth was ‘asleep’, planetary energy frequency resonated at a fundamental cycle of 8Hz, or 8 cycles per second.  This frequency is rising.  Current frequency is 13 cycles per second, the musical note of Bflat, and a quantum figure satisfying mathematical proportions predicted by the Fibonacci series of numbers, based on the Golden Mean or Harmonics of the Universe. This is the progression 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 etc. 

A boost in planetary energy has been accompanied by a rapid decrease in the Earth’s magnetic field. Whether this waning of electromagnetic force will result in a polar shift is unknown, but it promises to reach a projected ‘zero point’, seen by New Age philosophers like Gregg Braden as a still-point in consciousness representing ‘a rare opportunity for collective repatterning in human expression’.

One of the Deep Space objects now visible to Hubble

One of the Deep Space objects now visible to Hubble

The number of wake-up calls is increasing: on the alarmist scale, planetary storms, forest fires, reports of famine and water shortages, statistics of diminishing clean air, ocean pollution, animal species hunted to extinction; on the positive side we reach ever farther out to the stars, create technology never before imagined, see the evolution of our species mirrored in mathematics and quantum theory. Our human consciousness is expanding at a rate previously unknown: Mind absorbing new information so quickly, it makes itself obsolete in seconds. As a race, we are receiving reminders to speed up our personal process of spiritual awakening, to enter the Divine Matrix.

Channelled messages from Ashtar, Sirian High Command, Archangel Metatron and Kryon of the Magnetic Service have been flooding spiritual social internet sites like Humanity Healing’s ning network, encouraging the individual to look within, to contemplate one’s own heart reaction, soul promptings and inner guides in this New Earth. 

In some ways 9/9/9 is a beginning.  It is also a completion. A different cycle of human endeavour is emerging, seen perhaps best in the person of a black Muslim as president of the world’s most powerful nation, where misdeeds and war-mongering may cease as a means to achieving goals. Instead we are beginning to get our heads around a long-dreamed ability to ‘create our own reality’, actively to allow joy and peace to enter our lives; consciously to become people who ‘pay-it-forward’ rather than offer payback.

It has been said the current financial downturn is comparable with the 1930s depression.  Astrologically the same powerful planets, Saturn, Pluto and Mercury, are repeating cycles experienced in the ’30s.  But Jupiter is abundant as never before.  On a planetary level current generosity and support for causes to save wildlife, feed the hungry, establish more enlightened health care systems are far beyond anything the New Deal ever devised. Yes, you could say the human race is hearing the wake-up call of 09/09/09.

In New Age circles it is said the way to move with the new energies is a paraphrase on the Judaeo-Christian (St.James’) ‘faith-hope-charity’.  New Agers express it either as ‘feel it; see it; believe it'; or ‘believe-expect-love’.  Either way it’s the expectation that counts.   

Maybe we really are waking up this time.  On 09/09/09 EXPECT a miracle.

September 7, 2009 Posted by | consciousness, culture, New Age, New Earth, numerology, sacred geometry, spiritual | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Entering the Infinity Gate

In late June 2009, a series of crop circles in southern Britain began appearing, suggesting cosmic occurrences.  One circle in particular, at Waden Hill, seemed to predict a solar flare for July 7.  At the date of its creation, the last week of June, the Earth was in solar minimum and had had no solar flares for some months.  Then on 7/7, a large coronal mass ejection (CME) occurred.  For the next several days – assuming magnetic radiation from the CME takes three days or so to reach Earth, other crop circles in this genre appeared in Wiltshire and Oxfordshire.

In the opinion of some, the ‘aliens’ were sending us messages to guide us through subsequent days.  A flurry of blogs on social networks and dot-ning sites brought in ideas from quantum physicists (‘crop circles are magnetic anomalies somewhat like iron filings on paper reacting to the movement of the magnet underneath’), from croppies predicting the end of the world and from Maya-calendar enthusiasts who saw many of the latest designs as Nazca Line developments (Inca) or 2012-inspired (Maya).

Some of the late June designs show superb examples of electronic circuitry, animal and insect lifeforms; they seemed almost like the answer to Carl Sagan’s message sent to the stars in 1969 with Voyager.  If we see these new designs as the stars answering, we may be on the right wavelength.  Newer circles – and a massive surge in ionic and electromagnetic energies from the cosmos – are now pointing toward the present three-day window leading up to eight-eight (August 8th, 2009) or the Infinity Gate.

 The premise is this: 

In the year 1900 human civilization had amassed a body of knowledge stretching back 6,000 years to the Sumerians.  By 1950, we had amassed a similar quantity of knowledge in 50 years.  By 1980 we were assimilating this amount of data every 2 years.  Now, in 2009, human consciousness, with the aid of cell phones, the internet and satellite communications, is capable of absorbing this data in one calendar month.  We are on a threshold which the Maya called End Times: not because civilization ends, but because consciousness reaches a new dimension of comprehension.

So messages from the stars – or you could see it as our own cosmic consciousness replying to itself – are building as we reach the Infinity Gate: a window of solar light and galactic energy that’s due to open two days from now on eight-eight.  

We can walk through, if we wish.

Elders descended from original Maya recently broke their silence of 527 years:  the date of 21 December 2012 is an arbitrary one. The stargate through which human consciousness leaps into the ‘New Earth’ [Eckhart Tolle, The Bible] could come any time between now and then.  We’ve already reached critical mass.  We’ve already passed the million mark of like-minded souls who believe in ‘creating a new reality’.

The summer of 2009 may be remembered for its triple eclipses, a triad of celestial events which made Man look to the heavens.  It may go down in the history books as the moment Man changed, pulled on his mantle of awareness, entered the Infinity Gate and reclaimed his God-given image. But Man has not been very good at pulling himself out of his ‘synthetic’ reality (freeways, finance, politics, poverty) and reconnecting with his ancestral roots in the home planet, the mother which has nurtured him during those 6,000 years of civilization.  The Maya and the Hopi and the Lakota and many tribes who still ‘remember’ their past predict that only when Modern Man reconnects with the Ancient World – the ancestral matriarchy which saw humans as children of the earth – will he enter the Infinity Gate.

It would be nice if this eight-eight did it for us. Its symbolism alone is intriguing: 8 sideways is the symbol for infinity. 

8∞8

 If enough of us hold the vision together we could jump-start the New Earth.  My  feeling is we can.  Some of us will.  It would be miraculous if a large chunk of humanity were to do it too. Our consciousness is ripe for allowing this to happen.  It’s as easy as dipping into a pool of violet light, a lagoon of awareness.

Let’s take a dip:  Let’s go for it.

August 6, 2009 Posted by | consciousness, New Age, New Earth, spiritual | , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

   

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