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Focusing Calm while the Storm Outside Rages

What to do during a Grand Cross

Phoenix Haboob over July 4th weekend, 2011: Signs of the Times

“During such intense time acceleration, chaos breaks out everywhere, since chaos is always part of new creation. The reorganization of the fractal fields creates exceedingly unexpected new things in our lives.”
Barbara Hand Clow

We in this blog have commented on celestial Grand Crosses and Cosmic Crossroads before now. Last year’s was pretty bad.

But, if seen in the light of current crises, world drama and, combined with the personal pain and grief we have all been through in 2011, it may seem mild by comparison.

Last (2010) June’s Grand Cross was only a taster. One would be forgiven for thinking the world-as-we-know-it has taken a giant tumble since then.

The horror of March 2011 earthquakes brought repercussions within world charitable organizations which turned a disaster into a desire to share human resources. By the following month — April, end of the tax year — world agencies were predicting a calmer year ahead.

Spring equinox brought new hope. In the northern hemisphere the season was seen to have started well. Mother Nature lulled us into believing maybe the signs weren’t all bad. The month of April was, in Britain, the hottest and driest on record. Abundant rain filled the waterways of Spain, Italy, the Rhein, North and South Carolina and the American Midwest. Snow lingered on hills in the US Eastern Seaboard, in the Alps and in the Caucasus. Even North Africa and Afghanistan had respite from drought.

May and June were unbelievably sweet: suitably decked with blossom and birdsong, English fields grew abundant with a brand new (higher dimensional) version of the 2011 Crop Circle.

Summer solstice came and went. Despite a flurry of internet speculation on the imminence of Comet Elenin, and a record number of three successive eclipses, most northern hemisphere activity progressed as normal: English Ascot, horse-racing in Virginia, mountain climbing in the High Sierras, even hotair balloons in New Zealand — to get away from the heat. One astrological chart for solstice week featuring the longest day was likened to music of the spheres — all heavenly bodies were singing, if not in harmony, at least in tune.

… by the time I get to Phoenix she’ll be rising…
And then July arrived. With a jolt.

While America was revelling in its July 4th weekend celebrations, a Sahara-style Haboob — a massive dust storm — went raging into Phoenix… and engulfed this manmade miracle in the desert, the Arizona city with its six million-plus inhabitants. The fuzzy-looking dust-bunny with its huge friendly-looking paws caused electronics breakdown, electrical shorts, water pollution and breathing hazard.

…and there was more to come…

Barbara Clow is an author and respected astrologer, as well as being a devotee and proponent of Carl J. Calleman and his view of 2012 from an accelerated viewpoint. In their opinion, the December 2012 ‘end’-date has already speeded up and Humanity is now facing its nemesis, its ‘Fate’, its comeuppance — depending on your Judaeo-Christian/EarthFirst concept of End Times. Ms Clow and Dr Calleman believe the end of Mayan calculation happens nearly one year early — on October 28th, this year.

Ms Clow is particularly intrigued by the way events playing themselves out on the 2011 stage seem to hark back, almost mystically, to the astro chart for 1776 when America’s founding fathers set it all in motion.

Cherhill Whitehorse peace-pipe crop circle, Calne, Wiltshire July 27th, 2011 in same location as 1999 9-point star

July moved into August, and we were relieved to be distracted by a stream of hyper-dimensional messages in the corn. Crop circles in Wiltshire — and other world sites where they have a tendency to show up just before harvest — delighted a world audience. The croppie following was by now thoroughly split into the camp of believers (anomalous substances, pristine formations, untrampled and beautifully-layered grain) and board-stompers (unbelievers and those who use the phenomenon for their own agenda). While a plethora of inspired and inspiring designs made their presence known to a visual audience worldwide, business and media coverage turned into a circus. This continues in the present with the current series of conflicts — as the Grand Cross builds once more. It seems we are not to be spared an iota of pain until we navigate our way through this tunnel…

‘…the problem is not the good-natured heart of the people, but the outmoded mindset of the controllers…’ BHC

And the abundance brought by August fulfilled the prophecies of July. There was indeed more to come.

Ninth-century saint Swithun, Anglo-Saxon Bishop of Winchester also predicted weather from his niche in Stavanger cathedral!

The culprit is probably the previous month’s full moon (July 15th in Capricorn) and the potent assistance of long-dead but much revered St Swithun (c.AD800-862) — whose day is usually celebrated if the sun shines and reviled if it rains. It rained on St Swithun’s this year in Britain and, according to the Old Wives, we will suffer for that while full forty days play out — until August 30th. It is clearly not St Swithun’s fault. His heyday was the ninth century, when all weather signs were contemplated seriously, astrology consulted before tackling any important project and the advice of one’s ‘inner voice’ listened to before all rush and noise of the outside world.

But in the 21st century, the outside world has rushed in.

With clamor and clash, we are surrounded daily by images, events, and newsmedia words which heighten our stress levels, draw us in sinuous path, yet oftentimes with success, away from our inner guides. That elusive quality that our ancestors revered and listened to — that still small voice within — is harder to hear. She speaks in silent syllables, but we are too distracted sometimes to listen.

Grand Cross realigns

Grand Cross with all the trimmings -- August Full Moon, Saturday 13th, 2011

So it is not surprising to look at the progressed chart for the August 2011 Full Moon [August 13th] that we see a GRAND CROSS in full flight. Grand Crosses have dogged us since midsummer last year, and they won’t leave us alone for the forseeable few months, so we might as well grow accustomed to them. World events have only intensified since the June 1st eclipse and, according to Clow-Calleman, won’t let up until at least his version of the Mayan Calendar (Calleman preview) end-date of October 28th.

‘We have to end the rape of Earth by nuclear power, corrupted entertainment, and the diversion of our resources to warfare. It is obscene for media to showcase starving people in Africa while not critiquing military expenditure.’ BHClow

When such contrasts surface daily in our lives, it is not difficult to see why there are riots in London and the North of England, drought warnings for nearly half (41%) of the landmass of the United States and nuclear power officials tearing their hair in the (ongoing, continuing and continuous) global disaster that is Fukushima.

August full moon (13th, in Aquarius, the far-sighted) nevertheless brings the power necessary to use the energy window wisely; directing us to focus and not to be drawn off-balance by news of earthquakes in Cheyenne, Wyoming (August 11th) and submarine volcanoes in the axial Seamount off the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate (August 12th) on Oregon’s Pacific coast.

Vedic belief would have it otherwise: that all is solved by releasing tension and disbelief into the hands of the gods. Here is a friend’s take on the wisdom of the Subcontinent. True, if humanity can focus daily on manifesting the best, highest and most calm, we might just get through this time of huge stress — together. But it will take considerable wit and presence-of-mind to keep one’s head above the waters.

Calleman, too, has positive thoughts to see us through the next months. He considers a New World will emerge ‘after the end of the tun-based Calendar’, i.e. after October 28th, 2011. He is promoting a worldwide ‘cosmic convergence’ for the autum equinox.

It is at times like these that heroes are made.

The Glorious Twelfth

3D Starfish crop circle at Knoll Down, Beckhampton appeared with a companion, one field distant, on the morning after the Glorious Twelfth

Meanwhile, the heavenly ‘signs’ have kept on coming. The Glorious Twelfth is one of them. A little tongue-in-cheek, perhaps, since few know nowadays the meaning of the expression. What happens on that date now is a gesture only to the glory of past ‘hunter-gatherer’ activity and is but a shadow. Grouse moors used to open to guns — the occasion marked with picnics and wine and a day in the hills — to peck off the carefully-reared grouse population one by one for hoarding in the larder. Like the royal pursuit of the wolf (last wolf in Scotland shot in 1722 at Invercauld by King ‘Geordie’ the Fat — who had to be trundled to the moor in a wheeled litter to do it), and the English fox-hunting game, their days are numbered…the shooters, that is; no doubt a few more days of respite for the grouse.

Central nest in Windmill Hill-2 crop circle, another sign of authenticity
photo Stuart Dike

A perfect comparison with those outmoded practices can be seen in the work of David White & Son’s Wiltshire farms which include the fields of Etchilhampton and Windmill Hill, both highlighted by ET this year for consecutive crop circle embellishment (July 25th and 26th). The Whites farm organically, use no insecticides in the food they grow and the 1000-acre farming enterprise is a haven for lark, corn bunting, yellow wagtail and turtle dove. It is fitting that these Wiltshire nurturers and guardians of the soil should have their grain amplified by the extra nutrition and enhanced (measurable) vibration provided by two further crop circles this year. The Whites are also finalists in the RSPB Nature of Farming Award where votes will be counted until August 31st.

Our Oversoul seems insistent that we recognize those members of the community who nurture the soil, protect the earth. It is relevant that the Aberdeenshire farmer whose land was chosen August 24, 1995 to display the only crop circle in NE Scotland at Culsalmond, did at the time farm organically — still does — and is now one of the first in this corner of Scotland to drive an electric car.

Crop designs at Etchilhampton (left) & Windmill Hill appeared on consecutive mornings, July 25 & 26, on arable land farmed organically by the Whites who are donating all visitor moneys to Swindon Fluency Trust

Along similar lines, the female nurturer in Barbara Clow gives this advice:

The only thing that matters is how you live your life. Who do you love now? Are you faithful and devoted to each person you are connected to? Are you ready, at a moment’s notice, to go right to those who need assistance from you? Do you trust the grand plan that is unfolding, no matter what will happen in your personal life?

While cutting through a lot of male-dominant bluster featuring wars, weaponry-build-up, space race and political manoeuvering, she does not dismiss these ‘shocking weaknesses’ in aspects of society which have been under the control of ‘outmoded industrial and political systems’. She believes that some may be unable to dissolve their fears and guilt instilled by 5,000 years of organized religion in a second of ‘new time’. But we have to believe we can. We have at least to try.

These concepts are revealed in her book The Mayan Code: Time Acceleration and Awakening the World Mind where successive compartments of the Universal Underworld (March 9 to October 28), broken down into ‘days’ of human spiritual progress and ‘nights’ of terror, mayhem and planetary destruction, are a few of the surprises yet in store for us.

“Remember, you create your own reality, and the events in the outer world are deeply connected and inspired by what’s in your mind. Please take a look at your Spring Equinox intentions, for example, and assess how you are doing now, and also take note of the things that are popping into your life that you didn’t even plan on.” Astroflash

Ms Clow –selflessly– attributes her erudition to many teachers, including José Argüelles, Terence McKenna, Teilhard de Chardin, Carl Jung,
Graham Hancock and, not least, her Cherokee grandmother on one side and her Celtic heritage on the other.

“We are living through a great awakening and we are going to go through a lot of stuff. But I am optimistic. We live in a benevolent Universe.”

Others of her calibre and strength believe so, too. McKenna called the Universal Mind an ongoing process.

“To whatever degree any one of us can bring into focus a small piece of the (Universal) picture and contribute it to the building of a new paradigm then we participate in the redemption of the human spirit. That is, after all, what this is all about.”
T. McKenna, 2000.

It takes courage to face the music and not fail at the final reprise. We have great minds before us on the Path, and many fellow seekers focusing inner intent while the storm rages outside. There’s just a wild chance that — together — we’ll make it.
©2011 Marian Youngblood

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August 15, 2011 Posted by | astrology, consciousness, crop circles, earth changes, elemental, environment, nature, New Earth | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2009/2010 El Niño Crazies? or Just Weather

It was a dark and stormy night – oh, no – wrong genre – start again.

Beauty of a snowflake

I decided winter was going to be a hard one when snow started falling a week before Christmas. Slow and steady, huge hexagonal flakes of white fluff that wouldn’t hurt a fly – until it amasses.

And amass it did.

In this neck of the woods, a white Christmas has become something of a rarity over the last score years: an event you remembered from childhood, when lampposts were short and dogs were tall; when traffic was a report you heard on the radio; when the wind blew from the North and old men predicted the white stuff. In these last few years, it feels as if the Earth is turning on the screws and testing us countryfolk to see if we’re made of the right stuff.

There’s a link there somewhere.

All summer long – I blogged about the weather, because there was nothing I could do to change it – winds brought cloud and rain from the west: dragged it kicking and screaming across the Grampian Mountains – that famous Roman chain that spawned Mons Graupius, which usually blocks precipitation – and dumped it on Aberdeenshire.

geology of Aberdeenshire

Geology of Aberdeenshire: granite, red sandstone and raised beach gravel

For those of you unaccustomed to our spectacular micro-climatic conditions in the Northeast triangle of Scotland, the Grampian county of Aberdeen has paleo-historically been blessed with low-level Pleistocene marine sands and gravels on its eastern coast, Devonian red sandstone on the North coast and intrusive muti-colour granites – also Devonian – in the middle. They’re the ones that usually soak up leftover raindrops.

The Cairngorms form a natural divide between East and West. These stately peaks – though only in the minds of Scots, as they rise to a maximum of 4,000 feet – are geographically closer to the Atlantic Ocean than they are to the North Sea; yet their granite bloc is a block for precipitation, most years dumped unceremoniously on the long-suffering, midge-ridden West.

For every mile east you go you can expect one inch less rainfall. It’s an old Scots maxim that made some sense in Grandfather’s time.

The charmed population of Aberdeenshire has historically experienced early springs, punctual return of swallows, balmy if slightly dry summers and mild falls. Winter, since the storms of 1981-2, was a gleam in the weatherman’s eye.

Until 2009-2010.

Summer was a non-starter. A brilliant flash in late June – like a forgotten dream: one week after solstice, a few days into early July seemed like a world of childhood fantasy; running barefoot through meadow flowers, gathering domestic strawberries, wild raspberries; thinking of lush promised fruits to come: plums and pears and apples.

Then the drought (so-called ‘heat-wave’) vanished and the rains came. And with them the winds.

Hurricane Katrina August 2005

In the Bahamas and the Florida Keys they used to say a hurricane rhyme:

‘June: too soon,
July: stand by,
August: come it must,
September: remember,
October: all over.’

It applied last year to eastern Scotland, to a scary degree.

June and July were the calm before the storm. August – a month when surprise ‘spates’ arrive and inundate fields of ripening grain, sweeping all before them into overflowing ditches, burns and rivers – brought two downpours. Central riverine communities sandbagged doors, secured and taped windows. And still it came. September there were three more floods; this time the river Don burst its banks in several places: in Kintore a farmer died in his tractor, caught out and drowned, unable to extract himself from floodwaters.

A mile of Don’s worth two of Dee
Except for fish and stone and tree

The September ‘spate’, likened to its ancestor, the ‘Muckle Spate o’ ‘29’ (by that they meant 1829), carried away everything not tied down: including fish, stone and tree.

Equinox came and went and still it rained. Still the winds blew. It was as if the hurricane season of Florida had not only exported its rhyme, but all of its storms:

After Ana, Bill and Claudette, the twisting tail headed north, skirted Bermuda and aimed straight for the north Atlantic, round the Pentland Firth and down through the Moray Firth to blast Aberdeenshire.

That’s right. Not only were these storms of gale-force strength (in high summer a wind over 60mph is unusual, to say the least), but they came from the North. Poor battered plants in struggling northern gardens usually basking in an exquisite micro-climate of Icelandic and Scandinavian temperatures, were being blown to bits.

I digress only momentarily to explain that our countryman, Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort is responsible for giving us the scale of wind speeds that we currently use. It really hasn’t changed much since he standardized it in 1806. There’s been no need. Wind, from a gentle summer breeze that cools the romantic brow (3 to 6 knots, Beaufort 2) right through to a full hurricane-force gale greater than 73mph (64 knots, Beaufort 12) has a way of letting you know it’s there.

sheltering toad

Danny, Erika, Fred and Grace brought similar reminders: storm-force conditions injurious to plant, beast and Man. I even found a toad sheltering from the blast in a quiet niche. There seemed no let-up; no sign of a reprieve. Those of us who believed that the Earth was just playing a game, having us on, it would be Okay in another week… were in for a big surprise.

I planted a giant sunflower out of its (greenhouse seeded) pot in May, thinking how lovely the vision that, in a summer like 2005, 2004, 2001 or 1998 (‘Global warming’ years) it might set seed to feed finches by autumn.

By equinox it still hadn’t flowered.

It was so statuesque, so tall, so strong – its stem larger than the area I could encompass with my two hands. It was full of moisture and had responded with phenomenal growth. But no yellow petals.

October arrived. Swallows had long departed – they’d decided for the first time in twenty years that enough was enough. They’d lingered in Ultima Thule only long enough to hatch a single clutch. They left on a singular warm wind three weeks early. I should have known then we were in for more.

I thought things would change after the ‘equinoctial gales’. It is traditionally a time when, if summer has been a little less than kind, the burgeoning vines, the bending limbs, the fully laden branches of fruit and Nature’s bounty make up for all the hard work, lost sleep, missed opportunities: the promise is fulfilled, Mother Earth comes through in spades, the sun shines and all is forgiven. The warm earth brings forth ripened plums, pears and apples in abundance, even a choice late cherry or two.

Not last year.

Green tomatoes so abundant they were going out of style

True, there were Granny Smiths and Cox’s Orange Pippins lying waiting on apple boughs pruned close to a sheltering wall larger than any I have ever seen. Artichokes as big as squash; squash as big as pumpkin. But I had to bring them inside to ripen or they would have moulded in the wet. Green tomatoes so abundant they were going out of style. Zucchini had been under plastic all summer, keeping out the rain. A summer too wet even for zucchini to grow! that gives you an idea of how sodden the ground was. Victoria plums which love a moist year were hanging in abundance, but they were still green, and a few delicate pears – it is a little too northerly for pears here at the best of times – looked like shrunken castanets.

Granny Smiths & zucchini: bounty of summer 2009

There was a lot of green: lettuce, cabbage, parsley and spinach to die for, but not a lot of ripening. I am not usually an ungrateful person. But my expectation was bordering on exasperation.

Then suddenly, as if the weather elves had been napping and awoke in a frantic state of guilt at not having done their usual earth tending, October turned mild.

Roses bloomed, butterflies emerged from wall crevices, a dry shed, and sought out the late blossom of buddleia to stock up for overwintering. California poppies that thought they’d come to an alien planet, flowered and raised their faces to the sun.

And, lo and behold, my sunflower popped her first petal.

But the stratosphere wasn’t done yet. Not by a long shot. She’d started, so she was going to finish.

I mentioned earlier that the Grampian mountain chain forms a barrier that usually holds back rain from the West. And last year, its barricading powers failed miserably. Not only did rain follow wind and wind follow rain, but the midges, the West’s most unmentionable tourist nightmare, followed piggy-back along the trail.

The swallows, great feeders of the heavens, had already gone; so nobody was scooping great mouthfuls of the little monsters in massive numbers. Wrens, robins and a few finches that weren’t busy feeding on grain, demolished a few, but the air was alive with them. Wind seems not to perturb these tiny insects: they hide under trees and reappear the minute it drops.

all birds huddle together for warmth

So, calm evenings in the late Northeast autumn were midge-rampant; not pleasant. No window of opportunity for a leisurely stroll in the balmy, breathless air. The blackbirds had it all to themselves.

Thing is, there was no evening birdsong. Most of the summer visitors had departed. And those that were still around were looking for winter habitat. Wrens can bundle together in numbers up to twenty-two in one disused nest. Body heat is the only thing that keeps out the cold. Wrens were doing a big business in re-roofing spring nests – for future reference.

There were other signs. I should have known.

Greylag geese feast on harvest leftovers

Greylag geese round here have become permanent residents. They like the mild winters, so I’ve heard. They top up and home in on a familiar sheltered waterhole; they feed to stuffing point in leftover barley and wheat in open, harvested fields and then head out a little north of here to overwinter. In previous winters, winters without snow, there have been geese still tucking in in open fields in early December. This last fall, all the grain had gone by late October.

And the geese were gone too.

In late October my drenched sunflower was looking a little the worse for wear, but she was still hanging in there. Her strong stem was sturdy enough to support loads of hungry finches, tits, songbirds.

Sunflower, drenched but philosophical

They used her as a stopping-off point between hedge and feeder-table. As if they hoped her yellow bedraggled petals would somehow unfold to present them with a miracle in fat black and white stripey seeds. It was not to be.

The rain succeeded. Not in taming her, but when her petals closed in late October – usually a (midsummer) sign that the head is transfiguring, metamorphosing, setting seed – they chose not to reopen. She bowed her head and became silent. She’d had enough.

November raged and birds were blown about. Humans and animals prepared for what was to come. Early December brought some sunny days, but there was a chill in the air that nobody could really pretend was unfamiliar.

And then, one week before Christmas, the snowflakes arrived. And they fell in great soft plops of Inuit 32-linguistic varieties. And they didn’t stop falling until every last man, woman, child, blackbird, wren, robin, chicken, fox, wildcat, deer, rabbit and stoat had felt every possible chill factor they were capable of bringing.

* * *

There isn’t much point in going into the blow-by-blow of how difficult it’s been. But it might be interesting to look at the overview.

Scotland isn’t traditionally a snowy place. I’ve explained why. It sits on the northern edge of the Atlantic Ocean in a latitude akin to Alaska, but with temperatures more normal for the 42nd parallel of the Pacific Northwest. Yes, there are storms which come and go in the three months of so-called Winter, and local government services are never ready for them; it’s a standing joke. They complain before it comes, don’t deliver enough salt or grit enough or clear enough if it does and then blame central Government afterwards for not warning them or providing enough funding in the first place. As if the weather were not God’s fault, but the Labor Government’s.

People in Northeast Scotland have over time grown weary of bureaucratic bickering, complaining and infighting. In country districts in particular, they just get out and get on with it: fend for themselves. Farmers with snow-ploughs attached to tractors clear country roads which large council ploughs can no longer access.

This last winter saw more hardship, more strenuous community togetherness, more help-thy-neighbor-like-thy-life-depended-on-it gestures to make up for every snowless winter or heat-blistered summer of the new millennium.

To backtrack a little: we’ve all heard of, or been made aware of the ways of El Niño.

El Nino tropical Pacific anomaly


Spanish for ‘male child’, colloq. the Christmas Child, El Niño was the anthropomorphic name given by Peruvian sailors around 1892 to a warm northerly Pacific current in winter time. It is produced by a weather anomaly combined with atmospheric pressure: Indonesia usually experiences huge amounts of rainfall in winter under low atmospheric pressure, while high pressure hovers over the dry coast of Peru. This cycle produces a westward flow of tropical trade winds.

When the pressures weaken, the trades do too and a period of warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures arise in the east-tropical Pacific Ocean around December, blown along the surface against weakening trade winds which churn its billowing mass into a lingering ‘entity’; the length of its stay can influence weather conditions across much of the globe.

In an El Niño year, warm surface water encouraged by lessening trades migrates east from Indonesia across the central Pacific to the coast of Peru and Ecuador, bringing tropical rains which would otherwise fall on Jakarta, Bali and Papua New Guinea. Not only does the warm water linger, but with weakened winds, it forms a dense mass of warm ocean that does not sustain plankton (which prefer cooler waters) and consequently the larger fish that feed on this resource. In an El Niño year, the high desert, the Altiplano can experience huge rainstorms, while Australia and India suffer from drought.

Recent meteorological interest has been piqued by the growing frequency of El Niño years and the apparent resultant extremes in temperature worldwide which occur the following summer. El Niños since 1982 have occurred so regularly that world attention has been focused, not only on their effect on mean summer temperature but on the fact that they may contribute to ‘global warming’.

Recent El Niños happened in 1986-1987, 1991-1992, 1993-1994, 1997-1998; and in 2002-2003, 2004-2005, 2006-2007 and 2009-2010.

For comparison, using mean world temperature data, the hottest years on record are, in order of maximum extreme temperature:

Red Admiral on autumn-flowering buddleia

1 2005, hottest on record since 1880
2 1998
3 2002
4 2003
5 2004
6 2001
7 1997
8 1990
9 1995
10 1999

These freak hot summers all happened within the last two decades. And nineteen of the hottest 20 years have occurred since 1980.

Notably, and possibly related to the gap of non-El Niño years since 2007, 2009 is not one of them!

What may be happening is that, with an erratic move away from climatic norm, weather patterns become reversed, unpredictable. Bottom line, for the weather man, a nightmare.

So back to the point. The year 2009 already marked the end of the hottest decade in history – or at least since they started measuring annual mean temperature. We are, of course eliminating Northern Scotland as a candidate here.

The winter of 2009-2010 will also go down in the history books, I suspect. Not just because Scotland was cut off from the rest of the world for virtually three months, but weather conditions everywhere were, shall we say, a little out of the ordinary.

Dickey Ridge in the Deep South, USA winter 2010

They had frozen citrus groves in Florida in January, snow in Georgia in February; and a big freeze in northern Virginia at New Year’s. Dickey Ridge (three miles south of Dickey Holler!) had an icestorm, windchill, winds of 50mph (Beaufort 9) which took the temperature down to 8ºF – that, for the Celsius Euros among us is minus 14ºC; and that’s the Deep Saw-uth.

This winter, Belgium had weather like Estonia; Estonia a brief snowfall like Guernsey. Scotland is the land of the deep freeze, British Columbia hasn’t had enough snow to support the Winter Olympics. Torrential rainfall in Sacramento, Monterey and Orange County exceeded seasonal maximum; Las Vegas had more rain in two days than in the entire previous year.

La Soufrière collapse - the 'Sulfurer' from Space (ISS photo)

⁃ Dare one touch on other phenomena, either closely or remotely related to earth changes? After the January 12th and 13th Richter 6.5 and 7.0 earthquakes of Eureka, California and Haiti respectively, probably not; save to mention that Etna is alive again, spewing out volcanic cloud and ash, Kamchatka’s twin volcanoes are active, as are the Chilean twins of Llaima and Pichillaima in the Temuco Lake District, despite an unseasonal cap of snow! And in the Windward Island chain, the Saint Vincent volcano, La Soufrière, the Sulfurer, collapsed last week.

We’re not experiencing anything out of the ordinary.

We’re just in the middle of a shakedown while Mother Earth gets herself ready for spring in the Northern Hemisphere. After all, we, her children, haven’t been behaving all that well these last two decades. So she’s entitled to shake her feathers like a tousled sea eagle and take a look round to see what else she can do to get us to pay attention. Weather is, after all, one of her mechanisms for that.

We decimate tropical rain forests, she sends less rain. We rape the desert for subterranean oil, she sends dust storms and African drought. We create huge whirlpools of plastic waste in the North Pacific Gyre trapping and killing earth’s most evolved sea mammals: it seems fitting that she should turn around and send us an oceanic anomaly to make us scratch our scientific heads in vain.

What’s in store for 2010?

If the Niño camp are right, and the winter of 2009-2010 is one of the ‘strongest’ El Niño seasons yet, then the summer which follows could outstrip all previous chart-topping statistics.

Snowless slopes for Vancouver's Winter Olympics

Let’s look on the bright side. Vancouver may not have had any snow to speak of, but Iowa and Idaho, Kentucky and Montana have had their fill. As has (Scotland and) the whole of the Eastern Seaboard from Virginia to Vermont: snow so deep and penetrating that the earth is going to be busy soaking it up, getting ready for new spring growth, filling riverbeds and lakes, dams and reservoirs.

Snow melts down at about a 10 to 1 ratio, meaning 10 inches of snow equals about one inch of water. One thing’s for sure: we’ll have water in abundance to get us ready for the growing season.

Perhaps that’s what Mother Earth has in store. If the summer of 2010 turns out to be another like those twenty hottest years on record, maybe she’s filling up her tanks; mustering inner reserves; getting ready to take us through some punishing temperatures.

I mentioned animal signs. We humans may have lost our ability to intuit what lies ahead, but the birds, wild animals, flora and fauna know a thing or two.

chickens dared to emerge in frozen snow, but didn't lay for weeks

Swallows left early last fall, as if they knew what was coming. The autumn bird chorus was minimal, to say the least. My few chickens stopped laying in the first week of December and, apart from one jewel of an egg that miraculously appeared (probably by accident) on Christmas Day, the little group of eight didn’t produce a single egg between them until last week. Even then, I think it was only the bright sunshine that shone warm during the day that got them motivated. They’re still pretty quick to get back inside their henhouse before five o’clock sunset. Temperatures outside right now are maintaining a solid two or three below zero.

I mentioned Kamchatka. In the darkest days of solstice – and even in subsequent weeks when January turned to February and the light began to return – temperatures in this part of Scotland were, as I said, more appropriate for Siberia than for an island on the Atlantic seaboard. In the second of three storms, four blackbirds fell off their tree limbs in the night and died. I found the body of a fifth frozen under one of the vehicles, as if she hadn’t had the strength to fly for cover. A greenfinch died in my hands from sheer exhaustion and inability to get enough seed in her crop before nightfall.

As I see it, the winter of 2009/2010 has brought out the best and the worst. At the height of the storms, kind neighbors with 4×4 vehicles ferried immobile snowbound waifs to shop for emergency groceries. Birds died, but hens are laying again and there is birdsong. It’s a signal spring is on the way. The pheasant population, usually set by surrounding farmers as fodder for guns in the Spring Shoot are feeding by day with my chickens, roosting by night in my frozen trees. Safety not only in numbers, but also in the non-shooting enclave.

Aconite petals are gleaming with frost, but their yellow is trying to shine.

They remind me of my sunflower. Beaten but unbowed, she made it through some of the harshest conditions ever to greet one of the girosol family. She stood all winter, too. She stands there still. No flower, no seed, but her stem as strong as a sapling.

If she can make it through, I guess some of the rest of us will, too.
©2010 Marian Youngblood

February 23, 2010 Posted by | earth changes, environment, gardening, nature, organic husbandry, rain, seasonal, sun, trees, weather, winter | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Space Weather 30-year Storm: Earth fights back

Frozen in mid surge

I need hardly remind residents of Scotland that we have only just weathered the thirty-year storm. Most households living through four solid weeks of sub-zero temperatures in an Atlantic weather zone (even with the miracle of central heating) will remember this winter (and last month especially) for many years to come.

Fortunately our civilization has advanced enough so that we experienced minimum electrical ‘outages’, despite heavy snow, icicles and ice on power lines. There were, however, multiple power ‘surges’ and computers countrywide were frozen in mid surge. Mac and pc-owners and related computer businesses are still counting the cost. Curry’s have been doing a roaring trade in replacement laptops!

It seems to have hit a lot of young ones harder than they might have thought: not that closing schools and cancelling bus and train services are a hazard; more time to make snowmen, play and enjoy winter sports, you might think. Lack of reliable public transportation, however – counting on any public services, in fact – four weeks without refuse collection borders on neglect, were commuters’ and householders’ concerns. Abandonment, remoteness and surprise at being cut off suddenly are what hit the teens hardest, I think because they are unaccustomed to having their social life curtailed by ‘weather’ and few had experienced conditions such as these in their young lives.

Some of us older oldies remember the winter of 1981/2 with shivering empathy; electrical failure, power cuts, snow drifts higher than houses; evacuating and rescuing neighbours, birds frozen overnight in trees. But that was back in the Thatcherite era, before the internet, when we didn’t EXPECT everything to run on time, snow ploughs to get through, petrol in cars not to freeze.

Human culture has changed in nearly 30 years: Even in the modern backwater of Aberdeenshire, the County of no motorways, the self-styled Oil Capital of Europe.

Tea Clipper Thermopylae was built in Aberdeen by Walter Hood for the White Star Line

For those unfamiliar with our ways, this corner of Scotland – the Northeast triangle between Rivers Don and Dee and the balmy Moray Firth – has always flourished, but more than that, it looks after its own. Rather, I suppose, like Geordies idolizing their working-class heroes that went ‘down the pits’ or Scousers joking ‘don’t bomb Iraq; nuke Manchester’. Parochial in the extreme.

Unlike some other lesser-urban metropolises, however, (Dundee, Perth, Stranraer), Aberdeen has always pulled through its hardest times: Dundee used to be known (an age ago, when the world was young) for its Jute, Jam and Journalism. Now it is home to none of these; but it has Robert Scott’s ‘Discovery‘, the Tay Bridge and it’s on the way to St. Andrews, which every golfer in the world has heard of; i.e. it participates peripherally in tourism, but some of its poorer districts are in appalling shape.

Perth floods every year and millions of national money poured in to rescue low-level housing has been a nightmare. Stranraer we won’t go into. It’s no longer on the way to anywhere.

Then there’s Aberdeen.

Perched on the westernmost limb of the North Sea’s mild Gulf Stream current, its dry climate (usually, rain from the west is captured by the Grampian mountains before it reaches the plain) and its remarkable latitude (57ºN2ºW ), akin to central Alaska, give it a climatic anomaly. Its farming hinterland was rich in Neolithic times and has grown richer.

Tall Ships Race reenacts 19thC sailing contest in the Clipper tea trade


A century and a half ago the city was hub to a thriving fishing industry; its harbours built, housed and skippered trawlers, tall clipper ships, deep sea schooners and whaling vessels. Thermopylae and Elissa were built here. Names like Alexander Hall & Sons, John Lewis and Sons, the Devanha Fishing Company sprang from everyone’s lips. As a merchant marine capital it was second only to Glasgow in Scotland and Liverpool south of the border.

Aberdeen, however, was never one to have only one egg in one basket: it was also the sole exporter of granite to needy growing urban centres: London streets were indeed paved with (Aberdeen granite) gold. Craigenlow quarry at Dunecht supplied the English capital with tons of its ‘cassies’ or granite sets – hand-cut granite blocks the size of a gingerbread loaf – to meet the demands of a city experiencing growing Victorian traffic problems. If they had but known…

At the height of Georgian expansion, Aberdeen city burghers were so wealthy, their coffers overflowing from the ocean tea trade, the Baltic route, their fishing ports supplying Europe’s tables (nowadays it’s the other way around), their granite exported the world over; that they chose to beautify: and the mile-long boulevard known as Union Street was built in 1801-05. This grandiose gesture – a feat of engineering which levelled St. Catherine’s Hill and carried the extra-wide thoroughfare across arches built over the previous lower Denburn and ancient market Green – almost bankcrupted the burghers, but brought the city fame to add to its already growing fortune.

Danzig Willie's Craigievar

As early as the mid-18th century, Aberdeenshire’s famous Baltic merchants continued to bring their fortunes back home; so the county continually thrived, regardless of the ups and downs of a world economy. Robert Gordon (1688-1731), founder of the Robert Gordon Hospital, now RGU, was famous for lending money made in the Danzig trade to Aberdeen businessmen who needed large working capital at even larger rates of interest. ‘Danzig Willie’ Forbes ploughed his fortune from the Baltic trade into the building of exquisite Donside château Craigievar between 1610-1625 on the family estate of Corse, when he was already landowner of Menie estate on the Belhelvie coast north of Aberdeen. John Ramsay, an Aberdeen merchant in 1758 built his palladian mansion at Straloch. Others followed suit. The county is today littered with stately Renaissance piles and Georgian mansions more appropriate to the valley of the Loire, the home counties or the wilds of Gloucestershire.

Within this mix stir a couple of ancient universities – one founded in 1495, the other in 1593, both fostered and supported through the centuries by Aberdonian merchant success.

The world joke about the Aberdonian who watches his pennies is not entirely untrue. And the tradition goes back farther than the fifteenth century.

Aberdeen Harbour shipping with ice floes in the 1920s

Even more relevant to the characterization, perhaps, is the fact that Aberdeen Harbour (presently run by the independent entity Aberdeen Harbour Board) is in fact the oldest running business enterprise in the United Kingdom of Great Britain, having been founded by charter signed by King David I in 1136. The business head of the kingdom resides on the edge of the North Sea.

But the bell tolled. The fishing industry worldwide killed its own small fry: when container ships and tankers beheaded sailing vessels, similarly Icelandic and Norwegian refrigerated freighters signalled the death knell for trawlers and owner-operated fishing boats; and Aberdeen’s shipbuilding days were over.

In the early 1970s, Britain was experiencing the three-day-week, unemployment stats for the country were the highest then known, and even the granite industry declined. Its clients metamorphosed from those who appreciated polished stone to faceless ‘councils’ and ‘road departments’ which required the precious quartz and gneiss resource to be ground into dust-like fragments which could be mixed with tar and spread in increasing quantities on the nation’s arteries.

It looked as if Aberdeen, like every other Scots city, might founder on the rocks of history.

North Sea Oil baled Aberdeen out on the death of shipbuilding and fishing

Then, lo and behold, along came oil. Bubbling up from below the North Sea in 1971, another industry was born. And the ‘silver city with the golden sands’ was perched on the shoreline, ready to receive it.

It is said that because of its very geographic isolation the county learned to take care of itself. And its humour has a lot to do with its character.

Now that there is talk of worldwide recession and dwindling of the oil resource, the current Aberdonian humorous response is ‘oil goes out, Donald Trump comes in’. This refers to the New York entrepreneur’s £1 billion golf course resort where sand dune reinforcing work has just begun on the very landholdings of Menie once owned by Danzig Willie. Aberdeenshire is not averse to turning full circle. It has so far weathered many storms through centuries of change.

So how did we fare in this last Great Storm? How did the planet fare?

Greece had 100ºF temperatures at Christmas and Abu Dhabi and Dubai had HAIL the day before the launch of the 2,717-feet Burj Khalifa tower in the first week of January.

Scotland and Aberdeenshire in particular were at the time experiencing the grip of an Arctic winter, with traffic on all roads down to minimum and gritting and snow-ploughing said by Council spokesmen to be ‘impossible’. While they reported worries that supplies of salt from the Cheshire salt mine might be exhausted, citrus orchards throughout the state of Florida were hit by snow and frost lingered long enough to decimate their total citrus crop for 2010.

At the same time Mount Nyamulagira in a sparsely populated area of the Democratic Republic of Congo erupted, threatening an enclave of rare chimpanzees.

Eureka and Haiti had 6.5 and 7.2 Richter earthquakes respectively, while inland Northern California and Southern Oregon, usually inundated with snow, received not one drop. States of emergency were declared for Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Francisco and Siskiyou counties and as the rainstorm headed east, floods swamped the Arizona desert, threatening homes and killing migrant birds. Las Vegas, Nevada had more rain in two days than for the total year of 2009 (1.69 inches). Alligators in the Everglades froze to death.

France’s Mistral blew early this year, wreaking havoc and damage to vines and vineyards in southern départements of Lyon and Provence; the Riviera harbours of St Tropez and Marseille suffered damage to private yachts.

Since the snowmelt arrived in Scotland in mid January, it is superfluous to mention that the resulting floods have routed gutters and drains in cities and country towns and overflowed ditches in outlying country areas. Perth (again) and Inverurie, Huntly and Kintore were unable to cope with the deluge. These levels of precipitation bring Aberdeen’s rainfall statistics for the year 2009 to mid January 2010 to 101.23 inches, for a county normally experiencing 33.6 inches per annum.

The Earth doesn’t like what we’ve been doing to her in the last thirty years. She’s beginning to fight back.

January 26, 2010 Posted by | crystalline, environment, gardening, history, nature, organic husbandry, seasonal, weather, winter | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 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

NaNo makes one bold: my WIP

The setting was superb. Nothing would spoil the wedding breakfast.

NaNo: November being writing month, all stops are out, all bets are off. I’m writing again. I can say that with a feeling of relief, a feeling of awe that the Muse is still sitting somewhere in my corner and that some days She is actually enjoying coming and whispering in my ear.

One of the rules of NaNo is that one writes and DOES NOT EDIT until the required minimum wordcount of 50,000 words (or end of novel, if that adds up to more) is reached. But for your sake, dear Reader, I have edited a little. Corrected spelling and typos. Otherwise it is open to revision and redoing in December

This, therefore, for good or for ill, is an excerpt from my work-in-progress: or NaNo WIP.
I hope you enjoy. It’s a miracle to witness the continuing flow, I can tell you.

All had been made ready for the guests. The bride waited at the head of the stairs

‘Be Still in the Candlelight’

Horses and carriages stood at the gates, a long line of opulence and conspicuous wealth, each waiting its turn to process down the shady lime avenue which heralded the last mile of approach to the house.

Not a family in Aberdeenshire had been ignored. Invitations sent in January by messenger, hand delivered to Clubs and castles throughout the shire ensured that the assembled gathering would be the greatest affair in the social calendar for a generation. John Ramsay Irvine was going to make sure his daughter’s marriage was witnessed by them all. Grooms and stablehands were lined up at the curved façade to help ladies down awkward steps as consorts and cousins and brothers assisted with the finery, petticoats and layers of taffeta and veils billowing in the slight breeze.

The day was glorious: mid June brilliance with a scent of abundance in the air.

A phalanx of footmen ushered ladies into the house to powder noses, while gentlemen were escorted to the gigantic marquée set on the lawn, hands charged with a glass of champagne immediately they stepped under the awning. Butlers and footmen manfully shouldered silver trays groaning under the weight of crystal brimming with bubbles. Chatter was loud but festive. The ladies would join them in a moment. For now the tent was dominated by menfolk catching up with colleagues, discussing the week’s affairs, arrangements for the shooting season in late summer, and whose house-party already had its quota of family and summertime guests.

When the first of the ladies emerged from downstairs boudoirs and stepped into the light of the terrace, a hush descended on the crowd. Every one of them, matron, maid, young miss was adorned in finery, as if they individually were to be the bride: tiaras appeared glinting in the sun: getting a summer airing from safes and velvet boxes they’d nestled in since Christmas or for parties at Hogmanay. Pearls and rubies shone and sapphire necklaces extracted from bank vaults for this special occasion reflected blue light from the lake.

Brother Hugh stood alone, apart from the jostling crowd, waiting for a signal from his mother’s window that Catherine would soon be ready to take his arm; for him to proceed with her to the little chapel across the lawn to the glade of trees down by the lake. But carriages were still appearing, stopping at the great entrance to unload more adorned maidens with doting brothers or fiancés, and trundling slowly off to the Home Farm where grooms and drivers would wait to be summoned again after it was all over. A long procession still stretched down the lime avenue as far as Hugh could see. There was no rush yet to summon Catherine and her maids.

In the upstairs chamber with its four-poster usually reserved for her mother, Catherine stood radiant. She was to wear Great-grandfather’s South Seas pearls and the ruby necklace brought with him from Russia when he was a successful merchant plying Baltic waters to Danzig. It was now family tradition that these, the first glittering evidence of John Ramsay’s fortune, should be worn by every bride since 1758, the year that the adventurer purchased the Straloch estate from the famous cartographer, Robert Gordon of Straloch. It had been Ramsay’s fortune which built the grand mansion in its grounds.

Today Catherine felt like a swan gazing in her mother’s long dress-mirror at the sparkling jewels round her white neck. There was something about these new continental gowns, the low ’empire’ line made fashionable by the ladies of Napoleon’s court . The British may have defeated the dictator, but his ladies’ fashion sense lingered on. The high bosom and low neckline made her feel dizzy in the shafts of sunlight glancing through the gauze curtains. It danced and shifted, casting a pool of light at her feet. She allowed herself to peer over her sudden perky breasts at the pompom slippers of maroon silk which peeped out below the vanilla silk hem of her gown. Mother was right. This new line may be a little too daring for such a backwater as Aberdeenshire, but it was just the most beautiful creation she had ever seen and she was standing in it, allowing its long pointed sleeves to hug her delicate wrists, the tight waistband to nip her small frame even more closely than she ever would have dared at a normal party.

‘Everything is allowed for a wedding, my dear. Even daring narrow waists and low necklines.’ If her mother’s voice had a hint of disapproval, it was covered by laughter. Tones tinkled in pride at the sight of her daughter’s surprise.

“We may be of merchant stock, but Grandfather knew a jewel or two. And I must say they do add a je ne sais quoi to your already fabulous beauty.’ Her mother laughed again. ‘I may not be the one to say, but it does run in the family.’

She reached out her own silk-gloved hand to caress the folds at the rear of her daughter’s gown, smoothing an imaginary crease.

Bridesmaids in the ante room behind the pillar giggled and, seeing Catherine’s mother smile and beckon, fell into the room in a huddle of lace and satin and pink pumps.

‘Careful, girls. We don’t want any accidents.’

All four glanced at each other and then at their hostess and giggled again.

‘I wish it were all over. No, of course I don’t but Hugh said he’d start the procession at least by two. It must be close to three.’ Catherine’s small face crinkled in a fleeting frown, scanning her mother’s profile. One of the house maids popped her head round the door.

‘Carriages still coming, m’lady,’ she said, bobbing a hasty curtsey. ‘Master Hugh says another glass of champagne should settle the gentlemen. He wants to know if you would like some up here.’

‘Most certainly not. Thank you, Rose. Tell the Master we shall wait for his signal.’ The maid’s head disappeared again.

‘I can see the end of the carriages.’ A tiny gloved hand holding its regulation posy of roses dropped the long curtain at the window and one of the Burnett girls burst into a fit of giggles. Another grabbed the curtain and then she too dropped it with a guilty look. She turned to the other bridesmaids and whispered
‘It’ll be the bridegroom in the very last carriage.’

‘I heard that.’

Catherine was nervous as a kitten. The last thing she wanted to know was news that that her darling, handsome husband-to-be was the last to arrive. She swept the thought aside. Henry was like her brother Hugh: so strong and brave. Such a pity Father was no longer well enough to sit up, far less be wheeled to the ceremony. But until she became Henry’s, Hugh would be her rock. He would more than make up for her father’s infirmity.

Hugh had turned out like his grandfather: he’d continued the work begun by Great-grandfather in the 244 acre estate after he built the palladian mansion, just as father and grandfather had done. Nowadays there was talk in Society of how rash a move it had been, in the time of King George III, to pull down a 13th century building and put up a Georgian palace. But Great-grandfather was an innovator. He knew all the tricks and turns used by wealthy European royalty in his day and his palace was built to the scale and proportions of the great Italian architect, Palladio, whose style thereafter became the fashion.

Straloch had been revolutionary for its time. Now in the early 19th century, It was considered ‘all the rage.’ For a wedding ceremony and breakfast attended by all the County’s best families, its size and style were totally inkeeping. It had precisely the required number of public rooms, a grand ballroom, drawing room, morning room and a dining salon that none could rival. It had outlived its ‘foreignness’ and become a style which other families copied. Burnetts and Forbeses and Irvines all had since pulled down ancient towers and put up a palladian edifice in its place: at Colpy and Keig and Pittodrie, palaces were erected where cramped medieval towers had been. The Ramsay fashion had become the norm. And in Aberdeenshire, a county renowned for its conservatism, that was saying something.

Hugh was more like father in the way he cared for and tended the trees of the avenue, the stately park specimens getting most of his love and attention. And he had recently started a programme of planting the new fashion in trees: beech.

If you listened to Hugh on the endless variety of beeches one could plant… he could bore anyone to tears. It was enough to make her yawn just to think of it. Some day, of course all this would be Hugh’s. Catherine was just fortunate to be able to have such a beautiful backdrop for her Big Day. And as for father’s being an invalid and not really able to know what was going on, was something one just had to be philosophical about. He seemed more himself when she’d spoken to him this morning, wanting to share with him the excitement to come, the huge numbers who would attend. He looked at her through watery eyes, propped himself up on one elbow from the cushions on his daybed and whispered:

‘Be still in the candlelight, Darling.’

She had not the faintest idea what he meant, but she nodded her head and kissed him on the forehead.

Suddenly Annie Farquharson jumped up and down at the window, her pink slippers doing ballet turns.

‘It’s Hugh. He’s signalling to be ready. He’s pulling out his fob watch and pointing. I think he means it’s time.’

‘All right, all right, girls. No need to lose our heads. Now, we all remember the order. When Hugh comes to the door, you four go first. Ahead of him. Follow Catherine’s cousin Jamie to the head of the stairs and wait. Do you hear me? Wait until I get there.’

There came a chorus of ‘yes’.

‘He’s coming. He’s coming,’ Annie bobbed up and down more frantic than ever.

‘All right, Annie. Now into your special order, please girls. We do this as we practiced it. All right?’

Catherine felt remarkably calm. If Hugh was ready, it meant her dear beautiful wonderful sweet loving kind fiancé Henry was already down in the woodland glade by the lake; at this very moment entering the little chapel and waiting for her. The thought made her faint with pleasure. Annie’s sister June had the presence-of-mind to prop her up. She tut-tutted her support.

There was a knock at the door and Hugh was ushered in by a dressing maid. He whispered something in Mother’s ear and looked over at his sister:

‘Ready my sweet princess? I’ve never seen you more glorious than today. Really. And I’m not being brotherly. I really mean it. You could not look more perfect. I think you are right about these new styles. It’s going to be the wedding of the century.

That’s pretty bold, she thought. This is only 1822. Surely newer fashions will one day make all this seem out of date and from a different world. Again, she brushed the unruly thought aside like a wisp of stray hair in her eye, took a step towards him and grasped his outstretched hand.

‘Thank you my darling Hugh. I would not be able to do this without you.’
He smiled and led her to the door.

Each waited her turn to descend the Great Staircase

As instructed, the bridesmaids already stood in a clump on the landing next to Jamie, flouncing their skirts, waiting for the signal to descend the great staircase. Mother caught up with them, and took her place ahead on the top step.

On cue, the piper at the front door thrummed up his bagpipes and began a low drone. Catherine could see outside sunlit faces turn from the awning towards the front door.

It was beginning.

She held Hugh’s arm in a tight grasp.

‘You’ll be wonderful,’ he whispered.

She smiled up at him, wishing she could say something in return, but her eyes filled with tears and she swallowed instead.

Six pages rushed past carrying golden candelabra from the drawing room to stand in two rows down the great staircase. As one of them came abreast of her and Hugh, he tripped and looked at her wildly as if to apologize for his clumsy nervousness. His companion bent over to help him fix one of the candles which was beginning to work itself loose from its holder, its flame still alight, but shaking. As one page righted himself, the other’s grasp on his own candlestick slipped.

Catherine and Hugh could only stand and watch. In slow motion, the triple glow of golden light wrapped in cherubs and foiled bacchanalian wreaths, began a downward curve towards the staircase. Hugh grabbed his sister tightly, starting to swing her torso out of the way of the falling light. For a moment all Catherine saw was light: a small flame, so tiny it could do no harm, its glow wanting so much to add to the perfection of her day. Its fall was broken by the solid mahogany ball-and-claw knob of the bannister at the head of the stairs. Instead of cascading flame-first down the stairwell into the abyss below stairs, the dislodged candle bounced back and – oh so excruciatingly slowly – turned its menacing beam on Catherine.

Bridesmaids leapt to left and right, each trying to avoid what must happen: the staircase was in disarray. Other candles started to shake and falter.

‘Hold your lights, there’. It was Hugh’s voice, so close to her ear, but it sounded a million miles away.

Her eyes were glued to the falling candle. Why was it taking so long? It should have landed by now. By now she should be able to jump sideways and out of harm’s way. But Hugh’s arm held her tight. She was immobilized. All she could do was watch, frozen in time as the dislodged candle made a soft thump – such a simple sound – and hit the top of the staircase. Candle wax spilled in all directions, some of it sparking with a flame. One tiny spark of wax fell on the hem of her gown and she stared – her eyes wide now, her mouth open in a silent scream of terror – as flames engulfed her vanilla silk underskirts.

One of the butlers held a tray. He stood crouching back by the open door of the room they had left a moment ago. Hugh let go her arm, made a couple of strides across the landing and grabbed two champagne glasses, throwing the contents at her. He missed and the liquid splashed her arm.

‘Bring me a carafe,’ he ordered, his voice sounding more like a general in Napoleon’s army than her own gentle brother.

He grabbed another two glasses and threw. This time they hit their mark, but in the few seconds’ delay, the fire had caught hold. It was burning her silk stockings. She felt heat sear her legs. It seemed to penetrate right through to the bone. Her tears couldn’t help her. Her brother’s champagne rescue was doing a little but not enough. The candle, so small and innocent a flame, was doing its worst.

Fire raged up the front of her skirt, smoke engulfing her face, her neck, the pearl and ruby necklace. A page stumbled towards Hugh carrying a bedroom ewer, its enormous weight of water slowing him down. Hugh grabbed the jug and poured its contents down her uncomplaining front. His left hand held her steady, in case she fell from the sudden mass of water. Nobody spoke. The other pages stood motionless, still in position lining the staircase. Of four bridesmaids, two were crying and two were holding gloved hands in anguish over their open mouths. Mother had stopped rigid in her tracks halfway down the staircase. She and the pages created a flimsy barrier between Catherine and the jostling crowd of onlookers beginning to push into the main entrance hall.

All could see now: she was the centre of attention: this tragic apparition, her faultless coiffure still crowning a face ravaged by tears, sleeves and gloved hands soaking wet but intact.

Rubies glittered as if they knew red was not only a colour but a flame.

And below the waist – nothing – it was all gone. She was naked except for two charred shivering legs, a vestige of maroon slippers looking like something from the Black Death. She collapsed to the floor just as Annie rushed to cover her nakedness with her vanilla stole. The last thing she heard was her mother’s voice:

‘Give her some air. Let her breathe.’

But it was father’s words which she heard in her mind:

‘Be still in the candlelight, Darling. Be still.’

November 19, 2009 Posted by | authors, crystalline, culture, Muse, novel, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Crop Circles and ancient Lammastide

Overhead 360º view from within the simple swirled crop circle of August 24, 1995

Overhead 360º view from within the simple swirled crop circle of August 24, 1995 at Culsalmond, Aberdeenshire

Crop circles are not new. The phenomenon is centuries-old, embedded in folklore in South Africa and China, achieving sparse comment from English academics in the 1600s; noted in police records and farming journals in 1890; by military and ‘classified’ sources through the 1950s and ’60s.

It was not until 1980, however, that the general populace began to notice them. Since 1990 size and intricacy have developed, mimicking computer fractals, fourth dimensional reality, esoterica known only to quantum physicists. Nearly 30 years after that Thatcherite time, discussion favours excitement over fear, anticipation rather than suppression, belief more than ridicule. The appearance of upwards of 10,000 reported ‘genuine’ crop circles in twenty-nine countries worldwide has brought the subject into the mainstream. It has become ‘cool’ to talk about what they might mean.

In the English countryside since 2005, designs have become so complex, it is natural to speak of codes and mathematical sequences and quantum physics and astronomical numbers. As simple ellipses expanded into trailing solar flares, hypercubes, calendrical geometry and astrophysical complexity, we became mesmerized by beauty in the summer landscape, breathless with anticipation of what would come next.

In 2009 the pick of the crop finished at the end of August. Fields in September were conspicuous by their absence.

They’ve got us where they want us: on the edge of our seats.

In a lull between September’s close and next year’s crop of never-before-seen designs, what have we learned? Why are we being gifted such inspiration?

What associative ideas do they generate? What emotions do they trigger? Where do they mostly appear?

White Horse and Star Guidance sextant Crop Circle, Alton Barnes, Wiltshire

White Horse and Star Guidance sextant Crop Circle, Alton Barnes, Wiltshire

Many delving, however briefly, into this phenomenon would associate the random appearance of crop circles with that other kind of circle: the ancient and sacred stone circle. That the majority of designs in England has focused on the hallowed precincts of great sacred sites like Avebury and Sillbury Hill, Wiltshire, Rollright Stones, Oxfordshire and within sight of ancient burial mounds of Hampshire is no coincidence. The same is true for appearances near ancient ancestral sites in other countries: Holland, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Latvia; even the Serpent Mound, east of Cincinnati, Ohio. In all this exotica, it is easy to miss one particular circle of great simplicity but infinite importance in the farmland of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, which appeared at the end of Lammas, 1995.

A little patience and we can find a context, a common link.

First off, like the siting of ancient stone circles, crop circle placement is not random.

Dowsers, diviners, engineers, television cameramen and aircraft pilots can all attest to electromagnetic anomalies occurring in cleared agricultural land where Neolithic and Bronze Age farmers placed their mounds, erected their trilithons, buried their dead. Feng shui proponents, who detect minute variations in electrical body pulses, have commented on the extraordinary fluctuations of energy contained within the relatively small area concentrated on Wiltshire’s sacred sites; Alton Barnes, with its twin village Alton Priors, rank high on the electromagnetic scale. It is not surprising, therefore, that this select valley houses not only the prehistoric White Horse, but was home to Milk Hill swallow configuration (2008) and multiple coded designs in 2009: whirling dolphins, star tetrahedron and the sextant (star navigational instrument) created in three stages; contemporary appearances at Alton Priors include – in perfect timing – the exquisite eight/infinity symbol of 08/08/08 (August 8, 2008) and the swallow with coded tail of June 2009.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to watch your compass needle fluctuate wildly at Yatesbury, Wiltshire; a newly-charged car battery die on the edge of a field at Sillbury Hill, near Avebury or your camera spontaneously recharge in the centre of a newly-laid crop design at Alton Barnes. These magnetic phenomena are commonplace to students of ‘leyline’ energy meridians, with which the Wiltshire basin and Cotswold range are filled. But it is significant that Yatesbury was home to the dragonfly glyph of June 3rd and Phoenix of June 12th 2009. Sillbury Hill has always deviated instruments; its great chalk mound resisting man’s excavations to discover its secret; but it opened its fields to decoration of extraordinary complexity on August 3rd, 2009 when plain swirled circles were found to contain at their centres the intricately woven patterns reminiscent of the medieval corn-dolly craft.

According to a representative of the British Feng Shui Society, an area of Britain ranking second only to the Avebury-Yatesbury-Windmill Hill energy vortex is the largely forgotten agricultural plain of Scotland–lying between the 56th and 57thN parallel–in the counties of Angus, Aberdeenshire and Banff. World attention has focused on names like Bishops Cannings, the Roundway, and Chiselden. But how many have heard of Sunhoney, Easter Aquhorthies, Culsalmond or Old Rayne?

Among the excitement of first circles decorating Wiltshire and Oxfordshire in the 1990s, the contemporaneous appearance of a single swirled design in wheat in Aberdeenshire was overlooked. Yet their locations–within ancient sacred landscape, in proximity to prehistoric ritual sites of previously huge importance to a country population–and the time of year in which they appeared have a common link.

In ancient times, the Celtic calendar revolved round the farming year: birds start to nest at Candlemas (February 2nd), Vernal Equinox fields are prepared for sowing; Beltane (May 1st) held a huge fire festival celebrating the seeded land; fire festivals were perpetuated ritually and with deliberate intent, until well after the Reformation. Only then did Church and State combine to desecrate such ritual, relegating it to the realm of pagan superstition (pagan = L. paganus = country-dweller), implication: simple country folk knew no better. Midsummer solstice was a time of rejoicing for the bounty beginning to appear in fruit and crops; Lammas (August 1st) marked the onset of harvest, usually over by autumnal equinox; and the Celtic Year ended and began anew with the festival of Hallowe’en/All Hallows Day. Christmas was superimposed on the earlier festival of winter solstice, when the land was in almost total darkness, with farming people praying for the return of the Light.

In an abundance of festivals, the greatest for agricultural and rural families was that of Lammas. While its pivotal date was August 1st, the festival coincided in a good summer with the actual harvesting of grain. In most communities it began three weeks before and continued until three weeks after that date–ending around August 24th. Through the medieval centuries, every community in the Land had a Lammas fair dedicated to the local patron saint, a Horse Fair, a fair to compete, display wares, buy and sell food, fruit and harvested bounty.

Annual horse fair and Travelling People's Market, Aikey Brae, Buchan

Annual horse fair and Travelling People's Market, Aikey Brae, Buchan

Aberdeenshire, like many of the southern counties was rich in such events. The names, if not the actual ethos of the celebration, linger in local names. Old Rayne has its Lourin’ Fair; annual Aikey Fair occurs at Aikey Brae near Old Deer. And Culsalmond had the greatest fair of them all: St Sair’s Fair. Named after one of the earliest Brittonic saints to spread Christianity in the North, St Serf was the patron of the St Sair’s Horse and Feeing Fair. Not only serving as a forum for employing (feeing) farm servants, it attracted horse and cattle fanciers from all over the kingdom. While Aikey and Lourin continue to show horses, St Sair’s Fair did not survive World War II.

The stance at Jericho on the Hill of St Sairs has dissolved into the sod of the Glens of Foudland, like the tiny chapel to St Sair which used to mark the spot. Even after such fairs were officially banned in 1660, St Sairs was going strong in 1722. Horses were being traded in 1917 on the hill. Change in farm practices and two wars were its undoing.

What is significant, however, is not that great stallions used to parade these hallowed slopes, but that St Sairs happened within a sacred enclave of ancestral ritual circles, burial mounds and avenues just like Avebury and Sillbury Hill. The Culsalmond recumbent stone circle lies buried among the gravestones of the ruinous pre-Reformation kirk; Neolithic carved stone balls were found on the farms of Jericho, St Sairs and Waulkmill, within a sacred avenue flanked by three stone circles and two burial mounds. Bronze Age urns from Colpy and Upper Jericho have, along with charred body parts and Neolithic carved stone ladles, found their way into museums in Aberdeenshire, Edinburgh and London. More than one hundred flint arrowheads and several hundred flint implements have disappeared from this ancient place–and the archaeological record.

It was here on the last day of Lammas 1995 that a crop circle sent a reminder–a simple swirled design in wheat–to trigger in this ancient landscape a memory of connection to its agricultural past and, perhaps, if we are listening, the key to our communal future.
©2009Marian Youngblood

October 11, 2009 Posted by | crop circles, culture, Prehistory, sacred geometry, sacred sites, stone circles | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments