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Spriggans of Light: A Pilgrimage from Carn Lês Boel to Come to Good.

About half-way through a recent 6-day pilgrimage, (lead by Richard Dealler of Mary/Michael Pilgrims Way), I learnt a new word.  Spriggan.   It was used by our overnight camping host and transformational healer, Annie Turner, to describe the sparks of light coming from the fire in the pit, a warm and welcoming focal point for weary pilgrims to gather around after a full day of contemplative walking.

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A little research and I have discovered that a spriggan is a nature sprite or changeling in Cornish folklore.  Not a particularly savoury character by some accounts, to be found guarding hoards of ill-gotten gains.   Used to describe sparks from a fire, then I can easily embrace spriggans as nature spirits dancing in the flames.   It occurred to me that, as pilgrims, we were not unlike spriggans: little beings of light  breaking free to sparkle in the darkness before finally evaporating into the ether.

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West Cornwall Beltane Pilgrimage organised by Mary Michael Pilgrims Way guided by Richard Dealler.
The Node Stone
Be still, for this is sacred ground,
A place to stand and pause. Reflect
upon the pathway here –
The lessons learned, the gifts received.
Be still, and listen to the voice
That sings a song of unity,
Blessing the journey still to come
With love and deep humility.
Brenda Desborough.
This poem was read out by Richard to mark the start of our pilgrimage.  We are standing on the node point at Carn Lês Boel.  The point where the Michael and Mary Lines make landfall and come together after snaking their way across the waters from Ireland, (I dowsed it that way on this day, but initially dowsed by Hamish Miller).  The reading perfectly sets the tone for our next few days together.

12 pilgrims in all set off on that journey together: a dolly mixture assortment of backgrounds and eccentricities, such as artists and photographers and, not surprisingly the majority of people from various caring professions which includes a homeopath, a psychotherapist, an Alexander technique practitioner, a few musicians and healers, an ex-lawyer, a songstress and one couple.  And me.   Then there is Christoffer, the backup team: driver, cook and provisioner for the duration, a cauldron of bubbling energy.  He scolds us when we left tea bags lying around the camp, woos us with poetic observations or serenaded us with soulful sounds skilfully bowed from his violin strings.  He also fills our bellies with welcoming, tasty curries and vegetable stews flavoured with foraged herbs.  We could not have done without Christoffer.

This is not just a walk-and-camp holiday as a couple of participants had thought it might be.  The word ‘pilgrimage’ in the title is a bit of a give away.   Walking in silence and sharing this intense experience of internal and external journeying is part of what constitutes the difference between a ‘walk’ and a ‘pilgrimage’.   But due to the nature of silent walking, we rarely get to know our fellow pilgrims  over and above what they do for a living.  For instance, I can’t tell you about family matters or how many children other people might have had.  But that doesn’t seem to matter.  Just being with other people and experiencing their essence overriding words is enough, understanding a power in people being together, body and soul, in the natural environment.  When we do talk, other than the daily natterings, what is slowly revealed, skilfully guided by Richard and Christoffer, are mirrors of our own thoughts and feelings as most of us manage to summon up the words to share deeper aspects of ourselves to each other.

The week is not without its moments of tension that spontaneously erupts and ripples through the group from time to time.  Richard’s experience in working with offenders of domestic violence meant that these troublesome niggles were ‘aired’ and dealt with in the group circle sessions.  But it wasn’t all heavy and introspective either.  There are many, many  light-hearted moments too and a lot of joyful banter and much laughter.  Singing and bright conversation.  Poems recited and musical instruments played.  So that by the end of our time together we felt more like a family of friends, embracing our differences and sharing our truths, than a band of weary pilgrims.

 

Then there is the walking.  Lots of it.  About 60 miles following the Mary earth energy line across the hidden parts of the west Cornish countryside to visit quiet country churches, holy wells, hill-top markers, stone circles and standing stones that accent points along the Line.  What should have been familiar territory for me often felt like we were walking in a foreign land, tacking across it, this way and that, in Mary’s gentle, energetic field.  A couple of themes begin to emerge.   For one,  there is a definite heart vibe going on: everywhere you looked there are shapes resembling hearts, even heart-shaped puddles.  The other theme is a cross, like the cross of St.Piran (a black cross on a white background), the patron Saint of tin-miners (and of Cornwall).  They were on rocks on the beach, like the one I photographed at Nanjizel….too big to put in my pocket.  The turn stile on the path leading to St Piran’s Well, in the gardens of Bryher Cottage, Perranwell was in the shape of a St Piran’s Cross.  (Or were they kisses?)

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When we came to St Michael’s Mount, I was invited to try out my new Chakra Walk on the group.  Realising why I had been prompted to throw my coloured silks into my bag at the last minute, this seemed like a good way to elevate our visit above just a tourist experience as we tuned in with Mary once again on the Mount.  (you can find a report about it on the Mary Michael Pilgrim Way Facebook page)

Then there is Richard, our steady leader and pace setter.  I knew the moment I met him, we were all in safe hands.  A special red-coated leader, often a sweater skirt tied around the waist, ready to hand out the blister plasters or dispatch a casualty or two in a taxi to the next camp when the need arose.  As it did on a couple of occasions.  Once when a ‘gent’ got one of his new boots stuck between a couple of granite boulders whilst crossing a stile, falling backwards into a bed of stinging nettles and leaving his foot wedged at a precariously twisted angle.  The sort of thing you see on ‘you’ve been framed’ only it wasn’t very funny at the time.   After untying laces and a lot of wriggling and a bit of man-handling, the boot is finally freed from its stoney vice together with its occupant.  Luckily with no more harm done other than a pilgrim who was a little bruised and shaken by the event.

As we settle into the rhythm of the days, ‘about half an hour’ becomes a measure of distance to the next resting stop / the first lunch break / the second lunch break / the day’s destination.    Creases of anxiety are gradually ironed out as stresses in the ‘outside’ world get left behind and concerns such as time and distance become blurred, responsibility happily relinquished and the focus placed on simply following our leader.  His quiet, even step, leading the crocodile of pilgrims along the path.   Then just when I was beginning to feel like I could go on for another week at least, all too soon, we had reached our destination: Come to Good, an atmospheric little Quaker Meeting House near Playing Place on the Fal estuary.  Then as suddenly as it had all begun – in the rain – that moment had arrived to say goodbye – in the rain.  Goodbye to our fellow foot travellers and go our separate ways once more, splintering away from the community of pilgrims to scatter across the country and breaking the spell.

Summing up that experience?  For me, it has been quite cathartic.  At many points along the way I was very close to tears, and on some occasions not able to control them from flowing at all.  The experience: a richly woven tapestry of poetry, chanting,  early morning Qi Gong (a form of Tai Chi), a few tears spilt, a bit of gentle snoring and a little toning (or droning from me).  The sound of Skylarks and mesmerizing kinetic wind turbine sculptures:  moments that turn into memories.  I ached in my gluteus maximus and had a coffee withdrawal headache for the first day, but once I got into my stride, quite literally, I took off and flew!  Like a butterfly whose wings are a little tattered at the edges.  I think we have all fluttered our wings a little more and I, for one, wouldn’t have changed a thing.  I am a little wiser and more nourished by the pilgrimage community.  “Basic human contact – the meeting of eyes, the exchanging of words – is to the psyche what oxygen is to the brain. ……….” Martha Beck.   Thank you fellow pilgrims.

If you would like to experience one of these for yourself, Richard is in the process of organising the next pilgrimage.

Dartmoor Summer Solstice Pilgrimage, 4 days (tbc) from 19th June. Contact Richard, contact@marymichaelpilgrimway.org.

For a taster, here is a lovely film about last years’ Dartmoor section of the Mary Michael Way made by Rachel Cornish who was with us on the this years’ Cornish section.

But don’t take my word for it.  Here are some of Richard Dealler own words (which he has kindly let me reproduce here) in his poem, Cuckoo Calling.   He was reminded of it when we heard those distinctive cuck-oo, cuck-oo notes whilst walking in the middle of the Cornish countryside, a true harbinger of Spring and new beginnings. Thank you Richard.

Cuckoo Calling

Yesterday,

I walked in search of the cuckoo,

Around Bickleigh and Cadleigh,

Up the valley of the Dart.

I wandered into an old world of marshy meadows

Where cuckoo flowers abounded

But their namesake was absent.

Most unexpected was the heronry,

Where birds vulture-like perched and looked me in the eye,

As if spotting the silvery glint of a tasty morsel.

I got lost, missed an unmarked path,

And ended up knocking on the door

Of a cottage at Little Silver

Where a person 5 feet tall

Would have had to stoop to enter.

Back in Bickleigh, a fading poster

Pinned to the bus shelter, caught my eye.

It advertised Awakening Albion,

A walk from Cornwall to Norfolk

From shore to shore

Between Beltane and Summer Solstice.

It spoke of pilgrimage and community,

Two words close to my heart.

Today,

The incongruity of speaking to one of the pilgrims

As he neared St Austell.

In my mind he was garbed in medieval robes,

With staff, gourd, scallop shell – and mobile phone.

Part of me longed to up sticks and go

To break through to a different life.

Leave the washing up in the bowl, the lawn unmown,

My own message pinned to the door,

“Away on pilgrimage.”

To re-awaken in me that joy of days and weeks

When walking was my life,

The pace and rhythm so unrushed

That my senses like a fairy tale princess kissed, revived,

And where, a long, long way from home

I heard the cuckoo call.

Richard Dealler.

 

 

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Inside Blue

This week’s photo challenge is ‘Inside’.   I’ve been updating my elemental energies website with photos that represent chakra colours using my materials box for inspiration.  So my contribution to ‘Inside’ is Blue.  It is the colour of communication so I think at the moment that is appropriate for me.  Do check it out here

scree-shot of website

scree-shot of website

or click on the above image.   To see more ‘Inside’ photos, here.

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Filed under my sketchbook pages, Wordpress Photo Challenge

Out of Hibernation

selfie, (Barnoon Cemetary)

selfie, (Barnoon Cemetary)

Hi, I’m back!  Back with a rare selfie to celebrate this week’s photo challenge.  Been in hibernation and doing a lot of soul-searching whilst working on a new project.  Not quite ready to birth the baby yet but watch this space.

For other selfies, see here.

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Mellow Yellow (That’s Right!)

This morning, whilst looking at a couple of bloggers’ responses to this weeks’ photo challenge: Capture the Colour, I am thinking, do I really want to trawl through my considerable photographic archive to find the most ‘shouty’ colours?  God knows, I have enough to choose from.

Then it occurs to me that yesterday’s walk with the dogs along the beach at Chapel Porth contained all the colour I needed to fulfill this particular brief, even though by colour harmonic standards, they touch the low-key range: subtle yet beautiful in all their Autumnal glory.

The enveloping WHITE fog sets the mood for this walk and ensures a palette of soft, muted tones to follow.

Chapel Porth, North Cornwall, looking east.

Chapel Porth, North Cornwall, looking east.

even the dogs look ghostly in this light

even the ‘beach-colour’ dogs look ghostly in this light

These RED streaks contrast with the usual BLUE-grey colour of this rock.

rock-climbing 'explorer' dogs

‘explorer’ dogs climbing over mussel-coated rocks

And from a distant, this flash of ORANGE looked like an inflatable boat wedged into the cliff face, up close revealed itself to be a safety net covering a hole that no longer seemed to be doing its job.

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this vertical channel also shows a seam of iron-rich, ORANGE rock rubble

contrast between SILVER and ORANGE

contrast between SILVER and ORANGE

GREENS.

tangled snakes: 4 dogs leads, one of which is GREEN

tangled snakes: 4 dogs leads, one of which is GREEN

some living GREENery on the rock in this cave passage

some living GREENery on the rock in this cave passage

and AQUA

aqua pool

Zola likes sploshing around in this AQUA pool

My son, Alex, a surfer since 11, calls me from a snatched office break in London.  I tell him I wished he was here with me now.

“There’s hardly a soul about.  It’s absolutely beautiful.”

“Mumma, what are you doing in North Cornwall?”

“I’ve just dropped off Poppy for her monthly hair cut.  Can you hear the surf?”

Looking towards the sea, it was indeed very BLUE, topped off by a perfect WHITE surf.  Then I noticed this YELLOW water mark in the sand.

water marks

water marks

There are lots of these fine graphic marks all over the beach.  There are also rainbows to be seen in the soapy bubbles frothed up by the tide along the shoreline but by then my phone camera has had enough and is telling me I have no space for any more pictures.

Time to retreat.  The mizzle that had miraculously ceased the moment I stepped out of the car was threatening to return and we hasten our steps off the beach to collect my newly coiffured old spaniel.

a hint of BLUE in the sky

and a hint of BLUE in the sky

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Inside the Passion Flower: A Mandala for Love

The inside of a Passion Flower is a sexy thing: with its male and female parts clearly designed to entice visiting insects, targeted by a ring of pearly white petals and a halo of blue, white and purple radial filaments.  It has always been one of my favourites.

I grew this vine from a cutting

I grew this vine from a cutting

A Wikipedia extract:

The “Passion” in “passion flower” refers to the passion of Jesus in Christian theology. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Spanish Christian missionaries adopted the unique physical structures of this plant, particularly the numbers of its various flower parts, as symbols of the last days of Jesus and especially his crucifixion:[citation needed]

Blue Passion Flower (P. caerulea) showing most elements of the Christian symbolism

I can appreciate all the Christian symbolism and in the past I have picked these beautifully structured flowers with their purply-blue and white petals that represent the higher chakras associated with communication and connections with the spirit world, to place on graves and even in the burial of a much-loved horse that was a very sad loss for his grieving owners.

However, for me, the passion flower signifies physical passion and love.  I was given a cutting by a former lover and planted it where it could grow as a canopy over the garden gate leading to my house.  It flourished as did the relationship, the passion flower serving as a LOVE Mandala to welcome the many, many visitors who passed underneath its spreading habit before crossing our threshold to the sacred space we shared in our home.  Sadly, times have changed and I no longer live in the old Farmhouse but I’m pleased to say the passion flower continues to flourish.  In fact it is so prolific that it has to be regularly hacked back so that people can reach the front door, even despite being regularly battered by the winds blowing off the moors.   This is some comfort to me and serves as a reminder of past loves.  In the language of flowers, the passion flower represents faith and belief.  For me, that is faith and belief in the power of love.

still prolific!

still prolific!

I’ve just taken a look at the pictures on line and am amazed by all the different varieties.  But for me, none of them are as beautiful as the humble(?) Passiflora caerulea.

For other views of this week’s Photo challenge: Inside, see here.

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Filed under Mandalas, my sketchbook pages, Paths of Enlightenment, Wordpress Photo Challenge

Retracing my Footsteps: 1. St Uny Church to Knill’s Monument

St. Uny Church, Lelant.

St. Uny Church, Lelant.

Porth Kidney to Carbis Bay

Porth Kidney to Carbis Bay

Carbis Bay

Carbis Bay

At the waymarker for Knill's Monument

At the waymarker for Knill’s Monument

Nil Desperandum

Nil Desperandum!

This is my own ‘pano’ viewpoint.  For more unusual POV’s see how other people have tackled this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge here.

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Filed under my sketchbook pages, St. Michael's Way, Walks, Wordpress Photo Challenge

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fore(shore)shadows

To foreshadow is to portend or indicate a future event.  I am always looking for signs in the landscape that might be messages for me, so I have chosen to focus on some foreshore images for this weeks’ photo challenge.  These shadows are based on the rhythms of time.

ripples left in the sand reflecting the state of the outgoing tide

ripples left in the sand reflecting the state of the outgoing tide – an event in the recent past

The foreshore is the part of the seashore between the high-water mark and the low-water mark.  It gets covered twice a day and is subject to the particular mood of the sea and state of the moon on any particular day.

Sometimes, the beach shows up unusual patterns and here a new moon shape suddenly appears on the beach.

A reverse shadow. This pale patch of sand creating an arc of light on the beach is a strange anomaly.  I have no idea how it was formed, and least of all what it might mean.

This pale patch of sand creating a perfect arc of light on the dry beach is a strange anomaly.  I have no idea how it was formed, and least of all what it might mean.

This shadow is a result of a recent landslip depositing its spoil on the beach.

Soil, silt, sand

Soil, silt, sand

Exposed fragments of rock are a shadow of past geological processed and a demonstration that nature is cyclical.

exposed rock fragments

exposed rock fragments

And our own shadows are fleeting as the beach becomes a recreational play space as we pass through it.

playful shadows

playful shadows

And strange shapes appear when I start to play with photos of blackthorn that grow on the dunes.

layered photographic artwork

layered photographic artwork

Micro-organisms that live in the shallows we can’t even see with the naked eye.

micro-organisms that dwell in the shallows

micro-organisms that dwell in the shallows

Is a darkening sky always the portent of a storm or just the closing of another day?

impending storm

impending storm in evening light?

See other images for the weekly photo challenge: ‘Foreshadow’ here.

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