Gelli Fach

Gelli Fach

I'm a cell, I'm fragmented, I change my form;
I'm a repository of song, I'm a dynamic state.
I love a wooded slope and a snug shelter,
and a creative poet who doesn't buy his advancement.

Wyf kell, wyf dellt, wyf datweirllet;
wyf llogell kerd, wyf lle ynnyet.
Karaf-y gorwyd a goreil clyt,
a bard a bryt ny pryn y ret.


From: Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin, edited and translated by Marged Haycock





Saturday, 2 August 2014

Lúnasa - small fruits celebration and recipes.

 
 
 

Summer fruits have been plentiful this year. True, the strawberries were much sparser than last year, partly because cranesbill and primroses had crowded out the strawberry patch, partly because some of the plants are rather old and partly because I wasn't up to watering them in the early part of the summer... but still there were enough to have with yogurt every day for a couple of weeks and when they had almost finished there were lots of raspberries and more blackcurrants than ever before.
I wasn't sure what to do with so many raspberries and sadly I left some of them in the fridge for too long and they went mouldy. Deciding I must cook the rest before they went the same way - or freeze them - I looked through an old Mrs Beeton's cookbook and came up with this recipe for Raspberry Pudding which is absolutely delicious and easy to make. I ate some and then froze several portions to eat over the coming days. They froze well and were still just as good to eat (one left now!)

Raspberry Pudding

1lb raspberries
3 oz granulated sugar (I used less)
4 oz butter or margarine
4 oz of castor sugar (I used less)

2 eggs
6 oz plain flour
1 rounded teaspoon baking powder
2 - 4 tablespoonfuls of milk (approx.)

Grease a pie dish. Put the cleaned and washed raspberries, with the granulated sugar, in the bottom of the dish.
Cream together in a mixing bowl the fat and sugar. Beat in the eggs gradually. Stir in the sifted flour an baking powder, adding milk to make a soft dropping constancy. Spread this mixture over the fruit. Bake in a moderate over (350 F or 180 C degrees) until the pudding is cooked and nicely browned.

Dredge with castor sugar before serving with cream or custard sauce.

***

I found there was rather a lot of the sponge mixture and so I kept some back and used it to make a few fairy cakes. I served the pudding with yogurt rather than cream or custard (I have to watch the calories) and it was wonderful. Definitely one I'll make again and very simple (I like simple).

 
The blackberries were more problematic although they don't go mouldy like raspberries. I find them too sour to have with yogurt and I'm reluctant to add too much sugar. In the end I decided to make a sort of purée. I put them in a pan with a little water, brought them to the boil and simmered them for a little while. Then I mashed them through a sieve and added a little sugar to take the edge of their sourness. Because I didn't know how long they would keep in the fridge, I poured some of the purée into ice-cube trays and froze it. The rest I put in a plastic bottle ('sterilised' with cider vinegar and then rinsed quickly) and put in the freezer so that I could make an apple and blackcurrant crumble when the family come later this month.
 
The ice cube solution has worked well. I've used some to make a drink - either cold with just cold water added or hot with boiling water. I found I needed to strain the mixture as there were a lot of seeds in it. You can add more sugar to taste. I've also added a cube to ice-cream and made blackcurrant swirl ice-cream - very good. The ice-cream makes the blackcurrants less acid and the blackcurrants make the ice-cream less over-sweet (I used Carte d'Or vanilla which I found too sweet on its own.)
 
We've had a heat-wave here. I found it too hot but enjoyed it anyway because it was just so... different and made me feel as if I were in Spain on holiday. Along with the unaccustomed food, such a tasty delight, it has been a special time. 
 
So Lúnasa, a festival of thanks and celebration of the abundance. I light a candle, meditate on Cernunnos and the provision of the fruits from nature.  I say my version of Grace, then eat a simple meal finishing with some raspberry pudding... and cream (just this once!)
 
This food comes from earth and sky,
from plant and animal,
from the work of many hands.
I remember that not all have enough to eat.

I give thanks for the life that was given -
may I live a life that is worthy of it.
 
 

Monday, 26 May 2014

Re-emerging and 'The Goddess and The Gardener' book launch




I've been away from the blog for quite a few weeks now. It's been a very challenging start to the year, one way and another. As the sun rises in the sky and graces us with its presence for longer, I'm very slowly coming back to life.

Apart from my health, one of the challenges has been publishing another small poetry book under my Brigit's Forge imprint - this time not my own book but the first step in publishing other poets. For various reasons the process has been fraught with difficulties but at long last it's come to fruition. The Goddess and The Gardener by Jane Whittle is a sequence of poems written after she moved to Wales and began transforming a wild space into a garden, working with the energies of the land and of nature and absorbing them to such an extent that she herself grows along with the landscape and the voice of the goddess begins to speak through her.

We had the book launch at the Penrallt Bookshop in Machynlleth and I'm pleased to say it was a great success. Many books were sold so it was a good night for us and for Penrallt Books while the audience appear to have genuinely enjoyed it - the feedback passed on to us by Diane at the bookshop after the event was lovely to hear: 'enjoyable and enlivening', ' a wonderful evening of words', 'inspiring', 'a special evening'. All I would want for Brigit's Forge!

The picture above shows the book on display, in very august company. As well as talking about how my very small press, Brigit's Forge, came about, I also read some poems from The Sea Road and  tested some new ones which led to selling more copies of The Sea Road. I promptly spent some of the proceeds on the book you can see in the picture, The Art of Robert Frost by Tim Kendall, an action I haven't regretted as it's a fascinating introduction to his poetry which includes 65 of the poems with commentary showing how Frost's poetry and its themes developed.

I'll be making a page or another blog for Brigit's Forge Press in due course and will say a bit more about the book and offer it for sale. For now I'm taking things slowly and surely and just saying 'hello again'.


Friday, 14 February 2014

Shelter from the Storm on Valentine's Day



 
We're being battered by storms with hurricane force winds here on the west coast of Wales - as has a lot of the UK. At times it's been almost scary and when the electricity went off I had a taste of what so many people in the country have been going through - but without the flooding thankfully. I was so relieved I had the wood stove and could at least have one warm room and cook and make cups of tea and hot-water bottles.  
I went out during the height of the storm only once - to close the garage door which had blown open and move the car away from the trees. It made me think of how it would be to be out in such a storm with nowhere to hide and  Bob Dylan's song Shelter from the Storm began to run through my mind. Since it brings together storms and love (on one level), I thought it would be suitable for this stormy St Valentine's Day, so here it is:
 

Shelter From The Storm
                         by Bob Dylan

 
'Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."
 
And if I pass this way again, you can rest assured
I'll always do my best for her, on that I give my word
In a world of steel-eyed death, and men who are fighting to be warm
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."
 
Not a word was spoke between us, there was little risk involved
Everything up to that point had been left unresolved
Try imagining a place where it's always safe and warm
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."
 
I was burned out from exhaustion, buried in the hail
Poisoned in the bushes an' blown out on the trail
Hunted like a crocodile, ravaged in the corn
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."
 
Suddenly I turned around and she was standin' there
With silver bracelets on her wrists and flowers in her hair
She walked up to me so gracefully and took my crown of thorns
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."
 
Now there's a wall between us, somethin' there's been lost
I took too much for granted, got my signals crossed
Just to think that it all began on a long-forgotten morn
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."
 
Well, the deputy walks on hard nails and the preacher rides a mount
But nothing really matters much, it's doom alone that counts
And the one-eyed undertaker, he blows a futile horn
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."
 
I've heard newborn babies wailin' like a mournin' dove
And old men with broken teeth stranded without love
Do I understand your question, man, is it hopeless and forlorn?
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."
 
In a little hilltop village, they gambled for my clothes
I bargained for salvation an' they gave me a lethal dose
I offered up my innocence and got repaid with scorn
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."
 
Well, I'm livin' in a foreign country but I'm bound to cross the line
Beauty walks a razor's edge, someday I'll make it mine
If I could only turn back the clock to when God and her were born
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm"

Like many of Dylan's lyrics it reads as poetry and like the best poems it works on several levels at once - hinting at but ultimately not pinning down, meaning. Who is 'she'? His wife (he was going through a divorce when he wrote it)?; the archetypal feminine offering warmth and succour to the (wounded) male? The Virgin Mary? The Church? Nature? The goddess? The biblical references give the speaker mythic proportions; his suffering is reminiscent of Christ's, taking us beyond autobiography or contemporary narrative.
It is up to you, the reader, to decide - or you may decide to live with potency and inference. A poem is not a static object - it is an event, activated when read or recited; it is liminal, existing in the space between poet and reader or listener -

"But a poem is reciprocal, it insists
on adult relations, to exist
it pre-exists in you or not at all.

Severed from me you hold its future, make
it open up between us. You must take
a poem like a lover,

God give you guts to see it: When it works
poetry is an orgasm. The O.K. word
is resonance."
(Exerpt from a poem by Peter Fison)

 

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Blessing the Rushes on Brigit's Eve




Blessing the Rushes on Brigit's Eve

We ask for your blessing, Brigit,
on the Eve of your day,
Brigit the generous, Brigit the fair,
may your blessings be upon us.

We ask for your blessing on these rushes,
Brigit beloved.
On tip and root,
on stalk and stem,
on brown and green,
on one and many.

Moving rightways with the sun
may they weave and thread,
thread and weave,
all goodness, all prosperity
into this house, into our homes.
May these rushes weave all goodness
into our lives.

We ask for the blessing of the Three
on these our rushes,
we ask for the blessing of Brigit
on these our rushes.

The rushes picked for the last two of our Brigit's Eve festivals were rather thin, dry and mottled - a result of the lack of rain and icy conditions. This year, when we have had such a lot of rainfall they were a vibrant green, thick and juicy. Not easily picked though as the land, Cae Pwll or the Pond Field, was so waterlogged. I've been looking at the crosses I made last night and thinking how each are a microcosm of the world outside the hearth where we were gathered. They connect us with the land, with water and ice and soil and air, encapsulating not just this time of year, but also this particular time, its attributes and conditions. 

Last year I experimented with making a Bride doll out of the rushes left-over and kept her as the image of Brigit to use to welcome in and lie in her bed by the fire. She is very simple - just rushes folded and the top part tied off to make a head; a few rushes on either side tied off to make arms and the rest splayed out to suggest a robe - or perhaps the rays of the sun. I like her much better than the small ceramic doll I'd used before. This Brigit doll is elemental, suggesting a human form and yet at the same time a strange and alien being, bringing the power of another form of life co-existing with ours. I don't think there are enough suitable rushes left to make one this year but I shall try later.

I'm allowing myself to rest all day today after a few days of rushing (!) around and a late night. Our celebration this year flowed well as we feasted, made our crosses each in our own way - one quiet and concentrating, two talking in a desultory way, sharing insights, news... frustration with the cross-making process. I find it strange how every year I seem to have forgotten how to make them. This year it took me several attempts to get the three-armed cross right when usually if I have the first three rushes interlocked it flows fairly well. I persevered and it worked out in the end. Ah, perseverance, that's something to remember for the year ahead.

We also drank tea and then recited Ruth Bidgood's Hymn to St Ffraid for three voices which is such a lovely thing to do - weaving our three very different voices into a recounting of the story and attributes of Brigit. Bringing her and a celebration of her into our minds, bodies and the candle-lit room. We each shared some of our writing and offered thoughts and blessings for a seriously-ill friend. 

It was after midnight when I waved my guests off into the stormy night. Today I wake to the news that Aberystwyth did not suffer too badly from the wind and waves but there is more to come today and tomorrow. Outside my home, the wind is showing its power by making the trees dance a wild dance. Twice a sudden burst of bright, bright sunlight has exploded through my window before disappearing again, the grey clouds glowering darkly as if they had never parted to give me a glimpse of something so precious.


Thursday, 2 January 2014

New Year Orientation: Starhawk's Five Sacred Things



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It's the start of the New Year and with the change of date there seems to come an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and steer our lives in the way we'd like them to go. Alas, within a few weeks or even days our resolutions become dissipated and scattered - at least mine usually do. By February we often don't remember them at all, becoming caught up in the duties, chores, demands and general messiness of life.

But there's still value in the exercise of orientating ourselves on the course we wish to follow; a trace will remain and may even guide our actions unconsciously at times. At the start of this year I've been re-reading some excepts from The Fifth Sacred Thing, Starhawk's novel of a Utopian, ecologically-based society and its struggle to defend itself from a military state:


Declaration of the Four Sacred Things

The earth is a living conscious being. In company with cultures of many different times and places, we name these things as sacred: air, fire, water and earth.

Whether we see them as the breath, energy, blood and body of the Mother, or as the blessed gifts of the Creator, or as symbols of the interconnected systems that sustain life, we know that nothing can live without them.

To call these things sacred is to say that they have a value beyond their usefulness for human ends, that they themselves become the standards by which our acts, our economies, our laws and our purposes must be judged. No-one has the right to appropriate them or profit from them at the expense of others. Any government that fails to protect them forfeits its legitimacy.

All people, all living things are part of the earth life and so are sacred. No one of us stands higher or lower than any other. Only justice can assure balance: only ecological balance can sustain freedom.


The Fifth Sacred Thing

Only in freedom can that fifth sacred thing we call spirit flourish in its full diversity.

To honour the sacred is to create conditions in which nourishment, sustenance, habitat, knowledge, freedom and beauty can thrive.

To honour the sacred is to make love possible.

To this we dedicate our curiosity, our will, our courage, our silences and our voices.

To this we dedicate our lives.


The Five Criteria of True Wealth

Usefulness, sustainability - meaning it must generate or save as much energy as it consumes... Beauty. Healing for the earth, or at least not being destructive. Nurturing for the spirit.

from  Starhawk: The Fifth Sacred Thing

***

In a world in which these things are not sacred - a world in which all living things are not seen as a sacred part of the earth life, a world where, as Robert Graves has said  “serpent, lion and eagle belong to the circus-tent; ox, salmon and boar to the cannery; racehorse and greyhound to the betting ring; and the sacred grove to the saw-mill… ” I think it's valuable to point our compass in the direction of these values and ideals however much we fall short, however flawed we are and however much we are implicated in the destructive, driven-by-profit ethos of the 21st century. We need to remember there is another way against which we can measure what we do. Like the stars, we won't reach them in our lifetime but we can still rise a little way towards them more strongly than if we never saw them shining.


Saturday, 21 December 2013

Winter Light





Winter Light

The sun is low and slant,
revealing the world from a different angle,
what was in shadow is now made bright.

But the light is visiting less and less:
the sleeping dark grows.

Now the glory of the trees is gone
we see their essence,
how the weather has shaped them -
this one twisted, that one bent,
turning away from the battering wind;
here one has grown rotten,
those two are standing so near
they lean together, supporting each other.

The sun shines through the branches
now leaves no longer obscure the view;
hidden landscapes open before us:
now we can see what is beyond.

Soon only a trickle of light leaks into the days
which shuffle on towards the solstice,
to the still point
where we close our eyes
and disappear

a short time

then we wake again.

Hilaire Wood 2013


Solstice Blessings! Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and may every good thing come your way in 2014.


Thursday, 5 December 2013

Hymn to Cernunnos





Hymn to Cernunnos

ambiguous god whose antlers pierce borders;
who leaps along edges
made firm by his footprints,
drumming lightning out of the earth;

who inhabits the verge of the forest,
the meeting of terrains,
where diversity burgeons
safeguarding change;

who with enticing breath
calls the snake from its hole
to hold poison in his grip and liberate plenty:
fertility of earth, the sole source of abundance;

who presides over trade and exchange,
transforms that into this
eschewing the boundaries, 
for all things are fluid
that move through his hands;

who straddles time
making measurement meaningless
and roams where leaves shiver,
moving now into darkness, now into light,
shimmers through dimensions
wearing them as his cloak;

who holds life and death
in the span of his antlers,
sinuous glides through seasons and tides
which flow always onwards,
now wild with blood’s surge,
now slowing with reason;

who requires you to kneel
at the procession of life
yet demands your full presence,
unbroken, unbowed;

whom you must attend masked,
as self and not-self,
approaching the mystery of which he is master,
human and animal, holy chimera;

who mocks the poet’s art of linear words
which seek to unite all things that oppose  -
for who but a god can reconcile opposites
and blend them within his unparalleled flesh?   


Hilaire Wood 2013