On an evening fine
In a meadow green
And laze and play
Red poppies grow
Among the grass
In the sun
Of a summer's day
Red poppies change
Their shape becomes
Like exotic cranes
While horses play
They rise and flutter
Red butterflies now
As horses wonder
As horses gaze
Turn now to white
They fly round faces
And light with love
They gently play
As horses stand
In awe of this
At end of day
Become white birds
In flocks of white
They rise and fly
Above the meadow
While horses watch
The magic sight
As evening falls
- Kris Hughes 2014
This poem describes a dream I had maybe seven or eight years ago. It was so full of wonder that I've remembered it quite vividly, although I don't begin to understand its meaning. Recently, a friend who did a Shamanic journey on my behalf urged me to begin working with the goddess Rhiannon. In doing so, I've become convinced that this dream was a gift from Her.
How we too easily get spooked when divining from nature.
The blog seems to be taking a musical turn at the moment. Something a friend said yesterday put me in mind of one of my favourite Scottish ballads -- The Twa Corbies. You can hear a version of it below, and read both a transcription and a "translation" from the Scots.
When I was looking on YouTube for a version of this song (and there are many good ones!) I found it interesting that many of the accompanying videos made much of the song being dark or spooky, etc. Some of the artwork seemed to portray the crows as slightly evil. Equally, some versions of the ballad seem to suggest that the knight's hawk, hound and lady have been highly disloyal to abandon him. Those comparing this ballad to its English counterpart "The Three Ravens" often say the Scots version is "cynical", since in The Three Ravens the knights companions protect and bury his body. Hmmmm. I see it a little differently.
For whatever reason, this knight is dead. His hawk, hound and lady have moved on - what else can they do? Their lives have continued, as they must. Meanwhile, the crows are finding a use for his body. The circle is, in a way, complete. I have always suspected that The Twa Corbies is the older version of the song, and the slightly moralising "Three Ravens" is an attempt to correct the "savagery" of the original.
This rhyme about the Magpie is familiar to many. Perhaps a remnant of a very ancient lore of using birds to predict the future.
The Magpie may indicate seeing the future or altering it in an entirely "normal" way, as well as to deeper powers. Sometimes what is going to happen is just obvious, and sometimes we can do something about it. Because they are often seen in groups, the number of Magpies you see may be significant. However, if you only see one, there is a remedy. You must say something like "Good morning, Mr Magpie. I hope you are well, and that your wife is also in good health." This is supposed to dispel the bad luck. (However, I can tell you that I've seen every number of magpie, many times, and still haven't had any children!) So, you see that the magpie is associated with prediction, and also with being able to change what is going to happen. Isn't it interesting, too, that the thing which is required or us here is a kind word! "Seeing the future," is the reason many people turn to divination. Obviously, I believe it is a useful tool, but I strongly believe in our ability to alter the course of the future, also! Sometimes, having a better attitude to those we meet is a good place to start.
The Thieving Magpie by Dan Grzeca
The question of mistrust should not be taken as a value judgement. The Magpie is disliked because it eats the eggs and young of other birds. However, it would be a mistake to say that it is doing "wrong". This is the "right" behaviour for a magpie, who is doing exactly what it should be doing - behaving like a magpie! The other birds will not be happy about it, though! Sometimes, just being ourselves upsets people, and they have their right to avoid us, just as we have a right to express our nature. At the same time, being humans with a wide variety of options, we might like to consider whether we can be less hurtful in the process. Those who love songbirds are now concerned about the encroachment of Magpies into their garden. While their concern is legitimate, it has never seemed to me that it is the Magpies themselves who are out of balance. They are still just following their nature. It is the situation in which they find themselves which has altered. Ultimately, the card isn't about what the Magpie does, but how it is perceived by others.
If you enjoyed this note you might also like Rooks (It's a tribal thing)
When I lived in Edinburgh, I used to love waking up to the raucous (and extremely loud) cries of the chimney pot gulls that perched and nested on the 3-4 storey tenement buildings that make up so many of Edinburgh's streets. The echo created by the narrow paved streets, stone buildings and slate roofs amplified their laughing cries to a window rattling volume totally unlike anything you hear at the sea shore.
Another inhabitant of my world in Edinburgh was my friend Jonathon (yeah, that wasn't really his name). He was also a free spirit. He was a musician of the highest calibre. I'm sure that Jonathon possessed a piece of the Dagda's harp within his soul -- for he was one of those rare musicians who could cause his listeners to laugh, cry, dance, fight or be lulled into sleep with his music. Being a musician myself, I enjoyed his friendship very much, and we also enjoyed a similar, taboo-free, sense of humour that is rare to find.
Of course, there was a down side. Jonathon was one of the most irresponsible people I have ever known. He was the house guest from hell. He drank too much, smoked too much, messed up people's houses, seduced their wives if he could, and was difficult to get rid of when you got tired of him. He got barred from pubs as routinely as other people do their washing. He had a home to go to, but that wasn't nearly as much fun! Most of us put up with this, to whatever degree our patience allowed, because of his talent, because he was a lot of fun, and occasionally because it was just easier than the alternative.
The good people of Edinburgh were often up in arms about those annoying gulls, and various plots were hatched to get rid of them, but I always found myself siding with those noisy, messy creatures. They weren't very good neighbours, admittedly, but their wild laughter and free spirited approach to life filled my heart. I can be shy, reserved and overly cautious much of the time, but I see that the world needs wild freedom, too. Wild freedom rarely has much regard for the comfort of others. It stirs things up, it makes a lot of noise, and messes up our tidy lives.
I believe that having contact with free spirits is good for us on several levels. It teaches us to loosen up, to have a good time and stay up late and have some fun once in awhile, even though it's Tuesday. It teaches us that we can't control the behaviour of others all the time, and that we don't always need to. It teaches us that we can find creative strategies to protect our territory sometimes, and that we'd better learn to live with it when we can't.
Rooks - Intelligence, communication and problem solving come naturally. The society of the tribe is important, and the individual flourishes within it. Loss of these qualities brings ill. Change and death may be frightening, but can also be foreseen, and guidance found to pass through.
Photo by foxypar4
Rooks are monogamous birds who live in a close knit but rather casually organised society, in colonies known as rookeries. The males are great fathers and mates. The picture above shows an adult male and a youngster spending time together. Rooks look very similar to crows, and there is an old adage "A rook on his own be a crow, and a group of crows be rooks" which drives home their tendency to be in groups with their own kind. The Rook card says to me that you can find your domestic bliss, and that it will be within a wider supportive "tribe". The intelligence of the crow family is well known, as is its relationship to death (or change) both as a harbinger and a guide.
Ravens and other covids are often associated with death in literature and popular culture. Because of this, some people find them "creepy" or "evil". Nothing could be further from the truth, and it's also worth remembering that (just like the "Death" card in Tarot) death is most often a symbol of change and letting go of the past. Rooks, seems very positive to me. Intelligence and the support of a wider group are good keys to success. Problem solving abilities, and the resources to deal with change or loss are also to the fore. Learn to recognise and appreciate this big supportive family when it presents itself in your life. Going it alone doesn't seem to be the way to go here. Intelligence - either your own or that of others - will play an important part in this, and should be valued. There is a wider "family" that you belong to. Stay a part of this and you will be nurtured and encouraged to find yourself
The Rook way of living as a society is very beneficial to the individual. It allows for self expression and change to happen with friendly guidance. "Loss of these qualities brings ill." Is this significant for you?
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like One for sorrow, two for joy - a post about magpies.
Here's a look at Herons, and how their story ties in with the Heron card in my oracle deck.
Herons are skilled and patient fishermen. It's not unusual to see them standing motionless in shallow water for long periods, as they wait for the fleeting moment of opportunity when they will strike a fish with great accuracy. However, they are also more widely skilled and able to hunt on land when the opportunity presents itself, or dive for fish in deeper water. As a result, neither they nor their young will go hungry for long.
There is something about crows and herons. In nature, they rarely get along, with crows tending to mob herons - possibly because herons will eat other birds' nestlings. Perhaps that's why the two birds are so often associated in mythology, as their battles have drawn the attention of humans who then needed to explain them with stories. In most stories, the Heron is the good guy, but not always. The Chinese even suggest that the two birds can represent the yin yang concept.
Here is one folktale which, with only minor variations, is known from India to western England. It goes like this -
A crow and a heron were both perched in a large tree one day, when along came a traveller (or hunter, depending on the version of the story). The day was hot, so the man decided to have a nap in the shade of the tree. He fell into a very deep sleep, and after some time, as the sun moved across the sky, the shadow of the tree no longer protected him. The kindly Heron spread his wings out to shade the man's face for awhile longer as he slept on. So deep was his sleep that his mouth began to gape open as he snored. Soon the crow could stand this no longer, so he took aim and dropped something into the poor man's mouth! (It might have been an acorn, it might have been something else that birds sometimes drop - depends on who is telling the story.) Naturally the man awoke and he was angry. He looked up, saw the Heron, took out his gun (or bow) and shot him dead.
This traditional tale is a pretty extreme example of guilt by association, and when considering this aspect of the card in a reading, I would look for subtle variations on this theme as well as the more dramatic form of outright false accusation. For example, in one reading I did, it seemed that the client's spouse could not get past expecting her to hurt him in the same way that his ex had! He didn't actually suspect her of any bad behaviour, but he couldn't help expecting that it would happen eventually. (And those strong family ties made it difficult for her to give up on the relationship.) This card can also refer to things like prejudice and discrimination, as well as the dangers of "running with a bad crowd". In other cases, we might be looking at a situation where someone feels torn between loving loyalty to their family and some negative perception that society has about their family or social group.
Perhaps these considerations relate back to the heron's tendency to work (hunt) alone, yet also returning to their own kind for the safety of numbers. In a way, this is how the Heron balances the tendency to be misjudged, and avoids the risk of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He just gets on with his hunting, and goes home to those who understand him - if he's wise.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also like Rooks (It's a tribal thing)
An experience with ancestors of place.
Monday night being the Hunter's Moon, I had plans to spend some time outdoors enjoying nature, honouring my ancestors and communing with any spirits who came my way. However, in a quiet moment on Monday afternoon, while I was thinking about my plans, some very strong impressions came to me. They unfolded almost like a story in my mind, as if someone was telling me this. I found it quite odd, and to be honest, wondered whether my writer's imagination was filling in the details a little, although I did my best to avoid that.
This is the story -
I was hardly more than a boy. I was walking up the hill from the river. The moon was as it is now and the sun had set in silver and coral. As I walked, the grass tops, before my eyes on the horizon, were like many small crescent moons. Deer had been seen. My older sister was to be married and I wanted a soft skin for her. She had always been kind to me.
The land was not as it is in your time. The land was whole and beautiful, like the skin of a fine animal, shaggy with autumn grass. Now it is a confusion of trees and the false rivers and streams that white men make. They sicken the land with water and salt and big machines. I know you do not like this. I think you can see a little into the old time.
I could find no deer. Not even a rabbit or badger moved about. I never saw the bear before she ended my life. I travelled to the world of spirits and it was a good world. I asked to be an eagle, and I think they laughed quietly at me. I became a sandhill crane, and lived a good life until I was old and sick, when I froze to death. After that I lived many lives and saw many wonderful lands. I have not walked the earth in a breathing body for a long time. There is other work to do. But you reached out to me, so near to the place where I was looking for deer.