Archives for posts with tag: druid

Having heard of these little globules  over the past few years, I has a chance to see them in the flesh for the first time a couple of weekends ago.

While on Angelsey for the first weekend of the Angelsey Druid Order’s training weekend  of 2017, I wandered down to Lligwy  beach.  On previous  visits I had found shells from Pilgrims Scallops and even tiny abalone shells, potentially  from areas as far away as Mexico. As well as funnel web spiders and orchids alongside other wildflowers  on the walk down to the beach.

On this visit more treasures turned up  such as a hermit crab and rock fused oyster. Yet, more amazingly, the sandy shore and rocky outcrops were filled with scores of small jelly like globes.

These fascinating and transparent  creatures are known as Sea Gooseberries  and are part of a group of organisms known as Ctenophora and are a group of animals similar in nature to the jellyfish. 

Although they look to be nothing more than ridged clear jelly at first glance,  when one looks closer they will see fine red threads at the heart of the critter and grooved ribs along its outer surface. 

In some species these ribs and the ‘threads’ inside are able to glow and flicker; attracting prey via bioluminescence. (Check out the videos of sea gooseberries  feeding on YouTube).

What we can’t  see out of the water and with the naked eye are the feeding strands, known as combs. These combs are used to filter plankton, fish and crustacean larvae from the sea – some species can consume more than their body weight on tiny organisms each day.
With such an appetite, these tiny critters can have a drastic effect on fish populations. A couple of species were introduced  to the Black and Azoz seas much to the detriment of the local fish stocks. 

Obviously,  in my wonderment,  I picked a few of these beauties up for a closer look and a photograph  or two. After  that,  they were dropped  in to a large rock pool to await the returning sea. This revealed  another wonder from this marvellous  creature….they disappeared  from sight as soon as they went in to the water! 

What with them being 99% water, that shouldn’t  surprise  me, but it didn’t  half  make me smile ūüôā

Yet another example of the wonders of the natural world around us.

All too often we get used to our immediate  surroundings and take them for granted, but when we take the  time  to look at what’s  under our nose we can make fantastic  discoveries.

I often have the pleasure  of  workin in varied locations. Today’s work was up in North Blackpool,  from there I nipped down  the shoreline to work in the Blackpool office a couple of miles away.

Whenever  I work anywhere  with a beach I try to grab some time  on the sand…. beaches are dynamic  and changeable  places which can hold a treasure trove one day and nought but smooth sand the next depending  upon the tide’s haul. 

The last two times I’ve  ventured on to the beach in Blackpool I’ve  been  amazed at what I’ve found. 

Last Wednesday, after high and stormy winds, I discovered  a beach full of shells – from large specimens  of hard shelled clams to vast numbers of turret shells and a few delicate but beautiful  Common Wendletrap shells, minature Murix and Pelicans foot shells.

All those amidst a  carpet of razor clams, mussels and cockles which created a crunchy chorus underfoot, complimenting the rolling waves.

The shore today was far smoother – a week later and all but a spattering  of shells have returned  beneath  the waves, maybe never to be seen  again.

However,  other oddities  graced the sands… delicate seaurchins, many crumbling  at the touch, we’re the first to catch my eye.

Followed by the sheer number of crab bits from various  species.  All washed up amidst long tangles of seaweed. The weather, or an under sea current  had obviously  stirred up the seabed well.

As a sure sign that the depths were truly disturbed; the unusual  sight of what appeared to be breadcrumbless chicken nuggets, some wrapped around seaweed  and betwixt dogfish egg cases. 

These turned out to be bryozoa – colonies of tiny sea animals  which form jelly, or in this case meaty, round growths, like soft coral, which usually  stay well off shore.

There a brief video of some here..

Add to that the sight of a baby dogfish still in the egg case, washed ashore amidst weed but still vitally alive. 

This was a wonder to see… an embryonic  dogfish thrashing around inside the case which will welcome it to this world. 

Obviously,  being beached isn’t particular  conducive to the health of a baby dogfish. Left alone it’d  simply ‘boil in the bag’ under a warm sun.

See a not always in focus video of the dogfish to be here.

As such, I did my best to return the pod to the water with a good throwing arm put in to use. Hopefully  the waves will take it back out to deeper waters and give it a chance at at long and healthy life.

And as one last point of interest a few different  types of  beached jellyfish, also returned to the sea.

Blackpool is an area which hardly conjures up thoughts of wild biodiversity, but with a curious eye and a willingness to slow down, a lot can be seen in a what would often be dismissed as a dead zone.

Why not go out and look at what’s  around you? Reclaim  those places you take for granted.

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On recent walks and events it’s been brought to my attention that I often find myself lost. Now, you might think that this is a bad thing, but it’s not always.

Maybe it’s not the best practice when leading a group walk to not know where you are going; with all the threats of danger and accidents and savagely wild hedgehogs that are just longing to get a grip on your throat the moment you stumble! (Ok… I admit it, ¬†the part about savage hedgehogs is a slight fabrication on my part… I felt an urge to make British wildlife sound as fearsome as that in lands such as Australia. In reality, it’s much cudlier.)

Certainly when leading a walk as part of my job, or for a session I’m leading with any pretension of professionalism, the route is always walked in advance, risk assessments done and dangers minimised where possible.
For most Witchish Walks, I’ve visited the site before or at the very least taken a look on Google Maps to make sure that there is actually a route that can be taken (rather than a hop, skip and a jump in to oblivion with people following me).

In this post, though, I want to defend the art of getting lost.

‘Art?,’ I hear you say.

Art indeed. In today’s world there are many ways to not be lost at all, unless it’s in the time stealing dimensions of social media.
Many people have a miniature computer in their pocket that can connect to satellites, and guide an intrepid explorer right to an ancient site… all while taking photographs and chatting to a friend on the other side of the world.
If not that then maps are at hand, or the ever present sound of traffic and sights of urban sprawl eating in to the countryside. You’re not truly lost if you can find out where you are… bu you could still be lost enough.

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It’s my firm belief (or pleasant fantasy at least), that there are invisible and ¬†hidden doorways in to other realms that can be only be accessed by getting thoroughly unsure of your bearings.
In a city these doorways might be side streets that you find as you take a failed attempt at a shortcut. A shortcut that opens your eyes to a fancy bistro and a beautiful person’s smile, or an intriguing looking shop with the heavy smell of exotic incense floating though it’s open doors. Perhaps you spy, as you walk, an open green space filled with sumptuously green grass, stately trees and colourful flowerbeds. A space that shouldn’t be there, smack bang in the middle of the city.

Sometimes we are too busy rushing to be seduced in to experiencing the wonders of these stores, spaces and the charming smile of the dark haired stranger whose eyes spark with a hunger, The one who sits alone at the Bistro table seemingly waiting for you to join them.
Sometimes we miss out on opportunities that can flavour our lives forever more.

‘Why do we miss out on them?,’ I hear you ask intrigued.

We miss out on them because these little pockets of wonder can never be found again. No matter how many times you try to find the short cut and it’s shops, no matter how many times you look at where you traversed on the map, often there is no sign of a heavenly park. Or no sign of the Bistro or beguiling shop.

And then we are left longing. Wondering if we imagined it after all? Wondering whether or not we wasted a world of riches in our haste to find our way to a destination?

Sometimes we’ll catch the scent of heavy, exotic incense ¬†on the breeze as we near the place that we cannot find again…. and we almost mourn that which we could’ve known more sensually.

Now, I’m the first to admit that my sense of direction isn’t always the best. I navigate mostly by trees and memories of foraged foods. Yet there are some places that seem to make no sense to me at all. Places like Rivington Terraced Gardens, near Chorley, which has many routes up and down and which I always think I’m somewhere else when I’m on a connecting path.
Rivington leads me astray. It’s not quite pixie led, but it’s a dreamscape to my mind which scatters my sense of direction to the wind like loosened feathers knocked free as a hawk snatches a songbird from flight .

Rivington is part of the moorland upon which lies many ancient remains. Up on those moorlands I’ve found myself more than a bit lost before, but because of my being lost I’ve discovered things that would’ve been truly hidden from me had I gone another way.

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Sometimes these lost spaces yield up a treasure that I’ve been searching for – a sheep skull here, a carved rock there, a stone circle or a gargantuan tree.

I learned many years ago to allow myself to get lost; to find the spaces that sit between the known and unknown… and to explore them fervently.

An example: Borsdane woods is a long scar of a semi natural ancient woodland. If one enters through the Tunnel Entrance found at the top of Hindley, and alongside the Graveyard, then the woods extend in front of you and to the left a little as well.
One of my first solo trips to Borsdane woods saw me scrambling along a muddy track in the late winter mists.  I went perhaps 500 metres in to he woods, crossed over the small brook and turned back on myself for at least a mile.

That mile heading back toward the tunnel, but on the far side of the stream should have taken me over a railway line and through fencing and brought me out further than the farthest boundary of the grave yard.

Instead, I found myself stood in a wide open woodland staring at the largest tree I’ve ever seen with my own eyes. An ancient looking beech with a trunk that could swallow a small cottage.

The mist was thick, the pull towards the leafless tree strong and centuries of beech mast and leaves crumpling and crunching under foot.

Now, this happened ten years ago – I had neither a camera nor a phone frequently on my person¬†back then, so I have no pictures of this beautiful tree. I know I could retrace every step… if only the path was there again for me to find.

I spent plenty of time with that tree, as druids do. I walked back out the same way I had come in. ¬†It was when I reached the tunnels again that I realised something wasn’t quite right about my experience. There is no section of woodland where I walked that day. There is no behemoth beech tree there. There has been no way back either.

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Nowadays I put a map marker via Google Maps when I find somewhere worth returning to.  There have been times when I have returned to the very spot, only to find it far from how it was last experienced, mind you.

In a less ethereal manner, the simple act of being lost means you open your eyes wider, you listen more intently and you find interesting stuff that would’ve never even become a memory for you had you not found yourself in a quandary.

By straying off the beaten path, by letting yourself get a little lost there is so much to discover.

As a second example, today, I went for a short walk, looking to take a few pictures for this blog post. I strayed of the beaten track and was rewarded with an odd find in Wigan. A terrapin (?) shell amidst the fallen leaves.

Probably the final remains of someone’s pet which perished after being released in to the water at Low Hall Nature reserve …. but an interesting curio for me now.

So… if you go down to the woods to day, or over the moor, or tread a valley path … take a few extra provisions, put away the phone and GPS until you need it. Give yourself an extra hour or two…. and let yourself get lost.

Or maybe you are taking a shortcut or exploring a town or city… why not see what you can stumble upon and embrace it if it’s a soon to be lost treasure?

We can accrue much in this life, but one experience can be more valuable than millions in the bank or a new and fashionable bathroom suite.

Or maybe, you’ll find yourself lost in a conversation; maybe you’ll take a different meaning than was meant and maybe that will open up a new thought, a new possibility and from that moment of being lost you might discover the world as an oyster at your fingertips. Either that or you might find yourself in an argument.

There’s an art to getting lost. There’s an art to working with your own vulnerability and find much more than you sought.

So take the rough and narrow path, follow your nose and strike out towards the thing that caught your eye… go where you do not know.

However you do it. Wherever you do it. Whoever you do it with…. Please GET LOST! ūüôā

 

 

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 Ever since my first trip to the Isle of Man I have felt a strong connection  to Manann as Manannan Mac Lir is know on Ellan Vannin. 

As soon as my feet touched it’s  shore some seven or eight years ago I knew a bond had formed between he and me. Over the ensuing  years I worked with Manann regularly and it was in August of 2016 that I visited the island again. The reconnection was intense and immediate and hasn’t left me since even though I have left the shores of that beautiful land.

It was upon my return  to  the mainland that I started to sense his very obvious  presence up on the moors, in the damp and crowed thickets of the woods and often in the rhythmic falling of the rain as well as on the shores.

As such, in the manner of a God charge as used frequently  in Wicca, I have written the below.

Feel free to use it yourself if it speaks to  you, just credit me if you do.
Hear it spoken  at Cemlyn Bay  here

Manann’s Charge 

I am never fully what I seem. I am the son of the sea adorned  by a cloak of mist.

My touch is in the dew upon every blade of grass and every  bell of heather on every mountain  and moor.

My footprints  are all but seen on the salted marsh and sandy shore; in all places that trick  the eye,

Always I am where I am not,

I am in the writhing ocean, 

I am in the endless thicket.

I breathe in the depths of the pine forest as the rain falls

And I  will lead you in the losing of yourself,  until you discover the shores of your being.

Trust in me and the use of Fragarach, the sword of answers,  shall be yours. 

Trust me with your deepest  secrets and wholest truths and the deception of the Feth Fiada, my clouded cloak, shall be yours.

Cresting the waves aboard my wakeless ship scuabtuinne, I move across the wavetips  and through the hidden places with equal  ease.

For a caring  trickster am I, dressed in the robes of a sage, for without the pain of awakening we are nought but a hare who dreams of sleep

Manann, Manannan, Manandan, Manawydan am I.

Walk in my ways. 

Join me on the shore or the rocky scree topped hills and I shall answer the unspoken question                 and with graceful mirth and sharp tongue guide you through life’s  mysteries and tribulations. 

Then when you are utterly spent,  I will lay you to rest in an earthen  barrow or a cairn of fine stones

And I shall guide your spirit in to the land of the dead to be cradled in to the cauldron of renewal .

Manann am I. 

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I’m currently in the midst of preparing a big Samhain post and hopefully a podcast with it… but I’m also in the midst of doing a great many other things too!

The weekend just gone saw me in Shropshire, working on my parent’s new place, a stone cottage/house near the LLanclys crossroads, and helping them to move in.
For the past half a year they’ve been renting a place called The Lodge, some ten or fifteen miles away but still rural.

The Lodge sits on the periphery of a large estate and the building itself has a charm… though, with the low doorways, it’s a charm that can be steadily  knocked out of a tall person like me.

As nice as the house is, that’s not what has inspired my post today – you see, not more than a hundred metres away from the property edge you find yourself approaching the shade cast by two huge sweet chestnut trees.

Unusually for many, these trees are absolutely covered in fruit; nuts encased in coats of thin and numerous spines – like a tree’s impression of a hedgehog, but without the soft underbelly!
Luckily, the green spiny cases often split as the ripe clusters fall to the ground, dispersing their precious cargo of shiny, beautifully coloured seeds.

In many places, sweet chestnuts grow more as a multi-stemmed tree rather than the behemoths in front of me, but often the multiple stems are the results of coppicing and human interference.

Most sweet chestnuts wear what appears to be a good crop… but often is just the seed cases filled with hollow, slim nuts, the fattest being small by comparison to shop bought ones; often imported from warmer climes.
Indeed the sweet chestnut favours a more Mediterranean climate for good nut production but excels at producing wood that has a plethora of uses in our wetter lands.

I was aware that, historically, some communities in Italy would use chestnuts as a staple food , almost in place of grain, but I’d never had the pleasure of seeing a tree that made me believe that it was possible in the  UK until, looking up in to the branches of these sweet chestnut that were almost dribbling fruit down their boles, I was awe struck.

With little effort and with around half a rotation of the trees I had filled a plastic bag to the brim – easily six or seven kilograms had been picked with ease.  I had been fussy too; leaving the smaller nuts. I also left those even slightly touched by the few squirrels that had scarpered off as I approached. If all had been gathered from the floor around the trees there would have been easily thirty kilograms of nuts to eat.
Speaking to my parents it would seem  that the ease of gathering had been the same for the last few weeks and the trees were still covered with nuts that were yet to fall.
The squirrels would feed well this year!

With my bag of fat nuts in my arms I waddled off to place them in my car for later use.
I wondered if this was simply a mast year for the nuts – many trees have years where they produce a glut and then barely reproduce at all the following few years while they recover from the effort spent. A survival strategy whereby, by the grace of numbers,  not every seed can be eaten before it takes root. Only a few more years of observing would tell me.

As a reward for producing so many nuts I promised the tree that I would sow a load of these tasty seeds – and then give away and plant them out once germinated at one or more of my tree talks in the coming year. In this way, I would be giving back to the tree, ensuring it’s genetic future by spreading it’s seeds far and wide. It’s a bargain always worth making with a tree or fruiting plant. After all, if a tree can grow so well on the rainy, cold Welsh border, I’m sure it could fruit well up in Wigan or even Blackpool… though I might need to wait forty years for a full crop.

A part of me wonders if this was a similar process of bargaining to that which our ancient Ancestors might have used to begin humanity’s foray in to the world of horticulture. If you plant the best nuts from the best tree, or the seeds from the sweetest apples, then not only do you and your descendants benefit, but that individual tree could even come in to a greater prevalence by virtue of it’s  offspring. If we sacrifice a little of our harvest to honour a gifted yield, perhaps we magnify it also?
And maybe that explains our predilection for sacrifice and bargaining?
Maybe the tree, knowing that it has an ally, will continue to fruit well, nay, be encouraged to fruit even better.

So, this morning saw me cutting and peeling hundred of nuts  (barely a third of the bag!) and placing them in to a dehydrator. Dried they will keep for years and can be added to soups, stews, broth or even  ground up as flour…. but left as they are, they loose their capacity to germinate within a few weeks – almost as soon as the initial shine is gone from their shells even! Then, those not lucky enough not be destined to be sown will start to turn to mold slowly but surely.

As I go through the bag I’ll select the biggest and best nuts and put them to one side to be sown in the very near future – my sacrifice or my bargain held to.

As for the others, I’ll spend hours preserving another batch and the rest are in a fridge draw, cool and safe… until I slice in to the top of them to prevent them exploding when I place them in a crock pot and slowly roast them atop the wood burning stove.

And there’s little to top that sweet, stodgy, soft and moist nutty flesh when you pop it in you mouth still warm from the fire.

So…. I encourage you all – strike bargains, plant seeds and help spread abundance in to the world…. and then eat the rest of the unborn children of the trees… nom… nom….nom.

A good friend  of  mine,  Brian, and myself took a day away from the grindstone  yesterday to head up to the sandy beach of Formby.

We were joining a party of folk all interested  in seeing the prehistoric  footprints  trapped and eroding layer by layer in the eluvial layers of estuarine mud.

It would appear that the beach at Formby is vanishing;  the  wind  and tide stripping almost ten metres from  the  edge each year.

Although Formby  is well known for the dunes and  pine forests which  house a delightful  cluster of red squirrels,  it wasn’t  always so.

Jamie, our National Trust guide explained that the melt water of the most recent  ice age dragged sediment and sand  out to sea and effectively  goes a sand bank, enlarging  the coastline  some four or five kilometres  further out than it is today. This  sand bank in turn trapped both water and debris until in time a mosaic of habitats had formed. 

Habitats  such as both salt and fresh water lagoons, wet forests,  grass lands, salt marsh and scrub; ideal for a large array of animals and as hunting and gathering  grounds for ancient  humans some between  four and six thousand years ago.

Due to the nature of the place it was regularly  covered with flood brought layers of mud. This mud captured imprints in it and baked in the sun before a dusting of wind brought sand covered it over…. and then a new layer of mud arrived and so on.

As the sea encroaches upon the land the dunes are forced to retreat …. as they do they are uncovering many footprint storing layers of mud. The sea in turn is slowly wearing theses away – a dynamic landscape  revealing ancient  track ways.

On our visit the tide had left a lot more sand covering  the mud layers  than was ideal…. but we still saw a good number of species preserved – gilded in the imagination  due to the heavy mud.

Contained in the mud could  be seen the foot print of a juvenile auroch; a now extinct species of wild cow which would dwarf even a large modern  bull by thrice the bulk. 

Note the squared shape, the splayed  toes and the rear imprint  of the redundant  bovine toes.

These incredibly  heavy and strong  animals are well known as powerful, ill tempered brutes to those who read legends of European  origin.

Two species  of deer were also traced – roe deer (above) and large red deer (below) – it seems that the red deer of old were bigger than our current  moor land loving beasts.

Add to this the ancient  foot prints of millenia old oyster catchers, amongst the eliptical burrow marks of molluscs from the 1700s (below) and we had quite a lot of finds.

Yet for many this obvious trail of tracks which show evidence  of our own kind was the most fascinating.

Thousands  of years ago people with a significantly different  culture and world view to us walked in what was a significantly  different  landscape than the one we were seeing…. but for all the difference,  they were still human – still us.

These layers of estuarine  mud go down around six metres and may have many more treasures  to share  as they wear away.

Full red deers skulls replete antlers have been found buried in this mud and there must be more.I know I’ll  be  keeping  an eye out.

The retreating dunes have also begun to unearth more modern finds… the remnants  of an old caravan  park.

A caravan  park which, with every tide, disgorges chunks of concrete and bitumen and bricks.

Further up the coastline is a thick layer of compressed  and shredded tobacco  waste from a the Victorian era. 

Seemingly dumped and shredded stems; abandoned  after the nicotine  had been extracted for the pesticide  industry. It now looks like rock… but is soft enough  to break apart and crumb up by hand.

Yet still potent enough  to leave your hands stinking  like stale tobacco.

However,  going back to that caravan park debris. Some of it became a temporary  stone circle of  alternating monoliths  and stone stacks.

All in under twenty  minutes, yet unlike to last the evening  tide.

It was a mixture  of play time and of mystery – the query from a couple out walking  along the beach as the light dimmed was enough  to know that a little  enchantment  had been spread in to the world. … and all from bits of concrete foundations  and tarmacadamed road.

And… as big kids do…. we couldn’t  resist the urge to make ourselves feel like giants ūüôā 

(Brian below… myself at the bottom)

 

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I’ve found myself building more and more stone stack shrines these last few months, and some of that could be a reflection of what’s going on in my own life. Yet, I suspect that a lot of it is due to the fact that I’m being called to build them by the Spirits of the places I visit.

I cannot recall a time before which I enjoyed making simple things by hand. Don’t get me wrong, I found wood work and any ‘technology’ class other than cooking to be incredibly dull and frustrating – at no point have I ever wanted to make something according to a curriculum not of my choosing.
The sea of inspiration smacks hard against the wall of ¬†a curriculum without room for creativity… and like a fish leaping from the sea to find itself hurtling wetly towards a wall, the otherwise¬†inspired suffer much from it.

There’s a simple beauty to be found when a rock or ¬†log or similar can be stacked or worked with to create a change in the landscape that engenders a recognition that there is something other than the self in a site when stumbled upon by another. An echo of what is and what was, possibly moments before, possibly centuries.

Stone stacks are found all over the world and in varying sizes and shapes – I claim no artistry here, as I have seen some stone balancers who truly have made it in to an art form. The ones made by my hands will never win awards, but they echo the voices of the places they are found – rough, unshod and if not wary then belligerent.
My little shrines are a mixture of the ephemeral and almost permanent – they both have their value.

In the woods, I sometime stack sticks from a fallen tree, in the form of a stepped pyramid, grids of sticks lined up ¬†to form a pyramid, but that’s rare as I’d hate for them to become an invitation to light a pyre for local pyromaniac youths. More often in the woods, I slide feathers in to cracks in bark. Done at eye height; a deliberate change. A recognition of the tree and the bird; designed to be seen.

I have in the past also made witch’s ladders from bones and compostable twine (or cordage), and hung these from branches in trees.
With the coming of the winds, the bones sing an odd and jaunty rattle as if glad to be granted movement again. While the feathers flutter until they are knocked aloft, flying once again; even if momentarily.

Yet, more recently I’ve been called to make more and more of these little stone stacks out in the middle of seemingly nowhere – the desolate moor, the cliff top, the stream bed, the beach at dawn. Or, as in the pictures above, on¬†a recent Circle of Pagans Trip to Anglesey, in a cove just beneath Barclodiad-y-Gawres Burial Chamber as part of a mini ceremony of gratitude to Mon.

It’s a compulsion almost, my hands tingle, the Spirits of the place seem to add a gloss to exactly the right rocks to use and whisper… and so the back pack is dropped and some time is spent ¬†making these structures; with me seemingly at play.

So I thought I’d share a few from a recent visit to the Isle of Man and my time on Anglezarke moor – both places where Mannanan’s presence is strongly felt, both landscapes that seem open but that hide a lot… but Mannanan is a topic for another blog post or two.

The majority of stone stacks will survive for a long time if in a sheltered spot. Some can be made in to pretty permanent things, but often the top third or so falls off with a strong wind or when a passing animal uses it as a scratching post.

Using big stones in a big and barren landscape was an Inuit tradition. It can be awfully lonely out on the tundra and the iced up sea when out hunting, fishing or walking.
To combat the loneliness, they would build big stone stacks on the shore line, enough that they could be seen by passing boats and to act as a reminder that you aren’t alone, nor are you lost. Others have been this way before you and will come this way again.
In many cases it would be remembered who had built which stack and so, as they were seen, you’d remember a family member or a friend.

 

Many of the small ones pictured, will be little more than one stone tall now. They are built in exposed areas. It pleases me in someways to know that I’ve given the Wind something to play with.

For me, making these isn’t about achieving any form of immortality, nor is it to be remembered in the short term. They’re made by going with the flow of inspiration received while out in these places. They are made to recognise the dynamism of the spirit there; and as such they should be changeable, movable and yet still obvious while they exist.

Some however are built in such a way as to give others a tingle as they come around a corner in to a landscape speckled with stone stacks shrines, they know about it. There’s an eeriness in the air and a giddy energy – the Spirits of the Place and Time are recognised even by the non-magical traveler.

 

It’s rare for me to aim for permanence, but sometimes that’s what’s called for. In the pictures below you can see a stone stack on Anglezarke moor, made in a place of exposed stones, where I’m pretty sure they’re from a a naturally exposed ridge rather than a settlement footprint. Either way the spot blasts out potency and I made a simple stack on my first time ¬†visiting.
A couple of weeks later I was in the area again and checked on how the stack was doing, it had lost the top third or so of it’s stones in the windy weather. As I began to rebuild it inspiration came in that led me to make it more resilient and more likely to survive for a long time… it’s now a little over a metre tall and about 60cm across at the widest point. It’ll be checked up on and the Spirits greeted next time I’m up there.

 

Quite to the contrary though, it’s just as important to make things of fleeting presence – a sacrifice of energy and awareness.
As such, I often find myself creating seaside stone temples in miniature whenever I’m on a stony beach.

The images below show a small, not quite, stack shrine and a metre wide shrine, made on the beach. The stones were just south and east of the point of Ayre on the Isle of Man. Within ten minute the sea had rushed in to claim them, leaving no trace after a few waves had broken over it. Although it took quite a few more waves than anticipated to fell all of the stones.

The resistance of both of these little structures to the sea’s advances is oddly hope giving.

What we might expect to be washed away in mere moments, we find stands strong until almost fully submerged by rolling waves.

It’s long been said that there’s a ¬†beauty in decay and as you watch the work you made to be eaten, slowly become other than it was – returned to it’s constituents, that beauty creeps in to the mind.
It’s almost as though the same beings that suggested you build it just here and with these exact rocks and in this pattern are also reminding you that the world is rife with impermanence. Showing that even the strongest of us will find peace from the ceaseless conflict of change, of becoming and unbecoming, if we surrender to that which makes us what we are in the here and now. ¬†Or it will come if we wait it out for the greater whole of the world to subsume us again in it’s regenerative embrace.

There’s a power in accepting how vulnerable we are, how mortal we are, in the grand scheme of things. Whether you believe in reincarnation or otherwise, this life, this form, this self will never exist again in exactly the same way after we are gone.

The ephemeral nature of life and being means that every breath we share with others truly is a blessing – we gift ourselves to those we spend time with, as they do to us.
And so, from the apparent permanence of stone we can catch ¬†a glimpse of our own mortality and smile, knowing we are truly gifted with the present moment… even if not all present moments are nice or pleasing.

Finally though, there’s another blessing that stone stack building can convey; enchantment.

By leaving a foot print free stone shrine on a beach, or in a landscape known for it’s magical properties, we can keep the world a little bit more magical for those who find it.
Like this one, done shortly after dawn on Ramsey beach, Isle of Man. It’d be hours before the sea came in and hours before the beach was filled with children… enough time for the wind to hide my footprints and for the mischief found both in myself and in the Spirit of that place to leave a little mystery and hopefully a little enchantment for those who found it.

And then, finally, if not kicked over, it’d become a sacrifice to the Sea God Mannan.
A sacrifice freely given and made of my time at play.