New Moon on the Winter Solstice

 “The rising of the Sun on the Winter Solstice, out of the darkest day of the year, echoes the birth of the light from the dark void on the first day of creation.”

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice 2014 carries a layer of enigma: it occurs at 23.04 on 21st December 2014, just before the New Moon at 0 degrees 06 minutes of Capricorn on 22nd December at 01.37. (UK time)

This year’s Solstice thus takes place at the very end of  Moondark, the hidden 2-3 day period each month when the fragile, waning crescent Moon dies into the darkness from which the next New Moon is born.

Moondark in ancient times was a time of retreat, of reflection. People avoided travel at those times since there was no light to guide their footsteps, making the nighttime world even more dangerous than usual.

This seems to be appropriate to the atmosphere world-wide as a particularly grim year comes to an end amid a welter of extremist violence, with especial reference to the ‘massacre of the innocents’ which took place in Peshawar, Pakistan only this week.

Perhaps this Moondark New Moon in the solemn sign of Capricorn symbolises a world-wide invitation to contemplation and retreat as the year turns: to reflect on where we are as a human community, and how we can find ways, somehow, to live more peacefully with one another regardless of race, culture or creed…

In the meantime, we humans in the Northern Hemisphere, beset by darkness and cold, need light and celebration to lift our spirits, no matter how much bleak world affairs or the pains of everyday life hold us down. At last year’s Winter Solstice, I published a wonderful poem by Susan Cooper which depicts the history and expression of this need with vivid beauty. Many of my readers have requested me to publish it again this year.

Enjoy the Solstice!

THE SHORTEST DAY BY SUSAN COOPER

So the shortest day came, and the year died,
And everywhere down the centuries of the snow-white world
Came people singing, dancing,
To drive the dark away.
They lighted candles in the winter trees;
They hung their homes with evergreen;
They burned beseeching fires all night long
To keep the year alive,
And when the new year’s sunshine blazed awake
They shouted, reveling.
Through all the frosty ages you can hear them
Echoing behind us – Listen!!
All the long echoes sing the same delight,
This shortest day,
As promise wakens in the sleeping land:
They carol, fest, give thanks,
And dearly love their friends,
And hope for peace.
And so do we, here, now,
This year and every year.
Welcome Yule!!

******

500 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Susan Cooper 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

How to travel without going anywhere…if Kant could do it, why not you?

As Followers and readers of ‘Writing from the Twelfth House’ will know, I had to give up a busy career and most of ordinary life from the end of 2001 until launching this blog in 2008 – my first step in re-entering the public world. Severe burnout following a prolonged family crisis led to the loss of around 90% of my formerly exuberant energy;  it took a very long time indeed fully to recover and eventually return to part-time work in 2012.

Until at last declaring myself fit again – on top of a remote hill pass, way up in the beautiful wild land of Scotland’s far North-West in the summer of 2008 – I hardly travelled anywhere physically. Travel was, quite simply, beyond my capacity.

However, in physical limitation and confinement– usually spending several hours each day lying on a couch in our ‘Quiet Room”– I discovered a breadth and depth of mental, emotional, intellectual and spiritual freedom which had not been possible before in my busy and productive professional and personal life.

How I read! I was able to catch up with thirty years of reading , and in particular  freely to indulge a lifelong interest in my preoccupation with questions of “…mystery, meaning, pattern and purpose…” : cosmology, science (the open-minded kind, such as practised by eg Rupert Sheldrake), psychology, in-depth astrology, mythology, Nature, health and wellbeing, humour (that great survival device!) – in fact anything and everything which ultimately connects us up to the Big Picture.

And I wrote! Two books, both currently available – one free! –  as ebooks on this blog, and innumerable journals chronicling my inner and outer experiences of descent and return. S0 – I made this great discovery to an extent deeper than ever before:  one can travel the whole infinite multi-levelled world of  inner space without as much as setting foot on a train, boat or plane.

 Sophie Agrell is a published Scottish poet whose work I admire and have been happy to publish several times before on my blogs. When she showed me her latest poem, I loved it. Read it, and you will see exactly why… not that I would presume to compare myself to Emmanuel Kant, of course…

****************

Immanuel Kant 1724-1804

Immanuel Kant 1724-1804

From Konigsberg

Ships voyaged

For days, weeks

Across the Baltic

To Hansa,

Scandinavia,

Places beyond

The quiet philosopher’s knowing,

Cities forever unseen,

Where other men thought,

Considered his philosophy,

His closely woven theories,

Wrote letters with scratchy quills

To their immovable friend.

Yet in all his life

Kant never left Konigsberg,

Never travelled

More than ten miles

From port, university,

That now-vanished German city.

*

You could set your clock

By Kant,

They said,

As he walked,

His route unchanging,

Through his city.

Freed from excitement,

Novelty,

The apprehension of change,

His mind roamed,

Far beyond

His body’s phenomenal world,

Exploring ethics,

Astronomy,

Metaphysics,

Reason and human experience,

To enlighten,

Challenge,

Change ideas,

Create theories

Larger than a man,

A city,

A world.

****************

Sophie Agrell

 

 

 

 

photo by Anne Whitaker

(sophie_agrell@hotmail.com)

Sophie grew up in Kent, UK,  in a family whose connections spread from Sri Lanka, Sweden and Scotland throughout the world. She read Ancient andModern History at Oxford, eventually settling in Scotland where she works as a proof reader. She lives with her two dogs in a North Lanarkshire village. Sophie describes herself as “…. an escaped medievalist who watches the world, delights in its beauty, and grows roses…..”

****************

600 words copyright Anne Whitaker/Sophie Agrell 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

…Transforming common days into thanksgivings…

Growing older has brought me an understanding of the value of living in the day, of being grateful for the texture of blessings that each new dawn brings: all we have to do is be mindful. So, on a very regular basis  now – without denying that life is often difficult and sometimes downright brutal – I remember to give thanks.

Give Thanks

Give Thanks

I live in Scotland, home of many expat Americans. Today, and across the world, citizens of the USA both at home and in all corners of the globe will be gathering in groups great and small, familial and otherwise, preparing for today’s great festival of Thanksgiving.

But the spirit of this festival is catching! Whether we are USA citizens or not, Thanksgiving is a great pause point in the year, reminding us to be grateful for whatever blessings we have, great and small. My small contribution from this blog is to collect a few lovely quotations which chime with Thanksgiving Day’s spirit. I do hope you enjoy them.

I would also like to take this opportunity to say a heartfelt “Thank You!” to all the many readers and followers of this blog, especially those who drop by on a regular basis to leave comments: all of you are are gratefully appreciated. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” — William Arthur Ward

“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.” — G. K. Chesterton

 “No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks”. — Unknown

 “You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you.” — Sarah Ban Breathnach

“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” — Cynthia Ozick

 “(Some people) have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy.” — A.H. Maslow

 “If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you, that would suffice.” — Meister Eckhart

(Many thanks to the DARING TO LIVE FULLY  site for the above quotes and IMAGES FOR THANKSGIVING for the jpegs)

Abundance

Abundance

450 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

Some thoughts on friendship: Anne and Peggy chew the fat…

I have been reflecting on the importance of having inter-generational friendships, in relation to the type of society in which we live which is riven by a huge paradox.

Thanks to the Internet-expedited social media revolution,  never in human history have we been so inter-connected at so many levels worldwide as we are now. This fact co-exists with a rising tide of human loneliness, especially amongst older people, who in terms of life experience are probably the richest members of our human community.

Good Friends

Good Friends

Today I have decided in my own small way to bridge this paradox, by using the Internet to tell a very personal story of  inter-generational friendship which I hope will inspire other people to reach out and make connections in their own way across the generations.

In 2012 I decided to return to work part-time after a long career break. Since some of my work involves making recordings both of one-to-one sessions and of classes, I needed to familiarise myself with digital MP3 recordings. My trusty old tape machine was now well and truly out of date! Worse still, I felt very ‘rusty’ as far as making recordings was concerned and did not wish to inflict myself on an unsuspecting public without having had some practice. But who would I ask to be my guinea pig?

One morning – in the shower, where I always get my best ideas – I hit on the idea of asking a good friend two decades older than me whether I could make some recordings of her life history. She was born in 1928, just before the stock market crash of 1929 which ushered in the Great Depression.

One of my main interests is looking at individual human lives in relation to the Big Picture. So, getting my friend to tell her life story against the backdrop of  the most turbulent, changeful century in human history seemed to me to be a wonderful project to set up for my MP3 recording initiation. But would she do it?

Of course she did! Peggy, my good friend, is always up for a new ploy. We embarked on our recording sessions in the spring of  2012. Twenty sessions and one year later, our project was complete. Peggy now has three copies of her life story, unfolding through those recordings, to give to each of her children. In typically irreverent fashion she said to me, in response to my enquiry regarding when she would be giving them out: “They can listen to them after I’ve kicked the bucket!!”

It was a privilege and an honour to do this piece of work with Peggy. To round the whole thing off, we did a concluding recording in which we reflected on the experience, what we had both gained from it (Lots!!), and how important it is for us all to make good friendships and connections throughout our whole lives.

There is plenty of irreverence and laughter in this short recording, as well as seriousness and poignancy. Peggy and I have decided to share it with you. We hope you listen, enjoy, let us have your feedback –and hopefully feel inspired to embark on something similar yourselves.

We only hope, if you do, that (as once happened to us) a bulldozer doesn’t start noisily digging up the road just outside your window as you begin your recording session!

Anne and Peggy chew the fat

******

550 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

 

A ‘Time Slip’ Tale: Mediaeval church music 1980s to 1990s

Everybody knows the secular holiday of Hallowe’en. But not everybody knows it derives from a holy day,  All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1, which is followed by All Souls’ day on Nov. 2.

The root word of Halloween – ”hallow” – means ”holy.” The suffix “een” is an abbreviation of “evening.” It refers to the Eve of All Hallows, the night before the Christian holy day that honours saintly people of the past. All Saints is a celebration of the communion of saints.

The religious connotation of today thus fits well with the third of my series of Uncanny  Tales. This time, I am offering what is only a fragment – but a very vivid, intermittently repeated fragment during approximately a decade of my life from the 1980s to the 1990s. I am curious to know whether any of my readers have had similar experiences  – vivid, but fleeting. Do tell!

St Paul on All Saints' Day

St Paul on All Saints’ Day

When Ian and I were on one of our walking trips up in Northern Scotland, driving in lovely remote places, or pottering about at home, plain chant religious music from around the mediaeval period would occasionally come on the radio, or Ian would be playing something of that type and period from his extensive music collection.

I would suddenly, without warning, experience a kind of consciousness “shift”. Feeling my bare feet on the stone flags of a big church or cathedral, I would actually be there, in some religious capacity, feeling deeply connected to the music and its spirituality. This “shift’ would last only seconds, then I’d be back in my own time.

When they came at first, these episodes were very vivid and ‘real’. But gradually they got wispier and less substantial over time, disappearing over a few years, never (so far) to be repeated.

************

This account is an extract from my memoir “Wisps from the Dazzling Darkness” – an open-minded take on paranormal experience – now published as an ebook and available  HERE.

Dazzling Darkness

Dazzling Darkness

“…. I was immediately taken by the compelling nature of your words, the honesty, the authenticity and the simplicity…..Your work is incredibly important because you address these issues very clearly and simply and with grace…” ( charty at fablefoundation.com)

************

400 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

 

Oh no – not more Tudors!! Reincarnation Tales for Hallowe’en (ii)

I was in my twenties; about to leave my lecturing job, my flat in Bath, and return to the Outer Hebrides to “ be a writer”. A few weeks previously I had met artists and astrologers Gloria and Seamus. Since their delivering of one of my greatest ever shocks, in the shape of an unsolicited and stunningly accurate horoscope reading, we had become friends. They intrigued me, as well as being warm hearted, kind people.

They subsequently introduced me to their friend Jake, an author and expert on astrology amongst other Arts. Seamus had joked that we had to be careful of Jake – he was rumoured to be into all sorts of occult practices.

None of this meant much to me, since I still fancied myself as a Marxist intellectual at the time, and was a member of the local Communist Party in Bath – not an association which was of any duration! It would be accurate to say that my life was in a strange state of uncertainty, confusion and flux  that summer.

One balmy summer’s evening Gloria, Seamus and I fetched up at Jake’s house in a small country village in Somerset. It was a very old house, pre-Tudor. Jake was supposed to be there, but wasn’t….I don’t recall why. I had the flu, and was feeling pretty low in spirits. We all sat by the big open fireplace and had some wine. I began to feel very shivery and unwell. Gloria escorted me upstairs to Jake’s bedroom, where I lay down on the double bed and dozed off. It was a dimly lit room.

I have no idea how much time passed – I woke, and became aware that a stout man wearing a chain of  office of some kind was standing at the foot of the bed, regarding me. From paintings of the Tudor period, I recognised his clothing as that of someone of some standing. I felt that I had been judged, and harshly.

The next thing I remember was having staggered off the bed and out of the room. I felt as though I was standing on a balcony, being presented to a crowd below who were yelling unpleasantly up at me. The man with the chain of office was there beside me. My hands felt bound.

The next thing I knew, I was screaming. Gloria and Seamus came rushing upstairs, half  carrying me back downstairs again beside the fire which had been lit. Someone thrust a hot drink into my hands, and my experience split.

On the one hand, I was aware of  where I was in the present. On the other, I felt as though I was in a cart, bumping over cobblestones – a man, dressed in a rough white tunic right down to my ankles. I was tied. A name came into my mind which I couldn’t quite understand because it seemed so peculiar:  Chiddoch ? Tyburn? It came to me that I was going to be executed. Seamus was shaking me.
“ Scottie, Scottie! Where are you ?” I gradually came back to the present. Seamus and Gloria gently but insistently got me to give an account of what had been going on.

“ We’ll have to call you Spooks from now on, Scottie,” chuckled Seamus. He had rather a warped sense of humour. “ This is a weird house, and Jake is a weird guy. I’m not that surprised you’ve had a weird experience here.” Shortly after that, they took me home – I lived very near them in Bath – so shattered by what had occurred that I have no idea to this day how we got there. None of us had any transport.

Jake came to see me the next day, presumably having been informed by Seamus that I’d had a strange experience in his house. I wondered if  he had discovered as yet how much of his whisky Seamus had drunk. He insisted on my giving him a detailed account of what had happened, although making little comment.

Viking Ship

Viking Ship

Before leaving, he gave me a chunky silver ring, more suited to a man’s hand. It had a viking ship on it and was rather too big,  but I liked it. I wondered why he had given it to me, but did not ask, finding Jake somewhat intimidating. He had once refused my hesitant request for him to read my hand.
“No” he said. “ If  I did, I would then know everything about you. You wouldn’t like that, would you?”

I continued to be shaken by the experience I’d had. And by the name…Chidioch Tyburn?…you couldn’t have made it up. I probably had, said the dominant inner sceptic, rather challenged and rattled by my inability to make sense of  a vivid and very disturbing occurrence.

Meanwhile, in the real world, I concluded discharging my remaining duties as an English teacher as the end of the college term and my imminent departure to the Hebrides approached. One evening, I was flicking through some poetry
anthologies, to see if I could find something gripping to do with my increasingly restless -0- English students.

Ah yes, here’s a poem about execution, I thought. How very appropriate, considering several post-adolescent males in that group whom I could cheerfully have strangled. “Lines before execution” ……that should do. And then I noticed the name of the author. Chidiock Tichborne.I read the poem, my hands shaking. It was written to his wife by a young man about to go to the gallows – on the night before he was executed.

The next day, I went to the public library and looked up the name in an encyclopedia. There it was! Chidiock Tichborne, born in 1558, was a party to the Babington Plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth 1 and restore England to Catholicism. He had been taken from the Tower of London and hanged, along with other members of his group, on 20th September 1586. Reading this, I felt very cold and very shocked.

To this day, I do not know quite what to make of the experience. Perhaps I had read the poem at some point in the past before visiting Jake’s house, and memory had retained the name and a sense of the period in which the poem had been written. Perhaps this had somehow got caught up in  the atmosphere and ghostly residues clinging to an old house, and my mind had picked up on those, temporarily disturbed as I was by a mixture of impending change, flu and too much alcohol?

I had no recollection of ever having read the poem before, but my ability to retain names has always been poor, even when I was young. Perhaps it was a genuine reincarnation experience, in which time had somehow “slipped” and I had re-experienced brief but intense snippets of a former life?…or even someone else’s life ?

I left Bath, returning briefly to the Hebrides that summer, but couldn’t stand living with my parents again – I have no doubt the feeling of relief on my departure was mutual. In October I went to stay with a writer friend in a village just across the Tay estuary from Dundee, Scotland. Life was a difficult struggle, and one day the following spring I became convinced the viking ship ring which I had worn ever since leaving Bath, had brought me bad luck somehow.

This strong feeling, which I couldn’t shake off, embarrassed me, a person who didn’t believe in something as irrational as luck of any kind.

One bright and blustery day, I got on my bright yellow ladies’ racing bike and cycled to St Andrews. Standing on some cliffs close by St Andrews, buffeted by wind, I had a very strong intuition to slip the viking ring off, and throw it into the breakers. The ring, a little too big, normally slipped off easily from my middle finger where I always wore it. On this final occasion, I could barely manage to haul it off. When I finally did, blood was trickling over my knuckle.

Without delay or ceremony, I hurled it into the foamy sea, immediately feeling a great sense of lightening and release. Life did gradually improve from that point on…..the sceptic, of course, put it all down to co-incidence.

************

This account is an extract from my memoir “Wisps from the Dazzling Darkness” – an open-minded take on paranormal experience – now published as an ebook and available  HERE.

Dazzling Darkness

Dazzling Darkness

“…. I was immediately taken by the compelling nature of your words, the honesty, the authenticity and the simplicity…..Your work is incredibly important because you address these issues very clearly and simply and with grace…” ( charty at fablefoundation.com)

************

To read the third Uncanny Tale, click HERE

1500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

 

Reincarnation Tales for Hallowe’en i) : Beware the noonday sun – uncanny events in Lecce, Italy

The first in this series of four posts on the intriguing topic of Reincarnation can be found HERE

**

Lecce, Italy: September 13th 1986

This first one took place in the mediaeval town of Lecce, known as ‘the Florence of the South’, on 13th September 1986. I still recall what happened very, very clearly. My husband Ian and I were on a bus trip with a voluble female Italian guide in her thirties, determined to cram as much local information as possible into the heads of the ignorant Brits in her charge.

As a result, not helped by the heat, we reeled off the bus somewhat brain damaged for our hour’s ‘free’ lunch break. As usual, everyone on the bus meekly shuffled behind the guide to the appointed watering hole. As usual, we did not. This was our first sight of Lecce and we wanted some quiet time on our own to enjoy it.

The bus was parked in a dusty square, next to a big old church. I looked all the way up the spire, noticing an empty plinth at the top, and thought “Where’s the Archbishop?” I recall being instantly startled by this thought, as though it belonged to someone else’s brain – after all, I’d never been to Lecce.

 Lecce, Italy

Lecce, Italy

Nevertheless, very shortly afterwards, we found him. There was a stone restorers’ yard in a narrow street we wandered into, round to the right of the church. In it, lying on his side, was a rather battered looking statue, his verdigrised copper covering cracked and peeling from the wear of many centuries. “There he is – it’s the Archbishop!” At the same time as I recognised the statue, it felt again like someone else’s thought. I wondered if the heat was getting to me…“Mad dogs and Englishmen….” (01)

I loved Lecce on sight; it felt uncannily familiar. Missing out on lunch, I took Ian on a fast trot round the immediate area we were in, finding my way around with no difficulty. I pointed out a sunlit terrace above a street not far from the church, where, feeling that I was a man then, I used to sit at a table and write . Ian almost had to drag me by the ear back to the bus, since I was most reluctant to leave.

I have long felt a strong affinity with Renaissance Italy, despite having never visited the country before. Some day, I’d like to return to Lecce and see what my reaction is then. But I’ll make sure it’s mid-winter, so that my rational self can’t blame a heat-addled brain for bringing me one of my life’s more peculiar experiences!

************

footnote: 01 ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen/….Go out in the midday sun.’  Mad dogs and Englishmen Noel Coward song  (1931)

************

This account is an extract from my memoir “Wisps from the Dazzling Darkness” – an open-minded take on paranormal experience – now published as an ebook and available  HERE.

Dazzling Darkness

Dazzling Darkness

“…. I was immediately taken by the compelling nature of your words, the honesty, the authenticity and the simplicity…..Your work is incredibly important because you address these issues very clearly and simply and with grace…” ( charty at fablefoundation.com)

************

To read the second Hallowe’en Tale, click HERE

500 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2014
Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page