Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Tales for Lammas

It is cold on the hilltop. The skyline is unbroken by trees. We watch and wait as the sun goes down. This is the time. Our time. How I remember our arrival. We build wattle huts. Then we placed mighty stones here in a circle around our huts, and leading from that circle, our tribe heaved on wooden rafts more stones. So it was that we put in place the mighty stones of the avenue.
Westwards, they lead away from the village, into the outer world, into the darkened lands beyond, the wild wood, the trees thick and dense, an ancient spirit to beware. But in the east, the stones lead to the barrow, where the bones of the ancestors are laid. There, the solar serpent awaits, ready to rise from the ashes, in the morning of a new day.
Now the darkness enfolds the land like a cloak, and the stars come out. And the moon is at her full, and riding high. The fire is lit, the flames leaping into the sky, and we bring the first of the grain, and scatter it on the fire. Let the sun god receive his tribute, and may he bless our fields and harvests.
Breaking bread in the fire's light
Here is the feasting, here's the rite
Stone on stone, we grind the grain
Blessings be of sun and rain
Breaking bread in the fire's light
Eating bread in the dead of night
A sower came and sewed the grain
Blessings be of sun and rain
Breaking bread in the fire's light
A shaman chants, garbed in white
The offerings, first fruits of grain
Blessings be of sun and rain

Our long-ships landed a long time ago on the beaches, and we passed through the dunes to the east. There we settled in this Island, and have tilled the rich soil of the hillside. The warriors have grown old, and the younger men and women know of no other life than this, tilling the soil, grazing the cattle, and fishing in the sea.
I too am old, and keep my notches on the sticks, to mark the passing of time, the turning wheel of the year. The harvest is upon us, the fields ripe with promise, golden like Sif's hair, and while we eat, I tell my tale.
Now Thor was a mighty god, a warrior to like
Thunder roaring in the sky, as his hammer strike
But all was well, he was at rest, and quietly calm
For in Lady Sif, he had found his love and balm
Her hair was golden, shining, gleaming in the sun
This fairest goddess, whom his heart had won
And where she walks, the fields were full and bright
The Lady Sif, the goddess bringing harvest light
But Loki came; he wanted hair for an evil spell
And while she slept, he came, did the deed so fell
She awoke, bereft of golden locks, and wept
That year the harvest was poor, so little kept
Now Thor was a mighty god, a warrior to like
When he saw Sif bereft, he set off, blows to strike
The thunder tearing across sea, sky and the land
And waves high, foaming, shoot across the sand
Here is terror, for the anger of the gods is great
Where Loki bound the world into an evil fate
But dwarves deep below, saw Sif, head so bare
Dug deep, to find the seam of gold down there
Dwarves wove the gold, in magic spun to hair
And came they forth from their dark deep lair
The hair touched her head, and grew once more
So all was well, blessed hair of Sif, our harvest lore.

It has been a bad harvest. Too much rain, the fields sodden, the crops rotting in the soil. The humours of the earth are out of balance. We have heard from travellers from Cathay of famine across their land, where no rain falls, and the people cry out in thirst. But we know otherwise - across our lands the rains come down, and the farmer watches as the harvest is lost. There will be hunger here too. There will be no bread, this Lammas eve.
It is time to look to the old ways, to follow need, to find the words where we have no words, and to bind us together, to call upon the spirits of earth and sky to heed our voices, and listen to our voice.
Circle round, and weave the spell
The need is great, the land so torn
The rain pours down, a sodden hell
And crops are failing, drown stillborn
Circle round, and weave the spell
The need is great, the land so dry
The soil is dust, a windswept hell
And not a cloud is there in sky
Circle round, and weave the spell
The balance broken, winds and rain
On us the anger of the gods so fell
For so much hunger, loss and pain
Circle round, and weave the spell
The need is great, restore, make well
There is a tale of a sower who went out to sow, and she sowed seeds of hope, of tales of the ancestors, of years good and bad. But her seed was not bread but words, words of wisdom. The summer may be full of bright sunlight, or overcast with dark rain clouds, but the true summer is eternal; it is always eternal summer in the grateful heart. And the clouds will break, and a single sunbeam is enough to drive away many shadows.

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