This Spring Equinox, we had the privilege of being invited to an open ritual at West Kennet Long Barrow, near Avebury, Wiltshire. The Barrow is one of the largest, most impressive and most accessible Neolithic chambered tombs in Britain. Built in around 3650 BC, it was used for a short time as a burial chamber, nearly 50 people being buried here before the chambers were blocked. We parked just past Silbury Hill and took a 15 minute walk through the fields up to the barrow. It was a beautiful day with clear skies, the freshest of air and a wonderful atmosphere.
On the way up, we passed this tree with it's own little passage running through it's trunk. Poppy loved it, although she wouldn't stay in it as there were too many smells to investigate to keep still for a picture. But I did get a close-up, below. I'm fascinated with the anomalies and quirks you can find in trees and natural things.
Once we got up to the Barrow, there were already a few up there, including Sue, who'd sent me the invite. At this stage, I've got to say 'All Hail to Facebook', as without it, I wouldn't have been in contact with her, and although a friend of my family, probably wouldn't have had the opportunity to join her at a ritual. People curse technology, but in an age where it's easy to lose someones phone number/email address, it's a blessing to get all your information in one place.
While people were still arriving, it was a good chance to get a photo of Silbury Hill. The air quality seemed to give everything extra distance and solidity, the landscape was stunning.
Shortly after I took this, I found I wasn't just to be an observer. The group wanted someone to take care of the offerings during the ritual, and I was pleased to accept under a little guidance. I took a wander into the Barrow itself, and take a few pictures. The late Sun on the rocks gave a blush to the hillside, and seemed to keep us warm despite the temperature dropping. The tomb itself was larger than I imagined it would be, and had several recesses off the main area. Our purpose was to cleanse the area after it suffered vandalism this year, and to celebrate the Equinox, when the light and dark are equal.....and of course the Full Moon and it's moment of full perigee.
Up on the Barrow itself, the musicians gathered with flutes, drums and stringed instruments. At this point, I got another task. A girl called who was drumming asked if someone could take on her task of calling in the west, as she would be busy drumming during the ritual. Being a solitary, I write my own words, but I thought it polite to check if there was anything in particular they wanted included. I got better acquainted with some of the others and watched them set up the circle area. Soon, the fire was lit, the incense was billowing and the mood changed from peaceful afternoon chatting to sense of magick approaching.
The drummers started up for a practice and set the tone nicely, by the time everything began there was a feeling of rootedness in the Barrow, I got a feeling of a long long line of generations celebrating full moons, equinoxes and I was just a little speck in the grand scale.
A building feeling of excitement ran through me as two women cleansed the circle area by sweeping it with besoms. The fire by now was in full flame and the light was fading fast.
After the circle was cast, the Lord and Lady invoked, and the Quarters were called and invited into the circle, we had a minutes silence in honour of the natural disaster victims around the world. In particular, I thought of the Japanese, who following the tsunami, now have blizzards to contend with.
We proceeded through the circle and blessed ourselves with each of the four elements before allowing the rest of the public through to form the circle. We made the offerings, honoured the Old Ones, and gave thanks. Then we chanted and walked in two circles, building energy which we pushed into the Barrow to heal it.
Although I was fairly wrapped up, I think thermals will be in order next time. The fleece, jeans and walking boots were handy but not quite enough. My cloak however, was very warm and I was pleased I taken it. It also came in handy as a windbreak when one of the women was lighting the candles!
The Sun lowered in the West and the light faded fast, the lanterns that were lit in the circle flickered and twinkled in the dark. A beautiful sunset bloomed in front of me, ready to leave room for the Moonrise.
Now, this is a very wobbly photo, but I've included it because it's the only one that you can sort of make out. The camera was playing up and decided to freeze a few times, it doesn't seem to like the dark.
This isn't my photo (below), but it's the nearest thing I could find on Google. At the moment that the Moon began to rise, the rhythm of the drumming changed, and I can honestly say it was like seeing the Moon rise for the first time. I can understand why people might have been frightened of natural things, it was totally awe-inspiring. We were also treated to a song about Cerridwen, Keeper of the Cauldron of Poetic Inspiration, by a man with a wonderful voice and a real talent. What better place to hear live folk music??
It was lovely to chant and walk the circles with these people, there was a definite friendliness in the group (and I was encouraged by the amount of Monty Python quotes being bandied about!). After the ceremony, we enjoyed cakes and ale which was passed around the circle. The ale was mead, drunk from a horn (probably from steer), which was an experience in itself, as I couldn't tell how much was in it until it splashed and nearly went up my nose! A wonderful ritual, in a very sacred place. I was extremely honoured to have taken such a role and meet such good people. This year is going to be my coming out of the proverbial broom closet....having been a solitary for so long - I'm enjoying mixing with other witches, listening, and learning. This part of my world has been the written word for so long, life's just getting some sound therapy!