On the Celtic trail....a year in review
A year is a long time and no time at all. Here we are not long past the Spring Equinox again. Over this period I feel like I've only scraped the surface of my Celtic studies online course offered by author Dr Sharon Blackie and still have lots of reading to do, catching up on all the books I've added to my library, even a couple of modules to revisit which I didn't get time to go through such as the Arthurian myths. Enough material in fact to last a lifetime.
My favourite thing about following this course is how it's connected me to the archeology and the landscapes of places that are personally important and where my ancestors are from. I have ancestors who made history down through the centuries, who are recorded in history; this course has helped bring their stories alive and will continue to do so.
I've had adventures on many Iron Age Hill forts; sat on top of Bronze Age burial mounds which really have felt like gateways to the Otherworlds; discovered wonderful and intricate Celtic artefacts in our national and local museums which have made me realise how sophisticated and cultural these trading societies were; experienced what living in an Iron Age round house is like at experimental archeology Butser Hill Ancient farm; time traveled between Stone Age monuments and early Celtic Christian settlements in Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, and most powerfully come face to face with local Sussex Celts and Bronze Age settlers in facial reconstructions of their skeletal remains, and the peat preserved body of possible sacrificial Lindow Man in the British Museum. I've taken part in the living remnants of our old folk cultures, dancing and singing in the May dawn with Morris men and women up at Cissbury Ring, on a glorious May Day morning.
I've spent hours looking at the folk artefacts and witch poppets in Boscastle museum, Cornwall, and the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford. I walked the mythic garden of Tristan and Iseult on top of Tintagel, as a pair of peregrine falcons soared directly above. I've found sacred wells in towns and villages across the South and South West, and ended this year of study with the wonderful fairy tale and mythical illustrations of Arthur Rackham at an exhibition of his work deep in the heart of the ancient forest of Andreda, aka the Ashdown Forest, where Iron Age metal workers smelted iron.
I've found myself correcting people when they start talking about ancient Celtic practices and rituals, which are clearly based on reimaginations and inventions...no harm in that but let's be clear about source! I've stood on the spot on Primrose Hill, London where the great inventor Iolo Morganwg held the inaugural ceremony of the Welsh Gorsedd. I've read some great Celtic myth stories but not enough because the runes claimed me loud and clear so I've been deep in a parallel discovery of Norse mythology through my apprenticeship to the runes. But in the same way time in the Otherworld stretches, I know I've got plenty to time to dive more deeply into the Celtic myths.
In this year I've turned 50, I've sadly lost more loved ones including my mother in law suddenly (am still sorting my late mother's estate), have entered into menopause and eldership, as I become crone. I've created powerful rituals deep in ancient yew groves and on hillsides across Sussex. I've made my horse skin drum ‘Paskadi’ and it takes me it many places into my mythographical landscapes. I've launched my Runes n Roses offering; achieved promotion at work by weaving in the myth of the World Tree into my strategy presentation; started performing my own creative work again, and am now building my practice further, with study into the Celtic art of songs of lament and keening.
I've learned that the Celts were great traders, warriors, artisans, craftspeople and storytellers, and I'm proud to come from their lineage. I know my ancestors are happy that I'm doing the work, and will keep listening. This autumn I’m excited to start Martin Shaw’s School of Myth, so that will be another mythic learning experience deep in the heart of my beloved Dartmoor.