Monday, 23 July 2007

Lammas at Lee Valley

Last night I got back from the coven gathering for Lammas. What a bloody washout. After a teaching session on Friday which included a number of light-bulb moments we had a greasy spoon breakfast and headed off to Lee Valley in Hertfordshire. We couldn’t check into the youth hostel till after 2pm so had a wander round the town itself. Nothing special had a couple of pints and picked up some food and bits at the Tesco. What I did notice at the hostel was that the river Lee after which the valley gets its name was originally the Lug or Lea. The Lug name was the most interesting, especially considering the festival we were about to celebrate.

It didn’t feel like Lammas, in fact I wonder if Lammas as such will happen this year at all. The weather has been horrific and the crops must be largely spoiled. Well, that was something worth remembering during the ritual. Once checked into the hostel we found we had a lovely big en suite room with a balcony. All our belongings were dropped off and we had a chat – including a discussion on the changing cosmology for this year with regards to the foul weather and the harvest being poor. The rain eased off and we went hunting for a ritual site. The hunt was not good. That area is largely waterways and lakes with narrow marshy land interspersed amongst it. To cap it all off the bloody rain started pissing down again. It was not going well.

Then, on the way back towards the hostel I saw the only oak tree seen thus far, next to it a small path leading off into the trees. Could it be? We walked a few yards down the path and a fox bounded into view ahead of us and then bounded off down the path away from us. This was significant. Really, it was. Ahead we found a lovely clearing next to a path and on the path underneath an overhanging beech was a wooden seat. This seemed like just the place, admittedly it was possible someone would come along, but at night with such disagreeable weather it was unlikely we would be bothered. This was it, perfection. Then the rain started again with a fury that soaked us all to the skin. We trudged off back to the hostel, the idea of an outdoor ritual disappearing like the sun behind the black rain clouds.

In the end we conducted the ritual indoors in the spacious and dry room at the hostel. Drinks were raised for those who needed it, for causes that needed attention and for Lug that he return next year with his usual vigour. Once the celebration was done we had a party (and by that I do mean cake, picnic and paper plates) for L’s birthday and drank plenty of wine. Joy of joys, S made warm rum bananas on the disposable BBQ we had on the balcony.

After rising fairly early for a meagre breakfast and to check out, we headed for the nearby town of Royston to see the Knights Templar cave with its early Christian carvings. Very beautiful indeed carved into the surrounding chalk. Some of the pre-Christian symbols were very eye opening, especially the horse carved next to a vulgar Sheela na Gig.

To round the day off, we bought picnic food and headed to common land outside of Royston, and sat upon tumuli and ate well, then after a snooze in the sunshine I spent some time gazing through the wild grasses at the blue skies above, fluffy white clouds skipping along on the breeze and wondered why the hell it could not have been like this the day before. It was nothing short of a magical few minutes with nothing but me, the wind in the grass, birds singing nearby and a beautiful summer afternoon

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