Through July there’s a change towards ripeness, the Summer deepening, soft fruit hanging on raspberry canes and gooseberry bushes around the Shrine; apples beginning to swell on the tree. Blooms in abundance adorn the rosebush I planted especially for the Shrine, while I also gather more from other parts of the garden as joyous offerings for the gift of Summer and all it brings.
If the enchantment of May and Midsummer was all about expectation, now is a time of fulfilment, not yet the plenty of coming Autumn but the promise of Summer realised as warm winds blow across the burgeoning fields and forests of our land.
Recently, when I visit the Shrine in the morning I have found it disturbed. The small vase with roses, the pouring jug and other items have been turned over and scattered. The goblet which stands in the upper part of the fountain has been knocked over and lies sideways in the water.
This must be an animal visiting in the night – a badger, fox or hedgehog? – though there is no sign of droppings of any animal or other traces of a visit. I wondered if an animal is coming to drink at the fountain and knocking over the objects on Rhiannon’s shrine to get there? But on one occasion the roses were found some distance away and the petal scattered.
I’m not sure what I could do about this as I don’t want the shrine to be trashed but I’m inclined to regard the minor effort to re-arrange and replace the objects as part of my daily devotional activity. Seen in this way the re-setting of the goblet, the placing of fresh roses and putting the other objects back in place is part of the balance between wildness and ordering which is the pulse of the human relationship with the gods.
Such intensities of identification during these late May days; the hillside, the hedgerows, the fields and woods all infused with a palpable sense of being; and myself the quiet watcher taking it all in, in some way both immersed in it all, part of the whole, and yet also detached, observing it, both included and excluded, glimpsing another world which is also this world.
So it is when we perceive the deep places of the world, beyond the hustle and the clamour of the busy debates behind which, waiting for us to be still and find it, somewhere else calls from the Deep beyond to the Deep within us: a presence that is so real that we wonder why we never noticed it, or perhaps so real that we cannot contemplate it, and turn away to busyness.
But now, in these days, I am blessed with time and vision to inhabit the world’s depths and experience the quiet enchantment that encompasses them. So it has always been for me during a long and busy life that I have had times when that busyness was suspended as the Birds of Rhiannon sing for me and the urgencies and certainties of Time fade into the background. At these ‘times’, when Time slows to a heartbeat lasting for as long as it takes to be in this condition of wonder, I give myself up to the stately pace of Rhiannon’s steed, matching each fleeting second of the world’s time against the minutes,hours,days of her riding across the plains of Annwn, while moving here at a steady glide – synchronising one time with another – so that the two worlds become one and I become one with them.
Calan Mai or Beltane, is a festival for the beginning of May according to the calendar. But the calendar has changed so I’ve always adjusted my sense of when the festival should be celebrated to match the season as it actually is in Nature and also to celebrate it during the period of the month when the Moon is waxing. The key natural sign is the emergence of may blossom on the hawthorn trees. In the past this often led me to a date quite late in the month, but more recently the seasons are shifting to an earlier date as the climate warms.
This year the hawthorns have been in blossom in some places since the warm spell in April. But the flower buds remain closed on the hawthorn behind my shrine, being a little higher up than those along the valley which are in full bloom. I’ve been biding my time before the final act of transforming the shrine : the annual re-painting of the white horse for Rhiannon’s ride from Annwn. After the warm spell we had Storm Hannah. Flower petals were strewn across the garden, including some sprigs of not quite open may blossom, some of which I gathered around the shrine.
I have decided to do my rite of welcoming on 5th May, the day after the New Moon. But to paint the horse for Mayday itself, which I have now done. I’ve also celebrated the date with a walk in some bluebell woods and returned to light a green candle to mark the day. Now I will mark the time until New Moon after which I will celebrate the return of Rhiannon , bringing her Otherworld magic into our world once again.