Snowdrops and Candlelight

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Brigantia flower
Brigantia fire
burn bright
burn bright
burn bright

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As a brief Imbolc update the mid-winter period has been lucrative. Away from blogging here and the noise of social media (which I’ve left) I’ve been  much more focused and creative. I’ve done lots of research and drafting for Gatherer of Souls and have also been working on a poetry pamphlet themed around magical encounters with the other-than-human world called April Dogs.

I’ve got a number of talks and workshops planned for the upcoming year and am working on a new performance with Guests of the Earth called ‘Like a Dragon Newly Woken’. (For further info see my events page).

Unfortunately this has been against the backdrop of the horrors of Trump’s inauguration and Cuadrilla unexpectedly starting work at the fracking site at Preston New Road. Local residents have been holding rolling protests involving walking the lorries every working day. Whilst I can summon the courage to go to the occasional protest I know that, as someone who suffers from anxiety and IBS, I’m not cut out be an on-site activist and would only get in the way and return exhausted and non-functional. Thus I haven’t been involved.

Of course, I feel guilty, but I also realise a world where we were all fighters wouldn’t work and there are equally valuable roles maintaining what’s  valuable and creating alternatives. So I pick up litter, dig ponds, help run poetry events, deconstruct the mythologies of western imperialism and tell new stories; I write poems about birds and insects; I write to express my spiritual path and honour my gods; I focus on the snowdrops and candlelight and try not to let the bastards get me down.

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I’d like to end by quoting these powerful lines from Lesley Marmon Silko’s Ceremony, which affirm not only the value but the absolute necessity of telling stories in challenging times:

‘I will tell you something about stories
(he said)
They aren’t just entertainment.
Don’t be fooled.
They are all we have, you see,
all we have to fight off
illness and death.

You don’t have anything
if you don’t have the stories.

Their evil is mighty
but it can’t stand up to our stories.’

On a Swan’s Wing

Recently published on Gods & Radicals – my poem based on Sacha Dench’s radical journey as a human swan to find out why Bewick’s swans are disappearing.

GODS & RADICALS

For Sacha Dench

I.

She flies on a single swan’s wing,
engine thrumming in her head,
swan’s heart beating

like the hammer in Arctic ice
driving wingbeats southward
southward

down flight-ways
over the Rakovie Lakes,
the Taiga, the Gulf of Finland,

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,
Slonsk National Park in Poland,
Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands,

Belgium, France, across the foaming
Channel to the White Cliffs,
then back to Slimbridge,

the mudflats of the Severn
to dip her beak into
home sands.

II.

They say that shaman fly
in bird form,
transform to seek answers,

stake their souls against the winds
of industrialisation,
brave the guns,

return exhausted
with shattered pieces
of the world-soul.

III.

Nine Bewick’s swans were tagged,
told apart by the patterns
on their beaks:

Butters, Charlotte, Daisy Clark,
Eileen, Leho, Hope, Maisie,
Pola, Zolotitsa.

We are gathering the pixels
of their data,
trying to assemble a picture.

A story…

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Brythonic Polytheism in the Lancashire Landscape

My latest article for Dun Brython.

Dun Brython

An inspirited landscape. A landscape alive with spirits. Many cultures inhabit, and have inhabited, my locality of Penwortham, Lancashire, in North West England, and given names to its landmarks and deities. Whilst the predominant culture is English, there are strong traces of an earlier Brythonic culture and the Brythonic deities are still here.

Brythonic Culture

The name of the lost port off the coast of Fleetwood, Portus Setantiorum, ‘Port of the Setantii’, tells us that during the Roman period, the local Brythonic tribe were known as the Setantii, who John Porter describes as ‘the dwellers in the country of water’.

Evidence from the Riversway Dockfinds, including two dugout canoes, a bronze spearhead, the remains of a timber platform and human and animal remains suggests the Setantii inhabited a Lake Village here on Penwortham Marsh. Similar canoes have been found at Martin Mere and Marton Mere.

harris-museum-and-gcv-september-005-copy Dug-out canoe, Courtesy of Harris…

View original post 1,474 more words

After Procopius in A Beautiful Resistance: Left Sacred

I recently received this wonderful forest meme from the folk at Gods & Radicals citing lines from my poem ‘After Procopius’ which is soon to be published in the third journal, A Beautiful Resistance: Left Sacred.

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The blurb for the journal is as follows: ‘What is a sacred left? What is left of the sacred? What is the left sacred? These are the interweaving themes of this third issue of A Beautiful Resistance, watched over by the Angel of History, its wings forced open by a wind from another world.’ It will be released on 1st February and is available to pre-order HERE.

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I am Tina Rothery

 

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Ok… I know I said I wasn’t going to be blogging here again until Imbolc, but I wanted to mention a small but hopeful event that took place in Preston yesterday. Anti-fracking protestor, Tina Rothery, was cleared of the contempt of court charge made against her by Cuadrilla and escaped a 14 day sentence in Styal jail.

At 10.30am, I joined 150 people gathered on Preston Flag Market to march down Friargate, then up the Ring Road to Preston Combined Court on the Ring Way. When we arrived at the court, everybody chanted “I am Tina Rothery” and “I am Tina too”. There was something immensely powerful about the willingness of so many people to put aside their own concerns and identities for the day and become Tina as she waited for the result of the case.

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Whether this transformative magic had a role in the judge’s decision to allow Tina to walk free remains uncertain. What is certain is that there was a good deal of slipperiness on behalf of Cuadrilla and their lawyers. Ruth Hayhurst notes, ‘Yesterday, Cuadrilla’s lawyers told the media that the hearing was about the contempt of court ruling and that it had been organised by the court, not by the company. But today’s case was listed as Cuadrilla V Rothery and a lawyer from Eversheds represented the company.’ During the hearing, Cuadrilla made a turn around and decided they would no longer pursue Tina for the money.

Tina’s victory adds to the beacon of hope that shines from Standing Rock. It shows that people coming together to stand for our sacred landscapes and watercourses, our communities and the truth have the power to win out. The anti-fracking movement continues to grow. When we are all Tina Rothery this threat will be banished from our land for good.

Winter Break

Winter is a time
of nurturing deeper dreams
whilst the land sleeps beneath
the rule of Winter’s King

so I’m going to be taking a break from blogging here until Imbolc to work on my new book and other gestating ideas and to explore the landscape. Best wishes to everybody for the cold season.

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Remembering Lost Species

The 30th of November is Remembrance Day for Lost Species. It was established in 2011 as a response to the immense loss of species occurring as a consequence of anthropogenic climate change and ‘is driven by a growing coalition of artists, educators, celebrants and writers’.

It aims to ‘create new rituals for remembering and mourning what we have lost, and for celebrating and making commitments to what remains.’

We are currently living through the Sixth Mass Extinction. Unlike the previous five (Ordovician-Silurian, Late Devonian, Permian, Triassic-Jurassic and Cretaceous-Tertiary), which were caused by environmental factors and a fallen meteor, it is driven by humanity and is therefore also referred to as the Anthropocene Extinction.

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Scientists have traced its origin to the end of the Ice Age, when humans eradicated the mammoths. Other animals hunted into extinction by humans here in Britain include: elk (1500BC), Eurasian beaver (1500BC), aurochs (1000BC), Eurasian brown bear (1000AD), wild boar (1300AD), common crane (1600AD), grey wolf (1680AD).

Today’s devastating extinction rate (the ‘natural background rate’ is 1-5 species a year, we are currently losing over 1,000 times more) results largely from industrialisation and its release of carbon dioxide causing global warming and ocean acidification. Farming, deforestation and introductions of invasive species have also played a major role.

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According to the Species Recovery Trust, over the past 200 years, 413 species have been lost from England alone:

78 species of beetle,

70 fungi (including candelabra coral, pig’s ears, blotched woodwax, pinkmottle woodwax, steppe puffball, dune cannon, asparagus rust, great pignut rust and orange knight),

62 species of moth (including the black V moth, lesser belle, the many-lined, the cudweed, spotted sulphur, marsh dagger, orange upperwing, white prominent, the conformist, gypsy moth, lunar double-stripe, scarce black arches, feathered ear, dusky clear wing, scarce crimson and gold, Lewes wave and orache),

43 species of fly,

30 species of mosses (including swollen thread-moss, upright apple-moss, matted bryum, helmet moss, dense fork-moss, Muhlenbeck’s feather moss, sickle-leaved fork-moss, pale bog-moss, small four-tooth moss),

24 species of vascular plants (including blue bugle, lamb’s succory, interrupted brome, Davall’s sedge, three-nerved sedge, small bur parsley, perennial centaury, alpine bladder fern, mountain bladder-fern, purple spurge, hairy spurge, slender naiad, cottonweed, whorled Solomon’s seal, Irish saxifrage, rannock rush, summer lady’s tresses, Irish lady’s tresses

22 species of bees, 13 species of lichen, 10 species of wasp, 7 species of bird (Kentish plover, black tern, white stork, corncrake, red-backed shrike, great bustard, great auk),

6 species of sawflies, 7 species of heteropteran bug, 5 species of butterfly (black-veined white, chequered skipper, mazarine blue, large copper, large tortoiseshell),

4 species of spider, 4 species of liverwort, 4 species of stonewort, 3 species of dragonfly (dainty damselfly, Norfolk damselfly, orange-spotted emerald),

3 species of mammal (northern right whale, wildcat, greater mouse-eared mat),

2 species of shrimps, 2 species of snails, 2 species of mayfly, 1 species of fish (burbot), 1 cnidarian (Ivell’s sea anenome), 1 species of earwig (tawny earwig) and 1 species of ant (black-backed meadow ant).

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Measures such as the Kyoto Protocol (1997) and the Paris Agreement (2015) have brought nations together in promising to reduce carbon emissions. Unfortunately, such promises are easily broken. Days after the Paris Agreement, the UK government released a new round of fracking licences. As the Paris Agreement comes into action, Donald Trump has decided to cut NASA funding for research in climate change and remove restrictions on fracking and coal mining.

It’s difficult not to despair when the world’s major political players show such blatant disregard for the fate of the earth and declining species. However, it is possible to find hope in the efforts of conservation groups.

The Species Recovery Trust has made a commitment to saving 50 endangered species by 2050. These include: New Forest cicada, green tiger beetle, heath tiger beetle, wart-biter, Cosnard’s net-winged beetle, lemon slug, bearded false darkling-beetle, southern oyster mushroom beetle, triangular pigmy-moss, forked spleenwort, starved wood-sedge, rabbit moss, Deptford pink, field gentian, heath lobelia, darnel, marsh clubmoss, field cow-wheat, upright goosefoot, spiked rampion and dwarf milkwort.

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The BBC’s interactive map shows where extinct and rare species have been re-introduced to the UK: beavers to Knapdale Forest, Goshawks to Dumfries and Galloway, eagles to the Isle of Rum, ospreys to Loch Garten, reindeer to the Cairngorms, great bustards to Salisbury Plain, red kites to Buckinghamshire, large blue butterflies to Polden Hills, pool frogs to Norfolk and lynxes to Northumberland.

The Great Crane Project has succeeded in reintroducing common cranes to the Somerset Levels. In October, I visited WWT Slimbridge and saw them on the banks of the Severn from Holden Tower. From a distance, I first thought they were sheep or rocks, but a closer look with binoculars disclosed 15 cranes in 3 groups, some roosting, some grazing. I was privileged to witness a brief dance: two cranes pirouetting and extending their impressive wings. I got a little closer to one of the cranes within the reserve.

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Remembering lost species and preserving those who remain is something we can all play a part in: whether by finding out about and monitoring the species on our doorsteps, volunteering for or donating to a conservation group, protecting endangered species from development, or raising awareness through campaigning, blogging or the arts.

This year I am making a commitment to learning more about the species in my area. I have been making an effort to record the birds on my stretch of the river Ribble and to learn to identify local fungi, mosses, liverworts, lichens, ferns and various types of insects.

This evening, on the open mic at Damson Poets, I will be reading three poems for extinct and returning species: ‘Trilobite’ by Deryn Rees-Jones, ‘The Fallen’ by Helen Moore and ‘The Wolves of Chernobyl’ by Ben Smith.