when i was preparing to cross the channel, set on exploring my ancestral lands, i had this feeling that my stay would extend beyond the few weeks planned. an intuition that i would spend the autumn threshold there, to meet my dead in a proper introduction, such as i could not yet imagine.
the samhain gathering was a sunrise, a nest, a bubbling cauldron. four days dreaming in the moss with a colorful tribe of newfound brothers.
catapulted to another tor, i head to dartmoor under the gaze of a sheep skull with a string of pearls. first day, new faces. each one voices an intention and pulls a card – as effective an introduction as i’ve ever seen. the hanged man stares back from between my fingers, and the feeling of hovering persists. my senses sing in rapture : there are songs like golden feathers drifting in from another plane, group massages in front of a red stove, bare feet in the grass and slow breathing in the morning. the clinking of cutlery, whistles and miming while our silent lunch slips into clown, the grazing of charcoal on paper. the naked man’s voice sweeps us into a conversation under a teepee. i give tarot readings in the bath. we have casual cabaret, a casualabaret in the drawing room. ellie tells us a story of the handsome young man trying to escape from the love of the fairy queen, and the tale leaks into our dormitory that night. in my dreams, the fairies steal from you “your laughter and your sadness”. meanwhile a scared man seeks a refuge among the slumberers, then disappears without a trace.
the day of the feast feels like something i’ve done many, many times before. the women go shrieking with pleasure into the frozen stream. we call the ancestors. cows answer the wolf howls. the dances and tears and offerings make the air crackle and thicken, i can feel them, the countless generations that sail in us, witnessing, humming in our blood. breathing down our necks, just outside the circle. after cleansing and paying our tribute, we paint our faces, don our finery. we feast : each of the 22 arcanas finds a seat at the table, a card for each passer-by, child, trickster, and the lord of the house in a plushy animal costume. we toast and name our dead, we fill the room with their stories. the ones whose names have been almost forgotten, the ones we didn’t know and the adventures that we sometimes took part in. the devil and i strip and strike a pose before dessert : the drawings are passed around, a casual reminder of the diversity of our visions in the myriad interpretations of our curves and muscles. at some point my head starts swimming with too much stimulation, the scene, the songs, the food, the presences. red ribbons dance from the conifer bonfire and the sky pelts down ice from the full moon.
“you are a miracle, and a landmark on the territory of a new world”.
it felt like home. we emerge filled to the brim with love. stronger.
i volunteer once a week, working in the garden at paddington farm
back into my new home, i settle into a rhythm… little eden screaming MOMMY LOOK ANELICOPTA. i rip open the blackened, dry skins of the beans. hard caramel seeds rain down into the pail at my feet. the beans climb up, the dry branches of black quinoa, the kale that i’d never met before. colorful home-schooled kids mill around, prodding at the earth while a mum gives me golden words – “there’s no lesson, no plan. we just do what they want to do. they’re learning to learn, and we try not to get in their way.” michelle wanted to teach eden about the trees, and instead got a lesson about how to evade monsters and aliens in the forest. i’m sitting in a pool of organic learning. the esoteric library, with its dusty crammed shelves of witchery, druidery, magickry, its string of muttering, beringed midde-aged men, delivers its treasure into my hands, but. it’s a trickle, compared to the rest of this river. friends made on the way to the sunset. promises of black clouds of starlings above a lake. the frost fair, where all the tribes of celts, fairies, witches and muggles mingle in their winter finery to watch morris dancers, buy sheepskin slippers and gather to watch the man beating an arrowhead on the anvil.
i spend a whole week dancing. the five rhythms unveiling its surprises as i watch my body shake in ways i’ve never felt before. like taking a walk down your dna trail, responding to the drums with convulsions, spinnings, percussions, low sweeping motions that i suddenly recognize, sowing seeds, bent over a field a few days later. my body caresses itself, stomps, breathes in the whirlwind of other dancers with only the slightest impulses coming from me. the house and techno music make my soul shrivel and wail, but no matter where i turn, they are honored guests here. i work on my patience – people go wild and love it, they’re a delight to watch. we’re all so beautiful when we stop trying. contact improvisation turns out to be SO MUCH FUN, halfway between dreamy hibernation and a playground. the barriers between your body and other bodies, between the kid and the adult blur as we run around, rub up, and throw ourselves onto the ground, breathless, screaming with laughter. like post-coital frolicking, with random strangers.
speaking of drugless trance : i find myself watching amma, hugging. a man on her team tells me she simply does not sleep. with each step closer to her, my body flushes with heat, and the inside of my arms tingles, anticipating the imprint of her embrace. i get dizzy and slightly nauseous, like when you’re falling, falling in love, hurtling down. i watch her for hours. a queen bee, surrounded by a buzzing mass. she the dreamer, and we the whisps of her dreams. she clamps the side of her forehead against another, mutters some syllables and jumpstarts an earthquake. watching a miracle – five hundred times. a fox greets me every time i go for some night air on the racetracks. the glorious sunrise welcomes us back into the real world, and i glimpse a buddha statue between grazing sheep on the motorway.