Autumn Stirring

As most of you probably know, the Wheel of the Year is a schedule of seasonal feastdays which mark and celebrate the changes in nature through the year. Those of us who live in the Southern Hemisphere have the mild struggle of inverting the traditional schedule so that we are not, for example, celebrating Yule, with its burning logs and pine cones, in the middle of our summer. Yesterday I wrote about how I was moving towards an even more personal expression of the Wheel of the Year; for example, changing the names of feastdays for myself, just as I have already created localised moon names too.




The thought was timely, because all through the day I noticed some definite changes to the weather and the feel of the sky. Other people around the country mentioned to me that they had noticed the same. Today, that feeling continues. It's more than a shift in weather. The moon looks softer, the night rises earlier, there is enough chill that a blanket is needed on the bed at night. And there's a sense that I can't quite explain, but that is clear to me after many years of living very close to the weather. Autumn is stirring.

And so I have written it into my diary: Autumn Stirring. And I shall create a new private thanksgiving for it. The next on the Wheel is Mabon, the Autumn Equinox, one month away. I can't wait that long. Besides, this does not feel like the balancing that an equinox represents. This is more subtle, and in some ways more tenderly beautiful. I think it will be a moveable feast, because Autumn isn't usually felt this early where I live. Traditionally, we would celebrate these changes at Lammas, on February 2nd, but it's still hot summer then. But now the apples are coming down, and the roses are beginning to turn. My heart whispers of the special joy Autumn brings.





Mother, your fecund brown body shines with stretchmarks,
and smells lush with the making and giving of life,
and Mother, your laugh shudders like seagull song, thrilling my heart,
as you ease back now into softness and quiet, certain and wise,
to see how your children have fruited.


Calling this moment Lammas (merely delayed) doesn't feel right. I don't live in a culture guided by the growing, harvesting, cooking of grains. Lammas is about community responses to nature. Our relationship these days with the world is more intimate. My nature is suburban and seaborne. It is wind and moon, flowers, what food is available in the supermarket, what little changes my house needs.

I shall make an apple crumble. And light a new candle. It's too early to prepare the winter bedding, but I shall wash my Autumn shawls in preparation. Perhaps I'll create a windchime or prayer flags to hang in the window as a conversation with the wild wind god. And I will gather into myself the lessons of Autumn Stirring - the quietening needed for growth to begin, the softness needed for strength and survival.




The Wild Stories of the World

This land in which I dwell is a ghost land, haunted by the sea. The Pacific tribes who came here before my people have myths and legends to describe and explain it; my own people, a practical lot, have never really bothered with that kind of thing, and they didn't bring much of their own mythology with them either - they were, after all, running away to make a fresh start. The other cultures which live here now keep their own traditions which seem to have nothing to do with our shared land (although I may be wrong about that.)




Because of this, for years I felt like an exile in my own country. I was drawn to old stories and traditions from the north but had to literally turn them inside out to make sense of them here. I tried immersing myself in Maori mythology, but apart from the taniwha found nothing that spoke to my soul, for their mythic language is not my own. But then, neither truly is the Celtic language of my heritage. I have had to find my sense of home, of belonging, in a priestless, bookless way - skin to stone with the world.

It's a wilding way, and I've been so blessed to have it, because it has taken me down deeper than language, into truth. Seaweed truth, and basalt truth, and the truth of my own heart, which is where home really can be found. 




Now I almost never read the old stories except for entertainment. I follow the pagan-hearted seasons of the south, keeping only loose ties with their northern names which I think ultimately I will release too. I seldom listen to priests, guides, neo-shamans, teachers, leaders. I have given up on archetypes. I just go walking, that's all.

And I've learned that when you let go of human constructs, you actually hear what a river is telling you, what a sparrow is telling you, what a tree reaching for stars is telling you, about their own experiences. The mountain is not an old woman stirring our fates in her cauldron, she is a mountain, burned up with gold and copper, drowned by sea storms. If I see her as a woman, I will only ever see part of myself.




Ursula le Guin and other writers have explored the idea of The Power of Names - that we can know the soul of a thing by knowing its true name. I have always loved the old myths and still value them - still think they should be taught to all people - but now I believe they are the first steps on a journey down into the centre of things. To go far, you ultimately have to leave those human-made steps and take wild paths. Follow the badger spoor. Follow the wind. Let go of all the face-names and anthropomorphism, and just listen to the world.

Then come back telling stories.

Stories of the harp-song that shell and tide make together, and how the wind moves to it.

Stories of the slow pilgrimage of mountains.

Wild, magical stories of truth.

And I believe this is urgent work. I think there is nothing more important that any of us can do than come to value, for example, a tree simply because it is a tree, a living thing that deserves to go on breathing. Don't get me wrong, mythic tales are also vitally important, and we need as many of them as we can get - old ones, new ones - to support our journey into truth. I write them myself, and love those of other people too. I'm only saying that beyond those stories are deeper, more ancient, more real and magical ones - the stories the world tells us about itself. Those are the ones we need most desperately to know, hear, pass around, and honour.



* I mean this literally; as I wrote about in Suburban Magic,  my country is on a lost continent, Zelandia, which like a dreamer who has wandered away from the old dance.

The Wolf in the Forest

The first thing is, her name is Rebecca. She's spent years being identified as what happened to her, and she hates that. She hates the way people talk about whether her mother failed her or not, instead of asking her how her day went, what books she recommends, what her recipe is for the lavender scones she likes to make. So we won't be calling her Little Red Riding Hood here.




Secondly, she clenches her jaw every time someone brings up the wolf. She used to correct them, but she's given that up now. If they want to think there was a wolf in the forest, and that this wild and cunning animal was the point - if they want to ignore all the statistics about stranger danger, and go on with their lives in the comfort of knowing they just have to keep their children out of the woods - then she's content these days to let them. She tried as much as she could to set the story straight. My mother, she tells them, also believed in the wolf in the woods. She warned me about it, cloaked me against it, then sent me off to my grandmother's house where she said I'd be safe. But still they hear it wrong. Now she's stopped talking and started taking responsibility for her own peace.

Except, that is, for the nights she wakes crying, and she crawls into his embrace, knowing he is the only one who can calm her. Just as he was the only one who would save her, all those years ago. His arms are still strong; he can still wield an axe well enough to break down a door. And his smile is gentle as ever; he doesn't mind how she needs to keep the door unlatched, the light on at night, even after all this time.

Because she will never unsee the shadows in her grandmother's bedroom. And she will never entirely stop hearing the thin old voice saying, lock the door behind you. And if she sometimes washes herself over and again as if there's slime or blood on her skin she won't be rid of, that's because she can not forget how her grandmother swallowed her whole, even though she was eventually rescued.





Going Down to Our Knees For the Goddess

I have read that the goddess is rising, but I don't believe it. I believe it is we who are deepening. And she opens herself beneath us, always there beneath us; she is our ground.

(I don't mean only our soil and bedrock, although that too of course.)

And she does not rise because she has not been slumbering, nor been hiding. It is we who let her name be stolen from our hearts, who turned our faces from her presence. She never left us, and never will.




I am an old witch; I have spiderwebs in my hair. (I'm not so old literally speaking, but I wander around tracklessly through all the ages of myself.) My youth is encapsulated in one memory: rollerskating to the witchery shop with my birthday money when I was no more than thirteen. It's funny, faith in the goddess is widespread now, but the witchery shops hereabouts have all closed down. You can buy books and tarot online instead - but you can't smile at other women with flowers in their hair as you browse the aisles, nor come across a book on companion gardening that calls to your heart when you really went in there for something about crystals. You can't read community notices and get advice from the women behind the desk.




I'm an old witch and sometimes I feel sad. The ancient faith is becoming more mainstream again - the census this week asked me if I was pagan, Celtic pagan, or neo-pagan, and I sighed and randomly picked a term of mass generalisation, because there was no space to say follower of the brown-bellied, snake-eyed old mama and the barefoot king of the storms. But sometimes mainstream feels like it simply means how much is available to buy. And if I see one more sparkly book or internet quiz which allows me to figure out which goddess archetype I belong to and therefore what colours to wear, I'll likely growl.




But there are more true believers than ever before, and while I can't bump into them in the bookstore I can read online about their permaculture gardens ... and their travelling storyteller service ... and their soup kitchens ... and their heirloom seed collections ... and how they picked up rubbish from the beach ... and cradled an old cat into the long sleep ... and learned remedies to care for themselves ... and painted a leaping moon-hare in the forest ... People doing their prayers these days. My own church is the space beneath my fingernails, and my service is to pack that space full of dirt, sea salt, wind, typewritten hymns.

And even with the bookshops, and even without them, and even in the centuries of fire, and even with the census possibilities now, and way back then, and long past now, the goddess has not risen or fallen, but gone on being our sacred soul-ground.



Kissed by the Fairy King

I have the flu. I am an overwhelmed mess of fever and misery, and of course it's the hottest month of the year. I have been trying to carry on as usual, which is a big mistake. It feels like I've left mess behind me where ever I've gone this week. Mind you, it always feels like that, because I'm an introvert.




Being an introvert is hard. I think even if the whole world were introverted, it would still be hard. Being an introvert with too many opinions is the worst thing. You know you don't have the courage to say them, but you know you can't live your whole life in a secret ditch, so you push yourself and your opinions right out of that comfort zone as fast as you can, before your tiny scrap of courage fails - and often before you've given those opinions a little sensible, calm consideration. Then you're left with not only having spoken up, but having done so in a way you're no longer sure you can support, and people are going to look at you, and think about you, and even if you do hide away in your ditch again you know they're still out there looking and thinking.

I've had people say to me, you can dole it out but can't take it yourself. To which my reply is, yes, that's exactly right! I can give my opinion because I'm trying with all my strength to be a normal participating member of society, because I'm educated and halfway intelligent and I do have opinions - and because I've lived silent on the edge of civilisation, literally, and know the shrivelling pain of that - but the truth is that it is frightening, and it almost always hurts on a physical level, to speak out at all, let alone to cope with answers.

That's why so many of the women in my stories are meek - or seem at first to be meek, until they turn (sometimes literally) into dragons and hellcats. Partly it's because I feel quiet, shy women are under-represented in the fantasy/mythic fiction genre, but partly it's because I can't imagine what it would be like to walk through the world with a perfect sense of ease and entitlement to be there. And that's not a psychological issue, it's an introvert thing.

Perhaps we introverts are actually fey in some manner - our mothers kissed by a fairy king while pregnant with us, or our own selves touched or danced with when we were children, or oak shadows fell into our father's eyes on the day of our conception and so we were born knowing the languages of wind and shadow and old earth dreams, and we don't really quite belong to this world at all.

It's going to be hard to post this, and I might take it away later and now you know why. But I will post it for the others of you out there whose mothers were also kissed by a beautiful, lithe-eyed king of the wild, and magic shivered on down into your soul, and now you feel the rose thorns that threaten to rise if you speak, the hard-edged diamonds, the snakes of ancient magic, and still you fear silence.


illustration by jessie m. king

Home Tales

I love the rush of wind around my house, cocooning it for a moment in storm. I could make a hundred stories from it - the Hunter is sweeping his great net around, seeing what toothed shadows he can find; the Mother is exhaling stars. But really the wind is too familiar for that. It simply is itself.




Yesterday I went for a little while to a land of oak trees beneath a round green mountain. I almost never go to this place, and yet it too felt familiar. I walked a way I'd walked only once before, years ago, and it was if I'd walked it yesterday. I wonder what makes some lands like that and others endlessly fresh and intriguing. Perhaps the old heavy oaks were responsible for holding time slow and steady there. Perhaps it was the gravity of the mountain. I wanted to make a magical tale about my visit, but the land simply was itself.

Of course, if I lived there I would know its secret self-stories, its enchanted intimacies. In some places, the magic ... the rich beautiful magic ... is that it's home. 

Same for the wind. Home of the heart of the wild, horn-eyed god.




Snow White & Rose Red

Every night, Snow White and Rose Red waited for the bear to come out of the wild and lay down at their hearth. They both loved him in their own way, although they only half-knew it at the time. The half of them that swept their mother's cottage floors and read school books was innocent. The half that cast aside aprons and ran in the sunlit woods, the watchful shadowy woods, understood. It heard the new drum of their blood. It felt the tiny fires in their palms, their throats.




Snow White prepared soft blankets for the bear, plumped cushions, made food. Rose Red burned pinecones in the hearthfire so he would dream of his forest home.

Snow White lit candles and memorised classic poems to share. Rose Red gathered into herself the silences she had heard and loved in the deepest wood, beneath the palest moons.

Snow White saw the wit in the bear's honey-coloured eyes and the gold beneath his fur, at his heart. Rose Red smelled the musk and pine-bark on him and felt the warm strength within his arms.

Each wished she could be alone with the bear, but their mother always told them, “What one has she must share with the other.”

And so time passed, and the girls had adventures - strange forest, wicked dwarf - as girls should do, growing up. The wild part of them was drawn over and again to the dwarf; the innocent part kept trying to help him despite his wickedness. In the end, he betrayed them, which happens too often to girls, growing up. His servant was the bear they loved.

Kill them! he ordered the bear.

And the bear reared up.

But he loved those girls as much as they loved him ... he loved Snow White's gentle careful kindness, and Rose Red's dreaming alluring tenderness ... and the dwarf was a cruel master. So he struck the dwarf, killed him, instead of the girls.

All at once the dwarf's wicked magic died with the dwarf himself, and the bear was transformed! His furred skin fell away, revealing a handsome, gold-clad prince. Long had he been captured and transformed by the dwarf, and he'd despaired of his existence until two girls let him into their house and their hearts.

Snow White embraced the prince in her joy. But Rose Red sank to her knees by the discarded bearskin, weeping.

And as her tears fell on fur and claw, they began shifting. Shadows grew, birds fell silent, and the dwarf's wicked magic kept unravelling. For he had not only transformed the prince into a bear, but a bear into a prince. Now, at last, that bear regained its own shape, warm and brown, wild and strong. And it embraced Rose Red in its joy.

Snow White and her prince went away to his castle, where they were married within a golden chamber decked with embroidered velvet flags. When the old king died, they ruled the land with care and kindness. Rose Red and her bear went away into the forest, where they were married in a sunlit glade strung with leaves and roses. They ran the trackless tree-realm, living for dreams and love's tenderness.

Their mother stayed on in her cottage, and at the full moon Snow White visited her, and at the dark moon Rose Red visited her, and she lived happily ever after.







Instructions For When The Sky Falls




The stars have fallen down. I ride over them with my bike; they are gold and gold and silver on the small dark road, in the fine-boned rain. I feel like I am the moon's shadow going around and around over the stars, in the dark, in the storm. This is where I want to be, travelling stars, dress billowing, hair tangled, heart flying wild, through the night.


Some of us are not warriors, our voices or placards thrust into the air. Some of us are not wise gentle gardeners, instinctively knowing how to negotiate between lettuce and snails. But we can be witches if we want. Our own kind of witches - baggy stockings, pink purse, old Frost poetry as spells, or anything else. Anything we are.

Witches in the weeping night.




If you find fallen stars, taken a moment to grieve the wounded sky. Take another moment to look how beautiful the ground around you has become, even with those prickled star-edges and broken things. There is beauty in the broken, because now we can see the truth at the heart of everything.

Then begin the work. Those stars need gathering up and sending back to the moon. You have to be gentle though. You can't just fling them back up there in a slingshot. You need to climb a ladder or hire a hot air balloon or convince an eagle or something. Or all those things at different times. And maybe it will take years. But you can do it, you're a witch and a wise woman.

Just don't think you'll get the old constellations back again. You'll have to make new ones. That's okay, they'll be better ones. If the old constellations were still needed, they wouldn't have fallen.

And don't think your hands won't bleed, and your heart. Don't think it won't be exhausting, and you won't hurt. People will drive past blaring their horns at you. People will use the stars for their games of hockey. Understand, so many people lost their sky long ago. They don't know what to do with stars. They think the moon is a street lamp. They are in love with the daylight. Or maybe they love stars and don't realise these ones are yours. And that's alright. Leave the people to go their own way so they can find what they need. You're doing this work. Give them a smile or a word, but keep your eye where it belongs.

And other people will come now and again with a fleece-lined star bag, with bandages for your hands, with a cup of tea. Witches are everywhere. So are moon-eyed dreamers and gentle knights of the dark.

If you can't pick up stars, because it's too hard or because all yours are still in the sky, take tea instead.



The Song of the Jessamine

There is a jasmine hedge along my shared driveway which sings to me quietly every time I go past. It mingles with another kind of hedge that blossoms tiny, shy purple flowers ensconced in green wings; I do not know that they are. Half a dozen young trees rise behind the hedge, and altogether they gently shelter the kindergarten that owns them.





I have gathered flowers from the hedgerow for three years. Four years? Has it been that long? I have stood beneath it with my best friend, both of us laughing and dreamily sighing, as a sudden hailstorm pelted down. Every day I pass the hedgerow with its companion trees and think, at least I have them. In this neighbourhood where trees are slaughtered frequently, at least I have my sweet hedge.

Today they ripped it down.





I know there are many villains in the climate change story. Right now, I'm pointing my finger at the middle class. Those people who have just enough resources to try to get themselves more. They can pay the landscaper to cut down trees for the fancy patio with a barbecue they saw on tv and had to have because there's this hole in their heart they can't explain and perhaps a barbecue will fill it. If you think I'm being unkind, let me tell you what I found when I searched pinterest for "jasmine flower art" (pinterest being mostly patronised by the middle class). I found cartoons of a Disney princess and all the related memorabilia that you can buy. I found mostly photos of roses because apparently few people know what jasmine actually is. I found jasmine room perfumes, jasmine wedding decorations, jasmine body scrub. Only finally, far down one page, did I find art of jasmine flowers - all of it vintage.

The landscaper who was digging up tree roots as I went past stared at the look of horror and grief on my face and probably couldn't comprehend me at all. But yesterday I read yet again of how little hope our species has left, as well as those we are taking down with us, because of our materialistic greed. Perhaps the kindergarten is making way for a luxurious herbal garden. Somehow, I doubt it. And it's so much the worse because this is a place for children, and yet the small amount nature that surrounded them has been destroyed over and again. They will not learn from kindergarten how to identify jasmine flowers, be gentled by their scent, make fairy crowns from them, hear their soft soul-song. How can we hope that their generation will save the world?


Having A Staring Contest With The Trickster God

I have discovered my favourite style of house decoration is "in the middle of moving everything around." I don't think my gypsy heart is ever more comfortable than when there are picture frames, books, and baskets piled up on the sofa, and a stack of chairs in the middle of the room.*




I'm currently in a stage of disorder not only with my house but also my writing project. I'm here with a ramshackle pile of mythological resonances and no idea where to put them. I have characters stuffed in edgewise, scenes on top of other scenes, and a plot that has to go in the middle no matter what. It feels like Gwydion is sitting here with his feet up on the edge of my latest chapter, smirking like he always does.

Gwydion's a trickster-magician god of Welsh legend, incase you're wondering. He tends to swindle me into a story and then turn up a third of the way through saying, oh by the way now it wants a name ... and then after another third, oh by the way now it wants weapons ... Maybe I should sit with Arianrhod at her hearthside table and plot my revenge on him.



* As an aside, it occurs to me that the bohemian gypsy fashion for interior decoration ... which I sometimes consider for my own home, considering how many shawls and seashells I have around the place ... is remarkably cluttered (therefore materialistic) considering it's supposed to represent the free-spirited.

White Gold and Pearls

She comes in through my door bringing rain and the smell of gardens, the memory of long misty meadows. She smiles in that way she has. I tell her how good she looks and she won't hear it. (Women, why won't we hear it? We can believe our home decor and children and work presentations are good, beautiful, valuable - why not our hair, smile, face? We are made for love and to be loved.)






She goes out again what seems only a moment later and it's like she's been dancing around my heart. I've known her for decades, talked to her almost every day, and still this feeling - this being left with a smile. I feel like I could dance myself.

A small voice in my head tells me it was a good moment because I was part of it; I was smiling to make her smile. But I won't hear it.



The day is cold autumn rain and fierce summer cicadas. I am far away with the sea and old witches, and only tea is keeping me in touch with reality. I keep looking up and it's deep night and I'm sitting in the dark, needing to sleep but knowing as soon as I go to bed I'll think of a dozen things I want to be writing. This is the autumn and the summer in my heart.



I have added a new page to this website: a small collection of tiny poems.


Rain Witch

The sky is bone white and murmuring old grievances. I am wearing a cardigan for the first time in months and feeling that autumn is a possibility, even though I know the heat will soon come back more intensely than ever. Just for now though, I am feeling like myself. Did you know that a witch would wear a cardigan and a long lace skirt? Well this is how it goes: a witch wears anything she wants.

I found the following picture on twitter and have been sharing it with all the women I know. I'm afraid there's no indication of the original artist, but it would have been a girl, for sure. Maybe men feel like this too sometimes, but I suspect society has talked most of them out of teddy bears, which is a real shame.


Now I have to return to working on my latest project. I don't actually know what day this is (Friday? I think?) all I know is that it's Chapter Three. The hardest chapter to write, in my experience. I find short stories easier because they are about two and a half chapters in length.  You have no idea how many novels I have written up to Chapter Three and then discarded. Usually my heroines will start out like the picture on the right, because stories tend to find them in their brokenness, but it soon turns out they are the picture on the left and I have to change all my ideas and it becomes quite awkward.

And so I'm back to the stone forest and the ghosts. Have a beautiful day.



Wishes For Stories

Today someone asked me if I dreamed of fame and fortune as a writer. The honest answer is that I like the idea of fame, or at least to know thousands of people want to read my words, which is why I am grateful for a weblog because it gives me a public platform to better enable that. As for fortune, it would be lovely to make a living as an author, but that happens so rarely, and in most cases for a particular kind. I do not want to write young adult love triangles and I can not write humorous romances; I am given the stories I am given, and must serve them.



Wintering, from The Coracle Sky


I am asked to write for quiet people, wild dreaming people who may not smudge their houses with sacred herbs or know the names of woodland mushrooms but still are wild in a deep, internal way. Our kindred love books, and can never have enough of those that hold our hearts gently even as they take us into magic. These are the books I want to write, the people I want to reach. It is a quiet thing to do.




Deep In The Far Away


It is also all I can manage at this time. If a publisher knocked on my door, I would open it. But some shy-eyed witches are not good at traipsing around knocking on doors themselves. They need to stay in the forest. When I look back from my death bed, will I regret not hawking some action-adventure YA novel on the traditional market? Perhaps. More likely, I will be thinking instead of walking my baby along peaceful avenues, and baking chocolate cakes, and having someone tell me my story healed an old wound in their heart, and knowing a student passed their exams because of my encouragement, and sharing celebration days with my extended family.

The most important stories I have ever told were therapeutic tales spoken aloud to the one person they were given for. Fame doesn't equal important. Fortune is not the real measure of worth.

Travelling Through Water

The sea is close tonight. It washes over the plain not with water but dreams. I'm sitting in the dark, having forgotten to go to sleep. It's too late to head on down to the shore but I wish I could, for it feels like the shore is trying to come to me.

This evening someone asked me to go back in time. For a moment I thought yes, I could do that. I know how. But then I saw what I'd been unsure of until that moment - I really don't want to go back. The river doesn't flow like that. Following the current may be frightening, but it seems even more frightening to be swimming backwards, or standing on some old bank watching everything else move on without you. It's a different proposition of course to take what the past gave you and carry it forward. Wading, floating, paddling, motor boating - however you go or how fast you go doesn't matter, so long as you are always facing towards the sea.

See this is what summer does - fills my mind with water. Come winter I'll be writing in metaphors of dirt, probably.

The Paths Amongst Her Bones

There was a round wooden house in the hills, amongst the trees, and somehow it became part of me. I was only there twice, back before I should have had real memories. But that was enough, apparently. Enough for the smell of wood to be in my breath when I'm trying to calm myself. Enough for leafshadow and incence to lie beneath my skin.

There was an island of broken stone, and somehow I've walked its paths everywhere I go.





Some days I need to remind myself that I'm a grown up woman - almost fifty! That's when I put on quiet music and think back through rock rubble beneath bare feet ... pohutukawa singing ... rugs thickened with forest shadow ... the hills looking back at me ... and I place myself in all the places that are myself, until I'm here again.

On twitter recently the wonderful Robert McFarlane inspired a conversation about the small, private places we go on pilgrimage. Some people responded that there were places where they felt they'd left a part of themselves. For me, it is the other way - that some places have left themselves in me, perhaps called to do so by something they felt in me, some mystery or sympathy. And so I am pine, hill, wooden floors, narrow feral paths - whether I ever chose to be or not.


The Rules of Love

My days lately have been swathed in rain. Even better, it's been a little cold, which is like a special beautiful blessing for me. I wrap myself in a shawl and drink tea and let the breezes coming through my open door tell me their dreams.

But I am strange, and society never fails to tell me so. I'm supposed to love the summer, the warmth, the beach. This seems to be one of the rules of the human heart these days.





These days there are a lot of rules about love. I know we're getting better on the LGBT front, but the list of ways it's acceptable to love someone, or something, seems to be getting longer and more complicated as we work out how to find balance in our society. As a writer, I find it difficult sometimes. I take my inspiration from the old stories, the mythic tales, which are so often about the coming together in marriage of two different types of power - the king (mind, body) and the maid (heart, soul). To modern sensibilities, it seems like an imbalance of power. We tend to see things politically, and no fault to us that we do, considering the long fight we have waged, and continue to wage, against patriarchy.

And now the sky outside is turning luminous, silvery, like the light above the ocean. Another storm is coming. I will run away into the wilds of my heart and love it, no matter what anyone else thinks.



The Heroine's Mythic Journey

I have seen stories described in many ways. A path. A pyramid. An arrow shooting the story, and the reader, forward with increasing momentum. Everything is about the journey towards a goal. But for me this is a very masculine view of storytelling, and I wanted to conceive a narrative process which was more feminine in nature - ie, a template which gathered things in to create a richness and depth, rather than discarding things for the sake of a streamlined plot.





Women in  particular know that, in real life, no one focuses entirely on one problem, one goal. Even while toiling against the dragon (be that a work project, a family problem, a health issue, etc) we must help our children with their schoolwork, phone our elderly parents, put the rubbish out, buy birthday presents. And we know too that these everyday incidentals make our toil all the more dramatic - and all the more worthwhile.

I believe the best novels - at least, for me - are those which focus on the processes of people, rather than actions and events.

I am not an expert, and I can't even say that future stories of mine will adhere to my own narrative vision. It's just an idea I have, another herb to throw into the soup. A heroine's journey. A snake-like, sacred labyrinth-like path based on the cycles of the moon, coiling around itself and ending in the same place it began - and yet a very different place as well.



The way of experience.


Threshold

As she stands on the bones of her past and the seeded ground of her present, the world opens itself anew to the heroine. An experience comes, born of what she has sown in her life so far, although it may seem to impose itself upon her from some distant source. It belongs to her though, whether through her past choices or her heritage or her fate. And she is called out of her peace, out of herself. It is like the beginning of spring and the heroine is a plant emerging from the womb of the world. The Bee-wing Moon rises too, its delicate light speckled with the night's dark.





Wonder, mystery

Like a young child, the heroine is amazed and bewildered by her new experience. Everything seems new, even if it is a place she has lived all her life. The shadows are stranger, the winds have different songs. She must try to fit her old understandings to this new way of being, and struggles to do so. It is the season of the Lilac Moon, when blossoms flourish once more and storms shake the world - beauty and peril, promise and the wild.

Wishing

The heroine may become overwhelmed, daunted, by these changes in her life, and so she recoils inside herself. She reaffirms her ideas about how she wants to the world to be, never mind that everything is altered and can not be turned back. This is like the denial stage in grief - and the heroine must grieve her lost beliefs and her lost vision for the future, even if her new experience is a positive one. This is the Tender Moon, when the new growth either begins to strengthen and bloom or withers, unready for its existence in the sun.

Negotiation

The heroine has no real choice but to deal with her reality, and as she faces this, she takes what the world offers, and what she herself offers, and begins weaving them together to shape the new reality. She takes responsibility for her destiny. This is the Moon of Love-Singing, of coming together, choosing, making a covenant.

Allegiance

In deciding what she cares about, the heroine decides her path forward. It is a midsummer in her life, the season of the sacred King (and the King Moon). He represent the values and beliefs the heroine knows she wants to work for, even when the world is roaring at her like a dragon.

Work

At this stage of her journey, the heroine takes a deep breath and, although she may feel unready, she begins to do what is necessary. She toils, she confronts the Beast, starts a new project, fights the dragon. The Water Moon comes at her with all its challenges, but she must go on despite drought or flooding; she must do the work or else all will be lost.

Insight

Now the heroine comes to a new threshold. This reflects the beginning of her journey, only it occurs within her heart. Because she has begun the work, she feels less overwhelmed and frightened. With the experience she's gained, she understands now what has happened for her and why. At this point, the ostensible goal may even be reached - her work may have defeated the dragon - but the journey to soul's fulfillment may still go on within. It is the time of the first harvest, and the Gold-heart Moon. The heroine sees some reward for her labours, but there is a way to go yet.




Change

Using her new strength and insight, the heroine is able to begin making real changes to her life and herself, with a sense that is both as fresh as wonder and as calm as wisdom. You may notice how this also reflects the second stage of her journey, but at a deeper level. Now she fears less any mysteries that arise,  because she has proven herself thus far: she knows she can handle what is thrown at her. It is as if she has reached true adulthood. This is the season of the Gathering Moon, when women traditionally begin to stockpile for winter. The heroine has gained skills and understandings which she stores up within her heart for the future.

Letting go

But change always brings inner consequences. The heroine must release her old wishes, accepting now that they will not come and the world is different from how she imagined it would be. She must also let go of all that is no longer needed, lay down her sword, and bury the dragon's bones so they may nurture future growth. It is like autumn leaves are falling, and she is a mature, if weary, middle-aged woman. Once again she is facing her grief, but more deeply, for she better appreciates now what she had truly sacrificed for the sake of a better future. This is the Sparrow Moon, when things get real.

Consolidation

With all her losses behind her, and all her gains at hand, the heroine now deepens upon the process of her earlier negotiation, and makes something solid and worthwhile within her life that she feels happy with. Under a Moon of Peace-Dreaming, she can begin to imagine the future again, confident that she has done the right thing.

Test

And yet, just as she settles, the test comes. The dragon rises for one final rush of fire. It may seem like a new breakdown but is only a natural swaying backward, a making sure. There are things which still need doing but the heroine did not have enough insight to realise it until now. With her increased maturity, she proves herself in this final struggle. She proves that the problem will no longer threaten her peace and sense of self. Like the Midwife Moon, she gives birth to the future hope, the sun.

Wisdom

The story ends like winter ends, and the world opens itself in a fresh new season. The heroine stands beneath the Quiet Moon, contemplating the place she has made for herself. It is a loveliness of bones and tiny new growth. And as she looks out over it, she sees something beginning to take shape from the landscape of her memories and dreams ... a door opening ... stitches unravelling ... a new journey that calls.






After I completed Deep in the Far Away, I compared it to this narrative template and realised it naturally pretty much fit. (Granted, the new epilogue for the second edition slightly changed things, but I guess that depends on each reader's imagination.)

I hope you can see how this structure might carry a story ... whether it be a written story or something happening in your actual life ... and that you find a certain degree of worth in it for yourself. Each of these waymarkers of course overlap, and are of differing lengths, and sometimes linger on even while the others go ahead.


Here is part one in more detail: The Start of the Story






The Songlines of My Sky

A dear reader asked for my list of personal moon names. I came up with these many years ago when frustrated with all the northern native moon names. Some of them were mentioned in The Storyteller of Cyriae, one of the tales in Driftways. I believe we benefit from developing intimate relationships with nature - therefore, noticing what each month (moon) brings to our own neighbourhood and acknowledging that with a particular name.

These are my personal moons, the songlines of my sky ...






Bee-wing Moon. 

August. Imbolc in my part of the world: the first stirrings of spring. I have written about the Bee-wing moon here. It's probably my favourite chapter in the annual story of life.


Lilac Moon.

September. This is the month when lilac and wisteria begin to blossom all through my neighbourhood. It was a little late this year, but climate change has been making obvious alterations to the natural pattern of weather and growth here, and the lilac blossom was one of them. Infact we had little blossom of any kind in 2017. Next year, I may have to begin calling this moon something else. It will be a floral name for sure though, in honour of Ostara which is on the 21st of this month.


Tender Moon.

October. This is mid-Spring in my part of the world. I remember as a child Winter traditonally began in May, but now its start is June, which shoves all the other seasons along a month too, and so whereas I would call October late-Spring, it's now the middle. None of it matters of course as our quadrant of seasons increasingly dissolves. More and more Aotearoa is developing a wet/dry seasonal pattern. We still have Spring, but Autumn is much reduced now where I live.





Moon of Love-Singing.

November. The heat begins to increase and the cicadas emerge with their mating call. I also call this month the Moon of Love-Singing because it begins with Beltane, the marriage of the God and Goddess.


King Moon.

December. This moon is named in honour of the God who is celebrated on Litha, or summer solstice, December 21st.


Water Moon.

January. This is the time of increasing heat and humidity, but also storms. Almost every single January for as long as I can remember, people have gone on their New Year's camping holidays and been flooded out by storms. And every single time, they are surprised. So I name this moon for the damp air and the dream of rain and the sudden storms that swing in from the hot north-western seas. I might have once called it Flower Moon I think, but flowers no longer flourish in local gardens this month, it's just too hot and dry and then it all gets flooded.


Gold-heart Moon.

February. The heat reaches disgusting levels, just as children go back to school. Increasingly, we have been experiencing droughts, and instead of rich green summer fields we see great swathes of crackling gold. You can't walk on it barefoot, there are too many prickles. The first harvests begin to come in, lovely gold wheat for bread, lovely gold fruit sold cheaply in the markets - infact, today is Lammas.





Gathering Moon.

March. This could also be known as Harvest Moon, or Thanksgiving Moon, for the fuller harvest comes in. I personally like Gathering Moon because it's a time to not only gather fruits and vegetables for storing so you have a plentiful supply over winter, but also because in March I begin to wash all my blankets and winter sheets in preparation for the cold months ahead. I buy hot water bottles and candles and such things. I should mention that March can be the hottest month of all here, or perhaps just feels that way because I'm so weary of summer by then, and my gathering is more from wishing than any immediate need.


Sparrow Moon.

April. It should be deep Autumn now, but lately this is the month when trees begin to show a little brown, and the weather starts to become cooler. I read back over something I wrote three years ago about April, and am surprised at how much the season has changed even since then. It's still cardigan weather, but duller and less enchanting than it used to be. I love the moons of this month, they are lush and red-gold, rising from a new angle on my horizon which contrasts them with certain terrain to make every one of them look like a supermoon. I also notice the sparrows a great deal in this month, and so named it for them.


The Moon of Peace-Dreaming.

May. This used to be the start of winter but is now our proper Autumn month. Perhaps the conditions are different in the hinterland and hills of Aotearoa, but here on the coast the trees are shedding leaves and the prevailing mood is quiet and brown. Easter's storms have passed and nature seems to be gentling itself towards rest. I used to call this Shedding Moon, back when I lived in a wooded valley. Here, by the sea, the feeling of deepening peace is stronger.


The Midwife Moon.

June. This is the month of Yule, the winter solstice, when the goddess gives birth in the dark to the sun. I believe that winter, darkness, and shadow are rich, gently wild, and fertile places of growth, simply unnoticed by our sun-lit above-ground eyes. Cailleach, the crone, the old mother, the winter goddess, is the midwife into life (and death). You can meet her as Hecate in the story of Persephone & Demeter; as Baba Yaga; as the witch of many old tales. She stands at the doorway and opens, closes, for us all. I have half a novel written about her - one day I really ought to get back to it.





Quiet Moon.

July. This is the old heart of winter. It's cold, white-cold, burning cold. The whole world seems quieter as people tuck themselves in. I love the smell of chimney smoke that drifts through still night skies. I love the silence behind the winds. I'm too old now to say this is my favourite month, as it used to be - my joints suffer too much from that cold. But I love its quiet. I love the feeling of rest.


For each of these months I have a step in a Heroine's Mythic Journey, a narrative pattern for stories and therapy, which I devised some years ago. I've written about it before. If you'd like to hear it again, do let me know.




The Medicine of the Upturned Sea

I was almost home this morning when I decided to keep going. Sometimes that happens, doesn't it? You just keep going until you find yourself at the edge of the world. I stopped on the last strand of it, the pale sand, and watched seafoam wash up almost to my feet. I do not love the sea but this morning I had been drawn irresitably to its wild peace.




Waves were crashing against the stone walls, and the king tide filled all but one filament of the beach. I smiled because I know this sea in all her moods, her silver-netted gentleness and her storms. That was where the medicine lay for me - simply in that quiet connection I have with her. I needed nothing from the waters, no weeds or dreams, no bottled words, no rising whale. I only needed to see her, recognise her, and so in some strange way recognise me.

I came home to blueberry scones and tea, and to a book in which the characters said I love you to each other, something I needed after the bleakness of the le Guin stories I'd been reading this week, while rain flew against my cottage like sea against stone.