Tuesday, 31 October 2017

A witch's tail for Samhain

It's Samhain, one of the most important festivals of the pagan year, and I'm up with the sunrise on the hill, hugging a tree, my face buried in the soft lichen enveloping its trunk, before looking out across the valley towards the sea.

There's no-one about and the air is still and clear. There are fairies up on this hill, although I've not encountered one as yet. However, it's the best place and time to breathe in the freshness, ever so deeply, and commune with nature.

Samhain is the highest holy day of witches. I'm a complete novice when it comes to witchery but I can relate to it far better than I can to Halloween, with its supermarket costumes and gummy sweets and cruel tricks on people who have the audacity not to see the cute side of children at their door demanding treats with menaces. 

Mind you, I do like the effect a lit pumpkin can have on a dark night.

And that's the point about Samhain. It's about passing from the light into the darkness, where the veils between the worlds are at their thinnest. This is the time to honour and offer hospitality to our ancestors.

So after a few words to the sons and daughters of the soil who have gone before me in years gone by, and some not that long ago, I walk around the top of the hill, scuffing through a pathway of fallen leaves, and watch how the shafts of sunlight come through the ancient beech trees.

Truly magical.

Back down the hill and I take the dog upstairs with me for company as I open up my laptop in the spare bedroom, choosing a suitable spiritual soundtrack on YouTube to cleanse my aura while I do some work.

As I awaken the goddess within, Mr Grigg crashes through the door yelling, 'rat, rat!' Because down in the kitchen, you see, a large brown rat has just brazenly walked out from behind the wood panelling to nibble at the insides of a pumpkin, reserved from last night's carving to make some soup.

In the kitchen, Mr Grigg is on the telephone to Nobby Odd Job, giving a running commentary of the events unfolding near the toaster. From the safety of the step in the hall, I can see the rat coming and going as if it's a rent-paying tenant, while our two cats - the laziest animals in the world - just carry on sleeping on the sofa.

'I'm getting a trap from the garage!' Mr Grigg yells, before I get the chance to ask if we possess a humane one.

Within minutes, the rat gets a little too close to the trap, and then creature and contraption hurtle high up into the air as Mr Grigg makes the sort of noise he usually reserves for a hat trick by his favourite Bristol City striker.

The dog is crying and I, too, am a bit worried. I might be complicit in killing a living being on Samhain, which surely can't be a good thing. A rat is a rat and I could have trained it to be my familiar, although I realise at this point I am being pretty fanciful.

'Take a picture, take a picture!'

It grieves me to say that I do, but I quickly delete it and decide not to post it here. I vow to make time in between tonight's Boden shopping party and a showing of The Shining at the village hall to light some candles to honour and remember the dead. 

And if I care anything about karma, I need to say a few words in memory of the rat. At least it died happy.

That's about it.

Love Maddie x

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Happy Diwali from India

An elephant pulls up alongside us at the traffic lights.

We're in Jaipur, India, and very much enjoying the Pink City.

We deliberately avoid riding on one of these noble creatures up to the Amber Fort though - much to the surprise of our lovely driver, Rajiv - because we're concerned about the animals' welfare.

Still, we see plenty of them, and lots of other things beside, on our Trailfinders trip to India's Golden Triangle - Delhi, Agra and Jaipur - and then on to Shimla on The Himalayan Queen 'toy train' up into the cool of the mountains.

So many stories, so many wonderful moments, it's hard to pick out just one highlight, because everything is so special. Mr Grigg and I will never forget our visit to Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahibthe Sikh temple in Delhi, where hundreds of people are fed every day.

The Taj Mahal is more serene and jaw-droppingly beautiful than anyone could ever imagine, even with hundreds of people walking around the grounds. It changes colour according to the light.

In Northern India, there are ancient sites and temples wherever you look. Colour and noise and smells. Glorious chaos.
This is a country  of contrasts, dichotomies and ironies. It's where well-fed pigeons gorge on corn while, just steps away, young children weave their way in and out of traffic, tapping on car windows and beg for money.

Where there are cows wandering the streets along with monkeys. Tigers in the jungle and even this one in Shimla.

It's like nowhere else on earth.

Today is Diwali, the  festival of lights, which celebrates the victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance.
That's about it.

Love Maddie x

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