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Observing Rituals

Ritual

(ceremony, observance, ritualistic)

Noun: a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a service of actions, performed according to a prescribed order.

Adjective: of, relating to, or done as a religious or solemn rite.

Sat cosily in my favourite place, in Manchester’s Northern Quarter on a chilly Autumn morning, hugging a hot drink…my mind wanders to Autumn/Winter. To cold walks wrapped up in heavy coats, boots, hats and scarves. To frosty mornings, getting caught in the rain, coming in after work to a warm house and preparing a hearty meal. To the festivities around Hallowe’en, Bonfire Night and Xmas. I have always been in love with this time of year. Spring and Summer don’t hold a candle to the memories, promise and comfort I find in our colder seasons.

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While some view the loss of summer as a ‘death’ and mourn the long, balmy days, cool linens, sun drenched skin…I see beautiful colours, harvests, plants conserving their energy and changing their form during winter. Their showy green leaves gone, and their delicate, dark limbs saturated in rain, sparkling in frost or heavily laden with snow. I prefer my wardrobe at this time of year, layers and textures which speak to me. Drapes of velvet, silk, heavy wools, leather, suede. Embroidery, brocade, layered lace, rows of decorative buttons, heavy metallic zips.

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There are several rituals I choose to observe this time of the year, some consciously, others by habit.

Autumn is a time for planning, for reviewing your year and whether it has delivered everything you wanted. I feel a surge of inspiration, which is great for starting projects, or revisiting neglected ones. I want to ‘do’, to create, to make, to write, cook, read… There are traditions, some are long-standing with my family, others are newer. I believe there’s room for creating new ‘traditions’, as a desire to recreate that same event/activity in the future.

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As I look around me, I see tables full of people. A couple who look like Mother and Daughter, sat quietly sipping tea, people watching. A couple of tourists, absorbing the detail around them, excited when their order arrives and chatting quickly to one another. On another two tables, men sitting alone, enveloped in their books, tearing themselves away only for a flat white and eggs royale.

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The decor is familiar, with it’s mismatching furniture, tables wearing floral skirts, with jars of pretty flowers atop. Corners with armchairs, sofas and floor standing lamps wearing their hats. Glass domes cover an array of cakes lined up across the bar, some from your childhood and some new, incredibly beautiful creations. I notice no one is on their phone, no one is using any technology, instead we are all mindful in our experiences.

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For me, this is key to a ritual. A sense of immersing yourself in it and taking time to savour. I think about the people I’ve brought here. Loved ones, family and friends. People I care about and want to share it with, and just as many times on my own. Bustling tables of shared conversation, forks in other peoples food versus a more reflective, self indulgent time.

Food has a nostalgic power unlike anything else.

The scent of something freshly baked, cooking in the oven or feel of it under our fork can be very powerful.

SJ3The foods I long for are those that filled Autumn days and nights as a child. All homemade. Soups, pasta bakes, cottage pie, really good beans on toast, eggs….any eggs to be honest, whether it’s an omelette, boiled egg and soldiers or poached eggs, custard tarts, sponge sandwiches, fruit cake, scones and biscuits. There is a ritual around sitting and sharing food you have poured love into with others. Taking time away from your busy days and just doing that.

Making plans for the rest of the year is made all the easier, by my senses being happy. This regular ritual of time alone to think and plan, literally feeds a broader ritual of stimulating my creative brain through nostalgia. One many would be wise to indulge….

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All photos taken by me at Tatton Park and the glorious Sugar Junction http://www.sugarjunction.co.uk @sugarjunction

 

http://www.bettyherbert.com/autumn-brain-detox/


The Scarlet Fawn

Walking through the violent wind towards where the trees thickened, she pulled her coat tightly around her. She had ignored it for too long. Not acknowledging the flecks of light at the corners of her eye, or the glaring messages put in front of her every day.

Changing direction, the wind whipped up the scent of jasmine. She clenched her jaw tightly. It was angry with her. She did not need reminding of jasmine’s affiliation with tonight, less still of its ability to induce prophetic dreams. Her dreams were insistent enough, repetitive and demanding.
The sound of the wind drowned out everything else, audibly, but she could feel the sounds vibrate through the ground, up through her legs. They knew she was coming.

The air thickened, rich with vegetation spores. She breathed more deeply, trying to fill her lungs through the smothering, unfulfilling air. She hadn’t noticed the wind had disappeared. She was now deep into the trees, light fading, her pace steady now it wasn’t pushing against the angry wind. The ground was wet, giving under her boots, groaning as moss spilled water onto surrounding leaves and organic litter. In her wake, tiny multi-legged creatures stirring. Woken by her step, it was true then, she was coming to help. Ariadola’s rage building, she knew they had evoked this, they needed it. Her hair curling further as she walked, refusing to be obedient now she had finally immersed herself. She knew better than to ignore the little messages given to her, her Grandmother had taught her that much. A hateful woman with too much judgement for others and declarations of ‘should’ thrust upon anyone within earshot. But yet she was intuitive in ways no one else could articulate to her Granddaughter. Helping her to see the things she had dismissed as unlikely, coincidence and fanciful; were in fact going to make themselves evident in more obvious, spiteful and dramatic ways.
Ignoring even the things you don’t want to face, don’t want to be part of was never advisable.

Arriving in front of Yggdrasil she steadied her breathing. A colossal tree which is believed to support the Heavens. Thereby connecting the heavens through it’s roots, to the underworld. Its enormous weight heaving above her, arms stretched further than she could see towards the sky. Blocking out the small amount of remaining light, beautiful and terrifying in its stature. She reached down to take off her boots, taking in everything around her, every sound and movement. Ariadola hated the feel of sodden earth around her feet, even after all this time. Placing her naked feet onto the ground, she shifted them, burying them into leaf matter. Her toes squeezing cold, thick earth between them. Instantly she could feel the change, see the movement around her. Eyes glistening from behind foliage, low guttural sounds in between the creaking of Yggdrasil. Her breathing shallow, she could feel it moving into her feet, she imagined it forcing its way through the pores in her feet. Joining her blood in delicate capillaries, spilling in like ink in water. Adriadola could feel its heat gripping her, as she tries to relax and allow Yggdrasil to whisper to her through her own body. Crouching on the ground, feet still planted in the soil, she starts to dig. Her fingers clawing into the muddy paste, punctuated with leaves, twigs, seeds, and the smallest of creatures. Focused, she digs rhythmically, unaware her timing is in sync with the animalistic baying around her.
Muttering under her breath, Ariadola’s head tilts back. Swooping down from Yggdrasil’s arms, quick black wings, papery and glistening in the dusk. In a swift movement the three moths enter Ariadola’s open mouth. Still, and silent, she drops her chin back towards her chest. Opening her eyes, now an iridescent grey. No colour, no pupil evident. She continues digging, her pace quicker. Spiders emerging from splits in the wood, millipedes and beetles from the soil under her hands. The great tree reaching its spidery roots towards her, Yggdrasil finds her fingertips. Tendrils sent plunging through the sodden earth towards her hands, they emerge, clasping around her fingers. Winding up her wrists, tightening their grip. Through her toes, the wiry roots emerge, snaking her ankles. Bound to the earth, Ariadola’s muttering has stopped, she gasps, looking up at the great tree.
She hears the loud chattering above her before she sees them. Black feathers that look lacquered, greedy, beaded eyes and pure white. The feathers on their black wings looking like they’d been dipped in petrol, their ultramarine sheen clear to see, even from the floor of the clearing.

The Magpies hopped down next to her, ‘talking’ to her as they approached. Their inquisitive eyes deciding where to start. Behind the grey eyes, Ariadola knows she must give, she isn’t sure what. Ambling forward on springy feet, the Magpies disappear out of sight by her side. Unable to turn her head, with her limbs tethered, she breathes deeply, listening to Yggdrasil’s whispers. Razor sharp beaks pierce through her flesh neatly, deliberately, through to the fat sitting between her lean ribs. Methodically they work, piercing through skin, flesh and muscle, their beaks tearing away fat. Swallowing it down.The tendrils tighten as Ariadola flinches, pulling her fingers further into the soil. Elbow deep, she tries to suppress the rising panic in her throat as her hands move deeper into the soil, the Magpies still picking at her ribs.

Through the soaking soil, her fingers suddenly clasp around something. The tendrils loosen slightly, allowing her numb fingers to fill with blood and sense what she has in her hands. Moving around the cold creature, she could feel fur, short fur, and hooves. It was small, and didn’t seem to be moving. The Magpies had stopped. With bruised ribs, Ariadola pulled her arms back from the earth, the hooved shape along with them. The tendrils unwinding back into the depths. At the surface Ariadola’s creature was caked in mud. Using her coat to clean him, she rubbed, its cold limbs unresponsive and still. Massaging its lifeless body, she leant forward, lightly pressing her mouth against the animals muzzle. The three black moths happily escaping from her throat into the creatures.
Eyes clear, she took in its static form. Reaching over, she snatched one of the Magpies. Quickly unfastening her coat pin, she plunged the silver length into the bird‘s chest. Its scarlet blood seeping into the white feathers on its breast. Ariadola holds the bird over the fawn’s mouth, squeezing, feeling the bird’s ribcage cracking under her grip. Its scarlet fluid filling the cold fawn. Rubbing her hands over him for warmth, the creature stirred, opening its scarlet eyes to meet hers. It was done.

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