Kestrel's Nest

The Second Year - Winter
Samhain 2003 - Imbolc 2004

At Samhain I moved to my new home in the heart of the country, new friends, new experiences. A time of change.

The Dead Time
On a gold dinar of Saladin and a silver denier of Richard, Coeur de Lion
True Lies
How will I go?
Song of Life
Kali Ma
Blood Moon
Eviction Notice - The Reply
Unwanted Advice
The Fleeting Wren
Candlemas Song

The Dead Time

Ok, so I get depressed in early December. It's something to do with the onset of Christmas, the whole commercial, exploitative, false, unsatisfying nature of how it is now celebrated. Also I'd just moved and the whole effort of moving and sorting my old house for sale was just getting on top of me. So I end up writing this. It came about from driving into Oxford one morning as the Sun rose gradually getting brighter and making it difficult to see where I was going. And, at night, it froze hard and the meadow by my house was covered by needles of frost and the full moon shone down over it, the whole scene filled with menace.

The Sun, low and rising
Turns from blood-red to yellow
And then to searing white.
It burns my eyes, I cannot see my way,
It blinds my living senses.
So weak and yet so strong,
Even in this dead time it can burn,
Wildly stamp its mark and
Unconstrained, leave havoc in its wake.

The Moon, ice-cold above the meadow
Brightly shines, leaving false trails
That lead to icy fingers and a frozen tomb.
For now is the dead time;
The frost-cold living time of Death
When Ice can burn as well as Fire
And turn flesh from live to dead as quick.

Beware this time, the dead time,
It is not our time.
It is the time that Spirits rule and
Seek Companions from out the living.
Take timely warning,
For you may well be marked
And friends await your coming...

© Angela Grant (Kestrel) 9/12/2003

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At this time I am in the middle of a Living Druidry course and in that course concentrating on the element of Earth. Several on the course had reported difficulties with concentrating on this element. I'd not had a problem. I have always been in good contact with Earth from the beginnings of my paganism. I wanted to express the positive aspect of Earth and this is what came. It is not comfortable but it speaks to me.

I am Malkuth, the Kingdom,
      The Shekinah, the Maiden,
      First principle of Godhead.
I am Gaia, the Womb of Life;
      The warm darkness that
      Gives birth to all.

Mine are the rocks,
      Bare bones of the world,
      Strong, tall and proud.
Mine is the soil,
      The rich mud of life
      That feeds all and is all.
Mine are the trees,
      Sentinels of the forest,
      Guardian spirits of the land.
Mine is the grass,
      Green, nourishing and welcoming,
      The heart of life.
Mine are the creatures
      Whose spirits follow and guide;
      Worm, snake and bird,
      Deer, horse, fox and badger,
      Hawk and dove, coney and bear.
Mine are the bones
      Both buried and alive;
      Both frame of living flesh
      And symbols of death,
      Memento Mori.
Mine is the tomb,
      Ice-cold and welcoming,
      Womb of warm rebirth.
Mine is life and death
      And all that is in it,
      The cycle without ending
      Or beginning.

My arms enfold you;
      I am All, the One,
      The Mother, Everything…

© Angela Grant (Kestrel) 17/12/2003


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On a gold dinar of Saladin and
a silver denier of Richard, Coeur de Lion

A poem for peace...

Eastern sun, intricate and golden,
Covered with strange characters
That tell us if we can but read
That Yusuf son of Ayyub,
Salah ed-Din, struck this coin
In Alexandria and declares
There is no God but Allah alone
And Mohammed is His Prophet.

Western moon, rough and silvery,
Tells in plain Latin that
Richard of Aquitaine struck this
And only the cross, symbol of life and death,
Marks this as Christian.

But both sail with false colours.
The gold with silver alloyed is
As Outremer divided was
Between Frank and Paynim,
And martial strife softened
By rich eastern silks.

The silver with base copper is mixed
As the light of fervent zeal was enriched
With the blood of many corpses
Because two races, two beliefs, two cultures,
Strove to hold the same piece of ground.

This metal remains to tell
Of that ancient strife
And give a message to the world
That peace can only come
By sharing one-to-one
This world of beauty
Only ours by gift…

Photographs and poem
© Angela Grant (Kestrel) 19/12/2003

Numismatic note: Richard did not mint any coins in his own name in England, simply continuing the coinage in the name of his father Henry II. The only coins that exist in his own name are for his possessions in France. Both coins illustrated are approximately the same size the gold dinar being 19mm in diameter and the denier 18mm.

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True Lies

Be careful following
       Where others have gone before.

In the forest once
      I took a track;
      It looked well beaten
      As if often used.
But it became difficult,
      Branches crossed it low
      And I slowly realised
      It was made by creatures
      In whose veins
      No human blood flowed.
But I held to it
      Becoming more fearful
      With each step I took,
      Unable to return.
The path held me
      Until edging a precipice
      It ended in thorns.
I stood there on the edge
      Gazing at a fallen tree below,
      Long-dead, moss covered,
      Splayed out like a corpse fallen
      And thought a wrong step now
      And I will join it.
Only by an effort of will
      Could I climb the slope
      To safety and a true path.

Beware truths apparent,
      They may be lies in disguise…

© Angela Grant (Kestrel) 28/12/2003

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How will I go?

What shall I do when I die?
Shall I go softly into the night?
Shall I howl my head off,
Fiercely protesting at the injustice?
Shall I agonize about what I have left behind,
Unfinished and undone?

I know what I would like to do.
I would like to go with friends around me
Safe in the knowledge I had done what I could.

Maybe I should in blaze of glory go
Like Thelma and Louise;
But it would be an empty gesture
And rate no more than minor headline
In a local rag.

How will I go?
Only fate will decree;
Wilful chance,
Nothing more…
Oh shit!
Hail Fortuna! All hail!

© Angela Grant (Kestrel) 30/12/2003

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Song of Life

This also was written as a result of the Living Druidry course. On the first day of a weekend dedicated to the Element of Air, Bobcat said that everything in the world has its own Song if we are willing to stop a while, relax, and just listen. This came to me in a jumble the following morning as I was about to take a shower and, stark naked as I was, I just had to write it down before it disappeared again. So this is the only example of naked poetry on the website. :o)

I hear the Sea’s Song;
The thunderous crash of breakers
     On a shingle beach;
The soft lap, lap on a quiet day,
And Sun-sucked waters
     Falling again as soft rain
     Or rattling as hail on tin or glass,
And the tinkling of tiny streams
     Plish-ploshing under rain’s fall,
And the wake of boats whooshing
     Along a river’s banks;
I hear the Sea’s Song.

I hear the Wind’s Song;
Howling as it uses chimneys
    As penny whistles;
Roaring through treetops
    In uprooting gale;
Or in gentler times,
The rustle of aspen
    Or the willow’s whisper;
Singing through tall grasses
    And cracking through corn;
I hear the Wind’s Song.

I hear the Earth’s Song;
The clatter of horse’s hooves
    On rounded cobbles,
And grass being munched
    By ruminant cows;
The crows’ calling in dawn’s light
    And owls by moonlight;
The deer’s bark in the woods
And the soft vibration hum
    Of the living, breathing mud;
I hear the Earth’s Song.

I hear the World’s Song;
All existence calls to me
    In the exuberance of life
And I answer with joy
    And join my voice
    To the voice of the Web of Life;
I hear the World’s Song!

© Angela Grant (Kestrel) 11/1/2004

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More on the Element of Air.

I have learned the hard way
    That humans can’t fly.
I fell off a ladder once
    And did my back in.
Much pain came from that
    And the lesson to be wary next time.

I have dreamed of falling
    From a long way up,
With old railway tracks below
    Plummeting between tall buildings
‘ Til just before the sickening thud
    I woke in terror.

Yet in a vision
    I have flown as a hawk,
Weaving through treetops,
    Lighting on high perches
And diving down, down
    To catch the unknowing vole.

I have felt the wind
    In my feathers
And have played the gusts
    And thermals
In a complex dance
    And held position
Quivering my wing tips
    As I watch for tell-tale signs.

There is no way I could know
    These sensations,
Yet I do,
    But I still take care
Ascending ladders…

© Angela Grant (Kestrel) 13/1/2004

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Kali Ma

Robert Tye, the expert on oriental numismatics, has rightly pointed out that the design of the Lakshmi staters of North India is actually a tromp d'oeil. Not only is it the figure of the beautiful Lakshmi, seated cross-legged on a lotus, but also the grinning face of Kali with her necklace of human skulls.

Dark Mother
With skin the colour
    Of deepest void.
Goddess of Love and Death
With statues bathed in
    Your victims’ gore.
Whose devotees' first breath
    Was flavoured
    With the sweet taste
    Of their mother’s blood.

Two-faced, for should not love
    Be sweeter flavoured?
But Lakshmi’s lotus petals
    Are the colour of shrouds
And wedding saris are red
    With the white moon’s flow.

Ask not the final sacrifice
    Of me
But give me yet a little while
    I ask of you
To live my life
    Without your dark shadow
    Coming near
Bringing with it the darkness
    Of the tomb
    And undiscovered futures
    And lives unknown…

Text and pictures
© Angela Grant (Kestrel) 13/1/2004

The coin illustrated is in the name of Govinda Chandra of the dynasty of the Gahadavalas of Kanauj and Kasi. The coins were minted in his lifetime and posthumously c. 1114-1154 CE. Assays have shown that the coins contain equal quantitities of gold, the metal of the Sun and the lotus' centre, silver, the metal of the Moon and lotus petals, and copper, the metal of fire and blood.

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Blood Moon

The Blood Moon Grove is a women's keening group that meets irregularly and by invitation at places where pain is in the fabric of the place to wail the easing of that pain and the pain of the members' own hearts. It is not a comfortable place and definitely not for the faint-hearted.

I feel the cold
     Entering my soul,
Freezing the very essence
     Of my being.
Why am I here
     In this icy darkness?
To add my voice to
     The howling silence
     Of the woods;
To join my pain
     To the deep and hurting
     Anguish of the world
And maybe thus
     To dissipate them both.
There is sweet relief
     In the howling of the pain
     In such an empty place
     Full of spirits.

And so we gather
    Live and Dead alike,
    And with the murmuring
    Of countless rooks
Begin to wail
    The deepening anguish
    Of the soul
Until with final wild
    Rising crescendo
    There comes an inner peace
And with soft farewells
    We take our leave
    Each to each allotted place
To meet new challenges
    And new hopes
    With the rising dawn…

© Angela Grant (Kestrel) 17/1/2004

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Eviction Notice - The Reply

Have I sinned against the world
     By being?
Have I so offended you by my existence
     That I must be
     So forcibly removed?
I have been here so long.
It is as if an age has passed
     Since I was born;
Yet you remove me.
Is my spirit something
     You object to?
Just because you want to get
     From there to here
     A little faster
And I am in the way.

Is it so important,
    All this hurry?
Will worlds collide
    Or a Universe
    Come to an end
Just because it takes
    Ten minutes longer?
You rush so much;
    Give yourself ulcers
    And heart attacks
With all this stress on time.

You never take a moment
    To see the magic around you.
The beauty of wild flowers,
    The gentleness of soft breezes,
    The scents of woodland
Mean nothing to you.

My one consolation
    Is that I know
    It wouldn’t matter to you
    If I were human
Instead of being
    Just a tree…

© Angela Grant (Kestrel) 21/1/2004

This was written in reply to a request for poetry to be attached to trees in the way of a road development at St David's Wood in Wales.

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I watched them this morning
    Above the trees,
The Vulcan bombers of the birds;
Swooping and weaving,
    Playing on the thermals;
So at ease, so untroubled
    In their mastery of the skies.

And me, so earthbound,
    Longing to be up there with them;
Lost in my own thoughts
    And my own troubles.
Wishing to be free
    To sail the air as any bird
    Was born to do.

Freedom is a gift
    I need to find
Through all the ties that bind
    Me to material things;
Safe in my cage
    I see their freedom
And yearn for that
    So hard to attain…

© Angela Grant (Kestrel) 24/1/2004

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Unwanted Advice

Oh, Gentle Youth,
Wish not your time away
By wanting to be older.

The time will come
When you see as I,
There is so little time
    To enjoy this life,
And you will treasure
Each fleeting, precious moment
    Before the darkness comes.

Before old age comes
With illness, creaking bones,
    And failing sight,
To rob you of the chances
    You once had
To take the world
    In both arms
And embrace its joys.

Seek not to shorten by one hour
    This life of wonder,
For the grave beckons all too soon
Taking you to other lives,
    And other cares,
    And other joys…

© Angela Grant (Kestrel) 25/1/2004

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The Fleeting Wren

There is pleasure in small things.
To my window
     A wren came;
The smallest of birds,
     Inches from my face.

He did not flinch
    Or fly away.
I saw every feather
    And his small black eye
Looking at me unconcerned.
His mind was on his breakfast.
    Not on me.
I meant nothing
    In his world.

Yet his sunlit presence
    Opened me to worlds of wonder
And reminded me that I have much to do
    Before his freedom
    I can gain.

From my childhood
    I remember farthings,
Stamped each one
    With the image of a wren.
They disappeared
    Too small to be of value,
    Unused and unwanted,
    Marking the ending of an age.

And my wren;
    His visit so fleeting,
Reminding me of things
    That I too must end
Or be like the farthings
    The forgotten memory
    Of another age;
Unwanted and unvalued
    And lost in time…

Text and picture
© Angela Grant (Kestrel) 27/1/2004

Numismatic note: A Farthing originally was made by cutting a silver penny into four parts or 'fourthings'. Silver farthings were later minted but were last issued in the reign of Edward VI as by this time they had become too small for convenience. Copper farthings were first issued by private individuals under Letters Patent in the reign of James I but were small and unpopular, smacking of private gain rather than public good, and were discontinued under the Commonwealth. The Royal Mint began to issue copper farthings in 1672 in the reign of Charles II with Britannia as the reverse type, supposedly modelled on his mistress the Duchess of Richmond. The Wren first appeared on sets made for the Coronation of Edward VIII but as he abdicated before they could be issued the Wren first appeared for general circulation on the farthings of his brother George VI in 1937. 1956 was the last year marked on farthings manufactured by the Royal Mint.

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Candlemas Song

This is something of an epic for me. I don't usually write things this long. It came about because my therapist asked me to remember a day that stuck in my mind. A time I remembered with joy. The day that came to me was the day of the Spring Equinox at Avebury in 2003. It was the first time I had been to a Gorsedd at Avebury and it had stuck in my mind as a faultless day of beauty. She suggested I kept that day in mind when I felt low, which I tend to do in winter. The following morning I woke to an iron grey frost cold day and as I lay in bed looking out my window this came to me, at first in fragments, then pouring out as I wrote.

The Ground is hard,
And white with snow
And creatures struggle
     To find food
In this dead wilderness,
Death-white and dark.

But I remember
A day when the Earth sang,
    Sunlit and Golden;
The green grass sang
    Beneath my feet
And a dog ran with joy
    Across a Circle
    Barking its heart out
    In the exuberance of life.

The sky is dark
With the promise of snow.
The icy wind
    Creaks the trees
And makes the dead limbs
    Rattle like bones
And crows call with the fear
That the Sun will not return
    To warm the land again.

But I remember
A day when a warm breeze
    Pulled my hair,
And the rooks called and played,
    Diving and weaving
    Round the tree tops
Rustling with the new growth
    Of leaves;
And the drums sang
    And flutes played
    And bells rang
And the scents of spring
    Filled me with
    The bliss of living.

The Sun hides
Behind a heavy blanket;
There is no warmth.
A burning cold
    Fills the land
Freezing fingers and toes
And the fire does not burn
    In the hearth,
And I huddle in bedclothes
    To find a little warmth.

But I remember
A day when the Sun
Shone bright and warm,
High in the sky;
And we brought offerings
Of thanks to the Guardian
And we were warmed
    With bread and mead
    And singing and dancing
And the joy of living.

Water stands hard and icy
Making roads dangerous
    To travel
Snow falls and lays
    On the hard ground;
The harsh black and white
    Of the dead time
When emotion is frozen
And the heart is hardened
    With ice.

But I remember
A day when the streams sang
    And the mead flowed
And my heart
    Was filled with joy
    And hope for the future;
When I loved the World
    And all the people
    In it;
And my soul flew with the rooks
    And ran with the dog
    And joined the singing
    Of the whole Earth.

The wheel turns;
This hard time
    Will not last;
The snowdrops show;
The time of lights
    Is here;
As Imbolc comes
Brid’s fire will warm
And the Earth give forth,
And death turn to life,
And sorrow to joy
    Once more…

© Angela Grant (Kestrel) 30/1/2004