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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

cauldrons, death / rebirth and a not so holy grail

Up at 5 am, over on marshes for 5.30 then followed the mists til 7.30. Why?

This time of year everything goes green. Even the marshes change from yellow and brown to green. And the fields are green, but almost toxic green -nitrogen and phosporous enriched, they are a factory floor, the grass a raw material to be chopped up into silage and then shoved through biological milk manufacturing machines called cows...

But every so often a mist rises up out of the marshes and haunts the fields with memories of the past. To walk through the mist is to lose familiar landmarks, to lose the sense of the solidity of the present. I have walked almost right up to wild deer grazing beside the cattle, thought at first they were grey hounds, wolf hounds in the mist. Then there is the loch,the 'witch's work' -carlin's wark. An ancient pagan site, where a cauldron was placed 1900 years ago as an offering.

This morning the loch itself looked like a cauldron. Its rim a circle of higher ground and its surface still, translucent, like milky glass and on and across its surface wreathes, wraiths of mist coiled and drifted like smoky steam rising from the depths of a cauldron. On a full moon have seem the flat still water pure white, as if magically transformed into milk. In winter the waters black. In summer green with algal blooms, the water too richly suffused with fertilisers run off from the dairy fields. Even human shit, the first sewers in the town ran down into the loch and even now some still somehow sometimes finds its way in.

Tried to photograph the mist and the reflections but have never yet 'caught' the moment. Better just to sit still and watch, let this moment of the present pass and hear the birds calling dawn awake. Water like a mirror reflecting this world in its depths. [ not so deep, no more than 10 feet ]. Was this a 'sacred place'? Is it now? Will it be?

"The Celts" so we are told believed that such places were entrances to an Otherworld. To place items - a sword, a cauldron, an axehead - in the waters of a lake, a spring, a river , even a marsh, was to ... what?

Their world is 'other' to me. This world no doubt 'other' to them. I can sit and stare at two small clumps of trees griowing out of the water which mark the site of a causeway and artificial island. a crannog. The cauldron was found near this artificial island. Some believe that such cauldrons are the original of 'the holy grail'. In the first mention of 'king' Arthur going on a quest for the grail it is actually a cauldron.

The Gundestrup cauldron http://www.celticnationusa.com/gundestrupcauldron.html is the best known, but please ignore the 'celtic nation' guff on the web site. Can't find any images of 'my' cauldron, had to buy a photograph of it from the National museums of Scotland.

Now 12 hours on from the morning mist and starting to feel tired. Up early yesterday as well, walked out past loch and walked past the crannog site and along an old track to the edge of the marshes and sat and listened to the birds 'singing' at each other and just let everything fade away. Closed my eyes and became absent... the bird song became information streams, pulses of energy, bouncing and reflecting off each other. Could have been the sound of galaxies singing to each other across the abyss of space and time... the awareness of self fading, flowing away into the earth, carried away with the sound of a stream gurgling down into the marsh, into the loch. Wondered if this was how it felt to die, individual consciousness ebbing away. becoming part of the earth, the soil, the rocks, the mud, the stream, the trees, the birds - no centre, no focus of being. No longer trying to get to somewhere, to be somewhere else, or become someone else. " This" was "it".

The moment of awareness lasted for both/ and half an hour/ eternity. Then I got up and walked back into town, but also stayed behind.

Walked back to the same spot this morning, wondering if there would be any mist on the marshes beyond the loch. But there wasn't. But I could imagine myself still sitting on the wooden bench - a time traveller, sitting watching for eternity. Not even watching. Just 'there'. An absent presence, the presence of absence.

Tomorrow morning, if I can get up at five again, will walk out in a different direction. Marsh should bedry enough to take a short cut to the ring fort on the hill on the far side of the marsh. need to beacreful though, on one expedition the path vanished and I began sinking up to my thighs in green goo. A panic moment- especially when I tried to re-trace my steps and the path I had already been on had vanished into the reeds - which were about 8 feet high and all I could find were patches of open water every way I turned.

Pretty close to the Otherworld that day, even though I was never more than 100 yards from solid ground.


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