No Road. The sign said
A painted board sprung
From a verge of nettles.
The road despite it curving
Away round the hedged bend.
We knew of course its proper meaning,
But the draggled bushes
Grey with old man’s beard
And wild rose runners
Whipping the irregular wind
Beckoned us on.
Where would it end?
A farm with a black dog
Barking at strangers?
Or a pitted sandstone quarry
Where swift martins skimmed
Their nervous patterns through thin air.
Curious, we travelled its three minute length.
At the end – the gate
Spiked gorse and purple heather
Where we two lovers
Our unended road.
© The Estate of Ronald M. White
Where Have I Been?
Where have I been?
Where the resident ghost waited
In black skirts.
What does she want I wonder?
She never spoke.
The moon abstracted in the skylight
Looks after her I suppose.
But I am still startled
By her appearances
And make obeisances.
© The Estate of Ronald M. White
Here is the last part of the section on the Spring Equinox in The New Pagan’s Handbook:
What makes us is our climate. It tempers the way we think of our Gods and suggests the ceremonies whereby we celebrate Them. It determines, even in cities, many of our behaviour patterns. The Gods Themselves are in us and form the substrate of our beings, but Their expression in us is framed by our climate and our psychological expectations of that climate. Therefore we have to recognise that our ceremonies must be regional. Our rites with variations in time, place and climate nevertheless have a basic validity, and however the expression and timing alters, the core of myth remains and is the prompter of our religious thought and expression. In recognising this we also recognise that religious toleration is essential to a pagan and causes him no discomfort of mind nor conscience. Old Rome and Greece sheltered many religions. The Christians were persecuted as they offered a direct political threat to the stability of Rome, no other sect so suffered. The worst form of bigotry and intolerance is to despise another man’s religion, his myth and his Gods.
Here is the second part of the section of The New Pagan’s Handbook that deals with the Festival of the Spring Equinox:
If possible, and it not always is, the ceremony should take place in the daylight. Some purists hold that the matter should take place at dawn, but alas! we are not always at liberty at that time, the occasion not being a public holiday, so that we must fit our ceremony into other and more mundane duties. Nevertheless some observances can occur in preparation for the ritual. The devotee can lustrate or bathe upon rising, and make a point of wearing fresh or new clothing, and offering a suitable prayer.
Wherever or whenever the ritual is to take place the worshippers should assemble some way apart from the dancing area. Each attender should have made every effort to have brought some seasonal flowers (daffodils are plentiful at this time). If the ceremony is taking place outdoors, and one would hope it was, it would be preferable to have a tree at the centre of the ground (a holly tree would be ideal). I have attended some festivals where the ladies had woven for themselves chaplets of flowers; the men wore anklets of bells, and, most importantly, carried a small wand or staff decorated with ribbons. These preparations can make all the difference to the assembly of a proper atmosphere, for the thought and consideration needed add to the concentration that should accompany the acting of the rite.
The next of the major festivals celebrated by the Regency took place at the spring equinox. Here is Chalky’s preamble on the subject, giving his account of the origins and meaning of the festival.
The last four paragraphs of this section touch on ideas and images that were central to his meditations and his view of the universe: the spiral, the maze, and the lattice, or web.
The ceremonies of the Spring Equinox relate to those of Easter, though they do not coincide as to date. Easter is basically a Jewish full moon festival (Passover), with Christian usage added and some pagan accretions from the Anglo-Saxon, such as the very name Easter which derives from the Old Goddess of Spring, Eostra, whose festival was probably originally celebrated at the Equinox.
March 21st. or 22nd. is the Equinoctial date when the daylight balances the darkness. Now the Waxing Sun God reaches His full strength. The remnants of Winter are driven from the land, and the Goddess appears as flower maiden, and celebrates Her betrothal to the God.
Shrewd in investment of my arts,
Cold wisdom calculating profit and use,
The great grey overriders stood
Horsed in their passions
Waiting my word most carefully committed,
Now given, at the last, command,
They ride ingathering
The previous lost chances of excess
So once and prudently refused:
And speed the straightest track
To light new beacons on the sun-bright hills.
Wisely or ill,
My passwords are revealed,
All hoards, all time’s trove swept
Gale torn by wild and wilder hunt
To underrun all-hallows in my head.
Nor can my undermind’s archaic script
(Grimoire of cunning) keep, abjure, or save
Such parts of self outcircled,
For in these urgent regions no writ runs
– Nor can my wand demand.
Clear as the running of the moondrawn tide,
The rip and top of all ebbs overrode, your voice
Calls out my spun-drift self to fly
High horsed, and with Her hell-bent hounds
Ride, override the storm crest countryside.
© The Estate of Ronald M. White
A Note on Minor Festivals
There are many local and regional festivals. We, as good pagans, may wish to honour them as part of our year’s pilgrimage. I cannot list them all or try to explain their significance to our theme. But we can look at them carefully and ask one valid question. Is this rite alive, or merely a picturesque survival? If the latter why not indulge it? But be wary of nostalgia for a past that after all was a long way from paradise. Look into your hearts for the inner meanings of such rites and survivals. Even in customs still carried out only the Gods know why, some profit may be found by pondering on them. We may come up with some interesting answers, but any answers must carry meaning for us now, not merely for folk historians. We should not use them as escape hatches into a world of antique fantasy.
So in considering Minor Festivals I have chosen one for study which has a present and growing importance, and in future, may have more.
In these days when the Goddess and the Gods are at last returning to their ancient power, even the minor festivals begin to grow in stature and popularity.
Valentine’s to most is a jolly frolic of a day; and “How bad” as a friend of mine used to say. But what does it really mean to a pagan, and wherein does its significance lie?
The latest issue of The Cauldron is now out. It contains the second of John of Monmouth’s two important articles on the Regency: ‘The Regency: Seasonal Meditations & Rites’. The Cauldron website has information on how to obtain a copy.
I am delighted that John has given us permission to reproduce his first article The Regency & the Cochrane Coven on this website.
In several places John cites Robert Cochrane’s article ‘The Craft Today’, published in Pentagram in 1964. I have to hand as I type Chalky’s own copy of this issue of Pentagram, which was found among his papers on ritual and the Regency. The Cochrane article is marked with old snuff stains: a detail that brings back Chalky’s presence vividly.