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Transitions

I went for a walk the other day. It was one of those days we sometimes get at this time of year that fool us into thinking that we have shaken off the winter and that spring is finally here. The sun was shining with that fresh kind of warmth, the birds were singing joyfully, the squirrels were chasing each other up and down tall conifers, while the deciduous trees were busy adorning their branches in tiny green leaf buds. The whole place had that feeling of life renewing, vitality streaming in as everything rejoiced in the return of the light. I bathed in it for some time before wandering at which point I noticed that despite the appearance of the small leaf buds, there were also small clumps of brown leaves dotted amongst the branches. Leaves from the previous cycle that hadn’t quite managed to fall to earth and join their fellows on the carpet of faded russets and ambers that spread out before me.

This sight started me thinking about the way in which we as human beings tend to like things to be clear cut. In general we like structure, for things to be one thing or another. For those of us who follow an earth spiritual path, we mark out the year with designated points that help us to understand the turning of the seasons, the rise and fall of the earth and sun. All this is a tried and true way for us to form a relationship with this cycle in a meaningful way. However, when we venture out into nature, it is often considerably more messy.

It is not uncommon for us to see two or more points of a cycle in evidence at any one time. Some things are exactly where we expect them to be, but others will be a bit ahead, others lagging behind. This is often a much more accurate representation of what we experience as human beings when we consciously engage in any kind of personal growth, healing or transformation. It’s not clear cut and things can often feel as though they are swaying back and forth between one state and another. Not all of our being moves at the same pace and it can be easy to get demoralised and feel that we are not making progress.

The traditions around New Year gives a good example of how many of us might experience this. Every year, lots of people get fired up about new resolutions, identifying things in their lives that aren’t working for them and making a commitment to change. That might be small shifts in thinking or behavioural habits, or it could be major changes to lifestyle. The psychological marker of the new year is a wonderful way to receive a big blast of momentum to get us going as one cycle ends and we enter a new one with a sense of a clean slate and a chance for a new start. That initial boost to our intentions is a powerful one and can carry us quite some way. However, as we reach the end of February and into the beginning of March we may find ourselves faltering in our resolve.

This is often the time when the first flash of novelty has started to fade. Perhaps we are becoming aware of just how much sustained effort is involved in creating lasting change. Perhaps we are finding that old habits, behaviours and ways of thinking are trying to reassert themselves. Despite the fact that we may be seeing those small buds of change in our life, that growth has not yet had a chance to establish itself. All too often we continue to see the clump of brown leaves on the branch that reminds us of where we have been and the previous choices we have made.  Whenever we start our process of change or creation, this is a stage that we must all go through and it’s a time when our dreams become vulnerable.

For me this year, I have experienced this with a resolve to lose weight. I have laid out my plans for change and implemented them with some enthusiasm. I have spent time with the inner work, looking at why I have been making certain choices over the last few years. I am seeing some buds appearing: I’ve lost a few pounds; I have more energy; I am feeling empowered to make choices that serve my new vision rather than those that sabotage it. However, every time I look in the mirror or get on the scales, I am confronted by the clump of brown leaves on the branch, the evidence of all those past choices that have manifested through my physical body and have not quite moved on yet.

I was so grateful to the trees on my woodland walk for reminding me that I am in a process of transition, that this stage is necessary in any kind of growth or transformation…this feeling of being in between two states that is shifting into the new without having quite managed to fully let go of the old. And that that’s okay. Along with that came a reminder about the importance of where we invest our energy.

Looking at those trees that were so graceful in carrying the old and the new alongside each other, I was struck by the awareness that the trees were no longer feeding those old leaves. All their energy, all their life force was directed into the new growth, the new vision. They can allow the old dead leaves to remain as long as they need to, to let them fall when they are ready, because those leaves are not holding them back from new growth. So it is for us humans.

If we truly want change then we need to stop feeding the old habits, behaviours, thinking or choices and trust them to fall away in their own time instead of investing in them or allowing feelings of failure or self-reprimand to creep in. Even if we have to go back into our past to understand and come to terms with our previous choices, this is still moving us forwards, it is new growth.

When we commit our energy and our focus to what we want to create, to change, to grow, to heal or transform – when we act and make choices that are aligned with the new cycle rather than the old – then we have what we need to carry us through to the spring that supports us in establishing the changes we have longed for. The trees have understood something we so often do not…that the choices we make in the present about what we give our energy and attention to, are so often crucial to the future we will create.  Do our current choices support us in stepping into that bigger picture and flow of life, encouraging us to unfold and become fuller, brighter versions of ourselves? Or do they keep us stuck in a place that no longer nourishes us or fulfils our needs?

Most of us will stumble many times along the way but each day, each moment, is an opportunity to reassert our direction, to review and change the choices we make in our lives and what they orientate us towards. We are part of nature’s endless cycles and they move through our lives whether we engage with them consciously or not. How much more joyful to be an active participant than to stand on the sidelines as an onlooker!

Friday Finds – Brighid for Imbolc 2017

Northern Tamarisk

I thought a feature on some Brighid items would tie in nicely with Imbolc on the 1st February. With thanks to the artists for allowing me to add their wonderful creations to my Imbolc 2016 ‘Friday Finds’.
Click on the picture or the item description to go to the item’s Etsy page. Click on the creator’s name to be taken to their Etsy shop.

Something traditional:

Brighid’s Cross Wheat Weaving by BlueMoonWheatWorks (USA)wheat-brighids-cross_bluemoonwheatworks

Brighid Corn Doll by Positively Pagan (England, UK)brighid-corn-doll_positivelypagan

Something for gardens and gatherings:

Brighid’s Cross garden flagby MickieMuellerStudio(USA)

Something for your altar or sacred space:

Brighid Triple Goddessneedle felt doll bycelticsoulcraft (USA)

Brighid the Maiden sculpture (another version available) by Wandergarden(USA)

Brigit’s Cross ceramic incense holderbyRowanSongCrafts(England, UK)

St Brighid’s CrossbyCallura Pottery(Ireland)

Brighid’s Cross Altar Tile Wall Decoration by DryadsRune (Israel)brighids-cross-altar-tile_dryadsrune

Paper Cast Brighid’s Cross

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Competition Winner!

Thanks to everyone who entered our competition and signed up to our newsletter.  Unfortunately there could only be one winner…the lucky person is Clair, who has now been notified by email.  However, as a thank you to all of you who signed up, look out for a special 10% discount code for our Etsy store in the first issue :).  

If you didn’t manage to sign up in time for the competition, then you can still join our mailing list!  If you already follow us on Facebook then just visit our page and go to the newsletter tab (if you are using a mobile device then you will need to be in a browser rather than a Facebook app).  Alternatively, you can simply join the list here.

Thanks again lovely people :).

Competition Time!

A little while ago on my Facebook page I promised a competition when we reached 500 likes.  We’re now up to 522, so to celebrate that it is time for a giveaway :)!  We have this lovely terracotta, smoke-fired incense holder on offer,  fresh from last week’s smoke firings.  It is sealed and polished with my homemade beeswax polish, giving it a deliciously warm tone.

DSCF4294

So what do you need to do to enter?  Well, the competition also coincides rather nicely with the release of our first email newsletter which is brand new for 2014. We’d love you to give it a try, so all you have to do to have a chance to win is sign up using the newsletter sign-up form .  Easy peasy!  If you do have any problems using the form then just let me know and I can add you manually.  The winner will be drawn on Saturday 1st February and announced on Facebook and here on the blog.  Good luck everyone!

The Talking Stick

The talking stick is a tradition that has been used within Native American and other aboriginal councils as an aid to discussion and communication. The stick usually belonged to the leader of a council and would be constructed from materials that brought particular ‘medicine’ or energy to the group.  The intention might be to bring energy of truth, understanding or clarity to the proceedings for example.  The tree providing the wood would be carefully selected, as would colours, feathers or other attachments according to their symbolism. The stick would then be passed between council members who took turns to speak, with only the person holding the stick having permission to speak at any one time unless they consented to the contributions of others during that time. 

So why would we want to use this process today?

Well, the stick ensured that all were given the space and opportunity to speak and be heard without interruption.  It said that all people around the circle were equal and all had a right to contribute and for that contribution to be respected and valued.  It recognised the nature of communication as a two party activity – a speaker and a listener – where roles were continually interchanged and yet each was as important as the other. 

If we speak and no-one listens then it can leave us feeling alone, rejected, excluded, isolated.  Our contribution and its source – ourselves – are not being accepted and validated.  However, when we speak and are truly attended to, it can help us feel connected, included, appreciated.  It helps our self-esteem, helps us to trust, to feel worthwhile and that we want to contribute more. 

Athabasca University Mace – click the image for more information about the symbolism in this piece.

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find places or people to speak with where we can have the experience of being heard.  Listening has become unfashionable.  Anyone who has tuned in to the House of Commons of the UK government will know that even the MPs, the nation’s decision makers, seem only interested in being heard and will shout down the voices of others until all that remains is a cacophony of sound.  This often leads to scenes like the one below where the the Speaker of the House is compelled to talk to MPs like a group of unruly school children so that anyone can be heard.  Is it any wonder that the country is in political turmoil when this is the environment in which the direction of the country is being decided upon?  It seems that the ability to shout the loudest has been mistaken for power, when in fact it is the abuse of power.  Far from showing a strong ability to communicate it is more akin to bullying in its attempts to silence others through brute force,  

This is not communication!

This also translates to other situations where there is a tendency to lean towards ideas of hierarchy, such as workplaces and families.  These groups can also find themselves in a communication nightmare when some people seem to have the metaphorical talking stick on a permanent basis while others are consistently denied a voice or are demeaned when they attempt to speak or think for themselves. 

 In a media-drenched culture the business of communication has also become the exertion of power and leads to gross imbalances across our world.  Our information age talks to us all the time through media of all kinds. We dutifully listen to the onslaught of messages and statements that surround us.  But these messages and statements that command us to believe in them rarely solicit a response or an opinion.  We are not required to listen in the true sense of the word, as an active participant in communication, we are simply asked to absorb and so to amend ourselves, our thoughts, our ideas accordingly.  This is what ‘listening’ means to many and we are already overloaded with information of what we should do, think or say, how we should look, what food we should eat, how much we should be earning, what we should be worrying about and on and on.  We are encouraged to be orientated around the self  and yet not to listen to ourselves.  This can make it incredibly difficult to listen and empathise with others and learning this can be a discipline in itself, but one that would have lasting effects for our communities.

Kwakwaka’wakw Tribesman holding a talking stick by Edward S Curtis (1868 – 1952)

When we are able to speak from our hearts and be heard by someone who is truly listening, then we can draw on the truth within us, the beauty and wisdom that we keep locked away to avoid the harsh words of others.  We can create change, we can learn and we can grow.   Think how you would feel if you knew that when you opened your mouth to speak you could rely on being respected and heard.  Would you not take more risks with your words, your thoughts, the ways that you express yourself?  And would it not be easier to listen to others if you knew that you would have your turn to speak instead of having to fight for it?

The talking stick is not just a tradition or a process.  It represents an ethos for communication which is intensely relevant for our world today.  Through its message we can learn not only to listen, but also to speak in a way that embodies that listening.  We can speak in a way that reflects our listening to our own heart,  that values ourselves in speaking as much as we value another in listening. 

Why not try it? 

Find a stick or simply an object that stands for the stick, and have a conversation or discussion on an issue  with someone where you only talk  when you have the stick in your hand.  Think about what you want to say, you don’t have to hurry to speak in case you lose your chance and someone speaks over you or interrupts.  This is your speaking time and no-one will take it away from you.  Let the other person ask you questions if they need more information to understand what you are saying, but  this time is about your thoughts and feelings on whatever issue you are discussing. 

Don’t hog the stick, pass it over when you’re done making your point and let the other person take it if they have something to say.  You will have another chance to speak later. 

When you don’t have the stick, just listen to what the other person is saying and focus on understanding it without trying to think of what you will say next.  You can be listened to when it’s your turn.  Ask questions to clarify anything you are not clear about, but do not offer or mentally construct your thoughts or opinions on what the other person is saying until it is your turn to speak.  This is time to be open, to listen and respect the other person’s views.  There will be time for you to speak when you have the stick.

By Kristen Reynolds – click the image to go to her website loving-community.com

This can feel very different if you are used to having fast moving conversations where you have to fight to be heard.  Using the talking stick to communicate in a different way can be a way to identify our usual communication patterns.  If you find yourself chomping at the bit to speak, getting irritated and impatient at having to wait for others  to finish, or by contrast, if having others give you their full attention feels uncomfortable, it can be a good pointer to areas you can work on to make your communication more  effective. Do you feel more comfortable as a speaker or a listener?  Good communication that creates positive connections between people and solves problems in a way that respects everyone involved demands both.   

Of course, you can also use the idea of the talking stick for fun!  Check out this lovely video of some children in Alaska using the stick to tell a story as a group:

 

Thank you for allowing me to hold the stick and speak.  I now pass it to you and invite your comments 🙂

Spring Competition – Results!

Firstly, a huge thank you to everyone who entered our competition.  We have truly loved hearing about your favourite things!  I am a great believer that it is all those little things that ultimately bring us joy in our lives and keep us going when things are tough.  Life gets so busy it can be difficult to pay attention and notice them sometimes, but they are always there, waiting for us to experience them, to touch our hearts, make us think or simply to feel joyful :).

This morning we wrote everyone’s name on a piece of paper and put them all into a bowl.  I jiggled them all around and Mr Rowan Song pulled out two…

comp collage

The first name out of the bowl was Helen Stirling.  Congratulations Helen!  You have won the prize bundle with the little ceramic mushroom dish.

The second name out of the bowl was Polly Bucknall.  Congratulations Polly!  You have won the prize bundle with the felt egg.

I will send you each an email confirming this and will just need you to let me know your addresses so I can post your prize out to you :).

As promised, everyone who entered the competition will receive an email with a special coupon code entitling you to a 10% discount on any items bought in a single purchase from my Etsy store, with no minimum purchase.

Thanks to everyone once again for entering.

A Little Competition – Winners!

Well thank you to everyone who entered the competition, it was a very close thing in the end but we do have two winners!

Firstly, how many beads were in that cup?  The answer is 63.

And the winners?:

  • Mawgen was spot on and wins first prize of a choice of ceramic decoration with a handmade felt bag.
  • Second prize goes to Lesley with her guess of 59, for the second ceramic decoration.

Well done both of you!  Please check your email inboxes over the next few days as I’ll be in touch to arrange sending your prizes out to you.

We will be running more competitions in the coming months so follow the blog or keep an eye on our Facebook page if you’d like to stay updated.

If you like these ceramic decorations and missed out on a prize this time then why not check out the seasonal section of my Etsy store where you will find similar pieces for sale along with a range of other goodies :).

Thanks again everyone.

(This competition is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by or associated with Facebook.  All entries and information are being submitted to Rowan Song and not Facebook.  Rowan Song takes full responsibility for all administration and communication related to this competition)

A Little Competition!

Visitors to my Facebook page may remember me getting all whoopy about us reaching 300 likes recently.  I made a promise to have a little competition as a thank you, so here it is :).

There are two prizes up for grabs.  The lucky winner will have a choice with the other prize going to the first runner up.

These are the prizes on offer – two hand painted ceramic hanging decorations inspired by ancient sun symbols. You can put them on a tree at Yule, though they look pretty funky hanging around the house at any time of year:

The first prize winner will receive their decoration in this cute felt hand stitched gift bag (these make great little bags for gifts, crystals, jewellery or anything else you can think of):

And what do you have to do to get one of these decorations absolutely free?  Well, I thought I should give you a little challenge :).  So have a look at the picture below and give me your best guess as to how many beads are in the cup (I was quite surprised when I counted them!).

You can enter by leaving your guess as a comment on this blog post  – click on the ‘Leave a Comment’ link at the very bottom of this post.  If you prefer you can email me your entry at beth@rowansong.co.uk  We promise that your email address will not be used or retained for any purpose unrelated to this competition  – we don’t like spam either!

The competition is open to everyone who has liked the Rowan Song Facebook page, no matter where you are in the world, so if you haven’t joined us yet then pop over  and click ‘like’ before sending us your entry.

The competition will close at midnight on 7th October 2012, so get guessing!  The closest answer will win first prize of a chosen decoration with gift bag, with the next closest winning the remaining decoration without bag.  In the event of a tie for either position then an alternative prize may be offered.

The number of beads and the winner will be announced here on the blog shortly after 7th October so be sure to check back and claim your prize if you’re the winner!

If you have any questions then please leave a comment here or email me on beth@rowansong.co.uk

With Love,

Beth xx

(This competition is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by or associated with Facebook.  All entries and information are being submitted to Rowan Song and not Facebook.  Rowan Song takes full responsibility for all administration and communication related to this competition)

Beauty and the Blade

Do you have a favourite tool? We seem to write so much about what we make but not about the tools that we use to make it with.  As a lover of  creative making, I also love my tools.  Whether it’s a crochet hook, needle, scissors, jewellery pliers, rubber kidney, scalpel, wooden or metal modelling tools, rolling pin, chisel, sieve, stamps, cutters, burnishing stone, sewing machine, hammer, paintbrush or any number of other things, tools are crucial to whatever I am making.  Tools are not like materials that are depleted as they are used, but through using and looking after them they become our steady creative companions that will see us through project after project, that feel familiar and comfortable in our hands.  Eventually, with much use and practice, we (hopefully!) develop enough skill to become one with our tools, directing our intent through them as an extension of ourselves, allowing us to focus fully on the piece that we are making. Our bodies learn them, the way that we need to move them, the exact amount of pressure, the specific angle to achieve our desired result. It becomes so second nature that it is only when we have to replace a favoured old tool and pick up a new one that we will feel the very subtle differences: perhaps a slight difference in the weight, or that little imperfection that you got so used to working around which is no longer there.  It can take a while.

I used to have a favourite wooden modelling tool that I used all the time in clay work.  To an outside eye it looked like a wooden stick carved into a point on one end and a flat surface on the other.  I never used to think about how I used it.  Then one day it disappeared.  I hunted high and low for it but in the end realised that somehow, inexplicably, I had managed to lose it.   So I bought a new one.  It looked the same on the outside, but when I picked it up it was not the tool I had lost, it felt different in my hands, I did not feel that same connection to it.  Over time, the new tool became as comfortable as the old one, but it made me think about the relationship between makers and their tools and the process we go through in learning to use a new one. Read more…

A Little Yuletide Magic!

Well, the festive season is finally here! How will you be spending this time? For myself, I certainly don’t take to my armchair with a jar of humbugs 😉 but I’m quite a quiet sort on the whole and I like to keep it simple. Usually I take some time to sit still and think about where the year has brought me to: what I have planted and grown; what I have harvested, and what I want to sow and nurture in the coming year.

This past year has been a bit of a roller-coaster with a whole raft of experiences and challenges.  Our little unit has weathered so much illness between us, been through so much stress and worry, and yet somehow in the midst of all that I managed to start a business.  Not only start it, but start it growing despite a little choppiness midway!  I started writing a blog.  I started recording my songs.  I started to recover my creative voice along with the courage to start sharing it…gawd help you all :D!  When looking back at the challenges and obstacles, I am amazed at what I have achieved this year.  There is so much to feel positive about and grateful for, so much to build upon.  I don’t always realise it as I’m going along, which is why this time each year is so precious.  Each Yule I sit down and recognise and am thankful for all those little bits of magic that flutter into my life..little miracles. Perhaps my miracles may not seem like miracles to most people.  Usually we think of ‘miracles’ as something that requires some momentous and unfathomable event to take place.  I don’t think of them like that.  I think miracles happen every time the world exceeds our expectations, every time our perception of life, ourselves and others is challenged and shifted and transformed in a positive and perhaps unexpected, sometimes inexplicable way.  Those experiences, whether big or small, can be life changing or they can simply make us feel more positive about life, rekindling trust and hope that we may have lost along the way. Read more…

Supporting Handmade However It’s Made

It’s that time of year when I’ve been thinking about my direction again. As some visitors to my Facebook page will know, autumn seems to do this to me. The chaos of life undoing itself before my eyes makes me look to my own life and question, question, question. It can be unsettling but is part of a natural process and I trust that the other side of this seasonal transition will bring a certain peace. However, this year some of my internal leaf-wrenching is amplified because I am reflecting and trying to make a decision about my own position within a situation that has brought a lot of anguish to a lot of people. It seems the autumn storm has been howling loudly over at a certain art & crafting marketplace recently and while I have held back from getting involved with the heated debate in the forum, I have been watching, incredulously, at some of what has been going on. Read more…

New beginnings

So… my very first post on this new blog!  It seems so much is new at the moment.  I feel like a seed that is slowly germinating, sending out my roots and shoots, making my way to the surface, poking my head up tentatively to breathe the fresh air and feel the sun on my face.   Read more…

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