Tagged: Samhuinn

Bear Coat.

Samhuinn.
My favorite seasonal celebration.
But this year my two sons were not interested and social media conveyed that guising in the village was going to be pretty low key, due to COVID.
The weather was stormy, so I did not drive into town to get a large swede.
(I refuse to buy pumpkins anymore. So sick of ‘America’s treat or treat’.)
So no carving or soup either.
Really missed the gorgeous smell of candle-roasting ‘tumchie’ lantern.

Stayed up late with candles, watching to see if the blue moon would show it’s face. It did not.
And ‘talked with the dead’, but it was not like other years at all.

Missing all the ususal costume dramas, I decided it was time to work with the old faux-fur coat I had had stored in my studio for, at least, the last 3 years.
An old coat that I have always just known was to become ‘Bear’ in my, incrementaly evolving, ‘dream’, puppet show.
It was the coat that inspired the character.
Bear.

It felt good to work with Bear. So familiar to me. Bear medicine.
Hibernation now never far from my mind.

Quite a journey in patience and understanding too!
I would begin folding and stitching, then see, over and over, that, to make it better, I had to unpick it all.
It felt ‘complete’ a total of 3 times, but then it would stare at me and show me better ways to approach it.

Which always meant taking it apart and starting again.

I like the way this has roughened this faux-fur coat.

It’s evolution took a couple of weeks.
Ever simplifying.

It was not just the way it looked that was important, but also the way it worked, as a prop.

It was frustrating me that what was to have been a quick, fun, project began to eat into days.
It simply was not working as I had imagined.
It was very difficult, and clumsy, to wear.

Then, on November 2nd, I woke from a dream about how to approach it from a completely different angle.
Making the arms the snout, not using the neck, and I unpicked it all for the last time.

Everything fell into place.

Complete with naturally forming eye-holes, in the right place, so I could wear it and actually see where I was going!!
Which had been a real problem until that point!

Now it is a joy to make the simple folds and have/be ‘Bear’, then undo them and have ‘coat’.
Definitley going to be part of my show……think more items will be tied onto it over Time….

Mama Bear prowls in the kitchen…..
In the show it will only be the head that shows (in quite a few different ways), but it works as a fun costume too.

Amazing to wear when meditating! A Bear Woman!
Old cat not bothered.

Below is a wee gif I made for the fun of it all….
51 years old.
Think this might be a mid-Life crisis, or even the effects of lockdown weariness….but I highly recommend it.

(Looking at all the above, I think it needs some whittled, willow, teeth….and perhaps I will paint the eye ‘buttons’…..I would like for this ‘teddy bear’ to become a bit more fierce!)

light rains sometimes fall 53/72

(working as part of a ‘Japanese 72 season micro-climate’ artist collaborative initiative within Treesisters)

Japanese season called ‘Soko’ / frost falls, 23rd October – 6th November
Micro climate ‘light rains sometimes fall’ 28th October – 1st November

It properly rains today. The sky a thick grey cover.
Sun and rainbows departed.
The absolutely mind blowing, recent, night skies, obscured from view again.

All costumes and fleeting chaos of Samhain celebrations put away…but I’ll keep the lanterns lit until they rot!

The smell of swede and pumpkin soup fills our home.

I have been busy word wrangling though! For the ‘Writing in the Liminal’ project.

There will be too many words here for many to digest….but sharing here, purely for documentation of this continuous, creative, Rolling Om….so many ways to be creative!
I hope some will have the time/inclination to read!
These are very huge questions of our Times.
Grateful to be given the platform, the opportunity, to explore them…..

(Prompt)
What is it like to be alive in this Time?

There is a big difference between being alive and just living.
Being alive is carrying the acute awareness of the preciousness of days.
Just living is performing as expected.
Performing as expected equals normal.

I no longer feel at all normal in these unprecedented times.
I feel more alive than ever, now that our Time appears more finite.

I make Time now.

This is not normal or expected of me.
It is difficult to do.
I make time to sing, to write, to draw, to play, to pray.
To spend time in Nature.
Making Time becomes a priority.
And in doing so I, often now, experience Joy.

Naively perhaps, I dream that the more of us make this quality of Time,
the longer we will all have,
That this may, miraculously, serve to slow our inevitable descent…..

Yesterday, when I was word wrangling, (already lost in Death), my old mobile phone said it was charging, even when removed from its charger. Coming to the end of its days. Disconnected, but still charging. Charging from the ether….or saying it was….

I thought “this is a bit like what it is like to be alive in these times….”

Yesterday I had our family home to myself and I smudged the whole house from top to bottom, then banged my drum in every corner. I stood in my kitchen and felt a spontaneous song rise in me…I sang it loudly, rooting like a tree, in the centre of our house. I realised that I am hardly ever free to do this, as my family are always around….and how compromised my life is in caring for others…accommodating their opinions of me, in this unknown….

I thought “this is a bit like what it is like to be alive in these times….”

Yesterday the weather here was beautiful. The golden light stunning all around, on our hill. I walked barefoot in the garden. My old friends psilocybin are popping up now in our lawn. The low autumn sun picks out their magic in the mown grass. But you do not see them if you look for them. You have to relax your gaze. Let it all in. Look past it all, through it all. And only then will they speak to you. Forbidden, hidden, fruits. Who forbade them? I wonder as I walk, carefully, across vibrant, fragile networks…beneath my soles…..

I thought “this is a bit like what it is like to be alive in these times….”

Yesterday I needed to collect my son and the car would not start. I had to jump start it myself and made it eventually. I was late and my son was quite upset.

I thought “this is a bit like what it is like to be alive in these times….”

Yesterday I watered all my houseplants. All totally dependent on me and crying out for water. And I felt their gratitude as I gave it to them.

I thought “this is a bit like what it is like to be alive in these times….”

Yesterday I made luxury fishcakes and filled them with love. More adult tastes, with horseradish, lemon and hot smoked trout served with beans grown in our garden. My children did not like it.

I thought “this is what it is like to be alive in these times….”

Today I woke haunted by this not being enough.
But a quiet voice, deep inside, assures me this is everything.


The rising sun hit a sculpture of birds flying, hanging above my bed, and its shadow was crisp and dark against the wall. It was beautiful.

It gave the sculpture such depth.

I thought “this is what it is like to be alive in these times….”

And rose to meet the new day.

Kat Robertson 30th October 2019

(Prompt)
What am I leaving behind?

Working, daily, to leave behind any and all attachment and simply reside in a bigger love.

Maintaining a wider view, to the best of my ability.
Tiny in a vast, bigger, picture.

Breaking it all down into smaller parts, weirdly, connects with wholeness.

Just another love-life full of precious moments, good and bad, both in front and behind me.
Like the beads on a mala.
I feel the string…..the two ends are tied tightly…..

Sometimes these moments feel more like the dew drops hanging on a spider’s web….going out in all directions….sparkling in the sun….and any movement, from me, or the wind, means that they fall to the ground, and my presence is felt….she is coming for me….I can almost feel her fangs….

Or like bubbles in a rushing stream, appearing together as a white, swirling, froth of being…..only to dissolve again as the terrain levels out and deep, peaty depths push slowly, powerfully, toward the sea’s comforting, collective embrace…becoming briny…then that freshness dissolving in to a salty preserving reservoir for all life….

How does this make me feel?

Only guilty of the knowing that we have little real influence on the string, the web or the river, and of finding Joy and Gratitude, while others grieve, but, each day, more confident in the forever of all things, more grateful for each breath, and less afraid of the dark.

And this can become a powerful weapon against those who seek to sell me, tell me, something other.

Kat Robertson 30th October 2019

(revisiting sub-prompts!)

More on these themes….

As you look back to the shore, what are you personally leaving behind?
All attachment.
As this results in truly being Present, and the in the Flexibility, Resourcefulness and the Resilience that I am sure we will all need.
Indeed what we were originally designed for! LIFE!

What part of civilization do you feel is already dead?
The parts that are already, currently, hanging themselves. And, due to our, also dis-eased, morbid, fear-creating, media….doing this in full view.
It is frightening to bear witness to this, increasingly probable, collapse.
I am a capable and experienced, life-long, kind of ‘prepper’. I just have developed deep trust in my own abilities to survive. No bunkers, food stores, guns or technological wizardry here. I use this time to hoard wood burners, useful pipes, wood and materials, and to learn as much as I can, to hone my instincts!

ALL grief I feel is for all those who have grown dependent on the system. Not really for me or my family. Those who are not seeing this tragic trajectory, (whether from denial or more genuine inability), those who are not preparing. Those for whom any ‘collapse’ will be catastrophic as they have not placed themselves where I have, essentially confident that I am surrounded by all I could possibly need. (Unless, of course, it all becomes poisoned, polluted…) For all those who have not, already, tested themselves.
I experience a real, empathic, fear for those who have not learned these skills, of living within nature, of cooking on fires, growing food, hunting, fishing etc. Who do not know Nature and her bounteous gifts and who are separated from that natural, mutual, sometimes brutal, reality.
Sometimes I hear that collective scream of abandonment….I recognize it….for I have already been through it. I have never trusted this civilization’s parenting. I try not to imagine the chaos that will surely come as so much of these systems collapse.
When there is no ‘teat’ /switch for light or warmth.
I even can imagine being held up at gun point, for all we have built here… (we are readying ourselves to share, but those desperate hungry souls will also be swarming, surviving the only way they were taught, and will probably come armed), but I also know the forest and how to walk in the dark.
I know the extremes of temperature. I know how cold it is at night, what it is like to not be able to find anywhere to get dry, to not find food for a day, how earth tastes, how that wetness can permeate through to bone. I know those layers of dirt and how wood smoke claws through all clothes and hair. The sheer, visceral, comparative, misery of all of that.
But also how, if it does not claim you, it will give way, inevitably, to the real joy at the sun’s rays, the simple joy and reverence for the heat of Fire. I understand how tough I will have to become again, how shortened my life will be…but this is, I have always felt, is what I was built for. Somewhere deep inside I know this is the meaning of being truly alive and in right relationship.

But I do not seek it out. I roll in the lap of civilization like a cat. Squeezing every last drop of this ease out of it. Daily grateful for its comforts, just not at all confident in its sustainability….I just do not trust it.
To me it has always been an illusion.

What aspects are you glad to leave? What will you miss?
Of course I will miss the artificial ease of things. I enjoy the central heating. HOT WATER from a tap!! Our house-box, furnished with what others throw away.
I enjoy the TV! I love films, art galleries and museums, literature, philosophy and science ‘news’. I enjoy tobacco and bitter coffee. I enjoy driving. I enjoy special trips to the city and the treats that civilization has to offer. I enjoy the expansive opportunities still available to my children, even though they always seem now tainted by colonialism and slavery to me. I pray our youth will find a way through this labyrinth of change that will be smoother than I, currently, anticipate!
In all honesty, all these things have always seemed surplus to requirements in my simple brain. All luxuries. All privilege. And all symptoms of our greed and arrogance, the ill-earned gains of war and looting on a global scale.
A part of me longs to be fitter. To feel more. To not be so immature. To be real, not cushioned. To be fitter, not from using a gym or going jogging, but from having to find food, from having to collect water/firewood, out of necessity. I have grown soft and ‘weak’. I see myself as any tribal warrior might do. Pretty useless on the face of it.
But I live my, now ‘adult’ life, always ready to live, again, in a tent, a van, a hand hewn shelter. I always have to have the alternatives close in order to feel safe…..ready. Perhaps also as some sort of retirement plan!
Cramming now for that ultimate test. Which plants to use for what. What can be foraged. What is poisonous. Learning the ebbs and flows of the seasons and cycles of harvest. In full knowledge of the SHOCK that it will be, if I ever have to truly exist again in this reality.
But also looking forward to having that real, immediate, basic, sense of purpose and place….as my ancestors also, always, remind me….once again.

I would be very happy to leave behind all layers of bureaucracy, endless form-filling, box ticking, utility bills, car repairs, current ‘news’, the oppression and impotence of modern living…..

What is the link between your emotions and the natural world or the ‘soul of the world’?
We all have to believe in something.
I choose to work on, nurture, sculpt my belief that each one of us is a necessary cog in the workings of this glorious world. That the Earth is alive, and conscious, and that we are all tiny parts of this, awe inspiring, whole.
That we are nature and we have the power to tune into her emotions.
Emotions that, I believe, live in a cloud, not in my head. Available to all who choose to open to it.
That are there to guide us.
Carried, as information, in primal steam, humidity, water.
That we must be the change we want to see.
I want to see people becoming stiller, geographically, physically. So they can begin to access this. To allow for dreaming….
I’d love for ‘our’ internet to keep going. I would miss this. I can see ways that this could happen. More virtual connection/travelling/sharing and less emphasis on, personally, owning that ‘first hand’ experience. That need will be fulfilled, once again, from our deeper, survival based, local relationship with land and the humans directly in our circles. Our communities. Looking after each other in real ways.
Less obsessed with ideas of personal development, building, national identity and global authority. Content with less and tuning into all the riches around we are already blessed with!
It would be amazing for all these communities to remain connected though!

Personally though, in embracing my family, and observing the wider, human, mainstream, perspective, I do not see any of this happening easily, if at all, unless a real collapse takes place. An asteroid disaster? An alien invasion? A terrible war? Well, these would speed things up!

The people rising in demand of change seems the safest, slowest, transition, one which offers some of the home comforts for those that require them…. and I can go anytime (almost guilty of not walking my talk!)….but our planet still, may well, have other ideas……..ones we have never even dreamed of….

And there is always space for miracles in the mix somewhere…….

First response to this huge, partitioned, question was ALL about our collective relationship with DEATH…I chose not to share it as the question was all about ‘being alive’, but not sure we can separate the two!

To be ALIVE in this time is
to dance with Death.

But Death has become a stranger here.
Shut away.
Buried deep in shadows, which we fill with all things fearful.
Where we dare not look
So remaining
Unknown.
Behind the door.
Underground.

Somewhere, that we have been falsely educated, lies close to Hell and the Devil.

To go deeper is to go ‘below’.
Down.
Closer to Death and bones, tree roots and worms, rocks and lava, dark caverns….
all we have been encouraged to weave into our nightmares.

We need to bridge this void.

Close this circuit.

Exist brilliantly and in full acceptance and celebration of endings as well as beginnings.
Of Death…..in balance with Birth and vica versa.

Between the up and the down.
Stars and soil. Galaxies and ground. Cosmos and core.
Make our own bodies that real, live, wire.

And Earth it.

Be sparks. Bridging the void between birth and death.

Watch those embers that burns bright and soars toward the stars….and then, as carbon, floating gracefully, back to the Earth, invisible in the dark….

And learn from them.

Kat Robertson 31 October 2019

Lichen Dragon’s Head/Mask

Lichen Dragon Head
Lichen dragon head piece

Lichen Dragons Song.

Today I surrender to the mist.
I busy my hands with the weaving of willow, ash whips and crimson dogwood,
Rusted bracken and fallen lichens, dead seed heads and discarded shells.
Weaving myself into this disguise
Embodying the becoming of this creature that just is.
This creature of future nights, unknown.
That knows no bounds, bar the elements.
Wild. Uncontrolled. Mysterious and unexpressed, unseen, until this sacred night.
Birthed through the unconscious motion of my fingers…guided only by mystery.
Carving a lantern and praying for only for light in this darkness that’s coming.
This swishen time, this between and all around the invisible, time.
This time of ancestors and the unborn.
All those lost are rising in memory
And all those unmet , beckon.
My soul reeks of melancholy and decomposition.
My heart and lungs breathing life into mumbled, repeating prayers,
In conference with beetles and worms and the tree roots,
The bones and the dark, damp soil,
While moth-like constantly drawn back toward the flame.
In the autumn air gathering myself and others for the coming tides.
Keening out my discontent and tempering that with a vast uncompromising love.
The kind of love that brings salty, oceanic, rising tears,
Solemnly returning them to our dear earth and asking only for forgiveness.
Sitting with all the birthing and the dying.
All the creating and destroying.
All eons, past and future,
All sunrises ,sunsets ,summers and winters,
And all these sacred in between times.
Letting myself drop everything inconsequential
Swimming only in the endless, eternal, turning.
Dancing in the Dark and shining my tiny light.

Kat Robertson Samhain 2018

The words that came through as I picked up willow, ash and dogwood whips and prunings and began to weave. Such a pleasurable process. Important to use no glue or ties, just working with the materials.
Some of our local woodland has been quite brutally slashed back, to allow the forestry lorries through to bring the wood out. One of my favourite ‘lichen’ tree, mature birches was all sawn up and lying all over the ground. I felt strong sadness not at the doing of it particularly, but at the careless way that it was done.
This was the moment that I knew I would use this laying lichen. As some sort of tribute to the tree. The dead seed heads are everywhere at this time of year and I thought, with all this silver, grey ‘fur’, I was aiming for a wolf….it turned into a deer….became a calf….and only after Samhain itself , when it presented as a nature spirit, did a sister point out that it was very much a dragon!! Yes!!
A Lichen Dragon.

It was always going to be my Samhain get up…so had to figure out how to wear it! It was really effective used as a hand held puppet. Might try and get a short video of it in action…but I knew I’d be carrying my tumshie ‘swede’ lantern, so needed my hands free. So I sewed it onto an old hat!
It was a wild old night….blacked out my face and worked it! Grateful for the full length black leather coat I also wore and the village shop for the mulled wine.
Wish I’d also built wings and a tail now too! Still it remains as a potential prop for other, future, curious actions!

I felt much lighter when I took it off after a few hours.
Couldn’t find a place in the house to hang it safe, then suddenly I realised it would make the perfect, winter, door wreath. Talk about protection!
We’ve got a dragon on our door!

Had me pondering the idea of offering of making wild beast masks workshops with big and little kids.

Now that would be fun!

Our alternative winter wreath!

Cailleach. Painting on cow skull.

I found a near-bare cow skull in a bog near here around 3 years ago.

Since then it has bleached out nicely in the garden.

A shout out from the Edinburgh Beltane crew inspired this take on the Cailleach, to perhaps become part of a poster advertising their Samhuinn Fire Festival.

'Callileach' painted cow skull. 2017