Yesterday I wandered without a plan, deeper and deeper into the tangled woods. The path twisted and turned through unfamiliar corners, while I was lost in the distraction of my thoughts. As the weak winter light began to fade, the dogs tugged urgently at my boots and coat and I awoke, as though from a dream, into a cloud of Raven calls. Above me the trees were closing in over my head, woven with hundreds of nests, and filled with a fearful number of black cloaked birds who all wanted their say.
The mix of harsh and melodic caws, swirled and tumbled like rushing water all around my head. Rising in ferver and pitch, and beating the air into wild currents, the wall of bird calls stopped me in my tracks as I was swept upwards in confusion towards their world. As I focused, one voice began to sound clearly among the many, and I followed its wise croak to the beak of origin. There watching and waiting was the Raven who guarded this tale. Black gloss and sharp eyed wisdom rolled into a Ravens form he caught my eye and my attention, until the only sound I could hear was his, and this is what he said…
Deep within the tangled woods lies a secret so bright that it’s kept wrapped in soft darkness. It rests safe from prying eyes and covetous greedy hands, within the very heart of this land. The only way in is through the tangled fingers of the trees, along an unwalked path which vanishes behind you even as your foot lifts from the earth with each step. There are no clues or markers along the way, for no one has walked your path before, and make no mistake, the trees and their dry boneless fingers will be your undoing. They will reach deep into your soul and unweave you, all the way back to the begining. And trust me I have seen it all, the begining and the end, as I sweep out across the earth each and every day. So go on, follow your heart if you dare, deep into this tangled mess you call life. Follow those last glimmers of fading daylight into the forests heart..
Well I had no choice really, as there was no path to be found in any direction, only a wild tangle of branches and a few dry leaves. The light of the day was dying, and the shadows were growing longer and deeper with each passing moment, and ahead of me, fading into the distance, was the voice of my Raven. So I stepped forwards, towards the light and the black glossy bird. My progress was slow, and quite uncomfortable, as sharp branches scraped and clawed through my hair and over my face. My feet stumbled and tripped on roots and tumbled limbs, sending me in wild uncontrolled staggers across the leaf strewn forest floor. I had to stoop lower and lower beneath the arms of the trees, and even the dogs were struggling to move forwards.
Finally out of breath, scratched and bleeding, I fell defeated to the ground. My hair so tangled in branches and twigs that I was now woven into the trees themselves and my coats tattered shredded cloth trailed like clootie offerings to the old gods. Covered in mud and leaves I surrendered to the tangled trees, with the dogs at my feet. The Ravens voice had died away to nothing, and the cooling dark air was now filled with the sound of wolves, sharing tales of the hunt and warm meals. Dispair and doubt gripped my heart, filling me with fear and hesitation. Why had I come here to this place of loss and darkness.Why had I not kept to the well trodden path where others could offer their guidance. Looking up I realised I was beneath a holly tree, it’s sharp spiked leaves clearly silhouetted in the bleeding light of the dying sun. Leaning back I felt the cold hard trunk at my back, and the glossy Ravens voice whispered the tales of the Holly into my ear, and I let him. Strength, persistence, and hard won wisdom, this is the tree of the Winter Cailleach who carries the earth and her bones through the heart of winter and into the rebirth of spring. The guardian of the powers of regeneration….and you lie at her doorstep.
Just when I felt most lost, and surely far from warmth and shelter, there ahead through the dark tangled branches was a beautiful castle. The light from a single window caught my eye and pulled me up from the earth, filled once more with hope and wonder. What adventures lay ahead within the old stone walls of the castle, but you will need to wait for another day to hear of them. For now walk beside me, renewed, if a little tattered by the year just passed, by the life just lived, and look forwards into the next tale of our wild and glorious life, which waits to be discovered if you dare…..