The drum called, its stick an instant friend in my hand, unexpected tingle of familiarity up my right arm. I knew the figure crouched at my left, bright streams of Sun colour a solar-fall down the cloak of pure gold. I recognised the tall shadow of the Shaman, dark feathers shining unearthly green and blue, pelts still giving off the slight whiff of the animals which gifted them, sharp beak a stern reminder of mortality.
Stones – tall and weathered, humming and sparking with energy – surrounded us; the steep slope, shawled with grazing kine behind, a powerful shoulder for the people to gather strength from, or weep upon. The Circle fizzed and fuzzed with expectant silence. Sun, a radiant smile overhead, blessed the sacred site with its vernal benison, though the catch in the throat and the infinitesimal darkening and deepening of Sky’s evening palette suggested imminent transition. Darkness waiting in the wings of the land, its bridge of colour hovering.
The Shaman’s eyes met mine. The kneeling priest, poised, offered the perfect taut circle of the drum, the dermal sacrifice of creatures long forgotten ready to find, emulate and ultimately match the Mother’s deep heartbeat.
The Tall-stone in the South-East, blood red in places, flared, as if injecting the dying sun with stimulant. Shadows lengthened upon rough grass. Birds held their noise.
Stick, a bony finger calcified by time and loving use, settled into the palm of my hand. I raised my right arm, worried that this virgin descent upon the waiting surface would cause harm, break its hide, sound so faintly that magical energy would be trapped and trammelled. As, indeed, had I been for so long. The irony, aptness and wonder of my new role had not escaped me in the robing up and long walk, a flurry of villagers on all sides, to this high place.
Creaking at first, the lengthy descent gathered pace as arm fell and muscles readied themselves, electricity I did not know I possessed singing an ancient song of power.
The Mother’s heartbeat was uncertain at first, faltering with my fear, as hands held back for years remembered the lyre of Logres and its plaintive wondrous song. But flat and flabby thump gave way, with dawning excitement meeting waning light, to a staccato immediacy and a thrumming pulse that took me away from the ego and its insistent demands; a rhythm, known long ago and forgotten, picked up, cradled and nurtured by the mother within my own nature. The rhythm of song and blood and life and heart; the steady beat that informs the Land and accompanies us from first falling through Mother’s pulsating tunnel to final spasm of darkness followed by brightly-lit transition.
As the beat strengthened, its tone ever fuller in the gloaming, an urge, which goes back to the Ancestors, came upon me: It was the urge to push, to go through the labour of Song-birth, to bring a new being of raven-dark, moon-lit, Earth-cradling luminescence into a world whose heart is faltering and whose natural song has been flattened by artifice and inertia and distance from source.
This need, every bit as powerful and impossible to resist as birthing my own child, took over and the spears of natal agony and ecstasy took over, banishing mind’s control and society’s rigid rules.
The I, ‘prisoned deep within ringing stone cavern, lay manacled. The silent eye took over, its harmony with the Earth-connection and Bardic Lore from the past instinctive and unassailable.
My frail human heart became the Mother’s. The drumstick a maternal finger smoothing a tight full belly, the beat of Mother and Child in unison a warmth and weeping, the Nativity of song a gift to the land.