Omen Days 11

The penultimate day of Omen Days. And, later today or the early hours of tomorrow depending upon your time zone, a New Moon eclipse. For the first time in what feels like weeks I missed the pre-dawn call to poetry. I woke to daylight, having slept nearly eleven hours. Not waking in the darkness does add a new dimension to omen seeking. So after the pets paraded outside to do what they needed to do, I opened the curtains to see another steady parade of seekers at the bird feeder.

Two friends have commented on some of my…well, let’s just call it thematic continuity for me. Mick asks “What is it about you and rocks, Bee?” Patricia arches an elegant brow and queries, ” What is this compulsion to feed, Bee?”

I could not settle until I had hoked out the wild bird seed and refilled the feeder just outside the window where I am now typing this. Hence, a haiku for today’s Poetry Daily.

The blue tit and robin
perch on the feeder
cock heads, stare

Featured Image: Photo by Jan Meeus on Unsplash


The Omen Days

The Omen Days are upon us. These are the classic twelve days of Christmas from today, St. Stephen’s Day to Epiphany, the feast of the Three Kings. These are the in between days of the winter feast, that include the liminal time of the New Year.  This whole winter tide is a threshold place, from pale glimmering of dawn on winter solstice until Epiphany. Oh, how I love that word. Would that we would all have a healing or self-improving revelation.

But I digress. The Omen Days. In former times, it was the custom of folk to look for portents of the future year.  I expect they would be looking at how the birds and beasts were behaving to judge weather patterns and consider harvest yields.  So seeing snowdrops in flower in our raised beds yesterday, did make me wonder if that would count as an omen.

Now that we are no longer mainly an agrarian society (although the masses depend upon them for the food they consume) we look at tarot cards, or read runes, or take a line from a poem or the Bible, and figure out the omen from them.  What I like to do is see what random thing crops up early in the day. Even what first occurs. So waking to a cat on your lap (even if you had dreamed of her the night before) does not quite cut it. Although, Sparkle is really my dear husband’s cat, but we are seeing a subtle realignment of cats with Felix is gravitating towards Tony and Sparkle attaching herself to me. But that has been happening over the past week, so doesn’t quite qualify I feel.

In the end it was early rising well before dawn and using a new Christmas present from a friend, bought explicitly to respect the velvet darkness of the amrit vela, these ambrosial hours when our soul calls to us. It is a pen with penlight for writing in the dark.

Two poems for the Poetry Daily today, since I reckon that my Omen Day offering will probably take the form of haiku over the next twelve days. Although that may change. One must respect the random. Also, I may be posting later than usual. It is all down to how the omens roll.

Omen Days

Read the runes!
What's in the cards?
How will the clouds form our future
from the present shards?
Collect the portents
in fevered times where fear
and uncertainty foment.

The old is not quite done.
The new not yet begun.

We feast and slumber in dreams
where we feature as heroes
just like those we watch
in our holiday films.

Deep down, we are all listening
for our call to adventure,
but we want to be heroes
without fear of any censure.

The old is not quite done.
The new not yet begun.

Collect the portents.
We are heroes all,
even if we think
we are only small.

Mighty oaks begin
with acorns who fall
on fertile ground.
They gain strength and girth
straight from Mother Earth.

The old is not quite done.
The new not yet begun.

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

Omen Day 1
St. Stephen's Day, 2018

Writing in darkness
Wand - without phoenix feather

Copyright 2018 Bee Smith

May the omens be with you!

Featured image Photo by Nikhil Mitra on Unsplash

Christmas Eve Anticipation

Christmas Eve

As a child, I personally preferred Christmas Eve to Christmas Day. It was the custom to bring the evergreen into the house on the 23rd and check that all the tree bulbs were good to go. This custom had its roots in that my father had a Winter Solstice birthday. My mother felt it was unfair to have to share the spotlight with the over arching cultural feast. So indoor decorations did not go up until after December 21st.

On Christmas Eve we brought out the ornaments and trimmed the tree and bickered about whether to single strand or clump the tinsel. We had lots of oddments for tree ornaments. There was a carved napkin ring from Labrador from when my aunt had been a medical missionary there in the 1930s. There was a jumping jack my uncle gave me that still goes on my tree to this day. And there were many like that. My mother saved the blue fairy, dog and dungareed boy from my crib mobile. They still go on my tree. The ornaments were pretty random, not just store bought shiny baubles. Many also had a little story attached. My siblings and I routinely send each other new ornaments every few years and this is a way of continuing that conversation started more than sixty years ago when we shared a single Christmas tree.

Christmas Eve was all bustle and full steam ahead towards Midnight Mass to have everything ready, last minute baking and dashes to the store, presents put under the tree, stockings hung. The anticipation was delicious. Seductive. But…

Best laid plans will go awry. There have been Christmases when we have been snowed in and couldn’t drive to gather with my husband’s family for a day or two afterwards.

But sometimes then the old magic arises. We let go of the ideal of perfection and something more meaningful enters that is not something that can come down the chimney. That snowbound Christmas a far neighbour walked the few miles down to our house with a dessert apple pie in a rucksack to share the feast I had walked into the village on Christmas Eve with my rucksack to hurriedly assemble when it was clear that the plans were not going to pan out as expected.

My household has been something of a dispensary these past few days. I seem to be the only one standing without a sniffle. So far. My dear husband is bed bound with a streaming flu-like cold he has been batting back for a week. Also, feeling very guilty because…it’s Christmas and he really is flattened.


It'll be great!
It'll be magic!

There will be food.
There will be laughter.

We will gather
and have presents for after.

...and then

The oldest cat
will pee on the bath mat...

Father Claus wakes
with a streaming flu...

best laid plans set...
by the Lord of Misrule.

Copyright © 2018 Bee Smith

The Great Feast

the great feast

When I wake in the morning and go into the kitchen to make my tea, there are such lovely aromas. Annie was baking last night when I went off to bed and those lovely scents of home-baking linger. Scent is a powerful evoker of memory. Christmas time and winter tide is full of these. I have lived six decades and spent Christmas in three countries. As a child I was a stickler for tradition, but time, travel and new cultures have made me adaptable. Yet the spirit in those traditions first encountered in childhood linger in spirit. The last conversation I had with my mother, who died early in the New Year, was my gratitude for the wonderful, magical Christmases she had made. We both cried. As an adult I know she had done that on a tight budget. But it felt plentiful and abundant because each gift was so carefully chosen to match some unspoken wish.

Today’s Poetry Daily remembers.

The Great Feast

Here’s to us!
Time to revel in our peace
and plenty,
the grace of gathering round
so many.
Here’s to our company!
Those we love
right here and now, and also
absent friends and family.
They feast, too.

So raise a glass, make a toast.
To memory
of those first ever feasts, those
who decked the halls and trimmed trees,
filled stockings
while the house was all abed.
food to share, cinnamon
spiced the house and home, made all
bright with lights,
with love of us, me and you,
love of all
who come through the opened door.

Here’s to us!
Here’s to them!
May we all gather around,
feast once more.
At wintertide, we draw close,
feast once more
in light

Copyright © Bee Smith 2018

The Great Feast
The Great Feast in Times Past

We are Family

Back in the 1960s there was an amazing photo collection published called “The Family of Man.” I found a copy on my sister’s bookshelves and poured over the beauty of so much diversity in all those pictures. Edward Steichen had curated the collection back in the 1950s. It was a landmark in helping us see others worldwide as this one diverse family called human.

That book made a huge impression. I come from a family which is notable (according to the Sociology of Family professor who marked my term paper back in the day) for its diversity and fluidity of religious allegiance. By the 1980s, when I considered up to the cousins twice removed, we had a representatives for a multi-hued array of Christian sects, as well as every other world religion bar Hindu. A lot of that could be accounted for by intermarriage.

We ‘adopt’ people along life’s journey, just like the informal adoption of my great-aunt by a childless Jewish couple when that large immigrant family were on their uppers. She didn’t lose touch with her birth family and routinely visited with her sisters . She gained a larger and more diverse world – and family.

How we identify is an interesting phenomena. It’s why I get quizical looks when my mixed race nieces call me Aunty. People get addled trying to equate this Wonder Bread white face with these two beautiful brown young women. But it an an honor to be their aunty and a sign of their respect for their elders that their African family would surely approve.

Last night I was watching an old episode of Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s PBS show “Finding Your Roots” which highlighted a remote settlement of mixed race people close to Phillippi, West Virginia. I had an aunt, uncle, and cousin who lived there. My paternal grandfather died there. My mother worked in the 1930s in the local hospital. Yet I had not known there was this hidden community who had banded together to duck the colour bar and racial politics that is part and parcel of America’s story. Family is truly a complicated mix that weaves a rich tapestry.

This Being Human

Is about making family,
which is much more complex
and sometimes more
problematic than
finding your tribe.

Stratch the genomes

and you'll find we are all
quite mixed, actually.
We talk to God
in differant tongues
while some stay
resolutely silent
during grace.

We come in all shades
of our skin, these beautiful
cells we shed every seven years.
And the colour of our eyes
vary, yet we still call each other
cousins. We have a common
ancestry as our glue.

All are welcome to
the Great Feast's table
where we will exchange
gifts with each other
in peace at winter tide.
We are all so differant.
yet in that moment
as we bow our heads
in grace, and to each other,
these humans  - this great family -

are all in one common space.

©  Bee Smith 2018

Featured image Photo by Sandy Millar on Unsplash

The Cailleach in Her Winter Cave

cailleach in cave

In Irish and Scottish lore, the Cailleach (sounds a bit like Cal-yuk) is Mother Winter. In some myth she is credited with creating this known part of the world by emptying her apron of stones to build these island kingdoms. She is the crone, the aging year. In springtime there is a stand off with the maiden at Imbolc and the struggle between the old and the new life is played out until the vernal equinox, when the maiden clearly ought to be the victor.

This primordial crone has echoes in other cultures goddess myths. I see her in a keening Demeter bereft of her daughter. I see her in Hecate who has the wisdom to help lead the world back to some kind of equilibrium with Persephone restored and the earth renewed and fruitful. Those who have never known food shortages, especially over winter, can barely imagine the desperation that our ancestors must have felt as they implored the earth to provide sustenance and succour. Our Midwinter feasts are based on using up perishable foodstuffs; and then comes time for preserving energy until the new planting season arrives. That’s when our ancestors did take a cue from bears and hibernate to conserve energy and food.

Today’s image is a photo I took when visiting Mother Shipton’s Cave in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire in 2016. Mother Shipton, with her living in the king’s woodland and this cave, with her prophecying, is a more modern embodiment of the crone or cailleach energy. She is a wise woman, as well as the cunning woman. And she is old, old, old.

The Cailleach in Her Cave
Deep in her winter cave
the Cailleach sits and croons.
She keeps with her a dog
whose coat is black at pitch.
She keeps the dog to have
company. But she has
with her a silver wolf
to keep strangers at bay.
Deep in her winter cave
the crone has her own light.
It is not a lantern.
Her right palm is alight.
She tosses that fire
like she would her dog’s ball.
She plays with it and it’s
not for warmth or cooking pot.
She has other needs. Look!
She watches it play out
bouncing on the walls like
a metronome for tunes.
She croons to the shadows.
She croons to winter cold.
She croons to her wolf pal.
She croons to her black dog.
She holds a tinderbox
in her other palm. It will
never scorch or cinder burn.
She keeps the need fire.
Deep in her winter cave
the Cailleach plays the light
and no matter how small
it shines on winter nights.
Copyright© Bee Smith 2018