A Day in the Life–“August Dark Moon”: Lorna Smithers, pagan Druid and bard

Submitted by Lorna Smithers.

I’m woken by my alarm clock at 6AM. Blinking open my eyes, I recall what I can of last night’s dream; horses again, another argument. I scrawl this in my journal and get up immediately, knowing the time between waking and going to work is precious. Whilst breakfasting, I observe the view from my bedroom window, greeting the grey-white clouds and light rain, buddleia, and shrubs in the garden, a pigeon on next door’s roof, and the circling sea gulls.

After this I do ritual, hailing the spirits of the cardinal directions, above, beneath, and within before lighting candles in honour of the spirits of place, ancestors, Belisama the goddess of the river Ribble and its valley, and Gwyn, my personal deity. Following a meditation in a tree stance where I ground myself between earth, sea and sky, this world and the Otherworld to which I usually journey, I often practice divination or simply commune with my gods or other guides.

Today it’s a dark moon, so I request guidance from my deities and the moon herself, asking whether there’s anything they would like me to do or write for them before stilling my senses and waiting. The doors of perception open. I’m standing beside Gwyn on the Ribble’s bank beside a dug out canoe, and in this moment I’m aware of his aid in traversing the ways between the worlds. The moon is a dark void and beneath is a swirling vortex in the river, a gateway to further places in the Otherworld. In the distance I see the shadow of Castle Hill. A melody flows into my mind like river water.

Giving thanks, I close the ritual and leap to my computer, automatic typing for ten minutes, the vision expanding in my mind’s eye to include ivy winding down Castle Hill, the Setantii tribe and other ancestors of the mythic realm of Penwortham (to which I refer as Peneverdant, its name in the Domesday book) departing toward the maelstrom on their oaken boats with Lady Ivy awaiting their return. I begin setting it into verse before 9.30am arrives and it’s time for work.

I work as a packer and cleaner in a local saddlery. It’s not my first choice of career but it has the advantages of being a small, friendly family run business and of being close to horses, even if I’m not working with them directly. I try to focus on the positives as I know that being a Bard will never earn me enough money to leave my day job.

I return home on my bike and then go for a walk, rounding the corner of my street to Greencroft Valley- a thin slither of woodland on the sides of a brook and small green which escaped being built on during the Central New Towns housing project by virtue of being too steep. I greet the ivy who permeates this damp vale climbing tree and fence, giving much needed cover and support to the soil and the trysting oak standing between the pathways at the centre of the valley. As I walk, I listen to the song of the stream and the calls of birds and wind in the trees, saluting the magpies.

Following a cycle path, I meet the Ribble and thank Belisama for her part in my developing poem. I follow the river to Castle Hill, observing the height of the tide, and watch the gulls while looking out for the bevy of swans that appeared for the first time this year but today must be further up river.

By Castle Hill is a dirt track known as Faery Lane due to local legend about a faery funeral. Joining the track, I greet the spirits of place and enter Church Wood. Ivy drapes everything, especially the tall trees and railings around the churchyard on the hill’s summit. The by-pass roars by on my left. The covering of wild garlic is long gone, decaying to leave the soil bare except for hummocks of moss, ferns, and harts tongue licking from damp crevices on the hill’s edge.

Close to the gate where the track meets the road stands the leaning yew who would have fallen due to erosion if it wasn’t for the strong support of an ash. I sometimes meditate beneath the yew, sitting on a log which grows wonderful mushrooms and is just out of view. As my poem is calling for its ending, I say a brief hello to the yew, noting the glistening spider webs and midges collecting in the shade, and promise to catch up another day before facing the shock of the dual carriageway and sunshine- a stark contrast with the damp darkness of what remains a magical place.

I go home, bathe and, eat tea with my parents (I’m living with them until I can afford to move out) before finishing my poem and publishing it on my WordPress blog, From Peneverdant,then rehearse a set of poems I will be reciting at a café in St Anne’s. The rest of my evening is spent checking e-mails, catching up on other blogs, responding to posts on The Druid Network social forum and reading Michael Symmons Roberts’ new poetry collection Dry Salter. By 10PM, I’m in bed.

Lorna Smithers is a poet and pagan Druid living in Penwortham in Lancashire. Her poetry, which is inspired by the Bardic Tradition, focuses on nature, local history, British mythology and faery lore. In 2012 her poem ‘Proud of Preston’, an address to the city by Belisama, goddess of the river Ribble, won the Preston Guild Poetry Competition. She has been published in ‘The Dawntreader’, ‘Myths Inscribed’, and ‘Heroic Fantasy Quarterly’, and is currently Bardic Co-ordinator for The Druid Network and a regular contributor to the Pagan Poetry section of
Moon Books blog. She performs regularly in the local area and also runs workshops and give talks on Bardic poetry and paganism. ‘From
Peneverdant’ her WordPress blog, can be found here.

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