There was nothing we could do other than lie flat and still for fifteen hours, cocooned in the darkness, with the wind and rain sharing with us the enormity of their power, threatening to encroach into our camp.
It wasn’t a normal winter solstice. Every sabbat I have celebrated before this one had been quite a civilized affair by comparison, but tonight we fancied a challenge, something which would test us, and take us to our edge.
For me, that’s where the greatest experiences, insights and learnings come, when I go as far out of our comfort zone as I dare. The journey leading up to this night had taken me many years of work, facing my fears, working through them, learning new skills, ultimately to get me to the point when I could sleep out on an ancient burial mound in the middle of the West Pennine Moors, an hours walk from the nearest road across bog in a force nine gale with driving rain. I loved every minute of it. I was possibly awake for every minute of it… it was a long, long night.
Setting off early afternoon with our backpacks, waling across boggy moorland, we picked our way cautiously around the heather, sods of grass and water logged peat, we were ever watchful of the storm closing in. We were in our sleeping bags by nightfall, which being the shortest day of the year was 4pm. With day break not being until 730am the next morning, a long night of darkness lay ahead of us. The wind flashed around our shelter, threatening to come in, fretting the tarpaulin so loudly we couldn’t’ speak to each other.
It wasn’t quiet, and we weren’t alone.
We had placed ourselves on what is essentially a spirit super highway. A magnet for everyone and anyone in the spirit world it seemed. The burial mound we had perched our camp on is amongst many a mystery. Made entirely of a different soil transported from many miles away, it is a perfect oval and most don’t know why it is there. It is one of those curious sites our ancestors went to great trouble to build thousands of years ago. But for us, we know it’s an entrance to the Lower World.
I saw beautiful white horses, like that that Gandalf rode in Lord of the Rings, rearing up right outside our camp. I saw wild dogs running across the moors heading for our direction. I sensed many beings gathering outside. But I gave them none of my attention. Not tonight. I could have connected, explored, journeyed, worked, but tonight for me was about survival in this dimension. Battening down and focusing on the morning – that felt more than enough of a challenge for me this time.
When we woke there was stillness, the storm had passed. We rose and stepped outside on the freezing ground. We were in time to catch that beautiful moment, pausing with the rest of nature to watch the morning sun rise over on the horizon. Our camp was intact; we were intact, and fully charged from our experience.
After laying down our gifts to the Sidhe realm, elated, energized and ready to embrace the solstice stillness over the forthcoming days we set off home. As our ancestors would have done, we were going to pause now for three days, hiding from the Christmas frenzy. Resting as the sun rests, remaining still on the horizon for three days before turning on Christmas day, the birth of the sun god.