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Winter – Time of Deepening Darkness and the Black Horse of Winter

For many, winter is a testing period, especially for those who are old or infirm. Winter, the Time of Deepest Darkness, the time when the world sleeps, is also a time of healing and regeneration in preparation for the rigours of the coming of spring. During the Deepest Darkness, Grimalkins retreat into the safety of the clowders and settlements, to roaring hearths and hot meals. At Deepest Darkness, when Shamash’s supremacy is diminished by the Black Horse of Winter, the power of the Sun-Cat is not completely weakened by the loss of his magnificent mane of sun-rays. In these most shadowy of days, we are not forsaken but even the mighty Sun-Cat must rest and regain his strength. For now, The Black Horse of Winter and Inghira Moon-Cat rule these long nights and starry skies.

winter-solstice

  Winter is a productive time even though the earth seems to be sleeping. While the ground is covered in a deep quilt of snow, seeds are germinating below the earth and, like the seeds, Grimalkins are busy making do and mending. While the hard work of harvesting and gathering is at an end, the more creative pursuits of making Yule/Mordrach gifts and decorations begins.

  Hibernation and retreating into the safety of the clowders and settlements is not just practical and life-saving, it is also a symbolic act – all must return to the earth, the body of the Great Mother, once a year, for regeneration and rebirth. We may lament the passing of the warm, heady days of summer but we rejoice that the toil of the past two seasons is over and we can finally enjoy the fruits of our labours.  Winter is the final act in the great opera of the year, a time when we gather together with family, friends, neighbours, acquaintances and strangers and reaffirm our bonds of kinship with one another and express our gratitude for all that we have.

winter

Shamash Sun-Cat and the Black Horse of Winter

Every year, at Oliach (autumn equinox), a great battle begins between two forces of nature. The astronomical observance of the autumn equinox last for three days and, on the first day of Oliach, Shamash Sun-Cat begin his epic battle with the Black Horse of Winter. This battle lasts until the final day of Oliach when the Sun-Cat is defeated and overcome by the Black Horse. During the battle, the Black Horse tears out the Sun-Cat’s mane and so his power wanes. As his mane is destroyed, the power of the suns wane until they almost disappear from sight at the midwinter solstice, at Mordrach. It is during this time the Black Horse reigns, bringing the snows and ice to the world. Shamash, his mane now gone, retreats into the belly of the earth until it starts to regrow. On the third day of the midwinter solstice, the first golden hair appears on his forehead and this heralds the return of the suns. Now his strength begins to return. But it will be an arduous process and the winter is long; he must rest and regenerate so he can fight her once more and bring light back to the world once more.

black horse of winter

  While the black horse of Winter may maim, defeat and banish Shamash Sun-Cat to the bowels of the earth, she is not an evil creature. She is an aspect of nature and creation like Shamash or Inghira. While many lament her coming, she serves an important purpose; she brings the winter, the dark, feminine half of the year when the earth must rest otherwise it will wither and die. Too much warm, masculine energy depletes and exhausts. There must be a balance of the masculine and feminine and the battle of Shamash and the Black Horse represents this. It is the balance of life. The earth and its creatures must rest. The Black Horse may seem harsh, but she is just and wise.

Black horse run in the snow

  The Black Horse also represents the Great Mother Goddess in Her Crone aspect – deep, powerful, strong, introspective. She goes paw-in-hoof with Inghira Moon-Cat, the bringer of sleep, dreams, and healing through darkness. The Black Horse also brings these things but on a larger and longer scale, of days, months, years and aeons, rather than the minutes and hours by which we live by. The continual cycle of wakefulness and hibernation the earth must endure ensures it and its creatures regenerate and renew endlessly over many ages. This has been the task of the Black Horse and Shamash Since the Creation in the First Days of the New Dawn.

  She is not a force to be feared even though she may bring death to many. But after the winter solstice, her power begins to fade. Shamash’s mane begins to grow and the world is preparing for the re-emergence of the light. At Falia, the vernal equinox, Shamash returns to the world and defeats the Black Horse of Winter and drives her back to the high north where she will stay until Oliach. As Shamash’s mane grows the suns become warmer and climb higher in the sky until, at Adrach, the summer solstice, it is fully grown and he, and the suns, are at full power.

Shamash

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The Grimalkin Wheel of the Year – Morchuria, Day of the Ancestors

  The moon festival (moon festivals are held from the autumn equinox to the beginning of the Far Pavilions’ new year) of Morchuria is held between the festivals of Oliach (autumn equinox) and Mordrach (midwinter) in the Grimalkin calendar. At this time the year descends into darkness and the observance marks the beginning of the winter. Morchuria is the Grimalkin remembrance festival where we ask those who have departed this mortal life to join us in our celebrations. Vigils are held in the forest, at barrows and burial cairns, in groves and in homes. Candles are lit and incense is burned to invite the departed and the spirits of the forest into the household to sing, dance and feast. All merriments are held in their honour. The official remembrance ceremony takes place in the Central Council Chamber and we sing songs and read poems to remember our loved ones.

fire

After the initial ceremony and the invocation to the spirits at sunsdown, all gather at the torch-lit Henge and hold a banquet. Huge cauldrons of stew, casseroles and hot fruit puddings bubble deliciously over roaring fires, all washed down with hot spiced mead, warm fruit cordial or spiced milk. Balefires are lit under which potatoes and apples cook. All merriments honour the Great Mother in her Dark Aspect – the bringer of night, of winter, and of arcane secrets. All around the forest hollowed out ‘neeps glow with candles, their odd faces leering through the dark to frighten away evil.

samhain-1

Morchuria is also known as the Day of the Elders where the elders of the clowder are honoured and given gifts. Elders are the cornerstone of Grimalkin society – all wisdom, skills and trades are passed down from the old ones. They are revered as great teachers and they represent the Great Mother in her Crone aspect – the tester and initiator of souls. The young ones (and older ones who should know better) dress up in costumes and scare each other in the dark for it is the only time they can stay up all night without going to bed. Adults dress as demons, swarthy spirits and shades to frighten the young ones who then converge upon the ‘evil-doers’ and ‘vanquish’ them with sticks. This is a symbolic gesture; badness and negativity are driven out by the light and innocence of youth and, by doing this every year, it not only drives away malevolent spirits, but teaches youngsters to never fear the darkness.

Ancestral Shrines and Honouring the Spirits

“A great oak does not mourn the loss of a single twig.”

Old Grimalkin Saying.

  Ancestral shrines are found in all Grimalkin homes. They consist of small niches or spaces within the household sometimes with statuettes and items belonging to the deceased. Some items may represent the trade or profession of the forebear. Candles are lit and flowers placed on the shrine to mark anniversaries such as the ancestors’ birth and death. At Morchuria, the Day of the Ancestors, offerings of food and wine are placed on the shrine and the departed are invited into the home so they can celebrate along with the living. The shrine will be in a private part of a Grimalkin’s dwelling, such as a bedroom or ante-room. The deceased will then take his or her place on the shine in the form of a figurine, or an object that reminds the family and friends of that Grimalkin. If a Grimalkin was fond of the sea, it would be a shell, or if they liked to walk in the woods, it would be an acorn, nut or pinecone. Grimalkins have many ways of remembering those who have crossed over into the Otherworld.

But shrines are not just confined to the home; our respect for the dead is great and there are public shrines all over the clowder, usually dedicated to the founders, or other prominent Grimalkins. Yew groves are also places where many a historical Grimalkin is buried. West of the Henge is a grove where there are burial cairns and graves in abundance. Here one will find votive offerings of food and flowers making the burial grounds not a place of sadness, but one of memory and joy. Stone effigies of Grimalkins past look down benevolently at those who come to remember, in particular, the memorial to Celandine Ursula Longwhisker, the mother of Winnowyn Longwhisker, who was Clowder Mother for many decades. Here, a robed Celandine stands with paws outstretched with a silver halo around her head and a dormant lion at her feet. Many come to honour her with flowers and music on the anniversaries of her birth and death.

  neolitic dolmen England

  The Wildcat equivalent of ancestral shrines is the Halls of the Ancestors. When a Wildcat dies, it is believed their soul is taken by the Irya Nos, the Dark Sister, to the halls of their forefathers. Each clan has its own ancestral hall that has an entrance in the physical world. These entrances can be in the side of a barrow, a cave in the mountainside, or at the entrance to a waterfall. Wildcats (like Grimalkins) believe the afterlife lies parallel to the mortal world, existing side-by-side. Votive offerings are placed at the entrances of these halls at set times during the year. In Old Grimalkin, these places are called ahnn-dachann (place of the ancestors) and date back to a time when the clowders, as we know them, did not exist. Some are more than ten-thousand years old. The ancestral spirits that reside within the halls are called manes. In the Halls of the Ancestors, life is eternal in a world of everlasting summer. In these otherworldly fields and mountain passes, clans will visit other clans and share meat and mead with one another. In this land there is no war and no strife, no Wildcat fighting Wildcat. Here, everyone is a Laird.  In the world of Grimalkin, entrances to barrows and caves are doorways to the world of the spirits, not the spirits of the departed, but to the realm of the elementals, spirits and faeys. But one must be careful – not all spirits are friendly. Some can be mischievous and swarthy.

Excerpts from the Old Grimalkin Book of Hours

  To one who is not familiar with Grimalhame and the world of the fire cat I will begin by talking about the time differences between our worlds. On Earth, there are 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year (or 366 in a Leap year). In the world we live in there are 30 hours in a day, and 486 days in a year. We have two suns and five moons but still have the four seasons like you do on Earth only we experience both longer summers and winters. For more information on Grimalhame and the Great Arcadia Forest, visit Imeldra’s Page on the Grimalhame Press website. My book Imeldra Moonpaw’s Most Ancient and Magical Clowder of Grimalhame is available on lulu.com and tells you all you need to know about the Clowder of Grimalhame.

zodiac

The Hour of Stars

Hour 1-2

Nichni (night)

“Small steps, big aspirations.”

Grimalhame First School Motto

 The stars have always been a focus for dreamers and those aspiring to higher ideals. In common folklore the stars are said to be the celestial kingdoms of every kind of creature that has ever existed anywhere in the cosmos. In Grimalkin tradition the stars shining against the belly of Inghira, the Moon-Cat, are the souls of those yet to be born.

One tends to look to the stars for inspiration, the Divine Word, for answers to questions, to commune with the ancestors or to simply feel connected to the rest of existence. The Hour of Stars encourages us to think about our own personal ideals and desires. It is no surprise that most creative types can be found haunting the deserted corridors of the clowders at this time, or outside with their whiskers twitching in the direction of the celestial sphere.

It is also a time when we allow ourselves to connect with the cosmos, to the Great Mother, and understand that we are all part of something much bigger than ourselves. Rather than making us feel small and insignificant, this knowledge should make us feel like we belong; everything is in its rightful time and place. If we were not important, we would not be here at all.  We are an integral part of the All.

Allow yourself to breathe, to imagine, to dream. If dreams were not important, then great things would not have been accomplished. If Diera Leptailura, our Clowder Mother, did not dream about a grander and more integrated society, we would not have a great and wonderful clowder. If Gefin Marlioch did not dream, we would not have such beautiful and magnificent architecture, Central Council Chamber and learning places. If Soriah Deodar did not dream, we would not have the Order of Tir Oliach, our life-saving hospital, trained healers and a school of the mystic arts.   Never underestimate the power of dreams for they have the power to change the world.

stars

The Hour of Light

Hour 4-5

Arn-Lalast (first light)

“Light the way.”

Grimalhame Second School Motto

  Also called Morning’s Gate’, the break of dawn and the return of the light after the long hours of darkness is celebrated in this Hour. The rise of Shamash Sun-Cat brings light and warmth back to the waking world. It is during this devotion that one gives thanks for the life the suns bring into the world, especially during the winter months although the warmth may be lacking.

We may also think about how we can bring the suns’ qualities– life, rejuvenation, vigour, activity, vitality and creativity – into our own lives and the lives of others. The suns bring life to the cold, seemingly-dead earth in the spring and so it is important we motivate ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually after periods of rest and inactivity.

The suns, and Shamash, are undeniably male and assertive; the heat of the summer drives us outdoors to run and play in the sunshine, or to bend our backs in the fields and bring in the harvest. As golden wheat and corn fill our larders, pantries and storerooms, so Shamash’s light must fill our souls. It is important to remember that even though his power wanes in darker months, when the Black Horse of Winter rules the Northern Lands, he has not gone from our sight. As the Fire Cat said in the First Days:

“The Bright One does not die. He may disappear from your sight as his mate rules the darkness, but he will reappear again at dawn.”

  Always remember – even in the darkest days, there is still light, no matter how faint, no matter how small. And with that light comes hope. As long as the suns shine we will know life and the hope each new dawn brings.

sunny day

Hour of the Moon

Hour 28-29

Nichni (night)

She made the Night; a female cat, dark as shadow, who curled around the world every evening, enveloping it in her soft velvet fur. Her name was Inghira, or ‘’Dark One’. The stars that shone from her belly were the souls of those yet to be born.”

Dance of the Fire Cat

  The Hour of the Moon is the Hour for all those who love the Moon-Cat Inghira and who feel energised by the light of the celestial bodies. In the Dance of the Fire Cat, Inghira curls around the world, creating a dark comforting realm where many sleep, but some rejoice in the long hours of the night, an almost noiseless, private domain only a few can truly appreciate. The sound of the night-creatures and the owl in her hag-nest reminds us that we are not forsaken in these hours; life still continues.

The power of Inghira, and the moons, is potent; such healing takes place when she blesses us with sleep, just as her mate Shamash Sun-Cat blesses us with life and vigour. Sleep heals bones and silences the troubled mind.

The light of the moons help wanderers and travellers find their way; just as there are two suns to light our day, there are five moons to light our night. If one chooses to travel at night, this is the Hour to depart, when the moons are high in the sky. Inghira is all-encompassing, and the lights that shine from her belly guide the traveller to where they need to go. She is the one who points the way.

This Hour is perfect for the dreamers, the thinkers and those who feel most alive at night. More easy and less restrictive than the day, allow the power of Inghira to flow through you, let her darkness and twinkling lights inspire you, let your imagination run free.

hengemoon

hours button

Old Grimalkin Book of Hours

Compiled by Grimalhame Founder Soriah Deodar, Matriarch Thirdendyal Runstaff of the Clowder of Shilgrene, Matriarch Yllaria Notekyn of the Clowder of Yllaw, and the Elder Pantaliemon Blackwhisker of the settlement of Margrene, in the Time of the Great Gathering, the Old Grimalkin Book of Hours is a collection of observances, rituals, thoughts and prayers for the Priest/esshood, laybeast and the everyday Grimalkin that have been used since ancient times.

When the Order of Tir Oliach was formed, it was decided that a complete and comprehensive Book of Hours should be produced for the citizens, at the citizens’ request. And so, the Book was created, along with illustrations that depicted the various Hours being observed. From the original, full-colour version made at Grimalhame, many were re-created as text-and-woodcut-only, pocket-sized versions for the everyday Grimalkin. These primary copies were sent to every clowder and settlement in Arcadia and copied so every citizen could possess one. From these primary, text-only copies came intricate and richly-decorated Books of Hours that still exist today.  The Old Grimalkin Book of Hours is literal in the sense that there is an observation for every hour of the day. Originally written for members of the Order of Tir Oliach, the Book incorporated the religious aspects and philosophical and practical observances and, therefore, catered for those who chose not to practice any faith as well as those who do.

Despite the overtly-religious overtones, the everyday Grimalkin is encouraged to observe the Hours in their own way; communal activities are recommended as well as activities that can be carried out alone and in private. Each Hour will mean something different to every individual; there are no hard and fast rules as to how Hours are conducted, One may choose not to observe the Hours at all, but still retain a copy and refer to it now and again in order to feel and re-affirm the connection to the community and their place in the world. And this is why the Old Grimalkin Book of Hours still retains its appeal seven thousand years after it was written.

  For the reader not familiar with the language of Old Grimalkin, the following words are translated. Nichni means night, Arn-Lalast is first-light or morning. Avhai-Lalast is second light or afternoon, and Il-Noste means fall of night or evening.

I do hope you enjoy this Book and find peace within its pages.

The Old Grimalkin Book of Hours

Holy Mother       Ancestors

 

The Dark Portal – Book Three of the Fire Cat Stories

Suddenly, Starhawk stopped dead in her tracks. The fire cat, lost in thought, walked straight into her. She was tense and had an odd, glazed expression on her face, as though seeing something that the fire cat could not. He watched her for a few moments, and then she came out of her reverie. Her eyes, now wide and fearful, focused fully on the fire cat.
“Run. Now,” she urged as she set off at a sprint into the mist.
Something evil has found its way into the magical world of the Far Pavilions – something so powerful and deadly that it has the potential to tear a hole in the very fabric of reality. The fire cat must leave the relative safety of the Clowder of Grimalhame and embark on a terrifying journey that will take him beyond the arch of time and ultimately face-to-face with the unearthly force that threatens to destroy his world.
With the Far Pavilions on the brink of war and his people teetering on the edge of destruction, the fire cat must call upon all his courage and self-belief to find a way of defeating this terrible enemy. Can he save his people and his own soul in the process?
And deep below the earth, a creature is stirring …

The Dark Portal

dark porta2l

Imeldra Moonpaw’s Blog and Similar

I admit, I am a tad lazy when it comes to technology. But, alas, times move on quickly and, in order for me to spread the good word of the Grimalkin, I must dance with the devil.
However, I am a Grimalkin with a lot to say! Let me first introduce myself. I am Deputy Clowder Mother of Grimalhame and historian, scholar and academic. I am fond of writing about the world in which I live. If you visit the Grimalhame Press site, there are pages detailing all of the publications to date. If you are fond of cats, dragons and the wonderful world of fantasy, then Grimalhame Press is the page for you. There you will find all the links to the books and a gallery of illustrations, pages of maps and information on who and where we are in the universe.

Grimalhame is an agrarian and egalitarian society. That is to say we live our lives according to the constitution set down for us seven thousand years ago by our Founders. It is a place where every Grimalkin is equal under the law, with equal rights and equal opportunities. We live off the land – we reap and sow, and gather herbs and flowers according to the phases of our five moons. We take great care of your environment and harvest trees responsibly. We are the custodians of the forests in which we live and, in turn, the forest takes care of us by giving us shelter, food and medicine. You can find out more about the Clowder of Grimalhame in my book – Imeldra Moonpaw’s Most Ancient and Magical Clowder of Grimalhame.

flowers

In addition to the Fire Cat stories, I will be sharing a little Grimalkin magic with you. We see the world differently to humans and I would like to share this Grimalkin wisdom with you, wisdom passed down to us from our ancient ancestors. Our love of the land and the Great Mother Goddess makes us not that different to human beings who wish to live their lives the Old Way. We have much to share.

But for now, I will leave you with the links to my page and will post updates of the books currently available from Grimalhame Press.

Yours by Star and Stone,
Imeldra Moonpaw.

The Ocean Lord – Book Two of the Fire Cat Stories

The fire cat looked towards the entrance of the cave on the other side of the lagoon and waited and, for a moment, he saw nothing. Then, slowly, a large bow wave appeared on the horizon. It travelled towards him and the fire cat held his breath in anticipation, his heart pounding. The bow wave grew bigger, rippling as it came nearer. It stopped short of the rock and the water went still.
Too still.
Seconds ticked by and the fire cat peered into the clear, turquoise water. It was deathly silent.
Suddenly, the water boiled and frothed as a huge something emerged slowly from the depths sending waves crashing over the rock. The fire cat was taken totally by surprise and rolled over onto his side, seawater splashing over him.
A dark shadow crept over the fire cat’s prone form as the massive creature rose from the depths of the lagoon. The fire cat’s strength left him as he lay in the shadow of the creature that fixed him with an unearthly gaze that rooted him helplessly to the spot.

©Angela Russell 2013

  The Ocean Lord is the second of the fire cat stories and follows the fire cat from his home in the Great Divide to the ancient and magical Clowder of Grimalhame. After meeting Winnowyn and Rowanberry Longwhisker, the Clowder Elders, the fire cat sets out on a mission to find a cure for the mysterious illness that is afflicting the clowder and the creatures of the Great Arcadia Forest. His journey takes him beyond the shores of Arcadia to Kaldivari, the kingdom of the Tiger Lords, and to Tharsis – the Land of the Fire Mountains. With the clowder in grave danger, the fire cat must face his greatest fear and go beyond the boundary of death itself in order to save his kin.

Can he find the Ocean Lord, the Source of All Wisdom, before it is too late?

The Ocean Lord

Ocean Lord Front

Dance of the Fire Cat

 

From the heart of a star he came, born from the chaos of Creation. He came with the spark of Divine Light in his fiery paws and  danced across the surface of the sun at the beginning of the world.

He danced far and wide across the plains of Tharsis and the Great Harara Desert, planting the seeds of life in the barren ground in his wake. He sang his joyful song beneath the stars of the Great Divide:

“Awake, my friends, for I am the First!
Arise and join me in the Dance of Life. Be not
sorrowful for there is no longer death and darkness.”

And so, the first cats appeared from the womb of the sleeping earth to rejoice and sing in the First Days of the New Dawn.

©Angela Russell 2011

  Dance of the Fire Cat is a creation myth of how cats came into being according to cats. It is the first of the Fire Cat stories and will take you on a magical tour of the Fire Cat’s world, ‘told’ by the Grimalhame Clowder Historian, Imeldra Moonpaw. She tells the story of the Fire Cat’s journey across the kingdoms where he meets a wise creature who tells him about the nature of the Cosmos and the importance of his task, and the creation of the magical Clowder of Grimalhame – the city of cats, a place of myth, mystery and ancient Grimalkin magic.

Dancing Fire Cat