It is never easy when anniversaries come around. Or birthdays. Or Mother’s/Father’s Day. These days, we feel, can only serve as painful reminders of the things and the people we have lost; the good times or the futures stolen from us. Birthdays especially, for once they were happy times, now reduced to remembering that there will be no more celebrations, only memories of what once was, and, for the one who is lost, to never grow a day older from the moment they passed beyond the Veil. For they, once gone, shall never grow old and never more suffer the maladies and ravages of time and old age any longer. For them, time has stopped. For us, the ones left behind, the steady march of time beats on like a melancholic heartbeat in the darkness.
Grief is a paradox. It both leaves you with a feeling of emptiness and filled with so many things – anger, despair, denial, resentment. It can veer from one extreme to the other. It can be confusing and numbing at the same time. Not knowing how to deal with it, who to turn to, where to go, what to say. There are many suggestions about how to deal with grief and loss, not necessarily with death, but also other kinds of loss which can leave one with a feeling of “….maybe I should be feeling like this at this stage, or that stage. Maybe I should be over it by now. Do I have to go through the stages of grief in a particular order…?”
The answer to this is no. We think of grief as something that has to be controlled, managed and harnessed. Yes, to some degree we must manage our pain, but what many do not understand is that grief and all the feelings of loss are all part of the human experience and so MUST be treated as such, and not crafted into some form that fits neatly into a category or list. Grief simply does not work that way. We go through life never knowing grief and then suddenly we do. There is a life before and a life after grief. It becomes part of our make-up, our being. It becomes integrated into ourselves so that reality itself turns inside out so that there are now two worlds – the reality before the experience, and the one after. Things can never be the same again. At this time, and for some time after, we must learn to integrate this new feeling into out psyche and make it part of us. It will never leave us and it is for that reason we must learn to nurture it and find a place for it within ourselves.
It will always resurface and that is why we need to befriend it. Understand it. Learn that we feel grief because it is the highest expression of love. We grieve deeply because we have loved deeply. Even if we have had fractious or broken relationships with those we loved, it does not matter. Love is as complicated as grief and to try and pick it apart and make sense of it is a fruitless and demoralising task. Grief, like love, is what it is. There are things we are not meant to understand and the feelings and expressions of the heart, like love, grief, compassion and mercy are some of those things. We cannot explain them even though we try our best to. But they are sometimes way beyond our understanding.
Grief, like love, can be expressed by the heart in a thousand silent ways.
Grief can also be subject to social norms. A female may be frowned upon for seeking out love after the loss of her mate soon after his passing. Why is this? Is there a time limit on grief? I think not. We must get past this notion of time when it is relation to others’ feelings and emotions, and pre-conceived ideas of what it means to grieve. Some may grieve for a short time and process the loss quickly. Some may grieve the loss of their loved one for the rest of their earthly days. We cannot know the hearts of others. It is impossible, and wrong, to judge others on how and when they process their grief and loss. We must set our own houses in order first before turning our attentions to the dwellings of others.
And so, what happens if you feel you can move on? What then? How do you feel? More to the point, how do OTHERS make you feel? Guilty? Pressured? Ashamed? Are they projecting their own morals, ideals and virtues onto you out of some feeling of lack or want within themselves? Ask yourself – how do YOU feel about it? Your loved one is in another reality. They are not here to advise you, or admonish your for your choices. They cannot direct your life now in any way, so be wary of those who say “Your mother/father would want this/that, be so disappointed if you….” That is emotional manipulation, and control. They are not here. You are. Be mindful of that. We only have a short time here. Use this time wisely.
In the end, it is perfectly acceptable to move on with life. There is no shame in that. You do not forget those who have gone before you as they will always be a part of you – they may have shaped your life in some way, made you the person you are for good or ill. In some small way, they will always be a part of you, a part of your being. Holding a space in your heart for them does not mean you forget them. You may not think of them every day and, the first day you forget to think of them you might feel guilty. This is natural. It is a natural process of letting go. But letting go does not mean forgetting. Holding a place in your heart means you NEVER forget, you just store that memory and love away like a treasured album full of pictures and stories to be picked up and examined at a time of your choosing. It is a conscious choice to remember, not a forced one out of guilt, duty, obligation or external pressure. And with that, the memories become sweeter, if they were good, or have less of an impact if they were not. Holding that space is neutral. And it is good for you in the long-term because it allows room for that process to run its course and settle where it is supposed to without the pressure of social norms or other people telling you what should and shouldn’t be. Let it rest in peace in your heart and soul.
It is often said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some believe beauty is on the surface – a beautiful face, a beautiful body, a beautiful painting, or beautiful flower. While in some cases that may be the case, true beauty is more than what we see with our eyes. True beauty is what we see and feel with our heart.
What you value or deem beautiful is often a reflection of yourself; if you can see the beauty in yourself – your values, honesty, integrity, the love you have for others and other beings, it makes you beautiful on the outside. If you can bring out the best in others, that is beautiful. If you have compassion for those less fortunate, that is beautiful.
Forgiveness is beautiful. While some find it hard to forgive (and that is okay), when we choose to forgive others it is beautiful. We may feel hurt and resentful one day, then the deep, transformative power of sleep, dreams and love we hold deep within allows us to forgive others their transgressions, whether they have truly hurt us, or it is a perceived hurt. It brings forth the ability to move beyond to a place where our hearts can see clearly again. The dawn rises on a new day and yesterday’s woes and sorrows slowly fade into memory. The love we kept locked away because of those hurts comes forward once again through forgiveness, and that too, is beautiful. It brings peace and balance. But remember, forgiveness is always a choice.
Human beings suffer terribly because of the perceived nature of beauty. Grimalkins have no such affliction. Human beings, for the most part, judge themselves based on how they look to others, how attractive they are, how much approval they receive from others. They place their worth in the hands of others who too, do not know their own worth either. Let me tell you how Grimalkins value beauty.
Grimalkins are self aware, yes, but we are introspective. We understand that each one of us is different – big, small, black, grey, calico etc. We are mindful of our existence every day. We place value on ourselves, not by the colour of our fur or how long our whiskers are. No, we measure our worth by the values and principles we hold. Take my family – the Moonpaws. Our motto is Wisdom Before Knowledge. I find self worth and beauty in teaching youngsters to read and write, by sharing history and encouraging curiosity and a sense of yearning for knowledge in the individuals I meet. It makes me feel good and worthy because I have something to share that inspires others. So you see, your worth comes from inside, not from outside, not from approval from others. I may not get a thank you, but to see someone set off on an academic journey with excitement is more than enough to fill my heart with joy. That is where true self worth lies.
Grimalkins live in the moment. We change and improve the things we can change and accept the things we cannot. We express gratitude for the things we have for it is the small things in our lives that can bring us great joy and comfort. We do (or try not to) worry about the morrow. We do not live in fear as humans do – fear of what others may think, feel or do. We say how we feel because our words may make a difference, but they may not. But we never know. It doesn’t matter. Living without fear is beautiful. It opens up a wealth of possibilities that lead on to more beautiful things. Pride and ego are not things Grimalkins are too afflicted by. We strive for peace and balance and a quiet life. But even we can fall by the wayside at times.
Too often human beings are too afraid to say things to each other, too afraid to say “I love that about you, it makes me feel….” or “…it is beautiful because…” If people recognised and acknowledged the beauty in others, then they may realise that their self worth and value comes from the inside, not from validation from the outside. A beautiful person can facilitate change and transformation in you, quite unexpectedly, making you into a better, more beautiful person. You, in turn, may go on to be the catalyst of change in someone else and so it goes on.
Beauty is not about how you look or how you physically present yourself to the world. True beauty is bringing out the best in yourself and in others. Be beautiful every day. Celebrate and be content with the small things – the smell of Earl Grey tea on a rainy day, the feeling of warm sand between your toes, the sound of the sea, seeing tiny shoots appear in your pots where there was only bare soil before. New books. Fresh strawberries, incense and wind chimes, the list of things you find beautiful is endless so take time to be mindful of them and express gratitude for the sense of contentment they bring you.
Appreciation for the little things is beautiful. Be mindful of them and you will find small oases of peace in the maelstrom of life.
The Grimalkin Oracle has been in production since 2013 but due to other book commitments, it has been on hold until now. Some of the cards have already been created and the guide book is now in the early stages of being written. Hopefully it should be completed in 2019 as there are many illustrations that need to be created from scratch. The oracle cards created so far feature illustrations from Dance of the Fire Cat and The Ocean Lord, as well as mixed media and digital images relating to the first three books in the fire cat series. All of the cards relate to the Clowder of Grimalhame and the world of the fire cat.
Even though the cards will be fantasy in nature, they will also have a Jungian feel; I have read some of Carl Jung’s work, a particular favourite of mine is Man and His Symbols which focuses on dreams. I have kept a dream journal all my adult life so know the importance of dreams and how it makes up our beings as a whole. Dreams can also be used as a tool for healing, something which I am trying to incorporate into the meanings of the cards and the guide book itself. If one is familiar with Jung, one may recognise some of the archetypes.
Creating the cards and applying the meanings to them is not as easy as it looks. I am trying to think of every eventuality while also attempting to keep it as simple as possible for both the sitter and the reader. The project is still in the early stages but I have created a few cards based on artwork already in the books to give the reader a reference point, and also an opportunity to refer to the books to find out more about the characters and their history.
I am looking forward to starting on some new illustrations for the deck but in the mean time I am pulling together all the ideas I had for the guide book and putting it into some semblance of order. I will be posting updates on the website, on WordPress and on Twitter as I go along.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.