In this time of cultural nihilism, we are often told that loneliness is a scourge on our community. It is. The lack of interaction – true, meaningful interaction – with other sentient beings, human or Grimalkin, like ourselves can leave us feeling very detached from the world, bereft and isolated. I want to address some things as this is a subject close to my heart. I have felt loneliness at times but I have also known those who are lonely. And so, this blog is for them.
We all seek out others of our kind. Our family. Our community. Our clan. Our tribe. It is a natural response to want to be with those who understand us, who can care for us and who we can care for in return. We seek sanctuary in these relationships. We yearn for that deep connection that touches our minds, hearts and souls. We want that silent knowing that we are accepted without question by those who are like us. It is where we find security, peace, love and friendship.
But there are times when we can be surrounded by people and feel the loneliest being in the world. Why is this? I believe that we feel this way because we have lost, or never had, that essential connection with ourselves. Some can live their entire lives on their own and be happy and at peace with that because they have a strong sense of self. They know who they are and where they are going. But for many, seeking out others to deal with their loneliness becomes a mission, and sometimes a toxic and all-consuming one at that.
Loneliness is a natural reaction to the lack of meaningful connections with others. I say meaningful because we, as complex creatures, we want to engage with and expand our consciousness with others in our journey of life, share our hopes and dreams with them, share our loves and our pet peeves, our gripes and our simple pleasures and hope they understand them. We want validation that we matter, and that everything about us and our world has meaning and significance. We seek out others of our kind because we long to extend our universal love to those around us, to feel included and safe and secure. We are social beings. Our energies will naturally gravitate towards those who vibrate on a similar wavelength. The saying “you are on my wavelength” means exactly that.
Being connected to those like us brings us joy and peace. It brings out the best in us and we bring out the best in others in turn. But what if you do not have those connections? What if, at some point in your life, you find yourself feeling alone despite being in the midst of a crowd?
There are times when you can feel so disconnected from everything and everyone it becomes difficult to function in everyday life. Loneliness can draw you into a dangerous world of isolation, depression and self-sabotage. You can often feel like it is your fault you feel this way, like you have failed somehow, failed at being a human being because, here you are – you may be popular, have lots of friends or be successful – and yet you are wanting. You may feel guilty for feeling this way, somehow ungrateful, feeling the confusion of wanting to get away and yet yearning for the company of others, and this can lead to a downward spiral of depression. self-blame and even self-loathing. You feel like a fraud for putting on a smile and showing the world that you are okay but inside you are screaming. Keeping up appearances is a Sisyphean task – you get through the day with a laugh and a smile, keeping everyone’s probing questions of “u ok hun?” at bay, only to crawl to bed in the early hours, aching and despairing, having no room in your mind or your heart to think or feel anything but the darkness that is slowly pressing in upon you.
You can’t talk about it. How could you? You have to be the person everyone wants you to be. One person needs you to be one way, another person needs you to be another. You have to juggle flaming torches and spin plates all at the same time, pleasing everyone, or at least trying to. You try your hardest but inside you feel like you are failing, falling apart. You are keeping it together but barely. You don’t know what people want from you. You can’t be yourself. You begin to understand that you can’t keep everyone happy, you can’t please everyone. You can’t be everything to every person. You can’t do all the things you promised. You are being crushed under the sheer weight of the pressure around you – people, things, work, more people, more work, family….. It goes on and on. Your health is beginning to fail. You can’t do as much as you did before. That adds to the guilt. It weights even heavier upon you. The world becomes a carousel of noise and sound you can’t seem to escape from but you long to, long to get away for just a little while. You ache to get away from it all, to be alone, even away from the people you love most, but this also adds to the guilt. You feel like a monster for wanting a few precious moments away from them – to walk in the woods, to sit with a book and just gather your thoughts. Just for a few moments…
But in those moments, you still feel that void inside of you. The inescapable void that longs to be filled with something you don’t know what. You have been seeking it all your life but it has always eluded you. Sex. Work. Friends. Things. But it was never enough. Anger. Rage. Frustration, Depression. Despair, Sadness. Emptiness. It is all there. All working against you and yet there is no-one there to tell it to. You keep it in. You feel like your heart is going to explode with the sheer volume of it all. The loss. The pain. The inability to voice the discordant cacophony of feelings, emotions and thoughts playing a disharmonious dirge inside of you. It is a frightening and isolating place to be, my Dear Human. You cannot voice it because you don’t know how. You never learned that your thoughts and feelings were important. You were never taught that you mattered in a way that you should have done. But it matters. It always mattered. Because, my Dear Human, you are and essential part of the Whole, the All, just like the rest of us.
Your silence is killing you.
But oh, my Dearest Human, there is a way. From one who has walked through darkness and come out of the other side, there is a way to end this cycle of destruction. You can and are worth saving.
People often confuse being alone with loneliness. The two are not the same. Loneliness is the feeling of lack. Being alone is the feeling of contentment in one’s own company. It can take some time to adjust to being on one’s own but it is an important part of personal growth.
Now, I am not suggesting you end all of your relationships, cut all of your ties and live like a hermit or an anchorite until the end of your earthly days. You can be with others AND feel comfortable BEING ALONE at the same time.
Being alone does not mean shutting yourself off from others. Being alone means setting time aside for YOURSELF and doing the things you enjoy, being present in the moment, reflecting on the things you want out of life.
Being alone sets healthy boundaries with others. If you find you do not have a moment to yourself, be assertive and express your intention to have You-Time.
Being alone is essential to personal growth and development. Many people fear being on their own. If you feel this way, then ask yourself why? Are you afraid of yourself? Do you need to work on some inner issues? Do you need help with anything? If you need help ASK. NEVER BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP. IF YOU ARE IN NEED OF HELP, PLEASE DO NOT SUFFER IN SILENCE. CONTACT SOMEONE YOU TRUST, A PROFESSIONAL OR A GP. NEVER SUFFER ALONE.
Being alone gives you much-needed time to evaluate your situations. If your life or situation requires change or improvement, being alone will give you the time and emotional/mental space you need to make rational and informed decisions.
It is easier said than done. The fear of being alone can be too much for some and they spend their entire lives seeking out company because they cannot, or will not, address the reasons why they feel that way. My belief is that is you have a strong, or at least, a stable, inner core, then being alone and doing things on your own, becomes something you enjoy and not something to be feared.
People fear being alone with themselves. You should never fear yourself. If you have difficulty finding yourself, then take time to discover that. But you can only do that by spending time alone. Make friends with yourself. Be your own best friend, your own brother or sister. Being alone helps you to discover things about yourself you never knew existed. You may surprise yourself – once you give yourself time to grow and expand in the new space you have given yourself, you will feel less lonely. You will have forged that essential connection with yourself, which is the most important connection of all, the most healthy relationship you can have. Of course, you will still have your relationships and people around you, but you will now have a choice – you will choose to seek out company because you will not need it as you once did. The need to fill the void will no longer be there because you have done the work inside. You can only fix and heal yourself, but always seek out professional help if you need it. No-one can solve your problems for you, nor can people, addictions or things be substitutes for the relationship you need to create with yourself.
There is one last thing I want to address. You are not a failure. You are not a bad person. You are not unwanted, or unloved, or incapable of doing things. You are not a misfit or a freak or a square peg in a round hole. Your experiences do not make you. Your character and your integrity does. If you have not fit into a particular niche in life, if you have always felt like an outsider, there is a reason why and it has nothing to do with you. It is not because there is something wrong with you, it is because there is something wrong with society. You will always find your clan, your tribe. If you are not resonating with those around you and it is making you sad, miserable, uncomfortable or depressed, never feel guilty about moving on. It is YOUR life and we only have a short time here so we need to make the most of it. Seek out those who chime with you. Never apologise and never explain. Part of the reason why we feel lonely is because we stay in situations out of obligation. We do not need to do this. We always have the choice to free ourselves and seek pastures new and feel less alone in the world.
It’s not about defeat. It is not about self-destruction.
It’s about learning who and what you are again. Re-evaluating. Re-organising. Learning what works and what does not. What worked before may not now as, after the Fall, there comes the Rebuild. Just as Rome was never rebuilt the same way, so can a life never be the same after it has been broken. The Fall of the Old Life is an essential part of living, growing and evolving. Many old habits, thoughts, acquaintances no longer fit into the new Empire that is YOU. Feel no shame in opening your hands and letting them descend to earth to be recycled or to decay.
And yet, a few foundation stones remain to build upon – integrity, values – the things that fundamentally make you unique in this world. The old may go. It may die. It may turn to ashes and dissolve into the wind. It is no defeat to allow yourself to fall and shatter and to coalesce into a new form. Stars and planets do this endlessly. And so we must.
It is a difficult task. We are but children again, learning to walk and talk and find our way among our fellows once more. For we are new and untested in this fresh form in a world full of uncertainty, turmoil and despair. And yet, for those who have known a Fall and survived, sometimes many, it is simply another metamorphosis into a different and more evolved form, a better and more stable Empire of Self.
If you ask any Grimalkin what the most important thing about clowder life is, they will always answer with the word “food.” Food, apart from being necessary for survival, is perhaps one of the most important things about life in a clowder. There are always feasts at festivals, birthdays, kittenings, rituals and even funerals. Grimalkins love food. Every important moment is celebrated or commiserated with food. When a stranger enters a Grimalkin’s home, they are offered food and drink before even asking what that stranger wants. When Grimalkins arrive from other clowders, food is laid out before them. Food is a Grimalkin’s way of saying “hello, welcome to my home. I offer you my paw in friendship,” or “I have offended you. I am sorry. Please accept my apology in the way of this meal.” Food bridges gaps and helps forge friendships. It helps mend broken hearts and broken bonds. It makes strangers into companions and adversaries into allies. Food is the glue that keeps Grimalkin society together.
Food can make love happen. For example if a tom wishes to court a queen, he will often cook for her. If it is the other way around, a queen may cook but she will often make clothes for him instead. It is true to say the way to a Grimalkin’s heart is through their stomach. If that tom is an exceptional cook, his courtship may end in divine union. Or children.
There are no strict rules about mealtimes at Grimalhame (or any other clowder). Communal mealtimes are served in the Central Council Chamber and a Grimalkin can choose to eat there, or make his or her own at home. Many like to attend the communal mealtimes just to socialise. There are four set times in which Grimalkins can eat in the chamber. Far Pavilions time is listed first in bold, then Earth time in normal typing to give you an idea of when we eat compared to human mealtimes. Don’t forget there are 30 hours in a day in our world. Breakfast (07:00 -10:00/06:00 – 09:00) – on the breakfast menu there is porridge (with a selection of toppings including fruit, jam and honey), wholemeal toast, butter and jam, crumpets, bacon, eggs (poached, fried, boiled or scrambled), sausage, grilled tomatoes, fresh forest mushrooms, a mix of sweetened cereal with honey and milk, To drink – fruit teas, spring water and fruit cordial. Lunch (14:00 – 17:00/12:00-14:00) – a selection of freshly baked wholemeal and seeded hlaf, cheese, haslet, soup (tomato, onion, vegetable, wild game, broth, carrot and kale, carrot and bean, and fish served with a trencher), wholemeal crackers with herb butter. To drink – spring water, fruit cordial, ale, wine. Dinner (19:00 – 22:00/16:00 – 18:00) – Grimalhame stew (meat with carrots, swede, leeks, peas and dumplings), roast pheasant (or whatever bird is available) with buttered vegetables, steamed/roasted/grilled fish (pike, trout, perch, with herb sauce, pot pie roast/mashed/boiled potatoes, fruit crumble with spiced custard or cream. To drink – metheglin, bragget, ale, mead, tea, fruit cordial, spring water, wine. Supper (24:00 – 27:00/20:00 – 22:00) – hot milk spiced with cinnamon and honey, posset, a selection of sweet biscuits (sweetmeal, ginger, barley). To drink – hot milk spiced with cinnamon and honey, posset, fruit tea, almond milk.
Of course, this is just a small selection of what is on offer during mealtimes. The cooks make sure there is something for everyone at the table and quite often they will just throw ingredients together and hope whatever comes out of the oven or the pot is edible.
The Grimalkin Pantry
A Grimalkin pantry is no different from the food stores in the main clowder kitchen. Here you will find jars and containers of every description. A Grimalkin’s food store is never empty, even in the lean months of winter. The Great Arcadian Forest, surrounding country, and the lakes, rivers and fish ponds provide food for the clowders and settlements all year round, especially in the autumn when the boughs are heavy with fruits and nuts.
We will often make our own jams and preserves whenever possible. Pickling is also a must during the autumn when preparing food that will last for months is essential. Onions and other vegetables such as kale, cauliflower, cabbage and gherkins are grown in the clowder gardens and out in the nearby forest and are a seasonal must for soups and casseroles. Come spring, it is not uncommon to be served last season’s pickles and preserves with every meal. We detest waste and will often foist pickles and jams on unwilling guests just to try to get rid of them.
The Clowder Kitchen
Should a Grimalkin become lost in the clowder, he would not care a jot as he or she would always be able to find their way to the clowder kitchen. If the Central Council Chamber is the heart of the clowder, then the kitchen is undoubtedly the soul. Situated on levels one and two the kitchen is divided up into three sections – the main kitchen, and the levels one and two storerooms. Because the clowder is so large, a great deal of space is reserved for the storing of food and drink. The kitchen itself is vast and accommodates ten fireplaces and sixteen ranges. Pots and pans hang from racks on the ceiling which, in turn, are hoisted up and down by a mind-boggling array of ropes and pulleys. There are shelves stacked with boxes, tins and jars of herbs, spices, pickles and oils and there are several huge wooden tables on which food is prepared.
The storerooms are divided into two sections – dry store and cold store. The walls, floor and ceiling of the cold store are marble which keeps the meat, fish, milk and butter cool. There are four large cold stores on level two. The dry stores (of which there are three) are sub-divided into sections so it is easy for the cooks to find what they are looking for. In storeroom one there are vegetables of all kinds and dried fruit (fresh fruit is kept in the cold store so it lasts longer). Storeroom two contains pulses, beans, bread, pastries and cereals. Storeroom three contains herbs, spices, jams, preserves, chutneys, oils and other condiments. Additional storage is provided for plates, bowls, cups and cutlery.
In addition to the main kitchen, there are small kitchenettes. These small rooms are equipped with a small stove, table and chair. Everyone is free to use the kitchenettes and many Grimalkins (particularly the older generation) take advantage of them should they rise before dawn (or the clowder cooks). Those who partake in breakfast in the kitchenettes do so in silence before the rest of the clowder is up and about. Grimalkins breaking their fast in the kitchenettes often greet each other with a simple nod or a touch of the paw to the forehead. Breakfasting with the rest of the clowder can be a noisy affair.
On average, around seventy per cent of clowder citizens cook in their own homes with their own food. The other thirty per cent ascend to the clowder kitchen for their first meal of the day. Breakfast in the clowder is a social event, as are all meals eaten in the Central Council Chamber (which transforms into a dining hall four times a day). Although many are able to cook their own food at home, some like the social aspect of communal mastication and frequent the chamber simply to catch up with friends and neighbours. This is especially true for the older members of the clowder who, after a lifetime of cooking for oneself and their families, opt for being catered for by the clowder cooks.
Use of the clowder kitchen increases during the winter months as Grimalkins find their food supplies running low. Even though the kitchen is free at the point of use, clowder citizens are required to contribute to the running and maintenance of the kitchen and storerooms. Those who are able are required to wash and clean up after mealtimes (which is not that great a chore as Grimalkins are obsessively clean), or to forage and/or collect vegetables from the clowder gardens. Collecting from the gardens can be a fun affair, especially when young ones eager to please their elders are involved.
Because we love food, there is no lack of volunteers for the kitchen. Occasionally a rota has to be employed because of the numbers willing to offer their services to Head Cook. I suspect there may be ulterior motives involved and many a surreptitious paw has been dipped in the custard and a sly biscuit munched while Cook has her back turned.
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 Great Mother is in everything and everyone. She is both female and male – the giver and receiver, the creator and destroyer. She resides in every female creature and in every male, the same as every female has an element of the male (testosterone) and the male has an element of the female (oestrogen).
There is much about the division of the sexes these days: the ‘Battle of the Sexes’ has been a long one. But this manufactured and somewhat destructive conflict serves no purpose but to divide and conquer so as not unite against a greater darkness. While males and females may have different roles in life, we ultimately come together to make things work. That is the Great Mother in All of us.
Two of the Founders of the Clowder of Grimalhame were female – Diera Leptailura and Soriah Deodar – as were many Order Chiefs. In the Grimalkin world, there is no division between males and females although males are more suited to one job and females another. At Mordrach – Midwinter – there is a special festival honouring the females of the clowder. They receive gifts and are waited on paw and foot by the males. At Adrach – Midsummer – the roles are reversed and the males are honoured. This balance of equals ensures both sexes are honoured equally – there is no dominant sex even though clowders are essentially matriarchal in nature.
Even though the Head of every clowder or settlement is a female – a matriarchy – the balance of power is always equal and that is how is is always been. Both sexes respect enough and value each other and this is how our society works. Both sexes understand their roles and sometimes their roles overlap. But even though the Clowder Mothers are female, she is always democratically elected by females AND males. Both sexes have equal status under the law and none is favoured above the other. The Clowder Mother is still subject to scrutiny and is held accountable by all the citizens throughout her tenure.
The balance of power has never been in question all through Grimalkin society. Individuals are comfortable in their roles and society rolls along and adjusts as it needs to with the ups and downs of population growth and decline, with times of plenty and of want. Gender roles and equality have never been in question as Grimalkins have been left to find their own natural niches in life. Life always finds a way of evening out.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Hour of Stars
“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.
The Hour of Light
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.
Hour of the Moon
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.”
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.
Grimalkins are, by our very nature, connoisseurs of comfort. We like the warm, soft and comfortable things in life. We like to get up, have our breakfasts and then see where the wind takes us. We keep things simple; we know everything is in it’s rightful place and rightful time, including ourselves.
We have no gadgets or TV machines like you do. We do not feel the need to watch the clock or get things done by a certain time each day. We do what needs to be done and that is enough for us. We do not beat ourselves up for not being able to get everything done in a day. Life is too short for that. There is more to life than cramming everything you possibly can into one day and leave no time to just be.
Grimalkins are happier because we have one of two choices: like it or lump it. We are not bombarded with a never-ending stream of conflicting information on how the world is, what we should think, how we should feel and how we must be. We think for ourselves; we do not allow others to do our thinking for us. We might disagree on certain things, but that is life. Every creature has had a different experience and so will naturally come to very different conclusions. You humans are far too hard on each other, and yourselves. You are losing the ability on how to just be.
Grimalkins practice mindfulness all of the time. Instead of worrying about yesterday or tomorrow, we think of the now. We apply ourselves to the task in paw at that very moment. It is easier said than done and takes practice; some minds are too cluttered or too full of thoughts to be able to just descend just one mental octave and think about only one thing. But it can be done. Take back your control starting with your mind.
I want to tell you, as one creature to another, it is okay to think. It is okay to feel. It is okay not not think and not feel too. It is okay to be still and quiet. You do not have to take on board every bit of information you are given. It is okay to empty the mental in-tray from time to time. Be still and know that it is okay.
Don’t try and conform. It only leads to frustration, anger and sadness. In a world where everyone is encouraged (or even forced) to think the same as everyone else, it is vitally important you find the strength within yourself to step outside the box and have a different perspective on things. Your thoughts and your feelings are not the property of others. Never let anyone tell you what to think or feel. That is wrong. Equally, never tell others how to think or feel either. Celebrate your differences. If you can’t agree, then be respectful and part ways. You can’t be expected to agree with everyone all of the time.
Leave yourself space to think. Thinking is fluid, like the sea. You may have one opinion one day and another the next. Be open to ideas and notions that challenge your perspective. Don’t cling rigidly to one ideology or another. It is okay to get things wrong sometimes. It’s called learning.
We can’t grow if we can’t learn. You are responsible for what goes into your brain. This is a time of great change and upheaval. We Grimalkins are seeing your world change in ways that are frightening and disturbing. But by thinking and feeling openly, you are adapting to this change. You are waking up. You are upgrading and moving up to the next level. It may be painful at first, but it will be worth it. It is more important than ever to challenge the status quo. I can’t stress how important that is for your world right now. Embrace the changes happening within you. You are in control.
Take back your control.
Resist the temptation to be seduced by those in power who claim to have all the answers – the politicians, the governments, the ‘churches’ and the cults. I assure you, they do not. Do not hand over your hard-earned coin to an establishment who claims that you will be spiritually ‘cleansed’, or an establishment that works to separate human beings from one another, that divides and breaks down the human spirit only to be rebuilt in their image, one that indoctrinates and controls, one that shuns and ostracises. These false temples serve no purpose but to control and crush the human being’s sense of the divine. You do not need coin or indoctrination to find what you seek.
You can only find the truth when you look within. Find your own truth.
Let your mind be an ocean that ebbs and flows, let it be a fertile field in which new thoughts and ideas grow. Let it be a sky that is open and clear, ready for you to spread your wings and fly into it without fear or guilt. Never let anyone make you feel guilty for thinking freely.
But do not let your thoughts and ideas turn to darkness; do not force your thoughts onto others. With thoughts and words come responsibilities and consequences. If your words have darkness behind them, or anger or fear, look to why that is. Many a bad word has been spoken in fear or anger. Be mindful of the hurt you may cause. Be mindful of how you would feel if others said hurtful words to you.
Words have power.
Try to find balance in both your inner and outer world. While it may not always be peaceful, it is possible to find havens within them. Take comfort in those fleeting havens and know that you are in your rightful place and rightful time. Also be mindful of those who would try and seduce you into giving away your power, your thoughts and your ideas.
I am lucky to live in a world where this is a normal state of being, a world where every creature is valued, there their thoughts and feeling matter. We keep it simple so we have the time and space to think and thinking good thoughts can lead to great things.
The truth is out there, my friends. Have the courage to go and find it.