One of the few reliable themes in my otherwise chaotic ritual tendencies, is honouring the spirits of place. With the weather mayhem this year, seasonal celebrations have felt a bit odd. I was out more than a week ago seeing hay and grain being harvested. If we’d been celebrating formally, that would have been more the time to do Lammas, I think. And while some fields were ripe, plenty others weren’t. Some of the cygnets are nearly adult, others look to be fairly recent hatchlings. I heard nightingales in early July when they should have given up weeks before. I can’t engage at all with the seasons, but the locality makes sense.
Today, the locality was a cathedral. Usually there are rows of seats in the main body of the cathedral, but today they were absent, leaving a huge, empty space. We were early, there were few people about, someone running a vacuum cleaner. While everyone around us was either working or being a tourist, we went and sat in the middle of the floor, and contemplated.
A cathedral is full of history. I thought about the ancestors who had worshipped there, all those centuries of Christenings, marriages and funerals. The dead buried on site. Many hands went to quarry, shape and place the stone. The stone itself has its own history too, and the earth beneath the stone. I thought about the music that had happened here, the worship, contemplated spirits of hope and dreams of better worlds. It is easy, as a pagan, to be tremendously negative about Christianity, focusing on all the worst bits. But, these are our ancestors, we are part of their story, and there is plenty there that we can think well of and celebrate.
As I listened to the building, I became aware of how sounds were interacting with each other. All the muted sounds of conversation around the space, coupled with the sounds of motion the low thrum of closing doors, combined. At times they suggested additional notes, far below the sounds being made. Sometimes there was a hint of music to it, a song being made out of the building and the quiet human presences within it. And then, a wonder. A high, soaring voice that rose right to the roof, perfectly resonant in the space, wild and unearthly. I was transfixed. A small pixie child in a pushchair, head raised, vocalising into the space and clearly aware of something happening. Echoes and resonances. It was beautiful.
There were a few of us having spiritual experiences in the cathedral this morning. Three contemplative druids and one wide eyed toddler. I can’t comment on anyone else, but they all seemed busy, or touristy. We must have seemed a tad odd to them.