2022: The Year of Stepping Up!
2022: THE YEAR OF STEPPING UP
A year ago I had a strong feeling that 2022 would be a step up year, both for me and for Cae Mabon.
A evolutionary leap. And so it has turned out to be.
Procession of Wonders
Every year a ‘procession of wonders’ passes through Cae Mabon. Week after week people come to connect with nature, to reflect, deepen, dream and recharge. Often they experience a life-changing journey here. It’s a privilege for those of us who live here to witness hundreds of folk on a path to spiritual awakening, empowerment and transformation. This year these changes have taken place on a diverse range of retreats: wild voice, healing, permaculture, meditation, menspedition, home-schoolers, tantra, doulas, threshold crossing, shamanic work, clowning, lucid dreaming, yoga, families, mothers and daughters, Leeds Men, Mandorla, Wild Gaian Soul, Way of the Buzzard, plant medicine, working parties… It adds up to something substantial and is a powerful antidote to the doom and gloom of the ‘news’. It makes me feel optimistic about the world to know so many conscious and creative people are doing good work in these difficult times. But this year we did something extra, took it a step further. We put on several ‘in-house’ events which in some cases fulfilled long-held dreams, other times were fresh ideas.
THE STEP UPS
1. Masks of the Gods We began in early March with a weeklong workshop making masks for the demi-gods and goddesses of Eryri (Snowdonia). I’d been working with these mythic deities for 30 years on ‘Storytelling and the Mythological Landscape’ retreats with Hugh Lupton. But the idea of making masks of them only arose last autumn equinox on our Mabon’s Way pilgrimage (see https://www.caemabon.co.uk/single-post/mabon-s-way-walkabout-in-mythic-eryri). Yannick Dubois, nature artist and visionary, helped make it happen. It was, it turned out, the most shamanic thing I’d ever (unwittingly) done. So that was Step Up 1. Read all about it in an earlier blog.
. 2. Call to Adventure In April we had the first Kingfisher ‘Call to Adventure’ event for boys. 25 years ago I wrote several pieces about contemporary rites of passage for youth. We ran a few successful events but it became too much to carry and I had to give it up. Now Sean Taylor, the writer and a friend for many years, has done the hard work of organising to make it happen. Coming of age rituals took place in most cultures around the world. They imparted a sense of identity, purpose and responsibility. But they’re largely missing today and their absence is at the root of the addiction, delinquency and depression that afflict so many. The Kingfisher Project is doing something about it. Step Up 2!
Next year’s event takes place from 13th – 16th April. They are still a couple of places but the deadline for applying is 13th January. For details check https://www.kingfisherproject.org.uk To apply fill in this form: Kingfisher Project application form (google.com
The lads, their Men of Trust and the support crew
of the 2022 Kingfisher 'Call to Adventure' experience.
3. Making Dragons
Another project arising from Mabon’s Way pilgrimage was making two great Dragons! Maya Zabnicka and I came up with the idea that, instead of the red and white dragons always battling, they could be symbolically pulling together in this hour of need. These powerful, ancient, chthonic forces could be magically summoned, we believed. Our friends, Georgia Wisbey and Basia Bird, had made dragon sculptures before and were keen to help. A site suggested itself just below the car park. And the rest you can read in The Dragon Makers’ Tale below! Suffice to say that the Dragons have Stepped Up (3) and are now a mighty presence as you arrive at Cae Mabon. At last they are seeing eye to eye!
Read more in the blog 'The Dragon Makers' Tale'.
The wonderful Georgia Wisbey, lead dragon maker.
Nearly completed dragons.
4. Glade of Dreams
Seventeen years ago I went to a Sensory Labyrinth Theatre event in the forest above Gwydir Castle in the Conwy Valley. It was an original and exciting experience and I thought then, this would be great to do at Cae Mabon. Finally, 17 years later, we invited Iwan Brioc, old friend and creator of this work, to run a training at Cae Mabon over Beltane. Then, during the August heat wave, he facilitated a Glade of Dreams immersive theatre event. It took place across the entire site of Cae Mabon (even down to the lake) & was an extraordinary experience on many levels. Audience members (‘travellers’) were guided, one by one, through 16 portals, encountering ‘performers’ who interacted with them intimately and vividly, mostly on themes drawn from Welsh mythology. By the time people got to their journey’s end they were often in tears, so deeply had they been moved. Read all about it in ‘Sixteen Portals’, below. The Glade of Dreams was a big step up, Step Up 4!
Read more in 'The 16 Portals of the Glade of Dreams'
Becky Taverner, Olwen & the Faery Queen. Beltane Glade of Dreams
6. Re-Thatching the Roundhouse
Alan Jones, thatcher extraordinaire!
The Roundhouse thatch had grown thin. It was leaking, its bones showing through. It was last thatched after the fire in 2002. Also it was often smoky in there and though, under good conditions, it was tolerable, some people found it uncomfortable. We had to re-thatch it and do something about the smoke. Fortunately we managed to obtain the services of Alan Jones, of Pembrokeshire Thatch and Carpentry Services, and his trusty team, Sara Howell and Kerenza Smith. Alan has built and thatched thirty roundhouses around the land. Nick MacSmith, who led the thatching on the first two Roundhouse roofs, also came to help. They were a crack crew! It was going to cost more money than we had, so a call for help went out on Go Fund Me. Many people generously responded. However it took more time and reed than originally estimated, so the overall cost escalated. Nonetheless we raised a good three-quarters of the total cost. Huge thanks to those who’ve given from £5 to £500! And special thanks to Michael Chown and the Bangor Greenhouse Disbursement Fund for a generous donation of £5,000. Though the Roundhouse is complete we’ve had to borrow money to pay for it. So if you haven’t done so and would like to donate to the Roundhouse Re-Thatch fund you can find the Go Fund Me link here:
Thank you!!! We now have an exquisite new Roundhouse with elfin curves and a mushroom-like shape. It’s as good as anything you might see in Lord of the Rings. And it’s real! We also enlarged the smoke-hole and raised the cap. And with support from Gary Didge we built a twin-wall smokeless firepit using a metal cylinder with a lip and a slate wall. It was ready just in time for our celebration for midwinter. It worked well, though there’s still a little tweaking to do. But all in all the spanking new improved Roundhouse is ready for 2023! Step Up 6!
7. Our Crew and a Birth
We’ve had a changing crew of residents at Cae Mabon in 2022. Just before the season began we lost our songbird, Jodie Melodie, and our sculptor, Peter Boyd. But they didn’t move far and we still see them lots. Luke Tyler, our tree surgeon and fungi expert, is still living in the garden cabin and now working for Natural Resources Wales on water quality. Ingwe and her 8 year old son, Eros, live in Trem Eilio, the converted barn at the top of the hill. Ingwe caters for groups in fine vegetarian style and Francis, Eros’s teacher Dad, often visits. Kenny (a.k.a. Kiwi Ken) is still living here and does a good job looking after the ducks.
During the season there were others who stayed for much of the season. Neli Shine, musician, poet, dancer and long-time friend, was a gypsy-like breath of fresh air over the summer. She made the Merlin mask! Nathan Taft was our handyman for a while and made great strides in developing our electrical infrastructure. Maya Zabnicka was here from time to time and played an important part in the dragon-making. And Freddie Job worked in the garden, played whistle in the trees and was the free spirited embodiment of the Tarot Fool
Lawrence Toye has been here since October 2021 and is a strong member of the team, organising, taking the initiative, getting things done. He’s helped with admin and made a big difference. He’s also been co-running events here and started catering this year too. Lou Mary-Jane came here early in the year as Lawrence’s partner. She’s an artist and maker of natural ointments and potions. And for much of this year she’s been carrying their child. On 30 November 2022, at 10.30 in the evening, Amanita Enfys Joye was born! Lawrence and Lou combined their surnames, Toye and Jane, to make a new name, Joye! The third baby to be born at Cae Mabon in the last 36 years. Joy indeed! Step Up 7!
Lou and Lawrence with Amanita, their wee'un, tucked up tight!
8. The Twist in the Tale
At the beginning of August Abigail Cusick and her 4½ year old daughter, Hibisca, joined us here. Abbie had lived here seven years ago for eight months. But she’d first come to Cae Mabon 25 years ago with her stepfather, Edmund Cusick, who brought creative writing students here from John Moore University in Liverpool to fire their imaginations. Edmund also took them to Dinas Emrys and other nearby sacred sites. Often his family came too, so Abbie was steeped in it all from an early age. Later she did an MA in drama-therapy. When she lived here we often had deep conversations about myth, landscape, archetype and dream. She always wanted to come back.
Hibisca is an extraordinary little fire-cracker. At four years old she declares herself to be a wizard, a druid, a trickster and a storyteller. Oh, and an angel. She remembers being ‘a tadpole’. She says she’s ‘good at telling people things’. She’s very observant, loves people and is a chatterbox, confidently talking to all. Already she seems to be orchestrating aspects of life here… No wonder. She’s a quarter Huichol Indian, a quarter Mexican Spanish, a quarter Irish Gypsy and a quarter Liverpool Scouse! A potent combination! The arrival of this dynamic mother and daughter duo counts, I reckon, as Step Up 8.
Abbie and HIbisca up a tree at Dinas Emrys
All these steps together make an evolutionary leap for Cae Mabon!