Not wanting to quite yet return from the desert but having to try to get my eyes to turn towards the outer, I dragged my ass into the grey world outside. Bah humbug. Don't want to. It's cold and damp. It's GREY! Sulk.
The sun broke through as I reached the woods. Phew. Bumped into the local vicar and had a chin-wag. Compared our staffs. Talked about the dogs.As you do.
Shortly afterwards I was greeted by this. Phew. Colour. I love that it is all misty grey around the edges. Unedited.
Being aware that the country I was about to visit was a Muslim majority country and rather than letting it travel with me, I had decided the pentagram around my neck could stay at home. On my first morning in Marrakech, I added to the noise of the city by becoming chatty with two people sat next to me. Husband and husband, they have been visiting Morocco together for years but even so, they were conscious of how careful they had to be; their twenty-year love punishable by imprisonment. Stuck in my western mindset, I too was careful and had decided that whilst I indeed know the ancient symbol of the pentagram around my neck can be interpreted in many different ways by whosoever looks upon it, I felt any symbols that announce 'some thing' would fare better in my bedroom drawer, even though one of those interpretations might be as the Star of Islam.
Just as physical love shared between same-sex couples can be met with harsh treatment, witches too do not receive hospitable welcomes. I am a not-too-widely-travelled-woman-from-the-wild-moors-of-Yorkshire and my five senses in Morocco were happily being slapped silly, forcing my sixth sense to well and truly came out and play. Any conversational starter that might have one chuntering about chatting with folks in other realms could end up in a whole heap of trouble. Sunni Islam, the predominant sect of Islam practiced by 99.9% of Muslims in Morocco, forbids intermediaries between God and people. I'm not at all sure on how they might react to the Company of Avalon blithely joining them in the souks.
Now, I'm usually one of those types who like to do a goodly bit of research on the places I am visiting. I dislike returning to base camp having missed experiencing something with added historical and sociological awareness. However, I made the rookie error of failing to look up the national flag of my upcoming hosts.
On arrival in Marrakech, I soon discovered that it is impossible to go anywhere without being greeted by a pentagram. On almost every street corner, lamp post, roundabout, hotel, On t-shirts, menus, taxis and buses. The disguised-as-palm-trees-wifi-masts were conversely, and refreshingly, barren of flags; instead being topped by huge nests. The storks of Marrakech are considered holy birds. I liken them to my Avalonian swans, their energies tattooed onto my feet. In past times, the Celts with their swans, and the Berbers with their storks, believed these beautiful creatures to be transformed humans. To this day in Morocco, it is forbidden to disturb a stork and who does so, risks three months in jail.
But, back to the pentagrams...
The Moroccan flag was once a simple plain red field, its colour announcing descent from the royal Alaouite Dynasty. The green five-pointed star was added to the flag in 1915 when Mulay Yusuf ruled Morocco and stands for Love, Truth, Peace, Freedom, and Justice.
Even in a world where East and West share so much conflict, and where opposites are polarising with alarming speed, it is how easy it is to see that our beliefs have so many beautiful and common parallels. I should have worn my pentagram. Or, perhaps I shouldn't...I wouldn't have had this experience if I had.
The sound of divine laughter filters through to my hearing.
I have forever been drawn to the desert. The shifting colours uncluttered with the trappings of life. The Berbers call themselves "Imazighen", meaning the free. Whilst in Marrakech recently, I crossed the High Atlas mountains to visit the Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou, a place that acts as a gateway to the Sahara desert. Made up of a group of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls, a 4000 year old Berber culture continues here as it ever was. Salt, a precious commodity worth more than gold was once protected in the high tower on the summit. This was my Glastonbury Tor in the desert. A hill, a tower on the highest part, presenting a gateway to another world.
I had a guide on this part of my journey. It wasn't easy to get him to drop the mask that had become his profession, showing tourists from other cultures around his home and his tribe. A man with four sisters and five brothers, he had been born in this place to parents who did not have enough wealth to send all their children to school, so he, from being a small child, had been offering his culture to tourists and pilgrims. His manner was softer with me. He knew I was on a journey and encouraged me by explaining the different stages on the climb and suggested I could stop at any one of them if I so wished. During his lifetime of crossing the river and climbing the ksar, he had learned to speak six languages fluently. Whilst he spoke, his mask dropped a little and I saw the proud, strong man with sadness in his soul. He was a warrior, and whilst this place and the sociocultural dynamics of its people are protected by UNESCO, I did not see a man of a free tribe.
I caught this image and was struck by the connection between the boy and his horse. I also saw a deep sadness eliciting a profound beauty filled with arcane secrets. Stood in the dried bed of the Oued Sous, the River of Salt, under the blazing sun for thirty minutes, about to climb a high castle, my guide told me the Berbers were happy to help 'disabled' people get to the summit. I declined, knowing this part of my journey needed to be done without assistance. "The desert shatters the soul's arrogance and leaves body and soul crying out in thirst and hunger. In the desert we trust God or die", counsels Dr. Dan Allender, the pioneer of a unique and innovative approach to trauma and abuse therapy...and so I trusted. No horse. Just me. Carrying a rock from the river bed. But oh, what a picture I take with me of the horse, and the people, that would have borne me to my goal. It might be mooted that God sent me the horse to ride upon, however, deep in my spirit, I knew that part of my experience was also the physical test. Perhaps it was I that was examining myself, perhaps it was a spiritual warriors test...who knows. It felt damn good, regardless.
My last night under African skies, under this new moon, and this star. I recognise that you are in your world and I am in mine, but we share the same sky, no? Though the miles might separate us, this moon gives me peace, for I know in my soul, we are indeed kin. Like the moon, which glows only through the sun's light, I thank you, yes you, who are reading these words, for illuminating my life.
My experiences are as yours - filled with challenges, pain, joy, laughter and love.
The settings of our scenes might be different but along our journey together, we will discover similarities and shared experiences.
Adventure with me for a while, for it is in the Journey, we become One.
High Sierra Winter Solstice
Postcards from America (1)
God's Own Country
An Avalonian Anniversary
..'And did those feet?'
Glastonbury/Avalon of the Heart
Finding Colour in the Grey
Lessons from Morocco
Under African Skies
The Earth Mother
The Glastonbury Unity Candle goes to Knight's Enham