In a grassy clearing in the middle of an ancient forest a bonfire was lit. In the centre of a ring of stones the flames began to brighten the encroaching twilight. At first the fire’s embers served a purpose as a barbecue. Together with an extensive spread of salads, rice, spaghettis, bread and cheeses the twenty-odd people gathered tucked into their sylvan supper.
Later, as night descended upon the assembly, the lambent heat helped to keep the warmth of a luminous day, for even at the end of May the temperature drops rapidly when the sun disappears. They waited for her who would be the evening’s focus. Suddenly on the edge of the nearby hill of Controni she appeared in all her silvery glory. The moon, goddess of primeval mankind, the Greek Artemis, the Roman Diana and the Catholic Mother of God, the immaculately conceived Virgin one, revealed her perfect, full transcendent orb.
As an invitee to the gathering I formed part of the circle around the fire. The moon now shone above its flames, luminous, mysterious. ‘La Luna e il falò’: the moon and the bonfire – a truly magical combination joined now by Hesperus, the evening star, the planet Venus. The constellations now appeared: Cassiopeia and the Plough prominent among them and pointing in their individual ways to the Pole star, slightly faint, but steadfast as ever and round which the galaxies as seen by us on spaceship Earth revolved.
To the right the laser-like intensity of Sirius penetrated through the dark forest braches. The priestess now initiated the ceremony of protection and purification: a ritual which has its origins in the genesis of mankind itself and which through the ages remains essentially the same, unchanged and changeless.
At the Earth’s cardinal points of east, west, north and south acolytes, set back from the circle and before candles, invoked the four primal elements of earth, air, fire and water for safeguard and cleansing. The circle of love and affinity had to be protected against the opposing forces of hate and antipathy which for ever try to separate and combine these elements into a confusion of wildly and infinitely separate forms.
Only love can restore the primal essentials to their original form, reuniting everything and dissolving confusion and anarchy. Such is the world: for ever battling between the forces of good and evil, between love and hate, between union and dissolution.
We’d written the things we hated about our relationship to the world and ourselves on pieces of paper which we then rolled up. We combined our personal scrolls with woodland herbs and flowers like calendula, sage, rosemary and daisy and placed a ribbon round them. Each member of the circle then came forwards in a clockwise direction and threw their roll of negativities into the fire. After each person had done this the word ‘sia’ (‘let it be’ in Italian) was uttered.
A bowl of salted water, according to primordial ritual, was passed round. Each one of those present washed their hands in it, first the right and then the left, cleansing themselves Dualities were unified into a life-giving wholeness. Just as negative forces were removed so a positive offering was giving. Lavender was passed around and each acolyte took a small piece of the tenderly fragrant herb and passed it between their hands. What was left was then to be taken to own’s respective and buried in a patch of earth to feed and continue the mission of protection of all that is precious in life.
Around us the creatures of the forest night commented upon the ceremony. In particular, a civetta (a kind of small owl) was rather responsive. We felt hidden eyes of quadrupeds and avian focused upon us and intuitively sensed their presence.
We continued the natural nocturnal music with our own played on guitar, drums, bamboo xylophone, flutes and marimbas.
There is nothing quite like a walk in the forest night under the guardianship of the argent beams of a full moon. It is a quite transcendental feeling. We returned to our various homes, confident that now there would be a special defence against those malevolent forces that constantly try to harm and attempt to disintegrate our treasurable, personal worlds.
I remain grateful to Ennio whose remote plot of forest elfin-land we shared, the company I joined in and, above all to our priestess, Rebecca Lewis, who continues to facilitate the ancient and wisdom-filled rites of the ancient Celts and the Ligurians of the Apuan mountains who inhabited these mountains, rites full of empathic, natural magic.
Truly when the full moon is high above the night’s horizon it’s possible to experience live emotions lost in the mists of time and enfolded in mystery. Let us hold on to that which is life itself…
The next big occasion, so close to us now that the days are ever-lengthening towards their summation, is the summer solstice…
Here is Rebecca Lewis’ pamphlet for your reference for future events:
PS In case you were wondering. Arianrhod is the name of the Celtic moon gooddess