About roselle angwin

UK poet, author and painter Roselle Angwin leads the Fire in the Head creative and reflective writing programme on land and in cyberspace, and The Wild Ways eco-soul retreats and courses (mostly outdoors). Her blog is Qualia & Other Wildlife (roselle-angwin.blogspot.co.uk) An Arts Council England award winner twice for her own writing (as well as twice as the founder of a small Dartmoor literary festival) she's the author of 10 books: poetry, novels and non-fiction. Roselle's passionate about the meeting points between inner and outer geographies: relationship, connection, creativity, wild places, and how these things shape our stories. She has been described as 'a poet of the bright moment... whose own sources of creative inspiration are her native Westcountry, the Scottish islands, and a highly individual blend of Celtic myth and metaphysics, archetypal psychology, shamanic and Buddhist thinking'. Her courses, retreats and mentoring take place in cyber-space, on Dartmoor, the Devon and Cornwall coasts, the Isle of Iona and France. A lifelong countrydweller, she has a particular affinity with animals, birds and healing plants; the land and other species are collaborators in her Wild Ways courses. As a poet, she frequently co-creates with artists, musicians, dancers and sculptors, often on the land. Her poetry has been displayed on buses and cathedral websites, has appeared in numerous anthologies, been etched into glass, hung from trees, towed behind bicycles, printed on T-shirts, carved into stone, metal and wood, painted, sung, composed to, choreographed, danced, performed and eaten by sheep. As a writing tutor, Roselle has worked for the Arvon Foundation, the Open College of the Arts, The Poetry School, The Poetry Society, and Oxford University; and outdoors for the National Trust, Dartmoor National Park, Natural England, Hestercombe Gardens and the Cotswold Water Park (these two as part of environmental arts group genius loci) as well as at numerous academic institutions and arts organisations here and abroad. She was for several years a columnist for MsLexia and has continued to be a frequent contributor to this and other magazines and journals.

The Salmon of Wisdom – a story

Salmon of Wisdom – Bradán Feasa

Atlantic salmon

Like calls to like, and the Salmon of Wisdom leaps from her saltwater home to her freshwater home, and then into air. Over and over she leaps the falls, bruised, battered, bleeding, until finally she is there – the Sacred Pool at the heart of the world, the Sacred Pool of the Secrets, the Sacred Pool where she was born.

Home. Water to water to air to water.

Salmon is the oldest being. Salmon lives now in the Sacred Pool, eating the nuts of inspiration from the nine hazel trees, the poets’ trees. Salmon is wise; knows how to live in three worlds, knows when it’s time to return. Salmon now is charged with keeping counsel for those who are ready to seek it out, who are ready to give away their old life for the sake of the new.

Those who approach Salmon at the right time in the right manner will be given the ability to see through the veils between this world and the other.

Those, on the other hand, who arrive too young, too unformed, or who have hungered for the wrong thing or grown fat on that which belongs to others will not make it up the falls; not this time. Or if they do, they will find their fingers burned – so close, so far away; the itch of the search for wisdom never quite assuaged.

Like calls to like and the woman hears the call.

The woman has been travelling a long time. All her life, in fact. All her life she has struggled against the current, feeling in her blood the pull of the Sacred Pool. Her long skirts are ripped, her hair dishevelled, her feet torn and muddy. She is alone, apart from the old grey mare with whom she has travelled so far.

The woman is no longer young. Like calls to like. The woman is no longer beautiful to the eye. The woman does not care for adoration. Now, at last, she is free. She can glide through the shadows without notice. She can watch, she can learn.

She knows what it is to be betrayed by those she trusted. She has had her words and her dreams stolen, the lifelong work of her heart. She knows what it is to be loved, then to be cut off for not fulfilling another’s dream.

She no longer cares about about false friends, false promises. She does not care. What she cares about is the pull of the Well, the Sacred Pool. She knows the songs of the birds, she can speak with trees and plants and animals. She knows how the planets move and the way the tide sings just so on the shore.

And she knows what it is to be loved; deeply loved. More, she knows how to love; and the cost of an open heart.

She is no one’s servant, though she will serve the true of heart. The pony mare is her sister; the morning mist her friend; dusk a cloak she can wrap around her. Rain does not trouble her, nor hunger of the ordinary sort.

Like calls to like, and she can be true to the calling, only to the calling, which means she is true to herself, to everything and nothing. In her freedom she can smile into everybody’s eyes, through to their core.

Salmon has been waiting all winter, feasting on the fat of the hazel nuts. Visitors are few.

The woman kneels in the rushes and mud at the edge of the pond. A breeze whispers in the willows. The woman maybe sheds one tear. It’s been a long hard journey. She can barely breathe for the shock and joy of arriving here at the heart of the world.

Salmon swims slowly over. She is huge, magnificent, a queen of all waters.

The woman kneels, asks permission of the waters’ guardian to be here.

Salmon disgorges a nut, soaked in inspiration: Awen, the eternal fire in the head.

The woman lifts the nut from the water, holds it as if it were gold, gazes into Salmon’s eyes.

In that moment she learns what will finally change her life: there is a current beneath the current; a reverse current that will always take her, without struggle, to where she needs to be. All she need do is nose it out. All she need do is surrender, relinquish control. Water will find her, take her.

Then she will have brought her life into balance: the perfect tension between the path of least resistance and the path of the will; the path that will take her beyond need, beyond striving, to the heart at the heart of it all, which is Love.

© Roselle Angwin, October 2018

spring equinox

Even in snow

Kwan Yin holds still
in her quiet pool. We visit
to pay our respects to
the open heart
of this green place
and the single pink
floating camellia blossom –
the way it speaks spring
even as it lets go.

This week the snows
have come back –
at first light a barn owl
swept up from our courtyard
on the breath
of this turning world
this white world –
itself a snowflake
hanging in dark space.
Roselle Angwin, March 2018

Kwan Yin is the Buddhist goddess of loving-kindness or compassion. The photo comes from a mindfulness walk I led at National Trust Greenway last week.

autumn equinox

autumn equinox (alban elfed)

The Wheel of the Year which I celebrate cycles through the quarter dates of:

  • the winter solstice in the north, where the fire of spirit and intuition glimmers like a distant belt of stars, not yet brought into being but poised on the cusp of bringing new light at this solar standstill before its return towards the sun;
  • the spring equinox, dawn, and its element of air, new ideas, the thinking faculty, and birth, in the east;
  • the summer solstice with its earthy warmth and sunniness, the waystation in the south for the physical body, earthly harvests, things coming to full ripening;
  • and the autumn equinox, the mysterious west, the twilight station of water, the feeling nature, the ancestors and the harvesting and dissolution of what we know and are, before the move back to north for the cycle to begin again.

It has to be said that there’s not consistent agreement with the directions and human characteristics in their placing on the Wheel of the Year. Some Medicine Wheels, especially the First Nation ones in America, place earth and body in the north. This doesn’t feel right to me, but it might to you.

In between are the cross-quarter dates at exactly halfway between solstice and equinox: imbolc, beltane, lughnasadh, samhain. These too I celebrate.

These solar turning-points, waymarkers, or stations, are useful times to pause and reflect on the meeting-places and relationships between light and dark, day and night, birth and death, masculine and feminine, sowing intentions and harvesting manifestations. 

I like to look back from the autumn equinox* to the quarter just gone via the cross-quarter date of lughnasadh or lammas, sitting as it does between the zenith of fecund summer and the harvests, inner and outer, that have resulted. I also find it useful to look back over the whole cycle of the four seasons at each of these turning points.

* ‘Equilux’, I’m told it should be called; though whether you emphasise equal night (‘nox’) or equal light you’re still buying in to one or the other, when at this time of equipoise maybe neither should be the ‘default’ title.

Unlike the solstices, which are fixed points in space/time, the equinoxes ‘wander’. (This is due to the earth’s wobble on its axis.) They can take place any time between 20th of the month and 23rd.

Technically this year, 2017, the autumn equinox, alban elfed, was on 22nd, late in the evening here in the northern hemisphere. Still, I always mark the autumn equinox on my birthday, the 23rd September (my mum’s was 23rd March, on the spring equinox or alban eilir).

The Dreamtime’s approaching now with its inwardness and reflection; its gathering-in of all the harvests of this summer and the turning solar twelvemonths, or thirteen moon-months.

For many years my Ground of Being quarter-day workshops took place outdoors on Dartmoor on the Sundays closest to the equinoxes and solstices throughout the year. Up at the megalithic site of Merrivale on Dartmoor we would each ask the questions of ourselves, and in relationship to the land, that would provoke reflection, creativity, depth, connection. This is a way of creating sacred space, time out from our driven lives in a materialistic culture.

So four times a year I walked out on the moor with others who wanted to share these turning points with me with words and silence in an ancient place. At the autumn equinox, the time of balance, of the creative tension of complementary poles where sun and moon hold steady, as it were, symbolically, as day and night are of equal length, we would focus on harvests, on what we might need to bring something of balance to each area of our lives, and what we might need to let go of from summer, before the tumble on with dark now in the ascendant towards the winter solstice and its longest night.

Here at the equinox balance and harmony are the keys: the bringing-together of all the pairs of opposites. At this time, day and night are of equal length; such a powerful symbol, to be poised here at the gateway between inner and outer, dark and light, night and day, summer and winter, masculine and feminine.

The sign of Libra the Balance begins here, and all whose natal sun occurs in Libra will know how this is the essential struggle: to hold the opposites in balance whilst sustaining the tension that incurs, making of it something creative rather than letting it break us. For instance, how do we each contain and express a need for fixity and a need for fluidity; a need for solitude and a need for intimacy; a need for travel and a need for home? We all, of course, have to resolve these questions; but Librans seem to feel these apparent paradoxes keenly; it’s said that their (our) esoteric task is to find harmony through conflict (and this is as much inner as anything else). 

And to resolve the opposites, we first have to experience and recognise them.

For me, it manifests as a kind of restlessness: as we approach the autumn equinox part of me remains turned outwards, wanting to walk towards the horizon, part thinks of moving inwards, towards lighting fires – whether the one in my study or the ones of new creative projects, the inner fires of the imagination.

Autumn is a poet’s season. I can’t pretend I don’t love the melancholy, the wistfulness, the dreaminess, the inwardness trailing in autumn’s slipstream. The quality of nostalgia and yearning are also friends to the Celtic soul. And I love times of transition, borderlands, thresholds, cusps. Times of ambiguity and paradox; of misty blurring of edges.

So here are some of my autumn equinox poems.


At dawn the air is dense with contrails almost not-there,
yet meadow, hedge and sky are all a-glitter: the time of year
when small migrating spiders launch their bodies into space
on less than a breath, and mesh the light. They can’t know
where they’re landing or even if they’ll arrive; but autumn’s
glow is richer and the day brighter for their risk. Microscopic,
their trust in life is one that we can’t have, with our
knowingness, the way we lumber through our years;
and oh what I’d give to rest this body on space and sky
like that, not caring where I’m going, if my fragile tensile arc
will lasso the future, if I’ll ever get there, or who comes with me.

© Roselle Angwin, 2014 



Leaves, falling
Later, in the mist, rowanberries glimmer like fireflies;
up here at Four Winds I am unstrung,
the beads of me scattered to all directions.

The equinox, my birthday and a full moon
bringing, at last, a closure to the turbulence
of this solar cycle. In this high rush of air

the ancient beech shivers off her leaves,
and, heedless of motorbikes, trucks on the road,
the yellow house, the currency of thought,

the moon lifts her owl-bone-white rim
over the moor’s horizon where we sip
at the autumn dusk, let it all remake us.


The full moon hangs in the pale sky like a revelation
awaiting its time. There are times when I know that
love might mean beginning over and over
and again. And how I’ll do that.


Near Merrivale
Once, in the future, I knew my way back.


The light beyond the forest
On the hill, dusk is the colour of violets.

© Roselle Angwin 2010

This post was originally posted at http://roselle-angwin.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/autumn-equinox-alban-elfed-2017.html where it might be easier to read due to the compromised layout here (WordPress and Blogger don’t like each other)


Lughnasadh poem
Even in rain the flames burn bright.
On the hill, the barley is dancing.
Heart, make your first harvest:
extend your arms like rays of the sun
to gather in all whom you love
and all too who feel themselves unloved:
the broken, the lost, the abused –
shadow-dancers all. Gather them in –
give them all bread. Give them

cause for laughter, for love.

© Roselle Angwin, 1 August 2012

This comes from my blog, on which I’ve written extensively about our old ways, including the 8 Celtic festivals.


Lughnasadh. Lammas. Gŵyl Awst. 31 July/1 August. The most ‘outward’ of the four fire festivals, the cross-quarter dates of the Celtic year, each midway between one of the astronomical stations of the turning year (the solstices and equinoxes). Yesterday evening I celebrated with friends on their beautiful land under the full harvest moon with fires and song, storytelling and poetry, music and food.

Samhain, the start of the Celtic New Year on October 31st/November 1st, is the most inward of the fire festivals, and ‘feminine’ in tone: the Crone going into the cave of winter, readying the ground for new seed.

Imbolc, 31 January/1 February (some say 1/2 February) is Brigit’s time: a time for the Maiden, for creativity, for the thoughts of spring flowers.

At Beltane, 30 April/1 May, maiden-become-adult readies herself for Motherhood in her union with the sun god (‘Bel’; Lugh in one of his guises). The Beltane fires are lit and couples jump through them, share the cup, then take each other joyfully in the long grasses on this cusp of late spring and early summer. The days lengthen; we live outside.

Lughnasadh is the first, the early, harvest. At Lughnasadh we celebrate; but also in the northern hemisphere we turn towards autumn, and there is a dying in the reaping, too.

‘Lammas’ in the old English calendar comes from ‘hlaf-mass’, meaning ‘loafmass’: that bread which we make from the new barley, just reaped. Ale was the other product of barley: historically until relatively recently drunk in the UK because the fermentation process rendered it ‘cleaner’ than water.

Lugh is one of the gods of light (Bel, or Baal, Bala, celebrated at Beltane, May 1st, is also an earlier and less-well-developed, both in terms of the year and in terms of the ‘lineage’, fire or sun god). He’s also known as Llew Llaw Gyffes in the Welsh Mabinogi. In Eire Lugh was a chief of the Tuatha de Danaan, Children or People of Dana (Aosdana in the Scots Gaelic); Dana, the divine feminine, being the mother of the god of poetry. In some versions of the story Lugh was a triple-god (birth, death, renewal; youth, man, sage; page, prince, king – many variants), and he marries a triple goddess. This makes him a ‘primary’ god, so to speak.

Lugh’s trace remains at places in England that begin with ‘Lug’ or ‘Lud’ – I can think of a number on and around Dartmoor.

At this time of the grain harvest, having successfully impregnated the earth goddess, the sungod-king is sacrificed. (This sees the wheel of the year, at its peak now, beginning to roll down the hill to end in the river of dissolution, before the next rebirth.) New seed has been created, and as the old harvest is reaped so the fire-god in his kingly form is sacrificed to feed and water the earth so that the new green barley may shoot next year.

We remember this in the traditional folk-song of John Barleycorn (you may know the particularly poignant tune sung by – I think – Fairport Convention), ‘murdered’ that we all may live. Listening to that version of the song, it’s impossible not to be aware of the ancient and archetypal rituals associated with harvest-time behind the surface words.

It’s a time of merrymaking in the outer world: dancing, feasting, games and competition (interesting that the Olympics span this period), a time too of crafts, Lugh being an artisan-god.

At this turning point, it’s good to make some time to look at the ‘staple’ harvests in one’s life: what has been safely gathered in; what harvest is still not ripe; how one’s inner male and female are relating (or not); what might need to be let go of, ‘sacrificed’, as we turn away from longer days and the peak of fire and light.

The seeds we have planted have ripened now; what are we harvesting? At this peak of the fire festivals, this culmination of a cycle, something has to be given back. For new life to emerge in the psyche something old has to be sacrificed. We can’t resist what has to happen for the continuity of life; we can’t forever resist the natural cycles and tides of things and the continual drive towards transformation and renewal.

Autumn will bring further fruit, and the journey into the darkness will restore fecundity and vitality in the composting of what seems like loss but is simply a shedding.

May the Lughnasadh fires burn up the old and your first harvests be safely gathered in, my friends. Here’s the traditional and mysterious John Barleycorn song for you, redolent as it is with memories of early vegetation rites.


John Barleycorn

There were three men came out of the west,
Their fortunes for to try,
And these three men made a solemn vow,
That John Barleycorn must die.
They ploughed, they sowed, they harrowed him in,
Throwed clods upon his head,
And these three men made a solemn vow:
John Barleycorn is dead.

They let him lie for a long, long time
Till the rain from heaven did fall,
Then little Sir John popped up his head,
And soon amazed them all.
They’ve let him stand till midsummer day
When he looked both pale and wan,
And little Sir John’s grown a long, long beard
And so become a man.

They hired some men with scythes so sharp
To cut him off at the knee,
They rolled him and tied him by the waist,
And served him most barbarously.
They hired men with sharpest pitchforks
Who pricked him to the heart,
And the loader he served him worse than that,
For he bound him to the cart.

They wheeled him round and round the field
Till they came unto a barn,
And there they made a solemn mow
Of poor John Barleycorn.
They hired men with the crab-tree threshing sticks
To cut him skin from bone,
And the miller he served him worse than that,
For he ground him between two stones.

Now, here’s little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl,
And brandy in a glass;
And little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl
Proves the strongest man at last.
For the huntsman he can’t hunt the fox,
Nor so loudly blow his horn,
And the tinker he can’t mend kettles nor pots
Without a little Barleycorn.


Birds who lose themselves at the edges of the sky

Holding Ground

Birds who lose themselves at the edges of the sky
For RB

It’s November, it’s early, and the rain has started up.
Dawn hovers beyond the window, skirts full of birds
who, let loose into light, will become a presence
in the courtyard, asking. What we think we see
is a reflection of what is; is a question.
Birds know about coming and going; about staying still.

The sea is breath at the edges of the land.
What we know of the beyond shows itself
where air and water meet – a line
that is no line at all but a slight shift in register,
in hydrogen, in oxygen, in substance, in shade and hue.
We are les oiseaux qui se perdent au bout du ciel. iii The Zenrin says the pine tree is a manifestation of wisdom. Here in our time the sacred ash is dying…

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