In a town, that we all know well, that is not too big and not too small, with a river running through it, and a steep, steep high street, with a castle on the top, there is a celebration of fabulous wonder that some years happens, some years not.
It is said to have begun when a certain Mistress of Ancient Wisdom did feel the old stone of our town was missing a certain something. And being a lady of quite some strength, storyteller, labyrinth weaver, pilgrim, it didn’t take her very long to have decided on just what would please our ancient stones best; why a procession of light was just what was needed.
It started with a Tree Giant, and wondruous paper and willow confections of which no one had ever seen the like. The Mistress of Living Wisdom and He of Inventive Creativeness shared their skills with all who came till pretty soon enough light bearing lanterns were made and a festival of light celebrating Earth did process up the high street. All who saw it gasped and gazed and talked of it all through the winter, keeping warm with the memories of a fantasia of light that had brightened their autumn with cheer.
And that could have been that, had the Mistress of Ancient Wisdom not seen that it was good, that it brought people together, made them happy, unleashed great creativity, and that old and young alike did smile as they walked, and the old stones did smile too, to see the people, their community, doing something together, for the sheer pleasure of having fun together.
And so one year more from the imagination of the Mistress of Ancient Wisdom and her many followers; the artisans, crafts people, children and their families, came a procession which did spread light all up the high street, in a celebration of Water. Started out once again by the banks of their beloved river Oak, where the Woman of the Water came by canoe, colourful lanterns did they float, and more they carried on sticks, once more up the high street, seahorses there were, octopus and many fish, and He of Soulful Connection & Colourful Garb made a huge whale for all to see, and dance with awhile.
Happened one year, and not the next, but then once again the festival of light that gladdened the hearts of the ancient stones, aye and its peoples too, which had disappeared from view, did hearken again, this time with Air as its theme, and more and more townsfolk did get together to create the wonderful lighted beings that lit up the high street from river running through to castle on the top. A mask maker Pegasus did she create and with him an angel and many birds did parade.
And once more all went quiet and then did the Mistress of Ancient Wisdom pronounce that this was the last of the years she would birth into being a festival of light and out with a bang, and a giant salamander that he of Soulful Connection and Colourful Garb had returned to create especially for the occasion, did dance in the market square, flamboyantly, grandly, proudly, for the theme was Fire, and a triumphant procession of people and lanterns did make their way from the river side island, as darkness fell, celebrating just what is special about this element of life. Bright and warm, hot and passionate, warrior like energy, the lanterns were marched up the high street, fiery haired Queen Elizabeth in their midst, and fireworks were seen from the hill where the castle stood.
Out with a bang! No, the townsfolk could not let that be, and so, as is the way of things, others stepped forward to take the festival of light into the future, to become a part of the story of the town for ever. A tiny powerhouse of energy leapt into the space, Shiny Sparky Sparkler, settled in the town that was not too big and not too small, far from her birthplace in the Orient, saw in the procession memories of a culture she had loved and left, and determined that she would keep the would be tradition alive and kicking…
The Mistress of Ancient Wisdom handed over the precious secrets of the Lantern Procession with great reverence and love and Shiny Sparky Sparkler took them gracefully, and made them her own, and so it was that the Lantern Festival was reborn, and with the support of She of Bountiful Grace, once more the townsfolk took to their craft, and lanterns did they make; they made unicorns, a mighty red dragon, an archer, a queen, and ten suns. They made magical creatures of all kinds, and announced to the people that the procession this year would take place on Michaelmas, the old ending and the beginning of the year for those who work the land, the growing season over, and the time for reckoning, rest and preparation begun.
‘Twas full moon, and the time of equal day and night had come around once more, and in the town that was not too big and not too small, the people they did gather on the banks of the river Oak. Soon the grassy isle was alive with shiny creatures, two fair trade bananas, a giant rabbit, a monster with tiny red eyes, all manner of flowers, a green headed dragon, and colourful baubles of varying size. The archer and the queen were there too, and a curious fella, delightful in his resemblance to a character from books of days gone by, with a hat sat cockily upon his head, was spotted playing court to the queen.
Drums they began to beat, and little by little a grand procession made its way slowly but surely up the path to the bridge. Dusk began to fall, children, elders, grown ups of every size, shape, and age, colourful in hue, upon their faces and in their garb, made their way, lanterns held high, glimmering with lights, towards the Plains.
More and more of them appeared, led by a mighty dancing red dragon that swirled and leapt and moved between them as it began its dance up to the high street.
The lantern bearing folk wound their merry way up the street, followed, encircled, captured in pictures, by the peaceful hoard who had come to enjoy the spectacle.
As the long and windy group of perfectly made lanterns moved without order yet perfectly gracefully up the steep, steep high street, children upon men’s backs, women in their glad rags; garments of peacock hued exhuberance, the men too, aye and the children, and a little dog with fairy wings, walked together, and peace descended upon the town that was not too big and not too small; peace of the kind that comes when all are welcome, all are equal, and the goal is joy.
Darkness fell gradually and a myriad tiny lights from the lanterns shone out all up the high street illuminating the shop fronts brightly coloured names, and people leant out of their windows to dance with their hands with a passing red dragon or magical mystical creature of the night of lanterns.
Slowly and yet quickly the procession made its way
up to the town square, where soon the empty stone flags were filled with people, colour, and sound.
The drums they did beat, the dragon it did dance, the joyful koi
and the graceful swan did join him in his merry round about the people, around and around, till gradually the rhythm did slow, and all eyes turned to She of Bountiful Grace who announced…that the storyteller had arrived!
East meets West, as surely as we have all known is right, and a tale of eastern flavour for the joyous gathering on Michaelmas eve on a full moon night when day equalled night was told for all’s delight.
“ ‘Tis said,” said she “ in the east, that once there was a time that was plagued by such heat that something had to be done about the ten suns, for they scorched the crops in the fields, and laid everyone down with fatigue, and the people despaired till one day came an archer, a fine young man, the best of his kind, and said proudly
“I can shoot down the suns”
And he did, one by one, till just one was left, which he left alone to shine on.
And the man, as is the way of such things in our times, and for many a time gone by, was worshipped as a hero, and we all know what happens when one is worshipped above the rest, do we not? Pride can go to one’s head, achievements can seem to belong to just he, the one who had the courage to do a great thing, until pretty soon a man from a hero does a despot become.
But the man, whilst still hero, had married the queen, a wise and wily woman, who soon got the measure of her warrior husband, saw him for what he was, a man so puffed up with his own importance he could no longer do good. The archer recognised none of this, but sought for eternity, for after all, a man as good as he, surely deserved to live for ever?!
Time went by, until one day came someone had made the pill for eternal life! Gave it to the archer, the king. But the queen, wise and wily, wanted not her husband to live forever, and took the pill herself.
Rose she to the skies, the ones where only one sun now shone, and found herself there in the heavens with only a giant rabbit for company! And to this day the queen and the giant rabbit do plot and seek to find the antidote that will bring the queen back down to earth.
Eastern wisdom told on a Western full moon night, celebration of light in the town that was not too big and not too small, a time for rest, for reckoning, and preparation for a new season.
What will it be? Will it be a time when man is no longer is elevated to hero, when woman, wise and wily, no longer must seek to keep him humble? Will it be a time of Transition, when each and every person’s gift is recognised for being a most essential and necessary piece of the preparation for a new season?
Will it be a time when each of us steps up and offers our gifts? Will it be a time when light meets dark as our lanterns met the full moon eve and shone brightly against its velvet backdrop? Will it be a time when all recognise that dark and light are brother and sister and needs must stand side by side?
Will it be a time when we remember the love we all need, a time when we share our talents with the world, instead of greedily keeping them to ourselves whilst letting a few feel glory and puff up with the poison it spreads if kept only for a few and not the many?
What did you bring with you? What is your gift for the new season?