Soul of the Earth: The Awen Anthology of Eco-Spiritual Poetry, Ed. Jay Ramsay

27 07 2016

This beautiful collection of poetry centres on our earth as a living entity and on whose survival our own lives depend. Ramsay states in his introduction: ‘We are being asked, individually and collectively, to make an absolute basic spiritual choice for life.’  The spiritual choices in this collection are positive, life-affirming declarations of love for this planet from a variety of perspectives.

Each of the twenty-one contributors to this book of poetry has something vital to contribute to the concept of eco-spirituality; and the myriad of explorations on this theme will resonate with readers quietly contemplating this important question explored in the collection. It is difficult to single out individual poets / poems as the entire volume is soul food.  Apologies to those poets not mentioned in this review – rest assured your poems too were appreciated.

So – what are these spiritual choices?  Karen Eberhardt –Shelton’s Misplaced Calibrators explores the disconnection between modern life and the things that really matter. The natural world in her observational poem is removed from the personas within it by the personas’ obliviousness to patterns and meanings of life:

Mum walks the springer spaniels while talking

On her mobile phone;

Ladybirds crawl away, bees watch in amazement.

The ladybirds flee; the bees are stunned. The loss of all the old wisdom of bee-keeping, part of the ancient knowledge that allowed us to survive as a species is wonderfully captured in this personification and their astonishment as they observe this human so indifferent to their presence.  No telling the bees here.

The whole poem reverberates with old knowledge and the personifications used are more than a literary device. The question asked at the end: ‘What would they do if there was no moon or sun or seasons ever again?’ is the heart of this poem and the gentle meditative wisdom at its centre.

Jehanne Mehta’s Hymn to the Earth is a stunning panegyric reminiscent of classical works in praise of Gods and Goddesses. The earth is portrayed as a beautiful young woman who has many moods:

She is lovely in the springtime in her dress of gold and purple;

She is lovely in the summer in her robe of living green…

The poem invites its reader to walk the seasons and to appreciate our world as a living, breathing entity. It encourages the reader to think about the earth and what it means. But it does more than this. It involves the reader at a visceral level and makes them contemplate a relationship with the earth as they might contemplate a relationship with a lover. The power in this poem is palpable and it is perfect for immersion in spiritual practice, regardless of path.

Lynne Wycherley’s Substitute Sky picks up the same theme as Karen Eberhardt –Shelton’s poem: the disconnect between the appearance of living and of life itself:

…we stare at screens,

A sly fluorescence, a not-quite sky…


Less talk,

Less laughter, less sun on our skins;

Our lives on hold, our children wired in.

The imagery of children entrapped by wires is a powerful punch to the gut and reminds the reader that a literal tying down of children to control them would – rightly – be viewed as child abuse, but our acceptance of a metaphorical tying of children by the unseen wires and cables of technology is an abuse we seem to accept without question. Such sad children are all too often the norm and it can sometimes seem they neither know nor care that they are in the thrall of machines.

The eco-spiritual question asked of the reader throughout the book is how we interact with our modern world and the technology within it – and how we teach our children that a machine is a good servant but a bad master. This is an important, pertinent and relevant question and the result of not addressing it is encapsulated in the final couplet of Wycherley’s poem:

Core addiction: captive eyes.

Outside the real world breathes, and dies.

These three poems are but a small taste of the treasures contained within this volume. Each of the poets brings their own interpretation to the question of eco-spirituality and each offers something of themselves and of importance to the reader.

Fiona Tinker


Soul of the Earth: The Awen Anthology of Spiritual Poetry, Ed. Jay Ramsay, (England: Stroud, Awen Publishers, 2010.)  £12.

Music from the Heart

15 02 2016

Things have really moved on since my last post about The Tinkers’ Heart. On July 30th 2015 the Tinker’s Heart was officially placed on the scheduled monuments of Scotland, meaning it is now a protected historical site.

From the campaign, lifelong friendships have been forged and we have formed a group: HOTT (Heart of the Travellers) a registered charity working to preserve and promote all things ‘Traveller’ and their part in Scotland’s story. To this end, we produce a magazine that explores and celebrates the part all people play in our own story. The magazine is free to download and can be found here: HOTT Magazine

The Tinkers’ Heart sits about 80m from the new main road at Ardno Farm on the A844 around 2 miles from the A83 junction. It’s very easy to miss when travelling by car, particularly given the lack of safe places to park at present. However, it’s really good news that Argyll and Bute Council will be erecting a sign and opening an old layby for visitor parking and I think the plan is to have these in place by Easter 2016.


And the Heart now has its own song. Poet, Rolf Campbell; and musician, Jeff Jeffrey, created a beautiful, haunting song in honour of this sacred place.

Jeff Jeffrey, Jess Smith and Rolf Campbell at the first public performance of the Tinkers' Heart Song.

Jeff Jeffrey, Jess Smith and Rolf Campbell at the first public performance of the Tinkers’ Heart Song.

The song had its first live performance at the Artizan Gallery, Dumbarton on February 11th. It will also be performed at the Coach house, Cairndow, at Easter. Tinkers’ Heart Song

The Tinkers’ Heart (9)

6 08 2015

The absolute joy we felt when we learned that the Tinkers’ Heart was granted its status as a Monument of National importance has not diminished in the slightest. If anything, it has grown and taken on a life of its own.

One of the things the campaigning committee wanted was to share and explore the culture of Scottish Travellers and their part in the story of Scotland. To that end, we’ve produced the first edition of a new magazine – The Heart of the Travellers Magazine. See what I mean about things taking on a life of their own?


The magazine is here: HOTT Mag Vol 1 Ed 1 Aug 2015 

Just click to download – please enjoy!



The Tinkers’ Heart (8)

19 06 2015

Wonderful, wonderful news to report! Historic Scotland have reached their decision about the Tinkers’ Heart – and have scheduled it as a monument of National Importance. From Historic Scotland-

The Tinker’s Heart is a site of high cultural significance in three main areas-
1)It gives us a great understanding of the traditions and material heritage of Scottish Travellers.
2)It is a rare example of a permanent physical monument of Scottish Travellers, and
3) it holds a high significance in the consciousness of Gypsy/Travellers and the people of Argyll as a symbol of Scottish Travellers and their heritage.
In light of this, we intend to place Tinker’s Heart on the ‘Schedule’ as a monument of National Importance.

Full letter here:       Historic Scotland – The Tinkers’ Heart

The part Scottish Travellers have played in the history of our country is recognised by this decision. There’s a long way to go and a lot of stories to tell. It will be great working with Here We Are to  tell our part of the story in the Argyll area – we’re looking forward to it.

But what a start this is!

Beltane Bits and Bobs

25 04 2015

Beltane is nearly here and it’s definitely time to come out of hibernation in the frozen north. Summer has had a practice run too,flexing its muscles just to make sure they still worked and the like. In other words, we’ve had ten days or so of very warm weather and it’s been fabulous.

Back to rain and cold today though.

Never mind, summer will remember how to do its job soon enough. There is the amazing Beltane Fire Festival to look forward to in Edinburgh on Thursday 30th April:

and the new edition of Pooka Pages Magazine for Pagan Kids is available to download free too!

Beltane Blessings.

The Tinkers’ Heart (5)

9 10 2014

Things are looking up! The Parliamentary Committee meeting originally intended to hear evidence about why The Tinkers’ Heart should be scheduled as a monument on August 5th. Jess Smith was invited to present evidence, with A.N. Other, should she wish.


Mike Russell MSP wanted to be there as he is very supportive and interested in Jess’ petition and the history of the Heart. This was also the day that the SQA exam results were released in Scotland and Mike Russell MSP is the Minister for Education. Not a good day to meet, Mr Russell would  obviously be needed elsewhere, so it was rescheduled.


Rescheduled it was and a small group of us accompanied the author and storyteller, Jess Smith, to the Parliamentary Committee hearing on 30th September. We’d all worked hard on this petition and it was rather exciting to be invited to give evidence. Initially, Jess had asked if I would also present evidence with her. I’d agreed (although the thought had me shaking in my shoes.) Luckily, I was spared the ordeal as Mike Russell  asked if he could do so. Not a problem! I can do the moral support thing, no worries!

The meeting went very well indeed. It was obvious that those MSPs who made up the committee had read their briefings and really were taking an interest in what Jess Smith and Mike Russell had to say about the site and why is should be listed. They asked very perceptive questions: two MSPs in particular, John Wilson and Angus MacDonald, showed a very keen interest and knowledge about the background to the Petition. Mike Russell spoke eloquently and he did a much better job than I would ever have managed.

The end result is that the committee will write to Historic Scotland and other parties, and then forward those replies to Jess for comment. This will take another 8 weeks or so, but we left the committee room feeling very hopeful indeed that this little part of Argyll will always hold the memories of the Ancestors, of the Tinkers who married, baptised their babies and mourned their dead at that spot.

If you’d like to read more / watch Jess’ presentation, this link will take you to a page where you can read the transcript of the meeting and see the video of the proceedings:


And this is the video from the Scottish Parliament’s Website:

Jess Smith presenting evidence to the Parliamentary Committee

In Respectful Memoriam to an Ancestor

12 06 2014

72 years ago today a young soldier, aged 28, died in battle at Tobruk, Libya.

He was one of many who gave their lives during WW2 on the battlefields of North Africa. The hot landscape he found himself in was a long way away from the East End of Glasgow and I often wonder what he and his compatriots thought of the scorching sun and heat of that country. This young soldier, dead 19 years before I was born, left behind a very young wife, a small son and an even smaller daughter.

Theirs was not an unfamiliar situation. Many young mothers were left to grieve their husbands and bring up a young family as best they could. His death was a personal tragedy for those who knew and loved him, for those he left behind. His death set in motion a chain of events full of love, twists, turns and happenings that would not be believable in a novel. It is a sad truth that the death of soldiers is the price paid in wars and as such, is merely one more story amid a sea of similar tales.

But each soldier has a personal story and that personal story echoes down the generations. For this young soldier, a cobbler and a blacksmith by trade, life stopped at 28. Yet 72 years later, his absence is still felt. There is an incomplete section in the weave of the ancestral tapestry of our lives. He would not have lived to be 100, no man from his background and time would be likely to reach that age. Yet the role he should have played in a family history as father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great- great-grandfather is a blank canvas. He had so little time with his son and daughter. Would he have been delighted with his subsequent seven grandchildren, seventeen great-grandchildren and six great-great grandchildren? He generated quite a tribe – what would he have thought of us all?

Who he was, what he would have become, what he may have thought – all was lost on June 12th, 1942.

In respectful memoriam to an ancestor:
Gunner Joseph Clark Smith (1914 – 1942)
11 (Honourable Artillery Coy.) Regt. Royal Horse Artillery.

The Tinkers’ Heart (4) – An Update

6 06 2014

The Tinkers’ Heart (4) – An Update.

Whose England is it?

19 05 2014


Photo courtesy of Arthur Uther Pendragon.

Sometimes you see a photograph that makes you stop and think. This picture of King Arthur Pendragon in the mist at Stonehenge is one of those.

King Arthur Pendragon? Surely I am in the wrong century?

No, I’m in the here and now.

For those who don’t know the 21st C Arthur, The Pendragon believes he is the reincarnation of the 5th C King, returned to save his land – England – from destruction. Over the years, he and his Loyal Arthurian Warband have challenged environmental damage through the courts or by direct action; not always with the support of the wider public but certainly with a passionate belief in what he and his band are doing. Predictably, it has made him many friends – and many enemies. The point of this blog entry isn’t to examine Arthur’s claims but to discuss this beautiful photograph. However, if you are interested in learning about the man, there is a link to his autobiography and his Druid order at the end of this post.

I first met Arthur at the end of the 1990s in Yorkshire. He was good company and didn’t mind sharing his beer. Or his ideas. He was fascinating to listen to as he told us about his plans to protect his land and bring back some of the ancient respects between humans and their land. Yes, some called him a dreamer (amongst other things) but his passionate belief in what he was doing also showed him as a man of vision, even if that vision was not one shared widely in England. But – listening to him – no-one could doubt in the least that he understood the ancient contract between man and the land.

The years passed and Arthur was active in many campaigns, He was a frequent visitor to the courts, either as a litigant or as a defendant. He saw the inside of prison a fair few times. It didn’t deter him. He lived his vision. The Pendragon was – and remains – an able orator and defender of his dream. Those of us who had the unmitigated pleasure of seeing him debate head to head with Professor Ron Hutton in Croydon about whether Arthur Pendragon was real or not have a memory to cherish. It was a stunning debate from both men.

In short, Arthur got on with it.

And so did England. It became a land ruled by a minority whose economic interests were as far removed from the ancient contract as it could be. A land whose wildlife is under threat in the interests of Mammon. A land where the sick and seriously ill have been subjected to harassments ending in deaths. A land where – quite literally – big companies intend to cut away beneath the ground underfoot.

This is not Arthur’s England. This is not the England of the many friends I have in that country. It begs the question:

Whose England is it?

So, fast forward to this photograph. What do I see?

I see a man photographed unawares. I see a troubled King deep in contemplation, as if the weight of his world was becoming an unbearable burden. And regardless of whether you buy into Arthur Pendragon reincarnated or not, I see a symbol of much that is decent about England troubled by the direction his country is taking.



Biography of Arthur Pendragon:


Loyal Arthurian Warband:


The Tinkers’ Heart (3)

18 04 2014


Source of photo unknown. No infringement of copyright intended and I will remove / acknowledge if the owner gets in contact.


There is some really  good news to report about Jess Smith’s campaign to have the Tinkers’ Heart listed as a monument. Jess has been successful in the first stage towards getting this matter debated in the Scottish Parliament by creating an online petition on the Government’s website:
Please consider signing and sharing this!

Jess will be on Oban FM radio on Sunday at 10.15am, talking to Breege Smyth about her petition. You can listen live on line: