Our Maytide pilgrimage began under the linden tree in St. Mary’s churchyard, Dartington, as we paused to ponder the meaning of ‘church’. Every Wild Church gathering is made up of a unique group of people; we have folks who regularly return but there’s also always been someone new and so we are endlessly emerging as community. Each gathering includes people of different faiths and of no particular faith, for each of whom the word ‘church’ will have different connotations, from the delightful to the utterly dreadful!
So on this particular Sunday, Sam mused a little on ekklesia, a Greek word at the root of ‘church’ (as in’ ecclesiastical’ – meaning things related to church & clergy). An online dictionary search will reveal that ekklesia is about being called out of the privacy of home and into public gathering and was originally used in Ancient Greece, where its roots lay in the Homeric agora, the meeting of the people. Not that the word in its historical context is without challenge, for it was only male citizens who were allowed to join these assemblies. So it can be a radical act to imagine and embody ekklesia or church as a way of being called out of our safe, familiar and small arenas and into a wider web of relationship with all life. It seems that from the earliest times, Jews and Christians used the word to speak of being called into the love of God and into the loving fellowship that Jesus awakened in those around him. So on this Sunday Sam offered an invitation for each person present to awaken to the mystic Christ – to what is loving, abundant and life giving within each one of us, in our unique ways and whatever our own language for this may be’.
That said, we let go of language altogether and settled into silence, taking time first in still meditation, to open our outer and our inner senses to each other and to the natural world we are part of… and so begin our walk into the Dartington Estate. The land was full of beauties, from late bluebells to early orchids and of course, the lingering apple blossom. The first stage of our walk ended in School Farm Orchard, another hidden treasure. Here we sat in the dappled shade of the flowering trees to listen to Sam’s telling of the Ossian’s journey to the Isle of Apples, the land of Tir Na N’og. The story acted as a reminder or invitation that we too can pass through a threshold of awareness, can be called out of our everyday selves and into a magical way of relating to life, that is alive to a deeper sense of connectedness and meaning.
Passing round a bowl of local apple juice acted as an opening threshold moment, before each of us took time to simply be with the orchard in our own way and open to apple wisdom, before returning to close the circle with a cider communion and time to share reflections.
We then walked onto in to Dartington Gardens and after a delicious shared lunch under the old Crab Apple trees we wandered through the mossy garden paths to The Meadow – Dartington Wild Pollinator Sanctuary. With lemon balm, flowers, prayers and song we blessed two newly made log hives. Allowing the bees to choose their new home without interfering in their natural swarm cycle and luring them into an empty hive is an ancient beekeeping practice.
We learned about swarming and why this is an important and special time for the health of the bees. Cami also shared a little about the traditions of Tree Beekeeping and the conservation hives they are working with at The Meadow. We completed our afternoon by smelling sweet comb, tasting honey and offering our gratitude back to our pollinating allies!
Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.
The Meadow is a wild pollinator and honeybee sanctuary on the Dartington Estate. Our aim is to establish a thriving wild flower meadow which will increase bio-diversity and strengthen local ecology. A haven for wildlife, we’re creating natural habitats for bees, butterflies, bugs and bats.
As bee guardians, we are dedicated to the well-being of our pollinating allies, trusting in the resilience of the colony and their inherent wisdom. We consider honey a rare gift and only harvest from a thriving hive with a surplus of food.
Words & photo by Sam & Cami except for those marked *** which were taken by Bex Clelland of INto the Woods Photography