The in-between Times and Places
Midsummer day at Stonehenge
Magic happens in the in-between places and times.
Those places that we all know about, we recognize them in one way or another but they cannot be pinpointed:
The edge of the sharpest knife; you’ll find it when you touch it but to precisely locate the place that is neither the left side nor the right, the edge that is there but nowhere.
The border between one man’s property and another’s; wars have been fought and lawsuits abound when it is encroached upon but where is that place that is neither his nor his? That in-between place, we know it’s there, the place that is nowhere but full of potential.
There are in-between times; the time when one thing stops and another begins. It isn’t there it’s a no-time, but it exists.
Every 28 days the visible area of the Moon grows larger. Then, the moment of the full Moon is also the moment when it begins to wane. How do we catch that moment when the Moon is full?
On June 21st or thereabouts the Sun is at its strongest. For half the year the day has been getting longer and the night shorter. There is a point when the Sun has beaten back the night and the night is at its weakest. The moment of the Sun’s greatest power is the moment when it begins to lose and the night gains strength for another half year.
The opposite takes place around December 21st. This is the time when despair gives way to hope. This is the time when the ground is as hard as a stone, when trees appear dead and nothing can grow. Only the Holly and the Pine give any hope that all is not lost. Then, at the moment of darkest night, when the Sun is at its weakest, is the moment when the Sun again begins to gather strength. There is a moment that does not seem to exist in the apparent world, but we know it is there. That moment when the world changes.
Two other very powerful times occur around March 21st and September 21st. This is when the World is perfectly balanced between day and night. Both are of equal length, but the moment, that time when the emphasis of the season moves from one pole to another, it is there, it happens but we can’t catch it.
One of the most celebrated of the in-between times occurs on October 31st. Known as Calan Gaeaf in Welsh and Samhuin in Irish, it is the moment when Summer turns to Winter. That no-time but important time. The last harvest is in; it’s time to prepare for the long winter nights. Christianity decided to celebrate all of the Saints on November 1st. “All Saints Day” so October 31st became “All Hallows eve” or Halloween.
For our ancestors, and perhaps even today, the highest number of deaths would take place in the Winter. So it seemed only natural to suppose that the spirits of those departed would use this moment as a gateway into our World to greet those who would soon be joining them.
Into the Mists
keep your eyes bright
The Quest for the Gateway
This is the secret of the in-between; they are gateways to other Worlds, times and places. Myth and legends from every people tell of those who have gone on a quest to find these other Worlds. In Welsh, pre-Christian legend, Arthur and his companions cross into Annwn, the place where the spirits of the dead go, on a quest to bring back the Cauldron of rebirth. A tale that later got “Christianized” into the quest for the Holy Grail.
Up until 200 years ago the people of South West Wales would tell of how at Calan Haf, the Spring equinox, islands would appear off the coast seen from the Presceli mountains. It was even said that people from these isles would come to the mainland and trade at the markets.
The quest to be at the gateway and to find these other Worlds is fraught with danger. To enter the World of the Spirits is to risk leaving our body behind and never coming back. The World of the Fae is enchanting. Time moves very differently there. Who is to say when or where we would return even if we are able to, although the bridging of Worlds is a powerful metaphor particularly in Welsh Myth. In the story of Llew Llaw Gyffes he can only be killed if he stands in such a way and at such a time that he bridges Worlds. Bendigeidfran, the giant King made his own body act as a bridge to get his comrades to safety. He was wounded with a poisoned arrow as a result. Another metaphor for bridging worlds, it gave rise to a Welsh saying still popular today; “Tra bod ben, bid bont” If you would be a leader, be a bridge. Taliesin, the greatest of the Welsh bards was taken from the sea at Calan Mai, or Beltain as the Irish say, another powerful in-between time.
The Road goes ever on
It's neither here nor there
All of the above is fable, it is Myth and legend. Is it true? Do these gateways really exist? Does it matter if they do or not? For the first two questions, the answer is that only those who have gone through them and come back know for sure. For the third question; No, it does not matter at all. Those who stand in the no-place in the no-time risk going no-where. This is the world we are born into; this is the universe where we belong. It is fine to have your head in the clouds provided you keep your feet firmly on the Earth.
But what about being aware of the things most people are not aware of. It doesn’t require learning or developing a skill, it only means paying attention. How about noticing that those no-times and no-places are all around us, those times and places that are nothing, yet filled with potential. How about noticing that at times and places we walk through and live through these in-betweens. Being aware of things that no one else is aware of brings experiences that no one else has. Being truly aware is being truly alive.
To be truly alive is to live in a Magical world and the Magic never ends.
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