Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Novena for the Fallen Through ~ our second prayer for Peace on Earth

Mari Lwyd image by Flying Viper on DeviantArt


Here is the second of our December Novenas for the Fallen Through, which for this month are devoted to Mary and Mari Lwyd and to Peace on Earth. If you would like to read more about this month’s novena you can read our first prayer here.

In our first Novena we lifted a prayer for peace in many aspects; the end of arms trading, of the disproportionate recruitment of the children of the poor into the armed forces, for an end to loneliness and poverty, to the Boxing Day hunt and to driven grouse shooting, and for peace on the West Bank. As this cycle of prayers continues we will connect to these themes in greater depth. Today, as our Prime Minister Theresa May attempts to justify figures which tell us that 9,000 people are sleeping rough on the streets of England at any one time, an increase of 134% since 2011, and that over 79,000 households, which include 120, 000 children, are without homes and living in temporary accommodation, a rise of 65% since 2010, we turn our attention to homelessness.

It is hard to imagine how we can ever find peace when so many people are without roots. It is this lack of grounding that no doubt leads to a disproportionate number of children from working class families being recruited into the armed forces, and it is telling in that regard that Britain is the only country within the European Union to allow the recruitment of 16 year olds. When we feel that we don’t belong we become prey, but more of that on another day.

This Novena and this time of Midwinter and Christmas are so deeply woven with the search for ‘home’ and for a safe place in which to birth what is vulnerable and good. Just as Mary and Joseph did in the Christmas story, the Mari Lwyd travels from house to house at Midwinter asking to come in. She always gains entry because those who live with the hoofbeats of the Mari in heart and ear know that the magic is in allowing her entry, that that is somehow how the world is put to rights. It would be unthinkable to deny her and yet we live in a culture now where so many are afraid to offer room, whether metaphorically or literally.

In Kent we have a tradition very similar to the Mari Lwyd, but here it is called ‘Hoodening’, ‘Hodening’, or ‘Oodening’. This folk-custom involved a wooden hobby horse, the ‘hooden horse’, being mounted on a pole and carried by someone concealed under a sackcloth. This was once specifically enacted in East Kent but it spread into the west of the county in the Twentieth Century.

ontanomagico.altervista.org


The Hooden Horse was a tradition performed at Christmas time by groups of farm labourers who would form into teams and accompany the horse around the local area visiting houses and being offered payment. There would have been little work for labourers on the land in the winter and so this was a way for wealth to be shared in sparse times in a way that offered some dignity; payment for a performance is not the same as charitable giving. In this way hoodening echoes the tradition of wassailing, where again agricultural labourers would travel from house to house singing, or would bless orchards and other crops, in return for food and money. House visiting, which is recorded from at least the 1600s, and orchard blessing, first recorded in St Albans in 1486, were part of a well defined and stable social structure. By the late eighteenth century, wassailing was thriving almost everywhere. Hoodening was also flourishing in Kent and yet by the time of the First World War it had become extinct.

The change in these ways of being seems to have come with the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions, which brought with them Enclosure, the removal of common rights to establish individual ownership of the land, and the replacement of community responsibility through Elizabethan Poor Relief with the Victorian Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, which led to the opening of workhouses. At each turn we become more distant from one another, reciprocal exchange breaks down, and the better off amongst us want to cling on to what we have lest we too should fall through. Indeed it was the Victorians who discouraged wassailing, which allowed the less well off amongst us to take charge of their own wellbeing, and replaced it with the more sedate caroling and charitable giving, where the giver decides who deserves care and in what form that care should come. I know that many now discourage the giving of money to the homeless, in case it is used in ways that aren’t good for them, as though somehow in not having a roof a person also loses the right to make the decisions, good or bad, that those of us who have homes are daily at liberty to make.

Hoodening suffered a similar fate to that of wassailing. In W.D Parish and W.F Shaw’s ‘Dictionary of the Kentish Dialect’ of 1888, they claim that ‘Hodening’ is a Kentish term for carol singing, although they did acknowledge that it had once been attached to a custom involving a ‘mumming or masquerade’ and a hooden horse. At that time, Hoodening itself was still taking place in some parts of the county but, in 1889, a letter appeared in ‘The Bromley Record’ stating that the custom had been abandoned around fifty years previously after a woman in Broadstairs had taken fright and died at the sight of the hooden horse!

This fear of folk-customs allowing exchange of wealth seems to have been ubiquitous. By the mid nineteenth century grave concerns were being expressed that pre-Christmas street celebrations were too rowdy and drunken and the authority’s began a campaign to establish Christmas as a home event, rather than a communal one. Indeed, Colin and Karen Cater in their wonderful and thought-provoking book, ‘Wassailing: Reawakening an Ancient Folk Custom’, describe Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ as a ‘propagandist novel’ which “edits out street based celebrations in favour of ‘the family’, and so Christmas was tamed and with it the people of the land. But, of course, neither is so easily subdued and hoodening is slowly being revived. There are a number of ‘revivalist hoodeners’ in Kent, including, I am proud to say, just down the hill from our house in Sandgate.

In matters of the land though Kent has always been uppity. In ‘The Canterbury Index’ of November 2016, historian, Professor Mark Stoyle, refers to Kent as “the most rebellious county after Cornwall”. Although this is acknowledged to have complex reasons much intertwined with a strong sense of regional identity, it is also thought to have much to do with an ancient and highly unusual system of land tenure chiefly associated with Kent known as ‘gavelkind’. This meant that land was not held in ‘servile tenure’ but could be inherited by the children of a tenant who died and could also be sold as freehold. It was allowed to become home.

Today, a committee of MPs declared homelessness in England to be a ‘national crisis’. Chair of the committee, Labour MP Meg Hillier, described the Government’s strategy to combat homelessness as an “abject failure”, citing the huge increase in people sleeping rough and in temporary accommodation.

thirdforcenews.com

In October 2017, it was reported that the number of homeless people admitted to hospital for treatment of drug and alcohol addiction rose by a quarter between 2014 and 2016. In November, a study found that as many as one in twenty five people can be classed as homeless in the worst affected areas of the UK. This is partly due to people losing their private tenancies since cuts to housing benefits began in 2011, whilst private sector rents have tripled over the same period. Auditor General, Sir Amyas Morse, said that the Department for Work and Pensions had failed to evaluate the impact of benefit changes on homelessness. A 72 year old woman named Victoria was made homeless when her landlord decided to sell her flat and she was unable to find alternative accomodation. Again in November, having been banned from begging and sleeping in shop doorways in Middlesborough, autistic man, Bradley Grimes, who became homeless after leaving the care system at 17 and now suffers from a brain tumour and epilepsy, begged a judge to send him to prison rather than leave him on the streets.

Liverpool Council, ever rebellious, have vowed to continue to “break the law” to stop people dying on the city streets. The City Mayor, Joe Anderson, insists that Government guidelines which refuse support to those who have ‘no recourse to public funds’ will lead to vulnerable people dying. At the opening of a new rough sleeper shelter he said, “Central Government think that the best thing to do is to allow them to die on the streets or force them out, but I won’t allow that in this city.”

Many of those ‘without recourse to public funds’ are failed asylum seekers who have travelled to Liverpool as one of the only places in the country where they are able to lodge an appeal. In other places, homeless EU migrants are being detained without charge, often targeted due to information received from homeless charities such as St Mungo’s and Thames Reach. Britain is the only country in the EU which allows indefinite immigration detention. This policy was found unlawful in the High Court on December 14th. The Government insist that they target those who come to the UK with the ‘intention of sleeping rough’ but this has been rejected by the European Commission and Crisis, who say that most of the European nationals they support have lived in Britain for many years, some having British children, but have fallen on hard times. Activist, David Jones, says that anecdotal evidence suggests that some of those deported for sleeping rough have later died on the streets in their country of origin, reminding us that, “being homeless is not a crime, and freedom of movement is not just for the rich.”

In the meantime, Local Authorities in London, which has been particularly badly affected by private rental increases, has been found to be buying properties outside the city in order to house people. This might seem sensible in pragmatic terms but it constitutes a further erosion of community and connection to place. This is why so many of the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire remain in temporary accommodation. They refuse to be displaced by a ‘land grab’ that has been taking place since the Enclosure Acts, dating back as far as the 1500s and before.

The Mari Lwyd continues to pound on the earth, bangs on doors demanding to enter, to be allowed to come home. She is followed by many lost souls who deserve the same, who cry to be let in.

thelatest.com

Novena for the Fallen Through

Peace on Earth

Blessed Mari, Hallowed Mary,
Holy Mothers of Peace,
Sisters of Reconciliation,
Singers of the Mending Song.
We stand in solidarity with you at the gates of Birth
seeking Light in the luminous beauty of Darkness,
in the depths of winter cold.

With you, we follow the silver thread of starlit Hope,
in the midst of anguish and despair.
We seek a Revolution of Love.
We expect Justice. We speak for Peace.
We will not be shut out. We will be heard.
Room will be made.

We ask for nothing less than Peace on Earth.
We cling to the stubborn hope of light in the darkness.
We allow our waiting to become a prayer.

You knew the meaning of home.
You knew the pain of its loss,
of having no safe place to rest your head.

With you beside us on this Midwinter night
we call for an end to the violence of homelessness,
we seek the end of displacement,
for the people and the land to again become one,
for support and care to be offered in community,
from heart to heart and hand to hand,
for those who suffer, whether looked down upon or unseen,
to be witnessed, to be seen, and to be heard,
for the opening of doors that are so often slammed shut.

We ask for those of us who have enough to feel safe enough to share,
to see through and cast aside the fear-mongering of the media
and those who would subdue love,
those who benefit from the vulnerable remaining vulnerable,
from us all feeling that we are on unstable and precarious ground,
to see that our neighbours are everywhere, whether with homes or without,
for no one who is vulnerable, homeless, and alone
to become prey to greed and the machine of Capitalism and war.

Blessed Mari, Hallowed Mary,
Holy Mothers of Peace,
Sisters of Reconciliation,
Singers of the Mending Song.
We stand in solidarity with you at the gates of Birth
seeking Light in the luminous beauty of Darkness,
in the depths of winter cold.

With you, we follow the silver thread of starlit Hope,
in the midst of anguish and despair.
We seek a Revolution of Love.
We expect Justice. We speak for Peace.
We will not be shut out. We will be heard.
Room will be made.

We ask for nothing less than Peace on Earth.
We cling to the stubborn hope of light in the darkness.
We allow our waiting to become a prayer.

Mari and Mary, you whose stories are so often misunderstood,
obscured by fear, prejudice, and greed.

With you beside us on this Midwinter night
we ask for the reasons for homelessness to be revealed
for those who are homeless amongst us not to be judged
but for all to see that their plight is a reflection of the inequality
that we all live under, even though some are blessed to not feel it,
to see that those who are homeless walk a bitter edge
that we all might come upon.

We call for an end to blame,
to the comfortable feeling that those who have fallen,
or are falling, through
have brought it on themselves or are somehow weak, or less,
for the growing light of this new moon and the Midwinter sun
to expose and illuminate with increasing clarity
the greed of private landlords, the gaps in our welfare system,
the benefit to some of separating us,
of keeping us low and afraid.

Blessed Mari, Hallowed Mary,
Holy Mothers of Peace,
Sisters of Reconciliation,
Singers of the Mending Song.
We stand in solidarity with you at the gates of Birth
seeking Light in the luminous beauty of Darkness,
in the depths of winter cold.

With you, we follow the silver thread of starlit Hope,
in the midst of anguish and despair.
We seek a Revolution of Love.
We expect Justice. We speak for Peace.
We will not be shut out. We will be heard.
Room will be made.

We ask for nothing less than Peace on Earth.
We cling to the stubborn hope of light in the darkness.
We allow our waiting to become a prayer.

You whose stories and spirits are so woven into your own lands,
the fertile hills of Palestine, the wild hills of Wales.

With you beside us on this Midwinter night
we ask to again come into right relationship
with the land and with each other,
knowing that equality must be a constant work
and a constant prayer,
a righting of what becomes unbalanced,
valuing that as an endless call to mindfulness and attention,
to listening to one another and the earth beneath our feet.

In a world where the human spirit
is constrained in smaller and smaller boxes,
let all seek the liberation of belonging,
of knowing our ground,
of digging in, claiming our roots.

May all who are without a safe roof above their heads
find a home that is warm and good.
Let none knock at the door of justice and not be let in.
Let none find that there is no room.

And let all those who are of good heart,
whether homed or unhomed,
stand together against homelessness in all its forms.

We listen for the hoofbeat of the Mari Lwyd,
we listen for the revolutionary Magnificat of Mary,
we look to the Star fallen to earth, sing the Spirit in,
gather up the pieces of broken hope,
weave starshine in our hair,
stand with the saints with starlight at their brow,
knowing that we also shine.

Like all that is born, Sun and Son,
vulnerable and new in the midst of this deepest dark,
May we be undefended and undefeated,
bright with possibility and hope reborn.

Blessed Mari, Hallowed Mary,
Holy Mothers of Peace,
Sisters of Reconciliation,
Singers of the Mending Song.
We stand in solidarity with you at the gates of Birth
seeking Light in the luminous beauty of Darkness,
in the depths of winter cold.

With you, we follow the silver thread of starlit Hope,
in the midst of anguish and despair.
We seek a Revolution of Love.
We expect Justice. We speak for Peace.
We will not be shut out. We will be heard.
Room will be made.

We lift the second shard of a shattered star.
We allow the possibility of belonging,
of home, to sink into our bones,
allow the wild hope of Peace on Earth to shine.
The lights are going on.

For this we pray.

Aho mitake oyasin, amen, blessed be. Inshallah.

'Singing the Pwnco' Credit: John Isaac (found on https://grumpyoldwitchcraft.com/2014/11/10/all-hallows-gathering/)


References and further information:






Homelessness increased by Government welfare reforms ~ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-41241021


Liverpool Council breaks the law in order to stop homeless deaths on the streets ~ http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/liverpool-council-continue-break-law-14037185









Homeless Link ~ working to end homelessness ~ https://www.homeless.org.uk/






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