Winter Solstice Haiku Ireland Joint Event

(reporter: Moya Bligh; photos: Stephen Gill)

Toji no Hi. Greeted warmly by a proselytizing believer and an explanation of how her group are gathered to expurge their own guilt and the sins of their ancestors. Eventually, we manage to slip away, receive our authorized white sashes at the Iwafune Jinja office, and open a cage-like door into the rock: our own journey of rebirth has begun.

p1080702Down sturdy steps into a dark recess composed of giant boulders. Patined with green moss, some are soft to the touch and comforting in their roundness. With a little natural light shining through the trees far above, we pick our way over stones and past pillars towards a narrow wooden bridge. Rickety, it bends under our weight, but brings us deeper into the cave. A spring runs through, and at one point there is a small waterfall – life in the womb. From here we follow discreet arrows painted on the rock, guiding us to slide down a tight crevasse … to be reborn again into a chamber composed entirely of boulders and covered by a gigantic capstone.
….Slipping, squeezing
….Through narrow openings:
….The year’s rebirth   (John Dougill)

p1080704We cross the creek again and work our way upwards toward the light, where a little Inari shrine and an altar to a snake god are ensconced in the grotto’s driest corner.

p1080720Lit by dim sunlight,
An eggshell from an offering
To the dragon of the cave.    (Tito)

There, a candle flickers, and we scurry to find a replacement before we leave … to emerge into a glade strewn with autumn leaves and rain now spitting. Our journey of rebirth complete, we return to the shrine compound, where preparations for the year ahead are underway.
….Old man sits in the rain
….Beating straw with a mallet,
….Next year’s shimenawa    (Ted Taylor)

p1080722Later we regroup at a nearby lodge to eat our packed lunches and work on some tan-renga. Earlier this year, I had participated in a haiku weekend near Newgrange, the site where the ancient Irish had celebrated Midwinter. Using the haiku composed there, we have been trying to add Iwafune couplets to make a tanka, thus combining the two meets in an international collaboration.
….Crisp frost underfoot
….sun on the rim,
….still, the sacred space:   (Moya Bligh at Newgrange)
……..Only white breath
……..seen in the air.    (Masako Fujie at Iwafune)
A stranger approaches as we settle into a quiet corner to compose. Who is that tall Afro-American with the deep voice? Gerald, just returned from a hike over the mountains – he has found us!
….Winter swans,
….after death they fly
….my soul and them:    (anon. at Annesbrook)
……..A curved pine guards
……..the star viewing-bridge.    (Gerald above Kisaichi)

Some of us decide to do the hike up to the ‘Ama no Gawa’ Bridge before retiring to a cafe by the river in Kisaichi for a workshop, at which we share and discuss the tan-renga. A memorable Midwinter’s Day.

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5 Responses to “Winter Solstice Haiku Ireland Joint Event”

  1. October chill
    the pine trees pass through the moon

    In Memory of William J. Higginson

  2. How itntrigueing it is to read the description of such a mysterious womb of Mother Nature — the synergism of darkness and the light. I should have taken part in the day’s event, leaving my little daily routine.
    Now I think I understand how a tan-renga is like. Interesting enough! Looks a bit difficult for me to do, though.

  3. John Dougill Says:

    As someone who took part in the event, I would like to say how absolutely wonderful it was and how appropriate to clamber through the sacred rocks at the winter solstice. In retrospect it grows ever more magical. I’ve also since been reading up about Newgrange and its winter solstice connections, and the connection across continents and through time is really quite moving … Many thanks indeed for organising this.

  4. On a stone stage
    Last dance of the setting sun …
    At Winter Solstice

    (UFO Masuda)

    Hibikiai Forum participant, UFO, sent me the above from her own independent visit to a sacred stone site (Ishibutai in Asuka) on Midwinter’s Day.

  5. John Dougill Says:

    I like that haiku by UFO… the last dance of the setting sun is a wonderful image and goes perfectly with the stone stage and the winter solstice. It conjures up images of Amaterasu, also miko dancing too on the shrine stage… a little touch of magic, which every good haiku should have, I feel.

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