Feeling Beyond Form…

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We certainly hadn’t intended to talk about Arthur, let alone Merlin when we pencilled in Penrith as the starting point for our weekend workshop.

But the land has a way of communicating it’s own ‘sweet terror’ and when we came across a Welsh Triad referencing Penrith or ‘Pen Rhionydd’ as one of the ‘Seats’ of the legendary British King the ‘cogs’ had inevitably started to turn…

Our June workshop in Dorset had thrown up some poignant ideas with regard to how the ‘ancients’ might be regarding their kinship with Mother Earth…

The constellation we now know as Orion, with its mid-summer rising over the Cerne Abbas hill figure may well have gone under a different name in former times and we still have Arthur’s Wain or ‘Waggon’ illuminating a course across the night sky, better known today as The Plough…

Since our research for the very first literary outing we penned together we had been aware of a plethora of local legends that predated our national Dragon Slayer, George, himself a late medieval replacement for Edmund, as Patron Saint of our Blessed Isles and all relating a similiar tale of sinuous earth energies ‘brought to book’.

The Lambton Wyrm, The Wantley Wurm, and The Laidley Worm, which also featured in our September workshop, to name but a few that we had, only recently, encountered.

Could the notions of authentic, living-land directed, leadership and ‘snake charming’ be linked in some esoteric way we had singularly failed to spot?

Our thoughts came home to Penrith with a jolt of recognition.

The ‘Spirit of Place’ had certainly been operative all those years ago when first it had impinged upon our consciousness and insisted we cross the busy main road to say, ‘Hello’…

And was that any different from being dragged to Dragon Hill at Uffington, or being repeatedly accosted by Glastonbury Tor, not to mention our Ambush by Stone at Long Meg? etc.

What were these sites trying to say?

There was really only one way to find out…

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Chief Prince of Pen Rhionydd…

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D: Before Merlin was a soothsayer he was a miraculous child who solved the mystery of Vortigern’s Tower.

W: What mystery was that?

D: Every time the tower was raised by Vortigern the hill on which it was built swallowed the tower whole.

W: And the answer to that mystery?

D: The answer to the mystery was that the hill was hollow…

and in the hollow of the hill was a pool…

and in the pool two stones languished…

and in each of the stones was a dragon struggling to get out.

One Dragon was White, and the other Dragon was Red.

W: And what was done to reveal this mystery?

D: The Hill was excavated…

The pool was drained…

The stones were pulverised… and the Dragons loosed.

W: What happened then?

D: The Dragons contended… and became One.

W: Thus, the braided tower was raised upon the hill… and remained.

*

Hands of the Future

Sun in Gemini

It was cold, very cold on that Friday… just five days ago.

Across the road, people were trickling out of the railway station and along the busy main road through Penrith. Three hours from now it would fill with commuters both leaving and arriving in the Cumbrian town on the main west-coast line to Glasgow.

But not yet…

“Full Circle: Finding the Way Home’ was the name of the Silent Eye’s weekend workshop. The town of Penrith its base for the three days; and the bitter Cumbrian wind was seeing it start in true local style. The land of lakes and mountains was mounting a traditional Winter welcome…

Nine of us had Penrith Castle to ourselves and I was standing by the English Heritage notice-board quite stunned by what I was looking at. The word ‘Cycles” had just taken on a quite different meaning, and I was staring at an…

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Castlerigg from a distance #acceptance

Not Tomatoes

IMG-5062 Castlerigg at dawn. Photo Credit: Lara Wilson

I went as far as the hills in dreamtime while they gathered to greet the dawn below. Disappointment comes in many forms and sometimes it reaches out to hold the hand of acceptance. I’m not going to lie. This has not been an easy one to come by. The land at Castlerigg calls to me in a language the predates words. It speaks to the very heart of my being and fills me with the irrepressible longing for home. Yet, it is not my time to return here, and I know when it is, this body I wear must accompany my spirit. Sometimes the cells need to remember wholly and completely. And, Casterligg has called my whole being to be present someday. But not yet.

IMG-5071 Photo Credit: Lara Wilson. I love how the blurred image reveals the faces in the stones.

I didn’t…

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The Big-Bold-Blue of Beyond…

*

… When Brother-Warrior entered the chamber of the princess, because of his Cloak-of-Darkness, she thought she was enjoying converse and congress with a spirit.

So too, did all her hand-maids but before departing he took off his cloak and left them with the fleeting vision of a ‘Fairy Warrior’.

*

After Brother-Wizard and Brother-Warrior had left for the wooded isle, Brother-Smith wasted no time in fomenting the populace who were missing the usual round of the wondrous cow.

He walked to each home-stead in turn crying “no milk today, the King of Castle-Hill has stolen your cow.”

In this way they were left in no doubt as to who was to blame for their loss of sustenance and the King of Castle-Hill spent the next nine months touring his lands putting down local revolt after local revolt without the use of his baleful eye.

The king had no opportunity to visit his daughter, as promised, and indeed, as few knew of the islands existence and the magic halter and the wondrous cow were still kept there, it would have been foolish for him to do so.

*

“It is time to collect the magic halter,” said Brother-Wizard to Brother- Warrior after a time.

Together, the two of them, again, set out for the wooded isle in the coracle and once they reached the tower and the nine home-steads they collected not only the magic halter, which the king’s daughter freely gave to them but also the ‘fruits’ of Brother-Warrior’s last visit.

The nine children of the hand-maids were given together in a blanket fastened by a thorn which Brother-Wizard carried on his back whilst the grandson of the king was kept in a separate cloth which Brother-Warrior kept slung upon his breast.

As they made their way back to the mainland the thorn holding the blanket broke and the nine children of the hand-maids fell into the sea and were turned into seals, by Brother-Wizard, so they would not drown.

Brother-Warrior brought the grandson of the king safely ashore…

*

A Wooded-Isle…

*

Brother-Wizard and Brother-Warrior immediately set out for the sea-shore.

There, moored at the mouth of a natural cave in the cliffs, bobbed a coracle.

They both clambered aboard…

*

…The King of Castle-Hill took the magic halter to the cell of the tower on his wooded isle and presented it as a gift to appease his imprisoned daughter.

“Of what use to me is a magic halter,” sobbed the princess, “if all my days are to be spent cooped up here seeing none but my hand-maids.”

“With the halter comes a wondrous cow, my child, its inexhaustible supply of milk will sustain you,” soothed the king, “and I shall bring your food everyday and relate the comings and goings of the kingdom. Far better a sequestered life than one without a father.”

As the King of Castle-Hill left the tower to attend to his duties, the magic halter cascaded against the back of the cell door…

*

Brother-Warrior and Brother-Wizard landed at the wooded isle in their coracle.

“The magic halter is with the king’s daughter,” said Brother-Wizard.”

“And where is the king’s daughter?” said Brother-Warrior.

“The king’s daughter, is in a tower in the centre of the wood which is surrounded by nine home-steads,” said Brother-Wizard, “you must enter the tower and sleep with her.”

“And what’s in the nine home-steads?”said Brother-Warrior.

“You’ll see,” said Brother-Wizard. He gave his brother a Cloak-of-Darkness and put a spell on his hands so that whatever door he came to would open for him.

“Wish me luck, brother,” said the warrior, turning to leave.

“One more thing,” said the wizard, “be sure to leave the magic halter with the princess, we will return for it another day.”

“I thought…” began Brother-Warrior but a withering look from the wizard stayed that thought and sent him swiftly on his way into the wood.

*

A Red-Haired Boy…

*

… The king immediately ordered a tower be built on a densely wooded isle off the coast of his lands and had his daughter put in the tower away from all danger.

Nine home-steads about the foot of the tower and nine hand-maids, one for each home-stead, to ensure that none but the king himself could enter the tower and see the princess.

Once completely satisfied that such a defence could not be breached, without his knowledge, the king set about planning the procurement of the magic halter.

After much deliberation he transformed himself into a red-haired boy and set off for the abode by the sea that housed the three brothers.

The  disguised king arrived in the nick of time.

Brother-Smith was busy in the forge making weapons while Brother-Wizard stood alongside casting spells on those weapons.

Brother-Warrior was outside the forge holding the magic halter.

The wondrous cow grazed sedately in a field alongside the forge.

A dispute between Brother-Smith and Brother-Wizard had just arisen, over the tempering of the blades, and Brother-Warrior was summoned to settle the matter.

“Just look after this for awhile will you,” said Brother-Warrior to a red-haired boy who was passing by, “I won’t be a moment,” he handed the magic halter to the boy and entered the forge.

When Brother-Warrior re-emerged from the forge the red-haired boy, the magic halter, and the wondrous cow were gone.

He set up a shout and the smith and the wizard came running out.

“It can only be the King of Castle-Hill,” said Brother-Wizard looking into the far distance, “long has he coveted our wondrous cow.”

“You will have to get the magic halter back,” said Brother-Smith.

“I’ll need your help,” said Brother-Warrior disturbing the wizard’s reverie.

“Yes, yes, of course,” said Brother-Wizard, his eyes narrowing darkly…

*

The King of Castle Hill…

*

…There once was a king who lived in a castle on a hill.

He was lord and master of all he surveyed.

One daughter he had sired but his wife had died in giving the child life.

His daughter was very beautiful and the king looked forward to the day when she would come into her own.

By a cunning device of his mother the King of Castle-Hill had been made invulnerable and was possessed of a baleful eye which was capable of blighting all that it gazed upon.

The eye was normally kept covered by five leather patches.

The King of Castle-Hill was also a great wizard in his own right, well versed in the magical arts, and nothing happened in his kingdom without his knowledge of it.

There was little that the King of Castle-Hill wanted save for a wondrous cow which was looked after by three brothers who lived by the sea.

One of the brothers was a blacksmith, clever and skilful.

One of the brothers was a wizard, cunning and resourceful.

One of the brothers was a warrior, strong and fair.

The wondrous cow was possessed of an inexhaustible supply of milk and it daily traversed the kingdom supplying the people with nourishment.

The wondrous cow was governed by a magic halter.

Wherever the halter went, there too went the wondrous cow.

The King of Castle-Hill determined to acquire the wondrous cow and realised that if he could somehow get the magic halter then the object of his desire would follow.

About the same time as the king determined upon a plan to acquire the wondrous cow it came to his attention that certain prophesies were doing the rounds of his kingdom.

The prophecies spoke of the king’s demise.

The king summoned his soothsayer.

“It is true, my lord, words have been uttered describing your death,” said the king’s soothsayer.

“But I am invulnerable,” said the King of Castle-Hill, “I will live forever.”

“Not so,” said the soothsayer, “your grandson shall slay you by casting a spear through your baleful eye and on out of the back of your skull.”

The king fell silent in thought.

It might possibly be true, the king’s baleful eye, though a potent weapon and an effective deterrent against those who might oppose him, was also his only vulnerable spot.

“Will he indeed!” seethed the King of Castle-Hill fingering the first of the leather pouches that covered his baleful eye, “we will see about that.”…

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