On ducks and weather…

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There is a saying here in England, ‘nice weather for ducks’. It is generally used only when it rains, of course. We have it wrong. Summer is nice weather for ducks… they certainly have the best of it, being able to plonk themselves in a nice, cool river and let the water carry away the heat.

We don’t do weather well in England. Which is odd, because, on the whole and barring the disastrous and tragic exceptions of major weather events, we live in a very moderate climate. In winter the country can grind to halt with a few inches of snow. We complain when it rains, then preen ourselves on the beauty of our green and pleasant land… and grumble about hosepipe bans when it doesn’t rain.

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And then there is summer, brief though it may be. Midsummer saw temperatures here lower than the midwinter temperatures in parts of Australia. With some justification, therefore, we complain about still wearing woollies and turning the heating back on. Then we have the ludicrous situation of leaving for work wearing a jumper in the freezing dawn, only to have the sun come out and cook the country. It was borne home on Wednesday when the temperatures soared. Half the population shed clothing and bared tender flesh to the sun, many, with such unaccustomed exposure, rapidly turning a nice shade of scarlet. Others headed for the shade, closed the curtains and like vampires or trolls, fearing the kiss of the sun.

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I am of the latter bunch… and, let me make this clear once and for all, I am the only person allowed draw comparisons between my person and that of a troll… Others may do so… at least one probably will… but they do so at their peril…

I could, of course, simply complain about the humidity of summer heat in this country. That is a common favourite. I might mention the fact that fair skin burns… except mine doesn’t as a rule. I could fall back on the consequences of the exploding coffee pot, or the misbehaving extremities… which all give me a perfect excuse for staying out of the sun…

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But the truth is, I don’t like it. Not when it gets that hot. I feel as if I’m frying. Melting. And, enrobed in a certain percentage of fat, I find it extremely unfair that in this heat… I don’t.
Put me high on a northern hilltop, however, and I am perfectly happy, no matter what the weather. The exhilaration of a thunderstorm or a windy day, hail, sun, rain or snow… Which is just as well, as that is where I am going for the weekend, and all of those have been forecast apart from the snow. So whatever the weather decides to throw at the hills, I’m guessing the ducks won’t mind. And besides… we have a book to publish 🙂

 

‘Claims to ancient reach’?…

Arbor Low and Stanton Moor Imbolc 001 (15)

Throughout the books written with Stuart France there are visions; moments of a past long fled that ‘Wen’ still sees written in the ancient stone of the landscape and within the circles of the Old Ones. They come when they will, flooding her consciousness with something that may be no more than imagination, no more than a waking dream… or perhaps they are shadows that are cast across the face of time…

The stone is warm beneath her back. Above her the clear blue of the sky is powdered with clouds, barely moving. It is sheltered here in the circle, the earthen banks of the henge protecting the centre from the ceaseless assault of the winds in this high place.

She closes her eyes and waits, feet towards the centre, hands crossed on her breast, relaxing each muscle, each limb in turn, breathing deeply of the clear air.

The shift comes. The world falls away. She can see her companion through closed eyes, across the circle, mirroring her. She does not need to look to feel his presence.

On the screen of inner sight a single glowing point of light that seems farther than the farthest star, yet closer than the sun. Between her and the light nothing but the streaks of passage… a stream of movement, as of a million suns caught racing comets in the blackness of space. A wormhole… dragons… serpents aflame with brilliance… a tunnel through which she is rushing faster than the light itself, falling inwards, forwards, upwards… she does not know.

Then a figure blocking the brightness… a dark silhouette against the torchlight and the tang of smoke. A hand extended, smiling eyes unseen but felt. She takes the hand, stiff after the long vigil in the chill of night, accepting assistance to regain her feet.

The grass is cold, frost biting her bare toes. Above, a million stars streak across the heavens. It is done. The old one smiles, raising his hand…

…. Voices call her back. The sunlight casts a pale golden glow … across the circle her companion opens his eyes. There is something she recognises in them…. She knows not what it is.

***

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Atop the mound the grass is chill and damp though the sun shines clear. There is no shelter and the wind ruffles her hair, an ancient grandmother caressing her child.

She closes her eyes, folds her hands on her breast beside him, relaxing into the other sight.

The shift comes. The world falls away. She is glad of his presence as the veins of her eyelids are painted green against the grey light… green and grey he had said of the one he had seen….

On the screen of inner sight a single glowing point of light that seems farther than the farthest star, yet closer than the sun. Between her and the light nothing but the streaks of passage… a stream of movement, as of a million suns caught racing comets in the blackness of space. A wormhole… dragons… serpents aflame with brilliance… a tunnel through which she is rushing faster than the light itself, falling backwards, away from the light. The unexpected sensation is sickening, stomach twisting.

Hands reach up from the earth, dragging, clawing… nightmares and hell… women, children… She refuses their hold and turns. Flesh melts from her bones and she dissolves into earth… She is only the wind…

He moves. She opens her eyes to a world wreathed in fog, ghostly shapes, amorphous and shifting…

It takes a moment before reality returns…

“We need to go to Fin Cop.”

Arbor Low and Stanton Moor Imbolc 001 (21)

***

Doomsday:

The Aetheling Thing

Stuart France & Sue Vincent

 ‘Doomsday: The Aetheling Thing’

Towards parting

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We left the stone circle in lighthearted mood. The walkers we met all seemed to be smiling broadly… and that included the ones who hadn’t witnessed our antics up there. The grouse have a very peculiar call and seemed to want to laugh with us as we walked down towards High Lanshaw reservoir where we stopped to debate the temperature of the water, the merits of bathing whilst going blue and to share the chocolate one of our number had been thoughtful enough to provide.

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The moors here are high, close to the top, and fields of fading heather hint at a glory just missed. We walked down towards the Lanshaw Lass and onward to the necropolis of Green Crag Slack. Here we stopped to examine some of the many carved stones… including the ‘pointy’ stone that re-opened the debate on the significance of this form. This ancient landscape of the dead is a happy place, strangely enough… it feels ‘right’ and holds neither fear nor sadness. You really seem to understand that it is a place of transition, and that death itself may be a birthing rather than an end.

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So it is with many things and this too had been borne in upon us over the weekend as the fruits of the yesterdays of the world had become the seeds of its tomorrow. As we descended towards the Haystack, carved with yet more ancient figures and, for me, personal memories, there was both a gentle regret that the weekend was drawing to a close and an acknowledgement that in such an ending we were carrying new understanding out into our individual worlds. Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end… but which, after all, is which?

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We sat beneath the old stone, talking quietly and sharing the last of the cedar given in spring by a dear friend we had held in our hearts over the weekend. ‘Ned’ would love these moors. It was a moment filled only by a poem, and it caught me right in the heart, marking the end of our present journey.

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We come together sometimes with others who share a part of the way, then we part to walk alone again for a while. We hope, but cannot know, that our paths may meet again in the not-too-far-distant future, but in some ways we do not part at all. We share a single thread of a universal life, entrusted to each of us to weave our own tales into the greater tapestry of existence. And just as we would carry away from the moors their essence in the water of her streams and the sharp scent of bracken on our clothes, so too would we carry away the things we had each taught and learned from this shared time together.

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The first of the School’s Harvest weekend workshops had passed. It had been largely unplanned, wholly unscripted, apparently unorganised and completely informal, yet by accepting the gifts offered by each moment and colouring them vivid we had shared a journey together that leaves none of us unchanged. And as we sat around the table in the hotel garden for a final coffee, one smiling voice spoke, I think, for all of us at that moment.
“Can we do it again?”

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***

 

DOOMSDAY

The Aetheling Thing     Dark Sage   Scions of Albion

All books available via Amazon in Paperback and for Kindle

Don and Wen, following the breadcrumb trail of arcane lore and ancient knowledge, scattered across the landscape of time, turn their attention to the myths and legends of Old Albion. They delve into the tales of King Arthur, asking some very strange questions about biblical family trees and exploring the many stories that abound in the very landscape of Avalon. Meanwhile, in Derbyshire, the voices of the past still whisper from the stones, opening a passage through time, place and memory to another world…

 

Doomsday: The Ætheling Thing

How is it possible to hide such a story… the hidden history of Christianity in Britain? Oh, there are legends of course… old tales… Yet what if there was truth in them? What was it that gave these blessed isles such a special place in the minds of our forefathers? There are some things you are not taught in Sunday School. From the stone circles of the north to the Isle of Avalon, Don and Wen follow the breadcrumbs of history and forgotten lore to uncover a secret veiled in plain sight.


Doomsday: Dark Sage
…. something was spawned up on the moor… something black that flew on dark wings. It heeds not time or place… but it seems to have developed a penchant for the travels of Don and Wen….
“Are those two still at it?”
“Apparently….”

 


Doomsday: Scions of Albion

Things are getting serious…

Exactly what is Wen doing with that crowbar and why is she wearing a balaclava?

All will be revealed…or will it?

 

Follow the story begun in The Initiate and the Triad of Albion,

as Don and Wen explore the ancient land…

 

 

The Journey of the Fool

stepping stones ilkley

Some ideas simply arrive fully formulated, coming out of nowhere, with no clues, no warning, and the first thing you know about them is when they come out of your mouth. Such was the whole stepping stones scenario.

“Blindfolded.”

Inside I am shaking my head at the ridiculousness of the idea. It is idiotic, dangerous… foolhardy as one of my companions put it… but then, the spiritual journey has always been that of the Fool.

We had been there before of course, the day we three had spent up on the moors, working together as three. That time I had simply shown the river crossing to my companions and they, being male, had waltzed off blithely across them. I myself haven’t crossed them in years. They are not so very bad, of course, but I do have little short legs and the gaps are wide; the stones can be slippery and many are worn and uneven in height and breadth, in places uncomfortably so. The river runs fast here too. The child had no qualms, the woman saw potential danger and avoided it.

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The evening had been spent largely in the garden of the hotel watching the clouded skies; someone had told the staff the Northern Lights might be visible and that was simply too good a chance to pass up. We had spoken of fear and the way it rules so many aspects of our lives, and of trust… that greater trust we can find that the Universe knows what it is about and how, even from the darker times, great lessons can be learned. That, I suppose, is where the idea emerged from, bubbling out of my lips as if I had no control over them. This too is a matter of trust… sometimes you just ‘know’ and have to go with that, without necessarily understanding all the details.

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“I thought you were joking.”

I wish! No, I was deadly serious. Granted, there is no way I would subject anyone else to this kind of apparent lunacy, but some things are ‘given’ and have a purpose that may be beyond vision… which seemed an entirely appropriate thought as I closed my eyes and tied the scarf tightly around them, ready for my companions to lead me across the stepping stones. At that moment fear had me by the proverbials, but that is no reason to turn away. I trust these two men with whom I Work absolutely… I would trust them with anything and do. We have launched into what is, undeniably, a life changing venture that fills every waking moment on one level or another, taking time and anything else it requires. And since the inception of the School this is how we have worked… in trust.

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None of us, I think, had analysed in advance what we were doing. It is only afterwards that the whole picture begins to form and there are some complex psychological and spiritual nuances at play. For myself I simply expected to be scared, but the moment the blindfold was on I was utterly calm… an almost meditative state descended where all I needed to do was surrender to the guidance of hand and voice and feel the balance of the world through my feet. There simply was no fear, only the moment. There was no consciousness of any sound except the rushing of swift water and the guiding voice, but the knowledge of presence was absolute. In surrendering my will to trust, the responsibility for movement across the river was no longer mine, my own responsibility lay in obedience to another voice than that of my own inner chatter in order to ensure the safety of all of us.

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Stuart came behind, though I was not aware that he would, I could feel him there… not through touch or sound or any other physical indication, I just felt his strength behind me. That another of our companions had joined us I had no idea. Steve took the brunt of the burden, guiding my steps with his voice and was magnificent. His initial concern was based on my obvious reactions; he wanted me to be able to succeed and lent his strength as a gift; yet by this time I knew that little of this was about me, or indeed any one of us, and there was no fear. We three are a team and together we can do things none of us could, or perhaps would do alone. Our individual strengths and weaknesses complement each other, and each of us brings a unique perspective to the work.

This crossing of the river was symbolic in many ways, while on one side the waters ran calm and seemingly still, the other swirled and bubbled, running swift and deep. Together we crossed, trusting each other, we ourselves the bridge, it seemed, that gave us passage.

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Fear was addressed in many ways over the course of the weekend, with one of our number conquering her own deep fear of heights and her doubts of her own capabilities, facing them with courage and determination, trusting herself. No-one had forced anything upon her; she had chosen to face fear and emerged triumphant. Trust, too was addressed, gently and naturally, as each learned to trust the others with their inner thoughts and found friendship, shared laughter and tears, opening to the gifts the moment brought to each.

As we brought in the harvest of being the seeds of future harvests were planted. Of such things is magic made.

***

It was with no small sense of achievement that I had pressed ‘publish’ on the sixth of the newly revamped, redesigned and re-edited books.

Originally published in colour, these books have now been reissued in black and white at a much more sensible price which, we hope, will allow more people to join us as we travel through the magical and ancient landscape of Albion and its myths.

Especially at this stage… where it becomes ever more difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction.

There are events that we will instantly dismiss as impossible… others we might accept through the willing suspension of disbelief we employ when reading fiction…  and some that will simply leave us wondering if the impossible is truly impossible at all…

***

DOOMSDAY

The Aetheling Thing     Dark Sage   Scions of Albion

All books available via Amazon in Paperback and for Kindle

Don and Wen, following the breadcrumb trail of arcane lore and ancient knowledge, scattered across the landscape of time, turn their attention to the myths and legends of Old Albion. They delve into the tales of King Arthur, asking some very strange questions about biblical family trees and exploring the many stories that abound in the very landscape of Avalon. Meanwhile, in Derbyshire, the voices of the past still whisper from the stones, opening a passage through time, place and memory to another world…

 

Doomsday: The Ætheling Thing

How is it possible to hide such a story… the hidden history of Christianity in Britain? Oh, there are legends of course… old tales… Yet what if there was truth in them? What was it that gave these blessed isles such a special place in the minds of our forefathers? There are some things you are not taught in Sunday School. From the stone circles of the north to the Isle of Avalon, Don and Wen follow the breadcrumbs of history and forgotten lore to uncover a secret veiled in plain sight.


Doomsday: Dark Sage
…. something was spawned up on the moor… something black that flew on dark wings. It heeds not time or place… but it seems to have developed a penchant for the travels of Don and Wen….
“Are those two still at it?”
“Apparently….”

 


Doomsday: Scions of Albion

Things are getting serious…

Exactly what is Wen doing with that crowbar and why is she wearing a balaclava?

All will be revealed…or will it?

 

Follow the story begun in The Initiate and the Triad of Albion,

as Don and Wen explore the ancient land…

Bringing in the harvest

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The heather still shows patches of purple although the massed luxuriance of colour has now faded; the bracken begins to turn to bronze and the autumn mists swirl in. Even so, beauty remains. This weekend saw a gathering of companions at a small hotel, high above the little Yorkshire town of Ilkley, for the first Harvest of Being weekend. It was to be a small gathering this year, as the idea had come late. Rather than simply leave it till next year we had chosen to go ahead and take the gift the idea had offered. We, as a School and as companions, have much to be thankful for at this harvest time.

harvest being 2014 020The weekend was intended to be relaxed; no formal teaching, just time to play, to explore both the ancient landscape of the moors and the inner landscape of being, seeing how the two are intricately woven, reflecting and informing each other. We were simply going to begin with ideas, accept the gifts of the moment and see where the days would lead us. Our annual April workshop in Derbyshire takes a more structured approach, seeding knowledge through a sacred drama that is played out as a story, engaging both intellect and emotions as the tale progresses. This harvest time was to take a more leisurely, reflective approach and give the opportunity to gather in what has grown from the knowledge of the mind to the understanding of the heart as our personal journeys move onwards.

harvest being 2014 031My travelling companion and I stopped for lunch at the little café below the rocks. It was as near to the moor as he intended to allow me to get before the weekend began. “I’ll never get you down otherwise…” Even so, a sandwich and a coffee later and we were both climbing up to the top of the famous Cow and Calf rocks once again where I could look out over Ilkley Moor… Rombald’s Moor… and drink in the sense of place that goes straight to my heart.

harvest being 2014 026We stood upon the wide surface of a rock carved in ages past by ancient hands, overlaid with more modern names that span the past few hundred years. Human names, human hands, human history… a presence and continuity that leaves its mark with timeless immediacy. Looking down I saw once again the profile of the falcon in the rocks… a random figure, a simulacrum that the eye builds from line and form or something shaped, encouraged into life by hands other than the artistry of wind and rain? Who knows. For us it is a special symbol and it seemed right to have seen it there first, so many years before the school was born and to now be poised upon the edge of a new chapter, just as we were perched upon that high eyrie, ready for the weekend to take flight.

harvest being 2014 042My room looked out over the Cow and Calf rocks, along Wharfedale towards the setting sun and although we were there with the School, there was no stopping the singing in my heart at this return ‘home’ to a place I have loved all my life. Sunday would also be my birthday and the anniversary of the publication of The Initiate, so to be on these moors with these companions was to be doubly… trebly… gifted. Blessed. We greeted the first of our companions to arrive and as the sky began to fade we walked back, up onto the moor, to the Hanging Stone, to where the carvings are truly ancient, to where, millennia apart, we stood in a sacred place with the shadows of our kin to watch the sun sink beyond the western horizon.

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Rombald’s moor – my moor

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Tall the cliffs of stone
That mark the entry to my heart’s domain,
Wild and empty in its vastness
The solitude of living earth.
The wind lifts the heart
And bears it through the storm
To where the lichen crusted rocks
Cling to the clouds.
Part of my heart remains there
Scattered with the ashes of a lost love
Mingled with the joy and pain of memory,
Of childhood wonder and a lover’s kiss.
Deep the roots which bind me to that land,
Like the weathered pines that cling for life
To the purple hillside…
Genuflecting, but standing, still,
Naked in the mist.
Or the great stones,
Ice carved in aeons past
Into a landscape of dreams,
Marked by ancient hands
With figures of Light,
That I may stand beside them,
Millennia apart,
And recognise my kin.

Morning mists near Backstone Circle

We all have special places; places that sing to our hearts, hold memories, places we could call our heart’s home. This is mine.

No words of mine can capture what it means to me, no photograph show how the colours play in my heart. And this weekend I am here, doing the Work I love, in the landscape I love, with people  I love.

Today is a gift.

The dates of this Harvest of Being weekend were chosen in the hope it would allow a friend to join us and, though sadly she was unable to do so, there was a personal reason why the timing was perfect.

Today, of all days, there is nowhere else on this earth that I would rather be than exactly where I am. Nothing else I would rather be doing than the Work I am doing. And although there are others I could wish were also here with us, I could not wish for any dearer friends with whom to share the day.

Thank you.

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Author’s Note

Wayland's Smithy
Wayland’s Smithy

On a rather bleak day, when I was feeling low for some unspecified reason, the first complete chapter of Dark Sage landed in my inbox and had me laughing out loud. The story that began in The Ætheling Thing is developing beautifully.

Now, I suppose I shouldn’t say it, but I really love these books. It isn’t just the writing of them… which means the living of their story first. Or the research… which takes us out into the landscape and chasing through history. Or the laughter and the succession of pubs that go into their writing. No matter how often we read them we find they lead to new discoveries, which is odd when you are the writers. There is so much in there!

You might think it would be fairly reasonable for each of us to find things in what is written by the other, but it isn’t just that. We find stuff in what we ourselves have written, largely I suppose because of the context… the framing thoughts that build up around them, the research and the discoveries we make and the ensuing discussions that usually last until the early hours of the morning. There is a cross-fertilisation and what one of us brings to the mix seems to illuminate what the other has laid on the table.

That, I think, is how learning works, adding layers to a seed idea until it takes on form and substance, accumulating myriad correspondences and associations until understanding sets in and takes you beyond simple knowledge towards understanding. So the more I read the books, the more I see and learn.

The 'white horse', Uffington
The ‘white horse’, Uffington

It began with our visit to Uffington and Wayland’s Smithy in Wiltshire, sacred sites from the earliest history of our land and its people. We didn’t realise at the time where it would lead, we knew only that we had shared a truly magical and unexpected experience in the mists. A gift. The first of many. From there the history of our land seemed to respond to our interest, dropping jewels in our lap at every sortie into the landscape, from the sacred sites of pagan worship to ancient churches that now stand on the white hills or in the green henges of our ancestors.

Entwined with our travels and discoveries is the story of a nascent mystery school, taking its first steps into the world after its long preparation, something that is just as deeply entwined within us. Then there is the story of a friendship and Don’s quirky relationship with Wen’s dog. There is laughter and tears, serious philosophical debate, ancient history and mystical symbolism and the visionary passages that took us both by surprise and taught us more than we’d bargained for. And then, of course, there are the birds… and it is only looking back through the pictures of that first misty morning that I realised I had caught the first buzzard on camera.

Early bird - the first buzzard
Early bird

It seems incredible to think that we celebrated the publication of The Initiate on my birthday last year and now our fifth book together has begun, not quite a year later. When we first put pen to paper we had little idea where it would go… we weren’t even sure we would get one book out of our adventures… and now we already have so much we know we will not be able to get it all in this one either. As soon as we push the door ajar on one myth or mystery a whole corridor of portals seem to open up that simply cry out to be explored.

Dragon hill, Uffington
Dragon hill, Uffington

For myself, I can honestly say I’ve never had this much fun learning in my life.

That, I feel, comes from the living of the books. Don and Wen are not Stuart and Sue, but there is much of us in them, and much of them in us. Anu, of course… well… that’s a different story. Yet the stories are real… the events described are largely as they happened, the conversations echo our own… and the adventures?

Well… the adventures continue…

***

DOOMSDAY

The Aetheling Thing     Dark Sage   Scions of Albion

All books available via Amazon in Paperback and for Kindle

Don and Wen, following the breadcrumb trail of arcane lore and ancient knowledge, scattered across the landscape of time, turn their attention to the myths and legends of Old Albion. They delve into the tales of King Arthur, asking some very strange questions about biblical family trees and exploring the many stories that abound in the very landscape of Avalon. Meanwhile, in Derbyshire, the voices of the past still whisper from the stones, opening a passage through time, place and memory to another world…

 

Doomsday: The Ætheling Thing

How is it possible to hide such a story… the hidden history of Christianity in Britain? Oh, there are legends of course… old tales… Yet what if there was truth in them? What was it that gave these blessed isles such a special place in the minds of our forefathers? There are some things you are not taught in Sunday School. From the stone circles of the north to the Isle of Avalon, Don and Wen follow the breadcrumbs of history and forgotten lore to uncover a secret veiled in plain sight.


Doomsday: Dark Sage
…. something was spawned up on the moor… something black that flew on dark wings. It heeds not time or place… but it seems to have developed a penchant for the travels of Don and Wen….
“Are those two still at it?”
“Apparently….”

 


Doomsday: Scions of Albion

Things are getting serious…

Exactly what is Wen doing with that crowbar and why is she wearing a balaclava?

All will be revealed…or will it?

 

Follow the story begun in The Initiate and the Triad of Albion,

as Don and Wen explore the ancient land.

 

Petals of the Rose

Petals of the Rose

Guided Journeys

Sue Vincent

A collection of guided meditations, designed to open aspects of the personality in as gentle and natural way as the petals of the rose open at the touch of the sun. Each inner journey will carry you to a haven within your own psyche from which to explore layers of your own being, learning their meaning and purpose.

From mystical and silent castles, to the song of the unicorn… each journey takes you deeper into your inner being and carries you out beyond the stars.

Stories stir the imagination, casting images upon the screen of mind that allow us to explore, in safety, aspects of our lives and being that we might otherwise avoid or overlook. There is a rich vein of experience in memory that can be mined for its treasures. One of the simplest and best ways of exploring the labyrinths of the mind is to do so through a guided journey.

Meditation and visualisation are not arcane practices in which a few indulge… we all use these tools every day, to navigate our way around the world and our lives. We ask ourselves ‘what if?’, creating imaginary scenarios before we act. We visualise the route we walk to work, or what the basket full of ingredients will look like, once assembled and cooked, on a dinner plate.

There is no mystery in meditation… but when you give time and attention to the practice, it can open the door to many mysteries… including those of our own being…

Available via Amazon.com, Amazon UK and worldwide in Paperback and for Kindle

‘The Book of Assassinations’

sheffield chesterfield hare 003

We were determined not to get wet, so we went to Chesterfield, on the general principle that there would be both indoor parking and a cathedral big enough to keep us both dry and occupied for some time. We got those points right… but we failed miserably in the staying dry department as the heavens open and the chill, northern rain pelted down. As my companion made a judicious dive for the porch, I found a convenient tree under which to shelter the camera and get some shots of the famous crooked spire.

sheffield chesterfield hare 004The church dates to the 13th Century and the tower was added in around 1362. The tower is twisted by 45 degrees and leans 9’ 6” from true centre. Several local legends tell how it became so contorted, many have to do with the Devil and the purported virginity of brides. Wikipedia says : “One well established legend goes that a virgin once married in the church, and the church was so surprised that the spire turned around to look at the bride, and continues that if another virgin marries in the church, the spire will return to true again; with only 3 weddings in 2010 in the church it seems that this legend understandably discourages marriages at the church. Another legend is that a Bolsover blacksmith mis-shoed the Devil, who leaped over the spire in pain, knocking it out of shape.” There are others, and it is well worth looking some of them up.

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I didn’t linger too long under my tree. It was raining quite heavily and my feet were already squelching in the little slippers I habitually wear for some strange and unfathomable reason. You would think I would have learned by now… Even the pigeons had given up and had taken shelter where they could, so I too followed their example.

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For all the church has been embellished over the centuries, being the foremost building in the area, it still retains its atmosphere of calm peace, and every nook and cranny inside hides symbols and artistic treasures, bits of history and the evidence of the faith of hundreds of years.

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The Lady Chapel, as so often for me, had the most attraction, and a curious Revelations window in the north chapel too had us thinking. There is an eclectic mixture of styles here, from a dreadful neon cross to lovely sculpture with an African feel, from medieval marble tombs to a modern St Francis window full of gentleness.

sheffield chesterfield hare 039

The place was full of visitors, though, and that always ends up with me documenting as much as I can with the camera while my companion wanders in search of his own inspiration… we then adjourn, usually to a local pub, and compare notes; knowing we have enough to go on in order to make a decision about coming back on a quieter day. It is these subsequent visits where you begin to really get to know a place, both by its details and by its feel.

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Today was no exception, but, unfortunately for us there was a bookshop and we became a tad sidetracked as we delved through the shelves, exiting with what rapidly became known as the Book of Assassinations as we trawled its pages under an awning while the rain still fell.

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It is odd, of course, we think we are going to places for our own purposes, but so often, if you are open and ready to go where you are led, you end up finding far more than you had envisioned. We had gone to see a cathedral, but came away with a couple of years of speculative thought confirmed by the well-thumbed pages of a dog-eared book. Not a bad way to spend a rainy Saturday in Chesterfield.

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