Rattling the chains

“It’s what’s called a floating floor,“ had said the workman who had come to remove yet more chunks of my son’s wet room, “but that will mean absolutely nothing to you,”
“Actually, it does.” Not only is the term fairly self-explanatory, but I was heavily involved in the gutting and redesigning of my son’s home. Had I not known before, which I did, I would certainly have learned about floating floors back then when we had ripped the place apart.
“Oh,” said the workman. “I just assumed…” Yes, he had. And why would that be, then? Because I am a female? And a middle-aged one too?

It was on a par with the other workman engaged to do some maintenance on Nick’s decking, who condescendingly explained to me, several times, how wood swells when it dries in summer and shrinks when it is soaked by all the winter rain. I too had shrunk… from correcting this misapprehension, for I too had made an assumption… that it was a simple mistake and that he really did know how it worked and had simply said it wrong. It was an assumption that would cause havoc with my son’s woodwork…

Making assumptions seldom works out well. My son is very fond of the old saying about what happens when you assume anything, yet we are really good at taking things for granted where other people are concerned. Even with open minds and the best of intentions, we almost automatically work out what we would think, know or do if we were in what we perceive to be their shoes. The trouble is, we are not… our perception is partial at best, faulty at worst and we have no way of knowing the entirety of another person’s experience and knowledge, nor do we have their character. All we are doing s projecting our own onto theirs and expecting it to fit.

We are just as good at making assumptions about ourselves… and often get them just as wrong. The surface levels of the mind are in constant dialogue with each other,  and at least one of those levels is replete with what we think other people will, or might, think of us. Much of this comes from a learned, but  often erroneous, perception of who we are.

“A real man wouldn’t do that…”
“Women can’t change a tyre/put up shelves/lay bricks.”
“You’re too old/too young/too fat/too slim to do/wear/be that.”
You’ll never be able to/be as good as/be good enough to…”

These and a thousand other negative judgements, most of which are blatantly untrue, are picked up from many places as we grow up and grow older and colour our opinion of ourselves. We assume them to be true, even when there is a niggling doubt about their veracity. They can be crippling, often to the point where  we begin to believe they are true and never make the attempt to prove otherwise, even to ourselves.

If the judgements and assumptions that others make about us and superimpose upon us are based largely on how they would behave in a given situation, why does it never occur to us that the perceived flaws that they are projecting onto us may, in fact, be their own?

Those who feel they have no control over their own lives may try to control those more vulnerable than themselves. Those who feel that they are not good enough will often pass that feeling on to those over whom they have authority. It is not necessarily deliberate… it  is the ego’s mistaken attempt at self-defence.

Maybe, if we could see beyond the accumulated assumptions about ourselves that we have simply accepted over the years, we could be and do far more than we think. Why should gender or age define our talents or how we allow ourselves to express our personalities? Maybe confident curves would totally rock that little black dress…and maybe that dream you have held in your heart is no so impossible after all.

It makes all the difference if you have someone who believes in you… someone who is ready to support you as you try and celebrate the attempt as much as the possible success. A little genuine encouragement and belief can make the improbable possible. But we do not all have the blessing of a supportive friend or partner in our lives. Or do we?  Well, maybe we could.

There is one person who is with us every step of the way, from the cradle to the grave and who knows our story better than anyone else… and that is our self. We are never wholly alone, no matter how lonely we may feel; there is always a part of us that exists at a deeper level than the surface chatter of the mind. If we can free ourselves, even a little, from the chains of assumption and judgement that we have accepted from others, we can learn to believe in ourselves. And that makes so many things possible.

The Mystery Schools, from ancient Greece to modern schools like the Silent Eye, have always taught that we should learn to know ourselves. It is a common misconception that this simply means learning to know our own faults and weaknesses so that we can address them and make progress as human and spiritual beings. It also means learning to know and embrace our strengths, gifts and talents…celebrating our lives as whole and entire beings. Works in progress, whose faults are part of the unfinished learning process and whose gifts show a glimpse of the spark of true beauty that can be ignited within each of us.

Change can begin at any point in our lives by challenging the assumptions about ourselves that we have accepted over the years. Next time you say ‘I can’t do that…’, ask yourself ‘why not?’. Is there a practical reason… or do you ‘just’ believe that you cannot? Belief in yourself is a door that only you can open, and when you do, others will believe in you too. You may even find that they always did.

Why not?

Above Great Hucklow, Derbyshire

One of the joys of working with the Silent Eye is the people you get to meet. Not all of them are part of the School; most follow their own Paths, which, though they may run in the same general direction, can take vastly different routes on the journey. None is inherently ‘better’ than another; it is always the Path that speaks to the heart that is right for any seeker. Being able to share and learn from our individual experiences on that Path makes the journey richer and fosters a spirit of understanding and cooperation.

Every year, the Silent Eye runs four workshop weekends. While the correspondence course and the personal journeys of our students are at the heart of the way the Silent Eye works, the workshops allow us to take a different approach and explore new ideas in new ways. They also allow us meet face to face with people… not just students and Companions of the School, but with those who share our interests, from widely different angles, but who may have no intention at all of joining the School.

Derbyshire

Three of our workshops are run in the landscape, exploring ancient, sacred and interesting sites. These can be anything from stone circles to castles, beaches to churches, modern landscapes to ancient henges. These are informal weekends and generally fun. We currently charge a minimal fee for the whole weekend workshop.

But why should anyone come along, just to do ‘tourist stuff’?

We do the groundwork before the event. We travel to the sites to investigate access, parking, places to eat and, most importantly, routes to obscure places you might not even know exist… and that allows us to cover a lot of local ground during a single weekend.

There is always a unifying theme; while we explore the sites, we explore too the ideas, psychological and spiritual concepts they suggest and illustrate, inviting discussion.

Nine Stones Close, Derbyshire

We not only have a love of the ancient sites, but we have amassed a store of knowledge about them too, having explored around five hundred prehistoric sites and medieval churches in the past five years alone.

We do the research… so you will not only visit an ancient site, and get a little of its history, but will learn the folklore and legends attached to it too.

We do not simply visit the sites, we work with them too. You may experience a guided meditation on a beach, a divination in a wood, a spiritual exercise in a churchyard or a simple ritual in a stone circle. None of these are tied to any particular spiritual Path or discipline… just to the human journey.

And, perhaps most importantly, these weekends also, as one of our attendees put it, provide “a safe space in which to talk” about things that, for many people, cannot be discussed anywhere else. Those who come along may have different views, but all share an open mind and heart.

The annual April workshop is a little different.

Image by Matt Baldwin-Ives

The residential weekend takes place in the Derbyshire Peak District, at the Nightingale Centre, which provides full board and accommodation. The gardens, local countryside and the old inn next door provide a place to relax too.

Each year we choose a theme that encapsulates a spiritual idea… then spend months writing the workbook for the workshop. The workbook sets out a story, presented as ritual drama in the tradition of the ancient Mystery Schools, and written as a script. Each attendee takes a part… no-one needs to be able to act or learn lines, as it is not designed as a play and there is no audience; only the other attendees.

These scripts are either based upon an ancient text, or are written especially for the workshop. The Leaf and Flame workshop, for example, took us back to Arthur’s Court and the tale of the Green Knight, while The Feathered Seer brought in the stories of local stone circles. River of the Sun took us to ancient Egypt to see a priest made and a Pharaoh take power.

Image by Matt Baldwin-Ives

There are presentations from experienced speakers, guided meditations, an optional dawn ritual on the hillside and a chance to see the inner workings of a modern Mystery School…as well as having fun and meeting like-minded people from across the UK and as far away as the US. We do not insist upon costumes, but most people seem to enjoy bringing the period to life, and we have had some colourful workshops, in everything from Egyptian robes to Elizabethan dress.

To give people a good idea of what we do, we have not only published some of the workbooks, but we invite attendees to add their own comments and publish their personal experiences on the Silent Eye’s website. You can find you exactly what happens when you attend your first workshop by clicking here or read an account by Running Elk of the first time he came to a Silent Eye event.  You can also visit the gallery to see pictures of a few of our events.

Sumerian art

This year we will ‘go back’ five thousand years to Sumeria and the time of Gilgamesh, King of Uruk, basing the story upon the oldest epic poem in the world. The tale explores spiritual and psychological principles that we meet in our everyday lives and , like all our workshops, leaves us with a greater understanding of who we are and how we can live our lives to the fullest.

There are still places available for April… and always places for the landscape workshops. Why not come along and join us for the weekend?

Lord of the Deep
26-28 April, 2019

Great Hucklow, Derbyshire

The Silent Eye’s Spring workshop for 2019

Click HERE for full details, prices and booking form

For all upcoming events, please visit our EVENTS page.

 

The magic of the moment

dawn

There was no way to tell what kind of a morning it would be… except that it had turned cold. Yesterday’s sunshine had been a feint, designed to instil a false sense of security and the rain had a suspicious solidity as it fell to earth.

Dawn hadn’t yet begun to smudge the horizon, a tawny owl called eerily in the gloom and small things skittered unseen through the undergrowth. The small dog, no more than a patch of darker blackness in the shadows, had found a scent and refused to come back before she had investigated. Puddles crunched beneath my feet as I followed her into the little wood.

The darkness deepened. No frost here in the shelter of the trees, but the mud sucked at my shoes, reluctant to release each footfall. Twigs and stubborn leaves brushed my face, catching in my hair, skeletal fingers and unseen hands; clichéd nightmares moving in the mist.

I laughed, the sound slicing the silence. If this were a horror film, people would be on the edge of their seats and calling me all kinds of idiot for walking into the sombre copse. For some reason, though, the mornings do not hold the same potential for fear as the onset of night. And I have the small dog to look after me, not too far away…

…who yelped. A crash in the bushes. A low growl. My heart stopped… and the silhouette of a deer bounded past into the thicker bushes. A flash of pure magic, as if I had stepped through the Veil into another time and place.

The small dog, hot in pursuit, paused briefly by my side, just long enough for me to catch hold of both her harness and reality… I was already running late.

There was just time for a quick coffee before I had to scrape the ice from the car and leave for work. The first glow was playing on the horizon. A river of white light rushed towards me; behind me the river ran red; future and past illumined by the lights of cars flowing to and from the town.

 

I drove east, feeling myself part of a stream that flowed to the staccato rhythm of the windscreen wipers, wishing I had not had to break the spell of the morning. Wishing myself anywhere but on the verge of another day governed by the mechanical metronome of necessity. Yet, the magic goes with us, even into duty.

As I drove and the silhouettes of the trees began to separate from the blackness, the sun began to colour the sky, drowning the limited light of the cars that illuminate only their own direction. Cocooned within my life and habit, I watched as a portal opened in the clouds. It seemed as if humanity were deep within the shadows of a cavern, scurrying like ants in the penumbra, yet looking out onto a landscape of limitless light.

Perhaps we are.

Choose your own adventure…

New Year … it is one of those threshold points where we resolve to make a new start… quitting bad habits, starting a health kick or a new project… drawing a line under some aspect of the past and moving forward in a new way. And yet, for all that determination, most of those who commit to change will have broken their resolutions by the middle of January, and that can leave behind the bitter taste of guilt, inadequacy or failure… which, by a cruel irony, was often at the root of the problem in the first place.

It does not have to be that way… we have a new opportunity with every passing second. Every moment is a potential crossroads where we have the chance to choose our way forward. Every choice we make, consciously or unconsciously, shapes the path our future will take and leads us off in a new direction. Like any interesting path, we cannot see where it may lead as we stand at the crossroads, and we have yet another choice… to face the journey with excitement and curiosity, or fear.

The idea reminds me of the old ‘adventure’ books that were popular a few decades ago. You read the story so far and, at a critical moment, were presented with a number of choices. Each choice sent you to a different page in the book where the story took a new direction, leaving you with a new set of choices and eventually leading to one of the many possible endings. In effect, you ‘wrote’ the story, based upon your choices. All the words were written… all possible endings were in there…all combinations of the choices were available… and every time you made a new choice, you rewrote the story. You know the sort of thing…

…you turn the corner and are confronted by a ravenous monster…

Do you:

a) Stand and face it

b) Run away

c) Buy it lunch

The ‘choose your own adventure’ books were targeted primarily at young teens and inadvertently provided a graphic life-lesson. They illustrated that while you may not be able to control external factors in your life, you always have a choice in how you face them… and a responsibility for the path you have chosen to follow and its consequences. The advantage that they had over ‘real life’ was that, if you made the wrong choice, you could always go back to the previous chapter and try again. We do not have that luxury, but we too can learn from our mistakes…and learn more from our worst choices than our best.

I doubt if there are many of us who have not made glaring errors of judgement at some points in our lives and many of us have carried them as a burden of grief, guilt or simple embarrassment that may have weighed us down for years. In many ways, this too is a ‘choose your own adventure’ scenario:

you are confronted by a ravenous monster…

Do you:

a) Stand and face it

b) Run away

c) Feed it

If that ‘ravenous monster’ is named Fear, Guilt or Shame, the chances are that most of us feed it a diet of regret, reliving old emotions engendered by the events that caused it to appear. Just like the adventure books, you cannot erase the chapters that went before…nor do you need to do so. Each step you have taken and choice you have made have combined to bring this you to this moment… and this you can choose to rewrite your adventure whenever it wishes.

The mistakes and apparent failures of the past are a valuable part of our journey. In 1159, John of Salisbury wrote: “Bernard of Chartres used to compare us to dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature.” In 1675 Isaac Newton said, : “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” If we have a past filled with mistakes and failures, then perhaps the bigger they seem to us, the higher we can climb upon them and the farther we can learn to see beyond them.

There is only one New Year’s Eve every year where we can make those traditional resolutions, but there are three hundred and sixty four other days. Each one of those has eighty-six-thousand-four-hundred seconds within it… and any one of those can be a threshold of opportunity when we can choose to change our world.

Full Circle: Sunset

After our recent workshop in Cumbria, we took the last of our companions back to Castlerigg for the sunset. It would be our third visit of the day…and three is a magical number. The three gentlemen who had been there that morning, and who had joined us then as we greeted the dawn, had also returned at dusk. They stood silent as the three of us joined hands and sang the sunset and then we introduced ourselves.

Six people, from thousands of miles apart, joined in a moment of unity, sharing the magic of place and time. Our backgrounds vary, the beliefs in which we were raised are different, the paths we have chosen are diverse… and yet, in that moment, we shared peace. Nothing mattered beyond the bond created by the Light within.

Image courtesy of Wayne

We shared an impromptu ceremony, and one of the gentlemen, who follows a shamanic path, spoke the words of a native American blessing.  It was perfect for the moment, and, later, seeking the words of the prayer online, I came across a Lakota prayer that I found beautiful in its all-embracing simplicity.

Great Mystery,

teach me how to trust

my heart,

my mind,

my intuition,

my inner knowing,

the senses of my body,

the blessings of my spirit.

Teach me to trust these things

so that I may enter my Sacred Space

and love beyond my fear,

and thus Walk in Balance

with the passing of each glorious Sun.

The prayer begins with trust… something we seem afraid to do far too often these days. We do not trust ourselves, let alone those around us. We seek the reassurance of approbation, rather than trusting heart, mind, body and spirit. But one line stood out for me more than the rest: To love beyond my fear…

For Christians, this season celebrates the birth of Jesus, who loved beyond fear and who taught “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” The Solstice celebrates the moment when the year turns from dark to light… as we would if we could ‘love beyond fear’.  It matters little what beliefs we hold, there is something in these words worth considering.

If we trust, and love beyond our fears, we may end up disappointed. If we choose to live in fear and distrust, we start from that position, leaving no place for light and hope.

As the sun set over Castlerigg, the casual observer, had there been any, might have seen half a dozen hippy-types holding hands and doing ‘weird stuff’ in a stone circle. Within the circle, strangers came together, in a moment of grace, offering and receiving blessings, in love, trust and acceptance… and it was beautiful.

Full Circle: The final curtain…

On most of our workshop weekends, we offer a ‘greeting of the dawn’ at one of the ancient sites. The winter workshops are perfect for this as the sun rises so much later, but as we are at the mercy of the season, the weather and the time local hotels serve breakfast, these are always optional. Usually we choose a place we would not otherwise get to visit, but this time, really, there was only one place to choose… Castlerigg. The stone circle nestles within a circle of hills and there can be few more spectacular settings for an ancient and sacred site.

Not everyone relishes such an early start, and we had made it clear that this would be a brief visit, just for the dawn… we would be gathering there later to end the official part of the weekend. Nevertheless, almost everyone chose to come and greet the birth of morning.

It was still almost dark when the first of us arrived, getting the circle briefly to ourselves. Others arrived shortly afterwards, both from our own party and fellow travellers. It soon became obvious that although we would be there for the dawn, we would not be able to stay for the sunrise. The mountains of the Lake District that ring the circle would not reveal the sun’s face for some time, as it climbed behind the bulk of Helvellyn.

As we gathered to sing a chant to the sun, marking its still-invisible rising, Steve invited three gentlemen who were obviously of our own mind in these matters to join us. We frequently share these sites with others, but we have yet to meet anyone unsympathetic or disrespectful of what we do… and you can usually tell those who will join with us for a moment. Seeds of possibility are planted when you follow such promptings… and these seeds we would see come to fruition later that day.

After we had greeted the sun, we all headed back to our hotels for breakfast and for most to check out. It was typical that our road led us to a gap in the hills where we did see the sun rise in splendour. It would take another hour in the circle, but at least we were able to stop and experience a moment’s glory.

Later, we gathered once more at Castlerigg. This time, we explored the stones, speaking a little of the five thousand year history of the site, its solar alignments and the curious effect where the shapes of the stones shadow the contours of the hills.

We spoke too of resonance… that curious phenomenon where the vibrations in one object will set off a similar vibration in another. We attempted to demonstrate with tuning forks, but the wind…and our lightweight tuning forks… made it almost impossible to hear the sympathetic vibrations. We had used sound at the sacred sites over the weekend in a very simple form. We have used it at other locations in various forms too and each time felt we were brushing the edges of something. How important was sound  and resonance in these circles where the greater reality was recreated in microcosmic form? It was something to ponder.

The theme of our weekend had been ‘finding the way home’. Could the world of our ancestors be considered ‘home’… that staring point of any journey? What did they see as ‘home’? Were these circles designed, at least in part, to allow our ancestors to access the Otherworld… the realm of the stars or the hollow hills…and were these seen as aspects of the same state of being? These are questions to which each must find their own answers, perhaps, but it may be that in asking such questions, we find something we did not know we had lost.

In the shelter of the tallest stone, there was a final meditation, placing ourselves as points of light within the Web of Light, where the heavens and the earth meet, shaped by the energies of star realm and our physical home, one with Creation. There was a simple sharing of the symbolic elements of life… and then it was time to leave. The wind was bitter now that the sun had risen, and a coach full of tourists had just arrived.

We drove to Keswick in search of warmth and coffee, after which life began to call the party back from wherever we had been, somewhere outside of time for a little while. Some took their leave and went off to explore, others shared lunch and wandered down to the lake.

Steve lives in the area and knows Keswick well. We walked along the edge of the park to where he could show us his favourite view. The rise of the land hid the town as he stood with the hills at his back, while before us, the afternoon sun sparkled on Derwentwater, reminding us how short the winter day would be. Walking back to the cars, we took our leave of each other. Most were returning home, but we still had a place or two left to visit… but that is another story.

(Click the highlighted links in the text for more on Castlerigg and its history and a demonstration of sympathetic resonance on Youtube)

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The Silent Eye runs three informal workshops in the landscape each year as well as a residential workshop every April. If you are interested in coming along, further details can be found on our Events page.

Full Circle: Long Meg


Our final site of the day was to be one of the most astonishing circles we have visited. It is not the biggest, nor are the stones themselves the largest, but it has a ‘feel’ unlike any other. Castlerigg. That we would visit on our final day of the workshop, may rightly be accounted one of the most beautiful of circles, but what Long Meg and her Daughters lack in aesthetics, they more than make up for in sheer presence.

On our very first visit, the light had been going and the winter dusk had been bitterly cold. We thought we knew what to expect…after all, we had seen enough photographs of the place. I had even a vague memory of having been taken there as a child. Yet, we had rounded the corner and been ambushed by the stones. Getting out of the car, we had literally bounced with excitement, like children at Christmas. The site was more, far more, than we had expected.


For a start, the narrow farm track that is signposted for the ‘Druid Circle’ gives no warning when you are about to arrive. It does not stop at the edge of an enclosure or parking space… it carries on, straight through the circle, skirting stones that divide the track at one point. When we arrived with our party for the workshop, our passenger too felt that ‘psychic shock’ and was, moments later, out of the car and bouncing up and down like an excited child.

The short winter’s day was drawing to a close and we would be in the circle at sundown. Unlike our last visit, equipped with cameras, the fading light would not linger and we lost no time in sending our party out to explore and attune with the stones.

Captured from Google Earth

The circle is huge, the sixth largest in Northern Europe, and not really a circle at all. It is an oval, formed from the geometric form of the vesica, and some three hundred and forty feet across its longest axis. Although legends say that it is bad luck to try and count the stones, the usual count puts them at fifty nine stones still in situ out of the seventy original stones. The whole thing was once surrounded by a low embankment, which may have been white-faced with gypsum, allowing it to glow.

Long Meg herself is the solitary standing stone who watches over her ‘daughters’, which are the stones of this Bronze Age circle. Legend says a coven of witches were put to sleep and petrified by a Scottish wizard named Michael Scot. His surname may indicate his origin north of the border, but Michael harks back to the Saint of that name who is so often shown with the dragon held quiescent on the point of his lance. The dragon power of old Albion, associated with the leys, was seen as pagan and therefore ‘evil’ by nascent Christianity and knowledge of its ways driven underground. Perhaps the dragons, like the stones, merely sleep…


The circle was built as part of the megalithic tradition which began around five and a half thousand years ago. The exact date of the circle and the surrounding enclosures and embankments is uncertain and its precise purpose is unknown, though much can be deduced. For a people who, like our ancestors, constructed interrelated sites across vast swathes of the landscape, it is probable that there is a relationship between this site and others in the area, including Little Meg, two fields away, and the henges we had visited. Not far away is the sacred landscape and Avenue at Shap… and you have to wonder if, as at Avebury and Stonehenge, these features formed part of a greater plan…and if so, did it echo the map of the heavens as our ancestors once saw it?

There are larger stones in circles across the country, but the stones are far from small. The four quarter-stones are not local and are quartz-bearing. Most circles are built from a single type of stone, perhaps with a quartz-bearing stone, or even an entire boulder of quartz, such as we had seen at Boscawen-Un. Here, however, Long Meg herself is a column of red sandstone that sparkles in the sunlight and which, with the quartz-rocks, differs from the rest of the circle. The technology of stone as it was known to our ancestors may be lost to us, but we have echoes in the use of crystal for both healing and communications technologies. Their choices of stone were not only deliberate but significant.


The arrangement of the stones suggests a calendrical function that would work by standing outside the circle and sighting across to the to the quartz stones. Long Meg herself, standing outside the circle, is part of a Samhain alignment with a portal stone and one of the quartz rocks.

Long Meg is a magnificent presence. Standing twelve feet tall, she is ‘tattooed’ with concentric circles and her uppermost surface is notched in the manner we have so often seen. This may be simple erosion as is often averred, or the weather may have exaggerated an existing feature, but whenever we see this kind of notch we are struck by its similarity to the sight on an old-fashioned firearm. And this, we believe, was its function.

Between anecdotal observations and the mathematical precision survey work such as that conducted by Professor Thom’s, a good many astronomical alignments have been proposed and observed, indicating alignments at solstice and equinox and particularly with Deneb, the brightest star in the constellation Cygnus. Deneb heads the Northern Cross in the heavens and, along with Vega and Altair, is one of the three stars known as the Summer Triangle that was used for navigation right up until the twentieth century, helping pilots find their way home. There are physical alignments within the landscape too and while the entrance to the circle frames the hills, their form is shadowed in he contours of the stones.

As the day drew to its end, we gathered around Long Meg, focussing our minds and breathing. Closing our eyes, we once more sounded our ‘words of truth’, this time giving voice to the vowels which are the flowing seeds of sound. It is odd, but the voice changes when you work in this way; sound emerges unrecognisable from your throat as if illuminating hidden corners of your being. The words ‘breath of Creation’ passed through my mind, listening to the anonymous voices joined in unplanned harmony.
As we ended our day, the light failed and the clouds broke, allowing a final glimpse of the sun setting behind Long Meg. Wishing I had not left the camera in the car, I reached for my phone, just to mark the moment. The stones were alive, glad, I felt, for our presence and glowing faintly in the twilight as the sky itself offered us a final gift.

Full Circle: St Michael and All Angels, Addingham

 

From Little Meg we had a leisurely stroll down a wooded path, to a tiny church we had glimpsed from the circle on our first visit. It had turned out to be one I had stumbled across in my research of the area and well worth a visit, even if, when we arrived, the doors were closed, for in the churchyard is an unusual cross.

The weathered, Anglo-Norse cross is covered in scroll-work. The ends of the arms are carved with saltires …St Andrew’s crosses … which have figured frequently in our wanderings. Only the upper part of the shaft and the cross head remains from the original cross which dates from the 900s. Even the ‘modern’ base into which they are set dates from before the Norman Conquest of 1066.

A close look at the carving seems to suggest that the ends of the scroll work are serpent heads… a nice touch, considering we were looking at the ‘serpent energies’ of the leys on our quest to find the ‘way home’. The leys may well have provided a physical presence as ancient trackways amongst their functions, with the monuments placed upon them being used as navigational aids.

The cross belonged to the village of Addingham, which was an early, Anglo-Saxon settlement. The village was washed away by floods in the mid-fourteenth century, when the River Eden changed its course. The churchyard, though, was still used for burials for some time after the flood.

In 1913, a drought dropped the level of the river and revealed a number of medieval grave markers,  early carved cross shafts and another hogback stone which are now preserved in the porch.

Records show that there was a church on the present site in 1272, although there is no record of whether an early chapel stood here. Interestingly, at that time, it was known as St Mary’s Chapel. The current dedication to St Michael and All Angels, marked by a modern stained glass window by  S.M.Scott, means that two of the major leys of Britain are echoed here as the masculine and feminine energetic polarities are called the Michael and the Mary, which are also symbolised by the red and the white Dragons of Albion, mentioned in the story of Vortigern’s ill-fated Tower.

The chancel of the church was rebuilt in 1512, and much of the rest of the church has been altered and rebuilt over the following centuries. The present building, lovingly cared for and restored, is a simple place of light and calm.

For such a small church, it possesses a number of beautiful stained glass windows, including one that shows vignettes of Martha and Mary of Bethany, the sisters of Lazarus, at the feet of Jesus, with the raising of Jairus’ daughter. These are stories that have been making their presence felt lately as we delve into the Templar mysteries and they are a fairly unusual subject to find.

Near the pulpit is the base of another stone cross, very ancient. It has been carved at a later date with what looks like a game, a variant of Nine men’s Morris, perhaps? Or were the holes designed to hold something?

There are a number of simple memorial plaques set into the walls. Most poignant is the war memorial that commemorates far too many names for such tiny communities.

For our purposes though,as we explore the relationship between the heavens and the leys, the one of particular note is the memorial bearing the sword transpiercing the star. Our meditation asked that each visualise the web of light, joining all sacred places on the earth and see it reflected in the heavens. We asked that each explore the relationship between the star map and the web of light on earth, finding one’s own place within it.

Even more curiously, given what we were doing, voicing the randomly chosen ‘words of truth’, their ‘seeds’, and the intent to which they are linked, the motto on the crest says, ‘Faites bien et laissez dire’… do good and allow (them) to speak. And, as we made our way to the final site of the day, that was exactly what we had in mind…

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Christmas past…

When I was small, my mother received a Christmas card that she loved. It showed simple silhouettes, in red white and gold, of a lion laid down with a lamb. The majestic strength of the lion held the vulnerable lamb, protected between its great paws. The tiny, fragile creature rested there in perfect trust… and, I have to wonder, of the two, which was the strongest?

Every year, for years thereafter, my mother tried to find something similar because, to her, the image symbolised what Christmas should be… a time of peace. The card meant so much to her that I remember it still, well over half a century later. The design was based upon the biblical saying that ‘the lion shall lay down with the lamb’, referring to a time of peace to come. These days, I know that no such saying exists in the Bible… that the closest is a verse from Isiah that speaks of the wolf laying down with the lamb… but there is much in the remembered image that speaks to the heart.

The heart is more than an organ at the centre of our lives, it is the seat of emotion and a centre of consciousness. Unlike the mind, it does not base its judgements on accuracy and fact, but on what it feels to be right and good. It might be fair to say that belief comes from the mind… for it always contains a choice… while faith arises in the heart where love rules and has its own intelligence.

People of many religions and paths, of many faiths and none, celebrate at this time of year. Whether their celebrations are based upon the love found at the heart of their family and community,  the turning wheel of the year or a religious festival, the message is one of coming together, as the old year draws to its close and a new one is about to be born, in peace, hope and harmony.

At the centre of many of these celebrations is the symbol of a light, be it a star in the heavens or a flame against the midwinter darkness, and that flame can burn within every heart, regardless of the different paths we follow.

Such celebrations are meaningless, though, until we bring them into our lives and hearts. We can all choose the strength of the lion, to champion and protect those in need. We can be as strong as the lamb and place ourselves, vulnerable, between the paws of trust. We can each be a light against the darkness.

However, and whether, you celebrate Christmas, may today bring you peace.