fail to provide any windows, to speak of, in our room,
it also failed to provide us with a breakfast…
Which is just as well, really,
for we were up, and off, and away
long before breakfast would ordinarily
ever have been dreamed of…
However, by nine bells one might be forgiven
for expecting the local sea-front eateries to be offering
something in the way of refreshment?
So, we headed for St Just…
How to disguise your sacred monument…
Firstly, cover it with the Dragon’s Breath…
Secondly, consign it to a relatively late historical period…
Thirdly, invent for it a plausible name…
“What is a miracle play, anyway?”
“It’s a medieval drama based on episodes from the life of a saint.”
“What, like St Just?”
“Yes, just like St Just, Hermit and Martyr.” …
“And what did St Just do?”
“Well, apart from displaying his true colours,
and confirming the link between the stonework
of ancient and less ancient sacred sites,
he also reminded us why we’re here.”
“That’s the church of St Just, what did the real St Just do?”
“Oh, pretty much the same sort of thing, I expect.” …
A Sacred and Profane Memoir
by Alfred John Prufrock
Note on Celtic Saints:
These ancient savants seem of an entirely different cast to their Roman Catholic successors.
Like the Bards of old they travel the land far and wide, taking their entourage with them, seeming reluctant to ever settle…
St Samson, though born in Wales of ‘royal stock’, enjoys legendary status on Caldey, in Ireland, Cornwall and Brittany!
These places are all centres of stone.
The official hagiographies of the saints often seek to conceal much more than they reveal.
One charming account has both Samson and Arthur, as children, playing together in their eponymous Dolmen.
The notion of St Samson as Itinerant Pendragon is greatly appealing.
Excerpt from Kith ‘n’ Kin by Stuart France and Sue Vincent…
Lands of Exile:
KITH ‘N’ KIN
Stuart France & Sue Vincent
The Beeley Stone, ‘liberated’ from the churchyard at Bakewell, stands proudly in the centre of its village green once more. While the locals enjoy the fruits of its restoration, Ben, who had led the daring raid against authority, still languishes in jail.
Don and Wen, arrested and released without explanation in Ireland, now plot an erratic course through the wild places of Wales, while Jaw-Dark and Kraas, seeking the legendary stone of Fergus Mac Roy, have been separated in the most uncanny of circumstances…
As the darkness closes around them, the Black Shade haunts the moors above Beeley and, in the shadowy rooms of the old tower, an ancient and even stranger story begins to unfold…
Available via Amazon UK, Amazon.com and worldwide, for Kindle and in full colour illustrated paperback
In this hour of focus on what many consider to be our most precious possession, we will look at the arising of the self and its potential.
Many mystics have considered that we have a self and a Self.
What is the difference?
Does one subsume the other or do they meet halfway.
Join us for some spiritual companionship, fun and discussion on what might just be the most important topic of our lives…
“We’re really close to the Church that we tried to get into before lunch the other Sunday but which was closed.”
“What, the one with the remains of a standing stone in the graveyard?”
“That’s the one.”
As we approach the South door, I can hardly contain my excitement and take the lead. I can hear voices within… there is some sort of tour going on in there.
“…and to your right we have the South door which is the oldest working church door in Buckinghamshire…” I twist the door handle and lean into the door fully expecting it to open onto the interior of the church which it does not. “…since 1211…hold on a moment there… the door is barred. I’ll just open it for you.”
There is a heavy thud from the inside of the church and then a scraping sound and slowly the door creaks open to reveal the aged but very friendly face of the tour guide…
“…the door was barred, I’ve just unbarred the door for you,” he smiles and then nods somewhat knowingly and resumes the narrative of his tour, “Further to your left…”
I cast a cursory glance at his charges, three elderly looking tourists, two male and one female who are doing their best to affect an air of nonchalant acceptance of our unscripted entry.
I glance too at Wen who has skipped into the church and whose mirth appears palpable.
Suppressing my own mirth and sense of triumphalism at gaining entry to the church I head for a most impressive stained glass window depicting our old friend George with his Dragon and Damsel and… I am instantly transported…”
I turn to the enquirer, imagining it to be one of the tourists and somewhat irritated that my reverie has been so rudely interrupted. But it is not one of the tourists, it is someone who I have never seen before. A small, weasel-like man dressed in rough leathers is standing at the front of the church just before the nave.
If this were not shocking enough, the church itself looks very different from the one I stepped into mere moments before. It is also ram jam full of people who are all looking intently at me, awaiting my response.
I turn back to the window hoping that the nightmare will abate but the window too has changed and, instead of depicting my beloved George with his blessed Dragon and lovely Damsel, it depicts a farmer sowing seeds upon the ploughed earth.
“Sire, the court is awaiting your response.”
I gulp… and turn… and start to walk down the centre of the church.
“My response?” I muster, attempting to affect nonchalance. As I progress down what used to be the central aisle of the church, I notice out of the window that what remains of the standing stone is not a standing stone at all but a village cross. Next to the cross stands a hooded executioner sharpening his axe blade…
… I come back, still scrutinising the rich colours and beautifully executed form of the stained glass window before me and immediately glance over my shoulder… The scene has returned to one of relative normality. The tour guide has manoeuvred his charges into the chancel and, from Wen’s position in the church, I would estimate I have been gone for only a matter of minutes. I move over to her, still a little shaken by recent events, to find she is busy photographing two more utterly stunning windows which bear the epithet, “I bore you on eagle’s wings and brought you into myself.“…
The Triumph of Horsenden – The Initiate
Book One of the Triad of Albion
Stuart France & Sue Vincent
The Initiate is the story of a journey beyond the realms of our accustomed normality.
It is a true story told in a fictional manner. In just such a way did the Bards of old hide in the legends and deeds of folk heroes, those deeper truths for those ‘with eyes to see and ears to hear’.
Don and Wen, two founding members of a new Esoteric School, meet to explore an ancient sacred site, as a prelude to the School’s opening event. The new School is to be based upon a nine-fold system and operate under the aegis of the Horus Hawk.
The trip does not unfold as planned.
Instead, Don and Wen, guided by the birds, find themselves embarking upon a journey that will lead them through a maze of spiritual symbolism, to magical mysteries and the shadowy figure of the Ninth Knight.
As the veils thin and waver, time shifts and the present is peopled with shadowy figures of the past, weaving their tales through a quest for understanding and opening wide the doors of perception…
As the sun continued to rise at our backs, the light dancing and changing with every passing minute, the three of us, Steve, Stuart and myself, headed over… and up… towards Backstone Beck. The water tumbles down the moor, over boulders of millstone grit, sparkling clean, yet coloured with the amber of peat and iron. Nothing tastes quite like it, no other drink, for me, assuages the thirst of body and soul like a clear draught taken from these moorland streams, with naught but hands for a cup. Ilkley was famed for its healing springs long ago, and the gentry came from far and wide to bathe and drink the waters described as “mellifluent, diaphanous, limpid, luminous transparent, pellucid” and “its purity and softness , which makes if more efficacious, by passing sooner and to the utmost and finest limits of the circulation than any water known.” I, however, am reminded of my younger son, a child still, and halfway up Ben Nevis; quenching his thirst at a mountain stream and saying in wonder that he was drinking the clouds. Here, perhaps, it is the earth we drink.
I know this stream well. I played here as a child, so did my sons, damming the waters… a futile game, of course, as the water always finds a way through the pebbles. But that was never the point… it is the relationship between the child and the land, the movement and the stone, the flowing together of child, rock and water. It is play. It is a place of memory. Odd to think that of the thousands of rocks and pebbles that line the stream, some I have held in my hands, decades ago, and yet they now lie, unrecognised, in the water.
We crossed the stream, stopping to drink, and followed the path that runs beside it as the moor climbs to the next level. Many visitors look up from the Cow and Calf at the edge of the moor with its steep cliffs and think that is the highest point. Those casual visitors who climb to the ridge seldom leave the path that runs along it… there is, after all, little reason to do so. They might, if they did, find the poet’s rest where we waited a while, watching the sun. The view is spectacular, the heather, when it is in flower, is a sea of purple and there are rocky outcrops, huge stones and cascading streams enough for any walk. For now the fresh green of young bracken cloaks the hills. Yet venture ‘further up and further in’ and the atmosphere changes. Traffic noise… almost non-existent at this time of morning anyway… simply falls into silence. You are alone with the breeze and the bracken, the stones and the sheep, the sky and the songbirds in a place that seems untouched by man, save only for his tracks through the heather.
Yet look closer and you can see where the old ones walked. There are hut circles, ancient settlements, strange carvings on the boulders; stone circles and cairns dot the moors and if you are lucky, and very observant, you may find the knapped flint tools… arrowheads, blades and scrapers… with which they carved out their lives. Memories in stone that go back nine thousand years. There are older lives in the rock too…of creatures and plants that lived in the sea that covered these high moors four hundred million years ago. In the vast sea of uncurling bracken and nascent heather, that knowledge alone strips you of many masks, leaving you feeling simply a human… being.
The birds led us onward; tiny meadow pipits, skylarks with their characteristic flight, grouse noisily protesting our intrusion…The small birds hopped and flew, a few paces, a few curling fronds at a time, looking back and waiting, for all the world as it they wanted us to follow them… which, of course, we did, following their lead to find the ‘lost’ Backstone Circle. And all the time the glorious sunrise unfolded behind us.
Between Rosemarkie and Fortrose, on the shores of the Black Isle, north of Inverness, there is a promontory named Channonry Point. It projects out into the Moray Firth in such a way that the local population of some sixty bottlenose dolphins take delight in swimming in the rapid tidal races just off its rocky shore.
We had just missed them (wrong state of the tide) when I spotted the notice board describing Pale Kenneth…. Suddenly there was something more interesting than the disappointment of missing the bottlenoses.
His name was Coinneach Odhar which means ‘Pale Kenneth’. But the real meaning is ‘sallow’, an older and more historically charged description of a ‘fey’ person. Coinneach Odhar, then, is Kenneth the Sallow.
Kenneth was a 17th century seer from the Hebridean island of Lewis who came to work at Brahan (Bra’an) Castle near Dingwall, about ten miles from where the dolphins swim though the tidal races at Channonary Point.
He is portrayed in a slightly comic fashion on the information board, but, having looked into this, I suspect this carries some cultural sarcasm…
The ‘seer’, literally ‘see-er’ had possession of a ‘second sight’ – whereby the holder could see two worlds at once; the normal and the inner, more supernatural. The second sight was viewed in Scottish history as more of a curse than a blessing.
Local legends say that Kenneth the Sallow’s mother was responsible for his second sight. She was passing through a graveyard one night when the ghost of a Danish princess appeared before her, intent on returning to her grave. Kenneth’s mother demanded that, in return for her free passage, she should pay her a tribute. She asked that her son be given the magical sight. Later that day, Kenneth the Sallow found a small stone with a hole in – through which he would look and see the ‘second world’.
“Ah, take patience with the lad for he has the Sight and it is a terrible affliction.”
Exercising this ability, the man known by then as the Brahan Seer, or Coinneach Odhar saw visions that came unbidden by day or night. His prophesies were viewed as impressive and accurate, and his fame spread… Some of these prophesies are still quoted to this day
The Brahan estate, where Kenneth worked, was the seat of the Seaforth chieftains, from somewhere around 1675. These became powerful families with great authority and wealth.
Some of Kenneth’s prophetic visions that came true in the years following his death include the Battle of Culloden (1745), which he uttered at the site, and his words were recorded. “Oh! Drumossie, thy bleak moor shall, ere many generations have passed away, be stained with the best blood of the Highlands. Glad am I that I will not see the day, for it will be a fearful period; heads will be lopped off by the score, and no mercy shall be shown or quarter given on either side.”
Kenneth the Sallow’s other prophesies include:
⁃ The joining of the lochs in the Great Glen. This was accomplished by the construction of the Caledonian Canal in the 19th Century.
⁃ He talked of great black, bridleless horses, belching fire and steam, drawing lines of carriages through the glens. More than 200 years later, railways were built through the Highlands.
⁃ North Sea oil was foretold : “A black rain will bring riches to Aberdeen”
⁃ He even told of the day when Scotland would again have its own parliament. He said this would come when men could walk ‘dry shod’ from England to France. The opening of the Channel Tunnel in 1994 was followed by the opening of the first Scottish Parliament since 1707
⁃ He said that “Streams of fire and water would run beneath the streets of Inverness and into every house… Gas and water pipes were laid in the 19th century.
⁃ Pointing to a field far from seashore, loch or river, he said that a ship would anchor there one day. “A village with four churches will get another spire,” said Coinneach, “and a ship will come from the sky and moor at it.” This happened in 1932 when an airship made an emergency landing and was tied up to the spire of the new church.
⁃ “The sheep shall eat the men” During the Highland Clearances, families were driven from the Highlands by the landowners and the land they farmed was given over to the grazing of sheep.
At the height of his fame and powers, Odhar made a fateful prediction which would ultimately cost him his life. Isabella, wife of the Earl of Seaforth, asked for his advice. It appears she wanted assurances of the true nature of her husband’s visit to Paris. Sallow Kenneth reassured her that the Earl was in good health but would not be drawn further.
The enraged Countess Isabella demanded that he tell her everything or she would have him killed. Kenneth said that her husband was with another woman, fairer than herself, and then he foretold the end of the Seaforth line, with the last heir being deaf and dumb…
The truth is written in Scotland’s history.
Francis Humberston Mackenzie, deaf and dumb from scarlet fever as a child, inherited the title in 1783. He had four children who died prematurely.The line, indeed, came to an end.
Countess Isabella was so incensed by this, she had Kenneth the Sallow seized and thrown head-first into a barrel of boiling tar.
But the actual history may have been different, though the legend of Sallow Kenneth is a firm part of Scotlands traditions. There is no record of a Coinneach Odhar ever having existed in the Highlands during the the 17th century.
But there is in the 16th century…
Parliamentary records from 1577 show that two writs were issued for the arrest of a ‘principle enchanter’ known as Coinneach Odhar. He was reputedly a gypsy known to supply poison. His skills were purchased by a Catherine Ross, who sought to remove the rivals to the inheritance she wanted for her sons. It was said she had already paid for the skills of over twenty witches, each of whom had each failed.
The records show that many of the witches were caught and burnt – Scotland had a terrible reputation for witchcraft, something that terrified many of its kings. What happened to Coinneach remains a mystery. If he was caught it is likely that he too would have been burnt, which reflects the later legend that he was killed in a spiked tar barrel.
Was this legend transplanted a hundred years into the future?
But what is the link with the lighthouse and the dolphins at Chanonry Point, near Fortrose, the place where our story began?
There is a stone slab at Chanonry Point that is said to mark the spot where Sallow Kenneth died. The inscription reads: “This stone commemorates the legend of Coinneach Odhar better known as the BRAHAN SEER – Many of his prophesies were fulfilled and tradition holds that his untimely death by burning in tar followed his final prophecy of the doom of the House of Seaforth.”
Were these two different people or the same? Perhaps the 16th century Coinneach was the grandfather of the Brahan Seer?
Whatever the truth, these legends, and the prophesies they bear, are set as stone in Scottish lore. One prophesy carries particular resonance.
An important Pictish stone, the Eagle Stone, stands in Strathpeffer, Ross-shire. The Seer predicted that if the stone fell down three times, then Loch Ussie would flood the valley below so that ships could sail to Strathpeffer.
The stone has fallen down twice: apparently it is now set in concrete, indicating that the legend of Sallow Kenneth continues to hold sway in these parts…
‘Shadowing’ is our term for the phenomenon whereby a standing stone, or group of stones, recreates a distant landscape feature and thereby renders it immediately apparent or tangible.
Most other megalithic writers on the subject have also, independently, recognised this phenomenon although they usually refer to it, less accurately perhaps, as ‘mirroring’.
This being the case, it is highly unlikely for such a notion to be the product of fantasy, yet it is still quite difficult to credit the skill set required to so accurately render this technique, and especially so in a people still regarded by many as ‘primitive’ in relation to us.
Either, the ‘circle constructors’ had an incredible eye for, and memory of, the natural landscape, which they, inevitably, would have done anyway, or, they ‘crudely dressed’ the stones once placed.
Please note the inaccurate use of the notion ‘crude’ here.
There is nothing crude about the ancients’ ability to dress stone in this way, quite the opposite.
Even more perplexing, perhaps, is the question of precisely why the circle constructors would do this?
The terms ‘false perspective’, ‘collapsing distance’ and ‘correspondence’ are all useful in formulating an answer to this intriguing riddle.
All the images in this post display examples of ‘shadowing’ in one form or another, although you may have to work quite hard to discover each and every one of them.