Being Beyond Seeing…

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One of the ‘hardy perennials’ on many of our workshops is the thorny problem of intent.

Thorny because much of what we now see may not have been originally intended by the erstwhile perpetrator or perpetrators, yet some of what remains most definitely was!

On our recent sojourn around Cornwall, having been cruelly divested of our guide book, we still managed to find one particular unsought spot ‘blind’, as it were, and this is pretty much the task we had now set our Companions…

The telluric current we were ‘following’ passed through the remains of Penrith Castle and on through the site of the Old Church.

The legends that attach themselves to these sites in many cases assume the outward appearance of unbelievable ‘gibberish’ and most certainly do not follow the reasonably delineated form of history, official or otherwise…

And yet, the wry smile which they inievitably engender, the moments reflection which they sometimes inspire, if held onto, and wondered about, and returned to, and nurtured, may well turn into a personal revelation carrying more truth than any spuriously contrived history.

Did Arthur’s Knights ever fight Dragons was the unspoken question gnawing away at the fringes of consciousness? There were none which immediately sprang to mind. And if not, then why not? Given their raison d’etre it would, at first sight, be an obvious way for them to spend their time.

The telluric current we were ‘following’ specifically passed through the body of Penrith Parish Church and was marked on either side by a Sun Dial and a conglomeration of stones which now goes by the moniker of the Giant’s Grave.

The plinth on which the Sun Dial now stands is undeniably late, but has it recently replaced a much earlier one? The conglomeration of stones are much, much, earlier but how long have they been associated with a Giant?

Perhaps, at least as long as the story of Yvain and his friendly lion…

*

The King of Castle Hill…

*

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

He was lord and master of all he surveyed.

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

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

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

The eye was normally kept covered by five leather patches.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The wondrous cow was governed by a magic halter.

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

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

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

The prophecies spoke of the king’s demise.

The king summoned his soothsayer.

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

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

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

The king fell silent in thought.

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

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

*

Wish you were here…

*

In Olden Times,

Holidays were originally just that…

Holy Days.

The whole community would lay aside their work day duties and together engage in deeply or intrinsically symbolic activities which related to the situation that they all found themselves in.

For example…

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rs-579*

Cheese Rolling…

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May Poling…

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…and Beating-the-Bounds.

Religious Syncretism: a proper priest…

*

… “What are you talking about?”

“A question of questions, young Wendolina, the answer to which may serve as a stunning proof of our original assertion.”

Your original assertion, which was posed as a question anyway. And I’m older than you are.”

“Yes, yes, dearest Wendlebury. There was a need for the razor ban, in order, to achieve assimilation. The original model for Samson wasn’t Gilgamesh at all, it was his ‘alter-ego’, the wild-man, Enkidu, who in the words of birds-feet etched into tablets of baked-clay over four thousand years ago, possessed long hair like a woman and an excessively hairy body.”

“In that case the ‘jaw-bone’ may well be a form of boomerang…” muses Wen, and then, “Birds Feet?”

“Cuneiform.”

“If I wasn’t so confused, I’d be tempted to jump up and down,” says Wen.

“Two-thirds animal, one-third man.”

“Ah,” says Wen, the light of comprehension settling down to roost in her visage, “I knew the British Museum would be a good idea.”

“Rule Britannia!”

“Are we allowed to be rational for a moment?”

“We would not expect you to be anything else.”

“If we consider Enkidu who is two-thirds animal, one-third man, together with Gilgamesh, who is two-thirds divine, one-third man, and treat them as one whole man, we get a ruler who is one-third animal, one-third divine, and one third man.”

“The idea was to create harmony out of an imbalance. On his own Gilgamesh mistook arrogance for strength and had become a tyrant and tormentor of his people.”

“But the constructor of this tale would have to be a psychologist of far greater acumen than Carl Gustav Jung to have come up with that device.”

“But it gets better. The harmony doesn’t last for long. The human part of Gilgamesh corrupts the animal part of Enkidu and as a result, together, they visit an ecological disaster upon their civilisation.”

“This story is how old?”

“About four thousand years.”

“It’s not only high genius, it’s also pertinent.”

“Genius is always pertinent.”

“Do we know who the author is?”

“Do we ever know who the author is?”

“Do we know who the author is purported to be?”

“Gilgamesh existed as the legendary protagonist in a number of Sumerian poems long before ‘his story’ was turned into an ‘epic poem’.”

“So, who turned it into an epic poem?”

“The compiler of the first ‘epic’ now referred to as the Old Babylonian Version is unknown.”

“And the later version?”

“Five hundred years after the Old Babylonian version had been circulated a ‘scholar-priest’ called Sin-leqi-unninni revised and elaborated it.”

“Another name to conjure with.”

“Sin-leqi-unninni’s epic is now regarded as the Standard Version.”

“And in some quarters, at least, he is regarded as a genius with greater psychological acumen than Carl Gustav Jung.”

“Well, he was a priest.”

“A proper priest.

*

LORD OF THE DEEP: THE QUEST FOR IMMORTALITY

A DRAMATIC RETELLING OF THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH

The Oldest written story known to man…
What spiritual treasures lie hidden in this, five thousand-year old, Epic?
What can this ancient civilisation teach us about the questions of existence?
Join us on this quest of a life-time, next April, to find out…

*
‘Gilgamesh is among the greatest things that can ever happen to a person.’
– Rainer Maria Rilke.

Fully catered weekend package, including room, meals and workshop: £235 – £260

Click here to download Booking Form

*

Religious Syncretism: iconotropy…

*

… “Is he meant to be a giant?”

“In the story he is two-thirds divine, one third-man.”

“Which doesn’t actually answer my question.”

“I don’t know, is he meant to be a giant?”

“Ah, I see… Well, if that is a full grown lion, then he is very definitely a giant.”

“The Hebrew story-tellers saw fit to make the lion, a cub.”

“With the express aim of de-gigantisising him I expect.”

“Is that a word?”

“I shouldn’t think so.”

“So why would they downsize him?”

“Because the strength of their hero didn’t come from his size. It came from God.”

“The Spirit of the Lord.”

“The Spirit of the Lord, that’s right.”

“But if Gilgamesh is two-thirds divine, doesn’t his strength come from ‘God’ too?”

“Gilgamesh has a divine mother, Ninsun, and a father who was born human but later became divine.”

“Ninsun, is a name to conjure with,” murmurs Wen and then, “this becoming divine business is interesting.”

“And the crux of their reasoning for a change. The Hebrews did not go in for that kind of truck with the Gods. Their God was transcendent. Only his feminine aspect was immanent and because of that she was not regarded as a Goddess. She was known as the Shekinah but even this, later became all but forgotten. At least officially.”

“That is not the jaw-bone of an ass is it?”

“I very much doubt it.”

“Do we have any idea what it actually is?”

“Nope. None whatsoever, but I expect it will reveal its identity at some point during the proceedings.”

“Research!” proclaims Wen, triumphantly.

“If you insist,” but this is a form of research too. The Greeks called it dialectic… three, six, nine… lots of maybe’s, lots of supposes…”

“So, why should transcendence be considered the ‘be all and end all’?”

“I don’t know, why should transcendence be considered the ‘be all and end all’?”

“Well, it has to do with the outer, and hierarchy, and objectivity.”

“None of which are intrinsically unsound concepts.”

“Until they are regarded as ends in themselves and not as integral parts of process and cycle. I like his hair.”

“Not so sure about the chain-mail beard though.”

“Did Samson have a beard?”

“I expect so, although I suspect the ban on the razor only extended to his head.”

“Oh really, and why would one suspect that?”

“I’m not totally sure, but I think it has something to do with the sun, and its rays.”

“If most of the Hebrew males wore long hair and beards anyway, why was there a need for the razor ban?” pondered Wen.

“Ah, is that the sound of trumpets scaling the ramparts of heaven?”

*

LORD OF THE DEEP: THE QUEST FOR IMMORTALITY

A DRAMATIC RETELLING OF THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH

The Oldest written story known to man…
What spiritual treasures lie hidden in this, five thousand-year old, Epic?
What can this ancient civilisation teach us about the questions of existence?
Join us on this quest of a life-time, next April, to find out…

*
‘Gilgamesh is among the greatest things that can ever happen to a person.’
– Rainer Maria Rilke.

Fully catered weekend package, including room, meals and workshop: £235 – £260

Click here to download Booking Form

*

Religious Syncretism…

*

“Then, Samson went down to the vineyards of Timnath and a young lion roared against him.

The Spirit of the Lord came upon him so that, with nothing in his hands, he rent mightily the lion as though it were a young goat.”

Judges 14

*

“And then Samson found a jawbone of an ass and he took it and with it he slew heaps upon heaps of men to the number of a thousand.”

– Judges 16

*

“You know, I’m not sure syncretism is quite the right word,” says Wen, eyeing the icon of Gilgamesh with some trepidation.

We are in the British Museum doing ‘research’ as Wen likes to call it.

‘Pick up your staff and pen,’ she said, ‘we have work to do.’

Which means in Wen-Speak, among other things, more churches…

“Your doubts are probably well founded. Mr Graves called it ‘iconotropy’ – turning religious iconography to new religious purpose.”

“Oh, him again. No one knows who Robert Graves is.”

“Well, they should! Anyway, in ‘King Jesus’ he has a Priestess of Astarte and Joshua-ben-Miriam go through a whole series of cave-bound images with each of them giving a different yet perfectly valid interpretation of the self same icon.”

“Cave-bound?”

“Inscribed in a cave.”

“It hardly seems possible.”

“Religious interpretation, I should have said.”

“It still hardly seems possible.”

“Why isn’t anything, anything else?”

“You’re being obscure again,” says Wen.

“It’s what we bring to the table!”

“I like that,” says Wen, looking slightly perturbed as I hone in with a Gob-Stopper to hand.

“ifzattthicklynekxazzery,” says Wen, her mouth full of Gob-Stopper.

“Our own journey is entirely imaginary,” I continue in my obscure way, “that is its strength. Longman says so and he is never wrong.”

“Oooh, the Long-Man of Wilmington,” says Wen having now unceremoniously discarded the Gob-Stopper, “now there’s a thought.”

“So, that’s that then…”

*

LORD OF THE DEEP: THE QUEST FOR IMMORTALITY

A DRAMATIC RETELLING OF THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH

The Oldest written story known to man…
What spiritual treasures lie hidden in this, five thousand-year old, Epic?
What can this ancient civilisation teach us about the questions of existence?
Join us on this quest of a life-time, next April, to find out…

*
‘Gilgamesh is among the greatest things that can ever happen to a person.’
– Rainer Maria Rilke.

Fully catered weekend package, including room, meals and workshop: £235 – £260

Click here to download Booking Form

*

Spindle-Stone Heugh…

*

“And so to Bamburgh castle, the king a new wife did bring.

But his queen took an instant dislike to her husband’s daughter, Margaret,

And transformed her into a Laidly Wyrm which coiled itself about a Great Stone,

And laid waste the land for seven miles around.

*

Daily, the milk of seven cows was brought the Wyrm but all to no avail,

For the enchantment could only be lifted by Childy Wynd,

Margaret’s brother, but he lived far away over the sea.

*

‘The Pilgrims’ sally forth…

*

Word of the dark doings in his homeland eventually reached Childy,

Who built a ship with a rowan-tree mast and silken sails,

And set out to rid Bamburgh of its blight.

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The queen, she spied the ship and sent out ‘witch-wives’ to sink it,

But they were powerless ‘gainst the magical mast.

As the ship came into land, the Wyrm leapt up,

The Wyrm leapt down, and plaiting ’round the stane,

Banged it out to sea again.

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Dunstanburgh: ‘A ruinous ego’?…

*

Undaunted, Childy put in on Budle Sand and waded ashore.

Finally encountering the Wyrm, Childy laid his sword upon its head,

Yet gave it kisses three,

And though it crept back into its hole a Wyrm,

It stepped out, a Lady.

*

Together, brother and sister returned to Bamburgh,

To be greeted by their joyful father, the king.

The queen was transformed, by Childy, into a toad,

Which to this day spits venom on girls out walking.”

Duncan Frasier  AD 1270

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The little fish who swam

There has been a sick fish in my son’s pond for months now. At one point, there were two of them, floating belly up, side by side, and sporting ugly ulcers. They were so ill that we had even been obliged to discuss the possibility of euthanasia, although that goes against all we have learned about the nature of hope over the past few years.

We even went as far as buying clove oil with which to anaesthetise the fish if their suffering seemed too much for them to bear….and the day we did so, they rallied. It seemed at the time as if, having accepted that responsibility, the need for action was removed.

We named the fish for their characteristics during their illness, to distinguish between them for the daily reports on their progress or lack of it. Once, grossly swollen and looking for all the world as if he would die of dropsy, a virtually incurable problem, we called Fat Fish. The other is now on his third name.

After a few weeks, Fat Fish made a truly remarkable recovery, against all odds and predictions. The other fish was not so lucky. At first, all he could do was flap feebly. Then we had a period where his recovery looked impossible… and the next day he would be swimming. We named him Trooper for his gallantry.

Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there.

Trooper hid himself under the plants and no longer swam. He was not eating and became translucent, thin and weak. Every day, I twitched his blanket of plants when I arrived at my son’s home…at first, expecting the worst, then as the days went by, hoping for his release and knowing that by all logic, he should already be dead.

We were back to the big question again… how long could we leave him in this state? We had tried every medication and intervention by now and nothing was working. It was heartbreaking to watch.

Nick, however, was convinced the little fish would rally again. “He’ll be fine,” he said, over and over again and with utter conviction, every time I broached the subject. “He can do it.”

I had to wonder if my son’s unrealistic belief in the fish were a reflection of his own impossible recovery, rather than a hope based in reality. Nevertheless, we continued to watch and wait…and I continued with my own unreasonable hopes, and every day I expected to be preparing a grave.

Then, one morning, Trooper was gone. He was no longer beneath the plants… my heart sank. He had given up the ghost and I would have to remove his body if I could find it in the depths of the pond. I looked everywhere…the water is clear and yet I could not see him.  Until I caught sight of a fish with the distinctive black marks on his back that identified him as Trooper, swimming with the rest.

I held my breath, expecting the emaciated fish to float back under his plant. He didn’t. He sped around the pond, chasing his friends and doing laps. We had seen him rally briefly so many times, though, that I was not convinced. He hadn’t eaten for weeks, was so thin and pale you could almost see through him and his side had still not healed.

Told you he’d recover,” said my son. I was still expecting a relapse, but a week later, and the little fish is still swimming. His back, unless he chooses to submerge, doesn’t quite make it underwater. He is a little lopsided… but his side has now healed. He’s eating… and he is out-swimming every fish in the pond in terms of speed and energy. My son renamed him Super Trooper.

I cannot help wondering how much my son’s adamant belief in the little fish helped his recovery. I had enough knowledge to realise that my own hopes that the fish would pull through were not at all realistic. My son, with less knowledge, simply had faith in him and refused to believe there could be any other outcome.

That is a magical thing. The little fish’s recovery, given how ill he was, seems a minor miracle.  I have seen a good many troubled teenagers who just needed someone to have faith in them, trust them… believe they were worth something… and it changed their lives from a slippery slope to a steady climb. I held my son’s unconscious hand, willing him to health, despite the prognosis… surrounded by his friends and family who also believed he could shatter the predictions. And he did. Those who have believed in me when I could not do so drew me out of the shadows of my own life and into a place where I can believe in myself.

To believe, to trust… to have faith in someone… that is an expression of Love. It can move metaphorical mountains… it can change lives, and bring healing, both to the one who believes and the one in whom they have faith. I wonder how often we underestimate the power of such a simple act… and what we could achieve if we could bring our whole hearts to Love, hope and trust?

Wayland: The White Horse…

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But according to some, Wayland has far more onerous

responsibilities than shoeing the horses of passing way farers…

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A group of local lads were enjoying a drink

one evening at the White Horse Inn, Woolstone,

when an unknown man wearing old fashioned garb

entered and ordered a pint of the local beverage.

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He wore a leather apron, a tall hat,

and he took his drink and sat

to one side of the ale-house by himself…

*

After awhile the sound of a horn rang out

and could be heard

echoing eerily through the vale…

*

Startled from his reverie by the horn,

the stranger leapt to his feet and hobbled

out into the night, his pint unfinished.

*

As the uncanny sound faded over the downs

the locals looked out and up to the hillside

to find that the White Horse was gone!

*

When dawn broke the following day

more than a few of the previous night’s imbibers

looked out of their windows

and up at the hill with some trepidation…

*

Only to see the White Horse

back where it should be on the green hillside

but with feet-tips

that seemed to shine in the morning sun light.

 

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