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.

 

‘The Book of Assassinations’

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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.

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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.

sheffield chesterfield hare 072

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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The watchers

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We were being watched. It was palpable. In fact, as I raised the camera to watch the watchers, others could see it too… we weren’t imagining it. They had been following us all day, dark, hooded figures flitting in and out of vision, all across the Derbyshire landscape. Sitting on fences, following our footsteps, watching our every move at every site we visited. We even had evidence in bag and pocket… and the camera had quietly documented their stealthy observation…

Sitting in the little courtyard of the pub in Castleton, by some miracle on the part of my companion, the staid half of shandy I had reluctantly asked for had been transformed into a nicely chilled Stowford’s … I love Derbyshire!… and we were surrounded.

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There were jackdaws on the low rooftops, on the chimneys… whole families of them, including the young one that misjudged and went flying in a way that failed to involve wings.

I snapped away happily while the pint of Guinness and half of Stowford’s slowly disappeared, then passed the camera across to my companion so he could see the day’s photographic haul. As always I wait, judging his reaction by the tilt of his head and the set of his lips.

“We’ve got our Dark Sage.”

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Yes… it looked a bit that way. We had been waiting to be ‘given’ a picture for the cover of the next book… Doomsday: The Ætheling Thing is in the final stages of editing and the second book in the series is about to begin. Honestly, with all the stuff we have at present we barely dare go out in case we find some more! Not that we have to… from north and south of the land the pages of books rustle, the keyboard taps research terms and texts and emails fly between… some of them so weird that they sound like coded messages. The latest research has seen me rifling the tool box in search of a saw and soldering iron…nothing like some practical experience! Mind, the scalpel should be interesting…

But we had a meeting to attend, so it was time to go, reluctantly and promising ourselves a return trip in the not-too-far-distant future.

We had a lovely evening; the meeting went well and in spite of absent friends everyone seemed to bring something beautiful and individual to the mix and we took the long road home much later feeling relaxed and awake… which may explain the late night talking in our accustomed positions… my companion on two legs of the chair, I on the ‘hobbit cushion’ on the kitchen step.

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Saturday morning brought rain. For once we decided to avoid getting wet and drove to the pub… only for coffee and toasted teacakes, I might add, and access to the internet… and there we played with pictures and created the cover for Dark Sage. It is odd, but it isn’t until we have a cover that we feel we have a book, and starting with the cover always seems to be the point of departure for the next phase of the adventure.

Then, as the heavens continued to douse the world in water and with continued determination not to get wet again, we very sensibly turned the car towards Chesterfield and the ancient cathedral with the twisted spire….

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A Harmony of Eight…

*

The point sits at the centre of the square,

where its two diagonals intersect.

*

*

From the same intersection, another square

can be drawn at right angles to the first.

Like this, we create eight equidistant points.

*

 

*

By taking the original squares and extending all

eight sides, a new set of intersections is generated.

*

*

The new Octagon, bigger than the first,

 is perfectly derived from its archetype.

*

https://silenteyeblog.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/domeplan.gif

*

Extending the sides of the Octagon generates another pair of larger squares.

The pattern is infinitely extendable around the point of origin with

perfect symmetry in every direction…

*

A point indicates a location in space which is present but has no dimension…

*

https://silenteyeblog.files.wordpress.com/2017/09/dragon.jpg

*

Madding Merlin…

*

*

… After many years had passed under many kings,

Merlin the Briton was held famous in the world…

*

Peredur, King of North Wales

made war on Gwenddoleu of Scotland…

*

The troops were fighting, falling on

both sides in miserable slaughter…

*

Merlin had come to war with Peredur and

so too had Rhydderch, king of the Cumbrians.

*

Three brothers of the prince who had followed him

through all his exploits broke the battle lines.

*

They rushed fiercely through the crowded ranks

and soon fell, killed. Then, did Merlin grieve…

*

‘Could injurious fate be so harmful as to take from me

so many and such great companions, whom recently many

kings and remote kingdoms feared?

O dubious lot of mankind!

O death ever near, which has them in its power

and strikes with its hidden goad

driving out the life from the wretched body!

O glorious youths, who will now stand by my side

in arms, and repel the chieftains who rush to harm me?

Bold young men your audacity has taken your pleasant years from you.

Your broken bodies now roll on the blood strewn ground…’

*

Merlin called his companions from the battle

and bade them bury the brothers in a richly coloured chapel.

There he bewailed the dead men, rubbing dust in his hair,

 tearing and rending his garments…

*

For three days Merlin lamented,

before a new fury seized him,

and he fled, in secret, to the woods.

– adapted from, The Mystic Life by R J Stewart

 

 

 

 

Fear and Love in the High Peak – (2) “I want a posset!”

The first visit of the Silent Eye ‘Rites of Passage: Seeing Beyond Fear’ weekend was to the Derbyshire village of Eyam (pronounced Eem) – The Plague Village.

Our family has a personal connection with Eyam and the terrible events of 1665-6, when bubonic plague, newly arrived in Derbyshire from London, took the lives of 260 of its occupants: over seven-tenths of its population.

The parish church of St Lawrence, Eyam

No-one began the weekend thinking of heroes or heroines, but they were there in the records–and in the living landscape, though the word may not be entirely appropriate to describe the profound selflessness of its former inhabitants during that fateful year of 1665-6.

The Saxon cross in the church of St Lawrence

The name of the man who is our family connection was Edward Unwin. We do not know his occupation, but it was probably that of lead miner, a common occupation in those parts. This assumption is made on the basis that a close friend of his reported the strange events that follow to Catherine Mompesson, the wife of the new rector of Eyam, William Mompesson, who was a disciplined diarist. Her records are the basis of much of the history of the plague year of 1666.

From Diary of Catherine Mompesson, 5th July 1666:

‘I first encountered John Carter [the neighbour of Edward Unwin] on the morning following his summoning of Marshall Howe to give his ministrations to his near neighbour…’

Catherine Mompesson’s journal goes on to explain how Carter, the neighbour of Unwin, was ‘sharp-spoken’ and unkempt in the way of the local lead miners, but was ‘direct and honest’ in his conversation. In common with the other lead miners, he looked ten years older than his reputed thirty-four years. Catherine Mompesson relates that, in telling the tale, he had ‘a certain jocose air’ about him as he related the story of the previous day.

The grave of Catherine Mompesson, wife of Rector William. She died in 1666 of the plague.

The journal continues: ‘Knowing that Unwin was either dead or on the verge of death, Carter had summoned his fellow miner, Marshall Howe, who was acting as a self-appointed ‘sexton of the plague’; seemingly heedless of the danger to himself, but well aware that, since Unwin’s wife had already died of the plague, choice possessions from Unwin’s house would pass to him as his fee for the ‘sexton’s’ funeral duties…

Bodies had to be buried in the gardens of the deceased’s dwellings to reduce the risk of contagion from communal graveyards. The journal tells that Marshall Howe had already dug Unwin’s grave in the man’s ‘sweet smelling’ orchard at the back of the property and was carrying his body over his shoulder down the stairs when:

‘The still-warm body started to writhe and thrash.. then shouted out, “I want a posset!”

The interior of St Lawrence’s church

Edward Unwin was my wife’s tenth great grandfather. He survived the encounter with the ‘plague sexton’ and got his posset from a sympathetic neighbour. The self-appointed sexton fled but is recorded as subsequently continuing his job and surviving the plague. The incident gave voice to the opinion that Marshall may ‘have been overzealous in the execution of his duties several times…’

We know that Edward Unwin survived the plague. My wife, Bernie, hopes that whatever resistant DNA he may have had was passed down through the generations. The posset in question was a mixture of boiled milk, ale, bread and fats – a miner’s favourite sustenance and inexpensive, too.

Edward could not be described as a hero, regardless of his miraculous recovery… But the plague village and the area around it did have its heroes. Eyam, discovering that it was the new centre of a potential explosion of bubonic plague infection, did something remarkable: with some guidance from the clergy, it chose to cut itself off from the surrounding villages and towns, condemning all those ‘within’ to almost certain death.

The credit for this is normally given to William Mompesson, the young local clergyman. But the truth is more complex… Two rectors were involved in the formidable alignment of wills that gave Eyam its fame and historical status.

1662 was the date of the Act of Uniformity. Charles II was on the throne of England and Scotland, and Cromwell’s age of the Puritans had come to an end. The Act of Uniformity forced the ‘ejection’ of hundreds of puritan clergymen from their ‘living’. One of these was Eyam’s much respected rector, Thomas Stanley.

The old sundial on the walls of the church

Traditionally, these ‘ejected’ clergyman were expected to leave the region in which they had ministered. But Stanley continued to live close to Eyam – something the nearby Duke of Devonshire had the power to correct but didn’t, such was the standing of the former rector.

William Mompesson, Rector of Eyam Church. I could find no surviving pictures of Thomas Stanley.

The plague arrived in Eyam at the end of August, 1665, in the bite of fleas wrapped in a damp bale of tailor’s cloth. The inexperienced rector knew he had to do something radical but struggled to gain support from the people of Eyam – until he met with Thomas Stanley and shared views across the new religious boundary. Together, they framed the stance the people of Eyam would adopt; to imprison themselves, facing almost certain death, in order to protect the surrounding populations.

The Story of the plague. An unlikely stained glass window in St Lawrence’s church…

The Earl of Devonshire deserves mention in this context, too. He and his family resolutely supported Eyam in its self-imposed isolation. They provided food and other vital supplies for the villagers, left at safe boundary points, for the duration of the plague’s effects.

William Cavendish, First Duke of Devonshire and benefactor of Eyam during the plague. Image Wikipedia, public domain

Space precludes more detail of the beautiful village of Eyam, but Sue Vincent’s recent blog describes our exploration of Eyam in considerable detail.

The day in Eyam had generated heavy hearts, even though these events were four hundred years ago. They let us reflect on the nature of fear… and of love. But this was an important counterpoint to the following day, which would begin on a much more sun-filled note.

———————————-

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

Fear and Love in the High Peak – part one

It’s not the best of photo resolutions, but the above image says it all. Briony saluting the Derbyshire landscape in her own way at the end of three days of the Silent Eye’s Tideswell-based workshop: Sue and Stuart’s creation; and a wonderful experience for the group of souls who braved the provocative title for the weekend…

Rites of Passage: Seeing beyond Fear

…and decided that they would examine the roots of their own fears… and face them in the warmth of loving companionship and symbolic danger.

It’s a time-honoured formula for all mystical organisations; one that brings us all to a point where the day to day ‘fog’ of habitual perception is cut through by the vividness of landscape and experience. That’s what we hope to achieve on these weekends. This one worked well – and in different ways for each person, as it should, for we all have different stories that have brought us to our ‘now’.

Sometimes, especially in reviewing such things, it’s better to start at the end. The picture (above) of Briony is of her at the ‘peak’ of the weekend; the last act of the formal part of our physical, emotional and spiritual wanderings across the ancient and mysterious landscapes of Derbyshire.

A short time later, we would be laughing in one of the oddest, oldest and most wonderful pubs in England…

But that’s for the final chapter of this short series of blogs. For now, let’s drift backwards in time to the sunshine of the Saturday morning. A day of ‘Indian Summer’ as good as any we been blessed with over the years.

Baslow Ridge

We were up high in a place called Baslow Ridge. Looking down on a series of valleys that lead to places like Bakewell, and the glories of the Chatsworth Estate.

The Eagle Stone – a place of proof of maturity, and a precursor to local marriage

The Eagle Stone stands alone, an outlier from a distant time of glaciation. It dominates the landscape like the monolith did in Kubrick’s film of Arthur C. Clarke’s story 2001: A Space Odyssey. People are drawn to it from miles around. It even featured in the BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ as the place that Elizabeth Bennett visited and climbed… to get away from it all.

It is still used by local folk as a rite of passage. Those who seek the hand of marriage with the girls and ladies of the nearby town of Baslow are expected to demonstrate their suitability by climbing the stone unaided. It’s not a trivial ascent, as this second shot of the rock shows:

The Eagle Stone close-up shows how the higher layers overhang the lower; making an ascent difficult

The Eagle Stone is an example of a sacred folk-object at the centre of a local custom; a ritual, in this case. The ritual was a gateway into adulthood–and maturity. There would be real caution – if not fear- for anyone faced with the challenge. But, with some secret help from your friends, there was only an element of danger, rather than the certainty of death…

The Riley Graves

But many in the history of these parts have not been so lucky. Going back in time to our first visit of the weekend, we were brought face to face with personal fear and sadness of a degree that would be hard to envisage in modern life… and one of the most heart-rending sacrifices we could have encountered.

It’s 1666 in a small High Peak town, not far from Chatsworth. In the space of a single week, a lone woman buries all six of her children and then her husband. No-one will help her; no-one can help her. It is the most awful piece of personal history imaginable and yet the act which surrounds it is of the highest nobility.

Stuart… showing how it should be done

And so the story – the plot – of the weekend, moves from an historic example of fear and self-sacrifice – but seen through modern eyes, through the ancient stones set in the Derbyshire landscape and their cultural and symbolic use, to its finale in a rather foreboding place, high above a valley with a dark history…

Seen like this – backwards from the end, we can appreciate the careful construction of the weekend carried out by Sue and Stuart. Sue has begun its re-telling in her Silent Eye and personal blogs. She’s a great storyteller and there is little point in my replicating her excellent eye for detail.

Instead, I will pick certain moments of significance and focus on them – and hence this backwards-in-time introduction to set the scene.

It’s a long way from the Friday meeting place at Eyam to our final (small for drivers) glass of Black Lurcher at the Three Stag’s Heads near ‘Hanging Rock’, but it’s a fascinating journey. The weekend demanded a degree of serious intent… but we had lot of fun, too.

In the end, on Sunday morning, everyone was alone for a moment on that dark peak… Very Carlos Castenada, really…. but that’s just my personal take on it.

Next time we meet, it will be August 1666 and, in this part of Derbyshire, something remarkable, unique and utterly selfless will be about to happen.

 

 

©Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

Rites of Passage: Seeing beyond fear ~  A weekend with the Silent Eye

As the June workshop in Scotland draws to a close, why not consider joining us in September for a weekend in the ancient landscape of stones, circles and strange places?

Rites of Passage: Seeing beyond fear

 A weekend with the Silent Eye

Derbyshire, UK

Friday 13th – Sunday 15th September 2019

We are all afraid of something.

There are the fears of the everyday world, from arachnophobia to a fear of the dark, and the deeper fears of the personality, that play upon the mind and heart.

What purpose might such fears serve, beyond protecting us from potentially harmful situations?

How have our ancestors addressed such fears across the centuries? Can we learn from the past a way to see beyond our fears to a future lit by serenity and hope?

Join us on Friday the thirteenth of September, 2019, in the ancient landscape of Derbyshire as we explore how to lay our personal gremlins to rest.

Based in the landscape around Tideswell, Bakewell and beyond, this weekend will entail some relatively easy walking on moorland paths.

The weekend runs from Friday afternoon to early Sunday afternoon, and costs £50 per person. Meals and accomodation are not included and should be booked separately by all attendees. meals are often taken together at a convenient pub or cafe.

Click below to
Download our Events Booking Form – pdf

For further details or to reserve your place: rivingtide@gmail.com