Starless night…

Lady Grene

…your neck was saved by a Lady’s garter! Why, Gawain, you really are too much I believe little more than half of all that you have told me and I suspect, as you know only too well, that what is left of the tale is little more than pure fabrication…

Foliate Gawain (un-hitching Lady Grene’s arm and suddenly becoming serious)

No…My Lady…No you’re right, of course, that’s not how it was at all… there was a forest…. enchanted it was… and deep, deep within it… there was a white cloaked figure… and there was a riddle too…which was set in return for a life… ‘twas a riddle which none could solve…and then a dark, veiled figure…appeared… and she solved the riddle in return for…

During this exchange Arthur, Guinevere and Lord Grene have fanned out in the Enneagram space, Lord Grene is near the nine point, Arthur is near the six point and Guinevere is near the three point.

Guinevere

…In return for what Gawain?

Foliate Gawain

…In return for my hand, My Lady.

King Arthur

This dark figure, Gawain, who demanded you hand, what was she like?

Foliate Gawain

Black she was… black as a starless night, and empty too… and cold… cold as an infinite… unfillable… void…

The Veiled One rises and starts to make her way to the edge of the Enneagram.

Lord Grene

Why, it sounds like nothing in heaven and earth, Gawain, are you certain that this was no fear induced nightmare?

The Veiled One has made her way silently to the Enneagram.

She now stands in the Gateway between points four and five.

Lord and Lady Grene retreat and are seated on the nine point, Arthur does likewise and is seated at the six point and Guinevere takes her seat on the three point.

Foliate Gawain

Why, of course I am certain… (realising something is afoot he turns to the gateway and sees The Veiled One standing there in her Black Veil.)

The Veiled One

Why, even a starless night is not black, my love, but only a very dark… blue!

The Veiled One removes the Black Veil and replaces it with a White one.

Foliate Gawain sinks to his knees and bows.

Foliate Gawain

My Lady!

-Leaf and Flame: Heaven in Earth

HM15 307

Leaf and Flame – The extra mile

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Saturday continued after lunch with an Exploration led by Stuart, illustrating an idea of such simplicity that it is seldom noticed; that the most fundamental spiritual beliefs, no matter how we enrobe them in story, can be seen in the cycles and life of the earth itself. It is not a new idea, but while ideas may be shared, understanding comes to each of us as new as if it were the first morning of the world and every unique perspective adds to our ability to comprehend and to make that understanding a realised part of our lives.

Ritual Three, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, came next and saw Gawain leave Camelot with the Riddle unanswered. As he searches for the Green Chapel he is given lodging at the Castille Diablo. Sworn to a three-fold game with its Lord, Gawain must resist the blandishments of Lady Verdant… and give his spoils to her husband in exchange for the spoils of the daily hunt.

Everyone rose superbly to the challenge of the unrehearsed script over the weekend, particularly those ladies who played knights and those who stood in for those of our Companions too ill to attend, but I think few would deny that this was one of the many high-points. ‘Gawain’ and ‘Lady Verdant’ had agreed to ad-lib the three parts of the traditional seduction that ends with the bestowing of a garter… a courageous decision indeed and fascinating to watch. Lord Verdant meanwhile, also ad-libbing was, quite simply, brilliant… and his outrageously extravagant cry of ‘More excess!’ raised grins all round… and has been much quoted ever since.

Late afternoon was graced by our third Exploration, a talk given by one of our Companions on the question of faith. Speaking from her unique perspective as a scientist and long-term student of the Western Mysteries, she explored the myths  used as the foundation of the weekend from the perspective of Esoteric Christianity in what one Companion said was ‘incredibly intelligent and worth a whole weekend of discussion’ in itself.

Between the talks that had been prepared, the costumes carried for thousands of miles as friends old and new gathered from across the world… the baskets of fruit and chocolates brought by the Companions to share, the small gifts and the conviction and whole-hearted immersion of everyone in the ritual drama that was unfolding… we were left amazed and humbled. It is no new thing… the Companions do this every year… and every year we are left wordless at their generosity of spirit. It is, without a doubt, the Companions who make the weekends ‘work’. It is they who give life to the words we have written and make words on paper and lifeless costumes into a spiritual and meaningful journey for all who are there….and it is for them that we do our best to make that journey a good one.

And then, there was the fourth ritual drama… and flames in the night borne by others who had ‘gone the extra mile’… and an honour I will never forget…

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That which does not die…

HM15 306The Soul Attains – Edward Burne-Jones

Elaine

He fences right well yon Knight of Arthur’s realm.

Lancelot

Yet he seems to my mind a little coy.

Bedivere

Perhaps size is the whole essence of it.

Dindrane

Since when has size been the essence, whole or otherwise, of anything?

Liones

It seems that there comes a point in this play which to cross turns chivalry un-chivalrous.

Gareth

It is a point most unseemly but at which point in the play if ever should the guest oust the host?

Foliate Gawain

Why, I fear our Noble Knight is as far away as ever he was from perceiving the essence of a woman’s heart.

Ragnell

He is blinded by rude desire as are all those who fear its tumultuous loss.

Pellinore

And so the age old drama unfolds in spite of all our Knights resolve…

Yglais

Was the outcome ever seriously in doubt?

Uriens

The endless round… goes round… and round.

Morgan (with relish)

What is born… must die…

Arthur (hooded)

Only that which is not born does not die…

Guinevere (hooded)

…And they call this conception… immaculate.

–  Leaf and Flame: La Belle Dame sans Merci

Finding Gawain – Act Three, part three

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Finding Gawain – Act Three, part three

And then…

And then, there is the sound of laughter rolling in from the hills…that host the hunt…that gives rise to the baying of the hounds…that draws exhausted, dirty, frozen and stinking Gawain from his muddy deathbed and flings him, like a mannequin on parade, to the gates of the Castille Diablo, and, via a startled but strangely foliate drawbridge guard who protests that the assembled court are at meat and that they may not be disturbed, but who catches the names Arthur and Gawain from the rotting Knight on the wrinkled and sodden horse and returns running, minutes later to allow the royal beggar into the inner court that resembles a distorted Camelot and where most are wearing animal masks, except the Lord of Laughter who laughs with such gusto that everyone else, masked or not is laughing too, at the filthy, knightly visitor who arouses their derision, and, in certain quarters, their desire…

And then…

And then the unmasked god of laughter takes seriously the plea of filthy Gawain that he be given, simply, shelter and a place to pray, and a masked woman who reminds him of the Lady of the Veil in Camelot walks him around the castle and shows him where to bathe in steamy waters, and when clean, where to kneel and pray upon his sword, pressed into the stone floor like the swordly cross upon whose crux his life was spared when the laughter began… and for the length of time it takes for the music in his head to play, and the laughter from on high to stop…he prays, kneeling on the stone floor.

And then the string that holds the mannequin is cut, and the laughter that danced him from the edge of frozen, sodden death ceases…

Because there is establishment of more subtle importance to be made… And Sir Gawain of Camelot, is summoned, cleaned and prayed, to the high chamber, again.

Establishment of gentle rules, says the Lord of Castille Diablo, in a voice that is deeper than he is high, yet softer and edged with shining green. Establishment of a…game…a game of the Inner and the Outer worlds; where the outer is to be the Lord’s passion of hunting, and the inner will be the recovery of the starved Gawain, with the finest care the Castille Diablo has to offer… and the care of the ladies of the house, to tend his needs…

And Gawain, now recovering his wits, asks the obvious question: where do the worlds meet?

The Lord, now revealed as Lord Verdant the Unmasked, impressive by any measure and genuine in his magnanimity, smiles as he explains that the worlds meet in Gawain–recovering, cared for Gawain; who will receive, each day, the fruits of the hunt, in their entirety…in exchange for Gawain giving him whatever spoils the day of gentle care has brought forth.

The Lord Verdant smiles when Gawain says that he seems to be getting the better of the bargain…smiles and says, “Perhaps, perhaps… We shall see,” in a way that Gawain would find sinister had he more strength to power the recovering wits.

But the deal is struck…and there is much merriment; and the Lord of Castille Diablo and the Knight of Camelot spend hours together, far into the night, and it would appear that Gawain is, indeed, to be given the freedom of the daytime castle and the tender attentions of the ladies who are not of the hunt…

She enters his bedchamber with the light tread of one with intent. She sits by his bed and gazes on the parts of his naked body visible beneath the great cloak that warms and protects him. Eventually he awakens, and becomes conscious of her regal presence. The Lady Verdant is not a woman to be denied – he knows he must tread carefully, especially in the light of the game of two worlds her husband has proposed; and to which he has pressed his hand.

Pretending to be asleep does no good. She waits patiently for his attentions. He turns and there begins the most beautiful fencing match he has ever played. But the blades are words…and the intent is deadly. She tells him he is her prisoner and she intends the keep him that way. He parries by taking delight in such a game. She praises his mighty skills; he parries with protestations that he does not recognise the man she describes, especially given the beauty and grace she, alone, possesses. They part with smiles, but not before she extracts his permission to receive a kiss.. She pulls him to his feet, his hands clutching the fur cloak tightly, and the kiss is delivered…

After his toilet and the chapel, the day is filled with delightful company, warmth and the finest food fed to him by the ladies of earthly paradise–The Lady Verdant and a mysterious older lady of equal elegance, though not the same level of beauty…

Many times he drifts into sleep, and dreams of the very opposite of the tender feeding fingers. In these vivid dreams he sees the hunting of a great Stag, Lord of the Forest, finally cornered by Lord Verdant, himself, who, hours after the quarry was first sighted, delivers the death blow with his sword.

And then…

And then the hunters become butchers as as an army of sharp knives are produced, and used to carve the carcass in the most exact way, so that each of the supporting cast of the hunt, even the dogs, receives their due portion of the mighty beast, cornered and ritually slain, in the manner of the Castille.

Gawain, the Knight of the Lady, awakens with a start, sitting up to find himself alone for the first time that day. His solitude does not last long, however, for, no sooner has he established that he is not still in a dream, Lord Verdant appears with all his male courtiers, laying out for Gawain the spoils of the kill.

Finest of these is the skin of the mighty Stag, which Lord Verdant drapes over the shoulders of the Knight of the Ladies before asking, “And what of my portion of the day? What did you receive?”

Without posturing, Gawain delivers him the kiss on the cheek; refusing, a second later to divulge the source. The Lord of Castille Diablo bows to this concession and smiles at the progress of the game.

There is much carousing into the night…but the Lord leaves early for the hunt, with all his men.

When the morning breeze from the opened door blows open the inner curtains around his bed, Gawain is already awake and waiting. This time the Lady Verdant taunts him that yesterday’s establishment of her right to a kiss, on entry, was not honoured. He gladly makes amends, whereupon she presses him that he – one so experienced in the arts of love, as well of battle, should take her as his pupil…

They parry awhile, then, feeling her press an advantage that he cannot block, Gawain plays his best card and switches their mood, pulling himself erect from his bed, the cloak tightly around him, and lowering his eyes, commending her to her honourable husband. “My lady, please remember that, beyond these few days of kindness, I am here to die…”

She claims only a second kiss, then retires to leave him to dress.

The hours pass. He is fed and adored. At length, in the soft chaise longue by the table of delights he drifts into a deep sleep and dreams of a mighty boar which is flushed from its den and chased for hours, gouging many of the brave hunters who venture too close to the savage beast. Eventually the boar is cornered and the Lord again delivers the death blow. Mortally wounded, the animal is washed downriver where the dogs seize it and tear into its dying flesh. As the ritual butchery begins, Gawain wakens to the smiling face of Lord Verdant, holding the boar’s skin out to him.

Rising and bowing, Gawain delivers his two kisses. The Lord smiles, again enquiring as to their origin, then accepting that Gawain’s refusal to divulge was, of course, within the rules.

On the third morning, the Lady Verdant does not increase his agony. Instead she insists that the noble Knight of Arthur’s Court take a gift from her to remember her by. She presses a fine ring upon him. He refuses, saying he has nothing to give her of any value, dressed for battle as he is. She presses something lesser, eventually offering something worthless – her green garter. Even this he will not take, until…

Until she tells him that this garter has a magical weave which will protect its bearer from harm. The resolute Gawain falls into this spell, sensing truth in her words and feeling the proximity to the Green Knight’s executing blade. At the Lady’s urging, he conceals the garter about his person, away from the eyes of her returning husband. Three kisses have been given… and one garter.

That afternoon Lord Verdant stands over a waking Gawain who has dreamed the chase and ritual death of a single Fox. The Lord comes forward, presenting the Knight with the skin of the fox, in return for which he takes the three kisses. “Are  you sure that is all you have to give me?” queries the Lord of Castille Diablo. Gawain assures him that it is so, and the Lord, smiling, declares the game over and won…

And then…

And then there is the sound of laughing, again, coming from the walls of the Castille Diablo, and the other Gawain is standing before him, revealed as the Guard of the Drawbridge, holding out the green mask which Gawain must exchange for the Book of Answers which are not answers to the riddles that matter.

And the laughing gets louder and louder… and the green garter does nothing to prevent its intense harm within the untouched body of Sir Gawain of Camelot.

————


The journey of Gawain is a personal interpretation of one of the parts in Leaf and Flame, the Silent Eye’s annual workshop held in April 2016 and created by Stuart France and Sue Vincent.

The Silent Eye uses a combination of magical ritual and psycho-drama to illustrate its teachings on the journey to the Soul.

For more details click here.

Details of next year’s workshop (April 2017), The Feathered Seer, can now be found on our website events page. Everyone is welcome, all you need to bring is your self…

The Return of the Queen by Alethea Kehas

Reblogged from Not Tomatoes: Alethea shares a personal perspective on her journey through Leaf and Flame…

How does one condense a journey that is not over, but that began before a magical weekend where I played the role of Queen Guinevere at the annual workshop for the Silent Eye School of Consciousness? I am not sure, but here is what has come out of it so far. 

I walked the familiar path of day

 to meet Snake stretching the light, illuminating

what was ready to be shed, and

what was waiting to be seen

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Later, in the land of Avalon

under a full moon, old blood began its release

and I gave way to the hunt

running with the breath of Boar

into a landscape once veiled

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Here, you waited with your offer

and I bowed to receive the golden crown

but the habits of the false self

are a tight wrap and I held fear

in an unsettled heart and fell

once again, into sleep

only to be awakened by light…

Continue reading of Alethea’s journey at: The Return of the Queen

Leaf and Flame – Sharing Life

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The Saturday of any workshop is always busy. No matter how much free time you try and build in, there never is any spare time. The morning began by greeting the dawn and a reading on the hillside of the Tale of the Wondrous Head. Back in the warmth of the Centre, we gathered for a guided meditation designed to help the participants connect with the essence of the spirit animals chosen as oracles from the severed head of the Green Knight… a theme that would be pursued in the first Exploration of the day, led by a Bear better known as Running Elk.

Each of the Companions had chosen a card at random, apart from a very few whose card had, of necessity, been allocated for the purposes of the ritual drama. Each card depicted a creature that lives and breathes in Albion, that inner land of the heart… and included the creatures of our myths as well as those of the earth, air and water. Everyone was  asked to meditate overnight on the symbolism and character of that animal and Running Elk now added practical techniques and his own unique experience of working with totem animals to the sharing of knowledge of the weekend. With typical synchronicity, his talk fit perfectly with the unwritten ideas of the workshop.

The idea that Life has a hierarchy of relative importance is one I personally cannot accept. To me, any manifestation or form graced by that indefinable thing we call Life is neither more nor less important than another. From the trees and plants to the rocks, from the furred, scaled and feathered creatures to humankind, from stars to microbes… we are joined as equal partners in a single dance.

Modern Man has tended to assign a ‘lower’ place to animals, possibly based upon the ideas promulgated by texts such as the Bible that speak of ‘dominion’ and have been taken to mean that we are the pinnacle of creation instead of being examined for a deeper meaning. Even taken literally, it seems we have lost sight of the meaning of ‘dominion’… lordship, rather than possession or superior worth. Is the life of a king truly of greater value than that of his subject? Or is it instead closer to the truth that the higher the estate, the greater the responsibility and the requirement to serve?

Older cultures held the natural kingdom in greater respect. We have only to look at the cave paintings that were left to us, or study the attitude of indigenous and aboriginal tribes…or our own folklore… to see that the attitude towards the natural world has shifted and not necessarily for the better. The Salmon of Knowledge… the wisdom of the Owl… we have always held such mythical creatures in respect…but how often do we think to ask why? Our aim was, in some small way, to reconnect with the energies of those creatures who share Life in this world and Running Elk’s focus was the respect and responsibility we must share as part of the dance of Life.

The first ritual of the day saw the Ladies of the Court of King Arthur discuss the Tale of the Wondrous Head and Gawain encounter the White Hart in the forest while out hunting with Arthur and his knights. Each Companion was given a mask depicting ‘their’ animal and their essence was brought into our place of working.

It was not on a whim that ‘Gawain’ was played by more than one person; the characters in sacred drama are archetypes, not people and thus the ‘un-headed’ Green Knight of the first ritual became Gawain… while the one who had removed the head was now the Hart.

Gawain is set a riddle to save his life… and the answer, synonymous with ‘dominion’, is pertinent to our view of the relative value of Life, both that of the animals and our own. “What is it that woman most desires?” Not ‘a woman’ as some of Arthur’s knights interpret it, but ‘woman’… and the feminine is often a hidden symbol relating to the inner self or the soul in the old tales…

…and another thread was woven into the Mystery of the weekend…

Cow

cow

Protected and serene, the stream of life flows from her breast,

Within her sheltered warmth her starry children safely rest.

Her lowly form oft overlooked, conceals the Mother’s crown

In heaven’s vault the arc of stars her diadem and gown.

Her gift is freely given, from her nature takes its course,

And through her boundless nourishment we drink from Nature’s source.

The hand that grasps…

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Guinevere

What now for poor, brave Gawain… and what are we to make of his Nemesis?

Morgan

Gawain is doomed my Lady there is no escape for one on such a quest. It would be best to leave him to his fate and thank our lucky stars that none of our younger or better Knights were foolish enough to accept the challenge of such a mighty man.

Lady Grene

Huh, man you say? He was more like a monster…

Lady of the Veil

Man, or Monster, or both. The old tales tell of something similar, of a giant who was also a king and who upon the rescue of his son from the clutches of the ‘Hooded-Claw’, and having received a poisoned dart in his foot, instructed that his head be removed.

Dindrane

I too have heard that tale. It was told to me by my nurse when I was but a child. The king’s name was Bran. His son was Gwern. After accompanying him on his doomed mission to Annwn, his faithful companions reluctantly acquiesced to his dying request for a speedy, rather than a long drawn out demise whereupon the head when removed… continued to speak…

Lady of the Veil

…And went on telling its wondrous tales as it was carried about the Ancient Land of Albion. The macabre troupe became known as the, Assembly of the Wondrous Head, and all who were with the Head or who heard the tales aged not one jot.

Yglais

Then it was a time out of time? A time that covers all time. This story speaks of the other-world. That place where all have come from and to which all must return.

Morgan

Pah! A Fairy Tale if ever I heard one!

Elaine

Without question, a Fairy Tale, yet we appear to be caught up in something of a Fairy Tale ourselves. It may be that the correct interpretation of such tales and our understanding of them is the only way out of Gawain’s predicament.

Liones

What happened to the Head? Perhaps if we could find it again somehow, and ask it for help… wouldn’t it know what we can do?

Lady of the Veil

The head was eventually buried in Lugdunum at the White Hill. It lies there to this day protected by Ravens though now and forever more it is silent.

Dindrane

It was buried because one of its bearers broke the spell by ‘opening the door to the west’…

Lady Grene

The Hooded Claw is the ‘hand that grasps’ as opposed the the ‘hand that protects’. It wears a hood because it sees not the consequences of its actions and knows only that which it thinks it desires. The hand that protects carries an open eye in its palm and is aware of the wisdom of the heart…

Leaf and Flame: Hart to Heart

Finding Gawain – Act Three, part one

Gawain overlay Act3

Finding Gawain – Act Three, part one

In the sanctuary of the Castle of Camelot, he awakens; wet with sweat and wondering…

Who is this ‘me’, he asks the cold air around him, remembering both the hapless Hunter Gawain and the Guardian of The Hart, the man who now belongs to the mind of the forest with the corporeality of its awakened White Knight.

He wonders how long he has slept in this fever? Days? Even weeks, perhaps? The air is chilled, as though the plunge downward towards the darkest day is near. He has a horrible feeling of being severed from his beloved Court, of now being one who cannot be helped…

But, wherever he has been, he is here, fully present, in Camelot, again. Is there another much like him, roving the stone passageways, like some displaced ghost of Gawain?

He turns to look at the small wooden table by his bed. There, beside a jar of ale and some beef pastry, lies a note. He breaks the wax seal to find that it is from Mordred and Morgause. They wish him a speedy return to health and enclose two magical gifts. He examines the white carved tooth of some large wild animal, and the accompanying preserved oak leaf. They both are mounted on neck chains, so he stands, on shaky legs, to put them on. It would be ungracious for a Knight to refuse a gift from such high-ranking members of the Court. As the hanging tooth brushes against the noble oak leaf, Gawain feels a pain, like the nick of a dagger blade, which fades quickly. He looks down and sees that the tooth has drawn blood from the green oak.

For long minutes, he stares at the wound which does not belong to his body…and yet does. He considers throwing it from the narrow window of his chamber, but decides that such taunts are best met head on. Besides, what the talismans say is true: Gawain is truly wounded and hunted. He resolves that he will tuck them into a fold in his cloak and let them decide when to end their concealment.

Some time later, he emerges from his chambers, bathed and dressed. The strength is returning to his overslept limbs. The water providing healing, as always. He decides he will pray, one last time in Camelot, and enters the small chapel, clutching his beloved crucifix…

When Gawain enters the Court, news of his recovery has spread. But there is no celebration. He can taste the gloom in the mighty chamber, heart of Camelot, even before he enters. He looks around but no-one will look him in the eye. Even beloved Arthur looks at him through eyes that are misty and half-closed, shaking his head slowly to the unasked question.

They have failed, he knows. The outriders crossing and re-crossing the land of Logres have failed to find the key to the riddle given to a different Gawain; a riddle which, in his guise as Guardian of the Hart, Beloved of the Forest, he created.

So why, now, does he not know the answer to the question, ‘What woman most desires?’

In baleful tones, and holding the collected Book of Answers, Arthur confirms that the Knights have found many responses, but that they are all different. Mordred and Morgause cackle with laughter and deride Gawain, pointing to his look of fear at the news. But, deep within, the white being that had its birth in the forest is calm. Gawain looks back at Mordred and Morgause and bows. As he does so, the talismans fall out from his cloak and swing like pendulums in the cold air of the Chamber of the Table Round.

Those of the Court who know the power of such things, gasp – as much at the fact that Gawain has kept them about his person when most would have tossed them into dung trough, or, even better, thrown them into the river where their curses could be washed by water and time. Gawain holds the frozen eyes of his two oppressors and waits until a single drop of blood has dripped from the wounded oak leaf and onto the stone floor of Camelot before turning, once again, to face his King.

Arthur bids him take the Book of Answers on the cover of which is emblazoned Gawain’s own sigil – the eternal knot of the Pentacle. Despite the lack of answers within, the motif blazes with brightness as Gawain sets it, delicately, against the pedestal that holds the wondrously severed head of the Green Knight.

Gawain bows, one final time to his King, then, knowing there are unseen tears all around him, calls for his warrior’s horse, Gringolet and walks, reins in hand, across the drawbridge and out of Camelot.

As Gringolet and his master step onto the damp soil of Logres, the snow begins to fall. Gawain gathers his cloak around him, tightly, and shivers in the face of the wholly unknown.

He must find the Green Chapel; there to offer his neck to the Green Giant who taunted the Halls of Camelot nearly a year ago. He has no idea where the Green Chapel is, nor how he is going to locate it. Regardless, he is honour-bound to seek it. Perhaps he is condemned to die, trying, rather than beneath the fearsome axe of the giant…

————


The Silent Eye uses a combination of magical ritual and psycho-drama to illustrate its teachings on the journey to the Soul.

For more details click here.

Details of next year’s workshop (April 2017), The Feathered Seer, can be found on our website events page. Everyone is welcome, all you need to bring is your self…