Jewels in the Claw (8)

Jewels Act Two Royal Court smaller2

Continued from Part Seven.

He – the man with the packing cases – picks up his empty tea cup and begins to walk towards the small table near the entrance door of the large room in which the mystery play ran its course. It’s important that everything is cleared, he thinks; restored to how it was, pristine…

Laughing to himself, he realises that he is walking the edges of the square of what was the royal court floor, though nothing of it remains outside of his imagination…and the memories of nineteen other people who helped bring it to life.

This was her space, he whispers to the silent air, still reverential, still listening for her commands to those within the square of black and white, the world of polarity. That, moment…that moment when enough had been seeded by clever language and innocent moves within the squares. That moment when the Sovereign stepped forward, intellectually, to declare her intentions. His memory of that second is acute. He relives it, but as what? Is he the playwright, above the creation, but guiding it as director? No, his involvement is still too acute. Is he, then, William Shakespeare, a character that thinks he is a creator? Perhaps… Or, is he each of the characters, permitted to play alongside the actors, if in memory only?

Putting the cup down on a table top full of other used cups, he realises he is all these things, because he is alive, and graced with the evolving stories of life – both his and the life of the world in which he lives and writes. And, most importantly, that the lives of the other players came together with his, and his with theirs, and the result was beautiful.

Realising this, with a clarity that is shocking, he shifts from writer to playwright character, to Queen…

Robert Cecil, horrified and incredulous has just spoken.

“Your Majesty, the Jesuit is still in our presence!”

The Queen holds back the smile out of deference to her First Minister, and scolds the man with the folded hands, sitting, quietly, in the West of the court… with whom she is secretly delighted, though she would have let Frances Walsingham kill him, had Dr Dee not been so… upright. Few understand what being a Queen entails… the embodiment of purpose.

“Priest! I gave you leave–are you so eager to forfeit your life?”

The Jesuit stands. His quiet voice belies the fear he has generated in her world – but not in her. “Your Majesty, I mean no offence,” he says. “I have no home as such… My life is spent in the shelter of others’ homes, often locked away in dirty holes in the ground where I must wait out Lord Cecil’s men… And all this for the giving of the Mass to those that need it! Never have I plotted against the Crown, never have I sought to cause distress or fomented uprising against your government or your reign.”

The priest looks down at his own feet, shaking his head in disbelief that he is still here, mere yards from two of the Queen’s closest guardians who would run him through in a second, if permitted. But the small voice continues:

“A man I do not know has just saved my life – an honest man, in my opinion – and the image of Christ within me says: ‘Stay and risk what little is yours to help defend him.’ You did promise me safety if I became part of this gathering. I beg you to let me stay a while longer and see if I can earn a deeper contribution, here”.

The Queen watches through narrowed eyes as Dr Dee looks at the Lady Rab’ya, who looks at the priest. The Saracen woman knows what Dr Dee knows: that the essence of the whole chamber has changed… And The Queen knows it, too.

Robert Cecil is still standing, glaring at the Jesuit. His words are fully the equivalent of Frances’s dagger.

“Your Grace! I can take no more of this!”

The Queen puts as much gentleness into her voice as she deems proper. “Robert, you are a good man. Stay with me… my plans are only partly unveiled and I seek, before God, to do no harm to you or your causes.”

She watches as the twin forces within him wrestle for his soul: his desire to better his father in service to his Sovereign; and his need to kill the long-hunted priest. He breathes deeply but is not calm.

“I am a good man, Your Majesty; I would follow in my father’s footsteps. For years he hunted that man, who was protected by some of the richest families in your Kingdom! Now, I have him in my grasp and you want me to let him go!”

The Queen gathers the material of her royal dress, allowing a few more seconds to pass.

“Robert, I, too, fight with the legacy of my father – King Henry. They were dark times… When I was halfway to my third year, my mother was taken from me, to walk, mere days later, to her execution. Later, still young, along with my dear Dudley, I was thrown into the tower by my half-sister, Queen Mary… Just Dudley, me.. and the ravens, the three ravens…”

The ravens, the three ravens that will come to mean so much more in this chamber… She continues:

“Your father, Baron Burghley, and Frances’s father, Francis Walsingham, swore to protect and guide my young life… and they did… A debt I could never repay.”

She must tell it from the heart, now. Must bare some of the most hideous detail to help this young, gifted and determined man raise his eyes and see beyond vengeance.

“Your father once told me that he had calculated that the Tudor dynasty had taken the lives of more than fifty thousand people. He left me to draw my own conclusions. Must we forever feed this cycle of blood and terror? The mighty Armada is vanquished. Even Imperial Spain does not have the wealth to rebuild it.” Then, softly. “Robert, could we not, now, build on the peace, in matters religious as well as military?

Robert Cecil says nothing. He holds his head in his hands for a moment, then rises, still full of rage. He strides down the Outer Court’s passageway, stopping to glare at the Jesuit, then wrenches aside the heavy door of the court chamber, letting it slam closed as he leaves.

There is silence in the royal court. For a while, not even the Queen dares to speak.

Other parts in this series:

 

Part One,   Part Two,   Part Three  

Part FourPart Five  , Part Six


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised by email.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics.

©Stephen Tanham

Jewels in the Claw (7)

Jewels Act Two Royal Court smaller2

Continued from Part Six.

The tea cup is empty, but he continues to hold it – lost, happily, in his reveries on the edge of what was the stage, the royal court floor… He looks down at the cup and then lifts it to toast the great lady from the Saracen world, an unfinished woman who surprised a Queen of England… or did she?

Why am I here? Lady Rab’ya Anouri, the ‘Saracen woman’ wonders, rising to the royal command at the first seat in the Northern face of the floor. A guest in a mysterious royal court, perhaps a literal court to try this downcast man, this former friend and astrological advisor to the Queen, now clearly disgraced… But, to subject his lovely wife to this! Elizabeth, they spoke of your beauty and your strong will, but no-one told me about the cruelty…

The Queen is speaking: “Lady Rab’ya, lift these proceedings with your observations on the nature of the exchange between Lord Essex and Sir Francis!”

Put your self-doubt to one side, the Saracen women thinks. Lady Rab’ya must rise to the occasion… or who knows what will be lost.

She knows that her husband, the Moroccan ambassador to London, needs her to be a key part of a successful outcome. But that task looks like it might involve an unforseen struggle of place and position. She breathes deeply to steady her nerves, in the manner the Sufi master taught her, and speaks in a clear and musical stream:

“In my experience of the Saracen world, Your Grace, such simple skirmishes are the prelude to a deeper struggle.” She feels this is the right tone and knows she must let the Queen paint her guest’s role on this complex stage of minds and hearts. There is no threat to her… yet all are subject to the whims of what she now sees is a Sovereign to be feared as well as loved.

The Queen looks pleased with her honoured guest’s response. Perhaps the slight nod of her head is to be their code of approval?

“Such wisdom, Lady Rab’ya. How you see through my simple ruses!

Lady Rab’ya senses the way in which she must respond, then bows before speaking.

“Not so simple, Your Grace. The sovereign who stood before the Spanish Armada, unafraid, controls a complex country using a deep and wise mind.”

Lady Rab’ya looks at Frances Walsingham and Robert Cecil, who also incline their heads in the same subtle gesture. They are secretive, these English, but they have a code… Learn it fast, she scolds herself. This is no place for a girl!

Letting the tension flow away with the next out-breath, she adds, provocatively, to her praise:

“And knows when to listen to wise counsel…”

It is, perhaps, an advance too far… But no…

The Queen nods her head slowly, moving on… then gazes into the newly defined ocean of the Court Floor, before speaking.

“Lady Arabella,” she says, directing her attention to the secretive Spanish lady rising to her feet near the end of the Southern face of the court. “you have served this island realm with much bravery in the name of peace between our Kingdoms, can you calm these waters?”

And so it progresses… The Saracen lady seats herself quietly, glad that she has passed the first test. But now that royal gaze has left, she can take time to study the accused–this John Dee, a Doctor of learning… to a very high degree, she suspects.

The Queen initiates a more complex move on this board of life and death. Sir Walter Raleigh is instructed to bring both his charges – Dr Dee and the Jesuit priest- to the East of the court floor. They stand a few feet from the seated Saracen woman, who studies both with the techniques taught her in childhood. Don’t see with reaction… dig beneath and find what provokes…take yourself away…

Sir Walter is uneasy.  “Your Majesty, we await your command.” he says, involuntarily adding himself to the accused, though he knows this is unlikely to be the grouping. “You know that these actions place me in a position of great uncertainty…”

As are we all, Sir Walter, thinks the Saracen woman, watching The Queen, intently, while appearing to direct her gaze downward.

“Has it robbed you of the familiar, Sir Walter?” asks The Queen with a smile that freezes. “I know the chill of that! If I ask you to share it with me for a short time it is because I have deep need of your personal magic.”

At the word ‘magic’ Dr Dee stiffens, and pulls his tall frame straight, breathing courage. To Lady Rab’ya’s right, Mistress Dee shuffles her feet in anguish.

“Magic, your Majesty?” Dr Dee asks, in a voice that is shaky but filled with depth. “Am I to be tried for the practice of magic?” It is a brave thing to say, especially in one so clearly set up to be the victim…  but perhaps he is not the only one?

The Queen studies the good Doctor with narrowed eyes. “Dr Dee, I am told your house in Mortlake is in ruins. How should I trust a man who could let this happen with the handling of magic?”

His home… the poor man’s home… Her fire sears, thinks Lady Rab’ya. Let me not find myself the wrong side of that flame…

Sir Walter Raleigh tries to help Dr Dee, but is dismissed. With me, the royal gaze hisses…

In her calm mind, unbidden, Lady Rab’ya sees the image of a knife…. It is The Queen’s, she thinks, and she means to have first blood…

“Your Majesty, why am I here?” This time it is the calm and rather small voice of the Jesuit, John Gerard; the most hunted man in England according to others… and then the court explodes with rage, with Robert Cecil, newly appointed First Minister to the Sovereign, standing and shouting abuse at the priest.

“You should not be here!” he rages. “You should be in the Tower where my father had you imprisoned and from which, in league with your Catholic friends – and the devil – you managed to escape!”

From the other side of the startled Queen, Frances Walsingham – her new spymaster – stands and puts her hand over the outline of a thinly concealed dagger, sewn into the fabric of her tunic. “Your Grace, let me end this torment for you, now. Loftier demands than the Jesuit’s traitorous life should occupy your mind – especially when you are so shaken by the vision you have seen!”

The Saracen eyes watch as Frances Walsingham and Robert Cecil are seated, leaving the silent Queen filled with quiet rage. The Sovereign prolonges the silence; then, from those fiery depths, she plucks a masterpiece of action. Directing all her attention at Dr John Dee, she asks, in an impossibly polite voice:

“Dr Dee, there is value in these arguments. Would you like to end the life of this priest, who my two most trusted statesmen say is a sworn enemy of England?” To add to the tension she directs Frances to hold the knife blade to the Jesuit’s throat.

The immobilised John Gerard, realising he has been tricked – and by the Sovereign – wails:

“But, Your Grace! You promised me safe passage through your royal court and…” He points to the court floor. “…across the seas!”

The Queen’s eyes are those of a cobra, fixed on its prey, though the prey may be bait.

“We live in uncertain times Father Gerard. Be grateful for uncertainties… they can become friends.” She turns to the former Royal Astrologer. “Dr Dee, Father Gerard’s life is in your hands. Condemn the priest, now, and I will have Frances execute him.”

Dr John Dee hangs his shaking head. “How can I condemn a man whose crime I do not know? Where is the justice in that, Your Grace? If the son and the daughter of your fiercest protectors consider him guilty, what is my part in this?”

It is a good answer, and only the hint of incoming gentleness in The Queen’s eyes causes Lady Rab’ya’s intense concentration to waver. Has she been wrong about this woman? Is there an intent at work, here, one whose depth would rival anything she has seen in the politics of the mighty Saracen world?

The Queen leans forward to point to the large bag of gold doubloons on the small table before her. “They are yours, Dr Dee, if you will condemn this priest. There is more than enough to rebuild your home in Mortlake and restore your English fortunes.

What did you do, Dr Dee? Thinks Lady Rab’ya.

Before his eyes, Dr John Dee is seeing a darker magic than any in which he has ever dabbled. With a single action he could restore his life to be as it was… perhaps. But it would not be his, and his soul would certainly not live there. All this Lady Rab’ya sees, resolving that she will help this man… this good man, despite the risk to her own position, and that of her esteemed husband; who now shouts in the back of her mind: headstrong woman, I did not ask this!

The silence condemns Dr Dee and frees the Jesuit, who is dismissed, with royal protection renewed, from the Court and from the presence of the head-bowed Dr Dee – standing like a chastised schoolboy in front of his Queen.

Mistress Dee is sobbing and it is perhaps this, thinks the Saracen woman, that makes them all miss the fact that the reprieved Jesuit has not left the court, but taken his seat again in the now-empty West of the Court floor.

Other parts in this series:

Part One,   Part Two,   Part Three  

Part FourPart Five


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics.

©Stephen Tanham

Jewels in the Claw (6)

Jewels Act Two Royal Court smaller2

Continued from Part Five.

Sipping the tea, his hands clasp around the warm cup. The gesture reminds him of the way she took her husband’s arm, at the end of that first glimpse of what The Queen had in store for him. She, John Dee’s wife, Jane, never entertained the notion that she would not stand, shoulder to shoulder, with her foolish but magnificent husband as his life turned to face the incoming cannon-ball of the Sovereign’s will.

He looks at the place where chair N5 had been, with its quietly intense and magnetically humble occupant.

Jane Dee – Mistress Dee as the others referred to her – had visited Nonsuch Palace, before. As a former Lady in Waiting, she had been at the Young Elizabeth’s beck and call; and had been happy to be so. But this was different. This time, forced to be here by the force of the charges against her husband, she was in hell…

When she spotted the bag of gold coins on the small, ornate table next to the Royal throne, her heart had missed a beat. She knew they were intended for her husband, Dr John Dee; knew beyond doubt that they were a part – possibly just the first part – of a human process designed to crush his spirit… or something worse.

‘Spirit’ she whispers, suddenly frightened that someone had overheard her soft and ironic utterance; spirit was a bad word to use in the land of the persecuted alchemist…

Dr Dee’s lady raises her eyes, slightly, to look around her. To her right is the line of chairs in the West that contains her husband, their apparent gaoler – Sir Walter Raleigh, and the Jesuit Priest, whom she has heard spoken of as ‘the most hunted man in England’.

And yet, The Queen is playing with them all…. First she delights in the dancing entrance of the figures of the Royal Court, orchestrated by Lord Essex – or was it really Sir Francis Drake whose prize was stolen by the more senior Peer? She doubts that few have survived robbing Sir Francis of anything…. though, on the high seas at least, he has done his fair share of piracy.

Is she taunting them – The Queen? Is this whole masque about learning a new dance code to take then across the chequered surface? As she muses, the Queen uses the ladies Bess of Harwick and Blanche Parry to good effect; having them stage an impromptu dance immediately after the stiffly formal movements of the gentlemen – who ‘sought to lift the Queen’s spirits’…. And then there is the first hint of something deeper, as Christopher Marlowe, that most intellectually mischievous figure, prompts an emotional reaction from Her Grace:

“I find men are obsessed with rules!” says The Queen, disparaging the protestations of Essex and Drake. “Women are much more flexible in how they do what feels right.”

Sensing this breach, Sir Francis Drake seems equally determined to flush out the real motives of the Sovereign:

“But, Your Grace, you would be harsh on any man here if he did not follow the set ways of the Court!”

She smiles at that, recognising the practiced hand of strategy, allowing it to have life – as though she had expected–nay held in readiness, the prompt.

Just so, Sir Francis,” she says, through her smile.  “It is an unjust world and women have few advantages – you would, therefore, expect us to use the ones we have!”

Sir Francis Drake bows, practices silence, and withdraws. Only Mistress Dee seems to notice the curl of his smile beneath the greying beard.

Shifting tack, The Queen plays games with sailors and soldiers as she spells out the real meaning of her statement; “Let all be sea, then…” The mock combat she has instigated invites comment of an almost legal level – as Lord Essex is ‘tried’ in the sense of being alive or dead at the bottom of the sea. Even Frances Walsingham, daughter of the – now dying – fearful spymaster; and Lord Cecil, deformed son of The Queen’s near lifetime First Minister, Lord Burghley, are asked for their verdict.

But this courtroom is not established to try these powerful and trusted people; it is established to try the man who now rises, on royal command, to his feet, to stand staring at the pot of gold towards which his unfortunate feet must now move….

Mistress Dee trembles with fear as her husband is escorted to what his wife senses will be his public death before The Queen.

But then, in the way of things of great power, the Saracen noble lady rises to her feet, also, and the world changes….

 

Other parts in this series:

Part One,   Part Two,   Part Three  

Part Four,


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics.

©Stephen Tanham

Jewels in the Claw (5)

Jewels Act Two Royal Court smaller2

Continued from Part Four.

Kind hands pass him a hot tea. He sits on the edge of what was the Royal Court, sipping and watching the ghosts… Many kind faces came to life in this, now-unstructured space – but it was heavily structured then… It takes but little effort to re-animate its dancing atoms…

Sir Francis Drake is a clever man. The naval mastermind who out-thought and fought the Spanish Armada detects that things in the Queen’s Royal Court are not exactly as they seem…

To start with, The Queen, herself: undoubtedly physically strong – though she pretends not, perhaps? – She seems vulnerable, even fragile, in the face of the terrible Tilbury vision: ‘The drowned man and the ghost with the white face’. What is he to make of that? Elizabeth, the person, is known to be both clever and resolute; never failing to show courage in the face of adversity. Look how she rallied the land-troops at the Kent Fort, when the clever Spaniards had re-grouped at Calais, ready to invade England with overwhelming force, the day after…

Drake smiles, knowing his and Hawkins’ strategy had rendered the Armada captive within the harbours of Calais, and that the fireships had devastated the frozen fleet, sparing the Sovereign from defeat, humiliation and execution.

Their hopes had all died that day: the King of Spain; the boasting Palma, admiral of the Spanish fleet; even the Pope, who had seen in Philip the perfect executioner of the excommunicated queen. All shattered asunder, like the bits of Spanish wood still being washed up on the shores all around the Isles of Albion and Ireland. Walsingham’s spies reported that King Philip now lived in isolation, his kingdom unable to muster the force, nor the will, to create a restored fleet… and if they did, could they really count on a Catholic God, whose force – sweet nature, herself – had turned on the Iberian forces with such vicious effect?

Much had died, but some things had been born; and Drake knows that this mysterious chamber was linked to that purpose: the refinement of the newly empowered.

Sir Francis smiles. There is no doubt about his place, here, in this strange ‘courtroom’ of the mind… and heart. He knows that he and Sir Walter Raleigh are on a par in terms of trust. He is not so sure about others in the gathering…

But there is no doubt where his duty lies, and he had been quick to suggest a partial remedy to The Queen’s malaise.

But now, ready to speak, on the edge of the chequered court, Essex – all powerful Lord Essex, beats him to it.

“Your Majesty! We seek to lift your heavy heart,” says the Second Earl, smiling at The Queen in way that infers an intimacy that he may or may not possess, yet clearly wants to display.

Drake knows when to play his part, knows when to be passive, when to bite the tongue and polish the small Toledo stiletto, on the inner fabric of his fine tunic. Bowing his head, slightly, to acknowledge Essex’s primacy, here, he adds his weight to the request that they may lift the spirits of The Queen.

 “Your Grace, will you permit us all to enter the Royal Court with a touch of levity?

The Queen smiles.

“Had others asked, I would have refused, Lord Essex,” she says. “But as you and Sir Francis are two of my most trusted subjects, I feel inclined to permit this… You may… but with caution! You may not yet know the rules of this place, but I do…”

The pair, having created it over a jug of ale the previous night, propose a simple entrance of dance movement. Elizabeth loves dancing, though her years have slowed her down, a little. The well-dressed twosome posture, as though a couple, and take three exaggerated steps to the middle of the court. The Queen’s eyes light up with the jollity of the moves: respectful but gay. Her lips smile their approval.

Once at the centre, the pair make a series of quick moves within the middle set of four squares that see them one place forward… and reversed, right to left. They look to the Sovereign; all is well. Four diagonal steps later, they reach their respective corners of The Queen’s fearsome floor and drop into the safe space of the inner court, their goal accomplished.

The Sovereign is pleased. She motions for all who wait in the shadows of the West to follow suit. The heavy spirits of the previous day seem vanquished. Soon, a full complement of players follows the steps and stands ready to be seated, as The Queen wishes.

She wishes.

Sir Francis is a little late in being seated. He has seen the heavy bag of gold coins on the small table by the Sovereign’s throne. Drake has his suspicions, and looks, quickly, as he sits, to the back of the Court – the West. There, another man, also slower in his descent than the rest, has spied the bulging bag of coins. Seated, Drake focusses on the familiar edge of the one visible flash of gold. A Spanish doubloon glitters in the bright sunlight coming from the high windows of the chamber. Drake looks one last time at Dr Dee and, his eyes passing those of the ever watchful Sir Walter Raleigh, at the mysterious and mute Jesuit priest.

What deadly game is this, Your Majesty? the sailor with the fearsome intellect muses. He dare not even think – lest his thoughts and face betray the knowledge – of his own mysterious training at the hands of the now-accused John Dee. What dreadful fate within this day’s remit links the priest, the mysterious former royal astrologer, the burgeoning bag of gold… and, mercifully, excludes, at least so far, himself?

Other parts in this series:

Part One,   Part Two,   Part Three  

Part Four,


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics.

©Stephen Tanham

Jewels in the Claw (4)

Tudor Rose for SE18 jpg copy

Continued from Part Three.

The line of packing cases is nearly complete. The man looks down at the three chairs in the East, one white, one purple and one red. The symbolism of the outer two was plain: the Tudor colours, central features of the royal Tudor Rose – the white of House York merged with the red of House Lancaster. Queen Elizabeth had inherited a peaceful kingdom, but those who built it lived in times that were anything but peaceful…

The middle chair comes alive in his mind; the Queen in the fullness of her power, prepared and majestic, older in wisdom than most in the Court… but vulnerable in her own way. The dream… the dreadful dream.

Was its recall connected with the mysterious and currently invisible Count Mortido and Countess Libido? It does not matter – what matters is that when Act One was drawing to its close, with the court chairs of Dr Dee, the alchemist, and John Gerard, the hunted Jesuit, mysteriously restored to face her, the Queen, released from the frozen state like the rest, rose to her feet, troubled only by the memory of her vision at Tilbury.

All is sea, now. She has declared it so; the chequered floor – in which they all must learn the new rules of survival – is watery. Emotion perhaps, or water of a magical kind, a water associated with the coming into existence of things called and named. The Royal Court is its name, but navigating it is not as simple as the black and white squares would suggest.

There are soldiers here, powerful peers of the realm such as Lord Essex; and there are sailors, such as Sir Francis Drake–placed in polar opposition to Essex. Both are champions, respectively, of their faces of the sixty-four squares. The sailor may have the advantage over the solider, but only within the boundaries of the now-watery square of squares… There is, perhaps an invitation there, for one who would be brave enough… or foolish.

It is the vision at Tilbury that holds their attention: “The speaking, white face and the chained man drowning. So vivid, so other-worldly.” the Queen says. And then she pauses,  gazing into the squares, looking more lost than at any time since her imprisonment in the Tower as young woman. There, she had only the company of Lord Dudley and the ravens to ease the terror of imprisonment by her cruel half-sister, Mary.

Something was begun then, but she will realise its significance only later in the play, when fates beyond even the power of Count Mortido and Countess Libido play their unseen cards…

Sir Walter Raleigh, once so impetuous, now the Champion of the West of this chamber, sees his moment – not to rise in the Queen’s favour, for he knows that his presence is already predicated on the fact that he had the Queen’s complete trust. How does he know this? Because she has made him gaoler and custodian of the two seemingly condemned men: Dee and Gerard; former royal astrologer and hunted priest.

When the Queen looks across the Royal Court from the East, it is Raleigh’s eyes she seeks. He answers the call. Rising and striding towards the throne, unbidden, but welcome.

“Majesty, forgive me!” He offers his arm, she takes it and they turn to face the West. Everyone in the silenced court rises, ready to bow at the Sovereign’s passing.

“I doubt there is a royal rule you haven’t broke, Sir Walter!” But it is said with fondness, though, heaven knows, they have quarrelled in the past…

Raleigh sweeps his free arm across the image of the Court Floor. In quiet tones, as though only they two are present, he asks, “What is this ‘sea’? How may we cross it?

“We must all decide what it is, together, Sir Walter.” replies the Queen. “I have learned much about the wisdom of groups of people when faced with extreme difficulties. There are many patterns woven in these simple squares – and I may not have seen them all…”

She pauses and looks sad. “The lives of Dr John Dee and the Jesuit John Gerard may depend on it.”

Raleigh is keen to advance the moment. “Extreme? Their lives in danger! Majesty, this chamber is more than it seems!”

The Queen shudders, remembering that second visit to Tilbury, place of dark visions. The process that is the Royal Court is set on its course. She can leave it to sail. Tilbury is what worries her most…

“As was the woman from the sea with the white mask, Sir Walter… the woman with the question that made a Queen shudder.”

Raleigh, speaking for them all, asks, “Majesty? May we know that lady’s question, dream stuff or not?”

For a long minute, the Queen is still, then she says softly, “In icy tones, dripping with the salt of the sea, she asked me, “Whose face do you wear…?””

As they leave the chamber the Raven Song plays… The silence of the others is more than royal respect.

Other parts in this series:

Part One,   Part Two,   Part Three

 

 


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics.

©Stephen Tanham

 

 

 

Taxi from Hope: A Journey into the Heart of the “Jewel in the Claw” by Jan Malique

Reblogged from Jan Malique at Strange Goings On in the Shed. Jan shares her account of the workshop weekend:

“The two halves of my spirit met and engaged in a dance almost forgotten,
a dance traced in the dust and dirt of ancient places.”

The Scene is Set

My journey from North Wales ended at a station called Hope in Derbyshire. How apt! This priest to be (me) was responding to an invitation to participate in a drama within a drama, Great Hucklow being the destination for this year’s Silent Eye workshop, entitled “The Jewel in the Claw.” The theme of the workshop was a fictitious Elizabethan play set in the year of 1590. This play was the last work of William Shakespeare (of course no such work exists but this is a melding of reality and fantasy).

The dying playwright offered a glimpse into events that shaped the history of a nation on the brink of immense transformation. It involved Elizabeth I gathering a special group of people in the palace of Nonsuch in Surrey for a specific purpose. To prepare the nation and her people for an expansion of knowledge and emergence of a new era. Magic and politics melded to prepare the Group Soul and Mind for the coming age of enlightenment. Friend and foe met within a very special space, one might call them chess pieces moving across a giant chessboard. The black and white of the board representing many things on an esoteric level, duality of human nature, dark and light, polarity, balance.

Continue reading at strangegoingsonintheshed

Seeds of Change

‘Dr Dee’, ‘Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth I’, ‘Sir Walter Raleigh’ and ‘Master Shakespeare’

Time does strange things. It is just a week since our workshop and already it feels as if it is receding into the mists, and yet, it is also as clear and sharp as if we were about to enter the temple space for another act. In many ways, that last is the truest perception, for, even though we draw our inspiration from tales of bygone eras, any seeds we sow within the ritual drama of the weekend are designed to grow slowly within us and be taken out into the world.

Such seeds are not ours alone. We may plant ideas and nurture thought, but it is in the fertile soil of love and friendship, and the shared experience of working together with a common intent, that such things blossom. Even so, it is only when we pluck those flowers and carry them as part of our daily lives that they begin to bear fruit.

‘Essex’ and ‘Bess of Hardwick’

Although much time, effort and laughter goes into the creation of the ‘five acts’ that form the core of our workshops, the spiritual journey is not a matter of playacting, not is it enough to dip a toe in and out of the water on a whim; the journey is ongoing and ever present, the story…our story… is a perpetual work in progress, as are we.

Every one of those present at our workshops brings their own perspective, adding a unique gift to the weekend. It is in the athanor of friendship that such alchemy produces gold and I would like to think that we each leave the richer for our shared experience. Our personal paths are many and varied, from druid to ordained ministers, mystic to magician, yet ultimately, our goal is a shared service to whatever aspect of the Light we recognise.

For each of us, that service takes on a different hue, but for all of us it is at the heart of life. Being able to work with so many people from so many paths is one of the true joys of these weekends and both the experience of the weekend itself and the intent of our work is amplified by this coming together of many paths and perspectives in a simple acceptance that knows none of the judgement of ‘tolerance’.

‘Dr Dee’ and ‘Mistress Jane Dee’

Egoic myopia, intolerance and prejudice may be played out symbolically within the crafted drama, where they may be brought to healing, understanding and resolution, but outside of the written roles, such things have no place at a Silent Eye weekend… or indeed, within the hearts of any who profess to follow a spiritual path. Our ‘Essex’, admirably portrayed by Russell, sought power and was brought to his knees by his self-serving ego… only to be given into the healing care of those he sought to betray. Our much-reviled Jesuit ‘Gerard’ was embodied with quiet grace and dignity by Jan. In spite of the intolerance shown by most members of the ‘Court’, Gerard showed himself to be a man of great compassion who led the tortured Dr Dee back to life and love.

The Elizabethan Age marked the beginning of a new era in many ways, and so was a perfect vehicle to reflect aspects of the current of change now brushing the shores of the present. Can a small group of people play a part in shaping that change? The answer to that depends upon what we understand by the question, perhaps. What is undeniable is that change can only happen if we, as individuals, choose to make it so. No-one can legislate for the heart and it is there that we can each begin to shape and heal our little corner of the world.

‘Lady Frances Walsingham’ and ‘Sir Francis Drake’

 

Lady in Red – Alienora Browning

Reblogged from Alienora’s Anthology… Ali’s account of a challenging role:

Paired, I was, with my friend, Dean. He was playing Mortido, the force of death and change, to my Libido (love, life and sexual desire) in the recent Silent Eye, Jewel in the Claw weekend.

We work well together, Dean and I, always have: Friends for nigh on forty years (and that’s just in this incarnation), we move and speak instinctively in tune, time and cadence.

But, oh Goddess, it was hard. This has been one of the most challenging roles ever undertaken, and I am feeling horribly tired and down in spirits in the aftermath.

Carrying life, death, love, change and desire for an entire Elizabethan Court (and a rigid, chess-board-controlled one at that) was exhausting. The energy used during five connected ritual dramas is akin to five consecutive performances with Shadow of the Tor the Glastonbury-based Production Company of which I am a member.

Continue reading at Alienora’s Anthology

Jewels in the Claw (1)

SE18 TempleMasterGeneric

There is a moment when he stops, puts down his packing box, and looks at what remains of the Court Floor. It is the last vestige of a creative journey of twelve months, of twenty souls intent on giving their all to the rather unusual script, and of a Spring weekend at the Nightingale Centre in the lovely Derbyshire hills…

 

Do things that have been created in the heart and mind cease to exist when they are played out in the time-honoured fashion of the mystical psycho-drama and pass from potential to actual to gone? There must be a difference between a thing – in this case a mystical play – created and performed to full effect, and a thing thought about in detail but not put into practice. The latter never makes it beyond the mind of the originator; the former becomes ‘actualised’ as a blueprint for the directed energies of a harmonic group of people, all of whom are aware that something deeper than an Elizabethan story is being told…

The man holding the box of monochrome, plastic squares thinks there is a difference… the life of the dramatic work has passed from potential to actual, and has, actually, not gone. Instead, its life has been transferred from single author to twenty others. Its story resonates differently in each of twenty acting perspectives, every one taking from its execution something unique to them and their lives; something that solidifies, then glows in the memory along with the unspoken words: “We did that. We came together and made that happen. We followed the path of the words in two-hundred pages of script and brought it to life.”

He hopes it will live for a while in their hearts, too. Long enough to ponder the many questions that the story prompts: What was most real, the dying figure of Shakespeare in 1616 or the drama created by the Tudor Queen of England when she brought an eclectic gathering of friends and enemies together at the Palace of Nonsuch in South London in April 1590 for a very unusual meeting of hearts and minds? Can we conceive of a reality that creates a plot, a story, as being different from the actual unfolding of that drama as twenty people bring it to life? Which is the most real? The passage of time is most certainly not the basis of the answer…

In his mind, the black and white squares re-assemble themselves into a very large chessboard known to the players as The Court Floor. It has four faces: East, West, North and South. Each face will later have a deeper name, but for now they are just the edges of a black and white, chequered surface.

In the shadows surrounding the chessboard and chairs:

“He is dying.”

“They say the spirit has come for him.”

Movement around the outside of the chairs – the Outer Court. The players realise they are being trained by doing.

“He is dying…”

Upstairs, in the chamber above the tavern, William Shakespeare lies dying on the chequered floor. At his head stands a candelabra with three lights lit. Behind this stands the surprisingly jovial figure of Death and Change: Count Mortido.

“Master Shakespeare, you have had an long and productive life, one which will be celebrated after you are gone. Are you content, now, to die?”

For the duration of two extinguished candles he nods and coughs his assent, but as the third is raised and the final chance of extended life is about to be removed, strong feminine hands grasp his ankles. Warm and sensual, they slide up the outside of his legs and an urging female voice fills the air as Countess Libido, sister-wife of the Count of Death hisses:

“Do not surrender this too soon! I will lend you my strength!”

She kisses Shakespeare on the lips, and the sexual/life charge rips through him. Filling his lungs with borrowed air and time.

“There was another story,” he says. “One that could not be told while she was alive.”

“The Queen?” asks Count Mortido.

The Bard nods.

The powerful female hands linger on his body, urging. “Tell it now…” chuckles the Count.

Elsewhen, the chequered floor, the arena and dancing-space of possibilities to come, flickers into life in 1590. Shakespeare’s form is no longer there…. but, of course, it is yet to happen.

A future-ghostly Shakespeare stands by the edge of an empty Court Floor, approached by a very real Christopher Marlowe, fellow Elizabethan playwright and friend.

“Play this with me, Master Marlowe. Be life to my ghost within this mind of life in death!”

The task between good friends is accepted. Marlowe turns to those in the outer shadows and summons them, one by one: the empty chair heading the South Face; the Dragon of the Seas, otherwise Sir Francis Drake; a spy who casts astrological charts for the powerful of Spain; the second richest woman in England…

The Southern seats are capped by the materialising presence of Count Mortido himself, come to check that the laws of causation are not being tampered with.

Marlowe moves across the empty East Face, which will soon be filled with the power of three. From the Northern edge of the Court Floor he summons others from the shadows: into the second seat walks an elegant Saracen lady, the wife of the Moroccan ambassador embarked on a trading exchange for English fancy goods… and possibly a little more; the second Earl of Essex, Robert Devereux, comes forward to take the Champion’s seat in the middle of the row; this is followed by the wife of the Alchemist John Dee;  then Lady Blanche Parry, a woman who has cared for Queen Elizabeth since her birth in 1533.

The empty seat at the head of the row is taken by Countess Libido, who smiles at her brother-husband across the court. Neither of them can be seen by the others… well, not yet, at least.

The faces of the East and West are polarised in their emptiness. Eyes peer into the gloom at what is left of the tavern, and other faces are found; looking down at small tables and drinking from tiny glasses.

Marlowe speaks, again, and the lady in the golden gown slowly raises her head. Marlowe trembles, slightly, then gathers his voice….


Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

You’ll find friends, poetry, literature and photography there…and some great guest posts on related topics.

©Stephen Tanham