Through a child’s eyes…

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I love Lady’s Mantle… Alchemilla mollis… the soft little alchemist. The shape and gentle shade of the downy leaves and the pale froth of yellow-green flowers. It is a lovely thing in my eyes. Yet it is not till the rain falls on the upturned leaves that you see its full beauty. Tiny creatures are caught in the water droplets, magnified into strange shapes. The water looks like ice, the surface tension palpable. I am reminded of the movement of mercury. Diamond-bright spheres nestle in the folds like so many crystal balls and the child who gazes into them can see worlds and dreams unfold there.

nicks 02622A cluster of tiny orb weaver spiderlings on the fence… hundreds of miniature jewels, alive and wriggling… the whole ball no more than an inch across. They had come together and woven a world. The finest of webs anchored them to the fence. Just watching them my imagination wove stories too… flashes of fairytale and science fiction, incomplete and exciting; ephemeral images that were gone as soon as they arose.

birds 2 0541A fly lands on a rose leaf, brilliant and iridescent. A creature usually an annoyance revealed in all its beauty, illuminated by the morning sun, casting rainbows from its back. Tiny, sensitive hairs protrude from the colour and multifaceted eyes looks back with an expression I cannot read. It is an alien creature. Another lands on the fence, metallic turquoise, the colour of ancient Egypt… I dream of a land unseen and a time long lost in the gilded mists of another clime.

birds 2 064A big bumble bee with its deceptively lazy flight lands on the pond brush, left to dry on a flower bed. What can it be looking for amongst the plastic bristles? What has it found to keep its interest? It ignores me completely as I watch, seeing the light reflect on the flat planes of its legs, wishing I could stroke the fat, furry body. Is it a bumble bee? I think it might be a tree bee… the fox red and the white rump… It doesn’t matter, it is beautiful anyway. I remember fairytales from my childhood about bees… they are magical creatures.

birds 2 062Another lands briefly on an orange rose; a last raindrop trembles on the tip of a leaf, mirroring an inversed world. The heart of the rose is a firework exploding into life… a rayed sun in a heart of flame. A universe being born. Close by the irises are opening in the pond and the stars are out as the seed pods of the marsh marigolds burst open revealing their hidden treasure of seeds. In each tiny seed new life awaits, and that is both magic and miracle.

birds 2 048“I have forgotten how to play.” I read this sad statement a few days ago. The ability to play as children is something we take for granted until, one day, we realise we are grown and the carefree games cease. If we are lucky, we may share play with children of our own, laughing with them and feeling once again the inner liberty that can express itself through the unselfconscious movement of body and the imagination. If we are luckier still, we do not forget but find other ways for that inner child to be held in wonder at the world as it unfolds before our eyes.

birds 2 091Yet the heart and eyes of a child live on in all of us; asleep, perhaps, ignored sometimes. Do you remember the child you were when the adults talked over your head? Or when you were told it was bedtime yet you could hear people still laughing downstairs? Remember how that felt?

nicks 1There is a child within who still wants to play, to gaze on the world with eyes full of wonder and a light heart. To feel the magic of fairytales alive in the buzzing of a bee, to weave delicious stories around faces in rock and tree.  Sometimes, all you have to do is open your eyes and heart, letting your imagination run wild with bare, grass-stained feet and the Otherworld will open its doors and let you in.

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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’

 

Shades of the Golden Age…

As a child, I loved the old movies of the swashbuckling variety. Even then, I knew the stories were not real and the history likely to be wildly innaccurate. Romance and adventure did not wait behind every tree. Magic, though, had its own reality.

With a family who told me a closer-to-true version of the histories portrayed on the screen, I learned early the difference between fantasy, fact and fiction. What was produced for entertainment was never supposed to be a history lesson. I learned not to believe in what I saw… except for the duration of the film, when I could lose myself in make-believe.

The over-the-top acting, the swordplay and implausible heroics delighted me, and that has never really changed as I have grown older. A more mature eye sees the flaws with clarity, but I can still choose to ignore them and daydream about flashing steel, wild gallops through the night and the elaborate gowns of a bygone era. But, let’s be honest, the days when I could even dream of being the romantic, blade-wielding heroine are long gone. Or so I thought, until last weekend.

Fair bristling with concealed weaponry, this Elizabethan lady was not happy when her betrothed attempted to discard her in favour of a rarer prize. Mine was really not supposed to be the role of heroine. But, just for a moment, with ‘Lord Essex’ on his knees, and a wicked blade poised over his heart, all my daydreams came true. (Which might be why my younger son asked if I should be ‘looking so cheery’ with a knife aimed at someone’s chest.)

The pictures were taken after the final ‘curtain’ had fallen on our Elizabethan escapade… we do not take photos until the work is done. I think most of us were on a high, either because of the weekend itself… or because we had survived it! By this point, all that was left to do was discard the costumes for the last time, talk, hug and say our farewells.

Many of the photos that were taken are blurred, and that is why I rendered a few in monochrome. I was immediately struck by how they reminded me of the golden era of Hollywood and my love of old movies.

We had come together to explore a story… a fictitious history that drew upon the lives, dreams and beliefs of some of the prominent people of Shakespeare’s day. It was never supposed to be an accurate history… but in truth, it was crafted as somewhere we could lose our ‘selves’ in make-believe.

The everyday self is left behind in play. We are hidden by the mask of our role and so our true self is free to explore the magical and spiritual concepts presented throughout the weekend, concealed, like my daggers, in velvet folds of imagination, friendship and laughter. And that particular alchemy is always in glorious Technicolor.

The Wyrm and the Wyrd: Getting there…

We took our time getting organised, intending to take a leisurely drive cross-country… perhaps stopping along the way, wherever the spirit moved us. In the spirit of the planned walk-and-talk weekend, the prisoners had escaped and were heading for the border. Anyone would think we were on holiday. We did ourselves. We should know better by now.

We may not have been heading for our respective places of work, but the Work that we do  when we are not at work…and even when we are… is not something that can be switched on and off. It cannot be neatly compartmentalised or assigned a designated slot on the timetable, to be dipped into when the fancy takes you; it is a state of being, not doing. Once a pinhole has been opened in consciousness, the pressure of life floods through in an unceasing current.

The problem is that the conscious mind is rather dense. It seems to forget, from moment to moment, that the flow is constant, even if our attention is elsewhere. Which is why the discrete presence plucking at your sleeve may go unnoticed until it sighs, gives up and hits you round the face with a wet kipper.

The first clue that we missed was my apparent reluctance to break our journey at a place we actually want to visit. I came up with no good reason and we sailed blithely by, choosing instead to take the coast road, rather than the more practical route to our destination. There was little to see for some reason. Nothing that caught our interest or eye apart from an odd glimpse of the sea and some rather spectacular castles perched on hillsides, where we could not even stop to take the odd picture.

Consequently, we had not actually broken the journey to Llandudno at all and arrived a bit deflated at our destination. There was a half seen glimpse of a sculpture as we sought the guest house where we would be staying the night, a flurry of activity to get booked in and settled,  then a rather half-hearted decision to go out and find dinner and check out the sculpture.

“It looked like the White Rabbit.”
“Odd, that, because this hotel feels a lot like the Alice-in Wonderland hotel in Cumbria…” That had been the Lutwidge Arms… a strange place with Alice on the ceiling; a last minute discovery on our wander up to Scotland… a trip that had set us off on a whole new phase of adventuring.
I glanced at the pictures on the hotel wall as I opened the door… and there was Alice.
“There must be some connection with Alice and Llandudno…”

We can, I think, be excused at this point. We were tired and the only wet fish we had on our minds came with batter, chips and mushy peas. The word ‘rabbit-hole’ would have had nothing to connect with anyway… The only entry to the earth we had encountered in ages was my accidental glimpse of Thor’s Cave.

We sat on the promenade for a while, beneath the fluttering Red Dragon, watching the sea and the flock of corvids who came to investigate… they too were probably ready for dinner.
“Shall we take a reading?”
At the informal weekends we ask our companions to bring readings that speak to them or capture the theme of the event. We had taken a slightly different approach this time and brought a book of mystical quotations that would be used following the old pronciple of bibliomancy. The pages, chosen at random but with intent, would hold a pair of readings. One of these would be selected numerically to represent the light, the other would be the shadow side.
“The light reading is what can be seen in a given situation, the dark is what has to be intuited.” 

Obviously intuition had already called it a day. We wandered back to the hotel, with its view of the Great Orme to the rear and the Little Orme to the front.
“Orme – worm – wyrm… It’s a dragon.”
“There are ancient mines on the summit…”
“We could have a wander up there before we leave…”

So, although the intuition wasn’t filtering through to consciousness just yet and we had managed to ignore the sleeve-tugging and even failed to register the wet kipper, we were, it seemed, finally getting there. So next morning, after breakfast, we threw the bags in the car and climbed the steep road up the Great Orme…

The Landscape of the Feathered Seer

Derbyshire is rich in the traces of an ancient culture about which we know very little. At first glance, many of these sites may seem to lack the stature of the better-known circles, but there is an intimacy about the smaller, forgotten circles that is lost when they are encased in protective fences and visited by thousands.

Archaeology can only work with what has survived after thousands of years of disrepair, disrespect and superstition. The picture that remains to us is fragmentary, focusing on the physical remains of hearth, home and grave.

There is a power in these sites of forgotten mysteries. For some it is simply the power to incite curiosity, for many it is something that still calls to heart and mind, offering a tantalising glimpse of a time when mankind saw the world as a magical place and the earth beneath his feet as the body of a living being.

The truth is that we simply do not know, in any acceptably modern sense, for what purpose these monuments were created, although there are still as many as a thousand stone circles in Britain and at least as many theories. The only understanding we have of these enigmatic echoes of the past is through experience.

The story of the Feathered Seer came in fragments as we walked and worked with the land, whispered by a voice from the past. We do not know whence it came, nor how much truth it holds, nor if, indeed, it is the simply the attempt of imagination to shape a story to make sense of the questions that arose. That in itself would be a wonder, and an illustration of the power of the human ability to find a frame in which to place all that is a mystery, all that is known and understood, creating order from chaos. It may be that the circles and mounds of our ancestors are themselves the outward symbols of their attempts to frame their own understanding of the world in which they lived.

Whatever beliefs we may have in the purpose of the ancient and sacred sites, their profusion alone would suggest that they were once seen as part of a web of force which, acting together, harnessed or accessed a power deeper still. In this way, Bratha’s story and the sites themselves seem to echo the nature of the journey we share.

At Wincobank, a vitrified hillfort within the City of Sheffield, we saw the ancient keepers of wisdom withdraw beyond the veil and the essence of their knowledge passed into the keeping of a child. This process is not unlike the incarnation of the human soul, whose lineage and heritage is rooted in the Infinite.

Thrust out into the world, protected only by the shadowy presence of her guide, the child grieved her loss in a wood. There she found the Wood Stone, a great boulder bearing a carved representation of the landscape that gave her direction and led her to seek answers from the ancestors.

In the same way, in the darkest hours, the earth that itself reflects the greater landscape of the macrocosm, may lead us to seek the answers that we need, within ourselves or from the greater powers of the universe.

From the wood, Bratha and her guide follow the moorland paths to the ‘Raven’s Nest’, a stone circle on Hordron Edge. The site is guarded by a totem stone and is surrounded by other sites of ancient sanctity.

They seek advice on where to find a place of peace and balance in which the seer may grow and serve, but first they must understand the Mystery of life, death and rebirth. The seer’s gifts are rooted in her spiritual heritage and the souls of her ancestors, just as the human body bears the genetic memories of our ancestors and our souls carry the lineage of eternity.

Bratha and her guide settle at Barbrook, a place where a stream separates the lands of the living from the lands of the dead. On one side of the stream, Big Moor holds traces of a substantial ancient settlement.

On the other side are the cairns of the dead and three stone circles… one of which closely resembles a hut circle within which is set a circle of upright stones. Close by is another enclave, ringed by ancient walls and flanked by a stone gnomon.

The seer knows that in order to serve the purpose of her being, she must live and work within the world, yet that her role as priestess sets her apart from the mundane.

The people come to the seer with questions. She calls upon the silent voice of the earth for her answers, enigmatic riddles whose essence must be teased from their form. She knows that the answers to the deepest questions may be found within.

Those who choose the paths of Light know that, as Man is born into this world, his purpose is to live within the world until the next phase of existence. Such service may indeed appear to set true seekers apart from life, but those who choose to serve the Light are the standard-bearers of evolution.

Half a day’s walk from the place she calls home is a deep valley. Peter’s Rock is a striking geological feature; faces seem carved by the hands of the gods in the cracked rock. For Bratha, and for others who seek to serve, it is a place of initiation, where fear must be faced in order to pass beyond the veil.

Man’s greatest fear is death; not the death of the body, but the obliteration of the self. For many, death is the enemy and holds the terror of an unimaginable annihilation. For the initiate, death is no more than a passing from one state to another… a new birth.

At the end of the valley, the hillfort of Fin Cop dominates Monsal Dale. The Lore Keepers wove together two ancient tales, one a legend, one the story of an ancient massacre. This tale is borne out by the archaeology of the site itself. Below the steep slope that leads to the summit of Fin Cop is a place of caves and mysteries. The tall, stone figure of a giant guards a hidden landscape and, within the cave, the skeleton of an injured boy was found.

We left both the seer and the past for the final ritual, as the Companions journeyed in vision to Arbor Low, a great circle of stones within a henge. Time seems to be an important factor at this site, as do the serpent stones.

Perhaps the most prevalent belief about these ancient monuments is that they are set upon the nodes of power inherent in the body of the earth. It is possible that, like the birds and beasts, our ancestors could feel the magnetic currents of the planet…or perhaps they sensed something deeper in the life of the planetary being.

Few who are open to the magic of these sites fail to sense their presence and they seem to respond to our awareness with an indefinable awakening.

In re-enchanting the land, we are forging links across time and space… and in doing so, rekindling our own enchantment with the place we call our home.

Weekend workshops – The Silent Eye 2017

The Silent Eye hosts a number of events each year, from our annual Weekend Workshop in Derbyshire to our informal Living Land and Walk and Talk gatherings. This year we will be holding events in England, Scotland and Wales. All events are open to non-members and Companions of the School and they are a great way to meet us, explore the teachings we share and spend time with fellow travellers.

You do not need any previous knowledge or experience. There is no need to be following a particular spiritual path…you are just as likely to be sitting next to a minister as you are to a shaman or a  mystic. There is just an opportunity to share a journey together. You can read what it is like to attend your first workshop here.

Why not come along and join in?

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The Feathered Seerindex1

Weekend of 21-23 April 2017

Great Hucklow, Derbyshire Dales. England.

The annual residential workshop is based around a single story played out over the weekend in the manner of the ancient Mystery Plays. The story illustrates a particular aspect of spirituality in a setting that allows the abstract idea to be played out in a symbolic manner that relates it to everyday life. This year we will share the story of a young Seer of the Old Ones, the ancient people of Albion, following her journey through the troubled times of invasion to a place of peace.


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The Prisoner of Portmeirion?

Weekend of 16-18 June 2017

Close to Portmeirion Village. Wales

Set in and around the very real village of Portmeirion, the place where the Prisoner was filmed,  with the backdrop of wonderful Snowdonia on our doorstep, our pre-solstice adventure in the landscape will take the form of a psychological exploration of what it means to ‘fit in’ with the world–and the price of not doing so. We do not intend this to be deadly serious, but many a powerful revelation can come from a dash of humour.


4-copyMaiden, Mother, Crone: Solstice of the Moon

Inverurie, Scotland

15th-17th September 2017

Guided by Running Elk, we will spend a weekend in the beautiful Don valley, exploring some of the ancient and sacred sites that have woven their mysteries for thousands of years. Unique to the area, with the exception of a few examples in Ireland, the circles of the region are of the “recumbent” type; intended for monitoring the “solstices” of the moon, known as the lunar standstill.


Riddles of the nightrs-193

Bakewell, Derbyshire

1st-3rd December 2017

Discover for yourselves the hidden jewels of the night. As the darkness of the winter solstice enfolds the land, join us for a magical weekend pursuing the treasure of understanding .Will you find the jewel at the heart of the mystery? Will you find the way to go?


Full details of each workshop can be found on our Events Page

Click below to

Download our Informal Events Booking Form – pdf

or to book for The Feathered Seer click here:

The Feathered Seer

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