Leaf and Flame – Sharing Life

salmon 001

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.

Hare

hare 001 

Most subtle of the shifting forms and yet most constant too

Whose moonlit transformation cannot change the heart that’s true.

He hearkens to each season’s turn and reads the twilight air

And listens to the inner song that knows both foul and fair.

Between two worlds he journeys and in both he can be seen

In adoration of the moon yet always clothed in green.

Finding Gawain – Act Two

Last GlimpseAA2

Finding Gawain – Act Two 

Gawain staggers from the castle of Camelot, the memory of the Green Knight’s bloody axe vivid in his mind as though the mere dropping of it onto the temple floor carried no significance, and its dark presence remains with him, still.

Across the land he strides, stumbling and falling in the darkness, mouthing unintelligible noises as the full horror of what has happened fills his head. The path ahead gets ever darker, blocking out even the meagre light of the moon, veiled behind silver clouds, with just the odd moment of brightness.

His failing limbs work for hope, but in the heart that propelled the flesh to defend his King, there is only despair. He falls, once more, and stays on the ground, too tired to rise. He pushes himself as far as his hands and knees and is startled when three silvery animals run past him, pointing the way into the depths of the forest. They are a Stag, a Boar and a Fox. Each one, passing his kneeling form, glares at him with merciless eyes.

He does not know how long he has been asleep, beside that silvery stream, lying on rocks covered in dark green moss. But the depths of the forest have taken him into the fabric of their heart. Overhead, the silver moon breaks through the cloudy sky and the glade in which he lies comes alive.

His body is now clothed in a second skin of pure white. Around that and keeping out the bitter cold is a thick white cloak, ornamented at hood and neck by layers of warm cloth whose colours are those of the moss and the dark bark of the ancient trees. An inner voice tells him to stand and bear witness to what is needed. He gazes up at the moon, which seems to be growing in size each second. The moon tells him that, through his choice in defending Arthur, he has become the Guardian of the Hart, the mysterious and sacred male white deer that only few ever see, but which is hunted, mercilessly, for its magical properties. The moon tells him that the ways of man and the ways of the forest are at a crossroads and must be resolved.

Beneath his cloak, his arms wrap around the new lithe body, and he discovers that he bears a short but deadly sword. He slides it from his scabbard and holds it up to the moon. The light in the sky brightens and a silver ray comes down from the orb and touches the end of the sword’s metal, reflecting into the staring eyes of the new Guardian in nine rays of expectation.

“Defend the Hart,” says the voice. “Be true…”

And then he sleeps again, as the voice instructs him. And in that deeper sleep there are no more dreams, as the healing forces of the forest fill his heart and swell his lungs, charging his body with green power…

Gawain's enchanted forest

The dawn is golden, and fills his eyes with a new vision: that of the hidden pathways around him in the Enchanted Forest. The Guardian of the Hart rises, full of power and purpose, one of them, now, and listens to the sounds from below; sounds of men hunting in the forest. He smiles, knowing his purpose and his power.

As the moon promised, the magic of the forest separates one of the hunters from the rest. Unseen, the bright inner winds push and pull him until he stands in a place not known by man. There he looks around, confused, staring at the mighty oak, whose very form has been evolved to home the magical body of the Guardian of the Hart.

For a while, the Guardian enjoys the unease of the hunter, listening to the frantic sounds of the lost man. Intent on playing out the forest’s retribution on this interloper, he steps from within the ancient oak and raises his bowed head.

Both figures are startled…

There are two Gawains in the clearing. The one newly arrived is the form of a Gawain who spent a comfortable night in the castle, brooding on his fate, but not deeply troubled by his distant destiny. The other is that which has become the Guardian, lovingly forged by the Enchanted Forest for its purposes. Now more than human… Now more than hunter…

The insurgent Gawain spies the white Guardian and, knowing that there stands before him an otherwordly figure, charges through the undergrowth towards him. But, as he does this, the white Guardian moves in a different way, along the inner paths of the forest, unreachable by the mortal pursuer. Hunter Gawain blunders on, before looking up again and realising that the Guardian is moving along a path he cannot see. Snarling his frustration, he stops and moves in a great circle to try to intersect his foe. The Guardian smiles, as does the forest, as Gawain the hunter is drawn deeper into their labyrinth.

For eight passes, the white Guardian leads his prey around, until, with a knowledge not born of logic, he steps deliberately off the inner pathways and reveals a place of intersection that the hunter can attain.

The Hunter Gawain sees his chance and charges on his prey, who has assumed a stance of inner meditation, the great white cloak wrapped around his body, his head bowed as in prayer. In seconds the pursuer has gained the distance and seizes the neck of the cloak, tearing it from the coiled body of the Guardian.

In slow motion, the Guardian raises his half-lidded eyes and smiles into the face of the man who now knows the trap set for him; knows from the white knight’s revealed body and belted sword that his actions in tearing off the cloak have laid him open to the prepared attack. In horror he watches as the silver sword is drawn, faster than he can even think, and placed at his throat.

“Shall we kill you?” toys the magical forest, through the lips of their Guardian of the Hart. “Perhaps we will play with you some more, before death, for such would be fitting fate for one who takes on the debt of those who have long plagued these inner pathways of the Green Life…”

Hunter Gawain stands mute, his skin taut on the blade, one move away from a grisly death on that sharp edge, nodding assent with his eyes. After all, he is already doomed…perhaps this strange encounter can, in some way, exchange his deadly destiny, a year hence, for another…

“A riddle then,” smiles the Guardian of the Hart, “Yes?”

As much as the point of the deadly blade will allow, Hunter Gawain nods his assent. The blade is withdrawn. The Guardian stoops to gather up his fallen cloak, then turns to step back into the body of the sacred oak which awaits his return to the Green Life. As his foot enters the bark and passes into the wood, he turns, displaying a deadly smile.

“What is it that woman most desires?” he asks, laughing and disappearing into the mighty trunk.

He leaves behind a trembling and bewildered human, who, as he stumbles out of the forest to rejoin his worried fellow Knights, clings to the thin hope that a way to salvation may have been found… By the time he reaches their reassuring company, he has already forgotten all but the riddle that may save his life…

————


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…

 

Stag

stag

A silent power vigilant beneath the forest bough,

No thought of past or future holds thine eye… only the Now.

Part of an endless cycle of the life and death of earth

Within the kernel of each death the springtime seeds of birth.

When grace and strength and purity have crowned thee for the good,

Stand proud and tall in majesty, as master of the wood.