Whitby Weekend: St Hilda’s Well

I dropped my companions at the next stop, the tiny, hidden hamlet of Part Mulgrave. They were to walk along the clifftops for a couple of miles… a walk I would have loved under normal circumstances… but once again, I was obliged to take the sensible option and the car. At least it wouldn’t hurt to have a vehicle poised at the other end of the trek.

Which left me with about an hour to kill, I thought, before meeting them all at the Cod and Lobster in Staithes. So, when I noticed the little church on my way back to the main road, it seemed a good idea to stop, especially as the nominal said it was dedicated to St Hilda, the erstwhile Abbess of Whitby.

The first recorded church in Hinderwell, a village named for the Saint, dates back to the twelfth century. The church that now stands on the site is a mere baby, dating from 1773. It was also locked, which was a disappointment… until I caught sight of an information board and followed its lead to an unexpected gift.

The story goes that, fourteen hundred years ago, the area was suffering the effects of drought, so the villagers petitioned St Hilda and asked her to intercede through prayer. Or else, that she was passing through the village and called forth the water. Either way, the spring was born in answer to her intercession and has flowed ever since, rising through the churchyard to become the main water source for the village for many years. It became a place of pilgrimage and its waters were credited with healing properties, especially for those with complaints of the eyes.

On Ascension Day every year, local children would bring a stoppered bottle with a stick of liquorice root inside, filling the bottle from the spring and shaking it to make a sweet drink. I remember chewing liquorice sticks as a child too, so smiled at the old custom. The event was called ‘Shaking Bottle Sunday’ and is still remembered with an alfresco service every year.

Much of the old well housing remains, though the facings were repaired and replaced by a local benefactor who shared the saint’s name, a weathered sandstone bowl still remains as part of the structure that seems older somehow.

It was a peaceful spot to while away a little time, with a beautiful old yew sheltering the church. I wondered, as I watched the water, just how old this ancient well might be, and whether it had always been the object of Christian veneration? When Hilda founded her Abbey in 657, Christianity was already the nominal religion in the area, but old beliefs die hard, especially in rural areas and close to the sea, where offending the Old Ones and the faery folk would have been seen as taking a needless risk.

Celtic Christianity had grown around the customs of the various tribal systems. It was, perhaps, closer to the earth and nature than the Roman canon. For many in the early faith, the Christ may have been seen as just another god to add to their pantheon… one whose story echoed those they already knew. The debates between the various religious and political hierarchies would barely have touched their lives. Faith was just something you lived. Whether you left an offering for the spirit of the spring or its saint, both the gift and the reverence would have been the same.

So it was with a sense of standing at the centre of a web of light that brought together many threads of faith and belief, across all of human history, that I poured the drops for the gods.

Keys of Heaven (3): the synchronicity of kindness ~ Steve Tanham

There’s a certain ‘presence’ about kindness. Like the spiritual – or, more likely, as a part of it – the act of unexpected kindness drops into our lives like a messenger from the ‘Gods’.

So it was with our visit to the ancient church of Lythe in the middle of the Friday afternoon of the Keys of Heaven workshop. The village of Lythe lies just north of Whitby and marks the the beginning of the towering cliffs which run northwards as far as Saltburn. Within this landscape, Lythe is set on its own hill and has commanding views all the way to Whitby Abbey in the distance.

(Above: the distant Abbey ruins on the far side of Whitby. Seen from the beach near Lythe

Continue reading at Sun in Gemini

The Landscape that Teaches ~ Steve Tanham

When we were creating the Silent Eye’s mentored correspondence course, we envisaged a three-year journey through a mental, emotional and spiritual landscape which would evolve as the Companion’s learning and depth of ‘being’ increased.

This landscape was to be internal – an active, meditative experience, whose presence would extend into the daily life as learning of true cause and effect deepened, and different aspects of modern living were brought into harmony. In the true and ancient meaning of the word, this would become a very magical journey.

Lately, we have begun to re-examine the idea of actual landscapes being used as teaching aides; not passively, but inviting – invoking – them to work with the noble intentions of the workshop in question.

I’ve been to many workshops over the years. Many of them were good. Some of them were very good. Two or three were life-changing…

What’s the difference?

Good ones were well structured; you had a clear idea -going in – of what would be taught and what effort you would have to put in if you wanted to succeed. What was success in this context? Success has to be ‘something added’ to your life; possibly an additional skill, something to be dropped into that ‘kit bag’ that is us; a bit like the tarot Card of the Fool (below), striding, unafraid, into the morning of Life with a little dog nipping at his heels and his few important possessions slung over his/her shoulder…

Tarot image Wikipedia – Public Domain

Very good workshops were those in which you discovered that, whatever you thought in the first few minutes, it deepened way beyond that as the agenda developed. This might have been the appropriateness of the subject matter, or even the approach of the teacher.

A workshop that is life-changing is one in which the attendee immediately feels at home with the event and the inner process of the teaching – generating a hunger. That sense of ‘coming home’ is difficult to pin down, but deepens with each stage of the event.

Why this happens may not be apparent in the early stages; indeed I’ve been to a couple of such weekends where I still don’t know how that sense of sheer magic was created… But I know it was. And the fact that the memory still generates a sense of wonder, years later, shows the power they had.

‘Let go and get out of the way’…

It’s a deeply mystical insight, and it may have a lot to do with the life-changing workshops. There’s an enigma at work, here: you have prepare the ‘skeleton’ of the event in sufficient detail for it to be viable. At the same time, the structure and keys of the weekend should only be the ‘tinder that lights the greater fire’. When this works, it’s obvious that something is happening beyond the planning and the preparation. It is as though an intervention is taking place that broadens and deepens a kind of group presence…

In the Silent Eye, this is what we aim for; that the landscape, itself, becomes the teacher, gradually aligning and moving forward each person to the degree that they are able to be receptive to it. More blogs will follow as we develop this theme.

Whitby is the location for our next weekend. Above is a taste of the opening day (Friday 6th December, 2019)… a few places are still available. You can click here for our website’s events page.

©Stephen Tanham

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

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

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

 

Whispers in the West – part four (final part)

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Whispers in the West – part four (final)

On the Saturday night, replete with the adventures of the day and a large meal from the Sloop, we could do little else but retire early and sleep the sleep of Kings. The following morning was to be one of the highlights of the trip – St David’s, itself. The famous Cathedral was to be the final destination for the weekend, but first, Lizzy, our guide, had other local gems in store…

A misty St David’s Cathedral, our final destination.

Most of the group were staying a mile or so along the coast in or near a small, family-run hotel (The Ocean Haze). Lizzy had planned it so that we could approach St David’s from the coastal path.

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As you can see from the photographs, Sunday was a very different day from the sun-baked Friday and Saturday. A mist pervaded the coast (and, sadly, the photography), though the weather was mild. The coastal path here offers intense beauty, no matter what the weather, though I have been accused of being a bit of a masochist when it comes to walking in the rain…in my view, it’s all part of the fun as long as you’re dressed correctly!

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After what seemed like a short walk, we emerged from the footpath and directly into our first stop – St Non’s Well and the ancient and modern versions of St Non’s Chapel.

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To quote the signpost, “This ruinous Chapel stands on the spot where St Non gave birth to St David in the sixth century.”

The single site, of about an acre, is home to the Well, the old (ruined) chapel, and the more modern chapel, which is old enough to have its own, interesting history. There is also a retreat centre above the newer of the two chapels.

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St Non’s Well.

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The sign tells us that St Non’s Well is said to have sprung up during a thunderstorm when St David was born, about 500 A.D. The waters are said to cure infirmities.

A Survey of St David’s, done in 1717 (see below) says of it:

“There is a fine Well beside it (St. Non’s Chapel), cover’d with a Stone-Roof, and enclos’d within a Wall, with Benches to sit upon round the Well. Some old simple People go still to visit this Saint at some particular Times, especially upon St. Nun’s Day (March 2nd) which they kept holy, and offer Pins, Pebbles, Ec at this well”

(Survey of St. David’s by Browne Willis, London 1717) quoted from the website at:  http://www.stnonsretreat.org.uk/history.html

There are two versions of St David’s origin. The first is that he was sired by a local nobleman; the second that St Non, then a nun, was raped and made pregnant, but chose to keep the child and bring him up within the church… The gritty truth is often ‘sanitised’ in church history. Either way, St David became a very influential figure in the life of West Wales, and far beyond.

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St Non’s Well is regarded as one of the most sacred wells in Wales. It was fully restored and re-dedicated by the Passionist Fathers in 1951. At the same time a small shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary was placed opposite the well.

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A short distance from the well is the ruin of St Non’s original chapel. There is very little to see apart from the partly-demolished walls – with one exception. In the ruins of the Chapel built over the place of St Non’s house can be seen a 7-9th century creed stone with an incised Latin ring Cross. with a vertical line that descends from the Celtic circle in a very unusual way. This has come to be known as the Cross of St Non. Knowing it to be original I looked at it for a long time after photographing – it had a powerfully, peaceful effect, standing alone in the misty morning of that Sunday.

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Just up the pathway from St Non’s Well is the ‘new’ Chapel of St Non, known as the Chapel of Our Lady and St Non.

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This was constructed  in 1934 by Cecil Morgan-Griffiths, a solicitor from Carmarthen, using stone from ruined local chapels. He had built a house (which is now the retreat) on the site, and decided to build a church, there, too. This resulted in the construction of the most westerly church in Wales and one wonders if he sported a wry smile with reference to nearby St David’s in the process…

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The chapel is a very simple structure and measures 25 feet long by 12 feet wide. It has beautiful stained glass windows of  St Non, St David, St Bride, St Brynach and St Winifred. Cecil Morgan-Griffiths died the year after the new chapel was completed.

It is a truly beautiful place and we all drank in the humble simplicity, which was to contrast, later, in my mind at least, with the sheer size and magnificence of St David’s Cathedral.

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The window to St Non.

We made time for a group prayer, for one of our Companions fighting a terminal illness, then left quietly, bound for the final destination, the Cathedral of St David’s.

Coming from the coastal path, and St Non’s Well, we entered the Cathedral precinct by the ‘back door’, so to speak.

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St David’s has to be one of the most beautiful Cathedrals in Britain, if not the world. It’s location may seem remote to modern minds, but in mediaeval times St David’s occupied a strategic position at the junction of major land and sea routes between England, Wales and Ireland.

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Originally a monastery, St David’s dates back to around 600 A.D.

In its fifteen hundred year life, it has seen tumultuous change. During the first four hundred years of its life, it was attacked and destroyed many times by tribal raids. Two early bishops were murdered in later Viking raids. In the 9th century King Alfred turned to St David’s for help in rebuilding the intellectual life of Wessex.

The Cathedral was visited by William the Conqueror in 1081, when he came there to pray. Then in the twelfth century Bishop Bernard, appointed by King Henry I, secured a “privilege” from Pope Calixtus II, allowing St Davids to become a centre for pilgrimage – an honour it continues to enjoy, today.

During the English civil war, much of the building was destroyed by Parliamentary soldiers. The present structure began to emerge in 1181, when Cathedral status was secured.

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The list of prominent saints and bishops associated with that long history would require a volume or two, in itself. Better, perhaps, to take a few glimpses of the splendour of its wonderful spaces.

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There are so many separate interior spaces that it would take days for the visitor to feel comfortable that she or he had a meaningful mental ‘map’ of the place.

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The main ceiling are so beautiful that you just want to bend your neck and stare – which becomes a strain after a minute or two… Ideally, we could lie down on a blanket and just drink it in!

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The magnificent vaulted ceiling of the tower.

All too soon, we had to go, but not before a light lunch to prepare us for our long journeys home. This part of Pembrokeshire is very beautiful and warrants a return visit or six!

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We said our goodbyes back at the hotel, thanking Lizzy and John for a truly wonderful time. Next year we hope to visit Scotland for our Summer ‘solstice’ weekend. Watch this space for details…

Previous posts in this series: Part One, Part Two, Part Three


The Silent Eye runs four such weekends per year; in April, June, September, and the start of December. Apart from the main April workshop, which combines mystical drama with teachings, they are very informal occasions, but a good way to meet some of the names and faces from the Silent Eye School of Consciousness. Everyone is welcome – we simply wander in a landscape and get to know each other.

The formal teaching programme of the Silent Eye School is a three-year correspondence course, studied at home and in the individual’s daily world, with personal supervision via email, and workshops. The teaching programme is based on a guided journey through the spiritual layers of a nine-pointed figure called the Enneagram (below). The Silent Eye is a not-for-profit organisation and charges as little as possible for its work.

The Silent Eye's version of the enneagram has a few extra features added to the core (but unchanged) symbol.
The Silent Eye’s version of the enneagram.

You can find details of the forthcoming events for the year on our website.

leaf and flame 014

c0d53-silenteyemodernmasteraa

 

Whispers in the West – part three

Whispers 3 - 1

Whispers in the West – part three

After the group’s successful ascent of Carningli (panorama shot above), the second day of the Silent Eye’s Whispers in the West weekend continued, with a short, further car journey to one of the historic highlights of the trip – Pentre Ifan.

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Pentre Ifan is the best known, and because of its height, the most impressive megalithic monuments in Wales. It is believed to be the remains of a chambered tomb for the communal burial of the dead, which would have been used, continuously, for some period before finally being sealed for good. The tomb was erected in the Neolithic age, perhaps as early as 3.500 B.C.

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The burial chamber itself was once partially covered by a great cairn (see schematic, below), extending well to the rear, but the stones have long since been removed; so it now lacks its original covering.

Pentre Ifan schematic from board

(Schematic taken from a partial photograph of the CADW information board at the site)

Pentre Ifan is classified as of the Portal Dolmen type, with the front of the chamber composed of three large uprights set in an ‘H’ formation – though here it is placed, unusually, at the centre of a curving facade of slabs, in line with the design shown in the schematic.

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The enormous capstone, nearly 17 feet long, weighs over sixteen tons and is supported on just three stones, as can be seen in the above photograph. It is believed that the juxtaposition of supporting and non-supporting stones was part of the design of the dolmen.

The weather continued to be wonderful, as you can see from the photographs. Beyond this, though, and the fact that it was now late afternoon, there was a very peaceful atmosphere about Pentre Ifan. It is a very beautiful and spiritual place. No-one in our party wanted to depart…

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In leaving, we took one final look beyond the perimeter hedge, to see the now-familiar shape of Carningli, mountain of the angels, from which we had just come. Seen from this angle, you can see how high it is, and how it dominates the land around.

And then it was back in the cars for a short journey into a very beautiful valley to the north of Pentre Ifan to see St Brynach’s church in the lovely village of Nevern.

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The church is most famous for one of its many yew trees, near to the gate, which is called the “Bleeding Yew”. The yew tree is about 700 years old, which is extraordinary in itself.

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It has a red sap running out of it which has the consistency of blood – though it dries pink rather than brown. Trees are known to ‘bleed’ when their internal flow structures are exposed, but, according to local legend, St Brynach’s bleeding yew has been in that state for hundreds of years.

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There are many myths about why the Nevern yew tree bleeds: some say that as Jesus was crucified on a cross it is bleeding in sympathy. One myth says that a monk was hanged on this tree for a crime of which he was innocent and the tree is still protesting the injustice. There are many other stories, but the church and its surroundings have much more to offer than just the Bleeding Yew.

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Further up the main path to the church is a large and dominant Celtic Cross, carved with the familiar Celtic knot-work pattens seen elsewhere in western Europe.

The cross is one of the most perfect examples of ancient Celtic stone carving in all Wales. The total height is thirteen feet and the cross is two feet in diameter at its thickest point.

Experts date the cross as late 10th or early 11th century.  The four sides of the cross are carved with geometric interlacing patterns.

The West and East faces have inscriptions. One is Ans, meaning Dominus, latin for Master. The other is not as certain, and could be the word for Hallelujah.

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Language is major feature of the inside of St Brynach’s church, which unashamedly celebrates the Celtic history of the land around it. The famous Nevern Ogham Stone, which has inscriptions in both ‘Celtic – Ogham’ and Latin, has been laid as the lintel of one of the windows in the south side of the transept.

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The photo shows the Ogham lines cut into the corners of the stone to form words. There is even a notice showing you how to use the stone to write your name in Ogham – assuming there are sufficient letters.

And with that, our time in Nevern had come to an end. It had been a long and wonderful day of discovery and we were due to have an early dinner at the Sloop pub in Porthgain, on the twenty mile return journey to St David’s.

Lizzy had arranged things so that we would just have time for a slight detour on the way there to have a very special glass of Welsh cider at a place called (locally) Bessie’s pub in Cwm Gwaun. The valley which houses Bessie’s is well hidden and I would not have liked to find it on my own! Having said that, the village was delightful and full of friendly local people, sitting on their doorsteps in the early evening sun, who smiled at our band of weary travellers and waved us towards Bessie’s – the only pub in the valley.

And the cider? Well, if you get chance, have a pint of Black Dragon if you’re passing through these parts. ‘Nectar of the Gods’ springs to mind…

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The final part of this series of posts will conclude, next week, with our Sunday morning walk to St David’s Cathedral, via the coastal footpath and St Non’s clifftop church and shrine. St Non was the mother of St David.


The Silent Eye runs four such weekends per year; in April, June, September, and the start of December. Apart from the main April workshop, which combines mystical drama with teachings, they are very informal occasions, but a good way to meet some of the names and faces from the Silent Eye School of Consciousness. Everyone is welcome – we simply wander in a landscape and get to know each other.

The formal teaching programme of the Silent Eye School is a three-year correspondence course, studied at home and in the individual’s daily world, with personal supervision via email, and workshops. The teaching programme is based on a guided journey through the spiritual layers of a nine-pointed figure called the Enneagram (below). The Silent Eye is a not-for-profit organisation and charges as little as possible for its work.

The Silent Eye's version of the enneagram has a few extra features added to the core (but unchanged) symbol.
The Silent Eye’s version of the enneagram.

You can find details of the forthcoming events for the year on our website.

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c0d53-silenteyemodernmasteraa

 

Whispers in the West – part two

Whispers in West Two Carn Ingli - 1 (9)

Whispers in the West – part two

The second day of our the Silent Eye’s Whispers in the West weekend began with relief – that we didn’t have to drive all the way across South Wales, again, to reach the town of Newport – our starting point for day two.

There are, apparently, many Newports in Wales, but only one of them, some twenty miles up the Pembrokeshire coast from our base in St David’s, has this nearby:

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It stood alone on what looked like the cliff edge, dramatic and serene. In the brightness of a warm June day, with azure skies, we walked forwards in respectful silence… to look at ‘Samson’s Rock’.

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Carreg Samson is five thousand years old… quite a thought, when you consider that its capstone, five by three metres and a metre thick, has rested for a considerable part, if not all, of that time on only three of the six standing stones, which vary from one to two metres tall.

I hadn’t realised until recently, that most of these Dolmens (or Quoits, as they used to be popularly known, although this, technically refers to the capstone, alone) were, at one time, buried, sometimes with enough of the stone visible to form an entranceway. The land has eroded or been excavated around them, yet their fundamental construction was so strong that they remain stable, like stone creatures from a distant age, to tantalise us in our search for their deeper meaning…

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It was as hot day, and we were beginning to thirst for a coffee, at least, so we played a game, with Barbara supervising of how many Silent Eye weekenders can you fit into a Quoiter pint stone glass… sorry, couldn’t resist it!

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Lizzy had structured the day very carefully, to give us all the best the coast and the nearby hills had to offer, and we had to leave the serenity of Carreg Samson and its idyllic location for our next Dolmen, just along the coast.

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Carreg Coetan Arthur is a neolithic chambered tomb, or dolmen, of the same age as Carreg Samson, which sits in its own little ‘park’ within a holiday village built during the late 1980s. According to Lizzy’s carefully prepared notes, its significant location is obscured by the hedging, but it stands a few hundred metres south of where the river Afon Nyfer enters Newport Bay; and just over a mile north of the hills of Mynydd Carningli, towards which the dolmen seems to be orientated.

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It consists of four uprights, and is not much taller than a person. The remains consist of four uprights, only two of which support what appears to be a precariously-balanced, wedge-shaped capstone, which is tilted backwards. There is little trace of any of the original cairn material that once covered the stones.

We stopped and stared, admiring what Stuart had named “Little Bear” before taking as many photos as possible before being shunted out of the way by the next group of visitors.

Lizzy’s plans for the day were unfolding, beautifully, and Carningli, the mountain of the angels, beckoned, as the next item on our agenda.

But that coffee would have been nice… And, as fate would have it, we were about to get one, but in a rather unexpected way. Lizzy suggested a short stop in the small town’s centre and we set off for a nearby car park, in three cars, around the tight streets of Newport’s main road. Sadly, I took a wrong turn and we lost sight of the lead car and ended up doubling back before concluding that we were lost! We had noticed, on our detour, that there had been a sign to a beach car park nearby. The two lost cars turned down this road, reasoning that we might be easier to find in such a location, and we emerged onto a car park next to a very scenic beach with a… tea room across the road!

Well, we reasoned, Lizzy wouldn’t have wanted us to go thirsty in our confusion, and, if we stayed put, there was a good chance she’d find us…

Half an hour later, guzzling tea, coffee and cream and jam scones in the garden of the tearoom, and not looking anywhere near guilty enough, we were ‘found’ by our guide and brought back into the convoy to begin our climb up to the Angels of Carningli.

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Carningli doesn’t rise up like some of the stone masses of Snowdonia, but it does dominate the landscape for miles around; and it is accessible with ordinary walking gear with about a thirty minute climb, as the car does a lot of the work for you.

We began the climb, with everyone aiming to reach the top. Ages and fitness levels always vary on these occasions, so it’s wise to constantly check that everyone’s okay. By the time we had reached the plateau below the rocky summit, it was obvious that there were very determined people intent on conquering that peak, perhaps doing something they had not done for a many years.

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It was a wonderful spirit and got us all to the top – with considerable pride on the faces of those who had had to work the hardest.

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The top of Carningli is very rocky and we had to pick our way carefully to a stable ridge from which we could all look down at the glorious views of Pembrokeshire’s countryside and coast.

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In this magical spot, the verdant countryside is as beautiful as the lovely coast.

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We had climbed Carningli with an additional goal in mind: to hold a distant healing vigil for one of our members who is facing a severe illness. Chris, one of the weekend group who had to work the hardest in the climb, revealed he had a secret goal – to take back a small rock for our suffering friend, ‘charged’ as it were, with the spirit of that shared moment.

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It was a very beautiful, lofty, interlude, and we were glad that Lizzy had urged us to make the climb – the views, alone, were worth it. We came down from the peak of Carningli the direct way, which was somewhat challenging, but we all finally emerged back at the car park and began to dream of a promised cider in a little village that lay close by.

But, first, we had an appointment with another Dolmen – one of the best in Europe; and a wonderful church in a very special valley… So Chris had a lie-down on the grass, instead…

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More to follow in the story of this amazing day… quite a bit more, actually…

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The Silent Eye runs four such weekends per year; in April, June, September, and the start of December. Apart from the main April workshop, which combines mystical drama with teachings, they are very informal occasions, but a good way to meet some of the names and faces from the Silent Eye School of Consciousness. Everyone is welcome – we simply wander in a landscape and get to know each other.

The formal teaching programme of the Silent Eye School is a three-year correspondence course, studied at home and in the individual’s daily world, with personal supervision via email, and workshops. The teaching programme is based on a guided journey through the spiritual layers of a nine-pointed figure called the Enneagram (below). The Silent Eye is a not-for-profit organisation and charges as little as possible for its work.

The Silent Eye's version of the enneagram has a few extra features added to the core (but unchanged) symbol.
The Silent Eye’s version of the enneagram.

You can find details of the forthcoming events for the year on our website.

leaf and flame 014

c0d53-silenteyemodernmasteraa

 

Whispers in the West – part one

Whispers in the West – part one

Whispers St David's Headland

It was early on Friday afternoon. Lizzy, one of our Companions in the Silent Eye, had assembled us for the start of three days of delightful discovery on the western fringes of Pembrokeshire, centred on the lovely town of St David’s, home of one of the most remote cathedrals in Britain.

As promised, we met, on the car park above Whitesands Beach, for coffee and…ice cream. The weather was hot, the air clear and the sky blue – perfect conditions for the opening walk on what was to prove an adventurous and wonderful weekend.

Whitesands beach

The ice-cream reluctantly finished, we resisted the quite reasonable demands for another and set off along the cliff path that leads to the distant vista of St David’s Head.

Whispers headland 2

The town of St David’s gets its name from the patron saint of Wales, who was a Welsh bishop of Myryw (now renamed St David’s) during the 6th century. He is believed to have been the son of a high-born nun–Saint Non, and the grandson of Ceredig ap Cunneda, King of the ancient land of Ceridigion – now part of Pembrokeshire. Other, more dramatic tales say that the lady who became St Non was raped by a local prince and bore the resulting child as her own, bringing him up to take his place in history, despite the trauma of his conception.

We will return, in the final post, to the Chapel of St Non, in its idyllic setting close to the ocean beyond the present town of St David’s; and to the magnificent Cathedral of St David’s.

Whispers St David's Headland

This part of the Welsh coast is one the the most beautiful places in Wales, and has that ‘other worldly’ feel about it which marks out secret gems of landscape that stay in the heart, forever. It is also the home of some of the most ancient stone structures in Europe.

We reached St David’s head after about an hour of walking. The cliffs are very steep and we were advised to ‘look the other way’ as we rounded curve after curve on the high path – with the dark blue of the ocean a long way below.

Arriving at the headland, we did what a group of Silent Eye folk often do – go very quiet… in the face of the beauty of what lay below, and its ancientness.

St David's headland rocks flowers

Much of the rock in this part of Wales is volcanic in origin, and is over 500 million years old. In the distance, off to the south-west, can be seen the rocky islands of Ramsey, Bishops and Clerks several miles out to sea.

Islands in the Stream

On the section before the headland we had passed the remains of a stone-age settlement.

Ancient settlement

In a recent post, Stuart and Sue raise the very interesting question, “Why would anyone want to live here, in such an exposed place?”

Our historic research duo have carried out extensive work on such ancient sites and gained their own insights by being sensitive to the land’s own story. This journey to a deeper perception of natural surroundings is well-documented in their books.

After a suitable time for personal exploration and meditation, we picked our way, carefully, back over the rocks to take a slightly different path in the direction of a distant hill – Carn Llidi (which turned out to be closer than it looked). After a short way, we stopped in surprise at the sudden emergence of Coetan Arthur, a Neolithic burial chamber (A dolmen in this case) dating from about 4000BC. It has a huge capstone almost 20ft wide, which is supported by a side stone over 3ft tall. It was almost certainly built this way, with one end resting on the ground, as what is known as an ‘earthfast’ megalith.

This use of ‘Arthur’ is not related to the Arthurian tales, but linked to an ancient use of the word ‘Bear’.

Coetan Arthur 1

Approaching these ancient sites, it is difficult not to feel an immense sense of respect and reverence for what the builders crafted. We know very little of their full purpose, though burial of the ‘long bones’ of key individuals seems to have been a common element.

Although they may look crude by today’s standards, the sheer ‘presence’ of these stone megaliths may be a result of the fact that they used rocks of certain size, shape and proportions that were ‘found’ naturally in the earth, thus giving a specialness to their placing. As Sue and Stuart explain, such stones were the very ‘bones’ of the ancient earth and revered as part of a living body that sustained all life.

Coetan Arthur 2We would struggle to recreate them, today. One of the smallest, the capstone of Coetan Arthur weighs 4.6 tons. It is believed that it was created to mirror the nearby peak of Carn Llidi, which was to be our next compass bearing for the final leg of the afternoon’s walk.

Coetan Arthur 3

For my part, I am always taken by the importance of these structures as ‘keepers of time and place in the cosmos’. The were usually oriented east-west, though there are exceptions. They were placed in relation to other stones in the landscape which gave the positions of the sun at the four key points of summer and winter solstice (maximum and minimum days), and spring and autumn equinox (equal night and day).

The passing of the year would have been of great significance to our ancient forebears. The cycles of planting, fallow, growth and harvest were key to their survival and they had to know where they were in the year. There was, undoubtedly, a deeper aspect to it all; in that they felt an intensity of relationship with the sky above them, as well as the air they breathed, the water they drank, and the ground below, in which all foods, apart from meats, grew directly; and meat was dependent upon vegetation in the greater cycle.

Their connection to the natural world, and its cycles, was therefore part of their deepest experience – so much so that people like the Druids were a specially trained layer of their society whose role was to honour and deepen the understanding of this relationship of mankind (observer; man and woman) to that which was observed and whose deepest secrets (untouchable but capable of being seen) were painted in the geometry of the night sky.

It is here that proto-science and mysticism met, adding, nobly, to each other’s cause… in fact, in those times they were indivisible, and the spirit of mystery pervaded the sacred search for knowing

Carn Llidi

The final leg of the walk (though not of the day) was to take the path over the hilltop of Carn Llidi and back to join the road to the lovely Whitesands beach.

Carn Llidi peak details

One of our number sprinted off to gain the actual peak, but the rest of us were content to amble along the high road and take in the scenery.

Summer sun on sea perfect

The day had been perfect and what finer way to cool the feet than to take off the boots and paddle in Whitesands bay…

Beach and sea Whitesands

Then it was time to return to the hotel to change, and a gentle walk into St David’s to have a pub dinner at The Bishop. All in all, the perfect Day One of our Whispers in the West weekend.

The Bishop pub St David's

More to follow…


The Silent Eye runs four such weekends per year; in April, June, September, and the start of December. Apart from the main April workshop, which combines mystical drama with teachings, they are very informal occasions, but a good way to meet some of the names and faces from the Silent Eye School of Consciousness. Everyone is welcome – we simply wander in a landscape and get to know each other.

The formal teaching programme of the Silent Eye School is a three-year correspondence course, studied at home and in the individual’s daily world, with personal supervision via email, and workshops. The teaching programme is based on a guided journey through the spiritual layers of a nine-pointed figure called the Enneagram (below). The Silent Eye is a not-for-profit organisation and charges as little as possible for its work.

The Silent Eye's version of the enneagram has a few extra features added to the core (but unchanged) symbol.
The Silent Eye’s version of the enneagram.

You can find details of the forthcoming events for the year on our website.

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