Not an Ordinary Field of Wheat ~ Alethea Kehas

Reblogged from Alethea Kehas at Not Tomatoes:

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On this day, one month ago, I suddenly declared to the friend I was soon to visit in London, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we found a crop circle?” It was one of those things that just popped into my head. I hadn’t been thinking about crop circles, which is a bit surprising, as I’ll confess I’ve always wanted to see one, but suddenly I felt an almost desperate urge to find one on this particular trip that I was to leave for within a matter of hours…

Sue’s account of the circle can be found here. And I had promised her to write about my visit, and other happenings during the trip soon as well. I’ve only managed to get one post out though. I have kept myself very busy, so even though it’s now my bedtime and I have an early morning yoga class to teach, I find there is no better time than the present.

Maybe I should start by telling you I drew the Mercury card for our Giant and the Sun Workshop weekend. The card for magic…

Continue reading at Not Tomatoes

The Giant and the Sun – The pattern in the landscape

Leaving the church, we gathered in the little garden beside it which, so the church’s keeper of the keys would tell us, had been sold to them for the princely sum of £1, with the sole proviso that the garden be used. Beside its gate is another fragment of the old Abbey, bearing once again the symbol of St Catherine’s wheel… which seemed fairly appropriate considering what we were about to do.

The gardens are a beautiful and peaceful spot, tucked under the wing of the church. The air is fragrant with the perfume of herbs and old roses. Apples grow on carefully tended trees and there are bees and butterflies in abundance. We gathered around a small, paved square lined with benches to start the next part of our adventure.

We had been convinced to hold a workshop at Cerne Abbas because of a feeling and a series of coincidences with geometry. At first, we had thought we might find a vesica piscis in the landscape, but we had discovered that there was already a recognised geometric figure marked by sacred sites. It was listed as a ‘hexagram’, with venerable old churches on each of the points… and most of these older churches are built on sites of a more ancient sanctity than their stones and mortar. A quick look at the map confirmed that the figure seemed pretty accurate and we had dived down to Dorset to check out the sites.

It did not take long to realise that, while there was indeed a nice, six-pointed figure in the landscape, there was no guarantee it was supposed to be a hexagram. Granted, the symbol known as the Star of David and the hexagram is associated with Christianity, alchemy, Judaism and features in pretty much every religion and culture in some form, but a six-pointed figure did not have to be a hexagram. There were other options.

It could be a rayed star, a daisy-wheel like the odd ‘consecration cross’, or a simple a hexagon. It could even be marking points dividing the circumference of a circle. And, if it were centred around a seventh point, the circle would then be the traditional symbol for the sun. On top of that, the Cerne Giant had, coincidentally, been known as ‘Helis’… which is close enough to ‘Helios’ to be intriguing.

But it had been the hexagram we had been given to work with, so the hexagram it would be. In magical and alchemical terms, the two triangles that form the hexagram represent the elements which, when brought together to form the six-pointed star, symbolise perfect balance and harmony.

The hexagram in the landscape appears to be aligned with magnetic north, rather than ‘true’ north, which might imply that it was older than modern mapping techniques. Not that we really needed that implication, when all the churches on its points predate that scientific differentiation by centuries. Oddly enough, the figure of the hexagram can be used as a starting point from which it is possible to geometrically draw a vesica… the only problem is that the geometry required means you have to know which of the six possible directions on the starting hexagram is ‘up’.

Image: Deep Highlands

Later, there would be time to play with Google Earth, overlaying geometrical forms onto maps, with a really surprising result. For now, though, we were taking Cerne Abbas as the centre and working our way round from there.

Aproximate locations due to scale

But our weekend, although using the geometries, was not really about them. It was about how we might work ‘with’ the land to create harmony. We had devised a simple demonstration, assigning the planets to the points and centre of the hexagram…the fire and water triangles and, drawing lots, had assigned each planet to a member of our company. At each site visited, we would walk the pattern, drawing together the two triangles to create a harmonious whole. At each site, also, we would meditate on a seed thought, finding an expression of each planetary colour in nature. The simplest such rituals may have a profound effect when performed with intent.

And that was the end of our morning… especially as the rain began to fall. All that remained was to find shelter for a few minutes until the New Inn, a 16th century coaching in, was ready to open its doors for lunch…after which, we would be going on a church-crawl…


For the significance of the hexagram in the context of the weekend, please read Stuart’s posts: Magical Elements I  – IIIIIIVV   –  The Dance of Fire and Water IIIIII  and Magical Elements, The Dance of Fire and Water


The Giant and the Sun: Patterns in the landscape was the Silent Eye summer workshop weekend. These informal events are held several times every year and are open to all. You do not have to be a member to join us as we wander the rich landscape of Britain, visiting ancient, sacred and intriguing places. We seek out myth and mystery, exploring what the land and its stories can teach us about our own daily lives and our place in the intricate tapestry of human Being.

After each event, we publish an account of the places we have visited and share a little of what we have discussed during the course of the weekend to give a taste of what we do.

If you would like to join us for a wander through the mysteries and history of Britain, please visit our Events page.

The Giant and the Sun – Ikonography

We walked back into Cerne Abbas for our final visit of the morning. The plan was that we would give a bit of a tour of the church, pointing out some of the more intriguing iconography and historical features before giving everyone time to explore for themselves. I also wanted to get a full set of photographs as it had been five years since our first visit. We have learned a lot in that time about these old churches and have a much better idea what to look for and I was bound to have missed many things of which we ought to have taken note. But the best laid plans of mice, men and serial church-crawlers and all that… It started well, but we got side-tracked.

We did manage to look at the carvings outside the church. They are strange, even for grotesques and gargoyles, being mainly comprised of giants with smaller figures. One theory suggests many of these types of figures represent sins…and a sin may indeed seem giant -sized to the repentant sinner in hope of reformation or in fear of hellfire. Be that as it may, these giants have a place only on the outside of the church… within, only spiritual stature counts.

In many areas of ancient and religious art, there is a hierarchy of size; you often see gods, saints and kings portrayed as larger than those around them. Christianity is a religion where a Child holds the keys of heaven.

One curious carving beside the north porch, though is more utilitarian than symbolic. The open-mouthed face is a chimney outlet for a fireplace that warmed the toes of the incumbent priest, traces of which can still be seen within the church.

We entered the church and were soon side-tracked. As it turned out, between them, everyone found the most important bits of the church in the context of the workshop and we got to talk to artist John Coleman, better known as Ikon John. The artist uses archaic techniques and styles, painting with egg tempera and gold leaf to create ikons that continue an age-old tradition, and which have been commissioned by Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox, and Coptic churches and individuals.

His work draws upon the symbolic language of images… a concept at the heart of our workshop… and it was a real gift to be able to speak with him. Not only did we learn a little about his work and the Cyrillic script used in ikon painting, he also told us of another large hillfort which is now on our ‘hit-list’ and about the burial of St Edwold… the hermit associated with the Silver Well. He even gave us the location of his final resting place, which we felt we ought to visit before heading north once more.

Meanwhile our companions had wandered round the church, discovering its details and secrets. The church of St Mary the Virgin belonged to the Abbey that cast its mantle over Cerne Abbas. When the Abbey was first founded, the people of the village came to the nave of its church to pray. Around 1300, the monks began building St Mary’s and its first vicar was installed in 1317.

Most of the fabric of the current building are 15th and 16th C, but traces of the original church remain in the chancel, where there are medieval wall paintings showing the Annunciation and scenes from the life and death of John the Baptist.

Most of the stained glass is either heraldic or comprises of small, individual panels set into clear windows. There is only one full stained-glass window, showing the Adoration of the Lamb from the Book of Revelation.

The oldest stained glass is a tiny fourteenth century panel, high up in the tracery, showing a rather solar lion. As one of the oldest local names for the Cerne Giant was reportedly Helis, and the giant once carried a lion-skin, this just adds fuel to the flame of mystery.

Plaques, most of the painted, commemorate local people from the past few hundred years of Cerne Abbas’ history. One mentions ‘William Cockeram, Gent and Practicioner of Phifick and Chirugery’ who died aged forty-three. Another pays tribute to members of the Notley family, early settlers to America, who owned the land now known as Capitol Hill, but once called Cerne Abbey Manor.

There are post-Reformation scripture panels painted on the walls of the nave; the Puritans banned all religious iconography and ‘abused images’ that smacked, to them, of superstition. The medieval wall paintings that once covered the walls of almost every church with colour and stories were destroyed or covered with plaster and paint. High above the chancel arch, a few traces of those earlier paintings can still be seen.

The arches of the arcade brought us back to geometry. They are of the gothic shape, formed from the interlocking circles of the vesica piscis, the figure that had been our initial inspiration for holding the workshop in the area. It is a shape often found in religious iconography, usually as an aureole around the figures of Christ and the Virgin.

The most intriguing geometry though, is the so-called consecration cross. These were crosses, painted on plaster for the interior, usually with a candle sconce beneath them, or carved in stone for the exterior of a church. There would originally be twelve inside and twelve outside, marking the place where the presiding bishop anointed the building with holy oil during its consecration ceremony. Few survive the inevitable remodelling and repainting over the centuries, but occasionally, we stumble across one.

A consecration cross is supposed to be just that…a cross, often inscribed within a circle. Usually, a cross has four points… but not this one. It has six and looks much more like a flower or a star than a cross. Therefore, it is not a cross. We have seen these same symbols before, also described as consecration crosses, and simply accepted the name without question… which is the human default position when a trusted authority speaks. This time, a chance comment as I researched made me question.

A little further digging and it seems we are not alone in questioning the meaning of this daisy-wheel symbol, thought to date back to the thirteenth century. Oddly enough, this is the time when the Templars were active in the area…  and the examples we have previously seen of this symbol were in churches with Templar connections. But, regardless of the possible meanings and connections of this daisy-wheel ‘cross’, it was an interesting find in light of what we were going to be doing that afternoon…


The Giant and the Sun: Patterns in the landscape was the Silent Eye summer workshop weekend. These informal events are held several times every year and are open to all. You do not have to be a member to join us as we wander the rich landscape of Britain, visiting ancient, sacred and intriguing places. We seek out myth and mystery, exploring what the land and its stories can teach us about our own daily lives and our place in the intricate tapestry of human Being.

After each event, we publish an account of the places we have visited and share a little of what we have discussed during the course of the weekend to give a taste of what we do.

If you would like to join us for a wander through the mysteries and history of Britain, please visit our Events page.

The Giant and the Sun – Open minds

Crossing the land upon which the Abbey of Cerne Abbas had once stood, our party split into two groups. The more adventurous went to climb a hill. Having climbed it once before, on the hottest day in memory, and without hats or water, Stuart and I joined the more sedate party that skirts the bottom of the hill. We knew too that although the view across the Dorset hills was well worth the climb, the gentleman we had really come to see could only be viewed from a distance…or from the air.

We had come to see the Cerne Abbas Giant… for us an old friend, but for the rest of our party, this would be their first encounter with the great figure carved into the chalk. Our secondary quest, though, was for a crop circle. We had heard of one ‘in a field below the giant’ and there had already been one rather fortuitous crop circle in that area.

We wondered some time ago if we should run a workshop in and around Cerne Abbas. Not only is it an area rich in archaeology and curious remains, there had been the ‘Glastonbury effect’. As we walked from the Silver Well to the church that first day, Stuart had been moved to blurt out that it ‘didn’t feel as if we were in England’. Later discussion revealed that this was the same, peculiar feeling he had experienced at a particular spot in Glastonbury and again at a little church in Nevern in Wales.

Now, both of these spots are associated with large-scale sacred geometry in the landscape, on which much work has been done over the years, by eminent researchers and surveyors of both spiritual and scientific persuasions.  Archaeoastronomy and sacred geometry in the landscape are, it must be said, not accepted by all, but having done our own research, we are convinced there is a basis of truth, even though the more extravagant claims may push the boundaries of believability sometimes.

The thing with this kind of stuff is to keep an open mind. Science, as well as alternative archaeology, is continually widening our vista on the past.  Many things that our ancestors were once considered too primitive to accomplish have now become accepted as mainstream fact.

In both the locations where the ‘feeling’ had been apparent, it has been demonstrated that ancient sites mark out specific points on a figure called the vesica piscis, a geometric shape formed when two circles overlap in a particular way. What, we wondered, if there was a vesica at Cerne Abbas?

We Googled. If there was one, someone would have found it, surely? It certainly looked that way, as the very first thing to come up was the image of a crop circle containing a vesica and the figure of the Mother goddess. And that one was in the field just below the very masculine giant… and had gone down just days before.

Now, crop circles are another area wide open for debate. Personally, I don’t buy the ‘aliens’ theory, and some are quiet obviously commercial, jokes, or quite personal… but there are some curious anomalies with these complex and beautiful patterns. Is the land itself trying to  speak through the makers of some of these designs? I do not know enough about them to judge… so I’m keeping an open mind.

From ‘maybe’ to ‘we should run a workshop there’ was a very quick shift. Especially when we realised that, although no-one had reported finding a vesica, they had found a large-scale geometric figure, marked by sacred sites in the landscape… and so the two of us had dived down to Dorset on a research trip and the workshop had evolved from there.

The most obvious ‘pattern in the landscape’ around Cerne Abbas, though, is the Giant… and he too demands an open mind. He stands a hundred and eighty feet tall on his hillside, within a six-sided enclosure whose outlines are still faintly visible. In one hand he holds a club, the other arm is outstretched and archaeologists have found traces of what may be a skin draped over it… and the possibility of a severed head in his hand. Some have compared the figure to that of Hercules with the lion-skin draped over his arm. Others see Orion… and the stellar alignments with that constellation are striking.

He is a curious figure, with his own head being not only minimally sketched and sized, but invisible from most of the viewpoints close to hand. His virility, on the other hand, is not open to question. The giant is cut into the chalk of the hillside, gleaming white against the green. Above his shoulder, to the viewer’s right, is an Iron Age earthwork enclosure known as the Trendle, and there are burial barrows on the hill too dating from a similar period.

These figures need regular ‘scouring’ to keep them bright and this would have been a task that the villagers performed together as a community. Couples too would come together at the obvious spot when they wished to conceive a child.

The purpose of the giant, as well as its date of origin, is unknown. The most prosaic theory is that it was cut in the seventeenth century as a political joke aimed at the Puritan Parliamentarian, Oliver Cromwell. This is supported by a lack of documentary reference to the figure before that date. My favourite is the legend that the giant is the actual outline of a real giant who came from Denmark to invade the land at the head of an army, but who was beheaded by the villagers as he slept on the hill.

The most prevalent belief is that he is an ancient figure, like the prehistoric White Horse at Uffington. As the grass grows over the chalk, the figures disappear… which might be one reason why no mention of the giant has been found before the seventeenth century. But then again, the earliest mention of the White Horse only dates to the twelfth century…and that has indisputably been there since prehistory!

The most compelling indication of the giant’s antiquity though, must lie in the astronomical alignments with Orion. While we know that very many prehistoric monuments indicate the procession of the seasons, the movements of the stars and planets and were used to predict celestial events, I find it wholly unlikely that a political satrist would go to that much trouble for what must have been, by the very nature of politics, a transient joke.

Perhaps the giant represents something else altogether… an archetypal figure, protecting, defending and fertilising the land. Could he be a depiction of some father-warrior-god-king, deeply entrenched in the psyche of the early inhabitants of the land? Perhaps a figure from which the very earliest myths were born that would eventually be grafted onto the legend of Arthur…

Interior image of the book ‘The Cerne Giant’ by Peter Knight

For now, the figure keeps its secrets… and we ponder on who, or what, his mate… his feminine counterpart… might be. Are we looking at the Earth herself? Or might there be some symbolic figure in the landscape, just waiting to be discovered…

In the shadow of the giant, we withdrew to a quiet spot beneath the trees for the second part of our visualisation in preparation for the next place we would visit…

 

 


The Giant and the Sun: Patterns in the landscape was the Silent Eye summer workshop weekend. These informal events are held several times every year and are open to all. You do not have to be a member to join us as we wander the rich landscape of Britain, visiting ancient, sacred and intriguing places. We seek out myth and mystery, exploring what the land and its stories can teach us about our own daily lives and our place in the intricate tapestry of human Being.

After each event, we publish an account of the places we have visited and share a little of what we have discussed during the course of the weekend to give a taste of what we do.

If you would like to join us for a wander through the mysteries and history of Britain, please visit our Events page.