“I go hence to the High Place for the soul is in need.”
“What is that need?”
“The need is Light.”
“And what will you give for the passage?”
“I will give my Self.”
He is naked save only for a white cloth around his lions…he has left all else behind as he embarks on this journey.
She looks deeply into his eyes, reading his soul’s truth there.
This is the final test.
If he fails, he will not survive.
Many years she has watched as they have come and gone, many she has seen and taught, many have failed, some have succeeded… only those with hearts that see true.
The labyrinth is woven, energies crackling and shifting between the ramparts, almost visible in the moon-dark night.
Line and spiral, blade and vortex…all wait.
She leads him between the two fires that mark both the entrance and exit to the labyrinth…though which one is which only few will ever know.
She marks his brow with a kiss and raises her hands…
At her signal the fires are extinguished with a hiss of steam and a billowing smoke.
The plateau is dark… there will be no flame to guide him. It is silent.
There will be no sound to draw him back.
He is naked and bereft as a soul new born… in a limbo now…awaiting a birth… or a death… The gates close behind him, and she ascends to her place on the edge, facing the morning that is so far away… her place… where she will watch…
Her eyes adjust to the heavy darkness and the change comes, shifting her vision to that other sight. Below he too waits, that his eyes may adjust to the night and his feet walk true.
He begins, walking carefully, treading the labyrinth with purpose and intent.
He walks the first straight, beneath her… he feels her there and looks up, futile though it be in the dark with the blackness of her robe pulled around her like a cloud. She smiles… he knows… she has hopes for this one… West he turns, her eyes cannot see him, but she walks each step with him…another straight, another bend… and a sword at his throat…The Guardian towers over him and he freezes… had he been walking faster the sword would have pierced his throat. The Guardian speaks a ritual question… but he has not been given an answer… he has to Know…
The voice whispers into the night and the sword is lifted…he walks on…Through the rough grass and stones, barefoot… another Guardian… a spear at his chest…no words this time… only a gesture… he responds, and the spear is withdrawn. Again a corner, a straight…the meandering path like the fleeting thoughts of the mind turns every which way…A blade at his belly…choices to make in silence…only the Knowing to guide him…And another… and another…She walks with him, feeling every step from her perch…Only the last now…he is pushed to his knees, a sword across the back of his neck…a cauldron before him…a whispered response… and a flame is given…Below her the light of a single torch illuminates a small, flickering patch of the hilltop.
On the horizon the first blush of dawn… It has been a long night…A knock on the gates, firm and confident…they open…she stands between…The sun gilds the morning…she embraces him….
Centurion Calogerus stared at the edge of the plateau above him. The vast hill-fort rose from the chalk lands below in what appeared to be a series of grassy layers. There were no walls that he could see. This would be quick…
As the dawning sun of the year’s longest day crested the edge of the hill, he smiled in remembrance of his youth. This would have been his birthday; not the day he had come into the world but a new one given by those gentle people who raised him in that far-off province, before the strong and swift youth was snatched from the sea of death and forged into a fearsome Roman soldier.
Calogerus stared into the distance, again. There was a figure up there… A figure so distant that he should not have been able to make out any details, yet he could. It was a priest, he knew. How he knew, he didn’t know…
Below him, huddled in the strange and twisting entrance road, crouched eighty of his best men. Bisected by machines of death on wheels. They were not elite soldiers. They were auxiliaries, trained by their centurion in the arts of war and tactics. Tough and more loyal than he had any right to expect… Give them to Calogerus, they would say, extracting from battles and conquered tribes the best, the strongest, the ones with the bright eyes. He will turn them into Roman soldiers.
And he did… He took the dregs and made them into the best that the Legions of Aulus Plautius contained. The hero of Camulodunum commands us, they whispered, looking at their centurion. Our new master is no coward, hiding behind Roman finery.
And so, when the mighty Legion that was sweeping southern Britain grouped to move on, they used him and his dregs to create the opening, to breach the defences, to probe the weaknesses, and sometimes, to die… A foreigner and not high-born, he had risen slowly through the ranks. For a centurion, he was old.
Calogerus looked down at his men, waiting in readiness, and shifted his right hand to his sword’s pommel. Below, in the winding trench – deeper than six men and hollowed to a near-point, like a ‘V’ – the silence became something you could taste… Like iron on the tongue.
He looked up at the distant figure on the hill. For a moment he imagined he was that priest, looking down; then drew back from the act as an image flashed before his inner eye – the one he dared not talk about, when the soldiers drank and feasted and bled. In the image he was a figure in white, seen, not by the priest, but by the hill, itself. He shook himself out of the daydream and found he had been fingering the scar in the middle of his forehead. Too many echoes of his youth followed that thought and he blinked his eyes clear of visions, drawing his sword so that it sang in the morning air.
“Let the memories be gone, forever,” he hissed to the line of liquid green-gold forming on the curved horizon. “Let the light of this longest day wash it away…”
His sword was the signal, and the line moved forward. He followed on the top of the trench, probing the place’s secrets. He was sure there were many. The scholars spoke in hushed tones about this place. There were rumours that it was thousands of years old, but he didn’t believe that. It was just a big hill, and Roman soldiers were adept in the capture of such places. The Durotriges tribesmen – and women – up there were doomed.
The first shock came when he heard the laboured moaning from below. He stopped to survey the men in the still-dark trench. He could see the sheen of sweat on their bare shoulders, but the noise was not theirs. He peered into the gloom and drew a breath when he saw the bowed wheel of the cart. The angle of the hill, and lack of a flat path at the bottom, was placing strain on the bearing and axle; the heavy weapons on board were doing the rest.
No fools the builders of this hill, he thought. But, no sooner had the admiration registered than there came the crack of breaking timber and one of the carts toppled sideways, pinning screaming soldiers beneath it. In seconds, their comrades came to the rescue, but several were injured.
The centurion uttered a curse before shouting, “Leave it! Ensure the rest of the wagons are forced level. Forward with weapons drawn!”
The loss of one-third of their armaments would weaken their strength, but the biggest cart remained – and it carried the largest punch. But progress was slow, and bore a weariness he did not understand…
The scouts had said that the gate with the twin towers lay dead ahead, but the centurion had to curse again as the path his men were following – with their heavy loads – turned abruptly left. There was a light path over the top, but the weapon carts would never get up its steep bank. His stomach turned over as he realised the complexity of these defences. Primitive tribes? Calogerus shook his head.
He had no choice but to carry on. They had not been challenged so far. For all they knew the tribe above them were unaware of this dawn attack.
They marched for far too long before the trench turned, again, seeming to snake back on itself toward the point on the hillside where they had entered the site. Here, the walls of the trench were even higher. The wailing noise stung his ears like the feeling of severe pain – as with a deep wound, where the flow of blood is not immediately seen. The centurion spun round, trying to locate the source. His men, far below, were also turning in panic – and he could see that they were becoming more faint in the trench’s gloom.
Calogerus stared at the madness. As far as he could see, his men were not being attacked, and yet they had begun to stagger around, as though injured – or drunk…
The baleful wailing had hidden the other, more subtle invader. The burning grass – the dreaming grass – the clouds of mist were clouds of smoke, washing over the men at the bottom of the trench… And then came a sound like the strike of a hawk and the ground began to shift under the centurion and he fell, rolling down the slopes as the trench walls came alive with snakes. A rough blow with a blunt weapon robbed him of vision and sense…
He woke to the sight of the gates – a prisoner on their own munitions cart approaching the thick wooden door as it cranked open on its chains. He could see, straight away, that the scouts had been wrong; that the twin towers, separated by the earthen bank, would be much harder to attack. Even here, the paths were curved… Such clever defences.
The voice walking behind him was gentle. “Only three of your men are dead,” the priestess said, holding a cup of soaked herbs to his parched lips. We only killed those we had to… the rest were encouraged to flee.”
He tried to sit up, but leather bonds held him fast. “Don’t struggle,” she said. “Your choices are few, but you are alive.”
“Better dead, than this disgrace…” His parched throat rasped the words. She gave him more to drink.
“In a military world, yes,” she said. “But the mark on your head tells the story of another world that once claimed you. She pulled him around and he beheld great beauty and calm eyes that spoke more deeply than he knew how.
“We are both doomed,” the priestess said. “I am not foolish enough to believe otherwise. In days…months at the most, the legion will return and its vengeance will be bloody and swift – and our tricks with paths that curve and the dream smoke will not prevail.”
He struggled to rise, again, and this time she helped him, slicing her knife through the bindings at his wrists, but leaving those around his ankles. “For now,” she said.
“They will kill me, anyway,” he said, knowing that his life had reached its end.
As the sun set on the day of the rebirth of his spirit, they held hands on the top of the plateau and faced the west, bathing in the red gold of the longest day’s passing. For now, and briefly, they could be timeless.
The armies of Aulus Plautius were not before them… but they would come, soon enough, as one civilisation died and another – younger, hungrier and more deadly, drank its blood.
This work of fiction is set in the real landscape of Maiden Castle, an Iron Age fort near Dorchester, Dorset. The details of the fort’s defences are real, as can be seen from the photographs. The Durotriges are known to have used psychotropic substances to enhance their rituals, and may well have employed all manner of attack in their complex defences – which are as described.
The visit to Maiden Castle was the last part of the Silent Eye’s pre-solstice weekend, June 2018. For details of the work of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, and other ‘in the landscape’ workshops, click the link below.
Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised by email.
At the heart of an ancient landscape is the Dorset village of Cerne Abbas. The village grew up around a Benedictine Abbey founded there over a thousand years ago and it is still a place where folklore, myth and legend come together…and few of them agree.
The holy spring rose from where St Augustine struck the ground… or where St Edwold saw a vision, depending on which story you prefer, just as the giant on the hillside dates from the Iron Age… or is a seventeenth century political statement. The mysteries here are real… but underpinning them all is the fact that the place was undeniably seen as sacred.
The name is interesting in itself in that respect; ‘Cerne’ is believed to come from a Celtic word for ‘stone’ and ‘Abbas’ is the Medieval Latin ‘abbot’, which means ‘father’. Does the name refer to the Abbey, or did the abbey take its name from the chalk-cut Giant? If so, would that make him the ‘Stone Father’? Some have likened the image to that of Hercules, and there are traces of what could have been a lion skin draped over his arm. In Arabic, ‘abbas’ means not only ‘father’ but can be used to speak of the lion, while in French, ‘cerne’ means circle… and the imagery of the golden-maned lion as the sun is present in many cultures.
Add to the mix that Cernunnos is the name of a Celtic god of fertility, and even the name of the village itself becomes an intriguing mystery. But…if all the tales point to the ‘father’ in the landscape… where do we look to find the Mother? Perhaps we must first look for the Maiden? And what other secrets does this landscape hold?
It is at the heart of this land of wildflowers, myth and mystery that the Silent Eye will be holding its June workshop weekend. Join us this summer on our pre-solstice event for an interactive excursion into the Living Land of Dorset…
The Giant and the Sun Cerne Abbas, Dorset Friday 15th – Sunday 17th June 2018
The weekend is informal and open to all, no previous knowledge or experience is required. We ask only that you bring your own presence and thoughts to the moment.
Workshop costs £50 per person. Accommodation and meals are not included and bed and breakfast/hotel in Cerne Abbas should be booked separately by all attendees. Lunch and dinner are usually shared meals.
We regularly share the stories of our workshop weekends on these pages. What is impossible to share on these pages is the sense of warmth, the laughter and the camaraderie that attends these weekends. Those who come along are not all members of the Silent Eye… in fact, the majority are not. It is not a requirement. They come for the sake of friendship, companionship and a shared curiosity about the mysteries of this land and the even deeper mysteries our human lives.
Three times a year we gather for informal workshops in the landscape, exploring historic sites and the spiritual history of those who built them. Sometimes we take a more modern landscape and seek a symbolic meaning, finding ways to apply what we learn to or own daily lives. Spirituality is not a noun, but a verb…
In April, we host a different kind of workshop, using a form of ritualistic drama such as was used in the Mystery Schools of old, where a single story is woven through the weekend, touching the imagination through the emotions, and allowing us to illustrate and understand deeper spiritual principles. This too is open to all, and every year people travel across the globe to attend.
Laughter, companionship and understanding are the threads that bind these weekends together. They are designed to explore, not dictate, spiritual principles. We do not teach so much as open a book that we can all learn from together, each as much as they wish.
If you would like to join us for one of our informal Living Land, or Annual April weekends, full details can be found on our Events page. You can also read about past events and what it is like to attend your first workshop with the Silent Eye.
We currently taking bookings for the next two events for 2018, with further informal weekends to be announced for September and December:
The Jewel in the Claw A residential workshop in Great Hucklow, Derbyshire 20-22 April, 2018
Intrigue at the court of Queen Elizabeth I of England. William Shakespeare holds a conversation with Death. “There was one story untold,” says the Bard. “One story that could not be told or it would have hurt her soul and her life… a story of the beloved Queen’s darkest hour.” Death leans in and listens. “Tell it now,” he whispers…
The Giant and the Sun An informal weekend, based in Cerne Abbas, Dorset 15-17 June 2018
Tradition tells of a mischievous Giant who after devouring several sheep lay down on the side of a hill to sleep off his breakfast. The people of Blackmoor Vale tied him down and killed him. The tiny village of Cerne Abbas is today still overlooked by the Giant’s effigy cut in chalk on the side of the hill. But what other secrets does the landscape within and around the village hold.
For further details, booking forms and prices, please visitour Events page.