Lord of the Deep: An overview of the Sumerian Planetary Beings by ‘The Patrician Lady’

For the Sumerians, Anu, the Sky Father, was the Supreme Being, from whom all other gods descended. His parents were Enshar and Kishar… the ‘whole Heaven’ and the whole Earth’. He was associated with the planet Pluto and he constellation, Draco, the Dragon.

Aruru, also known as Ninhursag, ‘the lady of the sacred mountain’, was the Mother Goddess upon whom Anu called to create Enkidu, a so-called ‘wild man’, in order to tame the arrogance of Gilgamesh. But there is far more to that part of the story…

The multiplicity of deities in many of the ancient cultures can seem incredibly complex to modern eyes and minds, accustomed, for the most part, to a monotheistic approach. It gets even more complicated as cultures evolve… Deities names are changed, an although their attributes remain the same, they may rise or fall in prominence.

We had to make some executive decisions on the choice of the names and incarnations we chose to use for the deities that feature in the story of Gilgamesh, a tale that came down from Sumer through later evolutions of that culture. But whatever name is borne by a god, their essence remains the same.

Although unable to join us this year, The Patrician Lady, a friend of the Silent Eye, generously wrote an overview of the Planetary Beings… gods of the Sumerian Pantheon…that formed part of one of the meditations.

The Planetary Beings

The Patrician Lady

Monday: Moon: NANNA (male)
I am Nanna, also known as Sin, first-born son of Enlil and Ninlil. I govern the Moon. I am the image of all things, and I have the quality of change, as indeed does the moon, for it is never the same for two days. I arise as a tusk of the boar of heaven and all things have their increase. I flourish in the night, rivalling Utu, the sun, and when I am at my greatest, then I need the dreams of men, for I mediate between this world and the sun. During the dark of the moon I spend my days of sleep in the underworld where I decide the fates of the dead. All pass my gate and I take taxes from all that possess. As the god Nanna I am particularly a ruler of women for the months of the moon are the days of a woman’s courses. In all matter of timing, of crops, of children and of beasts, I, Nanna, am over all, and in my character of governor of life I have dominion over illness. Therefore the wise man pays court to me, Nanna; he observes my movements and my relationships with the other Gods that go about the heavens. For I hold the keys to your lives, past and to come.

Tuesday: Mars: GUGULANNA (male) 
I am Gugulanna, also known as Nergal, second-born of Enlil and Ninlil. I govern the planet Mars. I am Lord of the Underworld, I am the certain, the justice of the gods. I am the God of war, God of Battle; reaper, plougher, I am he who burns, who destroys, purifies, who rejects and judges. I am portrayed as a warrior, fighting for the right and needing always to do so, and this is the Law. All depends on everything else and is balanced by the limitation of each part. The nature of a thing forms the limitation of that thing. Necessity is the axle of the gods and I, Gugulanna, am that axle. Turn the top of the wheel and the bottom turns. I am that wheel, I cannot be evaded, therefore I am called Cruel. In the kingdom our laws should reflect this inevitability. Penalties should be clear, quick and precise. All messages pass through Nebo, patron of writing, but the messages from the height of human experiences are formed by me, Gugulanna. When your mind soars into the area where there are only the Holy Winds blowing, and you apprehend things of a greater content than your mind can grasp, which have the certainty of Knowledge, Understanding and Skill, then I, Gugulanna, beating upon the limits of your ordinary knowledge and judgement, give form and content to this expansion of ordinary experience. This is the gift of listening, the gift of oracles, the power of prophecy. I am also the burner, the destroyer, for this is the last limitation. I have the drawback of certainty and can turn my back easily on what is considered by me to be not fitting. I create the limitation of all things, for I am the protector of all things, as well as the destroyer. Know the shape of a thing, and the laws that govern it can be used. Whatsoever the nature is, by that is it bound.  I make those laws.

Wednesday: Mercury: ENKI (male)
I am Enki, also known as Nabu and by some as Ea, son of Anu and Nammu, the sky and the sea. I govern the planet Mercury. I am the Message Giver, the god of speech, the god of letters, the god of numbers, the god of science. As the god of speech I can speak to the earth and the earth speaks. The sky speaks, the water speaks. And the fire. They speak and I recognise. And the god of writings. In the sky, signs; in the fire, visions; in the water, shapes; in the earth, letters. Know the signs and your eyes will speak for them. But the eyes must recognise the signs. I am the Lord of all forms which are ever made; changeable yet remaining always the same in essence. I am the god of science. I bring understanding of the nature of things and whence they come. The laws of the beasts, the law of the arts, the laws of growth and decay, seed-time and harvest, sickness and health. The laws of water, earth, fire and air. When we recognise them, then we know how we may act, in the smallest way for the best result. The voice of Inanna is Enki, and from me all that can be communicated comes, the laws and the signs and the symbols, all are mine; and the eyes, and ears, the mouth and the nose and the fingers, the common senses, all are mine. From me all numbers may be known. I am the architect; I measure and weigh. I plan foundations and measure the height. I have given you the secrets of the square by the art of number. I have left you rules by which to make our temples square and true, for if the foundations be not square and true your temples will not stand.

Thursday: Jupiter: ENLIL (male)
I am Enlil, brother to Enki.  I am also known as Marduk the Magnificent, the Ever-expanding, the Master of Life, the Source of Power. Lord of the creative force.
I govern the planet Jupiter.
Who is this that shines in the Morning of the World, brighter than a thousand suns,
Whose voice spreadeth to the ends of heavens, whose sound is as thunder,
I am Wakener of winds, binding chaos to make the worlds, thrower of thunderbolts,
Against me, who can stand?
Mine is the power that spreads, mine is the force that moves, I am the lover that livens, I am all that living may be.

Friday: Venus: INANNA (female)
I am Inanna, maiden, mother and crone; also known as Ishtar, lover of the sparrowhawk, lion, stallion, and of men. I am she who turns the planets in their courses, and the suns in their paths through the garden of precious stones, who brings forth the seed in season and cuts it down in its prime. I am the perpetuator of cycles: Fire comes from the warmth of the sun into wood, burnt as fire, goes to earth as ash and to heavens as smoke, to the sun as light, all returns, is changed and goes forth again. All eats and is eaten, changes, dies and is reborn. The mysteries of Inanna are simple. Within all living things there is an urge, a driving force that keeps them living. Yet all things living die. Here then is the reason for the mutilation of my servants. They are brought by dance and music and devotion to that state wherein they lose all idea of who and what they are and become vehicles for the goddess. I do not care. My passions are with life and death. Love and mercy are not mine. Only my dancing speaks, only the women in the way of the silver piece speak, with their inmost parts to the inmost parts of men, only thus may I be known. And the stars without number that you see in the heavens will in their turn populate the heavens, to time without end. For the star of the morning and the star of the evening are one. All is rhythm, all rhythms have an end. All have a death and a beginning.

Saturday: Saturn: NINURTA (male)
I am Ninurta, god of war and hunt, also known as Ningursu. I am the patron of restrictions and  boundaries and laws of man. I govern Saturn. I am one with the shape former.  I am god of all forms which are ever made. I am the water, taking the shape of the skin, or the pot. Destroy whatever there is but I remain unchanged. In the earth lies waiting the shape of grass, corn, the thistles, the trees, and the fruits and blossoms. I govern all the shapes of all the insects, birds, and all the living creatures that lie hiding and waiting. For they come from all the grounds and motions of things, awaiting the touch of the seed to spring into being, the fixed shape of things, as the egg is in the womb. I am the bringer and the preventer of Chaos, the giver of real form. From me the forms of all things are written and their fate. From all this it can be seen that I have no need to act.  For from the form, which I give, all necessary forms of action arise.

Sunday: Sun: UTU
I am Utu, also known as Shemesh, the Master of the Chariot. I govern the Sun. I am the giver of light to the high country. From me comes all warmth, from me comes fire. I, Utu, am the centre of this world of gods but I am created by all the gods. Now it is my nature to shine upon all, good and evil, just and unjust. I distribute their bounty. I balance all, erring neither above nor below, by right or by left. I am so near that I seem to be greater than all others. Yet I am given the thread of life from Anu, substance from Enlil, direction from Ninurta, dominion from Enlil, decision from Gugulanna; I give and receive instruction from Inanna, and from Enki I am given news of all that comes to pass. From Sin I both give and receive honesty and justness. Such a king am I, that is both sun and servant, a light to all men and a guide to their path through life.

Lord of the Deep: Offspring of Silence ~ A presentation from Jan Malique

Jan Malique , a Companion of the Silent Eye, has kindly agreed to allow us to share the text of a presention she gave at the Lord of the Deep workshop, which addresses some of the core themes of the story…

Offspring of Silence Grasping for Immortality: Journeys Beyond Death

Jan Malique

This presentation was born out of speculation and a result of the dialogue with Silence. Life, Death and Immortality are huge concepts to grapple with, and not always easy to understand. Like Gilgamesh, humans have strived to keep the approach of death at bay, perhaps hoping our glories and creative efforts will ensure an immortality of sorts. Maybe not physical immortality, but something greater, an enduring essence of spirit, of our names being uttered by those left behind. There’s an ancient Egyptian New Kingdom tomb inscription that beautifully encapsulates the essence of what immortality may really mean:

“To speak the name of the dead is to make them live again.
It restoreth the Breath of Life to him who has vanished” 

After several thousand years we’re still reading the exploits of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, so wouldn’t say they’ve entered into the glorious landscape of Eternity? Now what of the heroes of this drama? I suppose Enkidu would be the perfect person to begin with.

 

Cries from the Silence

Enkidu, was called “offspring of silence”, a romantic and terribly poignant title for anyone to bear. He was moulded out of clay and given life, an unbridled example of physical vigour and its appetites. A being who was the fearsome wilderness present outside the city gates, being a primeval manifestation of humanity’s psyche, its original innocence perhaps. A perfect companion to Gilgamesh the warrior king. They appeared invincible, immune from the ravages of time and hand of death. Might they be considered immortal even? Physically, no. It was achieved in other ways.

Their story made me think “aren’t we all offspring of silence?,” creatures born from the Great Silence that is the Unmanifest Universe. A place beyond mortal understanding and perception, forever veiled and open to perpetual speculation. We’re born from silence and enter into a world of noise, yet, the silence is ever-present and promises we’ll return to its embrace eventually. Even the Universe must return to a state of non-being, embrace the fire of destruction when the end comes. Then, only darkness and utter silence exist as the Cosmic Consciousness lies slumbering, gestating new worlds. Does this sound like total annihilation? No, but our fear of being extinguished totally at death is understandable, to become dust and clay covering the vestiges of civilisation in an inglorious end. A bleak viewpoint, but only one perception of a Universe that’s manifestly alive and filled with mystery.

The story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu is also humanity’s search for eternal life throughout the ages, as well as the fear of loss, of memories, loved ones, physical deterioration, and status. Philosophy and metaphysics have explored questions of existence and death at great length, but to what end? We continue to grasp yearningly at an elusive prize, despondent at the obliteration of the Self who returns once more to the earth.

How do we articulate our fears except to use the words of Gilgamesh in his conversation with Siduri the Alewife:

I am afraid of Death [and so I roam open country].

The words of my friend [weigh upon me].

[I roam open country] for long distances; the

Words of my friend Enkidu weigh upon me.

I roam open country on long journeys.

[How, o how] could I stay silent, how, O how

Could I keep quiet [             ]?

My friend whom I love has turned to clay:

Enkidu my friend whom I love [has turned to clay].

Am I not like him? Must I lie down too,

Never to rise, ever again?

(Dalley, S. 1989, Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, And Others, OUP, p.101)

Further words of regret will fall from his lips, when he eventually locates and (loses) the physical source of rejuvenation, a plant called “the restoration of old age to youth” found in the primordial waters of Apsu.  The prize is his only for a brief moment, then snatched by a serpent who ingests it and immediately sheds its skin.There’s symbolism aplenty to mull over in this extract.

As for Gilgamesh, he finds healing but not the prize sought so desperately. The return to Uruk is still filled with grief for the loss of his friend, and a yearning to learn of the secrets of existence after death. A wish that can only bring further regret and reinforce the futility of mortal existence.

 

From Blood and Clay arisen

For those who are seekers of the Greater Mysteries, we know death is not the end, but only a doorway to greater states of consciousness. Through training we can prepare for the moment of transition and what lies beyond. Regardless, grief and a sense of loss is still ours to experience despite the inner knowing. The human part of our nature knows this to be true, and the divine part? It urges us to look beyond the trappings of illusion and perceive reality as it truly is. It makes me wonder whether our eventual evolution will be into a state of pure consciousness, infinite and complete. A lovely thought.

Immortality has been the focus of humanity’s hopes and dreams since early times, infusing our creative and intellectual endeavours in its pursuit. One can speculate at length about what has been lost before the advent of written language. The conferring of immortality by the gods was a rare gift, achieved after tremendous trial and tribulation. Those so favoured were blessed indeed, touched by divinity, to be eventually placed amongst the stars in the heavenly firmament. What of the rest of humanity not so favoured?

One early Babylonian epic entitled “Atrahasis” describes the creation of humans from clay and the blood of a god who was sacrificed for this specific purpose. What inauspicious beginnings these fragile creatures sprang from, part human and part divine, yet never likely to taste of immortality. Humanity’s sole purpose was to serve the gods and provide them with daily care. A life of servitude meant being subject to deities whose fickle natures may offer a benevolent hand on one day and rain down vengeance on another. The human condition was defined by mortality and lives of hardship for many. The soul’s existence in the afterlife was dependent on the social status of the individual, and for those of a lower status the afterlife presented no cessation of hardships. Therefore the prevailing attitude was “why prepare for it?”

 

Descent into the Earth

Indeed, why prepare for it? The Soul’s existence in the afterlife was dependent on several factors:

  • Social status while alive
  • Care given to their body, grave and cult statue after death
  • The number of offspring they had, especially sons, as the eldest was responsible for making offerings

If these conditions were met, the deceased would have to navigate many dangers before it reached the place of judgement in the Underworld, presided over by Ereshkigal, Goddess of the Underworld and seven judges, the Annunaki. Once judgment had been passed, they would be assigned a place within the city of the dead.

Accounts of the Underworld describe it as a great cave beneath the earth, with the Earth being a mountain and the cave as a hollow within. The cave was a huge, dark place, surrounded by seven gates and walls, an invincible fortress guarded by Namtar, the god of pestilence. He prevented the living from entering and the dead from escaping. It was a place of decay, inactivity and devoid of joy. The Underworld wasn’t considered a “hell” as it is in certain cultures, only a duller version of life. On reflection, this could be regarded as hell by many.

The Mesopotamians didn’t consider physical death to be the end, as the dead were thought to exist in the form of a spirit called gidim (Sumerian) and etemmu (Akkadian). It was an entity closely related to the physical corpse. Death was a state of transition from one existence into another and in order for that to happen the proper funerary rites had to be performed. If not, the spirit was reduced to begging in the Underworld and could either become a restless ghost or demon plaguing the living. The living had a variety of methods to deal with these vengeful entities including:

  • Tying magical knots
  • Using magical ointments
  • Pouring libations while chanting magical spells
  • Making amulets
  • Burying figures representing the ghost
  • Drinking magical potions

This is only a fragment of what could be told about the dead and Underworld, but for the sake of our souls perhaps best not to linger in this dark and dismal place. Like Ishtar we need to return to life and the manifest world, bringing to light wisdom gained between states of transition and consciousness.

 

Arise Creature of Flesh and Divinity

The journey of “Offspring of Silence” is nearing its end and what have we learned from the experience? That physical immortality is not within reach, and perhaps not a viable option to avoid either the grave or funeral pyre. Who wants to be immortal anyway? To never age and die, to always suffer grief at the loss of loved ones as they wither and fade into nothingness, be witness to the ebb and flow of civilisations, see them rise and disappear into the dust, hear their songs being carried on the breeze and lament their passing. What do we think Eternity will offer us as we cling to our vehicles of clay and blood?  Who will remember us and our lives? Can we transcend our attachments to objects and people, and find solace in the vastness of the Universe around us?

These questions haunt the figure sitting on the quayside, beyond which lies the vast Ocean of Creation and Death. Hot salty tears slide down their cheeks, all appears lost at this point of the heroic journey. Then a gentle hand wipes away their tears. The figure lifts their head to face themselves, infinite and complete.

Lord of the Deep: Web of Light

This morning, the Companions attending the Lord of the Deep workshop, and Companions of The Silent Eye around the world, will join together in a shared meditation. This will take the form of a guided visualisation.. a journey in imagination. We invite you to join with us for a few moments, opening that portal in the heart and mind through which all may pass, that together we may weave a Web of Light.

At this time, when our word is in turmoil, when the bounty of our planet is being stretched beyond endurance and so many of its creatures face extinction, let us add our voice to the Web that is being woven by Seekers of Light of many paths and traditions, all around the earth.

Alone, we can do little, but when hearts come together to work in harmony, we can change the world, even if it is only by changing ourselves.

Wherever the sacredness of the earth is remembered, wherever the ancient places are revered, wherever a single heart turns away from fear and hatred to Love, a point of Light is added to the Web. Let this moment become a shining point in the Web of Light.

***

If you can, please light a candle and use its flame as a focus. If possible, place three small stones around it in a triangle. Imagine that these stones are seeds that can grow and flower and see them as symbols of your intent.

Read the meditation slowly, leaving plenty of time for the imagination to take flight. Whatever you can imagine is real within the mind and can be brought through into a more concrete reality.

Now, find a place of peace within your hearts… and prepare for meditation. Let us  weave the Web of Light together.

***

Feel your body, rooted in earth. Feel the air as you breathe, in… and out… filling your body with its gift. Your body is a creature of earth. Your soul is not of the earth. It is of a finer substance, your life no more than a chapter in its story. It is eternal… your body a temporary garment that it wears. Let it fly free…

In your mind’s eye, yourself within a Temple amongst friends. Now see the ‘soul’ of the Temple. It too is other than its body. Its pillars are a grove of standing stones in a vast space filled with Light. Its shape mirrors the universe…

A symbol within a circle at your feet maps the evolution of the soul… and above the central point there is a single, brilliant flame that reaches up into the night.

Let your mind follow the path lit by the flame and rise, higher and higher… passing through the roof and out into the darkness of space. Around you, the stars wheel in the heavens, bright points of dancing light against the indigo sky. The land spreads out beneath you, a living shadow that reaches as far as you can see and beyond…

From the central light, silver flame spreads, pulsing, across the earth in a great web of light. Where the threads cross, you know that stones have been set, groves, mounds and pools… places of worship…sacred centres of all paths, faiths and denominations, harmonising the flow of cosmic Life and Light.

You are part of that Web, part of its warp and weft. You are a tender of the Flame.

Feel the life of the earth coursing through its strands… and through you. Give yourself to its glory. See the web blaze bright and clean… burning away all shadows, healing all rifts and lighting the land.

Within you, the flame also burns… Its essence is a steady point of brilliance in your heart, small as a seed, but vast as the universe. You are its guardian.

Now slowly, gently, return your mind to the Inner Temple, carrying the vision of Light within.

***

Take a moment to think of the earth and its creatures. For the life of the planet that manifests in a myriad ways. For the flowers and trees, for the animals, for the people who suffer. For that which can only speak to a listening heart. For the voiceless.

“I speak for the lonely. Those that think they are separate from the One. I speak for the light to shine upon their hearts and open them to love. I speak for their voices to be heard, and their prayers to lead them onto the lighted path. I speak for the bereft and alone to lift their hearts to love. I ask that they be guided on the path to find the wondrous gate to all that is true. I speak for love, all that is and will ever be.” Jordis Fasheh.

“I will speak for those who seek the Light.  I join with you as a seeker of light and of truth, in this, the winter of my years.  I see the beauty in all that we are and all that we can become.  I reach out to join you in this beautiful dance of life itself with the One. As we continue our incredible journey together, we understand that we are not outside the One, but the One seeing with many eyes and many hearts, and joined in a higher purpose-the alchemy of a life lived fully in concert with all that exists within this universe.” Anne Copeland.

Will you add your voice?

In your own words, speak for them now. Please stand and speak out loud. Let your voice be heard, resonating through the Web, a song in the silence, an affirmation of hope in the darkest night.

When you have spoken, sit quietly for a few moments, then extinguish your candle to end the meditation.

***

Take the three small stones and keep them with you until you find a place where it feels right to leave one. There, ‘plant’ your ‘seed’ of intent, as a symbol of hope and healing.

We thank you for joining with us at this time.

May the light shine always upon and within you.

***

“We offer ourselves as vessels, in service to the One. We see Its Perfection in the unfolding of Divine Will in accordance with the Laws of Being. Our lives flow from the Source; we stand in the presence of the All-Knowing, looking beyond the Veil in faith and trust. Through knowledge and experience, we seek Wisdom. From illusion we turn towards Truth. We journey from love to Love. We add our Light to the Web, renewing our dedication to the Light.” The Silent Eye.

Lord of the Deep: Memento Mori…

*

‘Among the greatest things that can ever happen to a person’ – Rainer Maria Rilke

*

We are bound to ask, ‘Why did Rilke hold the Epic of Gilgamesh in such high regard?’

The answer may be uncomfortable…

In a letter to a friend he confided that he regarded the story an Epic on The Fear of Death.

The first written story known to humanity deals with last things!

And why shouldn’t it?

Part of who we are and why we are here is intimately caught up with precisely this psychological crisis.

There may be as many answers to such a crisis as there are individuals attempting to overcome it, or the crisis may resolve itself into a straight choice between two psychological movements:

The movement out into projection with its attendant horrors or the movement within to contemplation and its subsequent wisdoms.

The clues for the successful resolution to the dilemma are scattered liberally throughout the dramatic adaptation which you will be performing this weekend, like soul gems primed for garnering.

One such: ‘For six days and seven nights I mourned for my beloved, Enkidu, and then a maggot fell out of his nose….’

Once discovered these gems may still need much polishing…

Gilgamesh, our initially wayward hero for the weekend, starts as one thing and ends as another.

This thing and its other will be crucial to our quest for understanding.

As a later savant, echoing some of the nuances of our story, once put it, ‘No one has lived as long as a dead child, and the old man dies young.’

*

Lord of the Deep: And so it begins…

All being well, we are converging from across this country and others, on the little Derbyshire village of Great Hucklow. This year, the story that frames the central themes of the weekend is that of the Epic of Glgamesh, possibly the oldest great work of literature known to Man.

Set in wall-girt Uruk, a mighty city-state of ancient Sumer, the Epic tells the story of its king, Gilgamesh. A magnificent warrior, a strong leader, he is, on the surface, everything a king should be. Especially in his own estimation. And yet… there is something missing; he is less than whole.

Join us here, on the Silent Eye website, as we tell the story of the workshop, exploring this ancient text, its hidden meaning and why it is still relevant to us today…

Would you like to know more?

For details of the School and our methods, how to join our Correspondence Course, or to find out more about our Workshops and Events please explore our website or email The Silent Eye at rivingtide@gmail.com

Getting personal

This weekend saw the monthly meeting of the Silent Eye in the north of England… a time when we reconnect, share and explore ideas and discuss plans for the four workshops we run every year. Work is already well under way for Lord of the Deep, the April workshop, which will explore the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest stories known to man, but our next workshop is a far less formal affair.

These informal workshops are held at various places across the country, making them as accessible as we can to anyone who would like to come along and meet us, see what we do, and visit a variety of historic or ancient sites in the process.

Readers who have followed our adventures at previous workshops, such as the recent Giant and the Sun weekend in Dorset, will know that we manage to see and experience a goodly number of places while exploring the mysteries of the human heart and mind, the spiritual quest …and a few odd theories for good measure.

For our next workshop, Castles of the Mind, organised by Steve, we will be exploring some beautiful parts of the north- eastern coast and its history. It is an area I love, one of which I have many fond memories and in which I have some personal roots; my grandmother and great-grandmother were from the area and my father’s ashes were scattered on the beaches he loved, many years ago.

We will be visiting some of the great castles of the area, and on the Sunday, will spend time on Lindisfarne, the Holy Island, a place of stark beauty, and one which has more history in its thousand acres than many cities.

There are the graceful arches of the old priory, a church that has been a serene presence since Saxon times… although it has also seen the incursions made by the Vikings and other marauders… and, when the sun pours the gold of its setting across the waters, lighting up the ancient stones with a rosy glow, there can be few more beautiful places to be…

…especially as the first day of the workshop coincides with my sixtieth birthday. I have no problems with attaining that age. I count it a privilege, even though I distinctly remember turning thirty and thinking that sixty was positively ancient. The fact that I still feel thirty… inside, at least… is sufficient compensation for attaining the threshold of venerability. And I will be celebrating with friends in a landscape I love. Why not come and join us?

Castles of the Mind

Seahouses, Northumberland

Friday 14th – Sunday 16th September 2018

Bamburgh Castle smaller

Do we have ‘castles of the mind’?

Traditionally, ancient castles were built where there was trouble… Do we have the equivalent in our minds and emotions? Have we, over the course of our lives, built up strong fortifications with which to repel those intrusions which, as children, we considered frightening?

Our ‘walk and talk’ events are friendly and informal. We ask those attending to bring one or two readings from their favourite books, poems, or other sources of inspiration. We listen and talk… and share. If someone is ready to enter their personal borderlands, we hold their hand and walk with them.

The cost per attendee is £50.00. This is an administrative cost, only. All personal costs and bookings, such as hotels, meals and admission charges are the responsibility of those attending. Meals are generally shared in a local pub.

Click below to
Download our Events Booking Form – pdf

Enquiries: rivingtide@gmail.com.

Bearding the lion…

“You busy?”
I flick the phone onto speaker, my hands are otherwise occupied. “Just a bit.”
“What’re you up to?”
“Sticking pasta in a beard.”
There is a long silence on the other end of the phone…
“Could you repeat that?”
“You probably heard me right.”
“I’m pretty sure I didn’t.” His startled tone makes me laugh. “Whose beard?” I can practically picture my son’s thoughts… he sports a rather magnificent beard of his own these days. Then I hear the shift as the light dawns. “Isn’t it a bit early for that?”

No, it is not too early, and even if it were, it would be worth it to have had that conversation. The annual workshop is barely past and we still have eleven months till the next April workshop, so yes, we have plenty of time to gather, make and play with props and costumes. We shouldn’t actually need many props next year, and the costumes will be simple enough, but the ones we do need have to be right. I’d rather start early, with the bits I am doing, and give myself plenty of time to start over if I make a mess. And, to be honest, I love this part of the process and couldn’t wait to get started.

And then, there is the whole time thing. It flies, these days. There are always workshops coming up, even though those we run in the landscape do not take much preparation in terms of making things, there is still research, planning and writing to be done. The time in between just seems to run away.

Our next workshop, in Dorset, is just a month away. Stuart and I have already been there for a research trip and work is ongoing, organising, writing and planning how best to illustrate the phenomenon of the mysterious patterns in the landscape.

Bamburgh Castle smaller
Image: Steve Tanham

We get to sit back in September, and simply enjoy the Castles of the Mind weekend in Northumbria, organised by Steve, where we will look at the physchological correspondences of the fortresses we build both in the mind and in stone.

We are back in the saddle for December, when we will be visting Cumbria, where Castlerigg, one of the most beautiful stone circles in the country, may show us a gateway to the otherworld of the ancient tales.

Then we will be into the final preparation for April’s residential weekend, Lord of the Deep, based upon the four-thousand year-old Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest surviving great work of literature.

And another year will have passed before we know it.

It is both a blessing and a curse, perhaps. The years are sliding past at an incredible rate, it is true, but they are full of purpose, direction and a joy in what we are able to share. I wouldn’t have it any other way. But, if anyone has a current address for Old Father Time, I would happily beard the proverbial lion in his den and ask for an extension…

The Light and the Eye of the Cobra

Eyes of Cobra Mtge smaller

The water was soft on his skin. He was used to bathing in the river at sunset, but there was something special about today. He looked across at the glittering image of the sun as its reflection folded on the water, bouncing the golden light across the gentle waves at him. A boat had just sailed by and he felt the lapping waves caressing his thighs. It tickled and he giggled to the river.

His reverie was disturbed by the sound of his Grandmother’s voice.”Wash, Amkhren, stop your daydreaming!”

He smiled his cheeky smile back at Snefer, sole guardian to him since the death of his parents many years ago, in the fire that had destroyed their home while they slept. The name, which he had given her, made her smile, though he was too young, yet, to know the kindness behind such tolerance. The name derived from a present from his father, which he still kept. His father had travelled in his own youth – selling his beautifully hand-woven carpets, which he would pile onto his faithful donkey, before leaving for days or even weeks. He always came back with tales of his adventures, and Amkhren’s delight had been to sit, balanced precariously on his knee; and listen . . .

One day, his father had returned with a carved wooden object – a present to his son. He took it from his bedroll and presented it, smiling as he did so. He had carved it out of a block of wood. It was like one of the drawings his father had shown him of the fabulous white pillars that legend said graced the upper parts of the river, just before it spread and flowed into the sea. The wooden carving had a square base, whose four corners rose in two stages, to meet at a single vertical point. The angle of the climbing sides became shallower half way up and this gave the whole things a comic element. His father had said that the place it was located was called Sneferu, and it was known as the bent pillar. The day after that, Amkhren had pointed at his grandmother and said, “Grandma is bent, too! Can we call her Sneferu, like the carving?”. His father had looked at his own mother and smiled in that mischievous way that his young son had inherited. Then he had said, “Well, we don’t want to anger the Gods, so let’s shorten it to Snefer!”

She had sighed, inside, on that day. But now the memory of that time brought back such happiness that old Snefer didn’t mind at all. She looked at the boy, who had finally taken off his loin-cloth and was washing himself. Her heart burned with feeling for him – the sole survivor of a family that had known how to love and to laugh, together. The sight of him always drove away the aches and pains that had begun to afflict her ageing frame . . . and the sad memories.

The sound of footsteps behind her made her whirl in alarm. After that, she could only drop to her knees in the sand.

“High Priestess, forgive me!” She bowed her head to the mud. Before her was one of the most beautiful and stately women she had ever encountered – Neferaset, the woman who led the worship at the Temple of Isis on the island of Philae, across the river a mile or so away. Alongside her brother, Anzety, they were the most powerful of the bright people.

“Do not be frightened, old woman,” said the glowing one, bending down to take the hands in the dust and pull Snefer up to her normal, if bent, standing position. “We are not in the temple, and, if I choose to leave the sanctuary of the island and walk along the river, I am going to meet strangers . . .”

Snefer kept her head bowed. But spoke, “My grandson is bathing in the river. Forgive his rude nakedness.”

Neferaset looked beyond the bowed woman and saw her relative. He was talking to another boy who stood ahead of him in the deeper water.

“And who is that with him?” she asked.

“There is no-one with him, High Priestess . . .”

Neferaset frowned, then moved the sight into place to gain more distance; and blinked her eyes, focussing on the two boys in the shallows. One was plainly visible, his naked form dancing in the water. But he was definitely speaking to another boy – one who stood motionless before him and had a bright but much less distinct outline . . .

Amkhren was delighted with his new friend. As golden as the ripples on the river, he had appeared before him in the beautiful sunset, smiling. He had asked Amkhren’s name, but refused to give his own. Now, the other watched, while Amkhren bathed, as though the act of seeing someone so vividly alive fascinated him. Amkhren was about to press for his name, again, when he heard his grandma calling from the bank.

“Amkhren, put on your garment and come here at once!”

Amkhren, saddened, but obedient, spun back to say goodbye to his friend; but the other boy was gone. He peered deep into the waves in case his friend had swum off, but there was no trace of the other. A second, and sterner call from Snefer dragged him from his searching. Panting, he retrieved his rags and tied them across his wet waistline. Only then did he look up to locate the old woman. She was standing, with her head bowed, next to another woman. This was a day of surprises! He looked harder, narrowing his eyes to carry his vision deeper into the tableau. Then, he stopped walking and his mouth fell open. There on the raised bank, his grandma was talking, though her head was bowed, with the High Priestess of Isis – a woman he had once stolen a look at from the sanctuary of a hastily built log raft, which had floundered shortly thereafter.

The day had been baking hot and Amkhren had walked along the river bank, far from where Snefer had said it was safe for him to travel. He had gradually been extending his exploring, because he knew that the Island of Philae lay somewhere beyond the next twist of the river’s course. On that day, he had caught sight of a temple procession on the sacred isle and had thrown caution to the wind, and trusted his life to a few logs hastily lashed together with the stalks of reeds in the way that his father had shown him, so long ago.

Before the raft had fallen apart, he had caught sight of the winged one, as he thought of her. She had shone in the sun in her finery and splendour. All around her there was total silence, total reverence. Beside her, another of equal stature walked, but this one was a man, tall and purposeful, yet with a hint of gentleness to his bearing.

The reed bindings had given way, the logs parted and, plunging into the river with a cry, he was forced to cling to the largest as it rolled. Gone were the wild thoughts that someday he would find a way to return to Philae to serve them. Choking on the inhaled river water, he clung desperately to the remains of his capsized raft and forced his legs to kick, pushing the log slowly towards the far bank.

Now the Goddess stood before him. Disguised, yes, but it was her . . .

Amkhren took a few more steps and fell to his knees, prostrating himself in the dust.

“I feel I know you, boy?” said the shining one.

“Oh, you couldn’t know us, High Priestess – we are just beggars in your world,” blurted out his grandma, her head still bowed.

Amkhren’s mind raced. Should he tell her of his moment on the raft? Surely it would be to invite death . . . and yet, he didn’t want to miss the only chance that his life might contain to reach for that impossible goal.

“The river has many secrets, High Priestess,” he managed, somewhat proud of his utterance.

“And dreams, perhaps?” the tone of her voice was soft. There was deadliness there, too, but her knives were sheathed.

She knelt down in the dust of the bank and, with gentle hands that yet contained more power than he had ever felt, pulled his head up to stare back at her almond eyes.

“And what does this young man dream of?” she asked, running a painted finger up the side of his jaw.

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So begins “The River of the Sun” the Silent Eye’s April 2015 annual workshop. You can read more about it here.

The workshop explores the nature of living a magical life within the hard reality of a world dominated by power and materiality. Using the setting of ancient Egypt and the aftermath of Akhenaten’s doomed reign, a living story is told of two great forces which collide. The one, inspired by the vision of the long dead heretic seeks to embody what is known of his teachings, hidden within the worship of Isis. The other is the man known as the Eye of the Cobra, a deputy of the new Pharaoh, Rameses, who is left on the island of Philae to spy on the suspect High Priestess and her brother.

Into this maelstrom flows the life of a young man, Amkhren, whose long-held desire has been to serve for the priesthood. But his life will turn out to be very different from what he had envisaged.

Join us for this exciting weekend in the Derbyshire hills.  From the team that brought you “The Song of the Troubadour” and “The Land of the Exiles.”

The event offers a mixture of lectures and ritual dramas in which each of us will play a single role for the duration of the weekend.  Each person will play a (fully scripted) role – you only need to read from the scripts and do your best to bring it to life. Creativity will be welcome and encouraged, and we will all explore the deeper meanings of Egyptian symbology by living it.  Fun will most certainly be a theme and there is a lovely pub next door, which sees occasional use from the Silent Eye crowd . . .

Dates: Weekend of 24-26 April, 2015. Location: The lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow, Derbyshire Dales. England.

Don’t miss it! Demand will be high and there are limited places.

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

The Silent Eye, a Modern Mystery School

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