Images and Text from the Silent Eye Workshop: Whispers in the West…
There are a number of intriguing aspects to the legend of Wayland Smithy…
The earliest written sources appear late and are decidedly piecemeal.
Wayland is the son of a God, Giant, or King of the Otherworld.
He is schooled in metallurgy by Dwarves, whom, in skill, he quickly surpasses.
He lives, hunts, and works alone in a region associated with wolves and bears.
One day he comes upon a swan-maiden bathing skin-less.
He finds her skin, appropriates it, and she lives with him for nine years.
At the end of which time she discovers her hidden skin and flies away.
Wayland is then taken captive by the King of Sweden,
maimed to prevent escape and set to work on an island…
Wayland surreptitiously kills the king’s sons, turns their skulls into goblets
and presents them to the king and queen.
Their teeth he turns into a brooch for the king’s daughter.
The king’s daughter has a ring of Wayland’s, stolen from him by her father,
and when it breaks she asks him to mend it.
Wayland inebriates the king’s daughter and fathers a son on her.
At this point, in the tale, Wayland’s swan-wife returns,
with a swan-skin for him and they fly away,
to the Blessed-Isles of Britain, together…
Brother-Wizard and Brother-Warrior immediately set out for the sea-shore.
There, moored at the mouth of a natural cave in the cliffs, bobbed a coracle.
They both clambered aboard…
…The King of Castle-Hill took the magic halter to the cell of the tower on his wooded isle and presented it as a gift to appease his imprisoned daughter.
“Of what use to me is a magic halter,” sobbed the princess, “if all my days are to be spent cooped up here seeing none but my hand-maids.”
“With the halter comes a wondrous cow, my child, its inexhaustible supply of milk will sustain you,” soothed the king, “and I shall bring your food everyday and relate the comings and goings of the kingdom. Far better a sequestered life than one without a father.”
As the King of Castle-Hill left the tower to attend to his duties, the magic halter cascaded against the back of the cell door…
Brother-Warrior and Brother-Wizard landed at the wooded isle in their coracle.
“The magic halter is with the king’s daughter,” said Brother-Wizard.”
“And where is the king’s daughter?” said Brother-Warrior.
“The king’s daughter, is in a tower in the centre of the wood which is surrounded by nine home-steads,” said Brother-Wizard, “you must enter the tower and sleep with her.”
“And what’s in the nine home-steads?”said Brother-Warrior.
“You’ll see,” said Brother-Wizard. He gave his brother a Cloak-of-Darkness and put a spell on his hands so that whatever door he came to would open for him.
“Wish me luck, brother,” said the warrior, turning to leave.
“One more thing,” said the wizard, “be sure to leave the magic halter with the princess, we will return for it another day.”
“I thought…” began Brother-Warrior but a withering look from the wizard stayed that thought and sent him swiftly on his way into the wood.
To round off our brief but succinct survey of the Alchemists,
we shall give some examples from the works
of those savants that we have so far considered.
First up, Fulcanelli…
“…For us, gothic art (fr: art gotique) is only a spelling distortion of the word argotique (slang), whose assonance is perfect in accordance with the phonetic law that governs in all languages and without taking into account spelling, the traditional cabal.
The cathedral is a work of Gothic Art or argot, that is, slang.
However, dictionaries define argot as ‘a language particular to all individuals who have an interest in communicating their thoughts to each other without being understood by those around them’ in other words, a spoken cabala.
The argoters, those who use this language, are hermetic descendants of the argonauts, who climbed aboard the Argo, spoke the argot language, which is our green language (fr: langue verte) – and sailed towards the rich shores of Colchis to conquer the famous Golden Fleece.
They still say today of a very intelligent, but also a very cunning man; he knows everything, he understands the argot, both the vagrant of the Court of Miracles – the poet Villon at their head – and the Freemasons of the Middle Ages, ‘members of the Lodge of God’ who built the argotique masterpieces that we admire today. They themselves, these builders, knew the road to the Garden of the Hesperides…”
The Mystery of the Cathedrals
They knew also, presumably, these savants, the way from the Tower of Babel!
The seasons turn as we approach the turning point, the Solstice… the longest night… just three short weeks away. And yet, the sky is beautiful this morning, a clear, deep blue graced with the lights of heaven. The world is still and silent, even the birds are hushed as dawn creeps over the horizon of a rain-washed world. The moon lights the village and touches the rooftops with silver. Branches are down in the lane and few are the leaves that still cling tenaciously to the trees, most stripped away by the vicious fingers of winter winds.
There is such strength in the grasp of leaf to twig, both so fragile they can be plucked and broken by a child, yet the bond of life so strong it can withstand the most inclement weather. Until it is time for them to fall.
Even when the leaves fall it is part of a greater renewal, the confetti of the marriage of the seasons, nourishing the earth and the tree from whence they fell. The tree sleeps through the winter, seemingly lifeless, husbanding its resources against the coming of spring. Beneath the skeletal surface of this dying time the life within shapes new leaves and blossoms, waiting in pregnant patience for the warm kiss of the sun.
There is so much laid out before us, even in the avenues of our city streets. The life of nature is so strong and so beautifully balanced. So easy to damage when, with careless hands her children grasp at her skirts, taking anything that claims their attention and desire… yet strong enough to recover when we are no more.
In the little wood where we sometimes walk, the small dog and I, man has left his traces. From the earliest times, track and road have passed this way. From the air, the circled marks of ancient homes can be seen in the fields, the line of a Roman road, lost now to plough and furrow. And still we carve this little patch of green to serve our needs. Yet as soon as we turn our back the wild things cover our tracks, reclaiming the earth for themselves, our little lives more fragile than their delicate blooms.
In towns and cities, sites and factories that were once hives of industry fall silent as technology moves on and we are proud of our advances, not noticing the quiet crown of plant and sapling our forgotten edifices wear, the gentle but inexorable hand of nature taking back her own as soon as we depart.
The seasons of the earth are echoed too within our own lives… we are part of the cycle, our bodies dance to the same natal song of the seasons. Life springs from death, death from life in an endless round.
The cadence is echoed within us as we laugh for joy beneath the sun of summer and weep in grief when winter touches our hearts. In the dark days, we too may feel as if leaf and branch are being stripped from us, battered by the winds of change and the storms of emotion. Yet like the trees only the damaged and broken falls from us… the green heart is strong and holds the pattern of renewal within itself.
As the wheel turns it is easy to become lost in the dark days, feeling a verdant spring to be too far to reach, fearing in the shadows that it will not come. Perhaps, like the trees, we too are then husbanding our strength, withdrawing within where growth and renewal can work their magic unseen, ready to blossom at the first touch of the sun.
When the Solstice comes, the world, still facing the worst of winter, turns almost unnoticed towards summer. We know this, yet the winter is still to be endured. The days will lengthen, the light will be bright on days covered in snow, ice is yet to break open the cracked stones, and we will huddle by our hearths as if there is no warmth in the world, forgetting that we have passed the nadir and the eternal dance of the seasons carries us onwards towards a brighter dawn.
When we are lost in grief, gripped by the cold of fear, it is hard to see that light at the end of the tunnel, hard to believe that we have passed the worst point when we see a dark road still looming ahead. Yet this is the rhythm of life itself, as the earth holds us in the reassuring and loving embrace of a Mother and shows us that not all is lost in winter, it merely endures the frost while within, nourished by the fallen leaves that were stripped away by the storms and the turning year, the green life springs anew.
I wandered into the living room at four, having given the whole sleeping business up for the night. Ani raised one ear and an eyebrow then curled up tight and refused to budge. It is odd though, now that I do not have to be up early, I seem to have reverted to an earlier mode when the house was so full of people that rising at ungodly hours was the only time I had to do things in peace.
There is something about the dark hours when the world is still sleeping, as if beyond the local noise you can hear the slow heartbeat of earth. There is nothing ‘ungodly’ about these moments, in fact quite the opposite.
How can you not feel close to the divine in a silence broken only by the wind in the trees… or looking up at star-strewn heavens? How can you not be touched by awe as the dawn paints the horizon in gold and flame and the first blackbird opens the day with song?
Our worlds are, for so many of us, artificial. Sunrise occurs behind closed blinds at the flick of a switch, TV and radio and the eternal rumble of traffic drown the delicate morning paean and a golden dawn cannot be seen in many places. We don’t realise that, of course, as we watch the first light creep into our rooms, busy with our preparations for the day. It was borne in upon me a few days ago as my son, also sleepless, had set his camera up to catch the dawn. I drove from village to town, stopping to capture something of the blaze of light on the way. He, hanging half-naked out of his bedroom window in the frost, caught only a tiny streak of gold above the rooftops, his horizon bounded by chimneypots.
I love the dawn. From where I sit to write I can turn to the window and look due east, and will always stop to watch those fleeting moments of glory that touch the sky. I am incredibly lucky, yet so accustomed had I become to the daily joy of greeting the dawn it was not until a city-dwelling friend mentioned that it had been years since he had seen a true dawn that I realised just how lucky…. That seemed to me a tragedy, yet I have been a city dweller much of my life and know it to be true.
Knowledge and realisation are so very different.
We know things, take them for granted through habituation and it takes something to spark our attention before we can consciously notice them… and it is only at that moment that they become real for us again, vivid, vital and full of wonder.
As I write, the wind howls through the trees, drowning any sound but its own, an elemental tide of rushing air. From here there is no sulphurous glow from the town to colour the sky and the birds still sleep.
Soon, very soon, I will see that first shy blush as the false dawn touches the clouds and I will watch to see if the sky is clear enough to allow the painted horizon to blaze or whether the dawn fires will quietly suffuse the clouds with a gentle glow. I will listen to the waking of the morning as the birds sing and I will do so in full awareness, grateful that I can share a moment in solitude with something greater than I… and know It.
I weird you a Laidly Worm,
Until the end-of-days,
And freed ne’er shall you be,
Until the king’s successor,
Approach the Heugh,
And give you kisses three…
Before a legend ‘goes national’ it will first have been local.
There are lots of ‘merlins’ and ‘arthurs’ in the land of Britain,
although not all of them are known by those names or titles.
There are too, lots of dragon slayers,
few of which are called George.
Before George became our Patron Saint,
our Patron Saint was called Edmund.
Edmund was shot full of arrows then decapitated,
and his decapitated head was stolen, by a wolf…
Which is, perhaps, not very heroic.
Not heroic enough for some, certainly.
Before George became our Patron Saint
there was a ‘dragon slayer’ in Northumbria,
here is his tale…
“And so to Bamburgh castle, the king a new wife did bring.
But his queen took an instant dislike to her husband’s daughter, Margaret,
And transformed her into a Laidly Wyrm which coiled itself about a Great Stone,
And laid waste the land for seven miles around.
Daily, the milk of seven cows was brought the Wyrm but all to no avail,
For the enchantment could only be lifted by Childy Wynd,
Margaret’s brother, but he lived far away over the sea.
Word of the dark doings in his homeland eventually reached Childy,
Who built a ship with a rowan-tree mast and silken sails,
And set out to rid Bamburgh of its blight.
The queen, she spied the ship and sent out ‘witch-wives’ to sink it,
But they were powerless ‘gainst the magical mast.
As the ship came into land, the Wyrm leapt up,
The Wyrm leapt down, and plaiting ’round the stane,
Banged it out to sea again.
Undaunted, Childy put in on Budle Sand and waded ashore.
Finally encountering the Wyrm, Childy laid his sword upon its head,
Yet gave it kisses three,
And though it crept back into its hole a Wyrm,
It stepped out, a Lady.
Together, brother and sister returned to Bamburgh,
To be greeted by their joyful father, the king.
The queen was transformed, by Childy, into a toad,
Which to this day spits venom on young girls out walking.”
Duncan Frasier AD 1270