A Jewel in the Crown…

The Hermit (Tarot card) - Wikipedia

*

‘…And it makes me wonder…’

Stairway to Heaven

*

PROJECTION OF GOLD
In truth, it is certain and without doubt that whatever is above tends toward that which is below and whatever is below tends toward that which is above for the accomplishment of the One Perfected Thing.
As all things are discovered by one, alone through contemplation so all things are born from this one, alone by permutation: its Father is the Sun, its Mother is the Moon, the Wind bears it in its Belly, the Earth nurtures it in its Heart; Power of all powers it contains the subtle and penetrates the solid and is the progenitor of all wonder in the world yet its efficacy is only perfected through embodiment.
In order that the little world may be re-created in the image of the great world the Spirit must be separated from the Body gradually by the regulated heat of a gentle flame: it rises to heaven from earth and falls back to earth from heaven and thus it acquires the inferior and superior powers for the glory of the whole world and the dissipation of all darkness…
This is the Way of Perfection…
I alone transmit this threefold wisdom which is why I am called The Thrice Raised Hermes.

– The Emerald Tablet

*2 ‘Stone of the Wise’

The Lion’s share…

Strength (Tarot card) - Wikipedia

*

… ‘Cursed be the man who eats a lion

that the lion becomes human.

Blessed be the lion that eats a man

when the lion becomes human.’

The Living One

*

Samson went down to Timinah, in Philistine.

On approaching the vineyards there a full grown lion came roaring at him.

Samson tore the lion asunder with his bare hands.

Then he went down and noticed a girl amongst the women,

they talked, and she pleased him.

When he returned to his homeland he said to his mother and father,

“There is a woman of the Philistines whom I would like as my wife.”

*

So, Samson went down to Timinah the following year,

with his mother and father, to marry the woman.

On again passing through the vineyard there

Samson saw the carcass of the lion he had slain before.

In the skeleton of the lion a swarm of bees had a hive, and had made honey.

Samson scooped up some of the honey into his palms,

then he and his mother and father ate the honey as they went along.

*

So they went down to meet the woman, and as was customary,

Samson held a wedding feast for the woman’s kinsfolk.

Thirty companions there were attending the wedding feast

but Samson could not afford the bride-price for the woman.

“Let me set you a riddle,” he said to the wedding guests,

“if you can solve the riddle during the seven days of our wedding feast,

I shall give you thirty linen tunics and thirty sets of clothing but if not

then that number of garments shall be due to me.”

“We shall hear your riddle,” said the wedding guests of the woman of Philistine.

*

“Out of the eater,

came something to eat.

Out of the strong,

came something sweet.”

*

For three days the wedding guests

were unable to fathom Samson’s riddle.

On the fourth day they said to Samson’s wife, “Coax your husband

and provide us with the answer to his riddle,

else we shall put you and your father’s household to the fire,

have we been invited here to be impoverished?”

*

Then Samson’s wife wept before him saying, “You do not love me,

you have asked my countrymen a riddle without telling me the answer.”

“I haven’t even told my mother and father,” said Samson.

During the rest of the feast Samson’s wife continued to inveigle him with her tears

until on the seventh day he told her because of her constant nagging.

She explained the riddle to her kinsmen and at the close of the seventh day

they taunted Samson with the answer, “What is stronger than a lion?

What is sweeter than honey?”

“Had you not plowed with my heifer

you would not have solved my riddle,” said Samson.

*

Then Samson went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of its men.

He stripped them and gave their clothing to his wife’s kinsmen as her bride-price.

Then he left in rage for his mother and father’s house…

 

 

 

 

 

Curried garlic

diana nick ashridge 090

I recoiled as I opened the door. There had, quite apparently, been garlic the night before. Lots of garlic. Evidently in curry. And there can be few things worse than second-hand garlic, except, perhaps, walking, all unsuspecting, into a small, hermetically sealed room where the stuff has been exuded from every pore overnight. My tormentor laughed at the groans that escaped me, in spite of my attempts to hold my breath, as I beat a hasty retreat after diving for the window and throwing it wide open. I wasn’t going back till the miasma had cleared.

Those who say that garlic is good for you have evidently never encountered the phenomenon of the exudation of the stuff overnight. It may indeed have many health benefits, including as an antibacterial. Certainly nothing, even as virulent as a virus, could have survived in that room.

He, of course, had enjoyed the meal and was so habituated to the gradual garlic infestation of his environs that he was unaware of it. I had detected vague precursors to the pollution of his airspace as soon as I had opened the front door to let myself in, of course; but the sheer scale and venomous stench of the stuff was overpowering. Especially so early in the morning. Though I was fairly glad I’d only gulped down a coffee before the taxi arrived to take me to his home. Breakfast and I would otherwise have undoubtedly parted company.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like garlic. Properly used as a condiment it is rather like salt…barely noticeable; enhancing, rather than adding, flavour in a dish. As an ingredient, it adds a wonderful freshness and distinctive character. As a curried-morning-after-the-night-before, it is, however, vile.

The stench, for I cannot call it by a lesser name, holds memories for me. Vague wafts of the Parisian Metro at rush hour, coupled with its own distinctive smell of sulphur, as if the underground train runs through the bowels of Hell instead of beneath the steps of heaven. The doctor whose face was, for hours, inches from mine as he stitched it back together again. The desperation of mint and fresh parsley when a first date came immediately after a garlic and green bean salad… I have memories of garlic. And those that sprang to mind, elicited from the depths, were, it has to be said, none of them good.

My tormentor, however, having thoroughly enjoyed the meal the night before, was blithely unconscious of the effects of his allium indulgence. Until those effects were made abundantly apparent by my reactions to the olfactory assault. His hilarity was not, however, consummate with own state of mind and body by this point, as said body went into flight mode and headed for the open door…

A little garlic, I can cope with. It is easy to simply ignore and you become so accustomed to it, in small quantities, that you soon barely notice its presence. It becomes part of the atmosphere. It is easy too, to fail to notice another person’s memorial garlic, when you have shared the platter with them, or eaten a similar one of your own creation. One’s own level of exudation, however, remains often undetected.

I could, however, see an analogy in that as I breathed the fresh, clean air on his doorstep; wondering how often we can all create situations whose chain-reactions ripple through the lives of those around us, while we ourselves remain unconscious, like the toxic exhalation of curried garlic previously enjoyed… until something snaps, bends or breaks… and metaphorical fresh air is not always so easy to find. We do what we do, without malice, without any intention of causing potential harm or indeed discomfort to others, yet we cannot always foresee the effects of our behaviour until it becomes a cause of regret.

Rather like eating too much curried garlic.

Eye of the beholder

the-toilet-of-venus-peter-paul-rubens
The Toilet of Venus, Rubens c.1614

“…item, two lips indifferent red; item, two grey eyes, with lids to them; item, one neck, one chin, and so forth.”

Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare

Let’s be clear… fashions change, in beauty as in all else. Many of the celebrated beauties of history would not cut the mustard by today’s standards. Cleopatra had a big nose. Emma Hamilton, mistress of Lord Nelson, was fat by the time they met. And Rubens’ Venus had cellulite. The list could go on. These women, accounted great beauties in their day, to modern eyes may lack that certain something we are almost indoctrinated to seek. Was it just fashion that gave them their place in history? Or was there more to these women? Charm, grace, laughter and intellect; or did they exude that sensuality that attracts regardless of face?

I was speaking with a woman today, very beautiful to my eyes. Just a chance acquaintance, but so much of her story was poured out in that brief meeting … a tragic one… and all rooted in a simple fact; she felt worthless unless she could feel beautiful. It made me angry and set me thinking about my own journey to being comfortable in my skin. Both men and women are too often made to feel they must live up to an aesthetic ideal, yet what really matters is what is under the skin.

I never felt beautiful. I was born several centuries too late to ever be the life model for a painting of Venus. I feel I would have liked Rubens.

Looking back now at old photos, I was a pretty child at that age when, as a child you really do not notice or care about such things. I was a ‘girlie’ girl, with pale curls and the big brown eyes I now love in my younger son. Though he has always had far more eyelashes than any man should lay claim to…

As a teenager I could ape, but lacked, the confidence of my peers. I never felt I matched up. There was no envy, no sour grapes… it was just the way things were and I admired my friends, envying only their confidence. I stopped growing upwards around the five foot mark and rounded out. The pale curls became an un-tameable mop of mousey brown. The nose, broken by this stage already, had become a family joke; kindly meant, but leaving uncomfortable bruises on the fragile surface of the fledgling woman. The legs were decent, but the ankles not quite as fine as my mother’s… nor the wrists… nor the cheekbones… or the dratted nose. And comparison was inevitable… we looked very much alike.

My mother had lovely hair, rich auburn… and better skin too. My teenage acne had me evicted from the doctor’s waiting room one day. “You can’t bring her in here with measles!” the receptionist had said. Which did wonders for my flagging self-confidence, as you can imagine! Yet the weird thing was, I never lacked a boyfriend back then. It certainly wasn’t beauty that attracted them… I made my own guess at the cause and did my confidence even less good.

I could always see beauty in others and have tried to find ways to have them see in themselves what I could see. Bodies are incredible machines, sculpted by a master in every conceivable shape, size and hue. I have never yet seen a face I find ugly or physically repulsive, only expressions … calculated nastiness, venomous hatred and coldness… have ever seemed ugly. People can be unattractive that way. But most are not. Most have similar issues of self-image to my own and, no matter what you say or do, few can accept their own beauty as it is in the eyes of another. Even my own sons will not accept what is mirrored in my eyes… I am ‘just Mum’… my opinion therefore counts for nothing.

Eventually, I was a wife, and could look in the mirror and acknowledge that the reflection was okay… not beautiful, not by any standard I knew. But okay, and that was good enough. The eyes were nice. The nose wasn’t too bad really and could have been worse. The lips a perfect shape. Even the skin was reasonable at last. Confidence began to build… till a drunk driver rearranged the face a fair bit and it was back to square one through the years it took for the scarring to settle.

That taught me a lot. Youth defines itself often by its appearance, but faces do not define who we are. To ourselves, we are more than just a face. To others, we are more than just a face… and if we are not, then perhaps the problem lies within them, not our appearance. It taught me too that if I looked at myself and saw only the scars, that is all others would be able to see too. If I allowed the scars to be at the forefront of my vision of myself, I would see myself only as a tragedy. And so would others.

But you grow up. Priorities shift. There would be jobs and perhaps children. You did your best with what you had, accepting the self-image, flawed or not. It becomes a habit. Years and a few extra curves will change everything anyway.

Confidence came from other things than face or figure. There were more important things than feeling yourself to be beautiful. Seeing a new life changing your waistline to whale shaped, holding your newborn babe and falling into those eyes… closing the eyes of a loved one for that final time. I did not feel beautiful, but I knew that in such moments I was living within beauty.

Nowadays, I look in the mirror as rarely as possible. Not for fear of what I will see, but because I have better things to do with my life than worry too much about my appearance. There is nothing I could do that is going to make me fit the accepted ideal of tall, slender and youthful beauty. Other than perhaps a strict diet and fitness regime, being voluntarily stretched on some torturer’s rack and wholesale plastic surgery… not to mention a trip back a couple of decades in a time machine…

It doesn’t matter. The face that looks back at me is my own. It carries my experience, my joys and sorrows, old worry tracks my brow and laughter draws stars around my eyes. Our youthful perception of ourselves lacks depth. We see and judge ourselves on our surfaces, the sometimes brittle, sometimes bright reflection of our own image thrown back at us by the world like those fleeting glimpses in shop windows. We lack the experience to see deep enough to go beyond the outer shell and, we were to find a way in, there would still be a void the years had yet to fill.

When we are young we learn from others how to evaluate our world. It is all we have to live by until we can replace their teaching with knowledge of our own. It is easy to become stuck with those acquired filters; the habits that cloud our vision and our understanding with patterns that should have been discarded as obsolete and replaced with the rich texture of experience.

To my own eyes my features still seem coarse… but I know that I judge them by a standard learned long ago. To the cold steel of my only tape measure, my figure is not what it was. But it’s not that bad either. The hair is more unruly than ever and starting to be streaked with white. Which is fine. I have lived in this body for a good while now and done a lot with it. It’s entitled to fray a bit round the edges. I have lived, laughed, wept and more than anything, I have loved and been loved.

Looking back at old photographs, it is as if I am looking at someone I do not know. Were I to have met her, I would undoubtedly have told that young woman she was beautiful. She wouldn’t have believed me; she would have thought I was simply being kind. She would have had to learn to look out through my eyes… and her eyes were still too young and too caught by the vision of beauty she saw in others.

Today, those eyes see things rather differently. Although I can admire the aesthetics of youth, the people I would call truly beautiful are those who have lived a little longer. I see their lives in their eyes, their laughter and tears written in the map of their face, the confidence of experience and the wisdom of having learned from it… and an indefinable light within them that shines with a timeless and ageless beauty. And for myself? I live on the most beautiful planet imaginable, surrounded by wonders. I am part of the marvellous dance of creation that links every atom, every creature, each rock and wave. Why should I need to see a superficial beauty in the mirror when I can feel myself part of such living beauty?

There are too many tragedies happening quietly around us, from eating disorders, to self harm. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, they say. It isn’t so much about how others see us, but how we are allowed, and able to see ourselves.

SEE: September Zoom Cyber-Room…

*

Silent Eye-Explorations

“The Soul: a work in progress or divine and finished – and just awaiting our death?”

The world ‘soul’ means different things to different people.

Is it possible to be more rigorous with a definition – one that would help us in our individual spiritual paths?

After all, if we are following a map on a long walk through mountains, we measure our progress to the destination by first evaluating where we are, now… Or where we think we are.

In previous talks, we’ve discussed the ‘self’, particularly the egoic self.

What relationship does the soul have to this? Can we set them both in an overall spiritual container; one that shows the journey ahead?

Or, perhaps, we have never lost the soul?

Perhaps that small egoic self, with all its faults and limitations, is the key to the destination and is, itself the journey?

Modern philosophers like Gurdjieff claimed that the soul doesn’t exist until we build it. Is there any truth in this?

Belief and experience can be very different things…

*

https://stevetanham.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/cb164-img_0622.jpg

*

…What was it that broke under such circumstances?

I had asked the question of myself the week before. When you ‘stopped the world’ what was it that broke? Perhaps breaking was too strong a word – it could also be described as a passage from one state of attention to another . . . I sipped the hot coffee, noisily – it was the only way to drink it, fresh from the flask.

“Penny for them?” asked George Dixter, sitting on the park bench next to me. We had bumped into each other the day before, and he had offered croissants and coffee in the park; the place where I had first met him. The weather had turned damp and cold, so he didn’t look out of place in his old Burberry mac, which seemed to accompany him everywhere and in all seasons. On this occasion, and, no doubt in deference to the late autumn, he was also wearing an olive green fedora.

In the late fifties or even sixties, he would have cut quite a contemporary dash. But now, he looked like a character out of a period spy movie. I smiled at the thought, but was wary – little that these people did appeared to be accidental.

“Well, two things . . .” I sipped some more of his generously provided coffee and gratefully accepted the fresh croissant which had been procured from the bakery across the road from the park.

“Firstly,” my grin widened as his snakey eyes locked onto mine. Conspiratorially, I lowered my voice. “why the George Smiley outfit?”

He leaned closer, playing the perfect spy, and whispered, “. . . And secondly?”

I couldn’t help it, I chuckled. “Well, secondly, what is it that breaks when we ‘stop the world’.

“Aha . . .” he said, sitting back and mirroring my noisy sipping of the ultra-hot coffee, as though he had just learned some secret from me.

“Well now,” he began, putting down his steaming coffee and flexing his fingers outwards from linked palms. “the first one is easier to answer – play!”

“Play?” I asked, unsure if it were noun or command.

“Yes, play,” he replied. “as in we don’t play enough!

“We?”

“We, as in people,” he replied good-naturedly. “We forget how to play and play is really important!”

I thought about this for a while, while he sipped his coffee. I was about to ask another question when he answered it. “My outfit, as you say, is quirky . . . It makes me feel good because, in it, I’m playing; and I love the reaction of those around me, and it would help stop their worlds if they used it properly – which brings us, nicely, to your second question . . .”

I considered the import of what he had said. They were all playing . . . and yet.

“What breaks,” he continued, leaning closer, again and emphasising the serious side of this play. “is something that hides behind the habitual, which we call the slayer of the now.”

They had mentioned the word slayer, before. I knew it meant something in Buddhism, but I was not sure if they used it in the same way.

“So, stopping the world is an example of an action that defeats the slayer?”

“Yes, as, to a certain extent, does the whole idea of play.” He sipped the last of his coffee and looked at his watch. “Play and stopping the world makes us present to the moment, the now. The real lives only in the now, the rest is a system of mental devices which support the slayer . . .”

He looked at his watch. “I must go.” He said, holding out his hand for my coffee cup which was part of a set belonging to the large flask. It was still half full, but I handed it back to him, expecting that he would empty it onto the nearby grass. He didn’t – instead he reached into his canvas shoulder bag and pulled out a styrofoam cup. Emptying the remainder into this, he passed it back to me.

“You’ll be delighted to learn that Maria Angelo has offered to take the next bit with you!”

Events were happening too fast. I blurted out, “When?”

“It’s on the bottom of the cup,” he replied, striding off around the path.

Carefully, I raised the foam cup and examined its underside. There was nothing. I moved to protest at the departing back of the raincoat, but he beat me to it.

“Oh yes it is . . . ” he shouted over his shoulder.

I stared at the cup more carefully. On its rim, three marks had been added with a blue Biro.

They formed a perfect triangle within the circle…

The Beast in the Cafe – Stephen Tanham

*

The Beast in the Café: Coffee with Don Pedro

Available from Amazon Books

How to make a living as a writer

It wasn’t her real name but close enough. An author’s nom de plume. Still, seeing it at the end of the printed article gave her a thrill. Every time. I felt the same way when that first magazine dropped through the letterbox with my name at the end of the article. Like mother, like daughter. There was a pride in that, hard to put into words.

It was, for both of us, so many years apart, a small thing… but to a writer it means the world.

I am not a million-dollar author with a major publishing house, I am not even a respectably sized fish in that particular pond. But I am a writer.

It took me a long time to call myself that, to ‘own’ it, as a friend said the other day. My Mum was a writer…she had things printed all over the place. I just wrote things. Even when ‘The Mystical Hexagram’, written with Gary Vasey came out, published by a publisher, I still didn’t feel right about calling myself an author.

You see, I grew up in a house with an Author… one who actually attained the Holy Grail… she made a living from her work. I knew the system. Long hours hunched over the ancient Imperial typewriter, later succeeded by a more portable affair. Always coffee, occasionally turning the typewriter upside down to shake out the fallen cigarette ash and biscuit crumbs. Pages thrust at me to read… red pen…retype. Long, involved discussions… we’d call it brainstorming today… about how the plot should unfold. My mother, you see, is a storyteller.

011She had always written. Starting with poetry, she had penned her first novel when I was very young, largely because the title came to her and she had to write the book. Two other novels followed. Stories I adored as I grew old enough to appreciate them. Later there were children’s tales. Each manuscript when finished would be placed in a big manila envelope, signed across all the seals and posted back to our home to get the postmarked date… the only way to protect copyright back then. Every so often, when she could afford the postage, she would duly type a letter to a publisher, package up a copy of the MS and post it off in hope with a stamped return envelope. And every time the book came back with a rejection letter.

Meanwhile Mum was writing articles and short stories, trawling through the Writers and Artists Year Book that was renewed every year and sending them off. Sometimes there would be a whoop of excitement as she opened the envelope that held a cheque. Most times she packaged the story back up for its next tentative voyage.

This went on for years… most of my childhood in fact. Over those years Mum wrote several stories in Yorkshire dialect; amusing pieces showing the archetypal character of our home county, entitled ‘Dahn at t’ Pig and Whistle’. One of these pieces landed on a desk and there was a letter… an invitation to write and record a Radio series for the BBC. Those were exciting times for my mother and we all gathered round the radio for each broadcast in shades of an older time.

But the series ended all too soon and she was back to the typewriter once more. More articles were sent out, tons more rejection slips were received. Still her novels had not been published and gradually they were sent out less and less often. She had tried for ten years with no success. But she didn’t give up.

cover ideas

One day, she had a letter. One of her stories, sent to a women’s publication, had ended up, quite by accident, on the wrong desk. The letter was from the occupant of that desk, Ian Forbes. The content of my mother’s article was totally unsuitable for the publications he managed… but he had read it anyway and liked her style. Would she like to try something a bit different?

Mr Forbes… or Uncle Ian as he became affectionately known…ran publications many of my generation may remember. He had sent samples scripts of what he would need. My mother sat down to study them. She didn’t write romance… it wasn’t her thing, but, she decided, she’d give it a go. The fee was too good to refuse.

For the next few years, until I left England for France, we would sit every month batting ideas around like tennis balls, backwards and forwards. Every month a cheque and a copy of the latest Love Story in pictures would be delivered. The author’s names did not appear on these little magazines. I only have one copy now, stored amid the family papers… a supernatural tale set in Egypt which we had written together.

I learned a lot about the writer’s craft back then, some of the stories she wrote were even my idea initially and my first bit of design was featured in one tale called, I believe, Lucky Blue Dress. I learned how to collaborate back then too, I suppose, as well as how to tell a complex story in few words and images… which has served us well lately with the publication of the new graphic novel, Mister Fox.

I learned other things too.

My mother had spent a lifetime following her dream and when it finally arrived, bringing that monthly cheque equivalent to a woman’s wage back then, it did not resemble the dream she thought she had. I learned how little it actually matters whether or not you get public recognition…like your name on the cover… as long as you have put your heart and soul into what you do, because you love what you do. I learned that you could take an unpromising vehicle… for so my mother saw love stories… and incorporate something meaningful; her stories always had a moral and the type of motherly teaching that young people need woven into them. Even a lightweight love story could have depth.

I saw that it wasn’t enough to have talent, nor a gift for the use of words. Nor was it enough to be patient or to be doggedly pursuing something for a decade with single minded dedication. You could do everything right and still not succeed. You also need that single stroke of luck… and the persistence and faith to keep on keeping on so that if it arrives, you are ready to seize the opportunity. Because one thing is certain… had my mother stopped writing the opportunity would never have arisen.

My mother’s novels have not yet been published. But they will be. I’ll do it myself. One of her children’s stories, Monster Magic, is now in print and the phone call I had when she received the first copies in the post was as full of excitement as I can ever remember. It was the very first ‘proper book’ she had held in her hands with her name on the cover. And when I told her she had to send one to the British Library…! She has waited all my life and most of hers for that.

Surfeit cover
All ready for the edited manuscript

My mother stopped writing many years ago. It doesn’t erase a single word of what she has written. Her stories may be from an older, gentler time. They may never sell a copy except to the family. But that really doesn’t matter. She wrote because she loved what she did. She wrote because the words inside her needed to find the page. She wrote from the hidden heart of her even when the vehicle wasn’t what she would have chosen. She made it hers. For some years my mother made a living as a writer. But more importantly perhaps, for a lifetime her writing has made her live.

You see, my mother is a writer.

And so am I…

Wayland: Silver-Smith of Souls…

*

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…

*

 

 

Towards parting

harvest being 2014 068

We left the stone circle in lighthearted mood. The walkers we met all seemed to be smiling broadly… and that included the ones who hadn’t witnessed our antics up there. The grouse have a very peculiar call and seemed to want to laugh with us as we walked down towards High Lanshaw reservoir where we stopped to debate the temperature of the water, the merits of bathing whilst going blue and to share the chocolate one of our number had been thoughtful enough to provide.

harvest being 2014 054
The moors here are high, close to the top, and fields of fading heather hint at a glory just missed. We walked down towards the Lanshaw Lass and onward to the necropolis of Green Crag Slack. Here we stopped to examine some of the many carved stones… including the ‘pointy’ stone that re-opened the debate on the significance of this form. This ancient landscape of the dead is a happy place, strangely enough… it feels ‘right’ and holds neither fear nor sadness. You really seem to understand that it is a place of transition, and that death itself may be a birthing rather than an end.

harvest being 2014 084
So it is with many things and this too had been borne in upon us over the weekend as the fruits of the yesterdays of the world had become the seeds of its tomorrow. As we descended towards the Haystack, carved with yet more ancient figures and, for me, personal memories, there was both a gentle regret that the weekend was drawing to a close and an acknowledgement that in such an ending we were carrying new understanding out into our individual worlds. Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end… but which, after all, is which?

harvest being 2014 056
We sat beneath the old stone, talking quietly and sharing the last of the cedar given in spring by a dear friend we had held in our hearts over the weekend. ‘Ned’ would love these moors. It was a moment filled only by a poem, and it caught me right in the heart, marking the end of our present journey.

harvest being 2014 258
We come together sometimes with others who share a part of the way, then we part to walk alone again for a while. We hope, but cannot know, that our paths may meet again in the not-too-far-distant future, but in some ways we do not part at all. We share a single thread of a universal life, entrusted to each of us to weave our own tales into the greater tapestry of existence. And just as we would carry away from the moors their essence in the water of her streams and the sharp scent of bracken on our clothes, so too would we carry away the things we had each taught and learned from this shared time together.

harvest being 2014 091
The first of the School’s Harvest weekend workshops had passed. It had been largely unplanned, wholly unscripted, apparently unorganised and completely informal, yet by accepting the gifts offered by each moment and colouring them vivid we had shared a journey together that leaves none of us unchanged. And as we sat around the table in the hotel garden for a final coffee, one smiling voice spoke, I think, for all of us at that moment.
“Can we do it again?”

harvest being 2014 071

***

 

DOOMSDAY

The Aetheling Thing     Dark Sage   Scions of Albion

All books available via Amazon in Paperback and for Kindle

Don and Wen, following the breadcrumb trail of arcane lore and ancient knowledge, scattered across the landscape of time, turn their attention to the myths and legends of Old Albion. They delve into the tales of King Arthur, asking some very strange questions about biblical family trees and exploring the many stories that abound in the very landscape of Avalon. Meanwhile, in Derbyshire, the voices of the past still whisper from the stones, opening a passage through time, place and memory to another world…

 

Doomsday: The Ætheling Thing

How is it possible to hide such a story… the hidden history of Christianity in Britain? Oh, there are legends of course… old tales… Yet what if there was truth in them? What was it that gave these blessed isles such a special place in the minds of our forefathers? There are some things you are not taught in Sunday School. From the stone circles of the north to the Isle of Avalon, Don and Wen follow the breadcrumbs of history and forgotten lore to uncover a secret veiled in plain sight.


Doomsday: Dark Sage
…. something was spawned up on the moor… something black that flew on dark wings. It heeds not time or place… but it seems to have developed a penchant for the travels of Don and Wen….
“Are those two still at it?”
“Apparently….”

 


Doomsday: Scions of Albion

Things are getting serious…

Exactly what is Wen doing with that crowbar and why is she wearing a balaclava?

All will be revealed…or will it?

 

Follow the story begun in The Initiate and the Triad of Albion,

as Don and Wen explore the ancient land…

 

 

The Journey of the Fool

stepping stones ilkley

Some ideas simply arrive fully formulated, coming out of nowhere, with no clues, no warning, and the first thing you know about them is when they come out of your mouth. Such was the whole stepping stones scenario.

“Blindfolded.”

Inside I am shaking my head at the ridiculousness of the idea. It is idiotic, dangerous… foolhardy as one of my companions put it… but then, the spiritual journey has always been that of the Fool.

We had been there before of course, the day we three had spent up on the moors, working together as three. That time I had simply shown the river crossing to my companions and they, being male, had waltzed off blithely across them. I myself haven’t crossed them in years. They are not so very bad, of course, but I do have little short legs and the gaps are wide; the stones can be slippery and many are worn and uneven in height and breadth, in places uncomfortably so. The river runs fast here too. The child had no qualms, the woman saw potential danger and avoided it.

X ilkley weekend 085

The evening had been spent largely in the garden of the hotel watching the clouded skies; someone had told the staff the Northern Lights might be visible and that was simply too good a chance to pass up. We had spoken of fear and the way it rules so many aspects of our lives, and of trust… that greater trust we can find that the Universe knows what it is about and how, even from the darker times, great lessons can be learned. That, I suppose, is where the idea emerged from, bubbling out of my lips as if I had no control over them. This too is a matter of trust… sometimes you just ‘know’ and have to go with that, without necessarily understanding all the details.

harvest being 2014 195

“I thought you were joking.”

I wish! No, I was deadly serious. Granted, there is no way I would subject anyone else to this kind of apparent lunacy, but some things are ‘given’ and have a purpose that may be beyond vision… which seemed an entirely appropriate thought as I closed my eyes and tied the scarf tightly around them, ready for my companions to lead me across the stepping stones. At that moment fear had me by the proverbials, but that is no reason to turn away. I trust these two men with whom I Work absolutely… I would trust them with anything and do. We have launched into what is, undeniably, a life changing venture that fills every waking moment on one level or another, taking time and anything else it requires. And since the inception of the School this is how we have worked… in trust.

X ilkley weekend 226

None of us, I think, had analysed in advance what we were doing. It is only afterwards that the whole picture begins to form and there are some complex psychological and spiritual nuances at play. For myself I simply expected to be scared, but the moment the blindfold was on I was utterly calm… an almost meditative state descended where all I needed to do was surrender to the guidance of hand and voice and feel the balance of the world through my feet. There simply was no fear, only the moment. There was no consciousness of any sound except the rushing of swift water and the guiding voice, but the knowledge of presence was absolute. In surrendering my will to trust, the responsibility for movement across the river was no longer mine, my own responsibility lay in obedience to another voice than that of my own inner chatter in order to ensure the safety of all of us.

harvest being 2014 208

Stuart came behind, though I was not aware that he would, I could feel him there… not through touch or sound or any other physical indication, I just felt his strength behind me. That another of our companions had joined us I had no idea. Steve took the brunt of the burden, guiding my steps with his voice and was magnificent. His initial concern was based on my obvious reactions; he wanted me to be able to succeed and lent his strength as a gift; yet by this time I knew that little of this was about me, or indeed any one of us, and there was no fear. We three are a team and together we can do things none of us could, or perhaps would do alone. Our individual strengths and weaknesses complement each other, and each of us brings a unique perspective to the work.

This crossing of the river was symbolic in many ways, while on one side the waters ran calm and seemingly still, the other swirled and bubbled, running swift and deep. Together we crossed, trusting each other, we ourselves the bridge, it seemed, that gave us passage.

harvest being 2014 211

Fear was addressed in many ways over the course of the weekend, with one of our number conquering her own deep fear of heights and her doubts of her own capabilities, facing them with courage and determination, trusting herself. No-one had forced anything upon her; she had chosen to face fear and emerged triumphant. Trust, too was addressed, gently and naturally, as each learned to trust the others with their inner thoughts and found friendship, shared laughter and tears, opening to the gifts the moment brought to each.

As we brought in the harvest of being the seeds of future harvests were planted. Of such things is magic made.

***

It was with no small sense of achievement that I had pressed ‘publish’ on the sixth of the newly revamped, redesigned and re-edited books.

Originally published in colour, these books have now been reissued in black and white at a much more sensible price which, we hope, will allow more people to join us as we travel through the magical and ancient landscape of Albion and its myths.

Especially at this stage… where it becomes ever more difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction.

There are events that we will instantly dismiss as impossible… others we might accept through the willing suspension of disbelief we employ when reading fiction…  and some that will simply leave us wondering if the impossible is truly impossible at all…

***

DOOMSDAY

The Aetheling Thing     Dark Sage   Scions of Albion

All books available via Amazon in Paperback and for Kindle

Don and Wen, following the breadcrumb trail of arcane lore and ancient knowledge, scattered across the landscape of time, turn their attention to the myths and legends of Old Albion. They delve into the tales of King Arthur, asking some very strange questions about biblical family trees and exploring the many stories that abound in the very landscape of Avalon. Meanwhile, in Derbyshire, the voices of the past still whisper from the stones, opening a passage through time, place and memory to another world…

 

Doomsday: The Ætheling Thing

How is it possible to hide such a story… the hidden history of Christianity in Britain? Oh, there are legends of course… old tales… Yet what if there was truth in them? What was it that gave these blessed isles such a special place in the minds of our forefathers? There are some things you are not taught in Sunday School. From the stone circles of the north to the Isle of Avalon, Don and Wen follow the breadcrumbs of history and forgotten lore to uncover a secret veiled in plain sight.


Doomsday: Dark Sage
…. something was spawned up on the moor… something black that flew on dark wings. It heeds not time or place… but it seems to have developed a penchant for the travels of Don and Wen….
“Are those two still at it?”
“Apparently….”

 


Doomsday: Scions of Albion

Things are getting serious…

Exactly what is Wen doing with that crowbar and why is she wearing a balaclava?

All will be revealed…or will it?

 

Follow the story begun in The Initiate and the Triad of Albion,

as Don and Wen explore the ancient land…