Above and beyond…

Over the past few years, the Silent Eye’s weekend workshops have covered many scenarios, from the gilded glories of ancient Egypt, to the medieval grandeur of the court of King Arthur. The themes and stories are no more than a vehicle through which we can explore facets of the human journey into awareness, just as the costumes and colour are no more than psychological window-dressing. By creating a visual illusion, we are fostering that ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ that allows a reader to invest themselves in a book, a film star immerse themselves in a role or our Companions to set aside their everyday self and explore deeper aspects of being.

Steve, Stuart and I go to some lengths with the costume in order to create that illusion. We would never expect the Companions to go to the expense of providing authentically detailed costumes. In fact, the requirement is simply for a symbolic shawl to mark the entry into another mindset and intent. Even so, every year, the Companions get creative and the illusion is complete.

Land of the Exiles

This year, we had a bit of a problem in that department. Stuart and I would be dead for most of the weekend. We would be the Ancestors; robed in black and, with veiled faces, we would haunt the shadows. Not much colour there, then. Steve would have a central role as Guide, but even that was not going to provide much ‘window-dressing’.

Normally the characters are familiar in some way… archetypes presented as Egyptian gods, Knights of the Round Table or something similar with which the Companions can identify. This year, there was only one named character and almost everyone was asked to wear plain white robes. Somehow, we needed to ‘set the scene’ with colour and life… and we had three Companions to whom we turned for that… the Shaman, the Lore Weaver and the Lore Spinner. Their roles would be ‘outside’ the circle, allowing them to act upon the single soul represented by the majority of the Companions and so they could be different and wear all the colours of life.

We didn’t ask for much specifically…we left it up to them… but somehow all three of them exceeded our wildest hopes. Running Elk was our Shaman. We had no idea how much of himself he would bring to the task, nor how deeply his presence would enrich what we had planned. We could not have known…he didn’t himself….and much of it simply unfolded as the weekend went along.   Running Elk is a Shaman, trained in the Zuni tradition and his own accounts of the weekend tell the story through his eyes. Even so, I would have given much to see his huge, dark-cloaked form shielding the temple Veil during the fourth ritual.

Alienora and Dean were our Lore Keepers… and their costumes were utter genius, adding all the colour and life that we needed. With Running Elk, they formed a triangle of Life and Light that could not be ignored and with our Shaman, they held the heartbeat of the temple.

Leaf and Flame

But we had another problem too. When Steve writes the workshops, Stuart and I have always added something extra, something a little different. Last year, Stuart had the helm and instead, we had the Foxes dance with flames and dragons. That was going to be a tough thing to follow. We turned to the Lore Keepers and asked them to tell a pair of interwoven stories on the Saturday evening. I have mentioned it before, but have not done justice to the sheer spectacle they provided.

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Dressed in multi-coloured tatters, they were already whirling and spinning as we entered the room. It is impossible to capture in words the incredible energy the pair of them brought to the tale. For perhaps forty minutes, they never paused for breath. Taking one of the entwined stories each, they read and acted out the script while the other mimed, hammed, acted and clowned a silent counterpoint. There were highlights… Dean as a dog and a little old woman nearly brought the house down. Alienora’s dramatic death-fall landed her with a bang on the floor…and flat on her back, script to nose, she never missed a single beat, but continued declaiming. Ali’s aside, to ‘stop upstaging me’ when Dean had everyone in stitches with his antics… And yet, in spite or perhaps because of the comedic capers, the truly tragic tales they shared brought real tears as well as laughter. I do not have enough superlatives, but we are agreed that it was, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the best live, improvised performance art we have ever experienced.

Not only did we learn the tales of Giant Hulac and the massacre at Fin Cop without being traumatised by the horror of the stories, but we also got a genuine trip in a time machine, seeing and feeling how storytellers have taught through entertainment for millennia. It was a rare privilege.

These three, Shaman, Lore Weaver and Lore Spinner went above and beyond the call of both duty and friendship.

They were not alone though. Alethea, at only her second workshop with us, stepped up and embodied the central character with grace. Our technician had volunteered to help instead of taking a role. And when every person present brings their whole self to the moment, with intent and belief, that is when magic happens.

The Feathered Seer – Part 3 (No. Really. The Feathered Seer!) by Running Elk

Nine Ladies Stone Circle, Stanton Moor
Copyright: Graham Dunn

During the exploration session on Spirit Animals, presented during The Silent Eye (a modern mystery school) “Leaf and Flame: the Foliate Man” weekend in 2016, one of the companions enquired about “Shape-shifting”. Since this was outside the scope of the discussion, the concept was briefly addressed without going into any real detail. It was, therefore, with some surprise, that I found myself agreeing to present an exploration session on the topic during “The Feathered Seer” weekend in 2017.

As April approached, the usual buzz of anticipation built towards the day that the work-book was released, and roles revealed. Most surprised, therefore, when an email arrived indicating the “costume” arrangements for the weekend. Other than the, at this stage, mysterious “Weaver” and “Spinner”, only I would be required to be costumed: in the role of Shaman. This made it easy, as I probably had a few things lying around which would foot the bill.

As it turned out, this was a double blessing, as neither Robe, nor Shell were to be found. Ironically, both would make a reappearance, pretty much where they were always believed to reside, before the weekend was out!

The work-book, when it arrived, proved to be a masterful crafting of ritual movement, wrapped in a touching storyline; at once intimately personal, and, ultimately, Universal. I wasn’t entirely sure that I was fully “ready” to experience the Temple energies that the unfolding of such a story was likely to unleash, particularly when viewed from the perspective of the Shaman of the Raven Clan.

Did I mention synchronicity?

The exploration session I’d outlined focussed on the reasons why shape-shifting appears so difficult. It isn’t that we cannot do it, indeed we do a form of shape-shifting on a daily basis, without ever really thinking about it. It is only when we come to consider shifting into a form other than human that we become stuck: in a variety of fears, ultimately centred on the persistent illusion which we fear most. The weekend, unknown to me, would approach an inspection of the root, and illusory nature, of these very same fears.

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The Raven Spirit by Alethea Kehas

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Since my visit to the Nest, I have felt haunted. There is a restlessness inside of me; one which my rational mind has tried to reason with. If you were meant to be there, you’d be there. You have work to do here, it tells me. The work often seems illusive as I try to focus past the longing and stay in the moment of present time and space. The tears of frustration, I allow to escape when I am alone. I tell myself I am content to stay in a place that has never felt like home, but it comes the the condition of  purpose. I have learned a lot about myself in these three weeks. For one thing, I quite like the idea of having a clearly defined purpose. A purpose that I can act upon at any moment, unwavering and steadfast. Being idle and directionless does not appeal to me, and so I am in the midst of a great test.

The raven, though, is ever-present. This guide who has come into my life, and who has perhaps been there much longer than I have noticed. When the mind becomes quiet, though, the raven appears. It tells me, Open your eyes. Remember. The land is alive everywhere. The only division is inside of the mind. There is magic everywhere. Find it!

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The Feathered Seer – Song of the Raven Clan by Running Elk

The elders gather; to the stones; all that remain of the Raven Clan.

The Shaman, bearing the Mother’s heartbeat, draws to the centre of the assembly; there to be joined by the Spinner, and the Weaver of Lore.

The Weaver kneels, offering a reverent hand skyward, readying himself to receive, and to support, the sacred, living, and breathing connection to the Creator.

Spirit of Deer. Spirit of Maple.

The drum-keeper, bows; surrendering his most hallowed charge, in trust, to the Weaver.

The Spinner stands in patient deference, awaiting the honour of Grandmother’s arm.

The drum-keeper, bows; surrendering his most hallowed charge, in trust, to the Spinner.

A contemplative pause. Respect the moment. Await the breath…

Grandmother speaks. The Circle turns. Silence. The Song of the Raven Clan; lost, long ago.

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The Feathered Seer – Part 1 (or “whatever happened to The River of the Sun?”) by Running Elk

Sunlight on the River
(copyright 123rf.com)

…we may have to go back a little before we can begin. Say two years? All the way back to the River of the Sun in 2015, and the long-awaited “next post”, often promised but always failing to materialise. I suppose the key to its desire for immediate attention, under the (apparently) unrelated title of The Feathered Seer, might (just) be gleaned from events arising one Freaky Friday.

But of course, you don’t know how yet: there are pieces of that particular puzzle missing, and some of them won’t necessarily become apparent till The Feathered Seer – Part 3, at which point we might get round to the titular weekend. (I know! The suspense is killing me, too…)

The “River of the Sun” was to be our third Silent Eye (A Modern Mystery School) weekend in as many years. You don’t need to be a member to attend; indeed, the event usually includes such an eclectic mix of different paths and traditions that it becomes much more than the sum of its parts as the weekend unfolds.

It was, with some trepidation, that I read through the assigned part of Amkhren. Yet, no matter how many times you read through a part, it’s not until the Temple is entered and the energy of the other players becomes entwined in the space that the full import of the phrasing, the movement, and intention of the ritual can be appreciated.

Even knowing this, what would transpire in Ritual 5 that weekend was so unexpected, so off-the-scale bat-shit crazy, that there was no way I could have been prepared for it when it came. Possibly, even why the “next post“, this post, has remained aloof and unwilling to see the light of day till now… the order of things appears to be of some significance…

I knew, from the opening of the first ritual, that the weekend was going to be powerful. The opening had Amkhren sitting by the Nile, and, from the first words uttered, I was there: the other players faded into their own space, and only Amkhren and his doting grandmother remained… the waters lapped gently, bejewelled by a million dancing suns… So it continued; the mysterious stranger, the Priestess, the unexpected interruption of a solemn rite of initiation by Rameses and his cohort.

The entire first ritual passed in an instant, and, as in every ritual thereafter, I remained hardly aware of the “real space” in which the Temple resided, or of the people at the periphery of the direct action. The “Vessels of the Gods” were the Gods themselves…

The weekends culminate in Ritual 5, by which time the loose ends of the drama are brought together, the players are wrung out, and the Temple is running on “full“. All just in time for a good re-grounding in the form of Sunday lunch. Despite the intensity of the previous four, I suspected nothing and, lamb-like, entered the Temple for the last time.

Amkhren, aided by the Gods, relates to Rameses “…the story of that great mystery…” as expressed through the symbol of the Enneagram, which lies at the core of the school’s teachings. At the culmination of the story Rameses, moved to spare the boy’s life and to leave the Temple unmolested, calls upon all to bear witness to a Royal ordination of Amkhren as new priest to the Temple.

It is difficult to believe now, as it was then, that this was Rameses’ first time in ritual. With great care and deliberation, he removed his crown in order to retrieve a symbolic gift of initiation from around his own neck. At this point, he might have continued with the ritual. Instead, he took the time to replace his crown, and adjust himself such that Royal order should be maintained. Amkhren, kneeling before him, and the gathered crowd, wait…

Rameses places his hand on the boy’s head; “Let it be known across Egypt…”, a strange vibration was beginning to build; “…that the King-in-Rising has ordained…”, a lightening bolt of rather uncomfortable intensity; “…that there is created today, a new priest in this temple; …”, fire billows, in great waves, around the King; “…that the one known as Amkhren, nurtured to this honour by the Lady Scarab,…”, unbearable building of heat, engulfed and consumed in the flames emanating from, and directed by, the hand of Rameses; “…has been tested beyond the trials of normal process;…”, sweat begins to bead on Amkhren’s forehead; “…and has emerged a higher order of sacred servant.”

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The Raven Crystal by Alethea Kehas

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Alethea continues the story of her experiences throughout the Silent Eye’s Feathered Seer weekend. Here she speaks of the part played by the crystals we had chose to use as Seeds of Light…and issues her own invitation to be part of the magic…


I didn’t know why I felt compelled to bring it, but I had a feeling I would never wear it again. There had been the sense for some time that it was no longer meant for me. Perhaps it never was. For more than a year I had worn it often around my neck, and felt the comfort of its presence against my heart. Last year at the Silent Eye’s annual workshop, The Leaf and Flame, where I played the role of Queen Guinevere, the rainbow crystal wrapped in wire rested against my velvet gown. It gave me the sense of strength and protection as I experienced my first journey with ritual drama.

This year, the crystal stayed tucked into the folds of my bag, until I brought it out when we ventured into the land of the Feathered Seer.  At the Raven’s Nest, where I had felt the longing to re-enchant a land that had been defiled by mankind, I thought about the small pile of stones I had with me from the workshop. Stones now energized with the collective love and light from our group, which would be seeded back into the earth from which they came. These stones have now traveled to places in the states, and have even made their way back to the United Kingdom. They will be planted by people with the loving intent of repairing the Web-of-Light in Earth.

For the next day, after I left the Nest, I thought about the small round obsidian stone I had with me, and berated myself on not leaving it where I had found the remains of a dark offering. Yet, it didn’t feel quite right.

Before we left for Barbrook to visit the final home of the Feathered Seer, I impulsively grabbed the rainbow crystal I had brought with me from the States, and tucked it into my pocket. It stayed there, almost forgotten, until after I had visited the waters that divide the moors into the lands of the living and the lands of the dead. Before we left, I visited the stone circle, and took my turn sitting first toward the outer-world, where the living dwells, and then the inner-world, where the unseen speaks through the veil.

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The Journey of the Feathered Seer Part 4: The Magic of Arbor Low by Alethea Kehas

IMG_1528I never made it to Peter’s Rock, although we passed close by it in the car, and as we did I made a vow to visit in a future trip. It is said to be a place of initiation, where one must face fear to move beyond the veil of illusion into the Light of Truth. The shaman took us there during ritual 4, and I felt I knew this place, at least in essence. But to feel its actual presence would have to wait.

During the week, I thought often of the snake I had found coiled like a sacrifice in the middle of my basement floor before I left for England. A symbol of the cycle of life that moves through birth into death in an endless repeat. I knew before I left my home that I would be going through an important phase in this cycle during my journey in England. The stones had whispered this in my dreams, and they did not disappoint.

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After visiting the site where Bratha lived out her life as a Seer, the five of us refueled at a lovely pub, then made our way to the Serpent Stones. It was time to feel the enchantment of the land. Although I had heard Sue, Stuart and some of the others hint about the secrets of these stones, I was not wholly prepared for what I would encounter among them. Which is, I believe, just the way it should be. I had already discovered that stones hold the memory of the land and its children, but I had yet to experience the awesome force of their enchantment. This site, as I soon saw, is not asleep. The serpent stones are more alive than those who walk among them. It is like nothing else I have experienced before. It is, quite simply, magical.

The path to the stones, like all journeys, can be taken more than one way. The land surrounding and containing them is, without a doubt, holy ground. Here one walks the body of the goddess in all her power and glory to rebirth anew in the continual cycle of life. The guardian of Arbor Low takes the form of the living. It resides in the balancing energies of cows, chickens and the humans how tend to them below the mounded earth. Here the magic of the stones is settled into the grounding energies of daily life, neutralizing their force. The mundane nature of these seems necessary once one experiences the effects of the stones.

At Arbor Low, I discovered that when you are open to the magic of the Land, it does not disappoint. The memory of it makes me smile with shear joy, just as I did when I walked among its stones. Here is where the Light of Hope is very much alive, and has been for thousands of years. The land here is in control, protected by a force much larger than the Earth itself. Here, the sacred is not broken by human hands (at least not enough to break its magic).

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The Journey of the Feathered Seer Part 3: Finding Peace by Alethea Kehas

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Bratha left the Raven’s Nest with the gifts of the clan. Now cloaked with the wisdom of a seer, she traveled with her guide to speak Truth to those who sought knowledge. I had a day to process my experience at the Nest, which followed the weekend’s workshop with the Silent Eye School. If you read Part 1 and Part 2 of my journey, you will know that it was a transformative experience that was difficult for me to put into words. To play the role, and then travel the landscape where a seer once walked to share the wisdom of the Light, feels like both a gift and a burden. It is not my intent to sound dramatic, but there is the question that always begs to be answered, What does one do with an experience such as this? 

It is intensely intimate and personal, yet it is also, I feel, one to be shared. Bratha’s need to seed the magic of the land and the truths of the Universe is also my own. It is the inherent longing in all living beings to know Home.

Leaving the Nest was difficult for me, as I imagine it must have been for Bratha and others who have known its presence. Feeling my heart open to the raw and beautiful truth of my unseen guide, and the magic of a now troubled land had stirred a deep longing inside of me. It made me acutely aware of how latent my own senses were, and how separate we often live from Truth. I had never felt such a connection to the Land and to those who have loved it so fully and completely, and whose presence can still be felt in its stones.

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There is a safely to the Nest, but the fledgling is born for flight.

As I walked down from the hight of the Nest, as Bratha once did, I carried with me the feeling of sorrow and longing. In the hours that followed, each time I attempted to process my experience into words, I wept the abuse of this sacred Earth that is both our home and our mother. When we focus on the life we have grown accustomed to living, it’s too easy not to feel the inherent connection we have with our Earth Mother and with all beings who reside within Her.

The Light of Hope, though, was also within me, as well as its tangible presence in the form of a handful of stones of different colors, charged from the collective energy from the weekend’s workshop. There were many others who would be planting these seeds to help “re-enchant” the land and repair what mankind had broken. And, there was the knowing that there are so many beings who reside on this planet who are doing their part to seed the Light within and without.

After a day in Bakewell touring more recent, but still old sites, my traveling companion, Deb, and I got into our car once again to drive to the moors. This time we were following Sue, Stuart, and Sue’s son Nick, to the site where Bratha lived out the end of her days as a Seer of Truth.

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The Journey of the Feathered Seer Part 2: The Raven’s Nest by Alethea Kehas

The ravens travel the skies above the high cliffs of the moors. They appear to both lead and follow, watching to see if you remember the way to the Nest. There are as many ways to get there as there are travelers, and the keen eyes of the raven know the paths of darkness and of light. They observe and take note, recording each footstep in the stones.

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As our car began its climb away from the valley, I felt the pull of the moors, stirring my cells to life. We parked at the foot of a hill where the raven clan dwelled before man forgot how to live in harmony with the land. Here, at the base of the Nest, a river runs turbid memories under a bridge. Its waters sing of fear, but also of hope. They carry the memory of balance.

I turned toward the hill, where a young seer once traveled with her guide to learn the language of the soul. A grove of trees marks the beginning of the ascent, and the fey hold reign of the shadows. They watch like the ravens do. Reading the intent of the seeker, they are eager to play with the mind that likes to wander. I thought of my journey to the Nine Ladies one year ago, remembering the wild urge to roam and never return.

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I stood on the threshold, where the uninitiated can become reckless. The impressionable mind is easily confused, and the moors are places of magic. Both dark and light. Voices call from the shadows. Sometimes it sounds like laughter, sometimes like a scream. Here, in the trees below the Raven’s Nest where the canopy breaks open to sun, sorrel blooms white above green.

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