Looking deeper – Land of the Exiles

Time seems to do strange things sometimes. It seems impossible that it is just a week ago we would have been starting the second of three knowledge lectures… a halfway point of the weekend. We were about to discuss the undertoad… no-one said serious has to be boring… and Steve is our master of presentations. So much so, in fact, that although I had done my bit with the first lecture, Stuart and I absconded for the third in order to prepare the working space for the next ritual. However, we were all there for this one.

UntitledThe lectures underpin the theme of the weekend, exploring and explaining some of the concepts used within the drama. The first had looked at the archetypes represented by the Egyptian pantheon. Most folk who work within the Mysteries on one path or another will have a basic knowledge of the main stories, but that very knowledge often precludes digging any deeper. As with many things in life we accept that we know ‘enough’ and see no need to look in any more detail. Having grown up with the myths of Egypt I thought so too, but the research I did prior to writing The Osiriad soon knocked me off that smug little pedestal and showed me how much I had to learn. The Egyptian gods exemplify more than human personalities and take a deep and abstract look at the roots of creation. Approached from the perspective of science, faith or curiosity they open windows of realisation and possibility. As we were working with these archetypes it seemed appropriate to explore them.

2 slideThe second presentation looked at the pieces of string, the threads that make up our lives. It took a fairly irreverent turn, as these things often do, yet the subject of the undertoad has a serious side too. It refers, of course, to The World According to Garp by John Irving, where the undertoad is a misnomer for the undertow… the current that is beyond control and which proves too strong for the wrestler’s neck with tragic consequences. It is the hidden currents beyond the surface of life, waiting to drag us down, deny it as we may. Yet in recognising it, accepting its presence, we are able to use it to provide the contrast, the shadow that shows the light of hope.

Untitled3The final lecture took a look at the central symbol used by the school, which features in the sacred space we use… the enneagram. Most people today know the enneagram only through its use for psychometric profiling, yet it is a symbol with a much deeper meaning when used within the spiritual quest, incorporating many layers; from the geometry which speaks of the triune nature to the circle which is the One that encompasses All.

Untitled6We call them lectures or presentations, yet these things are much more than that… they are a time to come together and discuss, sharing viewpoints from many paths as well as giving the background principles upon which we base the workshop. They are also a time for laughter and banter; a meeting of minds and a sharing of knowledge and belief. They are, above all, about communication, for this leads to greater understanding and in a room where so many paths to the Light converge, that can only be a thing of beauty.

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The bionic son

Yesterday I drove my son to Cambridge. It is a two hour drive from here, a long way, you might think, to go for a physio appointment. But this was something a bit different.

Nick was stabbed through the brain in a random attack in 2009, leaving him for dead in an alley. Weeks of coma led to an awakening to a changed world. His brain had reacted as if to a high velocity wound, such was the ferocity of the attack; his brain swelled and bled… damage continued long after the initial blow, in spite of heroic efforts from the staff at the Wessex. He was expected to die, but he chose not to.

Waking, however, it soon became apparent that in spite of all the physical mountains he would have to tackle, mountains that would make an ascent of Everest look puny in comparison, he remained himself…stubborn, determined and focussed. He was initially paralysed down the whole of his right side, had lost coordination on the left, was unable to speak and his sight permanently damaged. And that is the short list. He was just 25. By the time he left hospital six months later he had astonished the medics and papers were being written. Yet from his perspective progress was painfully slow.

We take so much for granted.

We were talking on the way to the appointment yesterday. So many things fade into memory and are all but forgotten until something calls them up. Things like the determination to be able to sit up unsupported… that saw Nick seated on a perching stool for an hour and a half at a time while he tried to watch a film… trying to balance… not always successfully… while pouring sweat with the effort. Things like the ice cream tubs and luggage straps that kept his feet on the footplates of the cross-trainer while I held him and the machine upright… fighting for a lost fitness and hoping to re-pattern nerves and muscles, reminding them what motion should be through the mechanical repetition of movement. Things like the harness I made… like the reins sometimes used for small children… to keep him safe as he attempted to stand and walk… or the Dr Seuss books, large print tongue twisters read aloud until speech was intelligible again. You ‘forget’. Maybe you don’t really want to remember.

Some things, however, you cannot forget… like the discharge letter from his physiotherapist three years ago, copied to Nick, where, without warning, his goal of walking was called ‘unrealistic’… a word now used as a spur when the going gets tough.

The official help through the health service with that dream has been minimal the past three years; any therapy he has had to find and fund himself. Most of his progress has been bought with sheer effort and bloody-mindedness on his part and a rigorous workout routine. We have learned about brains and the nervous system, kept abreast of medical and technological advances as best we can and learned what we could in order to make ‘unrealistic’ possible.
Which is why we went to Cambridgeshire.

melbourn 063Bionic son

Prime Physio in Melbourn have a reputation for excellence… and from the moment Andrew got hold of Nick yesterday it was apparent why. It is a very different ethos from the NHS, bound as it is with rules, regulations, lack of funding and too much form filling. You can see why many physiotherapists find the system frustrating as it hampers their time and ability to help their patients. Andrew made Nick work. I watched as my son and he fenced verbally with laughter while the effort required made Nick sweat… which delighted him. Having learned to be sceptical I watched, too, in delight as the team picked up on the almost invisible weaknesses and targeted them specifically. And I watched the fire and sparkle come back into my son’s eyes after a disastrous and heartbreaking start to his year.

Physio is a long process. Muscles and nerves do not learn and change overnight. Balance cannot be restored with a magic wand. As I sat and watched I remembered uncurling twisted fingers, massaging feet and limbs, stimulating nerves as best I could through touch, even when he was deep in the coma, even when there was no real hope, because there is always hope if you allow it. I heard Andrew explain that this was something now happening with electro-stimulation for coma patients and remembered the electric ‘slimming’ belts we had adapted to stimulate muscles and movement on arms and legs every day. I saw Andrew test the movements of Nick’s fingers with an exercise I had made him practice in rehab, touching his thumb to his fingertips in an effort to regain coordination and precision. For the first time I realised that maybe the common sense which was all we’d had to work with hadn’t been so bad.

As they worked I watched Nick take control of his posture again, becoming aware of the weaknesses and compensation, and I saw him sit straight. I saw him stand tall. I saw a difference and a renewed hope of progress.

Meanwhile I was talking to Sarah as she almost unconsciously told me of the level of care they have for their clients, the extra effort outside the gym they have put into making this place possible and workable for those who travel here.

Then I watched, trying unsuccessfully to choke back tears, as they strapped Nick into the Ekso Bionics exo-skeleton and saw him walk.

You may think it silly… the Ekso does the work initially, after all. That’s the idea. It allows those who cannot walk… who may never walk… to exercise in a way they should not be able to do. But for those for whom there is a chance… even an unrealistic one… of recovery, it is a way of reminding the body what it should be doing. It reminds the nerves and muscles how to coordinate, it compensates for lack of balance, it allows the body… through correct alignment… to stand tall and straight. It can retrain gait patterns, rebuild neural pathways through repetition…. There are so many possibilities with it.

It is an extremely expensive piece of equipment… not something you could buy to be able to use every day. It will inevitably help, but it is not a quick fix or a magic wand.

I knew that.

But it is impossible to contain hope with logic and all the common sense goes out of the window when you watch your son walking, tall again, not hunched, not leaning… just tall and straight again, towering over you, for the first time in five years, tiredly reminding you why he calls you the hobbit.

And I watched him walk for half an hour… 362 steps.

melbourn 067Hobbit and son

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Spring workshop 2015 – first glimpse

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River of the Sun:
The Silent Eye workshop for Spring 2015

The Silent Eye are pleased to announce the theme of the 2015 weekend workshop. Further details will follow later in the year meanwhile you can click the links to the previous workshops to get an idea of what to expect.

Workshop 2014

Workshop 2014

Egypt 1290 BCE

It is three generations since Egypt was torn apart by the rule of the enigmatic Pharaoh Akhenaten, who eviscerated the power of the ancient priesthood and moved the centre of political and religious power 250 miles North from Thebes to a new city on the Nile known as Armana.

The rulers of the 19th Dynasty determine to reverse the damage of the heretic Pharaoh. Seti I begins to restore Egypt’s military might to face changed world, with its new enemies. This ruthless outward focus is a vivid contrast to the former heretic Pharaoh’s peaceful but materially damaging reign.

But what of the spiritual legacy of Akhenaten? Is nothing left of his radical teaching, his doomed attempt to replace the ancient religions of the once-noble priesthood and its former Gods with a single deity, the Aten, symbolised by the Sun disc?

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Our workshop follows the life-story of a young man named Amkhren, whose heart’s desire is to be a priest in the temple of Isis on the ancient island of Philae. Amkhren is lowly born and an orphan; but a chance meeting between his grandfather and Neferaset, the high priestess of Isis, opens the door to a mysterious world where the earnest and eager young man discovers that life on Philae contains hidden secrets and has a deeper and enigmatic face to its rituals.

We take part in the life of Amkhren, as he is admitted to the apprentice priesthood, then on to his graduation to its full ranks. We return, years later to find him changed and powerful, visited by those from afar who seek wisdom of a deeper nature. Watched over by the resourceful Neferaset and her brother Anzety, high priest of the cult of Osiris, Amkhren treads a deadly path as he falls under the watchful eye of the newly appointed Menascare, a shadowy figure whose power derives from the soon to be appointed Ramases II with his sworn intent to remove the last traces of the former pharaoh Akhenaten, now known simply as “the erased”.

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.”

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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“Let the star rise…” – Land of the Exiles

land of the exiles 0052Stalking the silent corridors, rousing them from dream, the tall figure of Anubis called them. One by one they came to the portal in the dawning light, following him into the morning. Through the sleepy village streets they walked, leaving the world behind; through a gate onto a star-strewn hillside wet with dew and into a world of dream.
High on the hillside a golden one stands, wings outstretched in the morning, herself a mirror of the sun. Beneath her the steps of a green mound echo the curve of the earth. Veiled by her wings, a mysterious figure, a still, silent being robed in white and bound with the cords of life and death; immobile, poised, rooted in earth. Osiris’ hands are crossed upon his breast and at his heart a pure sphere of crystal shines.
The Companions wait below the mound and the dark figure climbs towards the Tree of Reckoning, placing his staff at the feet of Osiris. The golden one turns, facing the silent gathering and the Walker Between the Worlds bows low to the Light behind her.
He ascends to stand before her, sharing the salute of equals atop the green mound, turning together to salute he who waits in silence, poised between births. She takes the crystal sphere from his breast and raises it to the sun… the silence broken by words of invocation and blessing.
… she offers the sphere to Earth…
… and Earth receives it.
Three stand as One.
One by one Anubis calls the silent Companions before him. Upon their brow a symbol traced in sacred oil and words whispered for their ears alone. Enfolded in the cloak of night they are brought before the face of death in life and life in death, bowing to him who is and is not, gazing into the glowing heart of the crystal.
Golden wings take them and they come to the Mother, a blessing is given, through touch, breath and word, holding their eyes. And heart to heart a gift… a symbol… the memory of a dream as they cross the threshold between the worlds.
One final act… the shrouded figure anointed, heart blessed and opened.
The Walker watches the Companions depart as the Mother enfolds the silent figure in her wings and he is lost from sight… wings that are the cocoon of rebirth.

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Open up…Land of the Exiles

land of the exiles 004The alarm was set for 5am but, inevitably, some of us were up and about long before then. There was the temple to prepare, the first real costumes for the Triad and anyway… who could sleep knowing what was to come? As I donned a wrap it occurred to me that our proposed 7am start would see the village wide awake. The Companions had been told to dress warmly to climb the hill… it is April after all… three of us though would be in costume for the walk through the village. One would be masked, one would be green and fairly unrecognisable… I, on the other hand, was going to be unmasked and very visible. It occurred to me that it is not so long ago that this would have been daunting; these days I take it in my stride, knowing that once the ritual begins I will not even notice. As Stuart often says, you open up and get out of the way.

First stop was outside to check the weather. Cold, no rain, but very damp and with a chill wind. This was not the warmth we had wanted, but it could be much worse. A silent prayer of thanks that once again we had the weather we needed. It has become something of a tradition to work at least one ritual in the landscape and though five form the basis of the weekend, this too is a part of the story. This year there would be seven in all. Stuart had mentioned a line from the Earth Shapers, where the Earth had dreamed of beauty. We had been given the form of the ritual it seemed as it built itself in the shortest of times, coming almost fully formed from that single line.

land of the exiles 009A scratch on the door heralded the arrival of a black clad figure armed with coffee and intent on gilding his claws. He remained, perched on my bed while I stood at the mirror… painting his nails with all the assurance of a man who has never done it before, while I applied a make-up more suited to ancient Egypt than a Derbyshire morning before gilding his eyes too. The gold and iridescent blue would be all that was seen of his face behind the mask. Props were minimal and already packed in a small bag with my camera. We do not take photographs in ritual. Not even on the hillside. But the camera would be there for one of the Companions afterwards. We want to be as open as we can about what we do, demystifying the shadows that have long surrounded Mystery Schools in some ways… though the true Mystery is not in what we do, but what we seek and why.

My companion left to get ready while I flitted off to do some last minute preparations before dressing. All unthinking, I walked back into my little room and almost died of shock; Anubis, the jackal headed Walker Between the Worlds stood, seemingly huge, inside the door, filling the space with his presence and exuding strength. It was a tad unexpected… and I knew what we were about to do. The rest of the company had simply been told to wait in their rooms to be collected for the hillside… God help them.

Isis wings

As the impossibly tall figure of Anubis left to begin the vigil in the silent Temple, I began to don my costume. It is at this point that the apparent playacting becomes something else. Intent, dedication to that Something we call the Light… Purpose… and reverence… all these sweep away the mundane mind. You open up and get out of the way. It is no longer ‘just’ a drama, it is a sacred rite. All the planning no longer matters, nor does the costume, nor how you look or how you may be perceived as you walk through a village street in the morning light. All these things are but a vessel, a framework that something else clothes in presence.

I knocked to summon the third of our Triad and met startled eyes. Isis led the way in silence to our Temple and Osiris followed.

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Land of the Exiles… and so it began

Through the window

Through the window

There were hugs. Lots of them, as people began to arrive in the ‘Land of the Exiles’ for the Silent Eye weekend workshop. There was a moment when I had armfuls of people it seemed… several at once… then singly… then together. It is good to greet old friends and the work we do builds a sympathetic bond… A few are students of the School, but most had simply come from across the world to join us for the weekend… the workshops are open to all, a place and time to share views, thoughts, insight and ideas. It was wonderful to greet old friends from SOL (the Servants of the Light) with whom we three had shared a path through the Western Mystery Tradition, but this was not the only tradition by any manner of means… Christian and Shaman, energy-worker and Daoist, Wiccan and Qabalist… to name but a few… come together to explore the concepts raised in the shape of a rather odd ritual drama.

It's not all serious stuff...

It’s not all serious stuff…

Except, of course, by definition drama can be as apparently odd as it likes.. it doesn’t have to be ‘real’ in terms of historical fact. It is a story… a symbolic journey… sometimes an analogy, sometimes an illustration of another level of understanding. The concept worked and allowed us to meld the ancient and the futuristic to create a frame for the spiritual journey we were about to share. These things affect each participant differently but they are always an intense and emotional experience.

basic layout

basic layout

By four o’clock Friday my little room at the Nightingale Centre was strewn with robes and costumes. The Temple space had been constructed, the candles placed. A backdrop had begun to take shape… a spontaneous using of things to hand to create the physical illusion of sacred space, in the same way that the costumes create an open doorway into imagination. We keep it simple. Outside the pages of occult fiction these things of themselves hold no meaning. In a hallowed space where people work together from the heart and with intent, they take on a different feel, touching the emotions and circumventing the need for intellectualised explanations. Like a child with a picture book, these things simply speak to the imagination and the heart. Yet there is more to it. Photographs cannot, do not, capture sacred intent, the hushed atmosphere, the reverence and respect for the Life behind life.

No-not in costume...

No-not in costume…

The first evening is fairly gentle, setting the scene and allowing everyone to find their feet. There was a welcome, an explanation of what we were going to share… time to settle in and meet each other, as old friends or new. The Temple was consecrated with Light, then the first drama began as white robed sleepers were woken on the deck of a space ship. The captain was missing and in his place a robot… a cyborg who worked with logic alone and who had chosen to explore the difference between his own mechanical life and that of humanity. The flashing green diodes reinforced the gap between the two modes of being… the laser that controlled and coerced was a direct contrast to the gentle illumination of the central flame. Setaxa chose his victim… holding her hostage against our compliance as he imposed his will and cast the crew as ancient gods, to play out their story that he might understand his own….

Real beer

Real beer

After which, it seemed a little light refreshment was in order and most of us repaired to the Queen Anne next door where I managed to get a few of what may be the photos of the weekend… Outside the moon approached the full and glancing up we saw a very odd phenomenon… a clear ring around the bright face… like a giant eye in the heavens, ever widening. I hope someone got a better shot of it than I did… but we took it as a hopeful sign that the coming day would hold something special. We were right…

Ring around the moon...

Ring around the moon…

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Friday morning – an early start

land of the exiles 035The little village of Great Hucklow nestles quietly in the Derbyshire Dales, tucked away from any main roads under the sheltering ridge. It is a beautiful place where, you might think, little ever happens. You would, of course, be wrong. In every village, every town and city, dramas are played out daily; lives begin and end, emotions reach the heights of joy or plumb the depths of despair and fear. There is surprise and laughter, meetings and partings… Every human emotion will have been written in the warm golden stone or walked amid the celandines and daisies.

land of the exiles 029Drama was about to unfold here too. There was, however, a difference on that Friday morning as two excited travellers parked the silver bullet, piled high with bags, boxes and shimmering silks, outside an ancient inn. We knew what was going to happen. Well… partly, at least.

land of the exiles 006We hadn’t predicted, for example, that by half past nine we would be hugging the first of our Companions for the weekend, yet Dominic was already seated outside the pub in the sunshine writing postcards and it was wonderful to meet his eyes and feel the warmth of his smile once again. He had been there for the birth of the School and it wouldn’t have felt right to have anyone else in his role. He was the first of the many friends we were to hug in welcome, as people arrived through the day from Ireland and the Netherlands, from Scotland, Wales and the farthest extremes of England… even from America… all converging on this tiny village that has become very special to the Silent Eye. It is amazing and wonderful that people come so far for these events.

land of the exiles 008Many would be joining us for the weekend… school members, friends, people with whom we have studied in other School; some who walk their own path, some with whom we have shared part of the journey. We all carry the same light, though the lanterns may be different and each illuminates the path in a unique way, adding to the Light we share. A drama would unfold… a ritual drama, carefully crafted to tell the story of the human condition and the search for spiritual growth, allowing the participants to experience the story through imagination, action and emotion, for experience leads to knowledge, and beyond that towards understanding.

land of the exiles 010But first, we had work to do. We had already been high up on the ridge… a sort of tradition. I’ve done it every year… placing myself in the landscape that enfolds us so beautifully. This may be only the second workshop for our own School, but the Nightingale Centre has hosted many others which Steve, Stuart and I have been part of over the years. It has a feeling of coming home… a familiar warmth and comfort and we know the Companions will be well looked after… and even better fed. It is also a bit of a tradition to use the hillside for one of the rituals and this year was no exception, so we had something planned and needed to check out the ground… and a nearby thorn tree.

land of the exiles 026The hillside was ablaze with celandines and daisies in the sunlight… a carpet of gold and white stars. If we could just have this weather the next morning! Last year the celandines had been encased in frost… this year the weather was beautiful on Friday and we had high hopes.

land of the exiles 028By the time we came down from the hillside the pub where we were to meet some of the early arrivals for lunch was about to open. We had time to take a deep breath… and raise a glass… and then there were hugs as old friends arrived, new ones were introduced and a hat essayed by our very own Steve. We started as we hoped to finish… in sunshine, warmth and laughter. It was a good beginning.

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Driving south

land of the exiles 014The workshop is over. The Silent Eye School has celebrated its first official birthday in some style and over the next few days I will share the events of the weekend. It is quite a story.

land of the exiles 0151For now, I am back at my desk, uploading photographs and trying to settle with the small dog who seems to have missed me… or her tennis balls. The hallway looks as if a small removal van got lost in a timewarp and spilled its contents in a heap of gold and paper and the fridge defrosted itself behind my back. Yet overhead a kite is wheeling… Isis’ bird… her wings gleaming in the sunlight… wings I envy, for the road that begins and ends at my door is a long one, depending on where you want to go, where you need to go… and where you begin.

land of the exiles 009At six thirty this morning I left another door many miles away in the north. It was a beautiful morning… one in which I could not help but rejoice, yet the very beauty of it tore at me as I stopped the car in the first layby on the moors to greet the sun as it gilded the frosted moorlands and mists.

land of the exiles 002It felt as if a hand snaked up my spine to take hold of my heart and keep it locked in the northern hills as my body drove southwards to where it resides. It tears me apart. Every time. There is a yearning to turn and lose myself in the moors, to lie in a vale of bare rowan trees and take root. My heart is in the hills and dales of the north. Something calls me back there. Always.

land of the exiles 024Yet I drove southwards, my back to the beloved landscape, as the skies grew more distant and impersonal, ceasing to play amid the hilltops, the fields hemmed with hedgerows instead of stone, blossom veiling the visible world in the ephemeral beauty of spring, yet robbing me of that distant horizon of curving hills. I thought how very lucky I am to live in a land as unarguably beautiful as this. I thought too how the very earth around us can be seen as an analogy for much in our lives.

land of the exiles 017The heavens recede, become less playful, less joyously close, seemingly less touchable as our attention is caught and held by the road of necessity and the ‘ought to’ that rules our daily lives, driving us towards the duties and requirements of need and should. The distant landscape of Home is hidden behind the transient beauties and glories of the world, distracting our eyes and mind as easily as a tennis ball will distract the small dog. Yet beyond our attention the sky remains blue and the distance is only illusory; beyond the trappings of success, the prerequisites of survival or the veiling banners of societal expectations, the hills of Home still wait for us. Whether the yearning is a light touch, vaguely felt, or a deep longing of the soul, Home will be there when, if, we can find our way.

land of the exiles 021In just the same way, the workshop is over. Friends old and new who came together in laughter, who shared a story, a moment in time… or out of it… have now departed. They have driven, sailed and flown back to their own lands… some very far away. Who knows if we will all meet again, regardless of desire or intent? Yet the friendship remains… the memories… the presence. The laughter, smiles and tears; the touch of life on life and a shared experience. Beauty remains and its home is the heart. Perhaps we need ask for no more than that.

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April Moon 14:Day One – Courage: The Land of the Exiles

Sue Vincent:

Alienora Taylor writes of courage… and her experience in the Land of the Exiles.

Originally posted on ALIEN AURA'S BLOG: IT'LL BLOW YOUR MIND!:

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Mentor

Responding to the Blood Moon, and the word ‘courage’, I travelled the symbolic journey through last weekend’s life-changing Silent Eye ‘The Land of the Exiles’ landscape. Narrative account it is not, nor, indeed, can it be. The mythology, the symbolism, the aching and joyous emotions do not lend themselves to a conventional narrative.

I am withdrawing from the hurly burly of the community until the end of May. Two reasons: I have a huge number of lines to learn for the village play, and I need to rest my spirit after the past few months. I shall continue to post, and to ‘talk’ to friends when I can, but may not be as responsive as normal.

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Image of us all after the final ritual drama. I am the one in red.

Blood Moon, Heart Moon, Firestone  -

Ah, Goddess, long have I laboured under the intense pain of cowardice, for…

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Mission complete

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New colony successfully established on Idos…

After an epic battle on the bridge of the Hawk, the machinations of the rogue cyborg Setaxa were overcome by compassion, forgiveness, love and understanding.

A wonderful weekend workshop drew to a close yesterday in Derbyshire. With loving thanks to all those who attended and supported our birthday weekend.

 

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