The Spaces Between…

Originally posted on Shamanic Paths:

backUnbelievably, it’s been all of six months. The most unexpected and hectic six months possible. Hopefully, with some luck and a good tail wind, things will settle into a reasonable sense of normality, now that we are falling into the darkness of winter.

It all started with a weekend away, in April. As part of the event, an early morning ritual would prove to be my unending…

Anubis

Anubis

When they say “Wait in your room in silence. Your guide will come with instructions”, the last thing you expect, when the knock finally comes and you open the door, is to find yourself face to face with a representation of one of your ACTUAL guides, impossibly tall and completely filling the doorway. Imposing and regal, Anubis handed me written instructions, bowed, and left before my befuddled brain had time to come to terms with it all.

Shortly thereafter, a bedraggled bunch…

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New Release….

Doomsday: Dark Sage

Now available on Amazon

The piper of Shacklow
The fiddler of Fin
The old woman of Demon’s Dale
Calls them all in.

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They said I was born of the Balefire, when the priestesses left the enclosure to open the womb of the land as the dark time fled. I did not know, not then.

She was of the Old People, small and dark, a plump figure hunched singing over the quern. He tended the goats and fowl and life was simple. I learned the ways of hut and hearth, playing in the dirt with the dogs, my feet always stained with the green of the grass.

I do not remember that they ever spoke my name. They called me little one or bright one because of my hair and smiled, and sometimes shared glances I could not read.

Grandmother shared our hut. She never moved from her place by the fire, her hands counting stories as she muttered in the smoke-scented shadows. At night I would sit at her feet and the wizened face would come to life, telling the tales of gods and heroes, her wrinkles drawing the map of her days as they passed through her dreams.

She would sit thus, pulling the rough comb through my hair, holding me between her knees as she worked, bringing the otherworld to life and showing me the pictures in the flames until I slept.

One night she too fell asleep. I felt the life leave her as a sigh and stayed there as her flesh cooled, the spark withdrawn, until he gathered me up, dried my tears and wrapped the furs around me.

I dreamed her that night. That was the beginning.
And then they came…

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A Yorkshire legend…

nick north days 150“What’s the story, Merlin?” asked Jamie, gazing up from his cross-legged position on the floor, very like a small boy waiting for a treat. Merlin settled himself in an armchair, with the young people at his feet. For a moment he was taken back to the days of his youth when, as a Bard, he had taught the young Arthur the history of the land. Arthur was not unlike the young man at his feet, he mused. All fire and innocence, ablaze with life. When he spoke, his voice took on the cadence of the Bard of old and held his listeners spellbound.

“Long, long ago, when the world was still young, there stood a fair and prosperous city on the banks of a lake. The people were beautiful, dressed in fine linen and decked with silver wrought into delicate jewels. Their homes gleamed in the sunlight and there was music in the streets. One night, a poor and aged beggar stumbled into town, cold, hungry and thirsty. He knocked on one fine door after another, only to be turned away by the haughty inhabitants. House after house closed their doors to him and sent him away unaided.

At last, when he had tried every house, the old man found himself once more outside the great city. The sky was dark and clouded, with only the crescent moon to guide his steps. Some way ahead, the beggar saw a faint light and made his way towards it. The acrid tang of woodsmoke and tallow greeted him as he approached. The cottage was the merest hovel, a tiny building of wattle and daub, thatched with reeds. Outside a few chickens roosted and an elderly goat was tethered to a stake.

“The old man knocked on the door and it was opened warily by a young man. When he saw the beggar was alone, he held the door wide and invited him into the warmth. Inside the cottage was clean and tidy, but very bare. A table of rough-hewn wood and two stools stood to one side, in the corner there was a curtained alcove with a rush mattress covered with a coarse, woollen blanket. On a stool beside the fire, a tired young woman sat spinning in the dim light. She looked up and smiled, laying aside the spindle with care and ushering the old man to her stool. She bade him sit and warm himself. Seeing him shiver, she took a large stone from the hearth, and, wrapping it in a fleece, placed it at his feet.

“The husband brought two beakers of ale and sat beside the old man and asked how far he had come and whither he was going, speaking to the beggar with kindness and respect. The young woman heated a soup of vegetables and herbs on the fire, placing cakes of bread to bake in the cinders. When all was ready, the meagre meal was shared with the old man.

“After the meal, the husband cleared a place near the fire for the old man to sleep, building up the sweet rushes and herbs and covering them with a blanket. Only when the beggar was settled did they blow out the tallow candles and retire themselves.

“The old beggar left the cottage while his poor but kindly hosts were sleeping. As he walked away, he looked down on the great, shining city below and said, “Semer water rise, and Semer water sink, and swallow the town all save this house, where they gave me food and drink.”

“Next morning, when the young couple awoke, they looked for their erstwhile guest to no avail. Going outside, they saw that the once great city, and the valley where it lay, had disappeared completely and the waters of the lake now reached the edge of their little plot of land. Some tales say that the old beggar was really an angel in disguise. Be that as it may, no trace of the city or its inhabitants was ever seen again. But the stories tell that in times of peril one can hear the great bells booming in the deep water. I give you this tale from my heart to yours.” For a few moments longer, his little audience remained in attentive silence, savouring the magic of the Bard’s voice. Listening to the old man, Jamie understood why the bards were so honoured in days gone by, when they trained for decades, learning their craft of voice and woven wisdom.


Extract from Sword of Destiny

Sword_of_Destiny_Cover_for_KindleAvailable in Paperback and for Kindle from Amazon

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Wet dog

P1080625So we ended the evening soaking wet… and by we, I mean the dog, the bathroom and me. It had to be done, but of course, you’ll have gathered by now that Ani doesn’t like the bath. Not one little bit.

She jumps up all excited to come upstairs with me. Happily runs up and down the stairs playing fetch with me while the bath runs. She’s even worked out that if I am otherwise occupied she can play fetch with herself by dropping the ball carefully and bounding down the stairs to meet it at the bottom. This, in her eyes, is all fine and dandy.

Until I call her into the bathroom.

The ball is dropped on the threshold and she reverses and lies down expectantly but suspicious. I pick up the ball and throw it. She retrieves… as far as the threshold. I try again. No closer. Bring ball into bathroom… the look she throws me over her shoulder on her way downstairs manages to be both full of mockery and entirely impolite.

I try a different tactic. Bribery.

Favourite treat from the kitchen… the Nose follows it upstairs… as far as the threshold. Lies down and watches. I place treat on bathroom floor… in easy reach… and hide behind the door, ready to close it.

Nothing. No dog.

She just watches, grinning. Then wanders off downstairs to help herself to the packet of treats mistakenly left within reach…

I hear the rustle of the pack as I think. No point trying to catch her… she can run faster than me and she quite obviously knows she is destined for the tub.

Subterfuge. That’s always worth a go.

Back downstairs… pretend to be dusting, carefree… not a bathtub in sight…

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No dog either. She’s hidden under the table in the corner… I have no chance of getting her out of there.

There’s only one thing for it… treachery.

I put my shoes on and lock the back door… get the leash…

Small dog is at the door waiting to go. Slip leash over very willing neck… and walk upstairs.

Or try to.

The small dog is trying to eat her way through the leash as we walk…she is also trying to head downstairs instead of up, realising she has been abominably tricked.

Into bathroom, close door, remove leash.

Catch dog.

Lift her and half my jumper into bathtub… other half is soaked within seconds. So are the trousers.

Shampoo. Catch dog and return to tub.

Rinse… Ditto.

And again to rinse the other half.

Allow dog to escape while throwing towel hopefully over her back.. missing of course and getting showered in doggy smelling water as she shakes; a sort of eau de canine

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Open bathroom door for streak of wet, black lightning…

Look around at devastation… start mopping…

And then finally… after changing the guest bed she rolled on to get dry… make it downstairs. Ani is waiting by the door. Still dripping… but determined she’s going to have that walk one way or another…

I give in. It was a bit mean after all… and a run will help her dry…it’s quite mild out there…

Of course, it has rained… and there is a very muddy stream down the lane she loves playing in…

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The Teatime Author Interview…with Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent:

I’d like to thank A Woman’s Wisdom for having me :)
I should just mention that the interview related to Sword of Destiny and the characters and scenarios mentioned pertain to that book.
The imminent release is for the second book of the Doomsday series with Stuart France.

Originally posted on A Woman's Wisdom:

prof

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire born writer, esoteric teacher and Director of The Silent Eye. She has been immersed in the Mysteries all her life. Sue maintains a popular blog, sharing life’s rich experience and is co-author of The Mystical Hexagram with Dr G.Michael Vasey and recently published Sword of Destiny. She lives in Buckinghamshire, having been stranded there some years ago due to an accident with a blindfold, a pin and a map. She has a lasting love-affair with the landscape of Albion, the hidden country of the heart. She is currently owned by a small dog who also blogs.

What sparked off the idea of your book?

As a child I wandered the moors of Yorkshire with my grandfather, mother and sometimes with my great-grandfather. Between them they taught me the old lore of the land; the myths, legends and folk tales as well as about the traces…

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Larkin

Church Going by Philip Larkin

With thanks to John Flanagan for reminding me of this poem by English poet Philip Larkin (1922-1985)

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Once I am sure there’s nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
My cycle-clips in awkward reverence.

Move forward, run my hand around the font.
From where I stand, the roof looks almost new -
Cleaned, or restored? Someone would know: I don’t.
Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few
Hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce
‘Here endeth’ much more loudly than I’d meant.
The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door
I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence,
Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.

Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,
And always end much at a loss like this,
Wondering what to look for; wondering, too,
When churches will fall completely out of use
What we shall turn them into, if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show,
Their parchment, plate and pyx in locked cases,
And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?

Or, after dark, will dubious women come
To make their children touch a particular stone;
Pick simples for a cancer; or on some
Advised night see walking a dead one?
Power of some sort will go on
In games, in riddles, seemingly at random;
But superstition, like belief, must die,
And what remains when disbelief has gone?
Grass, weedy pavement, brambles, buttress, sky,

A shape less recognisable each week,
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
Or will he be my representative,

Bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly silt
Dispersed, yet tending to this cross of ground
Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
So long and equably what since is found
Only in separation – marriage, and birth,
And death, and thoughts of these – for which was built
This special shell? For, though I’ve no idea
What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth,
It pleases me to stand in silence here;

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognized, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.

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My Haunted Life – Just in Time for Halloween and Christmas

Sue Vincent:

A timely new book by G. Michael Vasey

Originally posted on The Wacky World of G. Michael Vasey:

Yes, my publisher, William Collins Publishing, pulled off something of a minor miracle and got the Kindle version of my new book up just in time for Halloween. The paperback version may also make it today or tomorrow…..

It’s called My Haunted Life – a Compendium of Strange (But True) Stories of the Paranormal. It is a short collection of stories – true stories – about things that have happened to me some of which have appeared on this blog. Go download it or if a Kindle Unlimited subscriber – borrow it and have some scary fun. Hopefully, it will make you think and wonder a bit at the creepy edges of life and reality.

It is available here at a very reasonable price indeed.

my haunted life book cover (5)

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Sacred Places

 

Nick and Ani 071

All my life I have visited sacred sites when I could, and I have been lucky enough to visit many. Whether ancient church, temple, stone circle or legendary landscape, there is something about these sites that touches a place deep within. Perhaps it is a sense of kinship with those who built them, perhaps a sense of shared reverence for that greater Something touched unseen beyond the veil.

It has never mattered to me how that divinity was approached or what form it took, only that it was perceived, recognised by the heart and present in the lives of the builders. They, and I, share perhaps, a common sentiment, expressed in my favourite Hindu prayer, “Thou art without form, but I worship thee in these forms”. In these often strange, yet somehow familiar, edifices and landscapes we can glimpse the very real place that divinity took in the lives of our forefathers.

Theories on the technologies and purpose of these places abound.  Yet have you ever stopped to consider the amount of sheer hard work that went into their building? Silbury Hill, for instance. It has been estimated that it would have taken 500 people, working every day for 10 years to construct the hill from 500,000 tonnes of chalk and earth. Stonehenge with its small forest of stone, in excess of 1200 tons… and the bluestones transported all the way from Wales.

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I have driven from Presceli where the bluestones were quarried to Salisbury Plain. Even in a fast car on a clear road you are looking at a four hour drive. And four and a half thousand years ago there were no nice smooth roads. I worked in transport for a long time with cranes and often had to organise the transport and installation of large sculptures. Even with modern technology it is no easy task. Can you imagine what was involved in terms of sheer effort for our ancestors to move these great stones so far?

Wonderful churches and cathedrals sit in the midst of our towns, passed daily with barely a glance by many of us, yet these edifices are a testimony to ingenuity, innovation and craftsmanship, lifetimes of artistry and work. Here at least we can understand in modern terms how an artist would work for a living, yet those who built the ancient places … what drove them to do so? Would they not have been better occupied pursuing the necessities of survival?

stonehenge 012

They appear not to have thought so. Someone must have fed them, cared for their children, their parents and for them, so in the harsh and uncertain environment in which they lived, not only the workers themselves were involved in the effort, but whole communities must have supported it and taken part, each sacrificing time and sharing resources to maintain the workforce.

These ancient places, sacred to their builders, speak of humanity. Perhaps the planners, the decision makers, saw power in the building… that too is a human trait… yet to be able to envision such great works, to organise and coordinate, to maintain a workforce and create these wonders of which we see but the remnants, would have taken powerful leadership. It is not as if the tribes were equipped with the weaponry to enforce and impose these projects so many thousands of years ago.

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So what drove them? We cannot know for certain, of course, with the ancient places. No record exists except the enigmatic traces on the landscape. Yet the human heart and mind has not changed so very much perhaps that we cannot divine a recognisable thread.

With the great cathedrals, of course, the wealth and power of the church was displayed. Religion dominated every aspect of life and was a very real force for peasant and noble alike. They took it seriously, awed, fearful of judgement perhaps, loving too and worshipping from the heart. In medieval times the physical and political power of wealth and weaponry could have imposed, the organised power of a multinational religion would have been able to ensure that such works were completed. Yet they could not have imposed the obvious and loving dedication of the artists and artisans who created the beauty that survives.

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Amid the simplicity of domestic architecture and the poverty of the cities, amid the homes we would see as hovels, the cathedrals were built, reaching high to the heavens, magnificent structures of lace carved in stone, towering above the surrounding rooftops to the glory of their God.

I can only think that the ancient places too were built for much the same reasons.

Was it simply an effort to propitiate the gods and ensure survival? Yet if so, would the tribes not have been more profitably occupied in smaller works and greater effort hunting, farming and working in known ways to survive? I think there was more to it than that. These places, when we stand among their traces, are so vast, entire landscapes shaped and altered by human effort, sweat and blood, that the only reason I can feel is awe at their perception of something greater and their efforts to somehow reach out to it and bring it into their own life and land.

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When I stand in the nave of a tiny chapel, a lonely temple on the moors  or amid the splendour of a cathedral, when my bare feet walk the grass between the stones and landscapes carved by human hands, I marvel at their skill and dedication. Yet beyond and beneath the awe at the human achievement is a sense of companionship on a sacred quest, a journey of the soul towards a Light perceived, however dimly, that pervades and illuminates the world and each of us. It matters not how that Light is seen, what Name we use or the stories we have woven in our attempts at understanding. It matters only that It is, and that seeing It, we look for It within. The sacred landscape that is our self is enough.

May 2013

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Life cycle

expression-of-life

Expression of life, photographer unknown.

“Do you mind?” Well, yes, actually, I do… choking on a filched Brazil nut from his breakfast is not the most enjoyable of experiences, even if it does serve me right. I splutter an incoherent reply between coughs. “You can stop this dying malarkey right now.”

I hate to disillusion him. “Well, not exactly, I can’t…”

“Why not?” You could see he just knew he’d made a mistake with that question.

“Because we are all doing it, all the time, bit by bit…” He rolled his eyes in that ‘I can feel a blog post coming on’ way that has become part of the unspoken vocabulary around here. We’ve had the conversation before, of course, of how, permission being granted or not to go permanently AWOL from his kitchen, one of these days I won’t be turning up for work. He put his foot down with a firm hand and broke in on my philosophising before I’d picked up speed. A tactic I consider a little unfair.

“You’re not allowed.” There was that finality in his tone that brooks no further argument, so I dutifully carried on preparing the stuff for his vile green smoothie, wondering if there exists some kind of rescue operation for the fruit and vegetables destined to become the horrid, if healthy, concoction in his blender.

I am a tad suspicious however of the coincidental concern of my sons just lately. They seem to be taking a preternatural interest in my longevity all of a sudden. Both of them. Were I a nonagenarian I could understand it, but I do not consider myself to be in my dotage, physical or mental, quite yet, so I have to wonder what may have convinced them of incipient decrepitude. Small instances of their care have manifested… things like vitamin supplements… It makes you wonder…

Mind you, I have noticed that they too are growing into themselves in new ways, an inevitable consequence of the passing of time and the evolution of the roles we each play in life, both our own and the lives of others. From infancy to childhood, youth to maturity and onwards towards, with a little luck, the wisdom of age learned from a life richly coloured by experience from all ends of the spectrum.

The rhythm of care shifts as we go through those decades and we who were children, once dependant, become ourselves those who watch over the wellbeing of those we love as we become partner, parent, aunt or uncle. With the assumption of that role of care we also turn our eyes outward from the self-absorption of youth and see those who cared for us when we were small in a different light and in turn offer our care as they grow older. Yet the cycle continues as the very old take newborn babes in their arms and croon lullabies of their own long ago, conjuring stories to share with upturned faces that tell of a world long since passed into the mists of memory.There is beauty in that rhythm, a natural beauty like that of the seasons that slowly turn, growing new life beneath a blanket of fallen years.

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Dark Sage… coming soon

“It doesn’t look much from a distance,” say I.
“Oh I don’t know,” says Ned, “But why the Devil’s Drop?”
“Well, it started out as Devil’s Rock because of a perceived likeness, in our minds at least, to Devil’s Tower, Wyoming,” says Wen.
“But of course it’s nowhere near as big as the Devil’s Tower,” say I.
“And the evil bit?”
“Well, we had a bit of a… what shall we say, we had a bit of a strange
experience up there when we tried to climb it, didn’t we Wen?”
This is an awful cop out I know but if the truth be told there are two emotions at play here vying for precedence. The first is a feeling of      foolishness because from this distance at the side of the road the ‘Drop’ looks like nothing more than a rather impressive and undoubtedly fascinating natural rock formation, whilst the second is the memory of the experience I had when climbing it which latter has been impinging itself ever since we
turned the Silver Bullet in its general direction and it has become abundantly clear that we are indeed seriously considering the utter madness of taking Ned ‘up the Drop’.

“That’s right,” says Wen gamely, “We think there’s a warding up there, but we’d like a second opinion.”
“You’ve both been up, right?” says Ned.
“I’ve been up there,” I say quietly. “Wen ran away.”
“I did not run away, Donald Sams…” says Wen. “I merely moved away rapidly in the opposite direction… and anyway… you never got to the top.”
“I did so get to the top I just never stood up on the top that’s all.”
“Never stood up?” says Ned.
“For fear of being blown off.”
“Was it windy?”
“Not particularly.”
“I see,” smiles Ned.
“I’m not sure you do. It’s the Devil’s Drop: it’s EVIL!”

BookCoverPreview2

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