Into Spirit…

Sue Vincent

14th September 1958 – 29th March 2021

R.I.P

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Unexpected gems

And day four to finish –

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Stained glass pelican

Stained glass pelican

The final day of my friend’s visit dawned grey and cold. In spite of another late night we were up about dawn and a couple of coffees later we were out again. I had mentioned a lovely little place and it seemed right to have a wander there.

Of course, we detoured several times, wandering through the ancient village of Aldbury and through the woods at Ashridge. It holds a special place in my heart that wood. The huge ancient tree at the top of Tom’s Hill always gets a silent greeting.

There are deer at Ashridge. Did we see one? Even though one always sees deer there? No. Not a deer in sight. Then at the far end of the wood, where the bluebells will be at their thickest soon,  something caught my eye. Not just a deer, but a herd of them. They walked deeper into the trees, startled by the car as I pulled to a halt and grabbed the camera.

***

Deer in the woods

Deer in the woods

We left them in peace a few moments later and emerged from the trees opposite Dunstable downs, hoping to see the chalk cut figure  there, the Whipsnade lion. The weather, however, made that nigh impossible. The white of chalk against snow is not ideal. It is much younger than the two figures we had already seen. A few thousand years younger than the White Horse at Uffington, but it seemed an appropriate end to the visit, especially as the remaining walkable Ridgeway ends here at Ivinghoe Beacon. The Beacon is the end of the Chiltern hills, and is marked by neolithic barrows too, as were our previous stops.. Of course, the weather was not good for photographs, but it had to be done after the past two days.

Even with snow on the ground, signs of springtime were all around. Nettles are growing fresh green shoots. Catkins dangle from the trees and the first fronds of leaves will soon open. In another few weeks the place will be vivid green and vibrant with life.

***

Ivinghoe beacon

Ivinghoe beacon

Next stop was a little church you would not know was there, at the end of a long lane, set among the fields. As churches go in this area it is a fairly modern one, being a mere 700 years old. Just a baby, really. Yet you open the door on a riot of colour. The stained glass of the windows is jewel coloured and the entire wall at the altar end is a fabulously painted mural, fronted by mosaics. The place glows with colour and unexpected gems of art and craft spanning the centuries. It is one of the reasons I love exploring these old places. Part of the community, they carry within their fabric the history of real people. They have earned their place in the landscape, both physical and social. Regardless of one’s own faith, to visit a village church is to open a window into the past in a far more intimate way than in the hands-off, guarded museums and galleries.

***

Unexpected art

Unexpected art

We spent a while exploring the symbolism and artistry this tiny ancient building contained and I have a lot of research to do… if I ever get time. I’d love to know who carved the painted figures here.

***

Gaddesdon church

Gaddesdon church

We went into Berkhamsted next. Sadly the road we were going to take was closed so I could not show my friend the magnificence of Ashridge House. On the other hand, there was coffee and panettone in the town… and of course, we had to visit the incongruous totem pole beside the canal, and glance at the ruins of the Norman castle, with its massive earthworks.

***

Bekhamsted Castle ruins

Berkhamsted Castle ruins

Sadly, all things end, and it was time to say a temporary goodbye at the station. We have talked, laughed, walked, and eaten way too much. There may even have been wine involved. But three days of working on the hoof.. or on the wing… were over and we were both stuffed full of food for thought and creative possibilities.

We had discussed some deep and interesting questions, created many new avenues to explore in thought and I enjoyed the days immensely. So much of what was achieved will have to be mulled over, incubated and hatched before the ideas take flight and tonight I feel like a limp but happy rag. Sometimes it seems, taking time out to simply enjoy time with a friend is the most productive thing we can do.

***

Panel from triptych

Panel from triptych

***

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Giant’s Ring…

County Down, Friday, 17th June, 2022…

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***

No one views the biblical story

of David and Goliath

with anything other than complete veracity.

***

***

Yet the biblical time frame

is nothing if not sketchy…

Continue reading at France&Vincent

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The ancient land…

May as well do day two, then –

***

The White Horse of Uffington

The White Horse of Uffington

An evening spent over good food and wine and deep conversation is not conducive to early mornings. Nevertheless, in spite of the 3am bedtime, I was up early to find my friend already downstairs being taught to play fetch again by Ani.

Two cups of coffee later and we were off bright and early towards Uffington. An accidental ‘wrong’ turn and we were, an hour later, at the foot of Dragon Hill in the mist. What would you have us do? We got out and climbed.

The area is all chalk. Along the edge of the hills runs the Ridgeway, an ancient route still in daily use for over 5000 years. Dotted along the Ridgeway are a great number of ancient sites. Among the strangest and most breath-taking is the sacred landscape of Uffington.

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uffington and rollright 008***

From the top of Dragon hill, a natural chalk pyramid enhanced and shaped by man, one has a reasonable view of the landscape. The flat topped hill, says the legend, is where St George slew the Dragon, and the bare patch on its summit is where the beasts blood was spilled.  To the west of this amphitheatre is a strangely shaped platform.. and it is only from these two vantage points one catches a decent glimpse of the main and most magical ancient construction. The White Horse.

Enshrouded in an early mist, we stood and looked at this very strange landscape that seems completely out of place among the gentle hills here. The ritual mound, the deep scar of the manger, a valley that seems oddly out of place, the terraces leading up the hill.. and the steep slope that leads to the Horse. If indeed it is a horse. Strangely, it can only truly be seen from the air, yet it dates back over 5000 years.

Deep trenches filled with chalk were once cut into the summit of the slope to create the creature, some 374 feet long. The picture is from Wikipedia because of the weather, though the morning was so eerie we could almost have flown.

We climbed the hill and stood beside the Horse. It is so vast that even close up one cannot see or photograph it properly. And the mists were rolling in rapidly. There is a sense of the continuity of time standing beside something that looks so sleek and modern and seeing it stretch back so far into history. The mist came in and blanketed the area as we stood in magical way. Two crows stood and watched us, then took flight… and a buzzard, wheeling in the air dived on one of them.

A few moments later we were treated to a display of aerial splendour from two buzzards, gliding silently and playfighting in the air. I made some comment about the hawk of the morning chasing away the carrion crows.. and as I did so a skylark rose before us, hanging in the mist and singing its magic to us. Quite extraordinary,, and it started a stream of birds that followed us all day in a most unusual fashion.

I noticed that the platform to the west of Dragon hill seemed to mirror the shape of the head of the dragon. Had the valley held water once upon a time, there would have been three versions of the world there, between the hills, the figure and the reflection. I imagined the horse outlined in torches in the night… for some reason this felt ‘right’. It was a morning when imagination had free rein.

***

uffington and rollright 021***

We ascended the hill, passing the lone fairy tree, to the hill fort, a huge enclosure on top of the hill. The air sparkled with stars just on the edges of vision, in spite of the heavy fog. The crows followed us as and it felt almost as if we had crossed into another world.  We discussed the sheer magnitude of the engineering involved in these massive earthworks. We compared them to the building of these huge ritual landscapes to medieval cathedrals, surrounded by hovels and rudimentary living, yet these edifices were erected in all their grandeur because faith impelled it. That these structures were connected is evident… they are all far too big to hold little meaning, given the work involved in their construction.

We wondered why they had chosen the exposed and waterless hill top for the ‘fort’. Perhaps it was not simply a defensive thing. On a morning like today as we were cut off from the world by mists and had only the horizonless sky above us, we thought perhaps that was heir reason… to be closer to their gods and held in their embrace.

Back to the car and a short hop to a car park, where the buzzards came down so low we could see the sheer scale and the markings on the wings. Incredible. There are some things that just cannot be photographed.With robins, sparrows and chaffinches seeming to lead us every step, we walked the couple of miles along the ancient Ridgeway to Wayland’s Smithy next. It is an old chambered burial of the same era, still beautiful and tranquil within its ring of trees.

***

Wayland's Smithy

Wayland’s Smithy

Stepping into this enclosure is like stepping out of time. The legends are only a small part of the story. The atmosphere is beautiful. We stayed a while here, watched by a blackbird, we had seemed to be escorted by birds all morning.  We left silver for Wayland as tradition demands, though we had no horse to be shod. There were faces in the great slabs of rock and we wondered if these were natural or by design. Our conclusion was that it didn’t matter. Maybe these stones had been chosen for their inclusion of the images of life, perhaps just to show that life and death are not separate but include each other always.

***

Face in the stones

Face in the stones

Dreaming in the moment I saw a procession of people visiting their dead, the ancestors, as seems to have been the norm in those days, wearing the stone of the entrance, placing one hand on the stone in salute as they passed.

***

Entrance to the chamber

Entrance to the chamber

In spite of the cold there seemed to be a visible heat haze rising from the mound, and standing atop it we realised that this too echoed the shape of the Horse’s head. A reflection of a fourth world, perhaps. As we stood and looked at the stones from the centre, a feather fluttered down from an empty sky and landed almost at my feet. You could feel the old ones in the land.

***

The watcher

The watcher

We retraced our steps, meeting an entirely appropriate white horse on the way back to the car as we departed in search of lunch. So it was no surprise that we stopped at the White Horse pub for the most delicious luncheon.

***

Lunch at the White Horse

Lunch at the White Horse

I decided to take my friend to the Rollright stones on the way home… not too much of a detour. But the time we got there we had been treated to aerial dressage by a pair of crows, seen hawks into double figures, and had one quite literally rise from the ground beside us and fly within feet of our faces. Really most unusual.

***

The Ridgeway

The Ridgeway

The Rollrights are old and gnarled, pock marked and lichen covered. We said hello to the solitary King stone first, then down to the chambered cairn site of the Whispering Knights before visiting the circle itself.

***

Whispering Knights

Whispering Knights

My friend explored the stone circle and I took the camera to the sighting stone in one of the huge stones. Sure enough, sighting through it, it aligns perfectly with the Knights.

***

Through the sight hole to the Knights

Through the sight hole to the Knights

We have an incredibly rich ancient heritage in this small country of ours. It seemed entirely appropriate somehow that we should stand within it and touch our roots in the past on this vernal equinox.

Then home, dinner and another evening of deep talking over the wine. Which is why I sit here in the early hours typing. Altogether a magical day.

*****

THE INITIATE

Book One of the Triad of Albion

Stuart France & Sue Vincent

The Initiate is the story of a journey beyond the realms of our accustomed normality.

It is a true story told in a fictional manner. In just such a way did the Bards of old hide in the legends and deeds of folk heroes, those deeper truths for those ‘with eyes to see and ears to hear’.

Don and Wen, two founding members of a new Esoteric School, meet to explore an ancient sacred site, as a prelude to the School’s opening event. The new School is to be based upon a nine-fold system and operate under the aegis of the Horus Hawk.

The trip does not unfold as planned.

Instead, Don and Wen, guided by the birds, find themselves embarking upon a journey that will lead them through a maze of spiritual symbolism, to magical mysteries and the shadowy figure of the Ninth Knight.

As the veils thin and waver, time shifts and the present is peopled with shadowy figures of the past, weaving their tales through a quest for understanding and opening wide the doors of perception…

Now available via Amazon worldwide.

Paperback UK     Kindle UK    Paperback Amazon.com    Kindle Amazon.com

 

Posted in Life, Love and Laughter, Spirituality | Tagged , , | 40 Comments

The Twins of Macha…

County Armagh, Friday, 17th June 2022…

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For one of the most important sites in the country

there was not very much to see.

*

It was also raining quite heavily

so any shots taken were infested

with rain-drops masquerading as orbs.

*

It was nevertheless apparent

that there is something very fine

and rarefied about the place.

*

It is just difficult to say, precisely,

what that something is…

Continue reading at France&Vincent

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Continuity

… And day one –

***

I collected my friend from the station about 25 miles from my home, and we took a slight detour via a tiny, ancient village. Little Missenden is utterly beautiful. A mixture of periods and styles that span the history of the area. But the little parish church of St John the Baptist is something else.

***

images (8)***

The church itself sits peacefully on the edge of the village. An ancient yew grows in the churchyard shading the graves. Unusually in these times, the church stands open most days. Massive oak posts, cracked and warped with age support the porch and a dark oaken door with a heavy ring gives entry.

It was late and the place was in darkness save for the sanctuary candle. We switched on a light and my friend stood in awe of the faded but beautiful red ochre painting on the wall.  The paintings, of St Christopher, angels and the crucifixion date back 800 years or so. To see them preserved here, in a church first begun 200 years  or so before they were painted, is, quite simply, awesome.

But it is older still. There are Roman bricks in the walls, medieval tiles still in place under the grates, evidence of the Anglo Saxon construction everywhere. And as if this and the beautiful stained glass were not enough, there are small, rough carved crosses in the plaster of the walls… marks left by the hands of medieval pilgrims.

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images (9)

***

These rough marks touch me deeply. In this tiny village church you can see the human hand of faith that has spanned over a thousand years. You see the hand and love of an artist next to the roughly gouged crosses, and they are equally beautiful.

This little church has seen the births, marriages and deaths of this tiny village for over a millennium, and continues to this day. It is such a peaceful place, welcoming and tranquil, I often used to stop there whenever I was in the area. When my son was recovering, I met the vicar there one day and we prayed together. I will pray anywhere, from a hilltop to a church, a mosque to a stone circle.. There is an old Hindu prayer that says, “Thou art everywhere, but I worship Thee here.” Somehow, this feels right to me.

***

images (10)

***

It matters not, I think, whether we share the faith practised in a building, whether our faith wears another Name or face, or reads from a different Book. There is something in these old places that takes in the passing of human life in their very fabric and mirrors a glimpse into the heart of the seeker through eternity.

*****

THE INITIATE

Book One of the Triad of Albion

Stuart France & Sue Vincent

The Initiate is the story of a journey beyond the realms of our accustomed normality.

It is a true story told in a fictional manner. In just such a way did the Bards of old hide in the legends and deeds of folk heroes, those deeper truths for those ‘with eyes to see and ears to hear’.

Don and Wen, two founding members of a new Esoteric School, meet to explore an ancient sacred site, as a prelude to the School’s opening event. The new School is to be based upon a nine-fold system and operate under the aegis of the Horus Hawk.

The trip does not unfold as planned.

Instead, Don and Wen, guided by the birds, find themselves embarking upon a journey that will lead them through a maze of spiritual symbolism, to magical mysteries and the shadowy figure of the Ninth Knight.

As the veils thin and waver, time shifts and the present is peopled with shadowy figures of the past, weaving their tales through a quest for understanding and opening wide the doors of perception…

Now available via Amazon worldwide.

Paperback UK     Kindle UK    Paperback Amazon.com    Kindle Amazon.com

 

 

Posted in Life, Love and Laughter, painting, Spirituality, The Silent Eye | Tagged , | 20 Comments

Ghoul in the Crown?…

County Armagh, Thursday 16th June 2022…

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Notwithstanding

such spectral speculations…

***

***

All this does raise questions…

Continue reading at France&Vincent

Posted in Ancestors, Ancient sites, archaeology, Art, Folk Tale, Mythology, Sacred sites | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flying kites…

The original post from 22nd March, 2013 in which Sue describes day three of our adventures in what was to become the story of, The Initiate…

Hawk of the morning.. red kite

Hawk of the morning… red kite

I woke yesterday to two lines in my inbox that brought a sense of wonder and awe to my first coffee of the day. Something so simple, yet so incredibly beautiful that it made the day sing.

So it is no surprise that it was a good one.

My friend and I had no real plans except to visit a tiny village church and perhaps the Hellfire caves. But first there was work for the School. We mulled over options, plans and possibilities, throwing ideas around between us. The inspiration came all of a sudden and we found an idea that was perfect… just as a huge red kite sailed over the house. It seemed appropriate… the hawk of the morning is one of the symbols we use.

We got organised and departed in search of history and adventure. The tiny church we wanted to see was closed and the wardens not answering their phones, so we headed for the caves at West Wycombe. It seemed as if the birds from yesterday had conspired to accompany us and we had an escort of hawks and kites sitting watching from the roadside or soaring overhead. So many we stopped counting and started laughing at it.

The Golden Ball, West Wycombe

The Golden Ball, West Wycombe

The caves, sadly, were also closed, so we ascended the hill to the church on top, nestled in the remains of an iron age hill fort and topped by the golden ball, where allegedly Sir Francis Dashwood and his cronies from the caves beneath held card parties.  Of course, the church was locked, so we wandered off towards the mausoleum, an intriguing structure.

Dashwood mausoleum

Dashwood mausoleum

My friend caught sight of something and ran towards it… a red kite had landed. I followed, praying the camera would be quick enough.  For the next hour or more we were treated to aerial acrobatics and sheer delight by nine red kites on that hilltop. Spectacular.

Red kite over West Wycombe

Red kite over West Wycombe

When they flew off eventually, we wandered over to the other side of the valley, stopping at an old church… also closed. As we went back to the car, we had to chuckle at yet another bird on an unusually carved gravestone… then looked up and were caught by another red kite that soared above before diving yards away from us. So we stood and marvelled again for quite some time.

It seemed the birds were leading us yet again. Whatever random turn we took they were there.And we took some very random ones, ending up standing on top of the Neolithic barrow above Whiteleaf Cross, a huge ancient chalk figure cut into the hillside, again on the Ridgeway. With a solitary kite overhead.

From the top of Whiteleaf Cross

From the top of Whiteleaf Cross

In search of coffee we headed down towards the ancient little town of Wendover. However, there is a tiny church I have always meant to visit but had never managed to find open. A small sign says it has medieval wall paintings… though I expected only fragments of them, nothing near as grand as the ones a couple of days before.

Roots on the Ridgeway

Roots on the Ridgeway

I was wrong.. they survive on most of the walls… including, we noted, one of a tree full of birds….

Here be birds.. more of them...

Here be birds.. more of them…

There are glorious medieval floor tiles as well as the 700 year old wall paintings, and even some stained glass… through which the light streams in a curious blue haze. Most of the windows are only a couple of hundred years old, but very beautiful nonetheless.

Above the altar

Above the altar

The entire church is probably the size of my living room, very tiny, very simple… but a real jewel of history and art. We were breathless at the simple beauty of the place and the history in its very walls. Photographs do not do it justice… come and visit and I’ll take you there.

Ancient village church

Ancient village church

Coffee was found in the King’s Head in Wendover, itself nearly 600 years old and we sat on an old oak settle near the ingle nook with beer and sandwiches, chuckling at the wall hanging of birds.

Dinner at the old coaching inn in my village was wonderful.  Even if the paintings on the walls were also avian. But it was dark as we walked, we knew we were safe from their over-attentiveness now. Yet oddly, just as we remarked on this, laughing after a superb day, the unmistakable cry of a kite keened in the night air.

It was truly a day of kites.

A day of kites

A day of kites

*****

THE INITIATE

Book One of the Triad of Albion

Stuart France & Sue Vincent

The Initiate is the story of a journey beyond the realms of our accustomed normality.

It is a true story told in a fictional manner. In just such a way did the Bards of old hide in the legends and deeds of folk heroes, those deeper truths for those ‘with eyes to see and ears to hear’.

Don and Wen, two founding members of a new Esoteric School, meet to explore an ancient sacred site, as a prelude to the School’s opening event. The new School is to be based upon a nine-fold system and operate under the aegis of the Horus Hawk.

The trip does not unfold as planned.

Instead, Don and Wen, guided by the birds, find themselves embarking upon a journey that will lead them through a maze of spiritual symbolism, to magical mysteries and the shadowy figure of the Ninth Knight.

As the veils thin and waver, time shifts and the present is peopled with shadowy figures of the past, weaving their tales through a quest for understanding and opening wide the doors of perception…

Now available via Amazon worldwide.

Paperback UK     Kindle UK    Paperback Amazon.com    Kindle Amazon.com

 

Posted in Life, Love and Laughter, Photography, Spirituality, The Silent Eye, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

The King’s Ring…

County Armagh, Thursday, 16th June 2022…

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Although not at all easy to pick…

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The stones of Clontygora…

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***

Comprise yet another court-cairn…

Continue reading at France&Vincent

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‘Going Underground’…

County Down, Thursday 16th June, 2022…

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***

The information board

cannot be relied upon to furnish

accurate information

but they can offer, if not a landing strip

then at least, a spring board on to better things.

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This will not be the first souterrain

we have explored…

***

***

But it turns out

to be one of the best yet!…

Continue reading at France&Vincent

 

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Wateresk Dolmen…

County Down, Thursday, 16th June, 2022…

***

***

Certainly, such huge stones

look difficult to move

from place to place…

Continue reading at France&Vincent

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