Feathers on Friday

fox 001Well, I’m home again after another trip north. It was a mixture of busyness and leisure with the weekend workshop looming ever closer, but it began, as these things should, with an evening in the pub, laughing, talking and simply spending time with friends.

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Friday dawned bright and way too early as usual, but that gave us time to do things with costumes before heading out to the Nightingale Centre. Even then we were early, so we went to the top of the ridge where we could see the beautiful dale unfolding spring below us. Ravens were everywhere… a welcoming committee, perhaps. It is high there and a falcon flew below us, yet the buzzard sailed ever higher into the clouds. It felt like coming home. It always does.

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Great Hucklow always feels like it nods in greeting. It is a tiny place, an old lead mining village now home to around a hundred people. There is a bond that is hard to explain. Much has happened here, many dreams have been dreamed, many things brought into being, including our School.

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After we had concluded our business in the space for the ritual drama soon to unfold, we stopped for lunch in the pub next door. The Queen Anne is a lovely old inn dating back to 1621. Here too we feel welcomed. The atmosphere is warm and friendly and will host the evening laughter for our companions.

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We headed out then to Foolow, a village centred around the duck pond and green, where spring flowers added a splash of colour in an afternoon fast turning grey. The ducks were undoubtedly happy. You could tell. By the green there is the old smithy, now St Hugh’s chapel, a tiny, quiet place and after our recent visit to Lincoln where we paid our respects at the saint’s tomb, it seemed appropriate to stop there. It is a simple place, the windows plain; just a few paintings full of birds break the austerity of the little chapel. St Hugh’s story tells of his friendship with a swan and he is always shown with the bird at his side.

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The next village was Eyam. It is a place of solid stone houses, a typically beautiful Derbyshire village that receives many visitors every year, yet they do not come just for the beauty, for it is one of the Plague Villages. The settlement was founded by the Anglo Saxons, though the Romans had mined there long before, but it was in 1665 that the plague came, decimating the population. The village closed itself off from the world in a gallant effort to contain the disease that killed three quarters of the villagers and the memory lingers in the graves, the plaques and the parish register that lists the names of 273 recorded deaths. It is impossible to say if that is the correct number, with families burying their own dead to help prevent the spread of infection; not all survived to tell their stories, families were wiped out; Elizabeth Hancock, for example, dug the graves and buried her husband and her six children over the course of eight days. She is not a statistic, she was a woman and her grief cannot be imagined.

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We, of course, were there for the church of St Lawrence. We knew there was a Mercian cross dating back to the 8th century in the churchyard, preserving that mix of Pagan and Christian symbolism we are beginning to know and the building itself has Saxon origins. Wall paintings from medieval times show the twelve tribes of Israel and the stained glass and carvings are beautiful. In this small church there is a feeling of living history, the continuity is caught and held here somewhere between the ancient burial urn and the Norman font.

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It is Lent, the flowers are few or absent in the churches at this time of Bright Sorrow, but outside the rain had abated, the daffodils nodded golden heads and the sky was once more blue. It seemed appropriate that we were greeted by a robin perched on a headstone. It is said that the redbreast was sacred to Thor, and was a storm bird; yet here the storm had stilled. It is told that the robin was a gift of the Raven sent to bring the beauty of song to mankind. In Christian legend it was the robin who alone amongst the birds tried to pluck the thorns from the brow of Jesus on the cross. It is that blood he wears on his breast. Another says its feathers were turned to red when it carried water to those burning in Hell. Or fanning the flames to warm a frozen child. In this village where tragedy and gallantry walk the pages of history hand in hand the stories seemed to echo one another and the little bird carried a symbolic message of rebirth and renewal in its tiny wings and bright black eyes.

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We exchanged the smile that these cheery little birds always seem to bring when you see them as we watched the little creature watching us. There is a feeling of being blessed when a small being such as this comes close without fear. I remembered a bit of old folklore that says that whatever you do to the robin, the same will be given to you. As we smiled at the little bird with loving joy, I had to think that for once I hope there is truth in superstition. Perhaps there is, for I think we all felt the robin’s presence in that moment was a gift. I know, call me daft…you had to be there.

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About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
This entry was posted in England, Friendship, Landscape, Photography, Spirituality, The Silent Eye, Workshop 2014 and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Feathers on Friday

  1. Morgan says:

    As Always, your images draw me in and your story brings a smile 🙂


  2. ksbeth says:

    oh, i fully believe in superstitions, and the universe keeps proving me right, over and over. not all are bad, many are good )


  3. Beautifully woven Sue….right through to the blessing from Thors wee messenger….sometimes a bird is not just a bird 🙂


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