We began at the well that gave the town its name. Baecca’s Well is an ancient healing spring that rises from deep within the earth. It is thought to have taken its name from a tribal leader whose story is lost beyond memory. It is one of the points on a proposed ley running from the great circle of Arbor Low and yet, it sits incongruously within the modern recreation ground and right next to a children’s wet play area that is open in summer. I wonder if the water for that comes from the spring too and hope that it does… there would be a nice continuity to that… and the continuing flow of the Underground Stream was one of the major themes of the weekend.
The Underground Stream refers to that continuing flow of knowledge and understanding which, like pure water, flows through mankind’s spiritual history, resurfacing from time to time to heal and speed our evolution, both personal and global. Like water, it has neither form, taste nor colour, but takes the shape of the vessel that contains it and traces of the inner landscape through which it passes. Each time it resurfaces, it is shaped by the needs of the times and will take on new forms, new vocabularies and symbols, but the essence remains pure. It is neither teaching nor dogma, but a wisdom distilled from the essence of human experience.
We had visited the well to make sure it was still running through the winter and found that we had been provided with a perfect bit of symbolism. The spring now flows from a relatively modern urn, set, circle within circle, in a sunken garden, both within and apart from the park. Beside it is the old stone trough into which the water once flowed. The spring remains, though in a new form, while the old form, which allows us to see something of its origins, has been preserved. The name of the well too has been changed, Christianised to St Peter’s Well, reflecting the changing forms of the spiritual story. The water no longer flows continuously, but intermittently… it flows for a time, then ceases until the pressure rebuilds and then it can flow once more. It was a gift… we could not have asked for a better analogy for the Underground Stream.
As we arrived at the gate, there was another gift… a jackdaw was perched on the edge of the spring. Recent studies have shown jackdaws to be one of the few creatures able to read eyes in a similar way to humans. Curiously, this accords well with their traditional symbolism as birds of vision. As corvids, they are also associated with death, but for the jackdaw this takes the form of transition or rebirth into another state. It has been called the ‘bird of tomorrow’ and looks to the unfolding of the future. Another perfect symbol.
We began the weekend with a blessing and symbolic purification, according the waters once more a moment of recognition, remembering ancient reverence and sanctity and aligning our intent with its unbroken flow. There was also a slightly more mundane reason… in Scotland, at the last Living Land workshop, when we had been drenched, it had been mooted that purification was needed before visiting these ancient sites. In England, in December, the weather needs no excuse to be unpleasant… we hoped that a purification now might save us from a drenching later!
We handed out the riddles that would provide clues to our next location and what we would find there. On the back was the infinity symbol that would play an important part in the work of the weekend… one way or another. The whole visit took no more than fifteen minutes and yet, between the symbolism we had known about and that which we were gifted, what should have been a proverbial ‘walk in the park’ had deepened into something far more significant. Leaving the well behind, we walked back into the town, in search of fantastic beasts…