Leaving the church, we gathered in the little garden beside it which, so the church’s Keeper of the Keys would later tell us, had been sold to them for the princely sum of £1, with the sole proviso that the garden be used. Beside its gate is another fragment of the old Abbey, bearing once again the symbol of St Catherine’s wheel… which seemed fairly appropriate considering what we were about to do.
The gardens are a beautiful and peaceful spot, tucked under the wing of the church. The air is fragrant with the perfume of herbs and old roses. Apples grow on carefully tended trees and there are bees and butterflies in abundance. We gathered around a small, paved square lined with benches to start the next part of our adventure.
We had been convinced to hold a workshop at Cerne Abbas because of a feeling and a series of coincidences with geometry. At first, we had thought we might find a vesica piscis in the landscape, but we had discovered that there was already a recognised geometric figure marked by sacred sites. It was listed as a ‘hexagram’, with venerable old churches on each of the points… and most of these older churches are built on sites of a more ancient sanctity than their stones and mortar. A quick look at the map confirmed that the figure seemed pretty accurate and we had dived down to Dorset to check out the sites.
It did not take long to realise that, while there was indeed a nice, six-pointed figure in the landscape, there was no guarantee it was supposed to be a hexagram. Granted, the symbol known as both the Star of David and the hexagram is associated with Christianity, alchemy, Judaism and features in pretty much every religion and culture in some form, but a six-pointed figure does not have to be a hexagram. There were other options.
It could be a rayed star, a daisy-wheel like the odd ‘consecration cross’ that we had found in the church, or a simple a hexagon. It could even be marking points dividing the circumference of a circle. And, if it were centred around a seventh point, the circle would then be the traditional symbol for the sun. On top of that, the Cerne Giant had, coincidentally, been known as ‘Helis’… which is close enough to ‘Helios’ to be intriguing.
But it had been the hexagram we had been given to work with, so the hexagram it would be. In magical and alchemical terms, the two triangles that form the hexagram represent the elements which, when brought together to form the six-pointed star, symbolise perfect balance and harmony.
The hexagram in the landscape appears to be aligned with magnetic north, rather than ‘true’ north, which might imply that it was older than modern mapping techniques. Not that we really needed that implication, when all the churches on its points predate that scientific differentiation by centuries. Oddly enough, the figure of the hexagram can be used as a starting point from which it is possible to geometrically draw a vesica… the only problem with then finding a vesica in the landscape is that the geometry required means you have to know which of the six possible directions on the starting hexagram is ‘up’.
Later, there would be time to play with Google Earth, overlaying geometrical forms onto maps, with a really surprising result. For now, though, we were taking Cerne Abbas as the centre and working our way round from there.
But our weekend, although using the geometries, was not really about them. It was about how we might work ‘with’ the land to create harmony. We had devised a simple demonstration, assigning the planets to the points and centre of the hexagram that is formed from the symbolic Fire and Water triangles and, drawing lots, had assigned each planet to a member of our company. At each site visited, we would walk the pattern, drawing together the two triangles to create a harmonious whole. At each site, also, we would meditate on a seed thought, finding an expression of each planetary colour in nature. The simplest of such rituals may have a profound effect when performed with intent.
And that was the end of our morning… especially as the rain began to fall. All that remained was to find shelter for a few minutes until the New Inn, a sixteenth-century coaching in, was ready to open its doors for lunch. After which, we would be going on a church-crawl…