Ancient Sites | Wheel of the Year

Beltane 2013 Pt1 – Hermits and Hermitages

May 9, 2013

Hey – where have I been? Well, to Budapest, then back for Beltane, then off to Barcelona. I’ve been a busy bee! It’s all go at this time of year! Normal service is now resumed, and no neonicotinoids were ingested along the way.

For Beltane this year I decided to go over to the very edge of Derbyshire where it touched with Nottinghamshire. The meeting of counties seemed like the kind of liminal space where worlds collide and interesting things happen – a kind of amalgam which I’m calling ‘Derbinotts’. We would visit two new sites in the Nottingham area, and on the way back visit some favourites from Derbyshire, but first we had a “local” Cheshire site to do, because all good Fire Festivals should start with a cleansing.

Indeed, I had noticed that there was a pattern to the many years we have been marking these festival dates. For Beltane the pattern was this:-

  1. Cleansing and purification through water
  2. Concepts of birds, wings or flight while at a sacred site
  3. A celebratory fire ritual, usually involving incense.
Chad’s Well in Romiley vale

Introducing ‘Derbinotts’

You may remember that I am following the route of some tarot cards that I drew and interpreted at the start of the year. For the four Celtic Fire Festivals there are specific readings and I was keen to discover the first of what I would term “the tricky encounters”.

The tarot has said:

Q. How do you see yourself?

Vision: “A picture – a person turning into a place and back again. A choice. Then a wilderness – dark trees, tangled thorns and branches. A despairing, Lost. Lost in many ways. A lady’s laughter.”

For Beltane the reading had shown the place as being “The Hermitage” and the associated character as being “Linet“. The main character of the reading was that I would be challenged and goaded into making an important decision regarding my progress on the path. If you like, my faith would be tested! I was feeling confidant, however, after having gone through the process of acquiring two energetic talismans – The Sword and The Shield of Galahad – and I felt that these tools would assist me greatly in dealing with anything “untoward” that might occur in my mind space during this quest.

Chad meets Kilroy

Cleansing at Chad’s Well

To me Chad was that character who looked over the wall – the essence of childish curiosity, and a character which can be seen on many school walls. Apparently he’s also called Kilroy.

To the established Christian Church he was a saint of the 7th Century who lent his name to a well just outside of Stockport near Romiley in Cheshire. Maybe one day he’ll want it back? For now his name adorns a beautiful and well-constructed holy well that lies at the foot of a steep hill below the Peak Forest canal. The canal is the essence of tranquillity, and the whole area is suitably brushed with this soft and gentle quality.

I’ll let Kal tell you the tale of our initial diversion to a similarly-named street because it has an interesting synchronicity for him. We eventually located the well beyond an arch at the bottom of a hill below Romiley near to Chadkirk. If you’re visiting this place I’d recommend coming in from the Chadkirk end off the Marple road instead of coming through Romiley. You can get much closer by car that way.

Interior of Chad's Well - pretty!
Interior of Chad’s Well – pretty!

We inspected the site then found respective power centres nearby to work in. This would mark the “cleansing” element of the work for Beltane. I did a connection, got grounded and then asked the spirit of the well whether it would be alright for me to cleanse myself using the well’s waters. I got a gentle pull indicating a positive response and so walked across to wipe water across my face in a cross shape, which is my now accustomed ritual for cleansing with such water.

For me the interesting part was when I came to name the directions. I would have expected that I would default to “Air, Earth, Fire, Water” in their respective positions, but instead a little chant emerged which followed the new labels I had been trying to use, but had sort of forgotten about. I ended up chanting,

Sky to the Land, Sea to the Sun

This is my interpretation of the elemental positions of North, South, West and East. It emerged so easily, so slickly, that I shocked myself! In the distance I heard a hawks cry but couldn’t see where it was through the shade of the branches covering the road. Still, it felt good to have ‘confirmation’ that I was doing something right, and that I was “on the path”. The rest of the Beltane day bade well.

A Person Turning into a Place

We stopped intuitively at the right place to visit the Hermitage above Dale village, but our rational brains took over and we confused ourselves with maps. Several minutes later we were back where we had first landed. Every day is a school day in this game! We should have trusted our first reactions.

We walked up the dry path into Hermit’s Wood where the bluebells and daffodils were making the woods look delightful.

Daffodils out at Beltane in Hermit's Wood, Nottingamshire
Daffodils out at Beltane in Hermit’s Wood, Nottingamshire

We walked straight to the site, almost as though drawn there. The going was pleasant and easy through this delightful wood, and we greeted every local dog-walker with a cheery air.

Hermit's Wood at Beltane
Hermit’s Wood at Beltane

Dale Hermitage is a carved hermitage enlarged by a local baker who saw a vision which told him to devote himself in solitude. There are many variations on the tale and of how this feature and the nearby abbey in the village below came to be. One of them is presented here. The area was formerly known as Depedale which made me think of the Robin Hood character Allan A-Dalea person and a place?

Dale Hermitage in Hermit's Wood.
Dale Hermitage in Hermit’s Wood.

We settled in, Kal going off to follow a dowsed route which would have some interesting coincidences attached when he came to draw it on the ground outside the cave. For me, I sat in contemplation asking why I had been brought to this place. As I sat I saw three hawks circling close overhead – another auspicious sign – these were the birds, the wings and the flight of the second element of the Beltane recipe.

Three hawks circle Dale Hermitage at Beltane
Three hawks circle Dale Hermitage at Beltane

The Scolding Lady

Having cleansed myself energetically I moved to a spot where the dowsing rods indicated that I should stand to do my meditation. Kal was looking on and when I arrived he said, “I knew that was where you’d stand“. I was stood in a small gap in the rock at the side of the main cave. When I looked at it properly I could see that an old tree had pushed its roots into the sandstone, possibly creating the gap, but certainly filling it. Here, in the gap myself, I was touching the roots of this tree.

A powerful tree at Dale Hermitage
A powerful tree at Dale Hermitage

Once I was in a meditative state of mind again I began to consider Linet – the lady who I was hoping I would encounter this day. She was a scolding lady with a sharp tongue, and from my recent reading of material by Gareth Knight, I was considering that she might be faery in nature. In a moment’s silence between thoughts I heard a noise coming from down in the village below. A woman was shouting at some children, telling them off judging by the tone and pitch of her voice. The Scolding Lady! She was here “in spirit”. That was the sign I needed.

Back into meditation and a link with an entity from somewhere beyond normal perception was strengthening. I indicated that I wished to connect to Linet, and a response came back which made it clear that this was the energy form I was dealing with. I began to consider the question posed by the tarot cards for this time and place: “How do you see yourself?

I threw the question out and it returned in a swift dialogue:

L: The question should be, “How are you seen?

G: I am seen as a Hedge Druid.

L: And here you are at a Hermitage. Why not become a hermit?

G: I don’t see myself as a hermit. I like to be out in the world. Interacting. Leaving no trace. Seeking balance.

L: But you don’t interact! You keep everything you learn to yourself! By leaving no trace you make no difference! My challenge to you is – make a difference! Make a difference…make a difference….

G: You mean… begin teaching?

L: I mean, make a difference in the world. Without that, you might as well be a hermit! What is your decision?

G: I choose to make a difference. To be seen for who I am. To turn out into the world, not turn away from it. I accept the challenge!

I took the challenge and will be more open about my activities to anyone who inquires from now on. Saying that, it won’t be easy. I’ve been hiding for years and it’s a habit that will have to be broken as I have broken so many other habits in the past – through a course of strict re-programming. I also began to understand the term “a person and a place”. I was that person being identified with the place – I was a hermit, to all intents and purposes! Spiritually-speaking, I lock myself away with the exception of this blog, but even through this outlet I rarely teach, I just tell me tales. I need to make a face-to-face, real difference with those around me. Quite a challenge for me!

But what of the rest of that original Beltane tarot vision? Where was the wilderness? The lady’s laughter? We headed off to our second destination of the day – a new site called Catstone Hill where we hoped to find a burial chamber. Perhaps more would be revealed there about what I grandiosely term the prophesy?

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