Posts Tagged ‘cumbria’
In the final part of our Imbolc excursion to Cumbria I will be showing you another new site for us - Maiden Castle – near the village of Wreay above the north end of Ullswater Lake. The story of how we found it is the real tale here, and the communion we had while there adds the final flourish to the whole episode.
Having already taken a wrong turn trying to find the narrow lane that led to the field in which the castle was supposed to be, according to the maps, we were somewhat exasperated already as we cruised along the hillside at slow speed trying to get a visual fix on any form of earthwork or stone cluster that might indicate a ‘castle’. Kal had been fully expecting a proper castle with turrets, flags and portcullis, but I assured him that we were looking form something far more mundane and far less spectacular!
The light was beginning to dim. The sun was descending behind the huge distant hills around Ullswater Lake. I had joked at the beginning of the day that we would probably arrive at the castle for sunset, and the joke was becoming a reality. Would we find the castle site before it got dark and too treacherous to locate?
We were about to give up. I stopped the car and insisted that Kal dowse whether we should continue looking or go to somewhere nearby like Castlerigg. I ditched the OS map and instead used the Viewranger pinpoint that I had preset the day before.
NOTE: Viewranger is superb for outdoor work of this kind such as finding sacred sites. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a complete lifesaver sometimes.
Go check them out if you like walking, running or discovering new places.
This was a precise fix on the castle and should allow us to home in on it. Kal returned – we had to find Maiden Castle, there were no alternatives! What now?
At that exact moment, sat in the car wondering whether to drive home or head out into the dim light in search of something we were both startled from our thoughts. A hawk burst out of a bush next to the car and flew across the bonnet. It swooped down into the vale below and disappeared again. Well – did we need any better sign? One glance was enough – we were decided – that was the sign we needed to venture forth. Then we noticed the footpath sign next to the car. Well, obviously, that would take us to the castle, right? Let’s hope so.
In the clear blue sky day of Imbolc this year the sight of Skiddaw mountain was a breathtaking, awe-inspiring experience. The mountain formed the scenic backdrop for your next sacred site – a stone circle that we had never visited before. The circle is called Elva Plain stone circle near the village of Embleton just north and west of Bassenthwaite Lake in Cumbria.
You can’t see the circle from the road,nor can you spot it when walking up the muddy track to the farm that manages the fields around the circle. Some advice tells you to try to reach the stone circle via the farmyard. Maybe in Summer that would be feasible. In Winter after much rain I don’t recommend that. Kal and I struggled up the sides of the track trying to avoid the worst of the mud whilst wondering how a couple who had set off just before us had managed to get so far so quickly. It was heavy going! Only for the dedicated, this one.
Once we reached the top of the track – not much of a climb compared to many circles we visit – then you get a fine view of Skiddaw and the surroundings. The circle can be seen in a field behind the farm below. The easiest approach is from the hill behind the circle where you could get a good view of the approach, and decide for yourself whether you wanted to wade through the mud patches.
Our second sacred site to visit on this glorious Imbolc day – February 2nd actually – was the church of The Bride herself - St Bridget’s in Bridekirk. Well, what else could you call a church in a village called Bridekirk – “kirk” being the old word for “church”? It’s The Bride’s church!
We must have missed all the fuss the day before when it was the official celebration day, because we were coming out on the 2nd February instead of the 1st. In every way the second felt like the better day! The weather was better, the day warmer, drier, and the scenery at least viewable on this day! Bridget wouldn’t mind, we felt.
As I wandered gently through the churchyard I saw a sight that caught my eye. It was a section of a yew tree, and it had been decorated with stones and other objects - like the Yule Log of old tradition, I thought to myself. How odd! But how nice too.
As we continued through the churchyard Kal zoomed off. I switched on my dowsing senses but not using the dowsing rods, only using my dowsing sense. I asked to be taken to a place where I need to be. It turned out to be quite an unusual place!
I feel like this is the first proper post of the year. Imbolc always feels like a door opening, a gateway swinging wide to let in the rush of the new year’s energies. This year especially so, for some reason. The anticipation, as always, had been eager, and so like two whippets let loose from a leash Kal and I hurtled towards Cumbria’s finest fells in the spring-fresh morning of an awakening sun. The day was bright, clear, the sky blue and uncovered. The Bride was waiting at the altar, and we were heading down the aisle to meet her – like… two whippets? That analogy so totally doesn’t work when you carry it through!
Our first stop on a packed itinerary was a well. I hadn’t actually planned the day to coincide with my recent Camelot Oracle draw – the agenda had been set even before that – yet the first card I had drawn for that reading was to place Merlin at The Wells on Imbolc. Sometimes the cards are so accurate that I wonder how we have any free choice at all!
A Morning Dip
Anna’s Well, or Stanger Spa, is a recently renovated saline well, which is unusual because it’s quite far away from any obvious salt source, unless there is chlorine or rock salt underneath somewhere. Normally we choose to go to a well first so that I can do some form of purification ritual. I like to cleanse myself of the worldly energies before embarking on a new year’s work and a new quest. This day I would be hoping for both a new quest and a new spirit guide. Absolution through a saline solution seemed appropriate. First, however, we have to get there.
Anna is probably a christianisation (if that’s a proper verb) of the earlier pagan Annan – a form of the triple goddess. Seemed highly appropriate on this, the first of the goddess’ feast days.
As we walked along a well-used bridleway we imagined that the going would be easy, however as is usually the case we were soon to meet an obstacle that would challenge our resolve and determination. We rounded a corner to meet the shining sight of a long iced-over pool of water that practically barred our path. Even in sturdy walking boots I baulked at the prospect of wading through the icy water. Then a foolish thought chimed in – would Kal fall, or would his new waterproof shoes save him waterlogged feet from the outset today? I raced to the end of the track to get a good vantage point on the forthcoming action!
Something was helping Kal this day. He stayed both dry and upright! Maybe I’ll have to sack the sidekick? He’s not providing the usual levels of comedy value these days! We made it over the water, the hill and across the frozen marshland to reach the well’s building.
Finding a Spirit Guide
Very early on in my druid training I tried an experiment. The experiment was to call upon a spirit guide and see what happened. I did so via the staff that I was using at the time. I placed it beneath the old apple tree in my garden and asked that if a spirit wished to come and work with me, to be my guide, then let it come into the staff and I would see if it was suitable Days later, when I dowsed the staff, to my surprise it registered as having the presence of an intelligent entity about it. Little did I realise at the time what that relationship would become.
I learned only the barest minimum about my guide. That was the way she wanted it. She appeared to me in a black cowled robe, hiding her face from me, allowing me only the faintest glimpses of her presence. Once she sat by me and I saw her clearly. Once.
Over the two years that she was with me I knew that she would one day leave. I understood that the relationship was one of mutual learning. She had a job to do – a requirement that she needed to fulfil in order to progress herself. She needed to teach a young druid how to fend for himself in the magickal world.
We established ground rules, how things would work, what I could ask and what I couldn’t. Then we worked “professionally” together for a couple of years. I have to say that she was incredibly giving. When I called upon her, providing I really was intent upon learning, she was available for me. I worked hard, and learned very quickly – far faster than those who I came into contact with who had similar experiences. For this I was grateful, because I had a voracious appetite to learn about magick and energy and nature and spirits and… the list went on!
Losing a Spirit Guide
After Samhain in 2012 the relationship began to change. I put it down to the general seasonal change of energy. The connection diminished. I thought of her and called upon her less. Her input was less the kind that provided startling revelations, and more a nudge to remember what she had taught me already. I almost blush to say that on some occasions I worked without her and forgot about her!
For the Yule Solstice I went to Castlerigg. Theodora, my long-term spirit guide was called upon and she delivered one last image. An image of me being a centre point for energy as it travelled between the Earth and the Celestial realms. I felt centred, grounded, complete. I felt like a proper druid in every way – connected, humble yet central to the work, progressing, progressive, yet aware of tradition.
A few days after this experience I came up with the idea of testing whether all of the major assumptions that I had been working with were correct or not. The first question was: “Did I have a spirit guide?” Of course the answer should have been “Yes” but it came out “No“. I was shocked! I went through all of the kinds of thoughts that come with the end of a dear relationship – was it me, had I done something wrong, had I offended her, was I too needy, did I demand too much, not enough, was she bored…. it went on. Actually, the relationship had simply come to the end of its term. The departing was natural, timely, and necessary. I had graduated beyond the point where I needed Theodora’s help and so she quietly left – no fuss, no tears. It was the best way to do it. I’m terrible with farewells.
Today is Imbolc and I go back to Cumbria in search of a new guide. A new year, and a new spirit to work with. How exciting!
Here is the second part of the Merlin Song story – and it gets to the interesting part of the experience – the appearance of Merlin. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about these Arthurian archetypes recently and the excellent words of Ross Nichols - former OBOD chief – have been very revealing to me about the possible ancient and current uses of such figures from a historical, magical and psychological perspective. I recommend reading his work “The Book of Druidry“. It’s fascinating, and I’ll come back to that at a later date when I talk about the Arthurian archetypes in another post.
In the meantime, we left our protagonists struggling to avoid certain wet feet as they mooched across the marshy moorland in search of a new stone circle, reputed to be of extensive size and infrequently visited. Only one of those qualities turned out to be true!
The Cockpit – fight of flight?
At the Cockpit stone circle the Merlin Quest details were explained to me. I would need to protect myself when working in the Sanctuary. I didn’t understand why yet. Then I would have to draw down the energy from the star Arcturus. I knew this star was part of the Bootes constellation, and that the name was linked with Merlin, being known as the protector of The Great Bear (King Arthur). That was the additional information I got, but I already knew that I needed to recite the Welsh phrases that I had extracted from the various power places around the country.
“The name of the star derives from Ancient Greek Αρκτοῦρος (Arktouros) and means “Guardian of the Bear”, ultimately from ἄρκτος (arktos), “bear” + οὖρος (ouros), “watcher, guardian”. It has been known by this name since at least the time of Hesiod. This is a reference to it being the brightest star in the constellation Boötes (of which it forms the left foot), which is next to the Greater and Lesser Bears, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.” (source: Wikipedia)
With thoughts of Arthur and the Polar constellations spinning through my head I turned my attention to Merlin. Why was I being drawn to a Cumbrian stone circle? What was the purpose?
I needed a little reassurance. I knew that this was the second time around the spiral for my work with Merlin, but I didn’t understand why I had to do a similar quest as last time (August 2010). I used the energy of the circle to call upon my spirit guide and ask about the purpose of the meeting with Merlin. What was the outcome all about? I was a bit of a cheeky question, bit I felt I needed to ask. The answer was interesting: I was not going around the spiral a second time, I was going up the spiral. It was different this time. Last time I was waking Merlin by visiting him in the underworld. This time he was trapped in the Otherworld, and I was freeing him.
A song for Merlin is nothing like A Song For Europe (you may be pleased to hear). I was tasked with discovering the various lines of the song or poem, and then learning to recite it at a northern stone circle whose location i had been given in a vision. One snag – the poem was in Old Welsh – I don’t speak Welsh (although I’m trying to learn occasional modern phrases). Also, I had to gather the lines using remote viewing, and then correctly interpret them so that they had meaning and I could recite them with the correct intent. Oh – no problem then! This post gives some background on that part of the task. In this post I will be describing how I came to deliver the poem at the right place at the right time in order to unlock the Merlin energy from its trap and release it for my own uses.
Let me explain briefly what I felt I was dealing with here. I consider, at this stage in my development, that Merlin is a psychological archetype. I feel that I am able to use the mythology, the legend, and thus the thought-form that Merlin has become in order to access parts of my subconscious capabilities (knowledge, observation, power). To me, Merlin therefore represents a characters who is the embodiment of particular possibilities for spiritual growth. All I know about that potential is that it can be realised by following “quests” (or a set of tasks) that require me to go to some effort to improve myself, or to mine for arcane knowledge, and sometimes to learn a new skill or magickal process that I can use to unlock this potential. Beyond that is madness.
The origins of that vision were a month ago, but now I have had the chance to conclude the quest. Here’s the story.
Imagine a sunny day in Cumbria. I couldn’t. I certainly couldn’t remember one, so when the day started grey and drizzling I wasn’t hopeful. An hour’s drive north later Kal and I were driving into a clear blue sky and the day looked promising. I had various sites printed out and highlighted on OS maps, but there was no strict agenda. All of the sites were, amazingly, in close proximity to each other. We would only need to travel for an hour to see all of the sites that I had previously picked. This seemed like a good idea considering Kal’s situation (he’ll tell you about this).
The Goggleby Stone
We approached Shap and initially tried to find a stone circle marked on the OS Map. Not there. We couldn’t find it. It was supposed to be right next to the A6 road just off Junction 39 of the M5 motorway. Couldn’t find it. It’s amazing how many stone circles disappeared in this area when the motorway came through. Almost as if…. no I won’t say it. We headed for a standing stone instead. We found the Goggleby Stone easily. It is situated next to a marked path which makes it easy to get to, and it was quite obvious sat on its little hill amongst the turnips. We approached through the turnips with the daintiest of footsteps so as not to disturb any of the crop. Considering we’re bungling idiots we did very well not to trample anything.
The stone was lovely. It had a nice feel. You could see that the farmer had kindly fertilised the stone to make it grow better, as there were remnants of sticky straw welded to the sides. Cattle seemed to have rubbed the underside of the protrusion as it was worn smooth. The setting was glorious on this sunny day – stone-walled fields of patchwork greens all round and a bank of trees to shield the motorway from view. Delightful. I set to work.