Better by You, Better than Me

•December 8, 2017 • Leave a Comment


Encountering yet another, ‘how to’ book on the Craft (albeit this time on Traditional Craft), I wearily resigned myself to the fact that years on, beyond the known and respected few, hardly anyone appears to be teaching, at least, that is, in the ‘Traditional’ way. To me it seems a shame that people are either unable or unwilling to find a group in which they can safely enter the Craft and learn its principles free of charge. Maybe the problem is simply one of communication? But if we must refer to books then personally, I would recommend the many excellent books authored by Joseph Campbell, Lex Hixon, and Henry Corbin or modern authors of equal calibre. These are I feel, increasingly neglected and yet infinitely more useful being either source and resource books, or poetic, inspiring catalysts.  These are substantially more enjoyable than much of the questionable rubbish all too readily available on the internet. I have to admit that I personally never use it.

Both these media have limitations (‘how to’ books and the ‘net’), subject as they often are to various inaccuracies, whether by accident or design. Yet the greater problem lies in their remote inaccessibility. But more than this, because people are rarely ‘truly’ connected to their material, they commonly avoid discussing what should be the very basic tenets of the Traditions they espouse, not least of which is humility. Virtue is oft quoted but rarely applied. How grand they some may seem, hidden behind their onerous psychobabble.


Yet, in reality,  Cuveen leaders are really just ordinary people, unnoticeable in a crowd, bereft of glamour, just people getting on with life, not trying to impress, or be part of what is now, the popular cult of the ‘personality’. They are just ‘people’, leaders yes, but not ‘in the lead’; which can of course lead to problems when persons of little integrity are involved. As ordinary people, they should not be looked upon as being different to any one else outside their circles of arte and dancing grounds. The real difference lies within those arenas, during actual ritual. Only there, do they ‘become’ the focus of what they claim to represent.  Mark this; it is not as people, nor in their personalities, their ‘power’ lies, but in and as the ‘tools’ or locus of force they embody. We must all see beyond what is apparent, for what is apparent is often the illusion and this is the key. Just as all the other component parts of ritual, the totems, the markings and totems, the banners, the lay-out of sacred space that collectively create the map, all as partial guides to ‘another world’, if you like.  For those who can read this map, the further down the rabbit hole they may go, the more they will understand.

But again I ramble; I do tend to drift off. The Maid (focus) and Magister (intermediary) serve the Clan, never the other way round. Another point, often over looked, concerns basic Craft Law, and is a matter considerably distinct to the laws that govern Wicca. This law applies when a past leader imbues another with their ‘virtue,’ at which point they become revered elders, having passed on all said work on to the new caretakers. As such, they remain secure in a non-elective position, accessible even after death. This has to do with the Mysteries of the dirty rascal, the King of the Castle and the Devil. Of high regard and inestimable esteem, they are not discarded, nor are they ignored. The central Core must and does always remain at the point of origin, at source. The tree is maintained through its roots, grounded as they are deep within the earth. Titles are empty unless enfleshed with the spiritual egregore of the Clan or Family, which unlike Wicca is not self –perpetuating through separate Initiatory lines.


Yet to have been blessed with this baton, wherein we are enjoined within the ‘Source’, that I personally call the ‘Great Maa’, is an inexpressible gift. The nearest articulation would be peace, or bliss, in the fullest and truest sense. To risk all and lose this, is indeed ‘girt terror and fearful dread’, unless of course you neither believe it nor have experienced it. To be cast out, is to be with the dead, but not the quick. Therefore, for this most profound of reasons, I don’t believe the Craft can be demonstrated from the pages of a book or any internet site. For the most part it is experiential.  Folklore, crafts, superstitions, basic ritual can all be laid out, but only in one-to-one teaching can each aspect and reason be fully explained. But this also requires commitment, something which is sadly, very thin on the ground. It also requires absolute and unwavering dedication, not to the Maid and Magister, but to the Tutelary Gods of that Clan or Family. Ancestral spirits readily recognise integrity and will; and they do respond in like manner, (theatre may fool the people, bull shit can and does baffle brains, but you cannot fool the divine). Pure mind, speech and heart are essential for spiritual advancement.

Fire is the divine sun and smoke, the divine moon; those that learn this law will pass through the fire that does not burn. Apart from the ‘Od’ exception, many of us need a guide through these praxis.  I, like Evan John Jones and Robert Cochrane, consider myself to be ‘Od’s’ man, except in my case, ‘Od’s man signifies a layer of devotion to Kali. Od is, Sanskrit for [black] ink – She is the shadow-less black light of purity, of unsullied awe. Sentient contact cannot be taught, it has to be awakened by ritualised experience, induced by the act of surrender to forces engaged during initiatory procedure, between mortal flesh and the spirit forces of the ‘other.’ We believe that ultimately, ‘seeing’ beyond deific and spirit forms, be they Elves, Fairies, or whatever any of us are culturally conditioned to see, is to remove the self-imposed limitations that concourse with these enigmatic, archaic forms, generate for us, within and without us. There is more than this, much more. True absorption induces a mystical sophistication, a spiritual assurance characterised by the maturity and majesty of the prime potencies (Assar, Huzzar, Blessings upon His name).


Like everything else, of real worth, this aspect of the Craft cannot be taught in book form, certainly not on its own. Only a ‘real’ teacher (fully present) can demonstrate the various ways that lead from one point to another, make a pattern, form a key, to knock upon and open the door. One has to go beyond what can easily be seen. Only then, in solitary thought, are they able to begin the journey into themselves, beyond all bounds of matter. One has to learn to live within this world, in order to excel beyond it. There is a need to learn through experience, only then will the knowledge of Truth, of egolessness, pilgrimage, and realisation restore the beauty of the ‘gift’. To see life clearly or to be blind, that remains the choice of all. For it is only then we may learn that of all the gateways, woman is the most important, whose role is to first increase all vision, then actuality, as the very portal of release. In nature it is she who manifests the compassion of Nirvana. As He is the positive power, she is the negative, and as a living image of the wonder of this world in which we live, She is the ferry and the destination all in one. This is the weight and purpose of the Maid in ritual, she represents the hidden female essence of absolute sentience, the mirage of the projected world, revealing the hidden divine beyond everything. Ramprasad Sen states that though ‘She’ is hidden in all things, that self does not shine out, yet can ‘She’ be seen by subtle seers, with superior and subtle intellect.

This purity of virtue is evident too within the new born who are so much closer to the source than we; thus the morally great person is the one who has managed throughout their life, even into later years, to keep the heart of a child – (Any one who knew Evan John Jones, or Doreen Valiente, will have seen exactly that) ‘Show me your face, the one you had before you were born’. Within the Clan, candidates are requested to undertake pilgrimage and to maintain all night vigils, in order to experience the sensation of loneliness, loss, and separation from the Clan. Then, a specific initiation ritual returns them into the Clan, to rejoin and continue their own unique and spiritual quest.


mcai280271, Fri Apr 21, 2006, 3:59:47 PM, 16C, 3240×3292, (2813+4562), 100%, bent 6 stops, 1/25 s, R70.1, G58.0, B71.7

It is the purpose of Mystery Religions to re-organize the misaligned principals that impede our spiritual growth, to re-smelt the individual into gold, to achieve the aim of becoming a raindrop in the ocean, to enable the wonders of the beyond that ignite the soul. The goal of all true magic and religion is not ritual alone, for that is but a simple prop, a tool through which we direct our will towards contact – proof as opposed to mere faith. Those who live for myth and superstition alone are being deceived, and labouring under such restriction, will ultimately lose faith, unless cajoled or threatened. But the Underground Stream employs none of these methodologies. Everyone is encouraged to experience for themselves the face of the faceless one.

After all, myths are just a way of explaining how the formless one can be under stood, they cannot explain the agonies of the quest, nor the painful stripping away of the self, not even the rapture of revelation, which is not of death, but of life, here, now and beyond. This returns us to the point yet again of ignorance, of being distanced (exiled) from the Truth, the following repeated directive ‘you eat this bread in the devils name with girt terror and fearful dread’ stresses its real significance and one that is often overlooked. To thine own end be true.

Omnia Vanitas (1848) William Dyce. Vanity of vanities all is vanity

Sing me a song all you singers, do me no wrong, be your mind full of evil; a closed mind will make you a taker, the dancer is ever the maker…. and it goes on and on, and on and on…oh Yeah.”

Two lines from the Craft law of our Tradition state:

‘Take all you are given.’

‘Give all of yourself.’

Each of us is given choice in this world, not necessarily true or total ‘Free Will,’ an altogether different subject for another time perhaps?  But we can all chose between Heaven (divine inspired guidance), Hell (the place of transformation) and the pit (of despair – a delusional reality borne most commonly of Greed, sometimes ignorance). Each pathway is no harder than another, for all are beset with their own challenges and are all guided and guarded by daemons of the spiritual mind, the rational mind and the irrational mind.  Yet the intrinsic codes of honour and camaraderie that underpin old Craft ethics within genuine praxis hold fast to specific ideals, of encoded symbology that mark and mask the chambers of higher gnosis. More than a Round of Life, more than the symbols upon the door, these are the very keys that open gates without locks, forging mind and body, fused as one in their singular purpose. Such keys slough the body and scour the flesh, beating it to a malleable form, ripe with new potential. This fluidity allows for shifts between states, freely and without hindrance in form. All that is limiting then is the mind itself.

True annealing occurs here in force only.  So when we return to the realm of illusion we are battle hardened for the fray.  Within these choices a genuine understanding of life unfurls that separates the wheat from the chaff, and yet, all is grist to The Mill. Charlatans and Carpet Baggers, Snake Oil Salesmen and Con Merchants need not apply to this School of Life, for they heed not its lessons. Old Craft families applaud ingenuity along with sincerity for they believe that any system (be it made-up tomorrow), if based on truth and honour is more genuine than one fallen to corruption be it 2000 years old.  Judge no-one by their shameless acts of self-promotion; pay no heed to their relentless self-praising and indulgent espousals. Consider only their deeds and works, which stand alone. And so to those drawn to emulation, plagiarism, bastardization and irreverent dissemination, I offer a piece of ‘Northern’ advice, a little tongue in cheek – “The WINTER of hardship and discontent IS COMING.”


Symbolism is I believe, truly the Sonics of the Divine and has always fascinated me greatly. It is the language of the Disir, of ancestral shades who will guide us through the vast realms. Understanding them is the grand ‘arte.’ Some time ago, upon greeting someone I did not know, I commented to them “now that is a most interesting pendant, it is the symbol of the void is it not?” And though he refrained from actually agreeing, the person went on to assure me it was no such thing. This reveals that he either he did not know, or did not care to share his knowledge, preferring discretion. Bravo! Of course there is also the point that symbols can mean different things to many people and all will be no more ‘correct’ than the next. But still, ‘Universal Symbology’ remains just that. It never changes.

There is the symbol of the self, that each of us must seek out for ourselves. There is the symbol of the place we are, now, within the moment.  Each totem holds the symbol of the daemon for the level each of us seeks, and the symbol of the Disir that will ultimately take us, when time ceases its shift in the sand-glass of the soul’s sojourn in this realm of matter. Better then learn, seek, grasp all you, we, are given. Hold it fast.  Understand all crafted in gyfu especially.  The reason we are considered  ‘Leaper’s’ in the first place,  is due to our propensity to explore, to exert, to seek, to wander, to set ourselves forward and backward in our hungry search for Truth. These higher mysteries oft quoted yet so little acted upon are not to be discovered within the realms of fantasy and fiction. All magics there belong to the world of the charlatan, of smoking mirrors and table rappers.  In this realm of life, reality brings forth the true meaning of magic, and its tenets are always correlated without recourse to romance and wishful thinking.


This is where faith departs and certainty begins. Understand only that there is no such thing as death, that the mind is not held captive to delusion, that we are free to wander beyond ourselves, free to embrace all life’s force and form around and within ourselves. When next you visit the ‘Mound’ of your Ancestors, listen to their forgotten lore and wisdoms, allow them to be a part of you and to show you the things that truly matter. The experience may well be as intense as it will be overwhelming. You may also prefer the dizzying heights of delusion only folly and illusion induce. But then, that again is your choice. And Truth is ever about Choice.

From here we may move onto the importance and relevance of Oaths, a thorny and contentious issue. In the Clan, we all swear individual devotion to our specific Tutelary deity. The purpose in this is dedication, an honouring, an offering and a promise to be ‘something’, to do ‘something’, all specific to the Clan. Outside of this personal Covenant with that sentience, we have NO secrets. We all swear to adhere to laws of discretion and respect for our activities and others involved with them. But nothing we do could ever be considered ‘secret,’ the only real secret is that never mentioned, and never known. It cannot be otherwise – ‘There is nothing new under the Sun’ – for sure, a statement as true now as when it was recorded in the Old Testament so many hundreds of years ago.


None of us should presume to have the answers to the world’s mysteries, only individual or specific ways to explore and engage in them. All we can offer is guidance along a path someone before us stumbled upon and has offered us, the next generation an opportunity to follow. But, we all have to do the actual work ourselves. Nothing is given. No-one can gift to us the magics and spirituality that body and soul crave. Therefore, ultimately there can be no secrets, none at all. These ideas are taught along with evolving techniques in order to assist each seeker towards their own realisation of power and purpose. This is the sacred duty of a Maid and Magister. To do less denudes the office they hold. Hopefully, all will be worthy. Sadly, this will never prevent others claiming otherwise, for and against. We must all be wary of those who have little or nothing to share and who are generally the ones who are the first to hide behind the cloak of supposed ‘secrecy.’ The first to say, ‘my oath prevents me’… all too often an excuse for having nothing of worth to offer at all.

A mere glance through craft history should prove to all that almost every perceived ‘secret’ we could possibly think of has almost certainly been stolen somehow been worked into a book. And yet the Mysteries remain. Sadly of course, our quests will always expose us to shady confidence tricksters, the undesirable, the insincere, who think to ‘steal’ what cannot be taken, who think to own what cannot be owned and who then deign to sell what cannot be sold. Should, this stop us from openly sharing this knowledge? No, I do not believe it should. The best of us will always be deceived and the worst of us will exploit everything. As for me, I am happy to say, I know almost nothing. I’m still learning. I hope I always will. Some protection is offered within a group, but not always. But alone with a book and a monitor, what do any of you really have? In buying into the ruse of ‘secrecy,’ you are inadvertently giving the unscrupulous a shield to hide behind. There is no easy answer. We must take comfort in the fact that the real secrets are not ours to reveal. As for discretion, only the honourable will consider fully its worth, the unprincipled will care nothing for its virtue.


 Often, I have smiled when listening to a conversation in which some real knowledge is requested, and should be discussed, when the famous exclamation ‘aaah, secret’ pops out. If one truly knows their subject (and some do), then it should be easy enough to explain without giving away unnecessary details as to how things are done exactly, or what is done specifically, or even what is meant literally! Obviously these things belong to the sacred mysteries and cannot be revealed in discourse anyway. In this way, I believe the genuine may be recognised.  Mystics and the truly wise have announced for many thousands of years that there can be no secrets, only the foolish believe in them and the wise have no need of them. So let’s all put our heads together to see if we can find a suitable answer, together. Oaths then, are for truth, honour, allegiance and promise to ones Gods, for compacts, therein and between kindred souls. Beware of people with oaths of secrecy which prevent them from providing sensible back ground knowledge, keep looking, keep searching, for knowledge is freedom and the truth sets all of us free.

All else is but Vanity!

 ~ Robin-the-dart~




Revised Text by Robin-the-dart, 2017

Images -Wiki commons.

The Irony of Sophistication

•October 4, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The Irony of Sophistication or the arte of being ‘magnolia’ in an extreme world of extreme environments, opinions and beliefs (the art of being a fence-sitter, with no ethical stance) .

Sophists – Clever people who prided themselves in the ability to prove contradictory statements with convincing argument for opposing views (without conviction to either cause).

Sophistication – The state of being sceptical regarding all claims to an ‘absolute truth,’ being flexible enough in one’s opinion to accommodate whatever ideology reigns supreme(the art of spin  – the avoidance of commitment, enabling the jump across all principle in all realms of life, from paradigm to regime) .

(Image: Jacques-Louis David – The Death of Socrates)

“The Greek σοφός (sophos), related to the noun σοφία (sophia), had the meaning ‘skilled’ or ‘wise’ since the time of the poet Homer and originally was used to describe anyone with expertise in a specific domain of knowledge or craft. For example, a charioteer, a sculptor or a warrior could be described as sophoi in their occupations. Gradually, however, the word also came to denote general wisdom and especially wisdom about human affairs (for example, in politics, ethics, or household management). This was the meaning ascribed to the Greek Seven Sages of 7th and 6th century BC (like Solon and Thales), and it was the meaning that appeared in the histories of Herodotus. Richard Martin refers to the seven sages as ‘performers of political poetry.’

From the word σοφός (sophos) is derived the verb σοφίζω (sophizo), which means ‘to instruct or make learned.’ but which in the passive voice means ‘to become or be wise,’ or ‘to be clever or skilled in a thing.’ In turn, from this verb is derived the noun σοφιστής (sophistes), which originally meant “a master of one’s craft” but later came to mean ‘a prudent man’ or ‘wise man.’ The word for ‘sophist’ in various languages comes from sophistes.

In the second half of the 5th century BCE, particularly at Athens, ‘sophist’ came to denote a class of mostly itinerant intellectuals who taught courses in various subjects, speculated about the nature of language and culture and employed rhetoric to achieve their purposes, generally to persuade or convince others: ‘Sophists did, however, have one important thing in common: whatever else they did or did not claim to know, they characteristically had a great understanding of what words would entertain or impress or persuade an audience.’


Most sophists claimed to teach arête (‘excellence’ or ‘virtue’) in the management and administration of not only one’s affairs, but the city’s as well. Before the fifth century B.C., it was believed that aristocratic birth qualified a person for arête and politics. However, Protagoras, who is regarded as the first Sophist, explained that arête is the result of training rather than birth. Protagoras was one of the best-known and most successful teachers. He taught his students the necessary skills and knowledge for a successful life, particularly in politics, rather than philosophy. He trained his pupils to argue from both points of view because he believed that truth could not be limited to just one side of the argument. The works of Plato and Aristotle have had much influence on the modern view of the ‘sophist’ as a greedy instructor who uses rhetorical sleight-of-hand and ambiguities of language in order to deceive, or to support fallacious reasoning. In this view, the sophist is not concerned with truth and justice, but instead seeks power.Protagoras wrote about a variety of subjects and some fragments of his work survived. He is the author of the famous saying, ‘Man is the measure of all things,’ (meaning Man decides for himself what he is going to believe), which is the opening sentence of a work called Truth.


Many sophists taught their skills for a price. Due to the importance of such skills in the litigious social life of Athens, practitioners often commanded very high fees. The sophists’ practice of questioning the existence and roles of traditional deities and investigating into the nature of the heavens and the earth prompted a popular reaction against them. The attacks of some of their followers against Socrates prompted a vigorous condemnation from his followers, including Plato and Xenophon, as there was a popular view of Socrates as a sophist. For example, the comic playwright Aristophanes criticizes the sophists as hair-splitting wordsmiths, and makes Socrates their representative. Their attitude, coupled with the wealth garnered by many of the sophists, eventually led to popular resentment against sophist practitioners and the ideas and writings associated with sophism.

In comparison, Socrates accepted no fee, instead professed a self-effacing posture, which he exemplified by Socratic questioning (i.e., the Socratic method, although Diogenes Laertius wrote that Protagoras—a sophist—invented the ‘Socratic’ method. His attitude towards the Sophists was by no means oppositional; in one dialogue Socrates even stated that the Sophists were better educators than he was, which he validated by sending one of his students to study under a sophist. W. K. C. Guthrie classified Socrates as a Sophist in his History of Greek Philosophy. An ongoing debate is centered on the interpretation between the sophists who charged for their services and Socrates who did not.

Before the writing of Plato, the word ‘sophist’ could be used as either a respectful or contemptuous title, much like the word ‘intellectual’ can be used today. It was in Plato’s dialogue, Sophist, that the first record of an attempt to answer the question ‘What is a Sophist?’ is made. Plato described Sophists as paid hunters after the young and wealthy, as merchants of knowledge, as athletes in a contest of words, and purgers of souls. From Plato’s assessment of Sophists it could be concluded that Sophists do not offer true knowledge, but only an opinion of things.

Plato describes them as shadows of the true early Sophists and wrote, ‘…the art of contradiction making, descended from an insincere kind of conceited mimicry, of the semblance-making breed, derived from image making, distinguished as portion, not divine but human, of production, that presents, a shadow play of words—such are the blood and the lineage which can, with perfect truth, be assigned to the authentic Sophist.’ Plato sought to separate the Sophist from the Philosopher. Where a Sophist was a person who makes his living through deception, a philosopher was a lover of wisdom who sought truth. To give the Philosophers greater credence, the Sophists had to receive a negative connotation.


Some scholars, such as Ugo Zilioli argue that the sophists held a relativistic view on cognition and knowledge. However, this may involve the Greek word ‘doxa,’ which means ‘culturally shared belief’ rather than ‘individual opinion.’ Their philosophy contains criticism of religion, law, and ethics. Though many sophists were apparently as religious as their contemporaries, some held atheistic or agnostic views (for example, Protagoras and Diagoras of Melos).

In addition, Sophists had great impact on the early development of law, as the sophists were the first lawyers in the world. Their status as lawyers was a result of their highly developed skills in argument.

In modern usage, sophism, sophist and sophistry are redefined and used disparagingly. A sophism is a specious argument for displaying ingenuity in reasoning or for deceiving someone. A sophist is a person who reasons with clever but fallacious and deceptive arguments.

Hume’s empiricist approach to philosophy places him with John Locke, Francis Bacon, and Thomas Hobbes as a British Empiricist. Beginning with his A Treatise of Human Nature (1739), Hume strove to create a total naturalistic science of man that examined the psychological basis of human nature. Against philosophical rationalists, Hume held that passion rather than reason governs human behaviour and argued against the existence of innate ideas, positing that all human knowledge is ultimately founded solely in experience; Hume thus held that genuine knowledge must either be directly traceable to objects perceived in experience, or result from abstract reasoning about relations between ideas which are derived from experience, calling the rest ‘nothing but sophistry and illusion,’ a dichotomy later given the name Hume’s fork.”

(quoted text from wiki – Sophistry)

So, ultimately, in the search for Truth we will all encounter both the noble and the ignoble sophist, the deceiver, the egotist, the self-server, the smooth talker – most of whom will be those wielding political power . These are only the most obvious. Many, many others others take many many forms, ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime, and they all wish to mold and shape your thinking. Symbology is the most powerful method of manipulation, saturating with the greatest impression. Beware of social media – Be aware of what truly are YOUR thoughts. Suspend automatic belief, acquire discretion, discernment and observe the caveat to know.

Seek gnosis.

In support of Free Roaming:Sacred Landscape: Scotland

•July 31, 2017 • Leave a Comment

~The Jewels of Alba~

~loch craignish~


Homeland poem

fur Dennis Canavan MSP wha defendit

the inalienable richt o Scottish folk

tae mak free progess ower the land



for Dennis Canavan MSP for his defence

of the inalienable right of Scotland’s people

to free, unfettered access to her lands


She birls tae her ain sang

ay haudit shair by birthin staur star

whit bairned the burnin hert o her.


She dances to her own song

held close by the birthing star

that fired her burning heart.

~ Castle Sween~

Turnin time pit oan her flesh,

glaciers chippit oot her glens,

saft rains timmed fu her lochs.


Shifting time formed her flesh,

glaciers carved her valleys,

soft rain filled up her lakes.

~loch fyne~

Whaur bens fauld ahint sherp nicht

an mune keeks oot fae watter,

yin giant alane stalks staury heichts


Where hills fold behind sharp night

and moon stares up from water,

one giant alone stalks starry heights

~Duncraigaig standing stones~


yit onybody kin walk the yirth

fur we are born tae her breist,

nae pooch nor micht will chynge it.


yet anyone can walk the earth

for we are born to her breast,

no pocket or might will change that.

~Shiel Island~

Nae mannie reart thae mountains,

conceivit yit yin blade ae gress;

it isnae we are cried oan.


No human raised those mountains,

nor yet conceived one blade of grass

and we are never called on




when she waants a shift o claes.

Mind oan that afore yeese try

tae thirl her tae fawse law


when she wants a change of dress.

Remember that before you would

subject her to false law

~Dunadd Fort – Inauguration Stone of the Dál Riata ~


wha filled oor bellies, slaked

oor thirst, wha gied us shelter,

set oor hauns an minds tae wark.


who filled our stomachs, slaked

our thirst, who gave us shelter,

set our hands and minds to work.

~Kilmory Knapp Chapel~


Wha weets oor bairnies heids,

wha is it lifts oor een an herts,

redd oot the grund ablow oor feet?


Who wets our children’s heads,

who is it lifts our eyes and heart,

spread the ground beneath our feet?

~Cross- Knapdale/Crinan~


Nae thievin wratch in foosty haw

connivin tae fence aff the warld;

hoo wee an feart they are wha think


No thieving wretch in dusty hall

conspiring to fence in the world;

how small and scared they are to think

~ Caerlaverock Castle~

a poke o siller wid even dunt

the yirth oan which we staun.

Like fitprint merk in saun or snaw


a bag of silver can impact on

the earth on which we stand.

Like footprint made in sand or snow.

~ Bridge over the Atlantic- Shiel~


when oor short stook is cut,

we are taen back intae the dirt,

oor hauf-meenut done. Think oan


when our short stalk is cut,

we are drawn back into the dirt,

our half-minute done. Think on

~Princess Margaret’s Tomb: Collegiate Church- Holywood~


doon burn, strath, brae an sea

as watter tummles tae braid firth,

we are aw ettled tae stravaig


down stream, plain, slope and sea

as water rushes to estuary,

we are all meant to roam.

~St Columba’s Cove~


birlin tae oor ain bit sang

while land itsell maks birth, braith,

bluid, bane, daith, an ay bides oan.

[Janet Paisley]


dancing to our own brief song

while the land owns birth, breath,

blood, bone, death, and will live on.

[translated by Janet Paisley]

Reproduced by permission of the author.

~Easdale – Slate Quarry~

Ceann Loch Aoineartpoem

Còmhlan bheanntan, stòiteachd bheanntan,

còrr-lios bheanntan fàsmhor,

cruinneachadh mhullaichean, thulaichean, shlèibhtean

tighinn sa bheucaich ghàbhaidh.


Kinloch Ainort

A company of mountains, an upthrust of mountains,

a great garth of growing mountains,

a concourse of summits, of knolls, of hills

coming on with a fearsome roaring.


Èirigh ghleanntan, choireachan ùdlaidh,

laighe sa bhùirich chràcaich;

sìneadh chluaineagan, shuaineagan srùthlach,

brìodal san dùbhlachd àrsaidh.


A rising of glens, of gloomy corries,

a lying down in the antlered bellowing;

a stretching of green nooks, of brook mazes,

prattling in the age-old mid-winter.


~St Columbas Cave – Lochead~


Eachraidh bheanntan, marcachd mhullaichean,

deann-ruith shruthanach càthair,

sleamhnachd leacannan, seangachd chreachainnean,

srannraich leacanach àrd-bheann.


A cavalry of mountains, horse-riding summits,

a streaming headlong haste of foam,

a slipperiness of smooth flat rocks, small-bellied bare summits,

flat-rock snoring of high mountains.


~ Kilmartin~


Onfhadh-chrios mhullaichean,

confhadh-shlios thulaichean,

monmhar luim thurraidean màrsail,

gorm-shliosan Mhosgaraidh,

stoirm-shliosan mosganach,

borb-bhiodan mhonaidhean àrda.

[Sorley MacLean]


A surge-belt of hill-tops,

impetuous thigh of peaks,

the murmuring bareness of marching turrets,

green flanks of Mosgary,

crumbling storm-flanks,

barbarous pinnacles of high moorlands.

[translated by Sorley MacLean]

From Caoir Gheal Leumraich / White Leaping Flame: collected poems in Gaelic with English translations, edited by Christopher Whyte and Emma Dymock (Edinburgh: Polygon, 2011)

Reproduced by kind permission of Carcanet Press.

~Twelve Apostles – Lincluden~

Copyright of all images : Shani Oates July 2017

Dream of the Rood

•July 24, 2017 • Leave a Comment


Caedmon’s Holy Rood: A Dream 

(the two evangelists, and john the baptist with the angus dei)

What I wish to say of the best of dreams,

what came to me in the middle of the night

after the speech-bearers abode at rest! (1-3)

It seemed to me that I saw the greatest tree

conducted to the sky, bewound in light,

the brightest of beams.

That beacon was entirely adorned with gold.

Gemstones stood fairly at the corners of the earth—

likewise there were five upon the span of its shoulders.

All the angels of the Lord

held it there, beautifully through its creation.

( the archer, and the visitation)


Indeed, nor was it the gallows of the wicked there,

yet there they held it there, the holy spirits

for men across the earth, and all this noted creation. (4-12)

Excellent was this tree of victory, and I was splattered with sins—

wounded throughout with faults. I saw this tree of glory,

well-worthied in its dressing, shining in delights,

geared with gold. The gemstones had

clothed honorably the Sovereign’s tree.

Nevertheless I could perceive through all that gold

the wretched and ancient struggle, so that it first began

to sweat blood on its right side. I was entirely disturbed with my sorrows—

I was fearful for that lovely sight. Then I saw that eager beacon

alter its appearance and hue: at times it was steamy with bloody wet,

stained with the course of gore; at other times it was sparkling with treasure. (13-23)

(the annunciation and the crucifixion)


Yet I, lying there for a long while,

beheld sorrow-caring the tree of the Savior

until I heard it speak.

Then the best of wood said in words: (24-27)


“It happened long ago—I remember it still—

I was hewn down at the holt’s end

stirred from my dreaming.

Strong foes seized me there,

worked me into spectacular form,

ordered me to heave up their criminals.

Those warriors bore me on the shoulders,

until they set me down upon a mountain.

Enemies enough fastened me there.

I saw then the Lord of Mankind

hasten with much courage,

willing to mount up upon me. (28-34)



(tendril, birds and vines)


“There I did not dare beyond the Lord’s word

to bow or burst apart—then I saw the corners of the earth

tremor—I could have felled all those foemen,

nevertheless I stood fast. (35-38)

“The young warrior stripped himself then—

that was God Almighty—strong and resolute—

he climbed up onto the high gallows,

mindful in the sight of many,

when he wished to redeem mankind.

I quaked when the warrior embraced me—

yet I dared not bow down to the ground,

fall down to earthly regions,

but I must stand there firm.

The rood was reared. I heaved the mighty king,

the Lord of Heaven—I did not dare to lean. (39-45)

(scriptorial motifs)


“They pierced me with dark nails.

On me the wounds were easy to see,

treacherous strokes gaping wide.

I dared injure none of them.

They shamed us both together.

I was besplattered with blood,

sprayed out from the man’s side,

after he had sent forth his soul. (46-49)


(breaking bread in the desert with st anthony)


“Many vicious events have I experienced on that hill—

I saw the God of Hosts severely stretched out.

Darkness had covered over with clouds

the corpse of the Sovereign, shadows oppressed

the brightest splendor, black under stormclouds.

All of creation wept, mourning the king’s fall—

Christ was upon the cross. (50-56)

“However people came hurrying from afar

there to that noble man.

I saw it all.

I was sorely pained with sorrows—

yet I bowed down

to the hands of those men,

humble-minded with much courage.

They took up there Almighty God,

lifting up him up

from that ponderous torment.

Those war-men left me

to stand, dripping with blood—

I was entirely wounded with arrows.

They laid down the limb-weary there,

standing at the head of his corpse,

beholding there the Lord of Heaven,

and he rested there awhile,

exhausted after those mighty tortures. (57-65a)


(Christ glorified)


“Then they wrought him an earthen hall,

the warriors within sight of his killer.

They carved it from the brightest stone,

setting therein the Wielder of Victories.

Then they began to sing a mournful song,

miserable in the eventide,

when they wished to venture forth,

weary, from the famous Prince.

He rested there with a meager host. (65b-69)

“However, we, weeping there,

stood a good while in that place,

after the voices of war-men had departed.

The corpse cooled,

the fair hall of the spirit.

Then someone felled us both,

entirely to the earth.

That was a terrifying event!

Someone buried us in a deep pit.

Nevertheless, allies,

thanes of the Lord, found me there

and wrapped me up in gold and in silver. (70-77)



“Now you could hear, my dear man,

that I have experienced the deeds of the bale-dwelling,

of painful sorrows. Now the time has come

that men across the earth, broad and wide,

and all this famous creation worthy me,

praying to this beacon. On me, the Child of God

suffered awhile. Therefore I, triumphant

now tower under the heavens, able to heal

any one of them, those who stand in terror of me.

Long ago I was made into the hardest of torments,

most hateful to men, until I made roomy

the righteous way of life for them,

for those bearing speech. Listen—

the Lord of Glory honored me then

over all forested trees, the Warden of Heaven’s Realm!

Likewise Almighty God exalted his own mother,

Mary herself, before all humanity,

over all the kindred of women. (78-94)

“Now I bid you, my dear man,

to speak of this vision to all men

unwrap it word fully, that it is the Tree of Glory,

that the Almighty God suffered upon

for the sake of the manifold sins of mankind,

and the ancient deeds of Adam.

Death he tasted there, yet the Lord arose

amid his mighty power, as a help to men.

Then he mounted up into heaven. Hither he will come again,

into this middle-earth, seeking mankind

on the Day of Doom, the Lord himself,

Almighty God, and his angels with him,

wishing to judge them then—he that owns the right to judge

every one of them—upon these deserts

as they have earned previously here in this life. (95-109)

( decorative motifs)


“Nor can any remain unafraid there

before that word that the Wielder will speak.

He will ask before the multitude where that man may be,

who for the name of the Lord wished to taste

the bitterness of death, as he did before on the Cross.

Yet they will fear him then, and few will think

what they should begin to say unto Christ.

There will be no need to be afraid there at that moment

for those who already bear in their breast the best of signs,

yet every soul ought to seek through the Rood

the holy realm from the ways of earth—

those who intend to dwell with their Sovereign.” (110-21)

I prayed to that tree with a blissful heart,

great courage, where I was alone,

with a meager host. My heart’s close was

eager for the forth-way, suffering many

moments of longing. Now my hope for life

is that I am allowed to seek that victorious tree,

more often lonely than all other men,

to worthy it well. The desire to do so

is strong in my heart, and my guardian

is righteous in the Rood. I am not wealthy

with many friends on this earth,

yet they departed from here from the joys of the world,

seeking the King of Glory—now they live

in heaven with the High-Father, dwelling in magnificence,

and I hope for myself upon each and every day

for that moment when the Rood of the Lord,

that I espied here upon the earth,

shall ferry me from this loaned life

and bring me then where there is great bliss,

joys in heaven, where there are the people of the Lord,

seated at the feast, where there is everlasting happiness

and seat me where I will be allowed afterwards

to dwell in glory, brooking joys well amid the sainted.

May the Lord be my friend, who suffered before

here on earth, on the gallows-tree for the sins of man. (122-46)

He redeemed us and gave us life,

a heavenly home. Hope was renewed

with buds and with bliss for those suffered the burning.

The Son was victory-fast upon his journey,

powerful and able, when he came with his multitudes,

the army of souls, into the realm of God,

the Almighty Ruler, as a bliss for the angels

and all of the holy, those who dwelt in glory

before in heaven, when their Sovereign came home,

Almighty God, where his homeland was. (147-56)



The Ruthwell Cross

An 8th century Northumbrian runic cross is now embraced within a small chapel in Ruthwell parish, Dumfries. This marvellous structure is a testament to resilience and enduring appreciation for all things antiquarian. Decimated in the 17th century, it was beautifully restored in the 19th century.  A visual masterpiece raised almost to its former glory, it stands over 7 metres tall. Bas-reliefs, sculpt its four sides, interspaced with Latin and Runic inscriptions, the latter bears a section of the above poem ‘The Dream of the Rood.’ [The Lay of the Rood’] lines 35-77, highlighted in the above text in charcoal grey.

An alternative translation renders the runes as follows:
















With shafts was I all wounded

How on that hill have I throwed dole the direst,

For days, viewed I hanging the god of Hosts,

Gloomy and swarthy clouds had covered

Had covered the corse of the Waldend,

O’er the sheer shine-path, shadows fell heavy,

Wan neath the welkin. Wept all creation,

Wail’d the fall of their king!

Yet humbly I inclined

To the hands of his servants,

Striving with might to aid him.

With streals was I all wounded.

Down they laid him limb-weary,

O’er his life-less head then stood they

Heavily gazing at heaven’s chieftain.


It has long been hailed as a monument of defiance, a Columban symbol of a pre-catholic Christianity. Designed as a preaching cross, it illustrates the narratives of exile (the flight into Egypt), nativity, baptism, annunciation, humility, eucharist, healing the blind and the crucifixion. It bears the eagle motif of John the Evangelist, an archer,  newts, foxes, squirrels, leaves and tendrils that frame the sermons visually narrated here of miracles and parables.

Mary receives her Annunciation from an angelic being:

‘And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women.’



Magdalene washes Christ’s feet:

‘She brought an alabaster cruse of ointment, and standing behind at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head.’




All photographs are copyright of Shani Oates 2017

Text of Caedmon, is courtesy of:


Anglo Saxon Living History: Part Two: Funeral Pyre / Boat Burial

•July 11, 2017 • 3 Comments


Anglo Saxon Living History: Part Two: Funeral Pyre / Boat Burial


Set in the early part of the 6th century, the heroic epic, Beowulf, is an Old English poem set in Denmark and Sweden. Immediately, it grabs the reader’s attention with a poignant description of a sovereign ship burial, including the gifts and treasure laid upon it.  It then shifts to open a window into the probable life and experiences of a warrior king in those times, describing the ritual of the mead, the scald, and of the fate of all things.

“Lo, there do I see my father.

Lo, there do I see my mother,

and my sisters, and my brothers.

Lo, there do I see the line of my people,

Back to the beginning!

Lo, they do call to me.

They bid me take my place among them,

In the halls of Valhalla!

Where the brave may live forever!” [i]

These images example perfectly the 7th century helmet and shield style of ship burials in Vendel, Sweden. It may illustrate the peak of this type of demonstrative burial before conversion to Christianity generated a natural dwindling of such lavish, pagan practises. Valsgärde graves of this era often included small artefacts, (examples of exotic trade such as glassware, beads, silver coins, icons), and sacrificed animals, which may have been favoured companions above others used in hunting, guarding, riding etc.   Earlier burials mounds, most notable in Uppsala, were not boat burials; these occurred later and are confined largely to Norway, eastern Sweden and East Anglia.

Evidence from Sutton Hoo, a 7th century burial mound in England reveal comparable funeral practises, and almost identical grave goods stylistically to those found at Vendel in Sweden, though the latter are by no means as lavish.  Many other similar sites also feature boat burials within mounds or chambered tombs.



This contrasts somewhat with the boat-burning rituals said to have been favoured in later centuries by Scandinavians.  Although actual Royal Graves are extremely scarce, those discovered to date are all accompanied with sumptuous grave goods, a few of truly opulent style. Items generally included most of the following: domestic implements such as iron griddles, cauldrons, chain, drinking horns and plate, items of personal grooming, clothing, furs, woven textiles, musical instruments, jewellery, silver coin and weaponry. All are of incredible beauty and craftsmanship, decorated and inlaid with small jewels and precious metals.

The so-called “Buddha bucket” (Buddha-bøtte), a brass and cloisonné enamel ornament of a bucket (pail) handle in the shape of a figure sitting with crossed legs.

Recognising the perfect medium of exchange, the Nordic traders became quickly attracted to silver. Denied them as a natural resource in the northern climes, they followed the money trail across the Baltic, Caspian and Black seas, inland to the heart of the mercantile world, around modern day turkey and Iran.


This diverse region was also the centre of cultural, linguistic and religious studies, the focal point of Arabic trade and influence out into the western world.  By the end of the 9th century, the eastern regions around the Volga had amassed great wealth. In fact, throughout Scandinavia these fascinating explorations reaped many exotic items within burial finds, and modern day excavations.

Tumuli and Rune-stones were raised over stone and wooden ships as memorials to those they considered the most valorous. The finest of these may be found in Jelling and Lindholm Høje (Denmark); Birka (Sweden) and Borre (Norway).[ii]

Within these earthen mounds, an exceptional boat burial as described in the 6-7th century Anglo-Saxon site at Sutton Hoo, though extravagant, represents a common format within chambered tombs/mound burials, and bears striking resemblance to that described in Beowulf.

Intriguingly, however these grave goods suggest artistic motifs very much in common with Scandinavian styles of the same era, noted in the Norwegian ship burial at Oseburg. Reading within the literary epic Beowulf, we discover a tradition where sons of client kings, were typically reared by a higher king or relative, in order to ensure loyalty into the next generation.  The similarity of cultural design here may signify why Scandinavian objects and artistic motifs embellish the grave of a ranking Anglo-Saxon.

“Along the wall was a long square-sectioned whetstone, tapered at either end and carved with human faces on each side. A ring mount, topped by a bronze antlered stag figurine, was fixed to the upper end, possibly made to resemble a late Roman consular sceptre. The purpose of the sceptre has generated considerable debate and a number of theories, some of which point to the potential religious significance of the stag. South of the sceptre was an iron-bound wooden bucket, one of several in the grave.


In the south-west corner was a group of objects which may have been hung up, but when discovered, were compressed together. They included a Coptic or eastern Mediterranean bronze bowl with drop handles and figures of animals, found below a badly deformed six-stringed Anglo-Saxon lyre in a beaver-skin bag, of a Germanic type found in wealthy Anglo-Saxon and north European graves of this date. Uppermost was a large and exceptionally elaborate three-hooked hanging bowl of Insular production, with champleve enamel and millefiori mounts showing fine-line spiral ornament and red cross motifs and with an enamelled metal fish mounted to swivel on a pin within the bowl.” [iii]

In a later 10th account given by Ibn Fadlan who had encountered Varangians, a term used reserved specifically for Scandinavians traders and warriors whose movements were focussed largely across the middle- east and the Steppes. His commentary brings to life the wonderful and unique journey Ibn Fadlan shared and recorded as he accompanied them on a trading mission along the Volga. He describes them as ‘Rus,’ regardless of ethnic attribution (Norse, Slavic or otherwise) and the attribution is still disputed. It may possibly have derived from Rūsiyyah, or  from Ruosti, which may describe Sweden according to West Finnic language. Indeed, it may have even originated there.

We know that contemporary Byzantine and Arab writers and historians generally referred to Swedish and Norwegian traders as Rus, a term that also applied to those who settled in those lands, especially around the key ports of Novgorod and Kiev (Rūsiyyah), to become wealthy and influential princes there. Others aligned themselves to eastern, Byzantine princes as elite guards. [iv]



Ibn Fadlan’s journal in particular, confirms certain cultural characteristics apparent in other historical references afforded by several Arab merchants.  Their observations into patterns of behaviour exhibited by the Rus, were considerably at odds with their own; even so, what they were inclined to preserve offers a unique insight we might not otherwise have.  Most curious of all is a reference he makes to their appearance, which I believe has hitherto gone unnoticed.

“I have never seen more perfect physical specimens, tall as date palms, blond and ruddy,” he wrote. “Each man has an axe, a sword, and a knife and keeps each by him at all times.” The men, he observed, were tattooed with dark-green figures “from fingernails to neck.” [v]

Aside from the obvious reflection upon the spirit of the forest, the animistic presence of viridios, poetically depicted everywhere from India to the fair isles of Albion, there is the added consideration of the impact this would have upon the Arab traders, with regard to al-Khidir, their own spirit of life and wisdom, virility and luck.Ibn Fadlan describes in detail how valour takes form to settle dispute.

“When two people among them quarrel and the dissention is prolonged and the king is unable to reconcile them, he commands that they fight with swords; he who wins is right.”[vi]

Also noted are religious practices, objects of worship, the role of shamen, of sacrifice and an elite priesthood. Amongst these writings, is a protracted observation of a chieftain’s funeral.  One contentious issue states that slaves (thralls) were sometimes sacrificed with their beloved masters. This practise may or may not have been common, or continuous within the same region. Comment upon it is scarce and evidence more so. Gifts that accompanied the dead in contra-distinction, were consistent and widespread, irrespective of whether the dead were buried within the earth, or flamed atop a pyre.

Instructions for the number of slaves to be sacrificed for the funeral of the hero Sigurd, are announced through the Valkyrie Brynhildr, noting attention as to their placement upon the funeral pyre.

Því at hánum fylgja

fimm ambáttir,

átta þjónar,

eðlum góðir,

fóstrman mitt

ok faðerni,

þat er Buðli gaf

barni sínu.


Bond-women five

shall follow him,

And eight of my thralls,

well-born are they,

Children with me,

and mine they were

As gifts that Budhli

his daughter gave.[vii]

During the ‘Viking era,’ it is alleged that a widow was occasionally sacrificed in similar form to the Indian practise of Suttee at her husband’s funeral.

Viking funerals were a costly demonstration of homage and social status of the deceased and of their descendants. As indeed were incarcerations within tumuli. Powerful Norse clans, for example, Yngling dynasty, generated an awesome visual impact across ‘monumental grave fields, in this instance,’ the Borre mound cemetery in Vestfold.

“Thus he (Odin) established by law that all dead men should be burned, and their belongings laid with them upon the pile, and the ashes be cast into the sea or buried in the earth. Thus, said he, every one will come to Valhalla with the riches he had with him upon the pile; and he would also enjoy whatever he himself had buried in the earth. For men of consequence a mound should be raised to their memory, and for all other warriors who had been distinguished for manhood a standing stone; which custom remained long after Odin’s time.”[viii]

Ibn Fadlan poignantly recalls such a pagan funeral – a boat burning ritual for which some historians of that era branded them as ‘fire-worshippers.’ Loaded with death gifts and symbols of wealth and status, the corpse was reverentially laid out in style upon a sea-worthy craft, cast upon the waters and finally torched some distance from the shore with flaming arrows.

My days/ have gone as fate willed, . . .

As I knew how, swearing no unholy oaths,

Seeking no lying wars. I can leave

This life happy; I can die, here,

Knowing the Lord of all life has never

Watched me wash my sword in blood

Born of my own family.” [ix]

“The dead chieftain was put in a temporary grave, which was covered for ten days until they had sewn new clothes for him. One of his thrall women volunteered to join him in the afterlife and she was guarded day and night, being given a great amount of intoxicating drinks while she sang happily. When the time had arrived for cremation, they pulled his long-ship ashore and put it on a platform of wood, and they made a bed for the dead chieftain on the ship. Thereafter, an old woman referred to as the “Angel of Death” put cushions on the bed. She was responsible for the ritual.

Then they disinterred the chieftain and gave him new clothes.”

The preparation for the funeral exacted gravid offerings from kith and kin.

“I am, …. I bring Furs to keep Aelfric warm.”

“I am, …. I bring meat and a bronze cooking pot, to feed Aelfric.”

“I am, …. I bring a bone comb and fine garments to keep Aelfric well groomed.”

“I am, …. I bring a fine sword that Aelfric ‘s status should be noted.”

“I am,…. I bring a swift spear, that Aelfric be armed.”

“I am,…. I bring a strong shield, that Aelfric be protected.”

“In his grave, he thus received intoxicating drinks, fruits, and a stringed instrument. The chieftain was put into his bed with all his weapons and grave offerings around him. Then they had two horses run themselves sweaty, cut them to pieces, and threw the meat into the ship. Finally, they sacrificed a hen and a cock.”

“Meanwhile, the thrall girl went from one tent to the other and had sexual intercourse with the men. Every man told her: “Tell your master that I did this because of my love to him.” In the afternoon, they moved the thrall girl to something that looked like a door frame, where she was lifted on the palms of the men three times. Every time, the girl told them what she saw.

The first time, she saw her father and mother.

The second time, she saw all her relatives;

And the third time she saw her master in the after-world.

There, it was green and beautiful and together with him.

She saw men and young boys. She saw that her master beckoned for her.

By using intoxicating drinks, they thought to put the thrall girl in an ecstatic trance that made her psychic and through the symbolic action with the door frame, she would then see into the realm of the dead. The same ritual also appears in the Icelandic short story ‘Völsa þáttr,’ where two pagan Norwegian men lift the lady of the household over a door frame to help her look into the otherworld.

Thereafter, the thrall girl was taken away to the ship. She removed her bracelets and gave them to the old woman. Thereafter she removed her finger rings and gave them to the old woman’s daughters, who had guarded her. Then they took her aboard the ship, but they did not allow her to enter the tent where the dead chieftain lay. The girl received several vessels of intoxicating drinks and she sang and bade her friends farewell.

Then the girl was pulled into the tent and the men started to beat on the shields so her screams could not be heard. Six men entered the tent to have intercourse with the girl, after which they forced her onto her master’s bed. Two men grabbed her hands, and two men her wrists. The angel of death put a rope around her neck and while two men pulled the rope, the old woman stabbed the girl between her ribs with a knife. ”

“Thereafter, the relatives of the dead chieftain arrived with a burning torch and set the ship aflame.”

Seven days after the burning, a funerary Symbel was held. Named ‘sjaund,’ it signified the sacred journey of the dead to the Halls of the Mighty Ones, and was loudly celebrated in great revelry as a ‘wake,’ a sacred event where all were required to bring honour to the dead with drinking and eating, toasting the empty High Seat, where he once sat. This separated the duties of relatives towards the head of that family or Clan, from those duties thereafter claimed as due, by succession of the former chieftain’s heirs, which in some cases was the widow or his daughter/s. The High Seat would once again be occupied.

“It is said that the fire facilitates the voyage to the realm of the dead. Afterwards, a round barrow was built over the ashes, and in the centre of the mound they erected a staff of birch wood, where they carved the names of the dead chieftain and his king. Then they departed in their ships”[x]

“The old man’s mouth was silent, spoke

No more, had said as much as it could;

 He would sleep in the fire, soon. His soul

Left his flesh, flew to glory.”  [xi]


[i] Michael Crichton’s 1976 novel ‘Eaters of the Dead ‘ sets the theme plundered from the account of a 10th century Arab explorer Ibn Fadlan,  into the Movie – ‘The Thirteenth Warrior.’  Michael Alexander, ‘Risen from Ashes’ – These beautiful poetical phrases are also adapted from Ibn Fadlan’s inspiring journal,.

[ii] Stone ships at the foot of Anundshög (Anund’s Mound) in Sweden. This was a Thing place and dates to between 210 – 540 CE

[iii] Wiki: Sutton Hoo


Interestingly, the very term Varangian (Old Norse: Væringjar; Greek: Βάραγγοι, or Varangoi) is open for etymological debate. Though most scholars tend to agree that it is derived from Old Norse væringi, which is a compound of vár ‘pledge or vow of fidelity’ and gengi ‘companion or fellowship’. Simply put, the term Varangian can be roughly translated to ‘sworn companion’ – which proved to be an apt categorization, as later history was witness to their glorious feats.

[v]  Judith Gabriel, a Norwegian-American journalist who writes about the Middle East and Scandinavia. She is a contributing editor of both the Los Angeles quarterly Al Jadid and the New York weekly Norway Times. This article appeared on pages 36-42 of the November/December 1999 print edition of Saudi Aramco World.

[vi] Gabriel. Op cit.

[vii]  Stanzas extracted from Sigurðarkviða hin skamma

[viii] Extract from Ynglinga Saga


[x] Stein & Montgomery at Wiki





Regia Anglorum  at

Thynghowe is a Viking Assembly site in Sherwood Forest and was used for gatherings and settling disputes.

Swedish History MuseumStockholm A drinking scene on an image stone from Gotland, Sweden, in the Swedish Museum of National Antiquitiesin Stockholm.


all images and photos from wiki commons except those of Regia Anglorum  enactment of a boat burial which are copyright of shani oates.

all text is my own except for stanzas and where quotations are employed.

Anglo Saxon Living History: Part One – War, Valour and being a Warrior.

•July 1, 2017 • 1 Comment

Anglo Saxon Living History: Part One – War, Valour and being a Warrior.

Set in Scandinavia, the Epic of Beowulf relates aspects of its history and relationship with Britain and European Clans through a complex tale of fate. Significantly, it relates vital aspects of warrior tradition, of gift-giving, troth and gyfu. These affirm the distinction of the warrior class. And although all men were capable ‘warriors’ called up to fight and defend their families and kings, the ‘profession’ of soldier was considerably an elite position. This did of course change over time, and many became farmers, a reflection perhaps of the Christian conversion ethic of ‘swords into ploughshares.’

His father’s warriors were wound round his heart/ With golden rings, bound to their prince/ By his father’s treasure. So young men build/ The future, wisely open-handed in peace,/ Protected in war; so warriors earn/ Their fame, and wealth is shaped with a sword.” [i]

“Nor have I ever seen,/ Out of all the men on earth, one greater/ Than has come with you; no commoner carries/ Such weapons, unless his appearance, and his beauty,/ Are both lies.” [ii]

“They arrived with their mail shirts/ Glittering, silver-shining links/ Clanking an iron song as they came./ Sea-weary still, they set their broad,/ Battle-hardened shields in rows/ Along the wall , then stretched themselves/ On Herot’s benches. Their armor rang;/ Their ash-wood spears stood in a line,/ Gray-tipped and straight: the Geats’ war-gear/ Were honoured weapons.”

“‘And if death does take me, send the hammered/ Mail of my armor to Higlac, return/ The inheritance I had from Hrethel, and he/ From Wayland. Fate will unwind as it must!'”

These themes are very much reflected in other contemporary poetry, exampled here in an excerpt from Maxims II (directly below), a wisdom poem that muses upon the realms of fate and time, as meted through the power of kings, and the passage of the seasonal round; and  in ‘The Battle of Malden’ (which follows), a record of a pivotal event leading up to the eventual conquest of England by the Danes.:

Cyning sceal rice healdan. Ceastra beoð feorran gesyne,

orðanc enta geweorc, þa þe on þysse eorðan syndon,

wrætlic weallstana geweorc. Wind byð on lyfte swiftust,

þunar byð þragum hludast. Þrymmas syndan Cristes myccle,

wyrd byð swiðost. Winter byð cealdost,

lencten hrimigost – he byð lengest ceald –

sumor sunwlitegost – swegel byð hatost –

hærfest hreðeadegost, hæleðum bringeð

geres wæstmas, þa þe him god sendeð.

Soð bið switolost, sinc byð deorost,

gold gumena gehwam, and gomol snoterost,

fyrngearum frod, se þe ær feala gebideð.

Weax bið wundrum clibbor. Wolcnu scriðað.

A king should defend a kingdom. Cities are seen from afar,

the skilful work of giants, which are on this earth,

wondrous work of wall-stones. The wind in the sky is swiftest,

thunder is loudest in season. Great are the powers of Christ.

Fate is the most powerful thing, winter is coldest,

spring frostiest – it is the longest cold –

summer sun-brightest – the sun is hottest –

harvest most glory-blessed; it brings to men

the year’s fruits, which God sends them.

Truth is most treacherous, treasure is dearest,

gold to every man, and an old man is most wise,

made wise with years gone by, he who has experienced much.

Sorrow is wondrously clinging. Clouds glide on. [iv]

Intensive Viking raids throughout the 10-11th centuries seriously destabilised the political leadership of England, eroding its military might until its eventual defeat at Hastings in 1066. Several decisive battles were fought in the decades prior to this. In fact, during the winter of 1013-14, the kingdom was briefly held by the Danish king Svein Forkbeard when King Æthelred fell back, forced into into exile.

One of these significant battles was the now legendary ‘Battle of Maldon’ – 10 August 991, fought on the Essex coast against the Vikings. Recorded in this anonymous epic poem, of 325 lines are events centred upon Byrhtnoth, the Ealdorman of East Anglia, and those men obliged to fight for him. These consist of seasoned warriors of his own guard, and other soldiers garnered from bondsmen further afield.  The Battle ensues when the Ealdorman, confidant of his strength, refuses to pay the tribute demanded by the Vikings in order to avoid fighting.

As a fine performance piece, the poem expresses a beautifully constructed mythology in Byrhtnoth’s defiant speech to the Viking’s emissary.  The context is fine fiction, rhetoric modern spin doctors have adopted in political campaigns typical of our era. The Narrative is timeless. A contrast is made between the men of the sea (Vikings) and those of the land (the warriors who fight for England – their land).

Gehyrst þu, sælida, hwæt þis folc segeð?
Hi willað eow to gafole garas syllan,
ættrynne ord and ealde swurd,
þa heregeatu þe eow æt hilde ne deah.
Brimmanna boda, abeod eft ongean,
sege þinum leodum miccle laþre spell,
þæt her stynt unforcuð eorl mid his werode,
þe wile gealgean eþel þysne,
Æþelredes eard, ealdres mines,
folc and foldan. Feallan sceolon
hæþene æt hilde. To heanlic me þinceð
þæt ge mid urum sceattum to scype gangon
unbefohtene, nu ge þus feor hider
on urne eard in becomon.
Ne sceole ge swa softe sinc gegangan;
us sceal ord and ecg ær geseman,
grim guðplega, ær we gofol syn.
Do you hear, seaman, what this people are saying?
They want to give you spears as tribute,
deadly spear-points and ancient swords,
war-equipment which will not help you in battle.
Sailors’ messenger, take a message back again:
tell your people a much more hostile reply,
that here stands undaunted an earl with his company,
who intends to defend this homeland,
the land of Æthelred, my leader,
people and ground.  The heathen shall
fall in battle.  It seems too shameful to me
that you should go to your ships with our money
unopposed, now you have come
so far into our country.
You shall not get treasure so easily;
spear and sword shall settle this between us,
fierce battle-play, before we pay tribute.


Poor tactics result in his death, but his men up held the fight to avenge his death.  Though the poem does not conclude with their defeat, it is inevitable. It is by far more than ‘just a commentary on the relationship between words and deeds (an abiding concern in heroic poetry) but an acknowledgement that this poem itself turns deeds into words, battle into language, history into poetry.’ [v]

“Thought must be the harder, heart be the keener,

mind must be the greater, while our strength lessens.” [vi]

Stodon stædefæste; stihte hi Byrhtnoð,

bæd þæt hyssa gehwylc hogode to wige

þe on Denon wolde dom gefeohtan.

Wod þa wiges heard, wæpen up ahof,

bord to gebeorge, and wið þæs beornes stop.

Eode swa anræd eorl to þam ceorle,

ægþer hyra oðrum yfeles hogode.

Sende ða se særinc suþerne gar,

þæt gewundod wearð wigena hlaford;

he sceaf þa mid ðam scylde, þæt se sceaft tobærst,

and þæt spere sprengde, þæt hit sprang ongean.

Gegremod wearð se guðrinc; he mid gare stang

wlancne wicing, þe him þa wunde forgeaf.

Frod wæs se fyrdrinc; he let his francan wadan

þurh ðæs hysses hals, hand wisode

þæt he on þam færsceaðan feorh geræhte.

ða he oþerne ofstlice sceat,

þæt seo byrne tobærst; he wæs on breostum wund

þurh ða hringlocan, him æt heortan stod

ætterne ord. Se eorl wæs þe bliþra,

hloh þa, modi man, sæde metode þanc

ðæs dægweorces þe him drihten forgeaf.

Forlet þa drenga sum daroð of handa,

fleogan of folman, þæt se to forð gewat

þurh ðone æþelan Æþelredes þegen.

They stood steadfast. Byrhtnoth commanded them,

ordered that each warrior set his mind on warfare

who wanted to win glory against the Danes.

A warrior bold in battle advanced, lifted up his weapon

with his shield for protection, and moved towards that man.

Very resolutely the earl went towards the man;

each intended evil to the other.

Then the sea-warrior sent forth a spear of southern work,

so the warriors’ lord was wounded;

he shoved with his shield so that the shaft broke,

and the spear shattered so that it sprang back.

The battle-warrior was enraged: he stabbed with his spear

the proud viking who had given him the wound.

The war-soldier was skilled; he shot his spear

through the man’s neck, guided by his hand

so that he reached the life of his sudden assailant.

Then he quickly shot another

so that the mail-coat shattered; he was wounded in his breast

through the interlocking rings; in his heart

stood a deadly spear. The earl was the gladder:

he laughed then, the high-spirited man, gave thanks to God

for the day’s work which the Lord had given him.

Then one of the vikings sent a spear from his hand,

flying from his fist, so that it went all too successfully

through Æthelred’s noble thegn.

As a staunch Christian, Bryhtnoth dies with a prayer on his lips:
Nu ic ah, milde metod, mæste þearfe
þæt þu minum gaste godes geunne,
þæt min sawul to ðe siðian mote
on þin geweald, þeoden engla,
mid friþe ferian. Ic eom frymdi to þe
þæt hi helsceaðan hynan ne moton.”
Now, merciful Lord, I have the greatest need
that you grant good to my soul,
that my spirit may journey to you
into your power, Lord of angels,
and depart in peace.  I am beseeching you
that the fiends of hell may not injure me!
Momentary panic follows, shifting gear as a young warrior named Ælfwine inspires them into glorious action. The outcome is fatal, but as heroes, they uphold their troth to fight unto the death for their Chieftain and Drighton Lord.

Gemunan þa mæla þe we oft æt meodo spræcon,
þonne we on bence beot ahofon,
hæleð on healle, ymbe heard gewinn;
nu mæg cunnian hwa cene sy.
Ic wylle mine æþelo eallum gecyþan,
þæt ic wæs on Myrcon miccles cynnes;
wæs min ealda fæder Ealhelm haten,
wis ealdorman, woruldgesælig.
Ne sceolon me on þære þeode þegenas ætwitan
þæt ic of ðisse fyrde feran wille,
eard gesecan, nu min ealdor ligeð
forheawen æt hilde. Me is þæt hearma mæst;
he wæs ægðer min mæg and min hlaford.
Remember the words which we often spoke over our mead,
when we raised up boasts on the benches,
heroes in the hall, about hard fighting:
now we may learn who is brave!
I will make known all my lineage,
that I was born in Mercia of a great family;
my grandfather was named Ealhelm,
a wise ealdorman, prosperous in the world.
I will not be reproached by thegns among those people
that I wanted to escape from this army,
to seek my home, now my leader lies
hewn down in battle.  It is the greatest sorrow to me;
he was both my kinsman and my lord.

Hige sceal þe heardra, heorte þe cenre,
mod sceal þe mare, þe ure mægen lytlað.
Her lið ure ealdor eall forheawen,
god on greote. A mæg gnornian
se ðe nu fram þis wigplegan wendan þenceð.
Ic eom frod feores; fram ic ne wille,
ac ic me be healfe minum hlaforde,
be swa leofan men, licgan þence.
Courage must be the firmer, heart the keener,
mind must be the greater, as our strength diminishes.
Here lies our leader all cut down,
a good man on the ground.  He who now thinks of turning
from this battle-play will always regret it.
I am old in years; I will not go,
but by the side of my lord,
by the man so dear, I intend to lie.

Though this principle is upheld within the Maxims (Wisdom texts) recorded in the Exeter Book, noted at stanza 36:
Snotre men sawlum beorgað, healdað hyra soð mid ryhte.
‘Wise men guard their souls, uphold their integrity with justice.’
It is a view tempered with precedent advice located in stanza 23 and 12:
Forbær oft ðæt þu eaðe wrecan mæge. 
‘Forbear often where you might easily take vengeance.’
Ne hopa ðu to oþres monnes deaðe; uncuð hwa lengest libbe.
‘Do not hope for another man’s death; it is unknown who will live longest.’ [vii]

Part Two of this Anglo Saxon Living History continues next week with a Boat Burial.




Regia Anglorum  at

Thynghowe is a Viking Assembly site in Sherwood Forest and was used for gatherings and settling disputes.



[i] The narrative was finally recorded in Britain circa 1000CE. Believed to be the oldest Anglo-Saxon piece of poetic writing by a narrow margin of a few years over the Battle of Maldon, it survives in a single manuscript.


[iii] ibid

[iv] Maxims II (Cotton MS)


[vi] Anonymous, ‘The Battle of Maldon’ probably written between 10 and 20 years after  the event of 991 CE, around the same time as Beowulf, both of which are grand epics of Heroic Poetry.






The Sacred and The Profane: Whitsuntide/Pentecost. Some secular and religious calendrical celebrations.

•May 25, 2017 • 1 Comment


The Christian holiday of Pentecost (Ancient Greek: Πεντηκοστή [ἡμέρα], Pentēkostē [hēmera], “[the] fiftieth [day]”) is celebrated 50 (101-51) days from Easter Sunday, counting inclusive of Easter Sunday itself, i. e. 49 days or 7 weeks after Easter Sunday.[1][2] The holy day is also called “White Sunday” or “Whitsunday“, especially in the United Kingdom, where traditionally the next day, Whit Monday, was also a public holiday. In Eastern Christianity, Pentecost can also refer to the entire fifty days of Easter through Pentecost inclusive; hence the book containing the liturgical texts for Paschaltide is called the “Pentecostarion“.



The singing of Pentecost hymns is also central to the celebration in the Western tradition. Hymns such Hildegard von Bingen‘s “O Holy Spirit Root of Life”[29][30] are popular. Some traditional hymns of Pentecost make reference not only to themes relating to the Holy Spirit or the church, but to folk customs connected to the holiday as well, such as the decorating with green branches.[31]







O Holy Spirit, root of life, creator, cleanser of all things,

anoint our wounds, awaken us with lustrous movement of your wings.

Eternal Vigor, Saving One, you free us by your living Word,

becoming flesh to wear our pain, and all creation is restored.

O holy Wisdom, soaring power, encompass us with wings unfurled,

and carry us, encircling all,above, below, and through the world.


In Germany Pentecost is denominated “Pfingsten” and often coincides with scholastic holidays and the beginning of many outdoor and springtime activities, such as festivals and organized outdoor activities by youth organizations Above all, Pentecost is a day for the Confirmation celebrations of youths. Flowers, the wearing of white robes, or white dresses recalling Baptism, rites such as the laying on of hands, and vibrant singing play prominent roles on these joyous occasions, the blossoming of Spring forming an equal analogy with the blossoming of youth. The typical image of Pentecost in the West is that of the Virgin Mary seated centrally and prominently among the disciples with flames resting on the crowns of their heads. Occasionally, parting clouds suggesting the action of the “mighty wind”,[21] rays of light and the Dove are also depicted. Of course, the Western iconographic style is less static and stylized than that of the East, and other very different representations have been produced, and, in some cases, have achieved great fame such as the Pentecosts by TitianGiotto, and el Greco.


In Italy it was customary to scatter rose petals from the ceiling of the churches to recall the miracle of the fiery tongues; hence in Sicily and elsewhere in Italy Whitsunday is called Pasqua rosatum. The Italian name Pasqua rossa comes from the red colours of the vestments used on Whitsunday.

Traditionally, Whit Fairs (sometimes called Whitsun Ales)[49] took place.

A ‘Whitsun Ale’ was a parish celebration held originally to raise money for Church funds. The whole village would take a day off and as the name suggests a large quantity of ale would be brewed for the festival. The custom mirrored the courtly practice of holding feasts and tournaments at Whitsuntide as described by Thomas Malory.


A Whitsun Ale was a very big affair in most villages. A King and Queen of the Day would be appointed, there would be archery competitions, games and Morris Dancing. In 1557 St Mary’s Church in Reading paid for some of the performers: ‘Item payed to the morrys daunsers and the mynstrelles, mete and drink at Whytsontide, iijs. iiijd.’ The Gildhouse at Poundstock in North Cornwall is one of the very few buildings still standing where we know Whitsun Ales took place.

You can see it at



An edict of Queen Elizabeth I in 1569 gives us some idea of what games might have been performed:‘the shooting with the standard, the shooting with the broad arrow, the shooting at twelve score prick, the shooting at the Turk, the leaping for men, the running for men, the wrestling, the throwing of the sledge, and the pitching of the bar, with all such other games as have at any time heretofore or now be licensed, used, or played.’


Other customs such as morris dancing[50] and cheese rolling[51] are also associated with Whitsun. “Whitsunday” has been the name of the day in the Church of England. (The Book of Common Prayer only once uses the word “Pentecost” for the festival. Though some[who?] think that name derives from white clothes worn by newly baptised in Eastertide, it may well be seen as derived from “wit”, hence “wisdom”, the reference being to Holy Wisdom (Sancta Sophia, Hagia Sophia), referred to in Proverbs and the Book of Wisdom, with which the Holy Spirit has often been identified.

In Finland there is a saying known virtually by everyone which translates as “if one has no sweetheart until Pentecost, he/she will not have it during the whole summer.”

According to legend, King Arthur always gathered all his knights at the round table for a feast and a quest on Pentecost:

So ever the king had a custom that at the feast of Pentecost in especial, afore other feasts in the year, he would not go that day to meat until he had heard or seen of a great marvel. [53]

William Shakespeare mentions Pentecost in a line from Romeo and Juliet Act 1, Scene V. At the ball at his home, Capulet speaks in refuting an overestimate of the time elapsed since he last danced: “What, man? ‘Tis not so much, ’tis not so much! ‘Tis since the nuptial of Lucentio, Come Pentecost as quickly as it will, Some five-and-twenty years, and then we mask’d.”[57] Note here the allusion to the tradition of mummingMorris dancing and wedding celebrations at Pentecost.


Royal Oak Day (Oak Apple Day) was a public holiday celebrated in England on 29 May to commemorate the restoration of the English monarchy, in May 1660.


Oak Apple Day was a time for dancing and parties. To show their support for the monarchy, people wore sprigs of oak leaves or a sprig with an oak apple on (gall produced in oak buds by wasps). On 29 May, children would challenge each other to show their oak sprigs or apples, and those not wearing one would face some form of punishment, varying from one place to another.

It is said that King Charles’ life was saved after the battle of Worcester in 1651, when he escaped from the Roundhead army by hiding in an oak tree in the grounds of Boscobel House in Staffordshire.



Castleton Garland Day is held on Oak Apple Day (unless this is a Sunday when proceedings will take place on the Saturday.) It is custom that has been celebrated in Castleton for hundreds of years, originally, possibly as a fertility rite, but today it is said to commemorate the restoration of Charles II. The Garland is 3 feet high and is made from a wooden frame to which small bunches of wild flowers and leaves are tied. It is worn by a man dressed in Stuart costume.

Nettle Day” – whipping with nettles

“The wise boy wore his oak leaves, armed himselves (sic) with a stinging nettle and carried a few dock leaves for first aid just in case”

oak apple day

It is said that King Charles’ life was saved after the battle of Worcester in 1651, when he escaped from the Roundhead army by hiding in an oak tree in the grounds of Boscobel House in Staffordshire.

The wearing of a sprig of oak on the anniversary of Charles’ crowning showed that a person was loyal to the restored king. Those who refused to wear an oak-sprig were often set upon, and children would challenge others to show their sprig or have their bottoms pinched. Consequently, this day became known as Pinch-Bum-Day. In parts of England where oak-apples are known as shick-shacks, the day is also known as Shick-Shack Day. It is also likely that the royal association conceals a pagan tradition of tree worship.

These days it is traditional for monarchists to decorate the house with oak branches or wear a sprig of oak on 29th May. In All Saints Church in Northampton, a garland of oak-apples is laid at Charles II’s statue. Whereas, in Grovely Forest, Salisbury, a procession takes place at first light, accompanied by the sound of horns. It is also traditional to drink beer and eat plum pudding – especially at the Royal Hospital in Chelsea, which was founded by Charles II on this very day.

On or near this date, a curious figure called the Garland King rides through the streets of Castleton, Derbyshire, at the head of a procession. His head and the upper part of his body are completely hidden by a ‘garland’ – a heavy wooden construction, shaped like a beehive and covered with flowers and greenery. On top of the garland is a small posy of flowers, which is called the ‘queen’. Behind the king rides his queen (at one time played by a man in woman’s clothes), accompanied by a band and children dressed in white. After pausing to dance at various points along the way, the procession arrives at the church and the garland is pulled up to the top of the church tower and fixed to a pinnacle. The ‘queen’ posy is then placed on the town war memorial.

These ceremonies, which have now largely died out, are perhaps continuations of pre-Christian nature worship. The Garland King who rides through the streets of Castleton, Derbyshire, at the head of a procession, completely disguised in a garland of flowers which is later affixed to a pinnacle on the parish church tower, can have little connection with the Restoration, even though he dresses in Stuart costume. He is perhaps a kind of Jack in the Green and the custom may have transferred from May Day[1] when such celebrations were permitted again after having been banned by the Puritans.


In Worcester, the ‘Faithful City’, Oak Apple Day is commemorated by decorating the entrance gate to Worcester’s Guildhall with oak branches and leaves.

The Oak Tree is a symbol of England. The image of the Royal Oak can be pubs and hotels signs, on stamps and also on coins (£1). There have also been numerous naval ships, a train and a London underground station named ‘The Royal Oak’.

For details of events celebrating the whitsuntide festival, see the following websites: The Huntsman Cheadle Staffordshire 7th Beer Festival

Monday 29 May 2017 – Cheese Rolling at Coopers Hill

Competitors hurl themselves down the steep banks of Cooper’s Hill, chasing the giant Cheese! Cooper’s Hill, Near Brockworth. 12.00 midday (A46 Stroud-Brockworth Rd). Web:


The immensely popular South Cerney Street Fair and Duck Race takes place once again on Bank Holiday Monday, 29th May.  With more than 100 different stalls and attractions, visitors to this FREE event won’t be disappointed.  You can enjoy a wide range of craft stalls, live music, dance performances and children’s entertainment; and for visitors wanting quieter activities, the Village Hall Art Exhibition and Church Flower Festival will be open all day.

One of the day’s biggest highlights will be the now famous Duck Race at 3.30pm (the sight of hundreds of yellow plastic ducks bobbing along the river is a real treat!).

Refreshment is available throughout the day from a variety of food and drink stalls, or indulge in a cream tea in the vicarage garden.

Starting out as a small Church Fete over 30 years ago, the South Cerney Festival has grown enormously in recent years.  The Street Fair now rounds off a whole weekend of music, dancing and community events, helping to raise thousands of pounds for the Church and local organisations, charities and youth groups.  The Festival Weekend is run by a large army of volunteers and is a fabulous example of what can be achieved when the local community comes together.

The South Cerney Street Fair is open from 10.00 a.m until 5.00 p.m, on Monday 29th May.
Free parking for visitors will be available at the South Cerney Army Camp and Upper Up playing fields, with a FREE vintage bus running from the Army Camp to the Street Fair site.

More details about the Street Fair and all the events taking place over the weekend can be found on our


All Text relocated from wiki including all links for further research. All images from Wiki commons or pinterest.






The Horseman’s Word: Revealed

•April 17, 2017 • 6 Comments

‘The  Horseman’s Word’3867538391_11f4bf66d1_z


Here’s to the horse with the four white feet,

The chestnut tail and mane,

A star on his face and a spot on his breast,

And his master’s name was Cain.’


Traditional knowledge was often passed in secret fraternities. One of these was the society of horsemen, a rural organisation that fiercely protected its lore. All teachings were customarily oral, from mouth to ear, records were forbidden, all had to be remembered by initiates into these groups. But it was often sound advice and practise, appearing as magic or ‘arcane gibberish’ only to those who were not in the ‘know.’ Of course, a certain flair and aptitude was essential, just as with any Craft, and this illusive ingredient could not be taught. Initiates were given a ‘word’ of power, their guard against the devil, whose word it was, whilst wielding its power.  According to legend, the first horseman was reputed to be Cain, forging another link between this agricultural figure and the devil.

CHAPTER 12 image 59 Horse Whisperer

Given that Cochrane’s father was allegedly a ‘horsemen’; this may possibly have influenced his choice of name for his Clan.  Another notorious cunning-man active during the latter half of the 19th century was George Pickinghill, and who was also rumoured to have been a renowned ‘horse whisperer.’ Pickinghill allegedly held one of his many cuveens in Sussex and is claimed to have enigmatically predicted the revival in 1962 of the ‘Old Craft.’[1] Coincidently, Prof. Hutton makes the observation that Robert Cochrane possibly released his first published work in that very year: 1962. Clearly this was a fateful and auspicious date in the historiography of the Craft. [2]

Divers communal customs and rites of passage immersed the farm labourer within the superstitions and lore that saturated traditional rural practices. Cogently, the leader or foreman drawn from among the harvesters was known as the ‘lord.’ and to whom his men ‘owed duty.’ All newcomers were initiated according to medieval custom, wearing a ‘halter,’ submitting their oaths to the ‘Lord’ and his ‘Lady.’ [3] He was the surrogate ‘Master’ for the Manorial, (or feudal Lord) and one of his obligations was to ensure the provision of vitals and all ‘good fayre’ for his men. As host in this sense, he is perceived by some as having parallels with the faerie ‘lords’ and with the greenwood lord, Robin Hood. [4] These patterns suggest the template for many later ‘Craft’ traditions, and the scion between the feudal compact, the superstitious reverences and the mentoring system, often secret, can be evinced within them.


Early mural shutterstock_94032301

One of these events, bound intrinsically to Martinmas, is held in honour of the patron saint of smiths and labourers, and was the traditional time for the agricultural hiring fair. A huge feast of bread, cheese and whiskey, or more generally ale, both welcomed the new labour and celebrated for the last time, the camaraderie with those leaving. All manner of labour including ploughmen and carters were contracted to prepare the fields and animals for winter. One custom peculiar to this fair, was that ‘blood should be spilt on this day to secure good fortune for the next twelve months,’ referring of course to the necessary annual slaughter of livestock for the winter. [5]

cache_44500256 (1)

Even when celebrated at a domestic level, an ox or a fowl at least was duly prepared and mindfully consumed. It was a celebrated public holiday, and one of the few days in rural employment where no work was undertaken. Initiations into Horsemen’s societies normally took place on this auspicious eve, and the barn was often a favoured location. Three knocks upon the door and the declaration that the candidate was there at the behest of the devil, gained them admittance to the smell of burning sulphur.  Led in, under the moon, blindfolded, he would then be enjoined to take ‘a shak o’ ould hornie,’ the hand of the devil, over which the pledge or covenant was declared:


‘to hele, concele and ne’r reveal; neither write, nor dite, nor recite; nor cut, nor carve, nor write in sand.’


horseman's word


The hand of the devil, was of course, the Master Horsemen, draped in calf skin speculatively rubbed with phosphorous, wearing a horned mask. The pledge bound them never to reveal the horseman’s ‘word’ (of power), to anyone who wore an apron except a smith or farrier. Smiths were also held in awe, wielding the power to heal and expel baneful influences. The ceremonial toast was to Cain, as the first master of the art:


‘Here’s to the horse with the four white feet…………..,


According to folklore, they were shown the ritual handshake, in order to greet and recognise a true ‘brother’ and taught many charms, some were reputed to invoke the assistance of the devil himself by right of the toad bone. [6] The devil as a master craftsman was also allegedly a smith, whose civilizing arts repelled the darkness and ignorance of tribal societies. Though not all engagements were beneficial, especially those that challenged fate; the best example of this, is gambling. Playing cards were typically referred to as the devil’s books, not because they were evil per se, but because they engaged fate to manipulate the outcome. Perceived as hubris to challenge the devil at his own game, the odds were never good.


Even so, the devil is also a useful ally, a powerful protagonist, a force invoked adverse to another. In this way, a negative neutralises or binds another negative. Baneful hemlock, denoted as a witch’s plant, evocatively drawing its power from the ‘devil’ is put to use as a healing salve, where it is set in opposition to the disease. This belief reveals a spiritual level of healing in addition to that of the physical properties of the plant itself. Of course, the recipes do contain other narcotics and natural entheogens, having juice, seed and root concocted according to variable but once tightly guarded recipes. [8]


A certain procedure for self-empowerment through an invocatory compact with the devil involves the complex extraction of the frog or toad bone. Charms of this nature vary across counties, but normally entail a gruesome and excruciating death for the unfortunate frog, whose excarnated bones are disarticulated by throwing them into a stream at midnight, retrieving the one screaming bone that flowed contra to the others, upstream. This esteemed bone was endowed with similar powers to that carried by the ‘Toadmen’, the infamous and enigmatic horse-masters, whose power, drawn through this bone, generated fear amongst the common folk, convinced the carrier must be in league with the devil! [9]


An alternative rite requires that the bone, once won, be taken to a stable or a graveyard for three consecutive nights, whereupon the devil, in order to preserve this power for himself, will attempt to wrest it from its claimant; to best him, is to earn the right to carry it.[10]


In summary, it is worth pointing out how these traditions and lore came into England from the Scottish Highlands,  during the  late 17th century, and early 18th century,  when the horseman’s skills were needed there. Taken up by Cunning-folk to counter supposed situations involving possible hexing against the landowners. Once shared, it became the stuff of legend.[11]



“In June 1989 the local newspaper printed the Oath of the Horseman’s Word, and the belief that a member was initiated ‘a few weeks ago’. The article is here.


The Horsemen originated in the north-east of Scotland before 1870. Much has been written about the growth and the following of the Horsemen with anecdotal versions of the initiation ceremony, the mysteries, the Oath, and versions of the ‘Word’ itself.   For anyone keen to read such accounts, a short list of books is given below.

On a light-hearted note, from ‘Scots Pegasus’ by the Scottish dialect poet Alastair Mackie, ‘ . . the hert o the nut is this – naebody, dammt, kens the horseman’s word’.


Contrary to what curious readers may find stated elsewhere on the internet, the Horsemen (as we call it) is still an active Society in Scotland. Competent authors such as Russell Lyon in Lanarkshire made the effort to check facts before writing “Small groups have survived, notably in Orkney where, I have been told, members are still initiated into the old secrets; and those societies which appear to have been incorporated into Masonic lodges still flourish”.  And indeed this is so.


Billy Rennie, from Stuartfield near Peterhead, was described by a Scotland on Sunday columnist in Dec. 2002 as ‘the last known surviving member of the Horseman’s Word’.  In Oct. 2009 the Buchan Observer had a local headline entry ‘Horseman’s Word expert publishes book’ – none other than brother Rennie, initiated in Sept.1961. A deluxe limited edition (100) followed, bound in leather ‘with an imprint from an actual horseshoe, with nail holes in genuine gold’ and including an envelope containing ‘a horsehair knotted in the special manner that signifies that it is your invitation to the mysteries of the Society of the Horseman’s Word’.


Yes, we have many more ‘surviving members’ . . .  and that is from the horse’s mouth!”

For the enjoyment of visitors who can understand the broad Scottish tongue, a delightful poem ‘The Horseman’s Word’ by William Christie can be read online here.[11]


 and another resource:


“To become a “Horesman”, a form of initiation had to be endured. The young “Orraman” went to the barn on the appointed night armed with a loaf, a candle and a bottle of whisky. He was blind-folded and taken to an altar made of a bushel, where a series of questions had to be answered. During the ceremony he swore never to reveal the “Horseman’s Word”.[12]


The Horseman’s Word

The following notes regarding “The Horseman’s Word” arrived at the Archive in August 2005 from Stewart Beveridge who emigrated to Australia in 1970:[13]

“I read an article on this many years ago in one of the Weekly or Monthly UK magazines. It seems that The League of the Horseman’s Word was similar in many respects to modern Trade Unions, the difference being that the bosses were the farmers, landowners etc. all part of the establishment per se, so in the God fearing climate of the North East as it used to be, they all went to kirk on Sunday. To emphasise their differences, the horsemen worshipped their Founding Father, Tubal Cain the first blacksmith or worker in brass and other metals who is important to the equestrian world and became translated to Auld Clootie or Auld Nick (Satan) who was reputed to be an exceptional fiddler. (See Burns’ Tam o’ Shanter).

Apparently there was an initiation ceremony where a novice was given the welcoming handshake before being given “The Horseman’s Word”. He was sworn to secrecy about The Word and told never to disclose it or write it down. At the end of the ceremony he was offered a pen and paper and told “Now that you ken the word, write it.” At this point, if the person reached for the pen, one of the officials standing by would hit his hand VERY hard with a chain causing wounding.

The researcher of the article said he had interviewed many old horsemen with massive scars on the backs of their hands. The other classic question was “Fit do you need maist?” Many answers were forthcoming but the ideal was “Mair light.” The song “Nicky-Tams” recounts part of this event when the singer is inducted after being Fee’d to the Mains (hired to the farm). “Weel I gaed on for Baillie Loon, Sine I gaed on for Third (Horseman), And sine of course I had to get the Horseman’s Grip and Word”. I knew the song but had not appreciated what was being said until reading the article. I did my Agri Practical on a farm near Montrose in 1953 which was not all that far removed from the time in question. Horse work was being phased out by that time but the older farm hands were a pretty insulated group of people. In those days it was a 5½ day week with very few people having cars so public transport, if available, took you where you wanted to get to.

The men and wives would come into town on Saturday afternoon. The men, in their good blue suits with white collars and ties, went to the football while their wives went shopping. Everyone went home on the 5pm bus. Life was simpler in many respects in those days.”[14]

~Stewart Beveridge, August 2005.


•   Folklore, Myths and Legends of Britain, Reader’s Digest Association Ltd., 1977.
•   The Quest for the Original Horse Whisperers, Russell Lyon, Luath Press Ltd., Edinburgh, 2003.
•   The Horseman’s Word, Timothy Neat, Birlinn Ltd., 2002.
•   The Pattern Under The Plough, George Ewart Evans, Faber & Faber, 1966.



[1] W.E. Liddell. & M. Howard (Ed.) ‘The Pickinghill Papers’ (Berks.1994) p103

[2] Prof. R. Hutton. ‘The Triumph of the Moon’ (Oxford, 1999) p313

[3] B. Bushaway. ‘By Rite: Custom, Ceremony and Community in England 1700-1880’(London, 1982) p112.

[4] This would tally well with Cochrane’s claim through his father, of five generations of Craft in his family.

[5] C. Hole. ‘British Folk Customs’ (London, 1976) p127. Significant now as Armistice Day, where we remember those fallen in death during the two world wars.

[6] Readers Digest Ass. (Ed.)  ‘Folklore, Myths and Legends’ (GB, 1974) p462

[7] E. & M. A. Radford p168

[8] E. & M. A. Radford. ‘Ency. of Superstitions’ (GB, 1974) p188

[9] Shani Oates ‘Brimstone and Treacle’  2008  Published in ‘The Arcane Veil’ Mandrake Press 2012  [This article was originally written  for and  submitted to a Journal publication through Three Hands Press that never came to fruition, so was eventually included in ‘The Arcane Veil.’]

[10] These are extant themes and praxes utilised within many Craft Traditions.]

NB: As a long standing interest of my Clan, a few valuable scraps of information have been collated over time; some of these were shared several years ago in an article that was submitted by myself for The Cauldron, but the editor felt the information was not something he wanted to put out in the Public Domain. This was a shame, as the information was of great interest to many people interested in and researching horse and craft related folklore, moreover, much of it already existed in the public domain, albeit in diverse and obscure places.  Thankfully, before too long, the rest of that information, and considerably more besides, became published in a couple of books on ‘The Horseman’s Word,’ and made widely available online. It is wonderful therefore to share here yet further information for all interested parties, of many excellent on-line resources for this lore, for those who may not yet be aware of them. Enjoy!





A Lament for Lucifer

•August 4, 2016 • 1 Comment


“And the sons of God beheld the daughters of men that they

were fair.”— Genesis.

A Fallen Angel is flying over the earth. He is weary of

evil. Mankind has become corrupt and offers no opposition

when he tempts, (i, 2.)

He views the noblest scenery of the Caucasus, but hatred is

predominant in his heart, and he scorns whatever he sees.

(3, 4-)

Gudil, a Caucasian chief, has built a castle on a lofty hill.

His daughter, Tamira, is about to be married to the Lord of

Sinodkl. She is spending the evening with her girl friends

dancing and singing. She is so pure and lovely that she would

arouse nobler thoughts, even in a Demon, were one to see her,

and would make him long for his lost Paradise. (5,6,7,8.)

The Demon sees her and loves her. (9.)

Meanwhile the Lord of Sinodal is riding to the marriage at the

head of a gay cavalcade. The Demon tempts him to ride more

swiftly through a dangerous mountain pass, where he is attacked

by robbers and slain. His horse arrives at Gudil’s castle with

the dead rider on its back. ( 11, 12, 13, 14.)

The Demon appears to Tamira in her dreams. He urges her

to grieve no more, and promises her a love that is not of

earth. (15,16.)

‘A FALLEN ANGEL once was winging

Over a sinful earth his way,

And memory was ever bringing

The vision of a happier day,

Telling an unforgotten story

How once in realms of light and glory

A seraph pure and bright he shone —

How the brief comet downward fleeting

Loved to exchange a smile of greeting

With him, before its spark was gone.

How ‘mid the infant world’s formations

In caravans of cloud he roved

Through worlds of scattered constellations —

How Nature spread her lore and smiled

Once upon him, God’s happy child,

In days when he believed and loved.

No trouble vexed his spirit then —

Now endless vistas lie between

The blessedness beyond his ken

And Him, who knew what might have been.

Outcast so long — no Heaven, no home —

He wandered through earth’s wildernesses-

Monotonous and wearisome,

As one age on another presses,

Or one slow minute follows minute.

The paltry world was his — but in it

His wickedness he wrought resistless,

For men on earth nowhere withstood

His wiles when he essayed — and, listless,

He loathed the evil seeds he strewed.

O’er many a lofty Caucas peak

The exile’s soaring pinion rose,

Below him, as with gems, Kazbek

Sparkled with everlasting snows.

And Darial’s  opposing sides

Showed black, as when a serpent hides

Its winding coils in some dark lair.

And Terek/ bounding from its fountain/

Like lion with wild shaggy hair,

Roared, and each mountain beast and mountain

Bird in the azure deep of air

Circled in endless panorama,

And gold-rimmed clouds from Eastern lands

Whirled with him on to northern strands,

And lofty rock and promontory,

Full of the secret of a dream.

Bent their proud heads beneath him flying.

Tracing the course of glittering stream.

And rival tower with tower vying

Scowled on the clouds that lay between ;

Till last, like sentinel stupendous,

The Caucasus shed dazzling sheen

Veiling a majesty tremendous.

All wild and wondrous was the scene

Of God’s fair world ; but his proud vision

Scanned his Creator s works in vain.

Reflecting nought but calm derision,

Although that scorn was deathless pain.

In front a glorious variation

Of palpitating landscape lies.

Carpets of living vegetation

Where Grusian valleys sink or rise,

Glimpses of earthly Paradise,

Columns of ruined minarets,

And gently tinkling rivulets

Making the happy pebbles glisten ;

And rosy groves where nightingales

Sing their sweet loves, nor pause to listen

Till amorous mates sing answering tales.

There clothed with ivy, cool and wide.

The sycamores spread shady arches,

And in the caves when noonday parches

The timid stag comes in to hide.

Brightness and life where all rejoices,

The myriad hum of Nature’s voices

All drowsy in noon’s burning tide.

But in the blaze of midday heat.

Or in the night when zephyrs sweet

With fragrance of the rose were laden,

And bright as eyes of Grusian maiden

The pale-faced stars kept watch above,

Nought of magnificence could move

In that grim angel fallen from splendour

One thought of sympathy or love,

Of strength renewed or longings tender ;

And when he viewed the scene before him.

Hatred and scorn came surging o’er him.

High on a cliff, with spacious halls,

A castle stood, (the price of tears

And toil to serfs through weary years),

Where in the morning shadow falls

From pine-clad hill to castle walls.

And Prince Gudal, so stern and gray,

Had bade his thralls to hew a way

Down that steep cliffs resisting side,

Till step by step led to the water

Where deep Aragva’s  currents glide.

And oft Tamara, his young daughter,

Would come in veil and snow-white hood

To fill her pitcher at its flood.

From lofty cliff that castle lowered

Grim, silent, motionless alway ;

But all is mirth and joy to-day,

And zithers sound, and wine is poured.

Gudil his daughter’s hand hath plighted,

And all his clan to feast invited.

And on the housetop, thickly strewn,

The bride Tamira, fair and young,

Is seated in a virgin throng,

‘Mid song and dance and zither’s tune.

While the sun’s orb is sinking soon

Behind the peaks, and for their pleasure

They dance in a cleared space between

Maids clapping hands to music s measure.

And lightly her gay tambourine

Twirling with one hand round her head.

The young bride springs with fairy tread.

And lighter than a bird she flashes,

Now darting here, now breathless staying.

And all the merry girls surveying

With sparkling eyes ‘neath long eye-lashes.

She guides the chorus through its mazes

‘Mid rustling silk and gauzy shimmer,

And oft a dainty foot upraises.

Seeming to float, an airy swimmer.

And ah ! that smile of childlike grace

Lighting her laughter-loving face.

Not Cynthia’s quivering beams, the while

On castle wall and turret glancing,

Could match the radiance of that smile

Than youth and gladness more entrancing.

I swear by yon clear midnight star,

By rays that flash from east to west,

Ne’er emperor of lands afar,

Nor king, nor conqueror, nor Czar

Such lovely damsel e’er caressed.

Nor e*er did fountain’s gentle storm

Lave with pellucid drops of pearl

In summer’s heat so fair a girl,

Or sprinkle so divine a form.

Never did mortal hand till now

Smooth with soft fingers such a brow,

Or twine them in such waving hair.

For not since man was thrust from Eden

Had ever bloomed so sweet a maiden,

So innocent, so heavenly fair.


But now, her last gay dance is over.

And dark forebodings o’er her hover,

For at the morn a stranger lover

Waits for the daughter of Gudal.

A marriage yoke, a plighted hand.

New kinsmen, unfamiliar land.

Poor child, to be a husband’s thrall !

And ofttime doubt, all unaware, ,

Laid on her heart a dumb distress,

But all her motions were so fair,

So full of seeming want of care,

Brimful of simple artlessness,

That had the Demon, wending by,

Beheld her then, he might have spurned

All his fell purposes, and turned

To Heaven with a repentant sigh.

Lo ! he beheld …. For one brief space,

Emotion strange, expressionless.

Swept in resistless torrent o’er him,

As if some voice of grace divine,

Across the gulf that lay before him.

Had called the outcast to the shrine

Of loveliness and heavenly strength.

And awestruck at the wondrous sight,

His thoughts in wayless labyrinth

Perplexed him, as in twinkling night.

Star points to star a chain extending

To continuity unending.

And riveted by power unseen.

New pangs increased his punishment,

Speaking in words which might have been

Erstwhile his own, ” Repent, repent ! ‘*

He strove to tempt — the words came not —

Had he his ancient wiles forgot ?

Nay. For were God to grant him yet

His former malice to forget,

He would but scorn the gift He sent.

Spurring meanwhile his mettled steed,

The impatient bridegroom rides with speed

Where bright Aragve’s currents glide

Twixt verdant banks on either side.

And following, far down the way,

With bells that tinkled as they strode,

Came camels faint beneath the load

Of costly gifts for marriage day.

And Sinodal’s  impetuous lord

Himself led this gay cavalcade.

With flashing jewels thick inlaid

Glittered his poniard and his sword,

His richly carven musket gleaming

In the sun’s rays, his tunic streaming.

Fanned by the breeze that ceaseless played

Through the loose sleeves and vest confined

By fringe of lace, his saddle gay

With coloured silks of far Cathay ;

His bridle decked with every kind

Of tasselled store from farthest Ind.

And his proud steed of Caucas strain,

In fierce revolt gainst guiding rein,

Tossing his tawny mane, and champing

The foamy bit, impatient stamping,

Pricks up his ears to glance aside

From threatening cliff to seething tide.

Narrow and dangerous the way

Along the gaping chasm lay ;

To right the angry waters hiss.

To left a frowning precipice.

The dusk has fallen, the day is gone,

The cavalcade moves faster on.

There stood a chapel on the road

Wherein a saint reposed in God,

(This saint had been a prince in life,

Slain long ago in vengeful strife,)

And whosoever fared that way,

On warfare or on pleasure bent.

Passed never heedless by, but went

To the old lonely shrine to pray,

And that same prayer would guard him well

From dagger of the infidel.


But the young bridegroom, pausing not.

Rode on secure, his prayers forgot,

For, weaving dreams of fond conceit,

The crafty Fiend was at his side,

” Haste, bridegroom, haste —

more fleet, more fleet.

Else other lips will kiss thy bride.”

Sudden in front two forms appeared —

A shot rang out — the charger reared —

And on his clanging stirrups rose

The impulsive prince to face his foes,

For words of parley lingering not,

But straight with poniard gleaming, flashing,

Like eagle from its eyrie dashing,

‘Mid crack of whip and pistol shot.

Loud rang the pass with musket rattle.

With cries and groans of wounded men,

As craven Grusians through the glen

Fled from the short contested battle.

Huddled together in amaze

Stand the aff’righted camels, eyeing

The corpses of their riders lying,

And helpless on each other gaze,

As bell to bell makes vain replying;

Plundered the gorgeous caravan,

And over every slaughtered man,

Flapping their wings, foul birds of prey.

No peaceful tomb awaits their clay

In graveyard ‘neath monastic stones

Where rest their fathers’ dust and bones.

No mother in bereaved despair,

No black-veiled sister will come there,

With tears and sobs and anguished prayer,

To mourn a son’s, a brother’s loss.

But ‘neath the cliff, in uncouth ways,

Rude hands will dig a grave, and raise

Some hasty carved memorial cross.

And ivy in the summer days

Will twine around, in fond caress,

An emerald net of tenderness.

And weary traveller in the vale

Seek rest within its holy pale.

Swifter than stag, the noble steed.

As though rebuked for tardy speed,

Pausing a moment’s space to sniff

The breeze that flutters on the cliff.

Snorts, stamping the insensate ground

With angry hoofs metallic sound ;

Tosses his mane from side to side,

His nostrils red, distended wide ….

A rider motionless he bears.

With wound that gapes, with eye that stares,

Whose head is sunk on horse’s mane,

Whose nerveless hand still grasps the rein,

Whose feet the stirrups press in vain,

While the dark crimson splash upon

Harness and gay caparison

Spreads to a deeper, broader stain.

Bold courser ! thou didst bear thy master

Fleeter than arrow from the fight,

But the fell bullet followed faster

From dastard ambuscade that night.

In GudM’s court loud wail and din,

And eager peasants throng and press.

Whose steed is this that gallops in,

Wild-eyed and staggering in distress.

And falls within the courtyard dead ?

And who that knight in armour red.

With frowning brow and firm set lip

Telling a murderous tale of pain.

While his dead hand the horse’s mane

Clutches with last convulsive grip ?

Too soon the wedding day is over,

Poor bride, behold the expected lover,

As true to plighted, princely word

He galloped to the festal board !

Hapless Tam^ra, all is o’er.

And he will mount his steed no more.

On happy home like thunderstone

Fell that disaster, strange and dread,

And poor Tamkra with a groan

Fell swooning on her bridal bed.

And wild spasmodic sobbing tore her,

And burning tear fell after tear.

Twas then she listening seemed to hear

A voice unearthly whisper o’er her :

** Ah weep not, child, thy tears are vain ;

They fall in no reviving rain

To make the unheeding dead return :

They only cloud thy face with pain.

And make thy maiden cheeks to burn.

He is so far, he will not stay

To heed thy tears, to reck thy sighs.

Caressing angels kiss away

All disappointment from his eyes.

His dreams of earth are fading dim

In that far land so still, so calm,

What are a maiden’s tears to him

Who listens to the angels’ psalm ?

The happiness and woes of earth,

Whate’er their transient chances be.

Nay, all creation is not worth

One momentary tear from thee.

“In the broad ethereal ocean,

Free of rudder, free of sail,

Wandering planets in their motion

Chant a myriad-voicfed tale.

Fleecy flocks of cloud are wending

Their irrevocable flight,

Through the fields that have no ending

In the labyrinth of light.

Now they meet and now they sever,

There’s no joy and there’s no pain.

Yesterday is gone for ever,

And to-morrow’s cares are vain.

When there comes a day of anguish,

Only think of these and say,

* I will neither pine nor languish,

Recking earth no more than they ! ‘

Soon as the night her sable veil

Over the Caucasus has spread,

When charmed as by enchanter’s tale,

The busy world asleep is laid ;

Soon as the wind in mountain pass

Makes rustle in the faded grass,

Where hidden bird by sleep oppressed

Flutters contented to its nest ;

When the night flower ‘neath sheltering vine

Sips nectared draughts of dew divine,

Spreading its timid petals tender,

And the pale moon with stealthy splendour

Clear of the hills her beauty flings

To gaze on thee with envy wan —

Lo ! I will come on dew-dipped wings

To dwell with thee till flickering dawn,

And waft on thy silk-shaded eyes

The golden dreams of Paradise/’

Silence …. all faded far away ;

Echo for echo, sound for sound.

She started up, looked wildly round —

Terror, astonishment, dismay.

Held in her breast alternate sway,

And at her heart strings surging, swelling.

She did not know, she could not say,

What rapturous joy, all else excelling !

Her soul had cast its bondage down

And rioted through every vein.

While diapasons could not drown

The insistence of that new refrain

In that strange voice’s haunting strain.

But when at dawn her senses slept,

Prophetic fancies o’er her creeping

Told her that some dim Presence kept

Watch over her while she was sleeping.

A cloudy form was o’er her bending

Of beauty human thought transcending.

He did not speak — he did not move —

But in his eyes was speechless love.

So anguish-torn that glance fell o’er her

Whose only thought was to adore her.

Twas not the angel God had given,

Her guardian spirit sent from Heaven ;

Halo of iridescent rays

Shone not above the impassioned gaze ;

Twas not a Fiend from Hell’s abysses

Of tortured agony — oh, nay,

He glowed with evening’s lovelinesses —

Nor dark, nor light — nor night, nor day.’

[This small section of poetry is reproduced with grateful thanks to Wiki docs, who have included Lermontov’s profound epic ‘The Demon’ in their archives.

This extract and images that accompany it may be found here:

and here

The Ring of Arte~ A Witches Compass

•April 17, 2016 • 2 Comments



The information about the nine foot magic circle sounds a bit false. I am very disinclined to believe it as a possible historical event. Everything in the theory points towards a laboured nineteenth century hand, inventing primitive man all over again. No twentieth century man likes to admit the possibility that it has all been done before. But in a different way with different means. However, this is literally what a witch’s compass is, a highly efficient and scientific machine, and it requires science to use it properly.

This is the Key of Kings.”

                                                                                                      (Robert Cochrane)


A scientific machine? The Key of Kings? Robert Cochrane wittingly beguiles us with these intriguing descriptions in deference to ~ the Ring of Arte. Upon reading them, we could be forgiven for thinking these two comments oppose one another, or that they suggest a paradox in linear time. Sounding at once archaic and futuristic, it is not until we analyse them in context that we are fully able to properly appreciate how searingly astute a summation Cochrane has declared. We can but wonder what experiences led him to such clarity. Startlingly innovative, nothing like it before, or since, has been known. Not only did he establish a clear demarcation from the more popular and better known practises of the ‘Wica,'(sic) he set the bar for others who came after, seeking more traditional ways of working. His single, most distinctive gift to others outside his tradition concerns the existence of a  traditional ‘Compass.’ Making several references to it, he even provided guidelines for others to follow, to secure its foundations in public awareness for generations to come. What he did not explain was those differences. Perhaps he felt they were obvious?

            Approached with scientific perception, we may distinguish a Circle from a Ring, and both from a Compass ~ or can we? At what point does physics enter the quantum arc, bridging the natural world of general consciousness with the seemingly chaotic and random realms of supra-conciousness in the planes of supernature? In that unique space, ‘out of time and out of place,’  liminality subsumes the linear order of our universe, and we are at once in Arcadia ~ truly the land of the gods from whose hands the ‘Key of Kings’ was originally gifted.


 So how do we begin to understand the Key of Kings?

First of all we must establish an understanding of the basic form and function of Ring, Circle and Compass:

A Circle normally describes a flat space which is not only ’round,’ but is complete in its inclusivity. This means the entire surface of that space is distinguished by its separation from all that surrounds it, peripherally, above and below it.

A Ring is a circular band, placed between two zones to delineate what is inside it, from what is outside of it. Functioned to create a deliberate boundary  or transitional zone between two other spaces, these may be the same or different depending on geography, elements etc. i.e. a Castle is separated by a Moat ~ a ring of water that in addition to  creating a boundary or bridge between two areas, marks an actual point of departure, from one thing to another. In this case the shift from a natural landscape to a building. In more ancient times a ditch was constructed around a raised ‘circle’ of land, known as a mound. This henge structure afforded tactical defence. In like manner, a nine foot circle is the defensible area one person armed with a sword may secure about themselves.

Both a Ring and a Circle can be physical or metaphysical of course.

A Compass is inter and intra physical and also metaphysical.

A Compass is the mode of transport, the direction traversed and the destination desired.

It is an orientation of intent.

What this means will become realised as we progress.


see me now

Setting aside for the moment all tenets of faith and belief that determines the emotive construct (associated with force) within its dynamic, we need to make an analysis of purpose and function in the formalisation of a ritual space according to the directives established by ‘Wiccan’ practises. At its most basic level the Wiccan sacred space is constructed from both a Ring and a Circle. A Ring secures a boundary around a circular area it deems entirely distinct from that on the other side of its boundary. All rather obvious so far. What is known, though is perhaps not so obvious, is, that Ring is very much perceived as ‘defensive.’

Furthermore, to increase that security, Cardinal Watchtowers are envisaged/constructed on the other side of the boundary, warded by Guardians. At this point, it is irrelevant what capacity they assume or how they are envisaged. What is important, is that we understand they are not to be approached or encountered. In fact, they are ‘summoned’ to their posts and held there at the point of a sharp weapon. Once the participant/s is/are inside that ‘space,’ the boundary is generated from inside, around itself, and the Watchtowers are then built beyond that. Paradoxically, in closing all force and focus inwards, everything is pulled physically and psychically towards a static central point of its own origin, from which it looks outwards viewing its boundary and castellated Watchtowers on its peripheral borders.  It is a centripetal construct. It is the construct of the Magus, a world apart from all other worlds.

A Compass is an entirely different ‘thing,’ both literally and figuratively.


To begin with, the approach is from the outermost point. Working inwards, the boundary or ‘Ring’ is created then breached, quite deliberately, the Bridge to what lies beyond is forded, allowing access to whatever exists on the ‘other’ side as coded by the purpose of the advance. We shift ourselves out and into another space, leaving where we were in the physical body behind us.

Once over that Bridge we approach the Castle Gate. These Castles, Realms, or Worlds stand at each Cardinal and inter-cardinal nodes, hence it forms the Compass Rose, the supreme glyph of all navigators. On approach to each gate, we prepare and forge the key that will unlock it, hence it is the ‘Key of Kings.’ Knocking is a gesture accompanied by utterance, of sign and sonic to announce our presence. We pass through the now open Gate and into whatever resides beyond that gate. Taking ourselves into their worlds, we approach unarmed to embrace the shades of ancestors and spirit forms from whom we seek wisdom. We choose to shift unhindered through into those other worlds and realms. Traversing ever deeper in our explorations, we paradoxically shift outwards, away from our point of origin. It is a centrifugal force. This is the ‘Witches’ Compass where trajectory is determined by intent. It is the (shifting) world within (all) worlds. 

“All measurements of position and velocity must be made relative to some frame of reference.”   (centrifugal force)

Within a ‘Witches’ Compass, we have several rings of arte, that is to say, distinct arcs between specific nodes. These bridges and moats distinguish not just the realms from each other, but the purpose that directs and propels those mediations of virtue. And so we begin at last to see how very different is the Wiccan Circle to a Witches Compass, and to see how simple and yet how very complex the latter is when compared to the former. As Cochrane said, it is a ‘map to other worlds.’

After a gravid description of those other worlds within a poignant and scientific Creation Myth, Robert Cochrane separates the basic structure of the ‘Ring’ in terms of gods and kings, of queens and castles, of elemental kingdoms and of their inherent virtues. Poetically he observes the origin of mankind, and our place in the schema of the universality of all reality and non-reality. He speaks of time and eternity, and of a symbiosis of spirit enjoined through ‘witch-blood.’ Linked through ancestry, we traverse the realms by the vehicles their beliefs created for us in Myth made manifest in the realities of those quantum worlds beyond time and space.

So how do we manipulate such deliberate transport?


            We do not ‘raise’ power,’ we ride on what is already there. Nature provides all. We ride the ‘Broom,’ a folk name for the Compass, referred to by Cochrane. This is what he meant when he explained to Bill Gray that for us, ‘nature is a means to an end.’ Observing nature, we note that all matter shifts with the winds, from the tides that ebb and flow o’er the variant and distant shores of Gaia, to the scudding clouds above, of vap’rous transparency; we are adrift betwixt heaven and the deep blue sea. Poetically, these three realms are the underworld abyss, the plane of Edin, now corrupted into Hell, and the transcendent arc of the celestial track-ways of the gods. Through the lens of Myth, these three host a hierarchy of beings structured to explain animistic principle expressed in a panentheistic multi-verse, in landscapes that range from pure wondrous beauty to the starkest and most terrifying of nightmares.


Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, Thomas Moranin 1859.

These obviously demand three basic requisites in order to accomplish transvection over Bridge and Moat, into Mound and Mold, and through Gate and Doorway……ascending and descending, triangulating ourselves through a mutable and ever shifting map, of no fixed abode, anchored nowhere in time and space. It is the antithesis of stasis. Its axial shaft is the self, we are singularly a microcosmic tree of a collective, and macrocosmic Yggdrasil. Three things provide the context, purpose and mode to generate the dynamic synergy of transvection.

That is to say:

1). Faith: a cultural understanding of how to know the gods, ancestors and all other deific forms in the natural order according to myth and folklore sustained in that Faith.

2). Quest or Mission: the purpose or reason that inculcates structure and format of the ritual procedure.

3). The Crafting of that Ring of Arte: Building the Bridge, digging the Moat, seeking a Mound, Cave, Tunnel, River or lofty Precipice as a ‘jump point’. Construction of Matrix from  the Thirteen Tools of Arte, assigning their placements as co-ordinates in a  vehicle for the transport of Mind and Soul (not body) to the appointed destination.

Cochrane describes the Worlds and Realms of his Compass thusly:

Aetes/Anemoi: Four gods of the Cardinal winds, that herald the four seasons we now relate to them.

  • Tettens/Boreas, the North Wind, the Thrall of Winter.
  • Nod/Zephyros, the West Wind, the Herald of Autumn.
  • Luci/Euros, the East Wind, the Herald of Spring.
  • Carenos/Notos, the South Wind, Flame of Summer.

Sophisticated magical concepts from the middle and near East are rooted into generic Craft rituals. Infused over many hundreds of years, they assert a standard form. Usage determines their ingress. Most particularly we all recognise the significance of the four cardinal points which were once stellar and later attributed to the four winds. The Four Royal stars, named ‘Watchers,’ seen as guardians [eg: Kerubim] were evoked in high places – their symbols were traced in the air with torches or ritual wands [symbolising air], as their sacred names were called out.

Pulled by the call of spirit, by divine measure we traverse the narrow thread, strung upon Wyrd, the map of life and death.

The English word ‘god’ is derived from the Proto-Germanic ǥuđan as found in the 6th century Christian Codex Argenteus, and is generally accepted as the earliest written Germanic root form.  Linguists largely agree that the reconstructed ‘Proto-Indo-European’ form ǵhu-tó-m is based on the root ǵhau(ə)  meaning  ‘to call’ or ‘to invoke.’ This does of course have tremendous implications regarding the more mystical elements of our own spiritual praxis. It is the animate force or Virtue within all things, yet sourced beyond them.

A guiden- pole is a standard banner imbued with (g)odic force manifest and non-manifest as wind and the perceptible but unseen virtue of that ‘wind.’ Erected to ‘guide’ the mind-soul on its journey, these may be set-up and mounted to synergise the jump-point as a visual mnemonic for the entranced body in bi-location, in each of Five Separate ‘Rings.’ Three Rings only have been discussed in any depth (1-3-5), and two alluded to, at (2-4):


Old woman (witch or fairy) spinning. Woodcut attributed to Holbein from Boethius De consolatione philosophiae 1547

1). Cardinals – Fyfolt Cross. (Four Pointed Star)~Wisdom

2). Star Pentagram (Five Pointed Star)~Death

3). Horned Mask of Seven Stars (Reversed Pentagram) ~Life

4). The Necklace (Nine Stones Blessed Eight)~Love

5). Nodal Enneagram (Nine Pointed Star)~Maturity


1). Priestly Mysteries ~ Truth – Central Pillar/Altar & Powers Zone -All Magicks – East (Fire) –Lunar /Earth-(Skull in Reliquary) ~ Castle of the 4 Winds . Hermes is Guide

2). Male Mysteries ~ Death & Prophecy– Right Pillar/Banner – Held  & Led by Maid  – Of Mound- Highest Will – Mercy  – Chaos – Grail Mysteries ~  Martinmas  & Mound and  Skull. Saturn is Guide.

3).  Priestly Mysteries ~ Communion Grace – Life -Water (Skull in Reliquary)– Earth /Solar- Power Zone South (Earth) – Mid-Summer (Feast of St John) & Rose Beyond the Grave – Into the Void – Hekate is Guide

4). Female Mysteries ~ Law & Frith &Troth–Highest Love – Left Pillar/Banner ~ Held &Led by Magister –  Covenant & Hallows at Yule – 12th Night Moat & Maze ~ Sophia is Guide

5). Priestly Mysteries ~ Divination/Banishment/Purification/Initiation  – Power Zone North (Air) Oracular Head – Stellar/ Lunar – Cave of the Cauldron ~ Nine Norns, AegiPan is Guide.

All of these are ‘open’ (centrifugal) Horned Rings and are created counter and contra to the Hexagrammatic Circle of Six points, which having all arcs closed, maintain a defensive construct for the Magus, ensconced within his closed Circle of Arte. Balanced and mirrored on all sides, it again focuses and condenses everything within, towards its (centripetal) axis.


Nota Bene

There has been some amazing feed-back for this article, for which I am very, very grateful. Better yet, I am content in the knowledge that this work is widely seen and appreciated in its own right as the informing Egregore for CTC, a continuous and abiding Virtue.

In that regard, it is necessary to address here a misunderstanding that arose on a forum I am not a member of, and has come to me via a friend there. The matter concerns my own comment that refers to the unique innovation to the workings of Traditional Craft …and I stand by that comment. Within that context of a particular approach to the ‘mysteries’, Traditional Craft is but one modality within the greater whole of occultism.

The misunderstanding has assumed that where I say “there has been nothing like it before or since,” I inferred it within that all-inclusive field entire. I did not. The two sentences immediately following my own comment within the article make it very clear that I refer only to the spectrum of Traditional Craft and nothing else. In fact, if read carefully enough, it is clear the entire article refers to nothing else.

As a person who has always promoted the variant occult mysteries per se, including Hermetism, Hermeticism, Qabbala , Enochia, etc etc,  both as separate avenues of the Mysteries and how elements of their craft infuse and inform those of CTC.,  my appreciation and regard for them as specialisms in their own right has never been in doubt. One cannot compare their modus operandi, not in any sense. They all serve differently. Furthermore, the ability to synergise those elements within his own tradition and culture was Cochrane’s genius.

So even there it ‘could’ be argued that Cochrane’s Tradition is singular in the fact that it took those mysteries out to others,   as E. J. Jones said – “The first of his tradition to do so.” We are a closed tradition in the same way as all the afore-mentioned cults and orders of the greater mysteries’, BUT we have opened access to those mysteries in ways they have not.

Therefore, in the sense of : ‘format, form and formulae of work were and are used still in Traditional Craft, and that he opened the gates for others,  I still say,  his innovative work has not been equalled before or since.




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