Friday, 15 July 2016

Seven Tines Conference (Celebrating the Divine Masculine and Men in Paganism) London 2015


The Seven Tines Conference was an event celebrating the Divine Masculine and Men in Paganism; it was held at Treadwell’s Books in London on the 7th November 2015 and was organised by the London branch of the Pagan Federation (England and Wales).

I travelled down by train quite deliberately; as I have an interest in this subject, having contributed to the anthology ‘Call of the God: an Anthology Exploring the Divine Masculine within Modern Paganism.’ The work is edited by Frances Billinghurst and was published by Temple of the Dark Moon in the autumn of 2015 (link below).



The journey down was smooth, uneventful and pleasant, as I chatted to my fellow travellers on the train. I easily found the bookshop on foot and then moved a few doors down, to take a late breakfast at ‘The Life Goddess.’ Here I made friends with a gentleman called Richard and for a short time after the event, we were able to maintain contact through Facebook.

Since the event was organised by the London branch of the Pagan Federation, on arrival at Treadwell’s, I had the pleasure of meeting Luthaneal Adams. This young man was to be our host for the day, as we gathered in the basement room of the bookshop.


The day was dived into quarters, four presentations designed to cover as broadly as possible, differing approaches to masculine spirituality. The itinerary was Pete Jennings presenting ‘Blacksmith Gods,’ Peter Neary-Chaplin discussing ‘Male Initiation,’ David Knight presenting ‘Male Spirituality: the Masculine Principle in Paganism’ and finally John McConnel of the organisation Brahma Kumaris, with a talk entitled ‘Spirituality and Men.’


Pete Jennings, a former President of the Pagan Federation, well known within Heathen circles, is a writer, lecturer and performer on the folk circuit. Mr Jennings began his own dynamic presentation ‘Blacksmith Gods,’ with a brief overview of the historical importance of classical Gods associated with metalwork, Hephaestus and his Roman alternative, Vulcan.


After an all too brief and amusing exploration of the marital complexities of Hephaestus and Aphrodite, Mr Jennings delighted our small and rather select gathering, with an outstanding and unaccompanied rendition of that well-known English folksong, ‘The Two Magicians.’ The entire lyric of the song I post below.

‘The lady sits in her own front door
As straight as the willow wand,
And by there come a lusty smith
With a hammer in his hand.

And he said, “Bide, lady bide,
There's nowhere you can hide.
For the lusty smith will be your love
And he will lay your pride.”

“Well may you stand, you lady fair,
All in your robes of red,
But come tomorrow at this same time
I'll have you in me bed.”

And he said, “Bide, lady bide,
There's nowhere you can hide.
For the lusty smith will be your love
And he will lay your pride.”

“Away, away, you coal-black smith,
Would you do me this wrong?
To think to have my maidenhead
That I have kept so long.

“I'd rather I was dead and cold
And me body laid in the grave
Than a lusty, dusty, coal-black smith
My maidenhead should have.”

So the lady she held up her hand,
She swore upon her soul
That she'd not need the blacksmith's love
For all of a box of gold.

But the blacksmith he held up his hand
And he swore upon the mass
Saying, “I'll have you in me bed young girl
For the half of that or less.”

“Bide lady bide,
There's nowhere you can hide.
For the lusty smith will be your love
And he will lay your pride.”

So the lady she turned into a dove
And she flew up in the air;
But he became an old cock pigeon
And they flew pair and pair.

Crying, “Bide, lady bide,
There's nowhere you can hide.
For the lusty smith will be your love
And he will lay your pride.”

So the lady she turned into a hare
And she ran across the plain;
But he became a greyhound dog
And he ran her down again.

Crying, “Bide, lady bide,
There's nowhere you can hide.
For the lusty smith will be your love
And he will lay your pride.”

So she became a little mare
As dark as the night was black;
But he became a golden saddle
And he clung onto her back.

Crying, “Bide, lady bide,
There's nowhere you can hide.
For the lusty smith will be your love
And he will lay your pride.”

So she became a hot griddle
And he became a cake;
And every move that poor girl made
The blacksmith was her mate.

Crying, “Bide, lady bide,
There's nowhere you can hide.
For the lusty smith will be your love
And he will lay your pride.”

So she became a full-dressed ship
And she sailed on the sea;
But he became a bold captain
And aboard of her went he.

Crying, “Bide, lady bide,
There's nowhere you can hide.
For the lusty smith will be your love
And he will lay your pride.”

So the lady she ran into the bedroom
And she changed into a bed;
But he became a green coverlet
And he gained her maidenhead.

And was she woke he held her so
And still he bade her bide;
And the lusty smith became her love
For all her mighty pride.’

A version of the Two Magicians by Steeleye Span can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNgvzxRCyQU


Moving on from this delightful rendering of the classic, Mr Jennings very briefly explored West African beliefs and similar symbolic associations found in Hawaii. Returning to Europe and the area of his more specific expertise, he presented us with folktales in greater depth covering the tales or Volundr or Wayland, the tale of the Swan Maiden and the Dwarfs, while also explaining the difference between Wights and Dark Elves.


Leaving the Pagan or pre-Christian elements of blacksmithing behind us, we moved on to explore the Christian elements and early saints. Including the stories of Clement, Dunstan, Finbarr, holy wells, horseshoes and the shoeing of the Devil.

This section naturally led us to explore the Judaic mythology relating to fallen angels such as Azazel, the lore of Tubal Cain and briefly, the Masonic Symbolism of the Pillars of Tubal Cain themselves.


Mr Jennings presentation was fascinating, an ideal choice to open the day’s proceedings, leaving us engrossed and excitedly wanting more. His book Blacksmith Gods’ is available via Amazon. See link below.



The second presentation was given by Peter Neary-Chaplain of the Men’s Rite of Passage Organisation and his subject was ‘Male Initiation.’ This organisation originated in the USA, holds annual events in Scotland and has a growing British membership.

The Men’s Rite of Passage Organisation is a synthesis of Catholic and Native American influences, which seeks to explore the meaning of masculine spirituality outside of our modern, technologically dominated culture. Mr Neary-Chaplain explained that this was attempted by looking at the developmental stages of the male, whilst exploring the shadow and asking the question, what do we mean by humility? Noting for example; that ‘male pride’ has both positive and negative consequences, for the individual and society.

The annual event in Scotland is a communal one and seeks to both explore and reinforce these elements, by the giving up of technology. The individual is therefore, confronted by their own powerlessness whilst ‘alone’ in nature.



After lunch we reconvened for our third presentation, ‘Male Spirituality, the Masculine Principle in Paganism’ and the speaker was David Knight. Mr Knight is a well-known local figure in the Midlands and a member of OBOD. Like Mr Jennings our first speaker, he focused on British and European mythology. Like Mr Jennings he is a performer, a trained actor in fact. Therefore, like that of our first speaker, his presentation had that dynamic, theatrical element that held the attention of the audience.

Mr Jennings being a Heathen had as his primary focus, the mythology of the Norse peoples. Mr Knight being a Druid, naturally chose as his primary focus, Celtic Mythology. The two speakers, although approaching the subject of male spirituality from two slightly different points of view, very cleverly complemented each other in their choice of subjects. Congratulations to the organisers for putting such thought into the choice of line up.

Mr Knight approached the subject by questioning role models both historical and contemporary, whilst asking if it was even possible to divine the meaning of male spirituality. This led onto the subject of both imagery and gender identity within the modern Pagan Community. Indeed one important question raised, was whether the apparent focus of the Pagan Community upon the ‘Goddess,’ was responsible for Male Spirituality becoming side-lined and had the ‘God’ become a mere appendage?

Returning smoothly to Celtic Mythology, Mr Knight took us into the world of Arthurian legend, including the sword as a representation of Sovereignty. Here we were treated to a brief review of that famous mythological concept, the Loathly Lady. This model is found within the story of Gawain and that well-known folksong, King Henry. One of my favourite renditions of that song being the Steeleye Span recording.

Cleverly and naturally, the sword was used as a bridge and provided a link to the oft forgotten stone, which is itself an important symbol of fertility. This in turn led to a discussion regarding the conceptual patterns of the Skyfather and the Earthmother.

These particular elements of the presentation were of particular importance to me; as such symbolic concepts as the Loathly Lady, Sovereignty, the Sword and the Stone, influence my own thoughts.

In closing his presentation and binding various threads into a cohesive whole, Mr Knight introduced us to his own perception of masculine development. These he proposed as three stages, the Seeker, the Master and the Sage, illustrating his point with examples from Irish Mythology.

Finally Mr Knight asked what the future held for the Divine Masculine and Male Spirituality; are we male, female or simply, human?


The fourth and final talk of the day was ‘Spirituality and Men’ and was given by John McConnel of Brahma Kumaris. In the same way that the presentations of Mr Jennings and Mr Knight complemented each other, this presentation was an ideal match for the earlier presentation by Mr Neary-Chaplain.

Mr McConnel is a former prison governor who having left that profession, went on to become a social worker. His approach was to examine what is and what is meant by self-awareness, noting for example; “that when I (or we) change, the world will change.”

A recognition that men are human, indeed half of what makes up our human society was iterated here. This led us onto the question of gender roles and changing roles. What is the role of men in a modern society? Do modern men suffer from emotional isolation? Yet we could have asked, does modern society force emotional isolation onto both sexes?

I am not one for group exercises but this last speaker of the day introduced one as an end to his presentation. We were told to list sixteen ideally one word statements that described ourselves. We were given two minutes to do this and we were timed. This is actually quite difficult, I just made it but not everyone in the room did. We were then told that if we had not passed ten, then we did not know ourselves. Now that is interesting and surprisingly, I had passed that acceptable benchmark.

Then we were told to cross off certain categories, such as gender, job, hobbies, faith and roles. This left many with very few and some such as myself with none. I did have ‘Sad’ on my list actually but I was told that as an emotion, that should have been crossed off as part of another category. I was being brutally honest here, the ending of a long-term and meaningful relationship, had left me very low in mood.

I had nothing left but the organiser suggested that anyone in the room who knew me should offer a descriptor. Pete Jennings said ‘Activist’ which was technically a role anyway but I liked it. David Knight suggested that I am ‘Perceptive’ and that I am also a ‘Gentleman.’ The gentleman called Richard, who I had earlier had lunch with, suggested ‘Creative.’ Another whose name I did not know and who I had only met briefly, described me as extraordinarily ‘Polite.’

The point of the exercise was to leave us with a positive descriptor. The result is quite interesting as it shows or rather illustrates, how we as individuals are perceived by others, perhaps in direct contradiction to our own self view. I am not sure that I or everyone who knows me however, would necessarily agree with these very positive five descriptors.

Our own self-perception and our self-awareness, are influenced by a combination of factors within the social environment, political, cultural and familial. What this exercise illustrated is obvious, our own self-opinion does not necessarily agree with the perception that others will have of us. For good or ill, our sense of self is influenced by many outside factors and how we see ourselves, does not always match the view that others may have of us.


The event was well organised and very well hosted, so as the day drew to a close, I was able to reflect on how the four presentations had merged. We had witnessed a cohesive whole, divided into paired complementary approaches to the male perspective of spirituality and Paganism. Almost seamless.

I was I admit, concerned at one point during the day, when I suspected the discussions may drift into an unnecessary apology for being male. I was thankful this did not happen and that the presentations avoided that trap.

I returned home with a positive opinion of the day, the speakers and indeed, the attendees. Noting the comments made by one of those attending, who recognising the knowledge of those present, stated that the day had been a gathering of peers.


OTHER RELEVANT BLOGS







Saturday, 9 July 2016

I HEAR YOUR SILENCE BY AUTUMN WINCHESTER


I hear your silence.
And My memory is long
The pain flows deep.
Foundations like the roots that run the length
Of the ancient oak trees,
From which my ancestors hung;
From which the future will hang again.
What is absence, but a clumsy word to forgive what is not
So many words to explain disappearance
Yet too little perspective to truly understand
What is vanishing, a word to describe Empty
It is what it is not
When you no longer hold it in your hand
When it isn't in your pocket
When your memory fails
When the song is over
When forgiveness prevails
When that part of you was part of we;
But I took mine back so there's only me.
Is it longing or death or sorcery?
The fire now only ashes and smoke,
Carried high on the winds of misery and hope.

Autumn Winchester © 8th July 2016


Wednesday, 6 July 2016

SONG OF THE ROSE BY SAPPHO (ATTRIBUTED)



If Zeus chose us a King of the flowers in his mirth,
He would call to the rose, and would royally crown it;
For the rose, ho, the rose! Is the grace of the earth,
Is the light of the plants that are growing upon it!
For the rose, ho, the rose! Is the eye of the flowers,
Is the blush of the meadows that feel themselves fair,
Is the lightning of beauty, that strikes through the bowers,
On pale lovers that sit in the glow unaware.
Ho, the rose breathes of love! Ho, the rose lifts the cup,
To the red lips of Cypris invoked for a guest!
Ho, the rose having curled its sweet leaves for the world,
Takes delight in the motion its petals keep up,
As they laugh to the wind as it laughs from the west.


Song of the Rose by Sappho (attributed) translation by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.


Tuesday, 28 June 2016

SCRIBBLES, SCORCH MARKS AND SCRIBED SYMBOLS


On the 9th of March 2016 I travelled to Sheffield for a talk on so called Witch Marks. In this case, not marks made by witches or even those made by the Devil and placed on witches. No, these were marks made to deter witches and to defend against witchcraft. Having seen a rather fine example of the ‘daisy’ form at Little Moreton Hall in Cheshire, placed opposite the fireplace to prevent witches from entering the building down it, I found this subject to be of personal interest.


The talk, ‘Scribbles, Scorch Marks and Scribed Symbols’ was to be given by Andy Bentam at Bishops’ House. This charming, quaint Tudor, wood framed building is situated in Meersbrook Park of Norton Lees and is something of a little known treasure. An historical and aesthetic gem. The area itself is now a suburb of Sheffield but was only a few centuries ago, part of northern Derbyshire.


The building dates from the early sixteenth century and is a two story farmstead type building, not as grand as Little Moreton Hall but far above that of a peasant’s cottage. This was the home of a yeomanry family, landholding farmers that would eventually join the gentry and receive a grant of arms. This family of early owners were called Blythe. A remarkable local family that served at the Tudor court, produced two bishops in the form of two brothers. One brother became Bishop of Salisbury and Chancellor of Cambridge University, the other became Bishop of Lichfield, Coventry and Chester. High flyers indeed.


Arriving with friends from Sheffield, I was able to view the house in the semi darkness and standing on the hill, look across the city, lit up as it was on a clear night. Stepping inside we met up with friends from Nottingham, although there was some confusion here. One of my friends habitually travels with his Bengal and for a few moments, there was a discussion as to whether this qualified or not as a disabled companion animal. Once the guide cat was accepted however, we were able to enter and view the building.


The interior of the house is sparse to allow room for events but has exhibits of a local interest situated on both floors. This includes a room set up for a meal, a scold’s bridle upstairs and some attractive seventeenth century furniture. The timber framing and other items of interest, would form a subject for part of the talk.


Andy Bentam is a Peak Park Ranger and in the course of his work in the Peak District, he has come across many unusual marks left on the woodwork of several medieval and Tudor buildings. This fired his interest, encouraging him to begin documenting their occurrence in Derbyshire and the border counties of the Peak District.

This short but highly informative slideshow presentation, barely touched the surface that could have been explored. It was a taster, an overview of the fascinating apotropaic activities across the nearby Peakland. I could have listened to this man for hours and delved further into this ‘enchanting’ subject, the slides and his commentary were an absolute delight. Never before had I realised that such treasures lay hidden on my doorstep. Although admittedly and unfortunately, many are not accessible to the public. Mr Bentam’s professional activities gain him access to halls and houses, which your average member of the National Trust is not privy to.


Mr Bentam explained with obvious enthusiasm, that these apotropaic markings are divided broadly into two forms, although these two broad divisions can be divided further by the experts. In the basic form the two types are either of a straight line, scored in the wood or an actual graphic design, usually a daily or sun wheel. However, neither is easily identifiable in all cases and those consisting of straight lines are sometimes confused with construction marks and obviously, visa versa.


Indeed that last point was very important. Many construction and levelling marks can be found on the timber frames of building of this age. They were a common and necessary part of the building process. A timber frame would often be assembled and adjusted at a builder’s yard, the marks identified up and down, left, right and which part joined with another. Later when the frame was erected in situ, these marks would identify the correct order and assemblage. Rather like a giant flat packed wardrobe from Ikea. I can only hope that all the parts were there and the instructions in clear terms.


Many construction marks consisting as they do, of a series of straight lines, scored on the outer visible service of the frames, are mistaken for Marion marks. These marks consist of four lines placed to form the letter M. It is suggested that they are a charm calling upon the Blessed Virgin for protection. It is important to note that apotropaic marks habitually date from before the Reformation, they are of a predominately Catholic meaning and this would obviously include the crucifix type mark. Sometimes, possibly in representation of the Holy Trinity, such marks are grouped in a unit of three.


The second form of mark is the daisy or sun wheel type, often geometrically perfect and formed using the traditional joiner’s tools. An attractive design that is both reminiscent of the Pennsylvania Dutch or more correctly, Deutche hex-marks and symbols found (am I told) in Slavic indigenous religion.


Once the presentation had ended we were as a group, able to explore the building itself. Bishops’ House has dozens of visible construction, carpenter’s or builder’s marks. There are equally of interest to those wishing to view the apotropaic marks, deliberate scorch marks on some of the doors. It was pointed out to us how clearly, by viewing the shape of the scorch mark; that they had been made with obvious intent. The shape suggested a candle had been held close to the wooden surface of the door, for a considerable length of time. It is believed that such scorch marks were placed to protect the house from fire and possibly lightning.


Of particular interest were the daisy marks, as Bishops’ House has on three of the ground floor doors, over fifty documented examples of these wheels. Many are small and difficult to see, many others are quite clear and distinct.


My trip was both enjoyable and educational, I came away with a list of further reading and an appreciation for the craft of the timber frame builder that I lacked before. I recommend to anyone visiting Sheffield to call at Bishops’ House if they can, noting that the Friends of Bishops’ House Trust regularly hold activities, lectures and displays.


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An illustrated guide to Bishops’ House is available from the Friends of Bishops’ House Trust.


Saturday, 25 June 2016

MIDSUMMER ADVENTURES 2016 PART TWO

Late on Monday the 20th of June, post our Sunday ritual and when most of the residue had been cleaned and tidied away. Our minds turned towards the possibility of a trip or pilgrimage for the 21st. It was eventually decided that the Hearth Defender and myself would travel to Wiltshire to observe the sunrise. We set off later than planned, at three o’clock in the morning.

We had several options open, including paying the excessive parking charge at Stonehenge or choosing an alternative location. The Hearth Defender has a particular fondness for Barbury Castle, an Iron Age hill fort in Wiltshire, one of several ‘hills with lumpy bits’ as I call them, that lie in that area and a pleasing alternative venue.

Our approach to the general area was complicated by a somewhat unreasonable ‘satnav,’ that sent us in a circle and caused us some slight delay. This delay and detour however, led us by chance to enjoy walking across the road in front of us and only a few yards away from the car, the sight of a muntjac deer. The early hour naturally meant that there was little traffic and the wildlife took full advantage of that situation.


Our delay also led to our observing the sunrise from a country lane, situated between two of these ‘hills with lumpy bits.’ We saw a most spectacular sunrise come over the top of one such hill and directly opposite as expected, a truly gorgeous full moon setting over the brow of the other.


Wisely ignoring the ‘satnav’ and driving by memory, we eventually pulled into the carpark at Barbury Castle and set off through the mist to find the ramparts. It was here overlooking a flat meadow with the enclosure behind us and to the accompaniment of skylarks; that we held our short observance, sharing a horn of mead. We then set off to walk the ramparts and spent an hour enjoying the fine views of the surrounding landscape.


The morning was quite beautiful, neither too warm nor cold, with a light mist slowly dissipating as the sun rose higher. Whilst walking the ramparts and on the walk back to the car, we were able to appreciate the peace and beauty of the Country Park. We were the only people present, seeing our first jogger as we approached the carpark. Having already delighted in observing skylarks and other birds that we had difficulty in identifying, we enjoyed watching buzzards, whitethroats and yellowhammers.


Returning to the car and it still being quite early, we set off not in search of lunch but breakfast. We drove through the rolling Wiltshire country, into and through Avebury, out past two white horses and on to Devizes. Devizes is an attractive town and we eventually found ourselves in the Bear Hotel being served by extraordinarily polite staff. These included an African gentleman by the name of Charley, who carried a permanent smile and an air of exceeding good humour.


The walk back to the car enabled us to explore the market, picking up a rather attractive circular board carved with a Tinners’ Hare design and a set of roebuck tines. We then set off proper for Avebury, clutching my National Trust membership so we would get ‘free postage’ once there. I was tired but the Defender knew I meant free parking.


Parking up and gathering our necessaries we set off for the circle, crossing the road and walking down a short lane, to climb the steps and enter the bank from the National Trust complex side. Here as is ‘traditional’ I gave three blasts upon the horn to mark our setting off. We then began our stroll amongst the stones in a deosil (clockwise) direction.


Leaving the Swindon Road stone we again crossed the road to approach the Cove. This magnificent structure hints at what the Avebury could have looked like before the removal of other stones, as the Cove is now only two stones of what was a larger feature. Here talking to other visitors, I permitted people to try the horn and then persuading a couple to stand with their palms on the larger stone, I demonstrated the resonance of the sound wave from the Cove, when the horn is blown in that direction. The vibrations are tangible and the bounce back, clearly experienced. In the distance but not too far away, we would hear the reply of another horn. A not uncommon occurrence at gatherings such as this.


Walking along the fence on a very conveniently mowed path, we re-joined the ring and paused to admire the so called ‘Catstone.’ Then progressing further, we came upon a group of young men and women, gathered about and sitting upon one of the larger stones. It transpired that the replying horn was a didgeridoo and so we stopped to chat, allowing two of their number to experiment with my instrument while I took snapshots. I declined to attempt the didgeridoo however, experience has taught me not to, as I find the breathing technique extraordinarily difficult.


Making our way across the next road, we climbed the outer bank by the famous Avebury ash-grove, stopping to admire the views and take more snapshots. The surveyed a ‘pleasing prospect’ as William Stukeley would have said. To one side of us a rolling meadow, climbing up to the low hills and ‘hedgehogs’ on the horizon A hedgehog being the local county name for a tumulus topped with a copse. On the other side, we looked down into the great bowl of Avebury, with the assorted stones and markers sweeping away towards the village proper.


Descending into the bowl we broke with tradition and rather than walk through the stones, skirted around the edge to approach the Kingstone Marker, from whence we departed the circle through the stones to cross to the final quarter of our walk. Here passing over the St. Michael Line we made our way to the final stone, here as is our want and in accordance with tradition, I signalled the end of our stroll with three more blasts upon the horn.


Time was catching up but it was not yet lunchtime, so we retraced our steps down the lane to the National Trust complex and visited the museums. The first I found a little disappointing, as it is really more an activity centre for children somewhat younger than ourselves but it did include some interesting snippets and its merit should not be disregarded. The examination of the internal structure of the barn itself held some interest for us and we could appreciate that a family group could spend considerable time exploring the displays.


We then moved to the second museum which was far more historically interesting, containing as it did some magnificent artefacts and displays. Of particular interest to me were the examples of pottery. I simply adore pottery, stylish mugs, cups and bowls. If they are hand thrown, then all the better. So to see such fine examples of Iron Age work, both plain and decorated, was something of a delight.


A display of unique interest, was a depiction of the construction of the circle made by Alexander Keiller for when his private museum first opened. Keiller was one of the first to undertake a proper archaeological survey of Avebury and many of the items on display originated in his collection. This particular item dating from 1938 was a museum artefact in its own right, adding a certain continuity to the arrangements.


Leaving the museum complex we returned to the circle, taking our position a little way from the St. Michael Line on a conveniently mowed spot. Here we faced a stone with the sun directly in line above, to hold our noon observance (local time 1.08pm approximately). This once again served as an excuse for a blast upon the horn and the necessary sharing of mead


Gathering ourselves together with our few items, we departed the circle and once again as is our tradition, settled down for lunch in the Red Lion. Here post meal we chatted to interested tourists who seemed quite enamoured by the day, the horn and our clothing. They don’t see many people wearing cloaks apparently. One couple even wanted to pose for photographs with us. Naturally we consented, it would have been rude not to.


Leaving the Red Lion we did our usual and yes traditional tour of the shops. Again stopping to talking to passes by and teach people how to give a blast on the horn. A group of French visitors expressed an interest in my wooden pendant, having spotted it when I had removed my green cloak in the pub. I noted significantly, than one gentleman in the group wore a Templar Cross signet ring.


Leaving Avebury behind us, we began our journey home to the Midlands, at first a totally uneventful experience, with the added joy of spotting red kites from the car. Unfortunately in attempting to negotiate the Oxford ring road we missed a turning, drove through the city centre and found ourselves heading in the general direction of Gloucester. This was not what we had planned.


We doubled back, joined the correct road and finally pulled in a Little Chef north of Oxford. This once again was a traditional stopping off point and it is famous in our circles, as the spot where the Most Ancient and Venerable Order of the Skylark and Hawthorne was founded in 2006. It would take far too long for me to explain the significance of our Order but one can clearly see how ancient we are, predating the foundation several of supermarkets in the local area.


Leaving Oxford behind once more, we set off north and homeward bound, passing close to Coventry as we did so. Although I am not absolutely certain on that last point, as we may have strayed from our route a second time.


Returning home at the end of a long, tiring and rewarding day, we could reflect that the day was almost like old times. Right down to the detours, remembering that we once set off for Penzance, changed our minds and went to Southampton instead. Like old times however, we had truly experienced a Solstice from dawn, through noon to dusk, touching the land as part of our journey.



Midsummer Adventures 2016 Part One


Another relevant blog:


The Bear Hotel


The Alexander Keiller Museum