Sunday, 23 July 2017

MIDSUMMER 2017

“We will remember, we who dwell,
In this land beneath the trees,
The starlight on the Western Seas.”
J.R.R. Tolkein


As usual and not at all unexpectedly, the Midsummer week of 2017 was for us of the Hearth of the Turning Wheel, a busy one. I had taken a week of annual leave, as had the Defender of the Hearth and this allowed us some flexibility in our arrangements throughout that week. The month itself was finally justified in its epithet of ‘flaming.’ The sun rode high, gardens were full of colour and the countryside was beautifully rich in its own tapestry of hues.


The day of the Solstice was Wednesday the 21st of June 2017 with the sun entering Cancer at 5.24am British Summer Time. It was therefore decided that our ritual observance would take place on the eve of the Solstice and this ran smoothly, with members of the Inner Court and one of our members in waiting in attendance.


The opening invitation of the ritual itself, acknowledges that our gathering was one of anticipation:

“We approach the time when daylight reigns. The Sun God rules strong in his manhood and the land is bathed in glory. Our Gods stand together and as one nurture our land. The grain ripens, the fruit swells; the earth is fertile and full. On this day as the solstice approaches, we ask the Gods to join us.”


The Solstice dawn is an exciting and wonderful experience, it can be a moment of remarkable tranquillity. Our ritual attempts to anticipate this with the inclusion of selected poetry, ranging from modern authors such as Duff, to Tolkien, Kipling and Shakespeare. The Solstices are ideally suited for poetic interludes.


Amongst these interludes is a piece specially written for the Hearth of the Turning Wheel by our Defender of the Hearth. This ‘Lament to Baldur’ is set to the tune of Greensleeves and captures the sorrow felt at the loss of the Bright One.


We of the Hearth have a particular affinity for the Fairy Triad of Oak, Ash and Thorn, this is reflected both in our choice of poetry and often our choice of decoration for rituals. When out of doors may we gravitate towards places where this Triad can be found together and the day after the ritual, we would be looking for such locations on our visit to the Derbyshire Peak District.


“We call Oak and Ash and Thorn,
To bless our circle drawn.
We call Oak and Ash and Thorn,
To guard our circle drawn.
Of all the trees that grow so fair,
Greater are none beneath the Sun,
Than Oak and Ash and Thorn.”
R. Kipling.


Although the predominant decoration for our ritual would be oak, acknowledging that the power of the Oak King is at its apex. One single twig of Holly is placed on the edge of our working area. This is in recognition that although the Summer King reigns, the Winter King now begins his climb to the throne.


“Herein lies wisdom, beauty and increase, without this, folly, age and cold decay.” Shakespeare.


The next day three of us travelled to the Peak District with the aim of an early lunch and an observance planned to coincide with local noon. We meandered through attractive villages, such as Wensley, Winster; the home of the Market House that has the remarkable distinction of being the very first acquisition of the National Trust in 1906 and accidentally, the village of Elton.


Driving past our eventual destination of Robin Hood’s Stride we found our way to the village of Birchover and the amusingly named ‘Druid’s Inn.’ This two hundred year old stone building is an attractive and welcoming hostelry, famous for both its name and its menu. Here we partook of an early lunch, rather fancy sandwiches, a half pint of refreshing nectar and met the locals, free-range chickens and fellow Pagans from Sheffield.


Next to the Druid is one of several rocky outcrops that are found along the edge of the moors and this is now the site of a Victorian folly. Rowter Rocks is a series of caves and the rocks that still bear carvings many thousands of years old. Sadly the Victorian fashion for quaint improvement got out of hand here and picturesque additions have all but destroyed the archaeological context. Even the ancient Rocking Stone is a replacement, fixed in position for safety.


We did not have time to explore the rocks, although it is certainly a place worth visiting. A link to a post describing one of my previous visits is below. Nor unfortunately was I able to show my friends the curious carvings remounted into the rear wall of the nearby chapel but again, there is a link below to a post that includes photographs.


Leaving the convivial atmosphere of the Druid’s Inn we drove back along our original route, parking across from the bridleway. From here we walked the incline towards this famous Derbyshire feature. Legend has it that Robin Hood could stand on one pinnacle and stretch his leg across to the other, so measuring one of his strides. A remarkable feat, a giant of a man indeed.


As is often the case at the more popular sites in the Peaks, we found ourselves in a queue to conduct our own ceremony, another group had arrived before us and were already at work. We settled down therefore, to admire the view.


I was surprised to find that those ahead of us were known to me, a group from the Nottingham area and a dog. They are members of the Facebook group ‘Significant Dates at Significant Places,’ which consists of people who will embark on trips to sites of meaning and significance to hold rites on the festival dates. I include a link to this group below.


Once they had finished their activities we spent a short time chatting, my horn being something of an ‘objet de fascination.’ In the valley we could see buzzards circling, slowly gaining eight on the warm air. Then we saw the most amazing sight, too far away and too quick to get a useable photograph. A peregrine falcon dived upon a buzzard and began to drive the larger bird away. The ferocity, speed and acrobatic skill of the smaller bird was impressive, indeed we as a group were somewhat awed. My last sighting of a peregrine was in May, when we had attended the Garland Ceremony in Castleton.


After this unexpected display we waved off our fellow travellers, as they had to make their way to Matlock and we busied ourselves preparing the area for our own simple rite. This was very minimalistic indeed, with bread and mead. They and their dispensers; a dish and a chalice, were the contents of a small rucksack.


Leaving the remains of our communal meal as offerings on a nearby ledge, we made our way down from the rocks towards the Harthill Moor proper. Here at the base of the tor that is Robin Hood’s Stride, I was lucky enough to see a stoat run across the footpath ahead of us, no doubt chasing a rabbit. There are rabbits and even hares aplenty in the area.


Making our way steadily across the flat meadows of the moor and now starting to feel the heat of the day, we approached the tallest stone circle in Derbyshire. This grouping of four stones is perfectly placed in the most attractive of panoramic scenery. Nestled close to a dry stone wall and a magnificent oak tree, it is one of the most charming stone circles anyone could imagine.


This stone circle has several names and this variety does cause some confusion. One name is Nine Stones Close and that name is shared by another charming circle that I have visited, near Winterbourne Abbas in Dorset. That circle is itself sometimes known as the Nine Ladies and therefore, shares its name with another famous Derbyshire stone circle, this time not on Harthill Moor but Stanton Moor.


An alternative name for the Nine Stones Close of Derbyshire is the Grey Ladies, which I personally prefer. Legend says that these stones dance and it has been suggested that the name ‘nine’ when used in association with stone circles, may actually refer to noon.


Today there are only four of the Grey Ladies standing in their approximate original positions, a fifth is set into the dry stone wall to the south. The missing four were most likely broken up over the centuries, their remains may now lie in the nearby wall.


We spent a short and enjoyable time viewing the stones, all three of us finding ourselves attracted to their pleasant position and general atmosphere. Unlike the more famous circle on Stanton Moor, which is set in a harsh and rather rough landscape. These stones had a certain friendliness about them, a lightness perhaps created by being set in a rich and fertile landscape.


The Defender of the Hearth taking out his rods, set about a little dowsing, teaching our companion the technique as he did so. He felt he could identify the most likely original location of the missing stones, noting that one possible vacant spot, lay between two of those still standing. When placed near the wall however, it was noted that he received confusing and indeed very mixed signals that at first made little sense, if any at all. I helpfully suggested that this could be a spot where remains of the other four stones may now lie, broken up as part of that wall and this seemed a satisfactory possibility to the conundrum of the mixed signals.


Our trip to the Peak District was now drawing to an end, we meandered our way back to the main footpath near the Stride and then made our way down the hill to the road. I stopped briefly to appreciate once more the spectacular Derbyshire landscape and to photograph exquisite wild roses. Sadly we did not have time to explore the nearby outcrop and the medieval hermitage. Like Rowter Rocks in Birchover, my return to both sites will have to wait for another visit.


Our Hearth activities for the week were not yet over, the day after the solstice we held our irregular but usually monthly moot at the Exeter Arms in Derby. We were honoured to welcome guests from Cheshire and Staffordshire, the latter couple making their first (but I hope not their only) visit.


In the more than convivial atmosphere of a town pub, so quaintly and curiously decorated, that it would be more at home in a country village. We held a small, informal social gathering, enjoying good food, fine drink and equally fine conversation.


All things considered, this was a rather pleasant and appropriate ending to our three days of Hearth of the Turning Wheel activities. There was a meeting of minds and hearts before, at and after a time of deep significance. Perhaps a recognition that ‘hearth’ has a meaning all of its own?


“From fairest creatures we desire increase; that thereby beauty’s rose might never die.” Shakespeare.


SIGNIFICANT LINKS

Midsummer Adventures Part One

Midsummer Adventures Part Two

Significant Dates at Significant Places

The Summer Solstice

Rowter Rocks

Nine Stones Close/Grey Ladies

Buzzards, boulders and the return of the May Queen #1

Buzzards, boulders and the return of the May Queen #2

Buzzards, boulders and the return of the May Queen #3


REFERENCES

Duff G. (2002) The wheel of the Wiccan year. Rider, London.
Kipling R. (1906) Puck of Pook’s Hill.
Tolkein J.R.R. (1955) The return of the King.
Shakespeare W. (1609) The sonnets.
Shakespeare W. (nd.) A Midsummer nights’ dream.



Friday, 14 July 2017

Truth


What can we do? What can we say?
The Truth cannot be expressed in words alone.
The world ever turns and we are all at sea.
Yet the Truth is the light that like a beacon;
Will guide us safely to harbour.

Daniel Bran Griffith the Chattering Magpie © 2017

Friday, 23 June 2017

HERITAGE AND THE POETIC VISION OF ROBERT COCHRANE (NOTTINGHAM SATURDAY 25th JUNE 2016)


June 2016 saw the fiftieth anniversary of the tragic death of a remarkable individual, a man who posthumously was to become perhaps the most influential figure in Traditional Witchcraft and Occult thought, during the latter decades of the twentieth century. That man whose real name was Roy Bowers, is better known today under his pseudonym Robert Cochrane. Although one should add the qualification that Cochrane slipped into a coma on Midsummer Eve and did not actually pass until the 3rd of July 1966. Since he did not regain consciousness however, many mark that date as his ‘symbolic’ death. He was thirty five years old.

Founder of the People of the Goda, the Clan of Tubal Cain this man wrote no books and during his brief life, only a few of his articles saw print. He is today known through the famous letters written to Bill Gray, Joseph Wilson and Norman Gills, available online and in print. His influence however, extends far beyond the available works. Through the continued existence of the Clan and his unpublished manuscripts, his memory still serves as a candle in the darkness. A lamp that guides those who seek to explore the deeper mysteries.


On Saturday the 25th of June (2016) an event of enormous import took place in the English city of Nottingham. Heritage and the Poetic Vision of Robert Cochrane (Heritage for short) was in fact a series of linked events, each following on from the other. The first being an invitation only event to sixty carefully chosen individuals. This happy few, this band of brothers (and sisters), included not only Clan supporters and friends; this gathering included in its number the luminaries of the Craft and the Occult environment in Britain today. A somewhat smaller number were unable to attend and had sent their apologies. I had a small role to play in the organisation and running of the event, this included acting as one of the ushers on the day.


Gathering at the majestic conference rooms of the Galleries of Justice, a large, ornate and stylish venue, the private part of the day began post lunch at approximately two o’clock. Here in this room, with selected Clan artefacts and regalia on display, four lectures by Clan members were to be presented. The object to celebrate the heritage of the Clan, its place within the modern Craft movement and to look to the future.


The opening speaker was Louis Bourbon with a presentation titled ‘the Faith and Legacy of the Clan of Tubal Cain.’ Mr Bourbon read selected passages from the works of the Clan founder, interspaced with the necessary commentary. Our speaker made the observation that this event was the first joint and unified Clan action of its kind. Further noting that like the Cochrane material, there is a perceived and tangible difference between public material and private letters never meant to be made public.

What the Craft is and what the Craft does are two points difficult to explain, as understanding comes with doing. Mr Bourbon was to expand on this theme by explaining the significance of poetry within the Clan and the poetic insights that enlighten our personal gnosis, whilst referencing both Shakespeare and Graves. Noting that although much of the White Goddess may be dismissed, the inspired core elements remain valid.

Moving to further expand the subject, Mr Bourbon spoke of the symbolism hidden within verse, children’s rhymes and other poetic forms, dismissing another contemporary writer on Clan matters (an outside observer and not a Clan member) as having presented a ‘hodge podge’ work based upon misunderstood teachings. The matter of Poetic Vision, insight, allegory and metaphor, they were to become the core themes of the entire afternoon.

The gentleman continued with a brief question regarding of the place of Wicca within the Traditional Craft, noting that they are in fact two quite distinct movements, valid but not conjoined. Interspaced here were historical observances, the matter that the operations of the wise-woman and the cunning-man were solitary and not coven based. Even leaving the question of whether there is any connection between the Italian Craft and Wicca, hanging almost unanswered.

Making a deeply philosophical observation that ‘we cannot lie to the Gods and we cannot lie to ourselves,’ Mr Bourbon took a wider perspective from this point, throwing in questions regarding Cabbalistic influences upon the Craft, the Dark Goddess, the Old Man and the place of totems, whilst drawing a link between for example, the Stag of Seven Tines and the Stang.

Drawing a correspondence across symbolism, linking the idea of a virgin and the wise-woman with the virtue of compassion, we were reminded that nothing is ever purely good nor evil. That the Goddess is multifaceted, black and white, both light and dark. Examining the concept of Truth we observe that the Godhead contains both masculine and feminine elements, yet what of the Truth within?

Introducing esoteric Christian symbolism into an already heady mix, we beheld Christ as a Witch or Magician, observing that the Crucifixion can in allegorical themes, be regarded as the Sacrifice of the Divine King. Christ was obviously the true Christian and all that has followed, are variations upon his current.

This led us to the final part of Mr Bourbon’s most enlightening presentation, a discussion of spirit flight and the vision of a naked woman on horseback. This patently suggests Godiva as a Goddess and by returning to our theme of poetic insight, we are able to draw links with our Lady of Banbury.


Our second speaker was Shani Oates, the Maid of the Clan of Tubal Cain and whose talk was titled ‘the Rites and Rights of Truth.’ Here in this presentation, the Maid was to discuss the influence of Evan John Jones, the link between herself and Cochrane, whilst seeking to examine Clan history, lore, law and the alleged influences of others outside of the Clan.

The Maid began with an appreciative acknowledgment of the work of her late predecessor Evan John Jones, who took up the mantle of Magister of the Clan after the death of Robert Cochrane, via his widow. This led not unnaturally onto an examination of roles within the Clan and the Craft, including those that may be regarded as gender specific.

Referencing her own work (Star Crossed Serpent volume 3) and that of Doreen Valiente (Rebirth of Witchcraft); the Maid discussed the Pharaonic matrilineal descent of ancient Egypt, as a historical example of the heterogeneous transference of virtue. The partnership of Magister and Lady, together with the role of the Lady, may differ in the Clan and other Traditionalist groups, from those with other origins and influences. Although the genders are equal and although the woman does not lead, the male leads on a woman’s sufferance or licence. There is a subtle difference between The Lady and a lady, the former does not for example renew her vows.

Discussing the transference of Virtue, we note that power may not be tangible but while residing within, may only await a trigger. In discussing Robert Cochrane; we observe that his methodology could using modern terminology, be described as ‘shamanistic.’ Words convey an idea but rites can differ. Rituals change in the process of performance and perhaps that change is in ways less obvious, than a simple deviation from any script. “You are all and I am nothing.”

In referencing incidents from Clan history the Maid touched on areas of controversy, sensitivity and hurt. How the Regency declined Clan membership and how its members would eventually disown Cochrane. Finally and most timely the Maid spoke of chants, the Mill and Crossing the river. Asking us two thought provoking questions; “What do you hope to gain and do you want to die?”


The third speaker of the day was Robin the Dart, husband of the Maid and Magister of the Clan of Tubal Cain. His presentation began in a mildly socialist tone and perhaps an earthier one, when compared to the previous two but would again return to the themes of insight, allegory and metaphor. Titled ‘the Mask of Tubal Cain’ he sought to explore the duties and responsibilities of ancestry.

Speaking of the Craft as the preserve of the ‘humble peasant’ and as an expression of unity in a society of lords and serfs, Robin the Dart emphasised that there is no ownership of the mysteries. Truth is a difficult creature to capture, my Truth may not be your Truth, each of us must find our own way and each may have their own way. I found myself asking, is this the Crooked Path, that meandering search for the muse? It leads to that perennial question and to the words of Pilate when addressing Christ; “What is Truth?”

Robin the Dart then moved or rather returned to the themes of insight and poetic vision, observing that we have a duty and a responsibility to the Ancestors, however we may define that term. That the essence within myth is eternal, that the light of Truth shines through World Mythology and that this light is a harsh light. It exposes truth and wisdom, our honesty and our faults.

Matters pertaining to ethical living, personal integrity and observations that ‘we are what we do,’ served to guide us onwards to deeper questions. Noting that Robert Cochrane was part of that post-war generation that felt something had been lost and therefore, sought to rediscover. This leads not unnaturally to questions of cultural and historical belonging, lineage and family, the clan, the tribe and the place of a tutelary deity.

Linking this with family, faith and culture within the context of the Clan of Tubal Cain, Robin the Dart asked a question somewhat unnerving. Today, is part of the Craft nothing more than window dressing? The Gods need no temple.

Approaching the denouement of his presentation, Robin the Dart spoke of Yggdrasil, the stang and the stream of a tradition, noting briefly social distinctions, regional variations in Staffordshire and the Warren Code, imploring us to overcome our weakness and to defeat our fear. “Whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad.”

Myth is the eternal Truth and although religion erroneously teaches us that spirituality is dead, the path of true gnosis, is when reaching the Divine becomes the primary objective. Comfort is an illusion, yet we are all bound under Law, the virtues of Honour and of Mercy. Love is truly divine and we must announce the Word over the lie. Those that are of the Blood will hear the call. Truly, I do wish this man would speak (and write) more often.


The fourth presentation was given by Ulric “Gestumblindi” Goding, the Tanist of the Clan of Tubal Cain and therefore, the heir apparent. Titled ‘Wisdom’s Embrace: Living Craft and Upholding Tradition,’ the speaker was to discuss living the Old Craft, its gifts of hope, wisdom and its relevance. Unfortunately I had to leave the assembly at this point, having as part of my usher duties an errand at our second venue. I provide below a link to a transcript of Ulric’s presentation:



Our second venue of the day was the Old Salutation Inn on Maid Marion Way. This ancient building dating back to the thirteenth century, is one of the oldest buildings in the city. The cellar caves underneath date to the ninth century and are something of a historical feature. After providing the staff with suitable music in the form of an assortment of themed folk CDs, it was here in the wood panelled Cromwell Snug that I set out the tables. This was for the public phase of the event and to provide an area for the Maid to sign her published works.


The event today marked the publication of three new works published by the Clan of Tubal Cain. ‘Heritage’ is an anthology of writings by the People of the Goda (the Clan itself) and explores its evolution. ‘Tubal’s Mill: the round of life’ is an account of the Robert Cochrane Tradition written by Shani Oates, the Maid of the Clan of Tubal Cain. To accompany that work there is a third publication ‘Tubal’s Mill: Legacy.’ This work being a collection of relevant scanned documents. I took photographs of all three and they are with the rest of the works of Shani Oates, available via Amazon or Mandrake of Oxford.


Making my way to the caves, allegedly haunted and certainly mysterious, I began our preparations for the ‘Sumbel’ later. Here in the intriguing and atmospheric caves, I lit some two hundred candles and a hoodlamp. Placing them on various ledges and in the many nooks, to hopefully provide the necessary light for the ceremonies later. I had an hour to fulfil my duties and was therefore, somewhat focused. I placed many lights in a manner to illuminate the steps from the upper levels to the deeper cave and on the uneven parts of the cave floor as a warning to the unwary.


Soon after five o’clock the guests from the Galleries of Justice began to arrive and joined the members of the public that had already taken their place in the Salutation. The numbers were such that we effectively took over the entire ground floor of the building, including the other snug. Allowing time for socialising and book signing, some of us then departed to the caves to prepare for the ‘Sumbal,’ carrying glasses and mead for our sacred toasts.


Judging that is was time to hold the toasts, I was asked to summon those gathered, this I did in my usual pretentious manner and with much bravado, my voice booming out across the building the invitation to join the Magister in the caves.


Gathering in the deepest cave of the underground complex, lit only by candle light, Robin the Dart the Magister of the Clan of Tubal Cain read a poem of his own composition. This was followed by a short delivery from Ulric “Gestumblindi” Goding the Tanist of the Clan. We each raised our glass of mead to drink in a most moving if simple ceremony. There was a moment of connection.


There was then a ‘round’ as we were invited to name a departed soul, asking the remainder of the gathering to join us in drinking to their memory. My own toast was to Evan John Jones, of whom I am a great admirer. In raising our glasses in memory of the departed, there were one or perhaps two names called, who in my opinion should not have been mentioned at all. Although the thought and action of raising my glass at this time and to their memory did make me pause, my unease did not spoil the moment and I drank in the spirit of the occasion.


Returning to the ground floor of the Salutation and after more socialising, we began our third phase of the day. An evening meal at Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, that other famous Nottingham public house. Although the main building dates to the seventieth century, with ancient caves and medieval foundations built into Castle Rock. The origins of the site can be dated to the early Norman period of the eleventh or twelfth centuries. It is one of several pubs that claims to be the oldest in England.


Walking from the Salutation, across Maid Marion Way, past the Robin Hood Legacy, Nottingham Castle and down the hill past the Robin Hood Statue, we made our way to the famous pub. Here on the upper floors, which like the Salutation we filled, all who wished to, invited guests and members of the public, came together for a communal meal of exceptional quality. There sitting under the shadow of the Roe Deer carving and the famous Haunted Galleon, enjoying the convivial company, I could reflect that this was a fine ending to an exceptional day.


We had gathered, friends, supporters and members of the Clan of Tubal Cain, to salute the memory of its founder Robert Cochrane, that of its second Magister Evan John Jones, to celebrate their achievements and to look forward in faith with the current Maid, Magister and Tanist. I am confident that the event has made its mark, with both the quick and the dead.



USEFUL LINKS

People of Goda - the Clan of Tubal Cain

Wisdom’s Embrace: Living Craft and Upholding Tradition by Ulric “Gestumblindi” Goding: http://manofgoda.com/uncategorized/wisdoms-embrace-living-craft-upholding-tradition/

Heritage – Midsummer 2016 (from Meanderings of the Muse)

Sacred Mask Sacred Dance by Shani Oates

The Devil’s Supper: A Presentation by Shani Oates at the Castle Bytham Spirit Circle November 2015

A collection of letters and articles written by Robert Cochrane

The Robert Cochrane Letters (PDF)


Sigil of the Clan of Tubal Cain used with permission.