Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Talking Oak by Lord Alfred Tennyson

Picture copyright Chattering Magpie 2010 Dale Abbey

Once more the gate behind me falls;
Once more before my face
I see the moulder'd Abbey-walls,
That stand within the chace.

Beyond the lodge the city lies,
Beneath its drift of smoke;
And ah! with what delighted eyes
I turn to yonder oak.

For when my passion first began,
Ere that, which in me burn'd,
The love, that makes me thrice a man,
Could hope itself return'd;

To yonder oak within the field
I spoke without restraint,
And with a larger faith appeal'd
Than Papist unto Saint.

Picture copyright Chattering Magpie 2009 Calke Abbey

For oft I talk'd with him apart
And told him of my choice,
Until he plagiarized a heart,
And answer'd with a voice.

Tho' what he whisper'd under Heaven
None else could understand;
I found him garrulously given,
A babbler in the land.

But since I heard him make reply
Is many a weary hour;
'Twere well to question him, and try
If yet he keeps the power.

Hail, hidden to the knees in fern,
Broad Oak of Sumner-chace,
Whose topmost branches can discern
The roofs of Sumner-place!

Say thou, whereon I carved her name,
If ever maid or spouse,
As fair as my Olivia, came
To rest beneath thy boughs.---

Picture copyright Chattering Magpie 2011 Sherwood

"O Walter, I have shelter'd here
Whatever maiden grace
The good old Summers, year by year
Made ripe in Sumner-chace:

"Old Summers, when the monk was fat,
And, issuing shorn and sleek,
Would twist his girdle tight, and pat
The girls upon the cheek,

"Ere yet, in scorn of Peter's-pence,
And number'd bead, and shrift,
Bluff Harry broke into the spence
And turn'd the cowls adrift:

"And I have seen some score of those
Fresh faces that would thrive
When his man-minded offset rose
To chase the deer at five;

"And all that from the town would stroll,
Till that wild wind made work
In which the gloomy brewer's soul
Went by me, like a stork:

"The slight she-slips of royal blood,
And others, passing praise,
Straight-laced, but all-too-full in bud
For puritanic stays:

"And I have shadow'd many a group
Of beauties, that were born
In teacup-times of hood and hoop,
Or while the patch was worn;

"And, leg and arm with love-knots gay
About me leap'd and laugh'd
The modish Cupid of the day,
And shrill'd his tinsel shaft.

"I swear (and else may insects prick
Each leaf into a gall)
This girl, for whom your heart is sick,
Is three times worth them all.

"For those and theirs, by Nature's law,
Have faded long ago;
But in these latter springs I saw
Your own Olivia blow,

"From when she gamboll'd on the greens
A baby-germ, to when
The maiden blossoms of her teens
Could number five from ten.

"I swear, by leaf, and wind, and rain,
(And hear me with thine ears,)
That, tho' I circle in the grain
Five hundred rings of years---

"Yet, since I first could cast a shade,
Did never creature pass
So slightly, musically made,
So light upon the grass:

"For as to fairies, that will flit
To make the greensward fresh,
I hold them exquisitely knit,
But far too spare of flesh."

Picture copyright Chattering Magpie 2011 Cresswell Crags

Oh, hide thy knotted knees in fern,
And overlook the chace;
And from thy topmost branch discern
The roofs of Sumner-place.

But thou, whereon I carved her name,
That oft hast heard my vows,
Declare when last Olivia came
To sport beneath thy boughs.

"O yesterday, you know, the fair
Was holden at the town;
Her father left his good arm-chair,
And rode his hunter down.

"And with him Albert came on his.
I look'd at him with joy:
As cowslip unto oxlip is,
So seems she to the boy.

"An hour had past---and, sitting straight
Within the low-wheel'd chaise,
Her mother trundled to the gate
Behind the dappled grays.

"But as for her, she stay'd at home,
And on the roof she went,
And down the way you use to come,
She look'd with discontent.

"She left the novel half-uncut
Upon the rosewood shelf;
She left the new piano shut:
She could not please herseif

"Then ran she, gamesome as the colt,
And livelier than a lark
She sent her voice thro' all the holt
Before her, and the park.

"A light wind chased her on the wing,
And in the chase grew wild,
As close as might be would he cling
About the darling child:

"But light as any wind that blows
So fleetly did she stir,
The flower, she touch'd on, dipt and rose,
And turn'd to look at her.

"And here she came, and round me play'd,
And sang to me the whole
Of those three stanzas that you made
About my  Oh giant bole;'

"And in a fit of frolic mirth
She strove to span my waist:
Alas, I was so broad of girth,
I could not be embraced.

"I wish'd myself the fair young beech
That here beside me stands,
That round me, clasping each in each,
She might have lock'd her hands.

"Yet seem'd the pressure thrice as sweet
As woodbine's fragile hold,
Or when I feel about my feet
The berried briony fold."

Picture copyright Chattering Magpie 2011 Cresswell Crags

O muffle round thy knees with fern,
And shadow Sumner-chace!
Long may thy topmost branch discern
The roofs of Sumner-place!

But tell me, did she read the name
I carved with many vows
When last with throbbing heart I came
To rest beneath thy boughs?

"O yes, she wander'd round and round
These knotted knees of mine,
And found, and kiss'd the name she found,
And sweetly murmur'd thine.

"A teardrop trembled from its source,
And down my surface crept.
My sense of touch is something coarse,
But I believe she wept.

"Then flush'd her cheek with rosy light,
She glanced across the plain;
But not a creature was in sight:
She kiss'd me once again.

"Her kisses were so close and kind,
That, trust me on my word,
Hard wood I am, and wrinkled rind,
But yet my sap was stirr'd:

"And even into my inmost ring
A pleasure I discern'd,
Like those blind motions of the Spring,
That show the year is turn'd.

"Thrice-happy he that may caress
The ringlet's waving balm---
The cushions of whose touch may press
The maiden's tender palm.

"I, rooted here among the groves
But languidly adjust
My vapid vegetable loves
With anthers and with dust:

"For ah! my friend, the days were brief
Whereof the poets talk,
When that, which breathes within the leaf,
Could slip its bark and walk.

"But could I, as in times foregone,
From spray, and branch, and stem,
Have suck'd and gather'd into one
The life that spreads in them,

"She had not found me so remiss;
But lightly issuing thro',
I would have paid her kiss for kiss,
With usury thereto."

Picture copyright Chattering Magpie 2009 Calke Abbey

O flourish high, with leafy towers,
And overlook the lea,
Pursue thy loves among the bowers
But leave thou mine to me.

O flourish, hidden deep in fern,
Old oak, I love thee well;
A thousand thanks for what I learn
And what remains to tell.

"Oh Tis little more: the day was warm;
At last, tired out with play,
She sank her head upon her arm
And at my feet she lay.

"Her eyelids dropp'd their silken eaves
I breathed upon her eyes
Thro' all the summer of my leaves
A welcome mix'd with sighs.

"I took the swarming sound of life---
The music from the town---
The murmurs of the drum and fife
And lull'd them in my own.

"Sometimes I let a sunbeam slip,
To light her shaded eye;
A second flutter'd round her lip
Like a golden butterfly;

"A third would glimmer on her neck
To make the necklace shine;
Another slid, a sunny fleck,
From head to ankle fine,

"Then close and dark my arms I spread,
And shadow'd all her rest---
Dropt dews upon her golden head,
An acorn in her breast.

"But in a pet she started up,
And pluck'd it out, and drew
My little oakling from the cup,
And flung him in the dew.

"And yet it was a graceful gift---
I felt a pang within
As when I see the woodman lift
His axe to slay my kin.

"I shook him down because he was
The finest on the tree.
He lies beside thee on the grass.
O kiss him once for me.

"O kiss him twice and thrice for me,
That have no lips to kiss,
For never yet was oak on lea
Shall grow so fair as this.'

Picture copyright Chattering Magpie 2011 Sherwood

Step deeper yet in herb and fern,
Look further thro' the chace,
Spread upward till thy boughs discern
The front of Sumner-place.

This fruit of thine by Love is blest,
That but a moment lay
Where fairer fruit of Love may rest
Some happy future day.

I kiss it twice, I kiss it thrice,
The warmth it thence shall win
To riper life may magnetise
The baby-oak within.

But thou, while kingdoms overset,
Or lapse from hand to hand,
Thy leaf shall never fail, nor yet
Thine acorn in the land.

May never saw dismember thee,
Nor wielded axe disjoint,
That art the fairest-spoken tree
From here to Lizard-point.

Picture copyright Chattering Magpie 2010 Sherwood

O rock upon thy towery-top
All throats that gurgle sweet!
All starry culmination drop
Balm-dews to bathe thy feet!

All grass of silky feather grow---
And while he sinks or swells
The full south-breeze around thee blow
The sound of minster bells.

The fat earth feed thy branchy root,
That under deeply strikes!
The northern morning o'er thee shoot,
High up, in silver spikes!

Nor ever lightning char thy grain,
But, rolling as in sleep,
Low thunders bring the mellow rain,
That makes thee broad and deep!

And hear me swear a solemn oath,
That only by thy side
Will I to Olive plight my troth,
And gain her for my bride.

And when my marriage morn may fall,
She, Dryad-like, shall wear
Alternate leaf and acorn-ball
In wreath about her hair.

And I will work in prose and rhyme,
And praise thee more in both
Than bard has honour'd beech or lime,
Or that Thessalian growth,

In which the swarthy ringdove sat,
And mystic sentence spoke;
And more than England honours that,
Thy famous brother-oak,

Wherein the younger Charles abode
Till all the paths were dim,
And far below the Roundhead rode,

And humm'd a surly hymn.

Picture copyright Chattering Magpie 2011 Sherwood

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

A Day for Patricia Crowther: Sunday 6th April 2014

It would be true to say that I have left my own Wiccan Roots behind and yes; there is a pun in that comment. Although Gardnerian Witchcraft influenced Paganism is where I began my journey and although I have changed to reach a point some twenty five years later, where the ‘Wiccanesque’ influence is very much reduced. It is where I began and it would be foolish to deny that a residual element remains within me. It would be equally foolish to ignore the fact that I and many others who are not Wiccan, have benefited enormously from the public acceptance that has resulted from members of the Gardnerian and Alexandrian Traditions going public.

So it was that on Sunday the 6th of April 2014, I travelled in to Nottingham to attend and to support an event of significance to the Pagan Community at large. A Day for Patricia Crowther was jointly organised by the Centre for Pagan Studies and the Doreen Valiente Foundation. The event was held to honour Patricia Crowther and to mark her remarkable contribution to the continued acceptance of alternative spiritualities. Mrs Crowther is a third degree Gardnerian High Priestess and as one of the last contemporaries of Old Gerald, an important link to that heady time when Wicca and by implication Paganism, stepped out of the shadows.

The day consisted primarily of four segmented talks. These included presentations by Vivianne & Chris Crowley, Rufus & Melissa Harrington, Philip Heselton and John Harper. These talks covered the history of Gardnerian Witchcraft, its contemporary influence, Mrs Crowthers’ own contribution and in the case of Mr Harper, a talk on magic and astronomy that was very well received by an appreciative Nottinghamshire audience.

The day also included a question and answer session with four experts or Craft Elders up on the stage, there to field questions from the massed audience. This section of the itinerary was led by John Belham-Payne, trustee and founder of the Centre for Pagan Studies. The panel acquitted themselves well presenting a highly professional image of Wicca, which was of a deeper and more spiritually meaningful variety than the pop-wicca presented to the public usually.

Unfortunately perhaps, not being Wiccan myself some of these experts were and remain, unknown to me. Their fame perhaps not extending far outside of the close knit community that is initiated Gardnerian Wicca or perhaps London. What is important however is that they presented a true and accurate image of that specific Craft Tradition. In the words of another, they were on the day true ambassadors for Wicca and highlighted the difference between Wicca proper and the wicca of the popular press and reality TV show.

The day was interspersed with short breaks and a longer lunch break. This allowed time for socialising with friends, making new friends and browsing the many quality stalls in the hall. I was surprised and indeed rather disconcerted, to find myself recognised by a few complete strangers. It is difficult to appreciate as a writer how many do read ones’ work, either in print or via this BLOG.

This unknown readership included on the day, a charming American gentleman called Al. This gentleman had with his endearing young son, travelled over especially for the event, making it part of a longer holiday. We enjoyed a brief chat in which he told me of his involvement with Mrs Crowther and a Youtube project based upon one of her books. He also rather astutely spotted an item of craft jewellery I was wearing, explaining that he knew the American silversmith that had made my specially commissioned piece.


 In another room was a small exhibition of early Wiccan artefacts from the Doreen Valiente collection. This included what is by modern standards, a rather garish wand that once belonged to Gerald Gardner and a magnificent Book of Shadows written in his own hand. One item of particular note, shown to me by my friend Ashley Mortimer a Trustee of the Doreen Valiente Foundation, was a clay plate of an unknown age and provenance. The main upper part of which is completely plain, the underside however is clearly designed for use a pentacle. Truly it would be a secret hidden in plain sight, when placed unobtrusively in a cupboard.

The final part of the day was the appearance of the lady herself on stage, to answer questions, to entertain and to sing a spirited rendition of a Pagan version of Lord of the Dance. Mrs Crowther then drew the tombola or as she insisted it be called, the raffle. Mrs Crowther presented each and every winner of the raffle with their prize which she chose, before patiently signing autographs.

Ashley Mortimer, Patricia Croather and John Belham-Payne

In my opinion this event is likely to be remembered as one of the most important to take place in the East Midlands for a number of years. Furthermore, the Centre for Pagan Studies should be congratulated not only for their professionalism but for having the courage to hold an event of such import to the Pagan Community in Nottingham. As has been proved by other towns and cities such as; Derby (the Witan 2011), Glastonbury (The Hecate Symposium and the Occult Conference), Ludlow (the Occult Conference), Boscastle (various events associated with the Museum of Witchcraft) and Leeds (the Day of Mysteries and Magic), not every culturally significant event of import takes place in the English capital or indeed needs to.

Ashley Mortimer and the Chattering Magpie
Picture © J. Burton 2014

Some will no doubt overlook the significance of this event, noting that Patricia Crowther as a High Priestess of the Gardnerian Tradition, may not be an immediate source of inspiration for those outside of the more ‘wiccanesque’ influenced Pagan paths. This is a valid observation but does rather neglect the enormous contribution made by people such as Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valiente, Patricia Crowther, Alex Sanders and others to the growth and general acceptance of Paganism within Britain.

 Both the Gardnerian and Alexandrian Witchcraft Traditions, what today we may commonly refer to as Wicca, were following the repeal of the Witchcraft Act, of an enormous social interest during the 1950’s and 1960’s. This was a time when Britain faced continued internal sociological change after the Second World War and came to terms with the inevitable loss of a World Empire.

This event was not simply about Wicca and this event was not just for Wiccans. Far from it, this was a celebration of the life and contribution of Patricia Crowther and her generation to the Pagan Community at large.

A DAY FOR PATRICIA CROWTHER took place on Sunday 6th April 2014 Nottingham. The event was organised by the Centre for Pagan Studies and the Doreen Valiente Foundation and was held to honour the life and work of Mrs Crowther.

Details of the Centre for Pagan Studies and their work can be found here:

All images © D.B. Griffith 2014 unless otherwise stated.

Images may not be reproduced without permission of the photographer or that of the CfPS and the DVF.

My own tombola or raffle prize


On 25th of February this year (2014), I journeyed to Leeds to attend a lecture at the Morley Moot held in the Labour Rooms, on Commercial Street in Morley, which is just outside of Leeds itself. The talk was advertised as the Tools of Traditional Witchcraft and was to be presented by Alan Millar (formally Craw).

I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr Millar before but the last time was in 2011. At that time I was the lead organiser of an East Midlands Pagan Federation event at the Guildhall in Derby city centre. The event was called the Derby Witan and was a Saturday event. The event consisted of a series of four semi-academic style lectures with a supporting market. The speakers included Shani Oates, Anna Franklin, Glennie Kindred and one single gentleman speaker, Alan Millar.

Alan Millar is the Magister of the Milesian Order of Clanna Gadelus, a Traditional Cuveen based in Yorkshire and a fellow Knight of the Loyal Arthurian Warband. He is a writer, public speaker, music producer and founder of the Witchcraft Research Network, with a long and extensive history of involvement in the Pagan and Craft community.

Unfortunately being rather busy with backstage business, front of house and other organisational duties at the Witan; I like most of the event staff, missed the majority of the lectures, including part of the opening presentation by Mr Craw. So the opportunity to hear the complete lecture and visit friends in the Leeds area, proved too great a temptation.

The train journey to Leeds was far from onerous and I have visited Leeds, a vibrant energetic city, before. Changing trains at Leeds was not too difficult, although I did have a moment of confusion in attempting to identify the correct platform for the Morley train. Alighting in the afternoon sun at the station in Morley, I found it an old style open air platform. A steep flight of stone steps led up from the station to the streets above the railway tunnel, a magnificent example of Victorian engineering.

Checking direction with a local resident as I left the top of the climb, I was directed towards the town centre. I found Morley, even in the centre an exceptionally quiet place. Perhaps Tuesdays are early closing days but the centre was far from busy and I may add; the majority of the shops were closed. It was like walking through a ghost town.

The people of Morley however, were exceptional friendly. After first asking direction from the young woman near the station, I had been pointed in the direction of the town centre. There a young man was able to confirm my course and I set off towards Fountain Street. Making my way along that road with my bag, I stumbled upon Al’s Food Fountain, a small cafe just up the hill from the local school. Here I stopped for a cup of tea (not actually Yorkshire) and checked my map. Alan the proprietor noticed this and asked where I was heading. On learning that my destination was the Travelodge on the corner of Bruntcliffe Road and Bruntcliffe Way, he kindly offered to drop me there as it was on his way home. The friendliness of the Yorkshire folk was beginning to impress.

On my arrival the staff at the Travelodge proved to be equally friendly and helpful. Guiding me as they did to the carvery next door for my early evening meal and although a carvery, they in turn were able to provide an excellent vegetarian alternative.

Later in the evening, whilst waiting in the hotel lobby for a taxi to take me to the Morley Moot itself, it was my turn to play the helpful Samaritan. A gentleman came in asking for directions to the Morley Hayes Hotel, help in this matter the hotel staff were unable to give. Overhearing the conversation I made myself known, asking for clarification. I pointed out that there is a Morley Hayes Hotel near Derby and that I live between Derby and Nottingham.

Checking his written directions the gentleman discovered that on seeing the motorway sign for Morley near Leeds, he had exited the motorway prematurely and did indeed want Morley Village near Derby. If I had not been present he would have spent a long time travelling in circles around Leeds, looking for a non-existent hotel and missed his meeting. It was an amazing chance meeting.

On my arrival at the Morley Moot I met up with my friends Vicky Newton and Shullie Porter, eventually being introduced to the organiser of the Moot, Mr David Speight himself. We joined Alan in the main hall only briefly, to examine his display of items before taking our seats for his lecture.

Alan seemed rather pleased with the turnout and equally pleased to discover, that some had travelled a considerable distance to hear him speak. Myself included obviously. Alan presented a brief outline of Traditionalist Working Tools, from the blade (not an athame) to the Stang. Occasionally having to take a step back to clarify a point or as right at the start, to explain who Robert Cochrane was for those not familiar with the non-wiccan craft.

There were several points of interest that I felt could have been explored further under the right circumstance, quite possibly as separate lectures. These points arose primarily via questions triggered by the content of the main lecture. One of the areas that in particular, I would have liked to have seen expanded upon, is the influence of Robert Cochrane on the modern Traditional Craft movement.

A second point, that is far too deep to be explored in a casual manner as a side issue at a moot, being the similarities and differences between the egregore and the tutelary deity of a Clan.

A third area suitable for further exploration would be in my opinion, the practical use of the Witch Bottle. Another area of fascination, only briefly touched upon at the moot, is the significance of horseshoes and blacksmith lore within the Traditional Craft.

The evening was educational, stimulating and thoroughly enjoyable. All the more so for giving me the opportunity to meet my Yorkshire friends once more, who I joined briefly in the pub afterwards whilst waiting for them to leave for home.

Mr Millar will be speaking at the Day of Mysteries and Magic 2 in Leeds proper, on Saturday the 25th October 2014. It is an event I am looking forward to attending and details of the day can be found below. I am very pleased to learn that Mr Millar’s contribution to the event is a lecture entitled, ‘Forefathers of Modern Witchcraft Movement the lesser known developers of the modern craft.’

Useful websites

The Witchcraft Research Network (Traditional Witchcraft Research Network).

The Day of Mysteries and Magic 2.

Points raised in this talk are discussed further in these two other BLOG posts.

The Tools of Traditional Witchcraft - a talk by Alan Craw

Egregores and Bronze Age Mummies

The Day of Mysteries and Magic 2
Saturday 25th October 2014 from 12 noon to 6pm
The Swarthmore Centre Leeds
£7.50 on the door

Steve Jones: Masonic Wicca the links between Freemasonry and Wicca

Alan Craw: Forefathers of Modern Witchcraft Movement the lesser known developers of the modern craft.

Kai Roberts: Grave Concerns the history, folklore and controversies of the grave of Robin Hood.

Tony Chapman: Further into his paranormal world and investigations.

Paul Bennett: Animism, Paganism, & the Nature of Prehistoric Rock Art, an illustrated look at sacred sites known and unknown in West Yorkshire.