Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Dream of the Rood: An anonymous Anglo-Saxon poem translated by Elaine Treharne

Listen, I will tell the best of visions, what came to me in the middle of the night, when voice-bearers dwelled in rest. It seemed to me that I saw a more wonderful tree, lifted in the air, wound round with light, the brightest of beams.

That beacon was entirely cased in gold; beautiful gems stood at the corners of the earth, likewise there were five upon the cross-beam. All those fair through creation gazed on the angel of the Lord there. There was certainly no gallows of the wicked but the holy spirits beheld it there, men over the earth and all this glorious creation.

Wondrous was the victory-tree and I stained with sins, wounded with guilts. I saw the tree of glory, honoured with garments, shining with joys, covered with gold; gems had covered magnificently the tree of the forest. Nevertheless, I was able to perceive through that gold the ancient hostility of wretches, so that it first began to bleed on the right side.

I was all drenched with sorrows. I was frightened by the beautiful vision; I saw that urgent beacon change its covering and colours: sometimes it was soaked with wetness, stained with the coursing of blood; sometimes adorned with treasure.

Yet as I lay there a long while, I beheld sorrowful the tree of the Saviour, until I heard it utter a sound; it began to speak words, the best of wood:

“That was very long ago, I remember it still, that I was cut down from the edge of the wood, ripped up by my roots. They seized me there, strong enemies, made me a spectacle for themselves there, commanded me to raise up their criminals. Men carried me there on their shoulders, until they set me on a hill, enemies enough fastened me there.

I saw then the Saviour of mankind hasten with great zeal, as if he wanted to climb up on me. There I did not dare, against the word of the Lord, bow or break, when I saw the corners of the earth tremble. I might have felled all the enemies; even so, I stood fast.

He stripped himself then, young hero - that was God almighty - strong and resolute; he ascended on the high gallows, brave in the sight of many, when he wanted to ransom mankind. I trembled when the warrior embraced me; even then I did not dare to bow to earth, fall to the corners of the earth but I had to stand fast. I was reared a cross.

I raised up the powerful King, the Lord of heaven; I did not dare to bend. They pierced me with dark nails; on me are the wounds visible, the open wounds of malice; I did not dare to injure any of them. They mocked us both together. I was all drenched with blood, poured out from that man's side, after he had sent forth his spirit.

I have experienced on that hillside many cruelties of fate. I saw the God of hosts violently stretched out. Darkness had covered with clouds the Ruler's corpse, the gleaming light. Shadows went forth dark under the clouds. All creation wept, lamented the King's fall. Christ was on the cross. Yet there eager ones came from afar to that noble one; I beheld all that.

I was all drenched with sorrow; nevertheless I bowed down to the hands of the men, humble, with great eagerness. There they took almighty God, lifted him from that oppressive torment. The warriors forsook me then standing covered with moisture; I was all wounded with arrows. They laid the weary-limbed one down there, they stood at the head of his body, they beheld the Lord of heaven there, and he himself rested there a while, weary after the great battle.

They began to fashion a tomb for him, warriors in the sight of the slayer; they carved that from bright stone, they set the Lord of victories in there. They began to sing the sorrow-song for him, wretched in the evening-time; then they wanted to travel again, weary from the glorious Lord. He rested there with little company.

Nevertheless, weeping, we stood there a good while in a fixed position, after the voice departed up of the warriors. The corpse grew cold,      the fair live-dwelling. Then men began to fell us all to the ground: that was a terrible fate. Men buried us in a deep pit; nevertheless the Lord's thanes, friends, discovered me there, adorned me with gold and silver.
Now you might hear, my beloved hero, that I have experienced the work of evil-doers, grievous sorrows. Now the time has come that I will be honoured far and wide by men over the earth and all this glorious creation; they will pray to this beacon. On me the Son of God suffered for a while; because of that I am glorious now, towering under the heavens, and I am able to heal each one of those who is in awe of me.

Formerly I was made the hardest of punishments, most hateful to the people, before I opened for them,  for the voice-bearers, the true way of life. Listen, the Lord of glory, the Guardian of the kingdom of heaven, then honoured me over the forest trees, just as he, almighty God, also honoured his mother, Mary herself, for all men, over all womankind.

Now I urge you my beloved man, that you tell men about this vision: reveal with words that it is the tree of glory, on which almighty God suffered for mankind's many sins and Adam's ancient deeds. Death he tasted there; nevertheless, the Lord rose again with his great might to help mankind. He ascended into heaven. He will come again to this earth to seek mankind. On doomsday, the Lord himself, almighty God and his angels with him, so that he will then judge, he who has the power of judgement, each one of them, for what they themselves have earned here earlier in this transitory life.

Nor may any of them be unafraid there, because of the words which the Saviour will speak: he will ask in front of the multitude, where the person might be who for the Lord's name, would taste bitter death. Just as he did before on that tree but then they will be fearful and little think, what they might begin to say to Christ. Then there will be no need for any of those to be very afraid, who bear before them in the breast the best of trees but by means of the Rood, each soul who thinks to dwell with the Ruler, must seek the kingdom from the earthly way.”

I prayed to the Tree with a happy spirit then, with great zeal, there where I was alone with little company. My spirit was inspired with longing for the way forward; I experienced in all many periods of longing. It is now my life's hope that I might seek the Tree of Victory, alone more often than all men, to honour it well.

My desire for that is great in my mind, and my protection is directed to the cross. I do not have many wealthy friends on earth but they have gone forward from here, passed from the joys of this world, sought for themselves the King of glory. They live now in heaven with the High Father, they dwell in glory and I myself hope each day for when the Lord's cross, that I looked at here on earth, will fetch me from this transitory life and then bring me where there is great bliss. Joy in heaven, where the Lord's people are set in feasting. Where there is unceasing bliss and then will set me, where I might afterwards dwell in glory; fully with the saints to partake of joy.

May the Lord be a friend to me, he who here on earth suffered previously on the gallows-tree for the sins of man. He redeemed us, and gave us life, a heavenly home. Hope was renewed with dignity and with joy for those who suffered burning there. The Son was victorious in that undertaking, powerful and successful, when he came with the multitudes, a troop of souls, into God's kingdom, the one Ruler almighty, to the delight of angels and all the saints who were in heaven before, who dwelled in glory, when their Ruler came, Almighty God, to where his native land was.

Link for this translation.

Alternative link.


When I am with my friends, I laugh and joke.
But when I am alone, I am a different man.
There is a pain, which will not leave me.
There is a loneliness, I feel still.
Too much death and a year of change.
A future of hope but a past vanished.
I no longer write with ink.
Or the blood of feeling but with tears.

My friend’s say, “He always smiles.”
But I never smile, when I am alone.
I have a consolation; that things can only get better.
But if they do not, then where will I stand?
I will stand alone, in the darkness of despair.
Pining from the pain, of a parting unforgivable.
But I will write and I will work.
I write with tears and I work alone.

Text © D.B. Griffith the Chattering Magpie

Friday, 13 November 2015


The dry paper, the plain white, dry paper.
And to write I must stain.
With my tears and my blood,
The dry paper.

I take a knife and open a vein,
And the blood runs onto the dry paper.
I scrawl with my finger but wait.
I’ve lost it and I start again.

I take a sharper knife and I try a second vein,
And again I scrawl, across the dry paper.
And I write until the blood is dry.

Oh yes, it’s so easy to write.
With dry blood, on dry paper,
From a dry vein.

First published in Wilson P.  (Ed.) (1993) Poetry Now regional anthologies: Central.  Poetry Now of Peterborough.

Thursday, 12 November 2015


When I write a poem, strange thoughts,
Pass through my mind.
I have visions of mysterious words,
Unfamiliar smells and sounds.

I can feel the Sun, upon my skin,
Without even seeing him.
I can hear the Moon, she calls to me,
In my heart.

Strange emotions, dreams and feelings,
Are written with fear.
To write; is to risk,
To write; is to risk,

And strangers read and read again,
And yet never understand.
This need to share, the memories that last,
And thoughts transparent.
To write, it is a craving.
A desire, timeless.
Text © D.B. Griffith the Chattering Magpie

Tuesday, 10 November 2015


It has to be admitted that very often, the benefits of Interfaith Dialogue are far from tangible and difficult to evaluate. One can go further and actually find oneself asking; “What is the point of this?” I know I often have. However, as Pagans it is important that we engage with the non-Pagan society in which we live, to represent our own community and to educate the wider community.

My own involvement within the Interfaith environment, although active and at times demanding, has been limited to the responsibilities of my previous Pagan Federation role as Regional Coordinator for the County of Derbyshire. During my eight and half years in that role, I was eventually and slowly, able to build a working relationship with the Forum of Faiths for Derby (FoFD), the Multifaith Centre and develop communications with the NHS in Derby itself.

My involvement and influence was within these areas, both a mixture of success and disappointment. Eventually taking over from the founder of the Derbyshire Pagans as the representative of the Pagan Community on the Forum of Faiths for Derby, also known as the Derby Forum of Faiths, Pagan representation became a real factor within the Interfaith environment.

However, the Interfaith environment, although important as both representative and educational aspects of the work of the Pagan Federation, also sadly illustrates the differences in perspective between the Old Faith and other faiths. It is quite clear that what we as Pagans will regard as a factor of importance to our own community, is not necessarily that shared with other faiths. Indeed an important aspect of Interfaith dialogue can be making other faith representatives aware of our own aspirations and how they may differ from what other faiths may regard as a priority.

In the census of 2001, the population of England and Wales voluntarily identifying themselves as “Pagan,” was estimated as being between forty and fifty thousand persons. Since this was a voluntary count, we can take this not as an actual accurate figure but as a minimum benchmark. We can suggest that like an iceberg, many Pagans and perhaps even two thirds, remain hidden below the surface of our mainstream society.

Without doubt, there were many Pagans left uncounted by the 2001 census and within the decade since that census, we can be certain that the Pagan population of England and Wales has increased. This has increased the likelihood of all members of our society having contact with people identifying themselves as either Pagan or as belonging to a Pagan Path of some description.

One of the most common questions asked by members of the Pagan Community is why or to put it another way, a series of questions that often incorporate the word, why?

For example:

1.     Why are we involved in Interfaith?
2.     What is in it for us?
3.     Isn’t it just a trap?

As stated, the tangible and visible benefits of our active involvement within the Interfaith environment, are difficult to measure or support. I feel I have now dealt with point #1 but point #2 perhaps deserves further elaboration and point #3, an explanation.

Interfaith Dialogue represents an important opportunity for us as Pagans to engage with the non-Pagan society in which we live, to represent our own community and to educate the wider community. By withdrawing from such engagement we deny ourselves that opportunity to correct the many misconceptions found amongst the non-Pagan community.

The two questions; why are we there and what is in it for us? Are valid and anyone has the right to ask them. To ask for a reason or rationale behind the investment of time by representatives of their community in this area, when there may be other issues that members of the Pagan Community feel more important, is reasonable.

The simple truth, if there is such a thing, is that we must seek out the opportunities to correct the misconceptions, play the establishment at its’ own game and emphasise that we the Pagan Community, demand equal consideration with all other sectors of society. This cannot be done by hiding from the public gaze. I am not here advocating that we throw away our rights to privacy, rather that we must protect our rights to practice our religious beliefs without the interference of mainstream society.

This can be achieved by asserting our right to sit with other faith groups and demand equality. By avoiding engagement we allow other sectors of society the opportunity to attack our Community without concern over being corrected. We cannot defend ourselves without risk.

The question of Interfaith Dialogue being a trap is simpler to answer and that answer is no. Anyone attending an Interfaith meeting to seek the conversation of others present, will eventually be corrected and informed that such behaviour is not usual. Furthermore, the enthusiasm of representatives to engage and their attendance of any such meeting should always be tempered with a degree of scepticism.

All those who attend Interfaith do so with an agenda and anyone saying that they do not have an agenda, is a liar. Interfaith is unfortunately, a form of politics and all those involved eventually become politicians. The role of anyone representing their faith group to an Interfaith body, is to promote their own group in the most positive and beneficial manner. That is politics.

Once this is understood, once all engagement within the Interfaith environment is tempered by a healthy degree of scepticism, the assertion of our own position becomes easier. I say this because it is sometimes suggested that Pagans are by becoming involved in Interfaith Dialogue, seeking a form of ingratiation within the establishment. That the Pagan Community is seeking to compromise to gain recognition.

This is not true in my opinion. Although we seek recognition, we seek it not by subservience, nor by dominance, rather by the assertive demand of rights that are in reality already ours. Therefore, the involvement of Pagan Federation representatives within the Interfaith and Intrafaith environment is two-fold. Firstly, there is a very real need to provide educational material, to all who may have contact with Pagans, whether in a personal or professional capacity.

The second and equally important aspect of work particularly within Interfaith, is therefore, representation and the demand for equality. It is important to recognise that rights cannot as such be given by one social group to another, that they are by their very nature universal rights; common to all of humanity. The suggestion that rights can be granted or given, suggests that that the other party has the right themselves, to grant or deny such rights.

This can be and should be disputed at all times, as by demanding equality; any representative body or protest group, is not requesting the granting of these rights. Rather they are demanding that the rights that we all deserve; cease to be withheld.

The East Midlands Pagan Federation

The East Midlands Pagan Federation as an organisation, operating as a division of the family that is the Pagan Federation England and Wales, is an active force within Pagan representation and public education. Within the East Midlands the areas of activity of the East Midlands Pagan Federation are broad, pluralistic and inclusive. Representatives of the organisation liaise with educational and local government bodies, the media in many forms, take active roles in both inter-faith and intra-faith, hospital visiting and healthcare education.


Wiktionary on Interfaith

Wikipedia on Interfaith

Belief in Dialogue (Scottish Interfaith Council)

Originally Published: Chattering Magpie (Griffith D.B.) 2012 In defence of Interfaith in Pentacle. Issue 35 Autumn 2012 pp32-34.

The Corpus Christi Carol (anonymous 15th Century in Modern English)

He bore him up, he bore him down,
He bore him into an orchard brown.
Lully, lullay, lully, lullay!
The falcon has borne my mate away.

In that orchard there was a hall
That was hanged with purple and pall;
Lully, lullay, lully, lullay!
The falcon has borne my mate away.

And in that hall there was a bed:
It was hanged with gold so red;
Lully, lullay, lully, lullay!
The falcon has borne my mate away.

And in that bed there lies a knight,
His wounds bleeding day and night;
Lully, lullay, lully, lullay!
The falcon has borne my mate away.

By that bed’s side there kneels a maid,
And she weeps both night and day;
Lully, lullay, lully, lullay!
The falcon has borne my mate away.

And by that bed’s side there stands a stone,
“The Body of Christ” written thereon.
Lully, lullay, lully, lullay!
The falcon has borne my mate away.