Monthly Archives: May 2017

Sleep-Strain of Alain…

*

… “Has Goll tried his hand at it?” asked Fin.

“Goll has tried his hand, and Conan Maul before him, and the king too. They have all chanced their arm and they have all slept.”

“Slept?” said Fin, aghast.

“Aye, slept,” said Daatho, “slept like bairns that have been sung a lullaby.”

“How so?”

“When Alain, the son of Mithna, comes he brings the music of sleep with him on his Fairy Harp. Men in the throes of torture would sleep at the sound of it. The hounds in their kennels sleep. The vermin in the fields sleep. All sleep until Alain has once more burned Tara to the ground. No sword he brings that one, but the sleep-strain of the Crafty-Folk.

“If Cuill, son of Trenmore were still here he might find himself in need of a sword,” said Fin, grimly.

“Cuill, who failed to keep his own head upon his haughty shoulders,” countered Daatho.

“Who treats the name of Cuill, son of Trenmore, so lightly,” bristled Fin.

“One who benefited from his largesse on more than one occasion,” said Daatho, “but if you wish to speak with a clansman of Cuill’s youth, then there hobbles yer man.”

Just then a large, heavy limbed man, bowed but not cowed by age was walking lamely along the road.

“That man,” said Daatho, “is Fiachna, son of Conga, a man still loyal to Cuill’s memory. Rather than submit to the sway of Goll he lives a pauper’s life in a lonely hut.

“I would speak with that man,” said Fin. …

*

to be continued

A Twice-Stole Spear…

*

… “Mananawn’s Mount,” muttered Fin, pensively.

“Yeas!” exclaimed Daatho, “from Sidhe Finnaha, where Leer himself resides, he descends like a fire-storm. That radiant place on the very crest of the height is crowned with flames that leap rubied-red, through the day-light hours, but as night falls it sparks and spits like star-fire, as a guard against the foolish and unwary.”

“Do not the High Ones have their share of our spoil?” asked Fin, “what need has one of theirs to torment us so?”

“If the stone of the hills know it they utter it not,” said Daatho, “yet men will ever spin their yarns to draw out the unknown.”

“What stories have you heard told on this matter?” asked Fin.

“The old men say that it is all on account of a spear. They tell that Cuill, who was once the head of the Fianna, stole the spear from the Fairy Rath of Alain, son of Mithna.”

“And where is that spear now?” shouted Fin.

“Where is last year’s winter?” smiled Daatho.

“Is it with Goll, who is now head of the Fianna?”

“It is not with Goll, no,” said Daatho, “though Goll, it is true, sacked the Dun of Cuill, he did not get the spear, and nor did any man now known.”

“And what of the Fianna?” asked Fin, ” has the strength of every champion’s arm been sapped by these fire-storms?”

“You can try the strength of your own arm,” laughed Daatho, “the king has offered their heart-wish, as reward, to any man who can stay the burning of Tara.” …

to be continued

*

High-Way to Tara…

*

Fin Mac Cuill stood on an out-crop of rock and surveyed the Fortress of Tara…

Brightly coloured banners ran from the breeze over her ornately carved roof-poles…

Long had Fin yearned for this moment, Tara before him and his feet upon the High-Way that led to her…

There was no need now to hasten his steps.

Fin allowed his thoughts to wander…

His mind penetrated the long-roofed halls of Conn, beloved king of his father…

The long-roofed halls where Goll now lorded it…

Goll, Lord of the Fianna…

Goll, slayer of Cuill!

“A heartening sight, is it not?” mused a voice close by him.

Fin turned swiftly in alarm, regretting the loosening of the fetters which normally bound his mind.

The stranger smiled, “Feast your eyes while ye may, stranger, for tomorrow the sun will rise on the charred ruins of that fortress.”

“What man utters such a dire prophecy?” demanded Fin.

“Daatho, utters this prophecy, a man with lands and thralls here. Were you not a stranger you would know that every third Sarwen, Alain, son of Mithna, burns Tara to the ground.

“One man burns Tara to the ground, you say, Daatho?” grinned Fin, disbelieving.

“He is a Crafty One,” said Daatho, “and those that know, of such veiled things, say that he dwells on Smithies Height.” …

to be continued

Carrot and Coals IX…

*

…On the screen of inner sight a single glowing point of light that seems farther than the farthest star, yet closer than the sun.

Between her and the light nothing but the streaks of passage… a stream of movement, as of a million suns caught racing comets in the blackness of space.

A wormhole…twin dragons… serpents aflame with brilliance… a tunnel through which she is rushing faster than the light itself, falling backwards, away from the light.

The unexpected sensation is sickening, stomach twisting.

Hands reach up from the earth, dragging, clawing… nightmares and hell… women, children… She refuses their hold and turns.

Flesh melts from her bones and she dissolves into earth…

She is only the wind…

*

…He moves.

She opens her eyes to a world wreathed in fog, ghostly shapes, amorphous and shifting…

It takes a moment before reality returns…

“Is there a Fin Cop?”

“Why?”

“Because if there is, that is where we need to go.”

*

Carrot and Coals VIII…

*

…A hand extended, smiling eyes unseen but felt.

She takes the hand, stiff after the long vigil in the chill of night, accepting assistance to regain her feet.

The grass is cold, frost biting her bare toes.

Above, a million stars streak across the heavens.

It is done.

The old one smiles and raises his hand…

…. Voices call her back.

The sunlight casts a pale golden glow … across the circle her companion opens his eyes.

There is something she recognises in them….

She knows not what it is…

*

…Atop the mound the grass is chill and damp though the sun shines clear.

There is no shelter and the wind ruffles her hair, an ancient grandmother caressing her child.

She closes her eyes, folds her hands on her breast beside him, relaxing into the other sight.

The shift comes.

The world again falls away.

She is glad of his presence as the veins of her eyelids are painted green against the grey light… green and grey he had said of the one he had seen…

*

Carrot and Coals VII…

*

The stone is warm beneath her back.

Above her the clear blue of the sky is powdered with clouds, barely moving.

It is sheltered here in the circle, the earthen banks of the henge protecting the centre from the ceaseless assault of the winds in this high place…

*

…She closes her eyes and waits, feet towards the centre, hands crossed on her breast, relaxing each muscle, each limb in turn, breathing deeply  the clear air.

The shift comes.

The world falls away.

She can see her companion through closed eyes, across the circle, mirroring her.

She does not need to look to feel his presence…

*

…On the screen of inner sight a single glowing point of light that seems farther than the farthest star, yet closer than the sun.

Between her and the light nothing but the streaks of passage… a stream of movement, as of a million suns caught racing comets in the blackness of space.

A wormhole… dragons… serpents aflame with brilliance… a tunnel through which she is rushing faster than the light itself, falling inwards, forwards, upwards… she does not know…

…Then a figure blocking the brightness… a dark silhouette against the torchlight and the tang of smoke…

*

Carrot and Coals VI…

*

…The key to Arbor Low is to regard the stones as always having been laid flat.

That way they immediately begin to speak and the first thing they say has to do with time.

Wen ‘got’ a clock-face and I ‘got’ a Zodiac.

There are a number of alleged terrestrial Zodiacs in Albion the most famous being in Glastonbury and it would be very tempting to try and link that in with the twelve hides granted to St Joseph of Arimathea by Arviragus and his cohorts, whoever they may be.

Cohorts, here, may not be a strictly accurate term.

Three pagan kings donated the hides according to one legend and the names and identities of the other two pagan kings’ starts to assume intriguing possibilities when once we learn that Arviragus held Cadbury Castle, hill fort and reputed site of Camelot and visible from Glastonbury Tor at about a distance that we have come to regard as a seven league stride.

Strides and legendary figures in the landscape appear to have an affinity…

There is a Robin Hood’s Stride and a King Arthur’s Stride to name but two and when these characters strode in that way it could easily have been a seven-league-step that they took…

*

…Hides were originally coverings.

Skin coverings.

Animal skins.

They only later became partitions of land.

As such it is not too much of a stretch of the imagination to consider some of the stones at Arbor Low in the light of the shapes mapped out in the Landscape by this and other Zodiacs.

Nor is it too much of a stretch to regard some of the stones at Arbor Low as microcosmic land masses.

There is a tradition in these Isles that describes the other-worldly journey as a series of islands or land-locked cities and an island or a land-locked city is a good metaphor for a state of mind, or a state of consciousness.

*

“But what would they do here?”

“You mean, how would they work it?”

“Yes!”

“They wrapped themselves in animal hides and ‘slept’ or ‘vision-quested’ on the stones.”…

*

 

Carrot and Coals V….

*

…There is another important thing with these sites which is not always immediately obvious.

It is not a collective thing.

It is not simply a case of visiting each and every site and then resting back with feet raised and head held high basking in the glories of one’s achievement. It is a living thing.

Each subsequent visit reveals more.

A wider scope: a deeper understanding… more questions, inevitably… many of them unanswerable, probably.

It is nice too, and I feel it is appreciated although by what or by whom I do not know, when one elects to take other people there; when one acts as something of a guide… but then again it is also exciting to explore a new site, along with someone else who is new to it…as in the case of Arbor Low…which is a henge and one of the most important sites of Central England which we are now calling Mercia.

Situated at the centre of the high limestone ridges that skirt Middleton Common on a slight northern slope it is over 1200 feet above sea level and grants panoramic views of the horizon which includes Morridge Moor to the West, Taddington Moor to the North as well as both Stanage Edge and White Edge to the east. In a word: stunning, as most if not all of these kinds of site are.

As if by prior arrangement Wen and I walk around opposite ridges of the henge and meet up at the mound which Wen insists on calling a maze because of its positioning and similarity to the maze at Maiden Castle.

There is a mirroring of the horizon hills in the contours of the henge though doubtless this the archaeologists would put down to a combination of weathering and fancy.

Be that as it may such sites as a microcosm to the macrocosm of the wider landscape are too frequent an intimation to be accidental and such intimations lend weight to the inherent magic of this and the other places we have visited.

The magical theory of correspondence could quite easily have be born from considering such structures…

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