Second by second
Minute by minute
Hour by hour
Day by day
Mile after mile
Is one ‘stride’ of
That Giant in-the-sky…
… “The Matter of Britain!”
“I know,” muses Wen, pensively, “People think it’s just Arthur and all that.”
“But before Arthur was a king or a British War Hero, ‘he’ was a constellation.”
“I know,” says Wen, again.
“The Great Bear.”
“The Head Dragon.”
“It’s all star stuff.”
“It’s all star stuff tied to the Earth.”
“And what ties it there?”
“We do, when we sanctify the earth-urge.”
“By George, you’ve cracked it!”
…And then we come across the church.
Cue mass excitement as we take in all the
Giants, which appear to sprout from every orifice…
The body of the church you see is an education in itself.
You probably already know about consecrated ground and unconsecrated ground.
It is the Inner and the Outer, pure and simple.
And this symbolism is carried into the structure of the building.
The gargoyles, the Sheila-na-Gigs, the Green Men, the Giants, the Dragons and the like, they are all on the outside of the church building.
They do not make it into the ‘ark’.
The inside is for all the saints and angels. Do you see? It is the same symbolism.
The Inner and the Outer.
…They do have something of the ‘otherworld’ about them these places.
Not so much Giant Hill itself perhaps although it may have been different had we gone into the Trendle.
It fact I am pretty damn sure it would have been different in the Trendle.
Wen was all for it… even with the helicopter buzzing us overhead. And her logic was very persuasive.
‘No unauthorised person beyond this point,’ said the sign.
‘But we are more authorised than anyone ever could be,’ said Wen.
It is difficult to disagree but then the village of Cerne Abbas is in itself quite otherworldly too.
I got exactly the same feel from it as when I first went to Glastonbury.
It felt like we had left England and gone abroad, perhaps to France…
‘Albion!’ smiles Wen, ‘The whole of these Blessed Isles used to feel like this…’
Excerpt – The Heart of Albion by Stuart France and Sue Vincent
‘The Silver Well: Legend says that St Augustine once visited Dorset. While there he met some shepherds grazing their flocks and asked them whether they would prefer beer or water to drink. The temperate shepherds replied ‘water’ whereupon St. Augustine struck the ground with his staff, crying, ‘Cerno El’ as the water gushed out. The words were supposedly a pun on Cernel, the old name of the village and meant ‘I perceive God.’
It is thought that the above legend was invented by the Benedictine monks of Cerne Abbey to serve as an attraction to pilgrims.
Closer to the truth perhaps is the story of St. Edwold, a member of the Mercian Royal Family who one day had a vision of a silver well. He went wandering through the countryside and when he came to Cerne he gave some silver pennies to a shepherd in return for bread and water. The shepherd then showed him a well where he could drink and St Edwold recognised it as the well of his vision. He built a small hermitage by the spring and lived there until his death in 871…’
Information Plaque, Cerne Abbas
‘Are the monks responsible for the Legend of Silver Well such villains if they tweak the truth in order to entice pilgrims to their shrine?
People who have embarked on a Pilgrimage always get something, even if that something isn not quite what they bargained for.
And how true is the earlier story of St Edwold for that matter?
There was doubtless a hermit and a hermitage at one time.
How he actually came to be there is quite another thing altogether.’
Excerpt from, The Heart of Albion by Stuart France and Sue Vincent
… ‘Remind me again, why we are going to Cadbury?’
Part of my reluctance for these, what might be called, impromptu assignations are the inevitable ruptures they make in the overall scheme of things.
Once a pattern has started to form it is somewhat disconcerting to have to unravel it all or even to amend it slightly to accommodate the new strand and even though I know that it is good for the flexibility of the mind and really what we should be doing all of the time it is still an effort and as such is ripe for avoidance if at all possible.
Plus the fact that it is another hill.
On a very hot day!
…Still, as we make our way out of the car-park and look up there does not appear to be much of a hill left to climb.
The Silver-Bullet, bless her aerodynamically modified sides, has already taken us up most of the height.
There is, though, a plague of gnats playing along an extended stretch of the tree tunnel which leads up to the hill-top.
Wen and I both turn our back on them which allows us to see the advertisement for the nearby pub which has been strategically placed for those descending the height.
‘Still looking for the castle?’
‘At least that’s lunch taken care of,’ grins Wen.
The thought of lunch and an invisible castle revives me somewhat.
After all what we have here is another Uffington.
Looked at in those terms it is difficult to imagine anything I would rather be doing really, although I still somehow doubt that there will be anything as spectacular as Uffington at the end of this particular tunnel of trees… Interesting how indolence passes from the body to the mind like that.
The best way out of it is to move and to move quickly so I put on something of a spurt to reach the top and leave Wen trailing…
‘It’s the thought of beer and food which does that you know…’
…There is something otherworldly about walking up a hill, crossing that threshold between the heat of a summer sun and the cool green of the trees. Glimpses of a landscape that conforms to what we have come to know as sacred are seen through breaks in the gnarled trunks, squirrels scamper busily along the branches and the inevitable sound of birds accompanies each breath.
Beside the track steep banks rise, channelling our footsteps through a narrow passage, guarded by ancient sentinels, rooted in earth. As the trees thin and the shade gets left behind it is almost like pushing through a tangible veil as we emerge into the unprotected sunlight of the summit. Looking back, the tunnel of trees closes in verdant darkness behind us, shutting us off from the world we left some five hundred feet below.
A solitary figure stands upon the far bank… there are always three, it seems, somehow. Although I know he is only another walker…I see the glint of a spear and a cloak flapping in the non-existent breeze…
‘…Remind me again why we are going to Cerne Abbas intead of staying at Cadbury?’
Excerpt taken from, The Heart of Albion by Stuart France and Sue Vincent
‘…all the great thinkers recognise the importance of rational thought and also the importance of getting beyond the rational and that’s where the myths and fairy stories come in… Plato spends the greater part of his master work ‘The Republic’ berating the poets and story-tellers for telling lies in their myths and then he ends his opus with… a myth’
‘Well, to err is human… But no one’s going to read a book in which all the characters are Giants.’
‘Yet we all live in a world dictated by them… but perhaps you’re right… they have become something of an obsession… the more self-remembering I do… the more giant-like my body and everyone else’s body seems to become… and they do make an appearance in all the mythological traditions… the Titans… the Jotunn… the Asuras… the Fomoire… as opponents of the ‘gods’ usually, which have to be overcome and subdued…and then kept at bay lest the heaven world be breached… and fall.’
Wen becomes pensive for awhile, ‘We need to go to Cerne Abbas…’
…‘I don’t even know where Cerne Abbas is’
‘It’s in Dorset.’
‘Is Set’s Door near Devon?’
Wen pauses for a moment and then smiles, ‘Yes, If Cornwall is the toe of the foot of the country, then Devon is the ball of the foot of the country and Dorset is the arch of the foot of the country.’
I am very much enjoying this description of the place names of Albion.
It makes it sound like the country has got a giant club foot.
‘Albion was a giant originally,’ smiles Wen unfolding a map of the Ancient Country, ‘look, in those days ‘Dorset’ was the domain of the Durotriges clan…’
‘Wow! Where did you get this?’
I am not sure I believe her.
It is much more likely that this has fallen from heaven like manna of old.
It has all the ancient sites marked on it… and everything.
It is a vocational moment.
The world has finally changed for the better and now anything can happen.
‘You know this means that the heel of the foot of the country is called Dover?’
‘Yeahhss’ says Wen suspiciously.
She knows me too well already.
‘Well that makes Albion, fleet-footed, like Mercury. Albion’s heels are Dove winged!’
Excerpt from, The Heart of Albion by Stuart France and Sue Vincent.
“The woodcutter does not have the heart to abandon his children in the wood.
His wife has a heart of stone and resolves to do it herself.
The children are led to the heart of the wood when they follow the flight of a dove.
The dove is a bird of love which comes from the heart.
But the children have not really found the heart of the wood.
They have simply got to the heart of the matter.
Their father’s sweet heart is a heartless ogre.”
– Hansel ‘n’ Gretel
Lion lived in the forest.
Lion was invincible and the sole champion of the forest.
Whatever other creatures lived in the forest, Lion, killed and ate.
The animals of the forest came together and drew up a petition for Lion.
‘By killing us all at once you ruin your own interests.
We will send you one animal a day for your dinner.’
Lion agreed to this proposal.
First up was Hare…
Hare set off for Lion’s lair thinking,
‘Whosoever does not become bewildered in the face of death is truly wise,
I shall devise an expedient.’
It was well past Lion’s dinner time when Hare finally showed up.
“Hoy,” said Lion, “how come you’re so late,
I shall now have to inflict upon you a penalty far worse than death!”
“The hour of my arrival is not my fault, your Highness,”
said Hare, bowing low. “I was waylaid by another lion.”
“This other lion,” said Lion, lashing his tail.
“Show him to me!”
Lion’s eyes had turned red with anger.
“Let your Majesty follow me,” said Hare, “and I will take you to the other lion.”
Hare led Lion to a distant well on a hill.
“There is the other lion’s house,” said Hare pointing at the well.
Lion immediately bounded over to the well
and roared his mightiest roar into it.
But Lion’s mighty roar was returned in kind and
Lion could see in the dark depths the other beast.
Seeking to confront his adversary Lion leapt into the well…
And was drowned.
Hare returned to the other animals of the forest
and related to them the fabulous tale
of, ‘the Lion at the bottom of a Well’.
Sister-Sun and Sister-Moon
walked side by side in the sky…
Both were cold.
One day they caught a hare,
skinned it, and put it in a cooking-pot to stew…
While the hare was stewing
The two sisters began to quarrel
over who should take precedence at the meal…
They could not agree
and took to hurling insults at each other.
In her rage Sister-Sun picked up the hare-skin
and flung it in the face of Sister-Moon.
Sister-Moon retaliated by picking up the cooking-pot
and flinging its boiling contents in Sister-Sun’s face.
Sister-Sun and Sister-Moon
no longer walk side by side in the sky…
And since that time
Sister-Sun has become boiling hot
whilst the hare-skin she threw at her sister
can still be seen
in the silvery face of the full moon.