Category Archives: Weekend workshop 2016

Scryer of Time…

*

Scryer of Time.

On sky weathered stone

our accidental tourist  has stepped

through long horned, shaggy coated, cattle

to glean and ponder

the sun in rippled grain:

no shadow cast

from this bright interior’s sheen

the mountain top of yonder earth

beckons…

*

Should an eagle become an egg

all fracture

I’ll fly!

I’ll fly!

beyond that outer maelstrom

of troubled cloud

and return heather dusted

 head space full

of truth’s sweet, fragrant lie

lipped to life’s cold scrutiny

in a fluid bowl of vision.

*

May moss-fleck

reflections

trickle…

to ground and save us one and all:

Scryer of Time.

*

 

 

The House that Fish Built VI…

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…Twice the height of any of the men of Albion was the horrible mantle about him and his hair was like a great spreading bush the size of a winter shed, under which thirty bullocks could easily find shelter. He had ravenous yellow eyes the size of an ox vat, which bulged from his head, and each of his fingers were the width of any normal man’s wrist.

In his left hand he carried a block, a burden for twenty yoke of oxen, and in his right, an axe weighing a hundred and fifty molten masses of metal. Its handle required a plough team of six to move it, and its edge was of a sharpness to slice a hair blown by the wind. He strode across the hall and stood by the fork-beam of the fire. “Is the hall lacking in size that you seek to hog the fire with your   bulk?” asked King Grim-Gaze, “You are as a shadow cast across the sun.”

“You need have no fear of my shadow,” rumbled the carle, “I possess the capacity to enlighten the whole household with this blaze behind me but tonight that is not my purpose.”

“Then what is your purpose?” asked King Grim-Gaze.

“I have a covenant to make,” said the clod-hopper, “for neither in Africa nor Asia, nor yet throughout the whole of Europe have I found the man to do me fair play regarding it: since the men of Albion excel all the folk of those lands for strength, prowess and valour, I hope to find me one among you to fulfill it.”

 “What then is this covenant which no one has so far met?” said King Grim-Gaze.

The foul fellow cast down the block into the middle of the hall and brandished his mighty axe, “whoever agrees to allow me to cut off his head with my axe tonight, I will grant him the same with regard to my own head on the morrow and along with it the Championship of Albion.”

“By the god of my tribe,” said Connor Cruel-Crest, “death is not such a pleasant prospect, if the man killed tonight returns to attack you on the morrow,” he lowered his cup and sat down.

“By the god of my tribe,” said Long-Horn O’Leary, “the man able to return on the morrow after suffering death the previous night would leave no man alive in Albion,” he lowered his cup and sat down.

“Sure then, is there no warrior here after these two?” roared the ogre surveying the mead house.

“Indeed there is,” shouted Fat-Head, the son of Short-Neck, and he sprang into the middle of the mead house, “bend down you grizzly gawp, that I might cut off your head tonight and you to cut off mine tomorrow.”

“But if that were my covenant I could have got it anywhere.”

“Yet to you alone, it would seem, is given the power to be killed every night, and to avenge your death upon the following day.”

“That’s true,” said the monstrous man, “I will agree to what you suggest.” He bent down and put his neck across the block.

With that Fat-Head took the axe from the giant’s hand; its two angles were a full seven feet apart on the stock, yet he struck at the hairy one’s neck until his severed head lay at the base of the fork beam of the fire.

Straightaway the unnatural hulk rose, recovered himself, clasped his head, block and axe to his breast, and made his exit from the mead hall with the blood still gurgling from his neck.

*

The next day, as the men of Albion watched Fat-Head to see whether he would shirk his covenant they saw a great dejection seize him, and some asked if they should start their keen.

Said Fat-Head, “it is true, my death is coming to me but I’d sooner my neck be broken than my word.”

As night approached the carle came into the hall as before, “where is Fat-Head,” he said, “for the squat one has a covenant to keep.”

“Here I am,” said Fat-Head, rising from his seat.

“You’re dull of speech tonight unhappy one,” said the fiend, “greatly must you fear to die, yet I see that you have not shirked your fate.”

Fat-Head went up to the swarthy chap and stretched his neck across the block but so big was its groove that his head reached only half-way.

“Stretch out your neck, wretch,” roared the giant, lifting his mighty axe.

“Dispatch me quickly, you keep me in torment,” shouted Fat-Head.

“I cannot slay you, what with the size of the block coupled with the shortness of your scrawny neck,” yelled back the fiend.

“I shall make my neck as long as the cranes above you,” cried Fat-Head, and he stretched himself out so that a warrior’s full grown foot would have fitted between any two of his ribs; his neck extended until his head reached the other side of the block.

The mighty man raised his axe till it reached the roof-tree of the hall; the creaking of the old hide that was about him and the crashing of the axe were as the loud noise of a wood, tempest tossed, in a night of storm, but the axe blade glided from the neck of Fat-Head as if it had been stone.

“Truly, the Championship of Albion to Fat-Head,” shouted the carle, and he lifted the little fellow onto his shoulders.”

“By the god of my Clan,” laughed Fat-Head, from the giant’s shoulders, as the two of them left the mead house, “his head shall he lose whosoever comes to contest it with me!”…

*

…Once outside the mead house, Father Fish and Little Nipper, Champions of the Crafty Folk, shifted into their own shape, and set off for Eden Dale.

Alongside them walked Grey-Sway: she was leading the white, black-maned cow, chosen by Father Fish as the price of his labour.

– Excerpt from: The Heart of Albion: tales from the Wondrous Head.

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The House that Fish Built V…

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…So Long-Horn O’Leary was taken into the presence of the one whose mouth is sweet: “Welcome,” said Maeve, “in preference to Connor Cruel-Crest, I assign to you a cup of gold with a bird chased in silver on its bottom. Take it with you as a token of award. No one else is to see it until, at the days end, you are in the mead hall of king Grim-Gaze. When the champion’s portion is exhibited among the men of Albion then shall you bring out the cup in their presence and none of them will dispute further with you.”

Then the cup with its full of luscious mead was given to O’Leary, and he downed the contents in a draught.

“Having tasted the mead of kings,” said Maeve, “I wish that you may enjoy it a hundred years at the head of all the men of Albion.”

*

Then Connor Cruel-Crest came before the one whose mouth is sweet.

“Welcome,” said Maeve, “in preference to Long-Horn O’Leary, I assign to you a cup of silver with a bird chased in gold on its bottom. Take it with you as a token of award. No one else is to see it until, at the days end, you are in the mead hall of king Grim-Gaze.

When the champion’s portion is exhibited among the men of Albion, then shall you bring out the cup in their presence and none of them will dispute further with you.”

So the cup with its full of luscious mead was given to Connor, and he downed the contents in a draught.

“Having tasted the mead of kings,” said Maeve, “I wish that you may enjoy it a hundred years at the head of all the men of Albion.”

*

…In the mead house of Grim-Gaze, King of the Slug-Men, the Heroes of Albion ceased their boastings, the ladder-vat of ale was filled for them, and the spencers came to serve the Champion’s Portion.

Father Fish slipped out of the mead house unnoticed.

Connor Cruel-Crest stood and lifted on high the silver cup, with the bird chased in gold on the bottom, given to him by Sweet-Mouthed Maeve, “the Champion’s Portion is mine,” he said, “and none of the men of Albion may contest it with me.”

“That is not so,” said Long-Horn O’Leary, raising his own cup which was gold with a bird chased in silver on the bottom, “from the difference in the tokens which Maeve gave to us it is clear that the Champion’s Portion belongs to me alone.”

In the silence which had fallen on the company, a loud wailing from without the mead house could be heard by all those present.

Into the house that Father Fish built strode a big, uncouth, fellow of un-surpassing ugliness…

– Excerpt from; The Heart of Albion: tales from the Wondrous Head

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The House that Fish Built IV…

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…Said Very-White, “it is but a drop before a shower:

 I see another chariot coming over the plain.”

“Describe it,” said Sweet-Mouthed Maeve.

Said Very-White, “I see the

horses pulling the chariot:

two fiery, spirited bays of

great strength and power;

wide of hoof, with

sweat spittled chests

and curbed jaws;

high mettled their

broad foreheads

their manes curled;

swift and smooth,

they run a tumultuous course

of wild and dashing pace.

*

A chariot of fine wood,

its wicker-work new and freshly spruced,

having two wheels of bronze;

its pole bright with gold mountings.

*

In the chariot a man

much freckled,

his hair long and curly:

his tresses triple-hued;

brown at root

red in mass with

tips corn yellow.

*

About his body

        a crimson tunic

striped gold.

*

A shield alongside

yellow bossed

edged in bronze.

*

From his wrist shoots

a shining broad sword.

*

A grandly moving billow

waves from his chariot frame…

*

…“I recognise that man,” said Maeve, “a wolf among cattle,

in battle after battle, head

upon head he heaps;

through furious foe, he

leaps like a flame, his

name the call to rout;

eager for fray, the sword

of Long-Horn O’Leary

…is a raven to prey.”

“How should these mighty men of war be greeted?” said Very-White…

Said Sweet-Mouthed Maeve, “women to meet them, bonnie, full-breasted and bare, with strong ale, well malted, their food, not scanty but fare.”

*

So the heroes of Albion were bathed, fed and entertained, each in their separate compartments.

When sated and fully rested, Very-White went to each of them in turn in order to discover the reason for their visit.

She returned to Maeve and said, “The men of Albion are contending over the Champion’s Portion, in the mead house of King Grim-Gaze the slug-man. They have agreed to abide by your judgement in the matter.”

Maeve’s honeyed lips curved into an inscrutable smile, “Have them perform the wheel feat of the youths in the morning,” she said.

*

The following morning the men of Albion were woken early and taken to a hall in which youths were performing the wheel feat.

First Long-Horn O’Leary seized the wheel, he threw it in the air and it reached in height the ridge pole of the hall; the youths in the hall laughed and jeered at his effort but O’Leary heard their reaction as cheers and was elated.

Then Connor Cruel-Crest seized the wheel, he threw it in the air and it reached in height the ridge pole of the hall; the youths in the hall cheered and applauded his effort but Connor heard their reaction as jeers and was dejected.

Said Sweet-Mouthed Maeve to Very-White, “to whom should we award the Champion’s Portion of Albion?”

“It is difficult for me to decide,” said Very-White, “for there is nothing to choose between the two of them.”

Said Sweet-Mouthed Maeve, “O my child, there is no difficulty, for in truth, Long-Horn O’Leary, and Connor of the Cruel-Crest are different as white and red gold.”…

– Excerpt  from; The Heart of Albion: tales of the Wondrous Head.

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The House that Fish Built III…

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…King Grim-Gaze the slug-man struck the silver sceptre that was in his hand against the bronze pillar of his couch three times, and by the third stroke, the combatants had let drop their hands to their sides.

“I restrain you, men of Albion, lest your mien be the paler: your shields are likely to be splintered in the attack for that to which you have not yet attained. My feast has to be celebrated and my wish is to divide the Champion’s Portion among all the host, and to decide with reference to it according to the will of Maeve, she whose mouth is sweet, in the Cave of Cruachan. Tomorrow, the heroes shall ride there for judgement, enjoy the food and ale before you, and let rivalry be put aside until the feast is over.”

So did the men of Albion return to their seats round the fire, to make light of the night, long into morning…

*

…The next day Connor Cruel-Crest and Long-Horn O’Leary met at the stables of King Grim-Gaze the slug-man.

“Let our horses be brought and our chariot’s yoked,” said O’Leary.

“There will be little profit for you in that,” said Connor, “by the men of Albion, the clumsiness of your horses is renowned, as is the unsteadiness of your going and turnabout.”

“And your chariot’s movement is so heavy that it’s two wheels raise turf on both sides,” said O’Leary, “so that for a year after your passing the track is still recognisable to the men of Albion.”

“Put not on me the precedence of kings until I have fared before the champions of Albion in woods and confines,” cried Connor as he stepped into his chariot.

“Put not on me the precedence of kings until I have nimbly crossed fords and outstripped the champions of Albion,” cried O’Leary stepping into his chariot…

*

…So the heroes of Albion set out for the Cave of Cruachan…

Through the Gap-of-the-Watch,

over the Plain-of-Two-Forks,

across the Ford-of-the-Morrigan

into the Rowan-Meadow-of-the-Two-Oxen

by the Meeting-of-the-Four-Ways they drove

before a dim, dark, heavy mist overtook them…

*

In the Cave of Cruachan, Very-White-Clear-Sight sat in meditation, “Mother,” she said, “I see a chariot coming over the plain.”

“Describe it,” said Sweet-Mouthed Maeve.

Said Very-White, “truly, I see horses pulling the chariot:

two stormy dappled greys

alike in colour and shape;

nostrils wide

heads erect

ears pricked;

manes flowing

of full slim-girth

their tails curled;

galloping side by side

bounding apace

they career along.

*

A chariot of fine wood,

the high frame’s wicker-work

creaks above its two black wheels:

its curved yoke is silver mounted.

*

In the chariot

a dark, melancholy man:

his eyebrows jet

his face pale

cheeks ruddy;

his blue mantle is

held across the chest

by a salmon brooch.

A three-pronged javelin

gleams from his shoulder.

An awning of bird plumage

waves from his chariot frame…

*

…“I recognise that man,” said Maeve,

“an ocean fury:

a whale that rages in the crash of battle,

like the back-stroke of waves against the land;

in face a man

in mien a hero

in heart a dragon;

swift, as the speckled trout

on sand stone is cut, the red

hand of Connor Cruel-Crest…

 – Excerpt from; The Heart Of Albion: tales from the Wondrous Head.

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The House that Fish Built II…

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…From the south came Long-Horn O’Leary and his host.

“Hail, the flame-hot hammerer: wielder of the red mallet,” said Father Fish as he lolloped alongside O’Leary’s company on foot, “When the men of Albion return from foreign lands you protect their rear so that an assailant may not spring past you, nor over you, what then should prevent the Champion’s Portion of Red-Hill-Hall being yours ?”

Said Long-Horn O’Leary, “why, if it isn’t that dullard Fish Face, come to pester me with his eccentric wit,” he laughed aloud and his company set up a roar and raised their swords.

“Truly, the Champion’s Portion of the house I built is not that of a dullard’s house,” smiled Father Fish, “belonging to it are five-score cakes of wheat cooked in honey, and a cow-lord full seven years old; since it was a calf neither heather nor twig-tops have entered its lips, nothing but sweet milk and herbs, meadow-hay and corn, indeed, the Champion’s Portion of Red-Hill-Hall is well worth contesting, for if it be yours then the Championship of Albion also will be yours forever.”

Long-Horn O’Leary eyed the fish man warily.

Said Father Fish, “Since you are the finest hero among the men of Albion, it is just that it be yours, and so do I wish it.”

“By the god of my clan,” shouted Long-Horn O’Leary, “his head shall he lose whosoever comes to contest it with me !”

Father Fish laughed at that, for it pleased him right well…

*

…As the men of Albion entered the mead house in Red-Hill-Hall that Father Fish built, each hero occupied a couch and sat his young braves round him.

While the feast was being prepared the musicians and players of King Grim-Gaze performed their arts.

Father Fish spread the table with its savouries  and then withdrew to his sun bower, unobserved…

*

…As the spencers rose to serve the food, the charioteer of Connor Cruel-Crest stood up and addressed the king, “O Far Seeing One,” he said, “many are the feats of Connor; majestic and commanding his gait, clashing swords he brings together, and in front of them he strides in glory to destroy all before him; in battles of blood, the pride of armies he hews, mowing down hosts of his foe-men; ever hostile is his hand, and many the mighty victories he has scored for Albion.

Do you assign to Connor the Champion’s Portion, he alone is entitled to it before all the other heroes of Albion?”

“That is not so !” Cried the charioteer of Long-Horn O’Leary, leaping to his feet, “to O’Leary should the Champion’s Portion be assigned, he alone before any other man of Albion is deserving of it: sprung from loins that are royal, fostered in warrior virtues; more famous than all Albion’s heroes, the guardian of every ford-way; big is his shield, it protects from wounds, his friends he defends from their foe-men;by O’Leary’s hand are they held, equal in every strength, all noble.”

Father Fish called down from his sun bower, “the Champion’s Portion of Red-Hill-Hall is not that of a fool’s or a dullard’s house, who do you prefer for valour?” Whereupon the whole assembly ran for their shields and seized their weapons: within the space of a gnat’s eye-blink the hall was aflame with the clash of sword edge and spear point, and the floor became a white sheet of shield enamel.

Said Father Fish from his sun bower, “Why, ‘tis a bad look-out tonight and no mistake!”…

–  Excerpt from; The Heart of Albion: tales from the Wondrous Head.

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The House that Fish Built…

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… No smoke from the roof-rounds

of Albion without tribute to them…

A tribute on the Quern.

A tribute on the Kneading Trough.

A tribute on the Baking Flags…

An ounce of gold for every nose

North, South, East or West

of the Wondrous Head.

*

King Grim-Gaze, the slug-man, was planning a great feast at Red-Hill-Hall.

…Said Grey-Sway to Father Fish, “Wake up, wake up! You must undertake a work of construction: a mead house for my father’s banquet is required; it is to be completed a year from this day.”

So Father Fish set about his work, and one morning Little Nipper came to him and said, “soon you will finish your labour, you must not seek payment until the cattle of Albion are brought before you, when this is done you must choose from among them all only the white, black-maned cow.”

Father Fish did as bidden by Little Nipper and, with all the cattle of Albion before him, he asked only one white, black-maned cow as the price of his labour.

Now that seemed right foolish to King Grim-Gaze but he consented all the same…

*

The house that Father Fish built was constructed in this way: it had nine compartments from fire place to wall, with each facade made of bronze, standing thirty feet high; it took a wagon team to haul each beam, and the strength of seven men to fix each pole.

At the front of the house, high above the rest, a royal compartment for King Grim-Gaze was erected, and positioned around it in a circular fashion were twelve couches replete with blankets and cushions for the comfort of the heroes of Albion.

In the roof of the house Father Fish constructed a sun bower with a cunningly crafted spy hole so that he could look out over the feasting without being seen.

*

King Grim-Gaze issued a proclamation:

‘Unless the men and women of Albion partake of my feast, I will stir up strife between father and son until mutual slaughter results, and I will set mother and daughter at blows until their breasts become loathsome and putrid.’

*

Admirable was the march to Red-Hill-Hall as the men of Albion set out for the house of King Grim-Gaze with host, battalion and company under the leadership of their chieftains.

From the north came Connor Cruel-Crest and his host.

“Hail, mighty warrior: bright bannered bearer of the thunderbolt,” said Father Fish, lolloping alongside Connor’s company on foot, “by the time the men of Albion cross into foreign bounds you are a distance of three nights and three days in advance over many a ford, what then should hinder the Champion’s Portion of Red-Hill-Hall being yours ?”

*

Said Connor Cruel-Crest, “why, if it isn’t that lackey Fish Face, the unpaid fool of King Grim-Gaze,” he laughed out loud and his company set up a shout and raised their spears.

“Truly, the Champion’s Portion of the house I built is not that of a fool’s house,” smiled Father Fish, “belonging to it is a cauldron full of generous wine and a seven year old boar; since it was small nothing has entered its lips but fine meal in springtime, curds in summer, the kernel of nuts in autumn and beef broth in winter, indeed, the Champion’s Portion of Red-Hill-Hall is well worth contesting; if it be yours then the Championship of Albion also will be yours forever.”

Connor Cruel-Crest looked the fish man up and down.

Said Father Fish, “Since you are the bravest hero among the men of Albion, it is but just to give it to you, and so do I wish it.”

“By the god of my clan,” shouted Connor Cruel-Crest, “his head shall he lose, whosoever comes to contest it with me!”

Father Fish laughed at that, for it pleased him right well…

– Excerpt from; The Heart of Albion: tales from the Wondrous Head.

Dear Wen XLV

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Dear Wen…

Strictly speaking of course, slug trails should be ‘slug trails’ but I was ever so slightly chuffed to be able to use the ‘Slug Man’ again even if he did have to go into inverted commas. A natural extrusion of story as opposed to a natural extrusion of rock which some of Our Stones are undoubtedly regarded as.

Stanton Moor sounds like the ideal venue for next years Harvest of Being which will mean we get to play out in it beforehand too…

That circle through the trees always looks like some kind of moot to me… the Bear Moot in the forest…

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Ah yes, the infamous Crone Stone incident… I expect you realise that years from now earnest journals will be written and pored over by earnest men and women about the possible ramifications of the Crone Stone Incident… In that particular shot it looks like nothing more than the gnomon of a huge sun dial… Perhaps that is in fact what it is…

The geometric petro-glyphs turn out to be a sun wheel of sorts and a possible moon track… Moon declensions often assume the appearance of snakes. Although inevitably concerned with the practicalities of these planetary bodies, Stone Age Man was undoubtedly an Alchemist.

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The Black Shade is in serious need of a walkabout… the gifts of the land for such projects can never be underestimated… which is useful because from next Wednesday Walkabouts shall be the order of the day… Whoo-Hoo…

Now Slither-Hound I like, any name with slightly derogatory undertones is ideal for the Monstrosity currently labouring under the wholly appropriate moniker of the Beast.Hollie and stuff 009

You may inform ‘He of the Seed-Spangled Brow’ that he has made it into the next book, although in a slightly changed form, not that he will be overly concerned about that, the Daft Dog cares not for such subtleties…

Alle Oop!

Love

Don x