…On our way back through Little Kimble, we pass St. Nicks of Ellesborough.
There are banners and notices outside the churchyard proclaiming that tomorrow the church and its tower will be open to the public and that for a small fee the tower can be climbed and… refreshments will be available!
“Can you believe that?”
“Just another coincidence.”
“To add to all the other coincidences that we seem to be collecting on this particular quest.”
“Maybe we’ve finally found the key.”
“…The key to what?”
“To the doors of the St. Nicholas Churches.”
“It’s got something to do with the landscape. We had to do that today, we had to see the land like that, and now that we have, we’re ready for the next stage.”
“Two till five… we can do that after we’ve done St. Lawrence’s. That’ll be three Churches in two days that have previously been locked to us.”
We flash past the Stone crucifix that guards the gate of St. Nick’s…
“It’s odd to have two St. Nick’s… so close to each other.”
“Well that one is very evidently the Catholic version.”
“I’ve been thinking about that, about the emphasis that is placed upon the crucifixion. If you regard it purely on its own terms it loses some of its distaste.”
“It is a symbol after all.”
“And symbols are not supposed to refer back to historical events. That’s the big mistake that almost everyone makes….”
“You’re right of course, most people read symbols and symbolic stories literally…”
“…symbols are supposed to point to something ordinarily, and in any other way, inexpressible.”
“So, it isn’t the body of Jesus that is crucified on the cross of the world, or the tree of life, but rather, it’s the ego of Jesus, the crucifixion symbolises the transformation of the human personality during Christ’s ministry.”
“And that though you probably do not realise it is something that is ordinarily inexpressible because most people don’t recognise themselves or anyone else as anything other than a personality.”
“It would throw a distinctly different light on the resurrection if that were the case.”
“On the whole story, actually. Try re-running it from that perspective…”
Pious people generally are unaware
how much latitude is necessary for
a scholar to take the religious problem seriously.
It is only by viewing the question historically
that it seems to make any sense at all.
But even then our scholar stands no nearer piety.
Every age possesses its signature niavety
of which all other ages are envious.
How charming the notion that a pious man
be surpassed by the scholar,
by that presumptious half-man,
inventor and High-Priest of ‘modern ideas’!
The Temple was made of whole, draft stones.
Yet, hammers and axes, or any instrument made of iron, was not to be heard in the Temple while it was being built. – (I Kings. 6:7)
Solomon went to the Holy Men and said, “Tell me, how should the Temple be constructed?”
The Holy Men answered him, “You must find the Naxian Stone which Moses used to engrave the breast plate of the High Priest.”
“And where should I find the Naxian Stone?” asked Solomon.
“We know it not,” replied the Holy Men, and they shrugged their shoulders.
So, Solomon summoned demons, both male and female, and asked them if they knew the whereabouts of the stone.
They said to him, “We do not know where it is located, but perhaps Asmodeus, Prince of the Demons, knows.”
“And where should I find him?” asked Solomon.
“He is in the mountains, carving out a cistern. Every morning he fills it up with water, covers it over with cobble stones, and seals it with his seal,” said the demons. “Then he flies up into the heavens, learns a thing or two from the celestial school, then flies back down to earth and learns a thing or two from the terrestrial school, after which, he returns to examine the seal on his cistern to check that it has not been broken. Then he opens the seal himself, drinks from the cistern, covers it over again, replaces his seal upon it, and dozes off to sleep.” …
So, what to say of this banner?
It is a work of art, certainly.
It is a work of art which transcends the medieval style of its composition, although, the ‘S’ as an ‘eight’ and the ‘M’ as an ‘omega’ are remarkable.
The ‘lance’ too, as ‘crozier’, is a sublime touch.
Was the dragon always golden?
Does this hue, denote the beginning or even the end of a process?
Was the beast once much bigger?
Is this really how one earns one’s ‘spiritual wings’?
The spirals on the Saint’s shield are, to say the least, suggestive.
But the burning question which most readily springs to our mind…
If we nearly missed this depiction can we hope to find the Archangel when it is being deliberately ‘hidden’?
So, we return to the quest.
And turn shining eyes to the south.
Not that we ever left it, yet the churches had definitely ‘fallen off-line’…
Until one particular stained-glass window in Skipton.
It is tempting to think that later traditions lose much that is essential to preceding ones.
In magical traditions derived from the Hebrews, the Archangel Michael is a guardian of the south quarter and if a ‘Michael Window’ is present in a church, it is a relatively safe bet that it will be found on a south wall of that church.
So, why were we charging around St Michael’s, Hathersage, looking at stained-glass windows on the north wall, with such singular precision?
Because we were desirous of another window.
This headlong, wilful charge, bugles blaring, could well have been our undoing, had we been alone.
There was no ‘Michael Window’ in St Michael’s, Hathersage.
But there was this…
In a green hill,
the hollow green hills,
a dragon sleeps, tonight.
The red cross on the white shield of St. George is made up of red scales like the scales of the red dragon that wakes at the foot of St Michael’s Spear.
The red cross on the breast of St. George’s white breast-plate is made up of red scales like the scales of the red dragon whose forked tongue licks the root of St Michael’s Spear.
…And since when did the Archangel Michael become a Saint anyway?
Since the wings from the dragon subdued by St George became the self-same wings unfurling from his shoulder-blades.
Red as blood in the fight the fiery dragon rises
Pinioned and led, fled from earth to pole.
A posited pole that starry spear… arrowed straight to light… eddying out… to and fro… back and forth… body and soul… to soul.
For the sight of the night pole leads to the flight of the light soul.
In passion fled…red to red…unbled.
A bright, spear point fed…
to the dragon, red.
In the dark skies,
a hollow dark sky
the dragon sleeps, tonight.