‘Green represents Spirit over Matter’…
… Alchemy is the oldest science known to Man.
The Ancient who first cast a weather eye at the heavens, licked a finger and held it aloft in the sky in order to ascertain which way the wind did blow… was an Alchemist.
One of the first things the Alchemists noticed about the elements was their mutability…
They seemed to be caught up in an endless round of transmutation and were forever striving to become each other.
That apart, they were incredibly stable in themselves, and also incredibly dynamic!
Small wonder, then, that the equilateral triangle presented itself as a fitting symbol of their being.
To lessen the confusion between Fire and Water and to accentuate the difference between Earth and Air, the Alchemists coloured their symbols…
… Most people, if asked, would claim to be familiar with these elements largely because in the physical world they can recognise substances which, today, go by that name.
“I know what earth, air, fire and water are,” they might haughtily declare before moving on to something infinitely more befitting their lofty opinion of themselves.
But they would be wrong.
Nobody knows what they are.
We may be able to recognise them and in some instances we may also be able to predict what they will do, how they will operate, what results will follow from their mutual interactions, but we do not know what they are are, anymore than we can ever claim to know what electricity is, except, perhaps, in very vague terms…
Electricity is a force of nature which can be harnassed…
The Elements are forces of nature which can be harnassed…
So mysterious are these forces that some mystical schools refuse to call them elements at all, referring to them, instead, as principles.
For modern man this mystery is a failing, so it is not accepted and certainly not talked about…
For ancient man this mystery was a joy, embraced with open arms, and became something of a raison d’etre.
The ancients never tired of observing the kaliedoscopic interplay of these forces constantly taking place around them.
Consequently, they discovered some pretty amazing things about them.
They called this study, Alchemy…
‘In the early epic ‘Beowulf’ occur the similar words ‘beorh’ and ‘burh’.
The first used only for a tumulus or barrow, which was a burial place. The second for a fortified or protected dwelling or enclosure.
Philologists have adopted these ‘meanings’ and have extended ‘burh’ to include, hill-top camps and also, later, enclosed settlements or towns which now carry the suffix -bury.
On this evidence, then, they derive -bury in a place name from ‘burh’ but not from ‘beorh’.
The ley student, on the other hand, finds that the earthwork enclosures called ‘burh’ (camps or castles) in most cases originated from a nucleus of an older tumulus or ‘beorh’. He notes, also, that farmers wishing to protect their roots call the earth-mound used for this purpose a ‘bury’ although the same heap of roots protected in a barn is not so designated.
Our modern verb ‘to bury’ has the earth covering and also the mound, for that matter, as an essential component yet cremated remains are not ‘buried’ if enclosed and protected in an urn and placed on a shelf in a chapel…’
Alfred Watkins – The Old Straight Track
… Just then there is a flurry of wings, and squawks and screeches overhead and we turn our attention skyward in time to see an enormous buzzard chasing off two ravens from the precincts of Uffington Castle.
“Oh, Don look!”Cries Wen, “the hawk of the morning has chased the shadows of the night away.”
As if on cue a sky lark flies up from the ‘fairy thorn’ with as an incongruous a cacophony of song as you are ever likely to hear in such a setting…
As the ravens fly into black specks and disappear in the mist another buzzard glides into view and we watch the two mighty birds soar on the up-draught for awhile as if spiralling around some unseen cone of power.
It certainly feels like we have been accepted into something although I am not quite sure what.
I make a mental note to look up the origins of the phrase, ‘…the Heart of Albion’…
The acrid smoke hung heavy in the night air.
They would feast tonight.
But for now she plaited the strands of horsehair from the white mane.
A gift from the gods she would treasure…
A blessing as she shared the meat roasting in the pit on the plateau.
The flames cast a dull glow across the faces of the clans.
They were expectant, eager yet solemn.
They were waiting…
… The hollow of Dragon Hill affords a stunning vista of the Manger and the Giant’s Stairs.
From this vantage the sheer scale of the site starts to impinge upon my consciousness.
I concur with Wen that the laity would have congregated in the bowl or chalice of the hill where we now stand, shaped as it is it forms a natural amphitheatre and the scoured grass beneath our feet which according to tradition is the spot where St. George ‘loosed the Dragon’s blood’ is clearly as anything a missing piece off the horse on the hill opposite.
I am minded of the myth of Isis and Osiris and the search of the Goddess for her brother’s dismembered body…
The other disconcerting thing, from our point of view, is that the figure is not wholly visible from this elevation.
One would need to be a lot higher up or further back to make out the entire shape.
It is though, nevertheless, a highly dramatic landscape.
We have crossed to the opposite hill now and stand contemplating the eye of the dragon…