Saturday, July 3, 2010

Ground Force

Whenever possible, I walk the 3 miles to work, down a disused railway line. Often I'm wondering what the place would have looked like before the line was dug into its landscape. How many ancient, sacred and votive places were carved up and now perhaps shore up the bank of the very path that I now walk upon? The route itself is glorious at this time of year, lush and verdant, buzzing with bees and frantic flys, all sampling the riot of flavours in the hedgerows. Elder, with its florets of creamy white blossoms, and the pinky-tinged buddings of the Hawthorn, weaving with the Dog Rose and Rowan along either side. Swallows swoop and dive among the tops of the bushes and nesting birds shrill their alarm on my approach. The Line is situated amongst farmland and hills, a land that has supported man for thousands of years. The resting place of Carin, a bronze age chieftain, is but a stones throw from here, and in his citadel of "Kirk Carrion", he surveys his lands and his descendants from his Pine strewn grave.
Kirk Carrion
The presence of those ancestors is never far. Is that a natural outcrop, or is it fashioned by man in some way? Is that an erratic, or a dressed stone placed deliberately as a marker or perhaps to divert or attract energy? A sacred place. A place our predecessors knew held potent forces, or perhaps the  dwelling place of a guardian spirit?  I cannot travel anywhere without summing up the landscape, flora and fauna in this way. I may not be a qualified landscape archaeologist, but I'm plugged into the vibrating web of space time and place, as we all are if we but stood still and silent awhile. To my left I pass a particular combination of stones, and am drawn to it. Not only does it look as if it is contrived, but it resonates with a past time, with old bones and memories. Today I'm exploring, as today the cows are out of the field. The first thing to say about the arrangement of the site, is the "spine like" quality. It travels uphill for only a few yards, but protrudes from the incline like a backbone. It has 4 main stones, all large, and not the sort of stones used in dry-stone walling. The first, facing me down hill of the railway line is large rounded stone, and between this and the other 3 stones are many smaller stones, much destroyed. Standing guardian in the middle of the feature is a Hawthorn.
The Guardian Hawthorn
I sat and waited. I asked for permission to approach the spirit of the place, the guardian who has forever the duty to safeguard the sanctity of this place. It felt like ages, and I sensed a reticence to engage at all. Hardly surprising, as the railway line would have driven through the fabric of the structure and spun all the carefully constructed stones, memories and energies to the four directions. Sensing this, i tried to reassure this spirit, that I meant no harm, and that I was seeking to know more of the history and to give respect to the ancestors who's remains were honoured there, and that their labour had built. The Hawthorn shook as a breeze from nowhere rattled through his branches. I felt the atmosphere change, and the hairs go up on my forearms, I was in the presence of Spirit
"Blessed be the spirit of this place,
I come to you in peace,
to bring you honour and praise,
and to ask for your permission and protection,
I walk these, your denizens and domains.
In the name of our mother the Earth Goddess,
and our father, Lord of the Wild woods"
Blessed Be,

I was certainly in a space between the worlds, on the spine of a serpent that ribboned across the Teesdale hillsides, in a landscape once littered with stone circles, tumulus, megaliths and sacred sites. The vibrancy of that feeling was alarming, today although very beautiful, there is very little evidence of what must have been an important ritual landscape, just as in Cumbria, only across the Pennines. But there was blood, and tribal affiliations that were in dispute, and the "tale" I received was of a power struggle, and much death and sorrow attached. The grave I was experiencing was of the head of a family. His punishment was to be laid here, but his family banished, so as not to have the opportunity to honour him in death. A dreadful thing to his descendants, and a massive slight to his soul in the other world. It was like newsflash! Then i shuddered and realised, I hadn't taken a breath! The vision evaporated, the spirit had downloaded the memory, and was standing back, weighing me up, as I felt sick, and had a massive "head-rush" I started to breath again, coming to, swigged from my water bottle. Stood up slowly stamped my feet, shook my body from top to bottom, I tried to shout, to ground myself in this world, but I couldn't hear myself...was I deaf? No, birds were singing, cars were passing on the little lane beyond...more stomping, and more water, and all had slipped back into its place. I was back in this realm, in this body.
I thanked the spirit, and asked if I might be allowed to commune again with him, and that I might make this sacred space one of my liminal places, to come and collect sprowl and memories for my work. His, and indeed it was very male, response felt warm and encouraging. I left an offering of wild bird seed, and some sanctified drops of potion, blessed all my relations and walked onto work...late!

The Three Stone alignment
The Stones and their Guardian Hawthorn

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