The Northern Antiquarian Forum

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The Northern Antiquarian Forum

Archaeology, folklore & myth of Britain's pre-christian sites & heritage: stone circles, holy wells, maypoles, tombs, archaic cosmologies and human consciousness. Everyone welcome - even Southerners!



    Join date : 2010-11-01
    Age : 74
    Location : CLITHEROE


    Post  lowergate Sun Dec 19, 2010 1:16 pm

    ‘The modern psyche suffers from ontological disorientation, a loss of being, place and origin. The power and effect of exploratory walks in the near landscape is to trigger memories of belonging, stirring a sense of permanence, continuity and the inexplicably familiar.’

    Rest awhile and take in the stillness of the prospect. Here birds sing and chatter from sun up to mid afternoon, and after resting make a feast of the evening’s insect population then resume their song once again.
    Indigenous deciduous trees have now been planted to replace the mono-culture of pine adding greater diversity of habitat for flora and fauna.

    The hilltop above our seat is Stang Top, known locally as the ‘Witch’s Pole/Stake’, a spur of land that rises 1076 ft. above the village of Barley, cut from the main mass of Pendle by Black Moss Water and from Wheathead Height by the waters of Castor Gill. It is said that in former times a large pole stood at a high point that is now enclosed by Aitken Wood (Wicca Wood), and that the ‘Eye of God’ stone, that is now built into the west wall of the church tower at St. Mary the Virgin in Goldshawbooth, formed part of an ‘altar’ at the base of the ‘Pole’ upon which offerings were placed.

    On the night of May Eve, Beltane fires were lit around the pole to celebrate regeneration, warming the earth with golden-green radiance – the coming of summer when winter finally relaxes her chilly grip and Belisama blossoms forth in her fragrant shining glory. With the coming of May Day the sacred stake/pole was wreathed with blue, white and yellow ribbons, representing the colors of the celestial regions, forming a centre for intertwining dances.

    In the centre of the sky shines the Pole Star, holding the celestial tent like a stake – the Axis Mundi ‘Tree of Life’.

    Due to the precession of the equinoxes the direction of the Earth's axis is very slowly but continuously changing, and as the projection of the Earth's axis moves around the celestial sphere over the millennia, the role of North Star passes from one star to another. Since the precession of the equinoxes is so slow, taking about 26,000 years to complete a cycle, a single star typically holds that title for many centuries.

    In 3000 BCE the faint star Thuban in the constellation Draco was the North Star. At magnitude 3.67 (fourth magnitude) it is only one-fifth as bright as Polaris, the current North Star (time exposure photography of Polaris and neighbouring stars show it to lie just of centre of the concentric circular star trails).

    Gamma Cephei (also known as Alrai, situated 45 light-years away) will become closer to the northern celestial pole than Polaris around 3000 CE.

    ‘There is a crack, a crack in everything,
    That’s how the light gets in.’
    (Leonard Cohen)

    The shamans of the Atecoti had a mythical image that all other stars circled the Pole Star, being invisibly linked to it. It was seen as the axis of their world and a point that linked the greater Cosmos to Earth. From this point, through mystical experience, could be drawn what the Sufi mystics refer to as ‘Baraka’. The whirling of the Mevlevi order of Dervishes symbolizes this universally disseminated idea connected with the belief in the possibility of direct communication with the Oneness of the Cosmos.

    Positive contact with the fluid that binds the Cosmos places one in harmony with not only the Earthly but the Spiritual world. The ability to be congruous with the Divine is pure nutrition, a blessing, a state of grace that brings forth spiritual influence.

    Well-being and happiness can be gained by being in touch with the intangible force that is known to the Sufi as 'Baraka'. It is akin to good fortune - what some call luck.

    'The microcosm is hidden in the creation of man and the macrocosm is this, the outer universe. But for prophets the outer universe is the microcosm while the inner universe is the macrocosm'
    (Shams al-Din Tabrizi. Makalat)

    Wicca Wood is also known as Aitken Wood, named after a local Goldshawbooth family, descendents of one James Aitken, formerly of Dundee in Scotland, who came to Lancashire with the army of Prince Edward Stewart, the Young Pretender, during the 1745 Rebellion. On the east side of Newchurch churchyard, by the path, stands a fine granite monument commemorating the Aitken family and marks the grave of James Aitken.

    ‘I recall one summer’s evening not long ago, when passing through the deeper reaches of Wicca Wood I came upon a clearing that from which came the glow of a fire set within a small circle of stones. I then noticed the figure of a woman with long dark hair, completely stark naked, sitting by the edge of the stones. Her head rose and looked in my direction and with a slight movement beckoned me to sit beside her. I did as she requested noticing as I did so the strange hue of her skin, it being a greenish olive colour as if it were cast of bronze, such as the races of ancient times may have had of whom it is said they were like dark-green gold. Looking into the glowing embers the alluring creature began to speak:

    “They search for that which is undisclosed, the secret behind one’s own thoughts, to discover their hidden roots yet are impeded by the external reality that is the net in which mankind has caught itself. The secret they all seek can only be found by transforming oneself root and branch and through the mastery of thought tear a hole in the net and escape the meshes.”

    She poked the embers with a stick and some time passed then without further gesture resumed her telling:

    “There is a secret, inner growth … for years it seems impeded and then, unexpectedly, often set of by something trivial, the final veil falls away and there is a light that is so pure and soft that all that was once deed and action falls into its embrace and there is only thought. Only when you command light can you also command the shadows that are deeds and actions and – destiny. This is the key that most fail to grasp; they listen and they nod and they believe, but it goes in one ear and out of the other and the light fades back to shadows. The whole purpose of human existence is to develop a fine sense of what makes for this eternal light. But how many are there alive today who understand what I mean? They would imagine I was talking in images if I were to tell them. It is the ambiguity of language that separates us. I sometimes fear that the difference between one person and another is greater than that between a person and a stone.”

    Again she poked at the embers, and then we both sat motionless looking beyond the near glow to the silhouette forming between the trees that heralded the dawn of eternal wakefulness.’

    She dances the moon with power and grace
    Amidst the hills and trees, in her sacred space
    A sky-clad weaver moving swiftly between realms
    There in the leaves ….what do you see?
    If you honor the Old ways ~ it may be She.

    From: PENDLE - A MYTHIC LANDSCAPE, Aussteiger Publications 2011 Inshalla

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