I wrote this a few years ago after a journey through the English countryside one Solstice. As the vernal equinox marks the turning of the year once again, I thought I would share this again today.
I have always been aware of magic. A strange, eclectic upbringing allowed me to grow without religious prejudice in a world where Bast and barguests were as possible as any other cat or dog and where Jehovah, Allah and the Buddha were held in equal respect.
I was taught to love the Earth in all her beauty and mystery, through folk tales and science in equal proportion. There was nothing of glamour attached to magic. It was simply there. Always and everywhere.
So what happened at Solstice…just happened…
I work in field sales and one of the privileges of that job is to organise one’s own workload. So, as Thursday dawned windy, but gloriously sunny, I decided to visit customers in the Cotswolds and treat my city–sated soul to the beauty of thatched cottages and rolling English hills. For some reason, I threw a pair of jeans and my painting easel in the car along with the files, which I’ve never done before.
I had a good day with customers and my final visit took me within a stone’s throw of the Rollright Stones, a stone circle set in a ring of trees on top of a hill. I went there once before with a friend and had shown him how to dowse with copper rods. This was the first time I’d been on my own and, being midweek, I had the site almost to myself.
I parked in the lane and stripped off my business suit, feeling that as I did so, I was stripping away the world’s perception of my persona. Donning jeans and T-shirt brought me back to simplicity devoid of pretension or pretence.
Leaving the mobile phone behind I stepped away from the humdrum need to make survival money and felt I crossed more than one threshold as I walked between the gateposts.
The circle, though weathered, is almost complete. The stones stand like broken teeth around a green lawn, not manicured, but scattered with daisies like little bright stars lifting their faces to the Light. The path enters the circle at the wrong place. A stone there has fallen, leaving a natural entrance, but it was never the original portal. Nevertheless, I enter the circle and as there is no-one around to notice, I bow to the Light and enter barefoot, treading deosil around the perimeter.
The sand is hot underfoot, the circle is sheltered from the wind by a horseshoe of trees, but here and there little dust devils dance. At the four quarters flowers have been left as offerings, sweet williams, with their heady scent and blood red petals, stark against the white and ochre of the lichen covered stones. Last night was the summer solstice and I have heard that this ring is still used by devotees of the Craft. I know that I will find the same flowers at the King Stone, a single monolith, as well as at the fallen burial chamber called the Whispering Knights, which form a triangle with the original entrance to the circle.
Circles and triangles take my mind to the Tree of Life with its great inrush of Cosmic Force and I wonder what the ancients were doing when they built this Temple of Light.
I walk to the centre of the lawn and sit, cross legged, in the circle. I am no longer alone; four men are also seated on the grass, talking quietly. We are isolated here and perhaps I should be careful. Yet I know there is no threat and a deep serenity enfolds me. One of the men stands to leave and I hear the words “Blessed be” repeated softly.
The sky above is a clear blue, scattered with clouds chasing each other in the wind. There is no road noise here; the only sounds are the birds and the rustling of leaves, overlaid by the muted conversation of the men. I close my eyes and begin the fourfold breathing as I have been taught. My body relaxes and I sink into the landscape.
In my mind I see the circle as a great chalice. It is empty save for its memories, yet I feel it was meant to be full of Light, a beacon for the soul. An empty vessel fulfils no purpose. The chalice is a vessel which gives form to that with which it is filled.
From the centre of the circle I renew my pledge of service. Around me I feel the wind spiralling into a great silver vortex, carrying me skywards on the wings of faith, yet the Earth is steady and solid beneath me and the grass tickles my feet in the slight breeze. Reality contradicts itself and I let it carry me with it, humbled and awed.
The vortex climbs through the azure haze, upwards, outwards, expanding and encompassing, the rhythm a great heartbeat, a counterpoint to my own, carrying reflected Light back to the heavens. The spiralling slows, stops climbing and rests, perfectly balanced on the point of the vortex in the circle where I sit. Then I am falling, in decreasing circles as it winds down and down, until the wind rushes through the Earth, in a subterranean vortex of white fire, funnelled from on high. The afternoon sun is warm on my upturned face as I swirl ever faster in the rushing fire. I can feel a pressure mounting. Suddenly, like a great star bursting, the fire spreads through the stones and out across the landscape. I can see it from my vantage point among the stars, a vast net of pure white force, veins of lambent silver spreading out across the land, carrying Light like blood.
One of the men laughs softly and that seems to fit. Joy is allowed. I open my eyes and smile, a smile shared by the men. Inside I feel different, a golden serenity which carries me home to my hearth.
Later, leafing through a book while I wait to kidnap the bathroom from my hoard of teenagers, I read the author’s words on how to honour the ancient places and smile. Perhaps those who work still at Rollright have kept it alive. It is I who was honoured today. Call it imagination or daydream if you will. I only know how it has made me feel and that today was a day of unforgettable beauty.