The name Avalon has become associated with Glastonbury to a point beyond question. It is everywhere: in house-names, businesses, a school, and more. It has long had a sort of vague acceptance among the local people as something to do with legend, King Arthur and the Grail and all that sort of thing. But to dig deeper, to try to find out why this is so, or how it happened, is to get into a very complicated area indeed. Perhaps we shouldn't worry. Might we not just as well content ourselves with Avalon as a 'feeling', recognized subjectively as a magical point of fusion between the known and the unknown applied to a small area of semi-rural England?
All places breathe their own atmosphere of destiny, hinting at some future deliverance coloured by a nostalgia for a once-known, but lost, past. Glastonbury's is writ larger than most.
The fact of it all lies in the landscape itself: nature has set the scene to allow our myth-making faculties full rein, opening a gateway, a bridge, to another world.
Every nation has its chief holy place. We can think of Jerusalem in the Middle East, Delphi in Greece, Tara in Ireland. For England it is Glastonbury. The name itself is a thing to conjure with, as John Michell shows in his New Light on the Ancient Mystery of Glastonbury:
"It is possible that the first syllable in 'Glastonbury' derives from an old British word for oak or woad, and it has also been linked with Glasteing, a legendary early settler at Glastonbury... but there is no reason to doubt the obvious explanation, that it is a simple translation from Glastonbury's former Celtic name, Iniswitrin, Isle of Glass or Crystal Isle. A glassy isle is mythologically a place of enchantment. Within it is Caer Wydr, the Glass Castle, and Caer Siddi, the Fairy Fort, also translated as the Spiral Castle. The country where these places are to be found is Annwn, the Celtic land of Faery. In The Spoils of Annwn, a poem attributed to the sixth-century Welsh bard, Taliesin, is described how Arthur sailed there to rob its ruler of his magical, pearl-rimmed cauldron which gave sustenance to all who were worthy of it. This vessel seems to have been an early version of the Holy Grail, and Arthur's quest for it in Annwn foreshadows the location in Christian times of the Grail Quest at Glastonbury."
There is little doubt that Glastonbury was a pagan centre long before it became the prime Christian shrine of the West. In ancient times it was a tidal island, a sea-shore place, and, as Geoffrey Ashe has suggested, may have been venerated as one of the 'Isles of the Dead' from which souls passed on into the other world.
From a distance, the landscape is dominated by the strange conical hill known as the 'Tor'. A lone church tower caps its summit, dedicated, as such places nearly always are, to the Archangel Michael. Apart from the lesser hills scattered round and about, the land westward towards the Bristol Channel is flat as far as the eye can see, the shelf of the Mendips to the north and the less dramatic ridge of the Poldens to the south-west. Near the side of the Tor, set in a well cared-for garden, is the ancient chalybeate spring known as Chalice Well. Water pours from it at all times even in periods of long drought.
The town of Glastonbury itself is ranged around the square of roads which frames the extensive grounds of the ruined Abbey, once the largest and grandest in the country. These days there is nothing 'quaint' about the town. There are supermarkets, filling stations, cafés, tourist shops, inns and car-parks. Some eight thousand people live there.
To the west, towards the long-closed railway station and these days intersected by the relief road, runs Benedict Street, passing an ancient church bearing the same dedication. More correctly this should not be Benedict at all, but Benignus, a Celtic personage whose name ought not to have been so blatantly expunged from memory. A half-mile further on, within a system of fields known on old maps simply as 'Bride', is the site of a hermitage and chapel, no longer visible, said to have been occupied by the Irish saint, Bridget, with her community of nuns. Nearby was once a spring known as St. Bride's Well, of which more later. On the southern edge of this area, close to the road leading to the neighbouring shoe-making town of Street, the whale-back shape of Wirral Hill rises up and falls sharply towards the crossing of the River Brue at Pomparles Bridge. This is the 'Weary-all' Hill of the Joseph of Arimathea story, the place where it is said he struck his staff into the ground. This took root, to become the famed Glastonbury 'Holy Thorn' which flowers remarkably every year at Christmas.
It is known that prehistoric settlements existed here. A hundred years ago a local antiquarian, Arthur Bulleid, discovered the foundations of two ancient lake villages, built for security on wooden piles in the sea-marshes a couple of miles or so outside the town.
In more recent times the suggestion has been put forward that the dominant prehistoric culture here was matriarchal - making it pre-eminently a 'goddess' place. This dovetails well with the theory, which we will explore later, that a women's druidic 'college' may have existed at Beckery, on the site of St Bridget's settlement, in early Celtic times.
There are two linked traditions at Glastonbury. The first is that Christianity came to Britain immediately after the crucifixion, with Glastonbury the chosen site of its foundation. The second is that Glastonbury is the ancient 'Isle of Avalon' where, as legend has it, King Arthur and Queen Guinevere lie buried. The two are connected by the story of the Holy Grail. One tradition has it that the uncle of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea, brought the Cup of the Last Supper with him to Glastonbury, and disposed of it by either, as some say, burying it on Chalice Hill (near Chalice Well), or delivering it to the safekeeping of a secret priesthood. In time its location was forgotten, and this was deemed the cause of the many misfortunes that befell the Kingdom. In the Arthurian romances, the Quest of the Knights of the Round Table is for the recovery of the vessel leading to the restoration of the Waste-Land to life and fecundity. The trouble is that none of these stories comes into any kind of focus before the chronicles and other literature of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. It is not before this time, either, that there is any reference identifying Glastonbury with Avalon.
There are indications that point to a pagan origin for much of the later, Christianized material. This conclusion need not destroy anything for us if we are primarily apprehending these stories on the level of the 'soul', as atmosphere, as poetry. With Christianity came a sea change, an adjustment of the psyche, collectively and individually, which extended but did not demolish, the pagan rapture of the Celtic heart. So, too, the storytelling flowed on the inner currents. There was a new promise of Divine Love, of Transcendent Being, of Deification - but ever the battle with the forces of opposition, of destruction. It is not the place here to discuss the historical complexities of the development of the Glastonbury Arthurian and Avalonian lore, nor is it in my power to do so. The whole ground has already been thoroughly worked over by that greatest of latter-day Avalonians, Geoffrey Ashe, who has lived for more than thirty years in Dion Fortune's former home at the foot of the Tor. In his King Arthur's Avalon, all these questions are carefully sifted through and discussed sympathetically at length.
We should hold it as our basic premise that 'Avalon' is something spiritually real and valid, something that can be recognized by those whose destiny it is to travel close to the heart of 'inner' things. We can allow that it has both an identity with the location known as Glastonbury and a meaning on a level which transcends it. During the nineteenth century, an awareness gained momentum of what might generally be called 'The Matter of Britain'. Precisely where this revival began, if it had ever wholly died, is debatable. Possibly with certain poets; possibly within certain Masonic, Rosicrucian groups; certainly with William Blake. In his writings Blake foresaw a spiritual destiny for Britain, personified as the giant Albion, and the birth of a new awareness in men and women.
The idea that the sleeping Arthur might return, and that this represented something, took hold. Tennyson was the most notable exponent of the Arthurian myth, and its connection with Glastonbury, in his Idylls of the King. There was also a bevy of socialists and 'New Thought' radicals who saw it all as an allegory of the birth of the 'whole man', unexploited and emancipated with nature in useful toil.
This period saw the emergence of new occult and esoteric movements which taught that myth has meaning for our inner evolution. Initially, the impulse was from the East and the Theosophy of Madame Blavatsky, but first with Anna Kingsford, then with Rudolph Steiner, and finally with Dion Fortune, a sense of an indigenous western 'mystery tradition' saw light of day, giving credence to both Pagan and Christian elements.
These developments bore in an interesting way upon aspects of the Celtic revival being witnessed in Ireland and Scotland at that time. While much of this had to do with politics and the overthrow of the English oppressor, there were, within the cultural engine of the endeavour, key figures who were fellow-travellers with our fore-mentioned occultists. We can think here of William Butler Yeats and George William Russell (aka AE) in Ireland, and William Sharp (aka Fiona Macleod), Lewis Spence, Patrick Geddes and the painter John Duncan in Scotland. All had connections with the Theosophical Society. However, there were qualitative differences between the aspirants in the two countries: Yeats and Russell were prepared to invoke the powers of the Old Gods and heroes to give zeal and inspiration to the call to arms in Ireland, while the Scots preferred to confine themselves to fostering a more pacific spiritual awakening of the ancient Celtic spirit chiefly through the medium of the arts. The Welsh, too, should not be ignored here. Their arising ran on different lines with a highly successful restoration of their language and a reinstatement of the Bardic tradition with the Eisteddfod as the focus for its celebration.
Even if perversely, there was a minority in England that found it could easily identify with the developments happening just beyond its borders to the north and west, mindful that it had once itself been a Celtic land in ancient times. We can fairly identify this seeming anomaly as the "English Celtic revival"; if it requires a venue, then we need look no further than Glastonbury, with its green hills and apple-orchards. This is the God-given stage-set on which our Dramatis Personae now enter.
Tools for Exploring the Intangible Realms
Revised and updated fourth edition
Dowsing the Earth Energies
Dowsing is best known as a tool for locating underground veins of water, oil, lost objects, missing persons and buried treasure. Note – these are all tangible, or physical targets. This kind of dowsing yields itself easily to evaluation by the scientific method.When the forked stick goes down, the target is either there, or it isn't. Physical-target dowsers' work can be checked by observation, by digging or drilling.
On the other hand, when one is intent on using dowsing as a tool for spiritual growth, for intangible target dowsing, the process isn't quite so easy.How can one 'prove' that one has found an edge of the human aura (a field of energy found around all living things) when there are presently no scientifically acceptable tools to measure it? (Isn't it interesting that some have given machines the power to define reality?) True to his veneration of analytical, linear thinking, twentieth century Western Man has determined that something is real only if he can see, smell, hear, taste, feel it. Or if a needle moves on a machine. What a limiting and limited view of reality!
At sacred centers, a dowser finds all kinds of Earth Energies, s/he can feel them as well, but as yet, they certainly haven't been demonstrated empirically. How can someone scientifically demonstrate that they have grown spiritually? And yet most of you who are reading this know that in the last several years you have grown at least a bit closer to your Creator.This is an awareness that all on the path have. And yet, how can that be proven scientifically? It can't. While physical-target dowsing can be proved empirically, intangible-target dowsing, spiritual dowsing, isn't as easily verified by the scientific mind-set.
Western Man has based his primacy on logical thought and the five senses.Auras and Earth Energies – in fact all the intangible targets of the spiritual realms – don't yield themselves easily to this method of viewing reality. Dowsing can help us begin to look into those worlds beyond the five senses. It is a bridge that can help us touch the intangible.
Dowsing is a tool we can use to help us 'see' the Earth Energies at sacred sites. Every valid site that marks a ley, an alignment of sacred sites, has water under it. There are two kinds of underground water. There is the 'water table' water that most hydrologists are interested in.The other is 'primary water' (some call it 'juvenile water'). Primary water doesn't come from rain water, but rather is created in the bowels of the Earth as the by-product of various chemical reactions. This water is then forced under pressure towards the surface of the Earth in what dowsers in the United States call 'domes' (in Great Britain, they are called 'blind springs'). I picture domes to be like geysers that just don't reach the surface. The water continues its upward journey until it hits an impermeable layer of rock or clay. The pressure then forces the water out horizontally, in what dowsers call veins – cracks and fissures in the rock. As a spiritual dowser, one can find domes or at least crossing veins of primary water under any valid marker of a ley. When these veins of primary water reach the surface in many parts of the world, they are considered to be holy wells, places of healing and spiritual contemplation, places of the Earth Mother.
An Agreement on Primary Water
There is one aspect of the Earth Energies that as dowsers we should all be able to agree on. This has to do with the presence of primary water at these sites. It's always there. For this reason, if you want to become a good Earth Energy dowser, I urge you to work – at some time in your development – with a competent drinking- water dowser. Apprentice yourself to one long enough to be sure that where s/he finds water, you find water. This sure knowledge of the location of underground veins of water is critical in determining not only how the veins dance at power centers, but where there are zones in a home that are detrimental to a person's health. A spiritual dowser must also be a water-witch.
In the nineteen-thirties, Reginald Allender Smith was one of the first dowsers to write about finding water as a primary ingredient of any sacred space. This has been corroborated by many fine dowsers since his time. I have worked with Bill Lewis, one of the master dowsers of the British Isles; Tom Graves, author of several important books on dowsing and the Earth Mysteries; and Terry Ross, the person who brought the notion of dowseable leys to the United States. All of them find primary water under valid markers of the ley system. I believe it is time for all Earth Energy dowsers to agree on this. It is always there. Too many good dowsers have been finding it for too long now for it not to be there. If you are not finding primary water at sacred sites, once again, perhaps it is time for you to go spend time with a water-well dowser.
Leys and Energy Leys
Leys, these alignments of sacred sites, are the result of our ancestors locating their holy sites over primary water. I find that many, but by no means all, of these leys also have straight beams of male, or yang energy, flowing along them. These are called 'energy leys'.
Energy leys are normally six to eight feet wide, and have a direction of flow, like a river. In England, most leys (but again, not all) have these energy leys flowing concurrently with them. In New England where I did my Masters research, I know of four or five leys, but I have dowsed well over four hundred energy leys.
(Please remember my comment in the Preface about "Sig's Hypothesis Number One": Even if they were trained by the same teacher,when dowsing for intangible targets in sacred space, it is quite probable that no two dowsers will ever find exactly the same things. In this book I am reporting to you the intangible Earth Energies as I "see " them. Please dowse for what I am suggesting, but, just as the founders of the great religions "saw" the One differently, each of us perceives the spiritual realms differently depending on what we were taught to see, our present level of consciousness, and what we are therefore ready to see. It could be that you might find completely different energies from what I find.And that's not only ok, but that's how it is.)
This Earth of ours (the Greeks called her Gaia) has always had a series of places all over her surface where the yin and the yang, the female and male, the domes and veins of primary water and the straight energy leys have come together forming what is called a 'power center'.The energies at any given power centre (defined as a minimum of one vein of primary water crossed by one energy ley) are not always the same throughout the year. Each one reaches its peak of power at one or more times during the year based on various factors including what the Sun, Moon, and to a lesser extent, other planets and stars are doing.When an energy ley aligns with the rising or setting of the Sun, for example, the energy becomes much more potent.
Many temples and other sacred spaces are associated with specific times of the year – Stonehenge with the Summer Solstice Sunrise, Newgrange with the Winter Solstice Sunrise, Solomon's Temple with the Equinox Sunrise. At these times, the energy ley that runs along the site's major axis joins the power center there with the point on the horizon where Sun rises or sets on that Solstice, Equinox, or Cross Quarter day. (If you think of the Solstices and Equinoxes as dividing the year up into quarters, the Cross Quarter days divide the year up into eighths, and occur at the beginnings of November, February, May and August.) Other sites are oriented towards the rising points of the Moon,Venus, or certain stars. In these cases, the point on the horizon marks a significant place in the cycle of that particular heavenly body. Whatever the alignment, it creates a massive increase in the energy available at that particular power center at that particular time.Different sites were set up to utilize this energy in different ways. So different sites used their major axis astronomical alignment to enhance the intent of the builders to use these energies for healing, for foretelling the future (the veil to the other side being thinner at that point), for fertility (the priests of the Nile were responsible for the fertility of that ancient valley), and, perhaps most importantly, for general growth in spiritual consciousness.
His Story and Her Story of Alignments
Until the discovery of the Nag Hammadi documents just after World War II, the only thing we knew about Gnostics, an early Christian sect who were judged to be heretics,was what was written about them by the early Church Fathers who didn't like them. Most of what we initially knew about feng shui, Chinese geomancy, came from Ernest J Eitel, a Christian missionary to China who, once again, didn't like this heathen practice. History (his story) is written by the victors. The patriarchs.
But what about her story? One of the things that I remember from somewhere in my training to become a Western Man was the notion that there is no such thing as a straight line in nature, and yet, since before the beginning of recorded time, we humans have known and utilized the power of alignment. From the alignment of passage graves and standing stones constructed in the middle of the fourth millennium Before the Common Era (BCE) to the present day intentional alignment in Washington DC of the Lincoln Memorial, the Tidal Basin Pool, and the dome of the rotunda over the Capitol of the United States, we humans have been using alignments. Prior to the dawning of Western Man consciousness, these alignments were used for spiritual purposes, to mark centers of, among other things, healing, fertility, and prophesy. This kind of alignment, a ley, might consist of holy sites from many different periods throughout history.
Until roughly the time of the Protestant Reformation, the people of Europe built their sacred sites in straight lines, leys, that ran across the countryside in harmony with the Earth Energies. Since that time, Western Man has continued to use the power inherent in alignments, but for different purposes. Let us look then at our use of alignments throughout herstory and history to see how we might use dowsing as a spiritual tool. Until the beginning of the Neolithic (New Stone Age) period, roughly 6000 BCE, Europeans were hunter-gatherers.
As we followed the herds and the various crops that ripened in their time, we were in tune with Nature, and were naturally at the appropriate power centers at the specific time of the year we needed to be there to perform our various ceremonies and rituals. Gaia led us to the right place at the right time, and our spiritual lives prospered accordingly. John Michell has a good discussion of this concept in his book, Earth Spirit.
The First Farmers
When we settled down and became farmers, however, we had a problem – we had to make do year 'round with the power centers that were in our local area.We then had to find ways to enhance the Earth Energies at times when they were not at their peak. The archaeological evidence indicates that by the middle of the Neolithic period (4000 BCE ±) we were building incredibly sophisticated sacred enclosures that, among other things, demonstrate a thorough knowledge of geometry thousands of years before the Greeks supposedly invented it! These sacred sites were built on previously existing Earth Energy power centers, utilized sacred geometrical ratios in their construction to enhance the energy, and were oriented towards specific significant horizonal astronomical events. All of this was done apparently with an incredible amount of human labor, to know better when the energies would reach their zenith and, at other times of the year when they were at lower levels of intensity, to concentrate them for use in spiritual activities. There seems to be a solid connection between the introduction of farming and our first permanent temples built on sacred space.
The Earliest Alignments
The earliest use of alignments that I know of is found in Ireland. In the lush green valley of the Boyne River north of Dublin, Neolithic people of about 3200 BCE created a spectacular array of massive circular mounds of earth with cruciform stone-lined tunnels called passage graves. Some align with the Sun as it rises and sets at significant points of the year Solstices, Equinoxes and Cross Quarter days. Others line-up with similar structures, standing stones and smaller burial mounds that resemble round barrows.
Martin Brennan has done some magnificent work with these Irish passage graves and has identified the oldest leys that I know of in the world. A good example would be the alignment that starts at Knowth, a passage grave with two stone-lined tunnels, one oriented to the Equinox Sunrise, and the other to the Equinox Sunset. About three quarters of a mile to the southeast, the line runs through a standing stone, one of a dozen that surround the best known passage grave of all, Newgrange. The cruciform chamber of Newgrange is oriented towards the Winter Solstice Sunrise. The line from Knowth goes through that chamber where the main tunnel and side chambers converge. (Many other alignments with other sites and/or astronomical events also cross at this point as well.) The alignment then exits the passage grave and goes through another of those twelve stones that surround the site. The alignment ends about a half a mile further to the southeast where it hits Mound 6, one of the round barrow-shaped mounds that are also found in the valley of the Boyne River. Five points within two miles, all are related to ritual, and they're in a straight line. Several hundred years after the construction of the Boyne Valley complex, the Neolithic people of south-central England began to construct an enormous sacred megalithic complex, a landscape temple that truly staggers the mind. She is called Avebury.
Ah, Avebury! One's being is confounded and delighted by the impressive West Kennet long barrow, a magnificent burial chamber oriented towards the Equinox Sunrise, and Silbury Hill, the largest wo/man made prehistoric mound in Great Britain (in all of Europe, for that matter). And then there is the magnificent henge monument itself, the Avebury stone circles. There are three of them, two small (or should I say normal-sized circles) inside the truly enormous ring of huge sarsen stones. These megaliths delineate and dominate the inner bank of the deep ditch and towering outer bank that create the henge. All of this was accomplished around the beginning of the third millennium before the Christian era by Stone Age farmers using antlers for picks and oxen hip-bones for shovels.
But let's turn our attention to that apparently serpentine West Kennet Avenue. It consists of two rows of large,mostly either diamond- or phallic-shaped stones that run parallel to each other for over a mile and a half from the circles at Avebury to a smaller circle of stone and wood posts called The Sanctuary, located above the hamlet of East Kennet. In the eighteenth century drawings of Avebury by William Stukeley, the West Kennet Avenue is one of two that run from outlying sites to the main circle, much like the fallopian tubes go to the uterus in the human female reproductive system. Following this logic, The Sanctuary would be analogous to one of the ovaries.Perhaps this image stretches things a bit, but make no mistake;we are in the territory of the Earth Mother.
It turns out that rather than being serpentine, seemingly constructed in a series of arcs, the West Kennet Avenue is actually made up of a series of straight lines. Paul Devereux, Director of the Dragon Project, and I, have been interested in the alignment potential there for some time.At the top of the first gradual rise leading away from the henge itself is one particular segment of that series. It includes two of the larger stones that are left in the entire Avenue. Their major axes align along one of the best leys I have ever seen. These two stones are aligned in such a way that one can just see between them. In one direction – to the southeast – one sees the tip of another standing stone in that row and above it, a Bronze Age round barrow in the distance can be seen through the slit between the two stones.
To the northwest, in the opposite direction, the steeple of the village church in Avebury can be seen through the vesica pisces frame of the stones in the Avenue. In the mid-ground between the church and the sighting sarsen stones, the ley runs along a perfectly straight section of the massive ditch of the Avebury henge itself. This occurrence of a ley tangentially striking circular prehistoric features is quite common in Britain.
So here we have an alignment that has six valid points on a dead straight line in less than a mile and a half! On top of that, the two stones in the middle of the ley focus one's vision to an incredibly narrow visual alignment in both directions. The points all have primary water under them. It's the tightest ley I've ever seen. It's about four inches (10cm) wide! While there is primary water under each of the points, there is no dowseable energy ley running concurrently with that ley.
This seems to be a second phase in our ancestors' use of alignments. The first leys developed naturally as a result of building on power centers. There was no intent to put the sites in a line; it just happened because some of the sites were on the same energy ley. But by the time of the construction of the West Kennet Avenue, we had learned how to make intentional alignments that didn't necessarily have energy leys flowing along them. Still, the specific points were chosen because they had primary water under them.
Stone rings like Avebury have been found to mark the crossings of two or more leys. Dowsers find that they also mark the crossing of energy leys over primary water. One of the ongoing spiritual aspects associated with ancient sacred sites is fertility. Perhaps those who worked with the Earth Energies might have wanted to spread their fertilizing aspects over more of the countryside. (Being a country boy, a vision of a spiritual manure spreader comes to mind here.) Having realized that the holy places were naturally aligning themselves, perhaps these non-energy leys might have served as channels for energies of fertility that were reflected down them from power centers like Avebury.
A cyclotron is used by physicists to speed up atomic and sub-atomic particles in a circular accelerator by spinning them round and round until they reach the appropriate velocity. The particles are then shunted off on to the target. Dowser Tom Graves has suggested a cyclotron effect at Rollright stone circle. Graves found energy being spun around the circle, and then released outwards at various points along the circumference.This cyclotron effect is especially interesting when we consider our Avebury non-energy ley is tangent to the circle.
The only non-Neolithic point on that ley is the Christian church, and, as one of the points, it stands alone to the northwest of the circle, on the wrong side of the flow. All the other points are to the southeast. If the energy at the Avebury circle were swirling in a widdershins or counterclockwise direction, and released at the point where our non-energy ley is tangent to that circle, it would flow down that ley, along the Avenue towards the round barrow on the horizon, thus spreading the fertilizing potential of these power centers out into the land.
All of the ley markers discussed at Newgrange and at Avebury (standing stones, passage graves, round barrows, the henge monument and the church) have primary water under them. All except for one – the church at Avebury – were built or constructed over a thousand years before Christ. All of them have clear unambiguous connections with ritual, ceremony and sacred space. I believe that the first leys were the unintentional result of early farmers working with their local power centers to access the source of spiritual power on a year 'round basis. The alignments just happened. They were the result of putting ceremonial sites on places where the yin comes together with the yang, where Earth Mother comes together with the Solar Father. Within five hundred years of the earliest leys, by the first part of the third millennium BCE, wo/man had learned to construct intentional alignments that connected sacred sites, but did not necessarily run concurrently with energy leys.
It is difficult to find strictly Neolithic leys. There are some good examples in Cornwall, and at the Devil's Arrows up in Yorkshire, but people all around the world have been intentionally building their sacred sites on power centers until comparatively recent times. Europeans did so until around the end of the time of the great Gothic Cathedrals. Some people, the Aborigines of Australia, geomancers in Hong Kong, and some Native Americans, just to mention a few, are still doing it today.As a result of this multiple cultural use of the same Earth Energy system, leys tend to be somewhat mixed in the sense that there are sacred sites of quite different time periods on the same alignment.
This is a particularly hard one for archaeologists and anthropologists to understand because they just can't imagine that something that we don't know about today was recognized by those primitive savages, utilized by various succeeding pagan cultures, and also known by those men of God who built the Gothic Cathedrals.We forgot because the witch trials and other heresy persecutions of Western Man made us forget. But more of that later.
The First Signs of Western Man
At about 1000 BCE one finds a new feature intruding into the confines of what initially had been sacred alignments. Bit by bit, the secular begins to intrude. John Barnatt, an archaeologist who has done a lot of work on Dartmoor and up in the Arbor Low area in Derbyshire, has postulated that the archaeological evidence seems to suggest that prior to around the second millennium before Christ, the people were held together (perhaps controlled?) by spiritual power – healing, fertility, oracular, and heightened awareness. Everyone experienced this power. The ceremonial centers started with a big blast at Avebury in the fourth millennium, with its breath-taking long barrows (actually, they are breath-giving) and were followed by the builders of the magnificent stone rings. These became more and more complicated until they culminated with the tremendous sarsen trilithons of what is called Stonehenge III in about 1500 BCE. It was as if we were building more and more elaborate structures to hold down that elusive quicksilver energy. And we were forgetting how to do it.
At Stonehenge we can see this shift in a different way. Stonehenge was constructed in three different chunks. Stonehenge I was the earliest, 3100 BCE ± and consists of the henge (the ditch and bank), the four small Station Stones that dot the Aubrey Holes (52 circular chalk-filled pits just inside the ditch), and the Heel Stone(s). Everyone could clearly see what was going on at the center. Everyone could be involved.
Stonehenge II added the human-sized Prescelly Blue Stones around 2150 BCE. When the builders of Stonehenge III, at just the beginning of the second millennium BCE, added the tall trilithons in the center, the lay people around the periphery could no longer see what was going on in the center. In a final blooming from around 2000 to 1500 BCE, approximately 60 of the bluestones were reset in a circle immediately inside the sarsen circle, and another 19 were set inside the great horseshoe of sarsen trilithons. A similar development took place in the development of rood screens in the Gothic Cathedrals 3000 years later. Perhaps this represents a move on the part of the priesthood to consolidate their power. In any event, the end result of the trilithons and rood screens was that less and less people really knew what was going on. This concentration of spiritual power into the hands of a few led next to the desire to have power down on the physical level as well. And there's good evidence for this in the Iron Age that arose soon after Stonehenge III, around 1000 BCE.
There's a famous ley that Sir Norman Lockyer, an early astro-archaeologist / archaeo-astronomer (interested in astronomy and how it relates to ancient sites), found at the turn of the last century. It begins at a tumulus (2000 BCE ±) just north of Stonehenge where it runs tangentially to the circular ditch (3100 BCE ±) and then on to an Iron Age hill fort called Old Sarum.
Hillforts were an introduction of the Iron Age which began in southern Britain at around 1000 BCE. They were defensive military positions, the first points on leys that were clearly not ritualistic in nature. Two millennia later, the Normans put a military camp in the center of this hill fort. Shortly thereafter, an impressive church was also built at Old Sarum; however, the soldiers and the priests didn't get along, so someone fired an arrow into the air, and the present Salisbury Cathedral was constructed where it landed. The ley does not go through the spire of that building which towers over the crossing of the nave and transept, but rather, it goes through the high altar, to the east of the spire.The ley then continues through two further Iron Age hill forts, Clearbury Ring and Frankenbury Camp.
It is with the inclusion of hill forts in the Iron Age, all of which still have primary water under them where the ley strikes them (often only a glancing blow), that the use and function of leys in Britain begin to change. As Barnatt points out, the people weren't being controlled and ruled by the spirit anymore, but by force. Hill forts were not sacred places; they were one man's, a family's, or clan's statement to the world about their physical power.
The Romans carried on this use of leys for physical purposes when they built their famous roads on the more ancient leys. The Romans have always been praised for their roads.The reality is that they built only the surface of them.These straight tracks had been used for millennia as sacred ways, but the Romans debased them by using them as ways of quickly getting their armies around Europe. They used spiritual paths for military purposes. Actually, except for the many examples of Roman roads on leys, there are very few other Roman structures in England that are on these alignments. With a few exceptions, like the foundations of Wells Cathedral, the Romans just didn't seem to build many other structures on leys here in Britain. The Romans were the first people to use these sacred ways for secular purposes as a matter of national policy. But they weren't the last. Throughout the rest of history there is more and more evidence for secular use of alignments.
Pope Gregory and the Benedictines
In the sixth century CE Pope Gregory, in a letter to St Augustine of Canterbury who was to carry Catholicism to Britain, cautioned him not to destroy the ancient sites. Gregory wanted missionaries to destroy the idols, for sure, but he urged them to build churches on the older holy places. Even if these missionaries did not know of these Earth Energies (some clearly did as evidenced by some beautiful Medieval leys), their churches would therefore have been automatically linked to the alignment of earlier holy sites. Again, just by choosing to place his churches on the previous culture's sacred spaces, Gregory assured that they fell into straight lines as they dotted the countryside of Dark Age Britain.
At least part of the Church at that time, the Benedictines,were well aware of these Energies. In fact, Gregory was a Benedictine himself! The Order was founded by St Benedict in the first half of the sixth century CE. Unlike earlier orders of the Church, the Benedictines stressed communal living, and their abbeys were like homes of Christian families with abbots as fathers. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect about them is that throughout Europe, these Benedictine abbeys and monasteries were built on major power centers – sites with much earlier spiritual connections as well. Monte Cassino in Italy is one. And so is Monserrat, a major pilgrimage site on the side of a mountain of the same name, northwest of Barcelona in Spain where there is also a black wooden image of the Virgin supposedly carved by St Luke. Monserrat was thought to have been the castle of the Holy Grail. At Fulda, in Germany, St Boniface founded a Benedictine abbey. It was from Fulda that Christianity spread throughout central Germany.
The St Michael's Geomantic Corridor
In the English Channel there are two well-known island power centers that utilized the ley system for sacred purposes. Both are islands at high tide only; at low tide they both connect with the mainland. Both Mont St Michel off the coast of France and St Michael's Mount off the coast of Cornwall in southwestern England,were Benedictine abbeys. St Michael's Mount is at one end of a famous geomantic corridor or dragon path, first identified by John Michell. He called it the Michael Line, and it runs in a northeasterly direction to the Beltane (May Day) Sunrise. It runs through a series of important English power centers including many that are dedicated to St Michael or to other dragon-killing saints like St George and St Margaret. It traverses England from St Michael's Mount to at least as far as the St Michael's church in Clifton Hampden, almost two hundred miles to the northeast in Wiltshire. Because of its length, there is a great deal of controversy as to the relative straightness of the entire line.Part of the problem is that due to the curvature of the earth, one should be employing spherical geometry rather than plane geometry to calculate its straightness. Hamish Miller and Paul Broadhurst dowsed their Michael and Mary lines running up this same alignment like the Ida and Pingala, the twin serpents of the kundalini.
Three of the points in the middle of this geomantic corridor are of particular interest. The southern entrance of Avebury is at one end, and Burrowbridge Mump in Somerset is at the other.The major axis of the Mump (mound) aligns with this corridor. In between them is perhaps the most famous of the St Michael points on this dragon path – the Glastonbury Tor, whose major axis also runs along this May Day (Beltane) alignment. Glastonbury was an island at the time when Joseph of Arimathea, the uncle of Jesus, came and built the first above ground Christian church shortly after the crucifixion. The Celtic Christianity that was formed was a beautiful blend of Christianity and Druidism; the Christ energy was an important source when working in the spiritual realms, but Nature was also held in reverence. Glastonbury remained an important Celtic Christian shrine until it was taken over in the 10th century by guess who? – the Benedictines. It then became one of the most powerful religious centers in England until Henry VIII broke it up in 1539.
By holding the important mountains and other geomantically strategic sites, the Benedictines attempted to control Europe for the Church.As they built on power centers, their monasteries and abbeys were automatically plugged-in to the ley system.These energies were tapped to ensure the primacy of the Church of Rome and its growing political control as well.
This control by the Church culminated in the person of St Bernard of Clairvaux. While not a Benedictine, he was an abbot of a Cistercian monastery at Clairvaux. He refused higher Church offices, but his obvious spirituality, his immense capacity of mind, will-power, and eloquence made him the most powerful man in Europe in the first half of the twelfth century. He was a maker and confidante of Popes, started the Second Crusade, and was a peacemaker among the rulers of western Europe.He consummated the art of combining the use of spiritual power with political/physical power. This was a totally different use of spiritual energies than the builders of Newgrange I had in mind.
My argument so far is that at least initially, leys were the result of building on power centers as a means of enhancing spiritual growth. At first there was no intent to build in straight lines; it just happened as a result of building on the underlying energy system. By 3000 BCE the awareness grew that we had been building sacred sites naturally in straight lines.Then came the first intentional alignments that did not coincide with energy leys. Initially, these too were made solely for spiritual purposes.The four-inch wide ley at Avebury is an example of this.But the introduction of Iron Age hill forts and, later, Roman roads and Medieval castles as points on older leys, indicates that Western Man was developing alternative uses for this phenomenon.
There isn't a specific date when the spiritual uses of the leys ceased and the political/secular ones commenced, as there was a long period of over a thousand years when both were going on at the same time.There are several examples of purely ecclesiastical leys in Medieval England. Brian Larkman, an Earth Mysteries researcher, has uncovered a ley in York that, in addition to several other features, includes three churches, the magnificent York Minster, and the Deanery Chapter House all on that same ley! Five Christian structures on an energy ley; all have related primary water under them.
But our days of conscious knowledge of the Earth Energies were numbered. Western Man ensured that his linear objective consciousness would predominate by waging a systematic war of elimination against the intuitives and the Goddess. One of the first things that Constantine did after he made the Christian Church the state religion of the Roman Empire was to genocidally root out the Gnostics, intuitives and followers of Christ who demanded the right to hear and interpret God's word for themselves. No one was to be allowed to think for themselves, to define their relationship with Christ for themselves.
Heresies and the Witch Trials
As the Dark Ages went on, the Church found more and more ways to deny the people access to spiritual realms. These attacks culminated in atrocities that are similar to America's genocidal war on the Native Americans, or Stalin's decimation of dissidents in Russia. If the treatment of those people the Church called heretics or witches had occurred anywhere else on Earth other than in supposedly civilized Europe, modern historians would have called the torture and burnings at the stake truly barbaric acts of primitive savages. (Actually the term "primitive savage"has come to mean, to me, a culture that is probably very much more spiritually advanced than we are.)
The last time that human sacrifice was practised in Europe was during the witchcraft persecutions.Witches were perceived as a threat by the Church for several reasons. They were the remnant of the Goddess-centered religion who used power centers and incantations to connect with the spiritual without going through the Church. Also, its Earth Mother-centered path was at variance with the Church's patriarchal mode of operation.
The Medical Profession Lends a Hand
In the villages of the Middle Ages, it was women who provided the medical care. These healers knew about things like herbs and spells. Many were also midwives. This became a threat to a new professional class of men that was arising – doctors. "I've just been through five years of intensive study at University to be a doctor.
How can this untrained peasant woman know anything about delivering babies?" The medical profession joined the Church in the persecution of witches (read: women, and mostly lower class). Western Man continued to burn witches/women at the stake up into the seventeenth century. In Salem,Massachusetts, they were killing women called witches in 1692. The last woman in Scotland to be killed for being a witch was put to death in 1722.
Eventually they had run out of lower class women, so they began to go for the upper class wives.But with the seventeenth century came the Age of Rationalism. An aristocratic husband could now argue, "What are you picking on my wife for? You know those realms don't rationally exist anyway!" So the persecutions ceased, and the knowledge of the Earth Energies faded away.
Dowsing as Heresy
It's easy to see how dowsing got into trouble. It is potentially a spiritual tool that doesn't have to go through the Church to get answers. As dowsing was thought to be a craft practised by witches, it fell into extreme disfavor. It had been practised through the ages by those who were in tune with the deeper harmonies of the Earth Energies, but dowsing was a direct challenge to the patriarchal linear thinking and rational methodology of Western Man and his Church – especially when it was used as a tool for direct personal perception of the spiritual (it's also called 'divining').
Dowsing had to be stamped out. Only its use as a tool to locate drinking water was deemed to be so essential that dowsing for it had to be tolerated as an acceptable channel to intuitive knowledge.
These images are copyright © Lisa Tenzin-Dolma 1999.
These images are copyright © Lisa Tenzin-Dolma 1999.
These images are copyright © Lisa Tenzin-Dolma 1999.
These images are copyright © Lisa Tenzin-Dolma 1999.
Ancient Myths and Modern Uses
Revised and updated fourth edition
The Seed Pattern
Most mazes are just games. Like the Hampton Court maze, or the hedge maze at Longleat, both in Britain, mazes have many paths and are meant to confuse or baffle. They offer too many choices, and the walker is never sure which way to go since there are purposely no clues at points where the path diverges. These mazes are meant to be exercises for the analytical left brain."Have I been at this point on the maze before? Yes? Then I must take the other path this time." They are artificial mysteries, little puzzles. Games.
A labyrinth is a unicursal (single-path) magical tool. It is magical in that through the conscious use of the labyrinth, answers to questions can come, spiritual awareness can be enhanced, the path ahead, in the confusion of the labyrinth's convoluted path, can somehow (magically?) become clear. It's your choice to enter the labyrinth, but once you have, there is only one way to go – back and forth, back and forth – until you reach your goal, the treasure at the center.
At Pontevedra, Spain, labyrinths pecked out of rock have been dated to around 2000 BCE, and in Pylos in southern Greece, a tablet with a labyrinth has been dated to 1200 BCE. Coins from Crete, decorated with labyrinths, date from around 300 to 70 BCE.We'll focus on this particular classical labyrinth and consider some of the many variations created since those early labyrinths.
DRAWING A LABYRINTH
Drawing a labyrinth is really quite simple. Get a sheet of paper. Start with a cross with dots in the center of each of the four quadrants. That's the seed pattern (See Step 1 below).
Now start at the top of the cross, and with your pencil draw a loop either up and to the left to the dot on the upper left-hand quadrant, or up and to the right to the dot in the upper righthand quadrant. For the sake of this exercise, we'll go up and to the right (Step 2).
Then from the corresponding dot in the upper left quadrant to the right-hand end of the horizontal line (Step 3).
And from the end of that horizontal line around to the dot in the lower right-hand quadrant (Step 4).
And finally, from the dot in the bottom lefthand quadrant all the way around to the bottom of the vertical line (Step 5). This is called a lefthand labyrinth because the first turn as you walk in is to the left (See the drawing below). If your first move in drawing it had been up and to the left you would have created a right-hand labyrinth.
Please make three of these left-hand classical three circuit labyrinths. Draw the simple forms on a clean sheet of paper. Please get a pencil and paper now.
It's really important for you to make the labyrinth with your hand as well as with your mind. You'll "gnow" – know both rationally and intuitively – why later. Suddenly you'll just feel it. Please make three left-hand labyrinths now (first line, starting from the top of the cross, goes up and to the right).
Congratulations! Now you know how to draw a labyrinth. There's something very special about making a labyrinth yourself. It happens the fifth or sixth time you make one. It's really quite easy to understand how to make one intellectually once you know the secret, but after you draw it half a dozen times, your hand stops knowing how to draw one and starts gnowing how to do it.
That's why throughout the book you'll find opportunities to draw many more of them.Please take these opportunities because they will help you to understand this magical tool in ways that will not be open to you if all you do is read or just think about it. Drawing the labyrinth offers another way of knowing.
BACK TO BASICS: SOME TERMS
There are some basic labyrinth terms that you need to know. The entrance is called the mouth. You walk on the path (also called a circuit). The path is delineated and contained by the walls. The labyrinths you've drawn so far have three paths that finally lead to the goal. These paths are numbered starting with the outside path as number one and ascending toward the goal.
It's dry down there on the San José pampa, near the town of Nazca in southwestern Peru. It's one of the driest places on the face of this Earth. It rains only half an inch (1.25cm) every 2 years.
Around 500 CE, before the Incas, at the time when the Mayan civilization in the Yucatan Peninsula of southern Mexico was nearing its zenith, in this parched corner of Peru, the amazing and industrious Nascan civilization was at its peak. The Nascans had constructed marvelous aqueducts that brought water from high in the Andes Mountains many miles to the East. These aqueducts are still in use today, and the water turns some of what otherwise is a parched desert into lush, intensely cultivated farms.
The Nascan people made the most colorful pottery in all of Peru. Their clay bowls and dishes were decorated with all kinds of designs and animals. While the animals on their pottery are well worth the journey, it is the enormous animals and other forms carved out on the floor of the pampa that have created the most interest.
It's flat. Real flat. While there are mountains or even higher plateaus going up on all sides, at 500 feet (150m) above sea level the Pampa San José is a perfect sacred Earth artist's canvas. The surface is pure white gypsum, but because of the paucity of rain, the conditions are ideal for desert varnish – manganese, concentrated by various microbial life forms, covering the entire surface of the chalk-white pampa with a reddish-brown varnish. In order to paint on this canvas, the Nascans merely had to remove the top layer of varnish. This can be done easily with a broom.
And that's just what they did. There are lines all over the place that come together, like spokes of different widths on a wheel, at hubs called ray centers.So, if you can imagine, the entire pampa is dotted with these slightly raised ray centers with their straight lines going out and coming in. Some go out to other ray centers, and other lines go out into the desert and just peter out – some at smaller mounds.
One of the first writers to popularize Nazca and the San Jose pampa was Erich von Daniken in his book Chariots of the Gods. He felt that Earth had been visited by superior life forms from other solar systems, and that the rectangular patches that are also on the pampa along with the lines and ray centers were landing strips for their alien spacecraft.
In addition to the straight lines and the rectangular "landing fields" for von Daniken's flying saucers, there are a series of animal and other shapes that are each made with just a single line. I was in Peru with Anthony Aveni, an archaeoastronomer from Colgate University, noted for his books and articles on pre-Columbian astronomy.
Also with me were Gary Burton, a gifted anthropologist from Colgate, and Tom Zuidema, an anthropologist from the University of Illinois who had rediscovered the ceque system in Cuzco. Ceques (pronounced "Se-kayz"), a Spanish word from Peru, are leys: straight lines, paths, or alignments of huacas, or holy sites.
At Cuzco, forty-one of these lines come together at a place called the Coricancha, the Temple of the Sun. It was the major Incan temple in the Incas' capital city. In Britain the preferred term is leys, because they follow exactly the definition of leys given to us by Alfred Watkins in the 1920s in his book The Old Straight Track. "Ley lines are alignments of holy sites."
While it was the lines and their potential astronomical significance that brought me to Peru, it was the single-line animals and other odd shapes that ultimately captured my imagination. One of the figures on the pampa is a mirror image of the classical three circuit labyrinth!
Compared to most figures and shapes on the waterless pampa, the Nazca classical three circuit labyrinth is quite small, only 15 yards (13.5m) or so across. It's a mirror. The line marks the path rather than the walls, so you walk the line. Also, there is an escape route directly out from the goal. We will see more of this escape-route modification later.
All kinds of animals are depicted in the desert canvas: a hummingbird, a thunderbird, a lizard that is over 700 feet (210m) long (unfortunately split by the Pan-American Highway), a pelican, a shark, a dog, to name just a few. Tom Zuidema calls them "labyrinthine figures" – magical unicursal figures. They are totems or power animals. Many so-called primitive societies use totemic animals. For example, one might take the eagle as a power animal able to soar to great heights and see great distances. Someone else might take the bear as a totem to gain ferociousness. The labyrinthine totemic animals at Nazca were walked in a ritual way to gain or assume the power of the particular animal.
Two totemic animals, the spider and the monkey, have particular significance to me. The spider has the usual complement of eight legs, four on each side.The line that makes the 45 yard (40.5m) arachnid comes in or begins (analogous to the classical labyrinth's mouth) at the next-to-last leg on the right-hand side of the spider and then goes around, outlining this arachnid with its round abdomen eight legs, head, and 8 foot (2.4m) jaws. It goes back along the two front legs on the right-hand side and out the other side of the same leg you walk in on. This labyrinthine spider has been identified with a variety of spider that lives beyond Nazca on the other side of the Andes Mountains. This particular female spider carries her eggs only on a certain leg, a fact which was only verified in the 1950s with a microscope.Would you care to guess which leg it was? You guessed it: the next to last on the right-hand side.
By walking this labyrinth with intent, you can pick up the energy of the spider – a strong power animal all over the Americas. You enter and exit the labyrinth spider at a point which focuses on fertility, reproduction, and continuation of the species.
The monkey labyrinth is also interesting. It is over 80 yards (72m) long, just a bit less than the length of a football field. You begin your labyrinthine walk of the monkey along one of two parallel lines entering the monkey at its rectum, or root chakra. For the sake of this discussion, let's take the left-hand path.
This leads up and back from the end of the monkey's spine to form a spiraling tail of just over four turns to the center and then turns around and goes outward to form its back. The line continues up to the head and arms (one hand has five fingers and the other has four), down the belly to the two feet (each with three toes) and out the root chakra of the animal, on a line parallel to the incoming one. Like the spider, this monkey is not indigenous to Nazca. It comes from the opposite end of the country, up in the mountains of northeastern Peru.
Spirals like the monkey's tail are found in many parts of the desert that encroach on the town of Nazca. One such place is Cantalloc, just south of town. On a small pampa are four figures that Maria Reiche, the grand old lady (wise woman) of the Nazca lines, called "Needle and Thread".
Maria Reiche was born in Germany and has been working on the Nazca figures since just after World War II. She has done more to save these fragile figures and lines from destruction than anyone. She has devoted most of her life to re-sweeping the lines and researching them. I had the honor of going with her to the Needle and Thread at Cantalloc. It has a long isosceles triangle, cleared out like von Daniken's landing strips out on the Pampa San José. At the tip of this 1,000 yard (900m) needle, a path zigzags its way thirteen times along the shank of the needle. Each of the four needles and thread at Cantalloc is located on long narrow mesa-like fingers coming out from a hand. The turns on the zigzags are at the edge of the narrow mesas, bouncing back and forth, from side to side.
As a dowser, I found crossing underground veins of water at each of the V-shaped corners of the zigzag path. Like the 180 degree turns on the labyrinth, these water-marked turns on the path symbolize turning points, places to drop burdens. The inside of these crossings were often marked with small piles of stone.
Roughly at the needle's eye, the zigzag path turns into a spiral with slightly more than five turns. Like its monkey-tail counterpart, it then turns on itself and goes out again, only to be lost somewhere under the needle.
There are some who claim that this zigzag path and spiral form a kind of ceremonial race path. By running that specific path, the runner came to gnow something on the spiritual level. Other cultures run labyrinths. (Kids naturally run them.)
This needle-and-thread pattern is also found in the United States in Adams County, Ohio, at the Adena Indians' celebrated Serpent Mound. Like the ones in Cantalloc, Peru, it was constructed around 500 CE, sticks out on a promontory, and is basically a serpent with (perhaps) an egg in its mouth.More important, like the thread it zigzags (seven times) back toward its tail, coming close each time to the edge of the narrow promontory. Once again, my dowsing indicates water under each turn of the serpent's body. At its tail, it goes into a tight spiral, like the eye of the needle in Peru.
The Cantalloc Needle and Thread and the Serpent Mound in Ohio were built at about the same time. Both are zigzags and have spiralshaped figures. Both conform closely to the promontories on which they are found. The zigzags, in both cases, are over underground veins of water. Both figures terminate in spirals and are found out at the pointed end of the particular promontory.
While these coincidences suggest that these two distant sites might be related, it's not my intent to convince you one way or the other. The thing to see here is, while they don't look like the classical ones, all these figures are examples of labyrinths – magical unicursal paths.
CLASSICAL SEVEN CIRCUIT LABYRINTH
The classical seven circuit labyrinth is the form of a single-path magical tool used most widely around the world. It is based on the cross and four dots of the classical three circuit labyrinth. However, there is one difference. In the classical seven circuit labyrinth – four right angles ("Ls") have been inserted, one between each right angle of the cross and its corresponding dot.
Just as you did with the cross and dots, begin at the top of the cross, go up and to the right; only, this time, the line ends at the top of the "F" in the upper right-hand quadrant. Let your hand flow to the left to pick up the next starting point, in this case the top of the backwards "L" in the upper left-hand quadrant; then draw on around to the dot in the upper right-hand quadrant, and so on.
On a sheet of paper, please draw it yourself three times, beginning with the seed pattern on the right.
Allow yourself lots of room on the paper. How many paths (not counting the goal) does it have?
Labyrinths are found all over the world. While they don't all follow the classical labyrinth form, they are all magical unicursal mazes.The O'odham (Papago) Indians of the American Southwest have weavings and pottery painted with drawings of what they call the Man in the Maze. While the turns initially angle inward toward the center, it is essentially identical in basic construction to the classical seven circuit labyrinth.
Frank Waters in Book of the Hopi describes the labyrinths of the Hopi: "The whole myth and meaning of the Emergence is expressed by one symbol known to the Hopi as the Mother Earth symbol. There are two forms, the square and the circular.
"There are one circular and five square symbols ranging from 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15cm) in diameter carved on a rock just south of Oraibi (a Hopi village in northern Arizona), and one circular form about 9 inches (22.5cm) in diameter carved on a rock south of Shipaulovi. A combination of the two forms is also carved on a wooden stick, which is planted in front of the One Horn altar in the Kwani kiva at Walpi during the Wuwuchim ceremony.
"The symbol is commonly known as Tapu'at (Mother and Child). The square type represents spiritual rebirth from one world to the succeeding one, as symbolized by the Emergence itself. In this drawing the straight line emerging from the entrance is not connected with the maze. Its two ends symbolize the two stages of life – the unborn child within the womb of Mother Earth, and the child after it is born, the line symbolizing the umbilical cord and the path of Emergence.
Turning the drawing so that the line stands vertically, at the top of the page you will see that the lower end is embraced by the U-shaped arms of the maze. The inside lines represent the fetal membranes which enfold the child within the womb, and the outside lines the mother's arms which hold it later.
"The circular type differs slightly in design and meaning. (It is the classical seven circuit labyrinth.) The center line at the entrance is directly connected with the maze, and the center of the cross it forms symbolizes the Sun Father, the giver of life. Within the maze, lines end at four points. All the lines and passages within the maze form the universal plan of the Creator which man must follow on his road of life; and the four points represent the cardinal or directional points embraced within this universal plan of life. ‘Double security' or rebirth to one who follows the plan is guaranteed, as shown by the same enfoldment of the child by the mother.
The additional meaning that this circular type offers is that it also symbolizes the concentric boundaries of the land traditionally claimed by the Hopis, who have secret shrines planted along them. During Wuwuchim and other ceremonies, the priests make four circuits around the village to reclaim this earth ceremonially in accordance with the universal plan.
"A structural parallel to this mother and child symbol is the kiva (the circular underground Hopi sacred space), itself the Earth Mother. The sipapuni, the small hole in the floor, represents the womb, the place of Emergence from the preceding world, and the ladder leading out through the roof for another Emergence to the succeeding world is the umbilical cord. Enactment of the Emergence is given during Wuwuchim, when initiates undergo spiritual rebirth." (Waters, pp.23 - 24)
BRITISH TURF MAZES
In Britain, they are called turf mazes,or Troy towns. Like the chalk-hill figures of England's south, turf mazes need ongoing maintenance to keep them from disappearing. At the Uffington Horse, a chalk-hill figure cut into the side of a hill in Oxfordshire, they held a celebration every 7 years to recut the horse. I have a turf maze in my front lawn in Vermont, and I can assure you that it needs constant attention.Without maintenance, sooner or later the grass just takes over. As a result, there are only a few turf mazes left.
While labyrinths are found all over the world, by far the greatest concentration of them is on the Scandinavian coast of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia. Between Sweden and Finland, there are literally hundreds of stone labyrinths. All the ones that I have seen are based on the classical labyrinth pattern.
There are many examples of the seven circuit type in Scandinavia. One of the most used ones is the Lindbacke Labyrinth on the edge of the small city of Nyköping, which means "new shopping". Sweden is still rising from the pressure of the last ice age. Since the time of the Vikings, quite a bit of new land has literally risen out of the Baltic Sea.
The Lindbacke Labyrinth was built on the edge of the Baltic. Now the entire new shopping town of Nyköping is between the labyrinth and the sea! I visited this particular classical seven circuit labyrinth on several occasions with Dan Mattsson, a Swedish dowser, and his son Manfred. It was quite easy to see where the shore had been when it was built, only 25 feet from the mouth of the labyrinth. Today, Swedes use it all the time – lovers, picnickers, kids on school outings, and many others.
The walls of Lindbacke are made of boulders a bit smaller than the average head. The overall shape is much like an acorn: rectangular at the end where the mouth is, and circular at the opposite end.
The Scandinavians have taken the classical seven circuit labyrinth several steps further.Visby is a 13th century walled city on Gotland, an island off the southeast coast of Sweden in the Baltic Sea. During its heyday,Visby was a center of trade for all of northern Europe. Just north of the city is Galgberget, or Gallows Hill, which is honeycombed with tunnels. (Actually much of Gotland is honeycombed with natural tunnels.) At the base of the hill, within sight of the Baltic, is one of the best preserved of Sweden's labyrinths, called Galgberget.
It is an expanded form of the classical seven circuit labyrinth. Instead of one "L" in each of the quadrants, there are two. The result is called a classical eleven circuit labyrinth.
Make a few of these yourself. The process is the same. Start at the top of the cross, and this time, go up and to the left (counterclockwise) to the top of the first backwards "L" (in the top left-hand quadrant). Then lift your pencil and go over to the top of the innermost ‘L' in the upper right-hand quadrant. Loop over your first line to the top of the second "L" in the upper left-hand quadrant And so on… (See seed pattern on the right.)
Perhaps the most exciting stone complex that I saw in Sweden was centered around a tall, truncated human-made hill west of Stockholm at a place called Anundshög, near Västerås in Västmanland. At the base of this impressive hill are two large ship settings (stenskeppen). They look similar to the stone rings of Britain, but instead of being circular, they are shaped like the Viking ships, vesica shaped. A vesica is formed when two circles (usually of the same size) intersect. The vesica is only that part of the circles which intersect. In addition at Anundshög, there is a long stone row, various smaller burial mounds, and an impressively tall rune stone.
When a glacier retreats, at times it leaves long piles of gravel. These glacial moraines point in the direction of the retreat (usually in a northerly direction). For labyrinth seekers at Anundshög, the feast is at the southern end of a nearby glacial moraine. (Most of the earlier Swedish labyrinths are found at the southern end of similar moraines.) This one, called Tibble, is certainly part of the Anundshög complex and is the most complicated classical labyrinth I've seen. It has three "Ls" in each quadrant! The turf has grown up since it was built, and some of the stones are under the surface. John Kraft worked out the plan by probing the stones with a thin iron rod. It is a classical fifteen circuit labyrinth.
The Knights Templar, members of a military religious Order of Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon, was formed during the aftermath of the first Crusade. Established by Hugues de Payns in 1118 for the protection of pilgrims, initially the Templars were a band of nine knights who were quartered beside Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem.Much of their history is surrounded in myth and intrigue, but one thing is certain. Upon their return to Europe, they instigated one of the most innovative and massive architectural campaigns in modern European history with the Gothic cathedrals.
Many Gothic cathedrals initially had labyrinths in them. Unfortunately, for various reasons many of these labyrinths have been removed. Fortunately, there is one in particular that has remained relatively unscathed. It is found in Chartres Cathedral, southwest of Paris, in France. Chartres, built on an earlier pagan site, dominates the countryside around it. The result of massive dedication of the people of that area, Chartres Cathedral and the labyrinth were built in only 29 years.
The magnificent labyrinth is found in the nave of that majestic cathedral.
Most cathedrals are laid out like a cross. If you imagine the rather grisly image of someone hanging on that shape, the nave is the long bottom part of the vertical line, the bottom of the body. As you walk down the nave toward the high altar at the other end of the cathedral, the labyrinth is at the thighs, and when you come to the outstretched arms, this vertical line is the transept. Where the head would be is the choir and the high altar.
In astrology, each sign of the zodiac rules a portion of the body. Aries rules the head, Taurus the neck, Gemini the lungs and hands, and so on down the body The thighs are ruled by Sagittarius, which corresponds to the long journeys and pilgrimages we take in our lives. The Chartres Labyrinth is for pilgrims, many of whom did that labyrinthine journey on their knees.Try walking the white path of the labyrinth with your eyes.
Perhaps you're familiar with the magnificent stained-glass rose window that is directly above the main door of the nave at Chartres. It is almost the same distance above the floor as the labyrinth is down the nave from the front door. This circular rose window and the Chartres Labyrinth are almost the same size. If you could imagine there being a hinge at the end of the nave where the main doors are, and if you could fold the front facade down toward the altar, the rose window would almost lie directly on top of, and would be congruent with, the labyrinth. The light of that famous window and the darkness of the pilgrimage are one.
As with the classical seven circuit labyrinth, we will talk more about the potential uses of the Chartres Labyrinth later on. For the moment, please notice that it is divided up into four obvious quarters, and that each of these quarters has seven 180-degree turns. If you count them correctly, there are also seven paths on the classical seven circuit labyrinth.
In this book, I use only illustrations of labyrinths I have personally seen. Obviously, many more are dotted all over the Earth. In China, as early as 1000 CE, rectangular labyrinths made of incense were used to measure time. Each straight length of incense took a known amount of time to burn, so in a ceremony, for example, as the incense came to a corner, the celebrant knew it was time to get on to the next part of the ritual.
Egypt has the oldest known maze, built around 1800 BCE by the pharaoh Amenemhat III of the XII dynasty. First identified by that great antiquarian and Egyptologist Flinders Petrie in 1888, it is located near the town of Hawara, south of Lake Moeris, near the modern town of El Fayûm.
This nightmare labyrinth was 1,000 feet (300m) from east to west by 800 feet (240m) from north to south. It was enormous with many,many rooms. According to tradition, it had between 1,500 rooms above ground and 1,500 rooms below ground, but it wasn't a labyrinth. One had to make literally hundreds of choices while working one's way through this early maze.
There are many other places where labyrinths can be found, from the walls of Pompeii in Italy to the Hollywood Stone in Ireland; from a Roman type of labyrinth in Turkey to Zulu mazes in Africa.
In this book we cannot possibly cover the whereabouts, geography, and age of all the labyrinths in the world. Rather, we will work with ancient myths and modern uses.The point is that labyrinths, magical unicursal paths, are found pretty much all over the world. There are several good books dealing with where they are, their history, and who might have built them.
I want to explore the earliest stories about them, which might give us a hint as to how we can use labyrinths, these magical tools of sacred space, today.
In this chapter we have talked about various magical unicursal paths, focusing on the classical labyrinth and how to make it. In the process we have looked at labyrinths in various parts of the world with specific examples in North and South America, and in Europe and Scandinavia. The classical labyrinth in its various forms is found in all of these places but in different forms. It is these diverse forms that are fascinating to me. They lead the seeker into mirror after mirror. The left-hand labyrinth mirrors the right-hand one.
Draw one on a plain piece of paper with a dark pen. Determine whether it is a left-hand or right-hand labyrinth.Now turn the paper over and hold it up to the light. Voilà! You see the mirror! The Nascan classical three circuit labyrinth mirrors most other labyrinths. On the classical three circuit labyrinth, the path is in between the lines or walls.At Nazca the path becomes the line, and the walls disappear. It acts as another mirror.
This shifting back and forth, positive and negative, light and dark, is part of what labyrinths are all about. Psychics and others who travel in other nonphysical realms like the astral world report that polarities are switched. Left becomes right. Future becomes past. In dowsing the chakras, I find that their polarities shift alternately as I move up the spine from the root chakra to the crown. Mirrors represent these shifts. Labyrinths help the individual make them.
LESSONS IN GNOWING
At the end of each chapter are exercises designed to help you "gnow" more about these ancient spiritual tools. Remember, gnowing uses both intuitive and rational faculties. At this time, the most important exercise is to keep on drawing classical seven circuit labyrinths – the ones with one "L" in each quadrant.
Please use the seed patterns here to make three left-hand (up from the top of the cross and to the right) classical seven circuit labyrinths. You can copy the seed patterns from this book by hand, using pencil and paper, or with a photocopier; then draw your labyrinths.
Using this book
1 WEIRD IS A NOUN
Wyrd is a story
Wyrd is everyone
Wyrd is a feeling
Wyrd is an awareness
2 ROUND AND ROUND THE GARDEN
A garden-full of advice
A royal muddle
3 POWER AND FEAR
A problem of power
A problem of fear
The weird power of fear
The weird fear of power
5 I AND WE AND I
Which I is We?
Listening to We
The circles of We
The interweaving of We
Boundary, barrier and wall
My fortress, my prison
Negotiating the boundaries
7 A PROBLEM OF FATE
Lessons in the weaving
Wyrd and geist
Every wyrd has an ending...
...but there's always a choice!
8 SUBJECT AND OBJECT
Everything's an object
Everything's my subject
9 BLAME AND RESPONSIBILITY
Blaming the world
The gatekeeper and the judge
Dancing with responsibility
10 USE AND ABUSE
Use and power
Context and consent
Threads of abuse
11 ASSERTlNG 'I' 'I' is a choice
'I' is a boundary 'I' is a feeling
12 SYMPATHY AND EMPATHY
Sharing the passions
13 ALLIES IN WYRDNESS
The wyrdness of allies
14 SOUL-MATES AND CELL-MATES
Heart and soul
The chosen ones
The love connection
15 WYRD SEX
The weirdness of sex
The dance of Pan
The power of sex
16 GIRLS AND BOYS
Nurturing the wyrd
17 TRUST AND COMMITMENT
Trusting the wyrd
18 A WYRD WORLD OF ALLIES
A world of confusions
A world of power
A world of choice
This book is no longer available in print
Harnessing the chaos
in your relationships
Chapter Four: Danger – Children at Play
People are weird. It doesn't take much of an understanding of reality to know that. Sometimes, without warning, unexpected troubles or unexpected enemies appear, to turn our life into turmoil; and in the midst of hard times, unknown allies arise to help restore some sense of calm and self, of meaning and purpose. The weird part, and the one we'll usually fail to notice, is how often the 'enemies' and the 'allies' turn out to be the same people... and that the only real 'enemy' we have is ourself...
A key part of what's generally called 'personal growth' is learning to come to terms with that fact – coming to terms with our true selves and our true relationships with others. But it's often hard to see – and even harder to accept. And there's a hint of weirdness that can make it even harder: at times it can seem that the whole world is against us, thwarting us at every turn; while at others everything can seem impossibly smooth and easy – for a while at least... Just when we're certain we really know someone, they change – or perhaps we change – and we're faced with new challenges and new choices in relationship with them. The same issues, the same problems, the same fears, the same joys, all keep weaving through our relationships with others, always wearing similar yet strangely different faces. And as we work on our path of personal growth – expanding our awareness of ourselves and our hidden choices – everyone we meet, it seems, acts as a weird kind of mirror, showing us not only themselves, but the results of our own choices too.
There's always a choice in any interaction with others; but there's also always a twist, an uncertainty, a subtle chaos that underlies even the most ordered of relationships. That uncertainty is what keeps relationships interesting, but it does also add to the difficulties! In our less happy moments, relationships might seem like nothing but a series of tests and trials: yet if we've had more than a passing involvement with personal growth, we'll know that most of life is like that anyway – and relationships are no different... The only difference is that the issues are interpersonal rather than personal – and even in that there's a weird sense in which they're the same anyway.
So it's to this weirdness in the process of interpersonal growth – accepting the weirdness in our relationships, and working with them rather than trying to fight against them – that this book is addressed. It extends into the interpersonal realm the exploration of personal work and personal awareness described in Positively Wyrd, the previous book in this series. Like its predecessor, this book is also addressed to the realities of the process and its often uncomfortable twists and turns: as such, it develops a rather different sequence of approach to issues. In particular, there's an emphasis on some issues which are often missed out in other books in this field – such as a detailed exploration of personal power and personal responsibility, and of the subtle and self-destructive traps of the 'blame-game'. And there are also some guidelines on how to work with the bad times – and how not to get lost in some illusory 'good' ones.
As with the previous book, all the text after this introductory chapter is framed as if spoken by an imaginary narrator, named Chris Kelley. Throughout this book, from the next chapter onwards, 'I' is Chris Kelley, not me. 'Chris' is in fact a composite, whose life is drawn from the real-life experiences of many different people – both men and women. One reader commented, about an incident of Chris's in Positively Wyrd, "Your narrator, I really identified with her there – it's something which only happens to women": but in fact the real-life story behind the incident was actually a man's... So I'd argue that despite the strong emphasis on gender in so many current books on interpersonal issues, we do all have the same human needs and, for the most part, the same human problems: which is why you'll find that although Chris should be readily identifiable as a person, Chris's sex (and for that matter sexual preference) is intentionally uncertain – and likewise that of many of the people with whom Chris interacts. Make your own choices on this, if you wish – but remember there's always a twist...!
So although this introduction is somewhat formal, the rest of the book is not. The stories that Chris tells are highly personal, and illustrate clearly the intensity of feeling of many of these states – so if you find yourself in the same kind of emotional spaces or practical predicaments that this imaginary 'I' describes, you'll know you're not alone in that experience. We've all been there too: sometimes that fact alone can be a great deal of help in some of the darker times...
The aim of personal growth is to create constructive changes within ourselves and the ways in which we relate with others and to the world at large. But since nothing changes without our choosing to be involved in the change, there's also a strong emphasis in this book on the practical: examples to put the concepts into practice will be found on almost every page. As with Positively Wyrd, these typically consist of a personal experience from Chris that illustrates the point being made, followed by some suggestions about how to put this into practice, and questions about the resultant experience – questions to which only you have the answers – to help you explore the issues in your own personal context. All of these examples have been tested in practice, by myself, friends and colleagues as well as many others, and often over long periods of time: they work. Whether they work for you in the same way is up to you to decide, based on your own experience: but unless you do try them for yourself, you'll never know!
This book develops a sequence of observations and changes, starting with relationship to self, moving onward to close and intimate relationships, and outward to relationships with the world in general. Be warned, though, that the sequence may not always be what you expect: some themes are threaded throughout the book, twisting and looping back in ever-changing forms, so the apparent repetition that occurs in many places is intentional, and is not simply due to poor editing! One of these themes is the problem of blame, which weaves through most relationships in its own weird way: an example 'sets the stage' in the first chapter, which opens the way toward the subtle freedom that can be found from a better understanding of the original meaning of 'weird' – another central theme of the book, explored in depth in the chapter which follows.
The next section, consisting of roughly a third of the book, looks at the kind of pressures and issues which apply in all kinds of relationships. We learn to watch how our own fears and confusions, and the habits we've been taught from childhood onwards, can dominate our relationships with others, and even with ourselves – and how we can begin to reclaim real choices in this. We explore the weird boundary between 'I' and 'not-I'; and we begin to discover that while there is such a thing as 'fate', we do have choices even in this – although there's always a twist in what happens next...
The third section is concerned mainly with practical tools: it consists of five chapters, each of which focusses on a specific problem-issue in all kinds of relationship. We observe the strange confusions that arise from some common ways of relating which view others as 'object' or 'subject'; we explore ways to break free from the destructive pervasiveness of blame; we look more closely at what exactly we mean by 'I', and its weird relationship with others. And we learn to become aware of the subtle boundary between use and abuse of both self and others; and also the subtle distinction between sympathy and empathy, without which no true relationship is possible.
In the final section we start to put into practice this new experience of ourselves and the true 'weirdness' of relationships. We find a new understanding of sex – in all its senses – and strange meetings with 'soul-mates'; we explore a new world of trust and joy, in commitment to ourselves, to others and to the wider world. We learn to recognise the allies that we already have in this; and discover that we can create, in any relationship, the allies we truly need. There's always a twist, perhaps, but in every relationship we always have choice, and the power to choose. And that choice, and the responsibility for that choice, are always ours: it's up to us to build the relationships we need.
4 DANGER – CHILDREN AT PLAY
Childhood – in principle, at least – is a time of wonder, of magic, of innocence. Over time, though, we become 'adulterated', tainted with the bleak realities and complex compromises of the everyday world: and slowly – unless we're careful, or lucky, or both – the magic and the laughter begin to fade, and we wake up to find ourselves stranded in an evermore-chaotic but supposedly adult world, wondering where on earth the magic went.
So we look around, and there are people out there having fun, just like we used to. But we look a little more closely, and notice that while, yes, there are a few people who've retained that sense of childlike wonder, and can share it with others, much of what passes for 'fun' among adults is something subtly different. Not so much childlike as childish, and often with a solid streak of self-centred nastiness: not the same thing at all. Danger – children at play...
The centre of the universe
Remember, remember... go right back before childhood, before you were born. You rested in your mother's womb, and grew there; everything was provided for you, and you didn't have to do a thing to gain any of it. All you had to do was be. Nothing else. Nothing else to do; no challenges, no threats; no problem. Although you might perhaps have sensed vague happenings at its fringes, the space you were in was the sum of your universe – and you were its centre.
Then you were born: for many, a rough awakening to the so-called 'real world'. But even here, at first, there's only you, at the centre of the universe. If you're fortunate, everything is provided, just when you need it. There are more sensations – many more – than before, and you can now do more; but there's only you, and a blur that provides. If there's any discomfort, all you have to do is howl, and something happens: it may take longer than you want, and you may not always get exactly what you want, but something does happen. You're in control: you're still the centre of the universe, and you're also comfortably certain that you're at the centre of everyone else's universe too. They exist to serve you: and as far as you're concerned, that's the only reason they exist.
And then, quite suddenly, it stops.
I'm not the centre of the universe; I'm not the reason the world exists; there are many, many others out there, and they're just the same as me. When that realisation finally dawns, it's literally life-shattering. So shattering that many people spend their lives running away from it... and that's what we mean by 'childish'.
Do you have any memory of when you first became aware that you were not the centre of everyone's universe?Who do you know who tries to cling to the idea that they should be the centre of everyone's universe – and will do anything to try to force others to conform to their will? In what ways would it be fair to describe that behaviour as 'childish'? What behaviours of your own would you admit to as being childish? Notice the feeling of embarrassment, but continue looking a little closer... Then notice that, even if you are sometimes 'childish', so is everyone else. What difference does that knowledge make to you? What difference does that make to your relationships with others?
Exactly how that realisation dawns doesn't matter that much. For some, it's the arrival of a younger sibling, or that first day at day-care or kindergarten; for others, it's the intransigence of adults during that devastating period known as the 'terrible twos'. Whatever the nominal cause, we discover that we don't always get what we want, especially when others are involved; and even worse, we have to accept the idea that we need to share – sharing affection, sharing resources, accepting differences – and surrender what has been, until now, our rightful place as the sole centre of the universe. That's hard: to a child, it can be very hard...
Yet there's another aspect of childhood that can vanish at the same time – and even if it doesn't, it can be steadily crushed in the pressures of socialisation and the enforced indoctrination that's mistakenly described as 'education'. It's a sense of wonder, of magic, of connection, of possibility: an open, innocent awareness that we call 'childlike'. It's the state in which we can most easily become aware of the interweavings of the wyrd – not just in children's fantasies, but also in the complex connections of adult life. (All science, for example, arises from people continuing to ask the childlike question 'Why?') Once we lose this sense of 'childlikeness', it can sometimes be hard to reclaim it: but every now and then the wyrd will show itself to us in its own weird way – and return us, for an unknowable instant, back to that state of wonder.
On a warm summer afternoon, I'm sitting in the back yard, watching a column of ants marching purposefully up and down a tree, while a blackbird whistles and warbles overhead. Everything, everywhere, everywhen quietly coincide: and in this place, at this moment, in this context, I am the eyes and ears and senses of the wyrd. I am the centre of the universe, and not – at the same time. A strangely childlike state...
Remind yourself of some times when you've had the feeling of knowing, for a brief moment, that sense of being 'the centre of the universe', the point around which – or through which – the world turns. What did you see in that state? What did you learn? Does this kind of experience happen mostly on your own, or with others – and if with others, who?
In this state it is true that we're the centre of the universe; but it's true only because everywhere is that centre – at the same moment. The threads of wyrd pass through everywhere, everyone, everywhen: it has no centre as such – it simply is. But everywhere is its centre, because every choice made anywhere within it echoes throughout the interweavings of the wyrd. And by knowing that wherever we are, we are at the centre of the universe, we have access to every possibility – which means that we always have a choice when we need one.
Ultimately, awareness of this can become a way of life, as was shown by an ancient Celtic chieftain who was captured and dragged off to Rome. History records that the Emperor asked him two questions: the first was "What is your greatest fear?" His reply: "That the sky shall fall on my head." "Where is the centre of the earth?" "Between my feet," came the reply. The Romans laughed at his answers – they thought him strangely childish. But the Roman army lost many battles – even whole legions – before they realised that those answers were far more than they seemed: childlike, perhaps, but in no way childish. The Celts may have admitted fears about things which rarely, if ever, happened – such as a falling sky; but they had few fears about things which did – such as death and dying. And if each warrior knew for certain, that wherever they stood, that was the centre of the earth, there was nowhere else to go but here – so here, now was the time to stand and fight. A different kind of game, played by different rules... a different choice, leading to a different twist.
The first lesson of sharing is 'playing fair': failure to do so can lead to war... if only at a childish level, as any number of playground squabbles would indicate! But what do we mean by 'fair' or 'equal'? The answers depend entirely on the individual: and if someone's still clinging to the childish idea that they are, or should be, the sole centre of the universe, there's going to be trouble...
When we were growing up, big sister Anne had a very clear concept of 'fair': it was only fair when she had what she wanted, otherwise it was definitely, deliberately unfair – and all hell would break loose. If we tried to play a board-game, for example, everything would be fine – as long as she seemed to be winning: but the moment it became clear that she was likely to lose, the tantrums would start – we would all be accused of cheating, the board would fly into the air, and she'd hurl game-pieces across the room while everyone else ducked for cover. We gave up playing board-games eventually.., no fun for anyone.. .When you were growing up, was there someone among your family or friends who tended to do this? At what age did they stop? Or did they simply continue the behaviour in a more sophisticated, 'adult' form?You've probably done it too, to some extent – but to what extent? Look closely: to what extent, and in what ways, do you still do the same now?
Equality is an enormously complex concept. At first it seems easy enough – just share everything out, and that'll be fine – but once we start to look closely, we discover just how weird it really is. 'Identical' is easy – or relatively easy – to set up, but is rarely equal in the sense of 'fair': a 'child's portion' in a restaurant wouldn't satisfy a hollow-legged teenager! And at public events, and in public places such as theatres, men and women are usually allocated the same amount of toilet space: but because of the simple facts of anatomy, women need about five times as much space as men, to get the same number through in the same time – hence all those agonising queues... Not fair at all...
In many circumstances like these, identical can be far from equal: everyone is different, and has different needs. In some ways, what is done is less important than the intent that whatever happens should be fair: it's more about feelings than strictly tangible results. So a fuller understanding of fair would be something like "equally deserving of respect" – or perhaps, as the 'philosophy statement' of an organisation I know puts it, that "the needs, concerns, feelings and fears of men and of women are of exactly equal value and importance". But it's sad to notice how many people have difficulty even with that: they'll talk long and loud about equality, and fairness from others, but are strangely unwilling to put it into practice themselves. As George Orwell warned in 'Animal Farm', the slogans of equality and fairness soon become weirdly twisted: "All are equal" shifts to "Some are more equal than others"; the old communard slogan "From each according to ability, to each according to their need" changes subtly into "From each according to facility, to each according to their greed." If unchallenged, childishness rules – and those who genuinely care about fairness and equality often get trampled in the rush.
At college there was a supposedly international socialist group who typified this self-dishonesty almost to extremes. They shouted loudly about democracy, but were notorious for rigging elections and meetings; they pontificated about 'the working class', when none of them had done a day's work in their lives; they demanded 'non-violence' from others, but were far from non-violent themselves. "All property must be liberated!" was their rallying cry – or, more accurately, "All property must be liberated – but don't you dare touch my stuff!" And they did not react kindly when anyone pointed out the glaring inconsistencies between their theory and their practice.. .Who do you know who is similarly inconsistent in their ideas of 'fairness'? What problems do you have in relating with them?It's hard to see our own inconsistencies, for obvious reasons! But if you have friends who you can trust to be honest with you without being hurtful, ask them what inconsistencies they see in your behaviour: what do you learn? How easy is it to face up to what they tell you? How easy is it to accept that this is what you do?
It's bad enough when a whole family finds itself focussed on pandering to one member's childishness. But the childish among us are often completely unaware of it, because – as we saw with the Queen of Hearts, a while back – everyone's running around covering it up for them, for fear of even more abuse. When a whole society or sub-culture gets into this state, some groups describe it as a 'patriarchy': but it's more accurate, and more honest, to describe it as a 'paediarchy' – "rule by, for and on behalf of the childish". A society which claims to be concerned only with 'fairness' and 'equality', but in which childish people are actively rewarded for 'playing foul': time to take a look around, because it's everywhere around us...
Placating childishness doesn't work: the childish ones – including all of us, at times – simply take, in the certainty that it's their 'right' to do so. (One of the characteristics of a paediarchy is a strong emphasis on 'rights', and very little mention of responsibilities – except for others' responsibilities, of course.) Responding to childishness with further childishness – "He gets away with it, so why can't I?" – only increases the overall amount of childishness, and also of fighting, from which everyone loses. For the same reason, responding aggressively – fighting back – just drags everyone down, and solves nothing. Ignoring the childishness – "It's only a phase, she'll grow out of it" – sometimes works: but in many cases it doesn't, because what the childish one is after is attention, and will simply crank up the childishness until they do get that attention. And punishing childishness rarely works, because they have no idea why they're being punished: since whatever they did was, from their perspective, entirely fair, 'punishment' is, by definition, others being unfair to them – so they'll often come back even angrier, demanding revenge... Facing others' self-centred childishness can be a big problem: especially when they're completely unaware of the true extent of their 'playing foul'.
Oh, the joys of shared student houses... There was one girl I particularly remember, who routinely ranted about her supposedly abusive parents (who happened to be paying her entire way through college, and plenty more besides), blaming them – and, later, us – for all the many problems in her life. When she wanted to watch our shared television, no one else was allowed in the same room – it was an invasion of her privacy, she said. We had a rota for cooking: she never cooked for anyone else, but claimed her share of everyone else's food as her right – several times I came home to find she'd eaten my supper, though she never offered to replace it. And so on, and so on – no fun at all!
What's your experience of people like these, who carry their self-centredness almost to the extreme of an art-form? How do you relate with them? Given the frustrations, the temptation to respond in kind is always strong: how do you not fall into the same kind of childishness yourself?
Childish behaviour is to be expected from children – that's why it's called 'childish', after all. At first, children simply don't know how to look after themselves, or how to relate with others in a complex society – and they can't be expected to. So parents do – in most cases – take responsibility for their children. Walking down the street, a child finishes its ice-cream, and hands the wrapper to mother: it's now her problem – as far as the child's concerned, she magically makes the wrapper disappear. Unless the child is shown how to take responsibility for its own mess, it'll never learn: the teenager turns round to hand its ice cream wrapper to mother, finds she isn't there – so dumps it on Mother Earth instead. Somebody else's problem, not mine; hey, where the hell has all this disgusting litter come from? Somebody else, not me: it's never n~y fault – how dare you suggest that it could be? Douglas Adams described this succinctly when he said that the best way to make something invisible was to surround it with a "somebody else's problem" field – it's always somebody else's problem, somebody else's responsibility, so we don't bother to look...
Another common form of childishness is what we might call 'faked incompetence': "I'm too lazy to do it, so I hope someone else does – if I show them I can't do it, they'll have to do it for me..." The old gender-stereotypes play their part in this, of course: some men use it to duck out of their share of the housework – "You're so much better at it than I am, dear" – and some women say exactly the same about checking the oil, the water or the tyres on the car. But it's by no means gender-specific, as we saw in the last example, with the student 'accidentally' breaking crockery every time she washed up; and I remember one journalist shouting that he'd given up on computers – they were too complicated for him, he was going to go back to using a quill pen!
There's another side to this, as we'll see later; but who do you see who feigns inability or incompetence at some task, to trap others into doing it for them? What do you feel when you find yourself doing it for them, time and time again?
When do you indulge in this same belief that "power is the ability to avoid work'? What do you feel when others do what should have been your work for you? How do they respond to you when you feign incompetence or inability?
Childishness is a problem. But placating it doesn't work; responding in kind doesn't work; fighting back doesn't work; ignoring it doesn't work; punishing it doesn't work. All of these lead straight into those loops of wyrd, where the same theme is repeated over and over again in endless variations – especially where people are covering up for others' childishness, and hence covering up the only way out of the loop. There is a weird way out of this: there's always a choice to change things, within the weavings of the wyrd. But we may not be too keen about the twist...
Each thread of the wyrd passes through everyone, every where: what's going on 'outside' of us, in others' behaviour, is also always present in us. We're childish too; and childlike, if we can allow ourselves to be so. There's little or nothing that we can do to change others' behaviour directly: but we can change our own. And as we do so, their behaviour tends to change too – we don't cause the change as such, but it happens in parallel, as our choices echo up and down the threads of the wyrd.
So the twist is that the best way to face childishness in others is to come to face our own: to admit to the ways in which we 'play foul' – or condone others' doing so – and shift instead to learn genuinely to 'play fair'. Uncomfortable and embarrassing at the best of times, but it does work... for everyone.
The quest for the Inner Adult
These days there seem to be any number of references to 'reclaiming the inner child': Inner Child courses and workshops, Inner Child therapy, articles in self-help magazines, whole racks-full of books on the subject in the bookstores' self-development sections. Reviving the inner childlike state from the midst of adult gloom is certainly a good idea: but not so good if all we 'reclaim' is our inner childishness, as was the case with one woman I know well...
The concept of the 'inner child' is lifted – often inappropriately – from Transactional Analysis theory, which describes all interactions between people in terms of three complex stereotypes: the Parent – the over-responsible, 'father/mother knows-best' critic – the Adult, and the Child.
In your interactions with others, in what ways do you play the Parent: taking responsibility for others, criticising others, acting as if you're the only one who knows what to do? How do others respond to you, or with you, when you do this?
In what ways do you play the Child: evading responsibility, meekly accepting criticism, doing what you're told without thinking about it, rebelling against the Parent – or, alternatively, being inventive in a childlike way? How do others respond to you, or with you, when you play this type of role?
In what ways do you play the Adult: mediating, rationalising, persuading? How do others respond to you, or with you, when you play this role? What happens if, in this role, you try to stand between an arguing Parent and Child?
In some ways the Parent stereotype is just a grown-up version of the Child: the original childishness transmutes into adult arrogance; childish thoughtlessness changes to reliance on externally-defined rules – the edicts of the Law, the Bible, the Koran, the Company Handbook or whatever – as a substitute for thought, and a tendency to be 'judgemental' without awareness of context. There's more responsibility than in the Child: but even that is often given grudgingly, unwillingly, and with much complaint about unfairness... The classic 'codependent' relationships involve two or more people oscillating between the Parent and Child stereotypes, often constantly bickering, and constantly moving between the two stereotypes in search of power-over or power-under the other, to offload responsibility or fears onto the other. Some co-dependent relationships may seem relatively stable in a kind of "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" way – the gender-stereotyped roles of the 'traditional' marriage easily fall into this pattern, for example – but the moment any party tries to move out of the 'game', all hell can break loose!
The Adult, by comparison, is more like a mature version of the Child's childlike qualities: the willingness to explore, to risk, to create, in a much more complex social and conceptual world. And it's much rarer than either the Parent or the Child, for the simple reason that both tend to attack the Adult: the bleak reality is that, caught up in their power-games, both Parent and Child often want to fight, and to hurt someone – and the openness and honesty required of the Adult role makes it a very easy target... But there's no way out of a co-dependent loop unless the wider awareness of the Adult is allowed to drift in – sometimes from outside, but preferably from within the people themselves – to point out the choices that are being hidden (or hidden from) in the twists of the wyrd. So as one friend put it, "It's not my Inner Child that I need to find – it's my Inner Adult!"
I'm in the middle of yet another flaming row about work: Mary's stuck in the Parent role, nagging and demanding that I do things her way; and I'm stuck in the Child role, torn between bowing to her authority and rebelling against it. Suddenly yet subtly I become aware of a kind of inner voice, telling me to slow down and listen to what Mary is saying. Initially I rebel against this 'inner adult' too – I want to do things my way, dammit, and no one's going to tell me otherwise! – but I find myself doing what it says: I shut up, and listen. Within moments, Mary stops in mid-sentence – mid-rant! – and the anger vanishes from between us: an argument that looked likely to go on all day, and probably all week, is resolved in minutes, both of us feeling comfortable about what we'd now agreed to do. Like the dancing, creative, magical Inner Child, that weird Inner Adult is always there, always willing to help in any way it can – when I remember to listen for it, and let it speak!
What's your experience of the Inner Adult? In what kind of circumstances have you heard it speak? In the midst of an argument, perhaps, as in that example? Or elsewhere? How easy – or not – was it to accept what this inner voice was saying? More to the point, how easy – or not – was it to act on that advice? What did the Child or Parent in you have to face by doing so?
Most of what we'll see in the practical work here is concerned with 'reclaiming' – or becoming aware of, perhaps for the first time – our own Inner Adult. That work includes developing an understanding of the differences between selfishness, self-centredness and self-awareness, and slowly exchanging – wherever we can our naturally childish and Parent-ish self-dishonesty for a rigorous honesty with ourselves and others. None of this is likely to be easy... but it can make a vast difference – a vast improvement – to our relationships, not just with others but also within ourselves.
As with the Inner Child, the characteristics of the Adult include a full acknowledgement of the self things like self-love, self-trust, self-respect, self-awareness, self-responsibility. Finding these alone can be hard enough... But at the same time the Adult also needs a full acknowledgement of others, and both by and with others: a love (in many different senses) of others, trust shared with others, respect of others as well as of self, awareness of others' needs and one's own, and responsibility about, or to, or with (but never 'for') others. And that's even harder, because it requires a full understanding of the interweaving of 'I' and 'not-I'.
One of the reasons the Celts eventually lost their battles with the Romans was that they were too 'childlike' – too focussed on 'I', with too little awareness of We'. Culturally and militarily they emphasised individual prowess, individual skill, with a poor grasp of tactics as a group; in the end the Roman army, using the classic power-under tactic of 'divide and conquer', broke through – because no individual, however skilled, can withstand indefinitely the might of the disciplined many. (A few centuries later, though, when Roman discipline had all but collapsed, the Germanic Celts had their revenge.., and with the sack of Rome, the once-mighty Roman empire was no more.)
So 'personal development' alone is not enough: it needs to be complemented by interpersonal development, an awareness of what is possible – and only possible – by working together as 'we'. By sharing, in every sense, we resolve the childish need to be at the centre of the universe, to be that centre – because through the weird experience of 'we', we also share that centre, as 'I and We and I'.
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Harnessing the chaos in your life
ARTHUR AND GUINEVERE
Redemption through suffering
The tale of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere, and of her love for the king's best friend, Lancelot, is one of the best-known of all myths about the pain of betrayal. It is also virtually unique in that none of the participants in this triangle attempt to destroy each other, but instead find reconciliation and inner peace through integrity, loyalty to friendship and a recognition of the essentially sacred nature of deep and heartfelt love.
After many years of wars and battles, having achieved victory over the invading Saxon hordes, King Arthur said to his wise advisor Merlin, 'The time has come for me to take a wife.' Merlin inquired whether the king had already made a choice; and it seemed he had, for he had been told of a wondrously beautiful princess called Guinevere, the daughter of King Leodegrance of Cameliard, and was inflamed with love even before he had met the lady.
But Merlin was a prophet and he could foresee that this choice would end in tragedy. 'If I should advise you that Guinevere is an unfortunate choice, would that change you?' asked Merlin.
'No,' replied Arthur.
'Well, then, if I should tell you that Guinevere will be unfaithful to you with your dearest and most trusted friend...' said Merlin.
'I would not believe you,' said Arthur.
'Of course not,' said Merlin sadly. 'Every man who has ever lived holds tight to the belief that, for him alone, the laws of probability are cancelled out by love. Even I, who know beyond doubt that my death will be caused by a silly girl, will not hesitate when that girl passes by. Therefore you will marry Guinevere. You do not want advice only agreement.'
And so Arthur sent Lancelot, the chief of his knights and his most trusted friend, to bring her from her father's house to the king's court. On the journey, Merlin's prophecy came to pass, and Lancelot and Guinevere fell in love with each other. But neither would consent to break their promise to the king.
Soon after the wedding, King Arthur had to attend to business elsewhere in the kingdom. In his absence, King Meleagant laid a trap for the queen, and seized her and carried her off into his kingdom. No one knew what had become of her. The only way into the moated prison in which Meleagant had incarcerated her was by a perilous bridge which had never been crossed by anyone, as it was made of sharp swords laid end to end. No one dared go after Guinevere but Lancelot, who made his way through unknown country until he discovered where Guinevere was hidden. He crossed the sword bridge and sustained grievous wounds, but he rescued the queen and fought and killed Meleagant. And when they returned to the court, she took pity on Lancelot and nursed his wounds herself. As he lay healing, the two at last consummated their secret love.
When Arthur returned, Merlin told him that he had seen the queen and Lancelot in a vision and that Guinevere had betrayed her husband. And other members of the court also told Arthur that the queen and Lancelot were known to secretly love each other. But Arthur refrained from violence or accusation, and held his own counsel, because he knew that both his friend and the queen suffered greatly because of their love, and that both struggled against it as best they could. Because he loved them both, he was loathe to destroy either of them through public exposure of the betrayal. So he waited, and all three were made wretched because of the love which each bore the other two.
But the knights of the court were angry at the shame the queen and Lancelot had brought to the king, and also they saw a chance for grasping power and ousting the king's best friend from his side. So they plotted to catch Lancelot and Guinevere together, in order to bring the king proof of the betrayal and make public the queen's misdeeds. Among these knights was Mordred, who was the king's illegitimate son and who secretly sought the throne for himself.
That night these self-seeking men lay in wait for the lovers and burst into the chamber where they lay. But Lancelot escaped, and the knights took the queen prisoner and brought her before the king with proof of her betrayal. So Arthur was forced against his will to accuse her publicly and made her stand trial. Guinevere was judged guilty and sentenced to the fire. But as she was dragged to the stake, Lancelot, who had received news of her fate while he lay in hiding, rode forth to rescue her. There was a great battle, and many knights were slain before Lancelot carried the queen off to his castle called Joyous Gard.
Now Arthur could no longer be forgiving, for Lancelot had killed many of his best knights. So the king set off with his army to besiege the castle of Joyous Gard. But Lancelot refused to ride forth from the castle, for he would not do battle with Arthur. And then Arthur and Lancelot spoke to each other, and each remembered the love and loyalty they held for each other. Lancelot repented and swore he would give up the queen's love, so Arthur and Lancelot were reconciled.
Arthur would have taken back his queen, but the other knights would not countenance such a spirit of forgiveness. They demanded vengeance, so Lancelot had to come forth to do battle with these knights, lest he be thought a coward. And a great battle followed. During this battle Arthur and Lancelot met, and there were tears in both men's eyes. But they could not undo what had been done, and the battle went on around them, although these two had made peace with each other.
At length, both sides were exhausted. A parley ensued, and there was a truce. Arthur returned to court with Guinevere and offered Lancelot his old place at the Round Table. But Mordred, who saw power slipping from his grasp, plotted the downfall of all three. He led a great host against the king and, in this battle, the king was mortally wounded. Although Lancelot fought on the side of Arthur and killed Mordred, when all was over he could not bear his guilt, and told the widowed queen that he must depart forever. So he rode off and entered a monastery, and spent his days repenting his misdeeds. And the queen, too, could bear neither her guilt nor the loss of both the men she loved, and she took herself to a nunnery.
Many years passed, and one night Lancelot had a vision in which he was told to go to see the queen. When he had found the nunnery in which she had spent her days, he was told that she had died half an hour before, and he was faced with her corpse. And then Lancelot took neither meat nor drink, and sickened more and more. Eventually, he pined away and died.
Both Lancelot and Guinevere were placed on the same bier and brought to Lancelot's castle of Joyous Gard, and all the surviving knights who had sought their destruction in life came to honour them in death, for they had expiated their sins and now all knew of their great love for each other and for the king. So all three were forgiven in death, who were not forgiven in life.
COMMENTARY: The tragic triangle of Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot is a shining vision of the nobility of the human heart. It portrays a potential of which all of us are capable but which, sadly, is rarely met in real life. This triangle is not based, as so many are, on self-indulgence, mere sexual attraction, boredom or an attempt to escape commitment. It is rooted in deep love on all sides, and it teaches us that love is not always exclusive; we may love different people deeply in different ways. This is a hard thing for the modern person to swallow, for we are brought up to believe that if we love our partners, we cannot possibly love anyone else; we take marriage vows which demand exclusivity; and, in our attempts to understand why we get involved in triangles, we persist in believing that those who betray must be shallow and unfeeling. In many triangles, shallower reasons, conscious or unconscious, may indeed motivate the betrayal. But the myth of Arthur and Guinevere tells us that this is not always so, and that sometimes life is simply unfair; and so, too, may be the human heart.
Arthur's refusal to retaliate, despite his hurt, reflects a generosity of spirit and a capacity for self-control which we may well envy. Unfortunately, these qualities are not shared by his knights, who, like so many, are loud and obvious in their condemnation of something they cannot understand, because they have never loved deeply themselves. And these knights also have their own secret agendas which blind them to the profound rightness of what Arthur tries to do. In popular opinion, a modern-day Arthur, faced with such a situation, may well be thought a 'wimp', a weak man who tolerates a shameful situation because he is not manly enough to do anything about it. Yet Arthur is the opposite his loyalty to both his friendship with Lancelot and his love for his wife causes him deep suffering, yet he refuses to betray his own heart and, thus, he proves himself more manly than any of the knights who bay for revenge.
None of the characters in this story finds romantic happiness in the ordinary sense. But perhaps more important than living happily ever after is the absolute loyalty all three show towards the deepest demands of their souls, even though it costs them nothing less than everything. If the love between Guinevere and Lancelot were anything less than a love of the soul, neither would have given way to temptation. If Arthur's love for both his friend and his queen were anything less than a love of the soul, he would have indulged himself in revenge, with the complete approval of everyone around him. There may be times when such a love enters our lives; and if it does, we may understand why the ancients thought it the visitation of a god, against which human will is powerless. Often simple lust, or the secret desire to punish a partner, is disguised by declarations of grand passion. But the real nature of such desire is revealed when we are faced with the kind of choices that are forced on these three mythic figures. Perhaps we may consider ourselves fortunate if such cauterizing fires do not enter our lives. If they do, great suffering inevitably ensues for all three people. Yet, if life does impose such a challenge on us, we might do well to remember the story of Arthur and Guinevere, which tells us that betrayal may be the deepest and most profound means by which we come to know ourselves and what we truly believe in.