Hunting the Unicorn: the Fairy Circle

From Sue…

The Silent Eye

Sunday morning already… the weekend was slipping by incredibly fast, but we knew Dean had a lot planned for the final morning of the workshop. Our day began by packing the car, necessarily skipping breakfast… which was to prove a bit disastrous as things turned out… and re-inflating the dodgy tyre yet again. It was definitely getting worse, but it was still manageable as long as we had access to an air pump. There was no prospect of getting it dealt with on a Scottish Sunday so far from a large town anyway.

But all practical considerations would fade away as we drove to our rendezvous at Dean’s home in Glenlivet. The morning was beautiful, the landscape incredible with wide valleys fringed with the blue of snow-kissed mountains. We glimpsed rabbits, deer and scurrying weasels and, quite magically, there were huge hares on the road.

While hares may well be…

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Three Days of the Oyster-Catcher (Part 4) Sea and Stone

I didn’t want to leave Burghead… not even for Findhorn.

I didn’t want to leave Burghead, not even for Findhorn; a place I’d wanted to visit for a long time. Burghead had filled me (many of us, I think) with a sense of ancient mystery and that dreadful knowledge that the centre of the Pict civilisation had likely perished in the Viking raids of the 9th century, when the ‘fort’ was sacked and burned. Medieval history is thin for north-eastern Scotland, for example the all-important Celtic Christian monasteries at Iona and Lindisfarne have well-documented medieval histories, but the important monastery at Portmahomack (the ‘Iona of the East’) north of the Moray Firth, is not.

The statue of ‘The Queen of the Picts’ from the museum of Portmahomack monastery, an hour’s drive across the Moray Firth, via the A9 bridge at Inverness.

Given time, I’d have spent the rest of the day exploring the layers of Burghead… and sitting with a coffee or six gazing out at the splendour of the Moray Firth. The Pictish people fascinate me – and their art has the same effect on me as did that of Egypt when I first came across it.

Pictish high art from Inverurie – Celtic, certainly, but something ‘smoother’ lurks in these masterworks…

One of our forthcoming workshops will be “On the Trail of the Picts“. We will follow the established ‘Pictish Trail’ across three landscapes just north of the Moray Firth in The Black Isle and Easter Ross; with a possible onward option to visit Orkney by car ferry. Advance reservations are being taken. September 2020 is being considered… but that is to be confirmed.

The Pictish Trail is already established. We just need to turn it into a workshop weekend… .with some modern spirituality in the mix

But we were still in the morning of the Saturday, and, though we had experienced the Burghead Well in a very special way, our use of the ‘element’ of water had a deeper personal purpose in the system that Dean had devised.

The journey of ‘Alchemical Water’ was about to be ‘walked…’. In it, we would meet the ‘Limited Self’.

At our next destination, we would ‘walk’ the ‘watery’ pentagram in search of deeper, individual self-knowledge. Dean’s system called for each person to be paired up with another – ideally someone they didn’t routinely work with. One person would walk the pentagram for each element, the other would record their feelings and observations as the mental and emotional journey progressed. Our Friday evening by the River Spey had begun this with the element of Earth. Now it was time, with the help of Findhorn’s beautiful beach, to do it for water…

No beach, lots of sand dunes, two dogs… Findhorn: Dean did not deserve this…

Except, when we got there, there was no beach… The high tide had consumed it, leaving only sand dunes and pebbles where once there had been (we were assured) level sand, perfect for laying out geometrical ribbons!

With great skill and some ingenuity we worked out a technical system that prevented the ribbons from flying away in the strong sea-breeze (heavy pebbles), and carried out what everyone thought was an excellent exercise. One of my key thoughts about ‘water’ has always been the ‘wisdom’ of how it moves around obstacles, rather than offering outright resistance. In nature, few things are as powerful, nor as determined as free-flowing water. Related to the emotions, yes, but much more that that… We should also consider the way it divides itself, without hesitation, to carry out such a flow-around. The ‘self’ of water exists only in the whole….

The ever-present clipboard – used by each half of the pairings to record the on-the-spot feelings and observations of the partner at the points of the magical matrix pentagram. Suitably redacted to mask personal comments.

We were getting used to the ideas behind, and method of Dean’s ‘magical matrix’ system. It’s always surprising (and often a delight) to see what takes form beneath the pencil from spontaneous thought and emotion when we are free just to ‘be’ in the landscape… and that is the whole point of these workshops. The magical matrix was beginning to show each of us the polarity between our beliefs and how we lived our lives… and the two are not always the same thing. There are limitations – real and false – and the simple scribblings were to build up to a comprehensive picture of our selves. Also, the trust that one places in the partner in this type of working is a lesson in itself – and a delightful (and often humorous) process.

And then, mercifully, there was lunch… in one of the best cafes imaginable. Set in the beautiful and famous village of Findhorn, the creative centre of this part of the Scottish coast, the Bakehouse cafe is a delight…

And, in closing this part of the weekend’s story, I have to add this photo of Larissa, enjoying (at the Bakehouse) her ‘first decent coffee fix’ of the whole weekend; truly a memory in itself…

After lunch we were to be treated to a Pictish stone so large, they had to build a glass hangar to house it…

To be continued….

Other parts in this series

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, This is Part Four.

©Copyright Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

 

Hunting the Unicorn: “…and under the earth…”

Sue narrates her journey to Burghead as part of the Silent Unicorn weekend in north-east Scotland…

The Silent Eye

Sharp tang of woodsmoke, tall shadows climb stone walls, reflected flames dance in a black pool. Deep in the belly of earth, the symbols of the rite painted on pale skin, I wait as the torches come…

I could not say where or when the scene unfolded, nor what was the rite, only that to find yourself unexpectedly standing in a landscape familiar from an old, recurring dream is very strange. The soft echoes of the chamber brought back one missing detail.

“We need to chant…”

***

We had arrived in Burghead knowing that we would take a look at an ancient fort and a holy well. For once, that was about the limit of my knowledge. We had been given a detailed itinerary, but I had deliberately not researched any of the places on the list. As I was not one of those responsible for guiding the weekend, I…

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Three Days of the Oyster-Catcher (Part 3) Headland of the Picts

Headland of the Picts – Burghead and, beyond, the expanse of Findhorn Beach

The Moray Firth is vast, wild and beautiful. Examined on a map it resembles a child’s geometry exercise in triangles, with the coast between its ‘origin’ at Inverness and far-away Fraserburgh being a virtually flat west-east baseline. From Fraserburgh the great inlet of the Moray Firth reaches northwards into the North Sea. The final line in the triangle, from Inverness moving north-east, ends at the tip of Scotland: John o’ Groats.

The vast Moray Firth; a small section of which formed the northern boundary of our Silent Unicorn weekend.

Our huge geographic triangle pivots around Inverness -which is also the place where Loch Ness meets the sea. What we know as Loch Ness today is the result of the shearing of two vast tectonic plates four-hundred million years ago. This geological event produced a ‘line’ of fracture that is now the line of Loch Ness but runs further across the entire width of Scotland and beyond. The east-west depression is known as the Great Glen.

The mighty Moray Firth, stretching northwards towards Scandinavia.

If you are sensitive to ancientness, when you stand on this, the south coast of the Moray Firth, you can feel the immense age of this beautiful place – and its importance in Scotland’s history.

Above: The Pictish Brandsbutt Symbol Stone from nearby Inverurie. Archeologists have painted-in part of the stone design to show how the original may have looked

The mysterious race known as the Picts, did just that… and they built what would be in our terms a mighty city. Today, the small town that grew in its ruins is known as Burghead.

Above: The scale of the original ‘fort’ can be seen by the fact that it took up the entire area of the Burghead headland – and jutted out boldly into the Moray Firth. Photographed from the Burghead Headland information board.

When we arrived we knew nothing of the above history. Dean (who had made a mysterious stop at one of the shops in the small high street) had arranged to take us through a warren of passageways to get to the famous and mysterious well.

Above: An unlikely route to a magical location.

Another turn and we approached our goal. It’s worth showing an edited copy of the Historic Scotland’s schematic. This pinpoints exactly where we now were in terms of the old fort…

Above: The location of the ancient well, though enshrouded, now, in the small town’s streets, was in Pictish times against the outer wall of the landward side of the city; shown here next to the blue dot.

We stood before the wooden fence reading the Historic Scotland information boards. The Burghead Well is kept locked but Dean had collected the key from one of buildings in the main street. About to enter, we were surprised when a visiting family arrived and said they believed that he had the key! Graciously, we stood back while they added to their holiday enjoyment. They soon returned and we entered the strange space in what looked like a large garden with a depression in the middle…

The Burghead Well. First impressions are of a garden lawn sunken in the middle.

” An old man suggested that they should dig in a certain spot, where, according to immemorial tradition, a well would be found”

Gentlemen’s Magazine, 1828

A strange descent to the well-chamber below….

The well-chamber is accessed by a descent of twenty rock-cut steps. The entire structure was hewn out of the local rock. The chamber is square, with rounded corners; and measures 5m by 5m. In the centre of the chamber is a pool surrounded by a narrow ledge 0.9m wide. The well pool is 1.3m deep. It was once emptied for maintenance and took six days to refill.

The information board shows a drawing from the 1800s describing the shape and the angle of access to the well chamber.

It is described as a ‘Pictish puzzle’

It is not known when Burghead Well was constructed, nor why. As we have seen from the schematic, it lies on the rampart line of the inner Pictish fort – built between the 4th and 6th centuries AD. The well may not have been part of the fort’s design. The well could have been added later or it could be even older than the ramparts themselves.

Even after millennia, the construction is still resilient.

The well could be considered as a water supply for the Pictish fort, but a shaft would be of more practical use. The rock-cut chamber is 5m wide and contains a 1m deep pool which is fed by a spring.

The act of descending into the earth is likely to have had spiritual significance – as mirrored in the Greek myth of Persephone and Hecate.

Different explanations have been put forward. These include a ritual drowning pool, a shrine to Celtic water deities or perhaps an early Christian baptistery.

Above: Note the beautifully rounded corners of the chamber. The dank-looking water was a shock… we had no right to expect anything better but felt helpless in the face of such a spiritually ‘unused’ place.
Then Sue suggested something profound….

After so much buildup, the actual water looked, for want of a better word, ‘sad’. Everyone spent a quiet moment taking in the age and cultural Pictish significance of this very special place. With a collective heavy heart, we began to move back up the rock steps… Then Sue stole the moment and suggested that we do some of our chants…

Music and chanting have been part of sacred practices for as long as man gazed in wonder at the stars and the sunrise. Over the years we have developed a set of chants that come under the general heading of ‘vowel sounds’. Stuart suggested a combination we had used before; one ending in the powerful ‘Aum’ sound.

Structures – particularly stone structures – have resonant frequencies. On a few notable occasions, such as when visiting the West Kennet barrow, just outside Avebury, we have been amazed and delighted when the artefact in which we were chanting ‘came alive’ and appeared to sing with us.

The Burghead Well did the same. In a second of incredible transformation the beautiful but neglected stone chamber began to ring with the human voice and to speak to us. It spoke of water, of the power of water, of the home of water. It spoke of the journey we were making from the element of earth to that of water, and everyone present left that beautiful and hallowed place in a state of deep reflection…

Above: Dean’s use of the mystical (and mathematical) Pentagram equated the ancient ‘Elements’ with (anti-clockwise from Air) The Boundary Self; the Potential Self; the Weak Self: the Limited Self and finally the Core and Shadow Selves. In this journey we travelled from Earth to Fire, from the Potential Self to the Limited Self.

We may not have ‘connected’ with the ancient Picts, but we certain did so with what they left behind…

The morning was still not finished. Before we had our long-awaited lunch at the Findhorn Bakery, another laying-out of our water-oriented pentagrams was to be made on Findhorn Beach… or was it?

In passing, though not part of our agenda, it is worth noting that Burghead connects with its past in a very special way. It is the only Scottish town that still carries out the ceremony of the ‘Burning of the Clavie’ – the origins of which are lost in history. This takes place on the ‘old new year’ date of January 11th, unless that is a Sunday, in which case the 12th is used, instead.

Elders of the town carry a flaming ‘Clavie’ – half of a cask filled with burning, inflammable materials and topped with tar – through the town. The procession ends at the ruins of an altar on the Pictish headland where the Clavie is made the centre of a ritual bonfire. When the originating Clavie finally falls apart, the people of the town rush forward to claim a piece of the still-burning material and take it back to ward evil from their homes…

The culmination of the fire ritual which takes place on 11th January each year. It might relate to the sacking of Burghead by the Vikings… or it might be part of something much older.
The burning of the Clavie
CC BY-SA 2.0
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burning_of_the_Clavie

To be continued….

Other parts in this series

Part One, Part Two, This is Part Three

©Copyright Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

Three Days of the Oyster-Catcher (2) Coast and Castle

Above: Looking down into the Spey valley below – the 7:00 am beginning of our workshop Saturday

There has to be a dawn… I’m not being flippant. Our Silent Eye ‘spirituality in the landscape’ weekends always have at least one early morning event during which we gather somewhere beautiful and greet the dawn. It’s a joy and also a discipline: something that tells our inner self that ‘we mean it’. Sometimes we might read poetry or even enact something from esoteric literature. Sometimes we just gaze and drink it in…. Nature often responds… Once, in the Silent Eye’s ‘birth’ weekend we had a lamb follow us up the side of a field. Hard to better that one…

Above: The ‘good sky’. Soon to be overtaken!

But, to do so in the locations around Grantown-on-Spey would have meant getting up at around three in the morning…. so we settled for a 7 am start, instead; to be followed by breakfast back at our ‘budget’ hotel.

Dean had picked us a beautiful location. The oyster-catchers thought so, too! Their beautiful calls rang out across the hilltop. Only a few minutes drive from our base town of Grantown, yet, with a short walk into a field, giving a view down the valley of the River Spey in all its beauty. The sun had long risen, but we took a few moments to greet it, and its life-sustaining power. Then it was down to work…

Above: Dean’s use of the mystical (and mathematical) Pentagram equated the ancient ‘Elements’ with (anti-clockwise from Air) The Boundary Self; the Potential Self; the Weak Self: the Limited Self and finally the Core and Shadow Selves.

In the symbolic ‘pre-solstice dawn’ we were to consider the ‘element’ of Air, which is strongly associated with our mental aspects and thought. Aided by a reading of the Macbeth scene where Lady Macbeth tries to wash the imaginary blood of Duncan and Banquo’s murders off her skin, we took a moment to consider what our symbolic ‘Air’ meant to each of us. In my own case, I pondered the power and the weakness of ‘thinking’.

Thoughts are powerful tools: they empower ordinary ‘working-day’ consciousness. We may think about the spiritual, yet our experience of it lies beyond thoughts. From ancient times it has been taught that we must find the gap between our thoughts to seek the ‘opening’ the other world of our spiritual consciousness. Put like that, it’s not that complex – which further illustrates the power of thought to ‘inner chatter’ about the way… but only the theoretical way…

Above: The ‘good clouds’ had gone… The car roof was about to come in handy.

We scribbled in our notebooks and shared what we were comfortable with. Perhaps other thoughts had made us consider aspects of ‘Air’ at a deeper level… Eventually and in an unhurried manner – considering the darkening sky – we left to embark on the next stage of our Saturday adventure. Dean had fashioned a content-packed weekend.

Above: The ‘triangle’ of our weekend had its upper boundary along the coast between Elgin and Findhorn – marked in red. Map: Google Maps.

After a surprisingly good breakfast, we gathered again for our trip towards the north coast. The upper part of our ‘triangle’ was about to fill the rest of the day, with the Findhorn Coast and the largest Pictish standing stone in Scotland forming just part of the agenda.

But first we had the delight of Duffus Castle… a symbolic part of ‘Macbeth country’.

Above: Duffus Castle as you see it from the car park.

Duffus Castle was originally constructed in the twelfth century by a Flemish mercenary named Freskin. He was an ‘incomer’ who was granted Scottish land by King David I. The king was trying to reinforce his own authority by making land grants to those loyal to his military ambitions.

Above: When you get closer the structure of Duffus Castle becomes clearer.

The original building was wooden and nothing survives except its site. 

Above: Panoramic photo shows the side-view of the castle.

The present structure, though a ruin, is a classic example of a medieval motte and bailey castle – a raised mound with a less defended lower area; the latter designed to protect both supplies and craftsmen and (in much greater luxury) the owning gentry. The accompanying image, below, taken from the Historic Scotland notice board, illustrates this, showing the lord’s dwellings at the highest point.

Above: The schematic from the Historic Scotland notice board shows how the medieval Duffus stone castle, with its Motte (1) and Bailey (2) construction would have looked.

The rebuilding – in stone – was carried out around 1305 when Sir Reginald Cheyne was granted ‘200 oaks’ from the royal forests of Darnaway and Longmore to ‘rebuild his manor of Dufhous’. The wood would have used for flooring, roofing and scaffolding in the otherwise stone structure.

Above: A stone passageway shows the thickness of the walls.

The main residence was the tower on the motte – the keep. The more comfortable rooms – hall, dining and bedrooms – were on the first floor; with shared accommodation for the household on the floor below. The windows were few and small, the only entrance was via an easily guarded portcullis.

The internal spaces of Duffus castle are a contrasting mixture of light and dark…

Sadly, the heavy castle was constructed directly on the ruins of the former structure. Eventually, the north wall of the tower slid down the hill. The lord had to move his quarters to the lower parts of his once-splendid castle.

Above: The sad fate of the lord’s upper rooms. Use of the older ruins as a foundation meant that the castle could not support its own weight, and the upper level fractured and slid down the internal hill (Motte).

It was time to make use of our Macbeth theme, again. This time Act III, Scene I, which begins with Banquo speaking his thoughts that the dreadful prophesy from the witches on the ‘blasted heath’ (which we were later to visit) had all come true… Macbeth was the Thane of Cawdor, Glamis and King. And Banquo had good reason to fear the newly-elevated tyrant… his former friend. There is much of great depth in such storytelling, and it fits well with a modern approach to the psychology of mankind.

“Thou hast it now, king. Cawdor, Glamis, all. As the weird women promised, and I fear thou play’dst most foully for’t…”

Our volunteer ‘actors’ were enthusiastic – we all took turns through the weekend. The group was at ease and good-natured. We smiled, yet considered the deeper side of Macbeth’s wilful ambition. How did it relate to us? Dean had selected Duffus castle to be the pentagram point of ‘Earth’. In his new system, this was the place of the Potential Self.

It was very suitable. Alchemical Earth is all the things that are foundational and basic – but essential. Without the earth in which organic things grow we would be nothing. We do not demean the earth symbol as being in any way lowly – in the same way that astrology does not – but it is the home of our bodies and of sex. Also the home of the lower emotions such as Macbeth’s twisted ambition….

Duffus was a fitting symbol of Macbeth; a man who ‘o’er reached himself’. The castle, built on insecure foundations – like the Thane’s rise to kingship – fell into the mud, there to languish as a lasting symbol to us all… A sobering thought!

Above: Dean pointed the way – through the ‘twisted window’…. Ahead lay the coast.

We were only part-way through the morning, yet felt like we’d had a day of activity. Walking out of the castle and past the long wall of Duffus, we listened to Dean’s description of our next place of inner and outer discovery – a holy well set deep in the ground of modern Burghead; a place with a rich and fascinating Pictish heritage. A place of sleeping water… and perfect acoustics.

Above: The long wall of Duffus castle. We said our goodbyes…

To be continued….

Other parts in this series

Part One, This is Part Two

©Copyright Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

Hunting the Unicorn: Heading north…

Sue begins her narrative on the SilentUnicorn weekend

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

I hit the road after work for the first leg of what would prove to be a very long journey and one full of unexpected adventures. From my home in the south, I drove to Yorkshire to collect Stuart. Next morning, we left for Scotland, choosing, as always, a route that would avoid the oppressive and insistent clamour of motorways. It undoubtedly takes much longer, but if you are going to work with the landscape, there is no better way to begin to connect with it than by experiencing it… even if only through the windscreen of a car.

We were heading into the Highlands to attend The Silent Unicorn workshop, a joint venture with our own school and a magical Lodge. The weekend would be presented by Dean Powell, who now lives in the area and who would guide us to sites ranging from the ancient, to the historic…

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Harlequin Solstice

Harlequin solstice

St John Kin

A picture in the fading sun

A race of fingers, digits

Of solstice long earned

Short departed

How little

How sadly

You are understood

Your music the struggle

Of madness

Made harmony

Until this moment

When kings detach your strings

When single song

Descends

Towards the dark arms

But brighter eyes

Of St Stephen

©Stephen Tanham

Three Days of the Oyster-Catcher (1)

We were standing close to the River Spey in the grounds of Strathallan church a few miles from the centre of Grantown-on-Spey: one of the gems of the north-eastern highlands of Scotland. The previous hour had seen us all meet at a tea room in the centre of the town. We discussed the plans for the weekend, drank tea and had cake…

Strathallan church is famous for its beautiful location by the river. But it is also the site of an ancient pictish stone; one that bears markings related to the mysterious number at the heart of the pentagram – Phi.

The Pictish stone in the graveyard of Strathallan Church

The call of the nearby oyster-catcher rose till it was overwhelming.

“A lone female,” the groundsman of the nearby church explained, as he prepared to wield his petrol strimmer against the long grass around the neighbouring gravestones. “Down to one surviving egg,” he shouted, lowering his ear mufflers. “Makes a terrible racket!”

Whatever else he was trying to convey to our suspicious-looking bunch of clipboard-wielding visitors was lost in the mayhem that followed. You have to wonder if the oyster-catcher was chuckling…

You get days like this in the pursuit of mystical experiences…

Luckily, our guide and teacher for the weekend, Dean Powell, was used to dealing with adversity. We have shared many an adventure, he and I. This, the Silent Unicorn weekend – a union of the Silent Eye and his Scottish Lodge – was to be one of the best.

Dean introducing us to the local landscape on the Friday evening

We stuck the twin noises as long as possible, then moved to the edge of a high wall, near the river, against which we could begin our construction of ‘pentagrams from ribbons’. We had no plans to enact moonlit rituals! To start with, there’s precious little darkness this far into northern Scotland so close to the summer solstice. Darkness lasts a few hours at best, and the dawn is about 03:00.

The pentagrams were to be the basis of a psychological analysis of ourselves. Their five-pointed shapes would come to represent our journeys of self-enquiry as we let rationality slip away within the glorious green of the Spey valley, the Findhorn coastline, and the mysterious castles of Macbeth country…

The river Spey’s course is just over one hundred miles long and is the fastest flowing river in Scotland. Its beautiful landscapes are famous for salmon fishing and the production of Scotch whisky. It flows northwards, ending in the Moray Firth a few miles west of Buckie. We were to see many of its beautiful faces as the weekend progressed.

Map showing the course of the River Spey as it flows towards the Moray Firth. Source: Wikipedia, licence SA 3.0

The groundsman’s strimmer fell silent. The oyster-catcher’s urgent protest stilled. We would be reunited soon enough.

Dean pointed to our first-attempt pentagrams and allocated names to the five points; later backed up by a comprehensive set of handouts.

The pentagram has long been a symbol of both the human and the place of the human in the scheme of creation. In other posts, I have detailed the unique geometric properties of its shape. The primary mystery of it lies in the embedded ‘magical’ number Phi. Phi allows the division of a ‘whole’ into two parts such that the child pieces retain their relationship with their dimension of origin. Phi is the ‘seen’ symmetry in plants and seashells, and can be found throughout nature. Famous artists, such as Leonardo Da Vinci, based much of their work on this mysterious number.

Dean’s use of the pentagram was as a map of the human self, using the headings of:

  • Core
  • Potential
  • Limited
  • Boundary
  • Weak/Defect
  • Shadow

The meanings of these would unfold within the beauty of the landscape. We were in for quite a weekend…

To be continued….

©Copyright Stephen Tanham

Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.

The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

Love the father you’re with…

“And if you can’t be with the one you love

Well, then, love the one you’re with…”

Stephen Stills (of Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills and Nash) wrote the song. It was considered a risky lyric back in 1970, but it caught the world’s imagination and became a best-seller. An occurrence on Sunday (Father’s day) made me smile and think of it, again.

We were walking near Glenlivet in the Highlands of North-East Scotland. It was the third day of the Silent Unicorn weekend, and the event was due to come to a close that afternoon. One of our attenders had travelled by train up from London for the weekend. She had packed light – just a rucksack…. and, in the unseasonal weather, she had looked cold.

As the father of two boys, I got used to their enthusiasm being greater than their ‘coatage’ as we used to call it. Many’s the time that my car boot has been raided for the array of older but ‘spare’ coats that they knew I kept in there.

My two sons generally ring me on Father’s Day. It’s appreciated when it happens. They are grown men, now, and have good careers.

Unlike Mother’s Day, which has a cultural and historic basis, Father’s Day has largely been manufactured… But it’s nice to get that phone call, or even a message.

On Father’s Day I’m usually away with the Silent Eye summer weekend, as we celebrate the approach of the solstice and the mystical ‘feast’ of St John – the polar opposite of the Christmas-time festival of St Stephen. These two key dates mark the start of a gradient of changing ‘light’ towards their opposite. The winter solstice is the shortest day – the maximum ‘darkness’. The summer solstice is the longest day – the fullest manifestation of physical and, by analogy, spiritual light.

I knew she was cold… my ‘father’s’ antennae were twitching. Gently, I approached her with the possibility. She nodded, gratefully; perhaps glad that someone had noticed. I took her to my car boot and pointed out the three spare garments that she was welcome to use… old habits die hard.

She could have known nothing about my life’s former ‘coatage’ habit for the protection of my sons….

She looked through the warm garments and quickly selected a recently-purchased Paramo fleece – lightweight and sporting an all-important hood. The next time I saw her – on the Saturday morning – she was wearing it beneath her gilet… and smiling. I smiled back, glad that the old technique of car boot spare had served someone beyond my own children.

On the Sunday morning, as we reached the dramatic site of a Neolithic mound, high above the river Spey, she approached me, wearing the fleece as the core garment in her outfit.

“You’re not my father,” she said, “but I just wanted to say happy Father’s Day…”

I took her shoulders gently, partly to hide the sudden tears, and gave her a small hug of thanks. For a second, I thought of my own children – one in Australia with their family, the other in Leeds with his wife; and this brave but warm being who had reached out to deliver that remarkable sentiment.

In such moments, we learn the real meaning of the word ‘humility’, and how magical and unexpected the actions of the world can be…

Perhaps Stephen Stills would have sung a special version that cold morning: ‘When you can’t be with the father you love, well then, love the one you’re with…’

©️Stephen Tanham