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.

11 Comments on “Three Days of the Oyster-Catcher (1)

  1. This is absolutely wonderful. I was so happy to be able to have this pajama tour of a part of Scotland and to begin to learn about the Pentagram and its significance in our lives. One of the things I love about my overall study – The Silent Eye and then also The many posts of you, Sue, and Stuart helps me feel I am learning such a variety of things. I can be sick as a dog and snuggled in my bed coughing up my lungs, but there is always something wonderful to think about and to give me a sense of adventure that takes me away from the everyday world into a magical place. Life has been so full of richness of experience and growth since I was first introduced to or found this great study. I wish I had a whole lot more years ahead of me, and perhaps I will, and one day, perhaps in my fondest dreams I will find a way to get there. Peace and blessings to all of you and genuine thanks from the bottom of my heart.


    • Thank you, Anne. We write them so our Companions and friends can do that very sharing. It’s lovely when we hear that it has been achieved. The Silent Unicorn was a beautiful weekend – demanding but rewarding – and in a glorious part of the world. You will enjoy the narrated journey as it unfolds. Steve x

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Three Days of the Oyster-Catcher (2) Coast and Castle – Sun in Gemini

  3. Pingback: Three days of the Oyster-catcher (Part 3) – A Pictish Headland – The Silent Eye

  4. Pingback: Three Days of the Oyster-Catcher (Part 4) Sea and Stone – Sun in Gemini

  5. Pingback: Three days of the Oyster-catcher (Part 4) – Sea and Stone – The Silent Eye

  6. Pingback: Three days of the Oyster-catcher (Part 5) – Stone in the Sky – The Silent Eye

  7. Pingback: Three Days of the Oyster-Catcher (Part 5) Stone in the Sky – Sun in Gemini

  8. Pingback: Three Days of the Oyster-Catcher (Part 6) Beyond the Blasted Heath – Sun in Gemini

  9. Pingback: Three Days of the Oyster-Catcher (Part 7 Final) Face to Face with Macbeth – The Silent Eye

  10. Pingback: Three Days of the Oyster-Catcher (Part 7, Final) – Face to Face with Macbeth – Sun in Gemini

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