Riddles of the Night (4) – Leaving the Temple

Bakewell Final Day - 8

The Riddles of the Night weekend, created and hosted by Sue Vincent and Stuart France, reached a dark crescendo on the Saturday night.

Arbour Low night stone
One of the Arbor Low stones in our torchlight – that’s how dark it was!

By dark, I mean the kind of physical blackness that comes with an early December trip to the middle of an ancient site at nine in the evening…

After the all-consuming (Saturday) daytime visit to Robin Hood’s Stride, and the nearby stone circle and cliff–face, we needed some simple sustenance. The lovely village of Youlgreave, high in the hills to the south-east of Bakewell, with some good quality pubs, had been chosen for the first part of our evening.

Stuart and Sue had already reserved us a table at one of the pubs, mindful that our agenda was not finished yet. We settled for a single course, as time was passing, and one of the best stone circles in Europe beckoned… in the darkness of a December night. It’s the sort of experience you either run towards… or away from. We were definitely in the former camp and had a full turnout to prove it.

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One of the Arbor Low stones from a previous visit

Sue will describe Arbor Low in more detail, but in summary, it is a Neolithic henge set on a high moor, which is open to views (and winds) from all around. The circle is set within an earthen bank and has approximately fifty white stones, all made of the local limestone. All the stones are described as fallen, but they may have been laid that way. One of the reasons given is that it could be a ‘night-temple’ where the purpose was for the priests to lie on the stones to look at the stars. The circle features an unusual central stone or ‘cove’. These are only found on sites that were of the highest importance.

We had been before, in late summer, and it had been freezing. We wondered what sort of experience we were in for, especially as the clouds were making it a very dark night.

The weekend had been blessed, so far, with lovely weather. We drove the few miles up the road to the farm that lies in front of the ancient site. Sue and Stuart, our organisers, had secured special permission for us to access the site in the darkness; after dark it is normally closed. Walking up the farm track, we must have cut a strange sight, with our torches picking out the way, ahead. The track gave way to a muddy field, and, by the time we entered the final field containing the ancient site, we were ‘well slutched’ as we used to say in my Lancashire childhood.

It didn’t matter, even if the stars were hidden. What changed everything was the soft and gentle rain that began to fall as we each selected our ‘own’ stone and sat or lay upon it, letting the intellect slip away and drinking in the wonder of actually being there under such strangely wonderful circumstances. It’s prosaic, but it felt like ‘being washed’ by the sky.

After our personal meditation, Sue gathered us together for a small ritual to close the evening. Then, without words, we walked back to our cars and away into the night to sleep.

It had been a truly wonderful day.

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The smaller Derbyshire roads can be difficult to navigate, as our Sunday morning was to show.  Our party ended up divided and time did not allow the full programme. By late morning a smaller group began the walk up to the astonishing plateau that lies just below Stanage Edge – a series of famous ridges that connect the western edges of Sheffield with the hills and valleys of neighbouring Derbyshire.

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Our destination was the stone circle known as the Seven Stones of Hordron – a location alongside the well-known A57 ‘Snake Pass’ with which Sue and Stuart were very familiar. The smaller group meant that they could be relaxed with our own induction to this beautiful part of the landscape.

The first shock comes as you begin to climb up from the level of the track and stream in order to double-back onto the higher plateau.

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The few hundred feet make all the difference. You emerge into a completely different world. All around you can be seen a landscape of peaks whose context is suddenly made clear. It is as though there is an upper floor to this world – one that unites the sky and land in a very different way.

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The strange, shallow curve of the southern horizon

Using this path, you approach from the southern edge of the moor, with the dark line of Stanage Edge visible in the distance. It was a strange thought that, a few miles to the south-west, lay the paths and site of the ancient hilltop forts that our two hosts had used as the basis for the September workshop of 2016 – Seeking the Seer

The Hordron stones have a very different ‘feel’. You don’t see them until you are very close. Like most of the Derbyshire stones, they are only a few feet tall (the nine stones near Robin Hood’s Stride are the tallest in the county) and the winter is the best time to see them. In summer, they can be partly hidden by the moorland grasses. Sue and Stuart have an extensive theory about marker stones, and there is a marker stone on path that clearly marks the first point at which you can make out the stone circle.

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The Hordron Stones, with Stanage Edge in the background

To stand in the circle is to appreciate just how much this place meant to the ancients who created it. The sense of communion between earth and sky is intense – and yet, this is a very peaceful place.

Also astonishing is the extent to which the upper outline of the stones are shaped to map the distant horizon – as shown in the photograph, below. The architects of this sacred place knew what they were doing – and how to link it with the world around it. One word used to describe this is ‘sympathetic magic’.

Bakewell Final Day - 18
The near-exact alignment and ‘shadowing’ of stone and horizon

We gathered together in a simple ceremony to mark the end of the visit and the coming Winter Solstice – the shortest day and longest night, the point at which the ‘brightening’ begins, leading us, in increasing light, to the Midsummer solstice which marks the longest day; and the cycle begins again.

The Winter Solstice is deeply spiritual. It marks a symbolic ‘death’ in which there is the rebirth of life – an emotional, as well as physical transition to a new state.

Bakewell Final Day - 24

While on the track and, later, the moor, we had forgotten time. It came as a shock to find that it was nearly three in the afternoon. We came down from the moor via a different and more direct path, and soon found ourselves at the car park and ready to end what had been a rewarding and beautiful weekend.

In closing, we would like to thank our hosts Sue Vincent and Stuart France, whose knowledge and planning made these three days so special.

——-

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham.

Riddles of the Night – Templar Shadows (3)

Mock Beggar's Hall

A bastard’s bastard, he would never know that he carried the blood of the Templars in his veins. That was only speculated after his death; being proved, later, by the researcher who followed his short life.

He did it because he was a runner…

Hardship was the key; hardship and the words his cruel companions at the parish school carved on his leg with a blunt knife, the day he won the local race, aged seven. As he sat, crying in the shadows, he lamented the departure, that year, of his father, who might between drunken bouts, have defended him. His mother had surrendered to the bitter cold the previous winter.

The wound in the thigh, though infected, had healed, but its shadow had never entirely faded. The yellow and pink scar of three words would remain, and the pain of the memory with it.

He bettered himself, using scripture to win favours, feeling the stories in the Bible, rather than understanding them with his mind. It brought him comfort and an inner knowing that he was touching the truth. Sometimes that truth contradicted the words, like the walls of an old house falling down and revealing that it had always concealed an intact and pristine structure, behind; a structure that never faded.

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The vicar, his only real friend, watched the dirty bundle of rags talking about scripture. He used to smile and shake his head as the boy’s fantasies took flight, sometimes adding songs he would make up on the spot. He was a singer, too; this runner… The wooden hut in the gulley high in the hills would sometimes ring with moonlit song far into the night. As the pupils left the scripture classes the vicar would often slip a wrapped parcel of food into the boy’s hand, winking and sealing his lips with a gesture.

The boy loved the moon – it spoke to him; calling him to run beneath the shiny blackness, especially in the Winter. Beneath its stark light, he learned things that no-one else had thought to teach him. He learned about how the land changed under the moon; learned to read a softly-lit landscape. He learned about the great darkening, which lasted from the middle of Summer to the darkest day in the Winter, and how it reversed from that point of darkness to race towards the fullness of warmth, the great brightening.

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Fullness was a word he thought of often. He knew it had many meanings; and some of them spoke of the hidden house behind the crumbling ruins.

The Moon taught him about songs. Everything had a song; and beneath the moon was the special place to sing. Then, all the plants and creatures would listen to the song.

The moon always called to him at the end of the darkening. It rejoiced that the time of turning was at hand. It needed a runner to take that joy from the high rocks behind the village to the special place. It needed a flame-runner to light the Sun with the coldest of light that would transform into the warmest of days.

He felt the moonlight on his skin that night, knew it was time…

At the top of the rocks, he washed in the pool, taking off all his clothes and cleaning them as best he could. Then he laid them out in the moonlight, spread them on the high rocks to absorb the cold light, the light that would wrap his skin, making him silver, inside. He shivered with the cold as he dressed, again, but the moon comforted him, telling him he would soon be warm as he raced across the land.

And then he ran, like a silver wind runs, like a half seen bird at the edge of consciousness. And the great stones drew him across the silver land under the moon. The stones were diminished; there had been nine of them in the oldest of days, but now there were only four. But the four sang so loud as the silver boy raced across the silver land that they made up for their fallen brothers and sisters.

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They made a gift of a new chant while he ran around them. The chant grew and grew in his heart and he sped from the circle with a cry of pure joy, like a stone flung from a sling, carrying the chant like an arrow to the place of the twin pinnacles on the far side of the meadow, opposite the singing stones.

Mock Beggar Hall2

The place of the twin pinnacles was the special place, the place that the Moon had shown him in the darkness, leading him with pale light until he was on top of the rocks.

Then the Moon had come out from the dark clouds and revealed the Place of the Hermit far below and along the cliff. But the Moon had always told him that the Place of the Hermit was forbidden until he was ready, until he would make that special journey to complete the run of his life.

Mock Beggar Clifftop

This did not frighten him, for every time he saw the place of the twin pinnacles his heart grew, and the fullness inside him increased, and there was nothing in his world that was better than that.

As he climbed the huge boulders of the twin pinnacles, the Moon shone extra bright and showed him the hidden cube in the rocks and his heart knew where the new song had to go…

Mock Beggar Cube2

Only the boy and the Moon and the animals and plants were watching when the stones of the pinnacles came alive.

Finished with the chant the boy danced with delight up the hidden path to the very top of the rocks and gazed out on the moon which now stood before him, silent and saluting in the dark space made bright, the purpose fulfilled.

The stones were awakened, again. The cold darkness would pass to warmth, the earth would be fruitful and the plants would grow and feed the village.

Mock Beggar Hole Cave pool

The boy had never felt so much fullness. He thought that his heart would burst. In his joy he spun around on the top of the world and his foot slipped on the ice that had been water. Down the boy slid, to the very edge of the cliff and over into the blackness. No sound escaped his lips as he crashed to the rocks, below, broken but still alive.

Mock Beggar Moon alone

There was enough light in the Hermit’s Cave to make out the shape carved into the wall. With arms that should not have functioned, and the help of the slippery moon, he pulled himself to where he could see the figure that the Hermit had carved in the hard rock. The crucified arms of the figure seemed to detach themselves and came forward to hold the child. The boy had thought the world could not contain more fullness… but he had been wrong.

Mock Beggar Moon Christ

The vicar found him in the morning, after running through the pre-dawn in the grey light. The dream had shown him where the child lay. As he approached the Hermit’s cave, seeing the small dead figure propped up against the stone wall, he began to sob. But the expression on the boy’s face contained no pain, nor spoke of death.

As he stooped to pick up the thin body in his strong arms, a shaft of sunlight broke through the clouds and onto the rock face. Through the torn material of the boy’s trousers, the words ‘Mock the Beggar‘ revealed their scarred existence.

The vicar spun the child around to face the rising sun, whose pale golden light bathed them both.

——-

This is a work of fiction, but the landscape in which it is set is real. The Riddles of the Night weekend, run by Stuart France and Sue Vincent took us to Robin Hood’s Stride and the Circle of Nine Stones (which has four). The alternative name for Robin Hood’s Stride is Mock Beggar’s Hall. The origin of this name is uncertain. The Hermit’s Cave with the carved figure of Christ crucified is part of the rocks known as Robin Hood’s Stride.

End Part Three.

Other parts in this series of blogs about the Riddles of the Night weekend:

Part One, Part Two.

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham.

The Dragon of Elizabeth’s Seas

 

Francis Drake SE18 Montage fullIt is the beginning of May, 1587, and a man known locally as The Dragon is headed for Cadiz on Spain’s Atlantic coast. His mission is not peaceful. The act of sailing to Cadiz poses few challenges for this master mariner, who, ten years prior, had already circumnavigated the globe – becoming only the second person (after Magellan) to do so.

But what follows his arrival in Cadiz, at the head of a small fleet centred on four English galleons, is extraordinary by any measure…

In the sixteenth century, Spain is the mightiest empire in Europe–its wealth boosted by gold plundered from the New World… It is also considered the fiercest defender of the Catholic faith; a faith under threat from the growth of Protestantism in Northern Europe, including its foremost enemy: England.

Phillip II has the Pope’s blessing to invade and subdue England, using whatever means is necessary. The Queen of England, Elizabeth I, has been excommunicated by the Pope and King Phillip is assembling a fleet of over a hundred ships to solve the ‘English problem’. English sailors, regarded as little more than pirates by the Spanish, have been a thorn in its side at home and abroad, especially in the New World, where British Privateers have been particularly effective in plundering the gold that Spain has so carefully extracted from the natives.

The man commanding the small fleet now sailing into Cadiz harbour is Sir Francis Drake. The Spanish hate and fear him so much, they have named him El Draque – the Dragon. History will record that he was here to ‘singe the King of Spain’s beard’.

The tiny English fleet – sent by Elizabeth to begin a preemptive action against the gathering might of the Spanish Armada – will spend the next few days in two key Spanish ports (the other being Corunna) destroying a total of thirty-seven of Phillip II’s best ships, despite adverse weather and constant shelling from the guns on the cliffs. Seldom had there been such a display of seamanship, against such difficult conditions.

The success of the raid will delay the Armada by a full year. More significantly, the cargoes plundered by Drake in Cadiz turn out to be well-seasoned timber staves essential for the construction of wooden barrels for food  and water storage. When the Armada finally sails, in the summer of 1588, one of the contributing factors in its failure will be the poor storage of supplies and consequent ill-health of the sailors in the Spanish fleet… Of such small details are vast changes in sovereign fortunes made…

The Spanish considered the raid on Cadiz so audacious that Phillip, himself, sent an urgent letter to the Duke of Medina Sidonia, the commander-in-chief of the Spanish Armada, warning him of the other likely targets of El Draque’s murderous voyage (below).

Phillip II's letter about Drake and Cadiz
Phillip II’s letter to the Duke of Medina Sidonia warning of Drake’s likely next targets. A rare example of a document that backs up an audacious legend (source)

Nowadays, we are acutely aware of historical exaggeration and propaganda, but this letter is a rare piece of factual evidence that proves how infamous Drake actually was; not that he was shy at promoting his own image…

Francis Drake was born in Tavistock, West Devon, in 1540, seven years after his future queen. He was the eldest of the twelve sons of Edmund Drake, a Protestant farmer. In 1549, the family had to flee local religious persecution and re-settled in Kent, where the resourceful Edmund secured religious training and a position as Deacon of Upnor Church on the Medway, a busy part of the Thames estuary. From Upnor, he was able to minister to the men in the King’s Navy – a first contact upon which he was able to build his, and his children’s, future.

Drake was apprenticed to the master of a barque used to ship merchandise from London to France. Drake’s work pleased the owner of the vessel so much that the childless ship’s master bequeathed the boat to Drake on his death.

The family already had naval connections, and the sea was to shape his life from this point onwards. John Hawkins, later Sir John Hawkins, was Drake’s second cousin and, following the younger man’s successful apprenticeship, he was taken into the extended family’s shipping business, based in Plymouth. In 1563, aged twenty-three, Drake made his first voyage to the Americas, under the command of his cousin. Three more voyages followed, during which the English ships attacked Portuguese towns and ships on the West African coast. Hawkins has a dark reputation as the first English slave-trader, and inducted the young Drake into the trade. The captured cargoes of slaves were, ironically, sold to Spanish plantations…

On the third such voyage, the Hawkins fleet, undergoing resupply and repair in Mexico, was attacked by Spanish warships. Only two of the family ships survived. Drake and his cousin only escaped by swimming to safety. This incident, combined with the persecution of his childhood, set Drake on a course against Catholic Spain, a course he would pursue with delight and skill as his fortunes unfolded.

The coast of Panama was used as a staging post for the Spanish treasure-gatherers, and Drake polished his privateering skills along its coast, taking considerable riches from the raids. He seemed both skilful and lucky in his exploits, but was severely wounded on more than one occasion.

On Elizabeth’s secret instructions, Drake went on to circumnavigate the world, sailing around Cape Horn and entering the Pacific, where he claimed California for the English Crown. The voyage of exploration was punctuated with several acts of plunder on Spanish ships and ports, and, in 1580, with only one ship (The Golden Hind) remaining, he returned to England with a full cargo of treasures, including an exotic jewel made of enamelled gold and bearing a diamond and an ebony ship, which he presented to Queen Elizabeth.

DrakeKnightedTavistockMonument
Drake is knighted by Elizabeth I. The monument to Drake in Tavistock. Wikipedia public domain.  Source.

The Queen delighted in his successes against the Spanish, and knighted him aboard the  Golden Hind in 1581 – an act that enraged Phillip II of Spain. On William Cecil’s advice, all the records of the voyage were made state secrets, and the remaining crew were sworn to secrecy. Everyone knew that war with the Spanish would be forthcoming, but with men like Drake at her side, Elizabeth felt that the spirit of her England had a chance of success.

Drake was a commoner and had risen to be one of Elizabeth’s favourites; quite an achievement. For his coat of arms he adopted a shield showing two stars; representing the Arctic and Antarctic, connected by the oceans, topped by an image of the Golden Hind. The Hand of God is shown as benevolent fate within his lifetime, indicating, with appropriate humility, that his good fortune was not wholly his own doing.

Francis Drake coat of armsAA
The Coat of Arms adopted by Sir Francis Drake

The year after the raid on Cadiz, one hundred and twenty Spanish ships set sail to invade Elizabeth’s England. Drake was second in command of the outnumbered English fleet, which was led by Lord Charles Howard. There is no historical evidence that Drake delayed his departure for battle while he finished his game of bowls in Plymouth. The apocryphal story appeared some thirty years later and fits with our heroic and stylish picture of the man, so it lives on in the imagination.

The result is well-known. A combination of inspired seamanship by Drake and Howard, plus adverse weather, saw the invasion flounder. What is less well known is that two-thirds of the ships returned safely to Spain, having circumnavigated the British Isles, pursued by an English fleet that was unable to inflict too much harm. The greatest damage was to Phillip II’s reputation. His life had been intertwined with England’s queens since his earlier marriage to Queen Mary – Catherine of Aragon’s daughter. In his journals he claimed to have influenced Mary to restore Elizabeth to the royal line of succession.

We may never know the truth of this; if so, it is doubly ironic that the bravery of Elizabeth and her senior officers brought about the decline in respect for Phillip, and he never recovered.

Although Drake’s place in the heart of England was secure. His military fortunes declined, and the English Armada, ordered by Queen Elizabeth I, fared no better than had the Spanish fleet.

Sir Francis Drake died in Panama on the 28 January 1596 of dysentery. His last unsuccessful expedition was with his cousin, Sir John Hawkins. They died together and their bodies were buried at sea. Drake had asked to be dressed in his armour for his death, and had already made provision that his body be placed in a lead coffin before it was committed to the deep.

 

How does all this relate to our mystical workshop in April 2018 – The Jewel in the Claw?

Sir Francis Drake is an obvious heroic archetype to use in a mystical play like this. But his life illustrated far deeper issues that were at the heart of Elizabeth’s England. Heroes operate within a theatre of circumstances and responses in which there are few freedoms. Only by being unafraid of being alone, could Elizabeth release the potential of her age. Drake, along with Raleigh, was one of her most visible heroes, but there were many others – men like William Cecil, who moved with equal precision behind the scenes. Nor can the age’s ‘scientists’ like Dr John Dee – at the centre of our story – be considered to be any less heroic in their world of knowledge rather than action.

In our mystical drama, Sir Francis Drake is one of Elizabeth’s appointed champions. But, he has a more difficult and deeper layer to his role within her ‘court’. His depth of experience lends his character special skills when it comes to understanding the motives of men… and women.

In our story, when the company arrives at NonSuch palace, they are shown into a newly-prepared room, one in which a deadly search for the truths of the age will be played out on many levels: intellectual, emotional, religious and magical. Outside of the Queen’s own mind, no-one else in the room is aware of what is to follow.

What confronts the participants in the centre of the space is a huge game board consisting of black and white squares…

SE18 Core temple heart alone

Each  side of the board has its own symbolism and its own champion. In our five-act magical drama, Drake has a very special relationship with the Queen, one in which his grasp of the importance of Naval warfare can be used to royal advantage…

The Silent Eye’s spring workshop, April 2018 is: “The Jewel in the Claw’. The jewel is the emerging spirit of humanism and tolerance that Elizabeth, the self-styled virgin-queen, engendered; the claw is the nature of the forces of ignorance that still plague us in the twenty-first century every bit as much as they did in 1588, the year that the mighty Spanish Armada was defeated by a combination of English naval courage and our equally fabled weather; and Elizabeth I finally achieved a degree of security.

Jewel in Claw October MasterAA

The Silent Eye has produced dramatic mystical workshops since its inception in 2013, but this is a break from tradition, and will stick closely to the formula of an actual Elizabethan production, letting the acts of the play tell the deeper story. There is no formal audience, of course. We, the players, play to each other, and in doing so invoke the desired depth of psychological and spiritual interaction.

If you’ve never been to such an event before, don’t be over-faced by this heady agenda. There are always new people joining us, and we take great care to ensure they are comfortable. We do not expect our ‘actors’ to learn their lines! We all read from scripts – as though doing a final rehearsal, but the atmosphere is truly electric and you will find yourself working to bring your character to the greatest life you can give them! You will also find they stay with you for years afterwards…

Above all else it is always fun; and every year, come the Sunday farewell lunch, those attending do not want to go home and end that living link with a body of experience and aspiration that they have helped create…

We can honestly say that the workshops become a living thing, formed and sustained in the minds and hearts of those attending. Come and join our ‘merry band’ and you’ll want to come back.

Places are still available for ‘The Jewel in the Claw’. 20-22 April, 2018. The average price is approximately £250, fully inclusive of all meals and accommodation. You will struggle to find a better value weekend, anywhere.

The weekend workshop will be held at the lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow, near Buxton, in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales at a wonderful time of year – the spring.

You can download the pricing and booking form here:

SE18 Booking form aloneAA.

Other posts in this series cover:

John DeeSir Walter RaleighSir Philip Sidney

Queen Elizabeth I,

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester

Bess of Hardwick

For more information email us on rivingtide@gmail.com

Underlying images:

Sir Francis Drake Wikipedia Commons – public domain. source.

Underlying image of plaque of ship CC BY-SA 3.0 source

Banner Image: Composite of original artwork by the author plus a portrait of Sir Francis Drake, courtesy of  Wikipedia, CC by 3.0, Public Domain.

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham.

Images: background montages by the author – own photography.

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On Golden Decks

On sweet golden wood decked in yellow

Is my love of ochre from you?

A fantasy glimpsed in old posters

A place where poor children are few

⦿

From a farther realm now you are calling

Bright image, uncharted, at sea

Your home somewhere richer and darker with meaning

Not timeless nor faded but free

⦿

Let me sail down to Rio within you

Let me hold and be cherished in turn

Let us fire up the space where the dance is the grace

Then back let us wave while we burn

⦿

©Stephen Tanham

On Golden Decks

On golden wood bedecked in yellow

Is love of ochre gained from you?

A fantasy glimpsed on old posters

A space where poor children are few

⦿

From a farther place now you are calling

Lost on the seas, uncharted, not gone

Your home somewhere richer and darker with meaning

Not glossy or gaudy nor stone

⦿

Let me sail down to Rio within you

Let me hold and be cherished in turn

Let’s fire up the space where the dance is the grace

Then back let us wave while we burn

⦿

©Stephen Tanham

She of the Voice

The Shining One Fatima

 “Ra-bi-ya, Ra-bi-ya…”
As she surveys the black and white squares of the court before her, the song echoes in her head, a beloved memory of time spent, long ago, with her mother, playing their hiding game among the orange groves in the gardens of the royal home.

She of the voice, the inner voice,’ had been the way they referred to her, later in childhood, when she would suddenly go quiet and listen to that wonderful, silent dialogue that taught her so much about what was really happening in front of her; watching others react while she smiled and laughed so much they thought she was just being girly.

But he knew better, too…

He, her mysterious spiritual guide, teacher of English and word games. Nur al-Din; whose name whispered its meaning – Light of the Faith. At first she hadn’t understood what he was teaching her; ‘the author of the words’ he had called it, a voice within the ‘voice of the world – the story being told is not the storyteller… come to know the storyteller.’

But it had been the other; the dark and purposeful figure of Muhammad al-Annuri, who strode into her life and spirited her away, un-graduated, from the mystical enchantment of learning the truth within the truth. The dark Muhammad had loved games, too. Games of the mind  had fascinated him… Games of the body they had shared with a mutual passion.

“Forget all you think you know,” her sad-eyed teacher had said as she was taken from him. “Let it teach you what it is…” No-one listening would have known what he meant.

But she did… and never forgot it. That was all back then, in distant Morocco. Back then…

The Saracen woman’ they call her, now, in the streets of London. They have little understanding of the place from which she came. They see a beautiful and dutiful wife to the Moroccan Ambassador. Her husband, with his royal connections, has done well, and now sits astride two civilisations. With one face, he is an ambassador; with the other, a spy and co-conspirator…

He has told her little, but his voice has told her much. She trembles at what she knows.

Guns… Ships and guns. Just the beginning.

And now, summoned, mysteriously, to be at the Queen’s gathering: this strange chamber. “Another leading woman,” was all they told her. “Great honour.”

The others are ranged around the edge of a floor patterned like a great game board in the middle of the room.

‘Revealing,’ the voice whispers. ‘A place of great revelation…’ Rab’ia breathes in the way he taught her, letting the other shadows emerge, the hidden ones, the ones with secrets… She opens hazel eyes that have made warriors wither and seeks the other awakened eyes in the room, surprised and smiling at the result.

Perhaps it has all led to this, she thinks, smiling in the way he used to do.

How does all this relate to our mystical workshop in April 2018, The Jewel in the Claw?

Rab’ia al-Anuuri is the wife of the Moroccan ambassador in London, during the time when Elizabeth I is seeking a closer relationship with the Saracen world – what we would now call the world of Islam. The Saracen world is a potent force and has more than enough might to challenge the other super-power in Europe – Spain.

In our five-act mystical drama, when the company arrives at NonSuch palace, they are shown into a newly-prepared room, one in which a deadly search for the truths of the age will be played out on many levels: intellectual, emotional, religious and magical. Outside of the Queen’s own mind, no-one else in the room is aware of what is to follow. Rab’ia, wife of the Moroccan Ambassador is brought into this chamber as a personal guest of the Queen, whose goal is to begin with as much of a male-female balance as she can achieve, in an age when powerful women were not abundant – not in the political sense, that is…

What confronts the participants in the centre of the space is a huge game board consisting of black and white squares…

SE18 Core temple heart alone

Each  side of the board has its own symbolism and its own champion. In our five-act magical drama, Rab’ia will come to have a unique relationship with the Queen, as she is a powerful foreign dignitary in her own right and truly beyond the monarch’s power – or is she? The Queen of England is a potent force when it comes to defending the interests of her own country…

The Silent Eye’s spring workshop, April 2018 is: “The Jewel in the Claw’. The jewel is the emerging spirit of tolerance that Elizabeth, the self-styled virgin-queen, engendered; the claw is the nature of the forces of ignorance that still plague us in the twenty-first century every bit as much as they did in 1588, the year that the mighty Spanish Armada was defeated by a combination of English naval courage and our equally fabled weather; and Elizabeth I finally achieved a degree of security.

Jewel in Claw October MasterAA

The Silent Eye has produced dramatic mystical workshops since its inception in 2013, but this is a break from tradition, and will stick closely to the formula of an actual Elizabethan production, letting the acts of the play tell the deeper story. There is no formal audience, of course. We, the players, play to each other, and in doing so invoke the desired depth of psychological and spiritual interaction.

If you’ve never been to such an event before, don’t be over-faced by this heady agenda. There are always new people joining us, and we take great care to ensure they are comfortable. We do not expect our ‘actors’ to learn their lines! We all read from scripts – as though doing a final rehearsal, but the atmosphere is truly electric and you will find yourself working to bring your character to the greatest life you can give them! You will also find they stay with you for years afterwards…

Above all else it is always fun; and every year, come the Sunday farewell lunch, those attending do not want to go home and end that living link with a body of experience and aspiration that they have helped create…

We can honestly say that the workshops become a living thing, formed and sustained in the minds and hearts of those attending. Come and join our ‘merry band’ and you’ll want to come back.

Places are still available for ‘The Jewel in the Claw’. 20-22 April, 2018. The average price is approximately £250, fully inclusive of all meals and accommodation. You will struggle to find a better value weekend, anywhere.

The weekend workshop will be held at the lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow, near Buxton, in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales at a wonderful time of year – the spring.

You can download the pricing and booking form here:

SE18 Booking form aloneAA.

Other posts in this series cover:

John DeeSir Walter RaleighSir Philip Sidney

Queen Elizabeth I,

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester

Bess of Hardwick

For more information email us on rivingtide@gmail.com

Image: Composite of original artwork by the author.

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham.

A Woman of Power and Substance

Bess of Hardwick montage fullAA

It is the winter of 1584. The well-dressed woman watches as her fourth husband storms out of the dining hall at their present home, Tutbury Castle, in Staffordshire.

In the corner of the room sits a younger woman, now smiling at the angry departure of the man of the house–the sixth Earl of Shrewsbury. The seated woman with the secretive smile has good reason to be pleased at the turn of events. She has been a captive in this house for nearly fifteen years and used that time to create mayhem with sexual politics. Her name is Mary, better known as Mary, Queen of Scots. Her fortunes are diminishing by the month.. But that hasn’t stopped her using human emotions, particularly jealously, to drive a deadly wedge between the Count and Countess, her gaolers.

The lady of the house is already one of England’s richest women, in fact she will shortly be second only in wealth to the Sovereign – Queen Elizabeth I. She already owns the Chatsworth House estate; fabled, even then, for its beauty and gardens. She hates the partial ruin that is Tutbury Castle, but, for that fifteen year period, has done her duty by her husband and her Queen in keeping watch over the exiled Scottish monarch, who is a prisoner in their castle. In this way, and, astutely, at the expense of the Shrewsburys, Queen Elizabeth has kept her biggest problem at arm’s length.

The tall woman staring at the slammed door through which, metaphorically, her beloved husband has passed for the last time, is the Countess of Shrewsbury. She has inherited the goodwill and wealth of three of her previous spouses. She has over ten children from those marriages; some of whom will end up with a future, though distant, ‘claim’ to the throne.

She has led an interesting life, to say the least. On this angry morning, engineered by the jealousy deliberately created by the royal prisoner, Bess of Hardwick, as she is better known, vows that, within the year, she will return to her beloved Chatsworth and pick up the threads of her old life, again…

Earl and Countess Shrewsbury have had to keep moving around the many houses owned by the Earl, as Mary’s life is constantly being manipulated by those who would use her as a figurehead to overturn the fledgling Protestant religion, instigated by Queen Elizabeth’s father, Henry VIII.

Born in 1527, Bess was the fourth daughter in a family of four girls and one boy. Their father died when she was young, but he managed to leave a Will which included a small dowry for the four girls.

Young Bess, aged twelve years, entered service for a great Derbyshire family, Sir John and Lady Zouche, (after whom the town of Ashby de la Zouche is named) whose home was Codnor Castle, in Derbyshire. Codnor was first mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086 and was at that time the property of William Peveril of Castleton, in the High Peak.

It must have been a wrench when the employing family moved her from her beloved Derbyshire to London, where she married her first husband (also in service), Robert Barlow, nursing him back to health after being ill with chronic distemper. Robert was weakened and died soon after their they were married. Despite being only seventeen, Bess was eventually granted a widow’s pension, which was one third of his income; but she had to fight though the courts to secure this – an example of her determination to better herself and her standing in society.
Above – Arms of the Cavendish Family (Source: Wikipedia: CC Public Domain)
Sir William Cavendish had been married twice before and was the father of two daughters. He courted Bess, who was at this time a beautiful and talented young woman, and married her in 1547. Despite his being more than twice her age, they were very happy and had a further eight children.
Sir William had made his fortune as an official of the Court of Augmentations – responsible for the dissolution of the monasteries and the appropriation of the properties. He was able to select from these some very attractive residences for himself. It is recorded that, even at this early stage, Bess had a talent for managing and trading property, and Sir William was persuaded by her to sell his lands in the south of England and buy the Chatsworth estates in her native Derbyshire…
Bess of Hardwick had come home.
Bess’s husband was less talented in business, He died in 1557, having squandered much of the Cavendish estate. Bess managed to claim the sum of the estate and retained Chatsworth, but was heavily in debt and faced a bleak future. Bess was a shrewd business woman, and set to, increasing her assets with business interests including mines and glass making workshops in her home county.
Above – Arms of the St Loe Family (Source: Wikipedia: CC Public Domain)
In 1559, Bess married Sir William St Loe, who was Captain of the  Guard to Queen Elizabeth I. He was a very wealthy man, with large estates in the West Country.
He died, under suspicious circumstances, in 1564. Bess was not implicated, but there had been bad blood between Sir William and his brother, on whom suspicion fell. Bess was just thirty-seven when she inherited the full estate, paid off her former husband’s debts, and became one of the wealthiest women in England.
Sir William had been close to the Queen, and this had enabled Bess to be presented at Court. Following Sir William’s death, Bess became a Lady of the Bedchamber, with daily access to the Queen, who looked upon her kindly, respecting what she, another ‘feeble’ woman, had made of herself…
Bess had retained her good looks and health and was pursued by a number of important men.

 

Despite being courted by several prominent suitors, Bess did not remarry until 1568, when she was betrothed to George Talbot, Sixth Earl of Shrewbury, and one of the senior figures in Elizabeth’s hierarchy. Bess became Countess of Shrewsbury. It was into this marriage–a happy one in the beginning–that the disruptive presence of Mary Queen of Scots was to intrude, though Bess and Mary were friends for a long time before the marriage eventually crumbled.

 

George Talbot was in poor health and died in 1590. Queen Elizabeth was fond of the couple and had made several attempts to reconcile them, but the ‘Mary’ years had taken their toll. Perhaps Elizabeth felt some guilt over this; but, if she did, it did not prevent her from imprisoning Bess in the Tower on two occasions when the Queen felt this other powerful woman was advancing her own cause at the expense of the Crown’s.

At sixty-three, Bess was now Dowager Countess of Shrewsbury and would not marry again. She devoted the remainder of her life to the welfare of her many children, getting into trouble several times because of their distant claims to the throne.

Bess of Hardwick died on 13 February 1608, aged 81. She outlived Queen Elizabeth by five years. She is buried in Derby Cathedral, where there is an elaborate monument to her life and achievements.

(References and heraldic shields)

 

How does all this relate to our mystical workshop in April 2018, The Jewel in the Claw?

Bess was an unusual figure, being so successful in a man’s world which had intensely patriarchal values.

In our story, when the company arrives at NonSuch palace, they are shown into a newly-prepared room, one in which a deadly search for the truths of the age will be played out on many levels: intellectual, emotional, religious and magical. Outside of the Queen’s own mind, no-one else in the room is aware of what is to follow, not even Bess…

What confronts the participants in the centre of the space is a huge game board consisting of black and white squares…

SE18 Core temple heart alone

Each  side of the board has its own symbolism and its own champion. In our five-act magical drama, Bess has a very special relationship with the Queen, one in which her grasp of the ‘common touch’ can be used to royal advantage…

The Silent Eye’s spring workshop, April 2018 is: “The Jewel in the Claw’. The jewel is the emerging spirit of tolerance that Elizabeth, the self-styled virgin-queen, engendered; the claw is the nature of the forces of ignorance that still plague us in the twenty-first century every bit as much as they did in 1588, the year that the mighty Spanish Armada was defeated by a combination of English naval courage and our equally fabled weather; and Elizabeth I finally achieved a degree of security.

Jewel in Claw October MasterAA

The Silent Eye has produced dramatic mystical workshops since its inception in 2013, but this is a break from tradition, and will stick closely to the formula of an actual Elizabethan production, letting the acts of the play tell the deeper story. There is no formal audience, of course. We, the players, play to each other, and in doing so invoke the desired depth of psychological and spiritual interaction.

If you’ve never been to such an event before, don’t be over-faced by this heady agenda. There are always new people joining us, and we take great care to ensure they are comfortable. We do not expect our ‘actors’ to learn their lines! We all read from scripts – as though doing a final rehearsal, but the atmosphere is truly electric and you will find yourself working to bring your character to the greatest life you can give them! You will also find they stay with you for years afterwards…

Above all else it is always fun; and every year, come the Sunday farewell lunch, those attending do not want to go home and end that living link with a body of experience and aspiration that they have helped create…

We can honestly say that the workshops become a living thing, formed and sustained in the minds and hearts of those attending. Come and join our ‘merry band’ and you’ll want to come back.

Places are still available for ‘The Jewel in the Claw’. 20-22 April, 2018. The average price is approximately £250, fully inclusive of all meals and accommodation. You will struggle to find a better value weekend, anywhere.

The weekend workshop will be held at the lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow, near Buxton, in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales at a wonderful time of year – the spring.

You can download the pricing and booking form here:

SE18 Booking form aloneAA.

Other posts in this series cover:

John DeeSir Walter RaleighSir Philip Sidney

Queen Elizabeth I,

Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester

For more information email us on rivingtide@gmail.com

Image: Composite of original artwork by the author plus a portrait of Bess of Hardwick, courtesy of  Wikipedia, CC by 3.0, Public Domain.

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham.

/div>

The Deadly Edge of Love (part two)

Robert Dudley Earl LeicesterFullAA

(Continued from Part One of The Deadly Edge of Love)

It’s the morning of 18th November, 1558. Robert Dudley is witnessing a miracle.

In her dying months, Queen Mary, Elizabeth’s half-sister, and daughter of Henry and Catherine of Aragon, has restored Elizabeth to the line of succession, following the failure of her marriage alliance with Charles II of Spain. Now, Mary is dead, and Dudley is watching his beloved Elizabeth, a former fellow prisoner in the Tower of London, become Queen of England.

Elizabeth's Great Seal

(Above: the The Great Seal of Elizabeth I. Source )

Time seems to stand still as the Great Seal is passed to the new queen and another chapter in the story of the Tudor dynasty age begins. Dudley knows that Elizabeth is weary of religious strife and will not follow her half-sister in setting family against family in her new reign–though she will protect her father’s Protestant legacy. The people know it too, as the public joy of the Royal Coronation will show.

Within the day, Dudley will be made the royal Master of Horse, a role to which he is well suited as an outstanding horseman – something he shares with Philip Sidney. The role, which controls the provision of all transport for Elizabeth, will keep him by her side as much as possible. A new life has begun for them both…

But the new official position made it difficult for them to be seen together as often as before her accession to the throne. She once said, “A thousand eyes see everything I do…” It is difficult to imagine what that does to someone’s life, let alone their love-life. Elizabeth must have faced a personal crisis at that point, for in a unique show of determination and psychological strength, she threw caution away and flaunted her relationship with her favourite by having his bedchamber moved next to hers. But Elizabeth refused to be swayed on marriage, even though Dudley, now Earl of Leicester, was a suitable match. To have married would have subjected her to the will of her husband; and her estate would have passed to him.

William Cecil, her chief minister and spymaster, wrote a detailed letter in which he detailed the detrimental effect on her kingdom of such a marriage. History does not record her immediate reaction. Dudley, recognising that he might never win her hand, married Amy Robsart in 1549, keeping her away from court to protect her from the Queen.

 

Privately, though, Dudley and Elizabeth remained bound to each other by their early experiences, and marriage did not diminish the time they spent together… Though Elizabeth, above anyone, knew the political dangers of wrong relationships. There is no proof they were ever lovers. Perhaps it is better to grant them this: that they had a pact to love each other, but not to let their bodies share this. Were this to be true, we can imagine the agonies that Elizabeth endured, and, perhaps the resolve with which she cultivated her personal myth – that she was married to England, and would thus remain a Virgin Queen.

The possibility of a deeper relationship between Elizabeth and Dudley was quashed in 1560, when Dudley’s wife, having dismissed her servants to attend a local fair, was found dead at the foot of a staircase, her neck broken. It could have been an accident, or possibly suicide, but it is unlikely to have been intervention by Dudley or Elizabeth, who both suffered damage and ridicule far and abroad because of it. In a cruel act of fate, Amy’s death ensured that they could never marry and that they were now forced to spend less time together, though ‘less’ was relative. They devised a secret code for themselves, using the notation ‘ôô’ to indicate the nickname that Elizabeth had given him – ‘Eyes”. Even at this stage of their relationship, the Queen kept Dudley’s letters, and his portrait, in a locked desk within her bedroom. By any measure, this was a love story to compete with the best…

As the public memories of his wife’s death faded, he made one last attempt to gain Elizabeth’s hand in marriage; staging a magnificent festival of pageantry at one of his finest homes, Kenilworth Castle. But Elizabeth refused to be swayed. Dudley was a passionate man, and, seeing that he was going nowhere with his official advances began a relationship the one of the Queen’s ladies-in-waiting, Lettice Knollys, reputedly one of the best-looking women at court. Dangerously, she was also the great-niece of Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth’s mother, and therefore of royal blood… and the Queen’s cousin!

Dudley continued the relationship for three years before finding that Lettice was pregnant–and insisting that she be made an honest woman for her troubles. They married, in secret, in 1578. When the Queen learned of the ‘betrayal’ of her favourite she physically assaulted his new wife and banished her from court. Dudley was eventually forgiven but the essence of their relationship had changed.

Distance prevailed for a while after that, but, in the final years of Dudley’s life, their lives interlocked, again. The execution of Mary Queen of Scots devastated Elizabeth, even though the imprisoned Scottish Queen had been plotting to overthrow her rival. For a queen to execute another queen must have triggered the deepest responses in Elizabeth, not to mention setting a deadly precedent.

In a supposed rage, she vented at William Cecil, her life-long first minister and spymaster. He and Sir Francis Walsingham had, indeed, engineered Mary’s death, but Elizabeth had been far from a victim of circumstance in this execution. Cecil was removed as first minister and banished from courtly life, although there is a possibility that she presented him with the ‘deal’ that his son, Robert Cecil, would inherit his position. William Cecil. First Baron Burleigh, was advanced in years and probably recognised that the arrangement was the best that could happen.

Bereft of Cecil’s presence, Elizabeth turned, again, to Dudley. He was by her side through the horror of the Spanish Armada and corresponding planned invasion from France, despite being ill. As he delivered her famous speed at Tilbury, he walked beside her horse as the troops were rallied, while she spoke her most famous words, “I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England, too.”

Dudley died, shortly after, on 4th September, 1588 at his home in Rycote in Oxfordshire. He wrote to his queen one last time before dying. She kept the letter in a locked box by her bed. The fabled Queen of England, victorious against the might of the Spanish empire was, finally, alone…

How does all this relate to our mystical workshop in April 2018, The Jewel in the Claw?

In our story, when the company arrives at NonSuch palace, they are shown into a newly-prepared room, one in which a deadly search for the truths of the age will be played out on many levels: intellectual, emotional, religious and magical. Outside of the Queen’s own mind, no-one else in the room is aware of what is to follow.

What confronts the participants in the centre of the space is a huge game board consisting of black and white squares…

SE18 Core temple heart alone

Each  side of the board has its own symbolism and its own champion. In our five-act magical drama, Dudley is selected by the Queen to be one of her key players. He finds that he knows many of the others present – and has been an artistic sponsor of others, such as the poet Edmund Spenser, the writer of the Faerie Queen – based on Elizabeth, herself, and newly published. What does his Queen want him to do in this complex maze of relationships and potential confrontations? The answer may tax him more than anything she has ever asked…

The Silent Eye’s spring workshop, April 2018 is: “The Jewel in the Claw’. The jewel is the emerging spirit of tolerance that Elizabeth, the self-styled virgin-queen, engendered; the claw is the nature of the forces of ignorance that still plague us in the twenty-first century every bit as much as they did in 1588, the year that the mighty Spanish Armada was defeated by a combination of English naval courage and our equally fabled weather; and Elizabeth I finally achieved a degree of security.

Jewel in Claw October MasterAA

The Silent Eye has produced dramatic mystical workshops since its inception in 2013, but this is a break from tradition, and will stick closely to the formula of an actual Elizabethan production, letting the acts of the play tell the deeper story. There is no formal audience, of course. We, the players, play to each other, and in doing so invoke the desired depth of psychological and spiritual interaction.

If you’ve never been to such an event before, don’t be over-faced by this heady agenda. There are always new people joining us, and we take great care to ensure they are comfortable. We do not expect our ‘actors’ to learn their lines! We all read from scripts – as though doing a final rehearsal, but the atmosphere is truly electric and you will find yourself working to bring your character to the greatest life you can give them! You will also find they stay with you for years afterwards…

Above all else it is always fun; and every year, come the Sunday farewell lunch, those attending do not want to go home and end that living link with a body of experience and aspiration that they have helped create…

We can honestly say that the workshops become a living thing, formed and sustained in the minds and hearts of those attending. Come and join our ‘merry band’ and you’ll want to come back.

Places are still available for ‘The Jewel in the Claw’. 20-22 April, 2018. The average price is approximately £250, fully inclusive of all meals and accommodation. You will struggle to find a better value weekend, anywhere.

The weekend workshop will be held at the lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow, near Buxton, in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales at a wonderful time of year – the spring.

You can download the pricing and booking form here:

SE18 Booking form aloneAA.

Other posts in this series cover:

John DeeSir Walter RaleighSir Philip Sidney

Queen Elizabeth I,

For more information email us on rivingtide@gmail.com

Image: Composite of original artwork by the author plus a portrait of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, courtesy of  Wikipedia, CC by 3.0, Public Domain.

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham.

 

The Deadly Edge of Love (part one)

Robert Dudley Earl LeicesterFullAA

They were both young, though he was a year older; beyond childhood but not yet adults, not in the way that their lives would soon force them to be…

They had been together since their early years, and what they were experiencing, now, would, on an emotional level at least, bind them together for life. How much more frightened could you be than to be locked up in the place from which your mother was led to her execution? In the darkness, she tells him, that she will never marry, should they survive. It is a sentiment and an intent shared with one she feels deeply for; and it will carve a signature of longing throughout his illustrious life.

They will never marry, though he will try to change her mind. They may have been lovers, but the risks to her kingdom of England and Ireland would have been grave. Better, I think, to consider them as lovers of the heart, as two intense and intelligent people who had to come to terms with an England and Ireland changing faster than anyone could have imagined…

Robert Dudley, the future Earl of Leicester, and Elizabeth Tudor, the future queen of England, were prisoners in the Tower of London. It’s 1554, and England was about to change, forever.

It is as though they were meant to be close. They had been tutored, together, by one of England’s best minds – Roger Ascham – at the original Hatfield house – one of Henry VIII’s many homes. In Tudor times, women were not allowed to enter university. Robert Dudley, son of the Duke of Northumberland, may have been there to lend companionship to the royal daughter, who was unlikely to ascend to the throne, given that her brother, Edward VI, King Henry’s son and heir, was shortly to be crowned.

Edward died in 1553, age sixteen, after just six years as regent. He never reached his majority. Because of his age, a Regency Council had been established to guide his steps. Despite his short reign, Edward was able to further the cause of Protestantism in England, becoming even more determined than his father, and without the latter’s ulterior motives.

The second head of that Regency Council was Robert Dudley’s father, John Dudley, who was then Duke of Northumberland, tasked with controlling unrest north of the border. John Dudley was a formidable military man and had defended England well during the reign of both Henry and Edward. He had also recognised the future importance of the navy, leading to the establishment of the Naval Dockyard at Chatham. John Dudley used his unequalled power to entrap the Duke of Norfolk – a strong Catholic supporter. In 1551, The Duke of Norfolk (Edward Seymour) was executed for conspiracy.

John Dudley, Robert’s father, was now unchallenged in his authority and had the ear of the monarch. But the young King Edward’s health was poor. John Dudley had to act to prevent the return of Catholic political power – in the form of Princess Mary.

He did this, in 1553, by persuading the young king to sign a document excluding both Mary (Catherine of Aragon’s daughter by Henry) and Elizabeth (Anne Boleyn’s daughter) from inheriting the throne, on the basis of their ‘illegitimacy’. The throne was to go to Lady Jane Grey, ironically recently married to Guildford Dudley, fourth son of John Dudley.

The political complexity of the times meant that Robert Dudley and Elizabeth’s fates were intertwined in so many ways. But, whereas Elizabeth would leave the Tower to be exiled to the comfort of one of the royal homes in Hertfordshire, Robert Dudley was to leave to a much more uncertain fate.

John Dudley’s attempt to control England failed. He never had the ‘common touch’ and Princess Mary fled to East Anglia – where John Dudley was very unpopular. His son, Robert, was recruited to take King’s Lynn and proclaim Lady Jane Grey as Queen; but by then, despite John Dudley suppressing the news of King Edward’s death for three days, the public had rallied around Henry’s eldest daughter and John Dudley was arrested and executed for treason, leaving Elizabeth and Robert Dudley at the mercy of the new queen.

Both survived the Tower. Robert Dudley fought for Mary’s forces (and for Catholic Spain) against the French and was restored to courtly favour, though the Northumberland estate was decimated. By then, new forces, orchestrated by the likes of William Cecil were taking every opportunity to re-establish Protestant England. After Mary reinstated Rome’s ecclesiastical authority over England in 1554, her popularity plummeted. The following four years earned her the nickname of ‘Bloody Mary’, as scores of Protestant leaders were persecuted; but, in fairness, that was no different from the life of Catholics under Edward. In July 1554, Mary married Charles II of Spain, and England looked set for a Catholic future.

England’s prosperity was waning. Her ships could no longer plunder the Spanish treasure ships, and Charles II was constantly away on his military campaigns abroad – on behalf of Spain, not England and Ireland. Aware of her failing health, and the failure of her marriage to the power of Spain, Mary reinstated Elizabeth as one of her last acts.

Queen Mary I died in November, 1558, in the Palace of Saint James. She was forty-two years old.

Elizabeth inherited the crown and was then free to take up her relationship with Robert Dudley, who had been her companion in those darkest of days.

How does all this relate to our mystical workshop in April 2018, The Jewel in the Claw?

In our story, when the company arrives at NonSuch palace, they are shown into a newly-prepared room, one in which a deadly search for the truths of the age will be played out on many levels: intellectual, emotional, religious and magical. Outside of the Queen’s own mind, no-one else in the room is aware of what is to follow.

What confronts the participants in the centre of the space is a huge game board consisting of black and white squares…

SE18 Core temple heart alone

Each  side of the board has its own symbolism and its own champion. In our five-act magical drama, Dudley is selected by the Queen to be one of her key players. He finds that he knows many of the others present – and has been an artistic sponsor of others, such as the poet Edmund Spenser, the writer of the Faerie Queen – based on Elizabeth, herself, and newly published. What does his Queen want him to do in this complex maze of relationships and potential confrontations? The answer may tax him more than anything she has ever asked…

The Silent Eye’s spring workshop, April 2018 is: “The Jewel in the Claw’. The jewel is the emerging spirit of tolerance that Elizabeth, the self-styled virgin-queen, engendered; the claw is the nature of the forces of ignorance that still plague us in the twenty-first century every bit as much as they did in 1588, the year that the mighty Spanish Armada was defeated by a combination of English naval courage and our equally fabled weather; and Elizabeth I finally achieved a degree of security.

Jewel in Claw October MasterAA

The Silent Eye has produced dramatic mystical workshops since its inception in 2013, but this is a break from tradition, and will stick closely to the formula of an actual Elizabethan production, letting the acts of the play tell the deeper story. There is no formal audience, of course. We, the players, play to each other, and in doing so invoke the desired depth of psychological and spiritual interaction.

If you’ve never been to such an event before, don’t be over-faced by this heady agenda. There are always new people joining us, and we take great care to ensure they are comfortable. We do not expect our ‘actors’ to learn their lines! We all read from scripts – as though doing a final rehearsal, but the atmosphere is truly electric and you will find yourself working to bring your character to the greatest life you can give them! You will also find they stay with you for years afterwards…

Above all else it is always fun; and every year, come the Sunday farewell lunch, those attending do not want to go home and end that living link with a body of experience and aspiration that they have helped create…

We can honestly say that the workshops become a living thing, formed and sustained in the minds and hearts of those attending. Come and join our ‘merry band’ and you’ll want to come back.

Places are still available for ‘The Jewel in the Claw’. 20-22 April, 2018. The average price is approximately £250, fully inclusive of all meals and accommodation. You will struggle to find a better value weekend, anywhere.

The weekend workshop will be held at the lovely Nightingale Centre, Great Hucklow, near Buxton, in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales at a wonderful time of year – the spring.

You can download the pricing and booking form here:

SE18 Booking form aloneAA.

(End Part One. The story of Elizabeth and Robert Dudley will be continued in part two)

Other posts in this series cover:

John DeeSir Walter RaleighSir Philip Sidney

Queen Elizabeth I,

For more information email us on rivingtide@gmail.com

Image: Composite of original artwork by the author plus a portrait of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, courtesy of  Wikipedia, CC by 3.0, Public Domain.

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost supervised correspondence courses.

His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham.

/p><<<<
gt;

A game of three halves (3 of 3)

Continued from Part Two

So, this one day, considered in all its facets, resolves itself into a journey, a destination and an arrival – an arrival at a meeting with a French relative we have never met, and whose unlikely presence, here in the north-west corner of Wales, completes a cycle of mystery and loss lasting ninety-three years…

As we journey along the spine of Anglesey, to meet her by the Red Tower in the university town of Bangor, Juliette is waiting, over a coffee, in a place where she will be able to see us walking up the main street.

The car journey, fortified by all the strange connections, becomes an arrow; an arrow that completes…

The island of Middle Mouse seen from the cliffs above St Patrick’s church

On the road across the island, we talk of the wonderful good luck of finding the local guide cum historian in the church of St Patrick at Llanbadrig Head; of his smile when he had told us that, usually, he attends on only two afternoons a week, but this morning, he felt he should be there… Wonderful story teller that he is, he had walked us to the cliff edge to see the island of Middle Mouse,  to point at the dark rock and bring to life St Patrick’s escape from the storm that wrecked his ship. He had told us of the deadly cliffs, below, and that we were standing right over the cave that gave sanctuary to the swimmer on the dawn as Patrick escaped from his isolated rock and made the relative safety of the shore, with its protective cave with the freshwater spring.

And then how he had taken us back into the church, the remarkable church rebuilt by Lord Stanley, the man who had fallen in love with an Islamic lady and been so ‘opened’ to the love in his soul that he had converted to Islam and devoted his time to ‘good works’, including the reconstruction of the remarkable St Patrick’s Church.

On hearing that, a shiver ran up my spine. What, I had asked myself, as our guided tour unfolded, did any of the history of St Patrick’s Church have to do with the fact that, on this day, we were due to close the gap between two parts of a family lost to each other for nearly a hundred years? Suddenly, in the guise of Lord Stanley – Adbul Rahman as he became, in his new spiritual tradition, there was a symbol of a man who loved a woman so deeply that he gave up his ‘home’ – physical or spiritual, for her.

Stephen, my great-uncle and Adrienne, his wife

My grandmother’s eldest brother, Stephen, had done that, too. He came through the war unscathed, and, while still in France, married Adrienne, the woman he loved. Then he brought her back to England and the northern working-class town of Bolton, where their first child, Madeleine, was born. We do not know what happened after that; only that the three of them returned to France within two years. Stephen, later known in the family as ‘The Englishman’, went to work in the family’s bakery business and, subsequently, ran a successful Tabac near Calais.

Elizabeth, my paternal grandmother, never saw him, again… Was there bad feeling, that the Bolton family had lost their eldest son to a French girl? Maria, Stephen’s mother, was said to be a strong personality, even refusing to have her photograph taken because it might ‘steal her soul’. Perhaps she and Adrienne, Stephen’s new wife, fought. More likely is that her lack of spoken English may have created great hardship and homesickness for her – especially with a young child. My aunt Mary, Stephen’s niece and still alive in her nineties, remembers Adrienne ‘being very quiet; she just sat there and said nothing…’

Adrienne in the family Tabac and coffee shop

Whatever the reason, on returning to Calais, the family links seem to have fallen away… and were lost, eventually, to the knowledge of their English cousins and their children. They stayed that way for nearly a hundred years.

As a teenager, I remember my grandmother telling me the story of her eldest brother, and crying at the sadness of never having seen him again after his return to France. Other than the ancestral records and the fact that I, too, am called Stephen, I have little presence in her, or great uncle’s Stephen’s story… but the memory of her tears is very real and painful, and gives me a point of historical reality that suddenly becomes very raw, like a wound that needs healing.

Perhaps this is why we are here… on this day; to make good that gap in love. And, as Stuart would say, names are important; and mine is Stephen.

Stephen and Adrienne’s four children. The boy is Etienne – French for Stephen

In the car, we review what we know: Stephen and Adrienne had four children. Etienne (Stephen in French) was their third, and is still alive, though in his nineties. His wife is Mado (Madeleine) who began her earnest search for their long-lost English family over a decade ago. It was Mado’s message that Bernie, my wife, found on the Ancestry website while she was conducting a parallel search.

One of their children is Christophe, who is a Green politician in Calais. His daughter is Juliette, the Erasmus Language Scholar, studying at Bangor University, who waits for us in Bangor, near the red tower.

We arrive with five minutes to spare. We walk from the car park in near silence. The events of the morning have been overwhelming on so many levels. I feel as though a great weight rests on our shoulders as we complete the physical act of climbing the hill to the Red Tower. I speak a little French, though it is rusty. Perhaps I need not worry; she is a languages scholar, after all…

Juliette has finished her coffee. She sits on a bench by the Red Tower, rising to her feet and smiling, as we approach…

 

‘We found him, Grandma, and this woman is his great-granddaughter…’

Epilogue

I could have written: ‘we discovered that a long-lost branch of the family was alive and well in France. A younger member of that family is studying in Bangor, Wales. We happened to be on a short break, nearby, that weekend, so we arranged to meet up with her.’

But where would the fun have been in that? Moreover, where would the truth have been in that?

Any spiritual path, including that of the Silent Eye, requires that we examine the whole of our life, in detail, as it happens. We observe and let unfold; we do not judge – we simply let happen so that it may reveal its real nature.

This has been the story of that day’s unfolding. Everything in the three parts of this story is the truth, told as it happened.

Juliette and her grandmother, Mado – the originator of the French side of the search

Other parts of this series of posts

Part One; Part Two

…………..

Stephen Tanham is a director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit organisation that helps people find the reality and essence of their existence via low-cost, supervised correspondence courses. His personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com

©️Stephen Tanham