March Wind Moon: Elen, Deer and Ash

The month of March is named for the Roman god of war, Mars. A time of winds and storms, blizzards and frost, this blustery month continues to stir things up from the depths, until the Equinox half way through when in the North the power of the Sun reaches tipping point, ushering in the full blossoming of spring. Blackthorn is now already in bloom, and primrose, crocus and daffodil push themselves out of the Earth to spangle the landscape with cheerful yellow bells, dancing in the wind and the promise of the warmth to come.

In the Celtic tree alphabet, the period between February 18th and March 17th was ruled over by ash (N, nuin), one of the most sacred trees in both Celtic and Norse tradition. A symbol of strength, even the warrior aspect as befits the  month of March, this tree can strangle the roots of other trees and block out sunlight with its canopy, but can also hold its power in water and is often planted in marshlands and by the sides of holy wells. It is therefore associated with deep ancestral wisdom, especially in Norse mythology, where the World Tree is said to be an ash. Yggdrasil holds the nine realms of the cosmos within its branches and roots and is tended by the Norns, the weavers of fate and destiny who spin the fabric of the world into existence and carve magical runes into the trunk. Each morning the leaves of Yggdrasil fill the valley with a sweet glimmering dew that holds the memory of yesterday. One of the Norns collects this precious elixir and pours into the well of Urd, the Well of Memory. In this way, the wisdom of yesterday can be brought forth to the present, and the world is kept healthy and in balance.

The World Tree is also associated with several magical animals, one of which is a deer, or stag, that feasts on the branches and allows the waters to flow through his antlers into the wells and rivers. In Celtic mythology, the deer, or hind, is also sacred and firmly linked to the realm of the Otherworld. Fairy women are said to take the form of deer, and a white hind is considered to be one of the most magical of all messengers. In Welsh mythology, the stag is named as one of the five oldest animals in the world and counted as one of the five totem beasts of Britain.

The connection between humans and deer is an ancient one that extends back well into the Ice Age. Thousands of years ago, the massive Irish elk walked the Earth, standing at over two metres tall with antlers that extended out another 3.5 m, and the wild reindeer herds roamed extensively over most of Western Europe. Some of the most exquisite Ice Age art features reindeer, for example the Magdalenian mammoth tusk ivory showing reindeer swimming (now in the British Museum) and the cave paintings at Font-de-Gaume France (see above). It was probably during this time, when the hunter gatherers of the Ice Age roamed the land in harmony with the seasons that the ancestral antlered goddess of Britain was born. Elen of the Ways as we now call her, the guardian spirit who through the reindeer herds led us to safe living during both the natural abundance of summer and the harshness of the snow-covered winters. The reindeer instinctively knew the ancient migration paths and trusted the grandmother deer of the herd to lead them to fresh pasture. Our ancestors in turn would follow the deer trods, which became sacred pathways or song lines on the Earth, often following geological patterns, water courses and prominent landscape features. These ancient pathways still crisscross the land like threads in a cobweb and have been honoured as sacred for many thousands of years, walked by generations in search of nourishment, both physical and spiritual. Sometimes they are straight like ley lines, other times they curve and meander like threads or song lines, and sometimes they connect with deep tectonic forces as dragon lines. They can still be felt in the landscape today and often link stone circles, megalithic sites, sacred wells and burial mounds with geological and other features.

Knowledge of this Palaeolithic ancestral land spirit has been preserved in the story of Elen and King Macsen in the Mabinogion, the ancient Welsh book of mythology. According to the tale known as ‘The Dream of Mascen Wledig,’ Macsen was the emperor of Rome and was there known as Maximus. One day, whilst out hunting, he and his men rested awhile by the river Tiber and as he slept, he dreamed that he was in an enchanted land surrounded by mountains where he came upon the most lovely island he had ever seen.   There in a magnificent castle in the centre of this island, he found himself in a splendid hall and here, seated on a throne, was the most beautiful woman in the world. But alas, just as Macsen was about to sit down and embrace her on her throne of gold, he woke up. Never had he been so bereft, and his days were filled with a love-sick yearning. Eventually, he sends out thirteen men from the place of his dream to find the enchanted land with the beautiful woman – and after much journeying they managed to do so, in the vicinity of Snowdonia at Aber Sain in Wales.[1]

The messengers tell Elen of the intentions of the emperor and though she is impressed, she insists that he should come in person to Wales to ask her hand in marriage – which of course he does. As a wedding gift Elen asks that three castles should be made for her in places of her choosing, and she then builds a network of magical roads between them, known today as Sarn Elen. This ancient track can still be partially followed and links Aberconwy in the north with Carmarthen further south. Elen of the Ways guards the ancient deer trods of the land, the paths that are often silver and sparkle under the moonlight when the chalk bedrock appears at the surface. She emerges in the ancient forests and woodlands where the secret pathways of animals and insects cross and mesh, where the underground mycelium connects all life in an unseen web. Her energy can be felt as we connect the ley lines of the Earth, grids that criss-cross the land in a form palpable to humans. As we continue to re-sensitise ourselves to the subtle energies of the Earth, it is fitting that Elen has been recognised and named in connection the Belinus line, the ley line that runs up the centre of the British Isles and is complemented by the more subtle energies of Elen. [2]


[1] See Sharon Blackie ‘If Women Rose Rooted’ for more details

[2] See Gary Biltcliffe’s  work on the Belinus Line for more details

Yuletide: the tale of the Holly and the Ivy

Yuletide is the twelve festive days celebrated from the Winter Solstice that were used by our ancestors to align the solar calendar with the lunar. The Solstice was seen as the still point of the wheel of the year, the pivot on which the agricultural year turned, the time when the sun appears to start heading northwards in the sky just as it has reached its furthest point south. These twelve adjustment days were therefore taken at this special time and were used as an opportunity to relax and make merry, to walk in the fields and the forests, commune with the ancestors, to rewild.

The image of streams of cavorting revellers was probably the origin of the Wild Hunt of Norse/Anglo Saxon mythology. This was when the one-eyed all-seeing shamanic god Odin rode across the skies with his ghostly hunters. Accompanied by ravens, trolls and otherworldly psychopomps, or soul guides, these creatures were later demonised and reduced to satanic hordes and discarnate spirits, harbingers of death, bringing misfortune on anyone who saw them. A piece of propaganda later introduced by the Christian world to ensure the midwinter revelries did not take place.

Despite these attempts at censor, there is much in this old mythology that has survived and preserved in our Christmas customs. Odin rode a large muscular horse called Sleipnir, said to have eight legs, who carried his master through the nine worlds held in the branches and roots of Yggdrasil, the World Tree, a clear reference to shamanic journeying. Reindeer are also important shamanic animals with their antlers rising to the heavens and their hooves firmly on the ground, and it is significant that eight of them are said to pull Santa’s sleigh. Odin also dropped presents at the foot of his sacred pine tree for the faithful, a custom preserved in the laying of Christmas presents under the Christmas tree.

And trailing behind the Wild Hunt were the Oak and the Holly Lords perennially engaged in a battle of mythic proportions. Robert Graves analysis of an ancient Welsh poem called ‘The Battle of the Trees’ unravelled a remarkable and ancient story telling the unfolding of the natural year through a tree alphabet encrypted with sacred knowledge and ritual.[1] The year was divided into two halves to reflect the power of the waxing and waning sun. The Oak king was the Lord of the Waxing Sun who reached his peak at Midsummer, but was then supplanted, or even sacrificed, by the Holly king who ruled the part of the year when the Sun’s power was waning. At the Winter Solstice, it was Oak that supplanted Holly, who then ruled over the waxing year. Graves uncovered evidence for this Earth centred belief from Turkey to the West of Ireland with different cultures flavouring the narrative with their own character.

In Britain, the Robin Redbreast embodied the spirit of the New Year, signalling the return of the Sun. This half of the year is associated with holly, which now produces red berries amidst its spiky evergreen leaves, hence the association of robins with holly at Yule. Just after the Solstice, around Christmas Eve, Robin Red Breast sets out to kill his predecessor, the Gold Crest Wren. Men would hunt wrens with birch rods at this time, driving them out of ivy bushes, indicating that Ivy as the Lord of the Waxing Sun. The Robin is said to murder the Wren, his father/predecessor, acquiring his red breast as a result. For the rest of the year, the Wren was considered sacred and it was forbidden to collect her eggs.

Graves also introduced another dimension to his Battle of the Trees analysis, for the gods of the waxing and waning years were revealed as pawns who competed for, and each in turn lose, the love of the triple goddess, Creatrix of Nature, who he called the White Goddess. There are considerable depths to this story, but one of the most pertinent is the subscript of the day out of time, the 23rd December just after the Solstice, the magical thirteenth month which was not ruled over by the tree alphabet. This was the Epilogue, the story that told of the birth, life and resurrection of the god of the waxing year. The time when the Goddess gave birth anew to herself and the sacred child, bringing about redemption and the resurrection of the life- giving power of the Sun.

Christianity has of course taken over all the major aspects of this ancient narrative in the contemporary version of the Christian story. Now it is Christ, born of the Virgin, who shall redeem us, and his birth takes place at the Winter Solstice. His cousin, John the Baptist takes on the role of the Midsummer tannist and throughout the Middle Ages, 24th June was referred to as the Eve of St John.

Nowhere is this ancient knowledge so explicitly preserved and intertwined with Christianity as in the carol the Holly and the Ivy, cheerfully sung in chapels and churches up and down the country at Christmas. The chorus ‘the holly and the ivy, when they were both full grown, of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown’ implies Holly is Lord of Midwinter, with the Ivy as Midsummer Lord. The birth of the sacred child by the goddess and the sacrificial aspects of the story are clearly indicated, albeit in a very mild form, by the  next verses, ‘the holly bears a blossom was white as lily flower, and Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ to be our dear Saviour’ and ‘the holly bears a berry as red as any blood and that Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ to do poor sinners good.’

The ‘prickle’ of the Holly is a premonition of the crown of thorns worn by the sacrificial Christ and the bark of the holly, as bitter as any gall, mentioned later in the carol, is a reference to the redemptive Christ, who was offered gall to drink in place of water whilst dying on the cross.

Though we now celebrate the birth of the sacred child (Christ) at Christmas, in Anglo Saxon Britain, it was the Mother who was honoured on the 24th December. This was when the sacred tree was taken into the home and decorated, a living representative of the World Tree, with the star at the top representing the Pole Star around which everything turned. The Yule log was lit as a symbol of the returning Sun, and food and gifts were shared to honour the abundance of the Earth. Even Santa Claus, with his obligatory red suit, is actually the old Holly king or Robin Redbreast in disguise, with his elf helpers a reference to the fairy folk of the Old Religion, and his magical flying reindeer and Christmas Eve night journey a memory of the Wild Hunt of Odin.


[1] Robert Graves, ‘The White Goddess’ Faber and Faber, 1997

The Black Madonna of Tripoli (Lebanon)

In the city of Tripoli there is humble and almost unknown Black Madonna. She has lain dormant for many years now, but quite suddenly, and rather unexpectedly, she is starting to emerge from the fecund, dark loam of the collective unconscious like a fragile shoot appearing out of frozen soil. The power of the Black Madonna as an agent of change and transformation cannot be overlooked, and nowhere today is this more true than in Tripoli, the second city of Lebanon. So, what does this particular Black Madonna represent, and what is her message to us at this time?

Black Madonna of Tripoli (author’s photo)

She hangs on the wall of the Greek Orthodox Church of St George near the old souk in the heart of Tripoli. She feels slightly incongruous in this poor and very conservative Sunni city close to the Syrian border, where women frequently wear the veil. Dubbed the ‘City of Division,’ Tripoli has gained negative publicity over the past few decades as a place of unpredictable sectarian violence and frequent clashes between Sunni and Alawite rebels or anti/pro Assad factions. It has also historically supported Prime Minister Hariri’s Future Movement. Yet over the past few months the people of this conservative place have been at the heart of the Lebanese anti-government protests.

Ancient Phoenician city of Tyre (author’s photo)

Possible reasons for this unexpected behaviour can be found by looking back into the city’s long and illustrious past of dynamism and change. Tripoli was first established as a trading port by the entrepreneurs of the ancient world, the Phoenicians. For hundreds of years, these merchants dominated the seas of the Mediterranean and traded in silver, wood, glass, textiles and of course their hallmark purple dye made from a secretion of the murex sea snail. They invented the alphabet that we use today and ducked and dived at a time when many great civilisations were going into decline. They also witnessed the arrival of new and aggressive players such as Alexander, the Ptolomies, Seleucids, Persians and Romans, and even managed to stay independent to some extent, some of the time. Parallels with today maybe? The Lebanese may be part of the Arab world, indeed at the heart of it, but they also have a different quality and pride themselves as being the entrepreneurs – the ‘middle-men’ of the Middle East.

Mamluk era mosque (author’s photo)

Then in 551 AD, it all changed. A devastating earthquake and ensuing tidal wave swept away all that remained of the ancient world like it had never existed. Nature abhors a vacuum and into this one stepped the next set of invaders, this time from the Muslim world, who in the shape of the Omayyads, Fatimids, Druze, Ottomans then Lebanese, were to dominate the city until today – aside from a period of Western and Mamluk domination, both of which have left physical legacies. The citadel of Raymond of St-Gilles built by the Crusaders still dominates the city, and the Mamluk era mosques, khans and souks make the architecture of Tripoli unique in the Middle East.

Citadel of Raymond of St-Gilles (Qala’at Sanjil)

Though Tripoli’s past has been rich and colourful, the twentieth century has brought with it a fair degree of misery. Sectarian violence had already become a theme at the close of the 19th century with frequent conflict between the Druze and Maronite Christians. When the Maronites began to oppose the then ruling Ottoman Empire, the Western Powers seized the opportunity and intervened, a precdent that was to continue after WW1 when the League of Nations, and Sykes-Picot carved up Lebanon, thereby altering the demographics and sowing the seeds for the devastating civil war of the 1975 – 1990.

To return to the Black Madonna and her message, it is important to understand that the full name of the church in which she stands is the ‘Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch in Lebanon.’ Though obscure today, this church has an ancient pedigree which can be traced back to the very earliest days of Christianity when both Peter and Paul visited Antioch. The church founded at this time became so important that it became part of the Pentrachy – one of the five major episcopal sees of the Roman Empire, which included Rome, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Constantinople. In time, Rome claimed supremacy over all the other churches with the great schism of 1054 splitting Rome and the Eastern Churches for good, and the rest is literally history.

Hammam in Tripoli, the oldest in the country (author’s photo)

Somehow, the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch has managed to survive the upheavals of the last two millenia and today its members count for around 8% of the Lebanese population. It has also managed to exist in small numbers in other parts of the Arab world where its’ highly educated and financially adept people have managed, in Phoenician style, to blend into a rigidly conservative and at times fractious religious environment. Most notably, during the Lebanese civil war , the terrible and prolonged sectarian conflict in which over 120,000 people lost their lives, 1 million went into exile and over 76,000 were displaced, the Greek Orthodox community were able to act as negotiators to build bridges between the Maronite Christians and the Arab community at the heart of the conflict.

So, the essence of this Black Madonna is about the preservation of something pure and almost lost, of blending in chameleon-style in hostile environments, and of thriving not just surviving. Of knowing when to lie low and when to step forward and having the courage to do so even when threatened. Of seeking heartfelt, inclusive change that benefits all, not just a minority.

Tripoli protests in October 2019

Over the past few months, the people of Tripoli have been reclaiming their city, resurrecting it from the fragments of division and renaming it a ‘City of Peace.’ Shia, Sunni, Alawite and Maronite are putting aside religious differences to protest against and demand the resignation of a corrupt and ineffectual government. In the words of one protestor, ‘It was always minority causing all the trouble, most people were trying to live their lives…. I always thought people would come together, they just needed a reason.’ [1]

Though this Black Madonna arises from a Christian/Orthodox background, her message transcends religion and draws on a wisdom that resonates with us all at a deep, core level. The protests may have faded in Tripoli for now, but the sentiment behind them has not. People want change and once the nature of this change is formulated coherently, there will be nothing than can get in their way.

[1] Richard Hall, Independent Newspaper, 25.10.2019.

Oracles and Dragon Energies

Prophecy is one of the most ancient of all the human art forms, yet probably one of the most misunderstood. Today it is largely relegated to astrology columns in newspapers, or maybe the occasional tarot card reading, and certainly peripheral to most peoples’ daily lives. Throughout the ancient world, however, it was mainstream, the grease that oiled the cogs of state and gave succour to many a great statesman. Indeed, the oracles could be considered as the ancient equivalent to Google, the place where everyone went to find knowledge, to exchange ideas and to generally hook up with other like-minded people. But what powered the sites themselves? What enabled one site to be used as an oracle when another could not?

Tholos at Delphi (Wiki Commons)

Though oracular prophecy predates the ancient Greeks and Romans, it was their temples and myths that preserved the ancient oracular sites, and some of the mystery surrounding them. Apollo was the Greek god of prophecy and the most famous oracles were presided over by him. But this hadn’t always been the case. In archaic times, the oracles were dedicated to Earth goddesses, and presided over by priestesses who had access to the voice of the Earth, usually operating out of groves or simple sanctuaries. The myths tell us that before Apollo could take them over, he had to subdue the serpent Python, which he pursued to Mount Parnassus, then into the shrine at Delphi itself, ‘where he dispatched it beside the sacred chasm.’ As Graves suggests, this mythic takeover of Delphi probably records the historic invasion of the Northern Hellenes of pre-Hellenic cultures. As part of the takeover process, they killed the sacred oracular serpent that was kept in the sanctuary of the Earth goddess.[1]

‘Lilith’ by John Collier

Snakes are one of the most primal symbols of Earth energies. They live close to the ground, sense vibrations, and move in a sinuous wave akin to the way in which energy moves. Though the Earth energies are not visible, anyone looking at the waves on the sea could easy make the link between waves, and the way they embody form and movement, long before modern science mapped them. They can also survive beneath the ground for long periods, only to emerge in unpredictable and terrible ways, like the restless forces from within the Earth. Indeed though Apollo is said to have killed the Python, he retained the services of the oracular priestess who were themselves called ‘Pythia’ and it is highly likely that snakes were kept in the sacred tholos at Delphi well into Hellenistic times.

The Python that Apollo subdued was also known as a Dragon, and it was this Dragon that was said to have chased Apollo’s mother Leto around the Earth as she tried to give birth to him. This was clearly no ordinary snake, but one of mythic proportions, and I couldn’t help wondering if this was a metaphor for the seismic energies of the Earth itself, which Apollo must subdue if he was to use them. This was an issue I had been pondering for a while, and the opportunity to find out more presented itself on a recent trip to western Turkey.

Travertine, Pamukkale (author’s photo)

Hierapolis is not a name that is familiar to most people, but everyone has heard of Pamukkale. Though remote, more than 140 km from Izmir, over two million people visit this site every year and enjoy the thrills of dipping in the blue mineral waters that cascade over the calcareous deposit known as travertine. But not many people are aware that there was also an ancient oracle at this site, known throughout the ancient world as the Gateway to Hell. As I was to discover, this is no coincidence, for the same geological features that gives rise to the amazing mineralogy and healing waters of Pamukkale also powered this mysterious and most primal of oracles.

Mineral waters of the Travertine (author’s photo)

Turkey has frequent earthquakes because the Anatolian plate on which it sits is squeezed between the mighty African and Eurasian plates that are moving in opposite directions. Pamukkale is not situated on a plate boundary, but near a meeting point of four Graben, areas of multiple faulting and rifting caused by these plate movements. At Pamukkale, the crust has thinned as a result of the tortuous stretching of the Anatolian plate so much that it has fractured, resulting in a network of faults and fissures. Hot water from the mantle percolates through the crust, bringing with it the minerals dissolved from the local limestones, and deposits these on the surface in the form of the milky white travertine that visitors come from far and wide to see. In addition, a cocktail of noxious gases are discharged as the hot mineral rich fluids reach the surface and today, close by to the translucent blue pools in which these visitors dip, taps are visible that vent discharging gases such as carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide, make the place safe to visit.

Remains of the Plutonium, Hierapolis (author’s photo)

In ancient times, this ancient chasm in the land, as well as its noxious gases and beautiful minerals, would have been sacred to our ancestors and a cult site was located since time immemorial dedicated to Cybele, the ancient Anatolian mother goddess and her priests, the castrated Galli, would have officiated. With the arrival of the Hellenes and then the Romans, this mysterious site where Earth processes could be seen and smelt became associated with an entrance to the Underworld, but still considered sacred as the name Hierapolis (or sacred city) implies. A temple dedicated to Pluto and his consort Kore, the equivalent of Persephone and Hades in Greek myth, was built over the sacred chasm and appropriately named the Plutonium. Guarding the entrance to the Underworld was Cerberus the three headed dog and a snake, still retaining its status as a prime Earth energy symbol. A nearby temple of Apollo took over the oracular function in the form of Apollo Lairbenus, whose mother Leto was equated with the ancient earth goddess Cybele.

Temple of Apollo (author’s photo)

Accounts from Strabo of how priests would go into an underground chamber with a deep cleft in the rock, through which flowed a fast running stream, and come out to utter prophecy suggest that they used the noxious gases as a sort of trance inducer. It is possible also that small animals were used to indicate levels of the gases, much as canaries were later used underground to warn miners. [2]

Priestess of Delphi, John Collier (1891)

The chasm at Hierapolis is reminiscent of the description of the sacred chasm at Delphi in the myth of Apollo and Python, and indeed Mount Parnassus is located in a seismically active part of Greece. Modern research has shown that the site was built over a volcano related fissure that discharged gases through the springs percolating through the rocks, either in the form of ethylene or methane. [3]The Pythia would have sat on a tripod over this chasm and uttered her prophecy in an altered state of consciousness, literally induced by the Earth energies. Interestingly this was exactly how John Collier depicted her in his iconic painting of 1891.

The connection between seismic activity and oracular sites was beginning to look far from coincidental. It was apparent that ancient people noticed the connection between springs, gases and earthquakes and deemed the chasms associated with them to be highly sacred, as well as mysterious. They placed sanctuaries and later temples on these gateways to the Underworld, where the voice of the Earth itself could be heard, and it was the dragon or serpent that came to symbolise this seismic activity.

I knew there were two more famous oracles on the Turkish Aegean coast, at Didyma and Claros, and it was there I journeyed next to further investigate the link between dragon energies and oracles.


[1] ‘The Greek Myths’ by Robert Graves, Penguin 1992

[2] ‘Blue Guide Aegean Turkey: from Troy to Bodrum,’ by Paola Pugsley, 2018

[3] See https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2001/08/greece-delphi-oracle-gas-vapors-science/

Dartmoor: Connecting the Mary Line (Part II)

Dartmoor Ponies (photo credit, Julie Yarrow)

Autumn was just beginning to draw its golden curtain across Dartmoor and a few trees had already begun to shed their leaves. We spent a wonderful morning exploring the tiny back lanes of the Moor, finding wells and stone circles, the places where great rivers rose and merged, and watching as ponies were rounded up for their yearly count. Then we brought out attention back to the Mary and Michael currents, which cross across the northern part of Dartmoor quite close to our accommodation at Shilstone Farm.

Nine Maidens Stone Circle, Dartmoor (author’s photo)

First stop was the evocatively named Belstone, resonating with the fire god Bel, also known as Baal in the Middle East. It was this enigmatic god, mentioned in the bible as the arch-enemy of Yahweh, who became intimately connected with the fire ceremony of Beltane throughout the ancient world. After a brisk walk across the Moor we ended up at the Nine Maidens stone circle just beneath the Belstone Tor, with beautiful vistas over the river Teyn. Behind us was a tall pole, and upon consulting the map, we noticed that we were on the edge of an army shooting range. A so-called danger zone, a black area. We could sense the Michael current coming through the stone circle, but it felt slightly out of balance. We consulted our ‘bible,’ The Sun and the Serpent,’ to find out what was going on.

According to Miller and Broadhurst,[1] the Michael current enters Dartmoor at Brentnor, crossing through Lydford and the Yes Tor, before sweeping through the Tor at Belstone and then Nine Maidens stone circle. This we could clearly discern, but it was the Mary current that was more mysterious, for there seemed to be a break in the line. Intriguingly, Miller and Broadhurst had dowsed the Mary current to Mary Tavy to the west of Dartmoor, but the part of the Moor where we now found ourselves was apparently un-chartered territory. Rising to the challenge we stepped into the centre of the Nine Maidens stone circle and tuned into the energies.

Ladywell at Sticklepath (author’s photo)

Intuitively we felt that the Mary current also crossed over the stone circle so we drew it up from Mary Tavy, across the Moor, and allowed it to dance with the Michael current that was pulsing, albeit it weakly, through this area. The energies started to merge and form a nodal point in the middle of the circle, and we could sense the imprint of an energetic connection that had almost become lost. Miller and Broadhurst had discerned a dark energy at Lydford castle, where the Michael line passes through before coming here, which they called ‘depressingly black.’[2] Could this be linked to the use of the land as a shooting zone, resulting in a distortion of the energies? To our sense it was; energy is neutral but when there is lack of flow, it can become stagnant and stagnant energy resonates as negative energy, attracting yet more negativity. In any case, we could clearly perceive the distortion between the original use of the sites as a Beltane beacon to celebrate and purify the Earth and the present use as an army shooting ground. As walked away, ‘We could sense the processions of torch bearers lighting the way of certain ceremonial days, fire being the dominant energy.  We also saw the female warrior, strong, protecting and wise.’[3]

St Mary’s, Sticklepath (author’s photo)

We followed the energies of the ‘newly flowing’ Mary current to the nearby village of Sticklepath, and blessed the energies as they pulsed through the lovely Ladywell at the entrance of the village. Walking along the road, we were delighted to find a church dedicated to Mary – and what a lovely jewel of a church it was! Beautiful stained-glass windows above the altar depicted Jesus and Mary the Mother with the quotes ‘behold thy mother’ and ‘behold they son.’ As it was my own son’s birthday that day, I found these words particularly moving. There was also a picture of the Magdalene at the foot of the cross, and our strong sense of this church resonating with the archetype of Mary the Mother and Mary the Lover (both being of course intimately linked) were confirmed on the back of the church sign, which clearly stated ‘Dedicated to my Mum!’

‘Dragon’ church, Throwleigh Church of the Virgin (author’s photo)

We continued to Throwleigh, the next village on the Mary current, and connected it in the Church of the Virgin, where Broadhurst and Miller had also sensed the flow of the Mary energy. This part of the Moor has a wild and isolated feeling, where the Earth energies feel untamed and free. In the church reached through an ancient stone porch, there was an ornately carved altar chair clearly depicting the tree of life and dragon energy. We drove on to Gidleigh where the remains of a church dedicated once again to the Virgin were said to be found but now the ruins have been incorporated into somebody’s house and are no longer accessible.

Spinster Stone, Shilstone (author’s photo)

Our final stop was the Spinster Stone, where the Mary current loops down to Prestonbury Castle before leaving the Moor. This ancient dolmen standing in the middle of a field resonates strongly with the Mary energies for the three stones which held it up were said to symbolise the aspects of the triple goddess. It also happened to be right opposite our bed and breakfast at Shilstone Farm! Embodying the energy of the Mother, Maiden and Crone (though we weren’t entirely sure which was which), we celebrated the flow of feminine energy through the dolmen that we had physically brought down from the Nine Maidens circle, connected with the Mother energy at Sticklepath and then the Maiden energy at Throwleigh. Now standing in this burial place we fully resonated with the Crone aspect of the triple goddess, and the distortions associated with the name ‘spinster,’ the women who were originally the (childless?) spinners and weavers of destiny. As we watched streaks of purple and violet emerge across the sky and the moon rising behinds us, we felt a wonderful sense of embodiment of all of these energies, with the land beneath us, and with the heavens above.


[1] ‘The Sun and the Serpent’ by Hamish Miller and Paul Broadhurst, Pendragon Press, 1989

[2] Ibid

[3] ‘Notes on the Michael/Mary Line’ by Julie Yarrow, October 2019

The Michael Mary Line: Part I

Stretching some 350 km from the far west of Cornwall to the east coast of Norfolk, the Michael Mary Line is probably the most famous ley line in the world. Also known as the St Michael Alignment, some of Britain’s most sacred sites are situated on it, as well as numerous megaliths and churches dedicated to either St Michael/St George (the dragon slayers) and St Mary (the christianised Earth goddess).  John Michell first brought the line into awareness when he noticed the landscape alignments between the Glastonbury Tor and Burrow Mump in Somerset, both of which have churches of St Michael on their summits, but it was Hamish Miller and Paul Broadhurst who made it famous with their fantastic book of 1989, ‘The Sun and the Serpent.’ During an epic adventure to dowse the St Michael Alignment, the authors found the more subtle presence of a meandering Mary line, and discerned the existence of a long lost science that harnessed the energies of the Earth and Sun at cross-quarter days to fertilise, nurture and purify the Earth. One October weekend we set off to experience the energy of this special line for ourselves.

St George’s Church, Ogbourne St George (author’s photo)

The nodes, or points where the Michael and Mary currents cross, were of particular interest to us so we decided to start our trip at the village of Ogbourne St George near Marlborough. We stayed at the Inn with the Well and after a hearty breakfast and close-up encounter with the energies of the well, we went to the church of St George to track the Michael line. A team of local ladies were busily decorating with flowers in preparation for the forthcoming harvest festival and the energies in the church were peaceful and nurturing. Outside, the presence of a sheela-na-gig style gargoyle hinted at a more pagan origin to the site.

sheela-na-gig at St George’s Church (author’s photo)

The church itself is near the Ridgeway, an ancient track that has been walked for millenia by pilgrims and travellers alike, and often intimately linked with the Michael Mary line as it was here. The Ridgeway runs along an ancient chalk ridge, and it is this chalk bedrock that gives the landscape its particular energies. Chalk is soft and would crack along the many ancient fault lines that lie hidden beneath the surface of the rolling hills, and it is also porous, allowing water to flow along these cracks. Where there is water, electromagnetic energy can flow, and this could affect the conductivity of piezo-electric rocks like quartz at the surface, or else attract a particular energy field to the area which can then be felt by animals and those sensitive to Earth energies.

Snail on blue marker stone at the Sanctuary. The swirls on the shell were similar to the energy currents we felt there.

From Ogbourne St George it is a short drive to the next major nodal point of the line, the Sanctuary near Malborough. This ancient circular sanctuary is situated on top of Overton Hill, and dates back to around 3000 B.C.E. We could pick out the West Kennett long barrow and Silbury Hill in the surrounding landscape, and realised that the Sanctuary is unique as not only the Ridgeway but both the Michael and Mary currents cut across it. Later the stones of West Kennett Avenue were constructed to link this site to Avebury henge itself, reinforcing its use as a major ceremonial site. We could clearly feel the energies swirling in from the Avenue and the long barrow, and crossing over in the middle of the circle to form the head of the serpent before spiraling out back to Ogbourne St George from where we had just come.

West Kennett long barrow, author’s photo

The nearby Swallowhead spring was dry and the Winterbourne stream that rises here and flows into the River Kennett was choked with weeds. This seemed to have an impact on the energy of Silbury Hill, the energetic battery of the landscape, which is driven in part by the flow of water from the underground streams. It is interesting to note that the name ‘swallow’ is a common term for rivers found in areas of intermittent streams, often in chalk, to explain how a stream disappears into the ground and erupts elsewhere [1] Thankfully the energy of the long barrow at West Kennett did not seem affected by this stagnation and the ancestral and dragon energies were clearly discernible in this ancient birth/death canal.

Cross over point of Michael and Mary currents at Avebury

We followed the path of the line up to Avebury and were amazed when our newly purchased dowsing rods showed us the exact spot where the Michael and Mary currents crossed and left the henge. It was such a pleasure and a privilege to walk freely round these stones dating back to nearly 3000 B.C.E and experience this serpent temple of great antiquity at close quarters, which is no longer the case at near-by Stonehenge. We could feel where the currents joined at the end of the avenue as they entered the enclosure, but they felt rather sluggish. Whether this was due to the lack of water in the Swallowhead springs area, or the fact that this serpent temple was no longer being used for its original purpose, we could not tell.

St Michael and the Dragon, Cadbury (author’s photo)

The Tor at Glastonbury has a similar exhausted feel, walked by many people but honored by few. The tower of the ancient church of St Michael still stands but feels haunted by the events of the Reformation when the last abbot of Glastonbury was hung, draw and quartered here by Henry VIIIs men. A reminder of the distorting energies of the Church, both Catholic and Protestant, mirrored by the image of Michael as the dragon slayer, depicted stamping on or killing the very energy of the line itself. The Michael Mary churches may have preserved the knowledge of the line, but the main intent of those who built them was to control and dominate.

According to Broadhurst and Miller,[2] the line with its azimuth of around 242 degrees is aligned to the rising Sun at Beltane, the ancient fire festival celebrated around the 8th May, and we were starting to realise just how powerful this insight was. All over the ancient world, bonfires would be lit to celebrate the power of the returning Sun as it fertilises and fructifies the Earth bringing forth a profusion of abundance and beauty. Furthermore, the fires were lit on top of the hills and mounds along the line, visible like beacons across the landscape, each one signalling the lighting of the next. In this way the power of the Sun (at the Beltane cross quarter point) would have been drawn down by the fires, then driven by the flow of water along the line, purifying and cleansing the Earth energies as it went. The people gathered in ceremony at the nodes along the line would themselves have been nurtured and nourished by the energies in a two-way flow that manifested in the bounty of nature around them. All would have been well in Heaven and Earth, bringing a sense of harmony and well-being that we no longer have in our disconnected modern world.

Michael Church, Burrow Bridge Mump

Away from Glastonbury we climbed the mump at Barrow Bridge and found our next nodal point. The church of St Michael on top is now partially ruined, but we could sense the Michael and Mary currents as they crossed over where the altar once stood. The energy was here clearer, less distorted, but still weak from lack of use. Gazing across the Somerset levels, we could see the Tor looming in the distance and visualised the energy flowing strong across the landscape towards it, so that the energy could flow back from Glastonbury like an alternating current generator. We had connected up the line from Ogbourne St George in Wiltshire right across Somerset and it was feeling good. As the day drew to a close, we headed off west in the direction of the setting Sun towards Dartmoor for the next part of our journey.


[1] Insearchof holywellsand healingsprings.com

[2] ‘The Sun and the Serpent’ by Hamish Miller and Paul Broadhurst, 1989, Pendragon Press

Cornwall: the Snake Breath of the Lizard

The Lizard peninsula, author’s photo

The ancient rocks of the Lizard ophiolite complex in Cornwall are amongst the rarest in the world, preserved when a small sliver of oceanic crust was thrust over more buoyant continental crust after the collision of two continents. Distorted and gnarled, in patchworks of pale green, hues of crimson and jet-black streaks, the rocks of the Lizard resemble the scaled hide of a reptile. Lenses of serpentine form perfect loops like the eye of a dragon, all seeing and all knowing, recording in every hue, every twist and turn, the ancient history of our planet.

Mullion Cove, author’s photo

At Kynance Cove the lizard-hide gleams wet and shiny from the constant pounding of frothy white Atlantic swell. Families come and jump the waves, then scramble across the huge ancient blocks of peridotite that were once deep inside the Earth. Further north at Mullion Cove a huge fault is visible in the harbour wall, a cosmic crack resulting from the strain and twisting of the tectonic plates. Comparable to the filling inside a sandwich, the fault lies squashed between metamorphosed serpentine and gabbro pressed and squeezed up like toothpaste from a tube. Out to sea, islands comprised from the pillow lavas that would have lain on top of the ophiolite sequence loom like dragons from the depths.

Yoni of the Dragon at Lizard Point, author’s photo

At Lizard point itself some of the most ancient rocks in Cornwall are to be found. The 500-million year-old Man of War gneiss, and a series of meta-sediments, mainly schists, have undergone extensive metamorphism and deformation here, bearing witness to the powerful Earth energies at work. On the beach underneath the lighthouse on the most southerly piece of land in the UK and accessible only at low tide is the yoni of the dragon, a large almost triangular slit in the rock, splashed crimson like blood.  A pile of seaweed lying at the entrance defies all but the bravest to enter. Under the August sun the rubbery looking mass had started to move, seething with maggots hatching out in the warmth!

The ophiolite on Coverack beach, author’s photo

But it is Coverack that hides the Lizard’s brightest gem. This beautiful 200 m stretch of beach preserves a uniquely preserved sliver of the ophiolite – and an opportunity to touch the Moho, the transition zone between the Earth’s crust and its mantle. The lower part of the beach is made from dark magnesium and iron-rich gabbro that would once have laid on the ocean floor. The upper part is peridotite, an ultramafic rock that originates from the mantle, and between the two lies the transition zone, the Moho, usually at depths of around 25 km and therefore rarely seen, let alone touched. To walk this  beach is like walking on the inside the Earth, coming into contact with something that is out-of-sight yet familiar, almost like touching your own inner organs.

Standing on the Moho, author’s photo

The ancient serpentine rocks of the Lizard retain a pristine Energy that connect us deep into the soul of the Earth, opening up our lizard eye in the back of our heads and accessing our primal or reptilian brains, where all is recorded but not always known. Indeed according to local legend, the serpentine rock is an embodiement of the Old Dragon herself, the serpent of the rocks that manifests as an Earth energy known as ‘snake breath.’

Mullion island pillow lava, author’s photo

This ‘snake breath’ is so strong as to be palpable and send currents of energy through the rocks. Indeed, many people have dowsed these currents and found extraordinary associations between the manifesting Earth energies and the man-made building above them, including ancient sites, churches and monuments. I was therefore intrigued but not surprised when I saw that Broadhurst and Miller, master dowsers of Earth energies, had found that what they call the Apollo and Athena currents snake across the Lizard before leaving the British mainland on an epic journey through continental Europe and ending up at Meggido in Israel.

Sunset at Gunwalloe, author’s photo

As recorded in their amazing book ‘the Dance of the Dragon,’ after spiralling round that huge energy nexus point at St Michaels Mount, the Apollo current meanders through rock promontories at Prussia Cove and Trewas Head in the north of the Lizard, before emerging in the tower at Gunwalloe  Church Cove, where it crosses over with the more ‘feminine’ Athena current and is amplified by it. This beautiful old church sits right on the beach and faces west across the sea, the perfect place to watch the sun go down and experience the kiss of the dragon at first hand.

Radio mast at Poldhu, author’s photo

Intriguingly the Apollo current also crosses Poldhu, a place made famous by the world changing experiments of Guglielmo Marconi, who successfully transmitted the first trans-Atlantic radio signal here. On the 12th December 1901, three dots of morse code were sent from the Poldhu radio mast and successfully picked up by a transmitter in Marconi’s ear, himself 2000 miles away in St John’s on Newfoundland at the time. Nobody would deny that his insights turned out to change the course of human history, but it is interesting to speculate, as Broadband and Miller[1] did, whether he owed his inspiration to the ‘snake breath’ of the Lizard where he spent so much of his time. It can be no coincidence that the letter transmitted across the Atlantic was, of course, ‘S.’ The hisssss of the snake, or the ‘snake breath,’ could now be heard as well as being felt – and indeed heard it was, right across the other side of the world.


[1] ‘The Dance of the Dragon: An Odyssey into Earth Energies and Ancient Religions’ by Paul Broadhurst and Hamish Miller with Vivienne Shanley and Ba Russell, MYTHOS, 2003