The Michael Mary Line Part 4: White Horses and Dragons

A few years ago, we journeyed along the Michael/Mary line beginning in Ogbourne St George, Wiltshire, and headed west to Dartmoor. Sometime later, we returned to the Wessex Downs but this time coming in from the opposite direction (Caln, in the west). As soon as we entered the chalk scarp, we were struck by the huge telluric, geological currents surging through the porous rock, pushing up gentle hillocks and forming combes that looked like nodes in the land. Green fuzz now covers the chalk, which is therefore no longer visible – unless a white horse has been carved in it, that is.

Alton Barnes White Horse (credit Wikipedia)

White horses and hill forts abound in these vales demonstrating how important they once were to the people who loved and lived in them. The White Horse of Alton Barnes gracing the side of Milk Hill is visible from the A4, itself looking out towards the famous White Horse of Pewsey, where a new white horse replaces an older and now faded older version. A gentle walk along the top of the Wansdyke brings the relief of the land into clear focus, and places the white horses firmly in the context of the a broader landscape that undulates across to the Mendips and Cotswolds far into the distance. The Wansdyke itself is an intriguing feature and was probably built by the ancient Britons to keep the Saxon invaders out in a time of invasion and flux.

We continued north passed Windmill Hill and joined up with the Ridgeway. Part of a massive chalk escarpment some four hundred miles long and extending from Dorset to East Anglia, the section between the Sanctuary and the Ivinghoe Beacon in Berkshire is the most famous uninterrupted national walking trail in the country. It is along this pathway that the great dragon energies emerge from the chalk as telluric currents and intermingle with the more precise energies of the Michael/Mary line that we had been dowsing since Dartmoor. Iron Age hill forts, often built over more ancient Neolithic causewayed enclosures, become a stronger feature of the landscape, holding these powerful energies in a way that churches are unable to.

Barbary Castle (credit Wikipedia)

It was exciting and exhilarating to feel the energies swirling through Barbary castle with its three rings and ditch enclosures. Circling and dancing like a coiled snake, the earthworks contained and amplified the energies in an honouring and respectful way. This joyful dance continued along the Ridgeway to Liddington Camp, one of the earliest of the hill forts and dating back to the Late Bronze Age (around 700 BCE). These ‘forts’ were primarily used as places were clans met and feasted, traded goods and worshipped, though some defensive function is also not excluded. Therefore the term ‘fort’ does not do them justice, and neither does the medieval word ‘castle’ that implies a form of conquer and control that was not present in the minds of the people who created these structures.

In the centre of the Liddington earthworks, the energy was particularly intense and demanded some form of acknowledgement. Later, further research revealed the existence of a ritual shaft, used by the ancient Britons who occupied this site to ritually connect more deeply with the land, and harness the protective and abundant energies in a mutually honouring way.

Vale of the White Horse (credit author)

The Ridgeway continues northeast, and is cut across brutally by the M4 motorway, contrasting strongly with the respectful energies we had felt previously. Now we were in Oxfordshire but the underlying chalk knew no such boundaries and the great dragon currents surged towards the most famous vale of all – the Vale of the White Horse. According to Miller and Broadhurst, [1]the Mary current sweeps round the nexus point containing some of the most important sites in the country – The White Horse, Ufffington Castle, Dragon Hill and Wayland’s Smithy – and is anchored at the church of St Mary in Uffington. It is also just north of this area that the Belinus line crosses over the Michael/Mary line, forming a major omphalos (more on this to come). We went into this centre to explore the energies in more detail.

Wayland’s Smithy (credit author)

Just beneath Fox Hill, the Ridgeway now passes through one of the earliest Neolithic long barrows in Britain – Wayland’s Smithy. Set in a secluded grove ringed by trees, a stone burial chambers covered by a huge earth mound are surrounded by an enclosure of sarsen stones. Built during the Neolithic by the mysterious early agriculturalists in two stages, an earlier timber barrow could date back as early as 3590 BC.[2]

 The Saxons were probably the first to link the Germanic smith-god Wayland with this site, a rather ambivalent mythological figure who emerges, often in an unfavourable light, in a range of contexts from the Icelandic Eddas to the exquisitely carved Frank’s Casket, where he is depicted holding a severed head with the aid of tongs in one hand and a goblet in the other. Though the myth has him slaying a king’s son and cutting off his head, plying the same king’s daughter with wine and raping her, he is also associated with making wings from birds feathers that enable him to fly. This could account for why he appears in a variety of places plying his trade of smith, possibly linking this site (mythically at the least) with an early phase of metallurgy in pre-history. In more favourable contexts, Wayland is associated with forging magical swords and also the mail shirt worn by Beowolf in the epic poem of the same name. [3]

White Horse of Uffington (credit Wikipedia)

The White Horse itself is situated on the upper slopes of White Horse Hill, a distinctive undulating steep-sided valley formed by the interplay of land with the repeated freeze-thaw cycles of the last Ice Age. It can only really be appreciated from above or at a distance to see its full extent, emphasising its role as a beacon or orientation point in a sacred landscape. The White Horse itself has been dated to the late Bronze Age (1380 – 550 BC)  as has the (once again misnamed) Uffington castle on top of the hill, a huge square structure surrounded by earthworks. Not much of the original remains but to walk the parameters of the site gives some feel of its scope and scale. As the highest place for miles around, it would have had great ritual (and therefore economic) importance for the ancient Britons who inhabited the area.  

The energies are still palpable in the earthworks but do not have the joyful innocent quality that we had felt previously. These ancient walkways were fed by pilgrims and travellers that kept the energy flowing between nodal points, often represented by barrows and mounds, through a mutual honouring between land and walker. When this is no present, the flow and therefore the energies recede into the background, or indeed stagnate, waiting patiently to be acknowledged and activated once again at some future time.

Dragon Hill (credit author)

The White Horse itself is no longer accessible and when standing in the physical landscape, it is hard to see the horse at all. Indeed, it is now Dragon Hill, a small chalk hill with artificially flattened top siting sitting just below the White Horse, that draws the visitor in both visually and energetically. A large chalk circle marks the eye, said to be the spot where St George killed the dragon, the blood preventing grass from growing on its summit. As ever the myth of dragon slaying going hand in hand with the presence of huge telluric landscape currents, which is one of the reasons that these energies are called dragon energies.

It is significant that both the dragon and horse are present in this landscape. There are many theories as to the meaning of the White Horse. Some see it as a solar horse, whose origins stretch back into the deep past of an Indo-European mythology that perceived the sun carried across the sky by a horse or chariot. [4] Archaeo-astronomical investigations have suggested a link between the horse and the midwinter sun, others discern a connection between the landscape and the constellation of Draco, all of which warrants further investigation.

‘Rhiannon’ by Alan Lee

There are other land based alternatives. To the Celtic and the ancient Britons,  the white horse was the ultimate symbol of Sovereignty, who was both the goddess of the land and the land itself. She bestowed kingship in exchange for protection and when this was honoured, the land was fertile and all life forms were happy. The Brythonic Sovereignty goddesses Rhiannon is closely associated with the white horse, as are the Celtic goddesses Aine and Maeve.

White Horse (credit author)

At this place of great power, we can stand and reconnect with this aspect of the land, take back our own Sovereignty and empowerment and come back into harmony with the energies of the Earth herself, and therefore with the energies of the wider cosmos. That the horse still holds energetic sway here is reflected by the land in the numerous horse racing stables that cluster at the foot of Lambourne Down, serving as training grounds for hundreds of race horses that still gallop through the Vale to this day.


[1] Broadhurst and Miller, (1998) ‘The Sun and the Serpent’

[2] ‘Wayland’s Smithy’ available at http://www.en.m.wikipedia.org

[3] As above

[4] Pollard, J. (2017). ‘The Uffington White Horse geoglyph as sun-horse.’ Antiquity. 91. (326): 406 – 420 (Accessed 10.4.21)

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/