As the heat comes and goes – along with the life giving rain of a typical British Summer – the grain in the fields is ripening, and the first of the years harvests is now underway – poor John Barleycorn!
Harvest is only possible if we have taken the time to sow and nurture whatever it is we are growing, whether fruits, grains or talents and skills that we set ourselves to master. All are equally valid harvests, they all require action on our part – whether the physical action of clearing, preparing, planting, watering and weeding with a crop or whether the mental effort to dedicate ourselves to an art, to seek knowledge and to out in the hours of practice and dedication that is needed to hone raw talent into skill – and it is only through continued effort that we can hope to reap the harvest. With steadfast devotion and effort we can reap far more than we have sown, but with lethargy, inattention and excuses we will reap nothing but weeds and bitter ashes…
So, what is your harvest, what did you sow, and how have you ‘tended’ your ‘crop’ to bring it to the point of harvest? Do you have something to be thankful for, to show for the effort given, or is it withered and dead? As always, we reap what we sow, and I wish you a blessed harvest – the one that you truly deserve…
The Sower – Daniel Varoujan
It’s the sower. He is standing tall and stout In the sunset’s rays which are like flowing gold; Before his feet are the fields of the fatherland Spreading their unlimited nakedness.
His deep apron, full of wheat seeds like stars Is wholly full. The thirsty ploughs of last year Now are waiting for his wide fist, and that fist Is opening upon the fields like a dawn.
Sower, sow in the name of your home’s table, Let the movement of your arms be unbounded; Tomorrow those wheat seeds you’ve thrown, like blessings, Will be pouring on heads of your grandchildren.
Sower, sow in the name of the hungry poor Never let your palm be half-full from your apron; A poor today in the temple’s lantern put The last oil for your harvest of tomorrow.
A brief moment snatched from the mundane yesterday, after finishing work in Swindon and being enroute to a hotel in Birmingham for the night I took a small detour and stopped for a walk to Waylands Smithy..
It had been tipping it down all day, but on leaving the learner’s shop in Swindon the weather was dry – but threatening more rain – so I took the chance and parked up just off the Ridgeway for the walk to the Smithy…
Nature was in full bloom, Red Kite circling overhead, woodland birds hurrying around to gather the bounty, flowers aplenty – yarrow, thistle, cornflower, cow parsley, willowherb, poppies bobbing in the breeze – fields of corn, wheat and barley and a hedgerow showing the first signs of the approaching harvest – berries almost ripe on the Hawthorn and Rowan, fruit forming on the brambles and seed heads dotted throughout the field edges… The flora was buzzing loudly, with Dragon fly, butterlies in myriad hue and bees aplenty, a glorious place to be on a Summer’s day – no matter how overcast…
The Smithy as ever was welcoming, 3 backpackers were sat near the front on the logs, making a cup of tea on a small camping stove and enjoying a later lunch or early tea, I did not want to disturb them so headed to the back of the Smithy and took a few moments just to be, to experience the place again…
An offerring made, a song on my flute – for which the sun appeared and bathed me in warm sunlight – then a dram shared with the Old Un, and time to get on my way…
A brief sojurn, but one that did what was needed, a grounding and a connection renewed… I have a promise to keep, an offerring to be forged for Wayland once my forge is fixed…
I hope you were able to take a moment from whatever mundane life delivered yesterday and to make your own connection and find that moment of peace…
It has always been our plan to continue to develop our crafting skills and to hopefully one day grow them to the point that we can leave behind full time work and perhaps earn at least some of the income we need for a move to Scotland from our individual skills, and as recently prompted by a friend – If not now, when?
We make individual pieces, one-off’s and custom / bespoke items for Ritual and Re-enactment purposes, based mainly wihtin historic pieces – although we will adapt our work to produce whatever it is that you seek, whether historically accurate, fantasy or something individual to your own needs.
Primarily we are able to work in wood, metal, brass, bronze, antler, horn and bone, within our home based forge, using traditional casting, scrimshaw, woodworking and blacksmithing techniques, and also in leather, fabric, and silver to produce individual pieces that are unique things of beauty in their own right.
I shall share some pictures below of things we have made, these are for illustration only, these individual pieces are not for sale, however similar items can be made for you, and customised to reflect your absolute requirements.
Contact us to discuss your requirements, costs and lead times.
Thanks for reading and I hope we can provide you with something amazing in the not too distant future…
An early start for Sosltice, up at 3am and out of the door with a thermos mug of coffee each for 330am in order to reach the Edge and meet with friends to watch the Solstice Sunrise this morning… And an unexpected and rare treat, folk from Bollin Morris were already their to mark the Solstice with song, music and dance…
The predawn was stunning, only a little cloud above the peaks, promising a slightly delayed Sunrise, but not obscuring our view, the dawn chorus loud and cheery, and the air still and cool – a huge improvement over the hot, humid and wet conditions of late… A moment or two in quiet contemplation and a chance to play my flute in the stillness, then await the sunrise in companie with those present…
Some talk, some quietness, a few folks together – physically distanced and yet of one purpose, to mark the day…
A stunning sunrise, 3 blasts on the hunting horn and then some photos…. A moment or two of silent communion, perhaps a step into the woods to individually do what was needed, and thanks given to the spirits of place for their welcome…
I have to say that the chance to watch the Morris Dancers on the Edge and at that time was something of a treat, their is something very traditional, timeless and so very right for the moment and the mood, it was much appreciated by us all, both physical and Other… Take a look at JJ’s blog here for more photos and a better video of their dancing….
It was good to return to the Edge after the Lockdown that has prevented us from visiting for so long, the woods are beautiful, green and lush, filled with life and vibrant with the enjoyment of the Summer sun, although Autumn is my favourite time of year, their is something special about each season, and midsummer is always a highlight in our calendar..
I hope whatever you have planned and whenever it is that you are marking the Solstice that your celebrations are all that you need them to be! Solstice Blessings…
‘It is December, the longest Night approaches, it is a time of cold, of strife and of accepting Fate, a time of the Crone, a time when death and self-sacrifice of those past their prime gives ease from the bitter cold and the hardships that those who remain are left to endure.
A time to contemplate the approach of Winter proper, of the time of white and red, when the hunters of old bring down the Stag and his blood stains the snow and his body nurtures the tribe through these long dark nights.
It is a time when all preparation is over, a time of true testing, there are no second chances now, it is time to make do and use that which you have husbanded, and it is a time of life or death, within the forest only the strong and the wise will survive.
Our Ancestors gained their wisdom through facing tests such as these, are you willing to face your own trial and to fare as you will, to face the Ancestors and meet their gaze with honour, are you prepared to stand before Your Gods and to justify your choices and face what is to come?
Spend time now in Contemplation – consider what was faced by those who came before, and the choices you have made this past year, do you do yourself honour?’
An Excerpt from a Hearth of Albion Rite….
The approach to the end of this Calendar Year has been something different this year, one where intent and mundane activity have been curtailed by illness, enforced rest and recuperation – both from illness and from exhaustion, both a pertinent reminder of our own mortality…
Following on from our October sojourn in the beautiful autumnal Highlands of Scotland a mundane price had to be paid for the holiday – a return to work and for myself an extremely busy few weeks, the result of which was to leave me bone weary and wide open to being laid low by whatever bug came along… This year it has been the winter flu, which struck 10 days ago now and left me feverish and alone, some 200 miles from home in a hotel… A nightmarish journey back the following day was endured to return, and it has seen me off work for a week – which was to be spent with the team at our Head Office, leading our traditional CPD week – and even now, 10 days after the first fevers I am still not fully recovered…
Aging as I am – I am in my early 50’s now, with silver hair now prevailing over the blonde and brown of my youth – I now have to acknowledge that perhaps I am not as able to push myself to extremes – within and without of work – without having to pay a more hefty price than was the norm even only a few years ago now… Burning the candle at both ends was something once so easy, and yet now, well, we all have to learn certain lessons as we grow and age, and some of the hardest ones to acknowledge are those that creep up upon us…
As children the world seemed filled with wonder and unbridled opportunities, the land was there for us to explore and our bodies were equipped for us to do so without much complaint, as we age it is to find that the easy days of carefree abandon do end, the years take their toll and as much as we would wish otherwise we age and change…
With aging comes the realisation of mortality, firstly of our grandparents and then of our parents, to understand that they are human and capable of mistakes is perhaps our first awakening, but to then know they are mortal, and will one day leave us – and that we too are mortal and one day will leave those we love – is to perhaps know both the true nature of terror and also the first stirrings of wisdom…
Next we find that the body – once so strong and agile – begins to show the wear and tear that we have caused upon it, what was once easy gets harder with every passing year, aches and pains appear and ‘sound effects’ begin to accompany even the most basic of movements, mortality creeps up on us slowly but surely…
We can do all we wish to postpone the aging process – from denial and spending £££ in the pursuit of youth and the illusion of youth, or we can accept – gracefully or otherwise – that with encroaching years comes the burden of each year lived, it is what it is… How we choose to acknowledge our own aging is up to ourselves, to ignore, to disbelieve or to seek after elixir to prolong our lives – or at least to preserve the illusion of youth and beauty – is something that ultimately will prove a futile search, and one that will sap our life-force into potential bitterness as we seek to deny the reality of what is… Or we can choose instead to accept, to understand deep down that we too will one day perish, that infirmity comes with age, yet it carries its own wisdom, it is up to ourselves to decide our own reactions to what is…
Naturally as we approach the darkest time of the year, we turn to introspection, towards contemplation of our lives, of the past year and ultimately of own death… Do we seek to overcome our own death, to rile against Fate and to remain ourselves, however we so deem possible? Or do we instead accept what is ultimately coming to us all and seek to embrace that dark kiss, to accept the sweet release of death, of the rest and release from the pains of age? Do we even have a choice in the matter? Questions that the individual can only answer for themselves and perhaps headier fare than most wish to seek as we approach Midwinter and Yule…
Perhaps an easier subject to consider is what has the past 12 months brought us, how has the year challenged us, how have we acted – not in the eyes of others, but in our own eyes and those of our Ancestors? What have been the highlights, the successes, and what have been the lows for ourselves and for our kith and kin? If we have been fortunate, then we may not have too many regrets, but if we do have regrets then how can we change to ensure we do not have them again in future? What can we do to make amends to those who perhaps have been hurt or disappointed in our actions, if it is even possible to do so? Or instead do we need time to overcome our own perceived folly, to face our own shortcomings and to work upon them in isolation – even if that costs us with those we consider friends… Again circumstance and subject that are subjective and personal and for the individual to consider for themselves, but ultimately the navel gazing has to be done in order to learn and move forwards, but to prolong the introspection is to run the risk of missing out on the life around us….
As the rebirth of the Sun approaches, as the light is reborn anew in the world and the child of promise is born again, then once again we have an opportunity to allow ourselves to lay to rest all that was of the old year – to lay our burdens and regrets to rest – and instead seek to once more partake of hope in the future, the wise person will allow themselves time to make amends, time to grieve for what has been lost and time to metaphorically castigate themselves, but also will know that they cannot remain in such a place, to do so is folly of the highest order…
Instead those who would be wise have to move on, to seek once more – after a period of reflection and pause – to recommence their personal journey towards wisdom, towards becoming better than they were, reborn anew in the Solstice fire as their own Child of Promise… After all, a single miss-step upon a journey does not negate the thousand miles that have already been travelled, nor does a pause within the darkness mean we cannot once more blaze with the light – of illumination, gnosis and personal power… Each step forwards has to be taken, mistakes have to be made, Lapwings have to be followed, for only in doing so can we truly learn and move forwards, commuting knowledge to wisdom through experience…
May the reborn Sun lift the burdens of the past from your shoulders, may the future be now filled with hope for the year ahead… May you once more move forwards, as light-bringer to the world, to illuminate your own path and to inspire others to become all they can be…
So, I bid you Yuletide Blessings, I bid you Solstice Fire to warm your heart and fire your inspiration, I wish you feasting aplenty with kith and kin and mercy to yourself and to those who have wronged you, and forgiveness from those that you perceive you have wronged… I wish you a warm hearth, a full horn of mead and a full belly, a year of health, of love and of friendship, and I wish you hope and health for the coming year…
Whether you celebrate Samhain tonight, or Old All Hallows in the next few weeks, whether you choose to acknowledge the Ancestors as part of your ongoing praxis or just at this time of year ultimately matters not to anyone but yourself, your Gods and those Beloved Dead and Ancestors that you accept as your own…
As measured by some of our Ancestors today marks another year being over, more footsteps taken upon our individual crooked path, perhaps some small progress made, and – as always – plenty of missteps and mistakes….
More lessons learned and yet more to learn… The journey leads onwards, ever onwards…
As always the darker tide bids us to do the Shadow Work, to embrace all that we are and to understand both the positive and negative aspects of self, ultimately the integration brings about self knowledge and perhaps some small wisdom’s…
Another year over, another round of the compass within our own lives, another year closer to the grave… Death approaches us all, overcoming the fear of him is perhaps the first step on the road to freedom and ultimately to personal wisdom, to know it is nought but a kindness he brings to us all when our time is nigh…
It is what it is, and none of us can escape the fact that our lives on this realm will one day end… As to where we go, well that is for us each to explore for ourselves, we are nothing more than seeds of consciousness, planted in the fertile soil of mundane reality, how we then grow, and where we ultimately end is up to ourselves…
Blessings of the Darkening Tide, may you ever reap what you have sown…
This was originally posted to the Hearth FB Site on the 22nd September 2019 – apologies in being late sharing it here…
Whether this weekend you celebrate the Autumnal Equinox, or Alban Elfed, or choose instead to give it a more modern name – Mabon, dating from the 1970’s and Aidan Kelly’s book. Perhaps instead you choose to celebrate your Harvest at soon to arrive Michaelmas, or perhaps you don’t celebrate anything at this time, whatever, may I wish you seasonal blessings of this tide…
Once more the ‘balance point’ of the Equinox – equal night and day – is upon us, and yet for all we talk of balance, in reality it is a fleeting moment. At this time of year the changes are happening at their fastest – there is no real pause – the time of sunrise and sunset is moving by 6 minutes a day, and despite the unseasonably warm weather we shall soon be seeing rain, wind and cold that will remain until the spring,,,
But for many of us that are of a pagan persuasion we still feel it is a moment to pause, to mark the light giving way to the dark as autumn brings its gentle mists and mellow fruitfulness. The second Harvest is here, grains previously gathered now joined by the fruits of the land… We reap what we have previously sown, by word, by action and by intent; the scales of balance are also the scales of justice. Libra is now ascendant as the sign of both balance and of judgement, heralding the coming darker tide as we pass into the Mound at Samhain and face the more hidden aspects of life and death. A coming time of individual reflection which needfully demands our attention, in order that we may learn and grow from all of the lessons we have been gifted by the Fates during this turn of the wheel…
Around us the land assumes myriad hues, brilliant autumnal colours, so vivid that it lifts the spirits of all who see them, and yet this beauty comes at a price, these colours are really the colours of death, of decay and of letting go, the beauty of the leaves comes at the price of their lives; perhaps a metaphor for our own lives… Some leaves die young, still green, their promise taken too soon; some become diseased and fall early. Others reach maturity and are taken by random chance, and others hang on into old age, their youthful beauty fading into the colours of autumn as one by one they fall from the tree like death claiming us from life, with scant few making it through to midwinter or old age.. Akin to our own lives, we fall, harvested in our own time as we travel the length of our own lifespan, from the exuberance of youth to the wisdom of older ages, each point on the wheel has its beauty, its lessons and its wisdom for us to learn.
Taken as a metaphor for life then this point of the year represents maturity, the onset of middle ages, there is still vigour, and much to look forwards to, but the descent from our physical prime has begun, yet the peak gathering of experience and wisdom is still before us…
An excerpt from a Harvest Rite previously used by the Hearth of Albion….
John Barleycorn, for this rite, should be prepared in the following manner: 1) He must be male, and must be chosen by lot from a group of men who have all agreed to the possibility of taking this role. The choosing by lot is important; it is the way that the Gods chose their sacred kings in the long-ago past, and the Gods wish to have such choice again. 2) A wreath of wheat stalks and red poppies should be crafted, and placed on his head, and attached in such a manner that it will not come off. We suggest tying it in place with his hair. 3) Each person present should have a jar, there should also be a Cauldron or Mortar and Pestle for mixing. The jars should have different grains from the list below 4) King Oil, Stangs, Cauldron / Mortar, Incense, Sword, Knife, Cup / Horn, Libation, Cake / Bread, Cords, horn, drum
The John Barleycorn Rite
Lady – This is a sacrificial rite honouring the Corn King, who is the embodiment of all that is cut down that we may live. He is Frey, Ing, Lugh, Tammuz, Dumuzi, Adonis, and many other names; John Barleycorn is found everywhere that people grow and cut grain for their survival. Men of the Hearth, are you willing to serve, to take the place of the Sacrificial King and if needs be to lay down your life for the good of all?
Men – Aye
Woman – Then draw your straw from these lots and let the gods of Fate choose, may the best man now be chosen!
Woman – Brings up the 3 straws and the Men take one each. Once the Corn King is chosen the Corn Crown is placed on his head and he is anointed with the King’s Oil and takes the Cauldron / Mortar in his hands, all then revere the King!
All – Hail the King, Hail John Barleycorn, Hail the Green Man who lives and is sacrificed so that we may live on! Long Live the King!
The Grain Blessing
As each comes forward with a different grain and tips it into the cauldron / mortar they should say the following: For maize: “Feed us with words of life.” For barley: “Feed us with words of sacrifice.” For amaranth: “Feed us with words of the Sun.” For quinoa: “Feed us with words of the mountain.” For rice: “Feed us with words of wealth.” For millet: “Feed us with words of survival.” For rye: “Feed us with words of endurance.” For buckwheat: “Feed us with words of love.” For wheat: “Feed us with the words of the Gods.”
Lady – Our ancestors got up at dawn, Slaved in the dirt, Sweated in the sun, Chilled in the cold, Numbed in the snow, Scattering each seed with a prayer: Pray that there be enough, That no one starve this winter. Pray that no bird nor beast Steal the food I have struggled for. And most of all, Pray that each seed I save Of this harvest Shall next year Bring forth a hundred more.
Woman – We live today Because they worked Because they sowed Because they harvested Because they prayed.
Woman – John Barleycorn, you are the Sacrificial King, you are he that lays down his life that others may live, will you accept your role here today and play your part?
John – ‘Aye’
Lady – Then because of your sacrifice our People will live on and the tribe will survive! We now sing the praises of all the grains that are sacrificed in John Barleycorn’s name!
Woman- I sing the praises of Wheat, First grain of the wagon people of Europe, You who make the bread rise high, You who make the soft white dough, You who are sweet And can last a thousand years And still blossom forth in the Earth. I sing the praises of Wheat.
Man 1 – I sing the praises of Rye, Grain of the cold north, Grain who needs little to prosper, Grain who feeds those with the worst land, Tallest of the waving heads, Dark flour of nourishment, I sing the praises of Rye.
Woman – I sing the praises of Barley, Growing in the footsteps of Frey Cut down in the body of Ing Brewed to make the drink That makes hearts high And warms the family circle Grain of companionship, Grain of Rune of Sacrifice, I sing the praises of Barley.
Man 2 – I sing the praises of Buckwheat, Grain of high Tibet, Field of leaves like hearts And delicate white flowers, Grain shaped like the pyramids, Beloved of bees, I sing the praises of Buckwheat.
Lady – I sing the praises of Rice. Great grain of Asia, Fruit of a million paddies, Life of a billion people, Grain of the rat god Daikoku, Giver of prosperity, I sing the praises of Rice.
Woman – I sing the praises of Millet, Great grain of Africa, Planted in the hot fields Among the yams and melons Grain of the warmest sun Yin to buckwheat’s yang I sing the praises of Millet.
Man 1 – I sing the praises of Maize, Great corn of the North Continent, Yellow, white, red, blue, and black, Colours of the four directions And the centre of spirit, Whose name means “Life” I sing the praises of Maize.
Woman – I sing the praises of Amaranth, Great grain of the Mexican desert, Sacred grain growing taller than a man Yet with the smallest seed of all, Abundance in the dry time Saviour in a drought, I sing the praises of Amaranth.
Man 2 – I sing the praises of Quinoa, Great grain of the high mountains, Nourishment of the south continent, Reaching closest to the sky, Porridge and cleanser, Ground under the gleam of gold, I sing the praises of Quinoa.
Lady – I sing the praises of John Barleycorn and of grain, That which sustained our foremothers That which strengthened our foremothers That which fed all children’s hungry mouths That which multiplies from the earth, Giving back more than we give in turn. I sing the praises of the sacrifice That is cut down That we may live.
John Barleycorn puts down the Cauldron / Mortar and crouches down with his robe around himself
Planting The onlookers sing the first verse of “John Barleycorn”:
All – There were three men come out of the West Their fortunes for to try And these three men made a solemn vow John Barleycorn must die. They ploughed, they sowed, they harrowed him in Threw clods all on his head And these three men made a solemn vow John Barleycorn was Dead.
The Cutting The onlookers sing the second verse of “John Barleycorn”:
As this verse is sung, John Barleycorn slowly rises to his feet and casts off the Cloak. He lifts his arms to the sky, holding the grain. During this verse the man with the scythe and the woman with the sickle come forth.
All – They’ve left him in the ground for a very long time Till the rains from heaven did fall Then little Sir John’s sprung up his head And so amazed them all. They’ve left him in the ground till Midsummer Till he’s grown both pale and wan Then little Sir John’s grown a long, long beard And so become a man.
The man with the scythe / sword steps forward and says:
Man 1 – I sing the song of the scythe, Swinging through the air, Sharpness and keenness its breath, Rhythm its walk, The tooth of the Moon, The razor of the Sun. For sharpness means that we shall eat this winter, For keenness means that there shall be enough. May those of us who find ourselves to be blades Recall that our cutting edge Is best used for the nourishment of all.
The woman with the sickle / knife steps forward and says:
Woman – I sing the song of the sickle, Curved as the crescent moon, Shining as the reflection on the water, Sharp as the winter winds That threaten our well-fed sleep. I am the shedder of blood, The harbinger of Dire Necessity, The one who holds the bowl As the life force from all the sacrificed beasts Soaks into the Earth. I am She who accepts All that you have to give, and more. Will you give yourself to me, Willingly, joyously, like a bridegroom Going to the bed of his lover?
John Barleycorn – ‘Aye, I will give of myself, my life is forfeit and is given willingly to the Tribe!
Woman – Today, sweet golden king, My hand belongs to Her As does your body. I thank you for your gift of life And I promise you rebirth next year With this my very same hand. And in your turn Since someday my body will be Hers as well Promise me The same hope; Rebirth me in joy everlasting.
The Man and Woman ‘cut’ down John Barleycorn, the woman cuts his throat the man sweeps his legs and John falls to the floor to lie dead
The Binding The onlookers sing the third verse of “John Barleycorn”:
All – They hired men with their scythes so sharp To cut him off at the knee. They’ve bound him and tied him around the waist Serving him most barb’rously. They hired men with their sharp pitchforks To prick him to the heart But the drover he served him worse than that For he’s bound him to the cart.
The man and woman take long ropes and quickly bind the fallen with criss-crosses – Ing-runes, like a sheaf – from shoulders to ankles. They each take a pitchfork / stang from beside the altar and mime jabbing him in the heart.
The Threshing The onlookers sing the fourth verse of “John Barleycorn”:
All – They’ve rolled him around and around the field Till they came unto a barn And there they made a solemn mow Of Little John Barleycorn They’ve hired men with their crab-tree sticks To strip him skin from bone But the miller, he served him worse than that, For he’s ground him between two stones.
The people with Cords come forth. During the next few verses, they whip him lightly thrice. After this they should lift their Cords, forming a wheel. Then they walk around the fallen figure, miming pushing the mill-wheel hard.
The Final Sacrifice The onlookers go ahead and sing the last verse:
All – Here’s Little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl And brandy in the glass But Little Sir John in the nut-brown bowl’s Proved the stronger man at last For the huntsman he can’t hunt the fox Nor so loudly blow his horn (Blow the Horn) And the tinker can’t mend his kettles nor pots Without a little of the Barleycorn. Without a little of the Barleycorn. Without a little of the Barleycorn.
During this verse, the Man and Woman fetch the bread and beer from the altar and place them on his prone body, blessing them. Then they walk among the people, offering the bread and beer, and saying, “Taste sacrifice, that we may live.”
Once this is done John is untied and he then scatters some of the grain! The remainder is split between the jars to be used for any workings where growth / sacrifice is required.
John – Receive the harvest of my body that you may live, receive the blessings of my Sacrifice but remember in order to Harvest the Seed must be sown!
All – Hail the King, Hail John Barleycorn, Hail the Green Man who lives and is sacrificed so that we may live on! Long Live the King!
Lady – It is the nature of sacrifice To be difficult. If it was easy to throw away, It was no sacrifice. If it you will not miss it It was no sacrifice. If it was not the best you could give It was no sacrifice. If it was not agonizing to choose, It was no sacrifice. If it did not make you waver at least once in your choice, It was no sacrifice. If it did not make you weep, It was no sacrifice.
We have been fortunate to have had 2 visits to what can only be described as Neolithic Heaven over the past 2 years, a truly remarkable and inspiring place, these shots barely scratch the surface of the number of Sites on the islands of Orkney – if you have an interest in (pre)history, then Orkney should be at the top of your list of places to visit!
Image – ‘Saint George and the Dragon’ (c. 1506) by Raphael
I want to wish those I know a Happy St George’s Day……..
…… yet it is a sad reflection upon my own society that I have to then be concerned about the potential reaction to my own post, that there are those who – with the misappropriation of all things ‘English’ that has occurred over the past few years by the far right and racist elements of our society, most especially in this Brexit era – will misconstrue my motives and the reasons for my post and possibly even ascribe a political viewpoint or ideology to me that is incorrect… For those who are shallow minded enough to do so, then no comment I make upon my actions will suffice to enlighten you, and as such I may lose some of those who have befriended me upon FB, such is life, although I would hope that those who call me a friend will understand what I am trying to say….
The tale of St George, a third-century Christian soldier who saved the daughter of a pagan king by slaying a dragon, is one we all know, and for most of us he is the quintessential English hero, his cross forms the English flag, yet the historical George was not English, he never even set foot on this land, if we look to a brief online search for the historic St George and the legend of the Dragon associated with him, then we find the following on Wikipedia…..
“Saint George (Greek: Γεώργιος, Geṓrgios; Latin: Georgius; AD 275–281 to 23 April 303), according to legend, was a Roman soldier of Greek origin and officer in the Guard of Roman emperor Diocletian, who ordered his death for failing to recant his Christian faith. As a Christian martyr, he later became one of the most venerated saints in Christianity and in particular the Crusades. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_George)
The legendary events of the Saint George and the Dragon myth took place somewhere he called “Silene”, in Libya; the Golden Legend is the first to place this story in Libya as a sufficiently exotic locale, where a dragon might be found. In the tenth-century Georgian narrative, the place is the fictional city of Lasia, and the idolatrous emperor who rules the city is called Selinus.
The town had a small lake with a plague-bearing dragon living in it and poisoning the countryside. To appease the dragon, the people of Silene fed it two sheep every day. When they ran out of sheep they started feeding it their children, chosen by lottery. One time the lot fell on the king’s daughter. The king, in his grief, told the people they could have all his gold and silver and half of his kingdom if his daughter were spared; the people refused. The daughter was sent out to the lake, dressed as a bride, to be fed to the dragon.
Saint George by chance rode past the lake. The princess tried to send him away, but he vowed to remain. The dragon emerged from the lake while they were conversing. Saint George made the Sign of the Cross and charged it on horseback, seriously wounding it with his lance. He then called to the princess to throw him her girdle, and he put it around the dragon’s neck. When she did so, the dragon followed the girl like a meek beast on a leash.
The princess and Saint George led the dragon back to the city of Silene, where it terrified the populace. Saint George offered to kill the dragon if they consented to become Christians and be baptised. Fifteen thousand men including the king of Silene converted to Christianity. George then killed the dragon, and the body was carted out of the city on four ox-carts. The king built a church to the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint George on the site where the dragon died and a spring flowed from its altar with water that cured all disease.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_George_and_the_Dragon)
It therefore seems extremely odd to me that those of the far right and of a racist inclination seek to use the symbol of a foreigner as their badge of what it means to be English, and thus certain elements of their subculture seek to use this badge as a rallying point in order to incite xenophobic behaviours and even violence towards those who – in their eyes at least – are not ‘British’.
The fact that they are using something that originated in a foreign land escapes them, and rather than looking to the symbolism of the legend, and celebrating the courtly chivalrous behaviours of brave St George instead they seek to remove him from the equation almost altogether and make the day we have set aside to celebrate him into nothing more than an excuse for extremes of behaviour, deplorable in itself, but to allow the misappropriation of our heritage by a small number of shallow minded individuals is almost criminal, yet we allow it to happen…. If it happened to any of the symbols of those minorities that we have welcomed to our land, then there would be a public outcry, yet when it is our own National flag nothing is done and people fail to speak out for fear of being branded racist or of having sympathies with those who have taken our symbol for their own ends.
Almost as bad in my own mind are those who then consider that they cannot be proud of the insignia of their own land, who feel that they cannot publicly celebrate our national Saint’s day for fear of then appearing to belong to the sub cultural grouping of those who have perverted its true meaning to their own ends…. Rather than tackle this issue many would seek not to cause offence to others by not celebrating or displaying our flag – unless of course it is when our football team is playing in some competition or another where everyone is then encouraged to buy cheap plastic and mass produced flags to display everywhere.
Surely in these days of Equality and Diversity, in this multicultural and vibrant world that we live, and in this our ‘green and pleasant land’ we should be at a point where we can be proud of our heritage, be aware of its provenance and celebrate what it is to be English, or British without worry of upsetting those who share our land, if not then we need to work towards a time when being proud of who we are is no longer an issue….
Be proud of being English, be proud of whom you are and of your heritage, but learn the truth about our history and how our Ancestors behaved, what they did and why, do not blindly follow another’s vision of what our cultural history is, seek it out for yourself….