Just 3 days to the beginning of the year programme up at Heathercombe, residential centre on Dartmoor! Surely even as we speak you are packing sheep-skins to sit upon, Persian goblets from which to drink wine, parchment from which to draw images emerging from the story. Friday evening at 8pm (get there 7 for supper) the ship sets out onto the myth seas. Hope to see you at the harbour gates, just as night settles....we have never been told at the school before stories of queens with three drops of poison in their breast, hunters telling stories for the pelt of a black fox, faithful guides turned to stone, witches who keep a whip hidden underneath their pillow, one door that a father keeps locked to his son.....get in touch with Tina today!!!!at-
in a perfectly unashamed attempt to give you a taste of the school, i am dropping in an excerpt this week of a segment from a new book i am working on. I want to keep the main ideas under wraps for now - but i can say that it is a kind of myth-line of stories set across Dartmoor's great flank over about 2,000 years. A kind of local 'song-line' for those familiar with the aboriginal world. It's from the earliest story in the book - that of Brutus of Troy (Britain is named after him). Brutus has set sail for adventure, but with a troubled heart. ...come find us this weekend for more of the story!
Brutus and the Woman with the Moon in her Hair
Many seas came to meet him – the salt wall of the storm, the flat blue when no breeze creeps the sail, the jaunty push of the curling wave. All was an education in water. Silence he knew about. The ship was magnificent, two sheafs of oars on either side that almost skimmed the waves. A hundred men, fifty on each side, rowed hard. Their boy leader always gazed ahead – crow like in his focus, but golden in aura. Inside is a storm however, inside is a storm.
After a time they found themselves led by a swift wind to a deserted island. The men contented themselves by feasting and resting on the pearl white beaches, whilst Brutus wandered in past the tree line.
He came to the ruins of an old temple. It could have been a temple for Artemis, or Diana, or some great mistress of the Hunt who’s name is kept safe by badgers. Having been steeped in ritual etiquette, Brutus wasted no time. At the ivy clad entrance he lit three fires, then caught and sacrificed a white hart. He mingled its blood with wine and poured his offering onto the broken altar. The emerald glade protected Brutus from the harsh sun as he muttered his heart felt prayers for guidance. Afterwards he skinned the deer, lay on its white skin and fell into a visionary rest.
Soon a sweet breeze came through the boughs of the green wood. A young woman stood before him, small birds of dazzling colour hummed around her shoulders, the new moon was in her hair and she carried a sceptre with the morning star shining at its very point. On her back was an ornate bow and quiver of ebony coloured arrows, each with a differing star constellation carved delicately onto its stem.
When she spoke her breath was like honeysuckle and her tone strong but calm. She told him of an Island, far to the west, over nine waves. She spoke of it as a place where he would reign and establish a culture.
It was a place of bee and boar, great endlessly stretching oak forest, its western tip heavy with apples, its northern point sprinkled white with hoare-frost. It was always ancient, always a dream of a lonely god, always a ground for lovers to get lost in. Its land was not threadbare with human hand, the burgundy soil remained un-toiled, trees bent forward to share their fruit.
The river water alone was fit for the goblet of a queen, the sows udders was rich with milk, gold glittered in shingle, the stream was fat with pike. She spoke of a place where you could hunt for a thousand years with hawk, horse and hound and not dint the wild harvest. The stag would cross the lonely loch for a hunter who sang at dusk. In spring the meadows were ablaze with wild flower, like cups of honey. In winter the forest gave its seasoned timber to fires that never went out. In that snowy time the cup warmed with mead, belly filled with smoked meats and the tongue uncurled all the stories that bound weather, tribe and place together.
For the roe-deer there was the succulent tip of hazel shoots to nibble on, for fallow deer the ash, elm and hawthorn. Even the rook sang love songs to the worm – their gutterbrawl caw was somehow sweeter on this island. It becomes an incant, a hedgerow ballad, a raised lament. The animals powers were hot here, around, charged.
The young woman had sisters and brothers there. Divinities. Arianrhod – owl faced, ebony skinned, hair like a corn flood. Spider webs pour from her hands as she decides fates webs in our lives, ivy flanks her thighs and rump. She can forgive, and she can be Holy Terror. Cernunnos, moon-lover, horned radiance, dweller of the grove, strong-loined seed giver.
Utterly beloved by the people.
In a land like that, men eyes were firm and untroubled, in a land like that a woman’s mind arched out a hundred miles and knew she a hawk, or a defender of the waterfall. And the name? The name was Albion.
Copyright Martin Shaw 2011