Canterbury

canterbury

“Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?” These word of King Henry II spoken nearly 900 years ago, began a series of events that we still talk about today. Henry II and Thomas Beckett were good pals until Henry made Thomas the Archbishop of Canterbury. Then, Thomas did the unthinkable and decided to not do everything Henry wanted, that started a power struggle that ended when Henry’s henchmen took him literally and murdered Thomas in the middle of the Cathedral. Within hours of the murder, miracles happened with the blood of Thomas. Henry regretted his words and spent a lifetime doing penance. The world began walking to Canterbury for miracles and salvation.

A hundred and fifty years later, Geoffrey Chaucer immortalized the Canterbury pilgrimage and the stories of medieval life. 600 years later. The Canterbury Tales are still part of almost every high school curriculum, except my high school where the stories were deemed inappropriate and not good for me. Oh my.

Since I love reading about pilgrimages as much as taking them I picked up Jerry Ellis’ book Walking to Canterbury. Last year, I read his book Walking the Trail about his experience walking the Trail of Tears backwards from Oklahoma to Alabama to feel more connected to his Cherokee heritage. Jerry wanted to honor his English roots as well by making a pilgrimage in England. He also walked from London to Canterbury along the traditional pilgrim route. Throughout the story, he perfectly weaves The Canterbury Tales and life in medieval England into his own experiences of the local people and places he encounters, walking in both worlds simultaneously. During the pilgrimage, he carved a walking stick with the faces of Christ and Sequoya, to honor both pilgrimages.

When I made my own pilgrimage to Canterbury in 2005 I had never read The Canterbury Tales or the story of Thomas Beckett. What I knew was that Canterbury is a magnificent cathedral and the Archbishop of Canterbury is the highest authority in the Anglican church, As an Episcopalian the prayers always included the current Archbishop. I didn’t walk to Canterbury but took a train from London with my husband, teen daughters and my dear friend Rachael. It was the first warm day of spring and the town was alive with people wanting to revel in the glories of sunshine, blue sky and flowers against the backdrop of Gothic perfection. The day had a magic and wonder I will never forget.

We met up with Rachael’s daughter Anne and her family and bought a family ticket that included all of us as we were family by choice. Rachael and I wandered silently through the cathedral slowly enjoying every detail we could possibly see. I particularly liked the zodiac roundels in the floor near Trinity chapel that date to the 1400’s. Our tour took us to the crypt where we admired the elaborate vestments and chalices. Just at the door to the garden were prayer candles. I lit one and made a vow that I didn’t expect to make that day, a vow to do what the Universe asks of me whatever that was. It was a sacred moment that changed me, a vow as important to me as my baptism and confirmation and marriage.

Rachael and I stepped into the sunshine and were greeted by her 7 year old granddaughter Louise who was impatiently waiting on a bench. “Hurry up Nanny, I’m 72 years old now.” Louise was right. Time had stood still that morning and at least 65 years had passed in a twinkling of an eye that beautiful day.

candles in caterbury

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Scotland

Glen Lyon

Glen Lyon,  Perthshire Scotland

Scotland has been in the world news the last couple of weeks and it has also been in my personal news too.   I followed the vote for independence not because I hold an opinion, I don’t have enough information to form one, but because I have a personal reason for knowing the outcome, I own land in Scotland.   Yes, that’s right; I have my own piece of heaven, the Motherland, as Hamilton and I think of it.  Alexandra’s middle name is the family clan, McKay.  We love to go to the local highland games to see our people.

Last month a friend gifted me my own personal picnic spot near Oban.   I hope to go visit and enjoy my tiny spot.  But more importantly the land comes with a title.  I’m now legally able to be referred to as Lady Evans.    Thank goodness my status in the world is finally recognized.   I’ve put up signs to remind my staff of the changes in my social standing.

In 2009 Hamilton and I went to Scotland for the first time as part of a whirlwind tour around the UK.   We each had a list of sacred sites we wanted to visit.   Rosslyn Chapel was on the top of my list.   That enigmatic site didn’t disappoint.   I sat quietly soaking in the magic while William, the chapel’s cat, lay on my lap peacefully napping.

We visited Edinburgh Castle, the memorial to Sir Walter Scott and the art museum before heading toward Inverness and Loch Ness.   On the way to Inverness we spent the day in Perthshire to see the sacred sites of Glen Lyon.   I had contacted Barry Dunsford to take us to some of the hidden gems in this magical world.

We saw an ancient yew tree, Roman bridges, hermit caves, stone circles, crystal Fairy Mountains, Druid sites and mysterious chapels.   Hamilton enjoyed being able to just gawk at the scenery instead of driving the narrow roads. My favorite was the St. Mary’s Grail Chapel which has a beautiful painted ceiling with the lineage of Christ and mysterious Grail Knights.  In the center of the ceiling was a large painting of “The Judgment” tarot card.    It was unmistakable and a clear indication of a sacred place of esoteric knowledge.

Judgement Panel

Judgment

grail knight

Grail Knight

Later in the week we went to the stone circle of Kilmartin and took the ferry over to the island of Islay.   Here we visited Hamilton’s sacred site the Lagavulin distillery.  On Islay we also visited a tiny church with a special Celtic cross.  In the grave yard the headstone of a little girl caught my eye.  She was born September 26 and died ten years later on September 26.  The day we were there was September 26.  I said a special prayer for her.

Celtic Cross   Islay Scotland

Islay

Kilmartin

Kilmartin

Scotland calls me, I have so much to discover and learn there. We just got a taste of Scotland and it is top of the list to revisit especially now that we have societal and financial interests at stake.  I want to go to the holy island of Iona and the stones of Callenish.   One mystery at a time, I want to become part of the wind and the land of my little plot of ground and soak up this sacred land.

 

Barry Dunsford and the Sacred Land of Scotland   www.sacredconnections.co.uk

Land and titles in Scotland   www.highlandtitlesVIP.com

mugs

A gentle reminder for my staff

 

Castle Howard

Castle Howard

Castle Howard,  Yorkshire England

The other day I was still sick with a virus and need to take a nap.  So to help me fall back to sleep I put on one of my favorite movies, Brideshead Revisited, based on a novel by Evelyn Waugh.   I know almost by heart every scene and every sentence of this beautiful mini-series.   I was 17 years old and somehow allowed to watch it when it first aired on Masterpiece Theater in 1981.   Brideshead Revisited was the one of the most important experiences of my teenage years, far more influential than a teacher or a book or any other experience for those were very circumscribed by my cloistered religion.   No, it was a TV drama that gave me the first taste of a larger world and new ideas.

This sweeping 13 hour long series is Charles Ryder’s story from of his early days at Oxford all the way to his service in World War II   and his relationship with the very wealthy and powerful Flyte family; primarily a mother, brother and sister. This family, the castle Brideshead and religion all shape Charles’ experiences and choices.   The scenery, castle, music and story line all enchanted me at such an impressionable time of my life.   I realize now after seeing it many times that Charles’ experiences and questions were to be the so similar to mine.  It was a foreshadowing of my relationship with a family, a house and religion.

As a child I never knew why I was an American and always thought I was supposed to be English.   I even felt exiled here in the US.   It was no wander that I was so drawn to this story and now I realize that it is also part of past life memories.  I couldn’t wait to get back to where I felt I really belonged.    In 2009 I went to England to see my imagined homeland.   The top of my itinerary was to visit Castle Howard in Yorkshire where Brideshead Revisited was filmed.   Somehow I expected the history of the Flyte family but instead found the story of the remarkable Earls of Carlisle.    There is room of the house with pictures and information on the mini-series and more recent film remake.

It was a magical day to see this house that I knew so well, the hallways and galleries and sweeping staircases.   It was sunny and warm that September day as I sat by the beautiful fountain that was purchase from Prince Albert in the 1800’s.   One of my favorite places was the chapel attached to the house, with stained glass by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, a pre-Raphaelite painter who inspired me.

Castle Howard was as much a pilgrimage for me as any of the great scared sites I have visited because it was so personal for my own journey to a larger life view, and a memory of my childhood dreams.   This pilgrimage healed something from the past in this life and other lives.     Since my trip to England I feel more at home in East Tennessee, like something was fulfilled by just standing on the land and seeing it again.

Reasons to Visit Sacred Sites #4

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4: Sacred sites are designed for use at equinoxes and solstices and specific dates. They are used to maximize the energies of these times.

Stonehenge still holds many mysteries but we do know the astronomical alignments of this great sacred site. The stones of Stonehenge were set for an exact alignment of the winter and summer solstice sunrises. When the sun rises on the solstice, not only is there an alignment the indicated end of the solar year but also this alignment and rays of the sun activated the site to a higher level of energy.

Chichen Itza Mexico has interesting phenomena on the spring and fall equinoxes. On the afternoon of those days the sun cast a shadow down the side of the pyramid that resembles an undulating snake. A link to the great god Quetzalcoatl? This is only during that particular alignment and not other days.

The temple of Abu Simbel in Egypt is aligned so the sun on Oct 21 and Feb 21, dates that correspond with the Pharaoh’s birthday and coronation, shines through this long temple (over 70 feet) and illuminates the two of the three gods in the Holy of Holies. The god of the underworld, Ptah, is positioned so that he doesn’t get illuminated. How did they ever calculate that? When the temple was moved up the hill before Lake Nasser was flooded in the 1960’s the engineers worked to keep this same alignment.

At the Great Serpent Mound, a 1348 foot long effigy mound in southern Ohio, the head of the serpent is aligned to the summer solstice and the coils of the body point to the solstice and equinox sunrises and sunsets as well as lunar alignments. The tail is aligned to true North.

The knowledge of these stellar, solar and lunar alignments not only act as a calendar but bring powerful energy from the sun, moon or stars allowing the power and wisdom of these alignments more accessible. Like being under a spot light where the heat and light are powerful but move just a few feet and there is just a light on the floor.

Now it is December 2012 and our entire Earth in a special alignment. Not only are we at the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, but our sun rises in the great rift of the Milky Way galaxy. This cosmic alignment that happens only 26.000 years, gives us more access to the power and light of the great central sun of our galaxy.

Stonehenge

stonehenge

If you ask someone on the street to name a sacred site I’m sure that Stonehenge would be a common choice along with the Pyramids, the Vatican, or Westminster Abbey.

Stonehenge was at the top of my must see list.   I was dying to get there.   I didn’t go the first time I went to England.   That was a family vacation, still filled with sacred sites, but not the right time for Stonehenge.   I wanted to have my first encounter with one of the most famous spots on Earth to be special.  I had heard people say, “it’s not special, just some rocks, not as big as I expected”.   I was not deterred and I wanted my first glimpse to be sacred.

I convinced my husband Hamilton that we needed to go to England and Scotland.  It didn’t take much convincing because the “motherland” as we refer to it, was at the top of our list. “ Oh, and by the way Dear, you are going to drive.”   He took the challenge and armed with GPS, maps, atlas and me as navigator we survived our first roundabout.   I had planned the start of our trip around Stonehenge.   I made the special reservations to get inside, which you have to do before hours otherwise you just get to be behind the chain.   I wanted in.   We had a reservation for 8 AM as close a day to fall equinox 2009 as I could get.

The night before our reservation we stayed in Salisbury and rose early to head to the Salisbury Plain to get our first glimpse.  It was a beautiful sunrise making everything pink and gold.   The security guard let us in and along with about 20 other people I walked under the road toward the pilgrimage site I had longed to see for so many years.   I walked on ahead of everyone and for a one glorious minute I was the only person standing surrounded by those stones.  They welcomed me.  I took my time and slowly walked around greeting each stone in turn.  I marveled at their height, their beautiful mossy coats, their “ancientness”.

Birds were sitting on top of the stones calling in the early morning light.  I could not have been happier.  I just breathed in the beauty of the sun and meadows and those beautiful wise stone, wiser than I could ever be. What had the seen?  What did they know?   I plucked up a bit of the blowing lamb’s wool as a talisman and gave thanks with an offering.   I spent the last 10 minutes of my time there sitting in that circle of stones filling myself up with the glory of it all.   As my wise teacher says “we are in the glory now”.