About five miles North of Barry in the Vale of Glamorgan, lies Tinkinswood Burial Chamber - a spectacular tomb boasting one of the largest known capstones in Western Europe.
Tinkinswood has a low chamber, walled on three sides and two flanking walls either side of the mighty capstone that creates a forecourt effect in front of the monument. In 1914 the tomb was excavated and the remains of about 50 people were unearthed from beneath the capstone. (Sadly their remains are now believed to be in storage in Cardiff Museum. I disagree very strongly with this; in my view these bones should be reburied in the tomb.)
Tinkinswood is believed to have been constructed around 2000-1800 BCE in the Megalithic period, and there are many strange legends attached to it. For instance, if you sleep overnight there on Beltane (or some way the Summer Solstice), you are supposed to either become a poet or go insane. Having camped there myself on the Summer Solstice about ten years ago, I certainly haven't written much poetry in the meantime, although I can't really comment on how my sanity has been affected. The only odd thing that did occur on my vigil was at one point I heard footsteps and the sound of breathing behind me, but when I went to investigate (I thought a fellow Pagan had come to join me) there was not a soul in sight.
There are numerous ways of working practical magic in Wicca, some highly ritualised and complicated, others very simple. Probably one of the most popular in the craft today is cord magic, not least because it is a very powerful method of working in a coven environment, but also it is easily adapted for use by the lone spell worker.
The cord as a magical tool certainly has its own characteristics and symbolism, it is particularly suitable for spells that involve for example binding and/or grounding; and certainly they generate an energy of their own, and are particularly useful for spells where other forms of magic may be inappropriate such as banishing spells. In the binding of the initiate in the first-degree initiation, the cords represent the restriction of the womb before the candidate is symbolically reborn, furthermore the blindfold represents the darkness therein. Powerful symbolism indeed!
In my parent coven, the main method of working cord magic was that after the power had been raised and everyone had fallen to the ground to welcome it and show respect, the assembled coven would then sit around the perimeter of the circle man/woman alternately as far as possible. Each brother or sister present would then name the petition. This would continue, with the invocation being repeated over and over again, faster and faster until the High Priestess decided that enough power had been raised, and all would release their end of the cord so that the cords would then collapse in a bundle in the centre of the circle whilst the coven concentrated on the power being discharged into the astral sphere and the universe. The cords were then gathered up and placed on the altar with the knots still intact; these were not undone until just before the next circle.
Some may have attempted scrying with a crystal or perhaps a makeshift device such as a glass of water with some ink added to darken the water. Here are some basic instructions on practical scrying which I have found effective.
1. The room in which you conduct your sitting should have a peaceful atmosphere. Many scryers burn incense to help alter the state of their consciousness, incense however works better for some than others - it is up to you to decide which suits you best.
2 You should also make sure there is no chance of you being disturbed. Also allow adequate time for a long sitting.
3. The room should be darkened and lit only by candles or a low wattage light bulb. This will prevent the crystal from reflecting items in the room.
Perched high over the magnificent Three Cliffs Bay , the mysterious Pennard Castle has to be one of the most picturesque ruins on the Gower Peninsula . Little is recorded of the history of the stronghold, but it is believed to be of late 13th century origin and to have been occupied for only a short period of time before abandonment. With few historical documents to detail the site, the castle is bathed in an air of superstition with many legends and folktales noting the castle to be both haunted and cursed!
A Moonlit Three Cliffs Bay
Broad Pool, Cefn Bryn
Cefn Bryn is the Gower Peninsula's second highest point, rising 188 metres above sea level. As well as being Gower's dominant land mass, it also holds one of the densest collections of cairns and othe pagan stone relic formations in the whole of South Wales.
Over four metres long, two metres broad and two and a half metres high and raised on a series of angular stone supports, the capstone is an incredible twenty-five ton boulder of quartz conglomerate that was deposited here by a glacial ice sheet that crossed the entire South Wales countryside during the last great Ice Age. At this time the stone weighed a good ten tons heavier that it does today as some time before 1693 the rock was split cleanly in two. The stone was once the centre of druid worship and it is said that St. David took his mighty sword to the monument to prove it as an altar of false gods. The large segment of split rock still lays at the foot of Arthur's Stone.
Woodhenge (SU 151 434), one of Britain's most sinister ancient sites, lies just 2 km north east from Stonehenge.Although the place can strike modern day visitors as little more than a rather confusing, bizarre and curious place, the location has a macabre history rare amongst such prehistoric landmarks.
Often overlooked by visitors to the neighbouring monuments of the Avebury Stone Circle and Silbury Hill, West Kennet Long Barrow ( SU 105677) possesses an atmosphere at total odds to the lush and vibrant countryside amongst which it stands. A definite aura of death resides amongst this, the largest of Britain's Neolithic Long Barrows and this rather chilling vibe has both attracted and been intensified by practitioners of the ocult using the tomb for their ceremonies and spellcraft.
Evidence of Ritual Magick Practised at West Kennet Long Barrow
High above the village of Uffington, sprawled some 374 feet across the peak of the Berkshire Downs, lies the leviathon and abstract figure of a creature - known as the Uffington White Horse (SU 302 866). So immense and commanding is this landmark - formed by cutting the outline of the animal from the turf to reveal the white chalk underlaying the hill - that it drains much of the attention away from the village's list of other historical and literary points of interest.
John Betjemen (Poet Laureate 1972 - 1984) lived in Uffington, as did 'Tom Brown's Schooldays' author Thomas Hughes, who used this landscape so evocatively in many of his novels (a bronze statue of Hughes is displayed in the village's 13th Century Church). The area also holds many legends - one of which asserts that Dragon Hill - a peak nearby the Uffington figure - is the scene where St. George slew the infamous dragon (a patch of barren ground on this hill is said to have been poisoned by the dragon's spilt blood). Indeed, so prevalent is this particular legend amongst the locals of Uffington, that many people believe that the White Horse is not a horse at all, but is instead a representation of the huge, fiersome dragon destroyed by St. George. However, whilst its abstract and somewhat ambiguous design allows for such an interpretaion, most scholars on the subject are of the opinion that this hilltop creature is, in fact, a symbol of a horse and point to historical and archaeological evidence to support their assertions.
Driving along the A4 road, between Marlborough and Beckhampton, very close to the village of Avebury (famous for its stone circles), a curious (odd-looking may be a more appropriate description) hill distracts all but the most unimaginative of motorist's attention.
Legend holds that the Devil, on his way to Marlborough to deposit an absolutely immense shovel full of earth on the town (it is unknown to this author exactly what the townsfolk of Marlborough had done to irk the Devil into such an act) when he passed a cobbler, labouring to the town with a large sack full of old shoes on his back. Asking the cobbler how much further it was to the town, the wise cobbler, recognising his fellow traveller as the Devil, replied:
The Sweyne Howes tombs (SS 421 898) are situated approximately 300 feet apart and were constructed by the peninsula's very first farmers. It was their funeral practice to bury their deceased along with certain goods and belongings (which they believed the dead would be able to make use of in the afterlife) and to then balance large slabs of stone upon the graves.
The northern most tomb stones are the best preserved of the two monuments, although neither anywhere near approaches the fine condition of the similar Neolithic tomb construction on Cefn Bryn known as Arthur's Stone (I'll publish more on that particular monument in tomorrow's post).
The Sweyne Howes Northern Tomb
Yellow Top Cliff, Gower
Scarring the massive limestone outcrop of Yellow Top Cliff (named after the yellow-orange lichen that decorates its rock face) on the south coast of the Gower Peninsula are numerous caves of various sizes and of differing archaeological significance. These are known collectively as Paviland.
The most important cave in the Paviland Series is Paviland Cave itself (pictured above). More accurately known as Goat's Hole (SS 437 858), the cave offers moderately easy access during low tide conditions only. A watchful eye should be kept on the sea, however, as the cave becomes isolated with the incoming tide. There is access to the cave at other tidal conditions, though these routes are far more difficult to navigate and have led to several deaths in the past. Formed by wave action, when the sea level was up to 8 metres higher than today, the cave entrance is pear shaped and faces S40 degrees West. Standing 10 metres high by 7 metres wide, the entrance leads onto a passage which continues at walking height for some 30 metres into the limestone cliff. This chamber leads into a chimney, from which daylight can be glimpsed 20 metres above, and to two hollows in the ground. These depressions are the remnants of the two major excavations of the cave, dated 1823 and 1912.
Goat's Hole was first excavated in 1822 by Mr. L W Dillwyn and Miss Talbot of Penrice Castle. Interested by the discoveries made here, the Very Reverend Dr. William Buckley re-excavated the cave the following year. It was during this secondary and more substantial exploration that one of the World's most important archaeological finds was uncovered. At the time, however, the discovery was completely misidentified. Buckley was the first Professor of Geology at Oxford at the time and was later to become Dean of Westminster. He was also a devout Christian and it was this latter fact that led Buckley into not recognising the full importance of his find.
Buckland believed that no animal or human remains could be dated earlier than the Great Flood that is recorded in the Bible. Misguided by his religious preconceptions, his dating of the skeleton was wildly off the mark. Another misconception of his also guided him into misjudging the sex of the skeleton as well.
Intoxicated by its heady scent and dizzied by its vibrant colours, Faery passions are said to be roused wherever large carpets of Heather are found in a landscape. According to ancient lore, such spots mark the location of magical portels, bridging the eveyday world of people with the Faery realm.
A Rare Patch of White Heather, Rhossili Down, Gower
Poppies (Papaver rhoeas) are one of Britian's most vibrant and beautiful wild flowers. Given their delicate splendour, is is no surprise to find the flowers are rich in folklore and symbolism.