REPORT ON EAST ANGLIAN GATEKEEPER PILGRIMAGES 2020
2020 was an interesting year, as well as a learning experience too. Our Spring Equinox visit to Ely Cathedral had to be cancelled because of the Covid lockdown, which was terribly disappointing. However, the Cathedral was open again for the Autumn Equinox, for our combined event with the Wheel of Life in Libra.
So off we went on 24th September, which was cold and threatening rain. As can happen to the brave and foolhardy, the clouds cleared for us and we proceeded in two groups of six. One led by Kate Hesketh Moore and one by me. We didn’t realise it then, but Gatekeeper Trust, as an educational charity dedicated to ‘the research of Temples and holy structures, art and music’, was allowed to be in a larger group, as long as we were socially distanced.
After meeting at a dramatic curve in the River Great Ouse, we set off to walk uphill from the river to Ely Cathedral. We started our pilgrimage proper in the beautiful Jubilee Gardens, stopping to tune-in and dedicate our day by a striking statue of an eel balanced upright on its tail, looking remarkably like a lively spine! There are eel references dotted about through the Jubilee Park, including a large mosaic created from ceramic fragments found when the Park was created – in its former life it was a bustling dock area.
DEDICATION AT THE EEL STATUE IN ELY’S JUBILEE PARK
VENERABLE PLANE TREE IN DEANS MEADOW
Continuing ever upwards we travelled through Ely Park stopping to admire some absolutely stunning trees and tuning in, particularly with a venerable, sprawling plane tree. What a being!. Ely has the most intact monastic buildings of any Cathedral in Europe, giving it a feeling of stepping back in time as you approach it on foot, through the park and the old buildings which surround it. You are also aware of moving through a chakra system from the Root at the River to the Cathedral at the Crown.
STUNNING VIEW OF ELY CATHEDRAL FROM ELY PARK
We were able to walk the Labyrinth, just inside the Cathedral doors, one at a time, while the rest of the group explored the interior. One of the Cathedral attendants told us that the length of the labyrinth is equal to the height of the tower which rises over it. Unfortunately, people entering the Cathedral rarely notice what they are treading on as they walk through, which makes it interesting as one avoids bumping into them! Kate’s group had a very helpful woman attendant, and she cleared obstacles from our path, and alerted people as they entered that someone was walking the labyrinth, which caused some interest.
WALKING THE ELY CATHEDRAL LABYRINTH
Not being able to sing was a hardship, but we felt we had touched into the spirit of the place and that we were welcomed by it’s Guardians. We picnicked in the Cathedral grounds, where a watery sun briefly came out to bless us, and there was much to see in the town. We gathered as one group to close and give thanks, then descended the hill again. The rain started as we reached the bottom!
GATHERING TO CLOSE OUR PILGRIMAGE AROUND THIS SPIRALLED SNAKE BARK MAPLE CLOSE TO THE WEST DOOR OF THE CATHEDRAL
Midsummer at White House Farm Labyrinth
The Sinfield Trust, which has established a nature reserve, with rare breed cattle, woods and species rich meadows including orchids, is at White House Farm, Hasketon, in Suffolk. It is here we went to celebrate the Summer Solstice, drawn by the beautiful Labyrinth there, as well as the lovely surroundings. The Labyrinth was laid out with the help of Jess Saward, well-known labyrinth expert and author, and is beautifully cared for by the Danial family who run the Trust. Luckily, lockdown finished before our date of 20th June, but keeping to the new rule of six meant we had to turn down eleven people, which was sad. They all tuned in from their local landscapes however, and were very much with us in spirit.
LABYRINTH AND LABYRINTH SEAT AT WHITE HOUSE FARM
We stood around the labyrinth in a circle, to make our atunement and dedication for the day, ending by singing Kate Hesketh Moore’s lovely Labyrinth Song together:
“I walk this path that winds about me
Each careful step a prayer for wisdom
I look to let go of those things
That serve me not, that serve me not.” (click here for the full song)
Then we walked the labyrinth one by one in silence, the others encircled around, holding the space. The birds sang and the sun shone.
After a picnic, some of us walked to where a double circle of trees has been planted in a field. The circle is 42 metres across, and is planted with Oak, Hawthorn and Lime trees. The outer circle has 4 Oaks marking the Cardinal points of the compass and eight Red Flowering Hawthorns mark the eight points of the Wheel of the Life. Altogether there are twenty-four Hawthorns and in the centre a Worcester Pearmain Apple tree. The planting was done according to the most appropriate Moon cycle and sidereal rhythms.
The atmosphere in the circle is certainly wonderful, and perhaps has a soporific effect? As we enjoying the space by lying on the grass. Jude Banks brought bubble blowing kits and we had great fun blowing soapy coloured bubbles! When we started to sing, the Red Poll cattle came and joined us, gently blowing their great noses and nodding their heads as if in approval. When we did a wild version of “The king of the Fairies” dance around the apple tree, they got bored and pushed off. Eventually we did the same, gathering to give our thanks to the Kindly Luminous Beings, and so ended a very special day.
PLAYING RECORDER AND BLOWING BUBBLES IN THE TREE CIRCLE
NB The Daniel family also run a Glamping business at White House Farm, called Secret Meadows. The tents are set under the trees, looking out over the meadows, there is also a Hobbit Box and Gypsy Caravan. I highly recommend it; every detail has been thought through with great care. For anyone interested, Secret Meadows has a website.
Winter Solstice Dec 21st in Eight Acre Wood, Rendham
Normally at the Winter Solstice we watch the sunrise on the beach, choosing different places along the Suffolk coast. Then we go for a big breakfast somewhere, to warm up, chat and share about the year’s events and possible plans for the next cycle. This is followed by a bonfire in Eight Acres Wood at Rendham. This year, because of Covid 19, we couldn’t go anywhere for breakfast, and so decided to just to do the bonfire. It was disappointing, and we were not surprised that only ten people volunteered to come.
Two days before, Pam Bridges and I built a fire in the lovely open circle that John Rogers had created in his wood, following sacred fire principals, we placed sticks and branches at the base, laid facing North- South, East- West. Once we had a good grid base, we laid tall branches in a wigwam shape, building outwards and weaving it in slightly, so it was strong.
The Solstice dawned cold and wet with a constant drizzle of rain! Everyone turned up though and we processed to the top of the hill, where, had there been no clouds, we should have glimpsed the sun coming up over the horizon. Donna Copnal had brought her Bullroarer*, a small boomerang shaped wooden instrument on a long string, which, at the moment of sunrise she whirled around her head, making a low whirring sound, rising and falling in pitch. It was very atmospheric. When she stopped, we all stood in the total silence that followed. Then, from the bottom of the wood, came a wind, gathering in intensity, sweeping through the trees above us – like a response. It was utterly magical, lasting several minutes, then silence. We stood transfixed for some time.
Looking up into the trees, the words of a song came to me “Whistle down the wind, Breezes rushing everywhere, Whistle down the wind, Sylphs are dancing thro’ the air…”
We walked in silence to the circle and paused to connect with the Guardian before entering. Then we stationed ourselves in twos and threes at the Cardinal Points of the circle, which are marked by John Rogers with four English Red Oaks. After a pause, we sang “Darkness into Light” by Kate Hesketh Moore (recorded by Anam Cora on YouTube) and gradually we walked towards the centre. Lighting the fire was a challenge, even though we had covered it with a tarpaulin! Eventually we prevailed though, and were soon warming ourselves, singing and eating baked potatoes which we heated in the fire.
When the fire had burnt down a bit, our closing act was to share between us some special ash, which was brought from the aboriginal sacred earth fire ceremony at Uluru in Australia last year, by one of our pilgrims. Everybody had a tiny bit. This we gave to the fire in succession, holding the thought of Mother Earth in our minds. What happened was truly astonishing, because the fire, which had died down, suddenly came to life, and huge flames roared upwards as we each in turn made our offering. This was another incredibly special moment. Like a gift, the wind and the fire spoke to us – responding to our thoughts, sounds and actions. What we believed would be a muted down, unexceptional pilgrimage, turned out to be anything but!
*Further Info: Bullroarer-Wikipedia
Wheel of Life in Scorpio
This was to have been on 30th October, but sadly had to be cancelled because of Covid restrictions, which were full on once more. However, Sarah Dawkins and I did a special Atunement in our own homes, sending love and light to the very special area in Essex at Little Maplestead and Stanley Hall. We have gone here each year since 2018 to where there is a lovely Knights Hospitaller church, dedicated to St John the Baptist. It is modelled on the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and one of only five round churches in the country. Sited North East of Temple Church in London, it represents symbolically the corner stone associated in ritual with the Knights Templar Higher Degrees. Nearby Stanley Hall, is a beautiful moated country house, once owned by Baroness Edmee di Pauli, who was a friend of Peter and Sarah Dawkins and invited them to bring groups there in the 1980s. In a lovely ‘completing of the circle’, a cousin of mine is now chatelaine of Stanley Hall and has welcomed us there again, for a walk and tea in their lovely grounds. Hopefully, by October 2021 we shall be able to go again.
Sarah and I both did a mandala using the Star map of Gt Britain, marking Scorpio, as you can see. We didn’t collaborate on this, it just happened!
Caroline Weatherby McCausland