Back in the early 1980s Baroness Edmee Di Pauli invited Peter Dawkins to hold weekend events in their Elizabethan moated house, Stanley Hall, situated in Essex. For four years, the eight solar festivals were celebrated in true Troubadour style, the themes of the weekends following the initiatory cycle of the year. There were lectures, music - piano and a wonderful Celtic harp - songs, circle-dancing, and playlets written by Hugh Young and performed outdoors in the beautiful grounds. I remember the large bonfires and weaving our way through the gardens with appropriate circle-dances in the different areas.
One memorable afternoon, we played out the archetypes of the zodiac – complete with horns for Aries and red roses for Venus in Taurus – for some reason no-one really liked being in the position of Pisces! The gardener did look a bit non-plussed as he pushed his wheelbarrow around the circle! Stanley Hall wasn’t easy to get to – especially in the foggy winter months – so it felt as if we were in another space or level altogether, especially as we were surrounded by the water of the moat. It felt like a place of the mysteries.
Sir George Trevelyan recited poetry and Shakespeare, and Bokey (Thomas Bokenham) foxed us with Baconian ciphers, whilst Peter talked of the Bardic, Dionysian and Eleusinian mysteries. We played with the ideas of the Agape feast, the Love Feast, as a form of prayer and service. We had fun!
(Photo of the Summer House.)
It was a place of dedication and beginnings of celebrating the solar festivals and of pilgrimage. Zoence | Winter-Spring Quarterday, Imbolc Festival of Dedication, beginning of February
In a lovely ‘completing of the circle’, a cousin of Caroline’s is now chatelaine of Stanley Hall and has welcomed us there again, for a walk and tea in their lovely grounds, to celebrate Scorpio in the Wheel of Life. Hopefully, by October 2021 we shall be able to go again.
We also visited the round Hospitaller church of Little Maplestead which is very close to Stanley Hall. It is one of only four remaining round churches in England, modelled on the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem. Dedicated to St John the Baptist, it was the church of a Commandery of Knights Hospitaller.
Sited NE of Temple Church in London, it represents symbolically the cornerstone associated in ritual with the Knights Templar higher degrees. Often the earliest church structures were generally octagonal or circular, built as a baptistry; baptism being the time of dedication to your life purpose, which reflects the NE within the wheel of life’s initiatory cycle. The church is full of symbolism – we love the roses on the roof!
A rosy roof and the cross of St John
Little Maplestead holds a special position in relation to London, along with St Albans, The Seekers Trust at Addington Park near Maidstone (a healing centre), and The White Eagle Lodge at New Lands, near Petersfield (a meditational and healing centre). The four places are in a diamond pattern around London and geometrically act like a heart-jewel for London. Our heart- felt pilgrimages, dances and singing at these places can offer harmony and beauty to London.
In the 1990’s Caroline and fellow Gatekeepers pilgrimaged in a Troubadour Trail to the four sites around London at the appropriate time of year, celebrating the quarter days.
Sarah Dawkins and Caroline Weatherby
See ‘Core Truths’ by Peter Dawkins for more information