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Spriggans of Light: A Pilgrimage from Carn Lês Boel to Come to Good.

About half-way through a recent 6-day pilgrimage, (lead by Richard Dealler of Mary/Michael Pilgrims Way), I learnt a new word.  Spriggan.   It was used by our overnight camping host and transformational healer, Annie Turner, to describe the sparks of light coming from the fire in the pit, a warm and welcoming focal point for weary pilgrims to gather around after a full day of contemplative walking.

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A little research and I have discovered that a spriggan is a nature sprite or changeling in Cornish folklore.  Not a particularly savoury character by some accounts, to be found guarding hoards of ill-gotten gains.   Used to describe sparks from a fire, then I can easily embrace spriggans as nature spirits dancing in the flames.   It occurred to me that, as pilgrims, we were not unlike spriggans: little beings of light  breaking free to sparkle in the darkness before finally evaporating into the ether.

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West Cornwall Beltane Pilgrimage organised by Mary Michael Pilgrims Way guided by Richard Dealler.
The Node Stone
Be still, for this is sacred ground,
A place to stand and pause. Reflect
upon the pathway here –
The lessons learned, the gifts received.
Be still, and listen to the voice
That sings a song of unity,
Blessing the journey still to come
With love and deep humility.
Brenda Desborough.
This poem was read out by Richard to mark the start of our pilgrimage.  We are standing on the node point at Carn Lês Boel.  The point where the Michael and Mary Lines make landfall and come together after snaking their way across the waters from Ireland, (I dowsed it that way on this day, but initially dowsed by Hamish Miller).  The reading perfectly sets the tone for our next few days together.

12 pilgrims in all set off on that journey together: a dolly mixture assortment of backgrounds and eccentricities, such as artists and photographers and, not surprisingly the majority of people from various caring professions which includes a homeopath, a psychotherapist, an Alexander technique practitioner, a few musicians and healers, an ex-lawyer, a songstress and one couple.  And me.   Then there is Christoffer, the backup team: driver, cook and provisioner for the duration, a cauldron of bubbling energy.  He scolds us when we left tea bags lying around the camp, woos us with poetic observations or serenaded us with soulful sounds skilfully bowed from his violin strings.  He also fills our bellies with welcoming, tasty curries and vegetable stews flavoured with foraged herbs.  We could not have done without Christoffer.

This is not just a walk-and-camp holiday as a couple of participants had thought it might be.  The word ‘pilgrimage’ in the title is a bit of a give away.   Walking in silence and sharing this intense experience of internal and external journeying is part of what constitutes the difference between a ‘walk’ and a ‘pilgrimage’.   But due to the nature of silent walking, we rarely get to know our fellow pilgrims  over and above what they do for a living.  For instance, I can’t tell you about family matters or how many children other people might have had.  But that doesn’t seem to matter.  Just being with other people and experiencing their essence overriding words is enough, understanding a power in people being together, body and soul, in the natural environment.  When we do talk, other than the daily natterings, what is slowly revealed, skilfully guided by Richard and Christoffer, are mirrors of our own thoughts and feelings as most of us manage to summon up the words to share deeper aspects of ourselves to each other.

The week is not without its moments of tension that spontaneously erupts and ripples through the group from time to time.  Richard’s experience in working with offenders of domestic violence meant that these troublesome niggles were ‘aired’ and dealt with in the group circle sessions.  But it wasn’t all heavy and introspective either.  There are many, many  light-hearted moments too and a lot of joyful banter and much laughter.  Singing and bright conversation.  Poems recited and musical instruments played.  So that by the end of our time together we felt more like a family of friends, embracing our differences and sharing our truths, than a band of weary pilgrims.

 

Then there is the walking.  Lots of it.  About 60 miles following the Mary earth energy line across the hidden parts of the west Cornish countryside to visit quiet country churches, holy wells, hill-top markers, stone circles and standing stones that accent points along the Line.  What should have been familiar territory for me often felt like we were walking in a foreign land, tacking across it, this way and that, in Mary’s gentle, energetic field.  A couple of themes begin to emerge.   For one,  there is a definite heart vibe going on: everywhere you looked there are shapes resembling hearts, even heart-shaped puddles.  The other theme is a cross, like the cross of St.Piran (a black cross on a white background), the patron Saint of tin-miners (and of Cornwall).  They were on rocks on the beach, like the one I photographed at Nanjizel….too big to put in my pocket.  The turn stile on the path leading to St Piran’s Well, in the gardens of Bryher Cottage, Perranwell was in the shape of a St Piran’s Cross.  (Or were they kisses?)

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When we came to St Michael’s Mount, I was invited to try out my new Chakra Walk on the group.  Realising why I had been prompted to throw my coloured silks into my bag at the last minute, this seemed like a good way to elevate our visit above just a tourist experience as we tuned in with Mary once again on the Mount.  (you can find a report about it on the Mary Michael Pilgrim Way Facebook page)

Then there is Richard, our steady leader and pace setter.  I knew the moment I met him, we were all in safe hands.  A special red-coated leader, often a sweater skirt tied around the waist, ready to hand out the blister plasters or dispatch a casualty or two in a taxi to the next camp when the need arose.  As it did on a couple of occasions.  Once when a ‘gent’ got one of his new boots stuck between a couple of granite boulders whilst crossing a stile, falling backwards into a bed of stinging nettles and leaving his foot wedged at a precariously twisted angle.  The sort of thing you see on ‘you’ve been framed’ only it wasn’t very funny at the time.   After untying laces and a lot of wriggling and a bit of man-handling, the boot is finally freed from its stoney vice together with its occupant.  Luckily with no more harm done other than a pilgrim who was a little bruised and shaken by the event.

As we settle into the rhythm of the days, ‘about half an hour’ becomes a measure of distance to the next resting stop / the first lunch break / the second lunch break / the day’s destination.    Creases of anxiety are gradually ironed out as stresses in the ‘outside’ world get left behind and concerns such as time and distance become blurred, responsibility happily relinquished and the focus placed on simply following our leader.  His quiet, even step, leading the crocodile of pilgrims along the path.   Then just when I was beginning to feel like I could go on for another week at least, all too soon, we had reached our destination: Come to Good, an atmospheric little Quaker Meeting House near Playing Place on the Fal estuary.  Then as suddenly as it had all begun – in the rain – that moment had arrived to say goodbye – in the rain.  Goodbye to our fellow foot travellers and go our separate ways once more, splintering away from the community of pilgrims to scatter across the country and breaking the spell.

Summing up that experience?  For me, it has been quite cathartic.  At many points along the way I was very close to tears, and on some occasions not able to control them from flowing at all.  The experience: a richly woven tapestry of poetry, chanting,  early morning Qi Gong (a form of Tai Chi), a few tears spilt, a bit of gentle snoring and a little toning (or droning from me).  The sound of Skylarks and mesmerizing kinetic wind turbine sculptures:  moments that turn into memories.  I ached in my gluteus maximus and had a coffee withdrawal headache for the first day, but once I got into my stride, quite literally, I took off and flew!  Like a butterfly whose wings are a little tattered at the edges.  I think we have all fluttered our wings a little more and I, for one, wouldn’t have changed a thing.  I am a little wiser and more nourished by the pilgrimage community.  “Basic human contact – the meeting of eyes, the exchanging of words – is to the psyche what oxygen is to the brain. ……….” Martha Beck.   Thank you fellow pilgrims.

If you would like to experience one of these for yourself, Richard is in the process of organising the next pilgrimage.

Dartmoor Summer Solstice Pilgrimage, 4 days (tbc) from 19th June. Contact Richard, contact@marymichaelpilgrimway.org.

For a taster, here is a lovely film about last years’ Dartmoor section of the Mary Michael Way made by Rachel Cornish who was with us on the this years’ Cornish section.

But don’t take my word for it.  Here are some of Richard Dealler own words (which he has kindly let me reproduce here) in his poem, Cuckoo Calling.   He was reminded of it when we heard those distinctive cuck-oo, cuck-oo notes whilst walking in the middle of the Cornish countryside, a true harbinger of Spring and new beginnings. Thank you Richard.

Cuckoo Calling

Yesterday,

I walked in search of the cuckoo,

Around Bickleigh and Cadleigh,

Up the valley of the Dart.

I wandered into an old world of marshy meadows

Where cuckoo flowers abounded

But their namesake was absent.

Most unexpected was the heronry,

Where birds vulture-like perched and looked me in the eye,

As if spotting the silvery glint of a tasty morsel.

I got lost, missed an unmarked path,

And ended up knocking on the door

Of a cottage at Little Silver

Where a person 5 feet tall

Would have had to stoop to enter.

Back in Bickleigh, a fading poster

Pinned to the bus shelter, caught my eye.

It advertised Awakening Albion,

A walk from Cornwall to Norfolk

From shore to shore

Between Beltane and Summer Solstice.

It spoke of pilgrimage and community,

Two words close to my heart.

Today,

The incongruity of speaking to one of the pilgrims

As he neared St Austell.

In my mind he was garbed in medieval robes,

With staff, gourd, scallop shell – and mobile phone.

Part of me longed to up sticks and go

To break through to a different life.

Leave the washing up in the bowl, the lawn unmown,

My own message pinned to the door,

“Away on pilgrimage.”

To re-awaken in me that joy of days and weeks

When walking was my life,

The pace and rhythm so unrushed

That my senses like a fairy tale princess kissed, revived,

And where, a long, long way from home

I heard the cuckoo call.

Richard Dealler.

 

 

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Boscawen-un Stone Circle (SW 412 274)

On Sunday morning, we joined up with West Cornwall Dowsers to take a look at Boscawen-un Stone Circle and Creeg Tol.

A small group of about 10 of us gathered at the pre-arranged, rendevous point at the kissing gate beside the A30.  As we waited for Bart (O’Farrell) to arrive, when he didn’t show up and some people thought he was probably having ‘car’ problems, we headed along the track to our first stopping off point at Creeg Tol, a natural outcrop of granite providing a slightly elevated vantage point from where we could see the stone circle to the south-east.

Having been recently cleared from the undergrowth by CASPN, Creeg Tol was easily assessable.  Legend has it that the Giants laid down these stones and left their foot print in one to prove it (see photo).  We found several radiating earth energies here, and I suggested there was a ‘star’ shaped ‘imprint’ on the ground which in some way was also reflecting a heavenly aspect associated with this site.  An area of ‘feel good” energies in general.

On our way to Boscawen-un, we made a brief detour to a standing stone which we had seen in the landscape from Creeg Tol which turned out to be a gate post, surmising that it had probably been a standing stone at some point.  At the stone circle (see photo), we began to investigate some of the mysteries that surround the site posing questions such as: why 19 stones?; Was the angle of lean of the central standing stone deliberate or accidental?; how far down is it ‘seeded’ in the ground?; what is the significance to the one quartz standing stone in the circle? etc. etc…

Familiar to most of us, I suspect (first visit by West Cornwall Dowsers, however), this bronze-age ring is absolutely steeped in ancient ‘wisdom’ long associated as a point of divine revelation which has been used by many different people for centuries to tap into the collective spiritual wisdom that has accumulated here from our ancestors.  It has been the meeting place of the Cornish Gorsedd, for instance, since their inauguration in 1928. On a personal level, a place of annual hand-fasting, and the final location for the most beautiful and lyrical part of the film, ‘Cassandra’ (The Sun and the Stones) that I made with Anja for KerstenWoods Productions.

On my previous visit to this circle, I had envisaged the ring of stones as some sort of perpetual ancient clock, having no beginning and no end, (and therefore, timeless) with the central standing stone acting like a ‘sun dial’ pointing to the first rays of the rising, mid-Summer sun.  On this occasion, I found the Mary Line running through the centre of the circle and out along a well-defined fox run on the western side leading into the neighbouring field.  Could this be a clue to animals connection to magnetic fields in the ground?

I had the urge to snake around the stones and connect with the serpent energies of this ring, perhaps influenced by the current book I am reading at the moment, ‘The Dance of the Dragon‘, by Paul Broadhurst and Hamish Miller, (2000), a book I would thoroughly recommend for anyone interested in leys, earth energies, sacred sites and dowsing.  Interestingly, I was not alone in this inclination as others also expressed a desire to do the same.  Following the swirling line with my dowsing rod that zig-zagged around the stones, some taking a wider sweep around than others, I felt that once more, I had learned something new from the stones, as indeed I do from every visit to this special place – one of my most favourite in Cornwall.

As always, a pleasure to linger in this place and allow ‘time’ to disappear a little.  However, I missed seeing Bart on this occasion and only hope that the trouble with his car was not terminal and that he himself was in good health.  As a seasoned dowser with even a ley line to his name known as the Bart Line, I would like to have heard his views on the ring and on the outcrop.

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All Washed Up

flotsam

The recent storms and high tides have dumped a veritable bounty of ‘rubbish’ on the high tide line at Longrock, our nearest dog-walking beach.  Evidence of casualties litter the sand, not only birds feathers and fish carcasses but I also  counted at least 8 odd shoes washed up in a short span of beach alone and wondered where they had come from and what their stories were.

True to form, rather than gathering up a few sacks of the washed up seaweed newly ripped from the sea floor to put on the allotment (which is what I should have been doing), I adopted bag-lady mode and filled a few doggy bagfulls of the most colourfull bits of rope, twine, cans and plastic tops etc, that I could find….glorious!  I dare say bemused onlookers thought I was doing my good deed for the day by cleaning up the beach.  Not so, I’m afraid!  These doggy bags, for once, were not destined for the municipal bin.  With my stash safely spirited away in my studio, I’ve begun to hatch a plan to get these colourful ‘discards’ actually incorporated into a  new series of paintings.  Mm….what shall I call it…..Tarred and Feathered…Storm-Tossed Tide Line…..True Colours?  Any ideas?

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Praa Sands

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