All posts by Elen Sentier

Author, teacher & wilderness woman. Born into a family of British cunning folk where the old ways were passed down since time out of mind. Lives with her cats, husband and a host of wildlife in the back of beyond, a magical twilight place between worlds, on the Welsh Borders.

“The Moon’s Song” … the job of writing

It’s funny how writing happens. Most of the writers I know tend to feel they are written by their stories rather than that they write the stories straight, of themselves. Artists, dancers and musicians I know say the same thing … when you’ve done a really good performance it’s as though the music, or the dance, character or picture, played you rather than you played it. I find the same with stories – they write me.

Oh, I have to work, work like hell, maybe for months or years, before the mix in the cauldron is sufficiently potent to bubble and boil itself into life. When this happens the three drops of inspiration leap out onto my thumb and I suck them up … to quote the story of Taliesin and Ceridwen. Ceridwen got Gwion Bach to stir her cauldron for a year and a day – the magical thirteen moon-months plus the one extra day that carries all. I often have to spend longer than this finding the ingredients for a story’s cauldron. Even when I think I’ve done that bit, I then have to stir it for the year and a day (at least!) to cook it all up into a good stew. And there’s always ingredients I’ve forgot, or that I put in when I shouldn’t. You never get it right first, second or even fiftieth time. The book continues to grow and change even when I’ve nearly finished it … as I have now.

Writing is hard work, I said that already but it’s worth saying again. It isn’t about “wanting to be a writer”, or not for me anyway. I am a writer. It’s what I do, whether I get paid for it or not and mostly one doesn’t! But I can’t not do it, not and stay sane, want to live. It’s what I do, it’s my life. The stories come, badger me, tease me, push me, keep me awake, make me dream. They’re there all the time, whether I’m gardening, watching TV, on Facebook, washing up, cooking, driving, cuddling the cats. All the time. I have to give them voice or they suck my life away.

The latest result is The Moon’s Song. It’s a reworking of the old love story of Tristan and Isoldé set in the twenty-first century, not long after “nine-eleven” and the beginning of the “war on terror” but that’s not what the story is about. It’s about a woman’s search for a song that was lost when the singer died unexpectedly, her struggle to birth it and her love for two men, each different yet both deeply connected to each other.

Isoldé comes from the Belfast of the Troubles. She’s run away from the Falls Road to become a journalist in London. Then Nine-Eleven happens and London becomes far too like the Belfast she grew up in. She gets an offer to move down to the west country, to work with an old boyfriend and there, she meets the internationally famous organist Mark King. There is instant magnetism between them. She finds that not only is Mark the love of her life but he is the adopted brother of Tristan Talorc, the famous Celtic singer and songwriter she has admired all her life.

She goes to live with Mark at Caergollo, Tristan’s old house and now Mark’s since Tristan’s death. There they find that Tristan died too soon, before he finished his last song. And she learns that the faer folk want her to find the song so that the cycle can be completed.

On the nights of the full moon the lost land of Lyonesse, the Isles of the Dead, appears on the horizon like a low cloud-land. The moon lays down a sliver pathway between it and the everyday world. Isoldé must cross the moon-bridge, find Tristan and the song, bring them back to the world.

I’ve put a taster up here for you to enjoy :-). This writing has certainly been an eye-opener for me, the story’s taken me places I didn’t know it wanted to go when I began. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the journey … and learned a lot myself too. I hope you enjoy it as well. Let me know …

*     *     *

NOTES – The Isle of the Dead is associated with pre-Christian Celtic mythology and occurs as a theme in a number of European countries. In Britain, it is thought to be either a translation of the Welsh word “Annwn” for the underworld or an extant geographical feature of Britain. Sometimes also called the “Fortunate Isles” and the Isles of the Blest”, the land is also known as Lyonesse in Cornwall, Lundy Island off the coast of Devon and Ys off the coast of Brittany. Wikipedia has lots on them under their various titles, includng Elysium or the Apple Isle – a name that conjures up Britain as one of the best places in the world for growing apples.

Caergollo is a corruption of the Cornish for “Golden House” – this was a name given to one of Kong Mark’s castles, most usually the lesser one above fowey known as Castle Dor about which Daphne du Maurier wrote an interesting novel. I’ve placed Caergollo near Mark’s main court, the huge castle and trading port of Tintagel, the house being one where my father lived between the wars in Rocky Valley, an old mill now fallen into disrepair.

The picture is of the Stack out on the Island at Tintagel, with a moon-shot added – by me. Copyright Elen Sentier 2009.

If you want to buy it, it should be out on Lulu in time for Midwinter.

Wam Barrows & the Soul Catcher

I’ve just been down to Exmoor with two friends. This night we were led to Wam Barrows up on Winsford Hill.

It was beautiful when we arrived on the top. We went first to the trig-point. It always feels as though that is the place used as the central spindle for the hill, the place where the vertical-axis energies connecting Earth and Sky go. We asked if we might work there that evening and got permission.

We took our food, along with water from one of the dark and peaty springs nearby, to the hollow on top of the first of the three Wam Barrows. After having our own water and food, we poured a libation and put out breadcrumbs for the gods and the beasts.

Settling ourselves in the darkening land the sky was clear. As we watched it coloured down from turquoise through the blues into indigo-night. Over our heads blazed a river of stars, the Milky Way. As the night drew on, up out of the southwest climbed Gwyn ap Nudd, Herne himself, the great hunter known to astronomers as Orion. He hung in the sky above us.
And then it came, out of the darkness, the sound of the hounds, the wild-geese call. We were visited …

* * *

Soul Catcher

All along, down along, out along ley
Faster than lightning rides the Sidhe.
All along, down along, out along ley
The hounds are yelping across the sea
The Wild Ones come and the souls flee

Mother! The wild Geese are coming!
Hush child, under the covers with’ee!
But mother, I hear them …
Hush child or the dogs will have thee!
‘Tis the Gabriel Hounds will away with thee!

Down he comes, down and down the winding, twisty stairs.
First sunwise then widdershins,
Darkness blinds him but his feet know the way
and make no untimely steps upon the stairs
down deep below Dun Kerry’s halls

In the dark kennels they scent him now,
Remembering forgotten blood-smells.
A whine. A yelp.
“Quiet!” comes the master’s voice “You’ll wake the dead!”

Mother! Mother! I hear the Wild Geese coming!
Hush child! Or the dogs will have thee!

Down and down he comes.
Now ahead he sees the stag’s crown hanging before him.
His hands reach out, pull the ancient helmet to his brow.
The King is come

White tails wag,
muscles ripple under the white fur,
red ears prick and eyes glow like coals in a furnace.
Thirty couple of hounds there are at his wild bidding

Pale in the darkness the white mare gleams like frost in moonlight.
One silver hoof she raises, drops and taps upon the crystal floor.
Softly she calls to him

He rests a hand now on her shoulder.
His fingers entwine the silver mane.
An instant more and he leaps astride her.
The flesh of his thighs caresses her silken coat as he grips her firmly,
knees turning her towards the darkness.
Her silver hooves carry them forward striking lightning from the granite.
The dogs rumble in their throats.
The white mare springs forward.
Earth-Fire rises and the wind carries them out into the world

All along, down along, out along ley
Faster than lightning rides the Sidhe.

Mother! The wild Geese are coming!
Hush child! ‘Tis the Gabriel Hounds.

He sounds his horn as out across the sky they flee.
Yo-yip-yip-yip Yowwww!
Yip-yip-yow the hounds echo.
The clouds muster, gather, bank and mass before him.
Again he sounds his horn.
The hounds tear the clouds to tatters
Ripping apart the decent covering of the night
So Dian’s body round and soft and butter-gold
Shines out above the earth all brazen-bold.

Soul Catcher! she breathes.
Owls and moonbeams tumble from her arms
Horner Woods fills with light and feathers.

The light of night pierces deep down into the graves
and the souls come forth.
Singly now and then in twos and threes
they rise up through the earth like misty goblins,
wandering abroad for mischief.

But the hounds see them.
Working to and fro amongst their woolly flock
they gather in the wandering souls and guide them to the river.
No longer do they fester,
wailing plaintive chants to chill the living,
wandering unknown and unknowing in times past.
Now they hear their Master, the Horned Shepherd-Friend,
and feel his dogs unleashed upon them
but to bring them home.

Quiet now they wait upon the bank.
Soft now he sounds a single note upon the horn.
Then they hear the dipping of the pole
as the Ferryman brings his boat up to the shore.
The dogs nuzzle, nip and push.
The souls crowd the planks and huddle close
for fear of drowning in the river of forgetfulness.

Safe now! he says.

The white mare rears and climbs the skies.
The dogs follow.
A streaming, joyous comet lights the sky
and binds a girdle round the Earth.

Then, sighting the cairn,
her nipple, standing atop the hill,
rising out her heathery purple robe,
he flies towards her.

Soft the troupe,
man and horse and hounds,
sink into the Mother’s Breast.
Down and down they go into the glassy halls.

Dian drifts her naked body across the cloud-wrack, falling homewards.

Mother! Mother! I heard the Wild Geese tonight.

All along, down along, out along ley
Faster than lightning rides the Sidhe.
All along, down along, out along ley
The hounds are yelping across the sea
The Wild Ones come and the souls flee.

© elen sentier 2009   all rights reserved

The painting is by Cheska Potter

Exploring the Ogham

Ogham Wheel
Ogham Wheel

For years I’ve played with, and been played with by, this amazing system of communication. I won’t say writing, it is writing … sort of … but it’s much more about communication – with Otherworld, with yourself, with nature, with other people even.

For many years, academics have tried to form it into a type of writing, alphabet, with varying amounts of success. I’ve read lots of books by those who’ve studied it, and got insights from them, but my main sources of inspiration are …

This year, I’ve been very drawn to going deeper into the language of the trees, of the wood, and the pondering, sitting-with all of it, has just come to fruition. In fact, I got so excited about the whole thing that I’ve set up a year-long internet course for anyone who’d like to walk the path along with me.

So, what happened to get me so inspired? The trees themselves working and sitting with them, asking them to teach me. I have most of them in my garden here at Archenland. The trees for the 13 moon-months … Birch, Rowan, Ash, Alder, Willow, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Oak, Holly, Hazel, Apple, Blackberry, Ivy, Guelder Rose & Reed, and Elder. And the trees for the seasons … Silver Fir, Furze, Heather, Poplar and Yew.

With the five season goes an ancient verse which gives light darkly on the meanings of the seasons. This gives you an idea of how it works with the goddess and the seasons …

Ailm – Silver Fir – Birth – Sun Return – I am the womb of every holt
Onn – Furze – Initiation – Spring Equinox – I am the blaze on every hill
Ura – Heather – Consummation – Midsummer – I am the queen of every hive
Eadha – Poplar – Repose – Autumn Equinox – I am the shield to every head
Iolo – Yew – Death – Winter Solstice – I am the tomb to every hope

I’m still missing Bran’s tree, the alder, although there’s lots of it about in the hedges so I might get a whip this coming spring and plant it in the hedge here. Heather we don’t have as we’re very alkaline here but I must get some in a pot, and the same for furze, that’ll have to be in a pot too. I swap Scots Pine for Silver Fir as I’ve a very deep relationship with the Scots Pine.

I find Graves THE WHITE GODDESS both deep and broad at the same time. He’s very inclusive, able to think of, accept and suggest lots of correlations that others don’t seem to do. His wide knowledge of many ancient cultures enables him to see similarities across them – essential truths, probably, that underlie all traditions on this Earth. I like that. I like the feel of universality and, to me, this is part of being pagan. Like I said in a recent blog, being pagan is being of the Land to me, of this Earth – at least while I’m incarnate on her. Sensing into the depths of her wisdom, with the trees through the Ogham, is just so good for me, inspires me, gets me excited.

So I set off on a journey this Imbolc that has brought me here, soon after Lammas, to a place where I want to share what I’ve found.

The journey began with one of the loves of my life, Gwydion, the master magician of Britain. I know a lot of folk find him tricksy and devious and so he is, but he’s such an excellent teacher because of it. I also have a strong sympathy for him, he explores, goes outside the box, gets into trouble but manages to help people in spite of this. He helps his brother, Amatheon, bring the three secrets of agriculture to humans, stealing them from the Elder gods and so starting the Battle of the Trees … the beginning of the Ogham. The three secrets of agriculture are close to my heart because of biodynamics. In biodynamics, the three underlying principles are silica, clay and calcium. In Amatheon’s story they are represented by the Lapwing, the Bitch-hound and the Roebuck. In the Rainbow Warrior shamanic training I run we do this in depth during the second year but here, through the Ogham I found myself exploring it again, but differently, adding new insights.

The story of Amatheon bringing the secrets of agriculture to human beings reminds me of Hephaestos stealing fire from the gods and bringing that to humanity too. Both get into trouble for changing the status quo, trying to include people, for moving some of the control away from the Elder gods. As a closet-anarchist this pleases me *g*. I like change, growth, movement, growing up. I don’t like having Nanny changing my nappies all my life, I want to think for myself … make mistakes, fall over, get up and have learned something. My Dad always said, “the person who’s never made a mistake has never made anything” … he was quite right! Failure, getting it wrong, screwing up, are the best and most effective ways of learning. Getting it right just gives you a big head *g*. But don’t get me started on that old Obby Oss of mine!

This Ogham journey I’ve been doing this year has brought so much into focus for me. The seasons themselves, represented by the vowels. There are five, yes five not the usual four we know from gardening! What for? What difference to my thinking does the five make? As I pondered and worked with the trees I found it quite mind-expanding, particularly by bringing in the five lines of the old poem that describes the goddess in her own ways. Susan Cooper uses that poem as the basis for her “Dark is Rising” quintet – and that says a lot too! I found I was re-reading Cooper’s books again on the Ogham journey.

Then there are the thirteen moon-months. To start with, Celtic culture so often uses the concept of “a year and a day”. Ceridwen does it with Gwion Bach and her Cauldron of Inspiration … so I found myself back here too! And it comes up in lots of other stories too.

The thirteen moon-months give you 364 days plus one left over … a year and a day. So what happens in the brewing of the cauldron for that year and a day? What do each of the thirteen moon-months give. Aha! The weak 40w bulb flashes briefly on the top of my head as I got to this … there were thirteen fairies at Briar Rose’s naming. Well, twelve were asked but the daft parents decided not to invite the thirteenth fairy and came a cropper because of it! Or did they? Would there have been any change if they hadn’t made that mistake? What connections here? Oh, be sure, there are lots!

That whole piece took me into working with the fairy stories, yet again. I love them, work with them all the time, so much of the Grammarye of our land is held within them.

The trees themselves are wonderful to work with. To sit-with the tree, ask it to show me itself, its qualities, what it does. To listen to it without interrupting and then be able to ask for clarification of the things I didn’t understand, is so good, so insightful. Then, when Tree and I are agreed, I ask if I may have some of its wood for a stave. I never take wood without asking, even a dead branch on the forest path I ask before I take it. Always check! Making assumptions is the way to make lazy mistakes!

So here I am, with the Ogham journey under my belt and a year-long course written and blossoming. It’s very exciting. I hope there are folk out there who would like to work and play with me on this. If you think you would check out …

Ogham  and on Facebook or contact me at directly

Herding Kittens – a shaman’s job

Ggrym-at-Culbone-Stone

I’ve been herding kittens (looking after RW students) for near 20 years now, I’m fairly au fait with the various turns they galumph through, especially as they come up to the starting post. I can also see Otherworld having the whale of a time putting embuggerance factors before their cute little ballet-shod tootsies LOL. It is funny, but it doesn’t make the job any easier! I also need to shout “yere be dragons” every now and again or I’m not doing my job.

The latest intake to Rainbow Warriors comes up to the starting post in about 5 weeks time. There may well be a couple more joining us too – I can hear them lurking about in the long grass wondering whether to come down to the water hole and drink. Like a good lioness, I’m crouching quietly and fairly invisibly on the sand coloured ground, melting my sand-coloured hide into it and panting softly.

Meanwhile I still have to keep an eye on the ones already signed on and raring to go. It’s a funny old time that, the waiting to begin. And yet, in some ways, you already have begun. You’ve read your pre-course notes, got your books, begun to learn the mechanics of the journeying process we use, gone hunting for your sacred space, etc, etc. So you feel as if you’re already doing it … but you’re not. Not yet.

And one of the things that will happen to you as a brand new apprentice warrior is that all the skills and abilities you had will fall away from you. You’ll be naked and skill-less, unarmed, vulnerable and … to make it worse … your head is likely to feel like wet cotton-wool! What happens to folk who sign on to become awake and aware and useful to Otherworld is that they have to go through the Butterfly Soup process.

Butterfly soup … ??? You don’t know that one? Yes you do, I’ll bet. It’s what happens to the caterpillar at the end of the summer, like about now-ish. The little wriggly beastie finds himself a corner, or a branch, or a leaf and makes himself a cocoon. Inside the cocoon, once it’s hardened and dry, the caterpillar completely dissolves – he becomes soup, a soup that will gradually rebuild itself into a butterfly.

This happens to apprentice Rainbow Warriors too – except they gotta do it without the cocoon! Oh they don’t dissolve physically – at least I’ve not had one do that yet! But emotionally, mentally and spiritually they do. In fact, they become a complete mess *g*. Quite often, students come to Rainbow Warriors with a good set of skills, lots of abilities and a reasonable confidence. They often manage to keep all of this until they arrive at the first journey … then wallop! They find themselves naked and exposed, and all the skills they had gone. It can be very scary. I do try to warn them about this beforehand but, like teenagers, they don’t believe what the Old Fogey (me!) says, not really. Oh, it may happen to others but they will be different, shining, exemplars, able to swan though with no problems at all.

Well, I do get some like that, some who’ve slipped through the lioness’ net. Unfortunately, they’re ones it doesn’t work for, they learn nothing, go nowhere, and leave early. I do try to make this happen before they sign on … but there’s always one, isn’t there *g*. If it all goes easy for you it’s an absolute sure sign you’re failing! If all hell breaks loose then you’re on a winner, if not a roll LOL.

Like all alchemical processes, you have to break down to build up. Otherworld are very keen that you do this and do their best to send you down the shop for a tin of striped paint and box of tappet clearances. And they lure you into the woods where large hairy beasties will growl and chase you … until you stop running away, turn round and ask them their name. And they leave you outside the castle gate in the snow for weeks on end until you learn to ask the Gatekeeper’s name rather than be a clever clogs and find out all by your little self. Le Guin’s “Wizard of Earthsea” (one of the books we use) has a very good story on this. All the nasty tricks of the faery story … that are really the tests to see if you can measure up to the hard training that will come.

And that’s really the first trick all apprentice warriors have to learn … to sit still and ask. However, although Life (& shamanism) is simple nobody ever said it was easy *g*.

My usual advice to the “kittens” at this stage in the game is, “For goodness sake take a cold shower! Clean the kitchen with a toothbrush! Generally learn to slow down. I am serious about that. You miss things at the ecstatic rate you’re currently running. Try to sit physically very still and allow the ecstasy to flow through you without any attempt to steer it. You might try giving your brain sixpence and telling it to go play with the traffic !!!”

In fact, I took my own advice last w/end. Me and two friends, the 3 witches of Endor who look after Rainbow Warriors, went to go sit in our wood under Dunkery Beacon, by a 4000+ year old sacred stone.  There are always ravens there, and owls, as well as many other creatures, denizens of the nightwood.. If we are still enough they come to visit us, speak with us, show us things. But only if we are still. Only if we are focused on them and not ourselves, not off in our heads planning and scheming and generally making a ghastly spiritual noise!

UPDATE on return from Exmoor … It didn’t work out like we thought at all (how surprising *g*) … will write the blog and put it up on Sunday. It was fascinating and just goes to show how Otherworld are also Herding Kittens too, even when it’s us old fogeys what been doin’ it all our lives like LOL. We can still need to be chivvied into going the appropriate way *g*. Watch this space …

If you are interested in shamanic training look at http://www.elensentier.co.uk/rainbow_warriors.htm 

 

BTW – the picture is of the Culbone Stone, with his Earth-Eye-Cross. The beautiful dancer, Lucy Bethune, is superimposed.

Of the Land – What is Pagan for me?

The word comes from the Latin “paganus”, meaning of the land. To say it in Welsh is the word Wledig … reminding me of the story of Macsen Wledig whose legend is that he became the first (& last) British emperor of Rome. You can find one version of his legend at Early British Kingdoms and he’s also on Wikipedia under his Latin name. He died in Aquileia in 388AD. According to , Mary Stewart‘s The Hollow Hills, (a usually accurate author) there is a mosaic of his execution there.

Macsen is best known among Celts for the Mabinogion story, the Dream of Macsen Wledig. His name comes from “Gwlad” – country – nation – “holder of lands”, possibly nowadays meaning is “rural” or “of the land”. A fascinating blog from the Chief Constable of Wales tells more of its meaning and its association with dragons – the Welsh national beast.

My own name, Elen Sentier, comes out of this. Elen was Macsen’s wife, a woman of the Faer, a face of the goddess Sovereignty, the goddess of the Land of Britain. In the story Macsen builds three castles for her and she builds three roads between them – an analogy for the three Cauldrons of Poesy which are the pars of chakras in the Celtic tradition, similar to the three cauldrons of the better known Taoist tradition. Elen’s roads or sarns between them are like the eastern nadis that connect the chakras. Ooof! That was a wallop of heavy Celtic tech stuff, eh?

But I’ve had this lady, Elen, on my tail all my life and when I came to write she told me she wanted me to write in her name. She is called Elen of the Ways, Elen Sentier is that in that “Sentier” is French for footpath … the lady seems to like the pun.

Despite the fact that Dad thought I might grow up to be more ladylike if he sent me to school at a convent (LOL) I’ve always been pagan, always been of the land. I was born on Dartmoor and lived most of my childhood on the edge of Exmoor, two ancient and wild places down in the old kingdom of Dumnonia and full of British legend. My first novel, Owl Woman, is set there and built around the legend of the sacred well in our village that was owned by my aunt, and actually set in the wall of our garden. It is about the meeting of worlds, promises made and broken to Otherworld and the consequences.

Dyfrig dances Ceridwen Between the worlds
Dyfrig dances Ceridwen Between the worlds

I now live in the smallest of the old British kingdoms, Ergyng, in the between-worlds land of the Welsh Marches, absolutely bung-full of British legend – we even have our own Merlin-figure, Dyfrig, with his school and his oak tower about five miles up the road from me and born in my local village. Dyfrig has inspired my latest novel, Oak Man, on which I’m working frantically at the moment, it’s about a teenager, Jenni, who meets an old tramp who asks for her help … of course, the tram is Dyfrig, in disguise and with some memory loss. Jenni helps him, learns magic and they win out the day by the skin of their teeth. The story is set here where I live and in the ancient deer-park where Dyfrig had his school and his oak. It’s the first in a series, all set at sacred sites in Ergyng, with Jenni at their centre. I’ve got no write-up for it yet as it’s not finished … but I have done the cover ad this is it.

 My whole life has been formed around “the land” where I live, even the twenty-five years I worked in London. There I had so much to do with “Fountain International” and knew Hamish Miller (he helped me learn to dowse) and so got very involved with the Star Patterns of alignments in the city. London too is an ancient place, with a great mythos about how it came to be, I found working there fascinating and stimulating … and again, always the connection with the land.

This connection with the land goes out from sensing the moods of rocks, earth, magma, all the mineral kingdom, expanding into the vegetable kingdom – promoting my passion for gardening – and to the animal kingdom, the loves of my life. It even gets me into the human kingdom, the fourth kingdom of nature, although I do have serious issues with many on the selfish way humans treat the rest of creation.

And that’s another thing about being pagan. The connection with the land, being “of the land” makes it impossible to treat anything else as a lesser being just because it isn’t human, doesn’t look like me, and maybe I have difficulty understanding it when it speaks to me. That must be ultimately frustrating for non-human beings! We must appear deaf and stupid to them the way we take no notice. And that reminds me of one of my favourite books, Jinian Footseer by Sheri S Tepper. In that the heroine, Jinnian, gradually discovers that her “talent” is to be able to speak with and hear other creatures. When she finally understands this she realises how patient they have all been with her complete lack of realisation that they’ve been understanding her and speaking with her all her life … a very embarrassing place LOL.

All of this, all this connection, of being of the land, has drawn me to write. And to teach. My novels – as well as being mystery and exciting – are about walking between the worlds. This is the theme of my whole life, walking between the worlds. The phrase comes from one of our ancient and famous British shamans, Thomas of Erceldoune, probably better known from the song “Thomas the Rhymer”. This quote from Wikipaedia tells a little about him …

Thomas Learmonth (1220-1298; also spelled Learmount, Learmont, or Learmounth), better known as Thomas the Rhymer or True Thomas, was a 13th century Scottish laird and reputed prophet from Earlston (then called “Erceldoune”). He is also the protagonist of the ballad “Thomas the Rhymer” (Child Ballad number 37). He is also the probable source of the legend of Tam Lin. Sir Thomas was born in Erceldoune (also spelled Ercildoune – presently Earlston), Berwickshire, sometime in the 13th century, and has a reputation as the author of many prophetic verses. Little is known for certain of his life but two charters from 1260-80 and 1294 mention him, the latter referring to the “Thomas de Ercildounson son and heir of Thome Rymour de Ercildoun”.

True Thomas’ coined the phrase “walking between the worlds”, his ballad-story shows how it happened for him, how he met with the Queen of the Faer, travelled between worlds with her and gained his magic. The Queen of the Faer is yet another representative of Sovereignty. I walk in his footsteps.

Yes, walking between the worlds, that’s pagan for me. Being in continuous touch with the Land, the Spirit of Place, this gorgeous planet that supports us despite what we do to her, that’s being pagan for me. Being “of the land” …