Saturday 14 July 2018

Doorways to Albion

I suggested to John Fitzgerald in a comment on the Albion Besieged post that it might be a good idea to do a little series on places where the spirit of Albion seems particularly strong. It is through landscape, I believe, that we can best enter into Albion though poetry and myth are also good avenues of approach. There are many and varied aspects to Albion, and the different landscapes show different sides to the archetype, some wild, some mysterious, some peaceful and so on. There is no single description which can encompass the whole of what this idea is. And while some of these places are completely natural, some are part-shaped by man.

Anyway, with that in mind, here are a few pictures of places I associate with Albion. Meditation on these images or, even better, in the course of a visit to them can bring one into contact with a spiritual quality that we associate with the idea of Albion. One should add that traditionally guardian angels exist in many places, both national and regional. Albion is the guardian angel of England, and perhaps the whole of Britain, but other places have their own angels. Though under the overall rulership of Albion, there will be many more local angels with their own special qualities.

Let's start with the Seven Sisters because I didn't explain why I think these cliffs have an Albion connection.

The origin of the name Albion is not known for certain but one suggestion is that it is linked to the Proto-Indo-European word for white (albho-) and so could refer to the chalk cliffs on the south of the island. These cliffs date back to the late Cretaceous period which was between 60 and 100 million years ago and were formed when microscopic skeletons of plankton that had drifted down to the sea bed were transformed into rock by the dual processes of heat and pressure. But another, more esoteric, interpretation could be that Britain was the White Island in a spiritual sense, a haven set apart where the gods walked in a kind of dream time of the archaic past. Pure speculation, of course, but carrying a poetic resonance that seems not out of place when you walk along these cliffs which lead eastwards to the equally powerful site at Beachy Head. Is this a major entry point to the island of Albion? When you consider that Pevensey Bay, where William the Conqueror landed in 1066 and where, around 600 hundred years before him, invading Saxons attacked these shores, is just down the road, the idea is not so fanciful.

More sea and cliffs but of a very different, much wilder, sort. This is Tintagel on the Cornish Atlantic coast, now inevitably a big tourist destination but, at one time, sufficiently out of the way to attract few visitors and therefore retain much of its mystery, though that could be said of many sites around the coasts of Cornwall. But the association of Tintagel with King Arthur can't be ignored in any overview of places significant to Albion. Even setting aside the doubts over his actual existence, Arthur was never really a king of England. He was, and perhaps still is, the king in Albion. He inhabits the land of imagination that lies between this world and the next and, as such, he carries in his mythic personality a link to Albion that all places associated with him pick up on. Tintagel's physical connection to Arthur may be tenuous but in the magical world of imagination and vision, that is not so important. If the stories are believed in, they become real (in a mythical sense) and the association is then valid.

Here are pictures of some of the stones at Avebury and of Silbury Hill. They are near each other in the county of Wiltshire, and are surely part of the same religious complex or sacred landscape. Avebury consists of an outer henge (a henge being a circular embankment of earth with an internal ditch which you can see in the top photo) which contains a large stone circle of about 100 stones (not all of which have survived) within which are two smaller stone circles. Its construction and expansion spanned the 600 years between 2,800 BC and 2,200 BC, a long period of time which tells us that this site was once of great spiritual significance. I think it also tells us of a community that was highly developed in a way that may not make much sense to 21st century materialists but should not be dismissed on that account. To walk around Avebury with one's imagination sympathetically engaged can open the inner mind up to feelings and ideas that have slipped far below the threshold of consciousness in modern man. An awareness of the sacred quality of the land and an insight into the oneness of earth, sky and human soul can be felt if one suspends the strictly rationalist attitude. This largely passive awareness is not one we should seek to fall back into completely, but we can be inspired by it to move beyond our limited form of self-consciousness to something higher and more in keeping with our divine origins.

Silbury Hill, which was built around 2,400 BC, is the largest prehistoric man-made mound in Europe but its purpose is not known. There doesn't seem to be a burial inside so one is free to speculate. Is it a crude pyramid, an astronomical site, a temple that brings one closer to the gods as one ascends to the top? You can't climb the hill now because of the damage hundreds of pounding feet would cause but years ago you were allowed to and I remember doing just that and feeling quite elated on reaching the summit. The land around is fairly flat so the views are extensive but the most dramatic sensation up there comes from experiencing the vastness of the sky which comes into greater prominence when one is part removed from the earth. For early man, unused to any great heights, it must have been been awe-inspiring in the true meaning of that over-used phrase.

Just over the way from Silbury Hill is West Kennet Long Barrow which is a burial site. It dates back to 3,600 BC and there were up to 50 people buried here though the inner chambers must have been used, presumably as a place of ritual, over a very long period of time since the tomb was not sealed until around 2,500 BC. If Silbury Hill opens one up to the sense of the infinite then this place, which is effectively a cave, takes one in the other direction, deep inside oneself. These are the two principal religious experiences that our forefathers would have known and their constructions were probably aimed at stimulating them. They can be related to height and depth, and associated with Father and Mother, the two parents of Creation.

Wiltshire is a county that still seems to speak of the Neolithic period in many ways. Not only does it contain a host of structures from that time, Stonehenge being the best known, but the landscape itself, while clearly very changed, retains a strong connection to the past. Many walks have convinced me that the communities that lived here thousands of years ago have left a mark on the land that has endured down through the ages. Were they in touch with Albion in a way we cannot comprehend now? Did they actually live in Albion?

The Cherhill White Horse near Calne was only cut out of the chalk in the 18th century but it seems to hark back to something much older. The hill itself is almost like a natural semi-amphitheatre.

To be continued.


Luther Burgsvik said...

That was a pleasant post. One sentence that got me thinking was the following:

"Were they in touch with Albion in a way we cannot comprehend now? Did they actually live in Albion?"

Is this a reference to Julian James theory about the bicameral mind, and how the ancients had a more intuitive, less cogniscent, way of living?

William Wildblood said...

Not directly since I'm not really familiar with that though I have heard of it. But I think what I was saying there amounts to more or less the same thing; that early man lived in a sort of natural unitive harmony with his environment and was sometimes able to 'see' behind the veil of purely material existence to a spiritual state beyond. This, though, was a largely passive sort of awareness which is why we had to leave it behind and move on to a more rationally based form of consciousness, leave the Garden in effect.

Anonymous said...

Your Albion landscapes are in Wiltshire or Cornwall, or the south coast. You also say that Albion's angel, may be an angel for the land of England, or, perhaps the whole of Britain. Have you a deep down feeling of the borders of Albion? My own wish is that it includes the north, especially North Yorkshire, but my gut says that it is likely to be the piece of England south of an imaginary line extending from the Wash in the east to Shrewsbury in the west. The south-west is included, but Wales is excluded. I feel that the angel of northern England is leaner, colder, and made up of soft greys and blues, with touches of dark grey, and clean white - good friends with the angel of Albion, and working together with some sort of celtic angel, or angels, for Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

You may not agree with my angelic spheres of influence, but I think that you will be able to 'tune in' to my thoughts and understand how I feel/think this way.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Anonymous - Thanks for your comment - in future please could you use a pseudonym or your own name? Anonymity is against the spirit of Albion!

William Wildblood said...

I included places in Sussex, Cornwall and Wiltshire here because those are ones I know quite well, especially Wiltshire and Sussex. They are my Albion, so to speak, because I have lived in those places. But I intend doing a future post on Christian Albion which will go further afield. I also would include Scotland but that again is personal. I am hoping my colleagues on this blog might include some places which are well known and important to them. Albion can't be pinned down to any one place and there is an individual response involved too.

As to where Albion relates to in physical terms, I really couldn't say. Is it just England or the whole of the British Isles? Is it only the south or even Wessex? I don't think it can be restricted like that. I must say I like your suggestions. They seem very reasonable. But I fall back on the idea that there are regional angels and national ones. I have always felt a real difference going from one county to another for instance but there is a unifying factor too. I don't think we can be too literal about this. i am open to suggestions.

Luther Burgsvik said...

That reads very much like Rudolf Steiners way of thinking, inasmuch as we are beings who grew in consciousness over time, evolving from a sort of synchronistic living with nature to one that rules over it (to an extent).

A couple of points in relation to yout response to anonymous. It may be worth while to look at some different types of maps of Britain in order to get a feeling what what Albion manifests as in a physical sense. Perhaps a geological map to see the underlying rock formations (eg the white chalk of the south, and the granite of Cornwall); a topological map to see the highlands and flat plains; a hydrological map or map of rivers and drainage basins; a map of different ecosystems or biodomes; and finally an old map of the urban enviroments, to see where the cities have developed from. If indeed Albion is a being then it should manifest in some way through these different spheres.

S.J., Esquire said...

To be continued.

Oh, yes, please! I love the Mother Country so much; gorgeous photos, William. The last time I was on your wistful island, I was at an historic site, and overheard an elderly couple telling the tourist guide that they hadn't been willing to pay for a National Monuments/Parks membership because where they lived, there was "not much around". I wanted to slap them!

I often wonder how different is the experience of, and longing for, Albion when you grow up in England, vs. growing up here across the pond.

Chiu ChunLing said...

When one gets back before the Grail kings and into the really ancient heritage before the blood of Abraham touched the land, I think it is even more pertinent to recall some of what C.S. Lewis has Ransom discuss about the state consciousness which precedes awareness of the distinction between the material and spiritual, in the discussion about Mr. Bultitude.

Of course the POV sections devoted to Mr. Bultitude are also valuable, but perhaps less accessible in terms of understanding the moral value of a kind of consciousness which we no longer associate with moral reason.

But the source material of morality is found in those primeval passions, inarticulate because they are so profoundly honest that one cannot put them into words without losing the essential truth they contain. It is because those wordless desires can be fulfilled that there is meaning in discussing what is "correct action" (literally what we mean by "morality").

Primitive man was tragically subject to the spiritual longings with no certain way to secure them...we have been told the method but have buried, repressed, or denied the longing. What is it we seek in Heaven? Why is it a place to be desired?

Angels say "Fear not!" Why don't they just make their first impression less terrifying?

Because when you meet the eyes of one who has not only the passionate desire for Heaven, but the sure and conscious knowledge of the path to reach it, you witness true freedom, a being that can actually do whatever they really want.

So what if you are told that what they really want is 'good'? That's hardly reassuring if you aren't quite morally perfect.

The modern world has separated man from the original desire of all Creation. Unless we regain it, we cannot truly receive the object of that desire with the joy receiving it requires.