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" The Holy Land is everywhere "

Black Elk

The Nature Mysticism of Bax, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Holst, Bantock and Butterworth

January 31st, 2008

Researching the magical nature of the English landscape has led me to a fascinating article on the influence of the landscape and pagan themes on British composers by violinist Sue Aston who has produced a number of CDs of her music including ‘Sacred Landscapes’. Read the full article and see details of her music here. Here is just a sample:


Recording my violin album ‘Sacred Landscapes’ took me on a journey that went far beyond my passion for the Landscape that inspired it. As a composer I have absorbed a great deal of inspiration from the natural landscape, particularly the isolated areas of Cornwall which are rich in legend and folklore.

My journey is also very much a spiritual one and I have felt compelled to find out whether any other composers had felt the same way. My research into this subject is startling, as it uncovers a wealth of well known composers who also had an affinity with the landscape and with nature based spirituality. This article focuses on Bax, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Holst, Bantock and Butterworth, all composers who were heavily influenced by nature and mysticism.

Our quest begins towards the end of the 19th century, when there was a reaction in Britain against Victorian restraints and outmoded religious practices.

In parallel with the philosophies and activities taking place throughout the continent and Russia, visionary people were seeking a new kind of spirituality based on the old nature based belief systems.

When contemplating the ingredients that make up the essence of Paganism, the images that come to mind are being in tune with nature, the spirit of the wild landscape, and the powerful energies that permeate the ancient sacred sites. Such influences were found in the works of many British composers. Despite their more formal religious backgrounds, ranging from Catholicism to Hinduism, the common link between them all is the sacred aspect of being at one with the natural world.

Sue Aston 

Read the full article and see details of her music here.

Will Worthington

January 30th, 2008

Will Worthington who has created the beautiful artwork for The Druid Plant Oracle, The Druid Animal Oracle and The DruidCraft Tarot, as well as for The Druid Way and John Mathews’ Green Man Tree Oracle has now got his own website. He offers high quality signed prints from the animal oracle very reasonably – do have a look: www.willworthingtonart.co.uk

Alfred Watkins & The Straight Track Club

January 28th, 2008

In researching ley lines for The Book of English Magic I’ve been looking again at Alfred Watkins’ The Old Straight Track. I have inherited my grandfather’s copy which has old photographs stuck into it. He was a friend of Watkins and a founding member of The Straight Track Club. Here are the photos. The photograph of Watkins walking towards the camera has a strong dream-like quality to it – and doesn’t he look like Sigmund Freud from a distance? If you click on the image you can enlarge it and magnify areas.

Straight Track Club Outing 1

Click on this Straight Club Track 2 to see the next image.

The Club used to circulate members’ reports by post on leys that they had discovered, or book reviews or essays they had written. I have some of these from my grandfather’s papers and have posted up a scan of one of these postal portfolios, as they were called. Click here to view: Sample Straight Club Track Portfolio

The Generalist

January 25th, 2008

There are some very interesting people in Lewes – drawn here, no doubt, by the powerful vortex described a few posts down.

John May is one of these. He was editor of ‘Tree News’ – a sumptuous magazine that has sadly folded despite generous support from the ex Oz magazine magnate Felix Dennis.

He keeps two great blogs – one ‘The Generalist’ which John describes as: where new journalism meets oral history. It contains fresh and archive long-form audio interviews with interesting people, largely uncut and free to the user for non-commercial use. Read his interview with Al Gore, described on the site: This a highly relevant two-part interview, recorded more than 15 years ago, on the eve of the Rio Earth Summit. It has an interesting resonance given what has happened since. Gore was in London on the occasion of the publication of his book ‘Earth in the Balance’ in which many of the issues that feed into ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ were first outlined. It confirms Gore’s long-term and deeply-held views on the environment. The first tape was recorded during a meal at a restaurant in Covent Garden; the second tape, in the back of a limo speeding towards Gatwick Airport.

The other is called ‘Lewes Light’ – with his photographs of the town.

He’s an interesting man who often breakfasts in Nero’s with tousled hair and his nose deep in some fascinating book.

Solve et Coagula

January 23rd, 2008

In working with spiritual ideas it seems to me that we need to both elaborate and distill essential ideas and beliefs.

We need to elaborate them by teasing apart and ‘unpacking’ apparently simple statements to explore their depth and allow their potential to blossom like flowers. And yet we also need to distill all the teachings we receive, all that we read and come to know – to achieve clarity, and to help steer ourselves through life. A while back I tried to make a distillation of various key ideas about life, and spiritual development in particular, that I’ve just unearthed in my notes and I thought I’d share them with you. If you can think of other ‘distillations’ I’d love to hear them:

The source of Life is pure limitless love.
You are meant to be here. Life is meaningful and your life has a purpose.
All religions and spiritual paths are leading towards the same goal. You can choose to follow an already established path, or you can choose to create your own path out of a combination of ideas and methods from different paths.
At the heart of the spiritual life is the search for wisdom and compassion. You need to actively seek these qualities. You can relax and have fun too, but you do need to work at the Quest.
Seeking personal fulfilment isn’t enough. Spirituality isn’t just self-serving – it’s about being of value to other people and the world too. You can make a difference.
These are critical times – the Earth and humanity face challenges they have never faced before. These challenges offer great potential for you to learn and grow and give. You don’t need to worry about these challenges, but you shouldn’t ignore them either.
The world is more mysterious and magical than you can possibly imagine. You are not alone.
None of this belongs to you, but that is very cool.
You are whole and you are free. Only sometimes you think or feel you are not.
You are the creator of your destiny. The more you understand about how life works the more you can be of use to yourself and others.
You create your reality, but other people help create it too, just as you help to create their reality. We’re in this together.
Everything is connected.
You need to learn how to be focussed, and how to develop goals, and you need to learn how to let go, how to be open and relaxed and unattached.
Your heart knows. Deep down you know where you should be headed, and what you need to do. Spiritual practice can help you hear the still small voice of your heart so that you can follow your bliss.
You don’t need to wait to do any of this. Life isn’t a rehearsal. This is it. Be here now.

Earth Pilgrim

January 22nd, 2008

Satish Kumar, editor of Resurgence and a Jain monk from the age of 9 to 18, has presented a TV programme called Earth Pilgrim which is beautiful and enchanting. Programmes like this and ‘Extreme Pilgrim’ restore my faith in the BBC – and in humanity! It’s up for 5 more days on BBC’s iPlayer page. If you click on the little icon bottom right of screen the image goes to full screen size. This should take you to it:


A Glimpse into the Magic of Lewes

January 19th, 2008



A Glimpse into the Magic of Lewes
by Philip Carr-Gomm

Illustration: Lewes Castle and Tump by Will Worthington

Many people feel drawn to Lewes in East Sussex, sensing that it is in some ways magical. Could this be true? The poet Francis Thompson, who lived in nearby Storrington, wrote ‘The Angels keep their ancient Places’ and Lewes is undoubtedly ancient. Let’s see if there are likely to be angels here too… Read more

Nakedness and our Ability to Share Intimacy

January 19th, 2008

One of the limitations of this blog template is that the comments on each post are hidden until you click on the comments line and this means that some wonderful contributions may not get the airing they deserve.

Recently Maria commented on a post and I find her expressing ideas I’ve been trying to express in some posts here in such a beautiful and articulate way I want to present them in a post, rather than them languishing (perhaps!) in a comment.

She mentions how she went to a dance performance at Brighton University, just down the road from us:

[It was] a contemporary piece that dealt with the taboo of love between an older woman and a younger man. The female dancer was in her sixties, maybe older. There was a key moment where she appeared alone and naked with a bowl of water and began to simply wash herself. In our culture, the very act of a woman of her age stripping naked in public might sadly for some have been a challenge, particularly in the wider context of the dance piece where the sexual interaction between her and the young man was so powerfully explored. In this one simple moment of her being alone and naked, utterly exposed to the audience with all its potential prejudices and negative preconceptions, her body expressed such moving tenderness, poignancy and power. It was an incredibly intimate moment. There we all were, a theatre full of clothed strangers watching what felt like, to me at least, the unveiling of someone’s soul. It made me feel very tearful and not a little naked myself. I keep thinking of Blake’s notion of the body being an extension of the soul, and it seems to be that in true nakedness, physical and psychological, the soul speaks. It doesn’t matter how much we use our emotional and intellectual defences to cover up or hide ourselves, the body seems reluctant to join in with the lie. We can deny what we feel and yet our bodies are shaped by what we have experienced, sculpted by our emotions, and so to undress is to expose our story. When someone has the courage to stand truly naked before us, the courage to share that story, something deep within us has the potential to be unveiled too.

That’s it! The reason why spirituality and psychology are such fascinating fields to explore comes from the fact that we know how much potential exists in each soul. Sometimes that potential is expressed and we see great art, great ideas, wonderful acts of generosity and nobility. But most of the time it seems that the majority ‘go to the grave with the song still in them’ as Thoreau put it. And that’s the fascination for me with spirituality and with the concept of nakedness in its deepest sense: the question and the challenge then becomes “How can I take off all the layers that cover this soul, this radiance, this potential inside me that wants to shine?”

Spring has Begun

January 16th, 2008

This morning the first snowdrops appeared. And two goats leaping and butting their horns together, then nuzzling…

 An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.