Stuart France writes at:https://franceandvincent.com/
Stuart France writes at:https://franceandvincent.com/
Although we didn’t know it at the time,
Ballowal Barrow is a ‘Faery-Fort’.
It is situated close to a now disused tin-mine
and miners, during the late nineteenth century,
upon finishing their night shift, are said to have seen
lights burning over the barrow and faeries dancing there.
It would explain the sense of caution with which we approached the site.
Getting on the wrong side of the Faery-Folk is never advisable.
And it did feel like we were being watched, observed, or monitored, by something.
Still, as our intentions at these places are generally honourable we managed
to escape with our wits, more or less, intact.
Though, curiously, for the evening was still young, our sojourn there signalled the
end of adventures for that day.
Perhaps, they had some thing in store for us on the morrow…
…That night the world took on strange colours and my dream-girl became a tree.
If I were a Druid I would say that I had fallen under the sway of a wood nymph, a Dryad…
She is certainly very beautiful and pulls me away from the busy road where traffic endlessly flashes through the ever screaming air…
She always wins.
I always turn from the road and allow her to take my hands in hers.
We roll down the embankment conjoined…
We roll together
for all eternity
but then collide with the bole of the tree
and she is gone.
…More, because our Foxes are one-third Man
And also less, because our Foxes are one-third Man.
Man’s individuality makes them more yet,
By its very nature,
That individuality has to be less than whole.
Unlike Animals all the species of Man,
And there are many, can be traced back to one common ancestor,
And they have named her Lucy, which means ‘light’…
‘We did too, see Foxes,’ objects my Companion, ‘proper ones!’
Bear and Wolf,
And Dog and Fox are all closely related.
It is tempting to imagine a common ancestor;
Bigger than Wolf but smaller than Bear.
But the official line has something
Much less rapacious originally slink down from the trees.
To replace what?
The Dinosaurs whose more agile brethren had taken to the air.
I wonder what Linnaeus would make of the Mister Fox procession,
As it snakes its way through the alleys and walkways
Of the Saturday night revelers, encouraging all to join its wake.
“We saw Foxes!” says my companion.
Well, yes and no…
We saw something less
And something more than Foxes…
Hi-ho the Carrion Crow, bow and bend to me…
…There usually is.
Perhaps one reason for the tale’s obscurity these days is its perceived, overtly, Christian message.
This takes the form of a priest who is captured and tortured by Helga’s Viking fosterers, provokes in her the first stirrings of love and compassion and affords the young girl opportunity to embrace the process which results in the fusing of her day/night time personalities and her achievement of wholeness in mind and form.
However, the culmination of this process is complicated somewhat by the priest’s death at the hands of robbers and his subsequent appearance in a dream vision and by the denouement of the tale which sees the Changeling Child whisked away to heaven by the priest only to return a short time later and find her original home now long lost to the ravishes of time.
The Rip Van Winkle like nature of the priest’s ‘heaven’ may give inkling to the original story source for this episode, as might his appearance on horse-back wielding his cross much like a knight would wield his sword.
As an other-world component of the story the Christian priest is perhaps less dramatically successful than he might be as a ‘Fairy King’ or ‘Lord of Light’ but still gives us pause for thought and contemplation as to the precise mode of consciousness his figure represents.
That’s almost all, folks…
‘What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
long live the weeds and the wildness yet.’
All photographs – Sue Vincent.
All epithets – The Grateful Dead, ‘Mountains of the Moon’.
Epitaph -‘Inversnaid’, Gerard Manly Hopkins.
‘…The Earth will see you on through this time…’
…There always is.
The Marsh King sinks back beneath the waters with the unnamed Egyptian Princess in his thrall.
Some time later a green shoot with a water-lily bud appears above the slime.
The bud unfurls to reveal a small girl-child.
The child is spotted by a watching Stork and is taken to a barren Viking couple who, quite naturally, are enthralled with the gift and immediately besotted with the child.
Children normally display both the physical and temperamental characteristics of their ancestors, predominantly their parents, and usually in more or less equal measure.
Here, these tendencies are pronounced.
Helga, for this is the name the Viking couple choose for her, is a beautiful girl-child during the day, albeit displaying a strong blood-thirsty streak, whilst as the sun sets she turns into a compassionate, toad-like monster!
Is the name significant?
How important is it that Helga is the only named character in the story?
Could any device be better chosen to make us consider the diurnal polarity of Day and Night and their profound affects upon our consciousness and its natural tendencies?
If we are in any doubt as to what we are to make of these devices we are introduced to the somnambulistic nature of both Denmark and the nether regions of Marsh-Land later in the tale.
To make matters worse, Helga’s apparent beauty beguiles all those who gaze upon her and blinds them to the reality of her brutish day-time nature.
It is only her adoptive Viking mother who witnesses and begins to see and realise the true nature of the problem presented to both her, and by extension us, in the form and expressions displayed via the mysterious Marsh King’s Daughter.
There is more…
‘…Hi-ho the Carrion Crow, Fol-de-rol-de riddle…’
Although the second longest of Anderson’s Fairy Tales, The Marsh King’s Daughter is relatively little known and perhaps, even, considered to be one of his ‘lesser’ tales.
It is a huge, sprawling epic of a yarn, which like most of his stories draws liberally from the ancient sagas, legends and folk tales which Hans imbibed in his youth.
Unlike some story tellers, although Anderson approaches the traditional devices with free reign, he never loses sight of their psychological and spiritual import and consequently, whilst sometimes apparently piling device upon device in wild profusion, there is always a satisfying, not to say, profound pay off to his seemingly more fantastical meanderings.
In these posts then, rather than retell the story, we intend to focus on aspects of the tale in order to investigate and elucidate the psychological and spiritual components of the story as a whole.
The Marsh King himself, though central to the plot, plays a comparatively minor role in the story, appearing just once, initially disguised as a tree stump.
It is a cunning disguise which gives the foul fellow the opportunity to drag an unsuspecting princess to her apparent doom beneath the marshes.
But wait, how did such a delicate, pretty one find herself on the edge of a marsh in Denmark?
She was sent from Egypt by her dying father to look for the antidote to his wasting disease.
And how did she get there?
She donned a feathered cloak and flew there as a swan.
Then, why didn’t she simply re-don the cloak and fly away when the Swamp Man revealed himself to her?
Because her jealous sisters, who had flown with her, stole her cloak and destroyed it…
Spatially, the construct is no less dazzling.
Here, as in most traditional stories the horizontal polarity of Egypt and Denmark constitutes a world and its other-realm.
The Outer, wasteland, can only be re-invigorated from the Inner depths which appear to be somewhat murky.
The healing herb reputedly grows in a bog, the domain of the Marsh King.
Already, the mix of natural metaphor and deep psychological insight begins to weave its ancient magic.
But there is more…
Which translates, ‘Ivan’s Village’ but was also formerly known as, ‘Arthur’s Quoit’.
Another ‘quoit’, and only a few miles away from the last one.
This seems, if anything, a little unimaginative.
Or, alternatively, it could signal a connection between the two sites.
The more obvious visual parallels though are with our first site, Carreg Samson.
Seen from one angle Pentre Ifan now frames the distant peak of Carningli (Hill of Angels) and like St Samson’s stone the upper ridge of its Cap follows closely the contours of the terrain which has always dominated its horizon.
We have been moving deeper into the country on our three-fold quest and the sites have become increasingly populace.
We met no one at the first site but at the second, we were hurried on our way by a couple of visitors as though we were holding up play on a golf course.
Here, we pass an entourage on the way in and on our way out we are replaced by another one.
The conveyor belt effect…
True to the form in which we have cast these sketches we are over heating by this point in the proceedings.
Still, we have just come from a long climb up a big hill on a very hot day and the surrounding recumbents prove more than a tad adequate as baking stones.
It is perhaps just as well.
By paying too much attention to the stones one can start to become a trifle uncomfortable in quite a different sense.
For one thing, it becomes abundantly apparent that the central stone is not a support stone at all.
Not a support stone?
Quite definitely not.
But if it is not a support stone then what is it doing there, what is it, and why does it have claws?
Stone claws, or perhaps talons, which are firmly rooted in, not to say sprouting from, the earth?
Well, that is true, but even so…
Maybe, whatever it is, is pointing the way.
Pointing the way to what and where?
To Ivan’s Village.
Whatever that means?
Ivan is Ian… is Jan, and Janus, the god-form of portals, is two-faced and looks both ways. In and out, up and down, before and after, here and there.
Ivan’s Village is Janus’ place!
Well, it is one aspect of Janus’ face, or Jane’s, certainly.
All of which means, we are still no nearer to an answer…
The symbolic preoccupation of all these structures seems to be with Headlands, (end of the land and start of the sea) or Mountain peaks (end of the land and start of the sky). And by extension with islands which is land situated in the sea, and also with birds which are beings that fly in the sky.
In other words the builders of these structures are concerned with thresholds and what lies beyond those thresholds in the domains which they bound. The analogy always involves the natural environment which is then related to their, and hence to our, own experience.
So, it is not so much from here to eternity but rather from here to our apparently limited horizons and then on beyond them…
Which may very well be an eternity or if not, then at least, an endless round.
And that is just the formal symbolism of the structures, without consideration of the precise geometries of their situation…
Despite the conveyor belt effect we still get time enough to do what is needed.
And we conclude our ‘…Prayer’ with a little chanting.
Because that’s the way…
we like it.
You think that will have gone unnoticed?
Quite possibly not.
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