Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Tree of Life in Chelmsford Cathedral

Mark Cazelet's "Tree of Life" painting in the North Transept

This painting is rather beautiful, formed of five panels. The tree is an oak, on the right hand side we find St.Cede sitting under it in a tranquil scene of golden corn but on the left, the tree is dying and depicts the environmental degradation we subject our land to. Also there is a skeleton on this side, this is Judas Iscariot, 30 pieces of silver falling from his skeletal hand, a reminder that the oil rigs that we see in the picture is the price we are paying for the destruction of the Earth; the painting has several messages, and there is a certain pagan air to it, the great tree so much a symbol of other religions stands tall and magnificent centre stage, highlighted by the gold of the sun, but up above the moon shines, a darkening sky signifying the threat of coming disaster.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A small pub called 'The Cats'

Typically English, small and beamed, local people on a Sunday in for a drink, a meal of roast beef with all the trimmings or a ploughman.. Robust conversation in the small bar, friendly chatter, people greeting each other who have lived here a long time.
The Cats pub has little cats all over the place, china ones around the fireplace, chasing mice, swishing tails. A great cat outside and a little china cat on the roof, a man unloading logs for the woodstove has to pump up the flat wheel of his old open back van outside in the car park. Two old men gossip at the table in front of the window. A certain peaceful air invades the room, time well spent, of quiet happiness in the ordinariness of life.
One's soul sinks into the peace, you could sit here forever lost and faraway from the bustle of life..... but look up on the beam, and an grotesque 'green man' is hung carved in wood, a lurking creature...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Cheesewring

The Cheesewring obviously the inspiration for the Spriggan

Paul Devereux's article; Art before Art

'Before there were art galleries, art was a song of the soul.'

Tis the Time of Ghosts and Bogies

This is a Spriggan, a very apt goblin for megaliths, as he seems to be made out of rocks and looks like one of the Cornish Tors. The Spriggans led humans to believe that they were the ghosts of giants, they are the guardians of hill treasures, such as that found in the old barrows.

All Hallows, when the thin veil of time is split asunder and the dead come back to visit their family or tribe, and sometimes, just sometimes, they take back the living with them to their spectral homes. Yes, All Souls/All Saints night, that time when paganism and christianity meet on the same date. Samhain it is called in the pagan world, a time of festival, of slaughtering the surplus beasts for a great feast before the famine of winter looms large. Apples gathered, the wheat safely harvested, the spirit still whirls into our modern time, a thanksgiving for the harvest of the year.
It is the time when we look back into the past and invite the dead to join in the revelry, the time when we tell our children terrible tales of ghosts, and towns under the sea such as Dunwich when the old church bell tolls beneath the sea. Of the dead walking through the streets from the graveyard to knock on our doors, don't open though, you may not like what you see, and skeleton fingers are very strong.
And what prompted this rash of words you may ask, well it was that old Faerie book with its drawings of Bogies and Spriggans, it captured those rather dreadful fairy stories I used to read as a child, not the nice fairy but wicked creatures who set out to torment you a bit like Christina Rossetti's Goblins....

This is a bogie, a shape shifting creature

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The River Dart by Alice Oswald

The River Dart

I read this poem years ago, a long epithany to a love affair with a particular river, following its early beginnings, its history winding through the moors, its usuage by people, an old man walking listening to the very sounds of his own body.
The liquid, flowing, winding nature of water sensuously felt, endlessly flowing through time.....

just the beginning.....

What I love is one foot in front of another. South south west and down the contours. I go slipping
between Black Ridge and White Horse Hill into a bowl of the moor where echoes can't get out.


and I find you in the reeds, a trickle coming out of a bank, a foal of a river

one step-width water
of linked stones
trills in the stones
glides in the trills
eels in the glides
in each eel a fingerwidth of sea

It also reminded me of of another famous poem Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti, another weird sensuous poem written by a rather staid Victorian woman, sister to Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In my book the poem is illustrated by Martin Ware, but in another book on Faeries I have, the illustration is more fulsome and dark.

We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits;
Who knows upon what soil they fed,
Their hungry thirsty roots.

At the top of this blog I have shown an illustration from the book of Faeries by Alan Lee and Brian Froud, it is of a landscape under the sea. But in actual fact it accompanies another celtic Irish poem about Bran, he of the famous head that travelled to London carried there by his friends. The following is a 12th century poem sung by Manannan Mac Lir to Bran who journeys through, what to him is the sea, but for Manannan is the sky....

"What is a clear sea
For the prowed skiff in which Bran is,
That is a happy plain with profusion of flowers
To me from the chariot of two wheels.

Along the top of the wood has swum
Thy coracle across ridges,
There is a wood of beautiful fruit
Under the prow of thy little skiff.

A wood with blossom and fruit,
On which is the vine's veritable fragrance;
A wood without decay, without defect,
On which are leaves of a golden hue.