There is an old road called the Ridgeway that connects Castle Hill to Wayland’s Smithy. It’s a mile in length, and had we more time we would have walked it. The Ridgeway joins the land of the living with the land of the dead, and I have no doubt it is as old as the “Castle” and the burial chamber of Wayland’s Smithy. To walk it, is to walk upon sacred ground where feet have traveled for thousands of years. Yet all do not treat it as such.
The tread of reverent ritual has been replaced by the tread of travelers seeking outings from their over-busy lives. On the day we visited Wayland’s Smithy, there were visitors who had arrived before us. Two friends and their toddler-aged children were stationed at the foot of the chamber. The moms looked haggard and distracted as they half-watched their children and studied the screens of their phones. The children climbed the headstones around the entrance to the more than 3,000 yr. old burial chamber as though they were on a playground’s jungle gym.
My mind turned back two days, to that gloriously sunny noon at Castlerigg where a large family had created a picnic ground and play gym out of the sanctuary in the stone circle. “If this were a church, that would never be allowed,” Larissa put words to the emotions rising through me as we watched the young kids hang precariously off the great stones guarding the chamber.
Wayland Smithy is a place of worship. It is a holy ground for the dead, but also the living. A Sue noted, many years ago someone must have seen the site as a home of the sacred and honored it by planting a ring of ash around it, creating the effect of a natural cathedral. The temple of trees holds the stone chamber for the dead in an embrace of such sublime beauty and peace, the present mind cannot help but find sanctuary in the heart.
We had to wait maybe ten minutes for the visitors before us to leave, and continue on with their midday hike. And, in that time, I kept thinking about Castlerigg and how the energy of the sacred had retreated as though in self-preservation, deep within Earth. I looked at the long chamber before me and thought of the stones that were obviously missing from its sides. Stones that may have been callously dug out to line the border walls of houses or fields. Or, perhaps even to be trophies of sorts, displayed proudly on private grounds.
Yet, despite the handfuls of oblivious visitors that visit Wayland’s Smithy, and its missing parts, the site still holds a very special energy. The guardian trees form a ring of protection around it, and I suspect most who enter their temple enter it with a feeling of reverence.
As the mothers gathered their belongings and children and made their way back to the walking path, I stood upon the back of the grand chamber with Ani, ready to receive its gifts.
To Be Continue…
To read the previous posts in this series about my recent visit to England, please follow the links below: