It was yet another place I didn’t want to leave. Whereas I had felt the exhilaration of life at Castle Hill, the more I immersed myself into the energy of Wayland’s Smithy, the more I felt at peace. As the sun wove its golden light through the guardian trees, I walked over the long barrow and around it. Time slipped away and the veil thinned. The air was gently electrified, and I could feel the elemental kingdom and all the guardians of this sacred site watching, but also welcoming us. Below my feet, amid the last year’s fallen leaves, white feathers appeared on the path.
I was, without a doubt, walking holy ground in a landscape of the dead that was very much alive, revered and protected by forces more felt than seen.
“Look at the trees,” Larissa remarked. “Each one has a patch of white flowers.” Not planted, but growing as though in nature’s reverence. It felt like magic, in the purest sense. Each piece a deliberate part of the whole. And, as I walked, I could hear the whisper of the ancient stones.
Pairs appeared in stasis, like long married couples set in their ways, yet determined to protect the love they hold.
It’s quite something to think of the work and care that went into the construction of this long barrow. A tomb to house the dead whose bodies were prepared with care that rivals that bestowed upon the pharaohs of Egypt. A tomb supported with carefully selected and placed stones. Huge sarsens, like that of Long Meg, mark the entrance to the inner chamber of the long barrow. All this work, including the massive stones, once covered entirely in earth. A house built for the dead, 196 feet in length and 50 feet at its widest point.
“You need to leave a piece of silver for Wayland,” Sue revealed as we gathered before the entrance. “To shod your horse.” I didn’t question her words. I had silver in my pocket and I crawled inside the chamber to find a place for it.
“Can you find Wayland, the spirit stone, the totem stone?” Sue continued as we peered at the massive rocks before us. The faces on their surfaces morphing and changing with each angle. All for the dead…
Then Sue began to tell us the story of a visitor before us who had asked a question of one of the sarsens. Within moments his answer had appeared in physical form and still holds true to this day. While she spoke, I watched a bee circle around me. A February bee, but I had already seen two butterflies during my visit to England, so perhaps it was not too unusual…It made me think of the buzzing I had heard, low, but constant, as we were walking the path from the car to Wayland’s.
I chose my stone, as the bee continued to circle my neck, and pressed my forehead upon its surface. I didn’t have a question. Instead, I wanted only to receive whatever might be revealed to me.
The mound appeared before me in the full splendor of summer. Upon its green back, a white horse emerged, strong and sure. It stopped in wait as a figure cloaked in white descended and began to walk toward me. The landscape opened to beyond the barrow, to where people long passed gathered inside a great womb. I saw the path weaving in union between the land of land of the living and the land of the death. It became a processional of people coming towards the barrow. In the middle of the trail I saw a small circle of stones.
The visitors gathered around the mound of Earth, upon which the white horse stood with the figure cloaked in white. I could not see her face, but I knew her energy to be both feminine and strong.
The vision turned inward, and I felt as though I had entered an inner chamber. A shadowed form of a great bear appeared beside me, then morphed into a great serpent whose head rose behind mine. In front of me, a hawk of the sun passed before my vision, circling until all disappeared and I felt my body again. Each cell buzzing with renewed life, as though in those few moments of connection I had been washed with light.
It was soon time to leave, but before we left we placed more offerings for the spirits of the stones. It has been a true gift of a day. Full and complete in and of itself, even though it was just an hour passed noon.
As we collected ourselves back into the car, even Ani appeared withdrawn into her own thoughts, refusing the small bits of sandwich we offered her. Each one of us quietly processing our return in our own way as we paused before our descent back into town.
To read the rest of the posts in this series, please click the links below:
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: