Hi friends. I’ve been reading a wonderful recent book by Rob Young, Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music. Singer-songwriter Suzanne Vega described it as being “about the mythic roots of folk music originating in the UK.” Anyway, reading in Young’s book about well-known and loved artists like the Incredible String Band, and about musicians I hadn’t heard of before like Vashti Bunyan, has gotten me remembering some of my own visionary moments while living and traveling in the UK. Here’s one such memory:
1975. I fall into a heavy, buzzy afternoon slumber in the spiritually-charged realm of Glastonbury, England, after Leslie and I visit the Chalice Well, the lofty Tor, and the ancient abbey (itself purportedly re-discovered and excavated in part thanks to information mediumistically provided by a long-deceased monk attendant upon the place). I find myself witness to a lucid dream-vision of reverent, venerable hands pausing and passing over rectangular shapes draped by white linens fringed with intricate lacework. This vision is completely enigmatic to me, but it carries the felt sense of some archaic, repetitive, numinous activity. Something sacred has been inscribed on silence in this place.
Less than a month later, we land on the holy Isle of Iona, off the west coast of Scotland. While Leslie rests at our bed and breakfast there, I attend a Communion at the Iona Abbey.
I’m curious to witness what is described in a brochure as an old-fashioned, historically authentic traditional Communion.
Expecting a tray of thin eucharistic wafers to be brought in, I am surprised to see rectangular loaves of fresh-baked bread draped by white linens with fine lace fringe borne in and placed upon the altar. The priest’s hands lift the lacey linens, and my puzzling Glastonbury vision makes intense sense as we break the body of the fragrant loaf, and taste.
This kind of visionary window seems to open on the collective soul-life of the country as we continue along our way. I try to write about what I see, albeit uncertain of the degree to which true vision is alloyed by the workings of my lively imagination:
There’s More “When” Here
They lovingly maintain their thatched and oak-beamed cottages, where the dense energy of generations amasses.
The fields here are often very seen. In certain valleys even shadows seem more deeply sentient, somehow wakened under the gaze of ages of eyes from those of Pict to Celt to
centurion to Saxon to those of the village lout or poet.
The country fairly froths with contemplation and plumes of Being that rise from churchyards with their giant yews and gray, lichened graves.
Astral temples stand in many groves and glens, tall bastions of Druidic attention and intention reinforced by later prayers and workings of the rural faithful and their elemental and angelic
Telluric currents of elven, gnomish, and faerie consciousness run under the earth, gathering in reservoirs or vortices in subterranean caves; emerging on moors, near barrows and
Communion with the countryside looms up like an aesthetic cumulous from the otherwise rather flat, repressed English sensibility, arising tumescent in the form of rowdy festivals and
rustic fairs, gnarly balladry, wild convoluted poems and plays and dances, and the sublime viney curvilinear meanderings of Celtic art and instrumental music.
The tangled profusion of Celtic design: lines fold back on themselves in interknit geometries wherein nest birds and bears and men. Our eyes exhaust themselves, after trying to
attend to these unwinding lines. Then the Mind’s Eye opens.
The landscape’s stacked and stratified with layers of history
and ancient heartfelt awareness striates the “inscape” with enduring ley lines that link sacred sites. There’s more “when” here.