Philosophy filtered through the heart is like water filtered through rock - all the impurities have been removed and only truth remains.
Sacred wells, the places where the pure water of truth trickles out from the dark fissures in the land, have always been special places to me. The sound of water running lively yet peaceful has never failed to calm my body, sooth my soul and help me to find answers.
Recently i finished reading If Women Rose Rooted and my treasuring of the Sacred Wells of our land has been given extra vibrancy and colour from Sharon Blackie's retelling of a myth that, although i have an avid interest in myth and stories, I had not heard before. It is a tale from the Arthurian times, from those concerned with the Fisher King, indeed it goes some way to explaining why the Fisher KIng is wounded, something i had always wondered about. It remembers a time when every well had a maiden that tended it, each of these maidens was considered the Voice of the Well. If a traveller passed by and asked, with reasonable manners, for sustenance then he was given his favourite food and a drink from the golden grail belonging to the well and the maiden. This was all given freely and in service to the spirit of the land.
In that time kings understood that they were wed to the land and that health and wellness for all depended on the strength and goodness of that relationship. But then came king Amagons who did not cherish the land or understand his sacred contract to it. As with all kings it was part of his duty to protect the maidens of the wells. It was known that the wells were the life blood of the land, from them poured forth life giving water, but also the voice of the land through these young women.
Image by Angie latham
However Amagons did not respect that sacred charge and one day passing by a well he was offered food and water by the maiden residing there. He ate the food and drank the water and then threw the young woman up against a stone, tore her white dress and raped her as his men watched on. Then he stole the golden grail from her and left. The grail found it's way away from him for such a precious thing cannot stay in the grasp of a man such as he. The damage was done though and seeing what their king had done other men of the country raped the women of the wells. The maidens stopped coming out of the wells and the land was laid to waste, becoming The Wasteland of which T S Elliot would write his poignant and richly insightful poem. The ground dried out, leaves withered from the trees, the earth became a scorched barren place and no one could find the court of the Fisher King who gave all beauty and abundance to the land before this.
A sad tale i know…take heart though for it is in a later tale that the knight Percival eventually finds the court of the wounded Fisher King and after one failed attempt returns to ask the 'right question' which is "What ails thee?" a question of compassion and concern. A question that starts the journey back to being able to hear the Voices of the Wells.
So, in each well there is a maiden hiding, a sacred spirit of clarity and truth, a being injured by a world where mankind does not respect it's relationship to the land and to the purity of the water that pours forth from it. Yet i have been to many wells and i have heard the voices in them. They have calmed my body, feeding it the food it needs and clear water in the golden grail. Those voices have given me insights i know i would not have come to if it was not for the babbling chaos of the sound of tumbling water.
I have made a pledge to listen and to speak what i hear from the Voices of the Wells, that pledge is wrapped in to the beads i make that bear the texture of the stones or trees around any well i visit.
St Torneys Well
St Torneys well is a shy one tucked up underneath the path, you would easily miss it if you were not determined to look. My little boy and I were determined though and after walking down an unsuspecting old walled path between two houses and across a field of cows, we climbed over a stile and found ourselves beneath the soft green shade of a deciduous woodland, the paths were wide and well loved, and the bowed heads of real English bluebells stood like humble guards beside them. After a while of walking we came to a place were a brook crossed the path, the running water changed the feeling of the air and i noticed two mighty Beech trees beside the path. My little boy stopped to play in the stream, leaving me with some time to marvel in silent praise at this mother and grandmother trees.
Their roots had swamped the wall they had grown from and all beneath them was covered in moss so deep you could exchange your mattress and duvet with no quibble and have that place as your happy bed. I called to my little one who came running to roll on the softness whilst i searched for the well.
Shy she is, invisible to those who are not searching or do not already know, but rich and pouring forth her water from an arched opening. Inside is a smooth cave covered in dark green moist plants dripping water. I put my hand inside and marvelled at the cool and how instantly calming it is. The waters of this well like many others i have visited spoke to me in tongues watery and dream like, their message to me was personal and yet universal. They spoke to me of love, of motherhood, of patience and time, of the preciousness of moments…these things i can apply in my own life with my own child and know that all i do ripples out and touches others. The is a pathway away from the Wasteland and towards the court of the Fisher King.
Whilst i was at the well my little boy played around me, naming the plants, splashing in the water and exploring the trees. He found something beneath one of the trees and called to me to see. He had found in one of the openings in the roots a little scene made of tiny teddy bears, dolls house furniture and minuscule plates. And for all the world it looked like a court, with one larger bear sitting on a 'throne' looking out over a table set for eating and other little bears all around. I cannot help think that my little boy found an accidental homage to the precious court of the Fisher King that day. There it is beneath the Beech trees that i saw as the mother and the grandmother as i approached. There they are presiding over the message given to me by that well. The message to love and remember the value of parenting, not just my own child by the earth, the land.
The beads on these bracelets have been textured with a mould taken from the stone surrounding St Torney's well, when you wear them may you hear the voices of the wells when you visit, and may you know what to do with the things they share with you...may you find your own way back to the court of the Fisher King.