Magdalene Down Male Mysteries

After our first day’s information about the Female Mysteries of Spring, we went back the following week to learn about the Male Mysteries.

Magdalene Hill Burial Mounds.

This time we stood on the second largest barrow, where we had seen the Elder the previous week. As soon as we tuned in, he appeared and he instructed us to sit.

I felt as though I was in a class, as it would have been held centuries ago, but I was male. There were five or six of us being trained. The elder explained about our role in the Spring festival. We were a new cohort, and this was the start of our training. The Elder would instruct us on how to serve the Mother, both in what we did, as priests in training, and for the rest of our lives. What we were being shown was male priest training, rather than simply something for the festival rituals.

He explained that male fertility was connected to the waterways: the rivers and to the sea. I saw the Itchen river in my mind, running around he base of St. Catherine’s hill. As we were being shown the connection between the river and the hill, an image of Silbury Hill, near Avebury, with the water all around the base, popped into my head. I wondered if, in ancient times, the waters also rose at certain times of the year and flooded around the base of St. Catherine’s; the mound a pregnant belly that emerged from the waters of life.

Water carries fertility, like seminal fluid carries sperm. This is how they understood it. Because many female fertility sites were connected with waterways i.e., Stonehenge, Stanton Drew, etc., it fell to men to hold the energy of water-fertility. They were the active principle and the female was the receptive.  

River-tumbled pebble

The Elder, having explained about the importance of water to these young men, then went on in a more serious tone. He handed each one a rounded, river pebble. He told them that the water had shaped these stones, tumbled and smoothed them over many years. The water had the power to shape the hardest material, BUT, the stone was of the earth and the river ran THROUGH the earth. The water, on its own, was simply water. The Mother, Earth, was the channel/river-bed through which the water ran, it ran through her body. She was the foundation of all.

This teaching was to curb feelings of power the young men might harbour, believing that because they held the power to fertilise, this meant they were more powerful than the earth itself.  

At that point, to continue the lesson, the Elder told us all that we would now go to the other side of the hill, but to bring our stone with us. This was a couple of miles across the land for them, but necessitated a car-ride for us. From last week, we knew the men had their training by the river and that by the time of the Spring rites, they would proceed from there to the top of St. Catherine’s.

We drove around to the other side of Winchester, and tried to find a car-parking space close to the river. That proved tricky, as now everyone goes for coffee and a walk beside the canal! Because we could not find a space, we went to the water-meadows at. St Cross Hospital, where we had access to the river. This was better as it was the more natural part of the river; the part currently flowing alongside St. Catherine’s Hill is the navigation canal built in the late 17th Century.

We stood by the river bank and waited for the Elder to tell us what to do. We still held the stone. Because the Elder was not physically real, the stone he gave us wasn’t either. But, I had one in my pocket I had picked up somewhere. I’m always picking up stones! It didn’t have to be physical, of course, but it made it feel more real.

Itchen River, St. Cross Hospital, Winchester.

Standing by the river’s edge, the Elder told us that we had to throw this stone into the water. But, in throwing it in, we were handing over our ego, or sense of power and personal Will to the Mother. We were acknowledging that we, as men, served her. We were not master over her. In order to serve, we had to let go of all our attachments to power over others, over the tribe, over the land. We were making a commitment to serve her as she wished to be served.

It was a very solemn, and thought-provoking exercise. If we, as young priests were unable to let go of our male ego, our need for control, then we would be unable to serve in a fertility capacity and therefore would not be able to officiate at the Sacred Fertility Rituals, such as the Spring rites.

Because I was, effectively, a young man in this experience, I felt the seriousness of what I was doing and when I felt I was ready to give up my need for control and power, I threw my stone into the water, giving it back to the Mother, from whence it came. I accepted that she was more important than me and that I willingly sacrificed my need for power and control.

I was aware of the other young men in my group. Some were reluctant to let go, not fully understanding how it would impact on their lives. They were not ready. Some might never be and would go on to do other work within the tribes. But, for those, who were not quite ready, they would be given the chance to continue their training and repeat the exercise the following year. But that also meant, they could not be chosen to be a candidate in the current year’s Spring Festival. There was no judgement around this from the Elder, as they were only human and he understood the challenge of the sacrifice.

Spring Violets in the dew.

This experience, and the previous week’s one, was an amazing glimpse into how our ancestors worked with the very potent Spring fertility rites. The exercise, by the river and on the barrows, was quite a powerful one for the young men; the fear of letting go of personal power was palpable.

By contrast, the women’s rites felt free and joyful. There was such excitement and light-heartedness as they began the rites. But the men’s seemed quite serious, as if they had more to learn, more to let go of. But all were young. From late teens to early twenties. An appropriate age for Spring.

Next week, we’ll be up on St. Catherine’s Hill. It’s the culmination of the Spring festivities, the joining of the male and female energies, the festival that ensures fertility for the coming year. I am looking forward to seeing what we experience then. All we have to do is avoid the coffee-crowds.

Queen of the May.

It has been an interesting few months. The winter has been long and I really did not feel like going out much. Winter is never my time, energetically anyway, my time begins at Imbolc, the beginning of February. This is the time of female fertility, when plants emerge once more from the womb of winter and begin their growth towards the sun. 
This February, we explored a part of Winchester that has always beckoned but never quite seemed to be the right time. Because there are now so many people walking the places we usually frequent, we wanted to explore some place quieter. We found ourselves on Magdalene Hill Down and the five Bronze Age burial mounds there. 

It took two days, a week apart, to receive this information, so I will focus for this entry, on the first visit to the burial mounds.

Magdalene Down Barrow Cemetery.

On the slope of the Down, there are five Bronze Age burial mounds. Three are still intact, albeit with dips in the centre. The other two are barely discernible. We stood on the first large one in the row and tuned in as usual. This brought me back to the past in a wonderful way. The story is a female story.

Moving into the past is like re-experiencing past events in a physical way. I become part of it. Standing on the barrow, I am in the distant past and I am aware of being a woman, wearing white. There is a huge sense of joy and celebration and I am calling to the clans from the settlements to the east of the barrows. Many women and girls hear the call and they come, joyously, dressed in white, to join me. There is much excitement and I am aware of how important these sites are for the women. They are not merely places to bury their dead, but sites of great significance, of birth, of renewal, of life.

They come from their settlements with a sense of urgency. This is the time they have been waiting for. It has to be now – today! They connect with each other on a telepathic level so they are all working together with one mind. There is no separation here. Together, all holding hands, while I remain on the mound, the women dance around the barrow. Collectively, we call in an energy, which I recognise as dragon-energy, but they identify as something else, a creative-force, a tangible thing, alive. To me, with my modern mind, it is the white-dragon, which is highly creative and inspirational and feminine. To them it is a living energy, the same energy but we each have our own ways, through time, of experiencing it.

St. Catherine’s Hill from the barrows.

When the women call in this beautiful, creative force, it rises from the barrow and travels along an energetic path to St. Catherine’s Hill. They watch it, holding its energy with their Will and hearts until it reaches the summit of the hill, where it then encircles the top.

The process they are initiating will culminate in May. There is a corridor of time and energy between the beginning of Feb and the beginning of May in which to do this work.

On the second barrow, there was a distinctly masculine energy. It comes in the form of an Elder, with grey hair and beard and he is dressed in a grey robe. This energy is about male fertility, symbolised by the fish. It feels hot here, and a spring flame, which I call Brigit’s flame, is burning.

(We didn’t get any more on the male energy rituals until the next time we visited.)

Next, we stand on the third barrow, which after the heat of the previous one, feels really cold. This one is female again. I can see the women who had joined in celebration but now they are creating a tunnel of Blackthorn boughs in blossom, holding them in an arched corridor above their heads. Each girl takes her turn, like a dance, going through the blossom arch and as they travel, the energy of the blossom permeates them so they become the same energy. It is a fertility dance and they are being imparted with the fertile energy of the Spring Blossom which makes them fertile too. It is an energetic process, not a simply ritual one. They absorb the fertile energy of the blossom into their bodies, by osmosis until they and the energy of the Blackthorn are One.

Individually, they dance through, until the ones at the beginning of the archway, are now at the end, until each has had her turn. When Mayday, in their calendar, arrives they will process to St. Catherine’s Hill to complete the ritual. Everything they do is in preparation for that day and it all takes time. They know how to wait for the processes of nature and nothing is rushed.

When May arrives, one woman is chosen to be the representative of the earth’s creative energies and one man is chosen to represent the fertility aspects of water and sun. Together, each holding their respective energy, they reign until the following year, when a new couple is chosen. The couple chosen do not know who they were going to be paired with until the day of choosing, and the two are chosen because they showed the right qualities of dedication and learning over the preceding year. 

The newly crowned couple hold the energies for the surrounding areas for a year, enacting rituals that ensure the fertility of the area around the hill. They know their work will ensure the continuance of life for everyone and that the Mother and father will continue to care for them, providing them with food and shelter for another year.

This was a beautiful thing to witness. The Queen and King of the May are such an ancient tradition but it was interesting to see just how far this tradition went back. In modern times, the ritual is a re-enactment, but in times past it played an important role and was very real. The female group in the ritual were young women that appeared to be part of a group of women who trained to play this part. Only they were trained to hold the energy and to work with the necessary energies.

(The same applied to the young men, who had their own training, which we discovered when we returned the following week. But on this visit, we were shown the female aspect).

In May, they joined together, each representing, and holding, the masculine and feminine forces of creation.  

This entire experience seemed to be a process through time, where the celebrations and calling happened first, followed by the blossom-archway and then the celebration on St. Catherine’s.

On the fourth barrow, we were given the same information about the Queen’s awakening. Between February and May, she awakened, life returned. This was her time. Perhaps this is also about the Queen’s representative awakening to her role. The fact that this all happened around St. Catherine’s Hill was also magical. Maybe we should reinstate it?