The Palaeonuclear Age


The Cave of Forgotten Nightmares

Deep beneath a granite mountain in south western Finland a facility is being built with the sole intention of housing nuclear waste, permanently. Its name, Onkalo, means ‘cavern’ or ‘hidden place’. It is a fittingly provocative epithet that reflects the dilema behind the project; how do we convey to those who come after us, many millenia in our future, the danger of what we are leaving buried thousands of feet beneath the surface. Will the site remain undisturbed, a prospect we might well hope for given the extreme toxicity of the cave’s contents and which the Finnish authorities are well aware of – while many countries worldwide house such repositories Finland’s policy on self generated nuclear waste is that it must remain on Finnish soil. Such solutions will remain the case, unless we can find an alternative solution to a disturbingly fallible problem for which we presently have no infallible answers.

We might look to examples left by our ancestors from the distant past for clues to such an answer, artifacts that provide evidence not only of human traits which remain recognisable within ourselves, our imaginative and creative nature for instance, the innate curiousity that drives such a nature, but which also present similar problems in interpretation. The evidence is there, enshrined in and mirrored back to us in such places as the Chauvet cave in southern France, whose 32-36,000 year old paintings did remain undisturbed until discovery. And yet, our own legacy to the deep future will be of a very different nature. If Chauvet cave deserves the name Cave of Forgotten Dreams’, given to it by the film maker Werner Herzog for his 2011 documentary film, by comparison and by the same token Onkalo may well be the ‘Cave of Forgotten Nightmares’.

Within the scope of orthodox history very long time scales are extremely hard for humans to envisage in practical terms. The people who made the paintings in Chauvet cave seem as remote as the purpose behind their artwork. We can appreciate its beauty but have no idea if the same aesthetic value we attach to the images was intrinsic to their realisation. The images have a level of sophistication both as visual realisations of the fauna they portray and as technical translations of visual perception itself to suggest that we are not that dissimilar, in fact, when Picasso emerged from Lascaux cave having seen similar paintings two thirds the age of those at Chauvet he famously declared that ‘we have learned nothing’. If anything our learning, as he implies, reflects the gulf between us, a vacuum of discontinuity. The age in which those images were made belie the fact that we inhabit the same earth as theirs, that theirs was an age of ice, of mega-fauna, of different climate and sea levels. Much of the seaboard and borderlands upon which the feet of those artists might have walked now lie beneath sea and soil. The past is buried, and remains largely undisturbed, not just by human hand, but, by thought and understanding.

chauvet hand prints

The recorded histories we have access to are confined largely to the most recent half of the post-glacial era in which we currently live, a period of 12 thousand years, which might be viably considered ‘our own time’ within which our current state as a modern species has developed. While we have discovered cave paintings that reach back at least twice as far and recovered artifacts from subterranean sites, such as bird bone flutes, which were made over 60 thousand years ago, we are not only blind within but prejudiced by our own ignorance. It is certain that we knew musical sounds even then yet can only speculate, according to our own values and imaginative use of sonic technology within the ‘historical’ time frame, on what the technological, social and cultural contexts were like within which such ‘music’ was made. Beyond that, orthodox ideas of human history give us little to go on, the dating of deposits within which stone tools and human remains have been found revealing a limited understanding of what our ancestry were experiencing. Non-invasive dating methods can reveal much, including the presence of radionuclides within their environment. However, no-one from that time, it seems, gave us any comprehensive clues as to the full range of our capabilities, the effect these had on the subglacial world we lived in. If our ancestors left us signs that we need to be aware of, ‘intended for us’ their far distant descendants to take heed of, they have escaped our attention – we have only our own experiences and memories as a modern variation of the human genus to go on. As a result the orthodox concensus sees present day humans as ‘advanced’, beyond a palaeolithic presence that yet remains a mystery.

Even so, there are those who claim to have knowledge of times that precede ‘our own’ by many millenia, both ‘indigenous’ and contemporary, whose understanding is capable of penetrating and populating the ‘unknown’ era that we otherwise have so little understanding of with a meaningful vision of our past. All too often it is a vision that runs counter to the orthodox view, and, consequently, such knowledge is not valued sufficiently to offer a plausible account, is inevitably viewed with extreme scepticism, drawing hostile criticism if made public and, in the absence of supporting ‘evidence’, is more often than not simply dismissed as speculative fiction. Such is the paradox of a species that relies upon ‘proof’ in establishing the reality of its own past – while we have so little ‘acceptable proof’ to hand we remain divorced from our heritage and ignore the possibility that we may well have missed the historical elephant in our own midst. Just as we also ignore the reality of our own immaturity with respect to the future in how we currently use the technologies we have created we prefer to deny the possibility that a comparable level of technological development had been achieved in the deep past. Precluding such a possibility we look upon our ancestors as an inferior ‘other’, distinct from ourselves. Who is to say that our own descendants might not view us similarly….what ‘evidence’ might we leave to the contrary?


This is the question at the heart of Onkalo.


In his memoir ‘Quicksand’ the Swedish author and playwright Henning Mankel made a very pertinent observation concerning the problem of transmitting a vital message across deep time. While talking of Onkalo and the means by which a warning could be conveyed of ‘what lies beneath’ he pointed out the fact that human language itself is an ephemeral human artifact, intrinsically mutable and self referential, changing in form over relatively short periods of time even while its core meanings remain embedded within it. Meanings too are subject to change. And, in the age of unbridled ‘progress’, we inhabit the wave of change in language at its leading edge, relevant within our current context while virtually blinkered to its wake, assuming rather than ensuring that our ‘meanings’ will survive through time.

Comparatively speaking a mere 700 years seperate us from the time of Geoffrey Chaucer yet Chaucerian english is very different to its contemporary urban counterpart. Even though we can recognise the everyday lives and roles of those Chaucer described, despite their virtual disappearance within contemporary westernised life, his 14th century language requires translation for its context to be fully grasped, hardly a common pursuit or skill considered relevant to our everyday way of life. Yet this is the very skill that Onkalo’s message must rely upon, as a safeguard against misinterpretation and insurance against ignorance of the relevance of the message to those who might encounter it in the far distant future.

That future is around 100 millenia away, the estimated half life of the radioactive isotopes that will be buried within their granite sarcophagus at Onkalo, before the danger subsides enough for the message to become relatively redundant. A symbolism that has greater longevity suggests itself, one that is not as subject to the effects of time upon its readability, but, what symbols do we know of that bridge such a span of time. We struggle with symbols left by our ancestors 10 thousand years ago, such as those carved in stone at Gobekli Tepe temple complex in present day southern Turkey.


The builders of that temple may have had it in mind to convey a vital message to us, and this too is a site that was deliberately covered over centuries after its creation. As yet this remains a speculative unknown, not beyond the realms of possibility, but, subject to the same criterion of time, context and meaning none the less. Can we set an ‘alarm’ that will still function even 10,000 years from now?

Mankel’s concern is informed by a clear appreciation of the need for such an alarm, a warning against entering the realms of almost certain death –  he was a committed opponent of nuclear technologies. He wonders in ‘Quicksand’ if Onkalo’s best safeguard for our descendants might not be total obscurity, making the first line of defence invisibility, hiding the site from the future. Such cannot be accomplished without risk – the entrance to and existence of Onkalo, while it could conceivably be ‘forgotten’, could not be guaranteed to remain hidden; the earth moves and all eventualities cannot be accounted for. Given our present understanding of glacial cycles we could reasonably expect 8 or 9 ice ages to occur over the intervening time. And clearly, given the quarter of a million tonnes of nuclear waste already in existence, we have ventured too far down the nuclear highway to turn back, or to ignore the threat it represents.

As the website of the World Nuclear Association states “The main objective in managing and disposing of radioactive (or other) waste is to protect people and the environment. This means isolating or diluting the waste so that the rate or concentration of any radionuclides returned to the biosphere is harmless. To achieve this, practically all wastes are contained and managed – some clearly need deep and permanent burial. From nuclear power generation, none is allowed to cause harmful pollution.” And yet, as the industry itself clearly demonstrates through this statement, the future is vaccinated against such a threat by its very denial of it – ‘diluting the waste’ does not reduce its toxicity as a single particle is enough to propogate cancer, and ‘deep and permanent burial’ equals wilful ignorance, both of the redundancy of nuclear power in the face of viable alternatives and of the reasons it persists. Such wilful ignorance cares little for its own responsibilities. At Onkalo this problem does not escape attention, even while it attempts to bury it as a solution, and this dilema was beautifully exposed in the film ‘Into Eternity’, released in 2010 and made by director Michael Madsen in direct response to Onkalo.

Chauvet Cave Horses

As an image of beauty Chauvet cave is deeply profound, not simply because of its aesthetic or indeed its mystery, but because it appears as a gift from our ancestors, unsullied by projections of fear or intimations of catastrophobia. We tend to overlook the collective loss of habitat and animal life it foreshadows. It could have been intended as a warning of such loss, an attempt to remember forwards what was already being subjected to and experienced as profound change by its artists. Werner Herzog remarked upon the remarkable freshness of the paintings, as if the presence of the artist had been protected along with the paintings themselves. The cave had  remained sealed virtually since the images time of making, but, it was the work of nature, not human intention, that made it so. No such beauty belongs to the nuclear legacy. It is a legacy built upon quicksand, a palaeolithic inheritance of the future that we cannot wish to be claimed.

Malidoma Somé: The Ancestors’ Gift of Healing

Dagara elder Malidoma Somé speaks of the essential nature within the living relationship between ancestry and ourselves. He reminds us that at the core of this relationship a potential of mutual benefit is waiting to be realised and that through engaging with the Ancestors our own capacity as healers and givers of our own unique gifts can become radically grounded within community.

Children of the Corn

Given recent events, this post has  been a long time coming (literally, as Mercury retro has been playing havoc with comms and technology at this end of things!), and it carries a bitter sweet message, but, when the harvest is burned to stuble before its fruits have matured and been taken in its augery must be heeded…..

 The Oath

“….there were three men came out the west, their fortunes for to try

And these three men made a solemn vow

John Barleycorn must die

They’ve plowed, they’ve sown, they’ve harrowed him in

They threw clods upon his head

And these three men made a solemn vow

John Barleycorn is dead…..”

So, just what did happen this Lammas – seems the world is unravelling, and, the harvest has gone awry…..but, while the black dog tugs at the lose ends of our culture the old woman is stirring. And while the debates are sounding like an old cracked record, global tension shows in the lines drawn upon the face of the world and humanity is inexorably drawn further into the pressure zone of systemic breakdown. The cracks are showing, and the chasm widens when the bridges are burned…..a warning to all who would take sides; we are all in this together.

As EQs, volcanoes, extreme weather and Solar activity flare, we are seeing the emergence of Natural Law in confrontation with Human Law – the disparity between the two is being exposed – its the old wound.

We live in ‘Black Dog’ times, facing challenges that can both pitch us into depression, outward expressions of inner discontent and, ultimately, offer us a path of liberation and renewal. Such times can manifest both entropic collapse and creative growth, but, the ability and responsibility to access the latter depends very much on how we individually, & our leaders and governments, react to the former. The two go very much hand in hand, both in a material, psychological and spiritual sense. In fact, the whole matter of the health of our individual and collective soul is brought out at such times, and this is no romanticised notion – it is raw and visceral in the extreme.

The Black Dog

“They’ve let him lie for a very long time, ’til the rains from heaven did fall

And little Sir John sprung up his head and so amazed them all

They’ve let him stand ’til midsummer’s day ’til he looked both pale and wan

And little Sir John’s grown a long long beard and so become a man”

What is our emerging predominant position in our changing world, and how is it expressed, in human terms? Where are we at? It does not look as though we’ve cottoned on yet and started re-weaving, but, the signs are that it won’t be long before we turn around and find the whole damn edifice has become a mass of chaotic threads on the cave floor; and, for all the grandiose promises and words we may hear over the coming weeks, months or years, the medicine blanket cannot be repaired and then we carry on ‘AS IF’. Where in Hell’s name are our leaders at!? No, don’t bother to answer……..and, do ‘they’ seriously expect us to believe that the Sun also shines……

If ‘We’ adopt the same position, well, do they, should we, expect everything will be alright…..and, what exactly is ‘Our’ position?

Is our position expressed in advances in science, in education or health and longevity, through democracy? Could it be economic breakdown, political unrest, human violence and oppression, through terrorism and war, abuse of the natural world and human rights, famine and fear? Does it have a more positive face, is it visible in the emergence of ‘people power’ und uprisings against the oppressors, are ‘We’ getting any closer to the manifestation of a movement towards ethical global unity, towards sustainable living and life-ways, through our enhanced communications and interconnectedness, are we really realising transformations of consciousness?

When the answer to the latter transcends the personal flowering head, and spreads a shimmer of beauty across ourcollective field, like poppies in the corn field, we will know – Lammas is the time of the cross quarter fire festival between the hay and the corn harvests, time for an augery before the harvest is brought in. Is it a far cry from the harvest, that we see the used and abused, the disowned and out of synch playing the reapers game…..

The Unravelling

“They’ve hired men with their scythes so sharp to cut him off at the knee

They’ve rolled and tied him by the way, serving him most barbarously

They’ve hired men with their sharp pitchforks who’ve pricked him to the heart

And the loader has served him worse than that

For he’s bound him to the cart”

Time was when we knew how to bring this energy into the fold of community, to work with it for the greater good…..we once had rites of passage and initiations that helped the young find their place in the world, that vitally tempered the vital energy, that taught of Life and Death, and how Death was a responsibility of the living that was much a part of the learning process as the most ancient of our connections; breathing in the final breath of the Deer, honouring its gift and giving thanks, rubbing its blood into our hearts, its saliva into our joints, that we may be in communion, one energy, before taking Death back into the community to feed the living with its sacred flesh…….then we learned how to grow corn and the sacred balance shifted

Time was when the child’s path to adulthood was marked by a kind of respect and holding that allowed the young ones to taste their own capacity for manifesting and experiencing their direct relationship with Life and Death, in ways that nurtured a respect for both, ritual ways…..this is natural, where Natural Law and Human Law have an interwoven nature, like the warp and the weft of the medicine blanket, that weaves a pattern of Great Beauty, out of Great Mystery…..and creates a garment that can be worn as one’s own with pride, that shows to all to what, where, whom and how one belongs……oh my!, but we must weep surely, tears of grief, for the tattered garment of lies that we now offer to them…..the pattern it shows, the inner meaning it conveys, its allegiences, are those of Human Law at odds with Natural Law. Is it any wonder that the fierce energy of Natural Law gone riot is flooding our village with destructive energy, burning down our temples of consumerism, releasing a lava flow of disdain and dis-respect – whats to respect?!!!

It takes a village to raise a child, so what kind of village do we invite them to come live in? No need to answer this either……we all know.

The Augery

“They wheeled him around and around a field ’til they came unto a pond

And there they’ve made a solemn oath on poor John Barleycorn

They’ve hired men with their crabtree sticks to cut him skin from bone

And the miller has served him worse than that

And ground him between two stones”

We watch for the signs in Nature, listen to the Earth speaking in Her bardic tongue and wonder as she calls to the stars…..

“Are the Blades of Teaching ready…….Are they forged anew in the smithy of the boiling clouds, thundering hammers and blinding shards of fire echoing across the Land……Do you come now, are you ready for the reaping…..”

The promise of the Cornucopia, the weaving of the Sacred Mother’s flowering heads into Her image… on that note and breathe the ozone of the approaching storm….but, breathe deeply, so it fills your blood and carries the life-force to all parts of your body, and swearing an oath to Life would be better than swearing alliegence to a dieing culture, or swearing damnation on the young……

As I was writing this the song of John Barleycorn kept coming up and flooding my memory – I had intended a prayer, a poetic invocation, but, I did not expect this……and yet the other worlds, the ancestors, were insistent….”look again”…….it has many layers and possible meanings , and is loaded with potent symbolism, such that it fit with the times. So, Ioffer this old song for contemplation and post it as an oath song, for choices that matter now….

Originally, perhaps, and best known as a song of protest, for solidarity in the face of prohibition, the verses offered here are from in the English version, which feels relevant in its own way. Burns’ Gaelic version is worth reading for its raw lyricism, as sharp as a prick from the Thistle’s thorn, and celebrates the hardiness of the Gaelic spirit, especially in the face of the oppressor. Burns used the pseudonym John Barleycorn when he answered the prohibition laws in his ‘Address to the Scottish Distillers to the Right Honorable William Pitt’, the British Prime Minister at the time. The English version has become more literalised, made to resonate with a different political flavour, steeped in its own magical traditions, but, the pertinent message remains the same. And, the essence is the stronger for maturing through time, like the spirits at the heart of the protest, and it reaches back to the roots of the agrarian revolution……it remains potent in spirit and celebrates the earthy realism of life lived on the land, where the people’s roots hold strong and connect them through the old ways with each other through the Land.

The Harvest

“And little Sir John and the nut brown bowl and his brandy in the glass

And little Sir John and his nut brown bowl proved the strongest man at last

The huntsman he can’t hunt the fox nor so proudly blow his horn

And the tinker he can’t mend kettle or pots without little Barleycorn”

Times have changed and we prohibit the hunt and drive out the tinker, and John Barleycorn holds his own mirror up to us, his song become the rallying call to the bar and tavern – but, with more time and care it spins a different magic, bitter sweet and persistent, with a bite, like all the best distillations of spirit, a reminder of a past that yet has a relevance to us now. So, the song is sung and the oath is made in honour of  the Ancestors who fought for their rights, for their land and who buried an undying spirit within its midst, in thanks for their persistence…. 

Those  ancestors wove their paths across the oceans by means of star wisdom and the flow of the ocean tides, the knowledge of the winds, and brought with them the crafts of the smithy, the ship-wright and the navigator, and they too planted the precious seeds they carried in the belly of our fertile land. The song contains a ritual, hidden in the weave of its medicine blanket, that belongs to the full realisation of a strengthened spirit through the rites of passage – a ritual belonging as much to the Northern Isles as it does to the Southern Plains….

…..they met with ancestors of another line, who wove their paths through the forests by means of the Deer tracks and Owl call, who read the messages of bird and leaf, who carried the long memory of the hunter, the healer and the diviner – they all carried their Wheels, the sacred medicines that speak of the great circle of Life. Their Wheels held the the signs of their wisdom woven into their medicine blankets, by which they honoured the wise and kenning ways of Life common to us all. We can remember this, it is still ours.

When we and the Wheels come together we find the ritual comes alive, weaving the Fire, the Earth, the Oceans and the Winds around the axis of the Stars and the Soul…..weaving the Spirits of the Ancestors and their eternal Dreaming Fire of Vision and Continuity, the Spirits of Healing and Cleansing whose cool Waters offer Peace and Reconciliation, the crystalline Beings of Stone and Bone who hold our Stories and Remembering, the Nature Spirits who speak their Shape-shifter riddles of Change and Transformation, all centered and gathered together within and around, supported by, the Spirits of Earth whose Village Meeting Lodge opens its threshold to us all to join together, to be held within the Shelter of Community and share the gifts of Communion with Life, and teaches us of Who We Are…..

…..there are gifts for us all here, that we can still offer  folk, should we care to – and we should, especially when youthfull vitality is drowned in the spirits in the bottle, has its roots severed by a culture of debt and greed, and is suffering our own short-comings…..but, we must remember the approaching Harvest, and ask what ‘We’ can bring into the ritual space that celebrates the circle dance of Life and Death, that will truly nourish us and keep us alive through the coming Winter…..wise now for us each and together to make our offerings to Earth as She offers her fruits to us, to weave the fruits of our labours into an image in Her likeness and through this bring the healing ways of Her Medicine Blanket into the Meeting Place at the Heart of our Village, would that we could remember the way…….


I want to make a toast, a prayer of thanks – to all of you who have come to this oft’times unpredictable (for me at least!) and peculiar meeting place over the last year – Yes! Owlmirror is one year old……my, how time flies when you’re having fun. So, to everyone who has visited, commented, ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ within this mad hut and spun our magic together – THANK YOU, BE BLESSED and SLAINTE!


Deep Moon

Venus gives us a Heart connection right to the heart of the Void, Great Mystery, the Source at this Capricorn Full Moon……and Ancestors are rising to great us!

The Capricorn Full Moon in the 23rd degree of the Sea-goat highlights how we have crystalised our personal and collective power in the world and how this manifests, or works against, our sense of belonging. The spotlight is on the underlying security and empowerment that our rootedness give us, and there is a great opportunity for deep healing here.

While we see the macrocosm reflected in the microcosm of our personal lives, and visa versa, this can be a very emotional time and the balance that feeling ‘at home’, being centered, brings us will help us greatly as we face up to the power struggles playing out on our home planet. There is a pride and dignity in having strong personal identity, in knowing who we are and where we have come from. This is not ego-pride, but, the dignified wisdom of the soul that gives a deeper sense of purpose to the direction our lives are taking. Being in possession of this power is all about being more deeply connected into our soul path and, through this, remembering why we are here. We can align what we are and what we do with that purpose. This was revealed in the Storyteller Eclipse and the seeds sown then are germinating now. ‘Why’ we do what we do matters more than ever now, is a matter of deep healing at the heart of our transformation. The Earth needs us to have this sense of purpose, it is an energy we can all feel rising….

A person, like a plant, cannot exist easily without roots – there are exceptions, but, it is what is below the surface and our ability to draw upon the rich nutrients of life that helps us to become strong in the world. We need solid ground beneath our feet and ancestry, tradition and the bonds of kinship can provide this. No-one is an island…..

With the Sun in Cancer, an opportunity for consciously tapping into the natural wellsprings of our roots and drawing on the primal wisdom that flows from and through them, we can bring this deeper sense of wellbeing into full consciousness at this time. It will be a good time to work with our personal and tribal affiliations, to bring healing and strength to those connections, and, as we are all in this together, this will also work for the greater good – but, respect and balance are key. If we work on this at the personal level with these cohesive qualities our collective sense of purpose will be strengthened. When the people are strong the balance of power resides in the rootedness of their will. Nothing can take this away from us once it is established within.

Ancestor work is powerful and essential medicine, so now is the time to bring offerings to those who have gone before us. Asking forgiveness for our own failures to keep those connections alive, forgiving their errors and pledging to renew this sacred contract with our forebears will truly help heal the wounds we see opening out in the world. Honouring ancestry itself brings great sense of belonging and wellbeing – its shadow side is zealous nationalism, racism and tribal warfare. When the underlying dynamics of this shadow are allowed to accumulate over time they can call up the vengeful power of the Furies. Old wounds underly our wars and through these the Furies seek blood payments. When we lose respect and balance our emotions can fuel their wrath; when we restore these important qualities and make it possible to acknowledge the wounds without being sucked into their energy we can also consciously acknowledge their presence. The sense of self and compassion that arises with this are essential here, but, so is the honouring of the Furies….but, our work here is with Venus and her essential grounding, so more on the Furies in the next post.

Once we have renewed ourconnections within with our ancestral roots we can also ask for guidance and support from them – its a mutual relationship, profound and meaningful when centered in the heart, problematic and disruptive when we loose ourselves from our center and allow the power to rush to our heads. Balance. Integration. Partnership. Co-operation. Generousity. Respect. Compassion. These are all human qualities that this work can engender, that spring from the heart and that fund us with the ability to enter and face the challenges of the unknown with courage, the power of the heart…..they too bring dignity to our personal dance.

The health of our integration with those ancestral powers is a big issue on both a collective and personal level. The current upheavals/tensions in the world and our ancestral connections are intimately related, a relationship we feel collectively, know instinctively. Those connections have suffered immensly at the hands of ‘progress’, ‘modernism’ and the imbalances of personal power that are rife in the world. There is a mutual feedback loop in this – the call is to break the bonds of the negative loop and restore the bonds of the positive. With the emphasis at this Moon on our emotive power, understanding how our feelings reflect and feed into the health of this fundamental relationship is important – when we are wise to the energies of our emotional body we can walk in balance. This too reflects our personal rootedness, is key to working with this Moons energies. So, make your personal space conducive to quiet focus, free of distraction, a natural and beautiful container for this work. If you have a circle or communal space in which this healing work can take place now is the time to bring this together. Make it a sacred communion. Through this, together we can create something of immense value that is much greater than the sum of its parts. There is an imprint of the last Solar eclipse at work in this too, tapping into archetypal energies – the key to working with those energies is to create a strong enough container for them to flow through us into life without entirely loosing our sense of self, so the power of community is also supported here by traditional forms and practices belonging to those communities…..this too can connect us more deeply with our origins.

And this is where Venus comes in……Our origins are beginning to speak to us now through ever deepening rememberance, guiding us into ever more tangible embodiment of our true essence. The reality that we are star beings incarnate through the body of the Earth Mother is a leitmotiv that we are beginning to recover from our past, but, this is not an invitation to escape into fantasy. The eclipses have opened archetypal portals in space-time and ‘the lid is off’. The archetypes fund us with this realisation, but, they also bring very tangible challenges if we have our spirits in the stars while ignoring our physical grounding. Integration is so important. As the Taoists (and Sistertongue) remind us we must honour the Yang but stick with the Yin. Venus in the 14th degree of Cancer gives us the sensual connection. And she is given a powerful incentive to crystalise our connections in balanced relationship as she is squaring Saturn in Libra, but, it is the Sabian symbol attached to this degree that reveals the deeper link.


KEYNOTE: Fulfillment in transcending and changeless wisdom.

This symbol describes the Wise Elder, an archetypal figure found in all systems of symbolism. In occult terminology the northeast is the direction from which spiritual-cosmic forces enter the Earth-sphere. This is probably because the polar axis of the Earth is inclined by some 23 degrees away from the exact perpendicular to the plane of its orbit. Thus the actual pole of our globe not only differs from the permanent pole of the Earth’s orbit, but constantly changes its direction, successively pointing to several large “circumpolar” stars during the so-called processional cycle (or “tropical year,” or Great Polar Cycle), which lasts somewhat less than 26,000 years. Because of this inclination of the polar axis, we have the phenomenon of seasonal change. Supposedly during the early Golden Age no such change occurred; a “perpetual spring” reigned. This is the (traditionally) spiritual state. The Wise Elder faces the Changeless Reality, the true North —- which for us is located in a northeast direction. S/he faces the great Void, that apparent Darkness which is an intense Light invisible to our senses.

As this is a fourth stage symbol in the five-fold sequence, there is as usual a hint of technique. Implied is that by consistently and for a long time meditating on the changeless and spiritual reality at the very core of all experiences one can attain the supreme and age-old wisdom. We see in the symbol a way beyond appearances and toward PERMANENCE IN TRUTH.

The North-East is also the direction through which spirit enters the Medicine Wheel in many traditions, before becoming manifest in the East – on the outer rim it is where the ancestor’s road crosses our personal path, and it calls us to consciously choose the best path for our energy to follow. With the empowerment of a centered and self-knowing soul, deeply rooted and connected with the Source, we become the truely empowered, co-creative ‘self-leader’ that our ancestral heritage has endorsed us to become on our journey into Life. It is the place of the pre-dawn light, and Venus as the Morning Star is its herald. She is rising in this form now……

The exquisit beauty of the planetary dance at this time is further aided by aligning our soul paths with their energetic matrix. The planetary matrix contains all the patterns they have made and will make as we spiral around our home star, spiralling around the galactic center – tapping into that timeless memory is an important esoteric function of astrology, made more poigniant now through the culmination of the Mayan Calendar and Earths axial alignment with the Galactic Center; the strength arising from this now is at the heart of and manifest in the very power of the spirit dance. The sacred circle dance opens the human circle to spirit and facilitates the ancestral healing that augers the mending of the Sacred Hoop, the Wheel of Life restored. Not for the first time……

……the vision that Northern Paiute Wovoka recieved on the 1st January Solar Eclipse of 1889 held a calling for the resurgence of the spirit dance amongst the indigenous folk of North America, and his vision carried a profoundly pertinent message for our times. The dance he was giving call to has since become erroneously named the ‘Ghost Dance’, more a reflection of the limited understanding of his detractors than of the spirit of his vision – the story and events that preceded and followed this important event in Native American culture is deeply tragic, but, the vision that Wovoka beheld was equally deep and inspiring. Wovoka advocated ‘clean living’, non-violent peaceful cross-cultural co-operation and an end through this to the destructive hegemony of the white-man. This Full Moon conjuncts the position of the Moon’s nodes at the exact time of the 1889 eclipse…….perhaps the ancestors are calling us now to take up the soul path of this vision…….Mercury conjuncts the 1889 eclipse Saturn, so our voices can be shaped by this vision……it is our calling too.


A few years back I began work on ‘bringing out’ images of Elders – they became an ongoing theme – here are just four from the series that emerged, along with a little background on their evolution and info on how the images are made….. 

GRANDMOTHER  ‘tender heart’: ELDER SERIES 1998

white and black inks on paper – 13 x 13 cm

…..this old grandmother was the first to show up, full of love and an ancient tenderness that just blew me away – she also reminded me very much of my maternal grandmother Florence, who was a healer and diviner – Florence introduced me to divining when I was just seven years old, so maybe there is something of her intitiatic energy in this Grandmother……..

it seems there is no accident in this work coming about – for a couple of years I had been engaged with ancestral healing within a communal setting – I was also working with some of my own ancestors – our links and communications became stronger as a natural consequence of this – amongst other things the healing process helped clear up unfinished business, which is always present as a potential blockage until resolved – subsequently, it seems, a renewed energy was released out of  which the Elders Series grew – and it really did feel as though there was new sap flowing up from the old roots of our family tree, an irrepressible force for new life…

…..thinking on this, it became clear that a potential creative route for healing was being opened up, one that could be shared – as a visceral process it promises to reach across time and could bring the present as well as the future into more harmonious relationship with the past  – after having studied creative work in contexts of ritual, ceremony and healing for some years, everything suggested that this development had to be good for us all, contemporising and further earthing collective healing…..

exploring this impulse the images that followed ‘tender heart’ became more visceral too and literally grew,  needing to be expressed on a scale that would hold their energy – but, Grandmother was the first in line and I found that the seed energy that she had brought with her needed to evolve on the physical plane – this led to more experimentation and exploration of different media – I had to wait nine years before her companion appeared and, when he did, he also initiated a new impulse……..

GRANDFATHER ‘tender heart’ 2007

compressed charcoal and natural chalk on canvas  –  67 x 67 cm

Grandfather marked a big transition point – he was the first of the Elders to be exhibited – making the transit from the healing (or ritual) space to the ‘public’ – there is a powerful aura around him that emanates not just from the physical size of his image, but, also from an intensity that he shares with the initial Grandmother, his partner  – he is clearly from the same spiritual root as Grandmother

by the time Grandfather arrived the techniques I was using had developed and changed – they had come from a specific approach to drawing that I learned shortly after Grandmother came along – it is a free-from technique that employs a mild trance state to allow the drawing to take shape and the image to emerge – it is akin to a shamanic state of consciousness, and yet, it is the physical nature of the drawing process that facilitates it – one thing that is particularly appealing about the process is that it can be used in virtually any therapeutic context, from the most agnostic to the most spiritual…….

……….the technique was shown to me by an indigenous healer who told me that all the faces (and images) that come through belong to people (and times) whom we have known in previous lifetimes 

 in the course of time, this process has developed and can be successfully passed on to others – it brings a creative beauty and tangibility to both ancestral and past life healing – we get to see what otherwise might remain hidden or latent, and, at the same time, get to keep artwork that can at times be astonishing and inspiring on both a personal and collective level 

in the years between the two Grandparents many other peoples showed up – the collective aspect of the work also began to come to the fore – I continued exploring the technique, applying it to illustration and other settings and applications, and out of this drawings with two or more people in them began to appear – ‘friends’ was one of the first………


compressed charcoal and natural chalk on paper  105 x 88 cm

I have the sense that these two have known each other for many years – as well as the sharing that they appear to be engaged in there is an inner conversation going on as well – perhaps they are sharing memories or the common ground of experience – whatever it is, they seem to have completely dissolved their boundaries and have a unity of spirit that we find so often with old friends – I found this to be very healing as an emergent image

in this image you can see the bare bones of the process more clearly – the whole starts with a basic spherical structure around which everything hangs – the initial lines are produced in trance and appear rather random – and yet, after some minutes, there appear nexus of energy within the creative graphics – it is out of these that the features emerge – when two faces are emerging the energy of their interaction feeds into the image and this further brings out their individuality on a different level, one of relationship, of identity within relationships – this development brought a deepening and refinement to the solo images 

it has also, quite naturally, led to the exploration of specific qualities within people – again, between the times of the two Grandparents, I began to frame an intent to meet people through the drawings who had clearly specific roles within in their community – I was particularly interested to meet with artists, healers and diviners and invited them to come through at the beginning of the drawing process –  one of my favourite characters to come through as a result of this refinement is the Seer – she is also one of the largest of the drawings – she fills the space with a wild and effulgent energy and this is so strong that I keep her safely tucked away most of the time………


compressed charcoal and natural chalk on paper  –  105 x 124 cm 

I was walking across the Avebury Downs when I first got the Seer’s calling to come in – I was collecting the natural chalk that I use for these drawings at the time – it is a lovely dense, fine and slightly wet stone that seems so alive in the hand – at one point, my partner and I entered a spinney (small hilltop woodland) that surrounded an ancient mound just north of the ‘Sanctuary’ within the land surrounding the Avebury complex – as I sat next the mound and gazed out across the fields towards the great circle and Avebury village I felt a shift, a wave of energy – a presence, warm and yet enigmatic – later, as we left, I almost felt as though this presence was walking with us

I had been wanting to invite a diviner to come through the drawing,  and so on my return I invited someone with this energy and focus – as the image took shape I knew this was the same presence I had felt up on the Avebury Downs

 She/he, for this one is ambiguous in their sexuality, has both a fey and earthy quality – they are otherworldy and at the same time wiley – wise to the ways of the world – more than anything else though, there is a quality of feral  magic, a certain look in the eyes – the Seer has a wild joy that holds our attention – its as if they are tangibly infusing the physical dimensions 

some of these images are best only brought out from time to time – they have the potential to change the contours of space and time when in their physical company – they can bring healing to the maker and the family line – they can equally inspire creativity, and, as they do not rest on artistic ability for their effectiveness, are accessible to many – with some care and respect they will maintain their power, and have their voice – I hope you will enjoy meeting them………….

through finding form the Elders remain strong within our lives – their presence fills the void where their voices could be – for this reason I feel this work is worth every ounce of energy that we can give it – it is available to all and through it, in the course of time, the importance of the elders and ancestors will be born out, remembered and embodied – if you are interested to find out more please send me an e-mail or post a comment……….all blessings

respectfully, please feel free to copy these images for your own personal use and, if you wish to share them, please give them attribution to the author – many thanks


Rob Purday wishes to be identified as the author and copyright holder of the ‘Elder Series’ images, as reproduced in The Elders’ article above, and,  in relation to this, reproduction of these images for commercial or promotional use, in any form, is strictly prohibited without permission and consent of the author.


apologies for any automatically generated material appearing below………

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