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my news, latest designs, inspiration and interests

new designs 2018

Its trial and error when you are creating something new, as your work doesn’t progress in a straight line, it seems more like watching a ‘ping-pong ball in action’…

Over the past year, I’ve been doing lots of experimenting and exploring many new ideas. It all takes time and it’s often hard to give it all the development time it needs.

Now I feel my patience is slowly being rewarded, as my new glass and wire designs are beginning to come together.

Am really grateful, especially after my recent ups and downs, which I’ve written about in some of my blog posts, if you’ve read my last blog – a downside of working with glass – you’ll understand why I’m appreciating it all the more.

When you have ideas and designs in your head, then sketch them and explore how to create them, it becomes like a journey you travel along before you’re able to make the finished design. Its frustrating at times, but also really satisfying.

It’s like watching a flower grow and blossom!

A year ago, I created my first pieces of ‘ash fused glass’ to help me with my grieving. This year I’ve worked further on it, my Ash Fused Glass, in the hope of being able to help others keep a little bit of their loved ones with them too.  For more info visit my new website – www.ashfusedglass.co.uk

ash fused glass pendant
midnight blue sparkly ash fused glass with a heart

I’m also well underway with creating my new range of ultra sparkly glass pendants, see an example in the main header photo and more photos of these jewel-like beauties on Instagram – www.instagram.com/jewelleryartist

Some of my designs evolve further over time, as I adapt and change them with fresh ideas or create them in different colourways, with different beads or other variations. I’ve been doing this with many of my glass and wirework designs over the past year and will be posting about these ‘new’ updated designs and more about my Ash Fused Glass in my coming posts. Come with me on my creative journey…

For the moment I’m just feeling happy with all the progress over the past year!

Wishing you sparkles of light, Sam Rowena x

a downside of working with glass

Relieved that August is behind me… so many things breaking down, more accidents than usual, followed by getting an infected finger. Argh!

I don’t even know how I did it?

4 weeks ago I’d got a cut on my index finger, so the following day I was using my middle finger instead when doing some glass work at my studio. It’s not as hardy (as used to working) and I think I must have got a tiny glass splinter inside my fingernail.

Who would have thought that something like that would cause me all this trouble!

Not good. It’s hard to keep positive when you are feeling ill, as it seemed to aggravate all my weak spots, so it wasn’t just a sore fingertip that was stopping me sleeping. I had a bad back, aching arthritis, a cold and toothache as well.

At first, I tried applying an antiseptic cream, then some essential oils (lavender, tea tree and vitamin E) and bathing my hand in warm water with Himalayan salt as recommended after googling it. But after a few days – my symptoms were getting worse and my fingernail started turning black – I decided I needed to go to A and E to get it checked out by a doctor. Thankfully after a week on penicillin, I and my fingertip slowly began to recover…

As a designer-maker my hands are so precious – they’re my main tools – and working for the first 2 weeks was out I could hardly bend my finger it was so swollen. I’m so happy that this past 2 weeks my finger has gradually been getting better and I’ve been able to use it again to do short bursts of wirework, glueing and other work, although it looks like its going to take a bit longer before its fully back to normal.

I’m also glad to be back to ‘me’ and my upbeat self again!

Perhaps this and my ongoing eye problem are helping me take stock of all the positives; the progress I’m making with my new designs this year and all that I’ve learnt along my creative and spiritual journey. It’s helping me enjoy the ‘now’, be grateful and kind to myself, rather than beat myself up for not managing to do all that’s on my long to-do list. Instead, I will give myself the time it needs to get it done…

Wishing you sparkles of light along your journey too,
Sam Rowena x

eyesight is precious

Its been nearly 3 months since the floaters and flashes in my right eye began and thankfully my brain is getting used to them and most of the time isn’t taking as much notice of them!

But at the beginning of May when they started I was quite worried, especially after looking up more info about them online and finding that they might be symptoms of a detached or torn retina – I’d also managed to hit myself in the eye the previous week – and I should go to A&E to get them checked out. Argh, not my favourite place, but after a few hours wait, I got an emergency appointment to see an eye specialist the following day. I had some further eye tests at my opticians and felt reassured that it looks like they are caused by something less serious (the gel around the eye) I was able to head off on holiday and continue with my life… although I still have to keep ‘an eye’ on it, should it change.

The ‘tadpole’ and black dots that are swimming around my vision and the flashes of light were initially hard to ignore and caused headaches, so I’ve needed to regularly rest my eyes and am doing mini-meditations/eye exercises too.

The other problem is that I’ve had to limit my screen time. Computer work and watching the tv puts too much strain on my eyes and gives me headaches. Luckily though with working for myself, I’ve been able to spend more time on other tasks that I can do.

Am really glad that I hadn’t booked many events over the Summer so that I’ve been able to take life at a slower pace.

It’s given me a deeper appreciation of my eyesight and there have been other benefits too from all the meditating…

Sam Rowena

jewelart pop-up events

Do you ever feel that barriers are put in your way to help you change what you are doing?

Whether it’s our guides or destiny, saying “no you have to stop going down the path you’re on, as its now time for a different path and a change of direction.”

I definitely am feeling this… it hardly ever snows in Lancashire, but during both my recent jewelart pop-up shops at the Platform Gallery we’ve had both snow and ice.  Ok, I did have a premonition that it might snow when I booked it early last year for a week in December, but then for it to snow again during my recent March event, that was just so ‘Deja-Vue’?!

Lancashire snowscene
March snow-scene the week before my pop-up

All the work that goes into organising and doing these pop-up events, laid to waste by the weather…

Just to give you an idea of some of the work involved:

  • Created leaflets and posters and took them to the gallery before Christmas (so that they could display them and help advertise my pop-up event), filled in the booking forms and paid the gallery hire fee
  • Added the event to my website events list
  • Displayed and gave out my pop-up shop leaflets at other events
  • Promoted it in my newsletter
  • Sent photos/info to the Gallery for them to help publicise the pop-up on their website, newsletter and social media
  • Another journey to Clitheroe the week before the event to put up posters in a few places around Clitheroe and check out the exact gallery space set-up
  • Promoted the event on my social media
  • Brought with me my display board for outside the gallery
  • The gallery hire didn’t include extra time to set-up and take down, after setting up the pop-up display, I was open to the public from midday on Friday and all day Saturday. I’d hired Monday morning to take it down, so this involved 3 journeys to Clitheroe and paying for parking each day

I know that March isn’t the best time of year to organise a pop-up shop and I wouldn’t normally have done it then, except that during my December pop-up shop I discovered that from April the Mix Gallery hire fee was doubling (tripling on Saturdays). This meant that it really wouldn’t be viable for future pop-up events there and I wanted to do it for one last time!

jewelart vintage crystal decorations
vintage chandelier crystal light-catcher decorations at my December jewelart pop-up shop

Alongside my jewelart pop-up shop display, there’s enough room for an extra table so that I can sit making and visitors can watch me creating abstract wire work and chat with me about my designs.

“It’s a shame, as it’s a lovely small gallery space for pop-up events, especially as there are now so few alternative places to do them in Lancashire.”

Clitheroe is such a great place to visit for a day out, as well as the Platform gallery, there are its castle ruins and museum, quirky shops, cafes and galleries, and its beautiful countryside setting.

How it began:
After taking part in some of the Platform Gallery’s pop-up Christmas meet the maker events, I hired the gallery space for a group event with my neighbouring studios, but it didn’t work as there wasn’t enough space for 5 lots of displays and for all of us to be sat with our work.

For the past few years, I’ve usually hired the gallery space twice a year. Its still been hit and miss… sometimes there were only a few people venturing inside for tourist info and they haven’t ventured further down into the gallery, or the weather was too nice for people to want to spend their time indoors and then other times, such as my recent pop-ups the bad weather put people off venturing out to Clitheroe.

my first solo jewelart pop-up shop in 2015
jewelart pop-up shop leaflets 2015

 

“When things just aren’t working anymore, it makes you reflect on why not.”

I feel happy that I’ve had these experiences and pop-ups at the gallery and for the most part, I’ve enjoyed doing them and meeting/chatting with visitors over the years, but taking into account all the work involved with organising them, I do agree that I’m ready for a new path…

hugs and sparkles
Sam Rowena x

alternatives

Instead of doing what I would normally do, for the past year, I’ve been trying out ‘alternatives’ from alternative therapies and healing to finding different solutions for what I do in my work and experimenting with alternative design ideas. I’m trying to approach everything with an open mind and to just see what happens…

Teaching
At the end of 2016, I decided I wasn’t enjoying the work involved with organising my classes and after 13 years of teaching jewellery making classes, I thought these Spring 2017 classes would be my last ones. But, I’m still teaching, slightly differently now though, as I’ve begun teaching bespoke 1-1 and small group taster workshops.

Other Work
Last Summer whilst at an artisan market, I had an interesting conversation about work with my neighbouring stallholder, she and another of the artists I knew were both working part-time as assistants/helpers for older clients through an agency. I needed some extra regular income and thought this could be a potential alternative part-time job. Since then I’ve been working a few hours to one day per week as a personal assistant.

Events
To make it easier for my bad back and problems carrying things with my left hand, I’ve altered my display to make it easier to set up and carry using a trolley. I’m trying to limit my driving by doing events within a 45-minute drive time. Also instead of doing as many events in 2018, as an alternative, I’m devoting more time to my online sales and working on my webshop, Etsy and other alternatives.

Ash Fused Glass
Out of the ashes of sadness, a new direction is born – an alternative – I’m sure my dad would be proud to be part of it too. My hope is to be able to help others that want to have a beautiful keepsake or piece of jewellery made with some of their loved ones or pets ashes.

Alternative therapies and healing
During 2017 I began going to a range of different sound healing meditations and workshops, these are amazing, but I found that I need to give myself a day or two afterwards to just chill out and relax. Sometimes I’ve felt like I’m in an altered state, my head is buzzing and I see more rainbow sparkles than usual.
I’ve also been going to Eden Energy workshops and other classes to try and help heal myself using an alternative way.

Interesting conversations
Are you also looking for alternatives to the normal path? I’ve been amazed this past year, how many others I’ve met that are also interested in similar things and alternative ways.

Going Forward
If it’s not working and the path seems blocked by many obstacles, my route is to find a creative way around it, an alternative path… I do believe in silver linings!

Let there be sparkles of light along your journey xx 
Sam Rowena

adversity 2017

Sometimes our path seems to be strewn with all sorts of problems to overcome, 2017 was especially tough going with many things to overcome…

The passing of a loved one and illness, although difficult has helped me put everything else in perspective and made me realise that it will pass and with time I’ll get through it and better times will return.

Grief, when you lose someone close, is something you have to go through, it takes time to heal and you have to keep reminding yourself that they wouldn’t want you to be sad. It’s important to know that they remain with you in your memories and their spirit helps watch over you.

2017 also brought with it health problems. I’ve had back problems on and off for many years, but in January it ‘went’… I couldn’t even walk with the pain and it worsened in February. It gradually improved with careful treatment; regular stretches alongside visits to the osteopath, but remained ‘fragile’ most of the year and had an impact on my work.

Sitting or standing for long stretches of time made my back worse, which is hard not to do, I either sit or stand when making, at my stall, on the computer and driving. I found driving especially bad and it influenced the events I could travel to. I became more careful when carrying anything heavy and rearranged my stall display to make it easier so that I wasn’t leaning over as much. Even teaching, I’d normally lean over to help students and there’s not usually space for a chair to sit down instead.

It wasn’t only back problems plaguing me, after carrying anything with my left hand my knuckles would swell up and become painful. Then towards the end of the year, I came down with the worst cold I’ve experienced (bad enough to visit a dr to check it out) and even now months later my cough keeps on resurfacing… argh!

So glad its now 2018 and the light of Spring brings renewed hope for better times ahead. Hugs Sam Rowena x

self belief

At times over the past few years my self-belief in my chosen path – of being an artisan designer-maker – has wavered when health problems, difficult times and adversity seem to litter the way, but hope, belief and a love of being creative helps to keep me strong.

Luckily, I do believe that if our journey is too easy, we don’t always appreciate the good times when everything just seems to click into place and works out how we want it to.

Good times are all the sweeter when you’ve had to work hard to achieve your goals and overcome obstacles along the way!

This year has just been a bit of a bummer though and I think its now time for my silver linings…

more in my next post xx Sam Rowena

The Glastonbury Experience 2017 – St Michael pilgrimage path

Come with me on my journey of discovery on the St Michael pilgrimage path to the sacred Glastonbury Tor and Burrowbridge Mump. These are sacred and magical places with their earth energies, spirits and mysteries. I had read about the orbs of light and strange happenings at Glastonbury Tor but never expected to see them for myself, another enchanting experience and I will share it with you in this blog post.

I guess I’m a modern-day pilgrim traveller and feel blessed that Glastonbury Tor and its springs call me to return. Being there, meditating gives me such a sense of peace and wonder, its powerful life force recharges my batteries and my immersion in its waters helps heal me.

Glastonbury Tor 2017
Glastonbury Tor

This Summer as part of my annual pilgrimage, I spent a few days discovering some of the other ancient and sacred places near to Glastonbury – you can read more about my Glastonbury Experience in my other blog posts: Angels and Dragons and Ancient Trees – and my guidebook ‘The Traveller’s Guide to Sacred England’ by John Mitchell, inspired me to go and visit the magical ‘Mump’ or King Alfred’s Fort at Burrowbridge.

It was a glorious July summer morning and after a short drive, I parked at the free National Trust car park and walked up the ‘Mump’ (just 79ft high) to the ruined St Michael’s church. Whilst I looked around the ruin and sat in its shade having a picnic and reading my guidebook, a few visitors came and went, I even had the Mump to myself for a while. I watched the Swift fly in the breeze around the hill before returning to perching on their ledge, high up in the Tower. There was a glorious view of the surrounding Somerset countryside and in the distance, I could make out a hazy Glastonbury Tor rising up from the Somerset Levels. In ancient times, this whole area was sea and marshland and the Burrow Mump would have been an island.

Burrowbridge Mump

Burrowbridge Mump with its ruined church dedicated to St. Michael is also significant for being on the St Michael ley line.

A ley-line is an energy / psychic power line, often lying on ancient trackways and spiritual sites of pagan ceremony.

Paul Devereux, editor of the ‘Ley Hunter’ and many books on earth energies identifies these ‘spirit paths’ as stretches of ancient trackway. An excerpt from ‘Encyclopedia of the Unexplained’; “He believes that rather than interpret them as lines of energy created by the ‘biosphere’ of a living planet, they are trails along which sensitive people felt ‘drawn’ towards a spiritual centre, today often demarked by a church. Devereux thinks that there is an inter-relationship between much of the earth mysteries field and the collective consciousness of human beings.”

St Michael's Church and Tower at Burrowbridge
St Michaels Church and Tower

In my guidebook, John Michell says that:  “St Michael on the Tor is one of the stations in an alignment of Michael shrines that extends along the spine of southwest England… In very ancient times the path appears to have provided a pilgrimage route from the west to the great temple at Avebury. Eleven miles southwest of Glastonbury, the road to Taunton skirts another prominent St Michael’s Hill, also topped by a ruined church, known as ‘the Mump’ at Burrowbridge. From the church on the Mump, Glastonbury Tor is visible behind intervening hills. That alignment, from Mump to Tor, extends eastward precisely to the southern entrance of the Avebury ring, touching two of the enormous stones of the main circle.”

John Michell tells us about the St Michael shrines built on sacred high places: “St Michael shrines are commonly set on high places, where beacon fires once blazed on festival days. At such places, the electric forces of the atmosphere make contact with the magnetic powers of the earth, producing strange effects whose causes are unexplained by modern science. Balls of light emanating from the Tor are often seen hovering above it, giving rise to legends which vary with the times, from tales of fairies and demons to modern reports of unidentified flying objects.”

On reading this in my guidebook, little did I think that I too would come to experience this strange phenomenon.

On that evening, Wednesday 5 July, I shouldn’t have been walking up Glastonbury Tor at all, as it had been my intention to go the talk by Dr. Jacqueline Hobbs in Glastonbury. But, I was struggling with the heatwave we were having in Somerset, so after walking up and down and then around the base of the Burrowbridge Mump, followed by visiting the St Michaels and All Angels church in Somerton (read my previous blog post about it) and returning to my accommodation for a coffee and cold shower, I felt an urge to visit the Tor, where it would be cooler.

I think it was just after 6pm when I was heading up the Tor on this beautiful evening. There were still a few tourists around and as I reached the bench half-way up the Pilgrim Path to the Tor I was quite relieved to find it empty. As soon as I sat down, I noticed something quite unusual, I could see not far off, a group of about 15-20 seagulls that were flying/circling around a small area (I think they were above Chalice Hill), then I saw that about a metre in front of me, there were lots of midges or small flies that seemed to be static there and also in alignment with the seagulls.

Glastonbury Tor July 2017
view from the path up the Tor with a yellow circle to show the bench

Then I noticed something even stranger…  I saw a group of 4 or 5 coloured balls/shapes of light just above the trees at the base of the Tor, they seemed to flash by quickly and after a few seconds, they disappeared into the trees.

A few minutes later they returned again and I began to watch and study them. These shimmering coloured balls of light appeared above the trees near to where the path up the Tor begins and then floated around the base of the Tor before disappearing into the trees at the other side of the Tor, I think about where the path from the Tor comes out onto the road. The balls of light repeated this journey sometimes only seconds later and other times after a few minutes. Each time it only lasted for maybe 5 seconds and unfortunately, they were way too fast for me to photograph, plus I had the sun in my eyes and even wearing dark sunglasses I was having to shade my eyes with my hand in order to see them.

How can I describe them?
They weren’t exactly round balls of light, having more of an irregular shape and a kind of cloud-like form as if they weren’t solid. They were colourful, but not as luminescent and bight as a rainbow, sort of muted shades of different colours, pastel shades of aqua/pale green-blue and purple-pink.

After about 40 minutes I sensed a change in the air, I can’t recall if there was more of a breeze or if it had been stillness before and the wind had picked up, both the seagulls and flies disappeared and the lights didn’t return again.

I felt really honoured to have been part of this special experience on Glastonbury Tor.

I was filled with exhilaration, wonder and awe. Although my mind was trying to think of a logical explanation for what I had just seen. I couldn’t think of anything that could explain it.

I often see colours in the clouds, coronas of light and iridescence and these can be reasonably explained, but these balls of light on Glastonbury Tor were different with their speed and closeness to the ground.

Why did no-one else seem to notice them?
Whilst I was sat there on the bench, I didn’t see that many people walk past and they were usually keeping an eye on the path. There were a few people up at the Tor and a paraglider flew past, but maybe with them being higher up and further away, the lights might not have been as clear.

View from Glastonbury Tor the evening of 5 July 2017
View from the Tor of the paraglider

And what created this phenomenon? Was it an energy vortex?
Perhaps for a short while, the bridge between the seen and unseen dimensions was open and I witnessed the spirit energies of departing souls in this our world centre / axis mundi, a transitional place that connects heaven and earth. There are some theories about Glastonbury Tor being an ‘Avalonian Soul Portal’ and I feel I need to read more about it.

I guess it will remain a mystery of the Tor for a while longer…

This series of blog posts about my Glastonbury Experiences in Summer 2017 has grown from the short posts I originally intended to do. The more I delved into the articles, folklore and myths surrounding this enchanted place, the more fascinating information I came across and I wanted to share it with you in the hope that it’ll inspire you to visit these sacred places and feel the same magic there that I do.

Enjoy the journey on the road to your destination, Sam Rowena xx

More Info:

There’s quite a lot of info – books and websites – out there about Glastonbury, its energy, ley lines and mysterious lights:

Paul Devereux has written many books about ‘Earth Light’ phenomena. One of my favourite books is ‘Secrets of Ancient and Sacred Places’, in it he states than on one visit to the Tor in 1967, he too witnessed balls of light there.

Another favourite is the ‘Glastonbury Tor: Maker of Myths’ website, written by Frances Howard-Gordon, its a font of knowledge, with many interesting articles about the myths and legends of Glastonbury.

The Glastonbury Experience 2017 – angels and dragons

There seems to be angels and dragons everywhere in Somerset!
In this blog post, I will share some of the places I visited on my recent Glastonbury Experience journey and what I discovered about the angels and dragons there.

When you start to look around, you see that there are lots of angels and dragons everywhere, especially in our art, sculpture and churches.

angels at the 13th Century St Cuthberts church in Wells
angels at St Cuthberts church in Wells

I’ve always just accepted angels and dragons being here and part of our lives,  but I never really knew why so writing this blog post has been an interesting journey of discovery.

It has definitely been information overload, angels and dragons are fascinating and vast topics and it’s not been easy to just write a short blog post… but I’m going to try to keep this Glastonbury Experience blog post to just a bit of the info I’ve discovered about Archangel Michael and the angels/dragons that decorate a few of the places in and around Glastonbury.

Some info about angels:

In the ‘Secrets of the Universe in Symbols’ by Sarah Bartlett, “Regarded as messengers of God by Jews, Christians and Muslims, they embody heavenly purity and benevolence…” 

Some photos of angels and winged creatures that decorate the ancient 12th Century St Cuthbert’s Church in Wells, near Glastonbury in Somerset. It has a beautiful painted wooden roof decorated with angels, interesting history and carvings/stonework. For more of its history visit St Cuthbert’s website.

And this leads me on to St Michael/Archangel Michael, who he is and what he does, depends really on your faith and beliefs.

In the Sacred Sites blog on Glastonbury:
“St.Michael, or more properly the Archangel Michael, is traditionally regarded as an angel of light, the revealer of mysteries and the guide to the other world. Each of these qualities are in fact attributes of other earlier divinities that Michael supplanted. Frequently shown spearing dragons, St.Michael is widely recognized by scholars of mythology to be the Christian successor to pagan gods such as the Egyptian Thoth, the Greek Hermes, the Roman Mercury and the Celtic Bel. Mercury and Hermes were considered guardians of the elemental powers of the earth spirit, whose mysterious forces were sometimes represented by serpents and linear currents of dragon energy.”

According to Wikipedia:
“In the Roman Catholic teachings, Saint Michael has four main roles or offices. His first role is the leader of the Army of God and the leader of heaven’s forces in their triumph over the powers of hell. He is viewed as the angelic model for the virtues of the spiritual warrior, with the conflict against evil at times viewed as the battle within. The second and third roles of Michael in Catholic teachings deal with death. In his second role, Michael is the angel of death, carrying the souls of all the deceased to heaven. In this role Michael descends at the hour of death, and gives each soul the chance to redeem itself before passing; thus consternating the devil and his minions. Catholic prayers often refer to this role of Michael. In his third role, he weighs souls in his perfectly balanced scales. For this reason, Michael is often depicted holding scales. In his fourth role, St Michael, the special patron of the Chosen People in the Old Testament, is also the guardian of the Church. This role also extends to his being the patron saint of a number of cities and countries”

St Michael at Glastonbury Tor
a stone carving showing Archangel Michael balancing souls at St Michaels Tower, Glastonbury Tor

In Somerset, there are many churches and chapels dedicated/named after him, including the picturesque 13th Century (or possibly earlier) church of St Michael and All Angels in Somerton, near Glastonbury. It’s famous for its oak roof with its elaborate carvings, featuring 4 pairs of dragons, believed to have been carved by the carpenters from nearby Muchelnay Abbey around 1500.

dragonroof
the ancient oak roof at St Michael and All Angels in Somerton

Today Somerton is a small sleepy rural medieval hamlet, but once it was the main town of Somerset and even for a short while in the 7th Century, the capital of the ancient county of Wessex. In Medieval times it was an important crossroads on the road between London and the South-west, which has resulted in many lovely ancient medieval buildings and it’s a pretty place to wander around. For more of its history visit the Somerton Web Museum website.

“I don’t usually look up at ceilings, but it’s got me looking upwards to see what’s hidden there!”

the famous carved dragon roof at Somerton in Somerset
angels and dragons

Some info about dragons:

Wikipedia states that: “A dragon is a legendary creature, typically scaled or fire-spewing and with serpentine, reptilian or avian traits, that features in the myths of many cultures around the world.”

St Michael is often shown in images with his lance, battling a dragon. In Christianity and many other religions, it signifies good conquering evil.

But, there’s more to dragons than this… In China and many Asian countries, dragons are a symbol of good luck, power and strength.

There are many different types of dragons; ‘Wyvern’ dragons are two-legged winged dragons with barbed tails and these are usually the type shown with St Michael, whereas Chinese dragons are more snake like.

Until I began looking into why there are so many dragons here in Somerset, I hadn’t realised that it’s their main symbol. The Somerset county flag is a ‘Wyvern’ dragon in red and gold and for the past Century it’s been on the coat of arms for Somerset County Council and it used to be the symbol for the ancient county of Wessex, but it has an even older history going back to Celtic symbols and the Romans. Many of the counties logos, for schools, clubs and businesses feature ‘Wyvern’ dragons, and it’s on many other flags too, the most well-known one being the Welsh flag! For further info on the history of flags visit the: British County Flags blog

Glastonbury dragon
A dragon in Glastonbury on an ancient water fountain

An alternative view of dragons can also be found on the interesting and inspiring ‘Glastonbury Tor: Maker of Myths’ website, written by Frances Howard-Gordon:
“The Goddess took many forms and was represented in a variety of different aspects, but believers would see her essential nature in the harmony and balance of the natural order, the ebb and flow growth and decay of life itself. She was evoked and celebrated on hills and mountains, these being her seats or thrones on earth. It is interesting to note that many early images of the Goddess have spirals on their breasts, resembling the spiral on the Tor. Spirals also symbolised the coiled serpent or dragon, both regarded as sacred in the old religion. The dragon or serpent represented the natural energies of the earth and the sky – energies which were cooperated with and revered. In the Shakti cults of south-east Asia and China, dragons and serpents were associated with clouds and rain, and the Sumerian goddess Tiamat was a sea-serpent and Great Waters goddess. The Greek Mother of all things was the serpent Eurynome, who laid the world-egg. The dragon was also regarded as a manifestation of the psyche in which the real and the imaginary are blurred and are, as in nature, only different aspects of life.

…The first church on the Tor was probably of the late twelfth or early thirteenth century and was dedicated to St Michael – a dedication which was characteristic of such a hill-top site. St Michael, apart from being the ruler of archangels according to Christian tradition, was also the dragon-slayer and the personal adversary of Satan. Early Christianity believed the gods of the old religion to be fallen angels or demons. The Christian church seems to have had a definite policy of building churches dedicated to St Michael on the old religious sites and sacred mounds. Since the Tor and its spiral maze represented the dragon, a symbol of the Primal Mother or Earth Spirit in pagan times, the building of a church dedicated to the dragon-slayer was obviously meant to act as a powerful deterrent to any kind of pagan celebration.”

My research into angels and dragons has been quite a revelation and given me a whole new outlook on them. I still view them with awe and wonder, but it’s combined with greater knowledge and a desire to know more…

My next blog post – Glastonbury Experience July 2017, St Michael pilgrimage path – follows soon, come and join me on my journey, Sam Rowena x

The Glastonbury Experience 2017 – ancient trees

Being around trees gives us a sense of belonging to the world. They are a living, breathing part of our planet, with a deep connection to our earth providing ‘life’ for us… and each type of tree has a unique smell, wood and leaves. They are revered for their wisdom and many ancient myths and legends have grown up around them.

Trees have a magical quality, an air of mystery. Do they belong to an enchanted world?

I’ve always believed that they are the home of fairies and elves. This belief stems from my childhood; as a small child, my mum would tell me stories about the magical creatures that lived in ancient trees. I was smitten and would talk to the fairies that lived in their gnarled holes and see if I could spot any.

This blog post is about a few of the ancient trees I visited near Glastonbury in Somerset on my Glastonbury Experience pilgrimage in July 2017.

On my last visit to Glastonbury, I’d bought some guidebooks to help me to learn about and explore the ancient and sacred places around Glastonbury and further afield. ‘The Traveller’s Guide to Sacred England’ by John Mitchell, led me to go and see the ancient Yew tree at Dundon, 5 miles South of Glastonbury.

Ancient yew tree at Dundon

According to my guidebook:
“The site is naturally adapted for worship and contemplation and its qualities were no doubt recognised in Celtic times. Testifying to its early religious significance is the huge and venerable yew tree in front of the church porch. The yew is thought to have stood for over a thousand years and is, therefore, older than the present church”.

Yew trees are poisonous evergreen trees, with red berries, their sap can be blood red and they are able to regenerate, sprouting new roots. They are known as a sacred tree, the Tree of life, regeneration and rebirth. There are many myths and legends about yew trees and why they are planted next to churches. Is it possible they were planted at ancient sacred sites and churches were then built there at a later date?

This info is from www.plant-lore.com
“For those of the Christian faith, a yew tree is symbolic of Christian Resurrection as it has the ability to regenerate by sending down a shoot from high up which then takes root in a crevice near the base of the old tree, thus giving birth to new life.”

ancient yew tree
Ancient yew tree at Dundon

This info is from www.whitedragon.org.uk
“In the past, they were used as landmarks, because of their size and longevity, and their dark branches would make them stand out in the landscape. Yew groves planted by the Druids were common by ancient ways, on sacred sites, hilltops, ridge-ways and burial grounds. Tribal leaders were buried beneath Yew trees, in the sure belief that their knowledge and wisdom would be joined with the Dryad of the Yew and therefore still be accessible to the tribe for generations to come.”

In this quiet spot next to the simple but beautiful 13th Century Church of St Andrew in the small hamlet of Dundon, this yew tree is cared for and feels at peace in its surroundings. A stark difference to my visit to the ancient oak trees Gog and Magog near Glastonbury.

ancient yew tree
The ancient Yew Tree at Dundon

It was only by accident that I ended up visiting them at all…
I was giving Michiel (a healer I’d bumped into a few times over the years) a lift to Glastonbury on my way to visit Wells, he was carrying a heavy backpack and as it was such a hot muggy day, I said I’d drop him off nearer to the campsite he was going to. But we got lost down a small one-way track past Glastonbury Tor.  He remembered that the campsite was just across the field and he could take the footpath there. He said the ancient oak trees Gog and Magog were just a few minutes walk along the path. What a great opportunity to go and see them, I’d read about them and planned to visit them on one of my trips to Glastonbury.

When we came across them, I was shocked and saddened. I had expected to find them in a shady grove with an aura of enchantment surrounding them. But, not like this… they were forlorn and dying, completely boxed into a small space with high fencing around them.

Michiel said when he last visited them, you could easily access them and they weren’t in this sorry state.  We looked around and I thought we’d manage to get to them (over the fence on one side, across a small dry brook, through the barbed wire fencing and avoiding the thorns and nettles).  I felt so sad to see them like this, boxed in between high fencing and a high hedge that separated the trees from a caravan park in the field next to them, in fact, there was a caravan just a few metres from Magog.

“Just to be there for a short while and give them some healing energy, as they felt so forlorn, unloved and hidden from sight.”

It’s appalling that these once great oaks should be left like this to wither and die without our love and respect… and my visit prompted me to write this blog post.

My initial reaction was that perhaps the landowner had done this to deter pilgrims and people from visiting this sacred site, especially seeing how closely situated the caravan park was to Gog and Magog. But, I’ve done further research since getting home and it looks like the council has had them boarded up, to protect them from further harm (!!!) as someone putting a tea light candle inside Gog’s hollow interior had set the tree on fire. More about the fire in April this year in Morgana West’s blog post.

There are many myths and legends surrounding oak trees – especially Gog and Magog – and their link to the Druids and pagan Celts.

According to www.druidry.org – “We first learn about the oak as sacred to the Druids in the well-known passage from the writings of Pliny, who lived in Gaul during the 1st century CE. He writes that the Druids performed all their religious rites in oak-groves, where they gathered mistletoe from the trees with a golden sickle…. Many early Christian churches were situated in oak-groves, probably because they were once pagan places of worship.”

This info is from www.unitythroughdiversity.org
“These two ancient oak trees – with the traditional and biblical names of giant beings – stand in one of the further reaches of the sacred Avalon landscape, where they are in a relationship of alignment with other aspects of the sacred landscape such as the nearby Tor, Chalice Hill, the Abbey and Wearyall Hill.
Known as the ‘Oaks of Avalon’, the two trees are said to be a traditional point of entry onto the island, and were also part of a ceremonial Druidic avenue of oak trees running towards the Tor and beyond. ‘This avenue was cut down around 1906 to clear the ground of a farm.’ Extract from Maker of Myths – Published by Gothic Image.”

Here are a few more websites with the myths and folklore of oak and yew trees:

yew tree – www.treesforlife.org.uk  / www.druidry.org
oak tree – www.treesforlife.org.uk / www.druidry.org

I’d only intended to write a short blog post about my visit to the Dundon yew tree and Gog and Magog oak trees, but delving into the myths and legends of our ancient trees I uncovered so much info I wanted to share with you. It’s been an interesting journey of discovery for me, I hope you will enjoy it too and that it will inspire you to visit these or other sacred trees. More of my Glastonbury Summer 2017 experiences are to follow in my next two blog posts. 
Sam Rowena xxx