The Sibyl Of Wychwood

The Sibyl~Is she a woman to be feted or feared?

Rosetti_sibyl

“Sibylla Palifera” ~Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1866-70)

They called her the Sibyl for she knew things, things she shouldn’t have known, couldn’t have known. She knew things about you that you did not want her to know, and she knew things you wanted to know. A look from those deeply knowing eyes, a beguiling mix of the blue of the sky and the green of the earth, would tell you she was different. And when she looked deeply into your eyes, you just knew she could see into the very well of your being, into your soul itself. She saw your light, your dark, those things you kept hidden from others and even those things you kept hidden from yourself. The Sibyl could see if you were wearing a mask and hiding your true self. She also knew if you were ill, and she knew the plants and herbs of the forest that would cure you and it was rumoured she knew those that could kill you too. When the Earth wore a mantle of winter she draped herself in a deep green velvet cloak, as if she had wrapped herself in the cold mossy ground upon which she walked and as summer sang its song, she wore a gossamer gown, pure and white as the light of the moon itself. Her hair was long, falling down her slender back, a blanket of darkest night. She wore the flowers of the meadow and leaves of the forest braided in a circlet around her head. As the wheel of the year unfolded, so she would honour the Great Mother with offerings from nature reverently placed on a small stone altar in her humble dwelling place.

How did she know what was in a man’s mind, heart and soul? How did she know how to cure and heal? It was whispered behind closed doors she had the ‘sight’, second sight. She was a Seer, for she also saw many things that were not of this world, those hidden occult things impenetrable to others. It was rumoured she conversed with wraiths of those beyond the veil and the spirits of the ancestors, and that she could conjure up unseen forces through rituals, incantations and spell weaving. She was an adept of the old ways, a mistress of the dark night. Aspects of the Maiden of the golden days, Mother and Crone found expression in this woman’s heart. Her deep love of the forest was repaid by the spirits of the trees and the elemental kingdom, who dwelt in the realm between this world and the next. They all knew her name, Phaedra, and she was beloved by them. Yet with all this seeming power the Sibyl chose to live alone, never courting fame or fortune. She understood her goddess given gift and knew these things to be transitory and not a true path to contentment, wholeness and happiness. She lived deep in the woods, and it was her home, sanctuary and her apothecary too.

WATERHOUSE MAGIC CIRCLE

‘Magic circle” ~ John William Waterhouse (1886)

The Sibyl had the power of healing in her hands and the words she spoke to you and the way she looked at you. The magic of healing was also present in the potions and infusions she brewed in the thick cast iron black cauldron, bubbling away on the dancing eternal flames of a fire that never went out. It was said that she danced and sang by the light of the moon and casting all clothing from her body She would run and skip skyclad in pure abandon, around the dancing, leaping flames as exotic incense, fragrant and heady would fill the night air. In blissful trance, she would become one with the rich earth beneath her feet and the stars above her head. The Sibyl would chant a mystical incantation to draw down the moon and fill her body with the energies of the Earth and the Cosmos, eventually falling upon the ground in ecstasy with a wild cry of ‘Blessed Be!’ Her eyes shining bright and energy spent she lay before a clay statue of her goddess, The Morrigan, who’s likeness she had adorned with nine strands of her hair and crow feathers, both as black as night.

She dwelt beneath the Tor, a magical mound rising out of the low lying, still marshland of the Somerset levels. The land was bathed in a golden light, that the peoples of the West called it the Summerland. Her little Hamlet was named Wychwood. Around were a ring of hills, gently undulating, and curving in a protective circle watching over the Tor as it arose majestically skyward, bathed in an ethereal luminescence. This place held magic in the air and in the land. From the sky above the constellation of Aquarius glittered in celestial beauty, the story of Ganymede the beautiful youth, beloved by Zeus woven into the cloth of heaven.

But for all her selfless acts of kindness to the villagers, there were many who feared the Sibyl for they did not know her or understand her magical ways. In ignorance, they choose not to see her true nature, as one in tune with the natural world, and the intertwined and over lapping spiritual world that was integral to the natural world they shared.

There were rumours she performed the rites and rituals of the old heathen ways, long before the new religion came, and it was said she spoke sacrilegious words of a Mother Earth and Father Sky. All this made the villagers fearful for Sibyl’s path was lost in the mists of time.

For those who had not eyes to see, the Sibyls dwelling place was strange. She lived beneath an ancient oak, amid an avenue of powerful trees, it was said the Druids had planted them as a ceremonial route to the Holy Hill. The oak’s branches and leaves reached high into the sky, whilst its roots anchored deeply into the rich soil of the earth. The Sibyl knew the oak pulled energy for its life force from both earth and sky, and she honoured the wise teacher that was the spirit of the tree. The oak nurtured the Sibyl and grounded her, providing a connection to Gaia, Mother Earth. All she needed was right here in the shelter of the magnificent oak, with a little babbling stream providing crystal clear spring water. Whilst all around an abundance of nature’s pantry for her to feast upon, berries, apples, pears, nuts and herbs. For the sibyl, life was good and she felt blessed to have her place in the matrix of the Divine plan for all creation.

edward_robert_hughes_-_night_with_her_train_of_stars_-_google_art_project

“Night with her Train of Stars” ~Edward Robert Hughes (1912)

In the stillness of night, she would lay gazing at the star-studded sky. The Sibyl could hear far beyond the gentle rustling of the wind caressing the leaves to the music of the perpetual choirs, the choir of ambrosias intoning the music of the planetary spheres to the rhythm of the cosmos. He would come to her then, a man without form, a man of spirit. Gently he would stroke her face to let her know he was near. As she stilled her mind, the voice of the man would speak to her, and impart arcane knowledge and spiritual truths. Telling her tales of the mystery and magic of the old ways, and of ways yet to come. In visions, he showed her when he too had been upon the bountiful Earth. She saw her man as he lived his life, on the side of her beloved hill, a holy man named Peter, giving his life in service to the greater glory of the Creator. It was the holy man of spirit who led her to the plants and herbs. He showed her the way of them, those that could harm those that could heal. He also taught her to ask the plants to withdraw their energy, before she plucked their leaves, in order that she caused no harm, He taught her to leave gifts for the nature spirits for the bounty and blessings of natures’ larder. Deeply Phaedra loved her Holy Man of spirit, with a love that was pure and eternal. Peter watched over his beloved charge from the realms of ‘otherworld’. The growth of her eternal soul was most precious to him, for he had untaken to guide this life. It was with satisfaction he watched her blossom and bloom, taking her first hesitant steps along her healing path, and leaving behind the cruelties and hardships of her early years, and growing in compassion and love for all living things.

sir_edward_coley_burne-jones_bt_ara_rws_hero_d5563212g

‘Hero’ ~Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

He knew, though oft times it pained him, that the path to greatest growth was often strewn with rocks and thorns that would tear the flesh, and lacerate the soul. He knew that true healers were born out of adversary and forged in a foundry of pain. To be a healer was to be as Chiron the last Centaur, to heal others but unable to save oneself from the agonies of life and bear scars that scored deeply into a heart that loved too deeply and too much.

Phaedra gazed spellbound into the night sky Peter would bring alive the constellations from both Northern and Southern hemispheres and show her the magic of their stories. This was one of his many gifts to her alone, and the night sky held a rich tapestry of myth and fable. She saw wonders such as Chiron, who Peter had told her about, immortalized by the ancient Greeks as the constellation Sagittarius, the sign under which she had been born into this world on a bitterly cold November’s eve, when the snow was thick upon the ground. Chiron was a seer and a mystic healer, a Centaur apart from the others of his kind who sought revelry, drunkenness and sensual pleasures as distractions from any spiritual path. For in these ways of storytelling with the stars, Peter sought to imbue Phaedra with the knowledge that all pain and trials and tribulations were but transitory things. The true nature of self was Spirit, free, eternal, born from light. He brought her the gift of the Ourobous, that time was not a linear and the mind could travel where it will, in all directions and dimensions.

Edwrad Rober Hughes_Night

‘Night’~Edward Robert Hughes (1851-1914)

Now in the village there lived one who wished to be as accomplished and adept in the magical arts as Phaedra the Sibyl. He wished to look through the veil to otherworld and see the unseen and to know the unknown. But his heart was black and he desired to know these things for power over others. He desired to know her secrets, and he watched her silently hidden in the shadows. But she had the gift and she knew he was near, and she saw inside his heart where his dark desires flamed and burned. He approached Phaedra, pleading, beguiling, and beseeching her to allow him to become her neophyte. But it was in vain and all to no avail. For to be a healer she instinctively knew one must be free of the illusions of the world. There was to be no self-glorification or exaltation. The power came from a Higher Source, gifted to the worthy. As it was given, so it could be taken. This was a truth she knew the man with the dark heart would never comprehend.

In anger, his fascination turned to thoughts of dark revenge. In his black heart, he resolved to betray her. If Phaedra would not allow him access to her arcane secrets, then she would pay the ultimate price. It came to pass that a plague was sweeping across the land, and the prayers of the priests were powerless to stop its rampage. In fear, it was whispered that those who practiced the magical arts were to blame. The people conjectured the practitioners had unleashed unwanted spirits and demons upon them, turning their minds to madness and the skins to rotting, putrefying flesh.

The jealous one had friends of influence. He knew that the authorities sought to appoint a Witch Finder General to transverse the land, seek and destroy those who walked a dark path. This cleanser of souls, this man of strength, was to show no mercy to the adepts of the dark arts. They were to be consumed by fires of holy righteousness. It did not take long for the black hearted one to secure the post. Sadly, in their ignorance the great and the good who had appointed him failed to see that the Witch Finder General was an agent for the darkness they sought to eradicate. The insidious darkness that ate away at the very fabric of their world.

John_William_Waterhouse_-_Spring_Spreads_One_Green_Lap_of_Flowers

‘In The Orchard” ~František Dvořák (1912)

The soldiers came for her with pikes and muskets early one morning. It was in the early days of February, at Imbolc, the great fire festival dedicated to the maiden aspect of the goddess. The Witch Finder General gave his instructions to the compliant villagers to construct a funeral pyre. There was not one single voice to speak up for Phaedra. Not one of them would testify that there was no plague or illness in their Hamlet of Wychwood. The people and the animals were strong and healthy. The compliant villagers helped the soldiers bind their only healer to a stake. They ignited the dry kindling. The flames rose and licked hungrily at the dead timber. Thick black smoke, like serpents uncoiling ready to strike, twisted around Phaedra’s body.

Phaedra’s eyes were turned heavenward watching a Portent of Death materializing in the shape of a black cloud. The cloud began forming into the likeness of two powerful and immense Corvids, a raven and a crow. By her side, Peter stood invisible to all but Phaedra, transmitting love and purity to her in her hour of need. The sky grew darker and a tremendous thunder storm rent the sky with an almighty and fearsome anger. Wild streaks of lightening flashing fearsomely, the elements electrified. The earth and fire, the water and the air and the ethers roused in a terrible rage that their daughter was at the mercy of the baying crowd. In fear and abject terror, the crowd ran away. A charged fork of lightening ripped down to the earth, splitting the stake in two, and ripped the rope that bound Phaedra asunder, freeing her arms. The flames began to rise higher. Her beautiful eyes turned heavenward and Phaedra placed her hands in the prayer position over her heart. The Sibyls’ spirit rose gracefully from her body before the flames could touch her skin.

(c) William Morris Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

‘The Angel of Peace’~Walter Crane (1900)

The crow transmuted into the embodiment of the goddess Morrigan, who knelt at Phaedra’s feet in deepest sorrow. The powerful raven, swooped low and transfigured into the Angel of death, mighty wings outstretched. Phaedra was received into the waiting arms of Azrael, his great black wings enfolding her in Divine mercy and love. They began to ascend heavenwards. Phaedra looked down and saw the hungry, all-consuming flames engulf her human body in purifying fire. The fire used its power to transmute the barbs and daggers of venom and hate, fear, ridicule and superstition flung at her. Her frail body was now no more than an empty vessel and had become one with the fire. The body was becoming charred embers and ash, destined to return to the earth. It would now nurture the rich soil of Mother Earth, who had provided Phaedra in her lifetime with so much bounty and sustenance. The storm momentarily subsided. The clouds dispersed to reveal an azure blue sky. An intense and radiant ball of Light filled the sky and Phaedra and Azrael the Archangel seamlessly melded into the Light of Love. As the wild west wind blew, the words ‘Blessed Be’ poured a gentle benediction down onto the land beneath. Below, the villagers watched in shock and awe, as a magnificent crow took flight, circling and screeching overhead. The Morrigan swore vengeance upon their heads as she threw down a cauldron of retribution upon their shameful heads and returned whence she came, back to Otherworld. Then the rains came, a torrential angry downpour. The funeral pyre was extinguished leaving a fire pit that scorched the earth, leaving nothing remaining of the crime against an innocent soul but a bleak and desolate hole. The plague came full force upon the healthy villagers, a plague engendered from their own malicious and dreadful action against one who had done no wrong. There was no healer to tend to them, for in burning the ‘witch’ they dispensed with the only one with the knowledge of the forest that would have healed them. They had incurred the wrath of her goddess also, and The Morrigan’s curse was to be feared. The Witch Finder General rode out of the village, cursing it as he went, not knowing that the Morrigan had also touched him with the plague. She chose not to give him the easy route of the kiss of death, but to inflict him with a pox that ate away most of his once handsome face, damning him to be a figure of repulsion and hate. He spent the rest of his days hiding in the shadows. With no power and no acolytes, he was alone, penniless, homeless and friendless. Oft times he thought of the healing power held in the Sibyl’s hands and oft times with regret he bitterly rued the day he had given the order for her to burn on the funeral pyre. For there was none now who could cure his body. The Angel of Death, when he came calling, took the ravaged body but not his tormented Soul. That was doomed to eternally walk the earth alone.

~~~♥♥♥~~~

As the ages of man passed by, a spring bubbled up from the ground below and was fed by the sweet rains that filled the fire-pit with a pool of water, tinged with red. Some say it is caused by iron ore in the soil, others by the blood of the Sibyl. The pool is known for its healing properties, and many come, and drink from it and feel the presence of angels. For it is said the nature spirits watch over and bless the water. The Sprites dance and the Devas sing ‘Phaedra was her name…’ in homage to the Sibyl. All who partake of this water are blessed by its magical properties.

Beside the spring grew a Rowan tree. She gracefully wore white flowers in springtime, providing sweet sustenance for the bees. The setting sun of Autumn would find the Rowan adorning her delicate boughs with deep red berries. Her gift to fill the birds as harsh winter approached. It was said the white symbolized her purity of spirit and the red her blood. All around the little Rowan grew a hedgerow of Elder. It looked as if the Elder gently wrapped the Rowan in his protection. Some said it was Phaedra’s holy man, Peter, with its white flowers for his purity and purple black berries for his Divinity…To this day, it is a healing and holy place.

 

Thank you for reading this abridged version of “The Sibyl of Wychwood” ~a tale from my Supernatural novel “Wychwood” published by EdenDene Books and available on Amazon as paperback & Kindle EBook. 

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Heart Surgeon Dr Lucis Ferre is dashing and debonair and the answer to fragile Ellis Harwood’s dreams. She falls hopelessly under his spell only to realize things are not as they seem. The man she marries has a heart of darkness, forged in the foundry of his secret occult practices. On a harrowing winter’s night, the dream becomes a nightmare, and Ellis’ life is hanging by a thread. Deliverance from the evil doctor is close at hand. By a twist of fate, Ellis finds sanctuary at Myrtle Cottage in the Hamlet of Wychwood. Nestling in the shadow of Glastonbury Tor, It is a place where the veil between worlds is gossamer thin, and mystery and magic abound. Enigmatic country Doctor, Peter Cabot and his eccentric housekeeper, Hepzibah set about healing her battered body and bruised heart. But Lucis has unfinished business… Will Ellis allow Wychwood to weave its magic, or will she choose to go back to the evil Lucis…. A choice must be made…..

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About Eily Nash

With gossamer threads she works on her loom weaving rich tapestries of love, of life, and magical things...such is the art of the Word Weaver...
This entry was posted in PARANORMAL FICTION, PRE-RAPHAELITES, Uncategorized, WRITING & BLOGGING and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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