Only a Story, Born of a Story

in-englands-green-and-pleasant-land-darren-burroughs

If stories make up the universe, good stories also beget other stories, and, how could they not, as the universe is constantly being made? And the stories about Witches drumming up an English gale to blow away the Armada, well, those were good stories. And you heard them, not often, but once in a while, maybe from some old grandmother, knitting by the fire while more natural winds wuthered around the walls of the cottage. You heard them, perhaps once or twice in your life, from a drummer: skilled, and young, and strong, and drumming in tune with the pulse throbbing in the ley lines of the land. Or maybe you read about them, a brief subplot or footnote in a dusty book with the crucial page missing and the smell of leather and old paper.

But those stories, as good stories will, hung around and worked their way into the Celtic consciousness and threw up shoots, and spread seeds, and watered themselves with water from the Lady’s Lake and Arthur’s crossing into the West, and with moonlight, and with the magic of the land. And, as good stories will, eventually, they begat another story.

Uncle Gerald told it, although it may, or may not, have been his to tell. And in his telling, well, in the retellings of his telling, his own coven acted alone, or perhaps just front and center. But others say, and they may know, that for once, the Witches, and Magicians, and Occultists of England put aside their prickly personas and did the working together. Or, Witches being Witches, if they didn’t work together, they at least worked in concert.

So I will tell you the real story. And the real story is that in the late Summer of 1940, when Nazi Germany had invaded France and looked to be ready to invade England as well, the drummers from late July of 1588 began to show up in English dreams. And some Witches, when they woke up in the morning from those dreams and looked across the English Channel to France, they could still feel the drums, could feel the throbbing need to take action, could feel the land calling for . . . something. And so, they decided to do what Witches do, whenever they have need of anything.

Yes, they did. On Lammas Eve, they assembled in some secret place to adore the spirit of She who is Queen of all Witches and, although She did not, this time, show up in armor on a horse and give them a speech about the heart and stomach of a king, She did teach them some things that were, until then, unknown. She showed them how to stay free from Nazi slavery and, as a sign that they were truly free, they were naked in their rites.

And naked, without even grease on their skin to keep out the chill of an English night, those Witches raised a mighty cone of power and aimed it at Germany. (Now some say that they did not dance alone and that The Cousins danced, too, beneath the hills, and above the Tor, and across the Thames, and through the moonlight. Some say that and I do not think that they are wrong, but no one knows.) They danced, and drummed, and they infused that cone with the very strong belief that Germany could not invade England. And at the height of ritual, the drums stopped and the dancers dropped to Earth, and they sent the cone of power directly to Germany and the hearts and minds of the the Nazi leaders. And maybe it was only the one cone, rising from Uncle Gerald’s coven in New Forest, and maybe it was dozens of cones, rising at once from all over England. It was decades and decades ago and it was still, at the time, illegal to practice Witchcraft in England, even to save England, and so it’s no surprise that they obscured what they were doing.

Uncle Gerald said that some of the older members of the coven died as a result of the ritual — maybe from pneumonia due to exposure — and that his own health suffered. And some people say that they meant to make of themselves a willing sacrifice to save what the poet called England’s Green and Pleasant Land, and surely at Lammas, when the veils thin and Tailtiu again sacrifices herself to save the land, they may have done so, indeed. No one really knows.

But everyone does know that Germany did not invade England. The war dragged on for another five years, and although German planes bombed London, and bombed Buckingham Palace while the King and his family were there, and bombed Dion Fortune’s magical lodge, Germany never invaded England. It was as if the German leaders did not believe that they could do so. It was as if someone had changed their consciousness, in conformity with English will.

But then, Uncle Gerald wasn’t completely adverse to winding us up, and it’s probably just a story. And even if it were true, even if our grandparents and great-grandparents dreamed the drums and worked the working, we could never do it today, could we?

Picture found here.

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4 responses to “Only a Story, Born of a Story

  1. “…And even if it were true, even if our grandparents and great-grandparents dreamed the drums and worked the working, we could never do it today, could we?”

    The older I get – and I am getting older and older – the more I realize and remember that this is what we MUST do – dream the dreams and remember them. Drum the drums and remember the sounds, the power and let those sounds work their ways into our bodies. Work the working even if we women don’t consciously remember how – our bodies, our cells, our wombs will remember.

    The land requires us – the animals; the trees and forests; the fungi; the Seas, the Oceans and their children; the deserts; the tundra; all of the places and life forms here on Earth – they require us. The Air needs us as does Terra Firma, homes to the winged and those who burrow and cover themselves with rich, dark soil – or sand or the Big Blue Waters or mountains or deserts.

    The fires from the Western States call to us to bring down the artificial structures that jail us, along with releasing the seeds from the Great Elder Redwood Trees for the new generation, still very much connected to their Ancestors – and all connected to Terra Firma, to Skies above and Stars and Moon and Grandmere Soleil. (I hold my breath for the Rough Fire, though, and my beloved Sequoia Gigantea trees in Sequoia and Kings Canyon, California – may they know no destruction.)

    There are times I fret “I won’t do it right,” and then hear Her voice – “You do what you do as you do it. It is right, it is good, it is necessary.”

    Today I read, horrified, that a dolphin in Taiji threw itself in panic, in desperation at the feet of Ric O’Barry – who could do nothing without being imprisoned by the Japanese men who were murdering these Sea Mammals, our relatives. Reading that made me realize that whatever we can do, as women, as females no matter what our species, we must do – we must do what each of us can do. As daughters of the Earth, we are offered the choice to participate. As women, as females, we who are of the Earth in one of Her many images – how can we not participate with Earth, our Mother? Without Her, we do not exist.

    Pick up the drums, dance the dance of Life, chant the magic words, stop the insanity of necrophilia, of violence, of the unnatural destruction of patriarchy.

    I enjoyed this, Hecate, and am looking forward to more of your writing about Doreen’s book…thank you.

  2. That should be “…of the unnatural destruction by patriarchy.” I do my best proofreading after I hit the “send” button.

  3. I even enjoyed Katherine Kurtz doing a novelization called “Lammas Night” ! Many gave told this tale, but not enough have heard it.

  4. Lovely retelling, although I have never heard it claimed that the New Forest Coven acted alone.

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