by David Leadbetter ‘One of the most fascinating books to have come into my hands for a long time.’ George Willey, Swanage and Wareham Advertiser. Find out why understanding what we term 'paranormal' is of fundamental importance to comprehending the world we live in.
Editor Jerry Bird reviews David's book in Merry Meet: Journal of Folklore & Pagan Heritage. Issue 51 of Merry Meet also features the Swing Riots in Fordington, demise of the White Hart in Dorchester (with a great photo of the old place in Thomas Hardy’s day on the back cover), Stonehenge’s new visitor centre, a handy folklore diary and events, and other book reviews.
Dorset Life (March issue) features the 'Three Lighthouses Walk’. It's only 1.5 miles to walk round Portland Bill lighthouses. To extend it you could tag on one of the walks in Gary Biltcliffe's The Spirit of Portland. Walk 4 takes in Culverwell and Sweet Hill. Portland is steeped in myth and legend and Gary does a great job of explaining it all. Here's the map to go with the walk.
Below is an extract from the book describing mysterious Nicodemus Knob.
"Less than a mile north of the Grove is a freestanding pillar left by quarrymen as a monument or marker called Nicodemus Knob. Its height at 30 ft gives a good indication of the vast amount of stone quarried away to provide the building material for the Verne Citadel and Breakwater. Its purpose is uncertain; some believe it to be a landmark for ships, while others say it is a boundary marking the eastern end of the commons. Rock columns such as Nicodemus Knob, whether they are natural or man-made, continue to attract the pagan and the ‘sensitive’ in many places around Britain.
The aboriginal natives of many countries around the world also revere these formations. In the work of Professor Callahan, stone towers, obelisks, spires and natural rock pillars act as magnetic antennae because their shape and type of stone attract cosmic forces. Alternatively, the pillar could mark a place of sanctity as Mr Pearce mentions that a group of druidical stones were down in the Weares below Nicodemus Knob. Elizabeth Pearce also refers to these stones in her memoirs (c 1805). While overlooking a gap in the cliff above Nicodemus Knob, she saw the remains of a circle of stones still part-standing that had fallen with the cliff in one of the many landslides."
A walk and look at St George's Church, Reforne, and some of the headstones and stories behind them, thanks to Ian Dick and his blog. The following extract from The Spirit of Portland has more to say about this intriguing Portland place:
"The church is a fine example of Georgian architecture influenced by Wren and built by Thomas Gilbert. Inside the church a metal stud on the floor marks the spot where the circle of St Andrew passes under the dome. The meridian line, mentioned in Chapter 6, passes through the altar, above which is a memorial to Thomas Gilbert. The pentagonal line from Weston Chapel to the Jehovah’s Witness Hall passes through the tower. The stairs up to the gallery take you past an unusual little room in the tower. Among the impressive graves in the churchyard is a rather unusual Islamic-style tomb, situated along the northern side of the graveyard. Here is the resting place of two of the main characters who have inspired this book, Clara King Warry and her grandmother Elizabeth Pearce, descendants of the Whit Jutes whose distant ancestors may have originated from the Middle East."
After writing The Spirit of Portland, Gary Biltcliffe and partner Caroline Hoare produced a second book – about Britain's longest north–south axis, the Belinus Line. Fascinating! Their views are essential reading for anyone with an interest in our sacred landscape and heritage.
From another book to do with 'the Web of Life': “Spirit is the essence of creation, the unifying force that is present throughout the universe, the energy possessed by all things. Spirit connects us with each other, but also with animals, plants, rocks, water, air, the stars and the space between the stars. It is the skein of being beyond the physical, the otherworld that can be accessed for communication, healing and understanding. ... The fundamental link in the web is energy. All of us are aware of energy on an instinctive level... The extent to which we can be affected by these energetic communications depends upon how receptive we are."
“Gardner’s work in uncovering the various strands that make up the Craft and his publishing of various rites gained him followers. He formed a coven and started a form of witchcraft that became known as ‘Gardnerian’. Many of his ideas were triggered by other magical organisations, such as the Golden Dawn, which were flourishing at the time. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, founded in 1888, incorporated Masonic, Celtic, Egyptian and Hermetic beliefs into a system of ritual magic. The Order attracted some of the luminaries of the day, including the Irish poet W.B. Yeats, actress Florence Farr and the infamous Aleister Crowley, who went on to found his own magical order.”
In woods above Abbotsbury is a ruined chapel. This special place is on the cover of Louise's book.
"Until the dissolution of Netley Abbey in 1538, monks and lay brethren would have farmed Ashley as a secluded outpost of the abbey. A small chapel, dedicated to St Luke, was built near the farm for the use of the community there ... With the dissolution of the abbey, the monks scattered, their abbey dismantled.
The chapel would have seen occasional use over a hundred years or so, but as people died or left the area the building became increasingly less frequented. Abandoned, apart from the odd solitary pilgrim, the mediaeval chapel deteriorated as the years passed, becoming increasingly ruinous. The farm and land passed through various owners until 1925 when it was purchased by Sir David and Lady Milne-Watson. The couple built a large house near the farm that they named Ashley Chase. They also took an interest in the chapel. Woodland surrounded the small areas of wall and western gable, all that remained of the chapel, and even that was close to collapse. Efforts were made to shore up the gable and it still stands."
Isn't Dorset folklore great? Carol Hunt, author of The Portland Sea Dragon and other books in The Portland Chronicles series, bases her stories on Portland’s history and legends, including Veasta, mermaids, black dogs and giants. For an interview with Carol about what inspires her to write see here.
14–18 Oct – Bridport Open Book Festival Incorporating the Bridport Prize Awards ceremony, Story Slam, poetry readings, writing workshops and lyrical lunchtimes.
14 Oct – The Dorset Writers' NetworkBridport Story Slam at the Beach & Barnicott, South Street, 7.15 for 7.30 pm start. An excellent opportunity for Dorset prose writers to present their work. Register in advance (firstname.lastname@example.org) or turn up on the night. Names of all those wanting to read their work will be put in a hat and ten drawn during the evening. Each time slot is 5 mins max - roughly 750 words. To ensure fairness to all competitors, this time limit will be strictly enforced! All genres and styles of original prose fiction are welcome. Please note this is not a poetry event. Tickets available only on the door £5. Profits to Dorset Writers’ Network.
24–26 Oct – Tears in the Fence Poetry Festival. Readings, talks, discussion, music, bookstalls and displays, a Festival Supper and open readings in a large marquee next to the White Horse, Stourpaine.
2 Nov – Literature Works New Writers Conference If you are a new or aspiring writer this packed day will provide everything you need to know to get your work through to publication. Tickets £50 incl. lunch and refreshments, early bird £40 before 7 Oct. £30 students with valid NUS card. Tickets via Eventbrite