Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Winter God

Winter God by Paul Atlas-Saunders was featured on the front cover of The Lighthouse Vol 2 No 1. 1999/2000. More articles from this issue will be republished on this archive soon.

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Life Blood of Albion

This short psychogeographical and spiritual reflection on the rivers of Britain and in particular the Thames perfectly evokes the magical currents and philosophy of the author. This piece was written for ASH magazine issue number 5, by Dave Hunt and was published in the Autumn of 1989.  Dave was founding editor of the magazine, and was an accomplished folk magician and cunning man who spent most of his life living in the south of Essex, close to the river Thames. Photos have been added to give some visual context, but were not part of the original article. Plus I have added Jim Kirkwood's illustration of the sword in the stone, as this sat opposite Dave's article in the original publication. 

Life Blood of Albion

Dave Hunt

The Thames at Leigh on Sea, Essex

Albion is a country of many rivers, some great, some small, but all contribute to the lush and fruitful quality of our island. I was once told by someone much wiser than me that water is the soul of the Goddess, and as such carries the spiritual energy that makes Albion a place of great sanctity and holiness. Surely then, the obvious sites for our work and worship must be in the vicinity of such waterways. Our forebears knew this, siting the majority of  their henges, places of meeting and worship, near to running water.

The great river that feeds our part of the land is of course the Thames, noble and impressive, despite the industry that clutters its banks, especially in London and eastwards towards the sea.. To stand on one of its bridges and gaze at the water that glides, silk-like, beneath  is in itself a spiritual experience. 

Rising near Cirencester, the river traverses almost all of southern Albion growing in magnitude as it runs eastward. And as it flows, it gathers from the earth the spirituality of all the places it passes. From the vales of Oxfordshire, past the Berkshire downs and the Chilterns, until it approached London and the flat lands of Essex and Kent, whence it joins the sea. On its journey it is fed by many tributaries, each bearing the energy of its own area.

River Isis, near Oxford
Northern streams carry the essence of Gloucestershire and the Cotswold Hills, with glorious names like Evenlold, which has one of its risings at Great Rollright, Windrush, Leach and Coln. From the south come the Key, Ray and Ock, the latter flowing from the Vale of the White Horse. Most of these waters join the Thames before Oxford, where for a few miles the river changes its name to Isis, before reverting once again to the Thames.

The next tributary joins at Reading, being none other than the river Kennett itself, especially blessed by having its birth at Avebury, surely our most sacred site. Skirting the Chiltern Hills, the Thames runs through the western approaches to London, until it at last reaches the Capital. From here it flows in a majestic sweep towards the North sea, carrying with it the combined spirituality of all the places along its length. Is it any wonder that, according to legend, the original London bridge was built on the blood and bones of sacrifice to appease the power of this mighty waterway.

Essex has always been called "The Witch County", especially in its southern half. Small wonder, when such a great tide of "Albion-ness" feed its land.

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Saturday, 15 August 2020

Friday, 19 October 2018

#ASHMag30 'celebrating diversity and creativity' 1988 - 2018

It was on the 16th October 1988, that the first issue of ASH magazine was published. The team had been gathered by stalwart Essex earth mysteries researcher and cunning man Dave Hunt. He  began to recruit team members from a diverse source: from Earthquest, the local witchcraft scene, from his own questing group 'New E.R.A' and from the esoteric Christian community. 

The idea was to have a divergent group of people, who would become the editorial team. The magazine was to be run as a cooperative, with no one in overall charge, and it worked. We gathered each month at the Scout Hut in Church Road, Vange, Essex, where we would garner intentions and share our written work, before deciding on what went in the magazine.

L - R. Dave Hunt, Claire Capon and Ian Dawson
 Picture credit: Claire Capon-Hawley

L - R. Jim Kirkwood, Ian Dawson, Alex Langstone and  Dave Hunt
Picture credit: Claire Capon-Hawley

We all had our own ideas and we quickly became an interesting, productive and creative hub. We also attracted some well known names to write for us, and due to the broad subjects we were covering, we had a broader appeal than some of the other counter-culture and earth mysteries magazines of the 1980s.

Many side projects were spawned. Psychic quests manifested, music was written, marsh-magic was conjured and art was created, both out in the landscape and in the studio. A good time was had by the liminal shore.

At the magazine's height, two successive, successful 'Esoterica' conferences were staged, plus a book launch for Bega and the Sacred Ring. It was the time where the seeds of future aspirations were being sown upon the shore of dreams.

The original team were: Dave Hunt, Ian Dawson, Jim Kirkwood, Claire Capon and Alex Langstone, with others joining us later, including Yuri Leitch as illustrator.

Look out for the hashtag #ASHMag30 on social media for more memorabilia.

Artwork by Yuri Leitch, capturing the spirit of the Michael Line Rally, 1991

Jim Kirkwood's striking cover art for ASH no.9 

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Winter Celtic Cross. #ASHMag30

We were publishing folk horror way ahead of its time. Illustration by Jim Kirkwood from our Winter 1989 issue.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Hidden Stones. #ASHMag30

            This artwork, by Jim Kirkwood, sat just before the final article, 'The Devil in Essex' 
in ASH Number 1, Autumn 1988

Beyond the Dragon's Lair. #ASHMag30

This article, written by Ian Dawson, is the final one to be placed on this archive from the very first issue of ASH in Autumn 1988. I am currently sitting here at my desk in the Camel Valley, Cornwall copying this excellent article onto the ASH archive. It is Autumn 2018, and it was thirty years ago that this magazine came into creation from the heart of Thames-side Essex. That land of briny silt, muddy creek and haunted coast. So let's enter into the realms 'Beyond the Dragon's Lair', where the enchantment of the low lying land of the East Saxons may find its source.

Beyond the Dragon's Lair

Ian Dawson 

During frequent visits into the Essex countryside, we have visited many rural churches. It has been noticed that on some there are strange and unusual carvings that are not of Christian origin. A few have foliate men, the pagan woodland spirit, and others have mouth pullers, (the cleaned up version of the Sheilagh-na-gig) which are ancient fertility goddesses. They are both pre-Christian symbols of the old religion.

Another symbol of the old religion is the dragon, which can be found on a number of churches, not only in Essex, but throughout Britain. Some relate to actual dragon sitings, such as the Horndon dragon, which was said to have been imported by the Barbary merchants in the middle ages, and escaped into the woods around Horndon, to be killed by Sir James Tyrell. This dragon ncan be seen carved into the woodwork of Nicholas church in nearby Laindon, which upon closer inspection, looks remarkably like a crocodile. Could it have been one of these creatures, brought from the African continent, that escaped into the woods at Horndon?

Perhaps the most well known story is that of the dragon of Henham, written in a pamphlet in Clerkenwell in 1669 by Robert Winstanley of Saffron Walden. According to eye witnesses, it was a "flying serpent" as thick as a mans leg, eight or nine feet long with eyes as big as sheeps, sharp teeth and small wings. This serpent seems to have been chased away by villagers with farm implements, never to be seen again. There is, however, in St Mary's church, Henham, a medieval carving of a dragon commemorating the event. 

Other dragon carvings have no such stories attached to them, such as the dragon being slain by a saint, usually St Michael. Obviously being seen as Christianity triumphing over the old religion. The churches reaction to the dragon, the symbol of the old religion, must be seen in the light of its early relationship with the conquering armies of Rome.

The Romans adopted the windsock banner of the dragon from the Parthians and Persians during their campaigns against these nations. The dragon then became one of the symbols of the hated Roman army, hated at least by the Jews, whose land now lay under the dominion of Rome.  This symbol of Rome is vividly portrayed in the Book of Revelations, doing battle with st Michael. It is the dragon of Rome or the Devil as Rome was seen to represent by the first Jewish Christians. Of course the legions also brought their dragon banners to Britain and their use was continued by the Romano-Celts after the Roman armies left these shores.

The name Uther Pendragon, (Head Dragon) is an example of the importance Celts gave to the dragon. The tradition was continued by Arthur and the dragon is now the national emblem of Wales, one of the last places in Britain to be Christianised. The churches abhorrence to the pagan dragon, stems not so much from the dragon itself, but to what is represents to them. This is why so many hilltop churches were dedicated to St Michael, who traditionally is slayer of dragons and as so many of these churches were built on earlier pagan temples, it would seem indeed, like Christianity was triumphing over the old religion. 

Examples of this can be seen at St Micheal's church in Fobbing, Essex, where in the south porch there can be seen a fifteenth century carving of a serpent, representing the pagans, and a man or local hero representing the Christians, holding open the jaws of the dragon, reminiscent of the strength card of the tarot. Another example of this can be seen at St Lawrence and All saints  in Eastwood, where inside, amongst the pews, there is a dragon scratched into a pillar directly above a pagan mark stone set into the floor. In this case the hero is seen standing above the dragon with his spear pointing down towards the beast and not actually fighting it. 

Not all dragons have slayers, churches often abound with dragons and no knight killing them. Could this relate to the site still being used for pagan worship as many often were in the early days of Christianity? In most cases old churches were built on power centres now termed as "ley-lines", incidentally called by the Chinese, dragon lines or paths. It has been said that when one of these power lines is interfered with, and dragon energy leaks out, and becomes dangerous, the local hero usually  a knight with knowledge of such things, comes to slay the dragon, or put right the damage. Could the leaking energy take the form of apparitions? Out of place animals are often seen where the ground has been disturbed, perhaps even in the form of dragons. Therefore the earth energies  can be seen a dragons winding there way across the countryside, or spiral-like around a hill, usually of a pagan nature.

I can recall a few instances of serpents or worms, as they were sometimes known, coiling around a hill, such as Lampton worm, which wrapped itself around Lampton Hill three times, or the dragon of Bignor Hill in Sussex, the footpaths or sheep tracks, which can be seen on the slopes of the hill, are said to be its coils. I would suggest that both of these places were used in the worship of the old gods in the pre-Christian days. The well known tracks of Glastonbury Tor are known as dragon paths and Hackpen (serpents head) hill near Avebury in Wiltshire, recalls the serpentine avenues of standing stones at the Avebury stone circles. Both of these places were most definitely sacred to the old religion of former times. 

I could go on  and on as there are numerous churches and other places with dragon associations, too many in fact to mention here in this article. indeed why not visit your local old churches and discover for yourself the dragon;s lairs. You will find churches, pre sixteenth century, supply a wealth of paganism with their architecture. You might be surprised at what you do find.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

The Devil in Essex. #ASHMag30

This article was published in Autumn 1988 in the very first issue of ASH magazine, and was the folklore debut of the author.

The Devil in Essex

Alex Langstone

One may be forgiven for thinking, that in this modern age, myths and legends associated with the Devil must have faded with the 'mist of time'. This does not seem to be the case though, as local lore is so deeply etched into the landscape, that to this day there seems to be a wealth of devil legends associated with various places throughout Essex. One of these tales is the story of the Devil and Barn Hall at Tolleshunt Knights.

One day, as the story goes, a local squire decided to build Barn Hall in what was known as Devils Wood. So they started to dig the foundations. Each morning, when they returned, they found the trenches they had dug had been filled in. This went on for a few days, so in desperation, the squire ordered that a sentry be put on duty during the night, so as to find out what was happening. On the first night the sentry heard someone approaching.

"Who goes there!" he shouted.
"I, Satan and my hounds" was the reply.
The sentry replied, "This place is guarded by God and myself."  The Devil turned and fled.

On the second night the Devil once more appeared. Again the sentry inquired as to who was there, and again Old Nick revealled himself. Only this time the sentry made the mistake of declaring that only he was guarding the site, and not God. On hearing this, the Devil picked up a timber and shouted 

"Wherever this timber lands, you shall build barn hall", and with that he tore out the mans heart.

The Devil then vowed that he would have the mans soul whether he was buried inside the church or out. So it was decided that they should bury him within the church wall. There are those who say, that if you look closely, you can make out the evil one's claw marks on the walls of the parish church, where he tried in vain to search out his prey.

One point to this story that is interesting is if you visit All Saints church at Tolleshunt Knights you will see, in the north wall a niche, in this niche is a stone effigy of a knight holding his heart.

There seems to be several variations to this story that I have come across. One version states that the sentry was in fact a knight, and the  hounds of the story belonged to the knight rather than the Devil. These hounds, incidentally, are said to haunt the nearby marshes on stormy nights. Another variation on the theme says that the Devil did not tear out the mans heart until after his natural death. One point that does not seem to change though, is the part of the story which tells of the beam, which the devil threw up the hill and was incorporated into the cellar of Barn Hall, which can still be seen today. However, it would be an unwise to attempt to view it, as the "Horned One" placed a curse on the beam, so that anyone who dared to enter the cellar would receive a nasty wound!

It does seem difficult to establish how this legend came about as the story is fairly old: Barn Hall was built in 1500, and the only thing that springs to mind at present, is the knight effigy holding his heart. (Image right: Effigy of the Knight, Tolleshunt Knights from 'The ancient sepulchral monuments of Essex' by Frederic Chancellor 1890). Another variation on the theme, that I have left out up to now, concerns the stone effigy. The story goes much the same as before except that it is said that the effigy in the church was the actual sentry on duty at Devils Wood, and that the Devil, when he realised his plans of taking his soul/heart were  to be thwarted, turned him into stone.


Federation of Essex Women’s Institutes: ‘The Essex Village Book’ (Countryside Books, 2001), p.226.
Sabine Baring-Gould: ‘Mehalah’ (1881), p.138.
James Wentworth Day: ‘Here are Ghosts and Witches’ (Batsford, 1954)
First published in ASH magazine, number 1, autumn 1988.