Monday, November 13, 2006

Merlin’s Cave

Thursday November 9, 2006:

10:30 am

How amazing! The sky is so high, I'm told it's a lovely blue with just a hint of cloud, whisping along in the stiff little breeze. The sun slants low across the land, like a finger of warmth. We head for the North Cornish coast where we will climbed down into a rocky cove and sit in Merlin’s cave. And it’s my birthday!!! Wheeee!

Tintajil has that glittery, tinsel sound about it. The place of new age fluffiness, mixed with antiquarian interest with a slight dash of edge uncomfortable nationalism of the more unpleasant kind. But there is still an attraction for these old sites, especially those hewn from the rock by hand of human or the elements. Merlin's cave, running under the headland from a small cove to a more rugged coastline, right under the castle, is one of these.

Well I climbed down the stairs, didn't seem to be such a big deal after all, despite warnings, I decided as I moved closer to the sound of the sea. Then my companions told me about the rocks!

I stepped unsteadily onto the first, feeling my thigh and buttock muscles stretching as I reached down with a tentative toe. With a companion on either side, I wobbled my way down, heart in my mouth, wondering if this were the day when I would break my bones and wondering how they would get me back up the cliff again before the tide came to snatch me off to the sea.

I thought of my goat (one of many animals that sometimes accompanies me on my spiritual travels, and my feet became steadier. I won't say I leapt down the rest of the rocks, but I knew, even as I balanced on one foot, the other poised and feeling out for the next rock, that thanks to the goat and my two companions, I would not fall.

The cave was high and arched. We stepped from rock to rock, to the edge of the retreating sea, just out of the splash of sunshine reaching into the depth of the cave from the other side. Finding a flat rock, I sat down, laid out the alter on it's purple cloth, cast a circle and called the spirits of the place.

The sea splashed and boomed, loud and vigorous one side and softer and murmuring on the other. I breathed the tang of salt sea on the brisk breeze which moved through the cave and felt myself going down, down beneath the rocks under my feet.

I was on a rough hewn flight of stairs, slippery with damp. I clutched a slimy wall as I made my way gingerly down them. The passageway was uneven and wet with condensation. It was low and I had to bow my head slightly to avoid hitting it on the craggy ceiling.

I began to walk carefully along, placing each foot with intention, listening to the walls and beyond them, a deeper booming roar which must be the sea all around me.

The walk was long, and I wondered what I would find as I edged my way forward. I kept on walking and walking and walking till, reaching out my hands instinctually to feel an unseen obstacle that I had sensed bat-like, I felt the roughness of a wall. I stopped, feeling around to my left and right, it was right across the passage, I could go no further.

Then I became aware of a thinning of the darkness, a beginning of light, a change in the air. It was coming from above and the booming sound seemed to be light and sharper. Peering around I noticed rough steps. Climbing carefully up these, I felt the space begin to narrow as they spiralled round. They became more indistinct until they became a steep ramp and then just a narrow chimney that I had to squirm my way up somehow.

As I wormed and wriggled, the light became brighter, the air changed and the sea sounds became more and more distinct. Eventually, with hands, knees, back and every other part of me engaged in the struggle, sore and chaffed, I reached up and grabbed an edge, a sharp jutting out rock. I pushed hard against the walls and somehow managed to wriggle into a position where I could lift myself out of the chimney. It felt as though my shoulders would tear, but breathing hard and pushing, I managed at last to swing up to sit on the chimney edge.

I looked around. I was on a rock and surrounded by sea. I crawled away from the chimney and sat down, my back to another rock facing back to the land. On the cliff top, the ruins sat. On the sea edge, the rocks over which we had clambered, and the entrance to the cave, but no stone or wooden steps or any other modern buildings.

I sat back, breathing in the salt-sea air, watching the waves rise and fall and waited. In time, I heard a fluttering of wings and then a rock dove or pigeon fluttered down in front of me. It stood bowing and bobbing and droo-drooing gently and quietly. In my head I asked it, "What wisdom do you have to offer me this birthday?." It cooed gently and softly and just sat there. I got the sense that it wanted me to sing, so I echoed it's cooing and we sang to each other for a while. I slipped deeper into a restful dream-like state.

Time passed and the sun moved lower. All at once, the bird had gone. I got up and scrambled back to the chimney. It seemed easier going down. I eeeled my way down the chimney, along the passage and up to the rough steps at the way back into Merlin's cave.

Sitting on the rock, experimentally at first and then with more confidence, I relaxed my throat and began to tone. My voice bounced around the cave and was tossed back to me. Beside me on the rock, my companion joined her voice with mine and we entwined a gentle invocation to the cave, the see and the spirits of this place. When we fell silent, the rocks seemed to sit gravely waiting. I closed the circle and reluctantly got up to leave.

Emerging from the cave, we clambered back across the rocks and sat down in the sun to feast on chocolate and fruit in honour of the day, before making our way back to civilisation.

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