Monday, 29 August 2011

St. Blane's Church & The Fairy Well

The ruins of St. Blane's Church lie on the site of an ancient monastery, one of the first of it's kind in the British Isles. The walls of the monastery and the foundations of some of the ancient monks' cells still exist in this secluded wooded location near the southern tip of the Isle of Bute.

I was drawn to the place because of it's healing fairy well and a strange circular enclosure called the Devil's Cauldron which archaeologists can find no real explanation for. Folklore tells that within the Devil's Cauldron grew a pine tree that had the magical power to give visions if a sprig of its leaves was left under one's pillow overnight.

I arrived at St. Blane's Church in the light of early evening, bright and breezy. The place was deserted so I had it all to myself!

The layout of the place was impressive, with the vallum that enclosed the original 6th century monastery still clearly visible and marking out the boundary of this ancient sacred space.

I could see the ruins of the 12th century church ahead.

I ignored the ruined church for now and headed straight for the fairy well, but I was disappointed to see that a very heavy iron grille had been placed over it, set permanently into concrete.

To me it was a desecration to treat such a sacred place in this way, it interferred with the spirit of the place, but at least the well was still there, even if it did have to be viewed through iron bars, and it still gave off a certain sparkly energy.

I next went over to the Devil's Cauldron. It no longer had a pine tree growing in it, or any trees growing nearby. Perhaps those eager for visions had destroyed the pine tree long ago? Now it was just filled with cropped grass and a few rocks, but it had a certain energy that made me wary about entering, it felt somehow powerful, glowing and golden.

I did some protections and then stepped through the entrance.

Inside it was filled with golden light, and I could see an even brighter light coming from a large being that stood inside there. It was a strange 'alien' creature, with a long head and long arms that stood stooped over me. I reached out to touch its long fingers, but it was like trying to touch a mirage, I was not able to communicate with it.

I stepped back outside the Cauldron and noticed many primrose leaves growing nearby. I picked 13 of them and rubbed them into my wand so that the juice stained the runes on there. Primroses are known from folklore to be a way to open doors to the otherworld, so my intent was to infuse my wand with this ability. Perhaps it would come in useful someday?

I next decided to get out my dowsing rods and I dowsed an energy line going into and of the Cauldron, but when I stepped inside the Cauldron to follow the line it formed a spiral going in to the centre. This was definately some kind of power node, a place of power and a place of visions. So I decided to lay down inside the cauldron and see where it would take me.

I was accompanied by a power animal that had been lurking around in the background for a while now, but who I'd never quite got aquainted with. It was a blue-eyed silver wolf. He took me to a crystal cave where a wise old bearded man awaited, some kind of god-like spirit guide. He showed me that the cauldron was a place of power, glowing with yellow energy, and he showed me the sparkly white energy coming from the well.

This is the reason why the monks chose this place and built a wall around it all. They wanted to harness the energy of this place and use it for their own ends, to employ its power and to have spiritual experiences and visions. These monks were more like druids than churchmen! But over the generations these powers were forgotten as the monks became more orthodox.

I was told that I should venerate the well, and focus my intention there to make it become a sacred and magical place once more.

I got up from the cauldron, feeling rather spaced out, and headed back over to the well.

I took a quartz crystal out of my bag and held it in my hand.

"With this crystal I hereby place my intention
That this place shall once again be venerated.
It shall become a holy place,
A magic place,
That folk will flock to
To worship
And receive healing, joy and happiness"

I placed the crystal into the well and then took out a corn dolly which I had bought in Glastonbury. I attached to to the metal grill so that people would know this was a special place.

"Let the magic flow forth
Flow forth from this holy well
Let it light up the sky
Let it draw folk here from far and wide
It's magic shall flow out
Flow out over the land
Drawing people here
Bringing the joy of nature
And Mother Earth to all
They will dance and sing and tie ribbons
Soon they will come
They will feel the magic
It will enter them
A place of ceremony and celebration
A new paganism
A new spirituality
Filled with joy and love
I will make this happen!
Old institutions will crumble
All shall be enlightened, renewed and refreshed
So mote it be!"

I felt like my work was done here at last, so I wandered around this peaceful and enchanted place in the late evening light enjoying the nature and the atmosphere of the place.


Rob Wildwood (Aurvandil) has now released a book containing hundreds of his own stunning full colour photos of many of the magical places he has visited in his travels. The images capture the magic and mystery of each place and are enhanced by extracts of local folklore that reveal the magical lore of each place and tempt deeper investigation. Every site listed has full directions and map grid references that can be checked online, so join Rob Wildwood as you discover Britain's magical places at

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Iona - St. Columba and the Well of Age

I was drawn to the sacred island of Iona for several reasons, for its holy wells and fairy sites, and for its associations with mysticism and prophetic visions.

I started by climbing Dun I, Iona's highest hill, to look for the fabled Well of Age, also known as the Well of Healing or the Fountain of Youth. It is said that if you splash the water on your face at sunset it will "roll back the years", but it is also known as a vision site by mystics. The Celtic goddess Bride (St. Bridget) is said to have climbed Dun I, and after rescuing a lamb from a falcon at the Well of Age she drank the water and had a vision. She stepped through a magical gateway created by two rowan trees and was transported back to birth of Jesus by two angels to act as midwife!

The climb to the top was easy enough, but at first I couldn't find the pool, only a small puddle under a rock. I got my dowsing rods out to find out if I was in the right place, and after asking a few questions I turned around and there it was! A large pool perched upon the edge of a cliff.

The wind was blowing up there making quite a din, but as I climbed down to the edge of the pool all was calm and quiet. I sat by the pool in that sheltered spot and splashed the water onto my eyes, then sat down and meditated as the cold water slowly evaporated from my face.

I could sense small playful elfin creatures dancing and playing around the pool and then at portal opened at the back of the pool with stairs going down under the rock. I walked down and soon found myself in a beautiful passageway, with an ivory, arched colonnade to my left through which I could see the most breathtaking trees covered all over in bright pink blossoms. I knew that I was back in Elfland. To my right was an elven lady wearing a long white dress with long flowing yellow hair.

"It is always spring in Elfland", she said, "If you wish it to be!"

I knew that again I was being tempted to stay, and the place was so beautiful and calming that the temptation was great indeed, but I also knew that I had a job to do here on Earth, and no matter how difficult my life here on Earth might become, I had to complete whatever I had come here for before I could return.

Without a word, but with a knowing look of calm serenity she led me further down the stairs to a high colonnaded courtyard containing the most majestic and awe-inspiring tree I had ever seen. Its perfectly formed branches shone golden to hold aloft a perfect crown of leaves giving off a golden light in which were nestled a sparkling array of glowing gems of all shapes and colours that twinkled in the twilight.

"This is the tree of knowledge", she said, "but it is sick. You must heal our tree."

I knew that she meant there was something I must do on Earth in order to help heal the tree, but what that was I could not comprehend.

As the vision faded I head a voice say: "Come back at midnight and drink the water".

Afterwards everything felt otherworldly, almost like I was seeing our world superimposed upon another world that lies beneath, but more real and vibrant than our world.


I descended from Dun I, down the other side that led towards the centre of the island. My next destination was the Hermit's Cell, a place of "spiritual wish-fulfilment and mystical experiences" where Robert Ogilvie-Crombie had met with the god Pan and many people had had visions and mystical experiences.

After struggling across the rough and tractless terrain for about an hour I finally spotted some low stone walls by a large rocky outcrop, and from the descriptions I had read I knew I had found the place.

I climbed to the top of the rocky outcrop to survey area from above. To my right was a square enclosure incorporating huge boulders that looked like they could have been monoliths in their own right.

To my left I could clearly make out the Hermit's cell "Tigh nan Cuildich" The House of the Culdees, looking like a strange ulcer on the surface of the land.

I climbed down from my hilltop eminence, circled slowly around the cell, and then stood by the entrance and closed my eyes.

I could feel the energy emanating from the cell. A column of yellow light reaching up to the sky filled with flickering golden tendrils reaching up to the heavens. I stepped inside and basked for a while in that energy. It soon made me feel very spaced out! The energy seemed to be beaming down from an extra-terrestrial source as if it came from a flying saucer suspended in the sky. I felt myself being lifted up in the energy, growing taller and taller, until I was a huge being, like an ancient god, the Lord of All Wild Things. I looked down upon Iona from above and could see the Hermit's Cell at the centre, the omphalos of the island, it's centre of power.

I returned to my body and lay down in the cell, the energy formed a dome over me and I lay there feeling very otherworldly, in a deeply meditative state, until I was no longer aware of my body. I felt like I was in a dream.

Eventually I arose and walked back to the large square enclosure by the cliff. I found a deep crevice in the rock face and squeezed in there with my back to the rock, facing the landscape of Iona. There I meditated even deeper and released some of my deep-seated needs which I realised were focused too much on this material world. I had no need to prove myself or justify myself, for a while at least I could just be.

I walked back to the village by a long and boggy route, slightly lost my way, and then was attacked by an angry dog in a farmyard! Luckily he was on a long lead so I managed to get out of his reach just in time!

Back at my B&B I looked up the "Tree of knowledge" on the internet and found out that it was the tree from the Hebrew bible from which Adam and Eve took the forbidden fruit. But the real meaning of this allegorical tale seems to be that the tree represents the knowledge that first separated mankind from the animals. We chose to become different from the other creatures in this world by eating of this 'forbidden' knowledge. It also seems to be linked to the advent of farming somehow, as Adam and Eve's descendants were farmers, no longer in complete harmony with nature but struggling against it. Another reference to the "ancient teachers of mankind" maybe?

I returned to Dun I later that evening in total darkness. There was no moon or stars, and the wind was whipping in from the sea, rattling wires and fences. Everything looked dark and spooky, some scarecrows by a vegetable patch had a demonic appearance and even a collection of garden gnomes clustered around someones doorstep had a sinister aspect. After passing through the village I set off up the tractless hillside in complete darkness, with only my weak head-torch to guide the way through the surrounding blackness. I could just make out the grey outline of Dun I in the darkness and so I headed in that direction, trying to avoid slipping into a bog or some treacherous hole in the ground. As my route started to get steeper and steeper I thought I must be crazy to be doing this! I persevered nonetheless, but did not like it one bit!

Eventually I reached the top and the cairn of stones, and was immediately almost blasted off my feet by the howling gale blowing in from the far side of the hill! The roar of the wind, the darkness and my small cone of light was all I was aware of. I struggled over the top and made my way down to the Well of Age, which was taking the full blast from the onshore wind. Climbing down into rocks by the pool didn't offer much protection, and the black surface of the well was being pummelled by the air as it crashed into the rock face, creating a constant rippling effect on the surface of the pond like it was being blasted by a giant hair-dryer.

I sat there and tried to relax. Turning off my torch I could see lights twinkling on the rock face and blurry patches otherworldliness passing over it that never quite coalesced into recognisable forms, but I could sense the presence of spirits nonetheless. I closed my eyes and tried to relax in the howling darkness, but it was no use. As I opened my eyes I noticed that it had got even darker. It started to rain. Clearly this was not the place to be right now! 

I made my way back down the hill, stumbling in the darkness. I imagined what it must have been like living here long ago, in the darkness, when the land was populated by malevolent spirits intent upon trickery and luring people to their deaths; urisks, mermaids, selkies, the sidhe and the walking dead. How superstitious and terrified people must have been on nights like this. What a comfort it must have been when the Christian missionaries arrived offering people the protection of God and the saints, and the sanctuary of the church. Is it any wonder that people converted so easily?

I was glad to make it back to the relative safety of the village. As I wandered past the abbey I noticed a flickering red light coming from the tiny window in the door to St. Oran's chapel. It looked warm and comforting so I decided to investigate. I pushed the door and it was open, so I stepped inside. The chapel was lit by the warm glow of a single red candle sat on the altar, it's light reflected from a polished steel Celtic cross set above it and illuminated the tombstones of old Highland chieftains that were set into the walls.

It seemed like a place of peace, contentment and spirituality, carrying none of the heavy energy I usually associate with churches. I sat on one of the benches and soaked up the air of calm serenity as I watched the flickering glow of the candle dancing over the walls.

I closed my eyes and saw a cowled figure step out from the corner of the room, his hand held up in a blessing. Was this St. Columba? He told me that I had come to Iona seeking spirituality, like so many others before me. He said I should stop chasing spirits [fairies] and serving them, and that what I really sought was my own spirituality. "Spirituality not wizardry" was his message to me. He anointed my forehead with oil.  

Feeling calmed by the experience I left the chapel and headed back to my lodgings.


The next day as I sat eating breakfast I could see dolphins swimming in the sound, leaping out of the water and playing as a yacht sailed by them. What a way to start the day!

After my experience of the night before I decided to visit the abbey. There was something about the Celtic church which interested me, it was not like the stuffy old churches I had been brought up with in England but seemed to be more closely linked to our spiritual and pagan past.

I sat in St. Columba's tiny shrine and started to meditate there when the caretaker suddenly stepped inside the door. He had come to clean the bird droppings off the walls which were deposited there by the nesting swallows. The very moment he told me this a swallow flew in, fluttered past our heads, and dropped into its nest above us! The swallows, already late for their southerly migration, only added to the magic of the place.

I wandered around the rest of the abbey and took note of all the ancient grave slabs of Scottish chieftains which had been moved in here from the graveyard to preserve them.

A Sunday service was going on in the main hall, and the ethereal singing would have created a perfect enchantment were it not for all the gaudily dressed, camera-touting tourists wandering around.

I decided I had had enough of this tourist circuit for now and so I headed out to the next place on the island I wished to visit; Sithean Mor. 'The Large Fairy Mound' was where legend said St. Columba had been spied upon by one of his young acolytes while communing with a host of glowing angels. I was intrigued by this story and wondered what St. Columba had been up to on this mound.

The wind was howling again as I made my way across country down a little lane. I found the fairy mound in a field by the lane, it was part of a farm called Sithean, which itself means 'Fairy Mound'!

I had intended to sit on top of the mound and see what I could pick up there, but I was being buffeted so badly by the wind that I decided to sit facing the mound in the shelter of Sithean Beg 'The Little Fairy Mound' instead.

I took myself back in time and saw St. Columba wandering over to the mound, his hand clasping a knobbly staff. He looked more like a druid than a priest, and it occurred to me that perhaps that was, in a way, what he was. A druid who also followed Christ. As he reached the top of the mound, a host of shining white beings descended from 'heaven' and then consorted with the saint.

So were these the Shining Ones? The secret teachers of mankind who reveal themselves only to a select few? The record states that St.Columba was certainly annoyed about being spied upon, and punished the priest who did so. So who are these Shining Ones? Are they angels, fairies, or extra-terrestrials? Perhaps these beings, wherever they came from, are the basis for all of these myths and legends? And what of the druids? Did they really die out, or did they become the priests of the Celtic church preserving ancient knowledge?

These questions I would not find the answers to today, so soon I decided to leave the island, knowing that the answers to these riddles must lie elsewhere.


Rob Wildwood (Aurvandil) has now released a book containing hundreds of his own stunning full colour photos of many of the magical places he has visited in his travels. The images capture the magic and mystery of each place and are enhanced by extracts of local folklore that reveal the magical lore of each place and tempt deeper investigation. Every site listed has full directions and map grid references that can be checked online, so join Rob Wildwood as you discover Britain's magical places at

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Loch Maree - The Queen of Fairies Island

In the remote North West corner of Scotland there is a large loch, which nowadays is called Loch Maree, and on that loch there is an island, and within that island there is another small hidden loch, and on that loch there is another island! An island within an island within an island! A legendary place where on certain nights of the year the queen of the fairies is said to hold court.

After doing some research I discovered that the island containing the loch is called Eilean Subhain and is the largest island on Loch Maree, but even more intriguing seemed to me the island called Isle Maree, an ancient burial ground going back to the time of the druids and containing a wishing tree and a holy well, so off I headed up North to investigate!

The hotel on the edge of the loch was closed, a string of bad luck had seen a previous manager commit suicide (he was buried on Isle Maree) and the current manager having to close for the whole year due to numerous burst pipes caused by last year's severe winter. Despite this the manager still seemed like a jolly chap and offered to take me over to the islands in his boat.

We passed Eilean Subhain on our left, barren looking and dotted with pines, and then Isle Maree came into view ahead, a lush oasis of thick oaks said to have been planted there by the druids. In any case the island is unique, the Scots pines that cover the other islands are absent here, replaced by oak, holly and other hardwoods.

He dropped me off on Isle Maree, and left me stranded there for few hours on this tiny remote island in the middle of a huge loch.

The island cannot be more than 100 metres across and seemed to be composed entirely of small rounded stones. Man made perhaps? Or the remains of a glacial moraine? Several theories have been put forward but none have satisfactorily explained this strange little island.

I headed off on a small track that led up from the beach and soon came to the remains of the famous money tree, studded with old coins left there by countless pilgrims from times gone by, including Queen Victoria herself!

Near the money tree was said to lie the holy well, famous for curing lunacy, but the well had long ago been filled in and there was now no trace of it at all. Higher up on the island, to my left, I could make out some gravestones and so went over to investigate and soon came to a low stone wall which formed a complete a circle, around 20 metres across. This was the famous 'druid' circle which had lain here since ancient times, but was more likely built by the Picts for ritual purposes.

I walked around the edge of the circle, not wanting to enter yet. Isle Maree had seemed like a magical place when viewed from the outside, but now that I was in the heart of island it seemed like a rather forbidding place. I avoided entering the circle for a while, but finding nothing more of interest on the island I decided to enter.

I came first to the two Viking graves, slabs of stone set into the ground and carved with ancient Celtic crosses in a very simple style. The story of their death is a tragic one. The first grave belongs to Olaf, who killed himself when he thought that his truelove had died. The second grave belongs to his lover, who killed herself when she realised what she had done, pretending to be dead to test her hero's love.

I thought that I had come to this island to find the holy well, but being able to find absolutely no trace of it left me wondering why I was here. For some reason I felt compelled to lie down on top of Olaf's grave slab and meditate there.

I felt Olaf's spirit enter me. Was he looking for his lost love? No, he seemed to be more concerned about a pot of gold he had buried and not been able to retrieve before he died! Well so much for legends...

Even in the spirit world this island seemed grey and forbidding, a place of sacrifice. I felt my spirit rise up into the sky, ascending higher and higher. I looked down upon the loch and saw Isle Maree, a grey and ghostly speck with it's stone circle in the centre looking like a sun-wheel. I then looked across and saw the large island of Eilean Subhain, also looking ghostly in the twilight, but within it a could see a small glowing island of glittering golden light! Yes, that's where I had to go, that's what had drawn me here! I had become too distracted by myths and legends of Isle Maree!

Suddenly I felt a spear pierce me! I was back in my body and saw bull-headed man standing over me thrusting a spear into my belly! I cast him away and placed protections around myself, and then rose up from the slab a bit shocked and shaken.

Is this why this island was famous until the 17th century for its bull sacrifices? Were they sacrificing to this demon? I later discovered that highlanders were known for wearing bull skins over their heads when performing rituals, had I perhaps met the spirit of one of these ancient shamans who still protected the island?

I took a final wander around the shores of the island while I waited for the boatman to return, and gazed across at the remote wooded hillsides on the Northern shore of Loch Maree.

If there was another channel running east-west then the circle would indeed form the sunwheel that I had seen in my vision.

The boatman took me over the short hop to Eilean Subhain and dropped me off in a sheltered bay on the Northern shore of the island, my plan being to trek across the island, investigate the loch, and then meet the boatman later in the evening on the southern shore of the island.

I heard the boatman's engine chug away into the distance and was then left in the perfect isolation of this rugged landscape.

The ground was rough and boggy as I made my way in a southerly direction towards where I believed the small loch to lie.

I came to a rise in the land and suddenly there it was, a lake where no lake ought to be, not Loch Maree, but a hidden nameless loch secreted away on this small island.

But before I could stop to admire the view I noticed movement in the water. An otter! And he had just caught a fish!

He carried the fish onto a tiny island within the loch and disappeared into the heather, but I could hear him crunching away on his fish, crunch, crunch, crunch! I crept up as close as I could to the island, some instinct led to me to exactly the right spot where I crouched down with my camera at the ready, waiting for him to emerge. He did not disappoint me...

It's not often you can get one over on an otter! I could have sat and watched him all day, but I was here for a reason. The otter swam off to the other side of the lake, hunting for more fish, while I stood up and stared plodding around the edge. The island where the otter had eaten his fish looked like a likely place, but the boatman had told me that the fairy queen's island could be waded to, and the water to this island was too deep. There was another island near the opposite shore of the lake, so off I plodded, hoping to make it around to the far side.

The heather and grasses were full of a multitude of insects, especially many brightly coloured dragonflies that seemed so tame I could actually walk right up to them and stroke their wings!

After trekking over the rough ground I finally made it to a stand of tall pines that I had seen from the opposite shore, and then the final stretch over some very boggy terrain that threatened to suck my shoes off until I made it to the small sound that separated the tiny island from the shore.

It was time to take off my boots and start wading! So finally, without too much difficulty I made it across onto the rough heather that covered this tiny knoll. So was this it? Was this the fairy queen's island?

I sat and meditated upon the top of the top of the island and instantly felt the flutter of huge dragonfly wings by my side. The faerie queen had landed! She stood there with flowing golden hair and flowing orange dress, and summoned forth a swarm of insects from the wilderness all around! Glittering dragonflies, butterflies, bees and beetles of all shapes, sizes and colours. The insects coalesced around her and formed into a whirlwind. They then spread out all over the land carrying with them a magical energy.

As I watched the vision words came forth spontaneously from my lips:

"You will sit on your throne again
Your magic throne
Lady of the beasts
Lady of the wild
Come take back your throne
The animals await
They're at your command
They're here to do your bidding
Lady of nature
The animals are at your command
Queen of nature
Retake your throne my lady
My lady of nature
The animals approach
The animals are coming here
Great stirrings in the Earth
A time of change and reckoning
Swarms and swarms swarming
Carried on a whirlwind
A portal opens from above
A gate to the otherworld
They're coming through
They've been waiting for this day
The shining ones return to Earth!"

I had watched as a golden portal opened in the sky above me, and golden winged beings has stepped down through it onto the surface of the lake, forming a glowing line of bright celestial winged beings spread out right across the lake, wings spread, gazing skywards...

What did it all mean? Who were the shining ones? I pondered this as I waded back from the island, put on my boots, and carried on across country towards another lake, further to the south.

I walked through some odd, almost prehistoric looking terrain until I came to the second lake, which if anything looked even more magical than the first!

I had some time to kill before the boatman arrived so I lay there on a spit of grass and tried to meditate some more. I thought about what had drawn me here. Was I activating these nature spirits, preparing them for a time soon to come when they could repopulate the land? It certainly seemed that way. But who were the shining ones? They seemed like they came from another planet or another dimension.

When I got back I did some research on the shining ones, but there were no simple answers. It could refer to the sons of Horus, Hindu devas or Roman and Celtic solar deities. I dug around for a while and finally came up with an article that seemed to resonate somehow, it describes the "Mighty Shining Ones" as the Elohim of the Hebrew bible, the ancient gods and teachers of mankind. The article is absolutely fascinating and well worth a read:

The section on the Elohim begins:

The Hebrew word Elohim is translated as ‘God’ in the Old Testament scriptures to give the misleading impression that it is a single form, when in actuality, it is a word in the plural form. Elohim being the plural of Elyon. The word Elohim is used 2,250 times in the Hebrew Bible, even to describe idols. The Elohim are a class of beings, more accurately described as the Mighty Shining Ones, equivalent to the Neteru (Ancient Ones) of Egypt and the Sumerian Anunnaqi (“those who Anu sent down to Earth”) in the Enuma Elish. 

Rob Wildwood (Aurvandil) has now released a book containing hundreds of his own stunning full colour photos of many of the magical places he has visited in his travels. The images capture the magic and mystery of each place and are enhanced by snippets of local folklore that tempt deeper investigation. Every site listed has full directions and map grid references that can be checked online, so join Rob Wildwood as you discover Britain's magical places at