This post is the second piece of my personal account of the events that immediately followed my first post which set out the background for my experiences with, and of, Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria. I make no claim for “authority” with these accounts, I’m recording these as much for my own benefit as anything else so as I don’t “forget” the details as time moves on. Plus I find it better to record these things close to when they happened as the mind tends to be more focused and hopefully more accurate as to detail.

So, I’m heading back into Kirkby Stephen from the south after being diverted for a second time in 36 hours and I’m suddenly aware of a stream of information coming into me (best phrasing I can use to give an approximation as to the experience).

When I am driving, like a lot of people, I drive with music playing. A large part of my working life for over 35 years has been spent driving, so I have spent a lot of time listening to music. With my current vehicle, the unit can play music from USB drives. I find this very useful as it means I can play music for hours without having to replace the CD every 45 minutes or so. My current USB drive has around 50 CD’s on it and the unit has the ability to play the music in random order. I like this feature as it stops me getting bored with the same order and I get some sort of “strange pleasure” in extracting meaning from the playing order the unit throws at me every now and again.

As I enter Kirby Stephen, the unit decides to throw this one at me. It’s worth taking time out here to listen to this all the way through so as to get a feel to the song and you will also notice the significance of the song title.

The first “presence” making itself known to me, is what I can only explain as probably one of the oldest Spirits of Place I have ever encountered. In my experience, Spirits of Place don’t necessarily convey a sense of age with their presences, time is more for our understanding than a concern of theirs but I believe this information was more to emphasize the longevity of its connection to Kirkby Stephen than to try to impress me with an approximation of its own lineal time frame.

I then also got a sense of wood smoke (can’t say I actually smelt it in “reality” but more that it was part of the “whole” stream of information that engaging all of my senses). I was immediately put in mind to some of the work of Gordon Noble, specifically his book “Neolithic Scotland: Timber, Stone, Earth & Fire”.

The connection was made ( or put, depending upon your viewpoint) about how the Neolithic people in Scotland (and presumably because I was making the connection in my mind at that current physical location, Northern England as well) are suggested to have ritually created memories of people, places and events by the act of burning timber, be that buildings, enclosures or posts.

Interestingly, in that particular book dated some ten years now, it was specified how all the timber that had been found and tested was Oak (in Scotland definitely, but also it had been found in Ireland and Middle and Southern England as well). It was suggested that this may have been because of the Oaks known ability to resist rotting made it obvious building material. It was also reported that burning Oak in situ until it has burnt away completely is not easy, which is what apparently had happened with these sites. I couldn’t also not help making what, on the surface, could be a fanciful connection to Druidry through it’s suggested connection to the Oak.

The book also reported the evidence of repeated burnings on some sites and that with one site in particular in Perthshire, the act of throwing soil on the burning timber seems to have been done to help create the heat to burn the timber completely and that it resulted in “burnt Earth that turned red / orange” which had been found in situ at that site. Scorched earth.

Fire has been associated with the elements popularly in many modern pagan traditions. Air, Water, Earth and Fire. But for me, fire is different from those other elements. I can understand it’s placing with those other elements, but to me, it’s ability to transform is probably more defining for me personally, placing it as a process rather than an element.

So, I had these ideas form in my mind and even though some of the Scottish neolithic practices were dated to over 5000 years ago, I was made aware that the practices had not been forgotten until comparatively recently.

Obviously, my living in Scotland now may have contributed to these connections being made, but looking at it now, I believe it was the best way the Spirit of Place could have used to convey part of its reason for interacting with me at that time and place. The other part was its (the Spirit of Place’s) connection with Loki, which I’ll deal with in the next post.