Leodis Pagan Circle’s 3rd Magickal Mystery Tour – Sunday 19th July 2015

After early morning heavy rain we boarded the bus in Leeds in light drizzle and were soon on the road for our third pagan mystery tour with Leodis Pagan Circle, organised by Debra Scott and Nano Skald. As we bowled along the motorway to who knows where the sun started to break through the clouds and we shed our waterproofs in anticipation of a great day out.

Ripon Spa Gardens Sun Parlour Cafe
Ripon Spa Gardens Sun Parlour Cafe

Our first stop was in the delightful market town of Ripon, where we met up with Nano and the rest of the mystery tourers at the Sun Parlour Café at Ripon Spa Gardens. The weather had now dried up and stayed kind to us for the rest of the day. After a reviving cuppa and a slice of delicious cake from the café we were called to order by Nano. He welcomed us all and sent us off round the gardens on the Green Man Trail, with the enticement of a prize for the team who found the most Green Men. What a lovely way to appreciate the gardens as we had to search high and low to find the foliate faces hidden above our heads on the trunks of trees and hanging from branches, with one particularly beautiful nature spirit painted in green splendour on a shed door! Scarlett and Kitty were the winners and proudly accepted the prize of a Green Man book from Nano.

Ripon Labyrinth
Ripon Labyrinth

Next we crossed the road to hear about a labyrinth which has been created on the grass opposite the park. Whilst this is a modern labyrinth, created by the local Rotary Club, it is thought that there may have been one dating from ancient times in the area which has now sadly disappeared. Peter Quinan read out a wonderful poem about travelling the labyrinth and taking our spiritual journeys one step at a time. Then we all had a go at finding our way through the maze before heading back to the bus for the next leg of our mystery tour.

Our next stop was at the site of Nunwick Henge. Now almost completely obliterated by ploughing this was at one time a part of the vast sacred landscape of this area. Nano explained that the henge was in line with the Devil’s Arrows monoliths at Boroughbridge, Cana Henge and of course Thornborough Henges which we were all pleased to discover was to be our next port of call.

Thornborough Henge
Thornborough Henge

It’s always a joy to enter the Central Henge at Thornborough but what a different experience it is when it’s not full of stalls, noise and crowds of people for the Beltane and Mabon festivals so many of us enjoy attending each year. Nano told us some theories about the reason for the Henges being built, i.e. to act as a giant telescope in order for our Neolithic forebears to view the movements of the planets in the natural bowl of sky that is created above the Henge due to its location. It is reasonable to assume that it would also have been a meeting place for ritual purposes. It is certainly a deeply atmospheric site and to enjoy this special sacred place with only the sound of the wind in the long grass that swirled around our legs and the occasional cry of birds in the vast sky above us was a very memorable experience. Debra brought our visit here to a close with a very apt prayer giving thanks for the gift of having friends with whom to share such special times as these.

We must have all been affected by the energies of Thornborough as the mood on the bus as we set off again on our mystery tour was euphoric to say the least, and this was before we’d been to the pub!

Druid's Temple, Ilton
Druid’s Temple, Ilton

Fortunately we soon had the opportunity to ground ourselves with some food as our next stop was the Druid’s Temple at Ilton, where we were to have our lunch. Nano filled us in on the history of this Regency folly before we spent some time exploring and then tucked into our picnics, seated together on the grass next to the temple.

Suitably fortified we were soon on the road again and before long found ourselves back off the bus and toiling up a hill towards the next place of interest on the mystery tour – carvings on the huge rocks that litter the hillside at West Agra. We discovered several cup and ring markings here before going further up the hill into woodland to find a fantastically preserved labyrinth carving on a rock in amongst the trees, this is known colloquially as the Dinner Plate.

By now the pub was calling to us and we headed back to the Black Swan at Fearby to enjoy a few pints and a chat in the beer garden before our last stop of the tour.

Hackfall Woods, Grewelthorpe
Hackfall Woods, Grewelthorpe

Hackfall Woods at Grewelthorpe is perhaps the most magical wood I have ever visited as there is a surprise round every corner due to the hidden water features, cascades and fountains as well as numerous follies and grottoes that are dotted around this beautiful place. Nature was truly flourishing here and we were amazed at the endless varieties of trees and plants that we saw along the way. It really is a place to inspire the imagination and we all agreed that we must return to carry out a ritual here sometime.

Tired but happy we now all got back on the bus for our journey home, reflecting upon all the wonderful places we had visited and the fun and laughter we had shared with friends old and new.

Thank you Debra and Nano for once again organising such a fantastic, memorable and educational pagan-themed mystery tour for us. Roll on the next one!

Anna Rayner

Read more about our mystery tour.

Mabon at Thornborough 2014

Photo by Steve Pollard
Photo by Steve Pollard

I have the privilege and honour to be able to organise the Mabon celebrations at Thornborough Henge. Along with the many helpers and volunteers who enable the event to take place we also have my friends at Leodis Pagan Circle who write, lead and perform the annual ritual for the Autumn Equinox. For me this is the whole reason for the event and why so many people gather at the close of summer to celebrate the harvest and the turning of the wheel. One last gathering before the dark time.

Almost immediately after last year’s gathering Debs was already thinking of the theme for this year, where her inspiration comes from I can only guess, but year on year she comes up with the goods and once again a wonderful ritual is created.

In the weeks running up to Mabon there is a frenzied rush to get everything in place, no good trying to write rotas or schedules months in advance, too many changes happen, people drop out for various reasons so a month before my time is taken up with chasing up performers, caterers, you name it, they have to be contacted, throughout all this Debs is there with a calming influence even though I know only too well she has more on her plate than me.
The day dawns, Sunday 21st September 2014 and the rain has gone, Sol is in the sky and it’s promising to be a good day. Drag myself out of my cosy bed at some unearthly hour, run across the field to the portaloos, what joy! Gate duty beckons so a quick breakfast and away to greet the visitors. Where is Debs and the rest of Leodis, why am I panicking, it’s only 9am lol. As the morning wears on more and more people come through the gate, smiling and looking forward to a day in the henge, a bit of shopping at the craft stalls, entertainment and workshops and of course the highlight of the day, the opening ritual. The Leodis family arrive, joyous and encouraging, it’s going to be a lovely day. Meanwhile, it’s now 11.20am and I am still on the gate in my jeans and hi viz, where is everyone? All getting their best clothes on ready for our sacred ritual. 11.30 and I start shouting down the radio, I need to get changed, please come and replace me, eventually help arrives and I dash to the tent, frock on, make up slapped on and a quick brush of the hair, phew, in the henge just in time!

What followed took me far away from everything and everyone, the theme of balance struck home, the need for balance in my life, the need for balance for the entire world. I drifted into a kind of meditation, I was aware of the ritual and the deep meaning behind it but I was also aware of the ancestors gathering around us on the earthworks, some coming a little closer, listening to Deb’s words and nodding their heads in agreement. My heart was beating loudly and the emotions welled up within me. Marie’s poem became alive, many things seem to fall into place, the whole point of the weekend was for these few precious moments in time, this wonderful ritual that some special friends were performing.

Spirit was with us that day, the Gods and Goddesses were smiling upon us, the weather was wonderful, our reward for honouring the sacred henge, I felt uplifted and grateful beyond measure that I had a small part in this celebration. This feeling remained with me right through the rest of the weekend and is still with me now, life is about balance, light and dark, warm and cold, good and bad, you cannot have one without the other, I accept the rough with the smooth, I learnt something and I shall keep that lesson with me always.

All too soon we were thanking Spirit for joining us and the circle was opened, everyone went about their business and the Leodis family dispersed, I still had things to attend to but the lightness in my step and the smile on my face must have been noticeable to anyone who looked.

There was a feeling of joy all through the weekend, laughter and music throughout, no one seemed to want the time to end but end it must.

Monday morning, ugh, clean up time. Again a small army of volunteers patrolled the entire area, barely a sack of rubbish was found, everyone had cleaned up after themselves so well, I walked and walked around and around, nothing, people had really taken good care, what an amazing feeling I had that not only did I care, everyone else did too. I couldn’t help but feel that many had been moved by the ritual, some magic was created and had affected everyone present.

Well, a few weeks rest and then back to planning next year’s event, great helpers on board now and with Leodis Pagan Circle with me we shall again create a celebration to be proud of.