Olympic Ceremony Features Scene from Watchers!

The iconic image of Glastonbury Tor in
Meraylah Allwood’s illustration from “Watchers”

As regular readers will have gathered, I’m not blogging as much at the moment. This is because I’ve headed back to Ireland in order to put the finishing touches to Book 2 of the Tilly Greenway series, The Hidden Hand. But, when a reader contacted me on Facebook to let me know that the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics is going to feature a scene from Book 1, Watchers…well, I just HAD to say something!

The full account of Danny Boyle’s lavish ceremony, scheduled to be staged on Friday fortnight, was published in The Daily Mail last week.

According to this report in the Daily Mail:

The set will include a recreation of the Glastonbury Thor [sic] and an enormous fake tree, which will appear in the first scene, entitled ‘green and pleasant land’

Have a look at this link and you’ll see that the centrepiece of the set for Boyle’s “Rural England” is none other than Glastonbury Tor, the famous landmark in the West Country that has drawn pilgrims to it for hundreds if not thousands of years.

And yet, it is not the Tor as you would know it, because the iconic image of the conical hill with the striking outline of St Michael’s Tower on its peak has been replaced by a Tor that now has a tree at its top. Nothing remarkable in that, you might say: except for the fact that this exact thing happens in a key scene from Watchers, the first book of the Tilly Greenway series.

Without giving too much away for those of you who have not yet read the book, here is the paragraph that describes the event:

“Up thrust the tree in a mass of flickering silver and grey. At first its slender trunk grew inside the walls of the tower, but as it got taller its branches pushed outwards, cracking the tower to pieces. The top stones fell first, cascading away down the Tor. Then the rest gave way until even the foundation stones, deep-set and strong, fractured and crumbled to dust.

“In an instant the tower had gone and there in its place stood a majestic tree.”

The arrival of the tree on top of the Tor is pivotal to the Tilly Greenway story in many ways. It is an Ash Tree with good reason.

To the druids, the Ash symbolised the gateway from the subconscious (which was represented by the “nemeton” or “oak-grove”) to the conscious mind. With the appearance of the tree at the top of the Tor, a portal for the awakening of sacred knowledge is created. This forms a pathway along which this sacred knowledge can travel, from our subconscious into our conscious minds, where we can act on it more deliberately.

From what I can see of the Olympic version, Boyle appears to have used an Oak, or perhaps it is a Thorn. Time shall tell on that and I’ll let you know the significance of his choice.

What fascinates me about this is that, having researched the imagery and symbolism used in public ceremonies, I know that nothing is chosen without specific reasons. These are occasions when millions of people tune-in and they are used to broadcast specific messages – messages that speak directly to our subconscious minds. (Bearing in mind that the subconscious part of our minds sees images on television as real, understands all archetypes and forgets NOTHING.)

So, my question is this: did Danny Boyle read Watchers before he planned the Olympic Opening Ceremony? If he did, I can understand why he might have replaced the tower with a tree. If he didn’t, perhaps one of his friends had read the book? The only other explanation I have been given is that the tower has religious connotations and that Boyle did not wish to “offend” anyone by including it. In which case, why bother with the Tor at all? Why not just a regular hill, surrounded by England’s green and pleasant fields?

As so often with coordinated public events, there is more to this than meets the eye at first glance. I’ll almost certainly revisit it once I know more. For now, all I can say is that whilst much of Tilly is prophetic (written through visions that I have in my dreams) I had not foreseen this episode!

Paperback amazon.co.uk      Paperback amazon.com

Kindle: amazon.co.uk         Kindle: amazon.com

If you’d like to listen to me reading the prologue to Watchers, you’ll find it amongst several Youtube pieces here.

Until next time – my best wishes!




Who’s that Living in the Trees?

If you go down to the woods today, you’re in for a big surprise…some of the trees have faces in, with noses, mouths and eyes!

Each species of tree has its own nature and each individual tree its particular character and spirit, but do some of them actually have creatures living within? I think they might! Have a look at some of the faces and figures I’ve seen in the woods this year and see what you think…

Here’s one of the old, mossy Beeches that fill the woods where I live.

It looks to me like the sad face of a mediaeval knight, or perhaps a Cathar healer, lamenting the changes in the world…

This one has a more elven feel to it, a gentle quality like that of a deer.

Here it is from a different angle, with an enigmatic smile:

The face of this graceful Beech is hidden by her out-stretched arms…

This Oak tree definitely has a wart-hoggy aspect to it!

And is it just me, or is there a swan here, its neck and wings rising from the stump of an old Sallow?

Last but not least, surely that’s an Ent approaching from behind the shining Silver Birch?

Who knows, perhaps after the witching-hour all sorts of folks emerge from their homes in the trees to dance in the moonlit glades?

If you have taken any photographs of trees that have the faces of humans – or other creatures – in them, why not drop me a line and we can start a collection?

With best wishes!


Old Man Alder

Before we say goodbye to the Celtic Alder Month, here is a short piece on the tree much loved by Bran, Celtic god of far-sightedness and Bearer of the the Alder Branch.

Old Man Alder

Old man Alder, short and stiff,

With your trunk so black;

Bent over the river’s edge

Like a crooked back.

Old Man Alder, dark and hunched,

With your roots so long;

Trailing in the water

Like a gently-waving song.

Old Man Alder, stories say

A twig that you let drop

Will help me see the future

Or make time stop.

Fairy Folks in Old Oaks!

Winter Oak

Continuing on with the theme of Oaks that seems to have been running around my mind as we approach this Solstice, I thought you might like this old rhyme, originating from the New Forest in southern England:

“Turn your cloaks, for fairy folks are in old oaks!”

The Old Belief was that by turning your cloak or coat inside out you would ward off the chances of being whisked off by the sidhe, or fairy folk.

The Oak was the tree of the druids, containing much magic. Perhaps this is because it is one of the most mighty and magnificent of trees, but there is more to it than that. It lives longer than most trees and in its acorns it carries hundreds of symbols of fertility. In one oak you’ll see more birds, caterpillars and other creepy crawlies than you will in a dozen Ash trees. So, it makes sense that the tree has long been regarded as a symbol of generation and life.

One old custom was to carry an acorn in the pocket for luck. Today you can still see acorns carved on the pillars of gateposts as well as in the ends of window blinds. Both of these practices are echoes of the old view that the Oak held deep magic and great power in warding off evil spirits (gateposts and windows being entry-points).

Derw is one old British word for Oak, Duir is another (this one taken from the Tree Ogham, an alphabet made up of tree names). The word druid is almost certainly a derivation of derwydd, which meant Oak-Seer.

I’ve always felt the Oak’s energy is very male (as compared to, say, Beech or Birch) and once had a very strange experience when I climbed inside one. The tree had been struck by lightning, severing it almost in half and leaving a hollow some five-foot deep inside it. Climbing in, I was surrounded by the growing remains. It was dark and dank in there, but not silent.

I had not been inside the tree for long when an overpowering sense of a strong, not altogether welcoming, energy fizzed through my body. So I jumped out quick! Since then I have had a great respect for the big old Oaks that grow in the heart of our woods. Their magic is strong indeed.

Many people enjoy trees in the spring and summer when they are covered with leaves, but the winter is a wonderful time to experience them too, because you can see more of them: a bit like seeing an x-ray of a body. Their branches sweep up into the sky and down to the ground, like vast lungs bearing hundreds of bronchial tubes and alveoli, all of them breathing out the oxygen on which we depend.

I hope that our wonderful Oaks survive the current attacks on them by various diseases. Our landscape would be so much poorer were they to go the same way as the Elms that graced us with their stately presence when I was a boy: and a slice of real magic would be lost.

With best wishes,