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know it, because the iconic image of the conical hill with the striking outline of St Michael’s Tower on its peak has been replaced by a Tor that now has a tree at its top.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!



Yew Tree Messages for the New Year

Ancient Yew Tree

As we move from the old year to the new, here are some messages from the Yew, the Tree of Death, Rebirth and Everlasting Life.

Oldest of all our trees, you’ll find many ancient yews growing near churches, usually on the north side. No one is quite sure how long they can live, but we do know that some are several thousand years old. So they have much wisdom to impart.

Yews are unusual in that they can reproduce by allowing their branches to sweep to the ground. Where they touch it, a new tree will spring up, each one connected to the other. They can also grow up from “within themselves”, a new trunk emerging from within the husk of the old. So it is not surprising that they have long been revered as living emblems both of the interconnection of all things and of the endless cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth. They can literally resurrect themselves.

Our ancestors often chose for their sacred sites places where Yews were growing. If there were none nearby, they planted Yews in places where they wished to worship (see my last post for more on sacred sites), most churchyard Yews being far, far older than the buildings that have sprung up beside them.

Why the north door? Look inside the north door of churches and you’ll often find an old pagan image of some kind carved into the stone above it: a green man, or a sheaf of corn. These were put up in order to pay tribute to the old ways. The north door was “the devil’s door”: not because evil things lurked outside, but because it represented an acknowledgement of the power of nature, the call of the wild, which The Church wished to demonize.

When the early missionaries were sent to “convert” Britain, the pope urged them to use the old places of worship as their own and to appropriate existing religious days as holy-days. Hence the midwinter Feast of the Unconquered Sun became Christmas, the Feast of the Unconquered Son and the spring Festival of Eostre, goddess of the dawn, became Easter, the date of Christ’s resurrection.

It was a smart move, helping The Church to take a hold in a way that it might not have done. But the old traditions have great sticking power and they still won’t let go! Even today we collect Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe at Christmas: the evergreens valued so highly by the druids and many before them!

The word Yew comes from the Anglo-Saxon “Giuli” which is the stem for our word “Yule”, the time when the wheel of the year turns from old to new. In the Celtic Calendar, the Yew Tree sat at this turning point on the wheel, where the old year became a new one. The Yule Log was originally a piece of Yew. Set on the hearth, it burned for 12 days over the midwinter season, spanning this time of change.

Yew wood is hard, bright orange and has a heady scent. Once treated, it is almost impossible to damage it, so it has long been regarded as a symbol of everlasting life. At the same time it is also known across Europe as The Death-Tree. Perhaps this is because its bark, foliage and fruit are all poisonous. Birds will eat the red flesh of the berries, but not the stones. Death and Everlasting Life walk hand in hand in the Yew Tree.

In Ancient Irish lore, the Yew Tree was one of the Five Magical Trees and was sacred to Banbha, the death-aspect of the once-supreme Triple Goddess. In Britain it was also associated with Hecate and so is dear to witches. Shakespeare calls the Yew “twice-fatal” and chose its juice as the poison which Hamlet’s uncle pours into the king’s ear in order to bump him off. So, it is a tree with quite a reputation!

Famous as the wood from which English bows were made (another association with death), Yew was also favoured by druids for making ogham-sticks and for their staves. My guess is that Gandalf’s staff would have been of Yew.

With their long association with both death and rebirth, Yew Trees give us a timely reminder at this time of year of our contact with the spirit world and with our ancestors. One Old Belief that I particularly like is that the roots of churchyard Yews intermingle with each other and reach into the mouths of those who are buried there, giving voice to the spirits. It is said that this accounts for the reddish colour of the bark as well as the berries.

I once lived near a small wood made up entirely of Yew Trees. I would crawl under the branches of the outer trees and then stand up and walk inside a world that was hushed and dim, but never frightening. Sometimes I would sit propped up against the trunk of the oldest tree, listening to the whisperings of root and branch and twig.

As the Tree of New Year’s Eve, the message of the Yew is for us to live life and enjoy it, to waste not an instant of our brief time here. Yet it holds a deeper message too. It tells us that death need hold no fear over us, but is itself a birth, a moment of transformation. Just as the Yew can spring up from its own dying remains, the old year passes away to be replaced by a new one that would not be the same without those that came before it and those that are to follow. And just as each Yew Tree is connected to the next, so all moments in time are linked.

Our lives are the same. We would not be who we are without our ancestors and we in turn will be ancestors to our descendants. Nothing truly ends and nothing is truly separate from anything else. Long after we are not here to sit in person beneath its boughs, the Yew Tree will be singing its song, whispering the tales of eternal spirits to those who wish to listen.

Wishing you a wonderful, enchanted and dream-filled 2012!


PS – If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy my book Tilly Greenway and the Secrets of the Ancient Keys, which includes a lot of old Tree Lore. Fin out more at any of these links. Thank you!

Paperback amazon.co.uk      Paperback amazon.com

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