A Letter and a Poem

by Christine Rhone


     Last summer (i.e. 1986), I made a trip to Giggleswick in Yorkshire and saw the Ebbing and Flowing Well. Though there is a disagreement among the locals as to whether it still ebbs and flows, there is a phenomenon particular to it not mentioned in Source. There is a silver thread seen in the well at certain times, a long thin line of bubbles, which brings luck to the person who sees it. A friend and I cleaned out the well.

     I was thinking about Alan Cleaver's ideas on the relationship between wells and dragons. It seems to me that one thing that wells and dragons and the power of vision have in common, is the moon. The dragon as serpent is a symbol for immortality, because it sheds its skin, including the skin over its eyes, which symbolically connects the snake's death and rebirth with the power of vision. As the moon dies and is reborn each month, the level and quality of water itself changes. In olden times, the rhythms of the moon were taken into account when wells were dug, which was usually done only during certain phases of the moon and when it was in certain positions of the zodiac. Subterranean water reservoirs are also influenced. In some districts of the Himalayas, water containers in the houses must be emptied before or after an eclipse. Practitioners of bio-dynamic farming know that the timing and even the direction in which waters are stirred that contain special fertilisers, is crucial to the success of the operation. Physically, water takes two basic shapes. When at rest, it forms a drop, much like the serpent coiled round the holy hill, and when flowing, it forms spirals of varying kinds, again like a serpent in motion. What came out of all these thoughts was that the dragon or serpent may be seen as the power of natural forces, in mediation between the noon and water. And then, I found myself writing this poem:

 

Holy Well

Good salts in the well tonight.
Go and drink.
Close eyes and dream of the Milky Way,
the Worm of Middle Earth.
The moon is full.
Open eyes and look into well.
See the moon,
open mouth of glowing worm,
pumping sap into trees,
opening spirals of water,
pulling tides of sea and blood.
Drop in a coin.
The serpent in the well,
the snake in spring,
turns round
and walks like water.

 

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Text Christine Rhone (1988)

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