Poem: The Church Is Closed

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It’s Sunday and the west door is locked.
I’ve tried it, checked my watch, the date.
Yes it’s true, I can’t go inside.
So I walk around, a facade, that’s all it is,
tall and beautiful it may be,
with some of the finest medieval stone work anywhere,
in a county already noted for its
ecclesiastical glories – but
it’s a fossil now of former faith,
where lip services are still carried out,
fed through the waterless canals of devotion,
enacted by the tired words of priests
standing before a withered congregation,
the last one leaving making sure the door
is locked behind them
to preserve the emptiness of our time

copyright Francis Barker 2019

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Henry VI, King of England and France, Castles Made of Sand – Astrology Musings

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

His father was one of England’s most legendary monarchs, the victor of Agincourt in northern France in October 1415. Henry V went on to re-conquer Normandy, to officially become heir to the French throne and win the hand in marriage of the French king’s daughter, Catherine.

But alas for England, Henry V was dead by 1422, aged just 35, too famous to live long, as Shakespeare was to put it nearly two centuries later.

A fated inheritance?

However, he left behind a son aged just one, also called Henry, sixth of that name, who on his father’s death inherited two kingdoms, England and France.

Young Henry remains the only monarch to be crowned king of England and France, yet it was to be an illusive and tragic inheritance.

By 1453, a generation later, the English were effectively all but thrown out of France, only little Calais remaining.

Lancaster versus York

Back in England, the kingdom began to implode through the strong rivalry between the houses of Lancaster and York. Henry VI, unlike his famous father, was no military leader, becoming a powerless pawn during the shifting circumstances of war and intrigue. He was dethroned and eventually died in captivity, probably murdered.

It was an ignominious end to a reign which, at its start, promised the uniting of two kingdoms and a golden age.

Pluto transforms

So, according to the birth data, Henry was born with Pluto rising in Gemini, within a degree of the ascending point. Of course, Pluto was unknown back in the 15th century and therefore no astrologer could have pointed this out to his parents or guardians.

However, with the benefit of our hindsight, Pluto on sensitive points of a birth chart, and they don’t come much more sensitive than the ascending degree, can cast a very strong influence on the individual. Pluto is said to be transformative, a bringer of drastic change, almost like a finger of fate over which we have no control.

It’s worth remembering, too, that when Henry was king, the monarch was all powerful when he was of ruling age, say from his late teens.

The English kicked out of France

But because he became king aged 1, both England and France were ruled by others, essentially his uncles and their cohorts.

And because the figure head’s birth chart is, by its very nature, said to be symbolic of the ‘destiny’ of the whole nation beneath it, this Pluto conjunct the ascendant, exactly describes what happened over the next generation: a complete transformation, the English ending up being kicked out of France (except Calais), France setting its long course to become the dominant power in western Europe. England, on the other hand, went into meltdown.

Draining the swamp?

This is very much Plutonian, the draining of the swamp, a drastic, though perhaps necessary change which completely disrespects the individual.

Poor Henry probably never had a chance, not helped by the fact that he was no warrior, and in fact appeared to prefer religious study to the involvement in power politics. Some said that he had inherited his grandfather’s (Charles VI of France) supposed madness.

A life led through others

Returning to Henry’s chart, his chart ruler, Mercury and his Sun are both in Sagittarius in his 7th house of partnerships. This means that, although he was mentally expansive, his life was usually led through others, that he was always likely to be under the influence of more powerful people than he, even though he was king of two kingdoms. This was probably a result of inheriting so young.

His Mercury in Sagittarius in beneficial aspect to Jupiter in the 3rd house, strongly hints of a keen interest in the higher mind, the areas of philosophy and religion, and I suspect that this tendency became almost like an escape for him as the full magnitude of his personal situation revealed itself to him as he grew up.

An escape in philosophy and religion

His Sagittarian Sun is also ruler of that 3rd house, underlining the idea that thinking is a good way to travel philosophically, if not physically for him, though Sagittarius in itself suggests foreign involvement – he was king and the inheritor of two countries and cultures.

Saturn is ruler of the 9th house, the planet being found in Libra in the 5th house. I think he had a keen sense of justice too and was probably very knowledgeable of the law.

Also interesting, for those who think Uranus is ruler or co-ruler of Aquarius, Uranus is found in the 10th house in Pisces. Uranus in this house more than hints of sudden changes in the ‘career’ and if Uranus is indeed the MC (midheaven point) ruler too, then we have another tie up in regard to his experience of the vicissitudes of kingship.

Spiritual solace

His Moon in Taurus in the 12th house, might have added a touch of stability to his life. The Moon is said to be exalted in Taurus, so if he ever had time to engage in activities such as gardening, he might have found some quiet solace, especially as the Moon is in good aspect to Neptune, which would tend to add a spiritual, or unworldly edge to his character.

Mars is also involved in this configuration, nicely trining Neptune from the 6th house in Scorpio, adding energy and, I should imagine, some religious zeal to his already mentioned philosophical interests.

However, the Moon Mars opposition, would have also been a source of much psychological irritation, too, which would always tend to find release through this Neptune – this may have been one of the key indications of his love of religion and spiritual issues.

A victim of circumstance

Finally, his Chiron is in the 8th house of inheritance, almost exactly in aspect (quincunx) to Pluto on his ascendant and loosely opposite Neptune. Here is a very strong indication of his early circumstances, inheriting so young the newly founded empire of his father, plus his difficulty in coming to terms with it later on as circumstances began to change beyond his control. In his more lucid moments, he might have been able to give others some succinct advice about death and inheritance.

Looking at this chart, I do genuinely feel sorry for Henry, for there are few better examples of a king being a victim of circumstance.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019

Lost Worlds: Crowland’s Triangular Bridge

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In the centre of the small historic town of Crowland in south Lincolnshire, England, is a most curious piece of architecture, commonly named the triangular bridge.

It dates back to medieval times, when the River Welland split into two at this point, reputedly, necessitating the building of this structure. The river now flows elsewhere beyond the town.

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There is a figure of Christ or possibly King Ethelbald of Mercia, which may have come from the dissolved abbey nearby.

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copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019

The Wild Man of Stainfield? – Fascinating Lincolnshire Churches, Stainfield, Part 3

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A display in the church about the ‘Wild Man of Stainfield’.

The origin of the legend of the Wild Man of Stainfield is unclear. No one seems to know who he was, though some thought he generally went about naked, his body covered in hair.

Even the date of his existence is not certain, though most put it sometime during the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Nevertheless, there does appear to be some clarity regarding his actions. He was a woodlander, who reputedly took cattle and sheep, presumably for food, maybe clothing. Some even think that he killed humans too.

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If the stories are true, how safe would cattle have been during the times of this wild man? Today the nearby cattle don’t appear to be worried.

One story states that it was a descendant of Sir Francis Drake who finally killed the Wild Man of Stainfield. There began the association of the Drake family with the area.

Stories of his demise are disputed too. Another tale describes those who later became known as the ‘Hardy Gang’, who got together to rid the area of this wildling. Some say this is how nearby Hardygang Wood got its name.

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All in all, Stainfield is a fascinating village with a remarkable history – and a legend to boot.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019

Remarkable English Church, Stainfield, Lincolnshire, Part 2

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Saint Andrew’s church in Stainfield is remarkable. It’s thought that Christopher Wren designed the building following a visit.

The church has been open since 1711 and is still a regular place of worship, though the burial ground these days is at nearby Apley.

This area of Lincolnshire is notable for its rich ecclesiastical history, particularly in regard to monasteries, the abbeys and priories that were finally dissolved by Henry VIII between 1536 and 1540.

Inheritance

There was a priory here dedicated to Saint Mary until that time, though not much detail of its history survives. The priory remains have not been excavated, though part of it is said to form part of the wall of the present church.

At the time of its dissolution, the priory was given over to the Tyrwhitt family, in whose hands it remained until about seventy years ago.

A most remarkable inheritance from that long period are The Tyrwhitt Tapestries, actually cross stitch embroidery work. Today they hang along the north wall of the church.

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The tapestries were originally made for the opening of the church in 1711 and consist of five religious pieces, including the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer.

The Ten Commandments piece was re-stitched some time in the late 19th century, and much rather difficult preservation work has been carried out on them since.

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Fascinating English Churches – Stainfield, Lincolnshire, Part 1

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Saint Andrew’s Church Stainfield in West Lindsey Lincolnshire, was reputedly designed by Sir Christopher Wren – yes, he of Saint Paul’s Cathedral fame.

Built in 1711, the church boasts many interesting features, and is made of red brick with stone quoins, apart from the stone eastern wall; this may be a remnant of the former medieval priory.

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Notable feature above the entrance.

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The visit was part of our short tour of the West Lindsey Church Festival, which takes place over two weekends every May. More on this fascinating church to follow.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019

History of the Church: The Lost World of Monasteries

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Monasteries, the Abbey or Priory of the medieval world of England, are an enduring interest of mine, although I don’t claim to be an expert on ecclesiastical or architectural matters.

Many years ago, I did a series of watercolour reconstructions of one priory, how it may have looked at its height (see above).

To think that these places, which became so criticised and demonised, especially in the reign of Tudor King Henry VIII, were the centres of education not only of the monks and nuns who lived there, but were also enriching the local communities, providing jobs, education, lodging, medical care too.

To have these dissolved, stripped bare and taken down, the monks or nuns dismissed at the behest of ‘Good King Henry’ and Thomas Cromwell – well, it must have been truly catastrophic for the communities that were left without them. That doesn’t quite seem to come across in most of the accepted history of what we call The Reformation.

There are always at least two sides to any story.