Jon Appleton

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Rhiannon rides again

on the White Horse…

In the vale of the White Horse, to the north of the famous and ancient hill figure of Uffington,
Could there be a connection between the story and the ancient image from the Bronze Age up on the hill to the south. Long ago Prince Pwyll (pronounced pooch) and the men of his court were feasting in Arberth, one of his chief courts. Nearby was the mound “Gorsedd Arberth”. It was believed that any high born man sitting there would experience blows or wounds or would witness a miracle. The prince, having no fear of blows or wounds but, hoping to witness a miracle, sat upon the mound.
If you’d like to explore the country around White Horse click on the google map below

Winter Solstice greetings card

Click the audio play button above to hear what Jon wants you to do…

Jon Appleton

Something else that needs consideration is the connection between Rhiannon, the beautiful lady, and midwinter sunrise. Firstly we have to remember that for the Celtic people who preserved this story the Sun was female. This is still the case in Germanic languages, Die Sonne, Der Mund and in many other early cultures as well. Secondly it’s easiest to understand the repetition of a “beautiful lady” repeatedly riding slowly, slowly along a “track” which no-one can catch up with her on, as a heavenly body passing across the sky. So, just as prince Pwll set out with his court for a ceremonial feast no doubt on a special day of the year, I set out with my partner on the winter solstice to stand at the foot of the “mound” at Uffington. It was fortunately a sparkling clear day with not a cloud in the sky. I arrived early because I hadn’t worked out the time of sunrise and spent a very chilly couple of hours waiting to see what would appear. Eventually, at about 9.45am, the first gleam of direct sunlight appeared as a sparkle right over the tail of the horse, which is pointing in the same direction as the sun’s travel, and climbed in less than five minutes into the sky over its head. That was a wow moment if ever there was one. We had been brought by some coincidences and associations of ideas to a place where seasonal ceremonial observances were still available after lying dormant for maybe 3,000 years. Though one does wonder what beliefs and convictions have lead the people of this place to keep the horse scoured and cleaned for all this time too. As the summer solstice approached this year, 2010, I was drawn back to Uffington to follow up on a mental note I had made when doing the original work for the winter solstice some years ago. On the map it looked as if the steep sided valley called “The Manger” below the White Horse aligned to the position of the setting sun at its greatest declination at this time of year. So, on a perfect summer evening, after a day seeing the local sights we returned to the Vale of the White Horse. We visited the village of Woolstone where the pub, with its scores of guardian Sarsen stones sat in the sunshine. It used to be the “Rising Sun” but now calls itself the White Horse ”. An open house down the road offered a chance to get a cup of tea and enjoy the garden where several landscaped vistas directed the eye up the hill to the horse. Finally, through the village we saw the lovely clear stream that rises in the wooded coombe under Dragon Hill.
Click on the image above to fly down to the White Horse.
Megalithic Insights               						Jon Appleton
I heard again a retelling of the story from the Mabinogion of Prince Pwll and the feast on the mound of Naberth. This was the third time I’d heard these words from the old tales from the Welsh mythic histories and I became more convinced that there was something symbolic contained in them. Clearly there was something otherworldly in the way the “Beautiful Lady” rode slowly, slowly along the track and yet could not be caught up and the repetition and emphasis on the “white horse” brought my mind to the white horse on the hills above us.
Soon there appeared, level with the mound, a beautiful woman dressed in shining golden silk who rode on a pale white horse. At a leisurely pace she made her way slowly, slowly along the track. None of the courtiers recognised her and Pwyll wished to know her name. He sent one of them to follow and learn her name. After a time he returned and told the prince that the faster he ran the greater the distance between him and the beautiful lady grew. Then a second messenger was sent, this time riding the fastest horse in the court. However fast he rode, even over the level ground, he too was unable to catch up with the lady. Now Prince Pwyll realised that this was the miraculous happening promised to those who sat on the gorsedd mound. The next day he returned with his court to the mound. This time the prince’s messenger was ready to meet the lady as she arrived on the track. When she drew level he mounted his horse and set off rapidly but again she passed slowly, slowly by and yet could not be caught. The prince realised that she could not be met by ordinary means. So, on the third day he returned again to the mound determined to ride to meet her himself. Again she came slowly, slowly along the track and now the prince drove his fastest horse toward her. But the beautiful lady passed by slowly, slowly along the track and remained beyond him. At last the prince, realising that this task was beyond earthly means, called out to her. “Oh! Lady,lady won’t you wait.” “It is well that you spoke Pwyll” she said “you should have spoken sooner”. Then the Lady Rhiannon came to converse with Pwyll and made an arrangement to return again in a year’s time when they could be betrothed. It’s notoriously difficult to see the chalk figure of a horse or “dragon” from down in the valley anywhere close to the slope of the ridge of grass covered chalk at Uffington Castle. It is positioned on the curve of the hilltop and is most easily visible from the Northwest. As I’ve had many years of experience looking at “landscape calendar” sites it was immediately evident that a sightline to the midwinter sunrise was possible over the White Horse. A bit of checking with the map and on the ground produced a very interesting alignment up the valley called the “Manger” and over a spur of land with a flat area just north of the B4507 above the village of Woolstone. Furthermore a visit to the pub in Woolstone which is serendipitiously called “The Rising Sun” revealed, around the pub and in the footings of some of the older buildings in the village, an abundance of “Sarsen Stones”. These special stones, beloved of the builders of Stonehenge and Avebury, seem to have been taken from somewhere local. Could they have been rolled or sledded down the 100yds or so from a setting in the field above? That’s an attractive speculation but not an easy thing to prove.

Jon Appleton

Continue
Back

Rhiannon rides

again

on the White Horse…

In the vale of the White Horse, to the north of the famous and ancient hill figure of Uffington,
I heard again a retelling of the story from the Mabinogion of Prince Pwll and the feast on the mound of Naberth. This was the third time I’d heard these words from the old tales from the Welsh mythic histories and I became more convinced that there was something symbolic contained in them. Clearly there was something otherworldly in the way the “Beautiful Lady” rode slowly, slowly along the track and yet could not be caught up and the repetition and emphasis on the “white horse” brought my mind to the white horse on the hills above us. Could there be a connection between the story and the ancient image from the Bronze Age up on the hill to the south. Long ago Prince Pwyll (pronounced pooch) and the men of his court were feasting in Arberth, one of his chief courts. Nearby was the mound “Gorsedd Arberth”. It was believed that any high born man sitting there would experience blows or wounds or would witness a miracle. The prince, having no fear of blows or wounds but, hoping to witness a miracle, sat upon the mound.
If you’d like to explore the country around White Horse click on the google map below

Winter Solstice greetings card

Click the audio play button above to hear Jon talk about Rhiannon rides again.
Click the audio play button above to hear what Jon wants you to do…
Soon there appeared, level with the mound, a beautiful woman dressed in shining golden silk who rode on a pale white horse. At a leisurely pace she made her way slowly, slowly along the track. None of the courtiers recognised her and Pwyll wished to know her name. He sent one of them to follow and learn her name. After a time he returned and told the prince that the faster he ran the greater the distance between him and the beautiful lady grew. Then a second messenger was sent, this time riding the fastest horse in the court. However fast he rode, even over the level ground, he too was unable to catch up with the lady. Now Prince Pwyll realised that this was the miraculous happening promised to those who sat on the gorsedd mound. The next day he returned with his court to the mound. This time the prince’s messenger was ready to meet the lady as she arrived on the track. When she drew level he mounted his horse and set off rapidly but again she passed slowly, slowly by and yet could not be caught. The prince realised that she could not be met by ordinary means. So, on the third day he returned again to the mound determined to ride to meet her himself. Again she came slowly, slowly along the track and now the prince drove his fastest horse toward her. But the beautiful lady passed by slowly, slowly along the track and remained beyond him. At last the prince, realising that this task was beyond earthly means, called out to her. “Oh! Lady,lady won’t you wait.” “It is well that you spoke Pwyll” she said “you should have spoken sooner”. Then the Lady Rhiannon came to converse with Pwyll and made an arrangement to return again in a year’s time when they could be betrothed. It’s notoriously difficult to see the chalk figure of a horse or “dragon” from down in the valley anywhere close to the slope of the ridge of grass covered chalk at Uffington Castle. It is positioned on the curve of the hilltop and is most easily visible from the Northwest. As I’ve had many years of experience looking at “landscape calendar” sites it was immediately evident that a sightline to the midwinter sunrise was possible over the White Horse. A bit of checking with the map and on the ground produced a very interesting alignment up the valley called the “Manger” and over a spur of land with a flat area just north of the B4507 above the village of Woolstone. Furthermore a visit to the pub in Woolstone which is serendipitiously called “The Rising Sun” revealed, around the pub and in the footings of some of the older buildings in the village, an abundance of “Sarsen Stones”. These special stones, beloved of the builders of Stonehenge and Avebury, seem to have been taken from somewhere local. Could they have been rolled or sledded down the 100yds or so from a setting in the field above? That’s an attractive speculation but not an easy thing to prove. Something else that needs consideration is the connection between Rhiannon, the beautiful lady, and midwinter sunrise. Firstly we have to remember that for the Celtic people who preserved this story the Sun was female. This is still the case in Germanic languages, Die Sonne, Der Mund and in many other early cultures as well. Secondly it’s easiest to understand the repetition of a “beautiful lady” repeatedly riding slowly, slowly along a “track” which no-one can catch up with her on, as a heavenly body passing across the sky. So, just as prince Pwll set out with his court for a ceremonial feast no doubt on a special day of the year, I set out with my partner on the winter solstice to stand at the foot of the “mound” at Uffington. It was fortunately a sparkling clear day with not a cloud in the sky. I arrived early because I hadn’t worked out the time of sunrise and spent a very chilly couple of hours waiting to see what would appear. Eventually, at about 9.45am, the first gleam of direct sunlight appeared as a sparkle right over the tail of the horse, which is pointing in the same direction as the sun’s travel, and climbed in less than five minutes into the sky over its head. That was a wow moment if ever there was one. We had been brought by some coincidences and associations of ideas to a place where seasonal ceremonial observances were still available after lying dormant for maybe 3,000 years. Though one does wonder what beliefs and convictions have lead the people of this place to keep the horse scoured and cleaned for all this time too. As the summer solstice approached this year, 2010, I was drawn back to Uffington to follow up on a mental note I had made when doing the original work for the winter solstice some years ago. On the map it looked as if the steep sided valley called “The Manger” below the White Horse aligned to the position of the setting sun at its greatest declination at this time of year. So, on a perfect summer evening, after a day seeing the local sights we returned to the Vale of the White Horse. We visited the village of Woolstone where the pub, with its scores of guardian Sarsen stones sat in the sunshine. It used to be the “Rising Sun” but now calls itself the White Horse ”. An open house down the road offered a chance to get a cup of tea and enjoy the garden where several landscaped vistas directed the eye up the hill to the horse. Finally, through the village we saw the lovely clear stream that rises in the wooded coombe under Dragon Hill.
Click on the image above to fly down to the White Horse.
Megalithic Insights               						Jon Appleton