Returning to the origins of the Holy Isle
Long overdue notes on a trip to Lindisfarne, the land once known as the Isle of Winds.
When it comes to journeying with the land here in Northumberland, there is one place perhaps more than any other than screams to be visited:
The Holy Island of Lindisfarne.
For those who aren’t familiar with Lindisfarne, it’s a small island of about 1,000 acres that sits three miles off the Northumberland Coast and is accessible mainly by a causeway that opens up only during the times of low tide.
The Lindisfarne you may know
The “Holy” aspect of its name, together with most of its known history, comes from the arrival of Saint Aiden, who arrived there in 634 AD and was said to have used Lindisfarne as a base from which Christianity was brought to what is now the UK.
It’s also well known for the creation of the Lindisfarne Gospels, an intricately designed version of the four Biblical gospels which was crafted by monks on the island to honour God and Saint Cuthbert, a bishop on the island.
So with all of that said, I know what you’re likely thinking: That’s fascinating, but it’s also Christian history and aren’t you, you know, a witch?
Why yes, dear reader, yes I am. Which is where this history starts to become a little less certain and a little more ancient.
For the longest time I’ve had a suspicion that there is a lot more to Lindisfarne than our Christianity-heavy history would have you believe. Further evidence of that came when I was speaking with a good friend from the US about a past life reading she’d had, in which she’d been told “I see you as a priestess on an island somewhere off the North East of the UK where you were working with the Vikings and teaching them to read.”
My friend was baffled. I knew exactly the island in question. Even the Viking link was no surprise, given Lindisfarne’s proximity to Scandinavia, and the fact that one of the most famous events in its known history is a Viking raid on the monastery there in 793 AD. In fact, if you’ve seen the TV show Vikings, that’s something you undoubtedly know about since it’s featured in the very first episode of the series.
My friend’s insight was enough to send me deeply searching; spending time in meditation and connection, talking to other friends who I knew would have their own intuitive connections and, finally, getting in the car and driving across that causeway to the Holy Isle itself.
And hell was what I found there potent, where do I even begin?
Maybe with the recorded – but less easy to find – history of the island that has come to my awareness since then.
We know that in the days of Bernicia, Lindisfarne was known as Ynis Metcaut, the Isle of Winds (and believe me when I tell you that is a very fitting name!); we know also that it was a much contested site even before the Christian monks decreed it as holy; and we know that only a stones through away from the entrance to the causeway is Bamburgh, the castle that was once capital of Bernicia.
The official histories also tell us that in the sixth century, King Urien was involved with the island when his battle with Theodric of Bernicia led to Theodric and his fellow Angles being barricaded onto the island for three days. Why do I call that incident out specifically? Because as you may remember from Arthurian legends, Urien – famed king of the North – was the husband of none other than Morgan La Fae, the much-maligned Priestess sister of King Arthur.
Which is where my intuitive nudges come in.
Diving deeper with the Holy Isle
Before I visited Lindisfarne, I had come to believe that a community of priestesses once lived on the island. After all, we already know that many of the sites claimed as Christian on this land and others were seen as sacred long before that religion was formed. And we know that a number of those sacred sites – Tintagel, Iona and Anglesey to name just a few – were home to the kind of druidic, Earth-based mystery schools that priestesses called home.
Many of those sites were islands, maybe because that kept them safer from potential invaders, maybe because it was easier to stay quiet and reclusive, or perhaps even because the surrounding water made it easier to connect to the Earth, the cosmos, and whatever else was out there waiting to be heard and seen.
Whatever the reason, Lindisfarne fit the bill – even more so if we consider Vikings heading there to learn rather than pillage in those earlier days, when we note the close proximity of the island to the seat of power for this region, and when we think about Morgan La Fae – trained Avalonian priestess who may well have gone on to be queen of Bernicia.
I’d had my suspicions – and enough deep meditative visions – to believe priestesses once called the island home before I arrived there. But once I set foot on the island for the first time as an adult, I was certain of it.
Even as I drove onto the island I could feel the energy building around me, my entire body fizzing with something that began to spill out of me as tears.
As I walked over the dunes by the castle I could see them, walking individually and en masse to the waves for ritual, to collect supplies, or just to sit and be along the shore.
I sat for a while on the sand dunes with those famous winds whipping around me, and found myself speaking in a language my mind has long forgotten but my heart and soul knew only too well to tell stories of the power that lived beneath this island, and the wisdoms stored there that the priestesses of old had once guarded.
And when I walked down to the sea, I was amazed to see tower after tower of stones placed along the most Southern tip of the island where visitors had, seemingly quite spontaneously at first, built cairns along the shoreline. In days gone by, cairns were a Celtic mark of respect; a memorial or burial marker to honour those who had gone before. And perhaps the first of those on this beach was placed there for that reason, a sentiment echoed – no doubt unknowingly – by the many tourists who followed suit later in creating their own mount of stones.
But as I built my own small cairn as a conscious honouring of the priestesses that had gone before – even going so far as to put a drop of my blood onto the bottom stone – I realised it didn’t matter why people had chosen to build these small towers and to lay them along the shoreline visible to anyone who drew near to the island. What mattered was that they had and that – knowingly or otherwise – they had marked the lives of all those who had held and tended this sacred isle in days gone by.
As I stood to leave, a flock of geese – considered by some to be birds of the ancient Goddesses – began to soar above the beach, turning at the last moment to swoop almost right over my head before swooping out to sea with their loud calls that made me certain I was meant to sit up and take notice.
Then came the priory itself… Where do I even begin?
Sitting in the ruins of a centuries-old Christian building, I saw not only the structures that had long since toppled to invaders, time and those famous winds but also the structures that they were built upon.
I saw the rituals taking place throughout the months and years that this place had been tended in the name of the Goddess and in honour of Mother Earth, and watched the daily life that unfolded around and between them. I sat by an ancient tree and felt its pain as it showed me memories of the priestesses who had planted it being smoked out of their dwellings and then tied to the other trees they held sacred so that both could be burned together; so that a whole community could be razed to the ground.
And as I sat and watched it all with my bare feet on Mother Earth and the Sun moving steadily across an almost cloudless sky, a black cat made its way across the ruins to stand sentry beside me.
It was one of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my life so far. And when I walked back out of the ruins to sit on the wall by a tree so much older than any of the bricks and mortar before me, I physically felt the tree pull me into itself as it began to speak to me of what had once been on this land.
Plugging back in
While I sat, the words began to flow into my journal:
Plugging into the thread, the weaving, the matrix. This is where you plug into the flow. Do you see what is possible? It is only when you become disconnected from this matrix that all is not possible; only when you consider yourself to be alone that you are not free. The systems in which you have become entrenched have left you unfree, alone.
Return. Connect here and pull the field into your own.
A question, how could you ever believe yourself to be unblessed? Only if and when you have forgotten your connection.
And isn’t that something we could all do with remembering?
In honesty, I could’ve sat there all day, had it not been for a fellow tourist – an older lady who tapped me on the shoulder and asked, “Excuse me, but would you like me to take a photograph? I’ve never seen someone looking so at peace as you do beneath that tree and it seems only right that you should have a photo.” And so that’s what we did.
Before I left went for ice cream from Pilgrim’s Gelato, and my gods was it the best ice cream I’ve ever eaten (and dairy free, which is even better for this lactose-intolerant person!) then it was back in the car to drive home, integrate my journey, and plan the next trip on my journey of re-connection here in the North…