I cast a magic circle in my room and summoned the goddess by name. She wouldn't answer any of my questions directly but told me to meet her instead at the crossroads by "The Old Hell Way". I didn't sleep very well that night, wondering what else I might have summoned through the portal that I'd opened to another world.
The Old Hell Way I had already heard about, it was a spirit road on the North York Moors where in the past corpses were carried from Fryupdale, over Danby Rigg, to the old church in Danby. The crossroads she was referring to lay on the Fairy Cross Plain, an area steeped in fairy lore and surely a crossing place of old spirit roads in times gone by. I had read the folklore about these spirit roads, how the ghosts of the dead could be seen marching down them, and sometimes the fairies too. Were fairy paths the same as spirit roads? Did the fairies and the dead inhabit the same realm? Or was it all in fact just a big trick played by the fairies to fool people? Either way I intended to visit the Fairy Cross Plain and find out.
I arrived at the crossroads by the Old Hell Way late in the afternoon. The weather was freeziong cold and a light dusting of snow covered the land. I could see the Old Well Way snaking up the hillside to my left, but my attention was drawn to a curious looking rounded hill away to my right. As soon as I saw it I thought "That's a fairy hill!" It sat right in the middle of the Fairy Cross Plain.
I decided to explore the Old Hell Way first and started ploughing up through snow that was knee deep in places. As\I passed along the ancient trackway I imagined ghostly processions marching by, a land of the dead imprinted upon the earth, spectral forms from times gone by. It felt uncomfortable and I had read that spirit roads were places best avoided due to the unhealthy energies that passed along them. I wanted to see some of the standing stones that marked the path over the rigg but soon the snow was up to my thighs and I decided that to continue on was pointless. In any case dusk was falling as I made my way back down I could hear eerie voices coming from the moor and sudden sounds of red grouse crowing or flapping their wings in the failing light.
I arrived back at the crossroads and decided that I could put it off no longer, it was time to contact Hecate.I tuned in to the misty, dusk-laden landscape and there she appeared, looking tall, lithe and sensual in a long, flowing dress of midnight black. I welcomed her, the "dark goddess", but she corrected me instantly as, turning, she revealed her bright white side. Half black and half white was her face, but whether she represented good and evil, or winter and summer I could not say.
"Why did you want to meet me here?" I asked.
"It was not by your will that you came here but by the will of others," she replied.
I thought of the druidess who had led me down this path. Had it all been a mistake? Should I have been listening to my own intuition and not what others had been telling me?
"Your mission lies with the fairies of the cross plain," she said. "Climb the hill, place your crystal there, then all will be revealed!" and with that she disappeared.
As usual I was left with more questions than answers, and feeling no wiser than I had done before. By now it was dark so I decided that I would return to investigate the fairy hill in the morning.
The hill was indicated on local maps as "Round Hill" but it's prominent location, slap bang in the middle of the great basin known as the Fairy Cross Plain belied its prosaic name. Sure enough a little investigation soon revealed that it is indeed also known as "Fairy Hill"!
I approached this time from a different direction, which gave an even better view of the Fairy Cross Plain and the prominent location of the Fairy Hill. Away and to the right I could clearly make out the Old Hell Way winding its way up Danby Rigg.
I parked in a lane near the hill and climbed over a fence into the boggy field.
As I approached the slope of the hill I found an old spring that was being utilised by the local farmer.
I made a mental note of this important feature and continued on around the hill. I didn't walk straight to the top but spiralled around, checking out its slopes that seemed to be littered with a whole honeycomb of rabbit warrens, the rabbits scurrying away in all directions at my approach and disappearing inside the hill. It felt like the rabbit were guardians, but guardians of what? A grassy knoll in a widswept valley?
I reached the top of the hill and planted my wand firmly in its crown. Instantly I could see the crystal shining, and playful elfin spirits seemed to materialise from all around and started to dance a crazy carfefree dance around and around my wand. They were human sized creatures with naked, shiny brown skin, long black slanted eyes and sharply pointed ears. They seemed to be mindlessly playful and joyous, caring about nothing, strangely alien and incomprehensible.
The grinning face of a dancing elf approached me: "We dance around the fairy ring, but you shall not see our faery king!" he squawked.
They took hold of my hands and got me to dance with them, but I had to stop before I went crazy like them!
"I wish to meet your king!" I said. "I bring gifts from King Erowyn."
"We would know what you do bring, before you meet the fairy king!" he said in a most sarcasticly playful voice
I took the flourite eggs from my pouch, the same ones I had left on the faery mound in Lindsaylands to be energised by the fairies there. I felt like I must lay them out as if they were the pojnts of a twelve pointed star, with 6 outer crystals forming a larger star, and 6 inner crystals insterspersed between them, forming a smaller star inside.
It was then that I realised my mistake! I had only 10 eggs!
At that moment the king appeared, an old sagelike man with white hair and a bushy beard. He wore a long, richly decorated cloak and carried a long staff in one hand.
"I bring some beryls, shiny green, fit for faery king or queen!" I said.
Had I made another mistake? These were not beryls! In any case the king looked jovial enough and greeted me warmly. I apologised to him for the missing two gems:
"My lord I do not mean thee ill, take these stoned for my goodwill!"
I promised him that I would leave these 10 stones here, and return with the other 2 as soon as I may. I found a suitable abandoned rabbit hole nearby and placed the stones deep inside, away from prying eyes.
I bid goodbye to the king and stepped off down the hill. I saw more rabbits scurrying away and started to wonder about them some more. I knelt by one of the rabbit holes and decided to take a spirit journey inside.
Deeper and deeper I went into the maze of warrens inside the hill until I reached the very centre, and there in the middle was the most enormous crystal I had ever seen, a quartz point as tall as a building! So this was the secret that the rabbits were guarding! It was almost as if the whole hill had been built in ancient times, just to hide this crystal. Truly this was a place of hidden power!
It would take me a couple of months before I could organise more flourite crystals and go to Scotland to get them energised, but I would return...
Rob Wildwood (Aurvandil) has now released a book containing hundreds of his own stunning full colour photos of many of the magical places he has visited in his travels. The images capture the magic and mystery of each place and are enhanced by extracts of local folklore that reveal the magical lore of each place and tempt deeper investigation. Every site listed has full directions and map grid references that can be checked online, so join Rob Wildwood as you discover Britain's magical places at www.themagicalplaces.com