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MR.

OLUWATOYIN VINCENT ADEPOJU

COSMOGEOGRAPHIC EXPLORATIONS:

METAPHYSICAL MAPPING OF LANDSCAPE AT THE OSHUN FOREST

AND

GLASTONBURY

COSMOLOGY AND DIVINATION

CONVENER:

DR.ANGELA VOSS

2004
LIST OF CONTENTS

1.Statement of Purpose 1

2.Structure 1

3. Theoretical Framework 2

The Metaphysical Mapping of Landscape as a Cosmogeography 2

A. Otto and Armstrong’s Theories of Religious Inspiration 2

C. Otto’s Hieroepistemic and Expressive Theory 4

B. Armstrong’s Aesthetic Humanism 5

4.Maltwood’s and Wenger’s work in Relation to Intrinsic and Extrinsic Origins of Religious

Inspiration 5

5.The Distinctive Character of Spatial Forms as Inspiring Imaginative Activity in the Work of

Maltwood and Wenger 7

6.Wenger’s Interpretation and Reconstruction of the Oshun Forest 7

A.The Oshun Forest before Wenger: The Traditional Conception 7

B. The Transformation of the Oshun Forest through Wenger 9


7.Maltwood’s Interpretation of Glastonbury 12

A The Background: Watson, Ley Lines and the English Network 12

B .Imaginative Interpretations: Glastonbury and Arthurian Narrative 13

1. Arthurian Roots, Astrological Visualization and Scriptural Parallels in

Maltwood’s Interpretation of the Glastonbury Landscape 13

8. Wenger’s and Maltwood’s Cosmogeographic Interpretations: Associated Questions of

Phenomonology and Hermeneutics 16

9.Conclusion: Mind as Mirror and as Lamp 18

Appendix: Description of Illustrations 22

Bibliography 34
1. Statement of Purpose

This essay explores the question of the sources of religious ideas in relation to the interpretation of
landscape by two religious visionaries. These figures are Susan Wenger and Katherine Maltwood.
Wenger has developed the Oshun Forest in Nigeria while Maltwood has focused on the town and
surrounding landscape of Glastonbury in England.1
2. Structure

This project describes their work in terms of two correlative concepts developed for the purpose of
this exercise and, using these operative concepts, explores the implications of their intervention in
the understanding and reconfiguration of the landscapes with which they concern themselves. These
concepts are the metaphysical mapping of landscape and cosmogeography. The essay begins by
explaining the meanings of these terms and then explores their significance as demonstrated in the
work of Wenger and Maltwood. The work continues by exploring the manifestation of these
concepts in the works of these figures in relation to theories of religious inspiration developed by

1
The key sources for the work of these religious visionaries are: Ulli Beier, The Return of the Gods:The Sacred Art
of Susan Wenger, Cambridge:Cambridge University Press,1975; Rolf Brockmann and Gerd Hotter, Adunni:A
Portrait of Susanne Wenger,Munchen;Trickster Verag,1994;Susanne Wenger, The Sacred Groves of Osogbo,;
Susanne Wenger, The Timeless Mind of the Sacred and Its Manifestation in a Yoruba Town,; Susanne Wenger and
Gert Chesi, A Life with the Gods in their Yoruba Homeland, Brixentaller Strasse: Perlinger Verlag,1983; Katherine
Maltwood,A Guide to Glastonbury’s Temple of the Stars, Cambridge: James Clarke,1982; Mary Caine, ‘The
Glastonbury Zodiac’ Gandalf’s Garden, no. 4, 1969;Mary Caine, The Glastonbury Giants, Kingston -Upon
-Thames,1978;Mary Caine,n.d.A Map of the Glastonbury Zodiac: Arthur’s Original Round Table. N.p. This essay
contributes to knowledge about the work of these figures as well as to the understanding the manner in which
human beings create metaphysical orientations for themselves in relation to the interpretation and reconfiguration of
space. The work fill the lacuna in current literature about the work of Susan Wenger who has devoted her life to the
reinterpretation of traditional Yoruba metaphysics through philosophical and artistic expression with particular
reference to its demonstration in the traditional conception of the Oshun forest. Wenger’s work, being that of an
Austrian working in Africa and transmuting traditional African artistic forms and their metaphysical correlates, has
been tacitly perceived as existing in a limbo in which the tradition to which she belongs as well as her geographical
and cultural roots are most problematic. Her work, therefore, is not explored with any depth in texts on traditional or
on modern African art and neither is it adequately represented in literature on Austrian or German art. The
groundbreaking works of Abiodun,the Drewals and Pemberton(such as Drewal, 1980,1994) on traditional Yoruba
art hardly make any reference to her. The absence of a discussion of her work in the major survey of the
development of contemporary African art, Clementine Delis (Ed.)Seven Stories: About Modern Art in Africa(Paris:
Flammarian, 1996) represents the pervasive absence of critical literature about her work in scholarship on this field.
The few book length studies of her work do not engage it within a theoretical matrix. Her art and thought receives
their most consistent representation in her own books, in magazines, newspapers and nonacademic internet sites
which do not explore in detail the complexity and profundity of her artistic enterpriseThis essay also explores
Maltwood’s work on Glastonbury in relation to the imaginative processes involved in this work and the theoretical
implications of those processes. Her work has not been studied in detail so far in relation to the creative exercise of
the imagination, rather it has been explored fundamentally in terms of its empirical validity. Nigel Pennick, The
Ancient Science of Geomancy: Man in Harmony with the Earth (London; Thames and Hudson, 1979)which he
describes as the human science of placing human actives and habitats in to a relationship with the visible and
invisible world around us, edges towards a sensitivity to the artistic dimension of her work when he observes that it
represents the correlation of the forms of landscape with the artificial forms of human consciousness but he does not
develop this insight.Adrian Ivakhiv, Claiming Sacred Ground: Pilgrims and Politics at Glastonbury and Sedona
(Bloomington:Indiana UP,2001)examines the phenomenological dimension of her work but does not demonstrate a
sensitivity to the artistic essence implicit in the phenomenological framework of her activity.
Armstrong and Otto and concludes on a summative evaluation.

3. Theoretical Framework

A. The Metaphysical Mapping of Landscape as a Cosmogeography

The concept of the metaphysical mapping of landscape is understood as the perception and
interpretation of landscape in metaphysical terms. The physical structure of the landscape and its
evocative qualities become a stimulus to conceptualizing the landscape in terms of a cosmology.
The landscape, therefore, acts as a means of grounding a metaphysical vision by creating a
relationship between this vision and a unified body of geographical formations that is perceived as
revealing or embodying this cosmology. An interpretation of landscape along these lines is
described as cosmogeographic because it correlates a cosmographic as well as a geographical
description of phenomena. It embodies a cosmography because in it constitution of a conception of
cosmic order understood in metaphysical and cosmological terms. It is geographic in its
employment of geographical forms as a primary mode of embodying these ideas. In embodying
cosmological conceptions through geographical forms, it is, therefore, described as
cosmogeographic2.

B. Otto’s and Armstrong’s Theories of Religious Inspiration

Two major conceptions of the origin of religious ideas are explored here. They are those developed
by Rudolph Otto and Karen Armstrong. We may, for the purpose of this essay, describe Otto’s
theory as hieroepistemic and expressive and that of Armstrong as representing an aesthetic
humanism. The characterization of Otto’s theory as hieroepistemic is meant to highlight
fundamental aspects of his conception of the essence of religious experience and the origin of
religious ideas. His exposition of this could be seen as hierophanic,to borrow a term used
extensively by Eliade, to refer to the perceived manifestation of the holy in a phenomenon which
yet retains its existential character, as well as epistemic, in a manner that is illuminated by Kant’s

2
These concepts bear some relationship to conceptions on the interpretation of space developed in archeology and
philosophy which emphasize the character of space as a subjectively realized rather than as an objective form.
Notable examples of these are Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas (Boston: Beacon Press,
1994)which emphasizes the imaginative reworking of intimate, particularly domestic spaces, Christopher Tilley,
The Phenomenology of Landscape(Oxford: Berg, 1994) which, like his other works, builds on phenomenology and
hermeneutics, particularly Heidegerrean,in developing a conception of relationships with landscape as dialectical
processes in which geographical forms and the organicity of the human being are mutually implicated, Paul
Deveroux, The Sacred Place: The Ancient Origin of Holy and Mystical Sites (London:Cassell,2000)which
develops the concept of mind-mapping in explaining the mind as assimilating newly encountered spaces into already
internalized geographies, a process that integrates an innate sensitivity to places that manifest peculiar atmospheres
that inspires their categorization as sacred; Wendy Ashmore and Bernard Knapp,Ed.,Archeologies of Landscape:
Contemporary Perspectives(Oxford:Blackwell,1999)constructs a continuum representing modes of investment of
meaning in landscape, as “ideational”-embodying discursive forms and could therefore be “conceptualized”-
embodying symbolic meaning but unmarked by human engineering and “constructed”-created through human
engineering. These categories open up into further conceptualizations of “landscape as memory”- encoding a
society’s developing cosmological and historical consciousness, “landscape as identity”- indicating relationships
between spatial cognition and sociocultural identity, “landscape as social order”-central to the dynamics of inter-
personal relations within society and “landscape as transformation”-the fundamental reconstitution over time of the
interpretive frameworks that give meaning to landscapes.
Fig.1
concepts of epistemology in the Critique of Pure Reason.3

C. Otto’s Hieroepistemic and Expressive Theory

Otto’s interpretation of the essence of religious experience is fundamentally hierophanic because he


argues that religious experiences arise from the encounter of the human being with a form or state
of being that manifests an aspect of existence that inspires awe as well as a compelling attraction. It
also evokes a sense of the ineffable in relation to the effort to characterize it in terms of human
conceptual categories. He develops the term myterium tremendum et fascinans, which is often
described simply as the “numinous”, to represent this state of being or form of existence. The ideas
of mystery, overpowering awe and a compelling fascination, are central to this concept. In the
words of Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, which tries to give a succinct definition of
this term, it indicates the sense of an “unseen but majestic presence that inspires both dread and
fascination and constitutes the nonrational element characteristic of vital religion”.

The hierophanic character of this theory consists in its emphasis on what Eliade, in another context,
describes as the manifestation of the sacred by an otherwise profane phenomenon, a manifestation
which subsumes the mundane character of that phenomenon and yet bodies forth a state of being
beyond the mundane.

This conception implies that an agency acting from beyond the will of the subject impinges on the
subject’s field of consciousness in a manner that inspires the responses of awe, the sense of an
encounter with a mysterious “Otherness” and a compelling fascination. In focusing, therefore, on
the recognition by the subject of a form or state of being independent of its own volitional
processes, the theory emphasizes the activity of an agency external to the will of the subject acting
on the subject.

In describing the theory as epistemic and expressive, we highlight its emphasis on the
epistemological processes involved in interpreting and communicating the hierophanic experience.
Otto focuses on the sense of the incommensurability between the plenitude of being realized
through the encounter and the sense of the difficulty of interpreting and communicating the
experience through conventional symbolic forms since the realities encountered in the meeting with
the holy, as he describes it, seem to transcend normal human categories of apprehension and
classification. He argues that the human mind, realizing this fundamental epistemic barrier, tries to
interpret and suggest the character and effects of this experience in terms of phenomena to which it
is accustomed. This effort does succeed in bringing the experience within the scope of human
interpretation and classification but often achieves this at the price of vitiating the sense of the
enigmatic potency of what has been encountered.4
3
The works of Otto’s and Armstrong’s which embody their theories most explicitly are Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the
Holy: An Inquiry into the Non-Rational Factor in the Idea of the Divine and its Relation to the Rational, tr. John
Harvey (London: Oxford UP,1958);Karen Armstrong, The History of God: The 4,000 Year Quest of Judaism,
Christianity and Islam(New York: Alfred Knopf,1993).
4
The dictionary definition of the numinous comes from Websters Third New International Dictionary of the English
Language, 1961.The emphasis on the interpretive processes involved in processing, as it were, the hierophanic
experience, recall Kant’s conception of cognition as possible only through the interpretation of phenomena within
the structures of space and time and the consequent impossibility of apprehending the essential character, or
noumenal reality embodied by phenomena. The human mind is limited, therefore, to the impressions, or phenomenal
reality evoked by the elements of its experience, and, therefore, can not gain cognitive entry into their essential
nature. These ideas are developed in his central epistemological work, The Critique of Pure Reason, tr. Norman
Kemp Smith(London:Macmillan,1963) His conception of the Sublime, however, as developed in The Critique of
D. Armstrong’s Aesthetic Humanism

Armstrong’s theory is described as representing an aesthetic humanism because she focuses on the
capacity of the human being to create imaginative conceptions that evoke the sense of the sacred.
Her emphasis, therefore, is on the creative agency of the human mind, as a catalytic force in the the
encounter with the sacred, rather than on the encounter with an agency acting from beyond the
human will, which compels the recognition of the presence of the holy, as in Otto’s theory.

In her focus on the creative powers of the human mind, her theory could be described as
humanistic. In its concentration on imagination and artistic creativity, it could be said to be
aesthetic. She depicts the being of the sacred as fundamentally transcendental in essence and
therefore beyond the categories of cognition, a point similar to that made by Otto. She argues,
therefore, that the awareness of this transcendental presence is best intuited through a discipline in
which images representative of conceptions of this state of being are created and contemplated so as
to evoke a sensitivity to its presence. These images could derive from any sphere of experience that
represents the sacred in terms of the distinctive history of the individual. She cites as examples of
this imaginative effort of evoking the sacred Dante’s interpretation of the femininity of Beatrice as
emblematic of divine love, and the Islamic mystic’s Muid ad-Din ibn al-Arabi’s vision of Nazim,
another female muse, as an incarnation of Sophia, the divine Wisdom. .
The emphasis, in Armstrong’s theory, therefore, is on the individual’s ability to actualize the sense
of the sacred through the cultivation of a sensitivity to the evocative potential of his or her
experiences and encounters as manifested in the course of their history. In her own words, writing
about conceptions of religious symbolism in the ancient world:

Symbolism was part of the essence of religion: the divine was in


some profound sense a product of the imagination, rather than a
matter of fact. People would create images of God that worked in the
same way as a poem or a great piece of music. These images would
touch something buried within them and convince them-if only
momentarily- that life had some ultimate meaning and value5.

Armstrong’s aesthetic humanism would seem to have been strongly influenced by her study of both
the English Romantics as well as the Islamic mystic Ibn al-Arabi who are united in emphasizing a
relationship between the imagination and the apprehension of spiritual truth.

4.Maltwood’s and Wenger’s work in Relation to Intrinsic and Extrinsic Origins of Religious
Inspiration

In regard to the question of the sources and significance of religious ideas, the questions we shall
ask shall be centered in an inquiry into to what degree the experiences, theories and practical
preoccupations of Maltwood and Wenger corroborate or refute these conceptions of the source of

Judgement, tr. James Creed Meredith(Oxford: The Clarendon Press,1952) demonstrates a strong relationship to
Otto’s conception of the numinous, particularly in terms of the paradoxical qualities of an experience which
strangely reconfigures,.as it were, the conventional categories of human existence, and yet demonstrates a profound
elevating power in its effects. One of the works in which Eliade develops the concept of hierophany is Patterns in
Comparative Religion(London: Sheed and Ward,1958).

5
Karen Armstrong, The History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam (New York:
Alfred Knopf, 1993).
Fig.2
religious conceptions as described by Otto and Armstrong.

To what degree do their work demonstrate an encounter with the “Wholly Other” as manifested in
hierophanic encounters that compel the recognition of the conscious will of the presence of the
sacred and to what degree do they represent the effort of the human mind to actualize for itself a
sensitivity to, or, an apprehension of the sacred through the creation of aesthetic forms?

In other words, do their achievements demonstrate an intrinsic source as to the origin of their ideas
as suggested by the focus of Armstrong’s theory on the creative capacities of the mind or do they
suggest an extrinsic origin to their inspiration as indicated by Otto’s concept of hierophanic
enlightenment?

5.The Distinctive Character of Spatial Forms as Inspiring Imaginative Activity in the Work of
Maltwood and Wenger

The work of Maltwood and Wenger is particularly apt for an inquiry along these lines because both
of them employ artistic forms as well as sensitivity to the distinctive character of the landscapes
they interpret. In deploying imaginative strategies in their interpretation of these geographical
spaces, Wenger, explicitly, and Maltwood, implicitly, testify to the numinous character of the
landscapes that inspire their activities through the distinctive personalities manifested in their
geographical forms. In their work, therefore, the experiences of imaginative interpretation as
described by Armstrong as well as a recognition of the incarnation of the numinous in forms
external to the perceiving subject, as depicted by Otto, would seem to be evident. We note,
however, that the subtle distinctions between the cognitive processes that have motivated their work
are also relevant for an inquiry into the variety of modes of access to or apprehension of the sacred

Wenger depicts her perception of these elements of cosmological character with reference to the
Oshun Forest in Nigeria by developing sculptural works, which in their form and through their
location in the forest, suggest the character of the forest as a metaphysical space. Maltwood, on the
other hand, employs the imaginative correlation between spatial forms as perceived in maps in
relation to the astrological signs of the Zodiac as a means of demonstrating her conception of the
cosmological significance of the landscape in and around the town of Glastonbury in England.

6.Wenger’s Interpretation and Reconstruction of the Oshun Forest

A. The Oshun Forest before Wenger: The Traditional Conception

Wenger’s work embodies the idea of forest as cosmos that one encounters in traditional cosmolgies,
specifically, in Africa, among the Yoruba of Southern Nigeria, where the Oshun Forest is situated
in the town of Oshogbo. Within the structure of this style of thought, the concept of the forest
embraces both the conventional understanding of a forest as a sequence of plants covering a wide
expanse of land, demonstrating a significant level of ecological complexity as well as the concept of
cosmos, which consists in the perception of the universe as an interrelated correlation of disparate
elements. Within this conception, the ecological complexity and harmony of the forest embodies a
corresponding complexity and harmony of being which integrates and yet goes beyond the physical
manifestation of this systemic interrelationship.

Within this structure of ecological and ontological complexity is demonstrated a coinherence of


Fig.3
matter and spirit operating at various levels of sophistication and complexity. Along with the
biological characteristics of the plants and animals that populate the forest, their spiritual
characteristics are also perceived as demonstrating an overt or covert presence, depending on a host
of variables
The forest, therefore, in its integration of a vast web of beings, at various levels of existence,
physical and spiritual, is perceived as a cosmos in its own right6.
It is this concept of the forest, as encountered in traditional Yoruba thought, that operates as the
inspirational matrix for Wenger’s work. The sculptures she creates, either individually, or in
collaboration with other artists, and situates at various points in the Oshun forest, represent artistic
crystallizations of her own apprehension of the sacred presences that she intuits as animating
various aspects of the forest.

B. The Transformation of the Oshun Forest through Wenger

Wenger’s development of the Oshun forest, building upon the traditional hermeneutic principles
and ritual activity associated with the forest, develops these metaphysical conceptions, articulating
them in physical terms through the conceptualization represented by the creation and siting of her
sculptural works in the forest. Her achievements could, therefore be interpreted as metaphysical and
artistic. Metaphysical, as consisting in a reinterpretation of traditional Yoruba cosmology in relation
to the forest, and artistic, because these metaphysical ideas are projected, not just in terms of her
highly expressive verbal expositions, but through the individuality of her art, which is created and
sited through a creative relationship with the forest.

Her work, therefore, could be seen as demonstrating a relationship to both geography and
cosmography. Its geographical dimension is represented by her creation of modifications in
landscape that can be described in terms of correlates among physical forms, which are integrated
with the natural structures created by the landscape itself. It could be described as cosmographic
because it embodies a representation of the forces that constitute the metaphysical structure of the
cosmos. It is, therefore, cosmogeographic because it tries to suggest and embody the essence and
form of a cosmography through the modification of physical space realized through correlations
between sculptural forms and between these forms and landscape structures within which they are
sited.

Her sculptural work, and its siting in relation to the landscape constituted by the forest, could be
seen as interpreting the forest as a giant, organic mandala, a visually realized constellation of
spiritual personalities united within a metaphysical matrix, in which the constituent forces of the
cosmos, as embodied in the Yoruba deities, are here interpreted in terms of sculptural forms. The
interrelationships among thses forces are further visualized in terms of the spatial relationships
between the sculptures. The totality of the cosmic framework within which these relationships
6
Irele and Soyinka describe evocatively the symbolic conception of the forest in relation to “the existential condition
of man in Yoruba thinking” in which “the forest stands for the universe, inhabited by obscure forces to which man
stands in a dynamic moral and spiritual relationship and with which his destiny is involved” in Abiola Irele, The
African Experience in Literature and Ideology (London; Heinemann, 1981).Elaborating upon the traditional Yoruba
conception of nature evident in Irele’s depiction of the symbolism of the forest, Soyinka describes the poetry of
Yoruba hunters as celebrating “…animal and plant life [seeking] to capture the essence and relationships of growing
things and the insights of man into the secrets of the universe”in Wole, Soyinka, Myth, Literature and the African
World (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1990).
Fig.4
emerge is suggested by the spatial relationships between these sculptural forms and between these
forms and the natural structures created by the forest within which they are sited.
Like the mandala, her metaphysical reinterpretation of the forest through language and art depicts
this physical space as capable of interpretation in both centripetal and centrifugal terms. In
centripetal terms, this intervention in the forest enables its perception as an expression of the
emanation of the cosmos from a center and in centrifugal terms as expressive of the integration of
the cosmos in relation to a unifying reality. Figures 1 to 4 represent central aspects of this artistic
realization of a metaphysical vision7.

7
The conception of the mandala developed here derives from “Mandala” in Encyclopedia
Britannica, 1971.Figure 1 :This map shows a section of the shrine complex, composed of Wenger’s
sculptural forms, surrounded by thick forest, suggesting the physical and symbolic integration of the
shrine/sculpture framework into the surrounding landscape. The sculptures depicted here are
identified by the names of the deities they represent. Worship of the deities takes place within the
shrine sculptures. The form of the shrines suggests the attributes as well as the narratives associated
with the deities, and symbolizes the manifestation of the attributes of the deity through his or her
narratives. The close spatial relationship between the sculptures demonstrates a metaphysical
significance in relation to the deities they symbolize. This significance consists in the coexistence of
divergent but ultimately complementary aspects of the Ultimate. The presence of the river
encircling the shrine/sculpture complex, as understood in spiritual traditions in the south of Nigeria,
represents a source of spiritual power, which concretizes itself in certain locations, of which this
section of the forest chosen for the shrine/sculpture configuration could be one (Beier, 1975,p.34-
35p.66). Among the deities whose sculptures are represented are the following: Obatala, the
Lord of the White Cloth, symbolizing his purity of being, also represented by the pristine clarity of
the stream at dawn. This purity of being also suggests his essence as the primal expression of the
Ultimate. His being is the repository of the ultimate guiding force of the existence of the human
person’s earthly journey. He is the creative force that molds the physical frame of the human being
as a vehicle for his or her spirit as that is implanted by the Ultimate.He is also the primal ground
from which all the deities have emerged through a cataclysmic process described as being smashed
to pieces by a boulder rolled onto him by his slave The remaining pieces were reintegrated in a
calabash by the occult power of Orunmila, the Lord of wisdom, but other fragments have escaped
and become the other Orisha or deities. This could be interpreted as symbolizing the emergence of
the constituent spiritual personalities that represent the creative power of Spirit in the cosmos
through a creative process similar to the depiction of rupture described in the Lurianic Kabbalah in
which the cosmos came into being through divine retraction and the shattering of the phenomenal
universe into its present shape. These mythic images, along with associated astronomical ideas on
the universe as having been created through a primal explosion or Big Bang, suggest an image of
cosmic creation as an agonistic process, as in childbirth (Idowu,1962, p.71-75,Beier,1975,p.34-
35,Osundare,Jeyifo,2001p.xvii-xviii;Tidjani-Serpos,Armstrong,1993,p.266-
271,Soyinka,1979,p.69,82-83). The other Orisa include Eshu, Lord of paradox, he who “throws a
stone today and kills a bird yesterday”, wearer of the cap that is both black and red, sage adult and
mischievous child, and, yet, holder of the creative power that sustains the cosmos, the ase of
Olodumare, the supreme being. He could be seen as embodying the paradoxical coexistence of
contraries as fundamental to existence, as symbolizing the cosmos as the axis within which
contraries revolve and converge (Idowu, 1962,80-85;Gates,1989,3-43,Abimbola,1975).Ogun,
warrior, hunter, Lord of iron, cyclonic force, master of the crossing of primordial realms between
deities and human beings (Soyinka, 1990,1979).Oshun, provider of children to those in need, “the
young… velvet skinned concubine”,“desirable and seductive”, “whose life giving force [is]
available to all [and also] the ancient woman steeped in magic”, “the archaic force of water”, cradle
of deities, guide of Timohin, founder of Oshogbo(Beier,1975, 35-38,83)Figure 2:A detail of the
7.Maltwood’s Interpretation of Glastonbury

A The Background: Watson, Ley Lines and the English Network

Maltwood’s interpretation of Glastonbury and its surrounding landscape in terms of Zodiacal


cosmography represents another example of the conception of landscape in cosmographic terms
which also demonstrates a metaphysical as well as an artistic significance. The cultural background
to which Maltwood’s work belongs is represented by the development of a neopagan tradition in
Western thought related to the conception of a pattern of alignment, known as ley lines, that links

tortoise gate entrance to the forest shrine complex. The tortoise here is “not the comic [trickster]
character of the Yoruba tales [as the fox, his counterpart in English folklore] but “the weight of the
world, the heaviness of the earth” “flying up weightless by inspiration” “from Oshun: as if the
worshipper entering the deeper part of the Oshun forest will be able to rise from the weight of
[their] own body into the ecstasy that is offered by [the goddess](Wenger, 1977, p.39; Wenger and
Chesi, 1983,p.160; Beier, 1975,p.83-84). Figure 3:A picture of the shrine house of the Ogboni cult,
who venerate the powers of the earth. Beier describes the artistic form of this shrine and its
symbolism most evocatively: “Three enormous thatch roofs rise against the sky like three giant
lizards”. The reptilian forms suggested by the sweep of the thatch huts as well as by the dynamic
thrust of the elongated sculptural forms they contain “symbolize the forces that inhabited the earth
before [humanity], already charged with magical forces, which [humankind] tries to filter and use in
[their] rituals for Ile, the earth spirit…” (Beier, 1975, p.79-80). This idea of chthonic powers that
predate humanity and yet with which he can relate is developed in another context in a manner that
suggests its suggestive potency in Clifford Simak’s fantasy story “The Whistling Well” in which
Parker encounters prehistoric creature who were worshiped by the dinosaurs who had swallowed
small stones as expression of worship. As Parker tries to escape from the prehistoric creatures out
of fear of their inhuman strangeness, they call to him, wanting to identify with him, but as insists on
escaping from their desire to relate with him they let him go with the parting words: “Pass, strange
one. For you carry with you the talisman we gave our people. You have with you the token of your
faith’ alluding to the stone Parker recovered from the gizzard of one of the dinosaurs he discovered
in his explorations of the landscape where the prehistoric creature have lain in the earth for ages. He
responds in fearful denial that he has no relationship with them he says ‘Not my faith, not my
talisman swallowed no gizzard stone” recalling the dinosaurs’ act of veneration but the creatures
respond “but you are brother” they told him “to the one who did” thereby indicating their own
understanding of his relationship to the dinosaurs as a fellow dweller on the same planet as them
and therefore their brother, even though they are separated by the distance of ages. Parker’s
concluding reflections suggest an aspect of the ecological significance of Wenger’s sculptural
interpretation of Ogboni lore as represented in the architecture and art of the shrine house. Parker’s
summative conclusions are: “Brother, he thought, they said brother to me. And indeed I am. All life
on earth is brother and sister and each of us can carry, if we wish the token of our faith” (Simak,
1987, p.43-76). The resonance between Simak’s narrative and Wenger’s architectural and sculptural
interpretation of Ogboni belief, suggests, therefore, that the shrine house represents the filial
relationship shared by all beings that have ever dwelt on the earth, above or below ground, in the
past as well as the present. Figure 4:Statue by Susan Wenger and her assistant Adebisi Akanji, of
Iya Mopo “the goddess who is both pot and potter as dramatized by her activity of “molding form
around preexistent space”. Since this space is understood in both biological and ontological terms,
she is, therefore, not only “patroness of all women’s occupations (including a woman’s erotic
vocation, conception and birth [symbolized by the children on her back]) and all women’s trades”
but is representative of the primal spiritual power of women as incarnated in the conception of the
witch, in which capacity the witch’s ability for spiritual motion is represented here by the massive
wings that unfurl from her back. “Three pairs of slender outstretched arms [emerge in front of her]
various monuments in the English countryside developed by Alfred Watson and later interpreted as
representing, across the centuries, the recognition of terretial patterns of energy by English builders.
Three sites are perceived as central points of this energy matrix:Glastonbury, Stonehenge and
Avebury8.

B. Imaginative Interpretations: Glastonbury and Arthurian Narrative

Various imaginative writers have developed the concept of earth energies in relation to the English
countryside. Among these, Marion Zimmer Bradley has developed the conception of the mystical
significance of Glastonbury in relation to the spiritual resonance of the Arthurian myth with
particular vividness. It is within this tradition of the imaginative interpretation of the spiritual
significance of Glastonbury as a geographical center that Maltwood’s interpretation of Glastonbury
belongs9.

C. Arthurian Roots, Astrological Visualization and Scriptural Parallels in Maltwood’s


Interpretation of the Glastonbury Landscape

Maltwood was inspired by her observation of correlations between the journeys of King Arthur and
the Knights of the Round Table in their quest for the Grail and the topography of the English
countryside to conclude that these relationships were not accidental but represented fundamental
expression of primordial realities. She worked out this interrelationship between Arthurian myth
and the English landscape in terms of patterns of astrological symbolism marked out through forms
created by geographical features in the landscape, both manmade and natural. She perceived these
forms as representing the character of Glastonbury and its surrounding landscape as a natural
temple, which reflects cosmic patterns in a manner similar to Wenger’s conception of the Oshun
forest as a giant, organic mandala. She interpreted the landscape in and around Glastonbury as
being a geographically structured microcosm of the astrological patterns formed by the stars and

one to receive and one to throw out sacred fecundities and one in the fist over fist symbol gesture of
the Ogboni the cult of the earth, with which she is associated as representing an aspect of the earth
as physical and spiritual creatrix (Brockmann and Hotter, 1994,p.53; Wenger and Chesi,
1983,p.140).
8
Watkins’ seminal work on the subject is Alfred Watkins The Old Straight Track(London: Sphere Books,1984)first
published in 1925.Adrian Ivakhiv, Claiming Sacred Ground: Pilgrims and Politics at Glastonbury and Sedona
(Bloomington: Indiana UP,2001)explores the neopagan movement from an incisive historical, phenomenological
and hermeneutic perspective as well as from the standpoint of an analytical participant
9
Bradley has developed the Arthurian narratives within the framework of an exploration of nature spirituality
anchored in questions of gender understood in relation to the dialectical relationship of opposites as constituent
forces in society and the cosmos. She initiated this artistic development with The Mists of Avalon (London: Penguin,
1993) in which, for once, the story of the rise and fall of Arthur is told through the eyes of Morgan le Fay, portrayed
as a priestess of the Great Mother, nature as primal creatrix, in contrast to her conventional characterization as the
arch-villain and evil witch in contrast to the wise magic of Merlin, and continued with Lady of Avalon (London:
Penguin, 1997) and others in the series. Her work in the Arthurian tradition and the fantasy/science fiction Darkover
series places her in the same tradition as Ursula le Guin’s exploration of gender polarities and complementarities in
The Left Hand of Darkness (New York: Ace, 1969)and of cosmic polarities and balance in The Earthsea Quartet
(London: Penguin, 1993); Bradley’s work, however, mines particularly deep into springs of Western occult and
possibly Tantric thought. Her work actualizes in fiction the insights of Gerald Gardner on relationships between
feminine and masculine spirituality in connection with the cthonic powers of the earth, fundamental to his
development of Wicca. Jeffrey Russell,A History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics and Pagans(London: Thames
and Hudson,1980) would seem to provide a balanced assessment of Gardner’s achievement in relation to the relation
to the history of ideas about the Craft.
Fig.5
planets, a pattern that, in unity with the form of the Arthurian narratives, constitutes a spiritual
progression.
Maltwood’s interpretation of the Glastonbury landscape, therefore, could be seen as correlating the
Arthurian narratives and astrological symbolism through hermeneutic principles which could be
related to the principles of linguistic hermeneutics developed by Noam Chomsky’s
transformational-generative grammar in which relationships between sign systems are discerned,
not only in terms of their obvious formal configurations or surface structures, which might be
dissimilar, but in relation to their underlying similarities of meaning, or deep structures, which
might not be obvious at the level of surface structure. Along these lines, Maltwood perceives the
narrative character and imagistic forms of the Arthurian narratives as demonstrating harmony at the
level of deep structure with the iconography of the Zodiac as realized in the geographical
formations in and around Glastonbury.Figures 5 to 8 are representative of this hermeneutic
exercise.10
10
Chomsky developed these ideas in Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (Massachusetts: The M.I.T
Press, 1965) It provides a framework that helps explain interpretive and cognitive abilities in a
broad range of fields, including language acquisition theory and philosophy. Maltwood tried to
explain this unusual development in the relationship between landscape and human ideas in various
ways. Pennick evaluates one of these perspectives in which she saw the Zodicac as an
“enshrinement in the earth of an archetypal set of myths, originally pre-Christian, from which the
tales associated with King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table were derived…after the
discovery of several more terrestrial Zodiacs, the theory seems less than tenable. Perhaps the
legends were a religious enactment of scared history which took place at the appropriate point and
time in each Zodiac”. Ivakhiv looks back at Maltwood’s earlier ideas on the question as well as
other interpretations and evaluates them: “Maltwood’s now discredited theory proposed that
Sumerian metal traders constructed the “Temple of the Stars” some five thousand years ago. Others
have suggested variations on this theme: building by a race of astronomer priests or survivors from
ancient Atlantis. With Maltwood’s later idea that they were formed spontaneously by the earth
itself, two major interpretations exist, which suggest that the earthworks were either constructed by
an ancient civilization of have emerged from the earth’s natural constructive force. Ivhakif observes
that these explanations are problematic not only on account of the immense height from which they
can de seen properly, in spite of the countering explanation of extraterrestrial involvement,
shamanic flight which allows a bird’s level sight or unique technology that made such elevated
vision possible as well as the fact that the humanly created structures certainly not as ancient as the
natural ones, which collectively with the natural ones constitute the Zodiacal formations, so how
come that the ancient natural formations and the human structures cohere to create a coherent form?
Finally, striking at the heart of what Cornelius describes as the imaginative element in the form of
perception involved it “all comes down to looking at a map or aerial photograph and judging for
oneself: what shape appears here?” (Nigel Pennick, The Ancient Science of Geomancy: Man in
Harmony with the Earth (London; Thames and Hudson, 1979,p. 75;Adrian Ivakhiv, Claiming
Sacred Ground: Pilgrims and Politics at Glastonbury and Sedona (Bloomington:Indiana,2001,p.
111-113). Geoffrey, Cornelius, The Moment of Astrology: Origins in Divination (Bournemouth;
The Wessex Astrologer,2003).Figure 5:This map shows the Glastonbury landscape as interpreted
by Katherine Maltwood and her successor, Mary Caine. The interrelationship of various
topographical features, both natural and human constructed, in the formation of the perceived
figures evokes the question of the degree to which they are endogenous to the landscape and the
degree to which they are mental constructions of minds responding to associations evoked by the
landscape.The question of imaginative perception in relation to these figures becomes graphically
evident when one looks closely at these shapes, particularly since some of the Zodiacal forms have
to be interpreted in terms of patterns different from their conventional Zodiacal attributions if the
conception of a complete Zodiac is to be sustained (Janet and Colin Bord,1977,p.222-223).The
Glastonbury Zodiac is pictured as forming a wheel, one of the characteristic forms of a mandala, the
other being a square. At the top of the wheel is Glastonbury and enclosing the Tor (the hill crowned
8. Wenger’s and Maltwood’s Cosmogeographic Interpretations: Associated Questions of
Phenomenology and Hermeneutics11

In relation to the manner in which Maltwood and Wenger have interpreted and transformed the
possibilities of perception in relation to the landscapes with which they have worked, certain
questions arise. These questions center on their conception of the sacred significance of these
landscapes and the manner in which they came to these conclusions. Do their perceptions represent
the play of the mind in its efforts at creating for itself a reality which might not exist but which it
wants to imagine as an anchor in the flux of experience? Are they both inspired largely by the
history of the association of the sacred with these sites to create their own imaginative forms in a

by the ruined tower of the church of St.Michael, perceived as the spiritual center of Glastonbury) is
the sign of Aquarius, here a phoenix, rather than the conventional image of the water bearer,
thereby suggesting spiritual regeneration, in relation to the act of regeneration implied by
committing oneself to a spiritual path, as the knights who swore themselves to the quest for the
Grail may be said to have done. One recalls also that Lancelot is reputed to have died on seeing the
Grail. That death could be interpreted as a physical death but a spiritual rebirth since, in Christian
terms, he had died in state of grace (Janet and Colin Bord, 1977,p. 218;Molyneux and
Vitebsky,2000,p.35 ).Gemini is perceived as resembling the giant form created by the constellation
of Orion, encapsulating large sections of the community of Dundon, with “hands raised above head
in an attitude of supplication” suggesting a “Christ-like figure” thereby reinforcing a dominant
conception of coherence between astronomical and Christian imagery (Janet and Colin Bord,
1977,pp. 219-220).Libra is visualized in terms of a dove (instead of the conventional image of
scales) flying over Barton St David. This formation suggests a correlation between geography and
visual symbolism on account of the fact that the emblem of St David is the dove suggesting “the
balancing power of holy wisdom” (Janet and Colin Bord, 1977,p. 220) Virgo is pictured as a
slender, feminine figure, with one hand held out holding a cone, interpreted as one of the symbols
of the Queen of Heaven, and, here and wearing a billowing skirt. Her profile and front are outlined
by the River Cary. The feminine image suggests associations between the feminine figure of Virgo
and earth mother figures of ancient goddess symbolism. At the point where the figure’s breast
would be is the mound Wimble Toot. The geographical, visual, and, this time, cultural and
etymological correlations again evoke symbolic associations which reinforce the earth mother
connotations, since, according to Janet and Colin Bord, the Toot or moot hill was the point where
people from all over the locality gathered to meet and receive spiritual nourishment. The lexical
relationships of the word toot, which “equates with teat, as maybe does the Welsh maeth, which
means nourishment” are invoked as validating these interpretations (p.220). One wonders,
however, whether the Bords might not have allowed their enthusiasm for these ideas to make them
overeager to justify these associations, on account of the suprising precision of their description of
ancient British spirituality. As Bradley’s observation suggests a necessary caution “Any attempt at
recapturing the ancient religion of the British Isles has been made conjectural by the determined
efforts of their [Christian] successors to eliminate all such traces”(1993,p.viii).Scorpio, associated
with Arthur’s killer Mordred in Malory’s Morte d’Arthur, is represented by a scorpion whose tail is
poised above Arthur’s horse. Arthur is visualized in the sign of Sagittarius not as a centaur but in
terms of a similar horse-man image, as a horseman being pulled from his horse by a monster
outlined by the Rivers Brue and Old Rhyne. The horse’s rump encloses Pennard Hill while West
Pennard is within its right leg. The warrior figure, evokes a constellation of narratives and images
within the framework of Hermetic associations, such as the mounted warrior symbol of the
Kabalistic sphere of Geburah, which stands for divine justice and Horus, the Egyptian deity who
avenged his father Osiris’s murder by Set. The warrior figure, therefore, in relation to the
constellation of Sagittarius which is conventionally perceived as aiming its arrows at the
constellation of Scorpio, crystallize narratives and related ideas in connection with notions of
divine justice and power in response to regicide and deicide, all associations that emerge in relation
spirit of mutual delusion which they share with the ancient conceptions or are they stimulated by
these associations into an awareness of levels of significance that are actually embodied by these
landscapes? Do they represent an awakening to what Ivakhiv describes as the “nonhuman life” of
sacred landscapes, “an otherness that alternately reveals and conceals itself behind a pageant of
beliefs, images, and place myths”?12

These questions are made more complex and fascinating by the fact that both women arrive at
similar conceptions through different routes. Wenger claims to experience the Oshun forest as a
manifestation of the presence of numinous realities Her claims for the apprehension of the sacred,

to the murder of King Arthur and, according to legend, his eventual return in the time of England’s
greatest need (Janet and Colin Bord, 1977,pp.220-221; Regardie,2001,p.131;Fortune,1997,173).The
details shown of the images representative of the figures visualized as the sign of Aquarius (Figure
6) and of Gemini (Figure 7) suggest the fundamentally imaginative character of the Zodiacal
associations. The potential for suggesting different possibilities of interpretation, or, even none at
all, demonstrated by the spatial distribution of the geographical forms that constitute these shapes
suggest that the interpretive process favored by the landscape Zodiac theorists is one in which the
mind is encouraged to create images out of imaginatively congenial aspects of landscape
formations. This suggests not only the imaginative dimension that Cornelius describes as the
essence of divinatory interpretation but the notion, that, even if these associations are most
controversial in terms of their objective significance (another problematic expression) they are
nevertheless valid as imaginative exercises that may inspire an intuitive experience in the spirit of
the imaginative interpretation of such heroic journeys as the quest for the Grail, in which “the
journey [is] interpreted as a metaphor for the process of individual spiritual development, in which
the varied landscapes traversed by the heroic figures stand for different aspects of the human
psyche” (Molyneaux and Vitebsky,2000,p.35). The Zodiacal signs then become stations in a rite of
passage, in which like in a conventional mandala, they could be seen as suggesting aspects of the
quest for the grail. The Zodiacal signs could either symbolize the qualities cultivated by the knights
in their quest or the constellation of qualities necessary for the finding of the grail. These
interpretations of the Round Table as representative of the qualities that either constituted the
constellation of the Knights of the Round table or those qualities necessary for the finding of the
grail becomes even more striking in relation to ideas that describe the Knights of the Round Table
as actually queen Guinevere’s knights, thereby suggesting correlations between the Queen and the
powers of the earth represented by the terrerestial/lized Zodiac.In sum, Pennick’s description of the
significance of the Glastonbury Zodiac could be seen as inclusive of its various levels of
significance: “A synthesis of divination, survey and landscape engineering subtly links the natural
forms of the earth’s surface with the artificial forms of the human consciousness to create a total
geomantic landscape-the aim of geomancers throughout the world” (p.74). The powerfully
evocative quality of the Glastonbury landscape is suggested by Figures 8 and 9 (Deveroux,
2000,10;Griffin, 2000,136-137) incarnating as they do a sense of the Sublime and Other which
illuminates graphically the tendency of particular landscapes to stimulate the mind to imaginative
associations with the sacred.

11
In referring to phenomenology and hermeneutics, we are sensitive to the value of these
frameworks for interpreting the oscillation between experience and interpretation that is obviously
at play in the work of Wenger and Maltwood. Adrian Ivakhiv, Claiming Sacred Ground: Pilgrims
and Politics at Glastonbury and Sedona (Bloomington: Indiana UP,2001).p.20,suggests the
significance of these explanatory strategies for elucidating this subject in his observation that The
actual embodied experience of [navigating a] landscape…. the movements and physical exertion
needed to maneuver one’s way through its particular topography; the changing visual, auditory,
are, therefore, fundamentally subjective since they focus on her own interior responses. They could
also be seen as intersubjective in that they draw upon the subjective responses of the Yoruba to the
forest on account of which it has become a sacred ground for them.

Maltwood,on the other hand, claims a more empirical and objective route as her source. She does
begin from the subjective, or intersubjective ground represented by Arthurian narratives, which
constitute a subjective framework on account of the fact that as works of literature they operate by
stimulating the subjective worlds of their audiences. They are also intersubjective because they
represent the coalescence of the combined subjectivities of generations of creators, adapters and
consumers of Arthurian myth. She tries, however, to move beyond this subjective and
intersubjective base to a seemingly objective interpretation of the character of the landscape with
which the narratives are associated by corroborating her claims with the use of survey maps of these
landscapes which are meant to demonstrate her interpretations in an empirical manner13.

9.Conclusion: Mind as Mirror and as Lamp

It would appear that the responses to these questions as to the significance and source of these ideas
can only at be tentative.

The pull that these landscapes exert upon the imagination, as demonstrated by the veneration they
have inspired over the centuries, would seem to be transmuted by the distinctive creative abilities of
each of these women, to emerge in terms of their own unique responses to the encounter. A
complex relationship between subjectivity and intersubjectivity might seem to play itself out here.
The primary creative impulse that motivates Wenger might be the numinous character of the Oshun
forest but in becoming sensitive to this would she not have been influenced by the attitudes of the
natives to that environment or did she arrive already primed to the divination of such presences in
nature? Her descriptions of her responses as related to an aesthetic base and as manifested in a
continuous effort to shape her perceptions into artistic form suggest that her encounter with the
forest is best perceived as a dialectical process of immersion and conceptualization in which the
encounter is consistently shaped by both the landscape and her own predispositions. Even if
Maltwood was inspired by supposedly objective links between Arthurian narrative and the
Glastonbury landscape, what inspired not only the tracing of the knights routes but the construction
of astrological forms which suggest a symbolic rite of passage linked with larger than human
realities, if not a mind already attuned to interpreting reality according to such forms?14

olfactory, kinesthetic qualities[and encounters] at different stages of a …route; the temporal ,or
durational factor, as one prepares [to journey and the experiences one undergoes in the process of
journeying and after arrival at the destination, the process of] returning home; all these factors and
qualities as they change over daily, seasonal, and annual cycles[provoke in the subject] experiential
and interpretive data [that is collected] and … sedimented [within the interpretive framework of
[ the individual].
1 2
Adrian Ivakhiv, Claiming Sacred Ground: Pilgrims and Politics at Glastonbury and Sedona (Bloomington:
Indiana UP, 2001) Jacket blurb.
1 3
The constitution of perspectives through interpretive choices made in the course of navigating in space suggests the
Heideggerean idea that the “world is [both] a structure of meaningful relations in which the individual exists and
which he or she partly creates” as described in Arild Holt-Jensen,Geography: History and Concepts
(Lonson:Sage,1999)p.150
1 4
Even if the numinous is perceived as impinging on consciousness at a particular location, traditional images
associated with specific sites, or with spirituality in general, would seem to be crucial in reifying the impressions
received at such locations.
Fig.6
In sum, we would seem to have here an illustration of the complementary significance of what
Abrams presents as antithetical metaphors of creativity in the images of the mirror and the lamp.
When the mind is depicted as a mirror in relation to nature from which it derives inspiration, it is
described as reflecting the natural cosmos, even if this reflection is transmuted through the shaping
forms of art. In the portrayal of the creative mind as a lamp, it is represented as illuminating nature
with the rays of its own internal light 15. An integrative understanding of the creative process as
operating in terms of a dialectical movement between both modes of response and cognition might
seem closer to the actuality of creative experience as represented here by the creative activity of
Susan Wenger and Karen Maltwood.

1 5
M. H. Abrams, The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition (London: Oxford
Fig.7
Appendix:

Description of Illustrations

Figure 1 :

This map shows a section of the shrine complex, composed of Wenger’s sculptural forms,

surrounded by thick forest, suggesting the physical and symbolic integration of the shrine/sculpture

framework into the surrounding landscape. The sculptures depicted here are identified by the names

of the deities they represent. Worship of the deities takes place within the shrine sculptures. The

form of the shrines suggests the attributes as well as the narratives associated with the deities, and

symbolizes the manifestation of the attributes of the deity through his or her narratives. The close

spatial relationship between the sculptures demonstrates a metaphysical significance in relation to

the deities they symbolize. This significance consists in the coexistence of divergent but ultimately

complementary aspects of the Ultimate. The presence of the river encircling the shrine/sculpture

complex, as understood in spiritual traditions in the south of Nigeria, represents a source of spiritual

power, which concretizes itself in certain locations, of which this section of the forest chosen for the

shrine/sculpture configuration could be one (Beier, 1975,p.34-35p.66).

Among the deities whose sculptures are represented are the following:

Obatala, the Lord of the White Cloth, symbolizing his purity of being, also represented by the

pristine clarity of the stream at dawn. This purity of being also suggests his essence as the primal

expression of the Ultimate. His being is the repository of the ultimate guiding force of the existence

of the human person’s earthly journey. He is the creative force that molds the physical frame of the
human being as a vehicle for his or her spirit as that is implanted by the Ultimate.He is also the

primal ground from which all the deities have emerged through a cataclysmic process described as

being smashed to pieces by a boulder rolled onto him by his slave The remaining pieces were

reintegrated in a calabash by the occult power of Orunmila, the Lord of wisdom, but other

fragments have escaped and become the other Orisha or deities. This could be interpreted as

symbolizing the emergence of the constituent spiritual personalities that represent the creative

power of Spirit in the cosmos through a creative process similar to the depiction of rupture

described in the Lurianic Kabbalah in which the cosmos came into being through divine retraction

and the shattering of the phenomenal universe into its present shape. These mythic images, along

with associated astronomical ideas on the universe as having been created through a primal

explosion or Big Bang, suggest an image of cosmic creation as an agonistic process, as in

childbirth (Idowu,1962, p.71-75,Beier,1975,p.34-35,Osundare,Jeyifo,2001p.xvii-xviii;Tidjani-

Serpos,Armstrong,1993,p.266-271,Soyinka,1979,p.69,82-83). The other Orisa include Eshu, Lord

of paradox, he who “throws a stone today and kills a bird yesterday”, wearer of the cap that is both

black and red, sage adult and mischievous child, and, yet, holder of the creative power that sustains

the cosmos, the ase of Olodumare, the supreme being. He could be seen as embodying the

paradoxical coexistence of contraries as fundamental to existence, as symbolizing the cosmos as the

axis within which contraries revolve and converge (Idowu, 1962,80-85;Gates,1989,3-

43,Abimbola,1975).Ogun, warrior, hunter, Lord of iron, cyclonic force, master of the crossing of

primordial realms between deities and human beings (Soyinka, 1990,1979).Oshun, provider of

children to those in need, “the young… velvet skinned concubine”,“desirable and seductive”,

“whose life giving force [is] available to all [and also] the ancient woman steeped in magic”, “the

archaic force of water”, cradle of deities, guide of Timohin, founder of Oshogbo(Beier,1975, 35-

38,83)
Figure 2:

A detail of the tortoise gate entrance to the forest shrine complex. The tortoise here is “not the

comic [trickster] character of the Yoruba tales [as the fox, his counterpart in English folklore] but

“the weight of the world, the heaviness of the earth” “flying up weightless by inspiration” “from

Oshun: as if the worshipper entering the deeper part of the Oshun forest will be able to rise from the

weight of [their] own body into the ecstasy that is offered by [the goddess](Wenger, 1977, p.39;

Wenger and Chesi, 1983,p.160; Beier, 1975,p.83-84).

Figure 3:

A picture of the shrine house of the Ogboni cult, who venerate the powers of the earth. Beier

describes the artistic form of this shrine and its symbolism most evocatively: “Three enormous

thatch roofs rise against the sky like three giant lizards”. The reptilian forms suggested by the sweep

of the thatch huts as well as by the dynamic thrust of the elongated sculptural forms they contain

“symbolize the forces that inhabited the earth before [humanity], already charged with magical

forces, which [humankind] tries to filter and use in [their] rituals for Ile, the earth spirit…” (Beier,

1975, p.79-80). This idea of chthonic powers that predate humanity and yet with which he can

relate is developed in another context in a manner that suggests its suggestive potency in Clifford

Simak’s fantasy story “The Whistling Well” in which Parker encounters prehistoric creature who

were worshiped by the dinosaurs who had swallowed small stones as expression of worship. As

Parker tries to escape from the prehistoric creatures out of fear of their inhuman strangeness, they

call to him, wanting to identify with him, but as insists on escaping from their desire to relate with
him they let him go with the parting words: “Pass, strange one. For you carry with you the talisman

we gave our people. You have with you the token of your faith’ alluding to the stone Parker

recovered from the gizzard of one of the dinosaurs he discovered in his explorations of the

landscape where the prehistoric creature have lain in the earth for ages. He responds in fearful

denial that he has no relationship with them he says ‘Not my faith, not my talisman swallowed no

gizzard stone” recalling the dinosaurs’ act of veneration but the creatures respond “but you are

brother” they told him “to the one who did” thereby indicating their own understanding of his

relationship to the dinosaurs as a fellow dweller on the same planet as them and therefore their

brother, even though they are separated by the distance of ages. Parker’s concluding reflections

suggest an aspect of the ecological significance of Wenger’s sculptural interpretation of Ogboni

lore as represented in the architecture and art of the shrine house. Parker’s summative conclusions

are: “Brother, he thought, they said brother to me. And indeed I am. All life on earth is brother and

sister and each of us can carry, if we wish the token of our faith” (Simak, 1987, p.43-76). The

resonance between Simak’s narrative and Wenger’s architectural and sculptural interpretation of

Ogboni belief, suggests, therefore, that the shrine house represents the filial relationship shared by

all beings that have ever dwelt on the earth, above or below ground, in the past as well as the

present.

Figure 4:

Statue by Susan Wenger and her assistant Adebisi Akanji, of Iya Mopo “the goddess who is both

pot and potter as dramatized by her activity of “molding form around preexistent space”. Since this

space is understood in both biological and ontological terms, she is, therefore, not only “patroness

of all women’s occupations (including a woman’s erotic vocation, conception and birth [symbolized

by the children on her back]) and all women’s trades” but is representative of the primal spiritual
power of women as incarnated in the conception of the witch, in which capacity the witch’s ability

for spiritual motion is represented here by the massive wings that unfurl from her back. “Three

pairs of slender outstretched arms [emerge in front of her] one to receive and one to throw out

sacred fecundities and one in the fist over fist symbol gesture of the Ogboni the cult of the earth,

with which she is associated as representing an aspect of the earth as physical and spiritual creatrix

(Brockmann and Hotter, 1994,p.53; Wenger and Chesi, 1983,p.140).

Figure 5:

This map shows the Glastonbury landscape as interpreted by Katherine Maltwood and her

successor, Mary Caine. The interrelationship of various topographical features, both natural and

human constructed, in the formation of the perceived figures evokes the question of the degree to

which they are endogenous to the landscape and the degree to which they are mental constructions

of minds responding to associations evoked by the landscape.The question of imaginative

perception in relation to these figures becomes graphically evident when one looks closely at these

shapes, particularly since some of the Zodiacal forms have to be interpreted in terms of patterns

different from their conventional Zodiacal attributions if the conception of a complete Zodiac is to

be sustained (Janet and Colin Bord,1977,p.222-223).The Glastonbury Zodiac is pictured as forming

a wheel, one of the characteristic forms of a mandala, the other being a square. At the top of the

wheel is Glastonbury and enclosing the Tor (the hill crowned by the ruined tower of the church of

St.Michael, perceived as the spiritual center of Glastonbury) is the sign of Aquarius, here a

phoenix, rather than the conventional image of the water bearer, thereby suggesting spiritual

regeneration, in relation to the act of regeneration implied by committing oneself to a spiritual path,

as the knights who swore themselves to the quest for the Grail may be said to have done. One

recalls also that Lancelot is reputed to have died on seeing the Grail. That death could be

interpreted as a physical death but a spiritual rebirth since, in Christian terms, he had died in state of

grace (Janet and Colin Bord, 1977,p. 218;Molyneux and Vitebsky,2000,p.35 ).Gemini is perceived
as resembling the giant form created by the constellation of Orion, encapsulating large sections of

the community of Dundon, with “hands raised above head in an attitude of supplication” suggesting

a “Christ-like figure” thereby reinforcing a dominant conception of coherence between

astronomical and Christian imagery (Janet and Colin Bord, 1977,pp. 219-220).Libra is visualized

in terms of a dove (instead of the conventional image of scales) flying over Barton St David. This

formation suggests a correlation between geography and visual symbolism on account of the fact

that the emblem of St David is the dove suggesting “the balancing power of holy wisdom” (Janet

and Colin Bord, 1977,p. 220) Virgo is pictured as a slender, feminine figure, with one hand held

out holding a cone, interpreted as one of the symbols of the Queen of Heaven, and, here and

wearing a billowing skirt. Her profile and front are outlined by the River Cary. The feminine image

suggests associations between the feminine figure of Virgo and earth mother figures of ancient

goddess symbolism. At the point where the figure’s breast would be is the mound Wimble Toot.

The geographical, visual, and, this time, cultural and etymological correlations again evoke

symbolic associations which reinforce the earth mother connotations, since, according to Janet and

Colin Bord, the Toot or moot hill was the point where people from all over the locality gathered to

meet and receive spiritual nourishment. The lexical relationships of the word toot, which “equates

with teat, as maybe does the Welsh maeth, which means nourishment” are invoked as validating

these interpretations (p.220). One wonders, however, whether the Bords might not have allowed

their enthusiasm for these ideas to make them overeager to justify these associations, on account of

the suprising precision of their description of ancient British spirituality. As Bradley’s observation

suggests a necessary caution “Any attempt at recapturing the ancient religion of the British Isles

has been made conjectural by the determined efforts of their [Christian] successors to eliminate all

such traces”(1993,p.viii).Scorpio, associated with Arthur’s killer Mordred in Malory’s Morte

d’Arthur, is represented by a scorpion whose tail is poised above Arthur’s horse. Arthur is

visualized in the sign of Sagittarius not as a centaur but in terms of a similar horse-man image, as a

horseman being pulled from his horse by a monster outlined by the Rivers Brue and Old Rhyne.
The horse’s rump encloses Pennard Hill while West Pennard is within its right leg. The warrior

figure, evokes a constellation of narratives and images within the framework of Hermetic

associations, such as the mounted warrior symbol of the Kabalistic sphere of Geburah, which stands

for divine justice and Horus, the Egyptian deity who avenged his father Osiris’s murder by Set. The

warrior figure, therefore, in relation to the constellation of Sagittarius which is conventionally

perceived as aiming its arrows at the constellation of Scorpio, crystallize narratives and related

ideas in connection with notions of divine justice and power in response to regicide and deicide, all

associations that emerge in relation to the murder of King Arthur and, according to legend, his

eventual return in the time of England’s greatest need (Janet and Colin Bord, 1977,pp.220-221;

Regardie,2001,p.131;Fortune,1997,173).The details shown of the images representative of the

figures visualized as the sign of Aquarius (Figure 6) and of Gemini (Figure 7) suggest the

fundamentally imaginative character of the Zodiacal associations. The potential for suggesting

different possibilities of interpretation, or, even none at all, demonstrated by the spatial distribution

of the geographical forms that constitute these shapes suggest that the interpretive process favored

by the landscape Zodiac theorists is one in which the mind is encouraged to create images out of

imaginatively congenial aspects of landscape formations. This suggests not only the imaginative

dimension that Cornelius describes as the essence of divinatory interpretation but the notion, that,

even if these associations are most controversial in terms of their objective significance (another

problematic expression) they are nevertheless valid as imaginative exercises that may inspire an

intuitive experience in the spirit of the imaginative interpretation of such heroic journeys as the

quest for the Grail, in which “the journey [is] interpreted as a metaphor for the process of individual

spiritual development, in which the varied landscapes traversed by the heroic figures stand for

different aspects of the human psyche” (Molyneaux and Vitebsky,2000,p.35). The Zodiacal signs

then become stations in a rite of passage, in which like in a conventional mandala, they could be

seen as suggesting aspects of the quest for the grail. The Zodiacal signs could either symbolize the

qualities cultivated by the knights in their quest or the constellation of qualities necessary for the
finding of the grail. These interpretations of the Round Table as representative of the qualities that

either constituted the constellation of the Knights of the Round table or those qualities necessary for

the finding of the grail becomes even more striking in relation to ideas that describe the Knights of

the Round Table as actually queen Guinevere’s knights, thereby suggesting correlations between

the Queen and the powers of the earth represented by the terrerestial/lized Zodiac.In sum, Pennick’s

description of the significance of the Glastonbury Zodiac could be seen as inclusive of its various

levels of significance: “A synthesis of divination, survey and landscape engineering subtly links the

natural forms of the earth’s surface with the artificial forms of the human consciousness to create a

total geomantic landscape-the aim of geomancers throughout the world” (p.74). The powerfully

evocative quality of the Glastonbury landscape is suggested by Figures 8 and 9 (Deveroux,

2000,10;Griffin, 2000,136-137) incarnating as they do a sense of the Sublime and Other which

illuminates graphically the tendency of particular landscapes to stimulate the mind to imaginative

associations with the sacred.


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