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Multi-Dimensional Time: Part 3

My next category I call Psychological Time.

We have all noticed how time seems to speed up when we are happy and occupied, how it drags when we are bored or unoccupied, how long the nights are when we cannot sleep and how quickly they pass when we can.

Under this heading I would include the strange things time does in our dream world. Scientists tell us dreams occur in the few seconds when we are not fully asleep, or about to wake. And yet we have long and complex adventures in our dreams that seem to take hours, days and sometimes even years.

Our subconscious seems to have a time of its own. Things lurk there for years flowing like underground rivers in a complex cavern system. Some are temporarily blocked, only later to have their channels opened – while streams from other sources flow through and join at different places on the ordinary time-line – all affecting us at any given point in our sleep and in our waking moments, but without reference to Linear Time.

Similarly what I call the Higher Consciousness – that highly evolved part of all of us that is capable of swimming in the ocean of consciousness that links us to all that exists – has no relevance to Linear Time.

To continue the analogy of water in connection with consciousness I would say that our normal everyday consciousness is like water in a bucket on a conveyer belt of Linear Time – limited and constrained –aware neither of the dark streams that run through the subconscious, nor of the great shining expanse of the ocean that leads us, if we dare to swim in it or sail it, towards our God.

Under the heading of Psychological Time I would also include memory. In memory Linear Time is contracted so that an event that took hours or years can be re-experienced by the mind in a few seconds and can crucially affect our decisions that shape our future.

I have already pointed out how many memories are threading through each of our minds in this room at this very moment – affecting how we understand everything we hear. If they could suddenly be made visible – the air would be filled with more activity than a block-buster film that had spent millions of dollars on special effects!

Add into this the possibility that we may have lived before – that reincarnation may be a reality – and that we might have threads of memory from those other lives also weaving through us.

I don’t know for sure if reincarnation exists – but I would like to mention here a few instances when it has seemed to me I have tapped into past times – either by my own memory of a past life – or by accessing the Akashic Records – the records that are purported to exist in another realm of reality which record all that has ever happened. From the Recording Angel in the Biblical Book of Revelations, to the Egyptian god Djehuti (Thoth), most cultures have a belief in celestial records being kept.

I was trying to write a novel about Saint Etheldreda, an Anglo Saxon saint of the 7th century from East Anglia, a woman who became Queen of Northumbria at a most interesting period in British history. I had done a lot of research. So much so that I had become completely bogged down in the details of unfamiliar Anglo Saxon names, battles and events. I found it impossible to find the thread I needed to make a compelling novel about her life. I gave up the idea of writing the book.

My husband at that time was illustrating a walking guide to the ancient track ways of East Anglia and so we were travelling around the area. It was winter and we had not booked anywhere to stay. We went to the hotels we had stayed at in the summer, but they were closed for the winter. We went from village to village and finally settled for a hotel we did not know in a village we had not been to before. We did not even notice its name – but just signed in and went straight to bed.

At 2 am I woke with a jerk. I sat bolt upright, feeling the presence of someone else in the room. And then it was almost as though I was watching a film about Etheldreda’s life. It was incredibly vivid. I knew exactly how I would write the book. It was almost as though I had been there when it all happened.

In the morning we discovered that the hotel was built on the site of a shrine to Etheldreda and her sister. It had been a place of pilgrimage for centuries.

More soon…

Multi-Dimensional Time: Part 1
Multi-Dimensional Time: Part 2


Multi-Dimensional Time: Part 2

I want you now to envisage the sky at night. Imagine yourselves standing in some country place, far away from the distracting lights of the city.

What you are looking at may look like blackness dotted with points of light, but is actually an unimaginably vast space filled with enormous balls of fire, like our sun, roaring and crackling with nuclear power, hurtling with tremendous speed and force through the universe, using and emitting incalculable energy… And between these billions and billions of dynamic power points are great clouds of dust and plasma from stars that have exploded and from which new stars are emerging.

All this is going on but we do not see it. We see only points of light in immeasurable darkness. We know now, because scientists have worked it out, that light travels at a certain speed, and the light of the stars we see left those stars at different times. This one left 20 million light years ago, that one 100 million light years ago. Yet we see them simultaneously and they seem part of our same vision – our immediate experience. We are experiencing vastly different times – simultaneously.

Now I want to focus on this room.

When we look at our fellow human beings we see very little of what or who they really are. We see only points of light in darkness as we did when we looked outwards into space. Each one of us is a complex of bones and veins and organs on the physical level doing an extraordinary job of keeping us alive, while our minds encompass the greater universe without, and our souls and spirits reach into realms of reality we can only guess at. In this room, memories are flashing and sparking from every brain, from every time. At this present moment memories from our childhood, from our ancestors, from books we have read, from films we have seen, from relationships we have had – all, all are influencing the interpretation we put on the words we hear – the way we react to the present moment. We are experiencing vastly different times – simultaneously.

In our minds multi-dimensional time is a commonplace. But the clock is ticking, and for the sake of convenience we rule our lives by it. That is what Linear Time is – a convenience won over centuries of scientific endeavour. Until very recently every part of the world was out of synchronicity with every other. Edinburgh was twelve minutes different from London until they had to fix a standard time for all the country for the convenience of the railways. Greenwich was chosen. But even now, as we know, the Christian Millennium is dawning in the Far East before it does here, and the Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic Millennia bear no relation to the Christian ones.

As a by-section of Linear Time and associated loosely with it, is the category of time I will call Physical Time. This is the time of the biological clock.

We are surrounded by clocks that tell us about Linear Time, but other things mark the passing of this type of time too. Aging, the crumbling of buildings, decay…

Physical time

Under the heading of physical time I would list the growth of tree rings that archaeologists use for dating ancient sites and events, a woman’s regular monthly menstruation, the nine months of gestation, the onset of puberty, the gradual (or, it seems to me – not so gradual) aging process. At this point in my thinking Andrew Marvell’s lines to his coy mistress some to mind:

‘But at my back I always hear
Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.’

These things, although measured against Linear Time, are actually more individually orchestrated. Puberty may start at different ages, and the prodigy of twelve who graduates from Cambridge undermines the neat regularity of our measurements of brain capacity at certain ages. One woman of seventy may ride a bicycle, while another of seventy can barely walk.

We mark our lives out into the compartments by birthdays and anniversaries which keep us aware of the passing of this type of time in relation to Linear Time. I sometimes wonder whether if we did away with birthdays we would be happier because we would not be so aware of time’s inexorable passage. We become obsessed by fear of the passing years because we count them.

Women approaching forty years of Linear Time who have been perfectly content with careers suddenly get panic stricken that they won’t be able to have a child if they don’t immediately find a mate and procreate. No doubt scientists are figuring out a way to extend the child-bearing age for women – no taking into account the very good reasons why the natural process worked so well in the past. Too late women of fifty or sixty find their levels of energy are not up to the demands of bring up a child.

I am told that every seven years all the cells in our bodies are destroyed and replaced. This means that as I stand here now, not a single physical cell in my body is the same as any I had when I left my mother’s womb. Yet why am I convinced that I am the same person? There must be more to us than the cells in our body.

More soon…

Multi-Dimensional Time: Part 1


Multi-Dimensional Time: Part 1

A talk given by Moyra Caldecott to the Wessex Research Group, Bath, UK on 9 September 1999.

When Grethe asked me to give this talk she suggested I should speak about the coming millennium. My reaction to this was one of dismay. Even way back then, in early spring, I was already tired of hearing about the millennium. I was not looking forward to a full fortnight of disruption to the normal tenor of life when you couldn’t get a plumber to fix burst pipes, or a gas engineer to mend your central heating unless you bribed him with a fortune. I was not looking forward to the world-wide disruption of the ‘millennium bug’ because we had foolishly put ‘all our eggs in one basket’. I was not looking forward to cities full of drunken people squeaking squeakers and punching balloons to celebrate – what? – the birth of Christ – when we didn’t even know the real date he was born and we had certainly drifted very, very far from the message he endured such suffering to deliver to us. How could we celebrate a world so full of corruption and genocide, so wantonly destroying its environment…?

And then an image came to mind of the film Titanic where we see the musicians playing up to the last moment before the ship is engulfed. At first I saw it as a bitter confirmation of our present situation, and then I saw it as an example of the courage of the human spirit in spite of everything – and I saw the millennium celebrations as a defiant gesture to the universe that in spite of the appalling millions who are bent on destroying our planet and breaking every rule, there are still some who honour another reality, another set of values.

But Grethe’s request set me thinking about Time, and this phrase ‘multi-dimensional time’ kept coming to mind. There are many different types of time that make up our experience. I intend this evening to throw into the ring some of my thoughts on the matter, and afterwards, instead of questions, I hope you will throw in some of yours.

Linear time

Linear time, one thing following another in an orderly fashion – past, present and future in neat and inexorable sequence, is what we are celebrating at the millennium. Astronomical Time. Time based on Shakespeare’s ‘majestical roof fretted with golden fire’ (Hamlet Act. II. Sc. 2). Since ancient days the movement of the sun and moon in relation to the earth has been the way we have measured the passing of time. Ancient monoliths were raised to mark the summer and winter solstices, and equinoxes. Sometimes incredible accuracy was achieved. For instance, at only one moment in the year, at the dawn of the winter solstice, a beam of light from the sun shines through a small gap at the entrance of a Neolithic structure at New Grange in Ireland, reaches down a narrow corridor within the tomb, and falls on the deceased to give him ‘new life’.

We take the quartz watch on our wrists for granted, forgetting the centuries of trial and error and the great leaps in scientific understanding that have given it to us, the centuries of water clocks, sand-timers and other more or less inaccurate and unsatisfactory ways of measuring Linear Time. We could celebrate our skill in measuring time at the Millennium. It has given our lives order and predictability. But is it always such a good thing? Here is a poem on the subject of having to part with a lover because of the dictates of a clock.

Measuring can become
The water clock and hour glass
Were bad enough
But now, accurate
To a second in a thousand years
An atomic clock
Can check
The pulse of the earth.

Oh, lying with you
Should not be so confined!

Too clever we have
Undone ourselves again
And Science before it even
Blows us up
Has finished us
By making each second
And accountable.

So Linear Time marching inexorably from the past, through the present, to the future, measured by reference to the apparent regularity of the movements of the heavenly bodies, is what we usually think of as Time. It is what we use to mark birthdays and anniversaries. It is this type of time we notice most.

More soon…


Last time, Moyra told the story of Kivanga. Now she provides the commentary….

Many African mythologies assume that the first beings were deformed versions of the human race, and had to undergo transformation with the help of some hero or heroine. In the case of Kivanga, it is significant that the human race comes into existence as a result of a being who was sundered and made whole again. Kivanga and his twin cannot be happy, cannot be whole, without each other. Nor can we exist without the union of the ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ (to borrow terms from the Chinese), the masculine and feminine, the positive and negative, the spiritual and the material parts of ourselves. The loneliness we feel when we are sundered, and the efforts we have to make in order to bring ourselves back into a state of wholeness, are prodigious. Kivanga has to use physical prowess, mental agility, magic, courage and persistence. He must not give in to his own doubts and the persuasion of others. He must not despair. He must remember the religious teaching of his people. The image made from the white river clay of his home village combines the power of the natural forces from the earth with the power of the supernatural forces symbolically protection from a world we are not yet ready to confront, as to keep us out of a world that is not yet prepared to accept us.

Note the continuous ritual chant of his companions, the song that is also a magical incantation. According to Yves Bonnefoy many African people (for example, in the Mande region) believe that the universe came out of a word from the creator God. ‘In the beginning was the Word,’ said St John in the Bible. ‘In the beginning was the Big Bang’, say the modern astronomers. Both stories tell us that vibrations like that of sound have played, and still do play, an important transformatory role in the universe. The songs of Kivanga and his companions are crucial.

Before the Europeanization of Africa, carved and painted objects were not seen as art, but as vital functioning parts of a living ritual. Masks were used in traditional rituals to recall the mythic events of the early stages of existence, in order to understand and control better the events of the present. The priest or shaman takes on the persona of the ancient mythic being by covering himself with the symbols of the story he is re-creating. Note that this is re-creating, not enacting. This is not drama, but magic. The masks now hung in museums and galleries were not made to be so displayed, but to be used in magical ceremonies and, in many instances, they have become so impregnated with the feelings engendered at these ceremonies that they are not comfortable ornaments to have about the home.

Masks are used for the transformation of one form into another. Paradoxically, by putting on the mask of an ancient mythic being, the shaman was actually taking off the mask of his everyday persona and so becoming free to act, once more, in the supernatural realm of the ‘first days’. A man who is seen around the village as an ordinary family man becomes a frightening supernatural being when he dons the mask of his calling as witch doctor or medium. Conversely, Kivanga’s people in the story become like ordinary people of today by donning Mbenza’s masks. The implication is that what we consider to be our normal faces these days are actually masks behind which our true selves are hidden. No wonder we find it so difficult to recognise each other for what we are and to read each other’s minds! Serial killers still get away with their terrible murders for so long because, sitting beside them on the train or standing beside them in the street, we are fooled by their innocent looking ‘masks’. Increasingly, as the power of the television image grows, we may vote into power those politicians with the most attractive masks rather than those with the most worthy policies.

May we learn from the ancient stories enough wisdom to preserve us from such mistakes.

On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 1
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 2
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 3
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 4
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 5
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 6


Moyra has been exploring the universal meaning of mythical stories, the connection between the ancient stories and our present lives. She continues…

I will tell you a story now that is so rich in meaning and fascinated me so much I put it in my own book: Mythical Journeys, Legendary Quests.

Before people as we know them today existed, very different beings walked the earth. One of these, Kivanga, felt lost and lonely, for his twin sister had been given in marriage to one of the cannibalistic Nzondo who lived in the Underworld. He chose eight companions he could trust, and set off on the long and difficult journey to the Underworld. They climbed mountains and crossed rivers but always kept moving westwards – for it is in the west that the sun sinks and enters the Underworld.

All the time they ran, the companions sang.

At last they came to the great shimmering sheet of water that divides the one world from the other. There they paused – for to cross this water took more courage than any of them knew they possessed.

Kivanga stood upon the shore and raised his arms. This was not the ocean in which he and his sister had bathed as children. This was the water that was before the First Things. To step into this was to risk everything.

‘Let us call to your twin,’ one of his companions urged. ‘She may hear you and come to you.’ ‘If we step in, we may never step out,’ another said. ‘I can fight any warrior on dry land,’ a third spoke up, ‘but I cannot swim.’

‘There will be no swimming,’ Kivanga said, ‘for this is not the ocean we played in as children.’ He looked each one of his companions in the eye, and each one then knew that he would not give up the journey until he had been reunited with his twin. He stepped forward.

One by one they followed him, gripping their weapons, singing the song of warriors going into battle.

Kivanga felt nothing as his foot touched the water between the worlds. It was as though there was nothing there. He looked around himself and thought at first that nothing had changed. His companions were behind him, singing boldly but gazing around themselves in nervous bewilderment. They were among fields and forests and mountains as they had been before. It was all so familiar and yet – and yet there seemed to be a subtle difference, a strange, haunting ‘otherness’ about the place he could not have explained or described.

He straightened his shoulders and clutched his assegai more tightly. He beckoned to his companions to move forward. As they did so, they found themselves confronting a huge door set in walls so thick and high not even a gazelle could leap over them. It was made of the mighty trunks of hardwood trees, studded and hinged with bronze, and its surface was carved with a myriad leering faces. The faces were staring at Kivanga and his companions.

The warriors sang louder to cover their fear, as Kivanga examined the door to see how it could be opened. There was no handle. No catch. No lock. It was a door meant not to be opened. Several of the companions suggested they should retreat while the others looked fearfully over their shoulders, wondering how they could go back when the water they had stepped through was no longer there.

‘If we are to open this,’ Kivanga thought, ‘we will have to make magic.’ And out of a pouch at his side he took a small cult figure made from the white river clay of his home village. He held it up to the door. ‘Mbenza,’ he declared. ‘Master of the earth! Great being beyond all beings! Give me the strength to open this door – for my twin sister is unhappy and I feel her unhappiness.’

The image in his hand trembled, for the great god understood unhappiness. Had he not been lonely before he created the world? The companions, seeing the image shaking, took heart and sang louder than ever. It was no longer a battle song – but a song of power for the earth.

The earth moved, and the door swung open. Singing in triumph, the little band of warriors passed through.

Before them they saw a landscape that was dark, yet its features were somehow visible. It was frozen, yet it did not freeze them. They ran in step with the rhythm of their song and passed deep into the Land of Mystery until they came to the village of the Nzondo. They paused and looked down on it from a hill. They saw the creatures moving about; the women grinding corn; the men sharpening their assegai tips. The companions no longer sang, but at Kivanga’s command stayed silent, scarcely daring to breathe. He stared into the village, watching every movement. At last he saw his twin sitting by the ashes of a cooking fire, her shoulders bent, her eyes on the ground. He longed to rush in and sweep her up in his arms, but he knew the Nzondo were strong and vicious and might soon overpower his small band.

He thought deeply, his great head in his hands. Then he whispered to his companions. Very slowly, very quietly they began to sing again. At first they sang so softly that not even they could catch the sound, then gradually, gradually they increased the volume. The ground began to vibrate as though there were drums being beaten in caverns deep under the ground. One or two of the Nzondo paused what they were doing and looked up, but the sound was such that it made them feel sleepy. One by one they yawned and stretched and fell down where they were, fast asleep. Only Kivanga’s twin did not sleep. She recognised the song of her people and she lifted her head to listen. She wept with joy when she saw her brother coming towards her – his huge, ungainly figure was the most beautiful sight she had seen in a long, long time.

The companions stayed on the outskirts of the village, still singing while Kivanga and his sister were reunited.

‘Come,’ he said. ‘We must go. The song cannot hold them forever.’ He took her hand. ‘Wait,’ she said. ‘There are things we must take with us.’ And she led them to the chief’s hut. Inside the dim exterior he could see that the walls were hung with masks.

‘See,’ she said. ‘My husband’s people stole these from Mbenza, the Master of the Earth. We must take them back. With these masks the people will become who they were meant to be.’ Kivanga helped her load the masks into a cloth, which she hung on her back.

They heard a sound outside the hut. The Nzondos were beginning to wake. ‘Hurry!’ he whispered. And they ran. Seeing that their enemies were waking, the companions gripped their assegais and changed their song to one of battle, but as soon as Kivanga and his twin were with them they turned and ran back the way they had come. The Nzondo pursued, yelling imprecations and throwing their spears.

The door was still open and they rushed through, Kivanga helping his sister who was staggering under the weight of the masks. Then he turned and put his great weight against the door. At last, with a groan, it moved and creaked shut, closing them off safely from their angry pursuers.

Kivanga lifted the burden from his sister now that he no longer had to be prepared to fight and, hand in hand, they stepped into the water that was between the worlds and emerged in their own land. There, Mbenza rewarded them for the return of the masks and founded the first village of humans as we know them today.

But humans are never safe from the revenge of the Nzondo and the masks must be used in sacred rites continually, to hold the dark forces at bay. Underworld spirits lurk under pebbles, seeking to blind and paralyse their enemies, to break bones and deform limbs. The priests of Mbenza with their allies, the water spirits, have to work hard to counteract their malice and keep the human form intact.

Next time – Commentary and conclusion…

On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 1
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 2
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 3
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 4
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 5
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 6


The White Bird

At a still pool in the Kalahari
A hunter stoops to drink.
The mirror surface
Flashes with white light
As wings spread to rise.
He looks up
But already the bird
Has flown.
Nothing in sight
But a measureless sky.
The red dust of the earth,
Thorn bushes
And the stark skeletons of rock.

From that day on
He travelled across the parched land
Seeking the bird.
“Wings so wide,” he would say,
Stretching his arms.
“White as the full moon.”
“Ah yes,” was the reply.
“We saw it.  It went that way.”

He travelled
And searched
His whole life long.
Never caught a glimpse again,
But always heard tales told.

At last in old age,
Having left the flat plains of his youth
He saw a mountain,
White on its summit.
His bones ached with age
But he climbed,
And climbed again.

At the top he looked up
And there he saw the bird
In magnificent splendour
Hovering in an infinity of blue.
He reached up, and,
With his dying breath,
Caught one shining feather in his hand.

Across the world,
At another time,
My son, also on a quest,
Caught such a feather.

He was standing in the Pantheon of Rome
Gazing up at the sky
Seen through a hole
At the apex of the great stone dome.
A small white feather
Spiralled slowly down a shaft of sunlight.

In this numinous place,
Once a temple to all the gods,
Now dedicated to the One,
He accepted it as a gift
From the Holy Spirit…
A shining symbol
Of a glory that seems out of reach,
But given freely, by grace,
Feather by feather,
When we are ready.

More from this series soon…

On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 1
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 2
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 3
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 4
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 5
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 6


Below is the transcript of a speech made by Stratford Caldecott, son of Moyra Caldecott, at the event to launch her book, Multi-dimensional Life, at Gothic Image in Glastonbury on June 9, 2007.

Strat’s speech at Moyra’s 80th birthday party/ booklaunch at Gothic Image bookshop, Glastonbury on 9 June 2007

On behalf of Moyra, I want to thank Jamie George for his hospitality tonight, Martyn Folkes of Mushroom Publishing for his immense hard work to get the books out on time, and all of you for coming, many of you from so far away. She invited you, but I don’t think she actually expected you to come! I am Stratford, her eldest son, speaking to you because she is not able to speak as confidently as she once did. But over a lifetime she has been more coherent, more eloquent, than the rest of us. I really doubt if any of us will have heard of anyone else who could have a launch party for NINE books in their 81st year of life. It is probably a record. I know that the Pope, who is the same age as Moyra, sells more copies of his, but even he doesn’t write so many!

Moyra has always been a poet, and was a leading figure in the London poetry groups of the 1960s as some of you may know, but her first big success as a novelist came late, with the mystically inspired trilogy, Guardians of the Tall Stones, now in print continuously with various publishers for 30 years. Another of her perennial best sellers is Women in Celtic Myth. She has published 30 different titles altogether, averaging no less than one a year, and many of them have been translated into other languages. One or two have even teetered on the brink of becoming a Hollywood movie. As you will read in her long-awaited autobiography, Multi-dimensional Life, available here, her own life has often resembled a movie too — a kind of cross between Brigit Jones and Indiana Jones, or Miss Marple meets the Scorpion King. She travelled up the Nile and into the Pyramids with rock star Tina Turner, in order to discover the present whereabouts of the pharaoh Hatshepsut, and the result is another of the books on sale tonight. Her adventures both in and out of the body are a phenomenon that I have lived with most of my life.

I really hope that if you love Moyra as I know you do, you will buy as many of her books as you can tonight, and make this event a success for everyone. Apart from the classic titles, and the new editions of several of them, she has several brand new books tonight. Multi-dimensional Life reveals the amazing experiences of a writer exploring other worlds and the deeper reaches of this one. (She writes: “I did not realize it at the time, but during the writing of my books I was on a Quest. By mapping it now I hope I might make others aware of the complexity of every given moment, and encourage them to look out for signs and wonders in their own lives.”) The Breathless Pause reveals the charm of her personality through a selection of her poems and wise meditations. Adventures by Leaf Light and other stories contains some children’s stories that have appeared before along with a series of new ones that were never previously published.

I think my late father, Oliver, would have been very proud of what Moyra has achieved as a writer in the last few years. She has produced a body of work that has inspired the devotion of thousands of fans around the world. These books have made the world a better place; they have opened doors on to other levels of reality; they will live on and inspire others in the future. I have personally witnessed the amount of scholarly research that went into each of the historical novels, as well as some of the psychic experiences that helped to make them more than they appear on the surface. I speak on behalf of the whole family when I say that Moyra’s intense appreciation of life and of the natural world has opened our eyes to the beauty of the cosmos, and her books can do the same for her readers.


In “On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 1″ and “On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 2” Moyra has been talking about the universal meaning of some traditional African legends. This time she explores the meaning of the story of The Young Man, The Lion, and the Yellow-flowered Zwart-Storm Tree…

In this story a lion finds a young man sleeping by a water hole. He takes hold of him and lifts him up onto the branches of a yellow-flowered zwart-storm tree. There he wedges him in between the branches while he goes back to the waterhole to drink. The young man wakes and tries to move but finds that he is held fast. The lion returns and pushes his head more firmly between the braches. Noticing that there are tears running down the cheeks of his prey, the lion licks them away and then returns to the water hole for a drink, for he is very thirsty.

While he is drinking the young man manages to escape and ran away. He makes sure not to run directly to his home but disguises his spoor by running this way, then that. When he reaches his home he tells everyone what has happened to him, and the whole village works to disguise his scent by wrapping him around with hartebeest skins, for they know it is in the nature of the lion not to let its prey go.

The lion appears near the village. The people shoot at him again and again, but he will not die. They throw children at him, but he ignores them and will not eat. They throw women at him, but again he ignores them. Arrows and spears leave him unhurt. He keeps sniffing for the young man. The lion wants the young man, for it had licked his tears. It wants no one else but that young man.

The lion attacks the houses and knocks them down. The people plead with the young man’s mother to give him her son. At last she agrees, if the lion will die too. “Let the lion die and lie upon my son,” she says. So the people gave the young man to the lion, and the lion kills him. Now when the people shot at the lion, the lion says, “Now I am ready to die. For I have the young man that I put in the yellow-flowered zwart-storm tree, the young man whose tears I licked, the young man that I have all this time been seeking. Now I have hold of him; for I am his.” And so the lion dies and the people laid his body on the body of the young man.

What are we to make of this story? The young man is sleeping by the water hole. That is, he is in a state of non-awareness right beside a life-giving source of spiritual nourishment. The lion (his spiritual guide, his god, his destiny) sees him and puts him in the tree (the cosmic tree of life). He is off the ground (the mundane world) and is waiting for his entrance into the higher world – the world of the higher consciousness.

The lion delays, knowing that the young man cannot be rushed but must go through certain phases. The lion sees the first stirrings of awareness in the man. The young man’s first reaction to his awakening in the tree is despair, sorrow, fear. He weeps. The lion licks away his tears. He tries to comfort him and goes away again, giving him more time to come to terms with his situation. The man does not want the fearful agony of awakening to the higher self. He runs back to his old ways, cunning enough to do everything in his power to avoid pursuit. But he cannot escape his destiny. The lion will not take a substitute. It is that particular young man who is marked, and only he will the lion take.

In the lion’s final words we find the key to the whole story. The lion and the young man are one. The flight and the chase are within the one soul. Have we not all feared the awakening in the yellow-flowered zwart-storm tree, knowing that our lives will never be the same again, and there is no way out except complete death to the world?

Some years ago I wrote a poem about the fearsomeness of the spiritual call that has helped me to understand this story.

The Christ

He will not come
As you expect,
Swinging incense
And a Bible…
He will come
Like a tiger from a field of daisies…
Suddenly leaping
From the familiar
To the divine.

Incidentally, I’m not at all sure what a yellow-flowered zwart-storm tree looks like, or even whether it exists in Africa, but the name works very well symbolically in this story. The yellow flowers suggest the golden brilliance of light – the fertile flowering of spiritual experience. “Zwart” is the Dutch word for “black”, and “zwart-storm” conjures for me images of those fearsome black storms that terrified me when I was a child in Africa. Those storms cleared the air after days and weeks, sometimes months, of sultry brooding weather that made it hard to breathe and dried the veld so thoroughly that it appeared parched and dead, only to spring alive again as soon as the storm broke.

This tree is a combination of light and dark – of gentle flowers and fierce and driving storm. The tree is life.

More soon…

On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 1
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 2
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 3
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 4
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 5
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 6


In the first of this series, “On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 1” Moyra concluded that all cultures have myths that speak to other cultures, because they address a universal need: to make sense of life and death. Now she continues…

Take Africa, for example. The African continent is huge and contains many different cultures. (There are 2000 languages and dialects in West Africa alone.) Similarities between them are more apparent when viewed from outside, since inside Africa the cultures appear very different to the inhabitants of each country or tribe. And these traditional cultures are largely oral. Africans, like the ancient Celts, did not have writing, so their stories were passed down by word of mouth for generations and only written down recently by outsiders – mostly Europeans. (Similarly the pagan Celtic stories were written down by medieval monks.) No doubt there is some distortion in this process of translating and recording the stories, but by and large those who did the recording were at least trying to be accurate.

We understand stories from cultures other than our own because we are not so very different. The Africans believe in invisible powers – but so do we. Of course, we give them different names. We talk of guardian angels and dead saints. They talk of spirits and ancestors. They talk of locusts destroying crops. We talk about genetic engineering and poisonous insecticides and weed killers. They talk of the cunning Hare or Spider twisting the truth. We talk of spin doctors, advertisers and politicians.

Whatever the terms of reference may be, myths and legends play a vital role and can stir strong emotions. We ignore or abuse them at our peril.

A long time ago a great medicine man of the Ashanti in Ghana gave the King a wooden stool covered in gold. He said he had brought it down from the sky in a black cloud amid thunder and dust. The King made four bells to hang on each side. He was told that the stool contained the soul of the Ashanti people and must never be sat upon. The Kings, the Queens and the chiefs donated hair and nails to be ground into a paste to be placed on the stool. Three times a year the King would pretend to sit on it. Golden chains and golden masks were added to it when the enemies were overthrown. It became a very sacred object and was carried in processions, protected by an umbrella.

In 1896 the British conquered the Ashanti and tried to sit on the golden stool believing that by doing so, they would stamp their authority on the people. Fighting broke out in protest and many lives were lost. The stool was hidden, and many years later, when the British had realised their mistake, it was found and returned to the palace at Kumasi. In 1922 the Queen Mothers of the Ashanti sent a silver stool to Princess Mary as a wedding present saying: “their love was bound to the stool with silver fetters, just as we are accustomed to bind our own spirits into the base of our stools”.

The simplest and homeliest of African stories are usually about animals representing some human characteristic. These I call fables or folktales. Most common are the Hare stories, illustrating the cunning by which the ordinary man defeats his much stronger rival or enemy. These stories were carried to America by the slaves and appear with the Hare transposed into Brer Rabbit. The part of the American fox is usually played by the hyena in Africa.

Here’s an example. The Hare and the Hyena went hunting. The Hare noticed the hyena kept all the best meat for himself. Eventually he disguised himself as a monster with red clay and feathers and exacted meat from the Hyena as payment for passing him safely and continuing on the road.

Another time the Hare owed a lot to the Elephant and Hippopotamus. He couldn’t pay and they were getting very angry. He told each of them that he had buried a vast treasure and gave each of them one end of a long rope. He told them if they just pulled on the rope the treasure would be drawn up to the surface, and went away laughing as the great heavy animals engaged in a tug of war.

And of course there are many stories from all over the continent about how Death came to the world. In one Zulu story God sent a message to mankind via the Chameleon that they would live for ever. The Chameleon set off slowly, stopping to eat on the way. Meanwhile God sent a Lizard with another message for mankind, that they would all eventually die. Lizard got there first, and when Chameleon arrived his message was invalid – the Word of God once received could not be challenged. The Mende of Sierra Leone tell a similar story involving a Dog and a Toad. Another tribe speak of the gift of being able to replace one’s skin, and thus live forever – a gift intercepted by a Snake on the road between God and Man. In Zambia there is a story that God gave mankind the choice of two bags. They chose the one that shone, but it contained death. God gave them a second chance, if they could refrain from eating for three days, but they failed.

We don’t like to think of Death as inexorable, inevitable. We want it to be contingent and avoidable. If Eve hadn’t eaten the apple, if Chameleon had hurried, if the right bag had been chosen, there might be no death. We were given a chance but someone blew it. Free will means that decisions have consequences.

Other stories are similar. Not only death, but all the various ills of the world come upon us because of our own fault. I think of these as the Pandora’s Box stories. So, for example, according to the Komo people of Sierra Leone, at first all was light. God gave the bat a basket full of darkness to carry to the moon. But the bat put down the basket and went to look for food. Some animals found it, opened it, and darkness escaped. So now the bat flies at night looking for the dark to put it back into the basket. But once we have done something bad it cannot be undone.

In another African story, a king falls in love with a star. A star princess comes to him and they are happily married, but she wants to go home to deliver her first child. The king sends her to the top of a mountain with warriors to guard her. The mist forms into the shape of a great lake and a boat comes across it to fetch them to the stars. They arrive at the palace of her father and there is no one to greet them. She leaves them in a chamber with three sealed jars. As time goes by their curiosity and hunger get the better of them. One by one they open the jars: out come mosquitoes, locusts, and flies. When they return to earth these pests go with them.

Perhaps the meaning we take from the story is that the king was reaching for his highest self. By grace he is given it, but his lower self lets him down – curiosity opens the jars and releases all manner of ills.

A Nigerian story described how a forest spirit called Musa once spoke to a man, a hunter looking for food for his family. In the great forest full of trees, the spirit singled out twelve types of tree and told the man that if he crushed some of the bark of these trees into powder and then mixed the powder with water, he would have a paste to spread on himself that would make him invisible to the animals of the forest. (People have always longed to be invisible – the hunter more than most, and the journalist with a camera no less than the killer with arrow or gun.)

The occurrence of the number twelve in this story comes as little surprise. Twelve has symbolic power in every culture. There are twelve signs of the zodiac and twelve months of the year, twelve hours of the day and night, twelve fruits of the cosmic tree, twelve members of the council of the Dalai Lama, twelve disciples of Christ, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve labours of Heracles, twelve knights of the round table, twelve gates and foundations of the holy city of the New Jerusalem, twelve in a modern jury – the list goes on and on. One tree alone would not confer invisibility; twelve types are needed. By the time the hunter has sought out the twelve types of tree he must know a lot about the forest. By the time he has gathered the bark and ground it and made the paste he has become so knowledgeable about nature and so in tune with its ways that he no longer stands out as an alien in the forest. In a sense he has become the forest.

More soon…

On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 1


In this series of articles, storyteller and bard Moyra Caldecott reflects on the perennial meaning and importance of myths and legends.

To me a MYTH is a seminal, original story, using symbolic images, with the aim of stirring up thought about the great mysteries of life. “Where do we come from?” “Who are we?” “Where are we going?” Myths have the power to entertain and inform century after century because they deal with the deep unease in all of us that we know so little about why we are here.

A good myth is not a falsehood, but a truth conveyed by symbolic image – in code, if you like. It resonates on the human experience deeply, even if superficially it appears weird and barbaric. It often works subliminally – hidden meanings emerge years after it is first heard, when something happens in life to bring it to one’s attention. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is a myth of our times because we recognize “Mordor” as an image of the palpable evil and darkness against which we are pitted, and ourselves as the Hobbits who need to overcome its influence in our own villages and towns.

A LEGEND is a story with mythic components, but inspired by a real event or character, which has grown by addition over the years to something greater than itself. As Billy Connolly said, when discussing the Blarney Stone in Ireland which was reputed to have been given by Robert Bruce, legend is “rumour plus time”.

We can witness the growth of legends in our own time. Princess Diana has become a kind of Spring Goddess – destroyed by furies pursuing her down a dark tunnel – conveyed over the water like King Arthur to be buried on an island of flowers. Certain mediums claim that she is still speaking through them. And one person at least saw her image in the sky.

Similarly the Twin Towers in New York have taken on mythic significance. Clash of Good and Evil. Light and Dark. Shining glass towers overthrown by men from dark caves. Heroic firemen challenging monstrous evil. As with all good myths, no answers are given, but questions are asked. The Towers themselves are ambiguous: were they symbols of Light, or symbols of Greed?

Myths and legends need decoding. Let’s look at that decoding process and its significance.

  1. The process of decoding is important partly because it slows you down. It makes you think about each symbol.
  2. Each of us will decode a story according to our own individual experience and state of mind. Like a Rorschach test, a symbol will reveal something about that particular person. This means that instead of needing to tell as many stories as there are human beings, we can tell a few, and these are interpreted in a billion different ways.
  3. A mythic story is enjoyable on many different levels. One level is sheer adventure – but at the same time it makes you aware of the underlying meaning in your own life. A symbol or mythic image is like a pebble dropped in a pool – circles and ripples continue to appear long after the pebble has vanished below the surface. A mythic image is shorthand. It tells you much more than is on the page.
  4. We can use them such stories as learning or teaching devices in our own lives. How many women, living in cities where there are no wolves, tell their children about the boy who cried wolf too many times?
  5. A symbol draws on the associative power of the past. The same symbols are used many times, in many contexts, and each time they acquire new associations, greater resonance.
  6. The very strangeness of the story often suggests to us that it must be about something more than it says. So we look and find.
  7. Imagination is one of the strongest and strangest and most important faculties of the human mind – it is the bridge between the known and the unknown. It tests out the ground beyond ourselves, and allows us to explore the way ahead in symbolic, imaginary form, before we have to encounter it for real. Without it we cannot understand our neighbour. Without it wars are inevitable.

Every culture has stories – always they use images from their own culture to drive them along. But always, always, a true myth will speak to any other culture, at any other time, because all cultures consist of human beings trying to make sense of life and death.

More soon…

On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 1
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 2
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 3
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 4
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 5
On Myths and Legends of Africa: Part 6


From thought
to speech
so much is lost
in translation.
More so now
that I am old.
I reach for words
to illuminate
the landscape of my mind,
but a fog
comes down
and obscures everything…

Portrait of Moyra Caldecott by Anthea Toorchen

Portrait of Moyra Caldecott by Anthea Toorchen

This picture was painted on the occasion of the publication of  The Winged Man about King Bladud in the summer of 1992.  The novel was set in Bath, and so the artist (who painted it in her London studio) set Moyra against a background of the Roman Baths.


The Past is Present

Moyra wrote this article a while ago…

We stand in a garden at dawn and are moved by a feeling we cannot put into words. If we cared to unravel the feeling we would find that we were being influenced by a great many things beside the actual physical nature of what we are experiencing. In the beginning… we hear somewhere deep inside us as we react to the beginning of a new day… and the story of the miracle of the Creation is ours to draw upon… the only true Miracle, the bringing out of Nothing of all that Is. We take a deep breath and we remember subliminally the breath of God giving Adam life. We are reborn… renewed. And then a tree rustles in the breeze and subconsciously we remember the Tree of Life… the Tree of Knowledge… and the freedom we have to obey or disobey. Some small creature rustles in the grass and we shiver, remembering the serpent in Eden… the suffering inseparable from the knowledge of good and evil. A bird wings past… it is black and we remember Noah’s raven; another… and we hear in the beating of its wings the messenger dove. Someone calls and we are expected to join other people, have breakfast, cope with rush-hour, work, city, life. Our name is “called” and we are expected. We will need the strength that we have unconsciously received from the myth.

In Vao, in the New Hebrides, even today, it is believed that the spirit of a dying man arrives before the entrance to a sea-cave where the fearful “Guardian Ghost” has traced an elaborate pattern in the sand, a path for him to follow. “At his approach she obliterates half the design, which the dead man must complete or be devoured.”[1] If he has danced with the tribe as an initiate of the higher mysteries and has now remembered the steps, he has no problem. If he has not, he is lost. We read in this many things relevant to ourselves… the spiral dance… the maze dance… the losing of self… the finding of self…. I am the way, the truth and the life, said Christ; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. The dance we dance during our life is the one that will make the difference to our future or death. Life is learning the steps of a dance whose pattern is half drawn on the sands of time, half in our eternal souls.

Shiva’s dance. From everywhere and everywhen we draw our inspiration. “The Eastern mystics see the universe as an inseparable web, whose interconnections are dynamic and not static,” writes Dr Fritjof Capra in his book The Tao of Physics:

“The cosmic web is alive; it moves, grows and changes continually. Modern physics, too, has come to conceive of the universe as such a web of relations and, like Eastern mysticism, has recognized that this web is intrinsically dynamic. The dynamic aspect of matter arises in quantum theory as a consequence of the wave-nature of subatomic particles, and is even more essential in relativity theory… where the unification of space and time implies that the being of matter cannot be separated from its activity. The properties of subatomic particles can therefore only be understood in a dynamic context; in terms of movement, interaction and transformation.” [2]

Because we have discovered that everything has vibrations and responds to vibration, the tale of Orpheus and his music charming the beasts, the plants and the rocks does not seem so strange any more. Does it point “backwards” to a time when man had this knowledge, as well as “forward” to our own time when we have rediscovered this knowledge? Is it trying to tell us something about the nature of the universe that we need to know in order to survive?

Because we live in an age when nuclear energy has become at once the servant of man and his master, the legend of Prometheus stealing fire from the sun takes on new meaning. Was the fire Prometheus stole not just fire in the ordinary sense, as we used to believe, but prophetic of the fire of nuclear holocaust, the violent energy of fission? Does the punishment Prometheus have to endure, being chained to a rock forever while vultures gnaw at his liver, not sound like man’s present condition, bound in agony to the terrible secret he has learned?

Is the young man with the green striped hair and painted face, who dances so frantically among the strobe lights in a modern disco, remembering subliminally the painted shaman dancing round the primeval fire? Is he seeking blindly through the same activity to leave his body, his mundane identity, and become one with the Unknown?

In the story of Chronos banished into sleep, but still commanding his assistants, a hint about the power of the subconscious – that even in sleep we are still alive, still remembering?

Is the handprint that works electronically to admit a privileged and elaborately screened individual to the inner rooms of a highly secret government or scientific establishment today not an echo of the handprint of an initiate carved above sacred caves in ancient times?[3]

And the mutilation of fingers which was customary in many primitive societies to indicate mourning, dedication and sacrifice,[4] has it not its macabre echo in the modern Japanese gangster who, when he has offended, cuts off his own finger to indicate the sincerity of his apology?

When we take a photograph or paint a representational picture are we not in fact, as “primitive” people believed, trying to capture, to hold, the spirit of that moment, that person, that place, against the dissolution of time?

When an Icon painter makes an image that is later associated with miracles, is he so very far from the Paleolithic artist who painted the figure of a gazelle on the wall of his cave for magical purposes?

The past is present, and is working on us every moment of the day. It is woven inextricably into our lives in a way that the Celtic artist, with his elaborate interlacing patterns, has reached nearer to depicting than anyone. It is present in Neolithic, Megalithic and Bronze Age tribes still living in the ancient way in isolated parts of the earth. It is present subliminally in us, working through symbol, myth and ritual. Like the light of the stars that we greet today though it started its journey millions of years ago, we discover with surprise “new” truths that are older than the oldest hills.

The spiral dance continues. Those who enter it now, those who have reached the centre, and those who pass us on the way back to the entrance are all part of the one dance, the Dance of Shiva, the dance of Delos, the dance before the cave in Vao.

[1] [3] [4] G.R. Levy, The Gate of Horn (Faber & Faber).
[2] Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics (Wildwood House and Fontana)


Oliver Caldecott 1925-1989

Adapted from a Memoir by Moyra Caldecott

Moyra Caldecott and family warmly invite you to an exhibition to celebrate the life and art of Oliver Caldecott in the 20th year since his death.  It runs from 6-18 April 2009, and there will be a TEA PARTY to mark the last day of the exhibition on Saturday 18 April.  For details please write to the ART JERICHO Gallery at info@artjericho.com or visit www.artjericho.com.

My husband Oliver was one of the foremost publishing editors of his generation – for example as a chief editor of Penguin Books in the 1960s and as co-founder and director with Dieter Pevsner of Wildwood House in the 70s. He was also a prolific artist, producing hundreds of cartoons, sketches and paintings in a variety of media over several decades. In April 2009 the family is collaborating with a gallery in Oxford – Art Jericho – to mount a retrospective exhibition of his work, twenty years after his death. Many of the pictures will be exhibited for the first time.

His parents were both well-known artists in South Africa – Strat Caldecott and Florence Zerffi. At Cape Town University Oliver plunged into student politics as an opponent of apartheid. He was associated with the National Union of Students (NUSAS) from 1943, and became its President in 1948. Several of Oliver’s friends were arrested, and he knew he would either have to keep quiet or be arrested too. In 1950 there was a massive protest attended by 10,000 people in Johannesburg’s Market Square during the “Defend Free Speech” Convention. Protest marchers were fired upon. Many died; many more were wounded. Many intellectuals, both white and black, left South Africa at this time, or were put away for years, like Nelson Mandela. The headquarters of the ANC were set up abroad and only returned openly to South Africa in 1994 when Mandela, an ANC member, became the first black president of the Republic of South Africa.

Oliver and I settled in London in 1951, where Oliver continued to give passionate talks about the injustices of apartheid – helping to rouse the indignation that would eventually overturn the system in South Africa. At the time we never thought it would take so long!  We also went on protest marches against the Atom Bomb from Aldermaston to Trafalgar Square. Shortly after the birth of our first child in 1953, Oliver became editor of the Readers’ Union Book Club, and subsequently several associated book clubs – Jazz, and Science Fiction.

At one point, Oliver was very ill with glandular fever. After a few weeks, he began to recover, but the doctor advised him not to go back to work yet. He was very frustrated and irritated not to be active, but he wasn’t feeling well enough to get up and do anything. I was at my wit’s end keeping him occupied. Noticing he was sketching on scraps of paper, I asked a friend of his to give him a pile of offcuts from the office. Reams of very large paper arrived, and Oliver started to draw all day and every day with pen and ink. He produced brilliant, witty, satirical studies of human nature – sometimes savage, always shrewd. Like his father, Oliver turned out to have a very quick hand and an accurate visual memory. Gradually he began to use colour in his drawings. Within a few years I believe he was as good as either of his parents. In June and July 1958, he and his mother Florence both had pictures in the South London Art Group Exhibition in the South London Art Gallery. By the 1960s Oliver was having regular exhibitions of his work.

In 1965 Oliver was invited by Tony Godwin to join Penguin Books as Fiction Editor. He was always interested in “books of ideas”, and gradually he introduced books that might be called “new age” – including the Carlos Castaneda series, which was first published in California. It was our “swinging sixties” with endless parties, a kaleidoscope of relationships, and stimulating friendships among the most interesting writers of the age. We also kept our old friends from South Africa, who were all doing well in Britain. I remember meeting Mervyn Peake at a party given by the science fiction writer Michael Moorcock. Oliver was responsible for getting three of his out-of-print books published as Penguin Modern Classics (the Gormengast series). In June 1971 we went to a party given by J.P. Donleavy in Ireland. We arrived late in the middle of a storm, having got lost on the way, and were greeted by two sinister wolfhounds illuminated by lightning at the top of the stairs.

During 1972, Oliver and his friend Dieter left Penguin to start Wildwood House. Oliver was to say later that the years at Wildwood were the happiest of his life. Some very good and influential books were published that might never have seen the light of day if he had stayed at Penguins – including Fritjof Capra’s The Tao of Physics. Another popular book from Wildwood was the Tao Te Ching translated by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English.

In 1976 Oliver was with me when I was healed of very severe angina by a spirit healer in Bristol. He subsequently found he also had healing abilities, and was called on frequently to cure his friends’ headaches or backaches. He was letting go of his old scepticism. Increasingly he published books at Wildwood on alternative or complementary healing, on animal ESP, and on many spiritual subjects. Of course, he never lost his reason and he was never gullible. But ideas fascinated and intrigued him, and he liked to play with them. If an author would make a good case for some idea, he was interested. But he once said to me, “I don’t see why a person should jump from an experience they don’t understand to an explanation that defies reason.”

Because the 1970s saw the full-on rampage of the New Age, he was inundated with “channelled” manuscripts. His comment was: “One can’t really comment. If it’s so, it’s so. But how can we know? We go on with our lives as best we can, following that elusive cosmic light – and trust that the meaning and purpose of it will be as we hope.” He took to wearing a badge a friend gave him which said, “Just because I’m dead doesn’t mean I’m smart.”

In these years, Oliver also had many exhibitions. Every time the publisher launched a book by Shirley Toulson that he had illustrated, for example, we organized an exhibition to stir up local interest. They cost a lot in framing and in time, but were invariably fun.

We went to a lot of jazz concerts in smoky pubs and halls, Oliver sketching all the time. Some names I recall: Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Dollar Brand (a South African jazz pianist who later changed his name to Abdullah Ibrahim), Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonius Monk, Lena Horne, Count Basie, Johnny Hodges, Miriam Makeba, Jack Teagarden and Earl Hines. Later I organised many exhibitions of his jazz pictures, but I was always embarrassed when people asked me the name of the musician depicted. I just couldn’t remember – only that I had enjoyed the music. Oliver would have known, but by that time he was dead. He never labelled his drawings: he was more concerned with catching the spirit of the music than specifically with who was playing. Maybe he thought it obvious who it was, or that he would always be around to answer the query.

In 1980 Wildwood House was bought by East-West Publications, but Oliver stayed on for a few more years. Eventually, in 1984, he left to become the editor of the Rider imprint at Hutchinsons, until 1989 when he moved out of London. He had been diagnosed with cancer of the colon in 1987, and was operated on during the great hurricane of that year. In November 1988 we found he had developed secondary lung and liver cancer: the prognosis was that he had one year to live. He could either have chemo therapy to prolong his life for a few more weeks, or walk out and enjoy the time he had left. Oliver decided against the therapy. We put our London house on the market and, after a few false starts, moved to Bath in February 1989. In March we went for a month to Cape Town. Oliver felt well, and it was a beautiful, intense time. He swam and sketched and saw old friends. We could not believe he would soon be dying. When we returned to England he began to work part-time as an editor for Gothic Image Publishing in Glastonbury, and as an adviser to ICOREC (the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and Culture). We tried every kind of alternative or complementary medicine to cure his cancer, but to no avail.

Oliver died on 14 November 1989. He had substantial obituaries in the Telegraph (13 Dec.), The Times (22 Nov.), the Independent (18 Nov.), the Guardian (18 Nov.), The Bookseller (1 Dec. and 5 Jan), Publisher’s Weekly (8 Dec.), and even Prediction (March 1990). Giles Gordon wrote in the Independent: “Also a passionate painter with a violent and sensuous black line, Caldecott was always intrigued by the counter-culture. Counter-culturalists, like himself usually bearded and from Abroad, were regularly to be encountered at his and his novelist wife Moyra’s happy Dulwich family house. Ideas and art were discussed; the future of the planet rather than the politics of publishing.”

The printed version of this Memoir, heavily illustrated with examples of Oliver’s black and white drawings, as well as biographies of Oliver on CD and cards – as well as the paintings themselves – will be on sale at he exhibition in April.


Three Celtic Tales

Three Celtic Tales is a compilation of three traditional Welsh folk tales, drawn from the Mabinogion and retold by Moyra Caldecott.

The Twins of the Tylwyth Teg is based on a well known story in Welsh folklore about a herd boy who marries a faery from under the lake. Before her father will allow her to marry him however, he has to choose between her and her identical twin sister.

Taliesin and Avagddu is based on the tale from the Welsh Mabinogion. Ceridwen brews up a cauldron of magic to give her misshapen son Avagddu extraordinary wisdom, but the village boy who is employed to stir the cauldron sips it instead and becomes the greatest prophet and bard Wales has ever known — Taliesin.

Bran, Branwen and Evnissyen is based on a story from the Welsh Mabinogion about the war between mainland Britain and Ireland in mythic times. Evnissyen, the bitter and disgruntled half-brother of Bran, the Blessed, stirs up trouble in which both nations are almost destroyed.


The Breathless Pause

Moyra Caldecott has been writing poetry for many years, and has had many poems published in magazines and anthologies. She has frequently read her poems at venues in London and the West Country. She was a member of the Dulwich Group in the 1960s and 70s, and in 2005 she was made an honorary Bard of Bath. For the first time, her best poems have been brought together in this book in celebration of her 80th birthday.

Samples from The Breathless Pause can be found here.

Buy The Breathless Pause

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Eighteen beautiful, insightful, moral, magical stories for children with Imagination — and their parents. Many have never been published before, and will be a treat for all fans of Moyra Caldecott.


Multi-dimensional Life

In more than thirty published books, some of them continuously in print for thirty years, the novelist Moyra Caldecott has transported her readers through ancient history and into other worlds. Her writing is a manifestation of her lifelong quest for meaning and wisdom. Now, for the first time, she reveals the many levels of her own life as a writer and the extraordinary events and experiences that have inspired her life and writing.


The Eye of Callanish

The Eye of Callanish is set at the beginning of the twelfth century on the Island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland. It tells the story of a young girl, Mairi, who is persecuted for being in league with the Devil. She believes that she is able to communicate with the ancient people who built the temple of Tall Stones at Callanish.

Mairi is aided in her escape from her persecutors by Neil and the hermit Brother Durston, who we first met in Weapons of the Wolfhound. On the way they face many dangers and frightening situations. But just who are these ancient people that Mairi is communicating with? Where did the beautiful white horse appear from? And whose is the dead body in the cleft?

Neil is fascinated by the search for Truth … and at the same time terrified of it…


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  • First published in eBook editions in 2001 by Mushroom eBooks. ISBNs as under “Availability” above.
  • First paperback edition published in April 2005 by Bladud Books, an imprint of Mushroom Publishing. ISBN 978-184319-120-9. 180 pp.

Weapons of the Wolfhound

The Weapons of the Wolfhound was Moyra’s first published book. It was written for teenagers, and was so popular that a sequel was commissioned by the publisher, called The Eye of Calanish.

The Weapons of the Wolfhound contrasts the two major influences on a boy just entering his teens. Neil lives on a farm on the remote island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides in the 12th century AD. He makes friends with a Christian hermit living in a rocky cell nearby. The hermit is carving a chess set out of walrus ivory. (This was my initial inspiration for the book. The chess set exists. It was dug up on the Isle of Lewis in the last century and I saw it on display in the British Museum, London). The hermit speaks to the boy about the virtues of forgiveness and peaceful coexistence, and teaches the value of contemplation and prayer. But the visit of a Viking sea captain to the island makes the boy restless and he runs away with him to Iceland. There he encounters a very different life. At first he finds it exciting, but more and more the violence and gory death that is the result of Baldur’s desire for vengeance sickens him, and he is glad to return home, older and wiser.


First published Rex Collings, London in hardback in 1976, ISBN: 0901720771. Availability: Out of Print.


The Spiritual Search – Traditional Stories from World Mythology

From the blurb:

“One of the most persistent themes in myth and legend from the world’s many cultures is that of the story of the journey the quest. In this beautifully illustrated book, noted writer on the topic, Moyra Caldecott, shows the connection between the sacred, mythic journeys as found in legend and story and the real journey of the individual soul towards enlightenment.

“This perennial quest for reassurance in the face of human mortality is spread as wide as our existence on the planet and throughout history. Indeed Carl Jung and, more recently, Joseph Campbell have shown us that myth and legend are not just fantasy tales for children. They are powerful expressions, in code, of a deep yearning towards an understanding of human existence.

“Moyra Caldecott has selected material from many cultures to illustrate this point: from ancient Egypt and Sumeria to aboriginal Australia, pre-Columbian America, Vietnam, India, Africa and Europe. With each legend retold, she provides background on its origin and detailed analysis of its meaning and significance.

“Illustrated with specially commissioned colour paintings by Cheryl Yambrach Rose, and enhanced by additional drawings by Rachel Caldecott-Thornton, this book is both a visual pleasure and a truly informative work which will delight, entertain and fascinate.”


Myths of the Sacred Tree

From the blurb:

“Essential to life on earth since the beginning of time, trees hold a special place in our collective consciousness: rooted in the earth, reaching skyward, nourished by the elements, and enlivened by the sap running through their veins, they provide a living metaphor for what it means to be human. Trees have figured prominently in the myths of all people – from the Kabbalistic Tree of Life to the bodhi tree of Buddha’s enlightenment – representing the unfolding of the human spirit through the experiences of life on earth.

“Moyra Caldecott has gathered here a collection of myths celebrating the rich symbolism of trees. Included are myths from African, European, Native American, Russian, Indian, Arabian, and many other traditions, all bringing to life a time when the natural world was deeply respected and trees and forests were thought to be inhabited by spirits and divine beings.

“This reverence for nature, still maintained by indigenous peoples, is reflected today in the emphasis placed by the environmental movement on the protection of trees. Bound by the organized structure of modern life, the human spirit yearns for the wildness and freedom of primal nature represented by forests in their natural state. Caldecott’s book has captured and given voice to this spirit. Fifteen majestic ink washes by London based artist Anthea Toorchen illuminate the myths and lend the text a beauty of there own.”

Publisher: Destiny Books, US
Copyright Date: July 1993
Format: 214pp. Paperback
ISBN: 0892814144
Price: $12.99
Availability: In Print


Women in Celtic Myth

“The truth about living in the universe is elusive, exciting, and mysterious and it is in the pursuit of that mystery that we find all that is worth having, including ourselves.” (from the Introduction)

“In Celtic myth, the mixture of wise spiritual teaching and dramatic imagery creates new, potent, and disturbing visions. This selection of eleven stories, some more than 3,000 years old, focuses on the women of ancient British mythology, from the formidable women warriors who trained heroes to fight and kill, to the beautiful companions who led them to higher realms of feminine intuition and spiritual wisdom. Caldecott goes beyond a mere recounting of female strength, providing lucid personal commentary that illuminates the complete myth and the culture from which it springs. These powerful stories transmit a recognition of the mystery of being and an understanding of the powerful magic of inner transformation.

“Moyra Caldecott, author of more than 16 books and novels set in prehistoric times, including Guardians of the Tall Stones and Crystal Legends, has devoted the major portion of her life to collecting and examining myths and legends across the world. Women in Celtic Myth shows how these tales form a code of universal symbolic importance in expressing the eternal journey of the human spirit.” (from the blurb)


Crystal Legends

Crystals and gemstones have been a source of fascination since Neolithic times; they endure when the bones of those they have adorned have turned to dust. Such was the profundity of crystal lore that ancient peoples incorporated crystals and gemstones as dynamic and potent symbols in their legends and myths.

In Crystal Legends Moyra Caldecott approaches crystals from a new angle, retelling stories drawn from world mythology which show the significance of crystals and precious stones as symbolic icons in a variety of traditions. In addition, she gives in-depth commentaries on their esoteric meaning and significance for us. From Buddhist and biblical texts, European and Egyptian tales, Arthurian and Atlantean legends, this fascinating collection will appeal to anyone with an interest in the power of crystals and the eternal journey of the soul towards enlightenment.


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Publisher: Aquarian Press
Copyright Date: December 1990
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 0850308720
Price: £6.99
Availability: Out of Print


Drawing on folklore, myth and legend, Moyra Caldecott tells the story of the struggle between good and evil, St. Collen and the mighty Gwyn ap Nudd, a confrontation involving the Earth Goddess and, ultimately, the highest powers in the universe.

From the Introduction:

I believe that myths and legends, while appearing to be pure fabrication hallowed by constant repetition, actually have their roots in a deep and abiding truth that can only be expressed through symbol and allegory. As a substratum of the main truth which is universal, there often lies a stratum of a more local and literal truth, an ancient event or belief that sparks off a chain of linked stories about a particular place. Many legends suggest that Glastonbury Tor in the sixth century was the scene of a confrontation between the old religion and the new. In an imaginative fusion of several crucial legends from. Glastonbury’s past I hope to give some insight into the living truth that they, together, illuminate. The setting — Glastonbury, Somerset — has been described by Anthony Roberts in his book "Glastonbury: Ancient Avalon, New Jerusalem" as ‘an enchanted area of land — that generates and guards a powerful magic … the symbol of a great and holy mystery’. Frances Howard-Gordon, after asking why so many myths and legends are associated with Glastonbury in her book "Glastonbury: Maker of Myths", concludes: ‘there is a certain quality about the place, in the weird and wonderful landscape, in the peculiar shade of light, in the air we breathe . . .’ It is not for nothing that Glastonbury has continued to be a place of pilgrimage for so many centuries — that generation after generation have sought the secret meaning of their lives there — that today a visit to it is a ‘must’ for anyone interested in the dawning of a New Age in this troubled and crippled world …

Quote from book:

"It did not seem strange to him that he, Lukas, existed on many levels of time and space simultaneously; that the mysteries of his past were even now present and working through him without his conscious knowledge. He realized that we do not cease to live in the Spirit Realms because we live on earth. We may forget and need reminding from time to time just how complex and magnificent being human is, but we never lose our true capacities no matter how far we drift away into carelessness and ignorance."


Publisher: Gothic Image, UKmoz-screenshot
Copyright Date: 1989
Format: Trade paperback
ISBN: 0906362113
Availability: Out of Print


The Waters of Sul

It is 72 AD, and most of Britain is under Roman domination. At Aquae Sulis, a place of pilgrimage and healing, hot waters gush ceaselessly from the earth. Since ancient times the waters have been associated with the supernatural, and are under the protection of the Celtic Goddess Sul. The Romans have renamed her Sulis Minerva, and have tamed the steaming waters to form a complex of public baths.

A statue of the hated Emperor Claudius is being erected in the precincts of the Temple of Sulis Minerva. The centurion Decius Brutus, a Celt, is ordered to return to his home town to protect the statue and prevent trouble. But the local people, led by his proud father and his fiery daughter, Megan, are threatening rebellion…

Meanwhile, Megan’s twin sister Ethne is torn between her destiny as Oracle of Sul, and her love for Lucius, who is caught up in his own quest for spiritual enlightenment, with the help of the Orphic priest Demosthenes.

Twenty miles away, on Glastonia Island, a small Christian community struggles to establish a new religion in a hostile land, away from Roman persecution.

Cults from Rome, Greece, Egypt and Judaea vie with the native Celtic beliefs and form a rich backdrop to the human dramas that unfold.

The Waters of Sul is set in a time of transition and adjustment, when beliefs are questioned and loyalties are tested. Love and hate, conflict and reconciliation, troubled romance and an uneasy traffic with the supernatural all feature in this brilliantly conceived novel from a masterful storyteller.

Originally published by Bladud Books as Aquae Sulis. See “Living memories that inspire the mythical writer” for the reasons for the change of title.


“Moyra Caldecott’s latest book is one of her best ever! A well-crafted and moving story that brings Roman Britain to life in all its dramatic glory. Subtle characterisation, human dilemma and the age old struggle of one religion against another make this a powerful, moving and exciting read.” John Matthews, author.

“…fascinating and engrossing …” Anne McCaffrey

“Like all the best fiction, [The Waters of Sul] can be enjoyed on many levels … a well-researched and well-plotted novel … page-turning action and a wealth of characters.” Quality Womens’ Fiction

“… the author is so immersed in her subject that no trace of fantasising or contrivance is apparent. Like Joan Grant, she lives her work. Because it is so well done it is believable… The civilisation pictured here is based on many sources: historical, mythological and frankly speculative. A good novel.” The Glasgow Herald


“It’s just wonderful!! You have such an easy way of writing and it carries such incredible growth lessons and profound truths.” N. in Salem

“Thankyou for bringing all the disconnected scraps of information we have about that period to life, in such a brilliant, ripe, readable way… I shall recommend the book to lots of people. Books that bring history to life are few and far between.” K.J. in Bath


PAPERBACKlittlejohn coverlittlejohn back cover
Publisher: Bladud Books, UK
Publication Date: 1997
Format: 288pp. Paperback
ISBN: 1899142274
Price: £6.99/$11.99
Availability: In Print
Order from Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk

Publisher: Mushroom eBooks, UK
Publication Date: September 2000
Format: various eBook formats
ISBN: various
Price: $5.99
Availability: Mushroom eBooks


Tutankhamun and the Daughter of Ra is part of the ‘Egyptian’ sequence, which also includes Akhenaten: Son of the Sun and Hatshepsut: Daughter of Amun. Chronologically, Hatshepsut: Daughter of Ra is the last book of the sequence.

From the blurb on the Arrow edition:

Ankhesenamun has never been safe in all her short life – not even with her beloved husband and half-brother, Tutankhamun.

Daughter of Pharaoh Akhenaten and the fabled Nefertiti, and married at one time to her father, she has seen too much intrigue, too many deaths … Forced to marry Tutankhamun by the powerful General Horemheb at a time of bitter political and religious division, Ankhesenamun is the delicate link between scheming factions.

Left vulnerable by the failure of her plans for the sacred egg of Ra and the death of her young husband, Ankhesenamun is forced into making one last extra- ordinary and desperate bid for life and happiness …


First published 1990 in paperback as Daughter of Ra by Arrow Books Limited (ISBN 0099598701).


Hatshepsut: Daughter of Amun

Ancient Egypt 3500 years ago – a land ruled by the all-powerful female king, Hatshepsut. Ambitious, ruthless and worldly: a woman who established Amun as the chief god of Egypt, bestowing his Priesthood with unprecedented riches and power.

But how secure is Hatshepsut’s power against the claims of the man whose throne she has usurped? And will the feud between the new and ambitious Priesthood of Amun and the old establishment of Ra destroy all she had hoped to build?

This is a story of vision and obsession, of mighty projects and heartbreaking failures – the story of a woman possessed by the desire for power and the need to love.

“…it was unnatural, against the laws of Maat, that a woman should become a man. Surely they must see that?
“Ast looked around. The admiration and awe on every face was evident. She and her son seemed an absurd alternative to that magnificent golden being standing in the god’s light.
“Well, she and her son were alive. This was Hatshepsut’s moment. Theirs would come…”

Hatshepsut: Daughter of Amun is part of the acclaimed ‘Egyptian’ sequence, which also includes Akhenaten: Son of the Sun and Tutankhamun and the Daughter of Ra. Chronologically, Hatshepsut: Daughter of Amun is the first book of the sequence.


“This is a rousing tale, well-told, and highly recommended.” The Augustan, Issue 101.

Printing History:

First published 1989 in paperback by Arrow Books Limited as Daughter of Amun (ISBN 0099598507).

Republished with new notes and corrections to the text in various eBook formats by Mushroom eBooks as Hatshepsut: Daughter of Amun in April 2000.

Paperback edition published April 2004 by Bladud Books.


Akhenaten: Son of the Sun

I tell you this three millennia
after these events took place.
Mark them well.
They did not end with my death,
and they will not end with yours.

In ancient Egypt during the magnificent eighteenth dynasty the Pharaoh Akhenaten and his queen, the strong and beautiful Nefertiti, are engaged in a dramatic battle against the wealthy, corrupt and dangerously powerful priests of Amun.

Haunting and full of surprises, “Akhenaten: Son of the Sun” gives a fascinating glimpse into an ancient civilisation. It is a story about hate and love, despair and hope, but more than that it is the story of extraordinary spiritual and psychic powers being tested to their limits.

Based on the remarkable reign of Akhenaten in Eighteenth Dynasty Egypt, this story is told as if by a contemporary of his, Djehuti-kheper-Ra. It follows history as closely as possible on the evidence we have, and describes the political machinations of the time. But it also traces the spiritual journey of the protagonists, the journey on which we are all engaged whether we know it or not.

The story begins with the suffering of a boy oracle, or medium, about to be sealed alive into a pyramid chamber for three days so that he may “astral-travel” to the realms of the gods and plead for the waters of the Nile to rise, bringing life-giving silt to the farmlands. The story follows him through his lonely despair until he becomes the honoured companion of a king and an important figure in an extraordinary revolution.

At this time the high priests of the god Amun, brought to prominence by the female pharaoh Hatshepsut about a century before, are rich and powerful enough to challenge a king…

Akhenaten: Son Of The Sun is part of Moyra Caldecott’s acclaimed Egyptian sequence, which also includes Hatshepsut: Daughter of Amun and Tutankhamun and the Daughter of Ra. Chronologically, Akhenaten: Son of the Sun takes place between the other two books, but it was written first.

Reviews of Akhenaten: Son of the Sun:

“Moyra Caldecott’s novel is a good one, highly recommended.” The Augustan, No.99 (US)

“The story of spiritual and psychic powers tested to their limits. More than a little reincarnational memory here. A lovely book.” Gothic Image Books by Mail: New and Imaginative Fiction 1988

“I found this a well-written compelling novel in which the author has combined fact with fiction well…” Research into Lost Knowledge Newsletter No.29 Autumn/Winter 1986

Personal Testimonials:

“You seem to have a truly astonishing capacity for transporting yourself back to other ages. I wonder if, like Joan Grant, you actually have some kind of strange insight into the past that is more than just imagination.” Colin Wilson, author.

“I have only just read your wonderful book “The Son of the Sun”. I found it fascinating…
“I love the way you write and you brought the whole period to life quite brilliantly with a sinister undertone like a cobra waiting to strike. The love passages were treated with great sensitivity and tenderness. You have clearly gone a very long way along the path… I feel certain “The Son of the Sun” is your memory of Akhenaten’s time…”
Audrey Browning, Greece, 6 Oct 1992.

“[Akhenaten: The Son of the Son] absolutely rings true… Your book is a living experience. All your books are, but perhaps “Son of the Sun” most of all… [Your books] convey a sense of purpose and timelessness.”
Miss R Fitzpatrick, Sussex, England, 30 Aug 1986


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  • Published 1980 as The Son of the Sun in paperback by Alison & Busby, UK. Out of print.
  • Published 1986 as The Son of the Sun in hardback by Alison & Busby, UK. ISBN 0850316472, 186 pages. Out of print.
  • Paperback edition with revisions published as Son of the Sun in 1990 by Arrow Books Limited, UK. ISBN 0099598604, 288 pages. Out of print.
  • Electronic (ebook) editions published as Akhenaten: Son of the Sun by Mushroom eBooks in 2003.
  • Paperback edition published by Bladud Books, UK in November 2003. ISBN 1899142258, 208 pages.


The story of Etheldreda, Princess of East Anglia, Queen of Northumbria, Saint of Ely : Born AD 630, Died AD 679.

From the blurb:

“Etheldreda, Princess of East Anglia, Queen of Northumbria and Abbess of Ely, was a remarkable woman who lived in restless, violent times not unlike our own, when old beliefs were dying and new ones were struggling to emerge. Pagan clashed with Christian as the seven kingdoms of the Germanic tribes warred against each other and against the native Celts. Occasionally an uneasy peace was bought by the skilful use of the ‘diplomatic marriage’, and twice Etheldreda, though vowed to chastity, submitted to marriage for political reasons. When her second husband refused to accept the ‘arrangement’ between them, she fled south, her escape to the Island of Ely apparently aided by storms that intervened on her behalf. She lived only a few years as abbess of the religious community she founded at Ely before dying of plague. Ever since, pilgrims have turned to her for miracles of help and healing.

“But this is not just the story of a seventh-century Anglo-Saxon saint. It is about the general human struggle to comprehend the enigma of existence and to come to terms with Christ’s God, faced as we are by a violent and cruel world. It is about the periods when we give up the struggle, reverting either to the darkest negativity or to superstition – and the rare but wonderful periods when we are lifted high by the inrush of spiritual certainty.”


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