The Green Man location for this, the fifth recording in Temple Music’s ‘Green Man Project’ is in many ways one of the most intriguing., providing much otherwise undocumented Green Man evidence.
Ermine Street is the major North running Roman Road, starting in Londinium from what is now Bishopsgate and going North to Lincoln (Lindum) and York (Erboracum). During the first century, a Roman town was built on the Street at Ancaster (Causennis) on the site of an earlier iron Age settlement. Roman sarcophagi have been found there, along with many fine carvings; including one of the Three Mothers. In 2002 a new excavation turned up a cist bearing an inscription to the god Viridius – one of only two known inscriptions to this ‘deified masculine spirit of verdure’, DIO VRIDI SANCTO -"To the holy god Viridius ...", the other being carved on an archway stone re-used in the building of the church, DEO VIRIDIO TRENICO ARCVM FECIT DE SVO DON "For the god Viridius, Trenico made this arch, donated from his own funds." Viridius means ‘Green, Fresh, Young, Verdant’; and, as in well documented practice, what could be more natural than the Romans following the worship of the ancient god they found here – unquestionably the Green Man.
The second interesting strand winding around this nexus is involves the legend of Byard, which, growing up in this area in the early 70s I was very familiar with. Then a petrol station, Byard’s leap had set in the forecourt horseshoes, 60 feet apart, about which the following story was told… of Black Meg, a man-eating ogress who lived in a cave on the wild and lonely expanse of Ancaster Heath and terrorised the countryside for miles around, devouring anyone she came across. Her foul, evil spells made the land barren and she used her long iron claws to maul and kill livestock.
An errant knight found himself in the vicinity of Cranwell one day. Hearing the plight of the local populace, he resolved to rid them once and for all of Black Meg's curses. The villagers thanked him and promised that he could have his pick of any of their horses to help him in his task.
The knight was taken to a field by a pond where the villager' horses were kept. He inspected the horses one by one and noticed one of them was blind. He was told its name was Byard. The knight said he would take whichever horse had the keenest senses, and threw a large rock into the pond. In an instant, blind Byard looked up from his grazing in the direction of the water. The knight vowed to ride Byard, as he was the only horse who would not be frightened of Black Meg's appearance. Mounting his new steed, the knight rode off to Ancaster Heath, calling a challenge to Meg as he approached her cave. She responded with an evil cackle,
"I'll buckle me shoes,
And suckle me brood,
And I'll soon be wi' you, laddie!"
She soon appeared from the mouth of the cave, her face contorted in a wicked snarl and her iron claws glinting in the sunlight. The knight clasped the spurs into Byard's side and charged forward, slashing at the ogress' shoulder with his sword. She howled in pain and leapt at the horse and its rider, digging her needle-sharp claws into Bayard's rump.
The blind horse reared up onto its hind legs and leapt high into the air, taking Black Meg with it, landing a full sixty feet away and crushing the ogress beneath him. The knight stood up and, seeing that Black Meg lay dead, comforted the poor horse, which now lay bleeding to death on the ground.
The villagers, now free of the evil which had blighted them for so long, buried Black Meg under a large stone at the crossroads with a stake through her heart to prevent her ever returning. The horseshoes, showing Byard’s Leap, are still extant.
Why would an ‘errant knight’ be in the vicinity of Cranwell? Around 4 miles from Byard’s Leap is Temple Bruer, a Templar preceptory founded in 1180 (and now incorporated into a farm). The name ‘Byard’ means ‘beside the enclosure’, and the Templars had a jousting ground – an enclosure - at what is now Byard’s Leap. Black Meg is the absolute antithesis of The Green Man, and is slain by a Templar Knight… the Templars in this case being the guardians of the fertility of the land (the preceptory at Bruer was noted for it’s fine wool). When, following the arrest of the Templars in France in 1306, the Bruer Templars were arrested, the Preceptor, William de More, was Grand Master of the order in England – making Bruer, and the area around it, an important link in the Templar chain. The story of Byard can only be a folk memory of the clash between the forces of the new invaders – the outsiders, the killers of belief, the Church itself – and the Templars, keepers of the tutulary deity of the Land in a site of his age old worship, and surrounded by his memories – Green Man Lane, Wood, Public House and others are all common locally. One of the features of St Martins’s as well as The Three Mothers is a Sheela-na-Gig – hardly ever found in England … perhaps a pointer to the conflict. St Martin of Tours, after whom the church is named, was a Roman soldier under Julian the Apostate; a destroyer of pagan temples who also defended Gnostic sects. There is conflict at every turn. Built of Ancaster limestone, the building is Grade 1 listed, and has been in existence since about 1200 (The corpse of Hugh of Lincoln rested there) and contains several amusing/obscene carvings over which the Green Man in the vestry inscrutably presides…
released February 19, 2017
J Greco - Prepared Drones
Stephen Robinson - Bass, Guitar, Harmonium, Bowed Psaltery
Alan Trench - Guitars, Bells, Spoken Word, Tenor Recorder
Walls that gyre and spiral ever inwards
The Wild Hunt, the belling hounds and pounding hooves
Hear the horseman, hear the horn
And peering through the cypress trees whilst tender tendrils tap
Invade and spread
Becoming one with flesh and earth
To bring us to the door ajar
The door of sentience
The great lintel above fashioned from the bones of earth
The Great Green God of ancient days
Now here awaits nor ever sleeps
And all will turn and turn
The wheel will turn