Courting Verbeia

I have previously posted about a local Yorkshire genius loci /Goddess known as Verbeia and as I was researching Her I came across the article The Altar Stones of Ilkley. The author closes the article by saying;

Ilkley – The Body of Verbeia?
One day I finally got round to trying to trace the two streams that flowed past Olicana back up onto the moors. The westerly stream, which originates just east from the Barmishaw Wood, seems to disappear into the grounds of the Bradford Community College. The easterly stream, as mentioned above, can be found flowing under Brook Street, its final exposure to us being a lovely oasis of vegetation among the streets on the moorside. Tracing it uphill, it winds east under the road onto the moor, and back into a small concrete pool. Then it carries on through the area downhill from the White Wells house, and, before you reach it, it becomes obvious that it is flowing from the waterfall to the west of White Wells.
Behind this fall is a curious mound, which presents itself more forcefully due to being isolated by its covering in trees. Clambering up past the ford that the waterfall creates over the pathway, and on to the mound, I became gradually but powerfully astounded at the situation. Two streams flow from further uphill and converge at the southern end of this mound. They immediately part again, flowing down past either side, only to reconverge at the bottom of the mound, where the water cascades down towards Ilkley. Perhaps the fact that the trees here are an isolated huddle had something to do with it, but for me the sense of this mound being some sacred grove was palpable. Indeed, high up at the head of the mound is to be found a grand boulder carved with cups and rings. 
In case it’s not obvious already, I’m not using terms like the ‘bottom’ and ‘head’ of the mound as purely mundane figures of speech! For here I saw a natural analogue of the Roman fort’s situation, with two enclosing streams that may have been the inspiration for the snakes in Verbeia’s hands. The feeling of it being an ‘analogue’ is strengthened by the fact that we’re actually dealing with the same flow of water from the moor into the Wharfe. Was this mound associated with Verbeia, perhaps seen as her prone form in the land? Was it a sacred place to the Brigantes or the Gaulish troops, as it evidently was to the Neolithic or Bronze Age folk who carved the petroglyphs here? 
It became more and more tempting to link the mound to Verbeia when I went back down to the waterfall again, and saw that it created the image of a flow emanating from the lower regions of this ‘recumbent goddess’! Note that the snakes in the altar stone image seem to nearly converge near the goddess’ vagina – this is the situation with the mound’s streams, but not with the fort’s. 
I urge anyone interested in Verbeia to explore the place for themselves, to make up their own minds; or to let their minds wander in the odd peace and vibrancy of this suggestive mound.

So with this written map to guide me off the family went in search of the “Mound” of Verbeia; the perfect way to spend your aniversary weekend.

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© Vicky Newton

It proved relatively easy to find the waterfall using Google Earth, and it is relatively close to a road, however seeing it on a screen is not the same as seeing with your own eyes. Once there in person the suggestive natute of the waterfall was quite obvious. The falls have cut back into the moors leaving verdant legs of land on either side and although water levels were moderate on our visit the presence and height of stepping stones indicates how forceful the flow can be.

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© Vicky Newton

The imagery of the gushing waterfall becomes stronger as you ascend all three falls…

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© Vicky Newton

… untill rising up behind the top most waterfall the mound itself appears.

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© Vicky Newton

Around the mound flow two branches of the stream and I whole heartedly agree with the author of The Altar Stones of Ilkley that the presence and joining of the two streams strongly echos the altars to Verbeia where the tails of the snakes merge in a very suggestive location.

The similarly between the land and altar stone becomes even stronger as you are walking the contours of the mound itself. The mound itself is wooded, though not so densley that traversing it is impossible but sufficiently so that arieal views of the area does not reveal the contours and content of the mound.

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© Vicky Newton

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© Vicky Newton

The further we walked the greater the impression we were walking along the prone body of a recumbent goddess.

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© Vicky Newton

Emerging from the trees and back out on to the Moors the course of the two streams can be seen, emerging from between two hills  before parting to caress the mount.

I am inclined to agree with GT Oakley that it is this striking waterfall and mound, which would have been visible from the formative Iron Age and Romano-British settlements around modern day Ilkley, that inspired the occupants of the Fort to conflate their Goddess with the genius loci of the area. The fact that the feature consists of a single streem which gives way to the mound makes the location, to me, seem more significant.

The sense of identity is palpable, and even with two kids dashing around it was possible to feel the Goddess beneath my feet and I strongly wanted to recognise Her. I had taken a candle and matches with me and a perfect flat stone with carving, henceforth known as the Altar Stone, would have served as a safe setting to light them on however it was just too windy to get them to stay lit.

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© Vicky Newton

Instead the girls and I arranged things found in nature around the carving before leaving a food offering in a discreet location.

The whole visit was very inspiring and I don’t think the only reason the girls want to go back is for a water(fall)side picnic.  I would like to visit at a more liminal time of day/year with more time and ‘equipment’ in order to perform something more in the area. Unfortunately the area is well frequented, with  evidence of beer cans, pop bottles and of fires having been burned in shallow pits excavated under various bolders scattered around the mound. A few days after our visit a large moor fire broke out in the area immediately in the vacinity of White Wells and at time of posting I am not sure of how affected the mound has been, driving home the need to be careful with fire when out in nature. We even found a wooden angel/chetub nailed to a tree!

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© Vicky Newton

Even if we are unable to go bavk and perform actual ritual we will be going back later in the year to review the damage and perform a litter pick and honour the Lady Verbeia in some small way.

Mistress of the sacred falls
Holy Verbeia, I name you.

Secret Goddess of the Moorland craggs, you hold the secrets of this land of ours, singing it’s tale in falling waters.

Cold waters caress your form, serpents coiling through the land to carve the unwilling bolder, hill and dale. Whirling, bending, the flow of your dance is the beat of the land.

May your waters be ever clear and flowing, dear Goddess of the twisting falls; Lady Verbeia forgotten Goddess of the Land.

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About knotmagick

Weaving Magick and Crochet in the madhouse I call home. I am a devotee of Hekate and a follower of Pan.
This entry was posted in Ancestors, Archaeology, History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Courting Verbeia

  1. larkfall says:

    VIcky, thanks for this post – I’ve been a fan of Gyrus (GT Oakley) for some time, but hadn’t read that article on Brigantesnation! I think Gyrus’ work brilliantly enchants the landscape – whether ‘true’ or not, it intuits place and myth in such a striking way one can’t help but identify the mythic truth of it once one experiences the place.

    The site where you visited – Willy Hall’s Wood – is very special for me, too. I recorded a lot of music on Ilkley moor between 2002-2008, very much under the spell of Gyrus, and the music was more often used as a way into altered states of consciousness, and then later ‘worked’ into more coherent experimental forms as a way of further developing the images that arose during my improvisations. Here’s a piece that started as an improvisation in the same wood – https://xetb.bandcamp.com/track/grotto-grove-and-shrine – during my improvisation I found myself ‘sinking’ as my consciousness began to shift. Post-playing, this began to strengthen, and as I lay in the wood, I was siezed by the strong sense of entering an underworld domain, which was unexpectedly striking in its sense of warmth, homecoming and comfort (reflected at 4’40” in the resulting piece). However, the strange thing is that, even though it was a striking event, I’d not actually made the association between the underworld and the ‘mound’ that I was evidently sat on! And of course, the mound/recumbent goddess idea makes all the other feelings I experienced fall into place!

    • knotmagick says:

      Larkfall, thank you for your comments, I’ve just listened to your track and was immediately drawn back to the mound (something I will explore later).

      The underworld connection came to me by various pieces of conscious thought coming together; the serpents, pre-historic attitudes towards water and the fact that the stream flows underground briefly as it passes under the footpath before plunging again and as it passes under the town before joining the Wharf. Although these are modern modifications the were enough to spark the connection in my mind as I visited.

      I’m glad you found this post relevant yo your own experience of Verbeia.

  2. Gyrus says:

    Lovely description & photos, and great to hear my little explorations are still finding resonance with someone. I’d forgotten about that article I wrote. I tried to sum up all the research I did here: http://dreamflesh.com/projects/verbeia/research/ Let me know if you find anything to correct / add.

    • knotmagick says:

      Thank you for reading my post Gyrus. The only thing I took away from the location that I didn’t find in your work was achthonic connection. The sensation of being drawn downward was very strong for me though could only be considered UPG given what we know if Verbeia.

      • Gyrus says:

        Interesting. I think the church still misidentifies the altar carving as Demeter, which could – in a false-but-true lead kind of way! – lead to Persephone. Everything about Verbeia led me upwards (the Swastika Stone and the pole star, not to mention the hilltop beacon fires). But then water wants nothing but to go downward…

      • knotmagick says:

        I think I missed that. Demeter has her own chthonic connections, as does Persephone and both in turn lead to Hekate (I can bring pretty much anything back to Her 😉 ). It was the waters that drew me below, along with the pre-historic associations with water as a liminal medium/place. It is possible for a deity to look to more than one realm and, thinking about it now, Verbeia holds two snakes. Perhaps they are symbolic of two spheres of influence as well as representing the two streams.

  3. Pingback: Pagan Parenting – Ages 5 to 8 | Knot Magick

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