Welcome to Soundings! The blogsite of Caitlín Matthews.

Exploring Myth, Divination and the Western Mysteries.

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Sunday 10 November 2013


This year John and I celebrate our 28th annual December gathering at Hawkwood College, which has become our midwinter mystery school, open to anyone who wishes to deepen their experience.  Hawkwood College is a gracious Cotswold house in the limestone hills above Stroud in Gloucestershire. It has been an adult college since 1948.  With its own grounds, mature trees, and a spring, it has a wonderful atmosphere, with comfortable rooms and nourishing food. It is our second home and the place of gathering for many of our friends and students because it has been the venue for an eclectic mystery school over many years.

Hawkwood College 
Every midwinter here we present a different topic on a never to be repeated weekend, so it becomes a unique experience for everyone.  We do this every year, honouring a trust that passed to us in 1985 by Gareth Knight. 

Gareth Knight

From the late 1970s onwards, the writer and ceremonial magician, Gareth Knight, held open magical weekends at Hawkwood College for anyone to attend. Looking at these events from the perspective of 2013, it may not seem like a big deal, but back in the 1970s, any rituals were generally performed in private and only among the initiated.  Ritual work creates a container where the spirit of these mysteries is focused and then mediated out:  normally performed by people who have trained in the mysteries, rituals that were open to all attenders at these early courses offered everyone a chance to encounter the spiritual heart of the Western mysteries. Gareth Knight explored many aspects of the mysteries, including the work of Dion Fortune and Charles Williams,  Atlantis, Alchemy and the Rosicrucian mysteries. Just as the Rosicrucian Manifesto specified that members meet together once a year, rather like the knights at Camelot, so too it has been the tradition for those who are on the path of the Western Mysteries gather here.  So it was that Hawkwood College became a beacon that, like the hermit’s lantern, shines so that others can follow their spiritual path.

                                                R.J.Stewart & John Matthews c.1980

These early weekends were a proving ground for many notable magical teachers,  including R.J.Stewart whom Gareth invited to share his foundational work for the first time in public.  No-one who was present at R.J.’s Underworld Initiation would ever forget the sound of his unique 80 string psaltery.  Friendships that we made at Hawkwood continue to this day, making us colleagues in the Great Work with many wonderful teachers, singers and artists.  In 1985, Gareth handed over his December weekend over to us to continue the work, which we have striven to do: keeping an open mystery school for anyone to attend, as well as working at a deeper level with the myths and mysteries of the land.   We have explored both the hermetic and earth traditions, opening doors and exploring pathways that lead to the threshold of the mysteries and beyond. 

Left: Brian & Wendy Froud, who joined us for Within the Hollow Hills in 2004.

Below: Caitlín & John Matthews with Rev. Mark Townsend at the well after the gnostic ritual that concluded Jesus and Myth, 2011.

We have been very fortunate in our special guests who have helped us, including Brian and Wendy Froud,  Professors Ari Berk & Ronald Hutton, Philip Carr-Gomm, Marian Green, Mark Townsend, and this year, actor and tarot-creator, Mark Ryan, who will bring his own woodland skills with bow and tarot to Hawkwood. 
Mark Ryan

This December we will be exploring the different traditions of tarot – how it is read, what wisdom it has to reveal to us, how we carry the flame of its mysteries onward -  from the perspectives of the court, the temple and the wildwood, with lots of opportunities to play with your tarot cards.  Tarot has survived in all these ways and places as gaming cards, oracle and window for meditation.  It is an evolving living tradition that many practice. The images below are from the Wildwood Tarot by Mark Ryan, John Matthews & art by Will Worthington, but we will be working through the medium of whatever tarot you bring along.

The Hooded Man 

                        The Wanderer 
The Seer

The underlying purpose of our Tarot Landscapes weekend is to acknowledge that everyone who uses tarot keeps alight the lamp of the Hermit, pursuing as seeker the path of the Fool in order to arrive at the unlocking of wisdom that the High Priestess offers. Each of the 22 figures of the tarot is a living archetype who invites us to look through the window to otherworlds. Whichever tarot you use, you will find their wisdom.

What happens at our Hawkwood weekends?  After dinner on arrival, there is an opening ceremony and introduction, where we set the scene and get to know each other. Then on Saturday, we  teach the chosen topic, with lots of interaction and dialogue, practical implement of our divination skills, as well as touching base with the underlying principles of tarot.  Saturday is the day where we assemble what needs to be mediated on Sunday, but before that, on Saturday night, we have a ceilidh where everyone who wishes to takes a turn to sing, read, recite or perform around the fire, while refreshments are served. On Sunday, we conclude our work by a group ritual in which everyone takes part: it is especially written for the course and never repeated. This year we are walking the Paths of the Wildwood where the cards will give their own oracles and where everyone will have a chance to mediate what they have gained in the ritual to both the seen and unseen world.
Card from Christmas Stories Storyworld
You are very welcome to join myself, John and Mark for this special midwinter gathering for an unforgettable weekend.  No special skills are needed: it is open to all people who enjoy the tarot.The atmosphere is friendly, relaxed and celebratory, since it is so near midwinter, where many people come to reconnect with their spiritual family, the Company of Hawkwood.  Please bring at least one tarot pack, an optional robe/garment for the ritual, and some nibbles & drinks to share at the ceilidh. 

Tarot Landscapes: Court, Temple and Wildwood,  runs from  6.30pm on Friday 13 December - 1pm on 15  December.

BOOKING: Please send your non-returnable deposit of £90 payable to Hawkwood College, Painswick Old Rd., Stroud, Glos GL6 7QW (01453 759034)  or info@hawkwoodcollege.co.uk  quoting course  491. http://www.hawkwoodcollege.co.uk/courses/tarot-landscapes-december

SHARED £270, SINGLE £300, NON-RES £225. Fees include fees, handouts, ritual and full accommodation. Note that single rooms are limited and that most rooms accommodate 2 people sharing.  Please send your non-returnable deposit of £90 payable to Hawkwood College, Painswick Old Rd., Stroud, Glos GL6 7QW (01453 759034) quoting course Tarot Landscapes. Enclose an SAE for map & confirmation.  Stroud is on a mainline train station, and the college only 5 mins drive from the station.