Gaye Mack’s Blog


Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Balance, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Karmic and Self-Discovery Astrology, Writer's Work Leave a comment

For this posting, I’ve asked Simon Bentley, Principal of the White Eagle Lodge’s School of Astrology (based in England), to be a guest.  He has kindly given permission to post his piece, ‘Life, the Transformer’, giving us a perspective on soul growth and how the sacred science of astrology can assist each of us on our journey.  Many thanks, Simon!

 I wonder if we have ever stopped to think what the word [transform] actually means? Literally, the prefix ‘trans’ means ‘across’, so that ‘transformation’ comes to mean ‘moving across to another form’, and so, changing form. If we aren’t careful, we use this word very glibly, but looked at from a spiritual perspective it is a word of crucial importance, since we are constantly attempting to transform ourselves, change into a form suited to our current position on the spiritual path.

Eventually, we shall all learn to transform continuously, but until we reach such a point of evolution it tends to happen in fits and starts and is not always welcomed…Astrologers recognize that Pluto, despite the fact that astronomers ‘demoted’ it in recent years, is the planet that symbolizes this factor in our growth, and when it’s particularly strong in a horoscope one can be sure that there are significant transformational processes going on in the life.

At this time, Pluto tends to be manifesting in terms of those occurrences and changes in life that seem completely fated, over which we appear to have no control.  The ‘fits and starts’ mentioned above tend to bring to light some kind of major change, the closing of one chapter and the beginning of another, closely linked with Pluto’s action.   However, bearing in mind that every life, every incarnation of every soul, is part of the grand transformational process that eventually brings us to divinity, the significance of the word ‘transformation’ means far more in astrology than simply a reference to what Pluto may do. The whole of life is in some way transformational, and so it could be said that astrology is a science that illuminates the transformational process we call ‘life’. Astrologers are often called upon for advice when there are crises in life, turning points – moments of transformation, if you will.

 Astrology can help the soul to understand the process and therefore to be less apprehensive about it and to handle it more harmoniously. Most of life’s problems, as well as often being the inevitable outworking of karmic patterns, are brought about by our tendency to resist this process: astrology, by at least attempting to explain it, helps to remove our all too natural tendency to resist.  This raises an interesting point, especially for astrologers themselves.

It has always been considered that the planet of our science is Uranus, and I would not dispute that astrology is a Uranian occupation, revealing, as it does, spiritual truth and the action of the divine will in human life. However, if astrology is also an assistant to transformation, surely it is also Plutonic? Personally I have often suspected as much, and what I have found is that while astrology is undoubtedly Uranian, Pluto is commonly very active in the horoscopes of those who become professional astrologers.

As professionals they are called upon to help others to cooperate actively with the transformational process in their lives. But there are also implications for the astrologers themselves, and the origin of their vocation. They too are undergoing transformations in their own personal lives, and what they see and experience through their clients is part of their process as well.

 The use of the wonderful tool we call astrology is always, therefore, a two-way experience; if properly accomplished it’s that classic win-win situation which we all like to achieve! The client is better enabled to cope with his or her transformation; the astrologer is transformed to a degree simply by doing the job and thus learning from the client. So we could say that astrology itself can be – and hopefully is – used to hasten this process and thus speed up evolution, both individually and, through that, of the whole world.


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Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Worth the Read, Writer's Work 3 Comments

Several archaeological projects with the potential of revealing answers to some of England’s medieval mysteries have  been in the news and are worth mentioning here for my fellow medieval history buffs and writers. 

Earlier this fall I posted a piece on medieval mortuary chests and the project I witnessed that’s underway in Winchester Cathedral.  As I posted, this project is focusing on assigning  specific identities to the bones of Wessex’s early monarchs and bishops; remains that were carelessly ‘dumped’ into assorted chests by Oliver Cromwell’s troops. No easy feat for present day archaeological detectives!

 As this project proceeds, up north in Leicester a major ‘accidental’ discovery hit the news just as I was returning from England in mid September.  In late August, while working on a dig under a city car park, workers discovered skeletal remains with spinal abnormalities and a “cleaved-in skull.” Archaeological authorities called in from Leicester University ‘suggest’  these remains could be those of King Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet kings, who died in 1485 during the battle of Bosworth, England’s last of significance, in its ‘War of the Roses’. 

 Prior to his demise at Bosworth, Richard’s climb to the throne is a story full of complexities, family rivalries, evil doings and political maneuverings, not the least of which are suspicions that he ordered the murder of his two young nephews in the Tower, thus eliminating any rival claims to the throne.

 As a defeated enemy of Henry Tudor, founder of the Tudor dynasty, Richard was given a low-key burial in the Franciscan friary of Greyfriars.  Although demolished in the 1530’s, there’s evidence that his burial site survived.  If DNA testing against descendants of Richard’s family confirm the current archaeological theories, this would be a remarkable discovery.  Additional  controversy has also surfaced regarding a suitable burial place for the remains, should they be Richard’s.  Earlier this week after various news reports concerning this issue,  it was revealed that should speculations be confirmed, Richard’s remains would be interred in Leicester’s cathedral…but that was this week.  We shall see.

 And, although not as recent as the discoveries in Winchester and Leicester, there’s more.  In 2005 the London press reported that along with the discovery of  13th and 14th century royal tombs,  work using radar in London’s Westminster Cathedral, pinpointed the original tomb of King Edward the Confessor,  one of the most revered of British saints and one of the last Saxon kings, who died months before the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Until this discovery it was assumed that Edward’s tomb was placed near Westminster’s current high altar as implied in medieval records.  However, further research revealed this was not the case.  In 1269, King Henry III had  a shrine built to honor and contain Edward’s remains.  He also had the altar moved and with it, Edward’s tomb which he had placed it under the shrine.  Today, the shrine rests approximately ten feet behind the  present high altar.   Edward as a king does not hold a high place in history as some of his more famous peers, but nevertheless, his presence has endured.  Although made long after his death, the main royal crown is called St. Edward’s Crown and the Coronation Chair is sometimes called St Edward’s chair.

 His family was of the Wessex dynasty and when his half brother, Hardecanute, died in 1042, Edward was named king. He was then succeeded by Harold, killed in the Battle of Hastings, which then ushered in the reign of William the Conqueror and the Normans.  After Hastings, Edward’s reputation for piety grew…Pope Alexander III canonized him in 1161 and for four hundred years he was considered the patron saint of England until 1415 when this status was replaced by St. George.

 Happily the advent of 21st century technology is allowing us fascinating peeps into the ancient past with the prospect of solving mysteries that have mystified many of us for years!

Inquiring minds want to know:  what is your favorite medieval legend that remains unsolved?  Is it Arthur, the ‘Princes in the Tower’ or perhaps…???


 Floor Plan of Westminster Abbey and Edward the Confessor’s Tomb and Shrine


Recommended historical fiction readings re:  War of the Roses

  • The Kingmaker’s Daughter-Phillipa Gregory
  • A Dangerous Inheritance-Alison Weir





Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Writer's Work 4 Comments

By the fall of 1539, Thomas Cromwell’s  methodical eradication of England’s  abbeys and monasteries  on behalf of King Henry VIII  had well been  underway for a few years.  Beginning with the smaller houses  in 1537, the campaign eventually  found it’s way to Glastonbury, one of the wealthiest abbeys in the country.  The zealous motivations behind this fierce onslaught were complex, no question.  Political posturing, Henry’s break with Rome, the need for a male heir and frankly his desperation to get his hands on cold, hard cash… all of these were at the root.

 Long before his marriage to Anne Boleyn and the brutal execution of Richard Whiting,  Henry’s ability to manage his money was out of control.  He was known to be a lavish spender so much so that by the time he married Anne he’d gone through all of the money left to him by his father, some £1,800,000!  Once he broke with Rome, Henry had all but alienated most of Europe, making his realm a target for wolves on his doorstep.  At the very least, he needed money to supply a military and to keep Anne in the manner to which she’d become accustomed.

 For its part,  the Church was rife with greed and a variety of non-spiritual improprieties that  ran rampant among the religious houses prior to the dissolution.  However, at the end of the day, Henry’s object was to get his hands on salable land and possessions. Since The Great Fire of 1184Glastonbury  had miraculously risen from its ashes like the mythical phoenix. Only the  shrines at Canterbury and Walsingham attracted more pilgrims.  This was a house that despite its own internal disorder between factions of monks, was rich in material goods and property.

 In September of 1539 Richard Layton along with two other of Cromwell’s commissioners made a ‘visit’ to Glastonbury for the purpose of interrogating its abbot, Richard Whiting.  Whiting was an old man by this time and by all accounts had so far gone to great lengths to stay out of trouble by not rocking the ecclesiastical boat regarding Henry’s petition to divorce Katherine of Aragon.   However, when Layton and his colleagues searched Whiting’s study, they discovered a book arguing against the divorce along with various papers considered to be traitorous.  Further interrogation of Whiting proved to be unfruitful as evidently the abbot was stubborn and uncooperative.  As a result he was removed to London’s Tower to await interrogation by Cromwell himself. 

Meanwhile back in Glastonbury, Layton, Thomas Moyle and Richard Pollard thoroughly discharged the abbey’s community and then proceeded with a systematic sweep that revealed hidden wealth in the form of plate, gold and ‘other articles.’  One can only imagine  details of the resulting inventory totaling (not including land and cattle holdings) 11,000 oz in plate plus gold, furniture and £1,100 in money.  Nevertheless, despite Layton and his associate’s discoveries, the myth remains alive to this day that ‘much of the Glastonbury treasure’ including the Holy Grail, escaped Cromwell’s commissioners. 

Whiting was arraigned on November 6th, 1539 resulting in the order,  ‘put to execution.’    At some point he was transferred back to Glastonbury according to Sir John Russell, who was  charged with the abbot’s ‘disposal.’  Details of Whiting’s gruesome execution are fairly well-known. Feeble and ill, the Abbot was dragged on a hurdle to Tor Hill where he was hung, (some resources claim from St. Michael’s tower) drawn, quartered and beheaded.  His four body parts were sent to Wells, Bath, Ilchester and Bridgewater for public display; his head was stuck on Glastonbury’s abbey gate. 

The question remains, was Whiting truly a traitor or was his execution simply vindictive retaliation for his obstinacy and Henry’s need to get his hands on the great abbey’s extensive wealth?  Unfortunately it’s doubtful we’ll ever know as the  records of Whiting’s trial along with Cromwell’s justification for execution have never been found.

 So, what do you think?  Was Whiting’s execution justified or simply an example of  bullying, power that ordered terminal  punishment for defiance?


St. Michael’s Tower-The Tor, Glastonbury

Photography©Gaye F. Mack, Inc.

Relevant books to explore:

  • The Tudors-G.J. Meyer
  • The Last Divine Office-Henry VIII and the Dissolution of the Monasteries-Geoffrey Moorhouse
  • Wolf Hall-Hilary Mantel
  • Bringing up the Bodies-Hilary Mantel

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Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Writer's Work 2 Comments

The latter part of England’s twelfth century saw the increasing emergence of bibles, painstakingly created in the wealthiest of religious houses and cathedrals, certainly keeping everyone busy in the Scriptorium.  Among those that have survived time not to mention the sixteenth century Reformation, there is none more spectacular in its production and preservation than the four volumes of what is known as The Winchester Bible.   The largest of any known twelfth century bibles, Winchester’s masterpiece measures approximately 23 x 15 ¾ inches and contains 468 folios of incredibly smooth-appearing parchment pages.  To the untrained eye, it is so beautifully preserved that it appears to have been created ‘yesterday’ not 900 years ago, making the history of its production even more amazing.

 Recalling one of my previous posts (, ‘illuminating’ the practice of making marginal editorial remarks by restless and bone weary monks beavering away in the Scriptorium, it’s difficult to get one’s mind wrapped around the fact that the complete text of this bible was with a few exceptions, written by a single scribe!   However, whomever this scribe was, he actually was part of what we might term today, a ‘production team’, for his carefully written words needed the prepared parchment,  prepared ink, writing tools, colorful illumination and applied gold…techniques each requiring the specialized skills of various artisans.

It’s estimated that due to the size of the pages, an entire calf skin would have been needed to produce four pages, equaling roughly 250 calves at the end of the day.  Next, the preparation process of the parchment was extensive.  Steps included scraping, lime treatment, stretching, drying and washing before the finished product could be purchased from professional parchment makers.  Keeping in mind that parchment was also in demand for business purposes such as contracts, government charters and books produced by other monasteries and nunneries in Winchester, competitive commercial pricing most likely abounded resulting in extreme expense to the buyer.

Once the parchment was prepared, Jan Bartholomew, one of the Cathedral’s curators with whom I met, explained the process used to ensure that each page presented an identical size and shape of text, the ‘hallmark’ of a well-produced piece.  While certainly another laborious process, the finished product forms a consistent pattern of 54 lines set in two columns within precise margins.   She then explained that the illuminators, the artisans who produced the Rubicons and gold leaf, numbered only about six of traveling artists.  Their skills being in great demand throughout Europe, it’s easy to envision them moving from city to city, country to country.  Barcelona today, Winchester tomorrow…not much has changed in 900 years.

 Although the text itself was finished, it’s believed that the production of the artistry, the illuminations, added an additional span of possibly 15 years or more and at that, this was never finished.   Some 900 years later, there remains no conclusive evidence as to whom actually commissioned the Winchester Bible, although it’s highly thought that it might have been Henry of Blois who was Winchester’s Bishop in 1160 corresponding to the dating of the Bible’s layout and script.  Henry was quite the world traveler for his day and a builder.  After he left the great monastery of Cluny in France where he was brought up, Henry I of England placed him as Abbot of Glastonbury where he undertook a massive building program of this phenomenal abbey until his death in 1171.

 As for certainty that he was in fact, the patron behind the production of the Winchester Bible, like many things from the twelfth century, we’ll just never know.

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Possible tomb of  Henry  of Blois in Winchester Cathedral

Above photography©Gaye F. Mack, Inc.

Pages from the Winchester Bible

The Winchester Bible©1993Claire Donovan


Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Writer's Work Leave a comment

On my recent trip to the UK, I purposely planned to spend unimpeded time in the medieval halls of London’s British Museum.  While I’ve visited the museum on previous trips, I’ve always been with other people preventing the opportunity to ‘wander’ to my heart’s content.  This time I did and was in ‘hog heaven’ as we say in the Midwest.

 So many unexpected delights made up my afternoon that the time spent was even richer than I’d hoped.  For example, months ago I’d planned to take the train north for a day to visit ‘The Staffordshire Hoard’which is on display in Birmingham’s Museum of Art.  However, by the time I actually got to London, I’d changed my planned itinerary so many times that Birmingham was no longer possible.  Little did I realize that I really wasn’t going to miss out due to the fact that the BM houses many, many stunning artifacts from other ‘hoards’ including the famous one discovered at Sutton Hoo. 

 While I could blog pages on all of the wonderful things I saw in just four hours’ time, of particular interest regarding my 12th century historical mysteries, was the museum’s ‘Hands On’ exhibit hall.  In this hall which is extensive, patrons have the opportunity to get ‘up close and personal’ with artifacts covering a myriad of interests, time frames and cultures, with the assistance of museum personnel.  I couldn’t believe they actually allow photography as well!  All I could think was, if I tried to photograph something in Chicago’s Field Museum, I most likely would be severely cautioned to “cease and desist” at the very least!

 In any case, it was in this ‘hall’ that I came across some ‘tools of the trade’ belonging to Queen Elizabeth I’s famous conjurer, Dr. John Dee (1527-1608/09), which according to the museum’s information, were acquired by the ‘antiquary and collector’, Sir Robert Cotton.  Descriptions of those photos which I’ve posted here are as follows…

 “The large wax disc, called the ‘Seal of God’ is engraved with magical names and symbols.  Dee used it as a support for his ‘shew-stones’, in which his medium allegedly saw visions of divine beings unveiling the secrets of the universe.  The two smaller discs (not pictured) are said to have supported Dee’s ‘Table of Practice’.  The golden disc is engraved with the so-called ‘Vision of the Four Castles.’  The black obsidian mirror, originally a Mexican Aztec cult object, was used for conjuring up spirits.”

 Although these ‘wondrous things’ (to quote Lord Carnarvon when he first peeked into Tutankhamen’s tomb) are roughly 400 years after the time frame I write in, one can’t resist being be dazzled when standing in front of them!

Photography©Gaye F. Mack, Inc.