Neil Mach

Author – Fantasy Realism

magical English landscape artwork Neil Mach

You’ll know, if you’re a regular visitor to the Myth & Magic show, that I regularly state that as an English author, I am blessed to live in a “real life” fairy land.

For example, I remind you that we, the people of this ancient kingdom, are “subjects” and not really citizens like (perhaps) you might be; our thousand year-old government, the military,  the courts, and all our institutions take their power from a true queen who lives in a fairy-tale castle.

fairytale castle, Windsor

Near her castle (close to where I live, on the Devil’s Highway along a supernatural river, in which a water deity resides) there is a “real-life” Hogwarts-type boarding school where boy pupils (all boys) dress in tailcoats and belong to ancient “houses.” One day these little guys (see below) will become ministers, kings, and emperors of their own kingdoms, but for now these guys take lessons in medieval hallways that are clustered around a chapel that houses various magical items, including fragments of the Crown of Thorns.

And literally here in my hometown, canny visitors will find a 2,500-year-old shamanic sacred tree that offers pilgrims a place of interaction between our own and the spirit world through altered states of consciousness!

Eton College - the "real" Hogwarts?

Yes, my English fairy-tale landscape is littered with dream wonderland castles (at least 4,000 castles in England alone, though there are so many, no one is altogether sure how many in total) and another 1,000 stone circles (a conservative estimate) and these circles date back five thousand years. Besides the many castles and stone circles, there are countless burial mounds and earthworks. My opinion is that this landscape has inspired storytellers and myth-makers across countless generations. I believe the realm in which he or she lives emotionally awakens an author’s mood, context, and mental imagery.

Arthur's Stone, Herefordshire

So it’s great to bring news this week from a recent archaeological report about a mysterious ancient monument known as “Arthur’s Stone”.

This week the monument has been re-dated because it appears to be older — quite a lot older — than our most famous English prehistoric site, Stonehenge. Now, after much study, it’s accepted that “Arthur’s Stone” is part of a much large, monumental, ceremonial landscape that existed in England almost six thousand years ago! 

I other words, this scenery was ornamented & adorned by humans before the prehistoric attention-getting milestones of the invention of the wheel, the use of mummification, the beginnings of any writing system, before Troy was founded, before Sumerians established a city and before Aboriginal Australians completed their first-ever engravings.

According to the journal Live Science, Arthur’s Stone (above) found in Herefordshire (near Hay-On-Wye, where the world famous book festival takes place) is a chambered tomb, or Dolmen (a single chambered tomb) that was formerly thought to be as old as Stonehenge but new archaeology suggests it is older! It means that the area of ​​England we know as rural Herefordshire, just east of the River Wye, a land that’s set between the Kingdom of England and the Principality of Wales, was once an area of ​​great if not significant spiritual importance to the Stone Age people of these lands, perhaps all of Europe! It was possibly more important than the plains of Wiltshire.

The Arthur’s Stone structure gets its name from the legends of King Arthur, who is said to have resisted the Saxon invasion of Britain. You don’t have to be a brilliant mathematician to figure out these stones were actually erected thousands of years before Arthur existed (if, indeed, he ever did!)

Several other historical events took place at this same magical stone, a duel between knights during the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century. And in 1645, during the English Civil War, King Charles dined there with an army. According to the “Mysterious Britain” website, Arthur’s Stone was probably the inspiration for C.S. Lewis‘ “stone table” where Aslan the Lion was sacrificed in the “Narnia” stories.

The Wye Valley

So here’s a mysterious ceremonial landscape, found near Tolkien’s home in Worcestershire, that has inspired mythologies that span millennia, assimilating along the way Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, Roman and Norse symbolism and myths , as well as adding dream landscapes to hundreds more legends and stories.

The norns Urðr, Verðandi, and Skuld beneath the world tree Yggdrasil (1882) by Ludwig Burger

From the tales of Owain Glyndŵr, to King Arthur and his knights, this landscape has nourished creative minds across many centuries, from the oral storytellers and campfire orators of yore, right through to Alfred Tennyson and Phil Rickman (the Merrily Watkins novels), from Barbara Erskine (Lady of Hay) to the poet laureate John Masefield, from famous “ley-line” discoverer Alfred Watkins, to the ingenious mind of Mark Twain, this area has been a magical wellspring of fantasy and dream-thinking.

And what motivated those original architects to build such extraordinary structures here? What enchantments made this land so holy for them; why was this area worthy of religious veneration? Perhaps we may never know!

How has your local landscape influenced you and inspired your writing? Can you boast of (at least) one artistic achievement that is prompted-by or linked to your local natural environment?

Let me know, Tweet me @neilmach

Words: @neilmach August 2021 ©

Any comments?

Neil Mach is the author of “So You Want to Write Fantasy?” and host of the Myth & Magic fantasy writer’s podcast.

Myth & Magic is available on all podcast services

Apple: https://tinyurl.com/y9ae6fyh
Google: https://tinyurl.com/ya7qhzz8

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