Highgrove’s Goddess of the Woods

24 06 2008

I was lucky enough, this week, to receive an invitation to join a party who had tickets to Highgrove, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall’s private garden. This garden has only been in construction since 1980, but it looks as though it has been there over 100 years.

What I hadn’t fully appreciated, and what was brought home to me by our guide and by the garden itself, is that this intensely spiritual man speaks not about his beliefs; he builds them into his garden.

There are Green Men, leprechauns, sympathies to Nature everywhere. There are sympathies to all religions, if you look hard enough, but the Prince is a supporter of Temenos, an academy and bank of thinkers whose essential ideal is that, at the base of the pyramid, our feelings about God are widely differing; but as we near the apex, we can come to realise that we are all worshipping the same essential God; ‘…consonant with Plato’s view that all branches of knowledge lead to the same eternal truth’.

One garden spoke to me especially; well, it would. You approach it through a shady, cool and waterlogged garden area full of hostas, water, ferns, sculpture, shade and tranquility. Under an oak is an astonishing, photorealist statue of The Goddess of the Wood – who I take to be Hecate. Carved in banded marble, She sits, every hair of Her pubis and head visible, Her scalp worn smooth by the hands of supplicants deliberate or undeliberate; staring at the temple to Her left. Her hands are square and capable; a gardener’s hands.

I loved Her as soon as I saw Her, and I understood that there’s a gradation between the moderate, old-fashioned Christianity practised by people countrywide and the religion that I follow. It doesn’t necessarily have much to do with evangelicalism; but that’s ok. It has a great deal to do with old-fashioned respect, leaving well alone and a caring for the countryside around.

The garden combined nature and culture; earth, air, fire, water and spirit; wilderness and artifice. All together, such a superb, harmonious and whole whole. I remarked to the guide that the man worships through his garden and she didn’t disagree. 

If you can stand beside a tree planted by the hand of the Dalai Lama himself, and see it flourish, if you can stand in a meadow which the experts confidently predict will take 100 years to come to fruition, if you can look at a statue and feel your Goddess calling you, you have stood in a garden that works.

This is real magic.






7 responses

25 06 2008

How beautiful. What a wonderful experience! I hope you were able to take some pictures.

25 06 2008
The Green Witch

I wish I had been able to – but all cameras, phones and recording devices had to be given up at the gate. As we ended our tour standing on TRH’s private terrace, right outside their sitting-room windows, I guess I can understand why!

They let me keep my notebook and I scribbled furiously all the way around.

25 06 2008

I’m perfectly green with envy! It sounds a wonderful place and you describe it so beautifully.

25 06 2008

I thought there might be some rules like that in place. Oh, well. I’ll just have to imagine it! 😀

25 06 2008
The Green Witch

Thank you Mereth, my dear – I’ll be writing more on this!

Foxy – it was just too bad that we couldn’t take pix – I was dying to!

25 06 2008

I remember reading about the Prince’s garden works in Natl Geo a few years back. I was so surprised. Thank god for some responsible journalism.

How lucky you get to go there.

27 06 2008
The Green Witch

I know, beweaver. It was a really life-treat, one of those things that comes out of the blue and means so much! It was actually a little like winning the lottery – no joke. It meant so much to me.

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