Reikiheidi and I are very fortunate to live in Norwich, it is a wonderful city and positively seething with history, much of which can still be seen in the architecture and place names. I regret that I take it somewhat for granted and don’t know nearly as much of our local history as I would like. Many waves of history have left their mark on the area, but there is one time period in the history of Norwich which holds a fascination for both reikiheidi and myself.
At the time of the Roman conquests of Britain the Iceni tribe inhabited an area roughly corresponding with the modern county of Norfolk. The ancient capital of the Iceni Venta Icenorum (meaning ‘Marketplace of the Iceni’) lies close to Norwich, in the village of Caistor St Edmund. It has long been my intention to visit the place, and being free of the children this Tuesday reikiheidi and I did just that.
Our reason for the visit was primarily to make a small pilgrimage to connect with our ancestors, those people who walked the land we call our home before us, fellow pagans and a people whose culture has provided inspiration for the way we personally relate to the divine.
Neither reikiheidi or I hold much affection the culture and history of the Romans and tend to view them as being responsible for the destruction of much of Britain’s indigenous religions, traditions and mythology, although I concede this may be somewhat inaccurate and unfair. As such, to me Venta Icenorum represents a sad chapter of our history, more so because this land was once the home of a personal heroine of mine.
Boudica the queen of the Iceni is remembered for instigating and leading perhaps the most ferocious British rebellion against Roman rule. In AD 61 after her public beating and the rape of her daughters Boudica incited and led her own people and neighbouring tribes in a rebellion which led to the sacking of the Roman towns of Colchester, London and St Albans and the destruction of a Roman Legion, before her eventual defeat and massacre of tens of thousands of her followers.
In view of these events and my feelings about them I had expected the place to have a solemn, melancholy atmosphere, and was surprised to find that despite the bitter cold, the bare trees and ruined walls the place emanated a sense of vibrancy even cheerfulness. The wounds I had expected to encounter had healed and life had long ago moved on.
As soon as reikiheidi and I entered the gate to the place, we heard the crying of an animal and to our astonishment saw a weasel attacking a rabbit not 30 feet away from us. The rabbit struggled free from its attacker and ran towards us before stopping and huddling in the grass in front of us. The weasel sat watching the scene a little further away. I slowly moved towards the rabbit to see if it was injured. It lay still until I got close then bolted away into a burrow apparently unhurt. The most curious thing about this event is that I was half expecting we would see rabbits or hares, Boudica was reputed to have released a hare from her dress as a method of divination, with augury being determined by the direction of the hare’s flight. Hare’s are rare in the UK today, I have yet to see one, was this a sign from Boudica? If there is a divinatory or symbolic meaning to this event I am unsure of its interpretation.
At the south-west corner of the walls we found a hollowed tree stump nestled below a Hawthorne tree, this seemed to be the perfect place to make our offering to the ancestors. We lit an incense stick and buried a coin in the ground at the heart of the tree stump, thanked those who came before us for their gifts, sacrifices and contributions and assured them they were not forgotten.
At the far west end of the site is the Tar, a beautiful little river narrow, clear and fast running. Here we made an offering (of catkins! – the only thing to hand) to the Goddess and Horned God in thanks for nature’s bounty.
We spent the next two hours exploring the ruins and a church built within the ancient walls, before returning home grounded, calmed and at peace. I feel we succeeded in our aim of touching both the past and land, closing the distance both spiritual and emotional with our ancestors and bringing something of that beautiful place into our hearts and minds. If the very land itself has memory then it is worth listening to what it has to teach.
Blessings be )O(