Sunday, 14 June 2020

She woke as the ice melted

She woke as the ice melted

memories of the Goddess of the Waters of Buxton

For the first time in many years, Buxton's wells will not be Dressed this summer. In response to this, the group Two Left Hands is promoting an alternative, more distanced set of Garden and Window Dressings, while Stone and Water are adding an alternative Tiny Well Dressing for window ledges

Follow the links above to find out more about all these lovely things to be part of. Within the Tiny Well Dressing activity is a reference to this here is the whole piece. It was written for Buxton Museum and Art Gallery as part of the Collection of the Artists project.

When Buxton was at its "visit to take the waters"  height, there were people who attended the wells, dipping cups into the water for visitors. Memories of the priests who served visitors before even the Romans came and called our town Aquae Arnemetiae (Waters of the Goddess Arnemetia - or Arnemecta)? I always wondered if Arnemecta Herself quietly stayed on, stays on, here among Her Waters, changing shape, changing face, to suit the moment and the needs of the time.



Long skirts rustling on cobbles

A hat tipping, a cane tapping,

The bath-chair creaking,

A wheel squeaks.


Cross my palm with silver, lady,

Cross my palm with copper,

Cross my heart with happiness

And I’ll share this water with you.


The world sighed into warmth,

Old memories waking grass and flowers,

Remembering trees.

The hills relaxed long shoulders as the weight lifted.

And She woke as the ice melted,

As the water

Seeped, dripped, dribbled,

Nibbled itself a hollow,

A bedchamber for a fairytale,

In the darkness under the hills.


Born old, She sits on a limestone shore,

Watching waves that beat no more,

Watching rocks

Drip teeth,

Growing fangs in ancient gums.

Peacock ripples of Blue John

Shifting into the folds and pleats of her gown.


Cross my palm with silver, sir,

Cross my palm with copper,

I’ll dip a cup and offer you

Your good and growing health.


A haggard old woman

In a poke-bonnet cap,

Dipping water in a tin cup.

A chalice,

A Samian bowl,

A Bronze cauldron,

A birch bark beaker, curled, folded, pinned,

Cupped hands,

Will all receive the blessing.


Stone spirit,

Water spirit,

Goddess of the caves,

Healer to the Living,

Midwife to the Dead,

Receiving them back into the life-giving darkness.

Holy hills, and

A holy well.

A Celtic grove,

A Roman temple,

A saint’s bath for

The Mother of the Mother of God.


And then,

Old Martha offers water,

A penny a jug.

Cross my palm with silver, lady,

Cross my palm with copper,

Cross my path with happiness

And I’ll share this water with you.


And now,

Sitting on the Slopes

As the snowdrops ring in the spring

A life in bags around Her on the bench,

Gap-tooth smiling at strangers,

Welcoming anyone, everyone,

To the waters of Her well.


I take no money now, miss,

I take no alms nor offerings,

But waters flow as they have always flowed                      

And blessings run as the water runs

And the Wells bring hope from the dark of the hill.



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