Quaker Theology #9 -- Fall-Winter 2003

Friendly Healing in Frampton and the Forest

Richard Lee

Frampton on Severn was around before William the Conqueror and his Normans conquered England. It is an old village on the edge of the Royal Forest of Dean. Still, no one knows for sure just how old Frampton is. It was in Frampton where my Olí Gran taught me the Old Ways and the traditions and ways of the Forest. She also taught me a lot about Healing and the history and traditions of the Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers.

In our family tradition, from the Forest, there is a special number, which is thirteen. At Friends General Conference, annual Gathering 1999; I had a chat with some Guatemalans. In their forest, the special number is 13 as well. They were part of a group which spoke to the Gathering on the significance of the Mayan Calendar. The number 13 has special significance to this ancient calendar. The gender of this number is female in both forest cultures. There are some other similarities that I will tell you about later. Strange how there can be similarities in indigenous cultures around the world.

The Forest of DeanĖThe village of Cinderford is just to the right of "OF". The Severn River forms its border on the right; the town of Frampton is near its sharp U-shaped turn, or "hook."

In Frampton, there is a house that is well into its second millennium as the Christian calendar goes. It looks its age. It is more like a cave than a house. This house is called "The Old Thatch." It is cut out of time. You know that it has severed the bonds of time as soon as you see it. Our family tradition ties into the process of removing time as a barrier for existence and for faith. One goes into the space where time ceases to exist. It is sort of the space between moments. You can walk in the Light of the Holy Spirit there.

The Old Thatch is as close to being at one with the earth as any dwelling on the planet; it melts right into the ground. It hasnít a straight line or even part anywhere. The space is all scrunched up.

 

The Old Thatch is as close to being at one with the earth as any dwelling on the planet; it melts right into the ground. It hasnít a straight line or even part anywhere. The space is all scrunched up. The doors were built for the shorter folks who lived back when the world was younger. It is a house which is hard for us more recent folks to get into and to get out of. To really see it properly, you have to "Ken" which means to look at it with a Spiritual vision that focuses on what often appears to science, to be peripheral realities. This is where the Inner Teacher, the Seed of Christ resides.

Those who live in The Old Thatch and in Frampton in general, make do with the various odd quirks. Folks donít appear to be too eager to leave either place any time soon. It is a good healthy place that acts like it expects to be around for awhile longer yet. There is healing energy in its midst and it has a loving soul. Healing happens more readily in a space cut out of time and healing is attracted to a loving soul wherever it resides.

My Olí Gran lived the majority of her adult life as part of a small Quaker enclave in Cinderford, which is more or less in the center of the Forest of Dean. When I spent time with her she was living in Frampton and we made day trips to Cinderford. For most of my youth, I addressed letters to: Jubilee House, The Street, Frampton on Severn, England. I always wondered what it was like there. Over the years, I came up with all kinds of Jubilee sorts of houses. Some of the houses were quite grand, some were small, but all were uniquely different from houses in my hometown in rural Michigan.

When I finally went there in my late teens, Jubilee House was even more magical and mysterious than I had ever imagined it to be. It too, like The Old Thatch, had managed to sever some of the bonds that tie us down and keep us in our place. Jubilee House looked like it was half of the time, somewhere else. It could have been hanging out at the ocean side or in the exact middle of the Royal Forest. It just didnít seem to be all there at any given time. It was definitely having fun, wherever it was. It was just possible that it was off "Kenning" in some mysterious way of its own. Kenning as part of the Old Ways involves the intense stretching of oneís senses to discern Godís Holy Spirit or, its absence. The belief that God is fully everywhere, and in equal doses at all times, is not a belief of the Old Ways. Although it is true that Godís energy is everywhere, sometimes it is only a faint echo.

When I first got a glimpse of it, Jubilee House was covered in blooming flowers of all sorts. There were lots and lots of crimson roses climbing up trellises. There were also several special nooks formed by the growth of older lush plants. Perhaps, because Jubilee House might have been in more than one place, at any given time, it was hard for me to look it straight in the eye, so to speak. It was more than it seemed to be and you had to use your Kenning knack to see what was what. All of the plants everywhere, both outside and in, made the house look like it too was growing and alive. We donít have any places like that in Michigan that Iíve been able to discover; although we have some lovely orchards.

Granís theory was to let a plant grow mostly where it wanted to grow. She was not very big on intervention in terms of pruning. Her plants had personalities, likes and dislikes. Her idea was to give the plant what it liked. Gran would rather encourage it to grow where it already wanted to grow, and to then see what happened. She didnít like forcing it to grow or forcing it not to grow, as the case may be. Her most beautiful plants were like that and you learned to go with the flow, so to speak, when residing at Jubilee House. This was part of the ancient ways in which I was trained. Healing is to discern what, if anything, one is led to do as an intervention. Sometimes the intervention is more psychological or spiritual than it is physical, (physical, in the sense of the use of herbs or whatever). Granís specialty was in healing plants; which was a challenge she said, because what plants spoke was always faint.

Her plants were her friends and allies; they helped her to do her work in life. Nowadays, we are beginning to see herbs as our friends and allies. We could expand that to include other plants as well. A plant can be a friend and yet not be healthy to consume. Some plants can do energy work; or provide protection, companionship, or solace. The Guatemalans were big in seeing Forest plants as allies as well. Sometimes plants can heal, sometimes they can foretell future tendencies in the natural realm as well as in the realm of human affairs.

Gran believed that you just donít violently attack your friends and allies, no matter how much better you might think that they would be if they had a major overhaul. Work with nature and work with energy, not against either one, was her rule. Always, you had to Ken just what, if anything, you needed to do. The Friends, Quakers, call this "Expectant Waiting" or, in some cases, "Way will open." Gran said that Quakers excelled at this type of Kenning. Friends acted out of unity and from the Holy Spirit producing that unity. For Quakers, Kenning is therefore, corporate and is called a Gathered Meeting, a meeting for worship where the Holy Spirit is so strong that it is palpable.

Jubilee House never looked quite the same way twice. It was always growing, evolving, and shifting. It was 500 years old, and the light always glimmered around it. It did what it did, just so, in order to help Gran in her Quaker healing work. There were such beautiful smells from those blooming plants. Out back, the smell of Rosemary could be so strong and clear at times, that it almost made me swoon. Jubilee House was an unusual and, at times, an overwhelming place. Yet it was old, and, friendly; with a secret celebration all of its own going on. Plus, it was in Frampton; and the village naturally aided the house in its Jubilee work. Often, the Friends stopped by, and sometimes they came over for "Healing Prayer" which also had its element of celebration. I now offer Healing Prayer to Quakers in the U.S. who want to know of our traditional way of Healing. The Holy Spirit moves mightily in our worship as it did when George Fox, James Nayler and Isaac and Mary Penington were healing folks.

My Gran said that James Nayler was a more successful and powerful healer than was George Fox. She said that George was jealous of Jamesí gift and that at one point George even made James kiss Georgeís foot. Gran was the first Friend to tell me about George Foxís Book of Miracles and what the Foresters thought about it. She said that George wrote the book, in part, to make himself look better than James. Gran said that James could bring back the dead and George couldnít do that. Nonetheless, George was a really good and great Quaker, but he was human like the rest of us. James, on the other hand, so listened to the Holy Spirit that often he didnít know where he was going or what he was doing from moment to the next. The Spirit led him and he followed. James Nayler walked in the Light a lot, but he was human, too. For the Foresters, folks were folks.

Outback of Jubilee House, near the large Rosemary bush, was the herb garden. Faeries actually lived in this garden. They especially liked the Rosemary for a home, Foxglove as well. They werenít visiting or just there now and then; this was where they lived and resided. I never saw them myself. When I visited my Gran during my 20's, I had received a Bachelorís degree. At the University, I had been taught not to believe in such stuff as Faeries anymore.

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