Monday 11 November 2013

Caitlin Matthews | Keeping The Hermit's Lantern Shining at Hawkwood

Hawkwood College
This year John and I celebrate our 28th annual December gathering at Hawkwood College, which has become our midwinter mystery school, open to anyone who wishes to deepen their experience. Hawkwood College is a gracious Cotswold house in the limestone hills above Stroud in Gloucestershire. It has been an adult college since 1948. With its own grounds, mature trees, and a spring, it has a wonderful atmosphere, with comfortable rooms and nourishing food. It is our second home and the place of gathering for many of our friends and students.

Hawkwood's ancient sycamore

 Every midwinter here we present a different topic on a never to be repeated weekend, so it becomes a unique experience for everyone. We do this every year, honouring a trust that passed to us in 1985 by Gareth Knight, our teacher.

Gareth Knight

From the late 1970s onwards, the writer and ceremonial magician, Gareth Knight, held open magical weekends at Hawkwood College for anyone to attend. Looking at these events from the perspective of 2013, it may not seem like a big deal, but back in the 1970s, any rituals were generally performed in private and only amongst the initiated. Gareth offered everyone a chance to encounter the spiritual heart of the Western mysteries. So it was that Hawkwood College became a beacon that, like the hermit’s lantern, shines so that others can follow their spiritual path.

R J Stewart and John Matthews c. 1980

These early weekends were a proving ground for many magical teachers, including R.J.Stewart whom Gareth invited to share his foundational work for the first time in public. No-one who was present at R.J.’s Underworld Initiation would forget the sound of his unique 80 string psaltery. Friendships that we made at Hawkwood continue to this day, making us colleagues in the Great Work with many wonderful teachers, singers and artists. In 1985, Gareth handed over his December weekend over to us to continue the work, which we have striven to do: keeping an open mystery school for anyone to attend, as well as working at a deeper level with the myths and mysteries of the land.

Brian and Wendy Froud
Within the Hollow Hills course 2004

We have been very fortunate in our special guests who have helped us, including Brian and Wendy Froud, Professors Ari Berk & Ronald Hutton, Philip Carr-Gomm, Marian Green and, this year, Mark Ryan, who will bring his own woodland skills with bow and tarot to Hawkwood.

When considering what we would teach this year, we thought it was time that we looked at the tarot. So this December we will be exploring the different traditions of tarot – how it is read, what wisdom it has to reveal to us, how we carry the flame of its mysteries onward - from the perspectives of the court, the temple and the wildwood, with lots of opportunities to play with your tarot cards. Tarot has survived in all these ways and places: as gaming cards, oracle and window for meditation.

The underlying purpose of the Tarot Landscapes weekend is to acknowledge that everyone who uses tarot keeps alight the lamp of the Hermit, pursuing as seeker the path of the Fool in order to arrive at the unlocking of wisdom that the High Priestess offers. Each of the 22 figures of the tarot is a living archetype who invites us to look through the window to other worlds. Whichever tarot you use, you will find their wisdom.

What happens at our Hawkwood weekends? After dinner on arrival, there is an opening ceremony and introduction, where we set the scene and get to know each other. Then on Saturday, we and our guests teach the chosen topic, with lots of interaction and dialogue, practical implement of our divination skills, as well as touching base with the underlying principles of tarot. On Saturday night, we have a ceilidh where everyone who wishes to takes a turn to sing, read, recite or perform around the fire, while refreshments are served. On Sunday, we conclude our work by a group ritual in which everyone takes part: it is especially written for the course and never repeated. This year we are walking the Paths of the Wildwood where the cards will give their own oracles. The atmosphere is intimate, relaxed and celebratory, since it is so near midwinter, where many people come to reconnect with their spiritual family, the Company of Hawkwood.

John and Caitlin Matthews
You are very welcome to join myself, John and Mark for this special midwinter gathering for an unforgettable weekend. No special skills are needed: it is open to all people who enjoy the tarot. Please bring at least one tarot pack, an optional robe/nice garment for the ritual, and some nibbles and drinks to share at the ceilidh.
Tarot Landscapes runs from 6.30pm on Friday 13th December to 1pm on 15th December.
BOOKING: Please send your non-returnable deposit of £90 payable to Hawkwood College, Painswick Old Rd., Stroud, Glos GL6 7QW (01453 759034) or quoting course 491. SHARED £270, SINGLE £300, NON-RES £225. Fees include fees and full accommodation.  Note that single rooms are limited and that most rooms accommodate 2 people sharing. Please send your non-returnable deposit of £90 payable to Hawkwood College, Painswick Old Rd., Stroud, Glos GL6 7QW (01453 759034) quoting course Tarot Landscapes. Enclose an SAE for map & confirmation. Stroud is on a mainline train station, and the college only 5 mins drive from the station.


  1. Are there still gatherings like this? Thank you!

    1. Yes there are! You can keep up with Caitlin and John's work via their Hallowquest website, Kath!

  2. I was honoured to attend some of those early hawkwood weekends, and saddened to hear of Gareth Knights passing the other day