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Happy Solstice!

Updated: Sep 27, 2022

We are still working hard in Littlebeck and have barely raised our heads from the keyboard. The kittehs are getting friendlier and cuddlier—a sight we love to see!

Apparently we’ve inspired several people to try house/pet-sitting by now, and we have offered them advice and guidance for getting started. It is a unique lifestyle. If you want to dip your toe in the water, here is a link to the service we’re using, which gives you a discount plus we get a little discount as well, meaning the bonus goes both ways. The link is:

With the Fall solstice it’s gotten rather chilly, and Robin pulled out my electric blanket and set it up for me. (Did I tell you I bought an electric blanket? I was spoiled with one in France and could not resist buying one on Amazon.)

Speaking of buying things, I purchased a new vacuum. We walked into a little shop in downtown Whitby and I spotted a sign outside for a vacuum that was on sale for super cheap—£50! It’s a lightweight rechargeable vacuum that breaks down into a small size (great for transport), so I talked Robin into it (plus the exchange rate right now is becoming more advantageous!).

Many times we’ve done a sit and the homeowner’s vacuum is—well—difficult. With this baby I expect to be running all over the house vacuuming up dust and pet hair, and it won’t kill my back (as other vacuums have done).

Certain items seem to be easier to buy and lug from one sit to the next in order to help us leave the location spotless without relying on the homeowner’s ancient and often clumsy equipment.

This is our second vacuum to buy, as it happens. I bought the first one in France, back when it seemed like I was encountering a stinkbug or two almost every day. I ordered a little car vac to remove them with.

It subsequently became our most-used device (outside our computers), rescuing us from spiders, beetles, moths, and flies—not to mention dust bunnies. We named it “Excalibur,” and often shout to one another: “Where’s Excalibur!?” It’s a running joke, but it’s been a godsend.

Okay, enough about household appliances—let's get back to my usual jam, which is telling you about things I’ve done and places I’ve been!

We visited a church here in the Whitby area, but it wasn’t terribly exciting—and it only dated to the 1800s—so I don’t think it’s worth kvelling over.

Instead, I’ll roll back the clock to our departure after my fantastic birthday celebration in Cornwall, when we rolled up the coast on July 18. This was our last glimpse of St. Michael’s Mount in the distance.

From here we made our way to….. Tintagel!

Of course we’ve been to Tintagel before, and we loved it all—from Merlin’s Cave down on the beach to the exhilarating walk on the hillside overlooking the ocean. What we didn’t love was the precipitous ascent up the side of the cliff to reach the top. It was windy, and felt quite nerve-wracking to be clinging to the side of this promontory as we cautiously scrabbled our way up (and later, down) this precipice.

Voila! They built a bridge—a bridge spanning from the mainland out to the part of the site that is noteworthy (the mythical “Arthur” part).

Because we’ve been there before, we weren’t inclined to pay the costly admission fee to visit it again—that seemed prohibitively expensive.

Aha! We had purchased an English Heritage pass while we were in Kenilworth, which made it possible for us to waltz in, flash our pass, and sashay across that bridge like royalty.

And we did!

A natural land bridge once connected Tintagel’s headland to the mainland where, at the time, an early medieval citadel and 13th century castle stood. But after centuries of erosion and a rock collapse, the headland was reduced to an isolated island. Visitors had to mount narrow rock-cut steps in order to reach the detached land mass. (It wasn’t fun!)

This new bridge is a daring two-part cantilever structure. It opened in 2019 and transformed access to the castle: we can once again follow in the footsteps of its earlier inhabitants, crossing directly from the mainland onto the isolated island.

About 100 small rectangular outlines have been identified all over the island, showing a substantial settlement was here in the Dark Ages, and some structures are still visible today.

With the collapse of Roman rule in Britain at the end of the 4th century A.D., a time of armed conflict, migration, and brutal invasions commenced. This period is known as the Dark Ages because few historical sources survive. Eventually, a powerful kingdom called Dumnonia emerged, with Tintagel as its primary settlement.

The site’s precipitous headland (the island), with its connection to the mainland by only a narrow neck of land, made it easily defensible, with extensive views over the whole southern part of the Bristol Channel. Most unusually, it also features supplies of fresh water.

These remains of the battlemented curtain wall (shown below), which were built between 1240 and 1260, surrounded the island courtyard.

From about 450 A.D. until around 650 A.D., Tintagel was a prosperous and highly significant site deeply immersed in trade with the Mediterranean world.

A large bank and ditch, also still visible, defended the landward side of the island’s narrow neck, which at this date may have been as high as the land on either side.

Tintagel features dramatic cliff-top views, and St. Materiana parish church can be seen behind me, crowning the landscape.

Probably the site was a secular stronghold of the then rulers of Dumnonia (Devon and Cornwall). British kingship at this period was peripatetic, so Tintagel would likely have been one of several royal sites in the area.

The headland could also have been manned defensively, as indicated by stones with Irish inscriptions that were found in northeast Cornwall.

After the mid 7th century, little evidence of activity is mentioned on the headland (island) for over 500 years. But then, around the year 1138, Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain endowed the figure of King Arthur—the legendary ruler of Britain—with international fame.

Monmouth’s History contains the earliest written mention of Tintagel in a wondrous tale of how Arthur was conceived there by Uther Pendragon, King of Britain—the result of his magically-assisted seduction of Queen Igerna (Igraine), wife of Duke Gorlois of Cornwall.

The reasons for Geoffrey’s use of Tintagel can only be guessed at. He associated Arthur closely with Cornwall, and Cornish legend may have preserved a folk memory of the earlier importance of the site, perhaps as a stronghold of the rulers of Cornwall. Geoffrey described its dramatic physical attributes, evidently appreciating its romantic nature, and endowed this landscape with legendary proportion. Tintagel Castle is one of the most spectacular historic sites in Britain, but its affiliation with King Arthur makes it one of the most famous.

Tintagel plays a central role in Geoffrey’s racy story of how an ancient king of Britain, Uther Pendragon, is driven mad with lust for Ygerna (Igraine), the wife of one of his barons, Gorlois of Cornwall. Gorlois prudently situates his wife in an impregnable stronghold on the coast—the castle of Tintagel—but then rather less prudently withdraws to another fortress nearby. The pursuing Uther and his men inspect Ygerna’s refuge and realize no ordinary attack can succeed there:

The castle is built high above the sea, which surrounds it on all sides, and there is no way in except that offered by a narrow isthmus of rock. Three armed soldiers could hold it against you, even if you stood there with the whole kingdom of Britain at your side.

At this point in the story, the “prophet” Merlin proposes a supernatural remedy: by means of a magic potion he will transform Uther into an exact likeness of Ygerna’s absent husband. His ruse is entirely successful. The guards of Tintagel naturally allow him entrance to the castle and Ygerna takes him into her bed:

That night she conceived Arthur, the most famous of men, who subsequently won great renown.

If these literary credentials were not enough, Tintagel also featured in a second legend, which (confusingly) later became part of the Arthurian cycle, but almost certainly had completely separate origins. This was the story of the adulterous love affair of Tristan and Isolt—who was the wife of Tristan’s uncle, King Mark of Cornwall. More of the action in this late 12th century story is staged at Tintagel, which is presented as the stronghold of King Mark.

Interestingly, these Arthurian associations may have inspired the fabulously wealthy Richard, Earl of Cornwall, to build a castle at Tintagel in the 1230s, despite its untenable location, and the enduring legend of Arthur ensures Tintagel’s international renown even today.

Perhaps Richard saw Arthur as an archetype of kingly and knightly virtue, celebrated as he was in literature and art throughout western Christendom. But perhaps there was some competitive “Arthur mania” percolating because, soon afterwards, other members of Richard’s family began creating similar “Arthurian” monuments: notably his nephew, Edward I, had a round table made at Winchester, seized the “Crown of Arthur” from Welsh princes, and rebuilt the supposed tomb of Arthur and Guinevere at Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset.

During the 19th century, Tintagel gained its full prominence as a result of a renewed interest in medieval literature and history. This connection was cemented by Alfred Lord Tennyson in his Idylls of the King. Visitors began arriving in large numbers, and the nearby village (Trevena, renamed Tintagel in the mid-20th century), expanded to cater for them. The whole area basically became an Arthurian tourist magnet.

In mythical tribute, English Heritage commissioned a life-sized bronze sculpture inspired by the legend of King Arthur and Tintagel's royal past—a brooding figure titled Gallos (meaning power in Cornish).

Perched above the Atlantic breakers, the imposing bronze statue of this ghostly, regal, crowned figure clutching a sword and gazing back across the ruins of Tintagel castle and towards the Cornish mainland is certainly impressive.

The statue is the work of Welsh sculptor Rubin Eynon. It took over six months for him to design, sculpt, and cast the sculpture in solid bronze. Its sheer size and weight meant it was easier to fly it in by helicopter rather than lug it up and down hundreds of steps onto the island when it was installed in April 2016 (pre-bridge).

Despite holding what appears to be the legendary sword Excalibur in hand and a crown on his head, English Heritage have been at some pains to neither confirm or deny whether the statue depicts King Arthur or not. The official line is that it represents not only the legend of Arthur but the royal heritage and historic importance of the site.

This vagueness probably stems from stinging criticism of other installments at Tintagel, such as a carving of Merlin's face into the cliff face. Several historians and Cornish nationalists became outraged by what they claimed was the "Disneyfication" of a profoundly historic site—even though it’s always been a tourist magnet, as demonstrated by nearly 200,000 people visiting the spot annually—no doubt to breathe in the Arthurian legend.

We were drawn to Tintagel because we wanted to cross the new bridge, and we were further drawn to climb up and up to reach the Gallos statue, which we also wanted to see. (I think that may be its purpose, because we didn’t bother going that high on our previous visit. It draws visitors up onto the summit.)

Unfortunately, our visit transpired during one of the UK’s worst heat waves, with temperatures soaring to 92F/33C, and there is virtually no shade to be had on this barren outcrop. (You might have noticed how red my face is in many of the pictures.)

Due to the unbearable heat and our restricted timetable, we didn’t make it back down to the beach in order to revisit Merlin’s Cave below, and we didn’t make it to St. Materiana's church either. That encounter must await another time.

Thank goodness some enterprising individuals were operating a shuttle from the bottom of the hill up to the parking lot. Robin and I nearly collapsed after we crawled into the vehicle for the short trip uphill. I don’t know how we would have climbed that steep road by ourselves.

Here is a 1:23 drone view of the site:

And here is a 10:01 “Making of the Bridge” video (narrated by English Heritage):

I’ll leave the story there for now, with a promise to tell you more about our other Cornwall adventures down the road. In the meantime, I’m enrolled in a six-week online class in Creative Approaches to coaching using art therapy-style methods with a couple of practitioners here in the UK, which I am finding enormously rewarding. (I’m off into the raptures of creativity this year!)

Lately I’ve been guiding one of my clients through my innovative Archetype Insights program based on Beebe’s method, and our Zoom link sparks with electricity at times by the “ahas” and insights she’s been deriving from the material. It has taken typology to a whole new level she had no idea existed before she embarked on this leg of her type journey.

Speaking of typology and whole new levels, my presentation for the Australian branch of the APTi is imminent! Here’s the promo ad they’re running for my session:

During this session, I plan to describe how there are three prevalent perspectives, or ethoi, that typically convey the conception of Jung’s types. This session delves into these three different ethoi and relates them to the psychological types model, interspersed with interactive exercises to help attendees experience each of them and confront their differences.

I know you’ll want to attend! And there’s still time to register for the conference, which is bargain priced. Here’s the link:

I hope I see you there!

enthusiastically, -Dr. Vicky Jo

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