Ride a Cock Horse to Banbury Cross
Thousands watched the Princess Royal unveil the Fine Lady statue who made an appropriate choice to formally reveal the statue because the modern Banbury Cross, a few yards away, was erected to mark the wedding of a previous Princess Royal.
The statue was created over three years beginning in 2002 to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee. It arrived in Banbury on Sunday 24th April 2005 and taken on a tour of the town before its permanent installation at the historic cross.
What is the meaning of the nursery rhyme?
Taken to mean Hobby-Horse of the kind children join in games and pageants. There is also a warning here in that it has also come to imply dwelling to excess on a pet theory, so intellectuals be warned.
A horse kept ready at the bottom of a steep hill to help a coach and its team to the top by being hitched to the front of the team was also called a cock-horse, which suggests a metaphor for welcome and assistance on entering or leaving a town.
Who is the Fine Lady?
Fienne, Fiene, Finn and other derivations are all family names, which do indeed have a history in Banbury. What is interesting also is that the pfine of The Celts means a family unit comprising several generations having regard for ancestors. The pfine, in which all the wealth was owned collectively by the community, was the pattern of all social systems in Britain and Ireland. The word pfine came to be linked also with the Gaelic word finn, partly because of phonetic similarity and partly because both words contained the same concepts of family and beauty.
Finn has four meanings, all extensions of the original meaning.
First it means white, and thus beautiful, since whiteness and beauty were synonymous among the ancient Britons.
Then, as beauty could be seen in golden hair, it came to mean fair/golden blond. Because beauty, whiteness and blond hair were all characteristics of the high-born, the word was used to mean well-bred in the generic sense.
In Brittany, the word was even used to mean saintly, in the Christian sense.
Another equivalent of the Gaelic finn is of course gwen, appearing variously as wen, win or guin. Even more intriguingly, the title which contains all the listed concepts of purity, beauty and golden-haired coupled with the idea of spirit is Gwenhwyfar or Guinevere, which in Welsh has an ancient literal meaning of ‘White Spirit’, ‘White Shadow’ or even directly ‘Fine Lady in White’. But since she is linked with the fhine, she is also sovereignty.
There is indeed a tale, which undoubtedly comes from the British oral tradition, of how King Arthur, before laying permanent claim to the sovereignty embodied in Guinevere must first recognize this sovereignty by allowing Guinevere freedom of choice. Any King must kneel before nature.
Interesting to note here also that the word philosopher means ‘lover of Sophia’ or ‘devotee of Mother Nature’, which I include here to restore the likes of Aristotle from being seen as dusty old academics to their true status of poets.
Connections to Ceres/Demeter
The statue of Ceres/Demeter, which can be presently found in Banbury with her bag of seeds, is seen by locals correctly as Maid of May, deity of crops, agriculture, corn, and flowering Spring. The Greek myth, on which the Roman is based and which found sympathy and parallel within our own ancient culture, is roughly as follows:
The mother goddess Demeter/Persephone succeeded Gaea (earth) as fount of fertility for agriculture. Her daughter, Ceres/Proserpine was snatched by Hades/Pluto to his underworld kingdom after Ceres had fallen asleep in a meadow after picking flowers. As Demeter (literally ‘mother’) mourned for her lost daughter, all nature languished. Because Ceres had eaten from the underworld (tricked by Pluto/Hades into taking pomegranate seeds) she, by this seal of marriage, henceforth remained with Pluto for four months of the year but returned to be found and celebrated by her mother for the remaining eight, accounting for the four months of winter and eight months of bounty.
This division of the year cycle into two thirds and a third has also been interpreted as having a deeper spiritual meaning. One third (winter) representing our material existence, one third representing our psyche or imagination and one third the unknowable mystery/light/Christ within us, with the cycle not being merely a clock, but our path to understanding through fall and redemption.
Legend says that the daffodil or Lent Lily was once white; but Ceres who had wreathed her head with them and fallen asleep in the meadow before being captured by Pluto, She let fall some of the flowers which were found by Demeter and turned golden by her mother’s tears.
Theophilus and Pliny tell us that the spirits of those passed, delight in this flower and called them Asphodel. In Britain they used to be called the Affodil.
Detail of The Statue
Wreathed around the crown of the lady is a garland of 13 flowers (the ancient months of the year were 13 x 28 = 364), alternating docket daffodils and English wild roses. Hidden amongst the flowers are also two butterflies and one moth. Embridered on the cloak and dress are knotwork plant forms. The derivation of these particular forms is from mistletoe. This plant of course with its mystical image is also known for the fact that it grows not in soil, but commonly on the English oak tree in a symbiotic way, thus expressing the desire for the community to function harmoniously within itself and nature. There are rings on her fingers representing the four corners of the Earth, or countries of the United Kingdom and the ‘bells on her toes’ are also embellished with finely sculpted real bluebells. Bluebells meaning constancy in the language of flowers, and their number, 7, the number of days in the week and the number referred to in scripture as representing' the perfection of forgiveness'. The horse is the beautifully proportioned Welsh Cob, being native to Britain, strong in stature and having the grace and nobility appropriate to royalty. King Arthur’s horse was also significantly called Dunn Stallion, meaning again, white horse.
The tiny frog - represents three things: metamorphosis - nature’s cycle; communication. Frogs are in myth/legend/reality/history, the first creature to communicate to each other using sounds on land. Community and the spread of community - frogs represent the concept of 'many' because of the number of eggs that are spawned.
Petals in the Lady's hand - petals between the thumb and forefinger of the raised left arm (left arm representing the creative intuitive power of the right brain - right arm, holding the reins symbolising motor control and function) It is also a conscious piece of styling to have posed the raised left arm in a graceful attitude resembling a bird's head and neck. This symbol being higher than the head and crown of sovereignty represents the soul as in the Christian use of the dove as 'soul of Christ'. Three petals will also be added to have appeared to have fallen from the hand onto the drape and horse.
The butterflies and moth - represent: i) metamorphosis again - nature's cycles; ii) knowledge - there are ancient legends that moths are the friends of people of knowledge and the desire to learn. Knowledge itself is seen as the glittering dust of their wings. Knowledge is something that may sprinkle and shower over us and then continue to flow onwards; iii) the vivacity and delicacy of life.
The triskele or ancient triple yin-yang symbol on the bridalry - The bridalry is based on 6th century examples from The Victoria and Albert Museum - The triskele symbolises the division of the year into 2/3 of plenty and light and 1/3 harvest/winter/darkness, or also applied to represent the concept of ourselves as mind/body/soul or God/imagination/matter with body/matter being the winter/darkness.
The Statue Itself
If we were to speak of the statue itself, we would have to talk initially of the style and appearance - while we have classicism deeply set within our culture and the highest esteem and for Phidias, someone whom no artist will ever surpass, we cannot for additional reasons reproduce the Hellenic ideal. The beauty conceived by the Greeks was the order dreamed of by intelligence, appealing to the cultivated with a certain disdain for the humble. Our progress leads us elsewhere.
Towards tenderness for the broken, knowing in every heart there is a ray of heaven.
Our lady's salutation is to all the Pfine (extended family/community in our ancient language). Over and above technique, we hope to offer ideas - forms which please the eye holding a definite significance. From the time of Arthur we have received a message, wrapped up in the care of our children we share in rhyme and story, reminding us of the beauty in the cycles of nature and our purpose to share and protect the love we are daily given. Above all, we would want to speak of our personal enjoyment and celebration in being given this opportunity. For to us, the definition of an artist is simple as it is true - the person who takes pleasure and pride from what they do. Anything and everything can and should be perfected to a fine art toward the love of creation.
What seems to me most lacking in our contemporaries is love of their profession. They accomplish their tasks grudgingly. It is so from the top to the bottom of the social ladder. The politician who sees in his office only the material advantages he can gain from it, and he does not seem to know the pride, which the old statesmen felt in the skilful direction of the affairs of their country. The manufacturer, instead of upholding the honour of his brand, strives only to make as much money as he can by adulterating his products. The workman feeling more or less legitimate hostility for his employer slights his work. Almost everyone of our day seems to regard work as a frightful necessity, as a cursed drudgery, while it ought to be considered as our happiness and our reason for living. We must remind ourselves however, that it has not always been so.
We are surrounded with objects from the old days, furniture, utensils, architecture that show a tremendous conscientiousness in those who made them. People like to work well, quite as much as to work badly. We believe in fact that they prefer to work well, that it is more natural to them. How happier would humanity be if work, instead of a means to existence, were its end? But, in order for that marvellous change to come about, all mankind must follow the example of the artist, or better yet, begin considering themselves artists. In Banbury, many people have indeed revealed such a passion for real life in the pursuit of this project and symbol. We thank you all who have involved themselves again for your continued support, encouragement and inspiration most sincerely.
For Our Children and Our Ancestors