Sunday, October 13, 2013

God of Aller

The church--Home to God and John of Aller--viewed from Aller Hill, where the dragon's eggs were buried
Our friend Tina has a five-year-old grandson who is utterly enraptured with life... As you are, if you're a lucky five-year-old. This charming child visited our village some months ago with his Grannie, and I had the privilege of giving them the grand tour.
The Saxon Font

I took them "To the Ancient Church" -- as the somewhat obscure sign reads at the end of the drove. I showed them the Alfred (The Great) window, the Saxon font, and well-preserved architectural details from the old part of our church.

Because the boy was very interested in dragons that day, I showed him the effigy of John of Aller and John of Clevedon, which lie in repose in our church. The latter effigy is well-preserved and is of an armoured knight, as Clevedon died jousting.
John of Aller, what slayed the dragon
John of Clevedon
 Aller's effigy is weathered from having been outdoors for a few hundred years. But he was the one I really wanted to introduce to my young friend. According to legend, it was John of Aller who made our village safe from dragons.

Aller Hill, where dragon eggs be buried
One day, the dragon that had been terrorizing our village was flying back to its nest of eggs on Aller Hill, I told my young friend. Brave John of Aller saw the dragon and was ready. He hurled his spear at the dragon and killed her mid-air. Then the good citizens of Aller climbed the hill and buried the dragon eggs deep in the ground, preventing any further dragon attacks--to this day. 

John of Aller's spear was in another nearby church for many years -- so it must have been quite a long throw. I'm not sure if the spear is still at High Ham or if it's been relocated to a museum someplace. The dragon remains our village mascot--we have dragon mosaics and dragon tiles adorning various landmarks. We celebrated the Queen's Jubilee by commissioning a very fine dragon sculpture. I showed all these sights to my young friend, who clearly absorbed all these details and proudly wrote his name in our church visitors' registry.

Aller's Dragon-themed sculpture, left
and mosaic above 
Several months later the boy returned to our village, this time with his mother as well as Grannie. I was out-of-town when they visited, but Tina later related her grandson's breathless enthusiasm at showing his mother what he'd seen and heard here, albeit through the filter of a five-year-old's memory and understanding. What the boy was really keen to show his mom was "God of Aller" in our village church.
Matthew 21:16 (King James Bible:) Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?
I am not sure if it's pathetic or glorious, but I come as close to finding God in this boy's experience as anything else I've experienced myself in our village church. I see -- and am induced to recollect my own experience of -- the wonder and amazement of childhood: The excitement of stories; lore and evidence of ancient times; the sense of a world filled with adventure, mystery, and pure wordless delight.

And love. I find love in Tina's care and celebration of life with her grandson and daughter. I feel Tina's loving friendship in telling me about their return visit to "God of Aller." I find a completely open, no-strings-attached invitation to join this spirit, to be like a child again, tuned in to such a wondrous place and time: right here, right now.
Matthew 18:3 (King James Bible:) Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Or for a secular version of what I'm sayin', see YouTuber Jason Silva's take on childlike wonder here:
or his take on awe here:


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