After the late-night meeting

my head was pale and flashing
a tawdry halo a broken circuit
a worn out lighthouse
behind my eyes.

I went to a hollow tree
and sat myself within it.
In the slow drip of mulch
and closeness of fungus
a full moon overhead.

The ants came inexorably
shiny-black shivering over
my skin. When I clamped
my mouth they lanced
my ears. Clambered in.

Tiny mouths chewing
like an orchestra of saws
they ate the nil-light
and came out glowing.
Pouring from my mouth

in an illuminated stream
crackling legs growing distant.
A million bright footprints
teeming from my head:
an empty mulch, a hollow tree.

Beech Tree, Carr Wood

Photographing the Underworld? A Note on NASA’s Pluto Fly-by.


Re-blog of an article by Brian Taylor discussing NASA’s Pluto Fly-by and the issues surrounding photographing the underworld. Brian speaks about the perils of the ‘single vision’ of astronomy when it is not paired with the deep grammar of astrology: the connections between Pluto and various underworld deities of different cultures and ‘the great cosmic drama of death and rebirth’.

He describes Pluto ‘as ruler of occultation, and protector of the integrity of mystery, who guards the well-spring of experience and memory against casual intrusion, by insisting that knowledge is personally earned’.

This description resonates with my experience of Gwyn ap Nudd, a god of the Brythonic underworld and raises considerations about the dangers of travelling to Annwn / Fairyland in Brythonic tradition and the arts of glamoury its people employ. Pluto was so named because of its capacity, like the underworld god Pluto, to become invisible…

In terms of experience ‘personally earned’ Brian mentions the ashes of American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh were carried on board New Horizons’ spacecraft. Clyde discovered Pluto in 1930. Another of his research interests was UFO’s and thus space travel. 8 years after his death his ashes flew by the planet he discovered 85 years ago.

The Tombaugh region, Pluto’s frozen heart has now been named after Clyde Tombaugh. I recently learnt this has been interpreted to be dog-shaped and Disney have made a brief film about the dog Pluto based on this discovery (!).

Something that struck me was, in many traditions, the underworld is guarded by a dog (ie. Cerberus guards Hades, Gwyn’s dog Dormach is a guardian of Annwn). This furthers the suggestion there is a link between Clyde’s journey to the underworld (some meeting with its guardian?), the disclosure of Pluto in the photographs, the naming of the Tombaugh region and Clyde’s becoming a kind of guardian spirit himself.

Clyde’s efforts provide us not only with new scientific knowledge but a new myth featuring a journey to the underworld for the modern day.

On a darker note, Brian also maps the synchronicities between the discovery of Pluto by Clyde in 1930, the manufacture of Plutonium (New Horizons’ space craft was powered by Plutonium) and the creation of the first atom bomb. I found this chilling considering I have associated Gwyn’s role as ‘Winter’s King’ with the threat of nuclear winter.

Several months ago I had a deeply upsetting dream I intuited was of a possible ‘post-apocalyptic’ future in Preston.

Sarcophagus City

I dreamt of sarcophagi.
Grey the city.

Midnight blue the cloak
of my god

who I served with prayers
tucking offerings

in plastic wrappers round stony
bodies of the dead.

Slowly I forgot my words.
Doubt unfolded

me in frail threads on a wind
that was not a wind

and did not unfold the city
as it was too still.

The wind that never was blasted
the tower block

where I made my bed. I could not
wake from too softness

too many pillows and dream
myself home again.

I took this dream to be a warning about what might happen if fracking was allowed. It was one of several interlocking factors that prompted my involvement in the protests. However I don’t think that was the dream’s full meaning. As Clyde’s story shows, disclosures happen slowly and may not happen in our life-time.

Originally posted on animist jottings:

Pluto's Surface Mountains, NASA July 2015, Creative Commons.Pluto’s Surface Mountains, NASA July 2015, Creative Commons.

For Plutophiles everywhere this has been a remarkable week.  I began writing about Pluto in 1986 in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster, and eventually finished a 25,000 word essay on the cultural context, cosmography, and astrological symbolism in 1995*.  I’m not going to write about astrological particulars here, but in that essay I wrote that “astrology occasionally seems to afford us a privileged glimpse into the subtle infrastructure of a living solar system. The fascination, and difficulty, of the discipline, lies in the way in which these glimpses of an apparent cosmic ‘fabric’ are located in relation to the subjectivities of human experience. Whereas astronomy finds the raw material of both curiosity and wonder out there, towards the perimeter of the universe, astrology can work to dissolve the dualism which has, for so long, been part of our Western world…

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Of Ducklings, Ganesh and Woodland Fires

Thursday the 9th of July was a strange and crazy day. My disastrous morning began with buying blu-tac to put up signs for a conference at work: signs I realised on arrival I hadn’t printed off. It went downhill from there. After managing to print the signs double-sided and procrastinating whether to leave at the agreed time of 9.45am after doing such a botched job, I fled to the Lancashire Archives.

On arrival I realised I had spent the £5 I put in my purse for a photography pass on blu-tac. Apologising and rushing to the cash machine, my head was in such a spin I entered the wrong pin code thrice and had to go to my bank to get a new one and ask for the money in person.

That done, I had a reasonable amount of success in photographing the 1811 Enclosure Act for Fulwood Forest and accompanying map and acquiring Ronald Cunliffe Shaw’s massive tome The Royal Forest of Lancaster from the basement of the Harris Library. With the huge book under my arm, feeling slightly nervous about dropping or damaging it, I headed home.

The Forest of Lancashire by Ronald Cunliffe Shawe

The Forest of Lancashire by Ronald Cunliffe Shawe

Walking down Riverside beside the Ribble, crossing a street, I caught the silvery glint of a pair of glasses. Stopping to pick them up and wondering what to do with them, I heard a shout from behind. It was a postman, who told me the glasses were his and he had lost them because he had been trying to catch a duckling and put it back over the river wall.

Assuming said duckling had been caught and put back I walked on, only moments later, to see her; striped tawny and brown running panickedly with a flap of short wings dangerously close to the roadside. With no idea how I was going to catch her or where to put the book I began following her with the aim, at least, of making sure she wasn’t run over.



As the duckling pursuit approached Penwortham Bridge a couple on a tandem bike stopped to help. The woman took my book and her partner and I managed to herd the duckling into a front yard. Four bins stood on the right. When she ran behind we manoeuvred them to form a make-shift duck pen.

When we finally thought we had caught her she slipped through the cyclists’ hands yet he managed to catch her in the next garden whilst I was left explaining to the owner of the house why we had used his bins to make a duck-pen.

The cyclist handed me the duckling and the pair departed. Realising quickly that holding the frightened creature was a job that necessitated constant attention and two hands, and with no sign of the duckling’s mother in sight, I asked the local resident if he would hold her whilst I phoned for advice.

13th C statue of Ganesh, courtesy of Wikipedia

13th C statue of Ganesh, courtesy of Wikipedia

He kindly obliged, inviting me into the porch of his vibrantly decorated house where I borrowed his telephone to ring the RSPCA whilst standing in front of a statue of Ganesh. I first met Ganesh when I performed Puja to him at a Druid and Hindu gathering last year. Beforehand I had been stressed as I’d been told at the last minute I had to drastically cut down a talk I’d spent some time preparing and rehearsing. After the Puja, I felt calm and my contribution went well.

Whilst navigating the phone system of the RSPCA was an absolute nightmare, Ganesh provided a sense of reassurance. Eventually I got put through to a human operator by pressing the line for ‘tangled and trapped animals’. She told me to remain beside the river and look out for the mother for a couple of hours and if I didn’t see her to call them back.

Realising I couldn’t hold the duckling and use my phone I called my friend, Nick, who was luckily in town and said he would meet me. Leaving my book at the Broadgate resident’s house, I walked up river and noticed a small family of ducks. However, the mother showed no sign of having lost one of her flock.

When I met Nick he told me he had phoned his friend, Lee, an animal rescue volunteer. She arrived within minutes in her van with a bird carrier. When I mentioned the family Lee said as it wasn’t certain the duckling belonged to them it was safer for her to take her home. Farewells were made to the duckling who ran swiftly into the carrier then, clearly exhausted, settled down.

After a catch-up with Nick, Lee departed. Reassured the duckling was safe, I picked up the book and thanked the gentleman. Thinking back, I couldn’t help pondering how if I hadn’t been delayed at the archives I would have been home a couple of hours ago reading my book and wouldn’t have seen and rescued the duckling at all.

However this strange chain of events had not reached its end. Close to home I found my local valley filled with smoke. Although I assumed it must be from someone’s bonfire I checked the woodland and was glad I did as someone had built and abandoned a large fire which, with the wind, looked perilously close to the withered cow parsley and other dry vegetation.

I rushed home, dropped off the book and picked up two buckets and a jug to fill them from Fish House Brook. After ten trips the fire was out. I was left exhausted and shaken by the realisation if it hadn’t been for my delay at the archives and the duckling pursuit I might have got home before the fire was lit and it might have caused considerable damage to the valley.

GCV Fire

Doused fire, Greencroft Valley

Looking back I can make no clear sense of the events. Yet what stands out is the slow inexorable pull of nature away from the white noise of forms and formalities. From the confines of the university to the archives and enclosed and mapped landscape of 1811 to the living webbed running feet of the duckling to the manual labour of filling buckets from my local stream, with a hiss, fizz and sizzle, dousing the fire in the valley I love.

A clearish lesson is I’m much better at rescuing ducklings and fire-fighting than administration and I feel more myself and grounded in these tasks and the land. And what of Ganesh? Hindu god of removing obstacles, peace and new beginnings? I hope his appearance signals a time when I can clear away my failures, renew my connection with my land and my gods and move on, even if means sacrificing some of the ambitions that led me to the position I’m currently trapped in.

Gods in the Shadows


An offering for the gods in the shadows and of the depths against David Jones’ ‘bland megalopolitan light’ from Heron. A piece whose paradoxes and dichotomies I shall be returning to frequently, for it contains much wisdom about the relationships between the worlds and the Brythonic gods.

Originally posted on THE PATH OF THE AWENYDD:

In the bland megalopolitan light
where no shadow is by day or by night
be our shadow

So wrote the artist and poet David Jones in his prayer to ‘The Tutelar of the Place’. To live with the gods is to live in a world of shadows, depths, mysteries. The opposite is a world where there are no shady nooks, hidden places, recesses; a world of hard surfaces and exposed spaces. Such a world does not exist, as hard as humans have tried to create it. Though many do live in such a world, lit by “the bland megalopolitan light” which banishes the natural darkness of night, a world constructed of the flat planes of our buildings and our roads. It is a conjectural world as much as a constructed world. Imagined as an ideal, realised imperfectly as a fact but dominating the imagined spaces around us.

Are the gods…

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Until The Forest Becomes The World


A cause for excitement: the call for submissions for the first ever Gods & Radicals journal. The G & R publishing collective are looking for beautiful words against capital. Never submit… except… (I have no idea what I’m going to write yet!).

Originally posted on GODS & RADICALS:

G&R announce-page-001 (click on the image for larger view)

The Gods&Radicals Journal!

We’re utterly excited to announce our call-for-contributions to the Gods&Radicals Journal!  Deadline is September 15th, and contributions will be paid.

We’ll announce subscription and ordering information soon!


Are you going to Many Gods West?  Several of our writers will be presenting there (including Anthony Rella, Sean Donahue, and Rhyd Wildermuth), and many other writers will be in attendance.  Come say hi!  We’re mostly on the side of good. :)

What comes after Capitalism?  Maybe it’s already here.

Ever thought about all the things Nature provides for ‘free?’

And coming up this week: Druid heartthrob Jonathan Woolley on Heresies, the next installment Fjothr Odinsdottir Lokakvan‘s hope-inspiring monthly column “Things With Feathers,George Caffentzis with a report back from Greece, and James Lindenschmidt‘s essay on the effects of Capital through Ancestral Displacement.  Also, we’re excited to…

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