This January after completing Enchanting the Shadowlands, I was invited by Gwyn ap Nudd to contemplate the shape of the coming year from Glastonbury Tor. In my mind’s eye the sickle moon of the previous evening reappeared in gold suggesting the importance of scything the wildflower meadow in Greencroft Valley. Recalling the golden sun and pinkish folds of the sky at sunrise lead to the gnosis I must set aside time to do something special on Calan Mai.
Two years ago I marked the occasion with the Grove of the Avalon Sidhe in the orchard beside Glastonbury Tor. Last year I recited a poem called ‘If I Had To Fight Your Battle’ for Gwyn in en-sorcelling mists on Winter Hill here in Lancashire.
This year I started studying the story of Gwyn, Gwythyr and Creiddylad and its origins in the Old North in more depth. During this period I realised I was meant to re-tell it somewhere in the north on Calan Mai. At the same time Guests of the Earth started putting together a new set for local events in April and May. We decided to make our theme seasonal myths about the emergence of spring. It made sense I should re-tell it as part of the performance.
Re-writing it wasn’t easy. Arthur’s introduction into this early seasonal myth in Culhwch and Olwen was problematic for me. I was also concerned Creiddylad’s perspective was inadequately represented, the focus being the conflict between the male rivals and Arthur’s resolution of their struggle. This made it important to focus on Creiddylad as the main character.
Something that struck me was since I’ve been devoted to Gwyn I’ve not seen much of Creiddylad. At first I thought this was because she was shut away in her father’s house, as suggested in Culhwch and Olwen. Realising this was a later addition reflecting Christianity’s repression of fertility rites on Calan Mai I started trying to connect with her in person through meditation and free writing.
At the outset I received little and not exactly what I expected from a spring maiden: scattered images of gnarly bulbs and bones, layers of sediment, flowers but often on graves and damp with tears, the sensation of staring into a profound darkness.
A revelation occurred when I started looking at the relationships between her story and Persephone’s. Like Persephone who is both a spring maiden and queen of the underworld, Creiddylad is May Queen and Queen of Annwn. The battle on Calan Mai and Gwythyr’s triumph marks Creiddylad’s return to this-world with may flowers and hawthorn blossom. Her abduction by Gwyn marks her passage to Annwn when the meadow-flowers are scythed, through soil and stony bedrock.
I have tried re-telling Creiddylad’s story many times and haven’t yet written a version I’m completely happy with. For the Guests of the Earth performance I ended up choosing an early one focusing on her abduction and transformation from spring maiden into Queen of Annwn and return to this-world in maturity as May Queen.
Although this cast Creiddylad as a naive maiden stolen away by Gwyn and didn’t contain a strong enough sense of the sovereignty she possesses as an independent fertility goddess (I found out about this after writing it) the group agreed it was the most poetic. It was also the one that seemed to want to be told.
Our first audience at Market Walk on Market Street at ‘What’s Your Story, Chorley?’ including the children, enjoyed it (particularly the howling!). We’re planning to perform it again at Penwortham Live on Friday 23rd May in Aphrodite’s Health Food Shop.
The version performed with Guests of the Earth (Peter Dillon, Nicolas Guy Williams and myself) can be found on our website. The following post covers what happened when I re-told this story north of the wall.