A couple of months ago I had a dream about changing my altars. After I awoke, during my morning devotions to Gwyn, I realised the candle I use with his name inscribed in Coel Bren was no longer enough. He wanted my focus to be an image of him.
I trawled the internet for statues and paintings and searched pagan shops locally and in Glastonbury to no avail. Nothing quite matched my perception of him. Finally it dawned on me that, even though I am not artistically talented, I was going to have to create something myself.
Several years ago, Gwyn appeared to me as if he’d stepped straight out of the 6th century as a ‘Bull of Conflict’ and gatherer of souls whilst I was meditating on lines from The Conversation of Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwyddno Garanhir. This image has stayed with me so I decided to attempt to draw it.
The sketch didn’t match exactly what I was seeing in my mind (they never do – that’s why I’m not an artist!) yet it was better than I predicted and, moreover, I felt that it was what Gwyn wanted. When I placed it above his altar, his emergence from mist looked atmospheric by candlelight particularly when incense was burning. My few rough lines came to life.
And that wasn’t the end of the journey. Meditating on the image reminded me of my intuition that when Gwyn appeared to Gwyddno and recited the names of the fallen warriors whose deaths he attended he was also serving as a psychopomp to the end of an era.
I recalled a citation from Nicholas R Mann, ‘Gwyn is not only a guide into Annwn but also mysteriously connected with the end of a world… Gwyn may be seen as a guide into the next human world as well as into the Otherworld.’ By acting as a psychopomp to dead worlds, Gwyn makes possible the birth of new worlds and this process has been happening since worlds have existed.
This felt significant in relation to the work I have been doing on a book focusing on Gwyn and his mythology. This has shifted through several guises and working titles. At first it was going to be research based, but a few months ago I realised he didn’t want it to be a simple regurgitation of scholarship. He wanted me to journey into and retell his myths as an initiatory process. But even this wasn’t enough…
After remembering the quote I realised that, as he inspired me to do in my other books, he wanted me to map how his stories intersect with the modern day. How they can serve a role in illuminating the aspects of this world that need to die and guide the way into the next world.
In a flash of Awen I received confirmation of the title: Gatherer of Souls against the background of the image from his altar. I now know this will form the final part of a trilogy, following Enchanting the Shadowlands and The Broken Cauldron, inspired by and dedicated to Gwyn.
As Nos Galan Gaeaf approaches: the end of summer and the beginning of winter, the end of the old year and the beginning of the new year, this feels like a fitting time to receive these insights and a find a way of weaving them into my ritual.