Mist and Darkness and the Road to Joy – The Completion of Gatherer of Souls

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Over the past three years I have been working on a book for Gwyn ap Nudd, my patron god, to whom I devoted myself five years ago in January at the White Spring in Glastonbury.

At first I wasn’t sure what it was going to be about. It began simply as ‘Gwyn’s Book’. Because I am based in Lancashire and so many other writers have explored his connections with Glastonbury and Wales I decided to focus on his stories originating from the Old North, which are found in The Black Book of Carmarthen and Culhwch and Olwen.

After some time he made it clear that he did not want me to write an academic book (I therefore published my research on my website HERE) or  simply repeat the old tales penned by Christian scribes. Instead he wanted me to peel back the golden patina, expose the atrocities committed against him and the people of Annwn by Arthur, and journey back to the roots of his mythos in pre-Christian times when he was venerated as a god of the dead and gatherer of souls.

I met with other Inspired Ones who served him and whose souls he gathered such as the ancient ancestors of Orddu, ‘Very Black’, the Last Witch of Pennant Gofid; the northern British prophets Myrddin and his sister Gwenddydd; witches who flew with him between sky and air; wild women, madmen, poets, broken dreamers whose dreams have never been recorded.

I was prompted to explore how the closing of the doors of Annwn led to the sense of disconnection and soul loss that forms the void at the heart of the Anthropocene and to see the wonder in Gwyn’s reappearance on the brink of time as the Anglo-American Empire, which has its roots in Arthur uniting Britain under ‘One King, One God, One Law’, begins to fall.

My devotional journey has had its ups and downs. Sometimes it has felt like an endless ‘wow’ as I’ve discovered faces of Gwyn as yet unrecorded and hidden facets of his nature. At others, when I’ve been stuck in the Arthurian stories, unable to see beneath or get a break through, or I’ve written Gwyn’s voice wrong, I’ve felt frustrated, awkward, unworthy, and utterly inept. Yet I never once thought about giving up as I knew it was something I had to do.

Because there are no groups in the North West of England who venerate the Brythonic gods and goddesses or work experientially with our native myths my journey has been a lonely one. At low points I have contemplated joining the Anglesey Druid Order and even becoming a nun (when I hit thirty-five I realised it was my last chance!) although within I have known that my path in life is to walk with Gwyn even when all he can offer is “mist, darkness, and uncertainty”.

I’ve seen writing this book through to the end because serving him as an awenydd, although sometimes tough – Gwyn is the god who contains the fury of the spirits of Annwn and he is that fury just as he is the god who gathers the dead with love and compassion – is a source of deep and profound joy. Walking with him, whether through the starlit skies, or industrial smog, or blood-strewn battlefields, or the healing woodlands of Celyddon has always felt utterly right.

Gatherer of Souls is a book of new visions of the forgotten mythos of Gwyn ap Nudd  recorded in poems and stories to be published on Gwyn’s Feast, September the 29th, this year.

Over the past week I have read it out loud to Gwyn and it feels fitting that he has approved it as we approach the eclipse of the super blue wolf moon.

11 thoughts on “Mist and Darkness and the Road to Joy – The Completion of Gatherer of Souls

  1. Aurora J Stone says:

    Lorna ~ your journey has been inspiring. You have remained faithful to your path, and as a wise preist once told me, after I recounted my ins and outs with the church and dealing with a vocation that in the end had another purpose: ‘But you have honoured the journey. That is the most important thing.’ I look forward to reading Gatherer of Souls. I very much enjoy reading your blog and poetry as well.

  2. katakhanas says:

    What a beautiful testament to your love of and service to Gwyn ap Nudd! The timing of this post is eerie for me as I recently received word (as of this morning) that a Brythonic Pagan friend of mine here in the U.S. died during the surgery that was meant to remove a blood clot in her heart. The full moon eclipse ushered her into the Mystery of Caer Arianrhod. Stunned and deeply saddened, I pray that her journey to her ancestors be blessed. May Gwyn offer a welcoming place to her in His hall.

  3. Erika says:

    Lorna,I have found your articles interesting.I had an experience years ago where I traveled into a twilight world that was mostly forest.The one who was overseer there was a huge man(8 feet tall perhaps?).He wore cloaks,and hunting clothes-all black.He had 2 dogs,enormous(their backs at my shoulder) black hounds with red in their eyes.They would fetch the souls about to die.None can escape them.They can hear a person’s heartbeat even through the veil that separates that world from this one and once a person is chosen,they never fail to retrieve.The entrance to that world is somehow a secret or guarded.He was surprised to see me there.I went there because a friend of mine was in the hospital in surgery and had died a couple times already on the operating table.I was determined to find him to ensure he made it back.I never got the name of the Hunter.It was his domain for certain.He ruled there.I have always hoped to know his name but it was never there on the wind and he was a man of very few words…..could this be Gwynn?….I would be interested in your thoughts.I remember looking him up(this hunter) and feeling that Gwynn was “too young” to be who I met..but perhaps it is because he is misrepresented by these newer stories of him?

    • lornasmithers says:

      Hello Erika, thank you for sharing. I can’t say for certain, as it’s your experience, but it does fit with what I know of Gwyn and his hunting grounds. It’s my belief Gwyn is far older and his myths are far deeper than his representations by Christian medieval scribes. When I first met him, even though I hadn’t seen him in person before, I immediatey recognised him, as if I’d met him before, always known him, a knowing deep within my soul that transcends our conception of place and time. He has many names and guises. Did your friend make it back?

      • Erika says:

        Yes,he did make it back…and there was more to the story.I also had a familiar sense about him.He felt old…and dare I say,sad.There was a melancholy that hung around him.He was very imposing but not scary.Though I got the sense that his morality and his way of seeing things was very different than ours.

    • lornasmithers says:

      That sounds like Gwyn as I know him and as he appears in the medieval Welsh sources. In ‘The Conversation of Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwyddno Garanhir’ Gwyn speaks of his ‘sorrow’ at witnessing a battle at Caer Vandwy. Taliesin also says ‘In Annwn… there is one who knows / what sadness is / better than joy.’ I’m sure he’s speaking of Gwyn.

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