My Annuvian Path

I’m at liberty to share this because I don’t live in the age of Queen Victoria, King James, or King Arthur. I’m not Orddu, ‘the Very Black Witch’, in her cave waiting for the knife to cut her in twain. I’m not Elizabeth Southerns, Anne Whittle, Isobel Gowdie, or Isabella Rigby. Nobody blinks an eyelid when I say I worship a god of Annwn and speak with otherworldly spirits and in this I am blessed.

Still, my path is a lonely one not many choose to walk. Annwn means ‘the Deep’, ‘the Otherworld’. In this age the reign of superficiality and normalism is stronger than the influence of any monarch. There’s an inner policing – not a hanging or burning at the stake, just dismissal, lack of interest, in the mystical, the magical, the mythic, when they’re not reduced to cosplay or methods of self-development.

Paganism and Druidry have been demystified and the mystical systems that exist (in Druidry) still hinge around Taliesin and Arthur, ‘heroes’ who slaughtered and oppressed the gods and ‘monsters’ of Annwn. I keep returning to these traditions like a restless horse pacing its box, like I’m picking a scab, each time find myself more deeply disappointed; an outsider, a black sheep amongst the white-robed herds.

Perhaps our deepest myths died when Taliesin and Arthur stole the cauldron from the Head of Annwn. Something big must have perished to leave the void, filled for 1500 years by Christianity, now filled instead by the new religion of the self, the selfie, everyone wanting to be a celebrity bard in the virtual otherworlds, in the god-sized holes in their heads, which no longer have room for real gods. I have only a dim intuition what that was. If it is contained in our existing texts, it’s very well concealed. Seeking it out feels important and I can’t do so whilst wrestling with wider disillusionments.

I’ve finally reached the point my box-walking is at an end. A knowing I’ll never feel at home in mainstream Paganism or in Druidry. That my dream of being part of a physical community who get together for devotions, to work with myths, to discuss how such work can change the world, is unlikely to happen. I’ve complained of my disappointments and voiced my criticisms for the last time.

Now for some affirmations: I am an awenydd. I walk an Annuvian path. I will make the most of this opportunity my spiritual ancestors such as Orddu never had. I will reclaim our deepest myths. I will learn to live by them.

Annuvian Awen - Awen Ac Awenydd

20 thoughts on “My Annuvian Path

  1. Aurora J Stone says:

    Lorna, a bold statemenet. A hard way you are choosing to journey. Yet, there have always been those who have been called to the lonely paths to keep them open, or reopen them for the rest of us. I trust you will live in the light as well as the dark places. I am grateful that for the time you journeyed as a Durid allowed me to get to know and meet you. Do not forget those of us who supportively walked with you on your previous paths. /|\

  2. simonhlilly says:

    I feel, however, that nothing can be removed from Annwfn, and doubt anything can be destroyed that is there. ( Perhaps there can be some tectonic rearrangements as the weight of coelescences shift over millenia). Some may have believed, or used a metaphor, for acquisition/ appropriation of some ‘things/qualities’ but that is, perhaps, just a mistaken view of the nature of the Real.
    Is it not, in part at least, the accumulated, constellated effluvium of all that ever was held by Mind, whether internal (‘ imagined’) or external (‘real’)?

    What is not Annwfn is simply an ornament of Annwfn. This morning after waking ( into here) I wrote: “rainbowed bubbles from the fermenting deep”.

    Your despair perhaps is simply the appreciation of Vastness that few feel comfortable contemplating, let alone touching.

    • lornasmithers says:

      In my experience it’s possible to journey back to the cauldron in the past before it was removed and, in some senses it’s still there because time and space don’t work the same in Annwn. It’s there and not there, everywhere and nowhere. What has changed is the lack of a reverential attitude in our approach to the Otherworld and our relationship with the gods and our willingness to worship and engage with them and that’s what’s despairing.

  3. Meredith Talis says:

    I feel your frustration. And I’m inspired by your path. I have struggled to find anything inspiring about the Taliesin story, or Arthur once I’d actually read the Mabinogion and was also horrified by their domination and cruelty. Hardly something to live by! It is instructive, though not perhaps in the way intended. What I do like about formal Druidry is that room is given for personal experience, though it seems pretty clear to this relative newbie that there’s a dominant view that differs quite a bit from my reaction.

    It’s a tragedy that more hasn’t survived, but it’s also a warning. Building something new from the bones of the old is necessary, as well as finding inspiration from those hidden and vilified figures and places, as you’re doing. And there are those of us who feel similarly out there!

    • lornasmithers says:

      Thank you for your camaraderie. It’s interesting to hear your perspective as someone who has criticisms of formal Druidry, but can still manage to work within it. I hope your learning continues to go well.

  4. Mark Fruehauf says:

    Lorna
    Thank you for this heart felt post – it strikes a chord in me – this can be and in some ways must be a solitary path – although as I walk it I realize I am never alone. Thank you for your dedication and inspired and beautiful writing. If you cross that western ocean come sail the rocky coast of Maine !

  5. Greg says:

    I think it has always been the case that hose who experience deity directly are led on a path that is determined by the god(s) rather than by the religious institutions of the time whatever and whenever that may be. In the past and in the monotheistic religions the distinction between a mystic and an heretic has been a fine one, and the individual concerned have either been able to frame their experiences in terms of the prevailing orthodoxy or have suffered accordingly either as a wayward member of the religion concerned or persecuted as a witch or other adherent of a different way. As you indicate, we are lucky enough today (though not everywhere) not to be subject to arbitrary religious authority. But the flip side of that is the indifference to real and deep experience.

    Your critique of Arthur (here and elsewhere) is certainly valid. I see him as the empty vessel into which the emerging values of the emergent christian world could be poured and very much as a transitional figure, reflecting the previous age in some of the stories attached to his name but becoming the hero of the age which replaced it. But I think Taliesin is an altogether more complex and substantial figure, essential a trickster and possibly reflecting the nature of an earlier trickster god. Such deities need not meet with our approval (it might be that it is of their nature that they should not do so) but they do need to be acknowledged.

    Your identified path as an awenydd is one that is exemplary in the way you practice it and so indicates a way that others can witness and potentially follow even if it does appear to be a lonely path. May you always have companions on your way.

    • lornasmithers says:

      I agree that Taliesin is more complex and tricksy and acknowledge that without the writings attributed to and about Taliesin we would have far less knowledge about Annwn. It’s interesting that he sides with an authority figure like Arthur whilst he rails against monks and book learning. Is he really on anyone’s ‘side’? Taliesin’s is my guess…

      Thank you for your ongoing support and companionship.

  6. SteveT says:

    I don’t think you’re alone in your feelings. There seem to be two slightly conflicting human needs. We have an individual and unique spiritual side which needs to be followed to a greater or lesser extent and we have a social side which makes us want to be part of a ‘tribe’.

    I think the ‘success’ of conventional religions is, in the main, down to their ability to fulfil both these needs within the same structure. Christianity does this by having a bible and priesthood to lay out a spiritual path. In practice, I don’t think the majority of Christians really believe much of what they’re told. Mostly they get over this by not thinking about it too much: they pick a few bits that help them spiritually and gloss over the rest. They then gain both by ‘belonging’ and also by being able to publicly identify with the Christian ‘tribe’. This may be as simple as stating that they’re ‘Christian’ on documents up to attending church regularly, allowing otherwise lonely people to sit in the company of others or giving some the status of a recognised role in the tribe.

    From what I can see on the discussions I’ve come across, many pagans are probably adopting similar tactics. They align themselves with a particular group, such as Druids, and gain companionship in exchange for not openly challenging the norms of that group. The interesting thing about Druidry is that it actually promotes the idea that your individual beliefs don’t have to fit an exact mould. Nevertheless, each group or Order does have its own basic set of guidelines.

    So what we have is a trade off; how important is the individuality of your spiritual path compared to how much you need to use your religion as a social group. The more your spiritual path calls you the less you are going to be in agreement with others since everyone’s path is truly unique. I don’t find, personally, that that leads me to cut myself off entirely from others. (Perhaps that’s an indication that my spiritual path isn’t strong enough.) I enjoy the fact that I’m constantly challenged in my beliefs. (I’m certainly not on the same path as you for example. I have no personal experience of separate gods; I don’t encounter them, I feel that I can explain my spirituality without reference to them and I don’t find the concept of ‘devotion’ to gods personally attractive or necessary. Nevertheless I’ve learned a great deal from your blogs and posts and believe that there’s still much I can learn from you.) In addition I gain a certain amount socially from the Druid group to which I belong. Importantly for me, having met with of many in my particular Druid ‘group’ in person as opposed to just in the virtual world, I find that I actually like them as people. This means that, even though I might not agree with them, I can discuss things with them that I can’t discuss elsewhere.

    Your spiritual path is obviously the most important thing to you. I hope that you continue to share it both here and elsewhere and I hope that its imperatives still leave you room for some measure of socialising with those who, whilst not sharing your path, will at least listen to and benefit from your journey.

    • lornasmithers says:

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with this. I think when one has an individual spiritual path yet is part of a religious group there will always be an element of compromise and everyone has a limit on how far they are prepared to compromise. What’s happened in this current situation is that my path has become more devotional and shamanistic and said group we both belong to is steering further and further away from these elements, which is why I’ve been feeling increasingly out of place and getting critical and picky and rubbing other people and myself up the wrong way. Likewise I have made friends as a result of being in this group – some real, some virtual, who I hope to stay in contact with. As you say, we don’t need to agree on religion to socialise and be friends. However, I personally need more than socialising and friendship to want to be part of a religious group.

  7. Nimue Brown says:

    You challenge me to question and rethink things as I try and stay somewhere near to the mainstream of modern paganism. I really appreciate what you do. I have no doubt that the loneliness you’re experiencing comes from being a pioneer, but there will be those who come after you, and who find their way because of you. And maybe, eventually, those who find their way to you as well.

  8. Michaela says:

    I respect your choice.
    A solitary path is the lonelier one; perhaps the more powerful one, also. And power you certainly do have, as Annwyn itself does.

  9. Melas the Hellene says:

    “That my dream of being part of a physical community who get together for devotions, to work with myths, to discuss how such work can change the world, is unlikely to happen.” Alas, I do also feel this sort of despair sometimes. Community is always an essence for any faith and the absence of one weighs heavily on me. Yet I am sure the day will come, whether in our lifetime or that of our descendants, when your dream will become reality. This age of revival is the most difficult and requires the most patience, but great deeds carried out now will reap the greatest praise. Let us therefore all hold out together for the sake of our ancestors and progeny!

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