A year and a day ago I made my lifelong dedication to Gwyn ap Nudd, a Brythonic warrior-hunter god and ruler of Annwn, following a vigil on the night of the ‘super blood wolf moon’ beneath the leaning yew on Fairy Lane in my home town of Penwortham.
Unlike my initial dedication to Gwyn as my patron god at the White Spring beneath Glastonbury Tor it wasn’t easy. Beforehand I’d suffered from a stress fracture to my foot and I was awaiting an umbilical hernia repair operation shortly afterwards.
The vigil, of six hours before I went out and made my dedication during the lunar eclipse at around 4am, was based around six tarot cards and took me on an intense journey of death and rebirth.
Looking back and interpreting the meaning symbolically I saw the foot injury forced me to slow down and the operation on my naval, my natal place, was bound up with the rebirthing process.
Once I’d recovered I realised, to my surprise and disappointment, in spite of having been through an intense inner experience my external life had not changed. I was still in the same situation as before. Skint and living with my parents, my book recovering Gwyn’s mythos written, with no idea of what to do with the rest of my life aside from knowing I must live within the parameters of my vows.
To remedy my financial situation I took a job in a supermarket. Frustratingly, in my own work, which I had hoped would take me deeper into Welsh mythology and into Annwn I hit several brick walls.
Firstly, after near-completing a course called ‘The Gates of Annwn’ for Gods & Radicals, seeing myself on the videos attempting to teach in six weeks what has taken me years of questioning, doubt, being torn apart and put back together, I realised I’d made a mistake. An Annuvian path is one people find themselves (or are found by). It cannot be taught.
Secondly, I really wanted to write a book called Porth Annwn documenting my explorations of Annwn. However, the deeper I went, the further away I got from traditional depictions in Welsh mythology and folklore, attaining instead personal visions that were fantastical, paradoxical, and contained elements of ‘faerie’, but could not be linked directly to the Brythonic sources.
My third block was failing to learn Welsh as I am not embedded in the culture. This was accentuated by my awareness of the debates about cultural appropriation and the derogative attitudes of Welsh scholars (who are mainly non-conformist Christians) towards Brythonic polytheists.
My frustrations with my work and my supermarket job reached a nadir and resolution when I accidentally killed a dragonfly whilst cycling to Brockholes. This led me to leave the supermarket to volunteer with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust as a way of finding paid work in conservation and to shifting my creative focus away from Wales and Welsh mythology back to the (once Brythonic-speaking) land where I live.
Both these shifts have helped me to deepen and renew my relationship with Gwyn. I feel far more connected with him in my everyday life when I am outside working on the land, whether I’m tree planting, coppicing, clearing scrub, dead hedging etc. than when I was stacking shelves or, worse, sitting on a till beneath the artificial lights in the supermarket.
My new creative project ‘The Dwellers in the Water Country’, which focuses on the prehistoric people of wetland Lancashire, has guided me back to the earliest hunter-gatherers who may have venerated Gwyn as a hunter god. My outdoor work and research have knitted together as I’ve learnt skills and used tools our ancestors would have used.
This new more physical connection with Gwyn has also manifested in my running and in taking up Taekwondo. Interestingly, the Fianna, the followers of Finn, Gwyn’s Irish cognate, lived in the woodland, and had to master poetry along with physical feats that involved fighting and running*. These and my work outdoors have made me more connected with Gwyn as a warrior-hunter.
I have also experienced a deepening of my personal relationship with him through spending more time at my altar in stillness and prayer as well as continuing to journey with him.
So a year and a day on, after spending eight months lost, I have finally gained a vision of the path ahead and the central facets of a life shaped around my devotion to Gwyn:
*Working on the land
*Practicing a martial art and running
I have moved on from confusion and frustration to feeling excited about a future full of challenges and promise.
*In ‘A Wildness Comes on the Heart of the Deer’ Christopher Scott Thompson cites the initiation tests of the Fianna: ‘And there was no man taken into the Fianna till he knew the twelve books of poetry. And before any man was taken, he would be put into a deep hole in the ground up to his middle, and he having his shield and a hazel rod in his hand. And nine men would go the length of ten furrows from him and would cast their spears at him at the one time. And if he got a wound from one of them, he was not thought fit to join with the Fianna. And after that again, his hair would be fastened up, and he put to run through the woods of Ireland, and the Fianna following after him to try could they wound him, and only the length of a branch between themselves and himself when they started. And if they came up with him and wounded him, he was not let join them; or if his spears had trembled in his hand, or if a branch of a tree had undone the plaiting of his hair, or if he had cracked a dry stick under his foot, and he running. And they would not take him among them till he had made a leap over a stick the height of himself, and till he had stooped under one the height of his knee, and till he had taken a thorn out from his foot with his nail, and he running his fastest. But if he had done all these things, he was of Finn’s people.’