Annuvian Awen

Annuvian Awen

Allan o dywyllwch caf fy ngeni
Allan o waed caf fy ngeni
Allan o ysbryd caf fy ngeni

Yn canu o Annwn

Tri phelydryn golau
Tri phelydryn llais
Tri phelydryn wirionedd

I oleuo â rhyfeddod
Ac yn torri’r galon wytnaf

Yn canu o Annwn

~

Out of darkness I am born
Out of blood I am born
Out of spirit I am born

Singing from Annwn

Three rays of light
Three rays of voice
Three rays of truth

To illuminate with wonder
And break the hardest heart

Singing from Annwn

~

About a month ago I awoke with the symbol above in my mind with the name ‘Annuvian Awen’. Awen derives from the Indo-European *-uel ‘to blow’ and has the same root as the Welsh awel ‘breeze’. It is the primordial breath that binds all things, as Kristoffer Hughes says, ‘the voice of the universe speaking to itself’.

The Awen symbol was popularised by Iolo Morganwg in the 1860s. He claimed it was derived from a Welsh alphabet recorded by Nennius in the ninth century and that its meaning was ‘I am that I am’. It has been used by Neo-Druids since.

In medieval Welsh poetry ‘the ogyrven of threefold inspiration’ originate from the cauldron of Ceridwen. Crochan means both ‘cauldron’ and ‘womb’. It is the place from which all beings of the universe are born and to where they return at death.

The cauldron of Ceridwen lies in Annwn, ‘Very Deep’, the ancient British Otherworld. It is guarded by the Head of Annwn: a god with many names who I know as Gwyn ap Nudd. Gwyn guides the souls of the dead and of living initiates to the cauldron.

The black background of the Annuvian Awen represents the origin of Awen from the darkness of Ceridwen’s cauldron in the depths of Annwn. The red stands for the blood of the dead (human and non-human) whose sacrifices have made it possible the living can have Awen. The white is spirit: the breath, the voice of truth, the misty otherlight of the ogyrven ‘spirits’ contained in the person of Gwyn ‘White’ who is also known as the giant Ogyrven.

When I had created the design I received the gnosis I must write a poem to accompany it in English and Welsh. My Welsh is very basic. Having written the English version with an eye to how it looked and sounded in Welsh, translating as I went, I contacted fellow awenydd and Welsh-speaker Greg Hill for help with the translation.

Greg corrected my grammatical errors and helped me with choices of individual words. Interestingly this led to changing the tense of the English poem from past to present which was a big improvement. This fortuitous exchange of Awen between awenyddion gave birth to the poem in its present form. We decided to use it with the symbol on the front page of ‘Awen ac Awenydd’: a website providing a repository of information on the awenydd path.

For me the Annuvian Awen forms an expression of the path of the awenydd that acknowledges the importance of depth in our increasingly superficial world; the need to recover the inspiration that lies in the deeps of Annwn and in the deep places of our souls to combat the soullessness that allows the destructive systems that are wrecking Thisworld to thrive.

The ways to Annwn are dark, misty, uncertain, steeped in blood, for the most part forgotten. Yet there are gods and guides who offer to walk with us and share our quest. So we go with them through the darkness, across the river of blood, to return with the otherlight to illuminate the beauty of Thisworld because not only our lives but the lives of our souls depend on it.

SOURCES

Angela Grant, ‘A Short History of the Awen’, The Druid Network
Greg Hill, ‘Awen’, Awen ac Awenydd
Greg Hill, ‘Taliesin, the Bardic Tradition and the Awen’, The Way of the Awenydd
Greg Hill, ‘The Girl in Ogyrven’s Hall’
Kristoffer Hughes, Natural Druidry, (Thoth Publications, 2007)
Kristoffer Hughes, From the Cauldron Born, (Llewellyn, 2013)
Marged Haycock, Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin, (CMCS, 2007)
Awen’, Wikipedia

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Cath Palug

Who pierced the Cath Palug?
Nine score before dawn
Would fall for its food,
Nine score chieftains.’

– Arthur and the Porter

Dolly poses as Cath Palug

A purring cat sitting on my knee and a paw on my hand guiding these words:

I was a pudding in the oven of the Old Mother, the Great Sow Henwen, baking with the grain. I came out cat-shaped. When the swineherd, Coll, stumbled on my kitten-form, he grabbed me hissing and spitting, my hundred needle claws scribbling in fear, tossed me into the Menai Straits.

The tufts of my ears wetted flat, with a wet miaow, I sank to the land of drowned cats. Drowned kittens with round, curious eyes and mesmeric faces crawled from sacks caterwauling, squalled my canticles, crowned me with barnacles, made me queen.

A wild minx of the sea, my blinding eyes were lighthouses, my shining coat a land of dangers. No bell on my collar rang like a ship’s bell. I took revenge on the cat-killers from my whirlpool with calamitous claws.

Against Arthur and nine-score warriors I fought, playing them like mice, batting them like armoured fish, slicing open their pink bellies with a scalpel-like claw. I chewed their entrails like spaghetti, devoured their flesh like Whiskas Best, used their swords as toothpicks.

Nine-score became cat-meat before I was pierced by Cai’s spear and sank again to the deep to lie in my cat’s cradle, rocked by the hands of kittens and sea anemones.

I left the king with a festering scratch and a bruising of tooth-marks.

Some say Arthur died at Camlan, others that the cat had him…

Devastating Llewon

Several days ago, Lillith, a year-old lynx who had escaped from Borth Animal Kingdom was shot dead by marksmen on the orders of Ceredigion council at a caravan park in Aberystwyth.

She escaped from her pen by climbing a sapling and diving over a 4-metre fence and two electrified wires whilst chasing a bird and spent nearly two weeks on the run living on a local crag and on the hillsides before entering the park.

The council has defended its actions by saying the risk posed to the public once the lynx had entered the caravan park was ‘severe’. However, no records exist of lynxes attacking humans. There is no evidence to suggest Lillith would have been a danger.

Her unnecessary death struck me as yet another occasion where near-groundless fears about human safety have trumped the value of the life of a non-human. For this reason the wolf was hunted into extinction. Here, in my locality, I have seen countless trees cut down because of fears they might fall and injure someone.

Such decisions are based on the anthropocentric worldview held by our councils and the government as a whole. Within our current system of values there is no room for arguments that the non-human world and its manifold creatures have intrinsic worth beyond their benefit to humans.

When a human kills another human it’s murder. When a human kills an animal it’s ‘humane destruction’.

Lillith’s shooting symbolises our lack of respect and reverence for a wild creature whose ancestors, members of the Eurasian lynx family (lynx lynx), have inhabited Europe since the Pleistocene.

Bones from Dog Hole Fissure in Derbyshire and Kitley Shelter Cave on Dartmoor show the lynx was present in Britain around 7000 BCE. Remains from Reindeer Cave in Sutherland, and Kinsey Cave and Moughton Fell Cave in North Yorkshire show it survived into the 5th and 6th centuries.

The name ‘lynx’ derives from the Indo-European root leuk, ‘light, brightness’, which refers to its luminescent eyes. This links it to the Brythonic god, Lugus, the Irish Lugh, and the Welsh Lleu. In early Welsh poetry the lynx was known as llewyn or llewon. This may derive from llew, ‘lion’ and mean ‘little lion’.

Whereas Britain’s other great predator, the wolf, possesses reams of mythology and folklore there is considerably less about the lynx. It is mentioned in ‘Arthur and the Porter’, an early Welsh poem from The Black Book of Carmarthen (1350) which describes the assaults of Arthur and his men on a number of mythical animals including Cynvyn, ‘Dog Heads’, and Cath Palug, ‘Clawing Cat’:

Cai the fair went to Mona
to devastate Llewon.

It was during the Arthurian period, as Christianity became the dominant religion, that we lost our reverence for the old gods and the natural world. Animals, real and mythic, who were revered as deities in their own right and hunted respectfully and with due ceremony became monsters for heroes to pit their strength against and eradicate from the human-centred world.

A lynx (‘llewyn’) also appears in ‘Dinogad’s Smock’, a lullaby oddly contained in The Gododdin (1250) which is a poem composed of elegies for the Brythonic warriors who fell fighting against the Anglo-Saxons at the Battle of Catraeth (Catterick) in 600CE:

When thy father went a-hunting,
A spear on his shoulder, a club in his hand,
He would call the nimble hounds,
‘Giff, Gaff; catch, catch, fetch, fetch!’
He would kill a fish in his coracle
As a lion kills its prey.
When they father went to the mountain
He would bring back a roe-buck, a wild boar, a stag,
A speckled grouse from the mountain.
A fish from Rheadr Derwennyd.
Of all those that thy father reached with his lance,
Wild boar and lynx and fox,
None escaped which was not winged.

This poem perhaps harks back to the older worldview where hunting was a sacred pursuit and necessary for a family’s survival. Lynxes had been hunted into extinction by the 7th century.

The lack of lore surrounding the lynx may be due to its secretive nature. Paul O’Donoghue of the Lynx UK Trust, who are advocating for the reintroduction of the lynx, says ‘The lynx is called the ghost cat because people don’t know it’s there – it is very elusive.’

In spite of the knowledge of experts Lillith was shot down as a result of our irrational fears, our holding to an Arthurian worldview in which we are taught to be afraid of the wild and that it is acceptable and may even be considered heroic to devastate llewon.

Encouragingly the outrage provoked by Lillith’s death shows that an increasing number of people are shrugging off that worldview.

~

Bright-eyed Lillith
may your soul go light-footed
to the Otherworld.

May your story live on.

~

Lynx Wildwood Tarot
Lynx, the Wildwood Tarot

*Since writing this article I found out that another adult lynx called Nilly from Borth Animal Kingdom died last week due to ‘a terrible handling error where it seems she twisted in the catch-pole and became asphyxiated.’ Paul Donoghue of the Lynx UK Trust has criticised them for ‘incompetence and ineptitude’ and protesters are campaigning for the zoo to be shut down.

SOURCES

A.O.H. Jarman (transl.), Aneirin, Y Gododdin, (Gomer Press, 1998)
David Naish, ‘Britain’s Lost Lynxes and Wildcats’, Tetrapod Zoology,
‘Arthur and the Porter’, Mary Jones Celtic Literature Collective,
‘Lynx’, Wikipedia,
‘The lynx effect: search for one-year-old Lillith continues in West Wales’, The Guardian
‘Safety was paramount: council defends decision to shoot Lillith the Lynx’, The Guardian
‘Campaigners demand Welsh zoo be shut after death of second lynx’, The Guardian

I Remember

‘Remember’ from late Latin ‘rememorari’ ‘call to mind’

Today I remember the war-dead.
I remember those who died fighting in wars.
I remember the victims of war – the dead, the bereaved, the homeless.
I remember the landscapes and creatures whose deaths aren’t remembered.
I remember those who refused to go to war and faced the consequences.
In my remembrance, in my calling to mind, I put into question
the mindlessness of the systems that profit from death.
I remember my commitment to find new myths
to overturn the narratives of warlords
and the domination of Empire.

White Poppy
‘The white poppy is a reminder of our inability to settle conflicts without resort to killing but more importantly it is a symbol of commitment to work for a world where conflicts are resolved without violence and with justice. In contrast to the red poppy with its implicit and explicit support for armed force the white poppy aims to foster an understanding that there are alternatives and rallies support to the growing militarisation of society.’
Peace Pledge Union

Rhymi

‘The bitch Rhymi… in the form of a she-wolf… she goes around with her two whelps. She has killed my livestock many times, and she is down below Aber Daugleddyf in a cave.’
– Culhwch and Olwen

I was in a multitude of shapes before I assumed wolf-form. My keen sense of smell, my canine teeth, the sense of awe surrounding the silence of my feet and my savagery were all conducive to my role as a death-eater.

I was feared and revered by the people of Prydain for thousands of years until they decided their dead: human and animal should not be eaten by wolves.

I’m not sure what brought about this decision – whether it was their abandonment of hunting for farming, their penning in and marking ownership of the herds, the arrival of the sheep or the religion of the sheep with its shepherd-like patriarchs who despised both wolves and women.

Whatever the case, I became reviled. Whenever farmers caught me raising my jaws from a half-eaten carcass, gnawing bones dragged from a freshly dug grave, they sent huntsmen after me with hounds, bows and arrows, knives and spears, to bring back the trophy of my head.

Of course, I knew how to deal with huntsmen. My most ardent pursuer was Deigyr of Caerdydd. When numbers and brute strength did not succeed, he decided to track me by stealth instead. Disguising his scent in fox urine he followed me from kill to kill. Leading him into Caerdydd, I slipped off my wolf-fur and, taking a softer form, allowed him to buy me a flagon of bragget.

We got talking about the art of hunting and the nature of the wolf. The bragget slid down like hot blood. Soon I was back at his house, lounging on a wolf-skin rug, admiring the furs on his walls, the heads of beavers, badgers, foxes, boars, and wolves.

After we slept together I killed Deigyr with his hunter’s knife and devoured his corpse. Many moons later I gave birth to two whelps: Gwyddrud and Gwydden, in a sea-cave beneath Aber Daugleddyf.

Their suckling on the polyps of my teats was interrupted by a ship with a rude white prow carrying hundreds of warriors. As they fired their bows into the water I snapped every arrow with my jaws and rose up, barging and harassing the vessel I recognised as Prydwen to the shore.

An army awaited me with endless rows of spears and shields.

When I showed no fear, Arthur called on God to change me into my own form, grasped my wolf-fur and pulled it off.

The spears dropped to the floor.

The King of Prydain recoiled in dismay, eyes bulging like sea anemones, face pale as coral, “Please God, change her back!”

When his plea went unanswered, Arthur desperately attempted to throw the fur back over me, but it landed limp and useless on the sand.

“Please God, change her back. Please cover her up!”

Rhymi sketch

A Glimpse of Pure Sunshine

The final prose poem in Melissa Lee-Houghton’s challenging confessional collection, Sunshine, is called ‘Hope’. Hope is scarce. The subject is a dream akin to a horror movie where the narrator is kidnapped and her companions are beheaded one by one, ‘blood gushing like red schnapps.’ When she is the only one left alive for a moment she thinks she’s won. Yet the time arrives for her to hang her head over the metal sink for the man in the white surgeon’s mask with the scalpel. ‘Hope’ ends with the following lines: ‘Although my psychiatric worker said it’s more than unusual, I died in that dream, and I went somewhere. Part of me remains there, happily, in the glamorous glare of lost hope and a sadness spun of pure sunshine.’

This poem struck a chord because two years ago I had a horrific dream ending with the suggestion of an afterlife. I was a soldier fighting in a jungle and had been captured to be executed. As I faced the firing squad, I knew I was going to die. I called to Gwyn ap Nudd, my patron god, for help. Filled with superhuman strength, I broke away in the form of a heavily muscled pig-like warrior. However, I was tracked down and recaptured. When I consulted Gwyn from my cell, he told me he couldn’t save me again. I must send my soul into the hazel, the beetle and… a third thing I can’t remember when it came to my execution. The next minute I was walking amongst hazel trees with a friend, speaking with complete calm about how to get my soul into a tree and turning over the leaves to find a beetle. I was utterly convinced about the survival of my soul, the calmest and surest I’ve ever felt. That reassuring feeling, like a glimpse of pure sunshine, remains with me to this day.

Fairy Lane