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

Advertisements

Three Tarot

Wren – Page of Arrows

Wren - Page of Arrows - Wildwood Tarot

Druids kept wrens as totem animals of augury and prophecy and ritually sacrificed them on St Stephen’s Day (26th December)
The Wildwood Tarot

Little wren, little wren,
with your electric alarm call,

little preacher of the woods,
little prophet with words

that might shock and alarm,
steer clear of the Druids

through the long hot summer
and on mid-winter’s morn.

They’ll put you in a cage,
parade you through the towns

like a hobby horse on a stick
with your wooden tail

then wring your little neck
and silence your song.

II. Adder – King of Bows

Adder - King of Bows - Wildwood Tarot

At this time of year the Adder represents serpentine Earth energies rising from the ground into the air, as male adders struggle for dominance… magical power, balance and the healing arts
The Wildwood Tarot

A pit of vipers. Vipera berus.

Adder – from Middle English naedre,
so close to the Welsh neidr, words that slip
and slither like Nidhog, serpents, devils.

The King of Adders has cast off his skin.

He’s attending the dance of the adders.

Who will dance with him when we know
it’s not a mating rite but a competition
for the formermost rank in magical power?

Adders eat their prey whole – dislocating
their jaws, unjoining their ribs, digestive fluid
dissolving skin, flesh, bone, even identity.

There are eight different anti-venoms
so you’d best choose carefully.

III. Rest – Four of Arrows

Rest- Four of Bows - Wildwood Tarot

On the ground lies a figure with closed eyes. There are four arrows driven into the earth, two at the head, and two at the knees. Rising above is a great multicoloured butterfly from which rays of energy pour in all directions, bathing the figure in light’
The Wildwood Tarot

You’ve been shot down again.

You’re reminded of acupuncture –
the Eyes of the Knee the problem,

but you can’t lie down and release
the butterfly from the Chinese painting

because you need to run like a stag,
a fox, a man, a woman, until your limit.

When the hounds come you want them
to be only dreams, like butterflies,

to lift you into the cosmos like a star,
shining, irradiate. Not those bloody-nosed

truths snapping, snarling, pulling you down.

*Three cards drawn this morning in answer to my question of whether my disappointments with attempting to re-engage with mainstream Paganism and with Druidry are leading to a more solitary path.

Notes from a Precarious Landscape

The ‘Notes from a Precarious Landscape’ art exhibition took place from Thursday 17th May – Saturday 19th May in Plot 188 on the Story Homes Waterside Development, Cottam Way, on the outskirts of Preston. It was organised by artists Ian Nesbitt and Ruth Levene, supported by In Certain Places.

Plot 188

The location was chosen because the exhibition focused on ‘how the land around the city is changing, or has changed in the past’ and explored ‘the relationships between people and place, city and surrounding landscape, through the lens of the people who live and work in Preston.’

These changes are the result of the Preston and Lancashire City Deal. £434m has been invested in building 17,420 new homes, creating 20,000 jobs, and improving the transport infrastructure at ‘an unprecedented rate’, with the aim of boosting the local economy by ‘£1 billion over the next ten years’.

This is leading to the destruction of green spaces and an increase in urbanised areas, roads, and traffic, and will ultimately result in the individual towns and villages included into the deal becoming a single urban conglomerate with only parks and street names recalling the rural lands beneath.

The exhibition explored these issues. My display, ‘Lost Wells and Watercourses of Priest Town’, documented in photographs with historical information the sites of local wells and watercourses that dried up or were culverted during the industrial period as a consequence of the desacredisation of the landscape.

Lost Wells and Watercourses of Priest Town

A piece close to my heart was a danger-red print with poetry depicting countryside in Higher Penwortham that is threatened by the plans for Penwortham By-Pass. This was by Caitlin Akers and Phil Howard. I opposed the plans at a Penwortham Town Council meeting and found out the council objected to them too. However, their objections were over-ruled by Lancashire County Council.

Higher Penwortham - PoemHigher Penwortham - Print

Another favourite was Caroline Finnegan’s sketches and notes on leaves and berries gathered from local trees to use for medicinal and protective purposes. Each was adorned by a piece of Longridge wool ‘cleaned, dyed, spun on a tradition wheel and crocheted’. She noted Network Rail had been cutting back trees and bushes from the railway edges and this would affect what she picks in autumn.

Leaf notes with Longridge wool

Peter Harley’s poem ‘I remember when all this were fields’ was based on a saying of his father who ran a ‘one-man milk delivery service’ from their home in Deepdale. The poem provided a journey from the days his father ‘planted a pint of bovine kindness / On a donkey-stoned doorstep / For the bluetits to peck’ through to the reaper departing with the ‘rural soul’.

In ‘Future Landscapes: Lea Viaduct’ Lesley Sutkins used a ‘Humphrey Repton style overlay technique’ to give an impression of how the viaduct will appear when it has been built. Joseph Gudgeon photographed tree saplings on the ‘new multi-million pound Broughton by-pass’, describing them as ‘reminiscent of headstones, each one potentially sounding the death knell for a variety of bird and mammal species.’

Other pieces included Pete Hartley’s story ‘The Curator, an interview with anti-fracking campaigner Nick Danby, a map of Preston’s expansion between 1850 and 2018 and the Central Lancashire New Town plan (the foundation for the City Deal) provided by Charles Quick, Ruth and Ian’s video of their walk around the boundary of Preston, and paintings by John Weld from the Harris.

The most novel aspect of the exhibition was its location in one of the brand new houses on newly developed land. On entering we had to either take our shoes off or put bright blue plastic shower caps over them. The displays were set out in the living rooms and bedrooms (I was slightly disappointed to see the opportunity to put something in the toilet or hide a surprise in a cupboard was overlooked). I had a distinct sense of the old and the new rubbing up against each other and an uneasy awareness that the exhibition was made possible by the developments the artists were critiquing.

Plot 188 landing

The oddest of interactions was an installation in the garden. A speaker playing 92 bird songs recorded by John Weld, ‘an antiquary, naturalist and amateur watercolour artist’ who was a Preston resident and lived from 1813-1888, was placed on a bird table. Recordings of starlings, a greenfinch, a nightingale, sang over fenced lawns stripped of trees and bushes as habitat for birds, mingled with the cooing of a (real) woodpigeon. Next door’s washing fluttered alongside a trampoline and paddling pool.

Plot 188 garden

Walking back along the canal, one of the developments that played a role in the destruction of Preston’s sacred landscape, I saw a mother duck with nine ducklings, a nesting swan, and a weeping willow.

Willow tree Lancaster canal

Landfill oh Landfill

They’re digging a mass grave for our ancient dead,

lining it with a polymeric geomembrane,
linear low density polyethylene;

a shroud woven from
the remnants of the Old Ones

like a cell membrane
separating packed engineered clay
from death and decay.

The pipes for the leachate are being fitted.

I can smell it already, taste it perculating on the tip of my tongue.

I am not an eater of the dead but oh they will come!

Escorts of gulls following the funeral trucks
not unlike battlefield scavengers,
white-winged Valkyrie,

as the burials begin,

track-type tractors spreading the waste with shovel blades
and landfill compactors with steely teeth
on wheel drums pass, pass, passing
again and again.

I will speak a blessing over the winding sheet of each daily cell.

I will sit and weep then listen as my tears seep down
to join the slow work of glycolysis,
hydrolysis, acetogenesis,
methanogenesis.

Landfill oh landfill for forty years I will mourn.

Landfill oh landfill for forty years I will celebrate –

are we not all proteins, lipids, carbohydrates,
to be broken, buried, reincarnated
in some bright new age?

800px-HACKENSACK_DUMP_IS_FEEDING_GROUND_FOR_GULLS._IN_TIME_THIS_LANDFILL_WILL_PROVIDE_RECREATION_FOR_THE_BERGEN_COUNTY..._-_NARA_-_549741

The Ways We Breathe

My meditation on how breath links us with all beings and is imperilled by this era of mass consumerism has been published on Gods & Radicals.

GODS & RADICALS

“This era of mass consumerism… is imperilling the ways we breathe”

From Lorna Smithers

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

“We need to remember that our very breathing is to drink our mother’s milk – the air – made for us by countless microbial brothers and sisters in the sea and soil, and by the plant beings with whom we share the great land surfaces of our mother’s lustrous sphere.”

Stephen Harding

Inspire. Expire.
Anadlu i mewn. Anadlu i allan.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

Respiration (from spirare ‘breath’ and re ‘again’) is participation.

Inspire. Expire.
Anadlu i mewn. Anadlu i allan.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

Lungs. Two. Right and left. Each enclosed in a pleural sack in the thoracic cavity of the chest. Primary bronchus, secondary bronchi, tertiary bronchi, terminal bronchiole. In the alveoli, ‘little cavities’, across the blood-air barrier, gas exchange takes place.

Breathe in: oxygen 21%, carbon dioxide 0.04%. Breathe out: oxygen 16%, carbon…

View original post 657 more words

The Knell of Dark Matter

Hairy_Dark_Matter_Wikipedia_Commons

“Dark matter” – a whisper from a guide from another world.

I google it and find out that on the 7th of May the US Department of Energy approved $19 million for the Super Cryogenic Dark Matter Search at the SNOLAB facility in Ontario, which will be led by SLAC.

Scientists posit the existence of dark matter because the movements of galaxies cannot be explained in terms of visible matter alone. Measurements suggest 80 per cent of the universe is dark matter. Unfortunately dark matter has not yet been detected because it doesn’t emit light or energy.

According to a popular theory it is made up of weakly interacting particles (WIMPs) that ‘pass through regular matter like ghosts, but every so often may collide with an atom of regular matter, causing a reaction scientists can note’. Detecting this reaction is the aim of the SuperCDMS SNOLAB experiment.

SNOLAB’s laboratory, located 6,800 feet underground in an abandoned nickel mine, is the deepest in North America. This ensures it is shielded from unwanted background signals from cosmic radiation.

The apparatus will consist of four detector towers containing lattices of silicon and germanium crystals, which will vibrate if struck by a WIMP. To measure these tiny vibrations, these ‘atomic jiggles’, ‘the crystals need to be cooled to less than minus 459.6 degrees Fahrenheit – a fraction of a degree above absolute zero temperature.’ Absolute zero is the coldest matter can be. ‘Near this state any movement on the atomic level should be detectable.’ Therefore the towers will be placed in a cryogenic container called a SNOBOX. Hopefully a WIMP will ring one of the crystal detectors ‘like an atomic bell’ and leave its mysterious ‘fingerprint’. The experiment will begin in the 2020s.

My initial reaction was “how very Annuvian!” Way before science most ancient peoples have been aware of a invisible otherworld of ghost-like matter, a vast otherness that holds and shapes the visible. Within Brythonic tradition it is known as Annwn, ‘the Deep’, and later became Faerie. Frequently located underground, across water, in the starry heavens, it is a realm of ghosts, fay, chthonic gods usually visible and audible only to the eyes and ears of the soul, although the vibrations of their presence can sometimes be detected in the liminal and deep places of Thisworld.

So this quest is to capture a particle of Annwn, a particle of Faerie. No surprises it must take place so deep underground in conditions of ultracold. This brings to mind the sleep of Pen Annwn, Winter’s King, Gwyn ap Nudd, from Calan Mai (1st or 8th May) throughout the summer. His place of rest is Caer Ochren, the castle of cold stone. It is colder than ice. Near absolute zero. At this temperature the restless spirits of Annwn who threaten to destroy Thisworld are also more restful. Could one be caught in frozen slowness, ring that bell, a knelling from Faerie, give the scientists proof?

Following these contemplations I checked out the astrology. Several years ago, Brian Taylor, who sadly passed in February this year, made me aware of the influence of Pluto over events concerning the underworld and atomic science. In 1985, in the aftermath of Chernobyl, he began an astrological essay tracing ‘the exteriorisation of Pluto in the history of the nuclear era’ which he completed in 1995.

Brian also mapped the synchronicities surrounding the photographing of Pluto on the 14th of July 2015. These included the culmination of the deal between the West and Iran over the Iranian nuclear programme which, perhaps not so coincidentally, Trump recently withdrew the US from this week.

In ‘Shock and Awe: The Astrology of May 2018’ Anna Applegate says ‘on Monday, May 7, in the wee hours of the morning (3:52 CDT), Mercury in Aries forms a square to Underworld Lord Pluto in Capricorn.’ This was the day of the press release for the SuperCDMS SNOLAB experiment.

Anna continues, ‘The Taurus Sun will also make a trine to transformative Pluto; it occurs on Friday, May 11 at 6:10 p.m.’ ‘After Mercury enters the sign of Taurus on the Sunday 13th, the square to Pluto will transform into a more “benevolent” trine, as Taurus and Capricorn are sister signs.’

Although I have little knowledge of astrology I have long been aware of the influence of Pluto in my life. I’m a Scorpio, which is ruled by Pluto. According to Brian, who read my birth chart, I ‘have Pluto rising’, ‘angular Pluto is a powerful placement’ and ‘the moon’s nodes exactly square Pluto’. Sun and Mercury are also in Scorpio. Brian also charted transits to my natal Pluto for the day I met Gwyn.

For me, Gwyn is the Brythonic equivalent of Pluto, ruler of winter and the underworld, and the primary guiding force in my life. The synchronicities between the transits of Pluto, the inaugration of the SuperCDMS SNOLAB experiment deep underground with its cryogenic SNOBOX, and the sleep of Gwyn and his spirits in the castle of cold stone feel important. Is this a portent? A warning about something that will happen if the bell is rung and the knell of dark matter begins to echo from Annwn?

full_Church_Bell_(Pixabay_Public_Domain)

SOURCES

Anna Applegate, ‘Shock and Awe: The Astrology of May 2018’, Amor et Mortem, 1st May 2015
Brian Taylor, ‘Photographing the Underworld? A Note on NASA’s Pluto Fly-By’, Animist Jottings, 18th July 2015
Dana Dovey, ‘What is dark matter? Scientists may be on cusp of detecting of finally detecting elusive material’, Newsweek, 10th May 2015
Jay Bennett, ‘The Search for Dark Matter Continues, More Than a Mile Underground’, Popular Mechanics, 9th May 2015
Manuel Gnida, ‘Construction Begins on One of the World’s Most Sensitive Dark Matter Experiments’, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, 7th May 2015

Fairy Glow: The Magic of Emiliania Huxleyi

800px-Cwall99_lg

the queer impression of whiteness coming upwards: as if the light was below the sea instead of above it… the fairy glow or white reflection that I had experienced long ago
Mr Ronald Bells, World Fishing, 1954

It’s a magic that can be found across the world’s oceans, but is particularly innate to the North Atlantic; to the Norwegian fjords, southern Iceland, the English Channel; this magical blooming, this milky turquoise, this white water, this fairy glow shining upwards as if from a subterranean castle.

If I told you it was caused by fairies would you be enthralled? We all know the fay can take many shapes and forms from the microscopic to the macrocosms of huge hulking universes stalking through the void. Well I shall tell you it is created by beings who work fairy magic called emiliania huxleyii.

Emiliania_huxleyi_coccolithophore_(PLoS)

Emiliania Huxleyi is a single-celled marine phytoplankton which dwells in the surface waters of all the world’s oceans and lives by photosynthesis – using the energy of the sun to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugars and energy. This is not its only magical art. As a coccolithophore it forges intricate coccoliths – scales or platelets like plate armour – deep within its cell from calcium carbonate. When emiliania huxleyi blooms it sheds hundreds of extra coccoliths, which act like mirrors, creating the fairy glow, just like the countless shifting walls of the Fairy King’s castle.

The blooming of emiliania huxleyi, its fairy glow, has a number of profound ecological effects. The first and most obvious is its alteration of the ocean’s albedo ‘whiteness’. This results in more light and heat being reflected into the atmosphere and less penetrating deeper into the water, thus cooling the ocean.

It also affects the carbon cycle. The ocean is the earth’s largest active carbon sink. Emiliania huxelyi plays a significant role in the carbon pump by which it removes carbon from the atmosphere. Emiliania huxleyi utilises carbon absorbed by the ocean to create its calcium carbonate plate armour. When it blooms it removes an excessive amount. Afterwards, some coccoliths sink to the depths as marine snow, removing the carbon from the cycle for millions of years, to be revealed as chalk formations such as the White Cliffs of Dover and the Seven Sisters. Some coccoliths decompose and release their carbon back into the ocean. The partial pressure* of carbon dioxide in the ocean determines how much can be taken from the atmosphere in this complex transaction.

By a less obvious magic emiliania huxleyi’s blooming brings about the formation of clouds. Emiliania huxleyi contains dimethylsulphoniopropionate (DMSP), which it breaks down into dimethyl sulphide (DMS) and acrylic acid to ward off predators. DMSP is also converted to DMS when it dies. Huge pulses of DMS are also released when emiliania huxleyi blooms. DMS reacts with oxygen in the atmosphere leaving molecules of sulphate aerosol to act as cloud condensation nuclei (CNN). As the clouds form and rise due to energy being released as heat, emiliania huxleyi is sucked up with the surface water and travels in the clouds to fall as rain or snow in a new region.

Scientists are only just beginning to gain an understanding of this magic. Blooms of emiliania huxleyi cool the ocean through reflectance and cloud generation and remove a great amount of carbon from the ocean. In this era of man-driven climate change these processes are of fundamental importance.

It is therefore troubling to hear that the existence of emiliania huxleyi is under threat from ocean acidification. The rise in carbon emissions has led to an increase in the partial pressure of carbon dioxide, dissolved inorganic carbon, and bicarbonate ion concentration, and decrease in the concentration of carbonate ions and pH in the ocean. The decrease in carbonate ions makes it more difficult for emiliania huxleyi to create its calcium carbonate shell. Its beautifully crafted plate armour is becoming thinner, weaker, lighter, and suffering malformations. Emiliania huxleyi could die out.

I believe it is no coincidence that emiliania huxleyi has started revealing itself on the brink of its’ extinction. Thomas Henry Huxley discovered coccoliths whilst dredging mud in the depths of the ocean in 1858. Thus, it was named coccolithus huxleyi when identified under a light microscope in 1902. Its structure was described under an electron microscope by Braacht et al in 1952. Cesare Emiliania’s name was added in honour of his contributions to paleooceanography. Much of his work involved drilling cores into the sea bottom and revolutionised our ideas about the ocean’s history.

As someone versed in fairylore my feelings about the methods of the discovery of emiliania huxleyi are mixed. I’m not sure if I see Huxley and Emiliania as walkers between worlds whose genius and dedication has earned them great gifts of insight from Faerie, or as raiders like Arthur whose dredgers and drill cores are the flashing swords coercing the Otherworld’s mysteries into Thisworld’s light.

One thing I’m sure of is that the disappearance of the fairy glow of emiliania huxleyi is a powerful portent of the retreat of the magic of the fay and breakdown of the relationship between the worlds. The loss of this enigmatic phytoplankton would not only be sad, but could play a role in bringing about the end of the world as we know it as magical being by magical being slips away into the deep.

*Partial pressure ‘is the hypothetical pressure of that gas if it alone occupied the entire volume of the original mixture at the same temperature.’

SOURCES

J. D. Shutler et al, ‘Coccolithophore surface distributions in the North Atlantic and
their modulation of the air-sea flux of CO 2 from 10 years of Earth System Dynamics satellite Earth observation data’, Biogeosciences, 10, 2699-2709, 2013
K. J. S. Meier et al, The role of ocean acidification in Emiliania huxleyi coccolith thinning in the Mediterranean Sea’, HAL Archives-ouvertes, 2016, https://hal-univ-perp.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01280556, accessed 29th April 2018
Sophie Richier et al, ‘Response of the calcifying coccolithophore Emiliania huxleyi to low pH/high pCO 2 : from physiology to molecular level’, Marine Biology, 158: 551-560, 2011
Stephen Harding, Animate Earth, (Green Books, 2009)
William H. Wilson et al., Isolation of viruses responsible for the demise of an Emiliania huxleyi bloom in the English Channel’, Journal of Marine Biology Association of the United Kingdom, 82, 369 – 377, 2002
Emiliania Huxleyi Home Page, Science Netwatch, http://www.soes.soton.ac.uk/staff/tt/, accessed 26th April 2018
‘Partial Pressure’, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partial_pressure, accessed 29th April, 2018