Strength

It’s been a year since I joined my local JD gym in Preston and started strength training sessions with a personal trainer and I’m writing this post to share some of the benefits this has brought to both my physical and mental health.

As background I have run on and off since my early twenties as a way of keeping fit and managing my anxiety. However, I have struggled to maintain running longish distances due to a variety of issues such as runner’s knee and problems with my piriformis and hamstrings.

Over a decade ago a physio recommended strengthening my legs to help with my knee pain by doing squats and lunges but this seemed to make my knees worse and I gave up on this course of action and running for a while.

Since starting sessions with my excellent personal trainer, Marie Meagher, I have learnt that I am perfectly capable of doing squats and lunges. Initially my form was incorrect and, with her help correcting me, I have progressed to learning a variety of different forms (sumo squats, split squats, reverse lunges) and to adding weights such as kettle bells, dumb bells and bar bells. 

She has also helped me learn to use the resistance machines and free weights. When I first started at the gym all the cogs and pullies and weights and fastenings were utterly bewildering and I didn’t understand the exercises or know much about my muscle groups and the best ways of working them. 

I can now put together an effective workout incorporating a variety of exercises such as leg extensions, hamstring curls, hip adductions and dead lifts for my lower body or dead rows, chest and shoulder presses, and assisted pull-ups for my upper body. I know what weights to use, the right techniques, how many reps to do.

Strengthening my legs has worked wonders for my running. Before training, the most I had been able to run was 4, 7, and 10 miles a week with the occasional half marathon which usually left me crippled for a couple of days. I am now running 7 and 9 miles and a half marathon every week and have taken 15 minutes off my half marathon time from 2hrs 10 mins to 1hr 55 mins. 

I’ve also noticed the difference that doing exercises for my upper body, abs, and core has made when I’m doing outdoor work in my local green space or gardening.

It is now rare that I suffer from any of my former issues either during or after a run. Another big help has been finding a good physio, Phil Noblett at South Ribble Physiotherapies, who has been brilliant at sorting out my minor injuries and keeping me running. It’s been a big revelation that some of the niggles I’ve had are simply due to lactic acid build up and can be massaged out.

Learning about my different muscle groups, how to work them, and discovering muscles I didn’t know I had has provided me with much better knowledge of my body and a more positive and mindful relationship with it. 

My successes with strength training and running have also improved my mental health. Being physically stronger helps me feel mentally stronger and and provides me with a source of accomplishable achievements when I’m struggling in other areas of life due to limits with my autism and anxiety.

I have found both are better antidotes to stress than alcohol or overeating and am far less likely to do either as I know they will have a detrimental effect on my training.

Although I will never run record beating times or lift heavy weights it is an accomplishment, at the age of forty, to be the strongest and fittest I’ve ever been.

*With thanks to Marie for taking the photographs as this morning’s PT session.

Gwyn’s Feast 2022

Gwyn ap Nudd is a Brythonic God of the dead and a ruler of Annwn. In ‘The Life of St Collen’ He is depicted presiding over a magical feast on Glastonbury Tor. In ‘The Spoils of Annwn’ He is the keeper of a cauldron that will not boil meat for a coward and His fortress has many names including Caer Vedwit ‘The Mead Feast Fort’.

The existence of a feast day for Gwyn is suggested by the tradition of a fair held around the 29th of September on Glastonbury Tor. It is now dedicated to St Michael, who on this date banished Satan from Hell. This is echoed by St Collen supposedly banishing Gwyn and His people who he calls ‘devils’.

I have been celebrating Gwyn’s Feast on the 29th of September for nearly 10 years as a way of claiming His feast back from St Michael and for entering communion with Him, with the spirits of Annwn, and with the dead. The feast consists of pork (based on Gwyn’s hunt for Twrch Trwyth ‘King of Boars’), apples, and mead or cider.

This year Thornsilver Hollysong and I will be holding a celebration of Gwyn’s Feast on Vyvianne Armstrong’s Land Sea Sky Travel Zoom channel from 6pm – 8pm BST / 1pm – 3pm EST. This will include devotions and offerings to Gwyn, a space to discuss experiences with Him, poetry readings and a meditation in which we will join Him and His people at His feast and seek communion with Him.

This is open to all and you can join the meeting HERE.*

This year I have planted Michaelmas daisies in my wildflower area as a way of claiming Gwyn’s Feast back from St Michael. I have also been harvesting apples from our trees, which I associate with Him as Afallach, a name given to Him as a King of Annwn who presides over an isle of apples.


*Please email the team or myself at lornasmithers81@gmail.com for the password if you are new.

Edited 27/09/22 to add what we feast on following Greg’s comment.

In the Deep Excerpt – The Abyss (revised)

The boy fell,
the boy fell,
the boy fell

down into
the darkness
of the Abyss.

Since his birth
he had been
falling.

He didn’t
have a name. 
Long ago

he had left
his stomach
up above him

with his only
memories
and their pain.

*

The safe warmth of his mother’s womb
and his sister there beside him
sharing an umbilical.

The flash
of a golden spearhead,
the golden gauntlets that tore them out.

His shining foe and a circle of bright gods.
A backdrop of dead dragons
and a starless sky.

The snapping
of the cord – their separation –
she carried up whilst he was cast down.

Then the endless falling their hearts
no longer beating 
as one.

*

The boy fell,
the boy fell, 
the boy fell

down into
the darkness
of despair.

Before he lost
his voice he
ceased screaming,

reaching out,
clinging onto
the thread.

Accepting
his life was
nothing but

one long fall,
as the boy fell
he dreamt.

This is a revised version of the opening poem in the first part of my book in progress ‘In the Deep’. It gives voice to Vindos/Gwyn, the future King of Annwn, after his Dragon Mother has been killed and he has been ripped from her womb and cast into the Abyss.

Since the original I have decided that the book will take the form of a combination of poetry and short stories rather than prose as this fits better with the transmission of myth.

You Are My Truth

You are the God who awoke my soul from its coffin. 

You are the God who awoke my questing and my questioning of all truths. 

You are the God whose truths have a misty question mark hovering over them.

You are the God who showed me the truth of the mist, the fog, shrouding, obscuring, revealing only half-truths, shifting like metaphor, escaping words.

You are the God of the truths of the void, the abyss, the darkness and the beautiful illusions that cover them lest we run screaming, clawing out our eyes.

You are the God who visited me with the truth of madness.

You are the God whose light is truth only after years of wandering lost in the mist, following the long dark tunnels, running, shouting through the catacombs.

You are the God of truth’s veiling and its unveiling and of the veil between the worlds.

Your truth begins in namelessness and comes to shine brightest in Your name.

Vindos, Gwyn, Hunter in the Skies, Light of the Mist, Lord of the Abyss, by all Your names and none, until all worlds are gone and ever after, You are my truth. 

He is my Truth – Reflections on my Ten Year Anniversary of Meeting Gwyn ap Nudd

On August 31st this year I celebrated the ten year anniversary of meeting my patron God, Gwyn ap Nudd, at the leaning yew on Fairy Lane in my home town of Penwortham. 

For those who don’t know the story, Gwyn appeared to me in a visionary encounter at the head of my local fairy funeral procession. He revealed His name and offered me the opportunity to journey with him in spirit to Annwn, (the Brythonic Otherworld) on the condition I give up my ambition to be a professional writer. 

Recognising Him as the deity who had long been calling me to the Otherworld and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to establish a relationship with the God to whom my soul already belonged, I agreed.

The following January full moon I made my intitial vows to Him as my patron God, as his ‘apprentice’, and soon afterwards learnt the name of my path – awenydd ‘person inspired.’ On the super blood wolf moon in 2019 I made lifelong vows to Him.

It’s been ten years now and a lot has changed. On the day of my anniversary I visited the yew, made an offering of mead, gave my thanks to Gwyn and spent some time in meditation and in conversation with Him. 

Since then I have been reflecting on the past ten years and the ways my devotional relationship with Him have shaped and changed my life. 

During this period Gwyn has been there as a source of guidance and inspiration in my devotions, my journeywork, my prayers, guiding my work as His awenydd in poetry, storytelling, in writing my three books. 

He’s not only supported me through my successes but my messiness and meltdowns. I have been able to talk to Him about anything, no matter how dark, because I know that, as the Lord of Annwn and Gatherer of Souls, He’s been with the mad, the dying, the dead, will be there for me at the end and after.

On a more difficult note He has consistently called me to my truth. This has been a tough process which has involved quite a lot of unmasking and a surrendering of my desires to fit in, reach a wide audience, and gain financial security. 

After my latest straying into an attempt to become an ecologist I have again been stripped bare of all masks and brought back to my role as His awenydd and a step closer to my truth in His calling for me to become a nun of Annwn. 

Finally, at the age of forty, ten years since our meeting, I have come to realise that He is my truth. That only when I honour Him and do His work, I am blessed.

I am currently moving into a new phase of my life exploring what becoming a nun of Annwn will mean within the context of building the Monastery of Annwn.

I am developing a monastic routine and practices and treating my bedroom, which already holds every part of my life, including my altars, as a monastic cell. My work as an awenydd, devotional creativity, sharing inspiration, at present through writing my next book ‘In the Deep’ for my Gods, remains central. 

Having learnt from my mistakes I am looking forward to a life in which my relationship with Gwyn and my spiritual path are its truth and sacred heart.

Re-opening my Patreon account

I am re-opening my Patreon account to invite you to support the writing of my ‘The Forgotten Gods’ book series. This aims to re-imagine the myths of the ancient British Gods and Goddesses from existing Welsh and Irish sources and to tell the story of how they were forgotten due to the Roman invasions, Christianity, industrialisation, science and capitalism, and to provide a vision of the future in which their worship is restored.

Your support will help me buy more time for writing and you will receive exclusive excerpts and other rewards.

There are three tiers:

News from Peneverdant (£2.50): You will receive a quarterly newsletter sharing how my ‘The Forgotten Gods’ series is progressing, an excerpt, and general news.

Excerpts from the Mist (£4.00): You will receive my newsletter and fortnightly excerpts from my ‘The Forgotten Gods’ series.

Mythic Books (£10.00): You will receive my newsletter, a fortnightly excerpt, and your name in my books along with free signed copies.

You can sign up HERE.

From Poetry to Prose – On ‘In the Deep’ finding its Voice

It’s been over three weeks now since I finished my ecology job and began working full time on my ‘The Forgotten Gods’ book series. This aims to re-imagine the myths of the ancient British Gods and Goddesses from existing Welsh and Irish sources and to tell the story of how they were forgotten due to the Roman invasions, Christianity, industrialisation, science and capitalism, and to provide a vision of the future in which their worship is restored.

After completing the first draft of the first book, In The Deep, in free verse I went on to use that style for a first draft of the second book. During the process I realised it had got very long and that I couldn’t justify taking up so many pages with such short lines. Another realisation was that, without clear and detailed explications of the plot, character development, and a grounding in the landscapes of ancient Britain and of Annwn most readers, even those who know the Welsh and Irish myths, would likely be lost. 

Therefore, I decided to go back to the beginning and rewrite In the Deep in prose. As I did so, I noticed there was a big shift in narrative perspective between the first section and the rest of the book. In the former I write the story of the birth of the Children of Don and the slaying of the Dragon Mother of Annwn in a combination of omniscient and third person omniscient. From the second section onwards, when I introduce the main viewpoint characters Vindos (Gwyn) and Kraideti (Creiddylad), I write Them in third person limited, thus going to into greater detail on their thoughts and feelings, whereas I continue to write Lugus and Uidianos (Gwydion) in third person omniscient. 

I think I can get away with the shifts in narrative perspective. However, I recognise that the parts I have written in third person limited are much more engaging. Plus, the book is changing all the time as I go through and realise ‘ah, that wasn’t set up properly, that wasn’t explained, I know where I am in the landscape and what that deity looks like but the readers doesn’t, that fell flat.’ 

My aim is to write a book that is accessible to readers without any knowledge of the Welsh or Irish myths at all and that will be engaging and enjoyable as well as having mythic depth and doing justice to the stories of the Gods.

When I first set out writing this series I was hoping to have three books, in verse, finished within three years, when I need to start looking for paid work again. I’m now having to adjust my expectations. Half way through the second draft of In the Deep, I am at 45,000 words and sure it is going to be novel length. As such it is still very much finding its voice. When I have finished this draft, I will be in a better place to review the shifts in narrative perspective. 

Having realised the book is in such early stages I have decided not to share any more excerpts in the public domain as they are unlikely to represent what it will be. What I have decided to do instead is re-open my Patreon account so people who want to follow my creative process and receive private excerpts from my work can do so in return for investing a small amount of financial support to help me buy more time for writing. 

I’m judging it will take me one to three years to finish this first book, so I will be in for the long haul writing the others when I also have to work. It’s almost beginning to feel like a project of a lifetime, which isn’t a bad thing, as it’s far better than living without inspiration. In contrast here is a photo of some sweet peas, one of my growing highlights this year, beautiful and ephemeral.

‘In the Deep’ – first excerpt ‘In the Beginning’

This poem is the first of a series of excerpts from my book in progress ‘In the Deep’ and is called ‘In the Beginning’.

The title ‘In the Deep’ refers to Annwn, ‘the Deep’, the Otherworld in medieval Welsh mythology. The book is about the gods and goddesses of Annwn and their conflicts with the Children of Don. Most of these deities are found as euhemerised characters in the Welsh myths and were worshipped as gods in ancient Britain. 

This opening poem, ‘In the Beginning’ was born from my long-standing fascination with creation myths. This began with the Bible where, in Genesis, we find the lines:

‘1. In the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth. 

2. And the Earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.’ (1)

This shows that, in the Biblical tradition, the deep existed before the Creator God. 

In medieval Welsh literature God comes to replace Ceridwen, the Goddess of the crochan the cauldron or womb from which inspiration originates and, I believe, the universe was born. 

This role is hinted at in medieval Welsh poems such as ‘The Childhood Deeds of Taliesin’:

‘I entreat my Lord
that I may consider inspiration:
what brought forth that necessity
before Ceridwen
at the beginning, in the world
which was in need?’ (2)

In my poem, ‘In the beginning,’ Ceridwen, Old Mother Universe, takes the place of the Biblical creator God.

The universe is born from the shattering of Her cauldron, a recurring motif in the Welsh myths. This mirrors ‘the shattering of the vessels’ in the Kabbalistic tradition. 

  1. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%201&version=KJV
  2. Marged Haycock (ed), Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin, (CMCS, 2007), p 242

Text

In the Beginning

was the breath, 
the in-breath and the out-breath 
of Old Mother Universe. 

In the vastness of the Void she slept, 
and in her sleep, in her dreams 
she stirred Her cauldron. 

And in her cauldron 
she saw Her face in the Deep 
and she saw it was surrounded by stars

and each star was the eye of a giant
and each was a fiery warrior.
By the light of the stars 

She saw a nine-headed dragon
and knew her for the Mother of Annwn.
She saw the birth of the Gods

and the death of dragons
and the battles that would form worlds:
everything from the beginning

until the end of time.
Her vision was so sad and so beautiful
her cauldron burst and the stars poured forth.

Thus was the beginning –
the first breaking of the cauldron.
Thus from a big bang the universe was born.

New Life

It’s been a few days now since I left my ecology job behind along with my somewhat misguided dream of finding a suitable career in the environmental sector. 

Returning to my vocation, to being a good awenydd, ‘person inspired’, after a time during which my path had lost its meaning, invigorated with new life. I’d turned away because I thought I’d lost my inspiration after several years of writing nothing of note without realising even unworthy notes fuel the Cauldron.

I didn’t realise my research into the British and Irish and wider myths along with my first attempt to bring them together in The Dragon’s Tongue would eventually lead to the trilogy of books which I am near-certain will be right.

It’s going to be called ‘The Forgotten Gods’ trilogy. The impetus behind it is a long-standing sadness that people in Britain know the names of the Greek, Roman and Norse Gods but nothing of the ancient British Gods and Goddesses. Zeus, Athena, Hermes, Mars, Venus, Pluto, Thor, Odin, Loki are all well known but no-one knows of Nodens, Vindos, Rigantona, Brigantia, Bel, Belisama, Lugus, Ambactonos, or Gobannos.

The first book, In the Deep, is an attempt to re-imagine an ancient British creation myth based on the stories about a primordial conflict between the deities of Annwn (the Otherworld) and the Children of Don in British and Irish mythology.

The second book, The Gates of Annwn, tells of how the Roman Invasions and the coming of Christianity led to the ancient British Gods becoming overwritten by new Gods, demonised, and forgotten, of how the people of Britain turned to Christianity, believing their souls went to Heaven or Hell rather than to Annwn.

The third book, The Black Dragon, which I haven’t written yet and will be the apocalyptic finale will tell of the return of the Gods and provide a vision of the future.

I’ve never felt more alive, since I finished Gatherer of Souls at least, as I have whilst I’ve been writing these books, becoming the Cauldron and in it walking with my Gods in their stories, with Vindos/Gwyn through His Dreams as He sleeps through the Summer.

There’s such excitement and magic in writing a story, not knowing where it’s going, being somehow in control and somehow not. Learning when a plot choice is right, when it is not, divining the guidance of the Gods. Being one with Them in the act of co-creating.

On a more mundane level I’ve had some ideas about how I might reach a wider audience with Their stories and make a little income to support myself whilst I devote my time to writing them by making some videos of excerpts from my books.

I’m looking into how to use Photo Booth on my Mac and planning on re-opening my Patreon with the aim of sharing video excerpts of readings from my books and poetry read around my local landscape along with general news and views.

Leaving with Flowers

Yesterday I finished my graduate ecologist job with Ecology Services Ltd in Longton. It was a bittersweet moment for I had worked with a brilliant team who are amongst the nicest people I have ever met and in many ways the jobs was ideal. There were lots of learning opportunities, a lot of support, and a high level of professionalism in the rigour of the writing and editing of reports. 

However, I could not cope with the demands of the job due to my autism. These included some stresses endemic to ecology and others more widely to the working world – night shifts, long hours, travelling to new places, frequent changes in routine, working to tight deadlines, multi-tasking, spending 7.5 hours in front of a screen with limited breaks for lunch and brews.

When I first started seeking work in the environmental sector, in conservation, in 2019, I did so under the mistaken idea that it would be like conservation volunteering – practical and survey work every day of the week. As I progressed from volunteer, to volunteer intern, to paid trainee, I realised that such jobs are few and far between and that most people are expected to ‘progress’ to taking responsibility for project and people management. 

Most paths lead from outdoors to the office and require skills outside my skillset – being good with spreadsheets and numbers and mastering the horrendously complex and counterintuitive mapping system which has been the bane of my life since I started following this career path – QGIS.

It’s taken me a while to realise I’ve made a wrong turning for some of the right reasons (such as wanting to learn more about the fascinating plant and animal species who we live alongside of and wanting to give back to the land) and some of the wrong reasons (such as wanting to excel and climb the career ladder and craving not only financial security but more money than I need).

In the process I have gained my creativity and my commitment to my spiritual vocation as an awenydd in service to my Gods and Goddesses back. I have learnt that this is where my skills and passion lie and that I must put this first, whether it means either working full time for a while to buy time for my creativity or working part-time and creating alongside my work. 

As my work is so niche and, a long while back, I sacrificed my ambition to be a professional writer to Gwyn, my Patron God, in return for inspiration from the Otherworld, I know I will never make a living from writing alone so must go on trying to strike a balance between the all-consuming demands of the awen and my financial needs. 

On my last day my colleagues bought me flowers along with a card and a book. I think it’s the first time in my life I’ve ever been bought flowers. Beautiful, fragrant, a reminder of a sometimes lovely and sometimes difficult time.

I have no regrets, only memories, which will soon pass like flowers, not to be forgotten, but to be left behind, as I leave the environmental sector, to devote the next two or three years this time has bought to writing my next three books.