The Return of the Son

For three days
she journeyed there
and for three days
journeyed back

to return a lost son
to return a lost brother
and I alone stand witness
at the standing stone

that might have been
placed here for this day
as his golden rays shine
over the marshland.

How did she win him
back from Winter’s King?
That is for her alone to know
and the birds who sing.

This poem is a follow up of my poem ‘I light a candle for Epona‘ based on the journey of the Great Mare to the Otherworld to win back her lost son. I linked this to my brother’s period of hospitalisation. I’m glad to say he is back now and on the road to recovery so many thanks to the mare goddess and to those who sent good wishes and lit candles.

The photographs are of the sun beginning to set over the winter solstice stone at the stone circle at Brockholes Nature Reserve and over the visitor village and Meadow Lake.

I light a candle

for Epona

to light the way
through the darkness.

I walk through the darkness too

with all the mothers
who have lost their sons

with all the sisters
who have lost their brothers.

We flit like bats against the walls.

We are searching
for our oldest animals

to lead us through the darkness

to the prison of the child
now a young man.

On the solstice
when the sun stands still
by candlelight

we will bring him back.

Today, December the 18th, is the festival of Epona, the Great Mare. Over the past few years the story of the search of the Mare Goddess for her lost son has been revealed to me as a relief of Epona riding through the Otherworld with engravings of animals, Rhiannon’s loss of Pryderi, and Modron’s loss of Mabon have sealed into one.

It’s my personal belief the episode in Culhwch ac Olwen featuring the search of Arthur and his men for Mabon with the help of the Oldest Animals and his rescue from the House of Stone replaced an earlier version in which the Great Mare (Epona) / Great Queen (Rigantona) / Great Mother (Matrona) searched for her son and rescued him from Annwn, where he was taken by his father, Annwn’s King. A similar story is told in the modern film, Labyrinth, where Sarah rescues her brother from the Goblin King.

It has taken on a personal meaning for me this year because, at the beginning of the month, my brother was admitted to hospital for brain surgery. It went well and he came back home to stay with me and my parents to recover, but was readmitted due to complications. We are hoping he will be returning from the hospital, a liminal place like the House of Stone that was Mabon’s Annuvian prison, between sickness and health, life and death, some time after his reassessment on the winter solstice.

Rigantona’s Departure

I.
The fall of tempered leaves
stamps itself out mid-November
like leaf-shaped arrow heads

the yellow birch my old daggers

distant memories of the ancestors
contort the gloaming wearing

cloaks as grey as your shroud

and the grey spider who hangs
above watching you departing from
the darkness without a thread.

II.
I cannot imagine you Great Queen
as the young girl who was taken
against her will when the last leaf

fell by the hunter with the horns

and the ember-eyes headlight bright

before there were cars and cars and cars…
before with the leaves the forest fell…
before Annwn was known as Hell.

III.
You always knew where you were going
didn’t you? Needed no thread to lead
you back to your own home in his arms?

They knew that too – our ancestors

who offered up coins minted like leaves
in fairyland where money grows on trees
and crumbles likes us to grey dust.

IV.
I have no coin the leaves in my pockets
are old and withered as grey spiders.

When my fingers are dust I shall
follow without a thread shrugging into
your shroud joining the contours

of the grey-cloaked ever-marching dead.

How I love

the sound of the rain
dripping from the gutters
gurgling down the drains
everything that stood
still moving again

How I love

the healing hand of Nodens
reaching out to touch
sooth replenish

these thirsty flowers
that grow in my garden

How I love

this sense of relief that
we are not quite cursed –

the gods still listen to
our prayers respond

to offerings of dreams

How I love

the Rain of Nodens
hope you will visit again
you are welcome here
every day to keep us green
and at night the gates
of dream are always open

The Calling of Creiddylad

Creiddylad,
strings of birdsong
pull your hair.

Creiddylad,
they turn your head
towards the sun.

Creiddylad,
your face is a gently
opening petal.

Creiddylad,
your footsteps call
the flowers from sleep
in hill and mound
and dun.

Creiddylad,
you are unstoppable
in your majesty

although a part of you is weeping inside
for the love of winter
who will soon
be gone.

Creiddylad,
do not turn back,
do not turn
back

to the darkness
of Annwn.

Creiddylad,
step into the light
of the spring sun.

Hour One – Candlelight Illumination

I have no temple.

Only a candle
and a small statue
of a wolf.

I make my temple
wherever we are.

I have no sisterhood
or brotherhood

and yet…

as I stare into the flame
I sense they are
behind me –
rows and rows
of monks and nuns.

Those who understand
the sanctity and solemnity
of this vigil these vows
although we have
different gods.

Alone and not alone
in the making of this bond
to one to whom I am
forever bound

my mind is a chant

a Moebius loop

and I see
rows and rows
of monks and nuns
before me.

*This poem depicts the first hour of my vigil on the night I made my lifelong dedication to Gwyn. I have committed to meditating on an hour for each year at the time of my vows and to sharing it in poetry.

Gwyn ap Nudd Devotional Pendant

As a symbol of my of lifetime dedication to Gwyn ap Nudd I commissioned this beautiful silver pendant from Emily Brunner. The image is based on Gwyn’s appearance as a ‘Bull of Conflict’ in the medieval Welsh poem ‘The Conversation of Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwyddno Garanhir’: ‘I come from battle and conflict / With a shield in my hand; / Broken is the helmet / By the pushing of spears.’ Emily was inspired to craft it in the style of Iron Age metalwork and the addition of the two Cwn Annwn ‘Hounds of Annwn’ (who mirror my guides) was her idea. She was a pleasure to work with and I am immensely proud of the outcome. Putting it on for my morning and evening devotions to Gwyn makes me very happy.

gwyn ap nudd pendant small

Heart

I carry my heart in my hands
and lay it upon your altar.

“It is so heavy, so sad, so lonely.”

Your spirits bear witness
in the blinking eyes of trees,
shivery breezes rustling leaves,
the distant bones of wind chimes.
Some amongst them are hungry.
They are held back only by
your invisible command.

A part of me wishes it would break.

“What do you want me to do with it?”
You speak wearily from your sleep.

“Bury it and someone will dig it up.

Take it to the end of the universe
and it will return in a space shuttle.

Give it away and it will still be yours.

If I feed it to my hounds or devour it
myself your pain will live on in us.”

It stares back at me – obdurate aorta,
perfect superior vena cava, pulmonary
arteries and veins, atria and ventricles
pumping out their irrepressible beat.

“Take it away,” you speak abruptly.

As I gather it up and depart tearfully,
“it is strong,” you say more kindly,
“see it as a gift and not as a burden.”

A dozen invisible hands press it back
into my chest and seal the vision shut.

heart-drawing-real-61-by-lunacanan-getdrawings