The Dancing Girl

See her dancing on the circumference of the world,
on the point of the compass that divided
night from day, on a needle point
with a thousand devils.

See her tip the globe

and go off dancing on the ball point
of her foot shaking her rattle at the heavens

dancing between the fortresses in the summer stars
and the winter stars who call forth
the Lords of Annwn

summoning

all the horses from the Song of the Horses
and all the oxen from the Triad of the Three Prominent Oxen
and all the dead from the Stanzas of the Graves

to the city where the people have made a patchwork dragon

from old discarded clothes and are parading it down
through the subway from the drunken streets.

Someone lifts an umbrella spinning in the colours of her soul.

A wooly mammoth appears and joins the dance as she passes by.

It is said she will leave no corpse or she will leave a multitude of corpses
of those she has possessed and one day they will be resurrected
to dance with her again haloed in star dust spinning…

The spinning of the stars / the spinning of the Abyss…

She broke the surface of the waters of the cauldron and stole the awen
not for herself but to scatter the drops in the darkest
most mysterious and most unexpected places.

Who will find them in the necropolises we have built,
in the nameless archways, in the manes of horses,
in the terrible names I cannot speak
to thee tonight or ever?

I wrote this poem after drawing the Ecstasy card from the Wildwood Tarot as part of a reading I did on the morning of my dedication as a nun of Annwn.

On the one hand I was slightly surprised as ecstasy isn’t the first thing I associate with monasticism (although there are examples of ecstatics even in the Christian tradition – most famously the ecstasy of St Theresa*) but on the other I was not as ecstasis is central to my path as an awenydd and devotee of Gwyn ap Nudd, a ruler of Annwn, in the Brythonic tradition.

On my walk the previous day, Gwyn had already shown me by leading me from the roads where the Benedictine Priory once stood on Castle Hill to the wooden sculptures I have come to know as ‘the Oldest Animal of Peneverdant’, He wants my vocation to remain shamanistic and animistic.

Another interesting coincidence is that the girl in the tarot card is holding a rattle. In a journey previous to this I had been given a rattle by one of my guides and used it in a dance to awaken a serpent. This prompted me to buy a rattle from my friends, Jason and Nicola Smalley, who live nearby in Anglezarke and run the Way of the Buzzard Mystery School. Coincidentally, after my ‘Strength’ blog post I found a rattle crafted with the focus on strength. I knew it was the right one and have been using it to connect with the serpents since and now… they’ve taken over my writing and come into my life…

I’m 41 today and looking at this card reminds me of the birthdays when I used to go out clubbing and how my first experiences of ecstatic states and with the spirits of Annwn came from dancing all night in night clubs and at festivals. 

Those days are gone but accessing ecstatic states through drumming, rattling, maybe even dancing, are going to remain central to my path as an awenydd as I continue to explore what it means to be a nun of Annwn. 

*The famous sculpture ‘the Ecstasy of St Teresa’ is based on her experience of a seraph piercing her heart with a ‘long spear of gold’ which she describes as leaving her ‘on fire with a great love of God’. Her ecstasy was depicted in a mural on the bike sheds in my local playing field and always spoke to me when I walked past. They were sadly knocked down a few years ago.

He Will Guide The Dead Back Home

For Gwyn ap Nudd

There’s a sea behind a river,
behind a brook, behind a stream,
and when the stars within it gather
He will guide the dead back home.

There’s an ocean in the cauldron
where the stars began to burn
and as our candlelight grows dimmer
He will guide the dead back home.

His is an infinite vocation
in those dark and starry seas
and when the stars depart their stations
He will guide the dead back home.

When the seas are black and bloody
and the stars are but black holes
all souls to Him He’ll gather –
He will guide the dead back home.

When the cauldron’s but a memory,
seas and stars are but a dream,
all souls in Him He’ll gather –
He will guide the dead back home.

This poem appears in the later part of my book-in-progress ‘In the Deep’ and was written by Maponos/Mabon for Vindos/Gwyn ap Nudd. 

It felt fitting I share it tonight, on Nos Galan Gaeaf, as a way of honouring Gwyn as He rides out with His hunt to gather the souls of the dead.

In the background are my doorway to Annwn and photographs of my ancestors.

In the Deep excerpt – The Dragon Mother

I
The boy dreamt
of a deep place that had never
known light until the birth of the stars.
Of the coils, the folds, of the Dragon Mother
stirring to life from the infinite waters.
Of her raising nine heads in each
beset a sparkling jewel.

II
The boy dreamt
of the birth of dragons from 
caves in her coils, cracks in her folds.
Of monstrous serpents winged and wingless.
Of primordial monsters crawling forth.
Of her nine dragon heads with 
pride surveying all.

III
The boy dreamt
of battles between dragons.
Of wingless serpents rising from
the depths to snatch the winged ones down.
Of a great scaled beast who ate the stars.
Of nine dragon jewels glittering
upon his mother’s brows.

IV
The boy dreamt
of the deaths of dragons.
Of the light fading from their jewels.
Of the kindred of the dead eating their hearts,
taking their jewels to the treasuries
where glittered the memories
of the departed.

V
The boy dreamt
of the ghosts of dragons
breaking free of invisible threads
to flock in the skies before departing
to fly on the winds of the Abyss.
Of their foreheads pale
and jewelless.

VI
The boy dreamt
of a speckled crested snake
emerging periodically from the depths
to swallow the souls who escaped the Abyss.
Of a black forked toad in his napes
capturing and torturing
the remiss.

VII
The boy dreamt
of his mother’s sadness
as the backs of dead dragons
formed her hills, their wings her cliffs.
Of her nine heads admiring her land.
He awoke knowing it should
have been his.

This is the second poem in the first part of my book in progress ‘In the Deep’. It is written from the perspective of Vindos/Gwyn after he has been torn from the womb of Anrhuna, his Dragon Mother, and flung into the Abyss. Here he dreams of her emergence from the Deep, the birth of her children, and the becoming of her land, which will later become Annwn.

The monsters of Annwn – the great scaled beast, the speckled crested snake, and black forked toad appear in the medieval Welsh poem ‘Cad Godeu’ ‘the Battle of the Trees’ and will make further appearances in my rewrite of this story later.

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.

Yorkshire Fog

For Gwyn on Midsummer’s Day

If You had a grass it would be Yorkshire Fog.
From Your sleep of death,
from Your dreams,
come

see it
through my eyes.
Let us be one this Midsummer day
as I walk at night with you through Annwn.

I will speak not of Yorkshire or Lancashire,
roses or dragons red and white,
of the battles we each
must face.

Your Fog
is wiser than
these worries like grassheads,
here one day and then gone the next.

I Awenydd

“Remember who you are.”

I am an awenydd of Annwn.

I am a keeper of an ancient monastery
(yes this monastery is ancient although
its builders only built it yesterday).

Likewise I am born from the Deep.

I am forged in Annwn’s fires.

I am the creation of a myriad creatures
who continue to live within me,
barking, stampeding.

I am born of the Dragon-Headed Mother.
The nine elements swirl within me.

I live by the rule of awen*.

My destiny lies before me.

~

This poem was born from a time of crisis and struggle as I have suffered from poor mental health as a result of working a late shift as I find it very difficult to cope with changes in routine and sleeping pattern as an autistic person.

Following the realisation I can’t make a living from my vocation as an awenydd, for the last three years I have poured most of my energy into pursuing a career that is in alignment with my spiritual values. I’ve volunteered my way into paid work in conservation, completed a year-long conservation traineeship, and gained a permanent job as an ecologist.

There is a lot to like about ecology. There is much to learn. I get to visit varied sites. There is an art to getting the best deal for people and nature. But the job is also high pressure and, in many consultancies, (thankfully not mine) there is a complete disregard for mental health with junior ecologists working several nights a week and being expected to keep up with day work

I have been lucky to gain work with a team who are not only friendly and professional but aware of and supportive around mental health problems and have allowed me to cut down nights and take time out for counselling.

Over the period I have been developing my career I have had less time for my spiritual vocation and, it’s sad to say, have only fallen back on it at a time of crisis, when my work alone has not been enough to pull me through.

Having realised that my difficulties with night work will mean I cannot become a good all round ecologist (I will not be able to get my great crested newt and bat licences and will be limited to developing my abilities with habitat and vegetation surveys and protected species I can survey by day) I’ve been questioning if this is the right career path and assessing where my talents lie.

“Remember who you are,” I have heard the voice of my God, Gwyn, on a few occasions, reminding me of my vow to Him, to serve as His awenydd.

This has led to the realisation that I’ve been living an unbalanced life. Devoting too much time to Thisworld and not enough to Annwn, the Deep.

This doesn’t mean that I’ve made a poor choice of job, but outside it, whereas I was spending all my free time reading ecology books and articles, trying to record and memorise plants, and carrying out extra surveys, I need to make room for the soul-world.

From this has been born the Monastery of Annwn as a sanctuary to retreat to; where the Gods and the Deep are revered and honoured and put first; as a place that provides the strength to return to Thisworld and pursue one’s awen/destiny**.

*The phrase ‘the rule of awen’ is not my own but is one of the principles of the Gnostic Celtic Church which resonates deeply with me. 
**In Medieval Welsh poetry ‘awen’ means not only inspiration but destiny.

In the Monastery of Annwn

there will be no rulers and there will be no rule.

All will uphold the virtues of their choosing.

Neither light nor dark will be banished
for they form the night sky and the stars –
the womb of Old Mother Universe.

Eating, drinking, fasting, will all be allowed
for all states of the cauldron must be embraced –
empty and full and there will be no divisions between
the ones who drink and the ones who stir as
this was the root of the original disaster.

There will be no good and there will be no bad.

We will exist in a world before sin existed.

The before that 365 plants come from and art
and who we bring to life with our songs.

There will be room for men and women and all between.

It will be accepted that we all are monsters.

The monstrous will be raised on high with the dragons,
spiralling, spiralling down, descending into
darkness, sleepily drunk on mead.

We will be visible and invisible.

No-one will see that we wear our habits
like invisible cloaks as we got about our daily lives.

No-one will see the Monastery of Annwn because
it lies beyond doors and walls and no-one
will read the forbidden books
in our personal libraries

because they lie unwritten
on the dark shelves of our souls.

No-one will be able to read our motivations.

I ask is this monastery meant to be built?

If I build a monastery will they come?

Or will it always be a rule of one?

Ecology and the Language of Home

I.
‘Ecology’ from the Greek oikos and logos
seems to suggest there is a logic to our home.

And ‘home’ from ham (like in Penwortham),
from the German heim, from the Norse heimr
‘abode, world, land,’ is so much more than a haus.

Hiraeth is the Welsh word for the longing for a home.

II.
Do the Welsh gods want this English awenydd
to untangle the threads, to follow this longing back
to when she started asking questions about her home:

“Why did only one group of snowdrops from the hundred
bulbs we planted in Greencroft Valley ever come up?”

“Why did the bluebells take so many years to appear?”

“How do the crocuses spread around the garden?”

“Why do the starlings disappear come back greedier?”

“Why did the mouse come in May and make a nest of my feathers?”

“What is it with spiders and September?”

III. 
Do we ask science to explain
because we are no longer able to talk to
the creatures because we have forgotten their language?

Because we have forgotten how to speak and share our home?

Did we know the answers to these questions long ago
when we were more at home rather than longing?

Is it the ecologist’s task to call us home

with all the words in her repertoire –
Anglo-Saxon, Brythonic, Latin, Greek?

IV.
In the Norse myths
Heimdallr guards against
the threats to the home such as
invaders, Ragnarok, the end of the world.

One blast on his horn will blow a warning.

Is it the ecologist’s task to be a horn-blower?

To sound the alarm and call us back?

*This poem is a series of reflections on my transition from working many miles away restoring the Manchester Mosslands to my new job as a Graduate Ecologist much closer to home. I am seeing it as a form of homecoming.

My Lady Verdant

I shall follow
the threads of her hair –
her hair is verdant.

I shall follow
the bats to her lair –
my Lady Verdant.

I shall follow
the ancient pathways
to Peneverdant.

I shall meet her 
there ivies in my hair –
my Lady Verdant.

*A poem and image for Anrhuna, the goddess who I believe to be the mother of my patron god, Gwyn ap Nudd, appearing in her localised form as the Lady of Peneverdant.

A Rainbow Bridge

A Rainbow Bridge that rises and greets your foot…
will carry you over the void as you step, trusting and empowered, into the unknown…
– 0 The Wanderer, The Wildwood Tarot

I stand 
with one foot 
on Astley Moss,

rising onto tiptoe,
the other raised, flexed,
heel up, toe down,

like the hoof of a winged horse.

I still know little 
about where I came from
and less about where I am going.

There is little comfort or security
in the shifting mists below,
haunted by the ghosts,

the bog bodies,
the severed heads,
the voice of Worsley Man.

They are all telling me,
compelling me to move on,
unlike restless spirits.

I am reminiscing 
about the day I drove into
the end of the rainbow on the M6,
throwing up splashes of rain
like fairy gold.

‘Do Not Look Back.’

I hear His arcane commandment.

My wings are spread and deep within
I know it is time to move on.