In the Deep Excerpt – Nodens and the Deep

In this excerpt from my book in progress, In the Deep, the boy (Vindos/Gwyn) continues to dream as he falls into the Abyss and witnesses his conception by his Dragon Mother, Anrhuna, and Nodens, a god who is one of the Children of Don.

The boy dreamt of a blue god falling from the stars like a comet with an icy tail and plummeting head first into the waters of the Deep.

He surfaced, the strokes of his powerful arms making wide ripples, muscular legs kicking, silver hair flaying out behind him. He pulled himself onto the shore, gasping for breath, crouched, paused.

As he surveyed his surroundings the boy noticed, although he was only in early maturity, his face was etched with lines of stress and strain and his grey eyes were cloudy with regret and a depth of pain.

His breathing at ease, he climbed the cliffs, set out across the hills, a tiny figure, alone and naked, before the curious eyes of the dragons, who watched from their cave mouths and from their summits.

Why do they not eat him? The boy wondered. Curiosity? Respect?

To the Dragon Mother, towering over all like a mountain, he went.

Slowly, she raised her nine heads, regal and grey, as if sculpted from stone. They spoke in unison: “God from the stars what is your name?”

“My name is Nodens and I am the son of Bel, the greatest of the fire giants, and Don, the goddess of the primordial waters. I was once King of the Gods, of the Kingdom of the Stars, but am no longer.”

“Why is that?”

“I was cast down as I dreamed of forbidden depths, of dragons, of you… Tell me what is your name?”

“I am Anrhuna.”

“And where do you come from?”

“I come from the Deep and I am its Mother.”

“You speak in paradoxes.”

“That is the nature of the wisdom which comes from the Abyss.”

“Can you teach me?”

“The Abyss does not give up its secrets easily – what will you give?”

“I would give my sword arm.”

“And so you will, but not yet, for it may be needed.”

The Dragon Mother took Nodens in her coils and in them he hung upside down over the whirling darkness of the Abyss.

Many times the boy slept and woke before his next dream vision.

“Everything my father, Bel, told me is wrong!” Nodens exclaimed. “The Heavens were not created before the Deep, may be above, but are not superior. There is no up, no down, no before or after. Everything meets here, in you, the Dragon Mother.”

“Yours is the wisdom of the Abyss,” said Anrhuna. 

Easing him from her coils she took him in her arms as a goddess  with a crown of nine jewels, dark hair, full breasts, grey skin and serpent tails.

Nodens is my father, thought the boy, that’s why I’m not a dragon.

In the waters he saw both parents in his face – grey skin, sharp cheekbones, a pointed chin, the whitest hair, the white jewel in his forehead. He glanced down at hands and feet with seven claw-like nails.

*You can support my writing of In the Deep in return for exclusive excerpts through Patreon HERE.

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.

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

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.

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