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 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.

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.

Of Worldly Career and Spiritual Vocation

So it reaches an end. The trajectory that began with volunteering on local nature reserves, took me into paid work restoring the Manchester Mosslands, and eventually led to me working for a local ecological consultancy on developments across the North West. 

Whereas my choice to work in conservation was guided my Gods, when my traineeship reached its end, and no conservation positions came up, I chose my ecology job because it was local, permanent, well paid, and offered financial security, and because I had a good interview and liked the people.

I knew next to nothing about ecology, the high pressure environment, how distant some of the sites would be, or how badly working nights would affect my mental health. I hadn’t thought through how I’d feel about working for developers, some just people who needed a bat survey for an extension on their home, but others who wanted to build on green spaces and nature reserves.

Working just one night a week, the dread beforehand and the tiredness afterwards, had a massive impact on my mental health due to my need for a regular routine and sleep pattern as an autistic person who suffers from anxiety. 

This, combined with travelling to sites over an hour’s drive away, and learning to write technical reports and mastering an unneccessarily complex and counterintuitive mapping system called QGIS whilst, at the same time, organising surveys, preparing quotes, and replying to clients, swiftly led to stress and burnt out.

Within a matter of weeks I went from being a happy, fit, and confident person with hopes of excelling in botany, pursuing an MSc in ecology, and running an official half marathon to being unable to read academic articles or comprehend the logistics of getting to a run or navigating the crowds.

I started waking early in the morning in tears and crying until I went to the gym or on a run and somehow cried all the way through a run on a very bad day.

I turned up in tears, managed to get on with my work, in spite of the crushing feeling in head, which increased as the day went on and throughout the week. I drove the wrong way up to M62 and through a red traffic light. I got hopelesssly muddled on a survey and drew the map the wrong way up. One day my brain melted to the point I couldn’t recall what a PDF was.

My manager took me off nights and I stayed because I liked the team, who were kind and supportive, because I didn’t want to let them down, because it was my mistake for rushing into what was the wrong job but right location and people.

I didn’t speak much to my Gods at first. But when drinking ceased to cure my troubles and I realised it was doing me more harm than good, both in my work life, and strength training and running performance, I began to pray. 

I began to seek a place of retreat and healing as respite from an overwhelming world. “Remember who you are,” said Gwyn, recalling me to my vocation as an awenydd, as Sister Patience, as a nun of Annwn.

Somewhat laughably, as is often the case of Gwyn, at a time when I was craving financial security due to fear of losing my job, He told me do the thing least likely to make money in the world – “build the Monastery of Annwn”.

Yet His imperative, my vocation, could not be ignored. I have set up the Monastery of Annwn as a virtual space; started laying the foundations in terms of daily devotions, a ritual year, and practices such as journeying to Annwn and tending Creiddylad’s Garden; and begun dialogue with others.

Desiring to partake in lectio divina and lacking an Annuvian creation myth I have been inspired to return to writing one – a pursuit I began a couple of years back with a book called The Dragon’s Tongue, which didn’t work out. 

This attempt to weave a new creation story, from the perspective of the Annuvian Gods, from the existing Welsh and Irish myths and also drawing on the Mesopotamian epic ‘Enuma Elish’ and the Bible has been renewed as ‘In the Deep’ (the antithesis of ‘When On High’ – the translation of ‘Enuma Elish’). 

In returning to devotional writing I have found deep joy, which has dissipated as soon as the stresses of work and worldly career have got in the way. 

This positive discovery/recovery combined with the knowledge that, as an autistic person, I am not suited to full time high pressure work, has led to the decision to hand in my notice at my ecology job and seek less stressful, part time work in conservation or horticulture that will allow me to fulfil my vocation.

It has been a relief and a release. Although I have two months’ notice to work I have a myth to tend, a monastery to build, and can find solace at my altar and in Creiddylad’s garden, where the bees are loving the blue geraniums and the foxgloves I grew from seed last year are looking magnificent.

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.

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.

Review – After My Vows by Thornsilver Hollysong

‘After My Vows (Love Songs from a New Godspouse)’ is the second album from Thornsilver Hollysong. Thorn is a fellow awenydd and devotee of Gwyn ap Nudd who I met through the Awen ac Awenydd Facebook group in September 2019. He hosts Gwyn Day Thursdays on Land Sea Sky Travel and we have since worked together on conferences and workshops for Gwyn and his ‘family’.

It has been spiritually affirming to form a friendship with someone else who shares my devotion to Gwyn. Whilst my relationship with Gwyn is primarily devotee to god, Thorn is also a godspouse, thus Gwyn’s lover and husband. Godspousery is an ancient tradition which has probably been around since humans met gods and entered liaisons and marriages with them. Its best-known form is Christian nuns becoming Brides of Christ and it is particularly deeply embedded in the Brythonic tradition, which contains numerous stories of the Fairy King and his people taking humans as lovers. It has been illuminating listening to this album and hearing of experiences familiar and unfamiliar.

‘After My Vows’ was composed by Thorn with his own piano-playing and vocals. There is a rawness and immediacy to this music, a heartfelt passion, an outpouring of devotion. Whereas some songs are waltz-like, others are operatic, some put me in mind of a monk’s voice from a polytheistic cloister.

If there is one line from the album that summarises it for me it is: ‘Come to the ballroom of waltzing shadows’. This is from ‘Won’t You Dance’, a song that, although the tunes differ, put me in mind of David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’. Here Thorn relates meeting Gwyn as ‘Black shade, silver mist / In a raven’s mask’ ‘At the Faery Ball / Sparkling shadows darkling as the moonbeams fall.’ It took me back to my own clubbing days, dancing alone, melting into the oneness of Faery. It gives voice to the timeless truth that gods are not only met at the altar or out in nature, but on the dance floor. In other songs this moonlit ballroom becomes Gwyn’s Hall in ‘the Castle of ice and bone’ where Thorn sings before his Fairy King like Gweir in his heavy blue-grey chain.

In ‘Greensleeves (He’s My Heart of Gold)’ Thorn takes the tune and rewrites the lyrics from the traditional English Folk Ballad, replacing Lady Greensleeves with Gwyn in an incredibly catchy chorus that I’ve been singing along to since I heard it. The following lines felt deeply familiar:

He rode with grace and I knew his face
Though I had no reason to know him–
The songs I sing have crowned him King
With a pathway of stars strewn below him.

Another song which stirred this sense of familiarity was ‘Reunion’:

Was I a monk or mystic? Did I meet You?
Was I a cunning man or woman? Did I know You?
Was I a heretic or witch who dared to greet You?
And for me, to put the holy Church below You?

It put me in mind of my own feeling, upon meeting Gwyn, that I’d known him in other lives, since the beginning of time. This is also conveyed in Thorn’s songs and his vows to love him ‘forever’.

‘Light of the Mist’, with its softly song couplet ‘Light of the Mist / Ghost of the Void’, sent shivers down my spine. Here ‘ghosts stars’ burn in ‘Inspired art’ and we find untold stories only hinted at such as the tale of ‘the Star who gave his Wings’ and how ‘He kissed the dead/ To bring me back’.

In other songs, like ‘As I Made My Vows (It Felt Like a Wedding)’ and ‘Just a Life with You’ I found lines that, as someone without a romantic or sexual relationship with Gwyn (or a human partner), it was harder to relate to. However, I appreciated their craftsmanship and aesthetic beauty.

And You take my hand
Saying “Come, lie down
Where the fruit trees stand
Each with blossoming crown–
In the winter sun
Under apples sweet
With our hair undone
And our joy complete.”

The album is filled with instances anyone who has sat with Gwyn in a woodland or the forests of Annwn would ‘get’: ‘You’re taller than a man could be– / Your antlers, like an ancient tree / Branch out and cover up the distant cross.’ ‘I dream of stars in a forest sky / I dream we watch them, You and I.’

I would recommend ‘After My Vows’ to polytheists who have devotional relationships with Gwyn or other gods, to those who are called to godspousery and to those who are not, and to all who appreciate beautiful music.

‘After My Vows’ is available on Bandcamp for $3 HERE.

Thorn also blogs at Starstruck Awenydd HERE.

Strong as an Aurochs, Patient as a Heron

A figure has been appearing in my journeys back to the time of the ancient Britons to the lake dwelling on the marshland close to the green hill that put the ‘pen’ in my home town of Penwortham.

I first saw her as I approached the dwelling on a wooden pole decorated with animals. Amongst them she sat seated cross-legged on a bull with a crane in flight emerging from her head above her.

The second time I encountered her within the dwelling itself, again in a meditative position, a cord of light down her spine shining upward through the smoke hole into the heavens and down into the earth. She was encircled by worlds, flickering in out of existence, like juggling balls or fairy orbs.

Read this and you will probably be put in mind of non-Western traditions. Yet there is evidence that, like the indigenous people of the North-West Pacific Coastal communities of what is now called  America and Canada, the ancient Britons carved and erected ‘totem poles’ displaying sacred animals. For example at Stonehenge there were four pits with post holes dated to between 8,500 and 7000 BC.

I like to think of the new wooden carvings on poles between the docks and the hill on the Ribble and upriver on Frenchwood Knoll as expressions of animistic relationships with local creatures and as a call from our ancient ancestors to return to their worldview in which the natural world is inspirited.

Again, the cross-legged figure will likely put you in mind of the lotus position of the Buddhist and Hindu traditions. Yet, the artwork on the Gundestrup Cauldron, dating to between 200 BC and 300 AD, features Gaulish artwork including an antlered figure sitting cross-legged surrounded by animals.

It seems likely this position was adopted for meditation by the Indo-European and Eastern cultures because it works. It was possibly used in Gaul and in Britain by spirit-workers when journeying into the spirit world to meet with animal spirits and to shift into animal forms and invoke their qualities.

The fluid relationships between human and animal, and shapeshifting, are fundamental to Celtic art. In relation to my vision Tarvos Trigaranus, ‘the Bull with Three Cranes’, appears with the divine woodsman, Esus, on the Pillar of the Boatman from Paris and on a pillar from Trier and may be related to statues of bulls with three horns found at Autun and at Maiden Castle in Dorset.

A bronze bucket mount found at Ribchester, fifteen miles up the river Ribble from Penwortham, features a bull with knobbed horns and a prey bird emerging from its head with a human head on the back.

It has been suggested that the image of the Bull with Three Cranes may have originated from the mutual relationship between cattle and cattle egrets who stand on their backs and eat their lice as well as eating the worms and insects from the soil that is overturned by their great hooves.

Maybe this is the case but I also feel such images are representative of the human impulse to participate in and become one with the wider ecosystem, to feel the strength of aurochs, the joy of crane. To be taken out of oneself, to get out of one’s head, to soar with the wetland and prey birds.

I’ve recently been having a difficult time not only because of the stress of COVID-19 as a threat to the lives of my parents and an obstacle to finding paid work in conservation, but because my mum had a fall and broke her hip and had to have a hip replacement on top of my dad’s ongoing health problems.

Through this time in my morning meditations I have been guided to take the position of this ancestral figure and to invoke the strength of the aurochs and, rather than the qualities of the crane, the patience of the heron. I believe this is because this is a time, not of joyful dancing, but of waiting.

Aurochs is an animal I have long felt a connection with due to early experiences in journeys leading me to the aurochs skulls in the Harris Museum which were found in the vicinity of the lake dwelling. I often wonder whether some were offerings to my patron, Vindos/Gwyn, a hunter god referred to as a ‘bull of battle’. Whatever the case they are primordial and powerful presences.

I have been seeing herons in increasing numbers along the Ribble and beside local lakes and ponds for many years. They are a bird I am much in awe of for their quiet waiting and sense of wisdom along with their quickness and determination. I have seen a heron tustling with a huge eel on the riverbank. Recently I came within a foot of a young heron absorbed in fishing beside the Lancaster canal.

‘Strong as an aurochs, patient as a heron,’ is my current chant and this and the image of the awenydd seated on an aurochs bulls with a heron emerging from her head help me get through the days.

I wonder whether the awenyddion of the past worked with and depicted the animal spirits in similar ways?

*With thanks to the Harris Museum for use of the photograph of the aurochs skulls.