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.

On Becoming a Nun of Annwn

I.
A small person
in a small room in a small suburb

looks up at her God riding dark and holy,
immense and terrifying through Van Gogh’s starry night

demanding that she become a creature of paradox closer to Him.

His hounds howl, His owls screech, His ravens scream,
yet His silence is what opens the skies
and cracks the earth of
her small place.

II.
She walks with Him
where monks once walked –
‘Monks Walk,’ ‘Castle Walk’, ‘Tower View’,
where the monastery once stood near Castle Hill,

tracing the labyrinth of the roads and houses instead,

Church Avenue from which the Fairy Funeral
was banished to Fairy Lane where
stands the leaning yew.

III.
He takes her
to visit the Oldest Animals of Peneverdant –
the tawny owl who speaks of the silence before owl time,
the hidden newt, the shapeshifting otter, the tickled brown trout
reminding her of laughter the sacred in all,
the common darter living out
her last days.

IV.
At the spring
which dried up long ago
but runs again for this night

He takes out her eyes, rinses them
clean and grants to her the gift of clear sight.

He takes out her tongue, drenches it in mead, makes it a scroll
of ancient vellum written in giant’s letters in a typeset

known only to monks and nuns of Annwn.

She translates it into nine vows.

V.
The next morning,
at sunrise, at moonrise,

when the Hunter is gone from the night skies

the three stars of his belt continue to shine in her eyes.

She consecrates her room as a monastic cell
and speaks to Him her vows

as a nun of Annwn,
seals her awen.

*This poem depicts experiences in the lead up to and upon my taking my nine vows as a nun within the Monastery of Annwn on this morning’s new moon. The God referred to is my patron, Gwyn ap Nudd, a ruler of Annwn.

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.

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.

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.

Midsummer Madness and ‘In the Deep’

Three long years, almost devoid of inspiration, since I made my lifelong vows to You, where have You been? You told me to plant cottongrass. Afterwards, I strayed from vocation to career, to safety and security, lashing myself to the Oak. When You wanted me to fall, instead, I climbed a little higher and clung on, resisting the inevitable, why would I resist the fall into Your Cauldron?

*

Three years ago, on the Night of the Super Blood Wolf Moon, I made my lifelong vows to my patron god, Gwyn ap Nudd. I didn’t know what would happen, but I hoped it would be like my first set of vows in 2013 when I dedicated myself to Him as His Apprentice and wrote three books for Him in three years.

Nope. It was incredibly messy. A stress fracture to my foot. An umbilical hernia operation. My navel displaced and all the world around me out of synch. I wanted rebirth. Now. But that was not what the tarot cards showed me.

On that night I held a vigil, before the Lunar Eclipse, at 5.12am, of Seven Hours. For each hour a card and I cannot yet speak of them all but can say I used the Wildwood Tarot and the cards that concern this article were the third and the fourth – ’16 – The Blasted Oak’ and the ‘Eight of Vessels – Rebirth.’

I’m into the third year and moving into the fourth. After my peatland conservation traineeship on the Manchester Mosslands I’d wanted to stay on in spite of the driving distance and, when I realised I could not, I’d applied for and gained a local ecology job, not knowing fully what that entailed.

A series of autistic meltdowns later, brought on by doing just one shift of nightwork and shifting from physical outdoor work to intensive survey work and technical report writing along with trying to master the QGIS mapping system, reduced me to a state in which I couldn’t remember the word for a PDF and to collapsing in tears in the middle of a golf course, in a hard hat and hi-vis, whilst removing bat statics with one of our bemused contractors.

Gods damned autism, why can’t I be normal, neurotypical? Is this autism or some kind of rebellion of my soul? At first I was gutted when I realised my limitations meant I could never be an ecologist, and then the inspiration returned.

‘believing in the illusion of material power can only end in spiritual isolation, stagnation and collapse… as we fall, the power that floods our senses with pain also cleanses and burns away the illusions and falsehoods… our senses are alive with with the heat of life. Our emotions are ablaze with passion. Perhaps we had forgotten the intensity of desire, the need to keep struggling for understanding. The essence of true strength and enduring spirit cannot be bought with gold or position or grandiose esoteric theory. It is found in the ashes of and flames of nature’s own ‘wild’ card.’
– The Wildwood Tarot

The heat of life. The blaze of passion. In the visions that surrounded the tarot cards I was a bird shot down from the Oak Tree, who fell into the Cauldron, only I was not just boiled in the Cauldron, blood and bones, but I became it.

After I handed in my notice the inspiration returned. A book called ‘The Dragon’s Tongue’, which I began in the first lockdown, in 2020, an attempt at writing an ancient British creation myth with the perspectives of Gwyn and Creiddylad, rulers of Annwn, the Otherworld, at its heart, demanded to be rewritten. 

It was as if, again, I’d become the Cauldron, and could not stop boiling until it was done. Over midsummer, when I’d taken some outstanding leave, I completed the first draft over five dazzling days, hardly dare to look back at it.

It’s called ‘In the Deep’ and I hope it will form a trilogy with two other books whose titles have been in my mind – ‘The Gates of Annwn’ and ‘The Black Dragon’. 

Over the past couple of years I have learnt the cost of sacrificing vocation for career, the void of lack of creativity, the foolishness of trying to lash myself to the Oak. The futility of the attempts, the pretence, of being ‘normal’. What next?

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.