In the Deep progress update and planning The Forgotten Gods

Since my last update around the Winter Solstice I have been making good progress with the second draft of In the Deep. Having got nearly half way through and added another 20,000 words to the existing 127,000 by expanding and deepening the plot and character development without yet adding more detailed descriptions of the places and characters I have realised it is going to be too long. However, this works out great, as it means I will be able to make two books from this one!

The place I have reached a halt forms a natural ending to a book titled In the Deep and it now forms a self-contained whole for which I have written the following blurb as an exercise. 

‘Vindos and Kraideti are ripped from the womb of their Dragon Mother at birth. She is taken to the stars. He is flung into the Abyss. 

Vindos crawls out and must fulfil his destiny to become King of Annwn by building his kingdom from the bones of dead dragons and find his lost sister. Not easy. For warring serpents lie beneath, furious ghosts, and ancient monsters.

Kraideti is held captive by the Children of Don and partakes in the creation of the perfect world and the bringing of life and will forever be far away.

This is a story of descent and forbidden love.’

The next book will be called The King and Queen of Annwn. It will cover the battle between Vindos and Victor/Lugus (Lleu) for Kraideti and the turning of the seasons and the Battle of the Trees in which the Children of Don and the forces of Annwn clash and the rule of the culture gods is asserted over Britain. 

I am now envisioning a series of six books reimagining the origin story of Vindos and Kraideti and the other Gods and Goddesses of ancient Britain, telling how they were forgotten, of their return, and of future things.

In the Deep – the creation of the world and building of the Kingdom of Annwn.
The King and Queen of Annwn – the seasons, humans, conflict with the culture Gods.
The Spirits of Annwn – the Roman invasions.
The Gates of Annwn – Christianity and Arthur’s despoiling of Annwn.
The Silver Wheel – the Industrial Revolution.
The Black Dragon – nuclear war, the return of the Gods, the apocalyptic finale.

*In my books Victor son of Scorcher (Gwythyr ap Greidol) and Lugus (Lleu) are different names/titles for the same God.

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

Winter hellebores evoke the presence of Gwyn and Creiddylad as Winter King and Queen for me.

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.

2022 – Career Failure and What I am Really Here to Do

The first half of 2022, for me, was characterised by a disappointing departure from a career in the environmental sector. This was because I couldn’t meet the demands of higher than trainee level jobs due to a lack of people and project management skills and struggles with irregular routine, travel, night work, multi tasking and working under high pressure due to my autism.

This left me burnt out and not so much depressed but facing a depressing reality. In spite of being academically intelligent I will always be restricted to menial day jobs. When I first got my autism diagnosis I was told it would mean I could ask for ‘reasonable adjustments’ in the workplace. However, this did not mean I would be able to stay in jobs where I did not meet all the criteria.

Our primroses, after the Arctic Blast, looking like how I felt when I was burnt out.

On the upside, my career failures led me back to my spiritual vocation as an awenydd dedicated to Gwyn ap Nudd and what I am really here to do. To where my true passion and abilities lie in my creativity as a writer and poet and journeyer of the deeper realities of thisworld and the otherworld of Annwn.

Whilst I was struggling in my ecology job I was led back by Gwyn to a writing project I began in the first lockdown in which I drafted a book called The Dragon’s Tongue, a Brythonic origins myth, drawing on other Indo-European parallels.

I’d given it up partly because the plot was incoherent and partly because a part of me didn’t want to retell our dragon and giant slaying myths, how the culture Gods have come to dominate the Gods of nature and of Annwn, even though my work was exposing the violence and hegemony by writing the otherside.

What good could come of picking at and opening old wounds when, instead, I could be out on the land, healing the earth by re-wetting and growing and planting?

These questions have remained in my mind as I have been recalled to my mythic project which is manifesting as a three part series of novel length called The Forgotten Gods. The first book, which I am currently focusing on, is called In the Deep. It is a dark and violent book. It begins in Annwn with the slaying of the Dragon Mother, Anrhuna, and the tearing of her children, Vindos and Kraideti*, from the womb by Lugus, one of the Children of Don. Kraideti is taken to the stars and Vindos is flung into the Abyss. The book focuses on His crawling out to win the kingship of Annwn, to find His lost sister and to defend His realm against and to take vengeance on his enemies.

There’s a lot of violence, there’s a lot of descent, but there is also transformation and healing for Vindos succeeds in building from the bones of dead dragons the beautiful kingdom of Annwn we know in our myths today and transforming the sorrows of the dead, who He rules over, into joy at His feast.

Kraideti has a role, with Anrhuna’s dragon children, in the creation of the world and bringing of life and discovers Her power as a Goddess of seasonal sovereignty.

Our winter hellebores, flowering ‘late’ this year due to the cold snap, Creiddylad knows best…

I don’t know why I’ve been given these stories to work with only that I have to. Perhaps there is a process of mythic and/or psychic healing taking place or perhaps the Gods have got me writing them for their own undecipherable reasons.

I have learnt to accept that inspiration does not come with an explanation.

Philosophical ponderings aside, on a practical level, I completed my first full draft of In the Deep before my winter solstice deadline at 127,000 words and 317 pages. It is mainly prose, with interspersed poetry, and of novel length. The core plot works. It has found its form. I am now working on the second draft, expanding and developing sub plots, characters and depictions of the worlds.

Another way in which I have been fulfilling my spiritual vocation is ‘building the Monastery of Annwn’ as ‘a virtual space and place of the sanctuary for those who worship and serve the Gods and Goddesses of Annwn’. This task was assigned to me by Gwyn in April and, since then, I have set up a website and opened the monastery to members. We have formulated ‘the Rule of the Heart’ and ‘Our Nine Vows’. Four of us took the vows in October and are living as monastic devotees of Annwn. We have also started running a monthly meditation group focusing on reading Brythonic texts in a lectio divina style. Beginning with ‘The Conversation of Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwyddno Garanhir’ we have had an excellent introductory talk by translator, Greg Hill, and participants have experienced powerful and insightful meditations.

In terms of outdoor work my departure from an environmental career and commitment to monasticism has led me back to taking better care of our garden and of my local greenspace, Greencroft Valley, where I’m hoping to team up with a newly formed group called ‘Guardians of Nature’ based on the Alderfield allotment to further develop the wildflower meadow and run some local history and plant and tree identification and folklore walks.

Hazel catkins in Greencroft Valley – a sign of new life as an old year dies and a new one begins.

In my spiritual practices and writing and work for the monastery I am fulfilled.  I am doing what I am really here to do. And I am able to do it because I’m living off savings from my environmental work, live with my parents and receive board and food in exchange for housework and gardening, and receive a very small income from patreon supporters and from book sales.

If you would like to support my writing and receive a quartlery newsletter, exclusive excerpts from In the Deep and other rewards please consider becoming a patron HERE.

*These are ancient British names for Gwyn ap Nudd and Creiddylad. Whilst Vindos is partially attested Kraideti is partly reconstructed, partly made up.

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.

From Poetry to Prose – On ‘In the Deep’ finding its Voice

It’s been over three weeks now since I finished my ecology job and began working full time on my ‘The Forgotten Gods’ book series. This aims to re-imagine the myths of the ancient British Gods and Goddesses from existing Welsh and Irish sources and to tell the story of how they were forgotten due to the Roman invasions, Christianity, industrialisation, science and capitalism, and to provide a vision of the future in which their worship is restored.

After completing the first draft of the first book, In The Deep, in free verse I went on to use that style for a first draft of the second book. During the process I realised it had got very long and that I couldn’t justify taking up so many pages with such short lines. Another realisation was that, without clear and detailed explications of the plot, character development, and a grounding in the landscapes of ancient Britain and of Annwn most readers, even those who know the Welsh and Irish myths, would likely be lost. 

Therefore, I decided to go back to the beginning and rewrite In the Deep in prose. As I did so, I noticed there was a big shift in narrative perspective between the first section and the rest of the book. In the former I write the story of the birth of the Children of Don and the slaying of the Dragon Mother of Annwn in a combination of omniscient and third person omniscient. From the second section onwards, when I introduce the main viewpoint characters Vindos (Gwyn) and Kraideti (Creiddylad), I write Them in third person limited, thus going to into greater detail on their thoughts and feelings, whereas I continue to write Lugus and Uidianos (Gwydion) in third person omniscient. 

I think I can get away with the shifts in narrative perspective. However, I recognise that the parts I have written in third person limited are much more engaging. Plus, the book is changing all the time as I go through and realise ‘ah, that wasn’t set up properly, that wasn’t explained, I know where I am in the landscape and what that deity looks like but the readers doesn’t, that fell flat.’ 

My aim is to write a book that is accessible to readers without any knowledge of the Welsh or Irish myths at all and that will be engaging and enjoyable as well as having mythic depth and doing justice to the stories of the Gods.

When I first set out writing this series I was hoping to have three books, in verse, finished within three years, when I need to start looking for paid work again. I’m now having to adjust my expectations. Half way through the second draft of In the Deep, I am at 45,000 words and sure it is going to be novel length. As such it is still very much finding its voice. When I have finished this draft, I will be in a better place to review the shifts in narrative perspective. 

Having realised the book is in such early stages I have decided not to share any more excerpts in the public domain as they are unlikely to represent what it will be. What I have decided to do instead is re-open my Patreon account so people who want to follow my creative process and receive private excerpts from my work can do so in return for investing a small amount of financial support to help me buy more time for writing. 

I’m judging it will take me one to three years to finish this first book, so I will be in for the long haul writing the others when I also have to work. It’s almost beginning to feel like a project of a lifetime, which isn’t a bad thing, as it’s far better than living without inspiration. In contrast here is a photo of some sweet peas, one of my growing highlights this year, beautiful and ephemeral.

‘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

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?