The Epiphany of Lleu Llaw Gyffes

Lleu

I. The Oak

Lleu-in-the-Tree
Lleu-in-the-Tree
Lleu-in-the-Tree

Tell me why
he has pierced us
with his spear

Lleu-in-the-Tree
Lleu-in-the-Tree
Lleu-in-the-Tree

Tell me why
ooze drips from our
rancid wounds

Lleu-in-the-Tree
Lleu-in-the-Tree
Lleu-in-the-Tree

Tell me why
we are filled with
rot and maggots

Lleu-in-the-Tree
Lleu-in-the-Tree
Lleu-in-the-Tree

Tell me what
visions we must see
in these leaves

Lleu-in-the-Tree
Lleu-in-the-Tree
Lleu-in-the-Tree

Tell me what
lessons we have
failed to learn

II. Lleu’s Lament

I am filled with bitterness:
black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, blood,
yet no theory of the humours
or anatomy of melancholy
explains my sad state

and no letting of blood
or application of leeches can
purge the badness within.

So I am here on this tree
telling the story of how I saw
the sun and it was Fool’s Gold.
My wife was made of flowers.
My armour turned to dust.
My fortress was rubble.

I have lost the meaning of my name.

I have come to doubt I even exist,
yet cannot close my eagle eyes.

Like the Eagle of Gwernabwy
I have watched civilisations rise and fall.
Like the Eagles of Pengwern and Eli
I have sunk my beak into flesh
and tasted rot and maggots.

I have seen the rotting corpses
on the battlefield at the end of the world,
the souls sparkling like iron pyrite
in the veins of the night skies.

I have looked into the abyss
and the bright lights do not console me.

I go with reluctance into Gwydion’s arms.

III. Lleu’s Resurrection

He does not want to live,
this putrid sack of dirty feathers,
bones, rotten flesh, stench,

still I clamp my mouth to his,

massage his reluctant heart
slippery and recalcitrant.

When this does not work
I call upon all the electricity
from Maentwrog Power Station,
take the paddles and recite

the words of a forbidden spell
stolen from the depths of Annwn
to bring life to the newly dead.

An ALMIGHTY FLASH –

his body jerks like frog’s legs
or the monster of Frankenstein.

He breaks the leathery bonds,
shakes off his feathers and rises
like the sun from my stony table
leaving a black charred shape.

A haze of smoke surrounds him.

His eyes are burning his hair aflame!

BEHOLD THE RESURRECTION
OF THE LIGHTNING GOD!

IV. Dinas Lleu

Lleu will not return
to Dinas Lleu tonight

woodbine twines the walls
as if in search for a lover

an owl circles overhead
with a hoot is gone.

Lleu will not return
to Dinas Lleu tonight

thistles break into the hall
to find an empty hearth

the fire long gone out,
a pile of black char.

Lleu will not return
to Dinas Lleu tonight

in the ashes I scrawl
with a feather the outline

of a bird against the sun
unknowing if it is the end

or beginning of a myth.

*I wrote this sequence of poems in a single morning shortly after finding out I’d got an infection following my hernia repair operation. Thankfully it seems to have cleared up now.

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The Slow Thaw

On the second of February, the date of the Celtic festival of Gwyl Ffraid/Imbolc, I was not celebrating the first signs of spring but was in hospital having an umbilical hernia repair operation.

Snowy GCV 3

The land was covered by snow and ice and I was aware of the presence of my god, Gwyn ap Nudd, Winter’s King. To he, who guides our souls between the worlds of the living and the dead, I prayed to lead me into the near death-like state of coma that is general anaesthesia and back to wakefulness again.

To he, who dies a ritual death at the hands of his rival Gwythyr ap Greidol every year at Calan Mai, who enters a frozen sleep throughout the summer months in Caer Ochren, the Castle of Cold Stone before reviving again in autumn to lead his hunt across the winter skies. I knew I could trust my soul.

I knew he understood what I was about to go through and worse for he comes from ‘many deaths’.

And so he took me, but not to where I’d expected. Just two weeks previously I made my lifelong dedication to Gwyn and that night during my vigil I was taken on a really intense journey of descent. I was expecting something like that or worse like waking up whilst I was being operated on.

Instead I awoke feeling as if I was roaring drunk raving about Maredsous. For about fifteen minutes I had no idea what Maredsous was and neither did anyone else in the recovery room. Finally I remembered it was a Belgian beer. Gwyn had taken me on a tour of the bars in Belgium! I have always loved Belgian beers but never been able to afford to visit Belgium and he had taken me there.

Another uncanny thing that happened is that, afterwards, the nurse told me that when I went under everywhere went icy cold and they had to turn the heating up – a definite sign of Gwyn’s presence.

So I woke up feeling wowed and grateful and much firmer in my trust of him.

Post-operation I have been stiff, sore, and had more far more bloating and swelling than I expected. However, as the snow has slowly thawed, I have been making a slow recovery. As I have walked a little further from my house every day I have noticed the snowdrops in my garden in full flower, the first celandine flowering in Greencroft Valley, a yellow wagtail dipping in the brook, the wood alive with the songs of tits and robins.

Since the beginning of November, when I drew the Hagalaz rune, ‘Hail’, at the Way of the Buzzard drumming circle I have experienced a winter of harsh descent which began with a stress fracture of my metatarsal leading to me being unable to walk for over six weeks. Then I had my lifelong dedication to Gwyn, which was challenging and intense, but ultimately confirming and wonderful. Now, finally, this operation, significantly on my naval, my natal place, which seems bound up with the visions of death and dissolution and rebirth that I experienced during my vigil on my dedication night.

The Anglo-Saxon rune poem for Hagalaz/Hægl speaks of my experiences of being the white grain of the initiate in Gwyn’s cold castle, tossed about on the winds of his hunt, and finally brought back in celebration and confirmation to melt into water and take seed in this soil as his lifelong awenydd.

Rune-Hægl

Hail is the whitest of grain;
it is whirled from the vault of heaven
and is tossed about by gusts of wind
and then it melts into water.

So mote it be.

Signposts to Annwn: Lore

Book.of.Taliesin.facsimile

This posts shares some of the lore associated with Annwn. Awen, the divine breath of inspiration, is seen to originate from Annwn. Also included are passages about initiation, death and rebirth, and the soul.

Awen

‘Let’s approach God who is
– according to the utterance of Talhaearn –
the true judge of the worth of the world,
the One who adjudged the qualities
of passionate song.
He with his miracle bestowed
immeasurable inspiration:
there are 140 ‘ogrfen’
in inspiration;
eight score
in each one.
In Annwfn he ranged the (divisions of inspiration),
in Annwfn he made them,
in Annwfn below the earth,
in the air above the earth.
There is one who knows
what sadness
is better than joy.
I know the set gradations
of inspiration when it flows;
(I know) about payments to a poet,
about propitious days,
about a joyful life,
about the aeons of the fortress,
about the ones like kings,
how long their dwelling places (shall last)…

I sing inspiration,
I bring it forth from the depth.
The connected river which flows (around the world):
I know its might,
I know how it ebbs,
I know how it flows,
I know how it courses,
I know how it retreats.
I know how many creatures
are under the sea;
I know the nature
of each one in its shoal;
how many divisions in a day,
how many days in a year…’
– The Hostile Confederacy, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

‘I entreat my Lord
that (I may) consider inspiration:
what brought forth (that) necessity
before Ceridfen
at the beginning, in the world
which was in need?’
– The Childhood Achievements of Taliesin, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

‘Where does inspiration flow to,
at midnight (and) mid-day?’
– I am the vitality, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

‘He (Urien) defended my song (emanating) from Ceridfen’s cauldron;
unrestrained is my tongue, a repository of inspiration.
That inspiration of poetry – my God created it
at the same time as fresh as fresh milk and dew and acorns…

I have three songs of consistent harmony
and they will be perpetuated by poets until Judgement.’
– The Chair of Taliesin, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

‘Here is the declamation of a brilliant poem
of immeasurable inspiration…

splendid (was it) when there emanated from the Sovereign/cauldron
the ‘ogyrwen’ of triune inspiration.’
– The Chair of Teyrnon, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

‘When the ‘Cadeiriau’ come to be judged
my own will be the best of them:
my song, and my cauldron, and my rules,
and my careful declamation, worthy of a chair in harmonious song.
I’m called a knowledgeable one in Don’s court,
I, and Euronwy, and Euron.’
– The Chair of Ceridwen, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

Initiation

Sixty Years of Solitude

‘For sixty years
I endured solitude
in the water gathered in a band (around the earth),
(and) in the lands of the world.
I had a hundred servants,
(and) a hundred dominions after that.’
– The Hostile Confederacy, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

Death and Rebirth

‘A hen got hold of me –
a red-clawed one, a crested enemy;
I spent nine nights
residing in her womb.
I was matured,
I was drink set before a ruler,
I was dead, I was alive,
a stick went into me;
I was on the lees,
separated from it, I was whole;
and the drinking vessel stiffened resolve,
(for) the red-clawed one imbued me with passion.’
– The Hostile Confederacy, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

The Soul

‘Do you know what you are
when you are asleep:
a body or a soul
or a pale mysterious thing?…

The lamented soul –
who saw it, who recognises it?
I am amazed in books
that they do not know for certain
what the soul’s dwelling is,
(and) what its limbs look like;
from which region flow
the great wind and the great stream
in dire combat
endangering the sinner.’
– The Childhood Achievements of Taliesin, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)

‘I praise my Father,
My God, my sustainer,
who added, through my head,
a soul into my design.’
– Song of the Great World, The Book of Taliesin, (Haycock transl.)