The Mothers of Destiny

I.

Bendithion yr Awen

I undertake a fool’s quest to understand the origins of the breath of life and in my foolishness am granted an answer. I find myself amongst a crowd singing with them as three Mothers of Destiny breathe the awen (which is at once inspiration and one’s fate) into a baby.

It is suspended over a baptismal font that reminds me of the Roman altar to the Mothers at Lund Church near Springfields around five miles away from me.

Our voices are pre-Roman, Roman, post-Roman, of all the women who have sung their blessings to a child in this ancient gathering place and in churches where Matrona ‘the Mother’ appears as Mary and the Matronae as Faith, Hope and Charity.

They rise and fall as we sing: “Awen bendithion yr awen bendithion yr awen bendithion…”

II.

Sea Maidens

My fool’s quest continues as I cannot, now, resist returning to the mothers to pose the question of my own destiny. They appear as three sea maidens, stormy, stony-faced, amidst a sea of raging waters.

III.

The Web of my Destiny

The goddess in the middle shows me ‘the Web of my Destiny’. She holds it between her hands like a cat’s cradle. It shimmers golden and pulsates with coloured jewels of energy. She tells me that a small tweak can change everything. I realise that making a cat’s cradle is a two-way process, between a person and the gods, and it’s my turn.

A Farewell

The ship is tall, leaning. Its only crew are the gulls, who tie the knots in the sails; old, old, sailor souls. On its prow stands Barinthus, the helmsman, dark-cloaked, stern, implacable.

No-one sees if his lips move beneath the shadows of his hood as he reads out the roll call: the names of Londeners, Devonians, Bristolians, Scousers, Mancunians, Lancastrians, Glaswegians, Brummies, whose accents mix in the huge make-shift camp that has grown up in the marshy hinterland between the worlds.

They’re mostly old. Veteran souls move between them, boiling tea on stoves that burn on no gas. They drink from metal cups, pull blankets around them, attempt to recall to one another their stories.

Some of them are funny – drunken exploits – other people’s knickers and roundabouts. Some are tragic – motorcycle crashes, the loss of daughters and sons, spouses who lost their memory yet lived on.

“How did we get here?” few recall that journey or what brought them.

White hounds with red markings on their ears, noses, the tips of their tails, patrol the edges of the camp. If anyone tries to leave they are there. A grin and friendly growl is always enough. The pups like to play amongst the child souls, tongues lolling, letting their bellies be rubbed. When their master calls them, not liking them to get attached, they leave whining with their tails between their legs.

“Where are we going?” few recall that journey they have made so many times before.

“The biggest shipload since the last war,” my god’s voice from where he stands invisible so as not to frighten the souls.

Their leaving seems to take forever, one by one getting up from their camp stools, boarding across a wobbly plank and taking their places in the cabins, more cabins-worth of souls than there are cabins on board?

“The number of cabins, the space of the hold, the expanses of the deck, are limitless, infinitesimal,” Gwyn informs me. Speaking ominously “no matter how many passengers the ship is never full.”

I watch with Gwyn as the camp fires go out and the ship sinks deeper and deeper into the waters.

As a gull flies down and with a practiced twist of her yellow red-spotted beak unties the mooring rope I clasp my hands, bow my head in mourning, say farewell to 980 Britons who I never knew.

As I leave, dropping a tea bag in a pot for the next souls, I see them already beginning to arrive. Some are escorted by their ancestors, others by the hounds, others by white birds. A little boy is carrying a white red-spotted hamster wrapped up in his school blazer.

Their numbers are endless.

Caer Nefenhyr

I was in the Fort of Nefenhyr:
herbage and trees were attacking.
Poets were singing;
soldiers were attacking.’
The Battle of the Trees

The trees are still. Frozen. Still stained with blood thigh-deep. It trickles down trunks, drips from boughs. Mighty Oak is soaked in it and whomping Willow and Alder, who marched at the fore as Brân clashed his spear on his shield and Lleu, strong-handed, radiant, rode in the branches like an Eagle.

Blood is dripping from heart-shaped Ivy. Honeysuckle cannot shake off her tendrils. Clover is drowned. Bramble is, of course, in his element, and Blackthorn is bloodily pretty. Birch regrets putting on his armour, now speckled white and red like a hound, he is kneeling like a sorrowful knight.

Raspberry, who did not put on his defensive palisade, lies broken and bereft of his blood-red fruits. Vine the destroyer is destroyed, Pear the oppressor oppressed, Bracken the pillager pillaged. Heather, no longer purple but red, regrets being enchanted into the army. Cherry’s commotion is silenced.

Pine, in the place of honour, downed his needles and wept. Dogwood, bull of battle, hangs his head. In the woodland beyond Caer Nefenhyr it rains nothing but blood and the cry of a lapwing ever circles.

Souls of soldiers and poets flit between the trees like birds fighting over blood-red berries like harpies. They have gazes like the fragile doe who wanders leaving bloody footprints between worlds.

A sagging snakeskin is strung up, stretched out in the trees like an afterbirth, emptied of a hundred souls.

Amidst the alders is a bloody pool. In it float the bones of a toad and his hundred claws. In the centre is the green and glowing toadstone from his head which, like a crown, symbolised his majesty.

Beyond the woodland, on a hill, like a cairn or totem, are piled the hundred heads of a great-scaled beast. The roof of his tongue and his napes are empty of battalions yet cries still echo from the hollows.

Atop the heads, like a flag of victory, is Gwydion’s staff with Eagle feathers fluttering in the wind.

In the Woodlands Beyond Caer Nefenhyr it Rains Nothing but Blood

‘In the woodland beyond Caer Nefenhyr it rains nothing but blood’