The Rule of the Heart

On the formulation of our Rule at the Monastery of Annwn.

The Monastery of Annwn

Over the past couple of weeks members of the Monastery have been discussing the formulation of our Rule and we have agreed upon the Rule of the Heart.

Our Rule centres on cultivation of love of the Annuvian Gods. In this each individual is free to follow their own heart in aligning their heartbeat with the greater beat of the Heart of Annwn. Where the Heart of Annwn lies, what it is, and what it means to them, is for each individual to discover as part of the mystical journey that leads to their formation as a Monk, Nun, or Monastic Devotee* of Annwn.

All Hail the Ever-Beating Heart!

*We are currently seeking a nonbinary equivalent of Monk or Nun of Annwn. We welcome Monastic Devotees of all genders and encourage fellow dedicants to self-identify.

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Introducing the Monastery of Annwn

So I decided to do it – I decided to make a monastery. It will begin as a virtual space and place of sanctuary for those avowed to the deities of Annwn, and I shall see how it grows…

The Monastery of Annwn

If you know anything about Annwn, ‘the Deep’, the Brythonic Otherworld, and its Gods you may think that a monastery of Annwn is a contradiction in terms.

So did I, for a long, long while, in spite of my own monastic leanings. For it was Christians who seized and converted the pre-Christian sacred sites, the holy hills and springs, destroyed the temples, re-dedicated them to their saints. Replaced the many Gods of the native polytheistic religion with one God.

More complicatedly, it was Christian monks who adopted and maintained the lore of the bards. Took an oral tradition and, for the first time, put it to the pen. Kept the old stories in an altered, Christianised form, in which the Gods appear, at best, as magical figures and, at worst, as the ‘devils of Annwn’.

I, an awenydd*, of Gwyn ap Nudd, a ruler of Annwn, who is depicted by…

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Shattering the Nunnery

Somewhere between here and Annwn

a part of me is cloistered

thinking already
about the spring flowers

as she paints another saintly visage.

In another life she has been drinking
the truth from a forbidden cup.

The saints no longer look the same:

their hands are red with blood and filled
with splinters and chips of stone
from shattered pagan idols.

The stained glass is blood stained.

Her voice catches on the songs and tears
as if upon nails – she SCREAMS

and the stained glass shatters.
The nunnery falls down.

~

This poem, which is based on a spirit-journey, signals my release from a malaise I have been calling ‘nun envy’. Although I realised Christianity was not for me when I experienced its dull and stuffy sermons and the patriarchal presence of the Christian God in my local C of E church as a Brownie at church parade a part of me has longed for learning and ritual and shared devotion in a religious community.

I have been deeply jealous of Christians because they have a system of support for people who have a sense of vocation. For those who are called to serve God there are ways of living by this calling. Vicars and priests receive an education and a salary for their work and nuns and monks lead lives of dedication to God based around prayer, manual labour, and artistic and intellectual pursuits without worrying how to pay for housing or food. When I hit thirty-five I realised that was the last chance I would have of becoming a Christian nun and living what looked the ideal life except for… the Christianity.

Of course, I decided against, because I did not want to betray my god to the God and saints of the religion that destroyed the pagan traditions and, in particular, demonised him and the Otherworld he rules.

Yet, still I kept yearning for what Christian monastics have. Researching local monasteries and abbeys. Finding myself drawn to Preston’s Carmelite monastery.

 

Visiting the Tabor Retreat Centre, which was once a Carmelite nunnery but is now run by the Xaverian Missionaries (this provides regular meditation classes, Lectio Divina, short courses and even a book club as well as retreats which I’d have loved to go to … if only I was Christian!).

 

Wanting to go back to the ruins of Fountains Abbey (which I visited every weekend when I worked at the Yorkshire Riding School) to sit and mourn something I will never have.

Fountains Abbey II
A strange impulse I believe may be rooted in a past life as a nun. A few years ago when I read in a biography about the ritual burial of Julian of Norwich – entombed like Christ to become his bride and an anchoress who would never see the outside world again I felt like I was being buried alive. As if I’d experienced something similar before. I flung the book into my wardrobe, slammed the door, and went for a walk feeling immensely grateful for my freedom to see trees and taste the fresh air.

I’ve always had a push-pull relationship with Christian mysticism, art, literature, and song. A yearning for its richness and beauty but a dislike of its unhealthy obsession with suffering and punishment.

As a consequence of years of learning about how nearly every splendid church and cathedral is based on the takeover (violent or non-violent) of a pagan sacred site; how nearly every haloed saint is associated with the defeat of a pagan mythic figure or with the slaughter or conversion of pagans; how the Christian tradition is founded on the death of paganism, it has finally lost its fusty-fingered hold on me.

Being an awenydd attempting to reweave the ways between Annwn and This-modern-world isn’t easy. But I think I will be able to do it better and more happily now my yearning for what Christians have and my nun envy is gone. From the ruins of the shattered nunnery may new shoots and tendrils grow.

Fountains Abbey