I am re-opening my Patreon account to invite you to support the writing of 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.
Your support will help me buy more time for writing and you will receive exclusive excerpts and other rewards.
There are three tiers:
News from Peneverdant (£2.50): You will receive a quarterly newsletter sharing how my ‘The Forgotten Gods’ series is progressing, an excerpt, and general news.
Excerpts from the Mist (£4.00): You will receive my newsletter and fortnightly excerpts from my ‘The Forgotten Gods’ series.
Mythic Books (£10.00): You will receive my newsletter, a fortnightly excerpt, and your name in my books along with free signed copies.
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.
On the last dark moon, as England entered another national lockdown, I prayed to Gwyn for advice on what to make my focus over the approaching moon cycle. I received his answers through divination, a journey, and free writing, and the next morning, on the new moon, I was given the theme ‘Co(r)vid Moon’.
So, I decided to commit to writing 28 poems, one for each day of the moon cycle, relating to corvids and/or covid. Some days I wrote 2 – 4 and on others I didn’t write any at all, but I met my target. Of them 19 are shareable and I have put them together as a poetry pamphlet exclusively for my patrons as an expression of my gratitude for their invaluable support through the COVID-19 pandemic.
In these poems I explore my relationship with Gwyn as a gatherer of souls who guides the dead with ‘ravens who croak over gore’ and their role in this plague. I also dive into immunology and cell biology.
If you enjoy my work and would like a copy of the pamphlet please consider becoming a patron through Patreon HERE. There will be other gifts along with regular rewards such as a monthly newsletter, crazy things, access to unseen work, and your name in my future print publications and free signed books on higher tiers.
Here is a selection of the poems:
The Summoning of the Ravens
It is not we who summon but the ravens.
You will know it by the moment the sky goes out to the cronk of their calls like the blinking of a god’s eyelid.
Do not ignore the momentary shadow of their four-fingered wings.
The casting of doubt on everything is only the beginning.
I have seen ravens on Dumbarton Rock, the Great Orme, Pen Dinas, but never expected to see them here in Peneverdant shuddering out the skies.
“Who” and “what’”and “why?” I cry in this wilderness of lockdown, try to interpret their unconquerable calls and their potent messages.
Every time I find words the ravens shift further out of sight.
A Raven has a Job Interview
“Tell me, raven, what qualities make you a good candidate for this role?”
“My great black wings, the sharpness of my beak, my love of flying between worlds. My legendary wit and cleverness. My ability to find shiny and unshiny things. My incredible memory and the comforting and uncomforting sounds of my words. The unfathomable darkness, greatness, ultimately the kindness of my heart.”
“Can you give me examples of when you have worked alone and in a team?”
“Alone I fly, ever onwards, dark eyes swivelling like planets in their orbits, searching for the corpses of the dead but, alone, I cannot open them, peck them apart, so I call to the wolves and they come howling with their stronger muzzles to lay open the wet flesh, the steaming jewels of the innards, and I call my sisters to feast.”
“And, finally, can you tell me what rewards you expect to get out of the job?”
“Well I would be lying if I didn’t admit it was the eyes – the colours of the irises, the beautiful fragility of their dying light, their exquisite taste, the softness of corpses. The magic in the moment a soul flies free. The prestige of flying with Gwyn ap Nudd. Yet, in all honesty, what drew me to this job was the promise of immortality.”
A Raven Carries
the full moon in her beak
or is it a white blood cell – a stolen piece of me?
I see the sky is filled with ravens carrying little moons, carrying pieces of me away and there are billions of them because the body produces 10 billion white blood cells a day.
The sky is white with moons and black with raven’s wings.
I wonder if I am alive or dead or somewhere in between.
Are there islands of the dead for dead leukocytes or do they long instead for another body and plasma?
Will they head for my co-walker and her horse and hounds and settle like expected guests into her ectoplasm
or wing away to some otherworldly graveyard where upon each stone is a small engraving in a language only cells can speak?
It’s the last day of March. It has been a week since the lockdown to contain coronavirus began in the UK. I wake at 4am, as has become my habit, and lie awake with my mind running through all the things I need to do and all the worries that it is useless to worry about and then I beat myself up for worrying about them. By 5.30am I’ve had enough and decide to get up and do something useful.
Breakfast, my morning prayers to my gods and the spirits of place, my daily too often failed attempt to sit and breathe and listen. Then I fire up my laptop, open Firefox, and click on the link to gmail. ‘This webpage is unavailable’. Agh. How the hell am I going to send my patron newsletters? Now my conservation internship has been cancelled until who knows when I have no route into paid work and my Patreon account is my only source of income. My heart’s racing and I can’t breathe as I check the modem (green lights on) and my network connection (fine) then turn the machine on and off.
Thankfully it starts working. I can breathe again. And now I’m looking back at my reaction. What the fuck? How, in the space of a few days, have I gone from being happy in a role that involves making positive changes out in nature alongside likeminded people – building a hibernaculum for newts, planting wildflowers, installing an outdoor classroom – to being completely dependent on something as ineffable and fallible as the internet not only for money but for a place in society?
Over the past few days I have been reflecting on how much of my identity and reason for being have become bound up with this blog, which provides a platform for my voice as an awenydd in service to Gwyn and the gods and spirits of my landscape and my online communities, as well as for book sales.
Its small successes have partly been down to my use of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Over the past few years the former, in particular, has had a massively detrimental effect on my mental health. For me it’s the virtual equivalent of walking into a large, noisy crowd in a magical castle that has no walls but the multiplicity of glass screens that grant us access and contain us.
Attempting to find friends and acquaintances at some illusory fairy feast where the food looks its tastiest but cannot be touched and interacting only with their reflections in their best party gear. Like the speechless dead their mouths do not move and their facial expressions do not change one bit.
Yet words appear on the page and conversations take place, stuttering, dragging on for days, as people blink in and out of existence, moving between the worlds, like ghosts. Being able to flit in and out of the crowd, of groups, creates a perennial nosiness. It takes up an incredible amount of headspace trying to keep up, to find the right answers, to argue against points of disagreement, to read responses in the absence of real faces. When I get offline a part of me remains in the glass castle, a shadow of myself arguing with shades of my own imagining, exhausted, distracted, lost.
I recognise this. But it’s only when coronavirus hits and so many people are forced online for work and to communicate due to the social distancing rules I realise just how powerful the internet has become. To the point we can neither earn a living nor live without it. The web has made it possible for us to work and meet without travelling (which is also greener) and set up groups for mutual support. I admit these are very good things yet something within me is screaming a warning about the surrender of our power to the invisible rulers of the halls of the internet on their glass thrones.
I make the decision to leave Facebook. It’s hard. I know the costs. I will lose contact with people, I will miss events, I will be giving up opportunities for publicity. Less people will see my blog posts and buy my books. These are the teeth, like a monster of Annwn, it has sunk into me. These are the tendrils of dependency that the beast beneath the glass castle has coiled around me, extending from my virtual being to my well being in Thisworld. It hurts when I pull them off, although there is no blood.
I return to Peneverdant, to the green hill in this virtual space between Thisworld and Annwn. I look back at the times I’ve been lost in the ether of pointless arguments and at the good it’s done. Through it I’ve helped real people connect with real lands and real gods and put real books in their hands. But at the cost of the loss of a piece myself, the surrender of part of my identity, to the glass castle.
Looking forward, to the promised ‘when this is all over’, I realise, if I survive, I no longer want to be ruled by the web. I want to walk again amongst the people of Thisworld and Annwn. To put down firmer roots in my land and my community – I determine that I will carry on volunteering for the Wildlife Trust whether it leads to paid work or not and put my name on the waiting list for an allotment. I will continue my service of blogging here but I will not let it rule or define me.
I whistle to that lost piece of my soul and pray to my god, Gwyn ap Nudd, to guide it back to his glass castle in Annwn where our souls are reunited and the dance of the dead reconciles illusion and truth.
Only once this process is complete do I feel ready to face the scary now this piece self-indulgently avoids. The escalating infections, the escalating deaths, of course relayed in figures and graphs by the internet. The rising numbers worldwide, across the UK, here in Lancashire. I see people are infected in Liverpool, Salford, Bolton, Wigan, Chorley, Blackpool, dying in the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.
That soon it will be here in South Ribble and Preston. That people will be fighting for their lives and dying in the Royal Preston Hospital, where the day centre has been allocated to coronavirus patients. I fear for my elderly parents, friends who are old or have health problems, know I’m not immune.
I’m asked to provide a pagan perspective on faith requirements in relation to excess deaths as a result of COVID-19 for the Lancashire Resilience Forum (Lancashire County Council’s emergency planning service). A small useful thing I can do. I revive my Microsoft laptop to attend a Skype meeting.
Right now there is no avoiding using the halls of the internet’s glass castle to bring about physical changes. All over the world fellowships are founded with people we may or may not see on the otherside. I walk these spaces more mindfully, my eyes on the goal, not allowing myself to get lost. I pray that one day some of us will meet on the green hills of Thisworld and, if not, on the hills of Annwn.