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.

You Are My Truth

You are the God who awoke my soul from its coffin. 

You are the God who awoke my questing and my questioning of all truths. 

You are the God whose truths have a misty question mark hovering over them.

You are the God who showed me the truth of the mist, the fog, shrouding, obscuring, revealing only half-truths, shifting like metaphor, escaping words.

You are the God of the truths of the void, the abyss, the darkness and the beautiful illusions that cover them lest we run screaming, clawing out our eyes.

You are the God who visited me with the truth of madness.

You are the God whose light is truth only after years of wandering lost in the mist, following the long dark tunnels, running, shouting through the catacombs.

You are the God of truth’s veiling and its unveiling and of the veil between the worlds.

Your truth begins in namelessness and comes to shine brightest in Your name.

Vindos, Gwyn, Hunter in the Skies, Light of the Mist, Lord of the Abyss, by all Your names and none, until all worlds are gone and ever after, You are my truth. 

Fragments of Annwn – Fallings

The Broken Harp

I.
My nerves are timbres.

Taut and tense the ganglia
no longer relay the music.

Weak, worn, frayed, spent,
the tendrils torn and stretched
from the strings of a harp.

Like broken bowstrings
they sting and twitch.

II.
On the empty frame
the ‘devils’ of Annwn sit
and mock and chatter.

I cannot take my eyes
from their neat little fangs
and paper-like origami wings.

I cannot shut out their voices,
low, high, squeaking in the wind,
fat with my stolen melodies,

for I am strangely in love
with my distractions.

I court them feed them daily.

I have become their instrument.

And so I lie broken beneath their claws…

III.
And where is my god? Not the harpist
or the one who taught him but the one who
listens for the song in his eternal hall

where the harp played with no player at all?

Is he still listening? Waiting? For the bow
to be restrung? For the song to be sung? For
the arrow that will pierce his heart fine and true?

~

The Place Where the Sky is Falling

In the place where the sky is falling and the winged and the wingless ones with it I am galloping. The faster I gallop the faster it falls and the faster they chase me, swishing, swooping, on wings and not on wings (yet still sounding torn and leathery and creaky-jointed), with and without teeth and claws.

As a little experiment I touch a rein, a brief half-halt, steady from a flat-out to a slower gallop. The sky-fall slows, the flight of the ‘devils’ of Annwn who pursue me, the winds of the abyss that drive us all. I slow to a canter, to a trot, to a walk, pull up. The sky is still. The winged and wingless ones hang before me like puppets on strings, immobile in the air, without a single wing-beat. I frown. They frown. I move my left hand. They move to the left. I move my right hand. They move to the right.

“Is this some game?”

An eruption of laughter flows through them, breaking the strange spell. They shift, flap, nudge, jest. Some fly away and others descend to look on this strange phenomenon of an awenydd in Annwn.

“What are you?” I ask. “Are you devils?” For that is what Christians have called them for hundreds of years and they do look like something out of Doré’s woodcuts for Milton’s Paradise Lost. Yet I have a feeling they have existed in the Otherworld before the Christian imposition of Heaven and Hell.

They laugh and shriek and pull their grins wider with their foreclaws like demonic Cheshire cats.

“Seriously…”

“Fliers,” squeaks one. “Fliers, fliers,” the others echo. “Fliers.” “Clawers.” “Takers.” “We take…” “We take what you feed us.” “We feed.” “We bring the takings.” “We bring what you feed us to the abyss.”

“Cursed, cursed.” “We cannot set down our feet.” “We have no feet.” “We fly between the worlds knowing nothing but taking.” “We even sleep on the wing.” “Ours is the dream-storm over the abyss.”

“What have you taken from me?” I have no wounds but no teeth and no claws leave no mark…

They cackle, grin, smack their lips. “What you fed us.” Their mouths purse like secrets.

“Then you are welcome to it,” I incline my head in acknowledgement, “add it your storm of dreams.”

I depart at a slow walk knowing gratefully in Thisworld I will dismount onto the ground onto two feet.

~

It’s Easy to Fall

and keep on falling
when there is nothing
to hold on to – no can,
no bottle and its easy

soon empty comfort.

Its gentle guidance
down into oblivion.

(It is an illusion the
abyss has a bottom).

It’s easy to fall
and keep on falling
when you don’t know
how to do anything else.
Because no-one taught you
how to tread empty air.
How to breathe when
there is no oxygen.
How to balance when
there is nothing between
your two empty ears.

How to hear what
when there is nothing
beyond the abyss?

It’s easy to fall
and keep on falling
unless some unexpected
hand reaches out to
shake you from

that free fall before
you wake with a jolt –
upright in your bed.

It’s easy to fall
and keep on falling
before some person
or some god gives

you a task only you
can do. HERE. NOW.
Where there is land to
stand on air to breathe.
Hope on the horizon.

~

Why These Worries

I do not need unlike the wind that moves the washing?

Why the fear that if they stop I will be nothing
like a lump of a coal in the toe
of a Christmas stocking?

Why do I feel worthless
when I am wanted by a god?

Why do I feel like a failure
when I’ve written three books?

Why does it feel more heroic
to be battling on against these thoughts
when I could let them go to the graveyards
of the winds beneath the towers
from which they were born?

How big a grave for a thought?

How great the work of the gravedigger?

How to engrave the gravestones
with suitable death’s heads?

And if I should let them slip away…
If I should carry them like childhood toys
gifted on Christmas morning then broken by bullies
in cardboard boxes like little coffins (each has a face like my own
like in the fairy funeral and the Fairy King sings
a mournful chant as I lower them in)…

how do I know I will let them rest

and not dig them up like a restless hound?

Come, come, a blast on his horn, come away
from my graveyards and away from mourning.
Spring is here and flowers and hares to chase.
In these sunrise mists a new hunt dawning.


~

*These poems are based on journeys to Annwn undertaken during the process of giving up alcohol as self-medication for my anxiety (which I began on New Year’s Day). This forced me to stop falling, face my worries, and see them for what they are – distractions from my work as an awenydd devoted to Gwyn.
**The image is Doré’s ‘The Fall of Lucifer’ (courtesy of Wikipedia Commons).

Review: Your Face is a Forest by Rhyd Wildermuth

Your Face is a ForestRhyd Wildermuth is a writer and social worker based in Seattle. He writes for ‘The Wild Hunt,’ ‘Patheos Pagan’ and ‘Polytheist.com’ and blogs at ‘Paganarch.com.’ He describes himself as ‘a dream-drenched, tea-swilling leftist pagan punk bard.’ He is also a student of Druidry with OBOD. What drew me to his work was his boldness, passion, vision and the fact he proudly and outspokenly ‘worships gods.’

Your Face is a Forest is a collection of essays and prose. Rhyd describes his style as ‘weaving a forest from meaning’. This book’s a tapestry of poetic prose and prose poetry woven from themes that make sense as a whole only in the non-rational way trees make a forest. It’s rough, edgy and raw, and also a little rough around the edges, which adds to its anarchic charm.

Rhyd invites the reader to step into his life and accompany him through the places where he lives into forests behind to meet the faces of ‘the Other’ in ‘tasselled willows’, pines and alders, satyr dances and Dionysian revels. To find the tooth of an elk long dead and buried where cars now drive. A world full of life and another world behind it.

What I love about this book is that Rhyd speaks deeply and richly of both worlds. On pilgrimages to France and Germany he tells of the wonder of waking in a field of rabbits, playing flute with locals on unknown streets, sitting within the pink fur womb of a Berlin bar. He speaks of his despair at social inequality and the continuing repression of homosexuality in Christian colleges. He is a poet of the sacredness of this-worldly life on all levels.

He also shares some of his innermost visions of the gods and otherworlds. These have guided his life and thus form the reader’s guiding threads. Outstanding was a vision of Bran, which deserves quoting in full; ‘When I saw Bran, his great black cloak rippled in an unseen wind, his powerful form straddling a Breton valley between the River of Alder and the sea. But the cloak fled from his body, a myriad of ravens having stripped from his flesh sinew and skin, leaving only great white pillars of bone, the foundation of a temple and a tower. I do not yet know where his head lies.’ On his pilgrimages we find a mysterious tower on a mountain, a stone head in a fountain and a magical cloak. But Rhyd doesn’t give all his secrets away.

Other deities include Arianrhod, Ceridwen, Brighid, Dionysos and the unnamed gods and spirits of the city streets, buried forests and culverted rivers. What I liked most about these sections is that rather than kowtowing to being acceptable, Rhyd speaks his experiences directly and authentically. This was encouraging and inspiring for me and I think will be for other polytheists whose encounters with the gods go beyond known mythology and conventional Pagan text books. There are few modern authors who speak of the mystical aspects of deity and Rhyd does it exceptionally well.

I’d recommend Your Face is a Forest to all Pagans who are looking for real, undoctored insights into nature and the gods. Because it’s not only about Paganism and is written by somebody fully immersed in the beauty and pain of life and the search for love I’d recommend it to non-Pagans too, particularly those interested in spiritual journeys and visionary prose and poetry. Quoting Rhyd’s dedication, to ‘Everyone who’s ever looked into the Abyss / And brought back light for the rest of us.’

Your Face is a Forest is available through Lulu: http://www.lulu.com/shop/rhyd-wildermuth/your-face-is-a-forest/paperback/product-21887986.html