He is my Truth – Reflections on my Ten Year Anniversary of Meeting Gwyn ap Nudd

On August 31st this year I celebrated the ten year anniversary of meeting my patron God, Gwyn ap Nudd, at the leaning yew on Fairy Lane in my home town of Penwortham. 

For those who don’t know the story, Gwyn appeared to me in a visionary encounter at the head of my local fairy funeral procession. He revealed His name and offered me the opportunity to journey with him in spirit to Annwn, (the Brythonic Otherworld) on the condition I give up my ambition to be a professional writer. 

Recognising Him as the deity who had long been calling me to the Otherworld and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to establish a relationship with the God to whom my soul already belonged, I agreed.

The following January full moon I made my intitial vows to Him as my patron God, as his ‘apprentice’, and soon afterwards learnt the name of my path – awenydd ‘person inspired.’ On the super blood wolf moon in 2019 I made lifelong vows to Him.

It’s been ten years now and a lot has changed. On the day of my anniversary I visited the yew, made an offering of mead, gave my thanks to Gwyn and spent some time in meditation and in conversation with Him. 

Since then I have been reflecting on the past ten years and the ways my devotional relationship with Him have shaped and changed my life. 

During this period Gwyn has been there as a source of guidance and inspiration in my devotions, my journeywork, my prayers, guiding my work as His awenydd in poetry, storytelling, in writing my three books. 

He’s not only supported me through my successes but my messiness and meltdowns. I have been able to talk to Him about anything, no matter how dark, because I know that, as the Lord of Annwn and Gatherer of Souls, He’s been with the mad, the dying, the dead, will be there for me at the end and after.

On a more difficult note He has consistently called me to my truth. This has been a tough process which has involved quite a lot of unmasking and a surrendering of my desires to fit in, reach a wide audience, and gain financial security. 

After my latest straying into an attempt to become an ecologist I have again been stripped bare of all masks and brought back to my role as His awenydd and a step closer to my truth in His calling for me to become a nun of Annwn. 

Finally, at the age of forty, ten years since our meeting, I have come to realise that He is my truth. That only when I honour Him and do His work, I am blessed.

I am currently moving into a new phase of my life exploring what becoming a nun of Annwn will mean within the context of building the Monastery of Annwn.

I am developing a monastic routine and practices and treating my bedroom, which already holds every part of my life, including my altars, as a monastic cell. My work as an awenydd, devotional creativity, sharing inspiration, at present through writing my next book ‘In the Deep’ for my Gods, remains central. 

Having learnt from my mistakes I am looking forward to a life in which my relationship with Gwyn and my spiritual path are its truth and sacred heart.

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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The Heart of Annwn

On how playing a slow heart beat learnt on the Way of the Buzzard’s ‘Healing Drum’ course led me to the practice of aligning my heartbeat with the Heart of Annwn and to beginning to formulate ‘the Rule of the Heart’ with others within the Monastery of Annwn.

The Monastery of Annwn

It began with a drumbeat.

During the period I was struggling with anxiety about the disruption to my sleep pattern caused by night work, which was making me lose even more sleep, I found a helpful practice in the Way of the Buzzard’s ‘Healing Drum’ Course.

It was a drumbeat which echoed the sound of a heartbeat and which I found of use in slowing my own heartbeat and calming my anxiety before I went to sleep.

As I made playing this slow beat on my drum* a regular practice I found it not only slowed the rhythm of my heart but brought it into alignment with the beating of a far greater heart, which I intuited was ‘the Heart of Annwn’.**

A chant came to me:

Slow Beat

Slowly beats
The Heart of Annwn

Slowly beats
The Sacred Heart

And then another, which I imagined being played at the…

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Of Worldly Career and Spiritual Vocation

So it reaches an end. The trajectory that began with volunteering on local nature reserves, took me into paid work restoring the Manchester Mosslands, and eventually led to me working for a local ecological consultancy on developments across the North West. 

Whereas my choice to work in conservation was guided my Gods, when my traineeship reached its end, and no conservation positions came up, I chose my ecology job because it was local, permanent, well paid, and offered financial security, and because I had a good interview and liked the people.

I knew next to nothing about ecology, the high pressure environment, how distant some of the sites would be, or how badly working nights would affect my mental health. I hadn’t thought through how I’d feel about working for developers, some just people who needed a bat survey for an extension on their home, but others who wanted to build on green spaces and nature reserves.

Working just one night a week, the dread beforehand and the tiredness afterwards, had a massive impact on my mental health due to my need for a regular routine and sleep pattern as an autistic person who suffers from anxiety. 

This, combined with travelling to sites over an hour’s drive away, and learning to write technical reports and mastering an unneccessarily complex and counterintuitive mapping system called QGIS whilst, at the same time, organising surveys, preparing quotes, and replying to clients, swiftly led to stress and burnt out.

Within a matter of weeks I went from being a happy, fit, and confident person with hopes of excelling in botany, pursuing an MSc in ecology, and running an official half marathon to being unable to read academic articles or comprehend the logistics of getting to a run or navigating the crowds.

I started waking early in the morning in tears and crying until I went to the gym or on a run and somehow cried all the way through a run on a very bad day.

I turned up in tears, managed to get on with my work, in spite of the crushing feeling in head, which increased as the day went on and throughout the week. I drove the wrong way up to M62 and through a red traffic light. I got hopelesssly muddled on a survey and drew the map the wrong way up. One day my brain melted to the point I couldn’t recall what a PDF was.

My manager took me off nights and I stayed because I liked the team, who were kind and supportive, because I didn’t want to let them down, because it was my mistake for rushing into what was the wrong job but right location and people.

I didn’t speak much to my Gods at first. But when drinking ceased to cure my troubles and I realised it was doing me more harm than good, both in my work life, and strength training and running performance, I began to pray. 

I began to seek a place of retreat and healing as respite from an overwhelming world. “Remember who you are,” said Gwyn, recalling me to my vocation as an awenydd, as Sister Patience, as a nun of Annwn.

Somewhat laughably, as is often the case of Gwyn, at a time when I was craving financial security due to fear of losing my job, He told me do the thing least likely to make money in the world – “build the Monastery of Annwn”.

Yet His imperative, my vocation, could not be ignored. I have set up the Monastery of Annwn as a virtual space; started laying the foundations in terms of daily devotions, a ritual year, and practices such as journeying to Annwn and tending Creiddylad’s Garden; and begun dialogue with others.

Desiring to partake in lectio divina and lacking an Annuvian creation myth I have been inspired to return to writing one – a pursuit I began a couple of years back with a book called The Dragon’s Tongue, which didn’t work out. 

This attempt to weave a new creation story, from the perspective of the Annuvian Gods, from the existing Welsh and Irish myths and also drawing on the Mesopotamian epic ‘Enuma Elish’ and the Bible has been renewed as ‘In the Deep’ (the antithesis of ‘When On High’ – the translation of ‘Enuma Elish’). 

In returning to devotional writing I have found deep joy, which has dissipated as soon as the stresses of work and worldly career have got in the way. 

This positive discovery/recovery combined with the knowledge that, as an autistic person, I am not suited to full time high pressure work, has led to the decision to hand in my notice at my ecology job and seek less stressful, part time work in conservation or horticulture that will allow me to fulfil my vocation.

It has been a relief and a release. Although I have two months’ notice to work I have a myth to tend, a monastery to build, and can find solace at my altar and in Creiddylad’s garden, where the bees are loving the blue geraniums and the foxgloves I grew from seed last year are looking magnificent.

I Awenydd

“Remember who you are.”

I am an awenydd of Annwn.

I am a keeper of an ancient monastery
(yes this monastery is ancient although
its builders only built it yesterday).

Likewise I am born from the Deep.

I am forged in Annwn’s fires.

I am the creation of a myriad creatures
who continue to live within me,
barking, stampeding.

I am born of the Dragon-Headed Mother.
The nine elements swirl within me.

I live by the rule of awen*.

My destiny lies before me.

~

This poem was born from a time of crisis and struggle as I have suffered from poor mental health as a result of working a late shift as I find it very difficult to cope with changes in routine and sleeping pattern as an autistic person.

Following the realisation I can’t make a living from my vocation as an awenydd, for the last three years I have poured most of my energy into pursuing a career that is in alignment with my spiritual values. I’ve volunteered my way into paid work in conservation, completed a year-long conservation traineeship, and gained a permanent job as an ecologist.

There is a lot to like about ecology. There is much to learn. I get to visit varied sites. There is an art to getting the best deal for people and nature. But the job is also high pressure and, in many consultancies, (thankfully not mine) there is a complete disregard for mental health with junior ecologists working several nights a week and being expected to keep up with day work

I have been lucky to gain work with a team who are not only friendly and professional but aware of and supportive around mental health problems and have allowed me to cut down nights and take time out for counselling.

Over the period I have been developing my career I have had less time for my spiritual vocation and, it’s sad to say, have only fallen back on it at a time of crisis, when my work alone has not been enough to pull me through.

Having realised that my difficulties with night work will mean I cannot become a good all round ecologist (I will not be able to get my great crested newt and bat licences and will be limited to developing my abilities with habitat and vegetation surveys and protected species I can survey by day) I’ve been questioning if this is the right career path and assessing where my talents lie.

“Remember who you are,” I have heard the voice of my God, Gwyn, on a few occasions, reminding me of my vow to Him, to serve as His awenydd.

This has led to the realisation that I’ve been living an unbalanced life. Devoting too much time to Thisworld and not enough to Annwn, the Deep.

This doesn’t mean that I’ve made a poor choice of job, but outside it, whereas I was spending all my free time reading ecology books and articles, trying to record and memorise plants, and carrying out extra surveys, I need to make room for the soul-world.

From this has been born the Monastery of Annwn as a sanctuary to retreat to; where the Gods and the Deep are revered and honoured and put first; as a place that provides the strength to return to Thisworld and pursue one’s awen/destiny**.

*The phrase ‘the rule of awen’ is not my own but is one of the principles of the Gnostic Celtic Church which resonates deeply with me. 
**In Medieval Welsh poetry ‘awen’ means not only inspiration but destiny.

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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Being Sister Patience

I.
It started as a joke.

I can’t remember exactly when. It might have been around this last time last year. I was being characteristically irascible, rash, impatient, none of the qualities that you’d associate with being a nun.

“Sister Patience,” I heard the mocking voice of my patron god, Gwyn.

It irked me, but it also awoke and called to something deep within.

Rising to his challenge, “I will be Sister Patience,” I told him.

And that was how Sister Patience came to be.

II.
She came into my life as an alter ego at first, as I struggled through my traineeship with the Lancashire Wildlife Trust on the Manchester Mosslands, helping me shape and find respite in the sanctuary of Creiddylad’s Garden.

I wrote this poem about her last summer:

The Sanctuary of Sister Patience

Weeks of weeding
are fundamental to the path,

to the wedding of him and her and him –
Gwyn and Creiddylad and Gwythyr.

When Summer’s King vaults over the wall
all the flowers turn their heads towards him, as if to a beam of light.

All the plants need the light and dark reaction to photosynthesise and this is written on her habit in an obscure symbol on one of her voluminous cuffs.

He who stole the light of Bel and Belisama and gave it to mankind…

When he arrives in her garden it is yestereve, yesteryear,
and all the flowers are gloaming and he longs
to know what lies beneath her cowl
for her eyes are two moons
that will shine

upon a future world that will never stop flowering with its own weathernarium…

He is all heat and fire and flame
and she is patience…

in Annwn, in the soil, in the mycorrhizae,
in the roots, in the shoots, in the leaves, in the flowers, turning
towards the light and these are the mysteries –

the poetry of nature not
of the bardic seat.

Like the ranunculi
are the wanderings of
the wild nuns knowing no order –

their names a mixing of Latin, Greek, 
Norse, Anglo-Saxon, Welsh, common and binomial.

This I was taught by the comfrey I bought
when I was first learning to ‘do magic’,
which worked its magic here,

filling my garden with purple flowers,

smelling soothing as the healing of bones,
one of the favourites of Old Mother Universe.

She loves the first one or two tiny cotyledons
of every plant reaching for the light not knowing their origins.

She carries the seeds of all the worlds in the brown paper envelopes
in her pockets rustling when she walks, so carefully labelled
in the language of Old Mother Universe only she knows – 
the names, the dates, the places, so distant…

With them she will build her sanctuary
beyond the trowelling
of my pulse.

III.

Since then, slowly, imperceptibly, the miles between us have closed.

I’ve been patient. I’ve completed my traineeship. I’ve moved on into a new job as a graduate ecologist in which I’ve been faced with a whole new set of challenges. Not only learning to carry out new surveys but a whole new skillset on the admin side – providing quotes, carrying out desktop studies, writing reports, learning to see a job through from beginning to end.

It’s been a steep learning curve and not without its ups and downs. As an autistic person who likes routine and staying close to home I have struggled with travelling long distances to new places and, in particular, with night work.

One of the surveys is monitoring great created newt and wider amphibian populations as part of mitigation schemes on developments. This involves arriving before sunset to set bottle traps, waiting until after sunset to survey for newts by torchlight (as they’re active after dark), then returning early in the morning to empty the bottle traps. This work can only be done in the company of an experienced licence holder who is qualified to handle the newts.

It’s fascinating work and it is a privilege to see these beautiful creatures up close. It’s also a shake-up to my routine, most days get up at 4.30am to do my devotions, meditate, study, and go to the gym or run before cycling to work for 9am, finishing at 5pm, eating, winding down, and being asleep by 8.30pm.

I’ve been lucky to be part of a team who are not only incredibly knowledgeable and experienced, but also supportive and mental health aware. I’ve been able to be open with them about my autism and the anxiety that stems from it from the start. For now, my manager has allowed me to start no earlier than 8am, so that I have time for spirituality and exercise, which are both essential for my mental health, and to do only one night a week.

They have been patient with me and, although I’ve felt like I’ve been slow, looking back, over just a month and a half I have learnt a huge suite of new skills, from assessing habitats and writing species lists on Preliminary Ecological Assessments, wading up rivers looking for otter spraints and prints, investigating buildings for signs of bats, to mastering the routine admin.

When I’ve been tired and shaken and overwhelmed I have walked with Sister Patience and together we have shaped her sanctuary in Creiddylad’s Garden.

IV.
I have been patient.

The garden is coming into bloom.

I have found a job where I belong and feel fulfilled.

On work days I am an ecologist and, in my own time, I am Sister Patience.

I’m hoping the two sister strands of my life will one day intertwine to become one and that this job will provide the financial grounds to shape my sanctuary and, perhaps, one day, build the Monastery of Annwn*.

*Whether this is meant to be a physical or spiritual place I don’t yet know…

In the Monastery of Annwn

there will be no rulers and there will be no rule.

All will uphold the virtues of their choosing.

Neither light nor dark will be banished
for they form the night sky and the stars –
the womb of Old Mother Universe.

Eating, drinking, fasting, will all be allowed
for all states of the cauldron must be embraced –
empty and full and there will be no divisions between
the ones who drink and the ones who stir as
this was the root of the original disaster.

There will be no good and there will be no bad.

We will exist in a world before sin existed.

The before that 365 plants come from and art
and who we bring to life with our songs.

There will be room for men and women and all between.

It will be accepted that we all are monsters.

The monstrous will be raised on high with the dragons,
spiralling, spiralling down, descending into
darkness, sleepily drunk on mead.

We will be visible and invisible.

No-one will see that we wear our habits
like invisible cloaks as we got about our daily lives.

No-one will see the Monastery of Annwn because
it lies beyond doors and walls and no-one
will read the forbidden books
in our personal libraries

because they lie unwritten
on the dark shelves of our souls.

No-one will be able to read our motivations.

I ask is this monastery meant to be built?

If I build a monastery will they come?

Or will it always be a rule of one?