‘In the Deep’ – first excerpt ‘In the Beginning’

In the Beginning

was the breath, 
the in-breath and the out-breath 
of Old Mother Universe. 

In the vastness of the Void she slept, 
and in her sleep, in her dreams 
she stirred Her cauldron. 

And in her cauldron 
she saw Her face in the Deep 
and she saw it was surrounded by stars

and each star was the eye of a giant
and each was a fiery warrior.
By the light of the stars 

She saw a nine-headed dragon
and knew her for the Mother of Annwn.
She saw the birth of the Gods

and the death of dragons
and the battles that would form worlds:
everything from the beginning

until the end of time.
Her vision was so sad and so beautiful
her cauldron burst and the stars poured forth.

Thus was the beginning –
the first breaking of the cauldron.
Thus from a big bang the universe was born.

This poem is the first of a series of excerpts from my book in progress ‘In the Deep’ and is called ‘In the Beginning’.

The title ‘In the Deep’ refers to Annwn, ‘the Deep’, the Otherworld in medieval Welsh mythology. The book is about the gods and goddesses of Annwn and their conflicts with the Children of Don. Most of these deities are found as euhemerised characters in the Welsh myths and were worshipped as gods in ancient Britain. 

This opening poem, ‘In the Beginning’ was born from my long-standing fascination with creation myths. This began with the Bible where, in Genesis, we find the lines:

‘1. In the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth. 

2. And the Earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.’ (1)

This shows that, in the Biblical tradition, the deep existed before the Creator God. 

In medieval Welsh literature God comes to replace Ceridwen, the Goddess of the crochan the cauldron or womb from which inspiration originates and, I believe, the universe was born. 

This role is hinted at in medieval Welsh poems such as ‘The Childhood Deeds of Taliesin’:

‘I entreat my Lord
that I may consider inspiration:
what brought forth that necessity
before Ceridwen
at the beginning, in the world
which was in need?’ (2)

In my poem, ‘In the beginning,’ Ceridwen, Old Mother Universe, takes the place of the Biblical creator God.

The universe is born from the shattering of Her cauldron, a recurring motif in the Welsh myths. This mirrors ‘the shattering of the vessels’ in the Kabbalistic tradition. 

  1. Marged Haycock (ed), Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin, (CMCS, 2007), p 242
  2. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%201&version=KJV

WANTED

King Arthur of Camelot Wikipedia Commons

ARTHUR and ARTHUR’S WARBAND for the following CRIMES against the PEOPLE OF ANNWFN –

*The murder of Diwrnarch Gawr, by beheading with his own sword, and the theft of his sword and cauldron.
*The murder of Dillus Farfog, by beheading, and the plucking out of his luxuriant red beard to make the leash that near-strangled Drudwyn, Fierce White, a Hound of Annwfn.
*The murder of Rhitta Gawr, by beheading, and the theft of his cloak of his beards.
*The murder of Ysbaddaden Bencawr, by beheading, and his torture – the shaving of his beloved hawthorn beard, the paring of his skin and flesh to the bone, and the slicing off of both his ears.
*The murder of Orddu, Very Black, Witch of Pennant Gofid, by slicing in half with a lightning-like knife and the draining of her blood into the bottles of Gwyddolwyn Gawr to grease Ysbaddaden’s beard.
*The murder of the Nine Witches of Caer Loyw by splitting their heads and helmets in twain.
*The murder of the dog-heads of Din Eidyn and cutting out of their tongues.
*The murder of Gwrgi Garwlwyd, Leader of the Dog-Heads, deviously assassinated, and the theft of his head.
*The harassment of Rhymi the she-wolf and her two whelps, driven from their sea-cave beneath Aber Daugleddyf and forced into human form.
*The harassment of Ysgithrwyn Pen Baedd, hunted across the North, and his torture as his tusk was pulled from his head to barber Ysbaddaden.
*The harassment of Twrch Trwyth, hunted from Eire to Aber Hafren, and the theft of the comb, shears and razor from between his ears to comb, trim, and shave Ysbaddaden’s beard.
*The disinterment and theft of the head of Brân the Blessed.
*The theft of the Cup of Llwyr ap Llwyrion, the Hamper of Gwyddno Garanhir, the Horn of Gwlgawd Gododdin, the Harp of Teirtu, and the Birds of Rhiannon.
*Breaking and entering into Annwfn and the unlawful docking of one white-prowed ship named Prydwen.
*The murder of the honoured and fair on the plains of Caer Vandwy.
*The theft of the Brindled Ox and his herd.
*The murder of six thousand speechless dead men on the walls of Caer Wydyr.
*The kidnapping of Gweir, Bard of Annwfn, from Caer Siddi.
*The theft of the cauldron of the Head of Annwfn.
*The attempted murder of the Head of Annwfn.

REWARDS will be paid in the FINEST ANNUVIAN GOLD.

***

This piece came to me a few days after finding out that the current exhibition at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, displaying The Black Book of Carmarthen, The Book of Aneurin, and The White Book of Rhydderch, amongst other texts is titled ‘Arthur and Welsh Mythology’.

My heart sank at the mention of Arthur. How can a warlord who, in early Welsh mythology, murders, tortures, and subdues the giants, witches, ancestral animals, and pre-Christian deities associated with our ancient British underworld, Annwfn, still be revered as a national hero?

 Isn’t it time we started looking instead to the ‘colourful characters’ whose stories Arthur has eclipsed for inspiration and wisdom rooted in the deeper mythos of the pre-Arthurian world?