Elen of My Way

As I recently blogged I am now traveling with Elen, or perhaps have acknowledged that She has been traveling with me for nearly five decades.

For many years I have had a connection to Brighid, not the least since one of the names on my parents’ short list for me was Brigit. When I began to walk my Druidic path I approached Brighid to see if we might have some sort of relationship. Having Welsh and Irish ancestry She became an important link. As a result, I have been engaged and working with Her for the longest of any of the goddesses of my panthean (yes, the spelling is intentional from thea the Greek word for goddess).

Another of the goddesses I have a relationship with is Nemetona. Not surprising really, since my space is Important to me and is also sacred. With her guardianship of the sacred grove and by extension the sacred space I live in and that is in me. When I leave and enter the house I affirm three things: Nemetona bides here. Badger wards here. Awen flows here. I picture a triskele as I say this and it affirms the presence and protection around me and my home. Again, I invited Nemetona into my life.

Cerridwen is the member of my panthean whom I invoke as I begin an important project. Quite literally I do this sitting before my cauldron. I place the notes, jottings of ideas, or just the name of the project into the cauldron and meditate on where I wish to go with it, or ask that it take me where it wants to go.

The fourth presence with me now, and I did not invite Her, but given my age She just showed up and said: ‘I’m here, and you are going to have a relationship with me’. Who was I to argue? A presence not to be messed with. A presence of force and wisdom. The Cailleach.

And now Elen. Unlike the Cailleach, Elen did not just plonk down in my life, She hunted and haunted me for all those years. She sought me out. After many years since beginning my journey to find my true spiritual home, my real soulscape, it came at last to turning and facing one whom I can no longer deny or ignore. I have been reminded and nudged that there are certain things I must do. Activities, creative works and workings, that I must engage in or my body will pay the price. Well, now it is paying the price, and the only way to change that is to engage faithfully, and fully with those activities I have been told and shown that I must. The goddesses have been patient, well one goddess has been patient, but They/She are no any longer willing to wait. I have been confronted. I have been challenged. I have been called. I can no longer pretend that I have not been.

Now that Elen has made her presence felt in a way that is unmistakable, in a manner that is unavoidable, I have to turn and face what I have so far managed to duck away from, the full understanding of what I must do and how I must do it. And I must do this in a way that is rigorous, disciplined and radical. Radical in the sense of fundamental, not necessarily outrageous, although I can’t say for sure it won’t seem so to others.

In my original About page, I said I worked shamanically, but changed the wording at one point, because I was not a shaman. The word not being that of my ancestral lineage. It was a borrowed word and concept that, in my opinion, has become well recognised and too well and easily used in the past twenty years. Besides this, I couldn’t really use the term then in good faith because I was a casual traveler, using the methods and techniques to put me in touch with the source of creativity for me. Now I am called to be more than that. I am called to work in ways that are ways my ancestors in these islands worked, both Welsh and Irish. My religion is Druidry, but my vocational path has a different name – a name I have flirted with, but not been able or willing to commit to until now: Awenydd, to become a Awenyddion. At some point, I may have thought I was ready and may have said so, but I now know that was not the case. Now, in turning to embrace the reality and persistent presence of Elen, by beginning to work seriously with Her, I can take the steps to making an open eyed, open hearted, open souled commitment to follow Her where She will lead me as I follow Her trods.

I am still adjusting to all of this. As I am becoming more open, as the barriers I built over the past decade and a half are crumbling and disappearing. Day by day I am more and more able to sense and feel the world around me. I can sense and see energies better. I can hear again behind the words, and see beyond the projections. I can feel what rests more deeply beneath the surfaces of things and events. This is not always comfortable, and in some instances downright unpleasant. But it is the way I am learning to live.

There are consolations as well as challenges. There are delights no less than dangers on the Way of Elen as I experience Her. She showed extraordinary patience no less than persistence, and I honour that now by following Her leading. Her way now frames all the other relationships I have with the other goddesses to whom I turn and who uphold and companion me on my journey. And, it feels right. In saying so I am admitting there has been something subtle and essential missing in these relationships: The Context. The Matrix. The Shaping.

That is now present, though I do not fully comprehend and apprehend the nuances of this context shaping matrix, I know it’s there and and I accept the unfolding mystery it presents. As such, I have reason to give thanks. More reason than ever before to move onward in gentleness and genuine humility.

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Elen’s Long Presence

When I was lost and wandering
at nineteen years of age,
the suggestion was made
that I retreat for a time
to a nunnery,
spend a week with the sisters
at the convent of St Helen,
but it never happened,
I was not sent,
I did not go.

A decade later
on a journey guided
by a counsellor,
because the way of writing
had closed itself to me,
I found a Lady of great power
trapped in an amber coffin
bedded in wildflowers
and healing herbs
upon which strayed
her auburn hair;
I revived her,
who was in one sense me
yet very other.

Thirteen years later
at the initiation of one
dear to me middle named
Ellen I made my way with
her and others to thin Iona,
where and when I found
there was a soulscape
and soul homeland for me,
here I remain today,
on its larger landmass
safe and settled,
as much as human
embodiment will allow.

In another three years
I commissioned a drum
and rattle be made,
the latter’s soundings sung
by small Iona stones,
both instruments shaped
in a North American elk hide,
the most powerful and mysterious
the maker had ever used he said,
and its remains remain with me.

A lull then
growing shifting changing
beliefs partners countries
that resulted eventually
in receiving a ring
crafted in red gold from Rhyl,
in the land of my ancestors,
a connection to Mascon’s dream
of sovereignty’s goddess Elen,
who had red hair and
wore red gold and amber,
long before I knew their story
red gold was my favourite
and amber held as yet it does
great power and presence for me.

Over the next five years
two experiences,
one on the track
near Wyland Smithy
a group of deer jumped a fence
in front of me and one paused,
a young antlered stag
to stare deep into my eyes
and pierced my soul,
in the way the sound
of a bellowing stag
on a hill across Loch Tarff
stirred in me ancient wanderings.

Away from the wild places
of the Highlands and Islands
tucked on the edge of the Levels,
a stone came to me
an Antlered One raised on its surface,
but even as images appeared
and reappeared,
the link was not made,
and it would be another
four years before the books
arrived that would corner me,
to turn and face Elen,
and begin my journey to understand
the trail on which she
both led and followed me
for half a century,
patient no longer
now as Winter descends,
for the Reindeer Goddess and I
must now begin our work together.

This poem is a timeline of sorts for my relationship with Elen (Elen of the Ways, the Antlered/Reindeer Goddess), even and especially when I did not know that I was connected to Her. In the next few days I will write more about this relationship and how I am coming to understand it. A relationship such as this has implications and ramifications across all areas of my life and will frame every part of it from now on. Excited? Yes. Uncertain? Oh yes. Terrified? Who would not be? But given what I have shared here there in an inevitability that is in an odd way reassuring.

Joy the Morning

Joy this morning
And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.

Severed from active presence
another’s inadequacy dictating
actions that should have been
mine alone to take or reject,
but I was not strong enough
I was not secure enough
I was not safe enough
to challenge.

And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.

Years later,
at the urging of my gods,
the ancestors of the land
and the saint who with
this friend brought me
for the first time to
my soul’s home
my spirit’s home
the land of my truest
connections –
I reached out.

And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.

I reached out across
the waste of seas,
the wasteland of seasons
devoid of sharing,
and to my delight and hers
future seasons now open,
friendship redeemed
redemption grasped,
welcomed and embraced.

And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.

The years of then are lost,
the years of yet are found,
different people
different paths
different stories,
the same reassuring presence,
the same willing smile,
the same deep story
alive between us.

And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.

Welcome back
my friend
my sister
my daughter,
for the man with whom
I now share my life is not jealous
but with me instead rejoices,
that a friend of deep connection
is found again
and we are linked once more.

And there was joy this morning,
years of silent sadness
turned to song.
 

 

 

Beyond the Day of Balance

Yesterday was an amazing day, the beginning of which I wrote about and posted in the morning.

It was of course followed by the rest of the day . . .

A day marked by intensity and contrasts, of emotions and reactions. I felt myself open, or being opened to a far deeper experience of the world around me, particularly the natural world. The terrain of my gods, those of this land and its memory. The landscape of my ancestors here and their wisdom. The spirits of the land upon which I live and who share with and sustain me as engage them walking  the fields and the footpaths near my home.

The opening up further, sensing more deeply, apprehending more fully came as a bit of a shock. I heard more that would be unuttered but for the the rustling Maize Maidens in the wind, the beating of the bird’s wing, the whistling of the breeze through the corvid feathers in my hat (that sometimes I mistake for the buzzing of bees). The longings of the small ones to be safe; the worry of the badgers, tucked in their setts along the path I walk, for their kin in the midst of the cull; and the relief of the apple boughs released from the burden of the fruit bending them nearly to breaking.

The happiness my cats feel at the demise of the fleas that have tormented them and me for too much of the summer, is palpable in the cottage. Their purrs are freer and more freely given as they stretched out in the morning sunshine in the middle of the floor in the same room within touching distance of each other. This I rejoiced to sense and to hear – their gratitude.

I looked at the various writing projects that have stacked up for far too long. Projects I could not face. Did not know where to start engaging. I looked at the stories and the worlds renewed before me. The characters, whose names I have heard for so long, reached out to me from the pages both typed and handwritten. I was able to renew the relationships, friendships with these individuals who have trusted me for so long to share their lives in story, history, poetry and song. Again, profound gratitude and a sense of responsibility — trusts remaining unbetrayed, and promises made, yet unfulfilled. I hope they wait in an orderly queue.

I am ready, with the experiences of yesterday, to embrace the disciple to fulfill those promises and keep faith with the trusts granted me. And for me to write more poetry, and share my insights in case there is meaning in my words not only for me, but for you who read them.

I feel still as if either I have burst some inhibiting bonds, or they have been shattered for me. And ultimately, it doesn’t matter. What matters is what I do with this newly found and new felt freedom. It is the time to do, more than to be. For me being, in the sense of the opposite of doing, is not a good place for me to stay. It is stagnating. I need The Awen to flow,  and more importantly, for me to flow with and be immersed in it. I can no longer just watch it go past, or ride it but to no creative result. The flow has certainly burst its banks. I have engaged The Awen and pledged myself to its work for me, but until yesterday I was somehow constrained in the fulfillment of my pledge, unable to work constructively with the energy. Even though I knew and know it is the energy that is at the centre of my life, the core of my being and the shaper of my soul.

I don’t really have any idea what happened in the intervening months, but they are then and this is now and yet beckons me onward. I am sure there were some lessons I had to learn, and I sincerely hope I have learned them and have, in ways I do not comprehend, assimilated them into my life to help carry me onward.

Beyond the Day of Balance is living with the full awareness that whilst balance allows renewal, it is not a place to create from or in, but a place to go where insight flares demanding acknowledgement, then from the few hours of refuge to begin once more the journeying forth into the next adventures and even more meaning.

Hybrid Spirits

When trees
still
danced upon the dappled land
when dragons ranged the twilit skies
when woman and man were unconceived
were inconceivable,
then, then
the tree spirits and the dragon souls
swirled in mists of passion embodied.

Borne from their unions
another being of dragon and treekind both
emerged.

Dragon Willow 2

Creating a new genealogy,
some of those newly genetically encoded ones
with divergent memory
lay with humans when they became
and another hybrid
not fully tree nor totally dragon
not ever woman nor even man
but with bodies one or the other,
who yet remembered
the calling of the ground beneath them
and to whom the fire entered in.

A body dancing to unfamiliar musics
and singing in mysterious harmonics
of trees and dragons, men and women
part of those preceding them
alive together.

An afternoon at RSPB Swell Wood

First I want to thank my friend who is an administrator for the area RSPB for taking me on this wonderful adventure, since I don’t drive.

When we headed out from my cottage yesterday afternoon, it was a bit mizzly so we went to plan B – Swell Wood, plan A was Ham Wall. That’s for another day. It had nearly stopped when we arrived at the car park where there were only two cars.

Arrival

From the time we opened the doors, and in spite of the road noise, bird song filled the air. Since the feeders were empty, she filled one of them with sunflower seeds.

Our first stop was the hide for the heronry. With all the leaf cover it took a few minutes to locate the nests. And, I forgot my binoculars so we shared. Saw several nests heard lots of calling from the treetops. Saw an egret nest and egrets flying off as well as heron. There were other little birds in closer as well.

We then walked around the top walk and at one point the road noise vanished. The atmosphere was magical. Once we’d made that circuit we took off for Scarp Trail, lots of up and then lots of down, followed by way more up to get back to the car.
Virdiditas 3Virdiditas 2

All around there were delicate grasses, yellow archangel and remnants of bluebells, and one lone cuckoo-pint.

Grass with seedsGrass with multiple seeds

Yellow archangelCuckoo pint

Saw Alfred’s cakes and for the first time knew what it was that I’d seen a few times before.

Alfreds cakes

The ivy twisting around the tree trunks looked like Celtic knot work. I have wondered before if it is not where the idea for such patterns originated.

Knot work 5Knot work 4

Knot work 3Knot work 2

Knot work 1

The views across the Levels were amazing. Hard to believe how recently they were under water for weeks and weeks.

Levels 1Levels 2

I marvelled at the beetles on the green leaves, and what I think are musk beetles, though I didn’t get a photo.

Red beetles

When we got back to the car after filling a second feeder my friend moved the car to the other side of the car park and we waited to see who’d take up the offer of food. It didn’t take long for a pair of Chaffinches to arrive and work the ground for what had fallen from the holes in the feeder right in front of us. Then to the other feeder a Greater Spotted Woodpecker arrived. We heard some hungry noises coming from a hole in a tree before we were back at the car and figure this must be a parent bird.

Greater spotted 3Greater spotted 2Greater spotted

At the same time a squirrel showed up with the Chaffinches and worked the ground. When the woodpecker moved to the closer feeder another visitor took over the second feeder.

Squirrel 4Squirrel 1

Squirrel 2Squirrel 3

For those brief few hours, I soaked up the tranquillity and the virdiditas. Tall trees reaching up to embrace the sun, which wasn’t much in evidence, linked like the ribs of a vaulted cathedral ceiling. Air slightly moist and smelling sweetly clean. It was an opportunity to relax and allow the spirits of the wood, on the edge of the Levels, to reach out to me as I opened to allow the connection and communion. There was the low strong murmur of tree speech all around me. I felt welcomed. I felt at home. I felt the presence of dryads and woodland sprites. I sensed the dancing energies of trees and of the bird life all about me. Chirrup, song, melody was all around me heard with my inner and outer ears. Vision, vista, beauty were everywhere I looked seen with my inner and outer eyes.

I was walking in Swell Wood and I was walking in The Wood, if that makes sense. I was there and beyond there. The magical nature of this small, magnificent gem of a woodland opened the portal for me to enter a Wood much larger and far more complex. I was moving in two realms, happily nattering away with my friend and at the same time communicating in silent presence with the greater energy of where I was, beyond where I was.

I was very aware of being on the edge of the Somerset Levels, a place of fascination and enticement for me. Although I am not able to get down into them without much travel and expense on buses, I love them. They are a place of particular mystery and wonder. There are connections I’ve not had the opportunity to explore fully, but I feel the pull. I it feel more strongly now. The gods and spirits of the Levels are calling me and I know I need to find ways of entering the openness of this landscape and meet them more fully. Yesterday, as we drove back through the spaces they inhabit I heard whispers and echoes reaching out to me, calling me to engage with them. It is another calling I am not going to be able to pretend I don’t hear for very much longer.

The deep Mystery of Willow is present in the Levels in a way that I sense is unique. Where I live I tiptoe on the edges of it, does this sound familiar? But I have not allowed myself, and also at some profound level of my being not been allowed until now to contemplate such a connection.

I have made deep links with Yew and Beech already, but Willow only by a gentle touch not mutually deep exchanges between self, being and presence. And it’s not only the mystery of the Willow; there is other mystery and magic there for me. There is something about the land itself, even beyond the surface and visible landscape that calls to me. From where I sit now it is ephemeral and insubstantial, but it is surely real, reaching out and pulling me to explore.

All of these experiences are intensifying my practice of Druidry, enriching my spiritual and religious path, as well as my self-understanding as a Druid. They show me I have so much to experience still and only hint at how deeply these realities and experiences will take me into the realms of the gods, the ancestors and spirits of this land who frame, shape and ground my life and being as a Druid, as a person.

All this wonder, enrichment, challenge, awareness from a brief journey to and through an RSPB reserve.

Any Wednesday

Today I walked with the gods, ancestors and spirits who dwell in the landscape nearest where I now reside.

I walked passing houses storied by the people who live in them. Storied by their inhabitants through acts of love, violence, indifference, hope, and despair. Storied by those who chose wisely and with honour, and those who are trapped in decisions made in haste and acts of self-indulgent deceit.

I walked beyond these and also by the hedges and banks that are home to the small ones, furred and feathered, sheltering from the increasing and inconsistent cold. I walked alone. I walked shedding feelings of sadness, of promises made to me and not kept, of days never allowed to achieve the potential invested in them. I shed these. I walked. I took photos to focus my intention and attention on the world of nature all around me.

It was any Wednesday
as I left the tarmacked road
and moved along a different trail,
but it was not what it seemed.

It was any Wednesday
as I followed the beckoning of the stream,
and moved along the muddied way,
but it was not what it seemed.

It was any Wednesday
yet bore revelations most profound
through the yawning gate of deepest winter,
and I saw with newly opened eyes,
and I heard with unblocked ears,
and I felt with reawakened senses,
walking with and amid those
who long before walked paths
not so different from my own
in following the lure of the winter’s day.

I watched the robin watching me,
saw the wren dart past from a withered hedge,
listened to the wind in the bare branched trees
and through dry hedge leaves,
I saw the preening swans and flying ducks,
and heard the stream coursing relentlessly to the sea.

We do not know the musics
our ancestors sang to
nor the languages of their song,
but we can know what inspired them
in the squelching mud,
the sharp bite of cold wind,
the warmth of midwinter sun,
the tumbling of the stream’s waters
and the calling of the wild things:
the quacking of ducks,
the cackling of herons,
the crawking of ravens,
the thrumming whoosh of swans skeinning low,
the howling of hounds.

We can still see bold oaks
twisting ivy and whithered bracken,
a cheeky robin,
a furtive wren,
a flitting band of sparrows,
but we must open the inner eye
and allow the deeper ear to hear
and the mind to pause its ceaseless doubt;
we must be willing to walk and pause,
to greet and be greeted
to watch and be watched
to wait upon and welcome
those unanticipated,
those least expected,
those who are willing to pull back
the curtain between now and then
as yet is a step we take together.

It was any Wednesday
but no Wednesday nor any day
will ever be the same.