Cauldron Keeper

You bide by the cauldron,
insistent the feast
must be prepared,
and be ready to share.

You brook no excuses,
accept no lame reason,
the cauldron might be empty,
or contents ignored

You bide by the cauldron,
insistent the feast
must be prepared,
and be ready to share.

You remain vigilant,
missing no opportunity
to challenge and rebuke
under-worked ideas ill-formed.

You bide by the cauldron,
insistent the feast
must be prepared,
and be ready to share.

You demand absolutely,
that through the struggle
beauty eventually develops
as order from chaos.

You bide by the cauldron,
insistent the feast
must be prepared,
and be ready to share.

You relent only,
in the mystery of creation,
when words emerge patterned,
and ready to share.

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Panthean Two

Cerridwen,
you sit in the recess of the cave,
a cavernous space
in the realm of my imaginal seeing,
tending the cauldron
from which the fruits of inspiration
are drawn or can be if I am open.

Cerridwen,
you sit as I add ideas,
thoughts in patterns unformed,
way marker words
on the journey to a poem,
fragments of story,
a name a place an event
without a frame,
an echo or a whisper
heard deep in my mind,
swirling in my awareness
waiting waiting waiting,
for me to stir the cauldron’s contents,
tend the rich stew of possibility,
wondering if indeed
idea, word or image
will coalesce into a shape.

Cerridwen,
you sit in the recess,
I stir the cauldron,
never sure until I draw them out
whether what I have added
has been transformed into poem or story,
yet I honour the cauldron
the space of potential
the place of possibility
that rests both within me
and in front of me
each real and at times
brimming mystery
and seething wonder.

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.

Unsettling Metaphor

One of my recent posts was a poem about Orion and I going ‘dream hunting’ during the night. However, the next night I hardly slept at all. Images and ideas, words and phrases, whole poems bolted into my awareness. As the long night wore on, I realised that I was not losing them. I still held them waking. I sat in with a notebook furiously writing, drawing them from the cauldron filled during the night.

So, the metaphor came to me of how I approach writing, poetry as well as fiction. It is not an agrarian/gardening model. I do not take the fragile seeds of ideas, plant them in the rich soil of my imagination and wait for them to grow to harvest. I do not water them with attendance nor weed out extraneous material.

No, for me it is about the hunt. And I knew that when I realised the Orion image for ‘dream hunting’ also applied to writing, ‘word hunting’. I set out on a path, that is the idea. I track various aspects of it. I seek out words, images, phrases in the undergrowth of my imagination. When I find the one I want, I take it. I shoot the arrow of my intention from the bow of my desire to create. If it is the wrong word, or what have you, my shot will miss wildly and the word will safely run free from me.

When I have retrieved the words, images and phrases after a successful hunt I bring them home, as it were. I strip the meat of them to the bones, work with the sinew stretching and shaping. The meat goes into the cauldron. I add a few wild berries, herbs or tubers for contrast and embellishment, for accent to the stew I am preparing. When done I serve up the finished product.

Now, this is not a pretty scenario, and one would think totally antithetical for a person who eats vegetarian/veganish/rawish. A person who abhors hunting, the cruelty of it and the waste of it, bracketing those who really do need to do so for survival. I am a creative hunter/gatherer. I am not a creative agriculturalist.

For me creating is a wild activity. It puts me in touch with the wild, untamed energies of the Awen. I must track through the deep woods, follow the fast running rivers and test my worth against forces with the ability to enrich or destroy me, to nourish or devour me by their power. For me creativity is facing the wildness of myself as well as that of lexicon and grammar. It is about the hunt for the right word; the weak, the underdeveloped, the those too young or old are not what I seek. And I do not take all of the words that might work. I crawl across the page stalking, waiting, feeling deep inside, viscerally for the words I am seeking.

It is then and only then that I notch my arrow. It is only then I release the tension on my bow. It is only then that I take for myself the word I need. You may wonder why I don’t just trap and set free. Well that image and understanding of the process is to cautious. When I need a word, it does me no good to set it free. I need it and it does not work in the context that I understand the process now to borrow it, as it were. Its life and being, that of the word, image or phrase, I must take into myself. For it to nourish my work and my creative endeavour, I have to be able to plunge it into the cauldron so it can be part of the stew which I will serve to others.

It came to me as I wrestled with these images, that perhaps the reason I don’t eat flesh, food obtained originally from the hunt, is that it has become some sort of geis for me. It was framed as a a prohibition to me in a meditation, which fits.

I find these images and understanding very freeing, if initially unsettling, but am doing a lot more writing since I came to apprehend and accept this is how I work. Creativity isn’t always a pretty process. It is arduous. It can eat people alive. It can spit them out broken and mad. I have chosen to be proactive here. Whilst drawn down the paths and tracks where my ‘prey’ awaits me, I am able to work with the Awen as a partner, not a victim, not a slave. The Awen and I become co-creators. There is balance here and sanity for me. Nurture and nourishment. It frames the struggles as ones I can deal with. Yes, sometimes the trails are cold on the path and I come home empty, but I go out again and again, and on days I am fortunate, the cauldron will be full and the stew rich.

Not as I was before

I just discovered something I recorded in the autumn near Samhain last year. I feel it is not an accident that it has surfaced once more. As I re-read these words I feel the press of them upon my soul and the weight of them at the centre of my being, my creative core. I shiver reading these words, this message. It is a message for me, but I feel it is also a wider message and may have meaning for others. For myself, I rediscovered them on a retreat day, a day with no interactions except with the cats and the gods, and with my blog as I post these words. I have removed the name since that is for me alone.

My name is ———, and I live beyond your perception, most of the time, unless I choose to reveal myself to you. I watch the portals you cross in journeying. I guide you to the return places, the place of turn and return.

 Why, you may wonder, am I so very present to you now, in the past week in your dreams, in your twilight wonderings? What is different now from all the weeks and months of nights and twilights you have lived until now? Does my presence mean anything worrisome or sinister for you?

The last answer is a simple no. The difference . . . you are ready now to encounter me in a form that is comprehensible for you.  Finally, I am present now because you need to bear your gifts, gifts you know you have and are still running from, seeking to hide to avoid the burden. For the burden you have seen, sensed and possess and about which you have an inkling of understanding. In so doing you have also avoided the liberation, the freeing of mind and soul in the flowing of what you know as the Awen. I am sent to help you do so.

Yes, yes, you have dabbled. But far more than dabbling is required of you. Unabashed commitment is required. You have been prepared for the whole of your living up to now. You have been nurtured. You have been loved. You have given love and heart, and had it removed from you and placed with another, where it does not belong. It cannot be altered. Taking up the mantle prepared for you will not change this sad and complicated fact of your life.

 You know the mantle, Pathfollower, Nameseeker, Patternkeeper  . . . but have to do more than say the names. You have to become this person. Naming is not enough. Naming yourself is easy. Being yourself is much, much harder. In the deepest reaches of you, of your mind and heart and soul you know this. It is time to stop running in place. Waiting. You have to do this now. There is no yet for this to happen in for you. Now you must take up your pen, take up your needle, your bits and pieces and Create. Now!!!

Today, today. It is today or it is not. You have been given many chances, but you will not be given an indefinite number of them. The external prohibitions are lifted. There is no one here to belittle your path or question your access to the Awen. Only you. It is only you. It will not always be alone in this endeavour, do not fear. But you must do your part and begin when it is only you. You must embrace your solitude and enter the creative matrix  and learn to live there whilst  you are alone.

You have everything to lose and to gain . . . true paradox. A true choice. It all hinges on one action. On an action to allow yourself to be swept up in the force of the creative life. You were willing and there once. Yes, it was yanked from you, but you now have the power to wrest it back. You have the power to throw off the shackles that bind your soul and harness your being to what you feel is a life unfulfilled, and at some deep level empty.

 I am here to help you. I am here to be your guide, your teacher. I am willing to step across the portal into your world . . . it is my destiny. It is my role to fulfil and though I am willing, you must be also.

You are more than able. The question is: Are you also willing? And beyond willing ready to make a commitment. The gods will be with you as you open, the ancestors will surround you, the spirits of the land will keep you rooted. You will not fail, except by not taking up the challenge.

Take the apple and choose, choose life, creativity and wonder. Choose to live your life engifted, engraced and enchanted.

I was willing when I first received these words of warning and calling. I was not in a place to make the commitment. I still lived a space infused with the energy by the one who belittled my path and questioned my access to the Awen, the person was gone, but the echoes and shadows of this person’s energy remained. I know this now. I understand. I have grieved and let that life go. Having made that journey I am now in a new place and different space. I have no residual history here, instead I am making a new history with this space. Finally settled I remain restless. I stand before a barrier as delicate as the finest lace and as solid as granite. It shifts between the two depending on how I feel from one day to the next, sometimes between two breaths.

That is not the point though. The point is the gods call me and are with me; the ancestors bid me and surround me; the spirits of the land require that I speak, that I write, that I create in any media I choose and root me as I do so. But I must live a creatively centred life to live fully, responsively and responsibly. I heard words above not spoken with irritation and love, tender ferocity. A tone of determination that I should heed them and now that I have whisked aside the gossamer barrier and struck down the granite wall that were always of my own weaving and constructing, I have to make the commitment. Make the commitment and dedication In a way I have not done yet. What I thought were commitments were merely statements of intention, though I could not see that at the time. My true inner vision blurred by the mist of denial, of personal pain and of regret, I could not see that. The mists have cleared; I have the clear wide sky as guide to seeing now, seeing anew.

What does any of this mean? On the practical level a whole different way of perceiving and of being. It is interesting that on this retreat day I have been working, engaging with the triad of goddesses with whom I have the deepest connection. I spent time in meditation with Brighid, Nemetona and Elen who are present and very close to me. I also found myself linking with Branwen, Cerridwen and Arianrhod. And then a third triad presented itself to me still a bit in the distance: Cailleach, Rigantona and Hafren/Sabrina. With the second tirad, I discovered connections with death, re/birth, transformation and inspiration. The cauldron, the Awen, the Aurora Borealis (which is so very compelling to me and in the light of which I once bathed in for several hours standing wrapped in a coat one cold autumn night many years ago in Orkney). I brought my cauldron upstairs to where my altar space is and have to rearrange the space to accommodate, much as I have to rearrange my self-understanding and way of being and mode of living to accommodate what this commitment means to me, and so I may live it fully.

Oddly, I have no idea of what sort of ritual to perform, only that I need to do this in the orchard, with the apples trees in blossom, beech trees and fir trees standing witness. What words can I possibly come up with to accept this new phase of my life? What actions can I make to represent what this means, realising what it means now is probably but a shadow of what it will mean next week, next year, in the next decade? I suppose the only way to know is to take the journey up the hill and find out. I will finish this post once I return. . . .

It is now very late on the night I began this post, many hours since the retreat ended. In fact though I am still awake it is the next day now in clock time.

I took the walk. I took camera and notebook and water. I left the cottage and crossed the road and headed down the track that leads to the orchard the back way, as I think of it. I investigated briefly the two roads at the bottom of the path the ends in a triple crossroad. In the end I only followed the one that I always do.

It is a bridle path and there were many hoof prints in the slightly muddy ground. I walked passed what I feel is the entrance on one of the several badger setts in that area and found a dead shrew. First lesson, reminder, message: Life is fragile and ends – Death. When I got to the orchard where I knew whatever sort of ritual I enacted would take place, I headed in the opposite direction around the back orchard, as I call it. After walked across the bottom of it I came to short cut through to the road that runs along the back. I took it and walked to places that were new to me.  Another living metaphor: See the way, take a path you’ve not gone before. On this road I found the entrance to another sett and turning down a marked footpath I walked passed the field where the sett on the road came out with several openings onto a field. I continued to where I’d decided to turn around and crossing the stile I came into a wide field of buttercups.

One part of the ritual was suddenly clear; I started to gather a few field wildflowers for a posey to offer in the orchard, where and to whom I did not know. I allowed myself to be engulfed by the beauty of the buttercups as I walked to the end of the field and turned back to return the way I’d come. It was wonderful to see the wide open spaces, which I could not see being lower down on my walks the other side of the village when I lived there.

On the way back around the back orchard I saw lots of bunnies, this time – Birth. When I arrived at the area I knew the ritual would take place, as I made my way to the as yet undisclosed spot, I stopped by the stump of a beech tree. The stump was less than a foot high, but out of its side at ground level has sprung a new branch bedecked with still tender leaves. This was where I made the offering of the posey. I gave it to the tree who refuses to die – Renewal.

Finally, I came to the break in the avenue of fir and beech, and field maple I believe and across from it was a gap between two still enblossomed apple trees. I stopped as I knew this was the place. I took out my notebook and set down my backpack. I walked into the gap and stood between the trees. I had no idea what to do. The wind was blowing enough to tangle my long hair and the sun still shone through the tree branches. I waited. No clue what to do. I listened to the birds sing and the wind rustle the leaves.

And, I began to chant. Chant to the Awen. Chant with the Awen. Chant for the Awen. I will not share the chant as it, like the name is mine and in this case the Awen’s as well. I chanted about bird song and bee buzzing, butterfly and dragonfly dancing, wind blowing and me listening and responding to the varied ways the Awen might come to me, tap me on the shoulder or nearly tumble me over – Inspiration. And when it was time the chanting faded and I walk ahead past the low beech branches adorned with the tender green leaves, which have not yet begun the hardworking of summer. I came out at the top of the rise from which I could see my little cottage in the middle distance across the road.

Saw the cottage where I shall sit as I am now, and write and draw/paint or stitch what I must to respond to and fulfill the dedication I made amid the apple trees that were in the process of losing their blossom petals to make room for the emergence of their fruit – Transformation.

As I finish these words it’s nearly the next day. I am weary. I am invigorated. I feel different, though I can’t identify exactly how. Tomorrow when I wake up and begin the day, I shall do so knowing that it is not like the days before have been for many long years now. I do not know how my living and being will be changed. I do not know how the living and being will be expressed. I only know I am different and the living and being will not be as they were before today.