Panthean One

Through no act of intention the deities with whom I work are all goddesses. I’ve not put up a ‘No gods need apply’ sign on the gate of my spiritual practice, but none have hopped over or politely requested entry. In a follow-up to the recent account of my relationship with Elen, I want to write about the other goddesses who are part of my panthean. Whilst I know that in accepting Elen’s leading in my life the relationships with the other four goddesses may/will change or alter, they will not end.

Brighid

You have been with me,
accompanied me,
since before I was born.

On the list of four names
my parents were considering
to go with the Kelly
of my father’s Irish kinship,
was Brigit,
carrying then the link
to the saint though not
at that time the goddess.

You have been with me,
accompanied me,
since before I was born.

The goddess would come later,
long after I took a name for me,
the one which has brought
and led me to the life I lead,
that none of the four
optioned names could have
imagined or enacted.

You have been with me,
accompanied me,
since before I was born.

Now I embrace not the saint
of uncertain lineage
but the goddess guiding
active workings
on levels deep and wide:
personal communal economic,
poetry healing smithcraft,
personal expression to share,
communal wellbeing to share
economic pursuit to share,
each strengthening
for the clan and society.

You have been with me,
accompanied me,
since before I was born.

For years around the
sweeping plains
dense woodlands
running steams
of my internal sacred space,
you have been with me,
at the fire where I sought
and found answers,
guidance and consolation,
you are yet there
when I seek you though
the bones of the land
and the intentions of my heart.

You have been with me,
accompanied me,
since before I was born.

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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.

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.

Don’t waken the gods

I went on a walk this morning with a great deal on my mind. I have a job application to do this week. My desk looks like a whirlwind blew through. I work by shoving stuff around, sometimes with one of the cats sitting on top of the pile. Nonetheless, I went forth to move in the sunshine, listen to the birds sing, feel the breeze tangle my hair and take some photos of the progressing summer.

I went further along one track than I’d ever been. Previously, it was awash in mud and standing with water. At a point I felt was right, I found a place to sit and reflect. Had it not been for the tractor two fields away, all I would have heard were the songs of the birds and the buzzing of the bees. I haven’t sat down at the edge of a field for a long time. The late morning sun was warm. The clouds were broken, mountainous, slow moving. I was on the far side of a field I had been walking along from the other side separated by a stream and long gatherings of trees along the footpath.

Settled down, I pondered. My mind went in time to asking the question, partially rhetorical: Who is the goddess of the Somerset Levels? I figured with all the water and willows it was unlikely to be a god in this instance. I asked as I don’t live all that far from them and am familiar with the places that were so badly flooded over the winter. I figured that the deity would be pretty much for the area where I live as well. I asked and just sat, open, listening. It was hard not to have other things interfering  and distracting, but the heavy drone of the tractor and the chirping and calling of the birds did help me to hold my focus. I didn’t need to travel. I waited.

In time I sensed an answer and it was not the one I was expecting. Well, quite frankly I wasn’t expecting anything, but had I been what I was gathering was not what it would have been.

Do you really think it wise to wake up the old gods? Do you think it appropriate to call me forth? You do not know what I demanded of those who followed me in the past. You have no idea if I am merciful to be reverenced or fierce to be placated. You do not know if I am who or what your world needs.

This was a bit of a shock. I don’t think I wanted to wake her up or call her forth . . . or maybe I did, though unwilling or unable to admit it. I acknowledge I thought it might be helpful or inspiring to be able to call on a local goddess. But in this case I was wrong. She made it very clear she did not want to come back. That she is there still is not in question for me. It is a matter of letting sleeping gods lie.

The experience did present me with a poem though. Unfortunately since I can’t get lines of poetry to work in the drafting space here, I’ve put forward slashes between lines in each stanza.

Don’t waken the gods,/sleeping under that tree.

Why do you want me,/ignored for so long?/My voice too faint/for modern ears ever to hear.

Don’t question the gods,/resting under that tree.

Why do you tempt me,/ignored for so long? My answers too harsh/for modern minds ever to cope.

Don’t test the gods,/restless under that tree.

Why do you chase me,/ignored for so long? My presence too strange/ for modern sensibilities ever to bear.

Don’t seek the gods,/concealed under that tree.

I wasn’t chasing her. I was merely musing on a possibility. The answer, however is quite clear, totally unambiguous. Am I disappointed? No. It is enough to know that such a Presence was once a part of the lives and practises of the people who lived here, near here, the ancestors of this area. No written record. No name to call. Vanished and traceless. In this instance, as it should stay.