Creiddylad’s Tears

Some say
lily of the valley
is the devil’s daughter

that you should not drink
from her poison cup.

Why so poisonous
now when she sprang from
Creiddylad’s tears clear and pure
when she mourned the death
of Annwn’s King?

Did she speak too much of the impossible?

Did she show her poisonous side?

Her flowers are white and her berries are red.

Was her talk of tears and blood deemed inappropriate
when everyone was celebrating Calan Mai?

Was she banished to the shady vales
where the death hounds bay?

To my suburban garden where
I cultivate dark and poisonous things?

Black Mirrors

The first time I saw an Athonite monk pull a smartphone out from the pocket of his long black robes, I nearly fell over backwards… the pit that appeared in my stomach when I first saw a monk on the Holy Mountain with one of those black mirrors in his hand came from an instinct I’ve long had: that the sacred and the digital not only don’t mix, but are fatal to each other. That they are in metaphysical opposition.’
~ Paul Kingsnorth, ‘The Neon God

He sees a monk on mount Athos take a smart phone 
from his black robes and nearly faints in horror

whereas I run on – a nun of Annwn
with an Apple watch on my wrist telling me
when I have completed split one, split two, split three,
the exact mileage I have done, my pace, how many calories burned,
congratulating me when I close my move ring and exercise ring,
teaching me to breathe by mimicking
my breath with a cool blue cloud.

When I look into the black mirror I wonder
whether it is a parasite or a companion,

a trustworthy advisor
or a replacement for my body’s knowing.

I pose the question – IS TECHNOLOGY HOLY?

The black plastic reminds me of the primordial material,
the dark matter of the womb from which the universe was birthed,

the cauldron from which spilled the elements that would make
ion-x glass, liquid crystalline, an aluminium case,
a polyester with titanium strap,

the lithium ion rechargeable battery

(from cobalt mined by children in the Congo).

By age, height, weight, gender, heart beat movement, workout type
it measures whether my day has been a success.

Like counting the fall of apple, cherry
or orange blossoms I wonder
if it is beyond good
and evil?

It keeps
my horarium
for now and warns me
when the sun will be too hot
and when my heartrate is too high

but what the cost is yet to be considered…

The Place Where Tears Come From

For Gwyn on Calan Mai

There is a place where tears come from
that reminds me of You

and here we are
on the day of Your death.
The death You are fated to die every year.

Every year a part of me dies with You
like a tear to be buried
in that place

of cold stone

to rise again 
like spring water 
on the day of Your return.

We will rise again from burial.
We will repair what has been destroyed,
by the deepest Annuvian magic turn sorrow into joy.

Not Quite an Anchorite

‘This is a point in our lives where we decide (or are forced) to throw the anchor down, to live in one place, have a teacher, dig in.’
– Martin Shaw

The word ‘anchorite’ or ‘anchoress’ comes from the Greek, anachoreo, meaning ‘to withdraw’.
– Mary Wellesney

I am not quite an anchorite.
I have not yet been buried alive.
Not with Christ. Not even with Gwyn.
I do not live in a cell twelve metres
by twelve metres with servants
to bring my food, remove my waste
and feed me books in exchange
for insights from a tiny window called a squint.

I have not yet given up all my worldly possessions or ambitions.

I like to run and might have been one of the nuns
who ran away like Isolde de Heton from Whalley Abbey
in the 1470s but not for forbidden children or men

but simply for the desire to roam however far
my walking, running or cycling legs will carry me
through the labyrinth of this land following the streets
that lie on older streets, on pilgrim’s paths and padways
and Roman roads and horse paths and deer paths.

The horses in me bolt from their stables when kept in too long.

They run with the hounds before the wolves and ravens,
the owls with their crazy eyes mad on psychedelics,
the portents from the stars and our gardens.

Honesty is here and all the pavement plants.

I am told I must be ‘a guide to the soul.’

I fear my revelations will be mundane and suburban.

They will include words like ‘cloths’ and ‘washing’ and ‘washing up’
but also honesty, Lunaria annua, enchanter’s nightshade, 
Circaea lutetiana, ivy, hedera, yew, Taxus buccata.

In a vision I am a hell-hound prowling around my anchor.
I am the anchoress who howls and where my head is I do not know.

Lenten Rose

If only life was so simple.

Like you I try to hide my face and my tears
for my boy-god and my longing for some kind of miracle.

I did not plant you, but I grew up alongside you
and have known you for almost forty years.

So close you were invisible
and I never asked
your name.

Hellbeborus, ‘to kill, to injure, food.”

You are dark green evergreen life and bones.

You remind me of cartilage creaking in my bad knees
when they are not tracking right like the sound
of a rocking horse or a rocking chair
or the fall of a doll’s house.

Memories creak and my attempts to forget them.

If not for my knees I would run forever,
until skeletal – the perfect rose.

Like you I am happy to stay in place
repeating the same patterns and the same cycles
yet the world will not have it that way – it likes to break us
and remove us from our habits and our homes

to journey by candlelight or dead starlight
to the land of the King of Bones

whilst the sound of spring flowers
opening is the sound of something happening.

The lampshade over my face disguises my identity.

All I want is to stay another forty years, repeating the same patterns
over again, but I hear another king is trying to build a road
to Annwn from the bones of his enemies.

This poem addresses the hellebores in my back garden. It is partly based on frustrations with minor health problems. I have recently been diagnosed with rosacea (facial redness) and it has made me feel even less like showing my face in public. After cutting down my running over winter, as I’m increasing my mileage, my anterior knee pain ‘runner’s knee’ has returned. After hoping strength training had cured it, it is holding me back from attaining my goal of returning to 30 miles a week. The boy-god I speak of, also the King of Bones, is a guise of Gwyn, my patron God, a King of Annwn, has been appearing to me in as I write about Annwn before the creation of the world, long before humans and medieval tales.

Ten Year Anniversary of Dedication to Gwyn ap Nudd – from Glastonbury Tor to Beyond the Expected

Glastonbury Tor

On star circled tor You stand lawless vigil.
Tower swallows cloud in Your endless waiting.
Years I have run the edges of Your world
Yet quietly my destruction You disdain.
Call to the stars shining out the full moon,
One blast of Your horn draws my soul back home.
In Your sublunar shrine springs from Annwn
Pour a cauldron of infinite wisdom.
Daughters of Avalon dance at its ridge.
Their shadows twist to the roaring song.
I see You, White Keeper of Time and Mist,
Watching patiently beyond mortal bonds.
The moment rings clear as Your guidance sure:
Let the words be spoke and the path be walked.

Hail Gwyn ap Nudd, King of Spirits! (January 26th 2013)

I wrote this sonnet ten years ago following my initial dedication to my patron God, Gwyn ap Nudd, at the White Spring beneath Glastonbury Tor. It was a magical and transformative moment and has changed and shaped my life.

My service to him as his awenydd ‘person inspired’ has gifted me with meaning and purpose beyond the rules and norms of this world. I’ve written three books for Him and the other Gods and Goddesses of ancient Britain and the spirits of the land along with countless poems, stories, and articles.

My relationship with Him continues to lead ever deeper into Annwn and into His mysteries. To getting to know myself better and more wonderfully to know Him. Most recently it has led to me becoming a nun of Annwn.

To mark the occasion my friend Aurora J Stone* made me some prayer beads. They are the colours of Annwn – howlite (white), carnelian (red) and onyx (black) and feature animals and symbols I associate with Gwyn. A hound, a horse, an owl, a raven, a spiral and a star. Aurora lives near Wells and very kindly laid them out on Glastonbury Tor to pick up some of its energy and sent some leaves and twigs from the tor when she posted the package. Receiving them around this time felt symbolic of the completion of a ten year journey.

Last night I journeyed with Gwyn to see what lies ahead. I can’t disclose what He showed me yet but His main message was that I must go ‘beyond the expected’.

This spoke to my fears about my series of books focusing on Gwyn’s story from origins to end being less accessible to my existing audience because they go beyond known Brythonic lore into personal gnosis and the realms of fiction. His words reassured me that this is exactly what I need to do. It also seemed meaningful that I recalled it was on my initial dedication day He appeared to me as a black dragon and that deciphering how Gwyn ‘White’ takes this form is one of the mysteries behind me writing these books.

I cannot guess what the next ten years might hold but ‘beyond the expected’ sounds like an exciting prospect.

*You can find Aurora’s writing online at ‘Grey Bear in the Middle’ HERE.

What Ails Me?

Hail is cold grain
and showers of sleet
and sickness of serpents
– Hagalaz (rune)

I come to You
my mind a wasteland,
the poles, the solstices of my world
out of kilter and something awakening beneath the ice

to ask the somewhat selfish question – “What ails me, my Lord?”

It echoes down through the centuries reminding You of Your father’s wound
and the wound You suffer every year battling against Your rival,

the wound to my navel after my dedication to You,
the pit of snakes in my belly button,

the heroes flung into it,
sucked dry. 

“What ails me, my Lord?”

I’m back at high school again
with serpents twining around my chair legs,

staring down into the depths of the ink well I never used.

I’m chewing my pen, ink is dripping from the side of my mouth,
from my finger tips and I’m raising my hand
to ask for more paper, bleeding words,

rising to the challenge of the exam,

exulting in the quiet of the other pupils,
this scratching of pens the one thing I can succeed in.

“What ails me, my Lord?”

I think of the serpents who twist around my arms
and sit deep in my belly and I wish I could tie around my ankles
to hang like You over the Abyss to gain the wisdom that explains this…

the way by lack of courage or confidence I am always climbing
the first three rungs on my ladder and then falling
back down into my pit of snakes.

“What ails me, my Lord?”

I’m back at the surgery again
and the nurse is wondering if I’m dead,
tapping my veins, trying to awaken them to life.

I’m explaining the junctions and showing which ones work.

Where blue flows to red and is tested then
incinerated by the fiery serpents.

“What ails me, my Lord?”

My beast looks too much like an ink spodge test,

then I see my father splattered on the settee like a murder victim
from a third rate horror movie doing nothing as always.

I cannot find his wound or his serpents.

Instead I sink into mine and awaken them again,
the wounds made by all the surgeons, all the psychiatrists

by all the snakes fighting back, by all the horror movies and I hear

Your laughter, Your divine laughter, in my veins like poetry,
not the canned laughter of the television
he sits in front of.

“By asking the question you have opened the door.

Although all our blood and poetic truths
cannot save the world or heal
our ailments

by this opening
your serpents might return
to health and an answer might come through.”

*This poem is addressed to my patron God, Gwyn ap Nudd.

I wrote this poem last year. It is based on drawing the Hagalaz rune at one of the Way of the Buzzard journey circles over four years ago. I had a powerful experience that led me to investigating ‘the sickness of serpents’ not only in the Norse but the Brythonic traditions. It lies behind my series of books in which I explore the relationship between Vindos/Gwyn and the serpents of Annwn. The poem references gnosis received whilst writing these stories.

There is also an allusion to a series of blood tests I had last year relating to slightly raised liver function levels. Two ended up as four as on one occasion they did the wrong test and on another my blood coagulated in transit. It made me start wondering ‘does something want my blood?’ 

At the time I was writing about the conflicts in Annwn between the red and white serpents. As an answer, when I was sitting in the waiting room, on the white board a young girl had drawn a tower block with a huge winged serpent towering over it, which she was colouring it in red. I found out, after testing, blood gets incinerated and received the answer ‘the fiery serpents’. 

One of the results of the blood tests was that I have low iron levels. I have felt a lot better since eating more red meat particulary liver (sympathetic magic?) and believe this was behind me feeling tired and low most afternoons.

The final check relating to my raised liver functions is an ultrasound this Thursday so I will finally find out ‘what ails me’ (physically at least). If I do have minor liver damage it likely relates to having used alcohol to self-medicate the anxiety that comes from my autism since my late teens. I only started addressing this after making my lifelong dedication to Gwyn in 2019.

XII. Your Death

Day Twelve of Twelve Days of Devotion to Gwyn ap Nudd

I come this twelfth day
to consider Your death.

How I have seen You die
so many times yet that

You should die forever
is unthinkable, unbearable…

For when You have gathered
the last stars at time’s end

there will be no tears left,
no-one left to cry them,

and who would gather the
soul of the Gatherer of Souls?

XI. Your Cauldron

Day Eleven of Twelve Days of Devotion to Gwyn ap Nudd

I come this eleventh day
to consider Your cauldron
and how it will not boil
a coward’s food.

“Why, then,” I ask,
“do You allow me to eat from it
when so many times I have failed
to live up to the demands of the world,
to match up to its worthy warriors and bards?”

You tell me that I “lack not courage but confidence”
and remind me that everything I believe in I have done –

I have stood and recited poems for You before
a world that once derided You as a devil
and now derides only those who
dare speak openly about
their religion in public.

I have climbed mountains,
run half marathons,
forded a river
in leaking waders.
Ascended Glastonbury Tor
in torrential rain in the dead of night
to gift to You the first book I ever published.

I have stood before Your cauldron made my dedication to You.

I have fled the world, but I have not fled from You, my God.

I pray that You, Your cauldron, will grant me
the courage to face my fears.

X. Your Kingdom

Day Ten of Twelve Days of Devotion to Gwyn ap Nudd

I come this tenth day
to consider Your kingdom.

What is a kingdom?
What is a king?

Is it a matter of inheritance
or something within?

The devils
who God was said
to put in You to prevent
the destruction of the world?

The spirits and monsters of Annwn
whose fury You contain within Your realm,
in whose nature You partake and who are part of You?

You are a ruler, You are a leader, You are many,
one of them too, yes, they, themselves…

You rule an other kind of kingdom.
You are an other kind of king.

Like all good kings
You and Your land are one –
both Gwynfa and Gwyn,
King and Annwn.