‘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
‘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.
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.
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.
‘Hail is cold grain and showers of sleet and sickness of serpents.’ – Hagalaz (rune)
I. 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.
II. “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.
III. “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.
IV. “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.
V. “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.
VI. “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.