walking this path

It has been a while since my last proper post; in all honesty, bar the tenuous, Telegraph-given connection, the subject of my last actual post is a little out of keeping with the blog (oh hai there new followers!  It is very nice to have you, but I thought you all deserved a warning).  Like its non-identical twin sister, this blog fizzled out a little over the latter part of last year.  I had been using them both to skirt around the sayable, while privately, silently, exploring the unsayable.

Last year feels as though it should have been a turning point, though nothing much has turned.  After withdrawing a little from the online community of pagans, and immersing myself in the mystery tradition of Anglesey Druidry, I have emerged with more or less the same perspective as before, but with a much steadier sense of the ground beneath my feet, and a lot more clarity about how I could explore it further.

Mystery is, in essence, inexpressible; finding ways to express the inexpressible is what art is for – and although I make no claims to be an artist, this blog exists to express ideas about druidry: a path which is partly rooted in gnosis, mysticism and subjective experience.  I need to use it to express the things that actually inspire me, no matter how hesitant I am to expose them to the winds of internet opinion; otherwise it has no heart.  I am starting to understand a little more about what it means to be a bard, having thought for all these years that perhaps I could just quietly avoid that aspect of the druid path without anybody noticing.  Unfortunately, “anybody” included me (who, privately, noticed very much); it also included the deepest wellspring of my inspiration, a deity who is not the type to insist, but is not exactly easily suppressed…

So: what am I doing?

This question (“the old song”) is a favourite of Cat Treadwell’s, and I have learned a lot from the clarity of its simple directness.

Right now, I am re-reading Kuno Meyer’s translation of The Voyage of Bran, son of Febal, thanks to the Forgotten Books project.  And I am writing.  Writing here, because over the past few days I have been devouring pagan blogs; clicking my way into a labyrinth of links and references and, gradually, reading my way out again, laden with a list of new books to find and references to check, and correspondences between ideas that had never quite met one another before.  In that context, it seems miserly to read so much and not offer something in return, no matter how little.  There comes a point when there is more to be learned by sharing one’s own ideas than by hoarding other people’s, and some connections can only be made out loud.  But that leap of faith is terrifying.  I know so little.  Will I ever know enough?

Enough for whom?

Enough by what measure?

If my measure is an inspired and inspiring life, then I think I am at least on track.  The inspiration I feel may not always express itself in art – in the words or music we associate with bard-craft (though the moment on Sunday when I sang to the turning tide and saw a cormorant fly overhead and land in the water with each verse, was a moment of pure magic) – but in some small way I can feel it expressed in everything I do.  Just under four months ago, I was initiated as awenydd; now, I am learning to be one.  It takes faith to spend so much time and effort researching old tales and traditions, and to glean inspiration from sources that have been obscured by time; it takes still more faith to pour our souls into the work of singing this inspiration back into the world.  But it is the work I vowed to undertake.  And – however I try to rationalise it, whatever stories I weave around it –  Manawydan mab Llŷr (and maybe also Manannan mac Lir) is at its heart.

image by the wonderful Thalia Took: www.thaliatook.com

image by the wonderful Thalia Took: http://www.thaliatook.com

Let not thy intoxication overcome thee;
Begin a voyage across the clear sea

The Voyage of Bran, son of Febal

So I begin.


1% inspiration

Sitting down to write takes discipline, more discipline than I can muster most days.

Whatever it is that made its home in my chest all those years ago and has crouched there ever since, eating away at the words in the core of my being, it’s part of who I am, now.  The closest I get to creativity is baking bread, and even that is little more than routine, most weeks.  I still sing, sometimes, almost by accident – the songs rise up in me unbidden.  I wouldn’t say I am a singer.  Some nights I feel moved to play guitar, or even (for a laugh) pick up the ukulele; it always makes me happy, though the happiness is tinged with recognition that I could be so much better.  Maybe even now, I could be so much better, if I practised.

What stops me?

I’m sitting down to write this because somebody has died.  It’s too raw, too recent for me to find the right words, and I bitterly wish I could, at least for her daughter’s sake.  At times like these, the experience of living is pared down to the stone-hard seeds of truth buried at the centre of your being.  Life goes crazily on.  Bees buzz in the clover; young lads with their shirts piled on the grass fish for bream; coots bob around their nets; schoolgirls shriek and push each other.  World is crazier, and more of it than we think, Incorrigibly plural.  There are acorns swelling on the burr oak, each one a unique and evanescent presence on this earth.

She was a painter.  Her paintings were wonderful.  Her youngest is a painter, too; a brush for hire, a damn good one.  Her eldest designs and hand-crafts clothes that conjure up fantastic worlds.  A lot of people from those old days, back in Wales, create things for a living – artwork, music, stories.

I don’t want to create things for a living; I want to create things so that I can be more fully alive.

All I have are words.  As recently as yesterday, I thought I’d lost even those – I actually thought I might never think in full prose again.  A small victory for that voracious emptiness living in my chest.  But I keep writing.  Inspired by the wise words of Nimue’s recent blog post, The Quest for Inspiration, I sat down to write today, and I kept writing.

I may never find the words to express the dance of leaf-light on the bare earth beneath the oak tree in the park this evening, nor the words I so desperately wish could comfort my oldest friend – but if I keep writing, keep learning, keep honing the few words that I have, perhaps I really could be so much better.  As long as I am taking up space in the universe, I feel I ought at least to try.