Tag Archives: druidism

Chasing the Mabon

Big thanks to Teller who asked me ‘So, when are you putting up the blog?’ And a huge thanks to Cthulhudruid who managed to find my original post after it had been accidentally deleted!

Maponus image from Gettyimages

Ah, yes. Autumn! The season of falling leaves, bounties of fruit and vegetation, bird migration and garden spiders coming out to capture unsuspecting prey (shudder). This season also sees the Equinox as the dramatic increase of the dark overtakes the long summer nights. The balance is struck and the wheel turns once again….

Within the usual modern Pagan circles, the Autumnal Equinox has been given a name…. Mabon. Whom or what does this name come from? What the hell is a Mabon anyway?

The short story is that in the 1970’s Aiden Kelly, Wiccan High Priest, came up with the name for the simple fact that he didn’t like that the Autumnal Equinox celebrations didn’t have a grander name. In his own words, please read this.

The long story…..

Mabon is a now shadowy figure, one who once had a cult all of his own stretching from Wales to Lancashire, Northumberland, Cumbria and Scotland. Mabon means ‘Son’ in Welsh and the most familiar version of this is the character of Mabon ap Modron (Son of Mother), from the tale ‘How Culhwch Won Olwen‘.

In the story, the hero Culhwch falls in love with the beautiful Olwen. Which is great, because she loves him too and it turns out that marrying her will lift the curse that was put on him by his jealous step-mother. Problem solved. However, her Dad is Yspaddaden Bencawr, chief giant and realm owning badass. He is so against the idea of the marriage, he sets Culhwch 40 impossible tasks which must be completed. No victory from the young upstart, then no nuptials. Amongst these tasks was one where Culhwch must obtain the comb and shears from behind the ears of the dreaded supernatural boar, Twrch Trwryth. But this could not be done unless he somehow obtained the mardiest dog in the world, Drudwyn. And even then Drudwyn had to be controlled by Mabon ap Modron, a huntsman who must ride the steed Gwyn Dunmane…. and the snag was: “Mabon ap Modron who had been stolen from his home when he was three nights old, and his whereabouts not known…..

Luckily for Culhwch, his uncle Arthur (yes, THAT Arthur) had given him some of his knights as companions who helped accomplish most of the impossible tasks like some adrenaline charged-Redbull fuelled group from Dungeons & Dragons…. but they could not find Mabon ap Modron.

Anywhere.

Like, nowhere.

It was only after Arthur discovering hint about asking the Oldest Animals in the World the heroes stood a chance. So Culhwch’s band sought out the Blackbird of Cilgwri, the Stag of Rhendynfre, the Owl of Cam Cwlwyd, the Eagle of Gwernabwy and the Salmon of Llyn Lliw, to find Mabon’s location: the fortress of Caerloyw. Even then they have to break him out by force. Skipping to the end; Mabon and another hunter, some wild dude called Cynedyr Wyllt manage to corner Twrch Trwryth and grab the comb (Mabon) and shears (Cynedyr) before the Chief of Otherworldly Boars escapes and runs into the sea, prophesying he and Arthur shall fight at the end of the world…… well, a big rumble between them in the far future anyway.

In one version of the ‘Dream of Rhonabwy‘, Mabon is one of the advisors of Arthur, although this could be a confusion with another, Mabon ap Mellt (Son of Lightening) is described as a huntsman also….. This version hints at either this Mabon was as quick as lightening or was descended from some cthonic sky-god.

Interestingly, the character of Mabon was taken up by Roman occupiers in Britannia. Or perhaps, was taken up by Romanised Celts in the form of Maponus ‘Divine Youth’. Coins and inscriptions show Maponus with his dog (Drudwyn?). It appears that Maponus was equated with Apollo, the god of healing and poetry….. and linked with the bow and arrow, tools of the hunt?

What of Modron? Does the mother give any indication as to who Mabon is? She is of the ‘Washer at the ford’ variety of supernatural women, and is daughter to Afallach, one of the lords of Annwn (Welsh Otherworld), specifically, the ruler of Avalon. If true, then she was a magical being and therefore a woman of Sovereignty (The right to choose and the right to rule) and supposedly bore two sons to Urien Rheged, king of Rheged (supposedly a kingdom in Northern England and Southern Scotland). One of these sons, Owein, plays chess with Arthur in the ‘Dream of Rhonabwy‘…. see how these things always go in cycles?

Bizarrely enough, one of the stanzas of the Graves reads: “The grave in the upland of Nanllau; his story no one knows. Mabon the son of Modron the sincere.” So which is it? Is this the grave of Mabon who was in the quest for Olwen’s hand in marriage? Or was he always a mystery and none knew his details? If so, then why was he so popular? Could it be that Mabon ap Modron was in fact the figure of a mystery tradition? Like a Brythonic version Mythras?

The fact that there are remnants and inscriptions to Mabon/Maponus means there was some kind of reverence to him. What this originally was is sadly lost to time, but things have a very strange way of returning. In Modern Druidry, especially in OBOD, where the role of Mabon is given to the youngest member in the ceremony. When Aiden Kelly chose that name, did he do it because it fitted his aesthetic or was there a whisper from a long forgotten heroic huntsman? Also, how the hell did a babe taken away from his mother’s breast of only three nights old learn to become a hunter in the prison of a fort!? Perhaps….. and this is my interpretation…. perhaps Mabon in the story is meant as a metaphor for the adventurous spirit. He is the youthful part of us that dares to do the impossible once he has broken free of the dark prison of our minds. The Mabon hones it’s skills and when is broken free by bravery and need it can go forward and seize the fierce dog of anger to accomplish great things. For when the sun goes down at the Autumnal Equinox does the night get stronger. And as the nights draw in, it is the perfect time to develop our own skills and look inward until we need to release the adventurous spirit within.

Sources:

The Isles of the Many Gods, David Rankine & Sorita D’Este. Avalonia, London, 2007.

The Mabinogion, a new translation by Sioned Davies, Oxford World’s Classics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2007.

The Keys to Avalon, the True Location of Arthur’s Kingdom Revealed, Steve Blake & Scott Lloyd, Element Books Limited, Dorset, 2000.

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Realignment

June.  That was the last month I wrote something in depth. I have managed to write something every month or so, albeit in the form of a poem, a saying, or even a prayer. 

Actually, I don’t feel the need to write anything in depth.  No examinations of what those legends may actually mean, no breaking down of Pagan concepts (Classical or Modern), no questioning of the values or ethics around us.  In fact there are so many people reeling from the political victory of Brexit and Donald Trump, there are plenty already questioning the world around them…. 

 Whereas my investigative flair has faded to nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  Diddley-Squat.  

During August, I feared I might have severed the link between myself and my spirituality.  Since the end of June, I dedicated myself to learning my lines for a theatrical performance.  In August, I did the same with another, both of them are now finished and performed.  Having embraced my acting self as my Bardic self, I have sought to regain and discover new skills for being the actor I want to be.  As well as discovering the actor I am turning into.  

It would be wrong of me to say I ‘put my life on hold’ because of the two plays.  Sure, I became less socially active and my days off were dedicated to line learning as were my evenings after work and then there were rehearsals.  

Performance is a discipline. It is hours of line learning, practicing the mannerisms of another person, working with the energy levels of your colleagues so the show does not lag.  Remembering where to be in the right place at the right time, thinking within a split second of a replacement word if you end up forgetting the correct one and doing all of this with a huge adrenaline rush once you are doing it.  To do that and more requires focus and discipline in yourself. 

And so, I threw myself into this creative path.  To me, it feels so right to do so.  It has stoked my inner fires and is my main focus. Where I may not be performing my Bardic Rituals everyday (the last was before I moved house in June) I have come to understand this, at the moment, is not what I need in my life right now.  

I still light my candles to my deities, ancestors and the spirits around me.  I still honour the seasons that pass and celebrate them; I still give offerings and have even done a little research into Japanese Fox spirits.  I have discovered my spirituality is in who I am, not just what I do.  This has also allowed me to view my spirituality, my beliefs and my self objectively.  And in this I have learned much, including belief in myself. 

But for the time being, I will post when I can with what I can give.  

After all, if one’s spirituality is only defined by one’s work with ritual, then what is ritual if not a performance? 

Photo by Locksley2010

The Morrigan’s Mask…

I was inspired by this piece written on The Morrigan in Danu Forest’s article on ‘The Gods are not for sale!’ which you can read for yourself here.

So, I have to thank Leithin Cluan, really because she posted it to our Grove.  My particularly favorite bit is:

No the Morriigan is not an easy goddess- disrespect her land and she will want blood. Literally. She is sexual, primal, gutsy, scary- she will do the hard, horrible work, embrace her fury so a clean start is possible- but no she she’s not interested in comforting you because you don’t want to be as tough as your life requires right now, don’t want to wade into difficult moral or emotional terrain. She won’t hold your hand if you are scared of the dark, but she might smile if you pick yourself up, get fed up with your cowardice and do what needs to done. Read the old tales, research the folklore- visit the places on the land that honour her, in the real world. It’s all there. Get out of your own head, your own story- she’s waiting outside.   

Indeed!

Not a simpering maid, this Goddess.  This portrayal is one that evokes primal strength, a bolshy nature of “Well, do it then!“.  It also brings, at least to my mind, the now stereotypical image of the Morrigan: A flame haired beauty screaming across the battlefield with a bloody sword and gore splattered shield.  Heralding the death of her foes as she unleashes a furious murder of crows on those whose souls she has come to claim.  She is the black of night, the crimson fountain, the pale moon all in one and death is her punishment to the weak.  She mesmerizes with her blatant sexuality, oozing appeal with every curve and her eyes dare you to take her… if you can.

This imagery and the above quote, reflect only part of her being.  The Morrigan, believe it or not was only classed as a ‘Goddess of Battle’ only recently.

Everyone who has heard of her is familiar with the iconic raven and crow association, they are carrion birds after all, and eating the slain on the battlefield is a pretty sure way of a having them represent death.

Her powers influence battle to be sure, The Daghda, after seeing her washing in the river convinces her to ensure victory against the Fomorians by having sex with her.  At the end of the battle of Moytura, she sings a song of victory and also prophecies of the end of the world.

In the Cuchulainn saga, she tries to seduce Cuchulainn, only for him to refuse her (something she really doesn’t like).  In that story she shows her shape-shifting abilites: as a maiden, an eel, a wolf, a crone.  The Crone guise is used when Cuchulainn meets a crone with a cow, and is tricked into blessing the crone and thereby healing all the wounds he had inflicted on her.

So yes, she does have an association with death, with transformation and with prophecy.  More than that she is also a Goddess of Sovereignty (this is where the cow comes in, it represent the land, generosity and a number of Goddesses).  Where she is death, she also represents life: fertility and bounty,  both of which make way for the future- something she appears to know of before others do.

I am very aware this is merely an introduction into The Morrigan and will give more of my findings when I have them.  The way I see Her is like the bright full moon behind a cover of cloud: You know she is there and every now and then, she’ll be visible, but only for a moment and even then, was it the full picture?

Like her guises, The Morrigan has many masks.  The mask I see her with isn’t of the screaming warrior, or of the regal queen.  To me, at least, right now, she is mysterious woman showing me I must pay attention.  The choice she brings is to pick myself up or lie where I am and wonder where I went wrong.  Thankfully, I chose the former… after all, in front of such a pretty lady, it simply wouldn’t do to wallow.

I remember meeting the Morrigan in a dream in early 2013, the most distinctive feature I remember is the red make up around her eyes… the below image reminds me of her.  Taking hint of Cuchulainn, offering her a blessing, I have trialled giving offerings of milk.  So far, she likes anything I can give in Her name, but mainly milk, beer, whisky, tobacco, food (Not beef) and chocolate cake.

Image from Old Camarilla Wiki  – artist and details unknown, but would love to give credit to whoever did this. 

The Bard Within

I’ve finally got around to forging a tool! Not in the literal sense of molten metal and hammers, but in the metaphorical sense.

I’ve made myself a Facebook page!  The idea being that I can advertise myself as an actor and storyteller and that folks can see me (under my stage name) in action.  Then said folks can contact me to hire or have me perform for them.  Shameless link!

I made the page a bit post-haste as I needed something quick for a gig I’d been asked to this month.  One of my Druid friends has very kindly offered to help me make my own website, so watch this space!

Remember what I wrote in my last blog about taking advantage of offers Life presents?  Well, the week after I wrote that, I was contacted by a friend of mine who I’ve performed for previously and wondered if I’d be up for a spot at Nottingham’s SOBAR (a nonalcoholic bar, the whole weekend festival was for a charity for people recovering from alcoholism).  So I took it up immediately!

Last week, I headed a night of storytelling for my Druid Grove, which you can read here (it’s all about the links today!). It was a good night and it felt right.  I’m not naive or stupid enough to believe that after one night of MCing a story night with some friends of mine, that I can go around doing it professionally.  Truth is I’ve fought this.
Normally, I tell a story to my Grove a little unprofessionally, stumbling here and there.  But at last weeks meeting, it was the first time I did it properly, calmly and not without humour.

I spent seven years in a theatrical tourist attraction telling stories of the Horrible History kind, all in costume and make up.  I gave that up when I moved to Nottingham and lost a part of myself doing it.  It was only when I was challenged (the Best way to get me to do anything) to do a Halloween themed story piece that I realised I missed this!

So I made more! And there is more to come and more to develop on.  I even tend to tell stories when I do ceremony and ritual work with either my Grove or the Moot I co-run.  Its intrinsic to my sense of being, spiritually, holistically.  Even when using the Druid Animal Oracle there is one card I have difficulty remembering the meaning of, but the story behind it… that’s where the meaning comes out (its the Seal, card btw). So when that card comes out, I remember two of the three catchword and tell the story of the Selkie because its more in depth than the card meaning in the booklet.

The what I did on Sunday, was use my Highwayman character, The Scarlet Blade.  I was in this very modern cafe dressed as though I was an 18th Century vagabond.  As soon as I saw the children enter I knew I had to tailor this.  The first time I performed the SB was in a bar filled with merry poets and every filthy joke and bawdy line was used… couldn’t do that here, so I chopped and changed it.  With five minutes left, I pulled a bit of a history lesson out of my tricorn hat and told what Dick Turn was really like.

Ok, so I didn’t have the bawdy, foul mouthed jeering from the first time, what I did have was a dad telling me that through my set, his very young son kept telling him “Dad! Dad! There’s a Pirate over there!” The child gleefully hid away when I pulled my plastic pistol out at him and the dad told me “He’ll remember that for the rest of his life…” That made my day!

It appears that embracing my performing self, the actor, the storyteller has all come about after admitting who and what my Bardic self is.  Its just that I had to forget in order to find myself again. 

Me as The Scarlet Blade on Sunday 17th August 2014.  Photo by Amy Hills.

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‘Into Darkness’…

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Yep, I pretty much stole that title from the Star Trek movie.  Because its appropriate, Kirk and crew face their darkest mission, yet it’s about the beginning of exploring the great dark of space.

In my last post here, I wrote of how I interpreted a visual sight (not to mention all the cawing of those crows) as being a message from The Morrigan… I just didn’t know what it meant.

My good friend, Cristina, interpreted it as a message of ‘Transformation and regeneration… usually after a time of pain.  And War-Goddesses are also Goddesses of healing‘.

Today, I figured out the message!

On the OBOD Bardic course, I’ve been on Gwers #45 since April.  I tried out the Practicum in it when I was in Cyprus, but I more often than not kept falling asleep.  Today, I felt the urge to read it and do it again.  I answered the questions suggested with different answers to what I got the first time.  The exercise (no spoilers for my Bardic friends who will be reading this!) this time was a lot more productive.  I think the chunk of limestone on my diaphragm helped me NOT fall asleep this time.

My thoughts gave way to nothing…. and then the answer revealed itself like a statue being uncovered in the sea as the surf gives way to reveal a secret hidden in plain sight:

All of my life I’ve tried to force my hand to make things happen.  Tried to make my life into something to go my way.  In ways, it did and in ways it didn’t.  I mean it’s good to have a goal, but…. BUT… what about letting life give the opportunity?  What about letting life happen and when it presents you with an opportunity you then take it?  There’s a choice there: Stay on your present course and things will work out more or less as you expected.  Or take the opportunity and dare to let life take you somewhere new, somewhere unexpected.  Even if it doesn’t work out… you tried.

And so… this bit as I wrote it in my Bardic Journal, I KNEW was the answer to what the message was:

“In life we make our own way, we must take action.  But let life show you how, where and what.”

And as if to confirm my realisation as I wrote that down, there was a caw… then another… then a third! (I shit you not!) A young crow was on the roof as I was scribbling away out in the garden.  I laughed out to myself, to the crow, to the garden.  I got it!  To allow life to show you an opportunity, you need to take a moment of stillness, look into the dark (as in silence and withdrawal) and have faith.  It doesn’t matter if that faith is in yourself, faith in the Gods, or spirits or whatever… at least put your faith in Life.

I was happy with that and I accepted it… and in accepting, my regeneration and transformation begins.

The Morrigan?

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I’m supposed to be asleep and yet I feel charged to write this blog…right now (“Do it! Do it now! NOW!!!” Whispers the Voice- HER voice).

Not even performing the Light Body Exercise helped calm my mind, sooth my soul or quieten my spirit.  All I can think of is today’s sign (as I wish to call it that).

I was just about to pour my beaten eggs into the frying pan, this lunch time, when there was a great cawing outside.  Me and Artemis (my housemate, not the Goddess… although…) made a joke about my cat having pissed the crows off.  I went outside to see what the commotion was and looked up at the house behind us…. perched upon the rooftop were three crows all yelling their heads off.  I said one word in acknowledgement, a name: ‘Morrigan’.  I said it quite flippantly.  Immediately the cawing stopped and two crows flew off, from where I was standing, one East, the other West.  One remained in the North.  As soon as Artemis commented in amazement that they stopped once I said the name of a Goddess, I knew it had to be a sign, or a message.  Didn’t get time to ponder as my food was frying!

By the time I came back out the third crow had gone… was I too late?

I’ve been pondering what this could mean… if anything at all.  To me this is a harbinger of some kind, of what I don’t yet know.

The first time I was aware of Raven as a harbinger was back in 1999 when I discovered I had absent mindedly doodled a raven whilst talking to a friend on the phone.  That was a BIG year for me: I had my sexual awakening and began University.

The second time was the card I drew on the first day of this year signifying destruction and initiation must take place before rebuilding can begin… that’ll be me and Pipes separating and both of us no longer living in our home of almost seven years.  Oh yeah! I’ve moved house by the way!

So, to hear three very loud crows and see two fly off (one to the direction of the intellect and new ideas, the other to the direction of the emotions and the subconscious; and the last remaining in the direction of matter, the senses and physicality means something else is coming.  What, I’m not sure.  But this time, I intend to be ready.

Looks like I’d better start asking the Morrigan, see what she’s trying to say.

Oh Lady Morrigan,
Lady of the swift sword of battle,
Lady of the burning heart of lust and desire,
Lady of the hidden secrets of magic.

Let me hear you, let me see you, let me kiss you.”

Goddess of Another Land…

Wow! Really!? My last blog was back in April!?…..

Well that’s screwed up my attempt at making this blog fortnightly (why do people call this “biweekly” nowadays? Do folks just turn bisexual every two weeks or something?).  Oh well, I’d best get on with it.

Basically, this year a LOT has happened.  Remember my card reading for this year? See here.
Well it looks like the catalyst for my life giving way to destruction in order to build something new has happened:

Me and Pipes parted ways back in the first week of March.  Yep, our marriage has been called to an end.  We are separated but still friends, which is important.  I will not deny Pipes has been a very big influence in my life and she still means much to me.  To some of you, this will be no news whatsoever.  To others, this will be big news indeed, I’m sorry, I haven’t had the chance to tell everyone yet and I sure as hell wasn’t going to do it as a Facebook status.

What has this got to do with the title?

Well, in mid May, I had the fortune of going to Cyprus to celebrate my Dad’s 60th birthday and my parent’s 35th wedding anniversary (2014 would have been mine and Pipe’s 6th) for an entire week.

The sun was hot, the skies blue and the sea aquamarine and refreshing.  The food was gorgeous, especially if you go for a meze where you get dishes and dishes and dishes of different food in many courses.

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A Briton in a Greek land (I know Cypriot is its own culture and language, just bear with me, OK?) What was a follower of the gods of the Isle of Destiny and the Isle of the Mighty to do?

Pay homage of course!

The first night we were there, we saw the gorgeous full moon and all the stars surrounding her.  From the villa, we could see the sea to the south, the mountains to the north, and the air had a welcome coolness.  I saluted Luna on her beauty and asked for the blessings of Earth, Sky and Sea as well as those of Aphrodite herself.  This was her Island and I wanted to pay tribute… all with a cool can of KEO beer!

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Aphrodite’s Bath.  Photo by Locksley2010.

On the Sunday we went to visit the Baths of Aphrodite, where she walked from the mountains to bathe in the rock pool.  It was a lot smaller than I imagined, but it was still beautiful.  There was even a sign to warn you against dipping your feet in it.  Quite right too.
I didn’t know how to approach, so I waited until it was quiet and I removed my hat and sunglasses then knelt on the slabs before the pool.  I called upon Aphrodite; allowing me to come to this wonderful place and to give thanks on any blessings she gave while I was in her land.  I’m not familiar with how Aphrodite should have been honoured, so I did it like I would to the goddesses of home… I spoke to the water.  I then felt compelled to put a hand into the cool water and wipe it all across my face.  So I did.  I got up and gave a bow to the pool only to turn around to a young couple looking at me in total disgust.  I flashed them my “Yeah, I spoke to the water, go fuck yourself” smile and carried on my way.

It was whilst we walked down the mountains on a hike that my Aunt pointed out that Aphrodite must have been one hell of a strong woman to have done the walk every day… she’s a goddess, she probably shape-shifted into a bird perhaps or one of the goats that were stampeding down the path…

On the last few hours of being in that beautiful country, we came upon Aphrodite’s rock. 

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Aphrodite’s Rock, photo by Locksley2010… still think it looks phallic…

This was where she was born, allegedly.  The rock itself is the smallest of three lone standing natural pillars.  I think it looks like the tip of a glans.

I wanted to pay my last respects before saying good bye to the land and its goddess, so I squatted in the surf, letting the sea drift over my boots.  Placing my hands into the flowing sea, I called upon Aphrodite once more, thanking her for the experiences shared and lessons learned.  I then found myself chatting with her.  Telling of my heartbreak and of how I faced it.  I couldn’t help it, it just seemed natural to talk to the goddess of love about what I endured.  I even asked her something personal, for advice, blessings and inspirations… I certainly didn’t expect a response! A voice! A voice in my head and my heart.  It wasn’t my voice, it wasn’t a woman’s voice… it was just there.  What it said took me by surprise and made my joyful and sad all at the same time.
I then gave thanks and took my leave, running the seawater all over my arms.  I took a tissue from my pocket (yes, it was clean and unused!) and tied it to the tree that so many others had done, all asking for Aphrodite to help in some way.  I only asked that I make the right choice.  There were hundreds of clooties, some of tissue paper, some of plastic carriers, some of shirts.

So, what did Aphrodite say? What took me by surprise? That, dear reader is between me and the Goddess of another Land.