Wam Barrows & the Soul Catcher

I’ve just been down to Exmoor with two friends. This night we were led to Wam Barrows up on Winsford Hill.

It was beautiful when we arrived on the top. We went first to the trig-point. It always feels as though that is the place used as the central spindle for the hill, the place where the vertical-axis energies connecting Earth and Sky go. We asked if we might work there that evening and got permission.

We took our food, along with water from one of the dark and peaty springs nearby, to the hollow on top of the first of the three Wam Barrows. After having our own water and food, we poured a libation and put out breadcrumbs for the gods and the beasts.

Settling ourselves in the darkening land the sky was clear. As we watched it coloured down from turquoise through the blues into indigo-night. Over our heads blazed a river of stars, the Milky Way. As the night drew on, up out of the southwest climbed Gwyn ap Nudd, Herne himself, the great hunter known to astronomers as Orion. He hung in the sky above us.
And then it came, out of the darkness, the sound of the hounds, the wild-geese call. We were visited …

* * *

Soul Catcher

All along, down along, out along ley
Faster than lightning rides the Sidhe.
All along, down along, out along ley
The hounds are yelping across the sea
The Wild Ones come and the souls flee

Mother! The wild Geese are coming!
Hush child, under the covers with’ee!
But mother, I hear them …
Hush child or the dogs will have thee!
‘Tis the Gabriel Hounds will away with thee!

Down he comes, down and down the winding, twisty stairs.
First sunwise then widdershins,
Darkness blinds him but his feet know the way
and make no untimely steps upon the stairs
down deep below Dun Kerry’s halls

In the dark kennels they scent him now,
Remembering forgotten blood-smells.
A whine. A yelp.
“Quiet!” comes the master’s voice “You’ll wake the dead!”

Mother! Mother! I hear the Wild Geese coming!
Hush child! Or the dogs will have thee!

Down and down he comes.
Now ahead he sees the stag’s crown hanging before him.
His hands reach out, pull the ancient helmet to his brow.
The King is come

White tails wag,
muscles ripple under the white fur,
red ears prick and eyes glow like coals in a furnace.
Thirty couple of hounds there are at his wild bidding

Pale in the darkness the white mare gleams like frost in moonlight.
One silver hoof she raises, drops and taps upon the crystal floor.
Softly she calls to him

He rests a hand now on her shoulder.
His fingers entwine the silver mane.
An instant more and he leaps astride her.
The flesh of his thighs caresses her silken coat as he grips her firmly,
knees turning her towards the darkness.
Her silver hooves carry them forward striking lightning from the granite.
The dogs rumble in their throats.
The white mare springs forward.
Earth-Fire rises and the wind carries them out into the world

All along, down along, out along ley
Faster than lightning rides the Sidhe.

Mother! The wild Geese are coming!
Hush child! ‘Tis the Gabriel Hounds.

He sounds his horn as out across the sky they flee.
Yo-yip-yip-yip Yowwww!
Yip-yip-yow the hounds echo.
The clouds muster, gather, bank and mass before him.
Again he sounds his horn.
The hounds tear the clouds to tatters
Ripping apart the decent covering of the night
So Dian’s body round and soft and butter-gold
Shines out above the earth all brazen-bold.

Soul Catcher! she breathes.
Owls and moonbeams tumble from her arms
Horner Woods fills with light and feathers.

The light of night pierces deep down into the graves
and the souls come forth.
Singly now and then in twos and threes
they rise up through the earth like misty goblins,
wandering abroad for mischief.

But the hounds see them.
Working to and fro amongst their woolly flock
they gather in the wandering souls and guide them to the river.
No longer do they fester,
wailing plaintive chants to chill the living,
wandering unknown and unknowing in times past.
Now they hear their Master, the Horned Shepherd-Friend,
and feel his dogs unleashed upon them
but to bring them home.

Quiet now they wait upon the bank.
Soft now he sounds a single note upon the horn.
Then they hear the dipping of the pole
as the Ferryman brings his boat up to the shore.
The dogs nuzzle, nip and push.
The souls crowd the planks and huddle close
for fear of drowning in the river of forgetfulness.

Safe now! he says.

The white mare rears and climbs the skies.
The dogs follow.
A streaming, joyous comet lights the sky
and binds a girdle round the Earth.

Then, sighting the cairn,
her nipple, standing atop the hill,
rising out her heathery purple robe,
he flies towards her.

Soft the troupe,
man and horse and hounds,
sink into the Mother’s Breast.
Down and down they go into the glassy halls.

Dian drifts her naked body across the cloud-wrack, falling homewards.

Mother! Mother! I heard the Wild Geese tonight.

All along, down along, out along ley
Faster than lightning rides the Sidhe.
All along, down along, out along ley
The hounds are yelping across the sea
The Wild Ones come and the souls flee.

© elen sentier 2009   all rights reserved

The painting is by Cheska Potter