Fferyllt – British Alchemy

Green Man

Fferyllt in Brythonic (the old British language) is the alchemy of the druid-shamans of Britain. It’s about the wedding of the Lady/Goddess to her Guardian-Lord. The Lady is the goddess of the Land, the Earth, Gaia if you like and with all the attributes James Lovelock assigned her. The Lord is her Guardian and Protector. Another way of seeing them is as the Green Woman and the Green Man, but the Lady and the Lord are common in British craft practice. In the British shamanic tradition the Lady is often called Sovereignty as this expresses the essence of what she is.

Lady - Vowchurch

These pictures are of the Lady and the Lord from the screen in Vowchurch church. Unfortunately, their genitals have been cut off and obscured with new wood by worried christians. The Lady, from the position of her hands, would have been a Sheela-na-gig and the Lord would have had an errect phallos. The link give a picture of the Kilpeck Sheela, about 10 miles from me here.

Lord (Vowchurch)

For us, individually, to make our relationship to the Lady and the Lord is for us to find our selves … our soul-self who connects us to the goddess and our personality-self who connects us to the god.

In old British tradition the king – the god/Lord’s representative – was chosen by various tests from the queen. These are exampled in folksongs like the Fith Fath Song and The Blacksmith as well as tales like Taliesin. A new king was chosen every 100 lunations, every 100 moon-months which is approximately 7 years. At the end of his term he was sacrificed and ploughed into the land, giving his goodness and fertility back to the goddess, perhaps the ultimate consummation. The folksong John Barleycorn tells the story. This tradition is found in other places in the world, the best known is probably the Eleusinian tradition of Greece but it’s possible the Osiris “murder” is another form of this. In the British tradition one story-form of this is the Llew Llaw Gyffes story, another is the Dream of Macsen Wledig. The Llew story has been badly mangled by Victorian storytellers who have turned it into a “faithless wife”drama, losing most of the points that the old Awenydd (Brythonic for vision-keeper) used to make when telling it at hearthsides long ago.

The concept of the queen testing the king to see if he is up to the job underlies much of the British Celtic shamanic ritual. Like everything Celtic, there are always the macrocosm/microcosm, the as above so below, aspects. The inner always reflects the outer as is shown in the Troy Town labyrinth – this picture is from Rocky Valley in Cornwall, the rock-carving is over 4000 years old.It’s on the cover of my book on Numerology.

And this drawing of reversible heads (Lord and Lady) from an ancient Celtic coin. turn the picture upsidedown and you still have the Lord on the left and the Lady on the right! Each is the other – a principle of the Celtic tradition.

Lord & Lady

The queen/goddess/Lady relates to our soul-self, the part of us that continues beyond each incarnation. The king/god/Lord relates to our personal-self, the personality into which the soul incarnates. This, of course, is different every time … different gender, race, colour, background, orientation, outlooks, ability to remember the soul, etc. It is, however, the part of ourselves we often know best and identify with. It’s also the part that will, undoubtedly, die and come to an end at the end of each incarnation! If /while we believe this is the “real me”, who we truly are, then we will be terrified by the idea of death, quite understandably.

In eso-speak it’s said the soul sleeps in meditation deep until the personality begins to awaken and knocks on the door of the soul – it has to be this way round, the soul will never push awareness onto the personality! This knocking on the door precipitates the rebirth.  The personality comes to know who and what it is, what its job is. Once this happens the personality usually wants to do its job right, be a good vehicle for the soul to work through. Our word personality comes from the Greek word persona which was the mask Greek actors wore and of which they said it was “the mask through which the gods spoke”. For gods read our own souls. The personality’s job is also to guard the soul. One example of this that has come down to us through folklore is the Morris Men [link to Joh Matthews’ excellent book] and Morris Dancing. Morris is likely derived from “Mary’s Men”. The name Mary comes from various words going back to Sanskrit meaning sea and has always been one of the words/names/concepts for the goddess, the flowing waters that give life, and indeed the sea was the soup of the beginning of Life on Earth. The Morris dances have much in common with various unarmed combat exercises and were likely practiced through dance both as ritual to the goddess and, later, as a way of continuing the old ways after the Christian invasions. So the personality is the Guardian of the soul as the king is the guardian of the queen.

The superiority of the king and the concept of “birthright” are quite new to Britain being heavily enforced by William the Conqueror! Before that kings were elected – Harold was – and women held land, led armies and governed. The job of ruling was taken on by the combined representatives of the goddess and the god, of the feminine and the masculine, of the representatives of the pairs of opposites.

The Fferyllt alchemy holds these principles and helps us to find them within ourselves, to become the microcosm of the macrocosm, to live here below as it is above.  This workshop initiates the process of awakening in the participants and offers, tools, journeys, exercises and ritual to facilitate the rebirth along with follow-up support after. If you find the path suits you then you may well want to join the 3 year shamanic training, Rainbow Warriors, to come to know the process at a deeper level.

  • This workshop runs from 1700 on Friday 11th June to 1400 on Sunday 13th June 2010. If you would like to join us apply here – there is also an outline of the workshop here along with cost. Places are limited. The workshop is non-residential and held in the ancient countryside just outside of Hereford in the UK – a place steeped in Celtic legend. We use local sacred sites as part of the journeying work.

Elen Sentier
… behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …
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