Tag Archives: Myth

Gawain

Gawain & the Green Knight

Gawain, Gawain, tumbling down,

falling, falling, falling.

Here is a Hall. A King’s Hall.

The smell of smoldering peat and apple-wood,

of roast meats, old bones and wet dogs.

Where am I?

Here, says the voice inside your head.

Come in! Come in! I welcome you.

There is a lady, dark and fair, with raven hair.

Green eyes melt you.

Sitting now, you hold the wooden table hard,

fearing to float again,

the Hall will melt and you be

falling, falling, falling.

Ba-Boom!

Thunder at the doors.

Ba-Boom!

Again the thunder roars.

Ba-Boom!

Open!

The doors fly open, wind whistles the snow around your ears.

Blind, you see the darkness fill the doorway.

Your heart makes thunder softly in your breast,

Ba-Boom!

Fire sparks from the stones under the green hooves.

Wisps of straw catch light, smolder a moment

and fail in the dampness of the season.

The hooves come closer.

Upwards climbs your eye,

the soft green fetlock,

the shimmering green leg,

the green ripple of shoulder muscle.

Almost you shut your eyes. This cannot be!

But the voice within your head laughs …

Dare not? … Dare not? …

And your eyes betray you forcing you to see.

Green silk reins, bridle, green-gold bit.

Ah! A change.

The horse’s eyes are golden, like a cat,

first slitting then opening so wide you are engulphed.

Retreating, you turn your eyes,

follow up the reins.

The hands are green.

Green wrist emerge from silken green-sleeves.

One hand holds up a holly bundle.

The other holds the Labrys,

two-faced in her own sincerity.

Reaching upwards you find the face, crowned with holly.

Green, green eyes hold you, freeze your blood.

The King is bored, he will not eat

until some one has told a tale to sharpen up his appetite.

Ho! The Green Man calls. Who reigns here?

Who is master of this Hall?

The King’s eyes light, lazily he leans back in his chair.

Why, I do, he says softly.

And wouldst thou game with me?

For I would game, now, at the turning of the year.

And I would game with kings!

Nay! The King laughs.

I cannot game with thee.

I am the King.

My lady holds my head within her hands

and would not let it go.

He eyes the Labrys knowingly.

Then is there any other

who will stand in for the King

and play my game?

For I will surely game before I leave this Hall.

Silence reigns.

Breath is stilled.

Even the flames pause

in licking at the carcass on the spit.

Silence holds sway.

Even the wind pauses in his circling of the towers,

waiting a response.

Silence grips your heart.

Holding hard to the wood of the table you rise, shaking,

legs of jelly threat to buckle and dissolve

and pitch you in the damp straw.

Holding hard to the wood of the table you stand.

And standing thus it seems the hall revolves about you,

twisting light and dark in streamers.

You shake your head. Vision grows.

I will game with you for my lord King,

you hear yourself proclaiming.

Your voice goes on apace despite your reason.

And letting go the table so you stagger forth

and stand beside the huge green horse and his great rider,

an ant beside an elephant.

Haaaaaaaaa! Haaaaaaaaaaaaa! Haaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

The great laugh rolls around the hall shaking the banners,

even the flames leap with the wind, scorching the pig.

And down he climbs, down from the horse.

The earth rocks as his feet touch ground.

He stands before you, holding up the axe,

the holly gone behind the saddle now.

This is our game, he tells you,

that I will bear from you one blow of my great axe.

And I will not fight nor flinch

but will allow you do your best or worst upon me.

And all I ask in return is that you then, a year from now,

bear one blow in return from me and my axe,

and that you neither flinch

nor turn away nor offer any defence.

Will you play my game?

Again your voice betrays your mind.

I will, you say.

It seems as the Hall turns on its axis once again

wedding you both in the eye of the storm.

Slow and stately now he offers you the axe.

He kneels before you.

Parts his green silk hair to show his neck

and bows his head.

Labrys’ body, silken holly shaft, slips easy in your hand.

Lift me, heft me, she whispers.

Am I not graceful? Sharp? Incisive?

Do your hands not delight to hold me?

And it’s true.

Your hands caress her silken curves

and slide to grip her firmly for her work.

You feel her rouse and rise.

You feel her speed as she pulls your arms down for the mighty stroke.

You feel the inner sound as she screams for joy,

tasting blood.

The head rolls at your feet.

What have you done?

A life?

A life is gone for you and for the game?

How did you do this?

Ah! She whispers.

No man may resist my calling.

I am Labrys, eater of kings.

Now the world turns backwards.

Slowly, the Green Man rises,

gets up from his knees.

Reaches down to grasp the head and holds it on his arm.

Hast made me a body shorter, laughs the head.

And saying so the body leaps lightly to the saddle.

The green horse turns,

the man reaches down

and plucks the Labrys from your grasp.

She goes lightly, laughing,

returning to her lover.

In one year’s time, the head informs you.

In one year’s time.

And out into the snow they ride.

The doors fall to behind them.

Ba-Boom!

It seems forever since you heard the sea.

The dessert rises and falls before you and behind you.

Is there no thing in all this wasteland?

Your horse carries you forward.

It is long since you had the wit to direct him and he knows,

he knows where you must go.

Mist rises.

A shimmering tower spins before you.

A thing has come to you in all this wasteland.

Will you enter in?

Your horse walks on,

carrying you forward willy, nilly,

into the spinning mist.

You try to close your eyes but yet again they fail you,

forcing you to see.

The mist glows golden.

The light stills.

Warmth and moisture surround you.

Looking now you find yourself within a castle yard.

Silence reigns.

Your breath is stilled, halts in your throat.

What is this place?

A footstep sounds behind you.

Dare you turn?

You must.

Step down sir knight, he tells you.

You have traveled a goodly way.

Come in! Come in! I welcome you.

You climb down, weary,

the earth shudders as your feet hit ground.

Your horse walks over to a stall and is content.

Come in! He says again and turns towards the Hall.

You follow him.

There is a lady, dark and fair, with raven hair.

Green eyes melt you.

Sitting now, you hold the wooden table hard,

fearing to float again,

the Hall will melt and you be

falling, falling, falling.

She brings you food, wine.

Leads you to a fair chamber.

Takes off your armour, like a page

and helps you into bed.

Sleep! She says.

The touch of her hand on your brow is all you know till morning.

Come! He says.

I would go hunting.

I cannot, you reply.

I must go on to the Green Chapel.

I have promised.

I know, he says.

And I can show you your way when your time is come.

Now, while we wait let us have sport.

I am weary, you tell him.

Aye! Then I will hunt about the forest

and whatever I bring home I will give to you.

You will be here

and whatever you find during the day

you will give to me in exchange.

Agreed, you say, wearily, just wanting to be still.

Later, the Lady comes to you.

Anoints your head and leaves you then to sleep again,

giving you only one kiss.

At eventide he comes.

On his shoulder is a fine stag.

See, he says, what the gods have given me today.

How did you fare?

You take him by the shoulders and plant a kiss upon his brow.

Next day again you lie abed.

The Lady comes.

Her breath is honey and roses,

her skin like a peach, her hands cool.

You melt within her eyes.

She pours the unguent on your head.

Bending down she kisses you on the lips.

The taste of sweet wine lingers all the day.

At eventide he comes.

A fine boar on his shoulder.

See, he says, what the gods have given me today.

How did you fare?

You take him by the shoulders and plant a kiss upon his lips.

Next day you lie abed again.

The Lady sits with you.

I know your quest she says and you will fail but for me.

Take this girdle now and hide it next your heart.

When your moment comes none shall harm thee.

She kisses your lips and leaves.

You hide the green girdle deep within your shirt.

At eventide he comes.

A bright red fox over his shoulder.

See, he says, what the gods have given me today.

How did you fare?

Again you take him by the shoulders and plant a kiss upon his lips.

This night he looks at you,

a smile hovers over his mouth.

His lady too looks up from under her eyelids and almost smiles.

You eat bravely, for tomorrow is your day.

The morning is bright.

Your horse is rested,

stamping, champing, restive, on the go.

You climb aboard and touch your breast.

A smile breaks out upon the Lord and Lady’s faces.

Go forth, they cheer you on.

Your horse knows the way.

All the luck of the morning be with thee.

And they turn, take hands and go within the hall.

The shimmering mist surrounds you.

Coming out you find yourself in deep forest.

Trees arch and bow over your head,

the bracken stirs about your horses hooves.

The smell of autumn.

Pacing on, the track brings you up and up

and suddenly you come out in the grove.

Towering mountains spy between the trees.

Before you is the Green Chapel.

Slowly you climb down.

Some thing whispers, Welcome! Come in! Come in!

The earth feels soft and gentle beneath your feet.

You walk into the chapel.

Ho!

You know that voice.

And wouldst thou game with me?

For I would game, now, at the turning of the year.

And I would game with kings!

You turn and come out through the door.

Ba-Boom!

It slams behind you.

He is there.

Green silk reins, bridle, green-gold bit.

Green hands emerge from silken green-sleeves,

one holds a bunch of holly.

The other holds the Labrys.

Your eyes travel up to find the face, crowned with holly.

The green, green eyes hold you, freeze your blood.

It is my Lord.

My Lord of the spinning tower.

He smiles.

And down he climbs, down from the horse.

The earth rocks as his feet touch ground.

He stands before you.

It seems the grove turns on its axis,

the chapel spins.

You stand again in the eye of the storm,

wedded to your fate.

Slow and stately now he holds up the axe.

You kneel before Him, bow your head.

You can hear how Labrys whistles

and then screams for blood as he brings the blade down.

Nothing.

Nothing has happened.

You are still here.

Your head is on your shoulders.

That’s one! He cries and rises up the axe again.

And Labrys screams again.

You flinch and the blade nicks your neck.

Red blood flows.

Ha! He cries. That’s two.

Now be thee still for third time is the spell.

Labrys climbs the sky

and towers in the clouds above his head.

Down and down she screams, slicing the wind.

And nothing.

You still kneel upon the fallen leaves,

your head upon your shoulders.

Now show me! He demands.

Show me my lady’s gift.

Show me now as you did not the other night

but like the fox you hid from me.

And like the fox

I find you in the end.

With shaking hands you draw out the green girdle and offer it.

The light shimmers

and She is there beside him.

I will take back my own, she says

and takes the girdle,

runs it through her hands.

Hast earned it?

She turns to the Lord.

Aye, he says.

She holds it out to you again.

You did my bidding as I asked, she tells you.

The girdle is yours. Keep it close.

Call me, and I will come.

She turns now to the towering Lord,

standing a tip-toe she kisses him as he bends to her will.

The light shimmers

and she is gone.

Fires come down from the skies,

the winds tear through the grove.

The Man begins to laugh.

Laughing so, his body comes apart,

his face, his limbs.

All fly up swirling in the winds.

His body torn to shreds.

You find yourself

within a whirling vortex built of leaves.

Golden leaves, all shades of gold.

They surround you, hold you,

spin you with themselves.

Up you go,

into the eye of the storm.

Gawain, Gawain, tumbling down,

falling, falling, falling.

Here is a Hall. A King’s Hall.

The smell of smoldering peat and apple-wood,

of roast meats, old bones and wet dogs.

Where am I?

Here, says the voice inside your head.

Come in! Come in! I welcome you.

There is a lady, dark and fair, with raven hair.

Green eyes melt you.

Sitting now, you hold the wooden table hard,

fearing to float again,

the Hall will melt and you be

falling, falling, falling.

Tell me, says the King.

Tell me, says the Queen.

And you begin your tale …

Elen Sentier
… behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …
writer artist gardener shaman
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Celtic shaman – Elen Sentier Coughing up bones …

Blodeuwedd’s Song

Following along the owls theme… this poem was written back when I was about seventeen, and is one of the few things from my early writing days that I still like. Although I wasn’t conscious of it at the time ‘I am’ is a technique used by bards, modern and old, as a way of getting closer to a subject. ‘I am the stag of seven tines’. It’s a very simple way of invoking/evoking the spirit you want to work with.

As mentioned yesterday, I was from an early age enchanted by Alan Garner’s The Owl Service, in which ancient Welsh myth replays itself through three young folk. The idea that the myths might be real things, that take over lives and reinvent themselves, appealed to me. It still appeals to the author in me, although these days I have far less inclination to see myself as doomed anti-heroine material! However, the myths do give s archetypes to work with, and narratives that at times can help us make sense of our own lives. Working with the meanings, symbols and shapes of mythic tales can be helpful as part of the personal journey and quest for wisdom and understanding. So, this is a poem about Blodeuwedd, The Owl Service, the idea of being taken over by myth, and my belief that being turned into an owl is freedom, not punnishment.

Blodeuwedd’s Song

I was flowers, paint me owls, set me free.

Too long in soft sweet innocence I reach for wings and talons.

Face of flowers, born of flowers, broom oak and meadowsweet.

I am ageless, I am timeless. If you love me, set me free.

This my ancient, burning magic, dreams that shape insanity.

Too long in the daylight, I long to kill and fly through trees.

This is my disturbed protection, reality in terror rules.

Hide behind my imagination to be there when the veil falls.

A sorrow, tragic bitter myth I have with choice instead of life.

To hide behind the msyteries and fly in silence through the night.

Give me eyes to see forever, give me grace and time to be,

Believing, in the darkness. If you love me, set me free.

Bitter love first made me owls, owls still are part of me,

Dancing crazy through this lifetime, living mostly in my dreams.

I am owls, I am flowers, each with time my state of mind.

I am mad, but this ploy’s working.

While I’m crazy, I am free.

Ogham Story – Ragnall’s Wedding

See before you the Wheel of the Year. In ancient times, as high summer holds sway there ensues a great turning seasons. And sometimes it falls out that a hero takes part in this struggle – so earning the title Champion of the Goddess. Come with us now as we re-enact this timeless magic, in the name of the Goddess Sovereignty, whose presence fills the land, in every hill and dale, in every tree and bush, in every river and stream, season on season, year in, year out, throughout all time. Lady, we ask your blessing.

Who is this who comes upon the scene? He looks a fair young lord but his brow shows lines of worry beyond his seeming years. He calls out to the forest. Listen now, he’s speaking to us.

“I am Arthur, King of Kings,” called the young man, looking up into the high branches. “I am Lord of this Land and this morning I did wake to the call of the hunt, I heard the horn call me from my slumbers and I came out into the forest.” He stopped as he caught sight of the white hart just walking delicately into the glade. “And there she stands, the Antlered One, the Lady of the Ways.”

The hart saw him immediately and turned to flee. Quick as thought, the young man had an arrow to his bow and loosed it. It sped straight to her heart and now she lay dead at his feet. He took his hunting knife and began immediately to skin her.

“I will take her skin to cover me,” he whispered to himself “and her flesh to feed my hounds.”

The leaves on the great oak tree under which he knelt began to quiver and a huge creature emerged. It had the shape of a man but was made entirely of leaves and branches. His antlers shimmered as the last golden rays of the sun caught them.

“Who harries here?” He cried, in a voice like a great bell, “Here in the Lands of Summer?”  He towered over the king, shaking his club.

“I do.” Arthur jumped to his feet, standing ready to defend himself. “I, Arthur, who am called the King, who was born on mid-winter’s eve to herald the return of the Sun. And who are you to challenge me to my hunt?”

The Green Man tossed up his club and all the leaves in his beard rustled and shook.

“Ha!” He cried. “I am Gromer Somer Jour, the Lord of the Summer Day. This is the Summer Country, my lands, and it is my hart that you have killed. And I will be avenged!” and straight way he aims a blow at Arthur’s head.

Arthur just managed to get out of the way and tried to bring his knife down on the Green Man’s arm but it was broken against the ancient oak. He took another blow and another and fell back against the bole of a tree.

“The day is mine. Your life is forfeit!” and the Green Man loomed over him ready to smash him to a pulp. Vainly Arthur put up an arm and cried out

“Is there no way out of this?”

“Ahhhh! He would save his life would he!” said Gromer Somer Jour to himself. “Then you shall answer me a question. Tell me, King,” he turned contemptuously to Arthur. “what is it that women most desire? Think carefully before you answer! Your life is forfeit should you get it wrong.”

Arthur was puzzled. he had no idea. “What can I say to this?” He muttered to himself. “What is the answer? No! – Wait! It may be he will give me time.”

And he looked up into the mass of green leaves to find his gaze caught by the bright golden eyes. “Oh Lord of the Summer Day,” he said “I have no answer for you now but will you give me time?”

Gromer Somer Jour pulled back, turning slightly away. He leaned on his club.

“Time?! Aye, I’ll give you time!” And the Lord of the Summer Day sniggered into his beard, he had no opinion of this bumptious young king. Then he turned back to Arthur, a cruel smile on his face.

“One chance only I’ll allow you to save your life. One year hence you must return alone to this same place and I shall know by your face if you have the answer I seek.”

Arthur ducked and hid his face, turning away. “A difficult task!” he said to himself, but he knew there was nothing he could do, his fate had been sealed when he killed the hart, maybe even when he woke to the call of the hunt that morning. He turned back to Gromer Somer Jour.

“I accept!” he said with as much strength as he could muster. “One year from now I will meet you here again and I will bring you your answer.”

The Lord of the Summer Day stepped back, allowing Arthur to rise. He picked up the body of the beautiful hart and carried it off with him over his shoulders. Arthur bowed to his retreating back and then turned to go off in the opposite direction. As he was making his way slowly back to his castle a strange figure came out of the bushes beside him riding a beautiful white steed. The horse was bravely harnessed but the creature aboard it, although clad in silks, was like nothing on earth.

“God’s teeth! What’s this?!” Arthur’s breath hissed and he stood at bay despite the beauty of the palfrey.

“By what right do you wander in the Lands of Summer?” The creature addressed him.

“In the name of the Lady of this Land. I am the son of the Kingfisher, the Winter King.” He answered as bravely as he could. He had never seen the like of this in his life before.

“Ahhhh!” she sighed the word out long and hissing like a snake. “Then you are Arthur! And I know your quest. I am Ragnall, the owl who passes across the face of the moon and causes all who see me to shiver. I am mistress of the beasts. I hold within me all creatures and give them succour. Any man who harms a beast, harms me! Any man who harms a plant, a flower or a tree, harms me!”

Arthur followed her speech, watching the passage of her hand across the sky and shivered. He could help himself, he ducked and held up a hand as she pointed her long green finger nail at him with her final words. He peered up into her face.

“You are awful!” He whispered. “I see in your face the face of every beast in the world. Your eyes are owl’s eyes; your nose, a cat’s nose; your ears, lion’s ears; your teeth are wolf’s teeth; your hands are bear’s claws and your feet are the hooves of goats. Your legs are like tree roots; your body is gnarled like the trunk of Yggdrasil and your arms are knotted branches. Your breasts are great hills and mountains and your belly and hips are big enough to birth the world!”

As he finished she slithered down from her horse and crouched before him, her knees bent as though she was about to drop a calf. She cackled.

“Aye! I am hideous in my diversity.” And she pawed at him with a clawed hand. “Men shun me. Women despise me. I am fearful to all eyes. And yet,” she drooled, “I know the answer you seek.”

Arthur was disgusted, he turned away. But he has heard her words. “She does?” He questioned himself. “She might!” and hope sprang in his heart.

The dreadful creature followed him and tried to rub her face against the silk cloth of his hunting tunic. He dared not move.

“And I know that you will fail” her hands tugged at him “unless I give you the one right answer that the Lord of the Summer Day requires.”

Arthur shuddered at her nearness and the smell of her but he dared not risk alienating her. She could have the answer the needed He leaned against the tree and whispered to it “But would she give it me?” He made up his mind and turned.

“Would you give me this answer or my life is forfeit to the Lord of Summer?”

“But what would you give me for that answer. Every answer has its price!” She was as quick as he.

“And that’s the truth!” he muttered to himself. “What is the price of this answer? And can I afford to pay it? But it is my life and my life is the land …” He made a decision.

“What is the cost of this answer? What will you ask of me in return?”

“Why …!” She turned about, almost as if she would be coy with him. “I am hideous, awful as you say! But I would have me a husband. I wish a consort for all time, to live with me and love me here in the Summer Lands.”

Arthur was aghast! “I cannot marry you!” He cried in terror. “I am husbanding already to my Flower Bride, my Gwenhifar, my White Owl!”

“Aye! I know this!” and she laughed at his horror. “I would’t have him anyway!” she muttered to herself, but loud enough for him to hear. “I would have the youngling, the tannaiste, the stand in for the king!”

“Ye gods!” The exclamation escaped him and he tried to catch it back with a hand over his mouth. “My Hawk of May, who stands in my stead!” And then he turned to Ragnall again. “Gawain? You would have Gawain?”

“Aye!” She chuckled, yellow saliva frothing about her rotting gums. “I would have Gawain. Gawain of the red hair, who has the heat and fire of summer flowing through his veins.”

Arthur was appalled. “My brave knight!” he whispered. “Must he wed this creature? How can I ask this of him? How can I not? It is my life that is at stake and my life is the land.” And he turned back again to Ragnall. “Lady, I cannot speak for him but I will ask him, and I will do all in my power to bring your wish to fruit.”

“That is enough” she said to him “At this time.”

And she mounted again onto the gay palfrey and turned back into the deep forest.

And so Arthur returned to court. He told Gawain all that had befallen him, his killing of the hart, the appearance of the Lord of the Summer Day, the hideous hag and her demands to marry Gawain.

“I did not know what to do” he cried to Gawain. “Gromer Somer Jour will hunt me down and find me, I must return to him in any case as a man of honour. How can we discover what it is that women most desire? This hag may indeed have the answer for there is something very strange about her and the way she knew what the Summer Lord had asked me.”

“Whatever, Lord. I am your tannaiste. I am here to stand as your champion and in your stead. And in any case you know I am a free spirit, I love adventure. There will be some way through this mess if we can but find it. I will marry this Dame Ragnall, to say your life, to save the land. But, let us first see if we cannot discover for ourselves what it is that women most desire.”.

And so the king and the knight spent the coming year journeying. They asked every woman in every land what it was that they most desired and wrote all the answers in two great books. But none of these seemed sure to them so, at the end of that time, Arthur returned to Ragnall.

“Lady,” he said. “Gawain accepts to be your husband. Now! You keep your part of the bargain.”

Ragnall leaned down from her palfrey and took his collar in her hand, drawing him closer so that she could whisper in his ear.

Arthur almost choked at being so close to her, her breath was foul as sulphur, and the answer to seemed very strange to him. He managed to thank her with what courtesy he could muster and continued on his way through the forest to meet with Gromer Somer Jour. He kept repeating the answer over and over to himself, so he would remember it. But he resolved to try first with the books, so strange he found what she had said to him. He would keep Ragnall’s answer up his sleeve as a last resort.

Arriving again at the clearing he found the Lord of the Summer Lands already there, waiting for him.

“Greetings, Gromer Somer Jour, Lord of the Summer Day.” he called out as bravely as he could.

“Greetings, Arthur” and the leaves around his mouth shook as he spoke.

“A year has passed since we met and I am here now keeping my part of the bargain.” Arthur reached up to hand over to the rough, oak bark covered hand. “Here are two books full of what women told us they most desire.”

Gromer Somer Jour took the books and leafed through them, never saying a word. As he came to the end he threw them down contemptuously and raised his club.

“There’s no answer here!” He snarled triumphantly. “Forfeit your life!”

“Wait!” Cried Arthur. “I have one answer more! And he whispered what Ragnall had told him into the leaf covered ear. Gromer Somer Jour leaped back as though he had been burned.

“Hell’s teeth!” He shouted. “Only one person could have told you that! My sister, curse her!

“Sister?!” Arthur was aghast.

“But it is indeed the answer that I seek.” Gromer Somer Jour quietened down although he was obviously still much aggrieved. “The Lord of the Summer Day is a man of honour” he said. “I will keep my bargain. You shall have your life!”

He bowed to Arthur and went back into the deep forest. Arthur began to make his way homeward again. He had not gone far when there was Ragnall by his side again. She cackled softly as she saw him flinch.

“Greetings, Arthur. Remember me?”

“How could I forget!” He muttered. then he pulled himself together. “Greetings, Dame Ragnall, I remember you!”

“But do you remember our bargain? I have kept my part. Now! You keep yours!” And she grabbed him by the sleeve. Arthur put his hand on hers, covering it, despite his feeling of loathing.

“I too am a king,” he said “and a man of honour! I will keep my bargain.” and he took Ragnall’s hand in his and led her off towards the castle.

Gawain & Ragnall's Wedding

When they arrived there was much horror and consternation. Gawain was there to meet him and immediately took Ragnall on his own arm. All the young women of the court, and many that were not so young, hung on his other side. In whispers they tried to persuade him not to go through with this dreadful seeming marriage. What harm could it do now, they said. Arthur had given Gromer Somer Jour his answer and been granted his life. What need to marry the witch now?

Gawain looked at them, not knowing what to say. He understood that they meant him well but he could not understand how they could ask him to break his word.

“My friends!” he said. “Why do you weep, all of you? Why do you beg me not to wed this Loathly Lady? Can you not see there must be some enchantment at work here? The events are too strange for us not to see the hands of the gods.”

But it seemed they could not. Even Guinevere, the queen, was speaking to Ragnall, asking her to relent, to give Gawain back to them or, at least, to have a quiet and retired wedding. This made Ragnall very angry.

“What’s this you say Queen Guinevere?” She leaned close to the beautiful young woman. “You wish this wedding to be quiet? Out of sight of the court? Ah, no, Lady! You shall not compound my wounding so! I will be seen! I will be Bride!” she turned to Gawain. “Let our wedding be in full sight of all the court. I wish a grand nuptial and a great feast!”

Gawain at once took her hand and kissed the filthy green claws. “Lady,” he said, smiling at her “your wish is my command!

After the wedding, at the banquet, Ragnall slurped and burped and gobbled her way through plateful after plateful of food as though she had been starved. Gawain was horrified but pitied her too. He let none of his distress show as he thought to himself “Poor soul! What curse is upon her that she must needs eat like this? And yet my heart senses beauty and goodness within her.”

He turned to his new wife and said, very gently “Wife! Come wife! Let us to bed. Let us retire to our wedding chamber.”

Wonderingly, Ragnall took a last bite of meat and gulp of wine and then allowed her husband to take her hand and lead her out of the hall and up the stairs. When they arrived in the room Gawain sent all the serving men and girls out, telling them he could manage very well, thank you, without their help. They scuttled off, grateful no doubt to be as far away from the disgusting creature as they could be. As well, he thought, they would have more time to comment to each other on how he would perform in bed. He was disgusted at the thought of the ribald mirth that would be heard in the kitchen that night.

He turned to Ragnall who was waiting, almost defiantly, beside the bed. she turned her back to him.

“Husband!” she said. “Will you be as courteous to me in bed as you are in open court?” Then she turned back to him again. “I know that if I were beautiful I would have no need to ask this question. But I would ask one favour, just one little favour. Give me a kiss, just one little kiss!

Gawain stepped forward, narrowing the gap between them, until he stood very close to her.

“Lady” and he took her in his arms “I’ll do more than kiss you!” and he made to lay her down upon the bed.

She stopped him, pushing him away, but gently.

“Now that we are one” she said softly, her voice very different from before, “it is only right that you should see me as I can be!”

… and before his eyes she transformed into the fairest woman in all the world.

“The Lord and Lady bless us!” Gawain cried out and stumbled back a pace. “My love has grown! She stands now in full flower!” He passed a hand before his eyes. As he looked at her again he saw she was still this new beautiful creature. “You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.” He said to her. “And thus my heart knew you to be. In god’s name, who are you?”

“Sir,” and she curtsied to him, smiling under her long lashes, “I am your wife.”

“How can this be?” He asked.

“Dear Gawain,” and she rested a delicate white hand on his arm, “know that I was under an enchantment until I could find a man willing to wed with me with no thought for the loathsome form which I have had to wear. And you, my friend, are that man.” Gawain reached towards her again, wishing to hold and kiss her, but she put him off. “Nay! There is yet one more choice for you to make, husband, if the spell is to be truly broken.”

“What choice, dear wife?”

“For the rest of your life, will you have me fair my night and foul by day? Or, will you have me foul by night and fair and fair by day? The choice is yours.”

He sat down on the bed. “What do I say?” he thought. “Either way it is a pickle! Fair by day will spare her the world’s loathing but I must bear the brunt of her foulness by night. If, on the other hand, her fairness by night is for our sole delight, then she must bear the brunt of the world’s loathing by day. What can I say? How can I make this choice for her?” He stood up and went to her, taking her by the shoulders and turning her to face him again.

“Lady,” he said, looking deep into her eyes, “the choice must be yours!”

He felt her quiver under his hands, it almost seemed a golden light shone out of her skin. Her eyes were filled laughter.

“You have done it, husband!” she cried. “Now I see I chose aright. The spell is truly broken and I am able to be fair or foul as I choose, when I choose! I choose to be fair with you. For you have give me what every woman – indeed, husband, every man as well – desires most, the right to choose for myself who and what I am to be. And in this choice lies Sovereignty!”

And she took him in her arms and pulled him to her. ” And so to Bed,” she whispered,  “enough’s been said, the Sun and Moon are royally wed!

Exuent omnes!

Elen Sentier
… behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …
writer artist gardener shaman
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Celtic shaman – Elen Sentier Great Tit saga

Ogham – Ura: Heather

View from Dunkery Beacon to Minehead

Ura is another of the five vowels of the ogham tree alphabet, representing our letter U. It’s time is the Midsummer – the third of the five goddess’ festivals, the third vowel. It is the time of Consummation and its metal is Copper.

As I said when talking about Onn at the spring equinox, the vowels are important to language because, in most modern western languages, you cannot make a word without them. The spiritual significance of the vowels is recognised by the five festivals of the goddess through the year. They’re not quite the same as the four moon-fests of Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnasadgh although of the other four do occur at the same time. This one, Ura, falls on the sun-fest of Midsummer, the time the sun reaches his zenith and begins to fade … there being less and less light from Midsummer until Midwinter, when the sun turns again. If you read the Ogham piece on Duir, the oak, you’ll get more on the significance of the goddess at Midsummer and her relationship with the god. As I’ve said before, the Celtic is a winding, twisting, complex tradition that spirals its way through Life working with riddles and puns as often as not, never having only one way of saying things. The relationship of the goddess and the god is no exception.

The watchwords for Heather, Ura, are, “I am the queen of every hive”. They are very significant. The goddess is Queen and it is she who rules, she who chooses the king by testing him to see if he is up for the job. And midsummer is a time when bees swarm, when the queen leaves the hive and the bees all follow her, when she flies high, dances and calls, and so the male bees who keep up get to mate with her and a new brood, a new hive, is formed. The word is spread, the bees are spread, honey is made at new places.

In nature it is most often the male who has to impress the females with his prowess, show that his genes are the best, that he is the one who should father the young of the females. Sometimes this happens in finding just one mate as with swans and grebes and other birds who have only one mate and share the feeding of the brood. For herd animals the male seeks to impress all the females and so spread his genes within the herd. Then there are the complex relations of the wolf-pack, truly ruled by the Lord and Lady, the alpha male and female, and supported by the rest of the pack. For creatures like bees there is one queen who is the mother of the young and the males vie for her. But in all the goddess representative, be she Mrs. Robin, a female of the deer herd, alpha female wolf or queen bee, she chooses.

The story of Gawain and Ragnall, Ragnall’s Wedding, gives you the idea here. Briefly, the story goes as follows …

One high midsummer, Arthur is out hunting and comes upon a white hart. He kills it, shoots it with an arrow, and is about to take it off home when the tree he is under comes to life. The tree-man is very angry and tells Arthur his mane is Gromer Somer Jour  – which means Lord of the Summer Day. He asks what forfeit Arthur will give for such an insult and demands that Arthur answer his riddle-question within a year and a day or forfeit his life. Arthur agrees.

The riddle question is, “What do women most desire?”

Arthur goes to his friend and Tánaiste, Gawain, and asks for his help. Together they hunt high and low but none of the answers they get seem right. Then, one day close to the end of the time set, Arthur comes upon this woman in the forest. She is twisted and bent, weird and strange, and she asks him who he is. He tells her and she says …

Arthur meets Ragnall

“Ahhhh!” she sighed the word out long and hissing like a snake. “Then you are Arthur! And I know your quest. I am Ragnall, the owl who passes across the face of the moon and causes all who see me to shiver. I am mistress of the beasts. I hold within me all creatures and give them succour. Any man who harms a beast, harms me! Any man who harms a plant, a flower or a tree, harms me!”

Arthur followed her speech, watching the passage of her hand across the sky and shivered. He could help himself, he ducked and held up a hand as she pointed her long green finger nail at him with her final words. He peered up into her face.

“You are awful!” He whispered. “I see in your face the face of every beast in the world. Your eyes are owl’s eyes; your nose, a cat’s nose; your ears, lion’s ears; your teeth are wolf’s teeth; your hands are bear’s claws and your feet are the hooves of goats. Your legs are like tree roots; your body is gnarled like the trunk of Yggdrasil and your arms are knotted branches. Your breasts are great hills and mountains and your belly and hips are big enough to birth the world!” ( From Ragnall’s Wedding by Elen Sentier)

But she has the answer to the question he must answer to save his life. And this answer has a price! As he cannot marry her, being already married to Gwenhwyfar, she asks that Gawain marry her in his stead. Arthur takes her back to the castle and Gawain agrees to marry her. The deed is done and Gawain takes the hag to bed.

“Husband!” she said. “Will you be as courteous to me in bed as you are in open court?” Then she turned back to him again. “I know that if I were beautiful I would have no need to ask this question. But I would ask one favour, just one little favour. Give me a kiss, just one little kiss!

Gawain stepped forward, narrowing the gap between them, until he stood very close to her.

“Lady” and he took her in his arms “I’ll do more than kiss you!” and he made to lay her down upon the bed.

She stopped him, pushing him away, but gently.

“Now that we are one” she said softly, her voice very different from before, “it is only right that you should see me as I can be!”

… and before his eyes she transformed into the fairest woman in all the world.

“The Lord and Lady bless us!” Gawain cried out and stumbled back a pace. “My love has grown! She stands now in full flower!” He passed a hand before his eyes. As he looked at her again he saw she was still this new beautiful creature. “You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.” He said to her. “And thus my heart knew you to be. In god’s name, who are you?”

“Sir,” and she curtsied to him, smiling under her long lashes, “I am your wife.”

“How can this be?” He asked.

“Dear Gawain,” and she rested a delicate white hand on his arm, “know that I was under an enchantment until I could find a man willing to wed with me with no thought for the loathsome form which I have had to wear. And you, my friend, are that man.” Gawain reached towards her again, wishing to hold and kiss her, but she put him off. “Nay! There is yet one more choice for you to make, husband, if the spell is to be truly broken.”

“What choice, dear wife?”

“For the rest of your life, will you have me fair my night and foul by day? Or, will you have me foul by night and fair and fair by day? The choice is yours.”

He sat down on the bed. “What do I say?” he thought. “Either way it is a pickle! Fair by day will spare her the world’s loathing but I must bear the brunt of her foulness by night. If, on the other hand, her fairness by night is for our sole delight, then she must bear the brunt of the world’s loathing by day. What can I say? How can I make this choice for her?” He stood up and went to her, taking her by the shoulders and turning her to face him again.

“Lady,” he said, looking deep into her eyes, “the choice must be yours!”

He felt her quiver under his hands, it almost seemed a golden light shone out of her skin. Her eyes were filled laughter.

“You have done it, husband!” she cried. “Now I see I chose aright. The spell is truly broken and I am able to be fair or foul as I choose, when I choose! I choose to be fair with you. For you have give me what every woman – indeed, husband, every man as well – desires most, the right to choose for myself who and what I am to be. And in this choice lies Sovereignty!”

And she took him in her arms and pulled him to her. ” And so to Bed,” she whispered,  “enough’s been said, the Sun and Moon are royally wed! ( From Ragnall’s Wedding by Elen Sentier)

What do all people, indeed all creatures, want? The ability to choose. And how often do we take that from them? Usually kidding ourselves we do it in their best interests, because we know best? Umm !!! Jung had a dictum he gave to all his students, it was, “Never know best and never know first”. Well worth attempting to live up to in one’s life. A simple phrase … but nobody said it was easy!

As Ragnall says, “And in this choice lies Sovereignty”.

Sovereignty is one of the titles we give the goddess in the Celtic tradition. The thesaurus gives us the following for the word …

autonomy, independence, self-sufficiency, self-rule

Its opposite is subjugation.

Sheila-na-Gig at Kilpeck

This picture is of the famous sheila-na-gig at Kikpeck, near where I live. She Holds her vulva open to allow all of creation to go out of her into the world … and to re-enter her when their time comes. She is the Lady, strange, vulgar-seeming to our modern eyes maybe, unattractive. But she is Sovereignty.

Its worth pondering on all these words, considering how much we actually do them in our lives … and how much we kid ourselves that we do them. Collusion with our own desire of who we would like to see ourselves as is one of the major problems for every human being! All shamanic traditions, all the followers of the Old Ways teach this. The words, “Man, know thyself!” were written over the door of one of the major Greek schools of Philosophy … they’re still true for all of us.

Just a note to end with … the phrase above uses the word “man” and this can cause hackles to rise amongst the followers of the goddess. Let those hackles lie down again :-). The word “man” comes from the Sanskrit word “manas” which means “thinker” … not person with dangly-bits at the bottom! We are all potential thinkers – if we make the effort – whatever gender or orientation we wear in our current incarnation. The word “human” comes from a combination of two words “hu” and “man”; the first part “hu” means “god” and the second, as we now know, means “thinker”, so the word human means “god-thinker”. How many of aspire to being this, to being god-thinkers, to being as knowing as the gods? Maybe if more of us did the Earth would not be in such a mess and we would give choice to all creatures in the universe … however weird they look and even if they don’t look like us!

Note: I’m posting my version of this story later today.

Elen Sentier
… behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …
writer artist gardener shaman
My Blog
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Celtic shaman – Elen Sentier Great Tit saga

Ogham – Duir: Oak

The Moon-month for Duir runs from 10 Jun – 7 Jul.

Oak is the tree of the door, of endurance and of triumph and, like the ash, is said to court the lightning flash.

Vivien is the testing goddess of this tree.

It’s name, Duir, comes from the Sanskrit Dwr meaning door.

Midsummer is the flowering season of the oak. The magical need-fire is always kindled in an oak log.

Duir - Double-ended oak treeThis picture comes from an ancient druid grove in Derby and shows an oak tree (Duir) with its branches and roots entwined to make the circle of life. In the 90s an ancient oak tree was uncovered as the sea went very far out on the Norfolk coast. It had been buried upside-down within a circle of posts, a woodhenge. Time Team built a replica of it that was most impressive and gave you a strong sense of what the place must have been about.

The concept of burying the tree upside-down, so its branches were in the earth and its roots in the heavens has lots of esoteric symbolism.

The return journey – to help one’s fellows

Wisdom of the Earth implanted in heaven and wisdom of Heaven implanted into Earth

Two sides of one coin

The trunk of the tree is the door between heaven and earth

There is much more, go and look it up.

Oak King

Midsummer is a time of sacrifice – making sacred – when the goddess gives up the old king in preparation for the new one; and when the Old King offers himself for sacrifice to renew the contract with the Land.

The death of the Oak King is the going down of the Sun as the days begin to get shorter after the midsummer solstice. In many traditions he is burned alive on an oak-fire on 24th June, the eve of the day the sun starts moving forward again after the solstice standstill. There is then a 7-day wake, funeral feast, in honour of the Oak King which leads into the next season of John Barleycorn.

It is the turning of the year. The opening of the door to Winter, a change in the way the Earth works. From now until Midwinter the sun will make lower and lower arcs in the sky giving us less light each day. Plants and animals know this, germination begins to tail off now, gardeners will have been trying to get as many seeds sown as possible up to this time, knowing that the seeds themselves know they will do better if they begin the germination process before the sun stops and turns.

It is also a time of the Tánaiste, the one who goes before the king, the king’s alter ego if you like. Even the Christian stories reflect this – the 24th of June is called St John’s Eve, meaning John the Baptist who said of himself “I am one who goes before”. Herod is tricked into having him killed by the goddess’ representative, Salomé, the priestess. Of course, in a masculine dominated religion like Christianity the goddess’ representative is seen as evil, like Eve herself, and is blamed for what the personality-based thinking of the male priests calls evil. The story of the sacrifice of the king at the time of the summer solstice is prevalent all around the world. It gets to change as the years and mores of the people change but it is well worth while working to understand the underlying cosmic principles on which the traditions stand.

Oak Door

In the British Celtic tradition the most notable Tánaiste is Gawain, Gwalchmai, the Hawk of May. He was Arthur’s Tánaiste and one of the ones who “steals” Gwenhwyfar, a forerunner of Lancelot. Gwenhwyfar is a fairy woman who comes to work with Arthur and be his queen. Once the land is quiet and the Saxons relegated to what is now Sussex – the name comes from the word Saxon – Arthur loses some of his passion and the company of the round table become moribund. Gwenhwyfar runs away, or is called away, by the fairy man Gawain. Arthur follows and they do battle for her, neither being a clear winner. Gwenhwyfar settles it with her riddle in the good Celtic fashion …

I will be with Gawain while the leaves are on the trees and with Arthur when they are bare.

This signifies that Gawain is the Summer King and Arthur the Winter King, the two principles that forever battle to win the goddess.

There is a further twist in that the holly, the ivy and the yew all carry their leaves all year … still leaving the goddess the choice of whom to be with! One wonders, when we have a hard winter, if the goddess has deserted us for the Summer Lands and her lover, Gawain.

The sacrifice of the Oak King, the god, at the time of Midsummer is reflected in this story too. Arthur sacrifices his love to the goddess, giving her choice, allowing her to be where she wishes rather than trying to force her to his rule as the later masculine-dominated religions do. Arthur’s is the god’s representative, that’s why we call him the Once and Future King on the Celtic mythos.

Gwenhwyfar is another owl-goddess, her name means White Shadow and it is one of the Welsh names for the barn owl whose heart-shaped face is also that of Blodeuwedd, Flower Face. Owl goddesses are shapeshifters, queens of the night and ladies of dreams. They are the Maiden face of the goddess, the calling-face that tempts man into following her into the Enchanted Forest where all manner of adventures will befall him and he will be forced to grow from a child into a man, as Llew is. The Maiden is the Teacher, a trickster-teacher and so the very best, luring the man-king out of his fixed ideas and into Life. She opens the doors …

Which brings us nicely to Duir and the Door and the Goddess of the Hinges.

Doors without hinges don’t open well … basic stuff, a lot of this Celtic lore  :-).

Vivien

For the Romans, according to Robert Graves, the goddess of the hinges was Cardea but Vivien presides in British grammarye. She is the consort of Merlin, his sacra souria or sacred sister in alchemical terms, and the one who opens the doors for him between the worlds. The Breton stories of Vivien are far more likely than the Victorian romantic tales that make Vivien out to be a bitch and a witch in the nasty sense.

In alchemy, the god and the goddess work side by side, the masculine and feminine principles, inner/outer, light/dark, centrifugal/centripetal … all the pairs of opposites that enable the world as we know it to exist. Whatever Merlin might have called his trade he knew this fact of life, lore of spirit, and would work with it. He began working with Morgan, Arthur’s half-sister by Igraine and the mother of his son Mordred … lots more alchemical working there with the brother/sister producing the son. Such things were magic and spirit and part of the lore, not incest and dreadful as they are to us. We must remember we are dealing with goddesses, spirits, not human personalities. Arthur produced his own doom from his own loins in the blood of his mother/sister. That was necessary. That is ancient lore working out, we must not trivialise it by putting a modern, 21st century politically correct face on it or we completely miss the point!

Later, Merlin loses Morgan and spends a long time trying to work alone until, eventually, Vivien comes along and joins him. she is a fairy woman, a Lady of the Lake, a deep figure from the depths who swims with the Salmon of Wisdom.

Faerie … Again it’s worth getting a realistic handle on the term “fairy or faerie”. This is not some little critter on the Christmas tree, cute, preincessy, how you dress your little girl. This is an otherworldly being, very long-lived by human standards and so having a vast amount of experience, knowledge and wisdom. It may appear as either male or female and in all sizes. Go and look at paintings by John Anster Fitzgerald, Richard Dadd, Arthur Rackham of the Victorian “fairy painters”. All of them “painted from life”, i.e. what they saw, sometimes from using opium as Fitzgerald did. Dadd ended his days in a lunatic asylum after murdering his father … he didn’t handle the shift across worlds very well and had no help. Rackham’s paintings are well known, and beautiful, but they don’t portray cute little Disney-critters! Faerie is powerful, very powerful. It inspires nature and helps nature to work … see my bi-monthly column Gardening with the Moon, here on The Pagan and the Pen, for more on how this works.

To return to Vivien, once she is with Merlin the two of them are able to scale new heights of wisdom and knowing, the star-castle is built with its 70 doors and 70 windows. 7 is a sacred number, taken to higher powers by raising it an order of magnitude by adding the zero, the unbroken circle that symbolises the Sun.

Vivien builds for Merlin the crystal tower at the bottom of the lake in the forest of Broceliande in Brittany … Little Britain as it was known in those days. The links between the two Britains were very close, even nowadays Cornish speakers can understand Breton and vice versa. The two languages are very close and part of the ancient Brythonic language which gave Britain her name.

As Goddess of the Hinges, Vivien enables the door to open and shut, she also enables it to open either into Otherworld or into Thisworld … she is two-faced, like the roman god Janus. And like the Lord and Lady of the Celtic tradition.

If you turn this picture upside-down you’ll see you have the same thing, a picture of an old man and a young woman. Either way up, you have the Lord and Lady. This picture was found on each side of an ancient Celtic coin from some 4000 years ago – one side has the head one way up the other, the other. It makes the point of opposites being two sides of the same coin very succinctly :-).

This is what Vivien and her Hinges is teaching us. The door swings both ways, opens onto both Thisworld and Otherworld. Knowing this enables us to walk between the worlds, a foot in either camp, both here and there. It’s a difficult thing to do, it’s what drove Richard Dadd insane, and likely upsets the minds of many people nowadays still who attempt the path without proper caution, help, training and lots of nouse.

Working with, journeying with, Vivien can help you … but the going can be tough. And you will have to sacrifice your small human outlook on the Midsummer fire. But you can learn to open your door, oil the hinges, get everything working smoothly again so you no longer live in a separate world, shut off from most of reality, but can begin to be a Walker Between Worlds.

Elen Sentier
… behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …
writer artist gardener shaman
My Blog
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The Garden of Hesperides

The Garden of Hesperides http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hesperides is a mythical place from Greek legend, inhabited by nymphs and apple trees. It’s supposed location varies, although I did find one reference that placed it as possibly being in Spain. The Garden of Hesperides is one of those Utopian places, full of beauty and delight. The magical apples are akin to the apples treasured by the Norse Gods, and featured in Eden. Youth, beauty and good health are the gift of apples, as well as whatever intellectual insight they may bring.

Some years ago, I was invited to contribute to a series about nymphs, and sent off to Wikipedia to pick my nymph from a list. I picked the Daughters of Evening associated with this garden. Having recently seen ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and having been profoundly affected by Laurie Lee’s ‘A moment of war’ – also set in the Spansh civil war, I took that as my setting and placed the garden there, only lost, in hiding, and waiting to be reborn.

Pagan perceptions of the land as Goddess also influenced me. I’m a polytheist, I don’t do the one god, one goddess notion. For me, there are many gods, some of them very localised, and the differences between spirits and deities isn’t all that important. With this in mind, I placed the garden, initially, on the body of a woman. The story features a lot of sex magic, as the garden is revived with fresh seed.

Days passed and Colum began to feel he might be out of danger. They never seemed short of food, and Erythria’s enthusiasm for his body continued. By the third day, he could clearly see the many tiny images on her skin. She had him start work on her back, and there the images were very different. Scales and talons began to show, as the single picture of a huge, monstrous creature came to life, running from shoulder blades to buttocks. Her skin became firmer and finer with every encounter. It unnerved him, but increased his desire for her. Whenever he asked about her body and the images manifesting on it, she evaded his questions. Most of the time he tried to ignore what was happening, focusing instead on the practical issues. Where would they sleep? Where would the next meal come from? Were they safe?

http://www.loveyoudivine.com/index.php?main_page=document_product_info&cPath=2&products_id=423

It’s a wholly different notion of gardens from the kind we might make at home – magical, dangerous, and beyond human experience.

In the Beginning…

In a time when the world was at its end, there lived a Great Queen whose name meant “honor.” Her blood was made from the sweat of stars, and she lived fire and breathed the ocean’s depths.

She taught the people of love and life, of hardships and forgiveness, of truth and apathy. And when the time came for her to take a place among the Fallen, she was greatly mourned. A sadness fell over the land as the last light the people had known twinkled out into the darkness which covered them, and the earth was still.

The darkness grew, and soon her name was lost in the blackness and chaos which ruled the earth. The people spread across the land like locusts, the anger and grief they felt inside hiding the trust and security they’d known, and before long they began to devour each other in their confusion. A time without measure eased along the horizon, quiet in its progress and cold in its passing.

When the pinpricks of light suddenly pierced through the black and the sulfur scent began to lift, no one noticed. But as the land began to heal itself and green stalks fought through the pestilence and tar, the tears of the Grateful nourished the earth. The Queen’s echoes were felt, and the people began to speak of a time which no one remembered but all knew to be true. Their skin sang, muscles hummed; their bones kept rhythm. The moments changed direction, warmth and calm embraced them.

And in the footprints of the Forgotten, life began anew.