Lammastide

images-6Ceridwen

I must obey your quickening Triple Will
Though I may flee Your love with palsied dread;
At Your command my heart cannot be still
As I receive from You the holy bread.
When from the sky at dawn the moon has fled,
I keep the vision of Your moon-white brow,
Until the long-awaited feast be spread
In Avalon beneath the silver bough.
Though You have bound me with no marriage vow,
My passion burns with this eternal need
That I may love You then as I do now
When from the broken clay my soul is freed.
No darkness can death’s valley hold for me
If You, O Ceridwen, my moon will be.

—Victor Anderson

I often find myself thinking of Ceridwen in this tide of Lammas.  Both Victor and Gwydion Pendderwen composed poetry for Her; Gwydion’s the haunting Welsh ballad Can Ceridwen, whose words have a strange, even slightly terrifying purport; yet deeply wistful for those with knowledge and insight to understand.  I remember well that Ceridwen was invoked by a formidable Priestess at a Blue Star rite to which I was invited–I believe it was Lammas of 1999.  As the words were spoken there was a sense of a regal Darkness gathering in through the sunny Summer afternoon, and of an austere, queenly, very tall feminine Presence standing in a very deep silence just within the perimeter of the Circle.  We were outdoors, with the trees of the sacred Grove clustering close, and the birds fell silent and a stillness held fast within the sacred bound.  Afterwards, I found myself thinking of a passage in one of Yeats’s memoirs when a friend took him out late at night to a certain wild place where, for a moment, he caught a glimpse of the Queen of the Shining Ones, silver glinting in Her dark upswept hair in the moonlight.  That sense that creeps up your spine that says … this isn’t just real…it’s on a plane of reality intensified, condensed, focused, raw.  Such moments are beyond words to capture, beyond sense to grasp, forever beyond forgetting.

Ever since that encounter, I’ve always felt that one of the roles Ceridwen plays for some at this time is to act as a Guardian of our Craft.  She guards the sanctity of our rites from intruders.  But as always with the Old Ones, the blade with which She defends us cuts both ways.  In return, She expects from us the highest standard we can achieve of impeccability:  to be fully and completely who we are, to be true and faithful to the vows we have made, to keep honor in our hearts for the blood, sweat and tears with which our Mighty Dead fed and exalted and perfected the Art in their own time.

In these pages in which I attempt to write of the Gods–or, as I also call them, the Old Ones, an expression that has nothing to do with H. P. Lovecraft–I feel it is necessary to clarify any potential misconception on the part of the reader.  I’m reminded of these words from one of Victor’s last interviews:

We don’t have a set pantheon, but we do deal with groups of gods.  It depends on who we need to deal with.  We deal with the gods of the trees, the gods of the rivers, the gods of the rocks, our own personal god.  … The thing is that “pantheon” means many or all of the gods…  We have studied the ancient one, the mother of god, because that is the center, the  root of the cosmology of this universe.  It doesn’t mean we ignore all the beautiful spirits that are all around us and within us.

Re-reading these words as I type them, I think of my own neighborhood.  There are certain majestic trees that I see as I walk around the small side streets I prefer to use, to avoid the congestion and filth of heavy auomobile traffic:  trees that have a broad, holy, auspicious aura of deep abiding wisdom in them.  One of the most striking is a dizzyingly tall fir-tree that grows next to a memorial for the dead of the Second World War.  In a sense, these trees ARE the Gods of my neighborhood.  Somewhere, in somebody’s yard, there is no doubt a small trickling spring of water… and nowhere in the area is one ever very far from the banks of the aptly-named Mystic River.  The spirits of that spring and that river are, again, very special spirits for this heft of Land. I don’t have altars to these spirits–in a way I don’t need to offer ritual acknowledgement.  The trees and the springs and the healing plants and all the rest are living altars, honored when we water them, or simply take a moment to stop and consider and reflect and meditate with and upon them.  An altar is a focal point for spiritual mediation; the spirit of a living being can be approached, honored, served and loved directly–without the need for mediation.  Perhaps this seems a bit obscure; if so, I advise those of you who have read this far to go out and walk around your own homes with a heightened awareness and look… listen… FEEL.  Those among whom you have been dwelling will eventually make Their Presence known to you.

Upon a future page, I will consider why Faery Witches often end up having relationships with Deities that cross cultural and historical borders…one way of understanding this is through the image of the Red Thread.  Until next time, seasonal blessings of this sacred tide of First Harvesting be with all of you.

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