Utter Darkness and the Return

A rather dark period, but not an unhappy one.  You know what it’s like, certainly–those strange moments of tumult which you must pass through and, in the midst of them, forget that you know there is an end.

Things seem always to weave together.  I’ve been thinking heavily upon the dead and death, and thought it strange as it’s almost Beltaine until I recalled that this is not new to me, not during this time.  In fact, just before my initiation into Druidry at Beltaine last year, I stared at the stars and wanted them to swallow me up, take me in like an abyss below except I was looking in the wrong direction.

The lines from the initiation strike me now, particularly.  It asks “would you be fully born into all the sorrows and pain of this existence?” and then, “would you be fully born into its joys?”

Both questions, at that particular gate of the year, were awfully hard to answer.

At each of the gates, the rituals I do (a mix of AODA and OBOD work) involve “scrying” or meditating down the paths through that gate.  Following Greer’s Druid Magic Handbook, I’ve enchanted a grove-stone for several of them, starting Lugnasadh. I’ve three so far (Samhain, Imbolc) and am tempted to say will do the same for Beltaine “if I survive,” but that’s melodrama.

The Festival of Persephone’s return, too, and the Christian Easter all near the same time, and it’s strange after the light of Imbolc to encounter this new darkness.

Darkness, yes.  A kind friend has begun teaching me Welsh; my first course was yesterday and after it I found myself practicing outside, enjoying the sounds, finding a word repeating on my lips that we hadn’t practiced, one that took me aback:


Ceridwen’s hideous son, for whom she travels to the Fferllyt to learn the recipe for wisdom, later stolen by the boy Gwion who becomes Taliesin.  Afagddu and older variants all refer to “utter darkness”, and there’s another version of his name which means big (or sometimes “black”) crow, Morfran.  “Fran” or “vran” is probably from brân, and I know another Brân (utterly tied to the underworld) and this fact is not lost on me.  The same? Aspects of the same? Related, probably, but beyond this I cannot say.  Robert Graves (his faults acknowledged) tied Ceridwen and Brân together as lovers, and though I reject this, there’s the Cauldron thread that weaves through them both.  The Cauldron of Awen and the Cauldron of Annwn.  Wisdom and Death.

Weaving this stuff together is tiresome when your heart is sore from trying to love, but there’s something there below it all that makes me realize that it’s precisely that soreness, that bodily ache which tethers the Other into the self.  Where I feel the dead is also where I feel that cautious desire–the same gate opened within the soul in order to love another (and likely risk loss) is the channel through which I feel the existence of the underworld in this one.

Those threads woven back in, then, are all of meaning.  I forget what it was like not to see correspondences, but it’s silly of me to think on this too often, for “as above, so below” is another description of love.

Also, more words. My new A Sense of Place post is up.  It’s about the Episcopal chapel and the Holy Week which made me Pagan:

The world was in darkness, and I felt it.  I felt myself the darkness.  The darkness of being gay, alone, scared, admitting everything I’d believed beforehand was only borrowed meaning.   I do not know if I was more alone or more terrified.   But this is a futile question.

Be always well.  I will too.


4 thoughts on “Utter Darkness and the Return

  1. I often wonder what happened to Ceridwen’s son. What’s a grove stone? I loved the phrase “borrowed meaning” that you wrote in your other post. I think that ache might mean something else, but you’re definitely moving out of winter’s dark and into light. Blessings to you.

    1. Me too. I hope to find out one day, though if such knowledge is available, I’m not sure I’m quite ready for it yet. : )

      Grove stones are, in essence, stones enchanted to stand/guard at the gate of a certain time of the year, corresponding within a circle to the directions. OBOD and AODA both use the “drawing the circle” sort of set up for rituals, creating a sacred space/container in which to work. Both call it “Summoning a Grove,” and it’s quite powerful. The stones are enchanted to become part of the circle in the direction of the gate in question, and “guard” the gate in ritual. While not vital, they certainly help in certain workings, and the experience of enchanting them requires scrying/traveling through that particular gate to learn something of the nature of that gate. The lead up to the event requires lots of preparation which sort of dredges things out of me that I never expect. Always helpful in the end, but sometimes
      “self-work” gets overwhelming, aye?

  2. You know, for we Welsh-inclined folks, Beltaine is not at all what other pagans think it is (and, it actually isn’t in Ireland either); Kalan Mai is the bigger festival for the Welsh than the one at the other end of the year. There is danger on this day, there is battle, there are hands that reach down chimneys and steal children or in stable windows and take horses…

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