It has been a while since I last posted. I don’t know why. I think it’s because I’ve been putting my energies into re-establishing. I’ve been recreating some of the facets of my existence which used to be a part of my life before druidry began to become a major feature. The increasing strength of my quest for the Western Mysteries had crowded out … well, sheer enjoyment. Spiritual delight had become the overriding goal, along with learning. Now, after a period of grief, I felt I needed to re-discover some joy.
I don’t think that’s the whole reason for letting the posting slide. These things are never one cause or another directly – they are often an amalgam of smaller distractions and interactions which take the focus away from established behaviour and cause disruption. In my case it has been a re-discovery of some things which I used to enjoy, and which I have re-discovered the joy for again. Now, I feel like I want to get back to blogging, and to continuing the story-telling which forms one aspect of my being. Let’s step out once more into the wilds! Come with me as I begin to explain how I have re-discovered the power of Hedge Druidry.
Here is my story about what could have been a simple nature ramble, but which became a little bit more than that thanks to a spark inside which decided that I should push it further. I like a challenge, and often the testing reaps rewards. So it was with a simple stroll around the area between Leebotwood and Church Stretton in Shropshire.
Many times had M and I driven past the imposing heights of the hills around Church Stretton. We knew the names of the peaks, but had not really had the chance to explore them on foot. We always seemed to be passing through and at a late stage on any journey such that we were always weary and wanting to get to where we were headed. Now, having a free day for a walk, I picked this area as a potential “easy stroll”. Well, that’s how it started. We parked at Leebotwood, in the car park of the thankfully re-opened Pound Inn.
It was a beautiful Spring weekend day -warmer than expected. The paths from Leebotwood to the hill called The Lawley were packed with Spring flowers such as marsh marigolds and daffodils.
The walk along the field hedgerows and into the lower slopes of the hills to the east of Stretton was a delight. Just what we needed. Soon the potential destination of Caer Caradog hove into view. M was very uncertain about such a climb, but I persuaded her that getting her blood flowing would do her good. It didn’t. I had completely mis-judged the steepness of the path, and M panicked, Not surprising really – these were among the steepest slopes I had encountered outside of the Lake District or the wilds of Snowdonia! Oops – our delightful saunter was becoming an heroic trek!
In the middle we caught our breath and a flustered M refused to go any further. Quite sensible. Yet I was feeling incredibly drawn to the peak. Something wanted me to go on up there despite the same steepness awaiting me for the second half of the climb. Undaunted, I went up to the very top alone. It was nice to see a family climb up there with two young boys (although the boys complained at the mid point quite strenuously).
Old Friends and Gentle Hands
When I reached the top and my calves had calmed for a moment I wiped the sweat from my brow and stood at a point where I felt there was a magickal boundary. I had not dowsing rods with me so this would have to be something which I sensed, rather than surveyed. I asked for the entrance way in and wove sideways and snake-wise along a network of paths until I was in the middle. I was shown to a small rocky outcrop where I settled to admire the view. Yet, I wasn’t really observing the distance, I was sensing that which was all around me.
I was seated at a power place overlooking Church Stretton and All Stretton villages. It was a view which thousands before me had taken in over thousands of years and I felt the weight of history, the sens that there were a million overlays of history atop this place, each of which had a separate story which could be revealed.
I opened up, connected, and asked for any spirits which wished to work with me this year to come find me. I held no expectations as to which spirits this might be, whether known or unknown. Yet, soon I was joined by Swyre again. Clearly then, our work together was not over. His gentle guidance, uninsistent, omnipresent, and with a gentle steer rather than a prod or a lurch – this was the right guidance for me at this time. I was to be slowly re-built, gently swayed and persuaded. I gave thanks for his persistence, and with a replenished confidence I wondered whether there was anything else which I could learn while I was here.
With a renewed connection and a bit of protection, I pushed my senses out around the hilltop. Was there anything, any layer of the hill’s history, to which I could attach and connect? I felt a connection to a strong male character close to the highest point on the hill. I took a guess and asked about Caradog. Yes, it was him. I was urged to rise and was taken to the opposite edge on a rocky outcrop where the views were more panoramic.
I turned my spiritual attention to Caradog. I scanned his presence, but felt he was wild and non-spiritual. I got the nickname “Mad Dog” in relation to him and his energies were scrambled, chaotic and I didn’t feel there was much to learn from him. He was simply a great leader of men, an exemplar, a hero figure, but also a real nutter. I decided to disconnect.
There was so much more atop this hill. I wasn’t leaving just yet. I asked Swyre if there was anyone else who might connect and I was given the name Ochlwen. At first I thought of Olwen (from the Mabinogion tale Culhwch and Olwen) but I was categorically told that although there was a relation, it was not this mythological figure, but someone who had actually lived on this hill. She was a druidess and lover of Caradog. She used her wiles to keep close to him, and she was fiercely defensive about her position. She exuded such power that Caradog himself, despite being The Mad Dog of war, was slightly afraid of her!
Spoke Arthur: “My heart is growing fond towards you. I know you are sprung from my blood. Tell [me] who you are.”
“I will tell [you]. Culhwch son of Cilydd son of Celiddon Wledig, from Goleuddydd daughter of Anlawd, my mother.”
Spoke Arthur: “That [must be] true. You are a kinsman of mine. Name what you would name [for a boon], whatever might be named by your head and your tongue.”
“Can I have God’s truth upon that, and the truth of your kingdom?”
“You will get it, gladly.”
“[The boon] I name is for you to get me Olwen daughter of Yspaddaden Bencawr, and I invoke it [in the name of] your warriors.”
[Thus] he invoked his boon [in the name of] Cai and Bedwyr and Greidol Gallddofyd and Gwythyr son of Greidol ….
…and Teregud son of Iaen and Sulien son of Iaen and Bradwen son of Iaen and Moren son of Iaen and Siawn son of Iaen and Caradog son of Iaen – men of Caer Tathyl were they, Arthur’s kindred on his father’s side.”
These sons of Iaen (= ‘ice’) are mentioned in the Central Medieval genealogical tract, Bonedd yr Arwyr (‘The Descent of the Heroes’). Here, a daughter Eleirch is also mentioned, said to have been the mother of one of Arthur’s children, suggesting that these were Arthur’s in-laws rather than his paternal kinsmen. Caer Tathyl is usually identified with the Caer Dathyl which is represented as an important royal centre in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi.” (source: Culhwch.info)
Now, the addition of information about Caer Dathyl seems superfluous and irrelevant at this point. Yet, remember this name. It is the site of the court of Math of Mathonwy, and it will re-appear in a completely different context in a few posts time when I talk about my experiences over the Summer Solstice.
Oblivious of this at the time I asked what Ochlwen could teach me. She said that she heightened her powers by crushing rocks to a powder and then eating the fine crystals!
Well well – I don’t know if I will be trying that one! Yet I gave thanks for her, er, wisdom. Then I made my rapid descent down the hill back and we continued our walk to end up in the village of All Stretton on a Sunday afternoon where some helpful locals gave us a lift back to our car. Lovely area, but the inhabitants (especially the unseen ones) are slightly mad.