By Brian Jeffries
(Editor's Note: occasionally we at A Druid Missal-Any receive worthy submissions of fiction of a Druish nature from RDNA members. Previously we published The Soul of Juliana Spring by Irony Sade of Hemlock Splinters Grove. This one was submitted by a member of the RDNAtalk conference, who not long ago was asking questions on the conference for his research on the Druid's favorite tree, the oak. Little did I know it was for this intriguing story! Please enjoy the reading.)
Story and style are written in stone
A burial mound shows the place
The point of an arrow, an altar, a throne
Illuming the ways of our race
To tell about time is the simplest thing
The way of a spiral, an uncoiling spring
Bedrock to capstone , the key is in place
A conscious revival, a memory trace
To those who remember, I leave it with you
Retelling's the way it can last
A crystal portrayal - the best we can do
Inspiring future through past
More than twenty thousand years ago, Stone Age Europeans worshipped the immortal Great Goddess, who was personified as the wild, primitive woman in her threefold aspects of beautiful maiden, motherly matron, and wise old crone. It was She who presided over all acts of creation and destruction. Represented as Earth Mother, Moon Goddess, and Sea Goddess, She had countless other titles.
Gradually, the early nomadic hunter-gatherers turned to agriculture, and among the farmers were those who observed the cycles of the heavens and the seasonal changes of the land and sea. They became able to predict natural events, and thus were considered to be valuable members of society. These were the druids, who came to be the educated class among the warriors, farmers, craftsmen, slaves, and eventually, metal smiths. The science of the druids crossed over into the realm of magic, rituals of which were performed on hilltops in groves of oak trees.
Among the several different types of druids were the ollaves, or master poets, who were the keepers of myth, history, genealogy, and the Spirit of Poetry, which reincarnated down through the ages. For them, the Goddess as Muse was the ultimate source of all inspiration.
Her symbol, the spiral, is a fundamental design of nature, and for humankind, it represents life, death, and rebirth through the Immortal Spirit.
This is the tale of Dylan O'Cleary; family man, athlete, adventurer, and natural landscaper, who was given a mysterious book for his research on oak trees, leading him to the very heart of the spiral.
In his sleeping chamber within ancient stone walls, the Master Poet stirred, his blue-gray eyes focusing into wakefulness. Gesturing to the hooded figure waiting by the chamber door he queried: "Apprentice, how long have I slumbered?"
"It is the early twenty-first century after Christ, Master. This is a time of great change for the Mother of All Living and consequently for poetry as well."
"A change for the better it surely must be," yawned the Master, "for upon my last awakening I found both to be held in small regard. Once again, it seems that She has a task for us to perform in the Realm of the Living. Tell me now," he directed, arising and stretching, "who and what has awakened me from my dreams?"
Peering into a large crystal pyramid set atop an oaken pedestal, the Apprentice replied, "A man named Dylan recites from `The Song of Amergin', Master."
"So. The Celtic calendar-alphabet within which is contained the Name of the Creator. This is an incantation of great power. Apprentice, where dwells this man?"
"In the Land of the Lightning Bolt, on the western shore of the Southern Sea."
"This Dylan is a simple man who finds joy in the experiences of the natural world, and who has had little formal training in poetry and myth."
"Think you that such a one would be suitable for our purpose, Apprentice?"
"Perhaps I do, Master, for it is plain that he feels the magic present in the verse that he reads, although he is ignorant as to its meaning."
"What text does this man recite from?", queried the Master.
"`The White Goddess' by Robert Graves," came the reply.
I am a breaker:
"Ah!, Graves is it!" exclaimed the Master. "`The White Goddess' is his excellent history of poetic myth and a guide to the foundations of language. Its influence should serve well to facilitate our work with this `man of the natural world'."
* * *
As he finished reading the last line of the three thousand year old poem, the hair rose on the back of Dylan's neck. A rush of energy coursed up his spine and he was flooded with an ecstatic feeling he had never before felt. "Wow! Incredible!," exclaimed Dylan to himself.
"This poem, what's it called? `The Song of Amergin', Why is it affecting me this way? These ancient words mean little to me, but I can't stop the feeling that I've known them before in other times, other places."
Late into the moonlit night he read on in wonder, and finally, with the sea sounds outside the window lulling him, he slept.
When Dylan awoke the next morning, the sun had been up for an hour. Rubbing the sleep from his blue eyes, he went outside to look for his wife, Dana. He found her pruning plants among the array of green hues in the garden. After a morning kiss, Dylan took her hand and they sat down beneath an oak tree's gently bobbing branches, where he related to her his experience of the previous night. "The feeling that I've known that ancient poem before is accompanied by the equally unlikely notion that Robert Graves, in the year of my birth, wrote `The White Goddess' specifically for me to study," he said wonderingly.
"Maybe it does all have a meaning," replied Dana. "In my studies of the metaphysical, I've read that there are no coincidences or intuitions without some reason, and that it's wise to heed them when they occur."
"Honey, as you know," answered Dylan, "I've always been skeptical of accounts of magic and mysticism, but from the words of a long-dead bard, my imagination has been given a tremendous charge of energy, and I have to know what it's all about."
"You had better read on then, and hope for some clues." she advised, turning back to her task.
That night, after a long day of planting oak trees and arranging a landscape with Dana, Dylan relaxed in a chair with a spiral notebook in his lap, regarding the pen in his hand. In the twenty-five years that had passed since finishing school, he had used this instrument of power mostly for the writing of checks and the filling out of bills. Seldom did he even write to his kin, many of whom lived far away. A medieval Welsh Triad from the book came into his mind:
The ecstatic feeling returned in a rush and his pen found the paper. Considering some of his life's elements, and weaving in knowledge gained from the book, he wrote:
Old oaks and thunder bestir memories
Of dark forests ancient with tall sacred trees
Acorns and seedlings are what they have been
The groves will return like the druid within
The groves will return like the druid within
Sylvan cathedral a sacrifice burns
In thanks to Earth spirits as the great year wheel turns
Hooded forms chanting as magic begins
To call 'cross the ages to the druid within
To call 'cross the ages to the druid within
* * *
As they turned away from the image within the crystal, the Master Poet, with an amused look on his weathered face, asked, "What say you about these lines, Apprentice?"
"It may be that we attempt to turn base metal to gold, Master," he replied, "though rhyme and meter are passable."
"Because of his connection with the oak tree, gained by his diligent propagation and conservation of its species, this Dylan has unknowingly tapped the ancient power of druid magic. Therein lies the key to his journey, and it will enable him to express the essence of the realms he has mastered in the language of poetry," replied the Master.
* * *
Later, reading into the early morning hours, with Dana and their two young children long asleep, Dylan encountered the thirteenth century poem entitled:
Primary Chief Bard am I to Elphin
And my original country is the region
of the summer stars
I have been winged by the genius
of the splendid crozier
I have obtained the muse from the
Cauldron of Cerridwen
I have been in an uneasy chair
above Spiral Castle
And the whirling round without motion
between the elements
I shall be until the day of doom upon
the face of the earth
I was originally little Gwion
And at length I am Taliesin
Taliesin! The power in that name and in the antique verse was so intense that Dylan could only shake his head and blow through pursed lips as poetic ecstacy once again coursed through him. "What is the story and meaning behind these lines? Why do I feel their words so strongly, as if I knew them well? How does the Muse inspire?" he asked himself in amazement. From his love of the sea and his long experience as a surfer, he was able to relate to the words:
This was a fair description of surfing within the vortex of a curling wave - a barrel ride, which also happened to be an ecstatic experience. Too, the lines brought to mind the eye of a hurricane; the calm within the heart of that mighty elemental force beloved of wave riders. The pen in Dylan's hand moved toward the notebook, and words flowed:
There as two passionate lovers they meet
The white capped Poseidon embraces her feet
Above them are flying her bright cirrus tresses
Far down below his blue face she caresses
God of the sea and her most willing slave
He joins in the dance of the wind and the wave
Westward she flies! - A scirocco no longer
Unfurling her beauty, her love growing stronger
The Lesser Antilles receives her clear eye
She spins a pirouette from the sea to the sky
Seeking a path in her amorous quest
With great pomp and majesty she waltzes northwest
Yes , I call her the Dancer - the one I long for
Her ranks roll in rhythm upon the wild shore
Sirens' sweet singing - I too am the slave
For I must dance the dance of the wind and the wave
My dance is my prayer in our aqueous bliss
To the whirling White Goddess - please spare me death's kiss
* * *
Stroking his thin, grizzled beard, the Master looked at the Apprentice and asked, "Wouldn't you say that he has hit upon a worthy topic here?"
"As you know, Master, I have a particular fondness for sea rhymes, and although it lacks technical sophistication, his passion lends it a certain grace," came the grudging answer, as the image faded from the crystal.
* * *
Dylan was awakened in the morning by a gentle shake from Dana. "Didn't you make plans to go skydiving with Swoop today?" she asked.
Rubbing his eyes, he answered, "As long as I'm at the airport by the crack of noon, I'll be on time to jump with those late night partiers." Then his eyes narrowed as he remembered the late night poetic experience. "I wrote a poem last night after being inspired by ancient writings, Dana. I was going to call it 'The Hurricane,' but I think that 'The Dance of the Wind and the Wave' would be better."
Dana picked up the spiral notebook and slowly read the rhyme. At length she looked up with curiosity in her brown eyes, saying, "Honey, I'm not a poetry critic, but I think you are really on to something. To me, this is an excellent poem, and I think you should continue your quest for inspiration."
"The sky realm has shown me incredible beauty over the last twenty years," Dylan reminisced with a far off look. "Maybe I'll be inspired again today."
After breakfast, Dylan and his children strolled across the dune and down to the beach for some body boarding. Toward the end of their session, the shorebreak started gaining power, tumbling them about in the shells and sand. There might be some better waves later on, he thought.
Arriving at the airport at a little past twelve, Dylan saw that the parking lot was full next to the drop zone hangar. Out on the ramp next to a Douglas DC-3, the skydivers were donning their gear. There were Fat John, Silly, Dogeater, Beanpole, Spam, Ma Death, and the rest of that wild bunch. Wild, but they could fly like gods!
"Hey, Dylan!," his friend Swoop shouted, "get it on! Ya snooze ya lose."
"I'm not packed," Dylan answered.
"Pack it on the plane," came the offhand reply.
The engines were already rumbling when Dylan threw his gear bag on board and then scrambled through the narrow door. The plane immediately began to taxi out, and after an engine run-up, the thirty skydivers were airborne. After he finished up his pack job at about six thousand feet, Dylan took a seat on the floor next to the open aircraft door. Looking out across the landscape to the west, he saw dozens of lakes, mirror-like across the subtropical peninsula, reflecting brilliant summer sunlight. A scattering of cottony cumulus clouds between two and three thousand feet would tip off alert divers that it was time to 'air out the laundry,' slowing their breathtaking speed at terminal velocity to a pleasant parachute ride. As they reached an altitude of fifteen thousand feet, Dupes, the pilot, banked the venerable old aircraft in on jump run. Dylan knelt at the threshold of the portal, spotting for the drop zone. As they passed over the airport, slightly off the wind line, he gestured up to Dupes for a correction to the left, then drew a finger across his throat to signal a cut in the engine power. The now familiar ecstatic feeling suddenly flowed up his spine, covering him with gooseflesh, while 'The Song of Amergin' began to echo in his mind from across the millennia:
The throbbing, vibrating power of the DC-3 engines dominated his perception, and as he gave the signal to exit, motion turned to poetry:
Returning home that evening, Dylan related his afternoon experiences to his family at the dinner table. "This poetic power seems to come from all the natural realms," he said between bites of salmon. "I feel that the oak trees and the lightning, which are so common between earth and sky here on the peninsula, are important elements too."
Tired from the four skydives and pack jobs in the summer heat, he soon bade his wife and children goodnight and made his way to bed. Around midnight, as the tide began to ebb, the grumbling, thrashing sound of the shorebreak changed its tone to a muted roar. Tossing uneasily, but not quite conscious, Dylan began to dream. First it was of the ocean; vast, maternal, embracing the earth. Then he became a small impulse in its immensity, rolling toward a moonlit shore:
Radiant trails on my shimmering sides
Are blazed as he surfs through his dreams
A rhythm of motion in time with my ocean
Reflecting the opal moonbeams
Ghostlike he glides on my face as he rides
I break with a rumbling roar
He's covered by night, disappearing from sight
I carry his dream to the shore
Dylan's eyes slowly opened. The rays of the full moon poured through the bedroom window, bathing his face in their radiance. Dana lay next to him, breathing in the slow rhythm of deep sleep. Quietly, he arose and wrote down his vision. Then, coffee in hand, he went out to his old red truck. Loading his surfboard, he was soon driving down the deserted coastal highway toward South Inlet. When he arrived, he unloaded and climbed to the top of the dune. The brilliance of the full moon at its zenith cast short inky shadows from the rocks extending out into the dark water. Five foot, well-formed waves curled away from the jetty and across the sandy shallows. Low on the horizon, a line of thunderheads was sporadically illuminated by lightning flashes. As he stared into the moon's reflection, he felt a subtle change in perception, and the words in his mind came unbidden:
Dylan rubbed his eyes and drew a deep breath, wondering if Dana or his friends would doubt his sanity if he spoke those words to them.
With a little smile, Dylan gave himself to the warm August waters, and he surfed by the light of the night. Once, he was given a fright by a very large, dark form rising slowly next to him in the clear water close to the jetty. With his heart on high alert, Dylan hastily backpaddled, then expelled his breath in a relieved laugh. It was just a friendly manatee out for a moonlight excursion. "Hi, there," he called out, glad for the companionship, "It's nice to see a fellow mammal in this fishy sea." The ponderous creature dilated its round nostrils and gave a gentle snort, then submerged and slowly undulated its way into the surrounding darkness. As he continued to ride the night waves, Dylan again felt himself entering the poetic dream state, where he consciously dreamed of larger, more powerful waves. Under the spell of the serene glow above him, he made a request of the Muse.
Back at home, Dylan went straight to pen and notebook where he wrote of his experience, ending it with his desire:
Ducking and chasing and riding and racing
With dark spiral feelings of flight
I'm craving a boon of the full August moon
As I carve through the waves of the night
O take on the form of a circular storm
Your tropical swells will delight
As they tumble and roar
Embracing our shore
I'll remember the waves of the night
The next afternoon, the weather service advised that a strong tropical wave had moved offshore from the Dark Continent and was rushing westward across the Southern Sea. For the next seven days, Dylan tracked the storm's progress. As it swirled across the open ocean, it became a powerful hurricane. On the eighth day the sea began to swell, and reports indicated that the storm would strike the Lower Coast, some two hundred miles to the south. Dylan, standing on the dune at sunrise, raised his arms to the heavens, heard the music of wind and wave, and saw the glory of the natural world unfolding before him. Overwhelmed with inspiration, he cried out over the rising wind:
The ninth day came and the surf was raging. Dylan stood on the beach with his big wave board and tried once again to understand what was happening to him. Then, the cliché that you should be careful about what you wish for came into his mind.
Shrugging his strong shoulders, he sprinted for the water's edge, pushing his way into the maelstrom.
As he paddled through the turbulent shallows, Dylan's mind was clear, and he moved among the waves with a confidence gained through thirty years of experience. He surfed long and well that day, and at last, too tired to stay out any longer, he cast his eyes about for a last wave to ride in on. Finally, it came, a partner worthy of Poseidon himself! After paddling to intercept the peak, Dylan turned toward shore and stroked down the swiftly steepening face. He stood up and dropped over the edge, feeling a momentary sensation of freefall. With the wind roaring in his ears, he reached the wave's trough, and leaned body and board into a long, sweeping turn. The wave became hollow and he received a high speed barrel ride for fifty yards. Inside, Dylan was in a realm of suspended time, and he marveled at the fluid beauty there.
Down the line, however, the wave had already broken and was spiraling toward him in an ominous looking close-out. Too late to pull out over the top, he tried to turn straight in front of the wave and ride it out on his stomach. Instead, tons of water struck him across his head and shoulders, driving him deep into churning chaos. Time passed—out of air—the surfboard leash was stretched to its limit, holding him down. The leash broke, and he fought for the surface. As his head came up, there was time for only half a breath when the next wave came down on him. Another eternity of seconds passed, and it was almost with surprise that Dylan found air again. Out on the horizon, a great blue wall of water appeared and moved shoreward. It crested, and the spray capped peak pitched out in agonizingly slow motion, falling into its cavernous trough. A white explosion occurred fifty feet from where he was desperately trying to tread water and catch his breath. Seconds later he was buried by a twenty foot avalanche of ocean. Powerful tentacles of turbulence snatched and tumbled him, and in his fading consciousness, Dylan imagined that he was being drawn down into a deepening spiral vortex.
"You have come," said a slightly echoing voice. "What is it that you seek?"
Dylan opened his eyes. He was standing in a large, gray domed room of stone, perhaps in a castle. Covering the floor was a marble spiral pattern in black and white, and there, at the center, stood the Master Poet. He was pale and gaunt, and was clad in vestments of many colors. Dylan could feel himself slowly orbiting the ancient one, and yet they remained as motionless, facing each other.
"How is it that I have been moved to write in verse when it was never my intention to be a poet?" asked Dylan impulsively. "My life has been spent working and playing in the natural world, not in writing or in studying the great literary works and those who wrote them. Is there a reason, a purpose for this sudden change?"
The Master traced a circle in the air. "As the great and the small cycles rise and fall in their natural ways, there has come again a time for one such as you. The poetic art has need of those who love the Muse in her many aspects, and who know well Her realms. You have been chosen to celebrate Her mystery and glory, for the raw stuff of poetry surely resides in your soul. Go you back now, to the Realm of the Living. The Goddess has work for you."
"Tell me who you are!" called Dylan, staring into glacial eyes as light faded from the room.
"I am yourself, O son of the wave, and many others as well:
Through shimmering blue light, Dylan reached up and broke through the sea surface. Struggling, he gasped hoarsely in short, desperate breaths. Seeing another surfer paddling nearby, he called out weakly with his last remaining strength, "Help! Please help me!"
Safely home that night, as he listened with Dana to the reports of widespread destruction on the Southeast Peninsula, Dylan began to wonder what his part was in all that had happened. A copy of 'The Old Testament' caught his eye from the bookshelf. Opening it to the first chapter of 'Genesis,' he scanned the first page. Seemingly highlighted to his eyes were the words he remembered reading many years ago.
With a sudden revelation, Dylan understood the meaning of the strange events that had come to pass. The otherworldly Master Poet had given him a purpose and a mission, and the Goddess had bestowed upon him the priceless gift of inspiration. Once again he entered the dreamtime:
Webmastered by Mike Scharding