The TOWER

From my evolving collection of Tarot Poems:

Tower Marseille Tarot

from the Marseille Tarot

illustrated by Jean Dodal

Tower Rider-Waite Tarot

from the Rider-Waite Tarot

illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith

To climb this is to reach out and to be repulsed.
We know the history : Babel being the prime case,
A step too near The House of God and down it comes:
Jupiter’s bolt of lightning, Zeus’ thunderclap, Jehova’s
Jealous guarding of the gateway to his sanctuary.
Our hubris or divine paranoia? One God’s defence

Against the many who throng the common world.
There are otherworlds around us too, islands
Over the sea, under the waves, below the earth
And right alongside us, a half-step away from here.
So why ascend? True, the ways are perilous, paths
May wind endlessly and then turn back nearly
To where they began; but never end in disillusion.
Never tip us like this tower through empty air.


 

The reflections leading to the poems begin from my past studies of the ‘esoteric’ decks, represented here by the Rider-Waite card, but primarily arise from my current historical study of the older Italian and French decks – represented here by Jean Dodal’s ‘Marseille’ card – and direct responses to the imagery. 

Echoes of Etain

 

 

Midir and Étain , Becoming Swans.

Reflections after a reading of The Wooing of Étain :

Oengus Mac Óc taken from his mother
So his father would not know him
(as Mabon from Modron; Pryderi from Rhiannon)
To be fostered by Midir.

Étain Echraide – (of the horses)
Poured drink for the company;
This was a skill she had, to pour;
A Cup Bearer supreme among many.
It was then that Midir came for her.

Links in a chain of story – beyond time
for time has no part in its telling:
Images and incidents recurring, repeating
the fractured joins of narrative dissolving.
The gods, in their own way, speaking
to us : always now, never history.

Awen

Ni thau awen o’i thewi

Mae erioed i’w marw hi

(Gerallt Lloyd Owen)

*

Awen is not silent in its silence

Forever is its finality


These two lines from a master of cynghanedd express with profound simplicity the nature of Awen. My translation of them cannot achieve the woven interlocking of sound and sense which is contained in the Welsh. But I hope it captures something of the  concentrated power of the original.

The Guiding Heron

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[Odysseus and Diomedes on a night-spying expedition to the Trojan camp]

“Athena winged a heron close to their path

and veering right. Neither man could see it,

scanning the dark night they only heard its cry”

(Iliad , Book 10)

So the voice of the goddess comes in the night
unearthly as if far away, but close;
echoing through the unfathomable dark, but whispered

as if a lover told a secret close to your ear
and you reply just as softly yet speaking clearly:
‘O goddess I answer your call’

into the darkness of the night, no light,
even starlight (fitful behind cloud) and not
moonlight  for it is moondark, so dark

the voice, the heron’s call in the night:
a creak, a croak, a fraink, not sweet
like a songbird but a guiding sign to be wary

a waymark on the path, showing the track
to be taken, the line to follow through the gloom,
impenetrable blackness unimaginable in towns, villages

even where some distant gleam lightens the hue
of darkness, but out here in the ancient dark
her piercing cry is the only glint to guide you

coldly calling from empty space, but welcome
as the sigh of a mother to a feeding child, nurturing
sharp-eared attention, opening your night eyes.

 

Rhiannon

Rhiannon_aur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Though you are absent, I feel your presence,
A space in the landscape where you would be,
An echo returning from this very place
In the Otherworld where you followed Pryderi.

Did he go there to claim his birthright
In the country you left to be with us here?
Did you follow to give him your blessing
Leaving only the wraith of a riderless mare

To haunt the borders between us and Annwn?
For now we live with your memories lingering
Like elusive  scents  from a summer that’s gone
Or the sounds of your birds so sweetly singing.

In the unwoven woods Manawydan awaits you
Keeping the keys for the expected day
To open the gates when you will come riding
On a shining white horse in bright array.

In the Third Branch of the Mabinogi tales Rhiannon follows Pryderi into an enchanted fort and they are carried off to the Otherworld. Manawydan eventually manages to bring them back. According to the plot of the medieval tale an enchantment has been cast over their land by an otherworld sorcerer and Manawydan also breaks that spell. But I have interpreted these plot mechanisms as a means to explain the comings and goings of Rhiannon – here and in an earlier tale – from the Otherworld, thereby emphasising the mythological aspects of the tales with devotional intent.

To leave a devotional message for Rhiannon visit her shrine HERE

WELLS

S

There is the story of a well in Ireland
that was abused so then could not be found
by any but the true seeker who would be led
to where it was by one who kept its secrets.

There is the story of a well in Wales
whose guardian was dishonoured so it flooded
and made a great lake, but she would come
from the waters to greet any with the right token.

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There are stories of The Well at the World’s End
that many seek for far away, but find
near to home where the Otherworld spring pulses
through in some hidden place in the world we know.

Seek out the source of the crystal waters,
the rising spring that runs into the gathering stream.
Speak out the spells that the well maid waits for
as a salve for her sorrows to wash away her pain.

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Delightful to the Dragon-Lord …

After the final lines of ‘Mydwyf Merweryd’ (‘I am the Pulse …’) from The Book of Taliesin


D
elightful to the dragon-lord

are songs from Gwion’s river
Flowing through the halls,
the scent of fair weather,
A horn full of mead
fragrant with honey and clover,
Druids skilled in Awen
– nothing pleases him better!

So the bard instructs the chieftain as to what is valuable and what, therefore, should please him: Gwion’s River (the flow of inspired song), fine weather, fragrant mead and the inspired utterances of his druids.

The Solace of Rhiannon’s Birds

Labyrinth

I sought some solace in Rhiannon’s birds
that I might come to life again
or be lulled into a gentle sleep from which
a new life might begin. So birds came:

A blue tit hopped in through the window
and flew back to the wild from a cupped hand;
the swallows in the garage had four chicks
which came and went through an open door;

A young heron stepped slowly along a streamlet
intent on prey – these birds moved through the world
to bring me back to it, taking me with them
as they flew into the light of the Sun.

Then at Full Moon I awoke long before dawn
to go out under stars bright in the Moon’s eclipse
which was not an eclipse because there, smoke-red
she was visible in the sky and yet not visible.

From this deep mystery I went back
to the otherworld of sleep, it seemed
that I still walked the path of the dead
and so another day passed, another night

when the the Moon was bright, so bright
that as I watched her rise I flew
like a bird through the world, and still
next morning she was there in the western sky,

A daylight Moon remaining big and round
before she faded as the Sun broke through
and a bright day grew and something of Summer
still wreathed itself through coming Autumn.

Soon the swallows will fly south for the Winter
and we’ll hang food for blue tits on the apple tree
which now bears fruit for a sweet harvest
as Rhiannon’s birds sing their song for me.