Manawydan fab Llŷr

man
Manawydan’s Glass Door – water colour by David Jones

Visions and Propositions

Manawydan waits in shadow, biding his time, watching. I visualise him cloaked and hooded, looking as if over my shoulder, yet also withdrawn to a liminal space where a portal opens into the Otherworld.

Was he there when Rhiannon came? The tale* does not tell it, only that she came to claim Pwyll for a husband. Did Arawn watch from the other side?

Was one watching when her child was taken from the cradle by her side? Or when she waited by the horse-block for Pryderi to return?

The tale* tells that Pryderi, grown now, went to Ireland (or was that Annwn?) with Manawydan and his Brother Brân for the sake of their sister Branwen (but there was also a cauldron).

They returned with the head of Brân (just seven in all from a great army returned) and Branwen who broke her heart.

The Birds of Rhiannon sang to them then and time was still until the door – which Manawydan reminded them should not be opened – was opened; and they went to the White Mount to bury the head – Brân’s head – that had kept company with them when time did not flow.

Manawydan, alone now in Thisworld of the siblings of Llŷr, he who was “wise of counsel” as the Black Book has it**, took counsel from Pryderi to go to Dyfed and be with Rhiannon.

So they are wed but he watches Pryderi and then Rhiannon go through the enchanted fort into the Otherworld (he counsels caution – another door best not opened? – but will not hinder) and must wait for his chance to release them and restore the land.

So he waits until it is time to act. Then he acts. Like a gatekeeper opening and closing the Portal he watches – and enables – the coming and going of those who would pass and those for whom passing is a rite of passage.

-*-

Commentary

Consider the Triad, referred to in the Mabinogi, about the Three Golden (or noble) Shoemakers, one of whom is “Manawydan Son of Lludd” in one of the manuscripts of the Triads, though “Son of Llŷr“ in another. Rachel Bromwich says that this transference is common so that Llŷr & Lludd are interchangeable***. As Lludd is cognate with Nudd should we therefore regard Manawydan as the brother of Gwyn ap Nudd?

If Manawydan is a son of Nudd (Nodens), Brân and Branwen are also children of this god. By which perhaps we should understand ‘of his family’ or even perhaps ‘expressions of his nature’? Family relations between gods are never quite the same thing as those between people.

Beli Mawr is said to be the father of Lludd and Lleuelis****. But also in legendary history of Caswallawn (i.e. Cassivellaunus) leader of the Brythons who opposed Julius Caesar in his brief incursion into Britain in 54 bce. Many of the early kings of Wales traced their lineage back to Beli Mawr via Cunedda. Clearly here we are in territory where myth, legend and history merge and the difference between gods and ancestors is either confused or irrelevant, depending on your point of view.

But if Manawydan is an offspring (however understood) of Nudd, and shares an identity (however understood) with Gwyn, the identification of these two ‘sons’ of Nudd as Thisworld and Otherworld faces of a god, on either side of the portal, seems to cohere.

§

*‘The Tale’ here is the First and Third branches of The Mabinogi

** In the poem ‘Pa Wr yw’r Porthor?’ (Which one is the Gatekeeper?)

*** Trioedd Ynys Prydein (Third Edition, p. 419 & p.421)

**** In the medieval Welsh tale Cyfranc LLudd a Lleuelis

WINDOWS

Early morning landscape at Mynydd Bach
Mists in many hollows;
Some would find it magical
Others not notice at all.

There are many mysteries revealed in the everyday world if we care to be receptive to them and if we can be still long enough to experience them. A stillness of the spirit as well as of the body brings real presences in the world into touch with perception : two things moving into relationship to become one as they weave together what has been torn apart. So for a fleeting moment (which is forever) we are attuned to mysteries. This is to perceive the depths of things. But sometimes a reflection from a surface brings a sudden epiphany:

A WINDOW BURNS BRIGHT
ON A HILLSIDE FACING
THE GLASSY STILLNESS
OF THE WESTERN SEA
AT SUNSET

An ordinary window in the world for someone else to look through mirrors a splendour from far off sharpening the senses to ways in which windows both reflect and suggest ways of seeing through to otherness, glimpsing an otherworld, opening ways into it and paths along which gods may reveal their ways out of it, should our eyes be open to seeing them. Eyes, too, are windows which may be clear or clouded to different views:

EYEN

Even such obscure windows as these, filtering light and vision can enable a view for the seeing eye within as much as the clear glass onto a garden where the shade of leaves may hold deeper mysteries:

Through this window
a small corner of
Paradise glimpsed
momentarily as light
touched by shade under
buds breaking to
blossom on boughs
of a green apple tree

Such views are available to anyone who allows them to clear from the busyness of this and that. Cultivate deeper ways of seeing and whole landscapes of otherness may open up through windows which widen to gateways to travel through. Be open to promptings from within and what is without will open too as

The
N
A
R
R
O
W

ARROW
slit as in a castle wall

W – I – D – E – N – S

out to a FAR HORIZON

Or, like The Birds of Rhiannon, singing out on that horizon over the sea, come as close as a whisper in the ear to encircle and enclose you so that you might feel

Woven into the
stuff of the Universe.

Like a cat
purring
as the waves
of life
wash silkily
over skin
and the Earth
purrs too.

At dusk
something else
breathes mystery
into the
evening air,
silent with birdsong.

Night brings stars
and distances
in the closeness
of darkness
and otherness
deepens.

The Earth
is an anchor
holding the spirit firm
to sail to the stars.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

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.

Speaking to the Ancestors

Fitzpatrick-Tuan
Tuan  watching “a great fleet rolling as in a giant’s hand”                              (illustration :  J. Fitzpatrick)

 

 

Part of the lore of Ireland tells the story of Tuan who was visited by Saint Finian, hearing that he did not observe sundays or saints days, and wishing to know if the stories about him as a magician were true. Here is part of their conversation:

“Mine is a long pedigree,” Tuan murmured.

Finnian received that information with respect and interest.

“I also,” he said, “have an honourable record.”

His host continued: “I am indeed Tuan, the son of Starn, the son of Sera, who was brother to Partholon.”

“But,” said Finnian in bewilderment, “there is an error here, for you have recited two different genealogies.”

“Different genealogies, indeed,” replied Tuan thoughtfully, “but they are my genealogies.”

“I do not understand this,” Finnian declared roundly.

“I am now known as Tuan mac Cairill,” the other replied, “but in the days of old I was known as Tuan mac Starn, mac Sera.”

“The brother of Partholon,” the saint gasped.

“That is my pedigree,” Tuan said.

“But,” Finnian objected in bewilderment, “Partholon came to Ireland not long after the Flood.”

“I came with him,” said Tuan mildly.

The saint pushed his chair back hastily, and sat staring at his host, and as he stared the blood grew chill in his veins, and his hair crept along his scalp and stood on end.

(from Irish Fairy Tales by James Stephens)

How many generations are the ancestors? Do they include the lost tribes, the ones we displaced too long ago to remember? But the land remembers, and some remnant of them may live among us still, quietly marking the passing ages of the world, nurturing the wisdom they cannot pass on to those who cannot own it. As for those who have faded from view, but whose spirits still inhabit the deep recesses of the landscape, the marginal places we have not built upon or shaped for our own purposes,  do they remain among the living presences of the land or fade gradually but inexorably to the Land of the Dead? Even then,  they may leave behind a trace or echo of what they were, so that we might sense them still, if only as an absence, and so a necessary presence, in the world we inhabit.

Some speak of ghosts, some of other world(s) within, beside or beyond our own, of places that are portals, or in which a presence may be felt that is not accounted for in the species lists of natural history and so does not exist in earth, water, fire or air, but which nonetheless has a being with us (t)here.

If we visit such beings, as Finian did, then how should we speak with them, or inhabit their present? If Tuan were to tell us, as he told Finian, of his incarnations as different creatures on land, in air and in water, and the comings and goings of many different peoples over many aeons of time, would we hear the words, as Finian did, with a shiver and a sense of creeping dread? Can we hold such knowledge within us?

The story of Tuan tells: “No-one knows if he died then, or if he still keeps his fort in Ulster, watching all things …”

But if no-one knows , his voice speaks to us still out of the eddies of time, slipping the knots which tie us to the Ship of Time, sailing to the Land of the Dead.

The Guiding Heron

Heron-IMG_8821-ShL-Cilgerran-copy

[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.

 

Anrhegion yr Awen

mist
A day of dreaming: daydreaming of nightdreams, visions, visits and experiences, things glimpsed, things seen: perceptions in the landscape, in the mindscape, in the sensescape, coalescing in the not-dream, the half-dream, the suspended waking state of stillness, stasis, when nothing moves for an instant but everything flows like an endless welling-up from the springs of Annwn.

So it was, it all came though nothing moved, nothing changed in time but all was flux in not-time, coming not in a sequence or continuous line but flowing together as one wave from an endless sea ebbing back from the high tide of now to the low tide of forever and turning to flow again all in a moment of rhythmic grace occupying no space but the one glimpsed in a glint of light in a single drop from the splash of water over the rocks.

The way through was clear; the way through was dark. But the memories came out of the not-space between: the owl, the horse, the heron’s wingbeat all in a weave of light and not-light. Birds called out over the sea; the wingbeat sounded over the land, the big wing, the widewing of the long-beaked bird – a sound that was no-sound so faint on the still air, so slight on the breeze, rippling like a river through the sentient world, silent as a salve on the soul.

Is there a way back, and from where? I am here, now; yet still there, then. Time still drifts sideways though less widely as the flow is glimpsed again, moving on, sequencing the world and bidding me join in again. Things run once more in a line. It is time.