The wood so softly singing
In a language strange to hear
And the song it sings will find you
As the twilight draws you near


Welsh Faerie Lore

In the Welsh tradition Gwyn ap Nudd is the King of Annwn and it is possible to enter his faerie realm through certain caves or holes in the ground, often by removing a heavy stone by speaking some special words. Sometimes it is possible to get there through lakes or pools or through underground passages and hidden streams.

There is a particular race of Welsh faeries called Plant Rhys Ddwfn who live on islands off the coast of Cardigan Bay. But they emerge on land through an invisible portal which is protected by certain herbs which grow around the place. This is a small area of land which is located in the same space as that inhabited by humans but which cannot be seen or experienced by them unless they are given the faerie sight.

There is no connection between this land and the land of the dead for its inhabitants are ever-living. It is a land of plenty and many tales of people being taken into it tell of them sleeping in beds of silk only to awake in the morning among rushes and ferns. Time passes differently there, and sometimes it is possible to go there without going through a physical gateway, but by being enchanted, as this story illustrates:

Siôn ap Siencyn was one afternoon walking in the woods when a bird began to sing so sweetly that he was spellbound and he sat down to listen to the song. While the bird sang he was in a state of bliss. Eventually the bird stopped singing and Siôn stood up and noticed that the leafy tree he had sat beneath was now all dry and withered. He went home. But the house looked very different although it was the same house. A man in the doorway asked him what he wanted. "This is where I live", he replied. In conversation it turned out that the man was Siôn's great grandson. There was a family legend that Siôn had been carried off to the Otherworld and would only return, according to a conjuror who had been called in to explain his disappearance, when the last drop of sap had withered from the tree. He entered the house but it was like walking through empty air. To his great-grandson he seemed to crumble to dust before him.

{Adapted from Welsh Folklore and Custom by T. Gwynn Jones}


May and Midsummer

"Lady Smocks all silver-white / Do paint the meadows with delight" (Shakespeare)

A Pagan Movement Archive item from Tony Kelly:

Maytime is a time of brightening days, of flowers and insects and new green leaves. All life seems to be bursting out anew, birdsong is exuberant and we're abundantly aware of the fertility of it all. It's a feeling of joy in your soul which won't be gainsaid.

Yet, it can also be approached in a quantitative scientific way. Some years ago, when we were touring the whole land here every week and noting each new species of flower to appear, we were able, at the end of the year, to construct a graph showing week by week the number of new species of flower appearing for the first time that year. The graph was down at zero in Yule and for a month or two thereafter; the first flowers began to appear in their ones and twos, and gradually the pace increased. As the weeks went by, each new week brought a greater abundance of new species into bloom to add to those already in flower. After a time, these increments began to become smaller again. They still added to the flowers already in bloom, making them even more abundant, but the actual increases began to get smaller. When we drew the curve, the peak was in Midsummer, but the steepest slope was in Mid-May; it was in Mid-May that the Goddess was unfolding all her finery the fastest. And May in the modern Gregorian calendar is very close indeed to Mayday in the old Julian reckoning.

We did the same thing for the appearance of each new species of moth at our windows, and again we got a curve of the same kind, and again the steepest slope was in Mid-May (and we used a book to confirm the picture for the beetles). May is the month of acceleration as Midsummer is the season of abundance. In May the flowers, the moths and butterflies and the other insects and the green leaves are arriving fastest; in Midsummer they're most abundant.


The Magic of Midsummer

A posting from a previous Midsummer. This year is likely to be wet in the UK. Though the day no less long and magical.


As the days lengthen to the heat of Midsummer and fields fill with flowers so the green of the pasture meadows has given way to a glittering of yellow buttercups.  Both these and spearworts have made the grass a green background to their bright display.  I stand on a heath above the yellow fields and see the Sun shine on a far bay and the sea appears as a jewel in the cup of the green hills and the grey town.  The boggy ground up here has a dry crust on it now, but there's bog cotton on it nonetheless, with its fluffy cotton-wool head, and marsh pennywort leaves lie dark green on the dried mat of sphagnum moss.  Out of the bog proper, in the wet meadow, there's lousewort with its purple flowers lying close to the ground seeking shelter from the Sun.  On the hedgebank among the heather and the gorse I find milkwort too, a strange flower this with an inner tube and outer petals all forming a single flower.  The outer petals stick out as the flower opens, like wings from the base of the tiny inner tube.  All this is difficult to make out as the plant is only a few inches high.  The colour varies too.  These are all pale blue, but further down the bank are some with dark blue outer petals (sepals?) and a white inner part.  The outer part will later take the appearance of sepals proper when they turn green as the fruit ripens.  The herbalists used to prescribe this plant for nursing mothers to increase their milk supply.  In Ireland it is known as fairy soap, the idea being that fairies made a lather from the roots.

   After an absorbing hour or so on the hedge bank I cross the fields to the wood which I came to see.  There are stretches of this wood running here and there from the heath down to the sand dunes by the sea.  They are the remains of an ancient forest long since cleared for farmland.  The trees which are left - mostly oaks - are old, and there are other things which are old here too.  You can feel it in the cool shade of the canopy: a green magic that only a great age seems to bring.  I walk the woodland path admiring the ferns, noting in particular the way the male ferns stand up in circular rosettes from the woodland floor.  Then I see something unfamiliar.  A fern to be sure, but what is it?  I stop.  Admire the perfect form of it.  The soft green and unfamiliar shape - a bit like a polypody, a bit like a male fern -  hold me there spellbound for a while.  Then I must decide.  It is either a beech fern or an oak fern, and only later after consulting my book can I finally conclude that it is the former.  But still I must go back to make sure.  Further on I come to a place were the fields fall down to the sea on one side and the trees clothe the sides of a deep gorge on the other.  By the field's edge there is cow wheat growing; just inside the wood there's creeping jenny, a flower whose deep yellow petals have always held a fascination for me.  This is not the yellow glitter of the buttercup fields, or the bright happy yellow of ragwort, or even the golden richness of a dandelion, but a dark mysterious yellow that somehow holds the secrets of a woodland summer in its five pointed petals.  Such secrets now are whispered all around me.  I'm standing by the tree that I came to see.  An old, lichened wild service tree growing on the very edge of the steep slope of the gorge.  But there are suckers growing on the flatter ground of the field from beneath the bracken which forms a barrier between the grass and the trees.  This old wild service tree, with its fragile offspring, may be the only one in the country.  They are usually only found in very old woodland.  In coming to see it I have seen so much more and the afternoon has passed to evening.  The Sun now is slanting low over the green hills to the sea beyond.  All is still after the long day.  Fields as rich as butter darken their shades of green as the yellow light deepens to the cool of night.  Already the Moon pales to whiteness in the clear sky.  Soon the night is all blue and silver.

Fair Earth, so glad I am to love you like this.  So glad I am to love you.