Monday, December 18, 2006

Pentre Ifan

Pentre Ifan cromlech stands on the side of a little valley, overlooking Fishguard bay. It is thought that it was originally completely enclosed, forming like other cromlechs a darkened chamber in which Druid novices when initiated were placed for a certain number of days. It was called the womb or court of Ceridwen.

After a couple of miss turnings, we had found it. Climbing gingerly out of the car, I tottered beside the Purple-Haired Druid (PHD) as she marched purposefully through the gate into the outside enclosure. My legs trembled but I put one foot carefully in front of another and leaned on a walking stick. Now we were through the second gate and were now alone with the stones.

“Wow” Said the PHD, sucking in her breath. She described the scene in front of us, the stones themselves , enormous and solidly held and beyond them, the huge hill of angels, surrounded by smaller rolling hills, in-between two, the sea could be glimpsed, and guess what, it was blue!

We walked forward and as we moved, my legs felt heavier and heavier. The thought came into my mind, what doesn’t want me to go forward? As soon as I became conscious of this, it became easier and we walked right up and stood beneath the cap stone.

Reaching out, I touched the rough upright stones, walked around them, felt the bits of other stones leaning against them, as though roughly hacked out of one big stone by an unpracticed hand. We spread out the cape and duffle coat on a nearby flat stone and sat down. But something seemed to shove me off. I crawled away and stood, suggesting that we sit under the great stone instead.

Once settled on my plastic cape, my back against the solid great upright, I felt the restless serpent in my stomach still and grow quiet. The pain went and I felt peaceful inside. Quietly, I cast the circle, calling to the spirits of the people who had waited here before us to be with us now.

I closed my eyes and slowed my breathing, being aware of how all my body felt, noticing that, for the first time in days, there was no discomfort. The PHD slowly moved and picked up her drum. Cautiously, she sounded it, a slow hesitant beat, growing with confidence yet still gentle. I traveled with the beat down, down and down.

The sharp wind was on my cheek. I lay on my back. Something pressed upon me. It was hard yet it didn’t hurt. I was glad to have the pressure. Its firmness seemed to hold me. It was dark, but I was not alone. I waited and waited and still the drum beat.

On my right, a little way off, I heard the distinct yet settle snuffling of pigs. I was glad to hear them. They sounded friendly and content. Overhead, wings fluttered and a piercing “chuck, chuck, chuck” of a bird who’s call I did not recognize sounded close to my left. I smiled at it, knowing it was happy.

Wind licked my cheek, cold and icily. Behind it, in the distance, a cow lowed. She sounded contented, feet on the ground, rich grass to chew.

And the drum beat faster and faster. “Caw” croaked a crow. Other birdsong lay across it’s roughness with silky tremulousness. I allowed it to bathe me and felt clean. A horse neighed and the sound was exhilarated. The horse was excited and having the time of his life.

And as I wandered if that was how I felt, I asked myself “will I ever feel well?” Hmmm, did that answer the question? I’m not sure. But the answer came, “yes, you will often be well.” And as this came into my mind, the weight lifted and I felt myself leaning against the stone, sitting on my plastic cape, under the capstone on a December afternoon.

Taking a deep breath, I silently thanked the stones, stretched and opened the circle. Quietly, we shared our experiences as we packed away the alter and got up to leave. This time nothing stopped us as we walked lightly from the stones back up to the car.

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