Friday, February 23, 2007

Carreg Coetan Artur

In the middle of a grove of new bungalows reminiscent of an Australian soap, on the outskirts of the little coastal town of Newport, Pembrokeshire, we found the remains of an ancient Druidic burial chamber. No need to treck up windy mountains to get to this old ruin. You could just pop in on your way back from the shops!

The remains are a few stones (including a top stone) which create a small shelter in which to rest for a while. It sits quietly and unassumingly behind a high hawthorn hedge in the middle of a grassy square. To get to it, you just need to go through a simple unlocked wooden gate.

Seagulls, crows and blackbirds called to each other in the peace of the little close. The February afternoon sun was warm on our backs as we bent to enter the chamber. Inside it was clean and dry. We spread out our blankets and settled down to dream.

We hadn’t thought to be here long, so had only come armed with incense and our rattles. Inspired by the gentle enclosure of the space, I cast a circle and called to the spirits of those who had lain here and those who had come to share grief – for I felt very strongly that this place had witnessed many tears. I set my intention to work for the dead that I had known and loved.

Our rattles shushed and crackled in a steady pacing rhythm. I was walking up the beach from the sea. Sand crunched beneath my feet. The sun was low and the sky darkening to dusk. I circled the small mound till I found the entrance. Crawling inside, I lay down.

I was searching, searching, searching. I needed to take home my dear blind friend who had killed himself last year. I knew he was lost and vulnerable, confused about what was happening, even though his act had been deliberate.

His madness and his brilliance had been a dangerous but potent mixture making life at times for him and others close to him almost impossible to stand. His pain was no more but I couldn’t rest until I had taken him home.

I found a ruined terraced house in a Northern steel town. In the rubble in the coal-hole, there he was, just a cindery old black ball, the size of a football, just sitting in the corner rocking and humming agitatedly.

I took him in my arms and cradled him, sang to him, told him I was taking him home. At first he struggled – perhaps he was confused. After a while, he became still and quiet.

The boat rocked gently as we floated back. It crunched upon the beach and I got out. I settled the cinder ball carefully so it would not move and pushed the boat off again. I waited quietly, still singing softly to him as I stood in the shallows until the boat disappeared over the horizon.

I was a little stiff. The rattles shushing continued, like the crunching of sand or the gentle dash of waves upon the shore. I began to sing:

“Call to the ancestors beyond the trembling veil.
Wisdom is in their breath, their bones, their blood and spirit.”

Quietly, I named the dead I mourned and the PHD named hers. The stones took and held our prayers with silent tenderness. I reached up and touched the top stone in silent thanks.

Outside, seagulls keened high up in the sky. We closed the circle and crawled out to the gentle caress of softly falling rain.

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