This year, to mark the passing of Rhiannon to Annwfn, I made a grey shroud to put over the white horse on her altar.
A little before the precise time of the Dark Moon, as the light of day began to fade, I went out to the garden altar and made my usual dedication to Mererid as Guardian of the Shrine at her fountain. Then, turning to Rhiannon’s altar, I spoke some familiar words to her. The last of the garden roses were scattered about and I also put some pieces of unburnt incense there. Then I spoke my formal dedication:
By Orion’s light
At the dark of the Moon
Now the hawthorn tree is bare
As the Hunter’s spoor is laid tonight
A shadow passes through the veil
Of Annwfn on a Grey Mare.
Rigantona, roses wither on your altar;
As winter falls across the land
I’ll keep your vigil here.
I stood in silent communion for a while before taking the white horse statuette from the altar and dressing it in the grey shroud. This will stay in place over the winter, a sign both of her absence and the presence that awareness of her absence implies. I placed a small stone of black jet in each of the halves of the geode which is also on the altar. So I marked her passing in the rain, wind and gathering darkness out in the open air.
Back in the house I had prepared a large dark candle together with some smaller ones and these were lit when I came back in with these words:
Winter now is upon us
And the darkness
Around this hearth
Which we keep
For your going
Into the Otherworld Rhiannon gu; Bendithion Llu.
So we pass the night of the Dark Moon to mark the start of the Winter season.
Dark elderberries hang on twisted boughs
Unpicked and shrivelled,
Bare twigs twist to point the way
That turns upon itself a shadow veil
Shielding the world she is leaving behind
As she rides the grey mare
Fading to grey mist for a season
Seeking her fair form far away
Where he expects her, her shadow lord
Conjuring the woven ways
Through mists of his own making
Shaping a path through shapeless drifts
Each one receding through layers of world
Wider to bring her to world’s end:
To not-world’s becoming.
Another watches her go as strewn leaves lie
On sodden forest floors
Bereft of shelter, mysteries
Of dappled green depth emptying.
Hold the stone tight in your hand
Hear it sing, the singing stone
Hear her birds singing sweetly
In the high notes; in the low notes
Croaking, cawing. Modulations
High to low :
The stone is hot
The stone is cold
The stone …..
It has a life of its own, leaves your hand
When you have heard what you will hear
Then only questions:
Where is the stone now?
Why does the song fade
Where does the horse ride over the sea?
This now all there is to hear:
Hoofbeats on the waves of the sea,
Gulls calling, gulls calling
No more sweet sounds, no more harsh sounds
Woven together by her birds
But the gulls still calling, still calling
Far out over the empty sea.
So the vision fades, the music segues
To silence, to an echo in the mind,
On the wind, caught in the sound of the waves.
Yet still there’s a presence, sensed by my side,
With me always, never absent, a witness
To visions, singing birds, passing horses
That come and go between the worlds.
A stillness and a quietness of contemplation
suddenly illuminated by a flash of brightness,
a familiar shift into vision:
I get a sense of you passing, your horse stepping on
And you wearing not the golden silks of the story
But a leather surcoat that is tangible, its scent and its texture
As I follow, not on horseback but on foot, and you remaining
Just as the story has it, the same distance in front of me
Though I walk and you ride.
Then at my call
You turn and smile : like the lifting of a veil it is to me
Before you ride on leaving me the gift of your presence
In the still air that your passing troubled and which now
Contains you and is contained by you in one world
And in the other.
Rhiannon, it is your presence
That brings me here
Not to meet you, for you are always near,
But to greet you in this special place
Set up for you to mark your presence
In my life.
I feel you close; your hair,
Your leather harness as you ride
And I ride with you, near and far;
As you approach, go by, and onward,
Pass to Otherness yet remain
A living presence to my senses
Even when far – never more
Than a breath away from here.
A beautiful bronze slow worm was on the stone in front of my garden shrine this morning. It stayed a while then slid sinuously under the fountain and so lives now in the care of Mererid, Guardian of the Shrine.
In the Realm of Rhiannon such treasures are blessings :