Through July there’s a change towards ripeness, the Summer deepening, soft fruit hanging on raspberry canes and gooseberry bushes around the Shrine; apples beginning to swell on the tree. Blooms in abundance adorn the rosebush I planted especially for the Shrine, while I also gather more from other parts of the garden as joyous offerings for the gift of Summer and all it brings.
If the enchantment of May and Midsummer was all about expectation, now is a time of fulfilment, not yet the plenty of coming Autumn but the promise of Summer realised as warm winds blow across the burgeoning fields and forests of our land.
Recently, when I visit the Shrine in the morning I have found it disturbed. The small vase with roses, the pouring jug and other items have been turned over and scattered. The goblet which stands in the upper part of the fountain has been knocked over and lies sideways in the water.
This must be an animal visiting in the night – a badger, fox or hedgehog? – though there is no sign of droppings of any animal or other traces of a visit. I wondered if an animal is coming to drink at the fountain and knocking over the objects on Rhiannon’s shrine to get there? But on one occasion the roses were found some distance away and the petal scattered.
I’m not sure what I could do about this as I don’t want the shrine to be trashed but I’m inclined to regard the minor effort to re-arrange and replace the objects as part of my daily devotional activity. Seen in this way the re-setting of the goblet, the placing of fresh roses and putting the other objects back in place is part of the balance between wildness and ordering which is the pulse of the human relationship with the gods.
Such intensities of identification during these late May days; the hillside, the hedgerows, the fields and woods all infused with a palpable sense of being; and myself the quiet watcher taking it all in, in some way both immersed in it all, part of the whole, and yet also detached, observing it, both included and excluded, glimpsing another world which is also this world.
So it is when we perceive the deep places of the world, beyond the hustle and the clamour of the busy debates behind which, waiting for us to be still and find it, somewhere else calls from the Deep beyond to the Deep within us: a presence that is so real that we wonder why we never noticed it, or perhaps so real that we cannot contemplate it, and turn away to busyness.
But now, in these days, I am blessed with time and vision to inhabit the world’s depths and experience the quiet enchantment that encompasses them. So it has always been for me during a long and busy life that I have had times when that busyness was suspended as the Birds of Rhiannon sing for me and the urgencies and certainties of Time fade into the background. At these ‘times’, when Time slows to a heartbeat lasting for as long as it takes to be in this condition of wonder, I give myself up to the stately pace of Rhiannon’s steed, matching each fleeting second of the world’s time against the minutes,hours,days of her riding across the plains of Annwn, while moving here at a steady glide – synchronising one time with another – so that the two worlds become one and I become one with them.
The re-arrangement of Rhiannon’s shrine area is well advanced. The horse has been re-positioned and a larger area of the surround covered in slate chippings. I have been proceeding slowly with the chippings to discern what will please her. I have some other chippings in various shades of reddish-brown, honey and quartz white which I’m going to interleave with the slate around the base on which the horse and devotional accessories stand. I’m proceeding slowly towards Mayday with this in the manner of Manawydan in the Third Branch of the Mabinogi where he works patiently over a period of time to bring back Rhiannon from the Otherworld after the enchantment has been cast over Dyfed. Using resonant themes from the surviving mythos as contained in these medieval tales is one way of bringing elements of the mythos alive in my devotional practice.
So the work has begun. Mererid’s fountain is now flowing again. Rosmerta’s cup overflows into the Cauldron. The waters of life swell in the Earth.
I have also begun clearing the extra space for Rhiannon’s shrine. I took off the the grey shroud from her horse and, now that the Sun is rising in our hemisphere once again, I also turned the horse from it winter orientation facing left, to its summer orientation facing right.
There is much more work to be done to extend the shrine, though I have made a start. It will require patient work over the next month or so, like Manawydan patiently going about the work of bringing Rhiannon and Pryderi back from Annwn, but it will be done in good time for Calan Mai.
Earlier in this Diary I wondered when I should remove the shroud from Rhiannon’s horse because the weather in February had been so mild and spring-like. I decided ‘not yet’ and since then storms have brought strong winds, rain and colder temperatures back again.
But now, as the Spring Equinox approaches – when I will re-instate the solar pump in Mererid’s well – I am also considering removing the shroud at the same time, as a first step to spring cleaning the shrine to welcome Rhiannon in May. I am also considering extending the area of the shrine as the rose bush I planted there is taking up more room and I would like to move the horse from its proximity to the fence between the garden and the adjoining field.
So it will be my task between Equinox and Calan Mai to re-lay and extend the shrine area for Rhiannon when she returns, though all through Winter I have stood before the shrine daily and told her, though she rides across the plains of Annwn, yet she remains here in the heart of her devotee.
At Samhain I put a grey shroud around the horse on the Altar of Rhiannon. When to take it off? I had not thought that I would be considering this question so early in the year. But the weather is mild and sunny. Spring seems to be burgeoning. Yet it could get colder again before the full promise of Spring is apparent. I thought when I put the shroud around the horse that it might not be appropriate to leave it on until May when Rhiannon is once more amongst us. But in spite of the weather I’ll wait a while yet, at least until the Spring Equinox. Or when it is given to me that she rides the paths between here and Annwn even though she might not be riding across our own land, or at least not lifting the veil that is her revelation.