I am standing on a pebble beach. Ahead is a lake in darkness and just before me a bonfire. Around the fire are dancing, disembodied stag skulls. A gentle circling of the fire; their faces looking blankly towards me. I have seen this before, almost exactly a year ago – a single stag skull floating in my vision, persistent and getting in my way. That was the first time he came to me and I knew who it was soon after. He has been with me ever since. He is here now, on the other side of the fire, a stag skull upon his face and dark shadow wrapped around him. I walk around the fire, amongst those floating, dancing skulls and stand beside him. I don’t remember the words he said or if he said any, but the skulls now have bodies and are young men wearing skulls like their god, dancing around that fire beside the lake. The Shining Son of the Mist directs me to something beyond the flames; a stone slab, and on it lies the body of a bitch. Her belly is cut open and I know to place both of my hands inside her. I withdraw them, I am covered in the blood and I know I am not the first to do this tonight; one more to join her litter.
I am kneeling before a woman, and all of a sudden she is a Goddess. We are in a small darkened temple space. The air is thick with incense, only a few candles to light it. I am not entirely myself, I still have some of the God inside me. My upper body wasn’t mine, for a time it was his and he used it. There were words coming out of my mouth but they weren’t entirely mine. I can recall a mist, a land behind this one and a place beneath the dirt. The Goddess is talking. She makes clear we are wrong, we are doing this wrong. The dead are always around us, they only consent to this one night. Twelve people speak of their beloved dead and make their mark in clay.
We are standing on a shingle beach in a natural beautiful embayment on the South coast of England. This cove is still hammered by waves and howling winds, drizzle drives at us from across the sea. Myself and the woman who was a Goddess remember those twelve names, remember those twelve stories as we cast those clay marks out into the waves; from the seas we came and to the seas we return.
The wind is still blowing, the waves are still hammering and the drizzle still soaking. Another darkened temple space, much larger and 30 people sitting in the shadows. Someone is about to go to the lands of the dead, down the world tree and through the gates of fire and ice. For now though she has nothing to carry her. The drumming starts and the chant begins, everyone is reticent. I am not myself and the woman is definitely not there anymore. I am hammering the world tree at the floor, the woman is beating the life into her drum and the chant goes on. Then there is a moment, something takes hold of everyone and I find myself and the woman surfing along on a tidal wave of howling chants, hammering drumbeats, clapping and banging like the thunderstorm of the apocalypse. The noise is deafening and deadening, my body shakes; it isn’t entirely my own and I guide the woman to the land of the dead. She speaks in their voices; the ancestors and the Gods. Another Goddesses is telling us the same thing; we are doing this wrong, the dead are around all of the time, not just this one night.
I am sitting crossed legged on the floor, The Hound is in front of me and drumming is all around me. My skin is smeared in a flying ointment and I can feel it pushing me faster, harder and deeper. My heartbeats are hoof-beats and I am pulling them out of myself and giving them to The Hound; drawing life from the cooling earth beneath me and from the clouded night sky above me, weaving them around its skull, knitting muscles from life and. I am giving this Hound a body, bringing it into being as a creature to run with the Hunt. As the body is formed I talk to it; I name him, give him a purpose, and instruct him on who he is to be and what he is to do. All of this I seal into his memory with a sigil painted on his forehead.
I owe you all an apology, this is not going to end as I originally envisaged. The Hound has been enlivened; he has been offered food and drink and offered a hospitable place by my fire for the time being. Circumstance offers too much uncertainty – our landlord might be selling his house, I am thinking of leaving London, I don’t know where I will be living in twelve months. I don’t want to create a cairn and inter this newly born spirit Hound into it and then leave him.
I had a view of climbing through the gap in the fence at the bottom of my garden and walking amongst the tombs. Visions of taking a trowel to the soil beneath one of the old ash trees and digging amongst its roots. I don’t sing (not without a few drinks in me first; I am a terrible Welshman), but I would tell the tree and the ungods amongst its boughs what I am doing, who I am digging for and to welcome their new neighbour. I
would pour beer into that hole – offering it to the ungods of Fraxinus – and pour some out for the Hound. He would be laid down in that new grave and food placed in with him. I would whisper again his name and his meaning. I would cover him over and build the stones above him, tucking him in to be comfortable. More beer, more words and incense would waft over those stones. I would take the top-most stone and keep it with me, a thing to keep the Hound and I connected. When appropriate, and when needed more offerings of beer and meat would be laid at the cairn and words whispered to the Hound. Words to be carried off to Gwyn. Words, and requests and favours to be asked.
Now, the Hound will sit in my shrine. He will be fed, he will be honoured and he will still be set to carry my words and hymns to Gwyn. I don’t know how this will resolve itself and I am sorry I didn’t resolve it as I had promised.
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I owe a thanks to Rhyd Wildermuth for blatantly ripping off his blogging style with the short I, II III style paragraphs. It was almost entirely unintentional, but once I noticed I could see why he does it, it works really well. By then it was too late, and that is the story I am sticking too.