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Stones, pigs, and Druids: a historical jigsaw puzzle

History is a jigsaw puzzle. To gain a view of the past, we need to put together pieces gleaned from archaeology and from surviving records. Increasingly, it seems clear that we can also learn from myths, passed down through generations via the oral tradition to the point when they were recorded in writing.

There has been a flurry of articles recently about a paper published by Professor Mike Parker Pearson and his colleagues from a number of British Universities: The original Stonehenge? A dismantled stone circle in the Preseli Hills of west Wales:

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Druids and Tower Time

I recently met up with a friend, another Welsh Druid, in a local pub. Over the course of a few beers, many topics came up in conversation, but one has stuck with me. We noted that before the year 2000, the Mari Lwyd was not at all well-known, even in Wales. Since then, though, she has become, not exactly mainstream, but quite recognisable and a definite part of contemporary Welsh culture, with new Maris and new groups popping up all over the place. A video which I watched recently shows dozens of Mari Lwyds gathering in one place, and there will of course have been others which didn’t attend. It’s very striking how this element of traditional culture rose from obscurity to a new prominence and vitality. Clearly the Mari is speaking to something in our collective psyche, even if I’m not sure what that is.

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Talking Heads

In this post I am claiming a world first. I make a connection that, having searched online, I can’t find anyone else making. What is it? Find out below…

Now, I have music on my mind…. so bear with me as I dive down the rabbit hole…

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Gwragedd Annwn Gwyn ap Nudd Jinn Lludd and Llefelys Lludd Llaw Eraint The Mabinogion Tylwyth Teg

The Fair Folk and the Jinn

I recently subscribed to John Beckett‘s ‘Under the Ancient Oaks’ newsletter, and was very interested to see a link to a Spirit Box podcast by Darragh Mason Field. Darragh is an award-winning photographer, who has – amongst other things – taken a lot of photos of sites associated with Jinn.

In his podcast, Darragh discusses “Folklore, Magick and the Spirit World’; two of the episodes discuss the similarities between the Irish Sidhe and the Jinn of the Middle East.

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Arianrhod Blodeuwedd Ceridwen Fourth Branch Gwydion Lleu Llaw Gyffes Plant Dôn The Mabinogion Uncategorized

Blodeuwedd

Created fully formed,
Fair of face,
Like a flower, they said.
Created with a pleasing figure,
And tawny hair,
And skin that smelled of blossom.

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The Children of Llŷr

The Plant Llŷr, the Children of Llŷr, are the last of the Three Great Families of Welsh myth for us to consider. They teach us about leadership, and about human society under the rule of the Gods.

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A severed head on a round table

In the Second Branch of the Mabinogi, Brân the Blessed, the giant and King of Britain, is mortally wounded whilst rescuing his sister Branwen from her abusive husband, the King of Ireland. He tells his companions, the seven survivors of that brutal expedition, to cut off his head.

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Breuddwyd Macsen Wledig Elen The Mabinogion

Thoughts on Elen

One of my favourite tales is Rosemary Sutcliff‘s Frontier Wolf, which I first read in primary school! It tells the story of Alexios Flavius Aquila, a young Roman officer, who is disgraced but ultimately regains his honour.

The story hinges around two parallel crises. In each case, Alexios is in command of a small unit of soldiers, besieged in a small fort by an overwhelming number of barbarians.

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How Arawn created the summerland

In the First Branch of the Mabinogi, Pwyll, king of Dyfed, puts himself into a debt of honour to Arawn, one of the two kings of the Otherworld, by rudely (and against the rules of royal etiquette) driving Arawn’s hounds – the hounds of another king, equal in honour – away from a cornered deer, and setting his own hounds upon it instead.

To erase the insult and gain Arawn’s friendship, Pwyll must take on Arawn’s appearance, and rule his kingdom in Annwn for a year and a day. At the end of this time, he must – in his guise of Arawn – fight and defeat the other king of Annwn: Hafgan.

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The Children of Dôn

The people of the ancient world spent a lot of time watching the stars. Just as we do today, they gazed upwards to the void: the endless emptiness of space, and they wondered at it.

They saw the changes of the moon, and identified the regularity and timings of her cycles.