Gelli Fach

Gelli Fach

I'm a cell, I'm fragmented, I change my form;
I'm a repository of song, I'm a dynamic state.
I love a wooded slope and a snug shelter,
and a creative poet who doesn't buy his advancement.

Wyf kell, wyf dellt, wyf datweirllet;
wyf llogell kerd, wyf lle ynnyet.
Karaf-y gorwyd a goreil clyt,
a bard a bryt ny pryn y ret.

From: Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin, edited and translated by Marged Haycock

Monday, 27 June 2011

Midsummer Garden

I thought I'd show you some of the lovely things that are happening in my garden at the moment... (Click to enlarge.)

The peerless beauty of the rose - this one is the New Dawn. I planted it by the trellis I put up on the east side of the garden last year and it has grown wonderfully. I've planted honeysuckle and clematis as well as by the trellises but the roses are the only plants that have taken off - I think they like the chicken poo...

There were no apples on the Bramley last year and I thought I might have to get another pollinator - it needs two and I only have one, a Fiesta (child of a Cox's Orange Pippin but more disease resistant). However this year there are several apples so something in a neighbour's garden must have done the trick. Both types of apple are good for storing - important when you have more than you can eat.

The Victoria Plum has fruit on it for the first time too!

This is a particularly lovely part of the garden. It begins in the spring with solomen's seal and continues with monkshood, hypericum, peony, cornflowers as well as the ubiquitous lady's mantle which is on a mission to take over my whole garden... Orange lillies are slowly ripening now.

 Here's a pink peony I caught before the rain demolished the petals.

Last year I threw down some wild flower seeds from an old packet on a bare patch at the top of the garden. They grew and corn cockles were a joy to see. I hoped they might seed themselves and come again this year but unfortunately not. However, there are masses of white campion as a consolation.

The strawberries are rich red jewels hidden among the green leaves. Picking them is like a treasure hunt! Last year's plants extended themselves into a big plot so I've got a good crop.They taste like strawberries used to taste when I was a child. I wish I'd noted what type they are.

I only grow a few token vegetables on a small area I can easily manage myself. It's on top of a wall that runs along the patio at the bottom of a slope. Last year the leeks and swiss chard were very successful - this year, for some strange reason, the slugs have eaten 13 of my 17 leeks... and the perpetual spinach is spindly with small leaves.
One cauliflower grew huge and then fell over and subsequently died in the strong winds we had a few weeks ago. The other has been largely eaten - although the white flower in the centre is growing; it won't come to much but I've never grown cauliflower before so I'm interested in seeing it. I've a few dwarf beans in a container but they're not doing much - so, not a good year for vegetables. There is one courgette plant which has two forming nicely and the purple-sprouting broccoli above is looking promising... but I think the slugs have found it. (Yes,those are rosebay willow herb and yes, it was a mistake to leave them - but they are so beautiful!)

The most exciting thing is the new pond! More of that - and its guardians - another time.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Tending Brigit's Flame

I've recently rejoined Ord Brighideach, becoming a flame-keeper in Cill na Craoibhe Olóige, the Olive Branch, a group within the Order that I inititated about 12 years ago. I lapsed from it when my life went a bit haywire but  last month I finally decided the time was right to make the commitment to tend the flame again.

It's coincided with wanting to suspend writing any more articles - including the one about the Cauldron of Poesy - because I think I've had enough of such left brain activity (researching, ordering, codifying, making a coherent argument) and want to concentrate more on poetry, inner work and practice for a while. I'm sure I'll come back to the Cauldron at some point (maybe in the winter when I'm not in the garden so much) but it feels right to put it aside for now and move into something more free-flowing. 

My first shift was a wonderful experience. I have two shrines in my house now; one by the fire in the living-room and one in the hall. The latter came together in a totally unplanned way; the hall is very large and when I moved in 3 years ago it felt bare. The bottom part of a pine dresser needed somewhere to go so I put it there and it seemed to belong. Then I wanted a place to put a mirror that had belonged to my parents; the one thing I wanted most out of their house. It's antique, of dark wood with curly edges and a golden phoenix (or probably an eagle) on the top and it became for me a symbol of renewal. (I was reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix while I was staying in my parents' house, clearing and sorting out their things with my siblings. Harry's grief at the death of Sirius seemed to mirror my own.) The Phoenix mirror hangs comfortably above the dresser cupboard - in spite of being in a totally different style - and since it had been above the hall table in my parents' house that seemed fitting.

Next came a Buddha... My son and daughter-in-law had given it to me for a house-warming present (they bought it in Sainsbury's!) It was for the garden but after being there the first winter the paint started to crack so I brought it indoors, repaired it and put it on the dresser cupboard. It's rather beautiful. I'm not a Buddhist but I think of him as the Spirit of Contemplation and seeing him calm and at peace as day changes into night, summer into winter and sun into rain helps to remind me to keep a philosophical outlook as I go through the changes life brings.

Finally, the little head of Brigit I made in pottery class needed somewhere to go and I put her to the right of the Buddha and she was happy there. I spent 8 weeks making that statue. I used as a model the statue of a goddess or priestess wearing a torque found at a healing spring in Chamalieres, France and dated to the first century AD.

I thought of it constantly in between the weekly classes and couldn't wait to work on it. Sadly it came to pieces in the kiln but all was not lost: the head was intact and the body was in quite large pieces so it was possible to glue it together and in way, as it was a copy of an old statue, I thought it would add something to it. The pottery teacher said he would glue it and I decided he might make a better job of it than me so I left it to him. But horror of horrors - he didn't do it right away and someone from another class saw it lying on one of the shelves and threw it out! Thankfully, they left the head. I was devastated, as you can probably imagine! I do have a photograph of it though:

A patient of mine, a carpenter, made me a plinth out of reclaimed cedar, for the head to rest on and all was not lost. I was left with a gap on the left side of the Buddha and so it was natural to put the little statue I had made of Cernunnos based on the Gundestrup Cauldron there.


After this I realised that the hall was the perfect place for the shrine. It's in the centre of the house and I pass it several times a day.
A week or so before I started tending the flame again I bought a candle holder I'd had my eye on last year. It came from a sea-side shop selling useful items for caravanners and campers and what my mother would have called 'tat' - which I actually quite like! Shells and little ornaments and mobiles and windmills... But I had resisted buying this particular 'thing' because clearing out my parents' house and moving a couple of years later has made me very wary of 'things' - I've got too many of them and I'm not good at dusting... But one day, in  a weak moment, when I was in the shop buying some windmills (to put beside the baby leeks to keep the cats off) I bought it. And I'm so pleased I did - it's perfect. Not only is there space for two tea lights but there is a hidden pump (not too loud) which makes water cascade down the wall of the holder. The flame of the tea lights is reflected in the water giving the effect of fire in water, which I associate with the mystery of Brigit, and  the sound is gentle, evocative, musical.

It's called a Cordless Tealight Tranquility Fountain and cost £6.99. I thought it would also be a very nice thing to have if you had to go into hospital or somewhere rather sterile. (You could use some LED tealights.) They have them at Redsave if you're in the UK, or at

I don't know how it will be in the winter sitting in the hall by the shrine when I'm tending the flame, (not for the whole 24 hours of course!) but for now it is fine. How lovely it was to go into deep meditation, to say poems and prayers, to talk to Brigit, to connect. Willow, one of my cats, came out of the kitchen into the dark hall, lit only by the candles, and sat, unmoving, beside me for 20 minutes - both of us honouring the space.

One thing I noticed is that there are gaps in the 19 day cycle of tending the flame in Cill Olive (Brigit herself tends it on the 20th day) - shifts 8, 12, 15 and 17 need to be filled. This saddens me because it means the flame is not being kept alight on a permanent basis. If you would like to join me and the other flame-keepers at Cill na Craoibhe Olóige, the Olive Branch to tend Brigit's perpetual flame, that would be wonderful!

Here is some information from the site: "Each Flamekeeper is assigned a shift to tend Brighid's flame on a 20 day cycle - 19 shifts, plus one day upon which Brighid tends the flame herself. Since the Celtic day runs from sundown to sundown, we tend from sundown to sundown. The expectation is that you will tend the flame for as much of the day as possible, taking safety into consideration. If you can only manage a few minutes, that is acceptable, although tending the flame the entire day is optimal. The longer you are able to tend, the more energy we will be able to generate: an offering to this world and the otherworld, as well as to Brighid."

As I envisaged it originally, the Cill had the particular purpose of praying for peace - as it appears the Abbesses of Kildare once did. When I lapsed, the Order took over the Cill and its origins seem to have been lost and it is not now a requirement. However, if you're interested and you'd like to, you could say a prayer or a poem or think about peace - in the world or in your own life.

Here's a peace prayer I wrote:

We ask for the light of your flame
To enable us to see clearly,
To illuminate the darkness,
To show us the shadows
Cast by our own light.

May the flame of your inspiration
Help us to express and comfort,
To understand and explain -
Encourage us and guide our actions.

We ask for the gift of your healing
To soften our pain,
And mend the wounds
We have inflicted on one another -
Bless us and make us whole.

May the fire of your forge
Enable us to shape our future
With courage and determination,
Using the flame of justice,
Tempered by compassion.

We ask for your protection
Against all that would harm us.
May the beacon of your flame
Show us a path to peace
That all may follow.

Rob fír/May it be true.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Calling All Dragons - Heart of the Dragon Festival

Come and join the gathering of the dragons on 2nd July 2011 at Newcastle Emlyn, Castell Newydd Emlyn, in the Heart of the Teifi Valley in west Wales.

From the Heart of the Dragon Festival organisers

This amazing festival that hatched a new baby dragon in July 2007 at Newcastle Emlyn on the banks of the Teifi River in West Wales is sending this call to all dragons and dragon keepers around the world to come and join them in celebration of the return of the Dragon and the fulfilment of Merlin's prophecy on 2nd July 2011. In a combination of myths, new stories, ceremonies, a parade of dragons, a green fayre, and many other magical and exciting events for all.

A beautiful Golden Dragon Gate was installed at the entrance to the castle, thanks to the Town Council.
Also a giant carved oak chair now sits at the back of the Castle overlooking the grounds and the River Teifi, surounded by a mosaic telling the story of our dragon.
(Thanks to Pamela Gaunt, the Small Awards Lottery Fund and Sculptor Ian Johnston)


Merlin, the Dragon Queen, Tiamat, and the baby dragon will be there to bless the ground to fulfil the prophecy:

'When dragon oak is truly found, Merlin and Dragon will bless the ground.
With oak within the castle wall, the town will prosper for one and all.'


Both before and on the day to help us organise our dragons and their keepers. Also to help with the running of the Green Fayre and events of the day.

An amazing chance to work behind the scenes of a festival.

Contact Annette or Marc


If you have a product or service that would fit into the philosophy of the festival and fayre and would like to have a stall or space at the event; or advertise in the programme; or even become a sponsor of the festival then please Contact Annette or Marc

Please forward this - That way we can possibly reach every corner of the world and encourage all to come and join the gathering of the dragons at Newcastle Emlyn, Castell Newydd Emlyn, in the Heart of the Teifi Valley in west Wales. Also come yourself of course!

A Call to all Dragons, Dragon Keepers & Dragon Lovers everywhere

from the Heart of the Dragon Festival

Join us, on 2nd July, in bringing together the largest collection of dragons ever, to celebrate the return of the dragon - both our baby hatched in 2007 and now the Golden Dragon in 2011.

So come along and bring a dragon.

Your dragon can be large, small, drawn or worn; in groups or on its own; on a flag or a T shirt; in your hat or on a ring; sculptured, knitted, sewn; carried, pushed, floating - we have a river! or even flying; as a drink, food, or something growing; you can even read, sing, dance or play us your dragon's tale.

Whatever, you and your dragon will be very welcome to join us in this exciting challenge of gathering the dragons.

Obviously real dragons will be especially welcome

The Green Fayre

The FREE ENTRY Heart of the Dragon Festival has always had demonstrations of crafts and workshops around sustainability and a positive future, so this year it has been decided to give over the lower field of Newcastle Emlyn Castle Grounds to a Green Fayre so that we can have more stalls, events and workshops showing sustainable ways of caring for the lands of the dragon. So come along, join in, have fun and share the spirit of the dragon.

If you do not have a dragon - do not despair, as there will be workshops to make dragons and dragony things at the fayre. so you can then join us in the celebratory Parade of Dragons through town and around the castle in the afternoon.

The Story behind the Festival

The Old Story
The Last Dragon in Wales was killed in Newcastle Emlyn… Centuries ago on a hot summer’s day, the townsfolk were gathered for the annual fair. Suddenly above the noise of tradesmen, cattle, music and song was heard the most extraordinary sound. Grown men quaked in their boots and the onlookers were paralyzed with fear. There, in the sky above them, was hovering an enormous winged serpent. After circling for some time it came to alight upon one of the turrets of the castle and appeared to fall asleep.

The people were desperate to be rid of this fearsome beast. At last a tall young man strode to the front of the crowd, a red shawl under his arm, and a musket over his shoulder. He went into the river until he was waist deep and spread the shawl over his shoulders and took steady aim. The serpent rose into the clear sky. A shot rang out. The Dragon swooped towards the floating shawl and clutched it in its talons .Writhing in a whirlpool of blood, shawl and venom the serpent sank beneath the water never to be seen again.

As for the brave man, as soon as the shot had left his gun he had dived beneath the water and swum to the farther bank of the river and climbed out, none the worse for his ordeal. It was said that the fishing on the Teifi was not good that year, but whether it was due to the contaminated water or fear of the beast nobody knew.

The Facts
Stories are passed down orally over hundreds of years by many tellers and later written generally from one point of view for political propaganda, as well as entertainment!
The version above is the well known and recorded legend of Newcastle Emlyn - where heroes are good and dragons are bad.

But are they?

All around the world, for thousands of years, the dragon was a creature representing the power of nature, and still is beloved and revered in many cultures. In Wales we still see the magnificent creature on our flag, a symbol of national pride.

The castle in Newcastle Emlyn is one of the few built by the Welsh, and tracing the various versions of the story back over the different dates given, is, in itself, a fascinating exploration of Welsh history, of invasions, occupations and resistance.

Research reveals that the story could have originated as a record of a battle in 1403 when chieftain Owain Glyndwr, whose standard was a red winged Gwiber/serpent, seized the castle briefly from the occupiers, but the falling of his flag and the accompanying bloodshed ended this resistance… so is it a tragedy or a heroic feat, This killing of the Dragon?

The New Story
However, all good stories have a new beginning and this one is called Heart of The Dragon.

In midsummer 2006, a story was found in Newcastle Emlyn's shop windows telling of people’s love for the dragon. The Scouts made a nest and Protectors of the Dragon’s Nest and Guardians of the Dragon’s Story were appointed when over a hundred people called to the dragon from the hill top of the castle ruins. They were rewarded with finding a floating coracle on the serpent shaped river, which contained a dragon's egg! The dragon returned to where it was last seen: Newcastle Emlyn.

This egg was carefully tended by the protectors and guardian. During the year between the finding and the hatching of the egg it travelled across to other Dragon festivals around Europe: Ireland, Portugal and Poland.


Newcastle Emlyn hosted a two day Heart of the Dragon Festival in July 2007 that literally stepped into the story at the castle, with a medieval fayre and re-enactment of

the Last Dragon of Wales story and saw over 3000 people pass through its gates! There were prop making and historical costumes tents, birds of prey, music, storytelling, puppets, and much, much more for everyone to enjoy and participate in. There was an exhibition of the history of the castle and Owain Glyndwr for people to visit.

Then to bring the present into the stories of bloodshed and the wars of history, local schools, community and youth groups made processional dragons for a parade through the town accompanied by marching bands, stilt walkers and jugglers in the celebration of the return of the dragon. For the giant egg hatched and the birth of a new Baby Dragon was seen and given a welcoming ceremony.

In 2009 the baby was named amid further ceremonies, with Tiamat the Dragon Queen and Owain Glyndwr, and Merlin returned from the crystal cave who gave the prophecy that

‘When dragon oak is truly found, Merlin and Dragon will bless the ground
With oak within the castle wall, the town will prosper for one and all.’

Now on 2nd July 2011 this prophecy will be fulfilled with the oak tree found and carved into a Dragon Chair sitting in the castle grounds overlooking the River Teifi, and now to be blessed by Merlin. With this festival there is to be a call to all dragons and dragon keepers across the world to come and join the celebrations of this auspicious event at the Heart of the Dragon Festival and Green Fayre in the presence of Tiamat and especially the Golden Dragon.

The Philosophy

HEART OF THE DRAGON began as a community arts project in 2005 and around five thousand people have been involved in one way or another over that time in the festivals, events, workshops, writing, drama etc.

Heart of the Dragon has looked at this mythologically where locally, in our town, which has the legend of the Last Dragon being killed… we have reborn the dragon as a symbol of unity, hope for the future and care for our land of the dragon. We have attempted to honour the dragon as a national symbol (whilst not supporting nationalism) and bring the dragon off its perch on flags and castle turrets right down to the land, in fact as the Spirit of the Land. We have a creation story where the whole world is a living and breathing Dragon.

In our medieval fayres we have had demonstrations of scything, coppicing, natural dyeing and weaving etc. As we are primarily an arts project, people of all ages and backgrounds come to our events, because ceremony, procession, fun, magic, myths and storytelling, costume, music, dance and more appeal to all. Therefore we can be a platform for the so called ‘alternative’ to get seen by many in the so called ‘mainstream’ These are of course just words, basically we have been aiming to create a story which heals divisions in our community, created historically and politically, that reconnects people with their community and environment.

Like most movements that are pioneering new ways of being, especially environmental and sustainable, Heart of the Dragon looks back to the wisdom of the ancient and from that looking at how we can now begin to repair the damage we have done and are doing to our planet. So we work on the local, then national and then global levels, as do all projects endeavouring to bring in sustainability and global responsibility.

Links to Festival Sites

follow facebook links to see baby dragon being born

Email Addresses

Pamela Gaunt Artistic Director

Annette Ecuyere FestivalOrganiser

Marc Gordon Co-Ordinator

Wednesday, 1 June 2011


Verses of the Months

The month of June, beautiful are the lands,
the sea is smooth, the strands are gay,
long and fair is the day, women are lively,
the flock is abundant, the bogs are passable;

Mis Mehevin, hardd tiredd,
llyfn mor, llawen marianedd,
hirgain dydd, heinif gwargedd,
hylawn praidd, hyffordd mignedd;

Welsh c. 15th century