What is Cae Mabon?
Over the last few winters I’ve been writing a memoir, ‘Not Even A Stick… To Support That Dream’. The core of the book is the tale of my long and winding travels through Oregon, California, Mexico, Louisiana, Guatemala, Hawaii and Samoa between 1972 and 1976. It’s taken four decades before, with the help of scribbled journals, I’ve had time to write the story down. Scattered through my diaries I found glimpses of my journey’s ultimate destination: ‘I want the freedom to work hard and build, to live in rolling hills in a cabin in the country… to be part of a radical, creative, celebrational community, where I can be rooted and yet free.’ I even imagined the Druid high priests of the Celtic peoples and wondered if that’s where I was heading. These were fleeting visions of distant peaks, impossibly far yet mysteriously urging me on.
Now the dream is realised. I’m writing from that cabin in the country, that creative community. The place is Cae Mabon, the ‘Field of the Divine Youth’. Not surprisingly the influences on it are many. There is a touch of Californian commune, a hint of Mayan hill village, a dash of South Sea island, an Aboriginal desert dreaming. Yet in truth it’s a clearing in an oak forest on a Welsh hillside. A sparkling river, a wild force of nature, flows by to the lake where it has made a beach. West from the water’s edge is a view toward the sea. East is Snowdon, Yr Wyddfa, the highest mountain for four hundred miles and once, I believe, the sacred hub of the British Isles. Just ten miles away across the Menai Straight is Mona, in antiquity the island heartland of the Druids. ‘Cae Mabon’, says the Chief Druid of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, ‘is the most druid-like place I know in the world.’
In the oak forest clearing rustic cabins, cottages, lodges and huts cluster around a temple-like stone and thatch Celtic Roundhouse. The dwellings are made from natural materials like logs, timber, strawbales, hemp and cob. Each one is unique. The range of styles and materials so appealed to a professor of architecture that in 2008 he declared it ‘number one natural building project in the UK’. He called it ‘a Welsh Shangri La’ and said the planners had been won over by its ‘charm and magic’.
A small community of people lives here in service to others - groups of between 15 and 30 - who come to stay for a weekend or week. It isn’t only the green, radical, new age fringe that is drawn. Everybody comes, people from all walks of life and all over the world. Most are spiritually curious; many hope for healing or inspiration. There are extended family get togethers; dance and yoga workshops; storytelling and singing retreats; working parties, birthday parties; women’s, men’s and youth groups; forest school training; shamanic, neuro-magical and druidic gatherings; weddings and pixi camps; deaf families, doula women and didgeridoo players; scientists with a spiritual bent; sound healers, company managers, festival organisers… All sorts. There is usually something creative going on. Often people make ceremony and ritual. The social conviviality that is conjured generates radiance and positivity. Immersion in the natural world stimulates health and vitality. One wise man who passed by wrote: ‘sites such as Cae Mabon are like the region’s antibodies, playing a vital role in healing the crippling disconnection within Western culture between body, soul, spirit and place.’
In a primitive but comfortable natural setting, Cae Mabon is elemental. It offers the possibility of experiencing something ‘spiritual’. As a seventeen year-old once said: ‘Being here… is like being high on nothing!’ At Cae Mabon it’s easy to relax, open up and go deep. The walls have soaked in rich and profound happenings. The grooves of transformation have already been laid down. Masks and pressures of daily life drop away. People chat amiably as they cook, eat or wash up together. They loosen up, become playful, maybe even sink naked into the hot tub by the river. Sometimes they sit by the fire in the ancestral Roundhouse and listen to archetypal tales taking them back to once upon a time, tuning into the enduring wisdom and humour of folklore and myth. Such experience is expansive. It touches something old within. And that’s before they’ve walked down the path to the lake to swim or watch the sunset or see Snowdon.
All this, taken together, adds up to something: something that stirs the soul and awakens the imagination. It opens a door to the bigger picture and to what’s possible in the world. It’s timeless yet of the moment. It makes people believe in magic, rough and real. And because everything at Cae Mabon is natural, earthy and beautiful, spirits are everywhere. Or maybe it’s Spirit. It’s as if there is a portal here through which flows the Soul of the World.
Extracted from ‘The Quest for Mabon’, the prologue to ‘Not Even A Stick’.