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The Dust of the Ancients Shall Be Restored

In this blog post, Eric and wordsmith Sam Ross who joined us from Normandy for Blessings of Beltane share some of the potent magic of Beltane Eve at Dinas Emrys. Sam’s words appear in quotation marks throughout.

A man is fanning the flames making a rhythmic beat, whoomph, whoomph, whoomph… The storyteller is swaying and stamping his feet to the beat in a subtle dance. From deep within him pours forth the ancient prophecy, a rap, a rant, a vision of the distant future, somehow remembered still.

The fire nestles in a cup of hills, its cusp crowned with ancient oaks, now silhouetted against the cobalt dusk sky. The group of men and women arrived late afternoon after travelling from sea to foothills, through a dramatic, cliff-guarded pass into the ring of mountains. Their destination was the hollow hill at the foot of the great mountain, Dinas Emrys, a meeting place since days of old. There the people made camp in flat spots scattered around the hillside.

Their journey had been along an ancient sacred trackway, one of the most mythically rich 20 miles in Britain. Today they stopped at the grave of Mabon, Great Son of the Great Mother. They sang improvised chants near his spring, stood in his thorn grove and took in the spectacular view from mountain cliffs to the sea. They travelled through Drws y Coed, Door to the Wood, a pass that can be seen as a Gateway to the Otherworld. They stopped by a quartz rich crag with an unequalled view of the highest mountain, Yr Wyddfa, the All Knowing One. It’s been said there was once a mystery school here. It would be the perfect place. Initiates could have made prayers, offerings and vows to the Far Seeing, High Standing One. This spot may have been an outpost of the Druids, their heartland being only a day’s walk away on the Mother Island. It’s the setting of so many stories about the Tylwyth Teg, the Fair Folk, that it’s known locally as ‘Tylwyth Teg Central’! It’s a scene charged with supernatural power.

The songline ends at the sacred heart of the mountains below the great peak. Stories are told of this ancient gathering place: of how dragons were buried there; of how a tower of a fallen Celtic king kept collapsing; of how it was the young Merlin who diagnosed dragons as the cause; of how he freed the dragons; of how, in the heat of their fire, he made a prophecy that has been remembered ever since.

Camp is made, the fire is lit and the pot is heating up barley and vegetables to feed ten women and men. There is party looking out for the rising full moon. It is Beltane Eve, 30thApril, a time when, in the old Cymric tales, mysterious and potent things happen. It’s the time when the screaming dragons once rose from the centre of the land causing devastation. It is the time when the young Taliesin was cut from the bag and spoke inspired poetry. It is birth of inspiration time. At the eternal citadel of Dinas Emrys there is already an aura of sublime potency in the air as the pilgrims await the moonrise.

“I remember cracking up at Stuart, as we were passing round the jam jar of tea, and he hit upon the fact that it sounded simply brilliant said in a posh Edinburgh accent: "Would you like a wee cup of weak liquorice tea?" It became something of a refrain. As did Angharad's Welsh "Jam jar o' de" which sounded almost like some mystical mantra to my ears... I think at one point we had some sort of a chant going that alternated "jamjarode-jamjarode" with "the dust of the ancients" - the sublime and the ridiculous side-by-side where they belong.”

The food cooks well and is enough. There is even rice pudding and tea, endless cups of liquorice tea from just a two teabags. Then, suddenly, the moon is over the rim of the hill, flooding the inner amphitheatre with its thin blue light. There is a song by the fire, an inspired poem. Then the last part of the Dinas Emrys story. It had been told on the way in. Now, in the firelight and the moonlight, it’s time for the end of the tale.

“Pete had been wafting the fire with the wooden plate (I think we all agreed that giving it a "waft" was the correct technical term) and he'd slipped into something of a whom-whom-whom-whom beating rhythm, he had stopped though so I took it up, and for a time the story is just a glorious shower of sparks for me, new lines of prophecy intermingled with the old, phrases becoming refrains while Eric waited for others to rise up and take their place, the sense of Merlin aquiver with dragon energy, inspired, shooting stars of fire, and the beat of the waft on the flames, I felt it was beating the hollow like a drum, and I felt the earth was hollow beneath us, and I remember us joining Eric at the prophecy's end "and the dust of the ancients shall be restored, the dust of the ancients shall be restored, the dust of the ancients..." magical times.”

The fatherless boy brought to be sacrificed to make the tower stand turned out to be the young Merlin. He had ‘second sight’ and could see the buried dragons. He gave instructions for their release. Supercharged by their power he inhaled the breath of prophecy and spoke.

A man is fanning the flames making a rhythmic beat, whoomph, whoomph, whoomph… The storyteller is swaying and stamping his feet to the beat in a subtle dance. From deep within him pours forth the ancient prophecy, a rap, a rant, a vision of the distant future, somehow remembered still.

‘Root and branch shall change places and the newness of the thing shall seem a miracle. The healing maiden will return, her footsteps bursting into flame. She will weep tears of compassion for the people of the land, dry up polluted rivers with her breath, carry the city in her right hand, the forest in her left and nourish the creatures of the deep. With her blessing man will become like God, waking as if from a dream… ’ And on to the final words: ‘the dust of the ancients shall be restored’. A 13-year-old girl by the fire begins to chant: ‘the dust of the ancients shall be restored, the dust of the ancients shall be restored’.

“I was so eager to jump the fire I just leapt it shouting "weeee" & only after did I learn we were meant to think of a wish-word we wanted to bring into the world, "oh great, so on this magic night I could've had one wish and all I came out with was weeeeee." What made me laugh is just after I said that Daisy jumped the fire and said the very same thing "weeeee" Haha, so maybe it was just a big non-specific well-wishing for the lot of us, that WE all might just enjoy the ride a little more: weeeeeee!

Ah yes: howl / owl - we had been howling, which naturally had become owling, just those natural full moon kinda capers, and Eric said "I know a story about owls" and we suddenly really wanted to hear the owl story, but you got a little way in before realising that it was perhaps a bigger story than you had remembered, and said: "OK well this is the point that either I stop or we'll be up all night" and we laughed and decided it was probably best just to stick to the schedule.”

… The hush that followed - it was so wonderful - so powerful, so very present - and I really dig that - how something so quiet, so, in a sense, absent, can be so present - but it was surely a hush and not a silence - hush with all the connotations of being quieted in order that we may listen, and also that we would be heard - hush in the sense of a mother hushing an upset child - a feeling of being held, comforted - really a fantastic vibe in the place! For me the strongest sense in that hush, was of being observed, and of our having given a space to acknowledge the voiceless nature of that, the pure gaze of our being together with beings beyond history - there was a whiteness in the dark for me - stemming from the fire behind my closed eyes - but amplified by the listening (glistening) - the spreading out of awareness - the feeling that only in, or with, silence can some things be said - and it was as if this light was cast onto the walls around us, the amphitheatre aglow, glowing right from the bones of the stones, from the inner of everything, us included, and these stones/earth-bones gathered, enjoying us as we enjoyed ourselves, seeing what was in us, what we meant, what we felt, that we came to laugh, to play, to tell old stories new and sing a few songs and tell jokes and live poetry - I felt in communion with something both nature and ancestor, a place that people had become, and it related to us, to how we had related to it, we became part of that continuum, in eternity...”

In the morning new, freshly minted prophecies were spoken by those people in that place. They were sent out along the vibe-ways that radiate from the ancient hub of Dinas Emrys, sent out to touch the hearts and minds of humanity and to heal the world. A small and insignificant act perhaps, but mysteriously potent nonetheless.

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