The Punchbowl is deep. Very deep. Very steep.
Go up to Wam Barrows – spend a moment or several there, it’s always good to greet the Wights who guard the land up there. And the goddess. Then walk down towards Winsford. The path is easy, straight and leads you. The beasts use it, follow in their steps.
I did this.
The day was bright, that washed blue that is also so intense that comes around the time of the spring equinox, the balance time when light and dark are equal. Larks sang, rising up like tiny Harrier jets out of the black-swaled heather, trilling, singing, guarding their nests and celebrating the light. They are so much a part of this land.
I walked down.
She was waiting for me, all red and black with a tiny touch of white, shifted into a Mousie. Her yearling filly grazed nearby. She glowed in the sunlight.
As I closed with her she raised her head, looked me in the eye, chewing softly on a mouthful of new spring grass the while.
We stood together, at gaze, at bay, she sizing me up, me wondering what would come next. The sunlight crackled like static electricity.
‘Harrumph!’ she snorted, tossed her head, took a step towards me.
I stood as still as a standing stone.
On she came, closer, until her soft mealy muzzle whiffled against my sweater.
The light had changed. Sudden and yet subtle, I’d not noticed until now. At Wam Barrows it had been just gone midday but now, here, dusk was falling and the Moon lifted over the edge of the land to stand in the sky opposite the sun. the time of the two lights, of twilight, the time of opening the gates.
‘Will you ride with me?’
The words shone inside my head, the Mousie offered me a journey.
‘I will,’ I said.
I took a grip of mane on her withers and vaulted astride her. Immediately the skin of my inner thighs tingled, the electric feeling spread through my legs and body, lifted the hair on my head. This was no Mousie.
She turned her head to grin at me, stark bone, eyes that were pools of darkness, and teeth …
I was astride a kelpie, the water-horse, spirit horse who carries you across the worlds and takes you into places you never even dreamed existed. Madness can follow such a journey. Once aboard there is no going back until the kelpie lets you go, you must ride with her, see what she shows you, go through whatever she takes you to.
There was no time for more than a gulp of breath and we were off.
She leapt off the side of the Punchbowl, a vertical drop of hundreds of feet, galloping along a road I would not see except I was astride her, seeing with her eyes. The road spiralled round and down, widdershins about the deep bowl of land, the hole, the entry into the Underworld.
Round and round we went, round the edge of the bowl, then round again but deeper now, deeper into the Earth, flying over the tops of the trees and the heather and the rocks, her feet striking up sparks from the silver Moon-road that spins its way down to Underworld. Darker and darker it was, yet still I could see. My eyes were kelpie eyes now.
The inner Earth glows, did you know that? Earth-light shines and spins from the crystal matrix that holds our planet. Now I was seeing by the light of the Earth. I had begun this journey by the light of our star, of the Sun; I met the kelpie as the Moon rose; now she took me into Earth-light. The triskele in real-time.
Deeper, deeper we went, down into the worlds of the Ancestors. Her hooves touched down into the silver grass. She stood while I took in my surroundings.
We were in a grove of trees surrounding a great old oak, his twisted antlers reaching every which way into the darkness that held the grove. He shuddered, shifted, shook his antlers and I saw him. Gwyn ap Nudd is awesome.
‘What would you have of me, Youngling?’ he asked.
I am not young. I am well on into my Croneship. But compared to him I’m a newborn babe.
‘What would you offer me?’ I ask in my turn then, remembering, ‘and what is the price?’
He chuckled, a deep rich sound, and came towards me. His feet are tree-roots and yet they are feet too. The kelpie shook her back, indicating I must dismount.
I slither to the ground, stand in the silver grass, waiting.
He comes to me, holds out his hand, I take the silver cup, stand holding it.
‘What is the price?’ I ask again.
‘You will never again see as you did before you came here. Are you content with that?’
‘What does that mean?’ I ask, still holding the cup, not drinking.
‘You stand at the balance point. The balance of the Sun. the balance of the Moon at her fullness, when she tips towards death and darkness.’
I think for a moment. ‘I can see in the darkness,’ I tell him. ‘I can see in the Earthlight.’
‘You can see within the Earth. How do you see this may help?’
I think again, sense into the grove, the inside of the planet, the god who stands before me. One of his jobs is herding the dead, he is a soul-leader.
‘If I can see inside the Earth then perhaps I can better understand her needs, the needs of Sovereignty, of the Lady, of the Mother Earth.’
A wide grin spreads across Gwyn’s face, a rumbling chuckle sounds through he grove. Have you ever heard an oak tree laugh? His hand, a huge branch, reaches to the kelpie, strokes her forehead, infinitely gentle.
‘You chose well,’ he tells her.
I put the cup to my lips and drink. Silver moon-fire slides down my throat, electrifying. I feel I am born again. I pass the cup back to Gwyn, nodding my thanks.
I mount the kelpie again and again she leaps to run the silver road, deosil this time, sunwise, up and up into Middle Earth. My head spins.
Again, I find myself on the rabbit-bitten grass at the edge of the Punchbowl. Again she nuzzles my breast, shifted back into her Mousie form.
‘Thank you,’ I say, offering a kiss to her mealy muzzle. It is accepted. She turns from me and back to her yearling filly again.
I turn away too, follow the straight road back up to Wam Barrows. I am tired, there is so much to absorb, embody. I climb into the hollow of the Barrow and curl up beneath a bush of furze to sleep out the day.
behind every gifted woman there’s usually a rather talented cat …