My early memories of evenings with warming mugs of cocoa and listening to the stories of Taliesin filling my imagination before I went to bed. This was a relaxing time, easing the mind ready for sleep at my Nan’s house. In my innocence I compared the stories from The Mabinogion to the myriad of other fairy tales and legends that fuelled my dreams with fantasy and adventure.
Modern thinking would call it escapism from the realities of a confused child going through school life. It was a school life where I was always the outsider, the odd one out, a freak and out of the loop of so-called social normality. All a child wants is to feel they belong and fit in with their peers. My life has taught me I had no chance of that.
My connection to nature, wild life and the Earth had no logical explanation in my Christian upbringing. My sense of self did not fit in with the image of a young girl I saw in the mirror. Those times spent with my Nan and her stories were precious and yes, escapism from all the confusion I could not explain.
The story of Taliesin always resonated within me, even if I could not explain it. It was in a strange way a stabilizing factor of those turbulent years of childhood and teenage, when life is ruled by so much disillusion, exams, confusion and the change from child to adult. Art and writing became a means of expression within my diary, expressions of self for self, and often self hating self.
During puberty religion as I knew it showed itself to be my nemesis, the barrier restricting me to the prison cell of what should be. A prison cell it would take thirty years to truly escape from. Thirty years in which beliefs, awareness and self-acceptance would change and change radically.
In my twenties motherhood took over. My sons became my focus and I could share the stories told to me with them. This sharing took on a greater meaning when my Nan passed to spirit and I learned the spirit stays with us in memories, stories and our hearts.
Nan’s passing also kicked my sense of belief as it made me all too aware the religion I knew meant I could never be reunited with those I love, the scriptures made that clear and there was nothing I could do about it. How could I even begin to believe that? The old Welsh tales took on an even greater meaning, and opened the door to a different way of believing and worship – that of Paganism and witchcraft.
It is also in my twenties I also truly became aware of my feelings of alienation within womanhood. This was a place I simply did not belong. The more I tried to fit in the more obvious it was that I did not and never would. As I approached thirty I was as confused and lost as I always had been but I had a determination to work it out.
I spent more time in and with nature: watching it; listening to it; writing it my observations down and drawing them into my reality. For the first time I let myself enjoy the relationship between the Earth and a man. All in secret of course, but in this secrecy I was waking up to the truth, the truth of self.
Paganism and nature were now vital parts of my life. Spiritually I had found my home in the Celtic and Welsh traditions that had formed the fantasies of my childhood and youth. Creative writing courses suddenly started appearing on leaflets and in the local newspaper, and I saw it as a sign to do something I had always longed to do. So I signed up, I found my medium for telling stories, fact and fiction, more often fact deeply hidden in fiction and I learned to write poetry. Until then poetry had been an ancient mystery even something divine – or so I thought.
Through poetry I could release the contents of my heart, mind and soul. I could release my beliefs, my loves, my sense of self and the pain of being me. Writing made me face the truth and find the answers. In fantasy I could do that.
As I approached my forties someone suggested a Bardic Path would suit me. I did not agree because Bards were Welsh and although my spiritual home is indeed Wales I am English born. Bards were men and no matter how male I felt within my body was female. Bards were Taliesin, almost godlike, and I certainly could not claim that. Bards are Druids, I am not a Druid.
My forties have proved to be a major period of personal transition, a transition that is nowhere near over but it had brought me to the point in life I am at now. Through my ritualistic Pagan practices, watching nature and opening up to divinity and its male polarity my need to identify and be recognized as a man have become evident. The concept of a Bardic Path began to intrigue me, like a magnet pulling at the iron filings of self.
Only two years ago I took a retreat of a few days walking and climbing in Wales. And so it was I sat on the peak of Cader Idris and that magical mountain did what it does. To live as a man I needed a new name and this had been weighing on my mind. Jeremy was always the lead runner but something else was nagging away. As much as I adore Taliesin and recognise him within my spiritual life it seemed almost blasphemy to consider it.
I sat on the mountain thinking of Taliesin’s story and how he came to be. The story of a transition from a boy, Gwion, to a man and Bard, Taliesin. So on a mountain Jeremy Gwion came to be – I had my rebirth and it was Welsh.
I am still not a Druid but I understand Druidry better now and its connection to Celtic traditions. I can live with that.
All my reasons for not taking a Bardic Path that attracts me are gone. Who am I to argue with that? Okay, Taliesin, bring it on!
© Gwion chan Beithe