Pig Blog # 1 Mochyn Myrddin/ Merlin's Pig
Updated: Jun 9
#21st Century survival of an artist #PersonalQuest#Leylines
Welcomes, thank yous and hot off the press news.
Croeso pawb, welcome all to Pig Blog No 1. This blog will document and share my journey over the next 7 months researching and developing a storytelling performance entitled Mochyn Myrddin / Merlin’s Pig. I invite you to join me on this journey by following this blog and contributing your thoughts and personal stories. In this, my first ever blog, I will enlighten you further as to what this project is about, the journey so far and how I intend it to unfold. We can then enjoy seeing how it develops a life of its own!
So, to begin. I am thrilled to announce that I have been awarded a research and development grant of £9,764 from Arts Council Wales to fulfil this project. The grant will enable me to delve deeply into all aspects involved in the creation of a storytelling show that is relevant, entertaining and illuminating (all being well!) Deep thanks to Arts Council Wales, to Henry Rees for his guidance and encouragement, to the decision panel for granting me this opportunity and to all the staff who make this process possible.
I am also grateful for the support of Aberystwyth Arts Centre in the form of rehearsal space and the hosting of a performance of the finished work in July 2023. Big thanks to Louise Amery for putting her confidence in me.
Additionally, I would like to acknowledge Peter Stevenson for his incredible work and to express my gratitude for all the inspiration, encouragement and opportunities that he has given me, especially in agreeing to host a work in progress performance of Mochyn Myrddin at the Aberystwyth Storytelling Festival in October 2022. Peter will also be my Bardsey guide.
So, what is it all about?
I sit here at my desk in many layers of clothing, a woolly shawl, a hot water bottle at my back, like the garret artist in The Happy Prince though not quite; I do have central heating but with fuel prices what they are I am being conservative in my usage. A sign of the times indeed. I will adapt. We humans have an amazing capacity for adaptation; that is one of our nature powers and something that has guided the conception of this work. The decision to follow my passions, over doing a job just to pay the bills, was made long ago and whatever occurs on the world stage, be it natural disaster, disease or war, my response is the same; tell stories. There is an acceptance in this, that we all have a unique niche to fill in the collective. It’s not my job to save the world on my own, and perhaps what I’m doing is somehow quite important? Perhaps what we experience in the world is an outcome of the stories we tell? Perhaps if we consciously engage in the process, we can cut new pathways through the woods?
Stories have certainly influenced the direction of my life, and this project has its roots in my childhood enjoyment of reading, especially Arthurian legends whilst holidaying in Cornwall. The stories on the page came alive in the landscape. Tintagel castle and Merlin’s Cave made a profound impression and led me to consider; were the stories true? Many years later I revisited the area with my son, Orion, and we stayed in a yurt on an organic pig farm. Pigs are a big part of the picture too. Pigs, and the dragons which are their evolution. Dragons which, according to some schools of thought and as implied in the stories, live in and power up the energy grids within the Earth. It was when I came to Wales however that things started to make sense. Stories, culture, the land, language and song are vividly connected here. I breath more freely, I feel more fully.
Myths, folk and fairy tales seem to be a link to our ancestors and to the deeper understanding of nature they possessed. This is part of my motivation for studying and telling these tales; maintaining our heritage and restoring lost knowledge as the stories work on us. The challenge is to respect the integrity of the way they have been crafted, trusting in the symbolism and at the same time teasing out what is still relevant and making it meaningful to contemporary audiences, bearing in mind that over the eons the tales have been told through the cultural lenses, biases and purposes of the societies and individuals who have told them. So, some poetic license and creative interpretation is needed and one way to keep on track with this is to tune in to one’s own instincts and to the natural forces that helped shape the original stories. Nature is unchanging. It evolves, but in essence the consciousness of nature is the same now as it was for our ancient forebears, those who lived in deep communion with it and encoded their understandings into the stories they told. Perhaps too, the characters in these ancient tales may speak to us still? Certainly, the archetypes these characters represent exist within each of us and may be accessed for insight into the facet of human nature they reflect. But I would go further. I propose that it is possible to reach a state of consciousness where we may communicate with non-ordinary forces which may be perceived in a form our mind can understand, such as a profoundly wise and powerful mage. Myrddin, for example. These experiences can be extremely helpful, just as in a fairy tale the presence of a benevolent supernatural being, a Godmother, helpful spirit or fairy can help to transform a challenging situation, if we approach them with good heart. Integrity is key in opening the way to the world beyond the world and the treasure it holds.
Living the myth
There are distinct moments in life when major shifts or realisations occur. Call it grace, good fortune or random happenstance, but there are ways of increasing their likelihood. Often these moments occur at times of extreme personal challenge which break up the comfortable patterns of life, thereby potentially enhancing the possibility of connection to the greater beingness within which the ego/identity exists. We may have an experience of being an interconnected part of something beyond ordinary reality, something with unlimited power, resources, wisdom and knowledge. We, the heroes of our own epic adventures, then have the choice of what we do with this. It takes courage and faith to take heed, to act, to leap into the new, and one aspect of this work is the telling of my own personal quest and how these key moments have redirected the course of my life, propelling me into the unknown and calling forth my superpowers. Perhaps my story will act as a breadcrumb on the path for others venturing into new territory? Particularly if that territory involves prioritising the fulfilment of deeply cherished and previously unrealised dreams. I don’t by any means identify myself as an expert in this and you must go elsewhere for well researched and consistent strategies for personal fulfilment, but I may have a few gems to add to your treasure box as you, like me, bumble along on your own mythic quest, content not to have it all worked out.
Surely there are feminine archetypes or Goddesses whose stories should be told at this time of restoration of gender equality? I certainly have not sought out Myrddin as an ally but somehow, he is there, appearing in visions, in the stories I have felt drawn to telling and speaking through the old oak trees that I seem to be most fond of spending time with. I am intrigued by the role Myrddin plays in the quest for balance between nature and culture, masculine and feminine, science and spirituality and in attempting to create a harmonious society. Within the context of this work the balance is found in Gwyndydd; the feminine aspect, sister, or twin of Myrddin, and of course there is the pig. Like Myrddin in the apple tree, when we find ourselves outside of the ordinary, perhaps allowing a little wild into our lives, we encounter the sow mother; intelligent, devoted and abundant, representative of maiden, mother, enchantress, crone, the fertile principal of nature, giver of life and fierce protector of her family, which is all of us. She is powerfully present in the tales and her story is worth telling. This question is one I intend to explore further and expand upon in future blogs.
What will I be doing?
Over the course of the coming months, I will be absorbing myself in ancient texts in the National Library (which happens to be walking distance from my home), working on my Welsh language and integrating more of it into the piece thanks to the translation work of Nia Huws, and consulting with Celtic scholar Gwilym Morus Baird. I will be updating my website and online presence with Satch Norton and making a promo video with Ashley Leung. Visionary artist Clive Hedger will be creating the Mochyn Myrddin marketing image.
A major part of this research and development entails travelling to certain locations featured in the stories to pick up the pieces of the picture each one holds. If you choose to you can journey with me. What are we seeking on this quest? The answer is part of the quest itself. We will know what we are seeking when we find it. But if I had to answer the question now, I would say that we are seeking meaning. This is why stories are so compelling and important. They are our way of making meaning, of illuminating the path through the woods and reassuring ourselves that there is an underlying pattern to life that, when we have some grasp of it, we can use as a compass. I am deeply interested in how the stories live on in the landscape and how their presence echoes into the present day. This can be experienced in the untouched wilds, the ancient sites and monuments, in the towns and villages and, most importantly, in the lives of people living in these areas. How do the stories still influence the atmosphere of a place, the perceptions we have of it and the things that happen there?
Where will I go?
I have already visited some of the key locations of these stories but there are significant ones still to be explored. I intend to return to the Preselli Hills in Pembrokeshire, a place where the myths most vividly endure. I will revisit Carmarthen, reputed to be Myrddin’s birthplace, where his magical oak tree stood till recent times and where a cave and a hill bear his name to this day. Travelling northwards, Dinas Emrys in Snowdonia is considered to be the place of Myrddin’s first prophecy and where the red and white dragons rose from the land. My most significant visit there was the time that I participated in a pilgrimage from Dinas Dinlle on the North coast. The pilgrimage was led by Eric Maddern, a profoundly inspiring man, a writer, storyteller, singer and many, many other things. It was from Eric that I first heard the Dinas Emrys story of Myrddin’s prophecy at a performance in Machynlleth. Eric invited us all to imbibe a sip of special mead, and I subsequently had a most unusual and illuminating experience. When Eric reached the part of the story where he spoke the prophecy, he literally shapeshifted into Myrddin. I kid you not, it was what I can only describe as a ‘Lord of the Rings’ moment – full on special effects in force – and I felt like Myrddin was speaking directly to me. I am most grateful to Eric for introducing me to the story and the location, and the pilgrimage was a deep initiation into a fuller understanding of the connection between land and stories, a journey along what Eric has identified as a ‘songline’ of Wales.
The stories tell us that Myrddin was once the mage of King Gwenddolau of Scotland. After the tragic defeat of Gwenddolau at the battle of Arderydd, it is said that Myrddin fled to the forest where he lived as a wildman among the trees and animals. In one account the specific location to which Myrddin fled is identified. I am very excited to be adventuring North to find this place, to explore its beauty and tune in to the whispers on the wild wind and in the singing waters. Whilst there, I will seek opportunities to speak with the locals and visit nearby places of interest.
On returning to Wales, I will head to Ynys Enlli/ Bardsey Island. Long have I longed to visit Ynys Enlli. It is a place of great magnetism and wild beauty, so this is really the fulfilment of a dream. Some say that Myrddin brought the 13 treasures of Britain to the Island, that he spent his final days and is buried there. Thousands of saints are reputed to have pilgrimaged to Ynys Enlli and found their final peace there, so it is not beyond reason to consider it as a contender for Myrddin’s sanctuary. Regardless, it is undoubtedly a place where the potential for receiving the awen or divine inspiration is intensified. Most importantly I will be guided in my experience by Peter Stevenson. Peter is an exceptional artist/illustrator, writer, folklorist and storyteller. He spent a large part of his boyhood living on the Llyn Peninsula and has a deep relationship with the island, its stories, wildlife, people and culture. With Peter’s help I hope to discover some of Ynys Enlli’s secrets. How did it come to host the rarest apple tree on Earth? What is the significance of Pig Snout Bay? Why is it known as the House of Glass? Is there a link here to Avalon, the Isle of Apples? Perhaps the colony of seals that live in the bay have something to say about it?
By June I will have gathered my material and will settle into crafting it into a finished piece, rehearsing under the expert eye of theatre director Bethan Dear. Bethan is a unique and accomplished performer and director with a highly dynamic approach. I am curious and excited to explore ideas for presenting what promises to be a rich piece of storytelling. The story of Myrddin’s time in the magical apple tree, where he communed with a wild pig and a wolf, is a key element and the performance will also feature other Welsh myths. These may include the tale of Culwch and Olwen from y Mabinogion, the tale of Henwen, Myrddin’s first prophecy at Dinas Emrys and his retreat to Bardsey Island with the 13 treasures of Britain. My personal experiences will be another vital aspect, linking everything through experiences on the land.
On July 13th I will present a public performance of the finished piece at Aberystwyth Arts Centre. There will be a post-performance Q&A and an invitation for the audience to give their feedback.
Play your part
Thank you for reading Pig Blog No 1. I hope it has given you a taste of what this project is about and an appetite to know more and to follow the journey. If so, please sign up to receive updates; I will be regularly updating this blog throughout the next 7 months and intend to include images, short videos and creative snapshots. Perhaps you have something to contribute? Perhaps you live in the vicinity of a Myrddin-related location? Perhaps you would like to share your own stories? These may be related to Myrddin, pigs, apple trees, to the sacred landscape, or they may be tales of your everyday experiences living in these areas. It is all relevant, and what does not go into the final performance of this work may well contribute to ideas I have for going forward beyond this project. More on this in due course!
Along with sharing the stages of this journey with you, I intend to expand upon some of the topics I have mentioned here. For example, who was/is Myrddin/Merlin? Is it possible to access inspiration and knowledge by being in certain places on the land? Why are pigs important, actually and symbolically? How do Earth’s energy lines relate to the stories? How are these stories useful to us as we navigate modern-day challenges?
I hope you will join me. To do so, please email me at: email@example.com. I will add you to my mailing list and send you a notification when each new blog is published.