Pig Blog #4 Immaculate Conception
Updated: Jun 9
My decision to explore Carmarthen was initially based on its having been identified as the place of Myrddin’s/Merlin’s birth and early life. The story tells us that his mother, a nun, became pregnant after being visited by an incubus. Luckily, she was sheltered by the church and her son, Ambrosious was swiftly baptised. This story may provide clues to actual events and insights into the ways of our predecessors. What insights does this story hold for us?
History changes all the time. As our ability to excavate and interpret ancient materials improves and new discoveries are made, we naturally update our understanding of the past. Equally, as our consciousness evolves, we gain new perspectives on past events and must re-evaluate our ideas and conclusions. So, from a 6th century Christian perspective it may be that Myrddins mother was impregnated by an incubus, a demonic spirit, but perhaps there are other interpretations and perspectives. My own view is that this story reflects a way of being associated with ancient, advanced civilisations and refers to the process of interdimensional conception. This is pure speculation and I evoke my right as a storyteller to make use of visions, instincts and imagination, all of which I consider to be a valid way of mining possibilities and certainly of birthing good stories, but what if these advanced civilisations existed? What if Myrddin, he who at one time was the Priest King of these Isles, was a highly evolved individual from this ancient culture able to incarnate with full consciousness of who he is and to maintain his advanced abilities through incarnations? You may or may not be aware of it, but interdimensional conception is not unheard of. Indeed, there are various cultures around the world that practice it in order to bring through children with extraordinary capacities. In some cases, these children come to assist in the evolution of humanity. Could it be that the incubus visitation story of Myrddins mother is a reference to this? It is certainly an intriguing thought and when we consider the abilities that are attributed to Myrddin, one worth entertaining. While we are on the subject, perhaps we might also reflect on the fact that Myrddin (the Scottish one) was said to have had a twin sister. Could this be a reference to a twin soul, in other words one which incarnates in both a feminine and masculine form? I shall return to this question in a later blog. For now, I will to share about my trip to Carmarthen.
Truth or Post Truth? Myrddin the animus loci of a town.
My research revealed that the idea of Carmarthen being the birthplace of Myrddin is far from certain and indeed some writers have made a strong case for this not being so. AOH Jarman in his book The Arthur of the Welsh suggests that the figure of Myrddin was based on the 6th century Scottish legend of a wild man of the woods called Llailoken. In a poem called Cyfoesi found in the Red Book of Hergest, a 14th century manuscript, which details a conversation between Myrddin and his sister Gwendydd, she refers to him as Llallogan Fyrddin, a Welsh form of the Cumbric Llailoken and the clearest evidence of the identification of this wild man of the North with the eponymous seer of Carmarthen. In short, the story of Myrddin in Carmarthen was made popular by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his book The History of the Kings of Britain albeit apparently drawn from ancient sources. As mentioned, the reliability of his work is questionable, and he seems to combine legendary elements with historical accounts to suit his own purposes. Wonderful gifts for a storyteller but not to be taken as fact.
In the Historia Brittonum attributed to the 9th century scribe Nennius and a source for Geoffreys History, Ambrosius Aurelianus was contemporary of Vortigern and a strong contender for the role of the fatherless youth, though he does state that his father was a Roman consul. This youth was found at Glywysing Glamorgan. Additionally, Giraldus Cambrensis in his Itinerarium Cambriae/The Journey through Wales distinguished between Merlinus Ambrosius (Emrys) and Merlinus Celidorius or Silvestor – in Welsh Myrddin Wyllt, he of the Scottish Lowlands tale. More on that in a future blog.
This understanding gave my visit a different complexion and I set forth with an open mind eager to discover just how much Myrddin is present in the town and surrounding area. Is it possible that a strong collective belief can influence the lived experience in a place, perhaps even bring the presence of that energy into being? The point is not whether Myrddin existed in human form and was born in one place or another but rather how his influence is apparent. In the words of Joseph Campbell ‘A myth doesn’t have to be real to be true.’ There is such a thing as post truth theory. The Oxford Dictionary definition of post-truth makes this clear; post-truth refers to “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”.
With this in mind I ventured into the town with Jo Bond of Mama Creatives as my companion. Jo lives at the Heartwood Community, which was kindly hosting me for my stay and has taken a great interest in the Mochyn Myrddin project. I welcomed her company. The library seemed a good place to start, though to my surprise there was not a lot of information available. However, I was given a folder of documents that included an interesting newspaper article detailing a talk given in 1983 for the Llandovery Welsh Learners club. The talk was given by Nikolai Tolstoy, grand nephew of Leo Tolstoy, and was a presentation of the evidence he had discovered for Myrddin having been a 6th century seer based in Scotland. I highly recommend Nikolai Tolstoys book, The Quest for Merlin in which he details the sources of his research and reasons for his conclusions, it is most compelling. The Llandovery community thought so too and presented Count Tolstoy with a piece of Welsh pottery, a Welsh cheese and a Welsh translation of a novel by Pushkin.
Regardless of the reality behind the associations, to this day there is still a strong identification of Myrddin with Carmarthen, and I must say I did feel his presence there. The region is called Bro Myrddin and Carmarthen has more than its fair share of places named after Merlin/Myrddin. There has been significant regeneration in recent years, and I discovered a thriving town with lots of character and independent businesses. There are holistic health, new age and wholefood shops as well as organic cafes, galleries and art shops, a pay what you can canteen and a Nurture Centre providing community activities and arts. In the Merlin’s Walk shopping centre there is a magnificent statue of Merlin carved from a locally felled oak tree, and we find Merlin Street, Myrddin Crescent, Merlin Restaurant, Merlin Property Maintenance, The Merlin Room in the Register Office, Fairfield Merlin Stages Rally. Merlin is an undeniable part of the local identity.
In the Heartwood. Merlin’s Oak.
Of particular interest is Merlin’s Oak, a tree that at one time stood at the centre of the town, a focus for communal and ceremonial gatherings for who knows how long? The most recent tree perhaps being propagated from an acorn of an older tree which may have been the offspring of an even older tree. A prophesy arose around the tree that ‘when Priories Oak shall tumble down, then shall fall Carmarthen town.’ The priory is thought to be the place where Myrddin lived with his mother. I like to fantasise that the young Myrddin placed an acorn in the ground with protective spells to ensure its growth to maturity. There was a tree in that spot until the early 19th century when it was sadly poisoned by a local man who objected to the tradition of gathering around its spreading branches. Due to fears that the prophecy might come to pass the tree stump remained in place for many years, secured in concrete and circled by iron railings until 1978. It was finally removed after someone set light to it and the last remnants are preserved in the local museum at Abergwili, where it can be seen to this day. Apparently, 10 years after the removal of the tree, Carmarthen experienced the worst flooding in 100 years. Water rose so high it ran over the city wall submerging streets and buildings. The prophecy in action?
Jo and I headed to the museum to see the remains of this oak tree. It was quite something to witness that a piece of tree had held such significance to the people of the town as to be kept for prosperity on display in the museum. We stood peacefully beside it tuning in and visioning the many gatherings that may have taken place around it, leaving their echo in its wood. I felt a strong sense of the importance of valuing our trees and of taking time to gather as a community to honour the nature around us. Regardless of whether this tree had anything to do with Myrddin, it carries something of his druidic spirit and the wisdom of living in deep communion with the beings of nature we share this land with. Whilst we were at the museum, we also took a look at the Rembrandt painting on display – a stunning portrait of his wife and muse Saskia attired as Flora, a nature goddess!
So, at the end of the first day, I was filled with the sense of Myrddin having a clear influence over the identity and atmosphere of Carmarthen, one which may be increasing rather than diminishing with time, giving life to the arts scene and invigorating the community spirit. Later I learned from Stacy, a member of the Heartwood community, that Carmarthen is the oldest town in Wales. This may be due to its strategic position near the river Tywi or perhaps dates to a time when the energy currents beneath the land were considered to be just as important as the presence of water. If so, perhaps it was once a site of spiritual significance. Close by to the town is a prominent hill upon which once stood an iron age hillfort. Bryn Myrddin or Merlin’s Hill was of course the next stop on my Carmarthen exploration!
The Hills are Alive. Bryn Myrddin and the mighty 11.
Thanks to Jo putting the word about, 11 of us, ranging from babies to Grandmothers, met at Alltyfyrddin Farm for our expedition. We were greeted by the farmers wife who told me her story. Her husband’s family had owned and run the farm upon which the hillfort stood, for several generations. She explained that they had become rather fed up with the number of visitors to the site and especially the problematic parking, blocking their gates etc. Eventually it was a case of ‘can’t beat ‘em join ‘em’ and the family decided to create a parking area and a visitor’s centre, with displays, not only about the hillfort and the story of Myrddin but also of local culture. She was of the opinion that Myrddin did exist and that he was born in Carmarthen.
It was a beautiful sunny day with puffy clouds majestically poised in the clear blue sky. We gathered on the top of the hill and took in the incredible views. This is certainly a power-spot, and a vantage point for the whole Bro Myrddin. Dyffryn Twyi stretches southwards, with Afon Twyi meandering like a huge snake towards the sea at Carmarthen Bay. The children ran and played and the rest of us made camp, chatting and sharing food. When we were all gathered together, I told stories of Myrddin, his birth in Carmarthen and journey to Dinas Emrys where he was to give his first prophecy. I felt a powerful rush of energy as I related the prophecy, a version crafted by storyteller Eric Maddern. It has always inspired me, and I am reminded of the first time I heard it from Eric which felt like a real transmission from beyond! The next story was more playful but none the less encoded with druidic wisdom; the story of a quest through 7 magical forests to find Merlin’s cave. I then spoke of the real magic we all have access to, our own dragon energy that relies on our willingness to step into our creative power. We considered what we would each like to bring to the world and I gave each person a flat piece of slate gathered at Aberystwyth beach. We wrote words and drew on the stones to express our intentions and then gathered in a circle for a ceremony, placing the stones one by one in the middle of the circle. In this magnificent and powerful place with the blue sky above us and a joyful feeling in and around us we created a dedication to restore balance and peace in the world singing ‘may it be so.’ As I drummed Jo, who was wearing a pair of white angel wings began to dance and her daughter Phoebe, who was dressed in bright red satin joined her in an enactment of the duelling of the two dragons, the red and the white. It was an unplanned and highly symbolic happening! But the question remained, where was Myrddin’s cave? The children went searching. Perhaps it was indeed hidden by time and Earth movements? Perhaps, as one story relates Myrddin is still entombed in the cave under the enchantment of Nimue his sorceress lover?
I took a few moments by myself to let my mind go quiet and what appeared there was a vision of a procession of folk all colourfully dressed, some in otherworldy attire as wizards and fairies, playing music and carrying flowing banners. I had a sense of the potential for a Myrddin day, to build on what we had created that day and to celebrate this aspect of local history. Our individual power to influence the collective is increased by coming together in the spirit of joy and magic. I later discovered that up until 2017 there had been a Merlin Day in Carmarthen. Perhaps it could be time to reactivate the tradition? I certainly intend gathering again at Bryn Myrddin next year and perhaps fulfilling the vision!
Thank you for reading this blog. Please comment and let me know your thoughts and experiences. I’d love to hear them. Next blog will be on my trip to Scotland.