THE BIRTH, AND LOVE, AND ALCHEMY
GWRI GOLDEN HAIR
GWRI GOLDEN HAIR
"Ah, Charles, my good man, good to see you, good to see you, do come in." My tutor, Captain Cuppalot, stood aside to allow me into his cottage. His wife Myrtale poked her head around a door and greeted me warmly, her hands powdered with acorn flower up to her elbows, and I heard young Empathogenia, their eleven year old daughter, singing something in Latin in the kitchen.
"Would you mind awfully if I just finished this part of the design I'm currently working on?" asked Cuppalot. "The Gaels of Drogheda have commissioned me to design a stained glass window for the Chapel of Caer, the Swan Maiden of Eire. But I've just boiled up a kettle of saffron and honey tea. Sit down, have a sip, make yourself at home, and I'll be with you in a moment."
I sat on the nearest stool and helped myself to tea as Cuppalot took his place at his desk, picked up compasses and drew a few arcs onto what appeared from where I was sitting to be a pattern of great intricacy.
"Now if you just put this h'yar, like so, and draw an arc through to h'yar, like that, then draw a perpendicular h'yar, running through h'yar and h'yar, and then bisect thusly h'yar, ahah! Just as I suspected!" Cuppalot had reached a satisfactory conclusion to whatever it was that had been occupying him, such that he could now take a break and cast his attention back to me.
It was, I think, only the second month since my enrolment in the Academy. All that Cuppalot had told me prior to our meeting was that he wanted to send me somewhere rather wonderful. I thought of the temple-strewn banks of the wide-flowing Nile, of the exotic incense-filled shrines of Siva in the far off Indes, of beautiful Zen gardens and many-levelled pagodas even further afield. It now transpired, however, that the place in question was considerably more local and went by the name of the British Temple of Sminthean Apollo. He wanted me to go and stay in the area for a few days so that I'd have plenty of time to have a look round. Little did I realize that this place would come to seem more beautiful, more magical, more wonderful to me than anywhere across the seven seas.
Standing up from his desk, he invited me to bring my tea with me as he lead me out of the study and into the drawing room where we sat down in large comfortable arm chairs. We sipped the remainder of our tea as he began to explain how I was to find this British temple that he wanted me to visit.
"It is a matter of locating a point of intersection between two lines that run across the map, or rather across two different types of map."
I heard Empathogenia rush past in the corridor outside chanting excerpts from the Orphic hymn to Apollo.
"Come and play outside, darling." Myrtale's voice. I think she wanted to allow myself and Cuppalot some peace and quiet.
"Sorry," I said, "two lines, on two different types of map?"
Cuppalot then explained to me how these two landscape lines account for two different versions of the story of what happened to she who was said to be the most beautiful woman in the world, a symbol of beauty on Earth, Helen.
Beyond the French windows Myrtale and Empathogenia were now in evidence moulding cakes of acorn flour dough into the shapes of the Platonic Solids.
"Two stories of Helen's journey away from Greece, one for each of the landscape lines," said my venerable tutor . "The story which you are familiar with is that chosen by Homer, which describes how she sailed with Paris to Troy."
"But another poet," Cuppalot continued, "namely Stesichorus, had reason to believe this was not correct, as we hear in the lines of one of his palinodes:
"I spoke nonsense and I begin again:
The story is not true.
You never sailed on a benched ship.
You never entered the city of Troy.
"According to Plato, Stesichorus was initially blinded after writing a poem in which he slandered Helen, but after writing his recantation his sight was returned."
"Indeed. Homer of course remained blind," continued Cuppalot, "and I see no reason for us not to wonder along with Plato whether this was because he held on to the notion that Helen went with Paris to Troy."
I raised my eyebrows.
"Oh, make no mistake about it," continued Cuppalot, "the slander was a severe one. Think of how much more ready people of our own age would be to embrace the Greek model of liberty, flair, excellence, of myth-centered cultural expression, of proportion and beauty if there had been greater sexual equality. Ingrained in the Greek experience of themselves was this notion of Helen's infidelity, rather as the Hebrews blamed Eve, because the Homeric epics were almost like myths of Greek emergence."
I made an expression while nodding that showed a cocktail of feelings: surprise at the information itself, respect to Stesichorus, comprehension of the weightiness of the subject matter.
"The alternative version of the story to which a minority of the Greeks adhered," said Cuppalot, "is that Paris did not abduct Helen, but that Zeus instructed Hermes to take Helen off to Egypt and entrust her to the care of the Pharaoh at Memphis while a phantom Helen made from clouds by Hera was sent to Troy with Paris. The British equivalent of the false or phantom Helen is Guinevere, whose original name in the Cymric tounge means 'White Ghost', with the true British Helen being the Branwen."
I knew that, though sometimes Cuppalot would toss in these asides, the key thing was to keep my focus on the main thrust of his gist, to which he returned in due course.
"The first of these landscape lines," he told me, "is called the Wondrous Way of Sminthean Apollo, and it is a rhumb line, in other words just a line that keeps a constant bearing to the cardinal directions, and this bearing is 30 degrees south of East and the line runs directly, in this manner, to the ancient site of Troy. The line runs pretty much from Harlech on the Welsh coast down through Greenwich in London by the Thames, then down through Maidstone and Ashford, reaching the coast at Hythe.
The second line is called The Great Circle of Khufu, because it is just that, a great circle rather than a rhumb line, in other words it is a line that remains straight on the Earth's surface so that it goes right around the globe and returns to its starting place. It is also called the Line of True Helen, because this is the Helen who didn't go with Paris to Troy, and also because this is the line that remains true, i.e. straight, on the Earth's surface."
I nodded, and asked why the temple I was to visit had been put at the place of intersection of these two lines.
"Well we had to put the bally thing somewhere," was all the answer Cuppalot seemed willing to proffer at this time.
"So this Great Circle of Khufu," Cuppalot went on, "at first also runs at pretty much this same 30 degrees bearing, but it gradually diverges from the Wondrous Way of Sminthean Apollo, changing its bearing all the time in order to stay straight on the Earth's surface. It makes an excellent axis of travel, and could be given as an alternative name the Route of the Grand Voyage, for it goes down through Northern Italy, through the Gulf of Venice, through Southern Greece, past the sacred shrines of Delphi, through the western part of the Kyklades region of the Aegean, skirting the east of Crete before arriving in the pyramid fields next to the Nile, and by the time it has reached the ancient region of Giza and Memphis the bearing with respect to East has become one and the same as the angle of slope of the Great Pyramid of Khufu, a most elegant dovetailing. In fact in Egypt this line forms a primary axis of temple sites, but that involves a little more detail than we need go into at the moment."
I sought confirmation.
"The bearing...with respect to East...has become the same as the angle of slope..."
"Of the Great Pyramid. That's what I said."
"Yes I know I was just giving myself time to visualize what you meant."
"Oh I see. Fair enough, yes, just stop me if I'm rushing on. So anyway the British Temple of Sminthean Apollo has been built at the intersection of these two lines."
A few days after this conversation in Cuppalot and Myrtale's cottage Cuppalot himself, and family, along with his colleague Professor Hatpins and wife Heather, headed off down along this Great Circle of Khufu. They planned to stay for a few days in Venice, then head down to Greece for a few weeks while autumn came on, then they were going to continue on down to Egypt where they were to winter, heading back the way they had come in Spring.
I myself was to stay here in the Predanikean isle of Albion all winter long, and my own journey involved considerably less mileage. The extent of the directions given to me by Cuppalot being only that I should seek this intersection point, I had to make use of some pretty sophisticated computer software. Then, venturing at last to this place, I suddenly saw the beautiful classical structure of the temple standing there upon the plateaux of a hill of no great size. There is something about that moment of seeing it that makes the heart leap a little. I saw a track leading to its entrance and so followed it. On the pediment of the entrance portico were some intriguing scenes in beautifully sculptured relief. These sculpted scenes included a man with two hunting dogs holding a stag at bay; the same man as a rider following a beautiful lady on a fine horse, reaching out towards her; the man again shown letting another man out of a large bag; an infant suckling from the teats of a mare.
A lady was standing in a little booth outside the entrance to the temple. I immediately found her attractive. Her blond hair was cut into a style that I believe is called a bob, and she had a definite sparkle in her eyes. She smiled at me when my gaze met hers.
I could very well have found myself asking her whether she was single, had the many-eyed guard Appropriateness lolled for a moment at his post.
She told me the price charged for entry, and I refer of course to entrance to the temple. When she said also that this included food and drink I decided it was reasonable and so crossed her palm with silver and ventured inside. The first image that greeted me as I walked into the little entrance hall was that of three goddesses in a large oil painting on the wall facing me.
"Are you wondering who they are?" said that same female voice behind me. I turned round to see that the young lady had stepped out of the booth and was standing there in a now fully apparent mode of dress clearly related to the likes of the sari and the toga. It was inordinately fetching, and another of the eyelids of Appropriateness began to droop as if mesmerised by her perfume. Yet I held my tongue.
"I'm the curatress of the temple's art collection."
"Ah" I said. "I'm a Fledgeling from the Academy."
"Oh really? Excellent."
"So yes, who are these three lovelies?"
"That one to the left, with the seductive look in her eyes, she is the goddess of romantic beauty. In the middle, the one standing upright and proud, that's the goddess of skilful handiwork, of craft, of artistic brilliance and deftness. Then the third, to the right, with a strong but motherly look in her eye, she's the goddess of marriage, loyalty, family, home, indigenousness and cultural integrity."
I suddenly wondered what I was getting swept up in here, "I'm not too sure what this place is actually, I've just been sent to have a look round. Is it a kind of art gallery then?"
"Yes, it functions as an art gallery, amongst other things."
"Oh right, well I'll go on in and have a look round then."
"Please do. And if you have any more questions...."
When I walked through into the main hall there was plenty to please the eye, but one particular sight grabbed my attention the most, pretty much by default, due to its size. In the centre of the hall, standing on a raised platform, was the most enormous jar, flask, vessel, call it what you will, that I have ever seen in my life. In shape it was somewhere between a classical amphora and a Bronze Age cauldron. It seemed to be made of bronze with details plated in gold leaf, and it was twice as tall as a man. The man's name is Ron, and he's only about four foot eight. I jest of course. Let's just say this thing is big. Anyway, rays of sunshine shone from windows in the ceiling through the incense-filled air and glinted off its surface. It really was an awe-inspiring sight, I wondered what sound it might make if I gave it a bang, but decided against it.
Around it in the rest of the hall were various figures, marble statues standing on pedestals, and on the walls were a series of oil paintings and much smaller decorated ceramic vases in niches and alcoves - if indeed those are two different things - niche? alcove? Don't know. Anyway, I stepped closer to the enormous cauldron to examine the scenes which decorated its exterior.
First I admired a finely wrought scene showing a naked youth chasing a flock of sheep and goats that also included among them two deer. Must be some story there, I thought to myself. Who's stolen his strides for instance? Moving round a little further I saw the same handsome figure shoeing a horse, and then in another scene standing with a beautiful young maiden under a spreading oak tree, the two of them holding crooks, a few sheep lying near their feet and seeming to be resting and perhaps sheltering from the midday Sun. Lucky bastard.
There were other figures, but I followed my curiosity as it drew me now to admire some of the statues standing around the hall. There was a strong, manly figure, a prince or perhaps a king, standing holding hands with a beautiful, regal lady, and on the pedestal their names were inscribed: Pwyll, Head of Annwwn, and Rhianon, Queen of Dyfed. They had mysterious, inscrutable expressions that seemed to gaze into eternity.
I then went to have a closer look at a trio of figures. A female horse, a little infant lying in amongst a bundle of straw, and a bearded man looking on, perhaps a farmer or a shepherd, with a look of surprise upon his face. At this point my curiosity was starting to turn to bewilderment, and I decided it was time to ask the curatress of these works what stories they depicted. The story that I am about to tell is the one that the curatress said she had heard from Heather of Bromwich.
Before she began the tale she asked me how far I had walked that morning, and when I told her she said that I must be hungry and thirsty, and was keen for these needs to be sated before she unfolded the story. She then brought out some fruit in a bowl and some wine in an amphorae and a jug of spring water and lead me to a corner of the temple where there were some large comfortable cushions upon which I could recline while I listened. She used a ladle to put some wine in a kantharos each and then poured a little spring water in from the jug, then dropping a few petals of the Egyptian blue-lotus onto the dark surface of the liquid. I begun to help myself to the victuals she had spread out before me.
"Are you sorted out in the marriage department?" I nearly said, but the many-eyed guard was still awake.
"Ooo, I nearly forgot," she said. "I'd better go and close the entrance, there's no-on in the booth you see."
This she then went and did, as I learnt from the large bang of the heavy door closing.
"That's better," she said when she came back.
"Mm...cosy," was an utterance that very nearly escaped the watch of the many-eyed guard.
The story that she then related was that of Peredur. In fact she said that the version she would tell would be closest to the one in which he is called Pryderi, and also noted that some versions call him Perceval. I apologised to her at this point saying that she must get awfully bored telling this same story to all the people that come to the temple, but I learnt from her then that generally the story is only told through theatrical performances in the amphitheatre on the hillside outside, and that the visitors generally seem either to know the story already through such performances, or else perhaps are too timid to ask for a telling. In fact, she said, in the three months since she had held her current position I was only the third to have asked to hear the tale.
Before she began the telling she took up a harp and sang the following song as an overture, and as a charm with which to open the portals to the mythic realm, and believe me the watchman came closer to nodding, mesmerized as he was by the harmony of her harp, lulled by the sweetness of her voice, so that more of his many eyelids began to droop just as the petals of the sacred Egyptian water lily answer the approach of Night by drawing gently closed over the iris-blue heart of the flower.
These were the words she sang:-
"Rhianon, Rhianon, why do you weep?"
"My son disappeared while I was asleep."
"Rhianon, Rhianon, why do yo cry?"
"The maidservants lost him but claimed it was I."
"Rhainon, Rhianon, why do you grieve?"
"I wish that my story someone would believe."
"Rhianon, Rhianon, what do you need?"
"My son to be found and myself to be freed."
"Rhianon, Rhianon, how are you bound?"
"Hard labor's my lot now unless he be found."
"Rhianon, Rhianon, Truth's on your side.
Request it's disclosure and it will not hide.
Rhianon, Rhianon, someone comes near,
Who's able to make the whole story appear.
Stay strong in your heart and continue to pray,
If one's to be found then he will find a way."
She then began to enfold the story itself, which ran like this. The courtship of Pwyll, prince of Dyffed and Rhianon, his beautiful wife, was not without a certain amount of drama, if the old story is to be believed, and in fact this makes for a rollicking good tale, not that it wouldn't have been preferable if things had gone more smoothly of course, but there is wisdom hidden in life's little dramas. All the same it is a story that we shall have to return to later, for the curatress' tale begins after their marriage.
The wedding of the two lovers ushered in a time in which they sailed the ship of their relationship over much calmer waters than in their courtship, and all things considered these were happy times, such as one might expect when two lively but considerate and well-balanced people who are well suited to each other and share a strong mutual attraction come together in a domestic situation where no comforts are lacking. The latter can be said because they dwelled together in the palace at Arberth in Dyffed, waited on hand and foot by a large body of servants. It had long been the tradition even for the younger members of this body to stay in residence practically the whole year round, so that in practice children as young as thirteen who had ventured in from places sometimes considerably distant would see they parents not much more than once or twice a year. This was the tradition, and at first Pwyll and Rhianon did not think to question it. Not that they lacked compassion towards their servants, far from it, it was simply that it did not immediately occur to them to question the system that they had inherited. In due course however they were to feel fully the sense of longing that a parent has for a lost child.
And indeed the tale that must be told here skips forward to when the two brought forth a child into the world. Not that the child stayed with them for long, however, for he went missing in mysterious circumstances. This was in fact the first and some might say the last truly dramatic, and of course harrowing incident that occurred in their marriage.
What was known was this. Two of the maidservants had one day come rushing in upon Pwyll and told him that the baby had disappeared, but that Rhianon lay sleeping with blood smeared around her mouth and with a pile of bones on the floor. Now this sounds pretty horrific, I know, but I should point out that it was very quickly shown that these bones matched perfectly those of a wild rabbit, further more that they were those of a wild rabbit. Rhianon for her part proclaimed in the strongest terms that she had slept the whole night through and knew absolutely nothing of the events that had occurred by which she had woken up in this situation. As soon as the initial fear that she may have eaten her child had been banished by the realisation that the bones were those of a rabbit, the chief concern of herself and her husband Pwyll was of course that of finding their lost child.
All the same:-
How rumours spread like wildfire and how tongues do like to wag,
Thus popular imaginings portrayed her as a hag,
Who in some evil fury that was ravenous and wild
Had knowingly devoured her one and only little child.
But the fact that the bones were those of a rabbit was not the only evidence which pointed in a different direction, for on the same night that the child had disappeared Rhianon's magic bag had been stolen. This extraordinary artefact is one that we shall have occasion to speak of more later in our story. Then, as Pwyll himself pointed out, there was the question of whether someone performing such an act would really have simply settled calmly back down to sleep without making any attempt to hide the results of so gruesome a snack. Pwyll and all others who were of a sensible frame of mind realised that the real question was that of what had really happened to the child. Where was he? Could he be found?
Even many of those of a less rational frame of mind came round to this way of thinking due to a coincidence that occurred not long after. There was a fellow named Gwawl who, for reasons that we shall relate later on, was not on the best of terms with Pwyll and Rhianon, and it was he who for some time voiced most loudly the old theory that Rhianon had eaten the child. There's no smoke without fire, he would say, which can in fact be a very unhelpful maxim when it has no relation to the truth of the matter. Then one day Gwawl was walking next to a field in which a mare had just foaled. The horse was engaged in licking the afterbirth off her new offspring, but Gwawl thought that she was trying to eat her own child, and ran towards the pair waving his arms madly and calling to a little group of shepherds standing nearby to come to his aid. After quickly observing and summing up the situation they realised his error, and then began to laugh. As word of this event got around it was widely believed to be a kind of omen, a sign, indicating that Gwawl was similarly mistaken in his accusations against Rhianon.
So it was that Pwyll and Rhianon were able to get back to a normal life, but the longing to find their lost child still remained strong. It was through these feelings that they came to question the length of holiday time that the servants in their employment were given, and as a result decided to extend it considerably, while also arranging several occasions throughout the year in which their parents were to be entertained along with their children at the palace.
There were for quite some time no further development concerning their whereabouts of their own child until, about seven years since the birth of the child, Pwyll and Rhianon came to hear of a fellow from the eastern parts of the land of Britannia who had showed some considerable skill at unravelling mysteries. Keen to try anything that might work, they employed his services, hoping he would be able to shed some light on their own case.
This fellow's name was Frederick of Lewes, and he was given lodgings in the palace by Pwyll and Rhianon. Once Pwyll judged that the new arrival had settled in, he initiated the first discussion upon the case which he hoped could now be solved. Dinner was finished, and the two men carried their goblets of wine through to a place by the fire and settled into comfortable seats. Frederick listened to Pwyll tell him all he knew about the case, nodding sagely at appropriate moments. Pwyll told all about Gwawl and his schemes, about the possible hostility that he may have felt towards the couple; he told how to the best of his knowledge the last to have seen the child before his disappearance were the same maidservants who had called him to the scene the following morning.
And these really were the only two leads that Frederick had at this point. So the course of action open to him was pretty simple: he would conduct interviews with the maidservants and with Gwawl. The maidservants were unable to tell him anything he didn't already know, so he went to see this Gwawl.
The door was opened by a small boy of about six or seven with auburn hair.
"Is your father in?"
"I'll go an get him."
And the little lad rushed off and returned a little while later with Gwawl himself.
Gwawl had an interesting story to tell which, Frederick thought to himself, might or might not turn out to be red herring. He told him that on the same night that the child had gone missing a foal had been left in the garden of a cottage not far away.
"I've been told that you have some reason for ill feelings towards Pwyll and Rhianon," said Frederick.
"Oh, that's all in the past now," said Gwawl. "I had a thing for Rhianon for a while; she didn't feel the same way, but it was all quickly forgotten about, and it wasn't long before I met my wife. Now here I am a happy family man." He patted the young lad on the head.
Frederick asked him if he still believed that Rhianon had eaten the child, at which point he looked a little sheepish and admitted that he now considered that highly unlikely. He had himself now seen the bones and compared them to those of a rabbit. He also told, with a look of embarrassment, the story of the mare licking the afterbirth off her newborn foal.
"That's a double coincidence then, really, isn't it? What with the foal appearing in the cottage garden as well, on the same night as the disappearance?" said Frederick.
"Yes, absolutely, there must be something in it, I'm sure."
There was a pause.
"Are you a believer in such omens, then?" asked Gwawl.
"Let's just say there have been occasions in the past where I have moved more swiftly towards a discovery as a result of taking them into account," said Frederick.
There was a glimmer of a smile on Gwawl's face, indicating that he approved of this approach, and he then said as much:-
"That sounds like a sensible way to go about things."
Frederick was at this point forming the opinion that Gwawl was not a serious suspect in the case, for he reasoned that if he was then he would not have shown satisfaction at the thought of the detective moving more quickly towards discoveries. Of course it could have been that Gwawl was rejoicing in the thought that Frederick was too flaky to sniff out a truth that implicated himself, Gwawl, but Frederick knew enough about human nature to know that, contrary to what they might claim, there is in fact approximately no-one at all that completely rules out the existance of such signs and omens.
This information about the mysterious appearance of a newborn foal on the same night as the disappearance of the child was the only new lead Frederick had to go on, and so he decided to follow it up by visiting the cottage in question.
Arriving at the cottage he was welcomed by an elderly woman who lead him to an elderly man, a farmer, who in turn showed him the horse who had once been the foal which Gwawl had referred to.
"He has quite unusual colouring, doesn't he?" said Frederick.
"Oo yes, oh he does, yes, with that combination of black and white markings with a blond mane."
"And those two markings on the shoulder, just below the neck, they're almost like stripes."
"Oo yes, he's very unusual."
"That would presumably make it quite easy to work out who the parents were wouldn't it? I mean if we could find another horse with the same colouring?"
"That's true yes. And that is why I have always suspected that his mother is a mare from Tiernon's farm. She must be an old gal now, if she's still alive."
"But you've never broached the subject with this Tiernon?"
"I did ask him about it, but he said that the mare's child was not missing. Just very special. Very special indeed."
Frederick did his best to grasp what he was being told.
"Let me get this straight: this Tiernon told you that the mare who has similar colouring to this horse gave birth to a very special child. How is it possible for a horse to be very special?"
"Oo well I don't know, maybe it won a lot of races or something, you'd have to ask him."
"Let me ask you, in your opinion, is it possible that this horse was mothered by another horse, other than the one from Tiernon's farm?"
"Oh yes it's entirely possible that there is another horse with this marking. Just 'cos I've never seen it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I mean to say, there's no reason why Tiernon's mare wasn't sired by a stallion who had that colouring and who also sired some other offspring, and this fellow could be from one of those other horses. I don't know, I'm just saying what's possible, like you asked me, see?"
"Yes, thank you. You've been very helpful."
"No problem at all, if there's anything else just come back and ask. We're not too busy these days. Visitors are welcome."
The fact that the old farmer had said that this Tiernon was not missing a foal might have caused Frederick to decide that further investigation along those lines would lead to a cul-de-sac, if it hadn't been for that strange business about the mare's offspring being 'very special'. It seemed that perhaps, not definitely, but perhaps, there was some story there that might prove to be significant. Or was this all a waste of time? There might indeed be some story here, and it might indeed connect the foal with this Tiernon character, but did any of it really have any connection to case which he was being paid to investigate, namely the search for the lost child of Pwyll and Rhianon? After thinking long and hard about the matter Frederick realised that he simply didn't have anything else to go on, and so he decided to pay this Tiernon a visit.
When he arrived at Tiernon's farm he saw a man crossing the yard carrying some saddles and bridles and the like. He looked to be in his mid twenties so Frederick guessed he was not Tiernon himself.
"Good day," said Frederick.
The man turned to look at him.
"Can I help you?"
"I'm looking for Tiernon."
"He's out in the west field. Won't be back to 'till later."
"Oh I see. Actually would you mind if I asked you one or two questions?"
"How long have you worked here."
"About ten years, something like that."
"Have any newborn foals gone missing during that time?"
"Any been given away?"
"Is there or has there been during your time here a horse with a blond mane and black and white markings?"
"Not as I recall. What's this about?"
"Oh I'm just curious about certain matters."
"Sorry I can't be of more help but I'm kind of busy. Sounds like you might be barking up the wrong tree. Good-bye."
Frederick was ready to turn around and head back to the palace when he saw an old lady coming out of the farmhouse.
"Hello," she said. "are you lost?"
"No, actually I was looking for Tiernon, but I understand he's occupied at the moment."
"Yes, won't be back 'till later. Come in though, won't take a moment to make you a cup of tea."
And so Frederick found himself seated at what he rapidly decided was the most pleasantly solid oak table he had ever come across, namely the one in the house of Tiernon. Not that Tiernon was some affluent squire with the means to buy the finest furniture; rather he happened to pass as a carpenter whose tastes were very much in harmony with those of Frederick.
Frederick checked his train of thought. Just because the man had a good taste in tables surely it didn't mean he couldn't be implicated in the disappearance of the child of Pwyll and Rhianon. Yet no matter how he tried to fight it he just couldn’t believe that anyone possessed of such a fine piece of solid rustic furniture could possibly be seated on the side of any villainy. That said, it must be admitted that Frederick did indeed resolve to be as thorough in his questioning as he might have been of any other suspect whose furniture lacked real aesthetic appeal.
"You new in the area then?" said the old lady, who he had now gathered was Tiernon's wife.
"Oh I'm just visiting actually. I'm staying up at the palace."
"Are you now? Very nice. What are they like up there? You hear some funny stories."
"Really? Like what?"
"Oh there was just this funny story that was going round a few years ago. Probably nothing in it."
"You don't have any dealings with the palace out here then?"
"No, can't say that we do. A couple of the stable hands were involved with maidservants who worked up there a few years back, so they used to pop up there from time to time. Other than that not really no."
"You have quite a few horses then?"
"A few, why?"
"Well you said a couple of the stable hands - must be a fair sized stable if you've got several stable hands."
"We had three of them helping us back then, but there's just the two now, unless you include young Gwri, bless him."
"Why wouldn't I include him?"
"He's still a wee lad, really, but quite useful. Except this last month or two since his mother died. He's been a bit miserable since then."
"As is to be expected, I would have thought."
"Oh yes, of course yes."
"How did it happen?"
"Oh just natural causes, old age. Comes to us all. There's the kettle. I'll get your tea."
On the way back to the palace Frederick went over the conversations he had just had. His conversation with the stable hand seemed to have made it fairly clear that this was not where the mysterious foal had appeared from, but all the same there was something strange in what the old lady had told him, the way she spoke about the young lad's mother. Didn't seem to give the subject of her death quite as much gravitas as would be seemly. A trifle cold perhaps, All the same...that table!
The visit to Tiernon's farm didn't seem to have given him any obvious leads, but he thought it would be worth paying another visit so he could speak to the farmer himself. For the moment his mind was turning back to Gwawl. He had heard about some possible feelings of animosity that this fellow might hav e been harbouring towards Pwll and Rhianon, but he hadn't got the full story. He would need to get it from various angles to try and get as unbiased an overview as possible. He would go back to Gwawl himself, and speak to Pwyll or Rhianon on the matter, to get the other side, and then hopefully he would also be able to find someone not directly involved who might be able to shed further light.
Gwawl himself pretty much denied having any bad feelings towards the royal couple.
"But you did at one point?"
"Well, it's only natural isn't it, when a man steals your fiancée."
"Ah, I see. Yes I can see how that might be a little irksome. And are you really over all that now?"
"Yup, I'd say so."
Frederick found that a little hard to believe, mind you, he thought, it must have been about a decade ago now. Yes, perhaps that really could be enough time to get over something like that.
"Would you mind telling me a bit more about it?"
"Well, we were engaged, Rhianon and I, but, well, she had this thing for Pwyll. Fancied him, fell under his spell, all that sort of thing."
"And so you bowed out?"
"Yes...well...after a time. I had a bit of a shot at winning her back, so to speak. But you don't want to hear about that."
"Well, you never know what might turn out to be useful in an investigation like this."
"Very well then. Basically I tried a trick. I knew Pwyll had a pretty solid code of honour, combined with a certain gullible innocence. So I disguised myself as a beggar. Pwyll was now in residence in the royal court, you understand, as Rhianon's fiancé. So I arrived at the court during a feast when I knew the wine would have been flowing freely, and asked in a meek little voice if I might be granted a favour.
'What is the favour?' asked Pwyll.
'Oh,' I said pitifully, 'I shouldn't be taking up your time like this with my petty needs."
'Nonsense,' boomed Pwyll in drunken joviality, and then, just as I had hoped, he added, 'anything you ask, if it is in my power, I will grant it to you.' "
"You can probably guess the rest."
"I think so."
"I flung off the disguise and asked for Rhianon to be returned to me."
"So let me get this straight. When you say you attempted to win her back, you're not talking about winning her affections."
"No, I'm afraid not."
"So Rhianon can't have been too happy."
"True, which is why she then helped Pwyll to trick me back."
"And how did he go about that?"
"Really, I'd rather not go over all that again. Everyone round here knows the story."
"Fair enough. Well, thankyou for your time."
When the curatress had got this far through the tale she saw through the pillars of the temple that the Sun had moved quite a way round in its course, and said that that would be enough for today. She would carry on with the tale tomorrow. I, for my part, did not have any objections to coming back for more of the same.
And so the next day I again made my way to the temple, but as I passed the amphitheatre on the hillside beside the temple I saw that something was going on the stage, with a small audience watching in the auditorium. I had some time to spare, and so decided to go and have a look. The man on the stage was screaming about something or other, and then as I arrived in the audience he asked me to come up on stage. He was dressed in woman's underwear, and was standing on an upside down bucket, while he handed to me another bucket full of dead fish. He asked me to pelt him with them, which I proceeded to do, while he stood there shouting the instructions for using the advanced settings of a washing machine. I didn't feel comfortable with the arrangement, and after a while decided to interject.
"Could you tell me what this is all about?"
There was a pause while he turned his head to look at me.
"What do you think it's about?"
"I really have no idea."
"Maybe that's what it's about."
"So...you don't actually know yourself then?"
"Perhaps I do, perhaps I don't," and then he added with a scary look in his eyes and wiggling fingers up by his ears: "I'm making you THINK!"
"You're making me think it might be about time for me to leave," I said.
"I'm challenging your PERCEPTIONS! Perhaps it is too much for you. I'm a challenging artist."
"Are you sure you don't mean 'challenged'?"
There was a titter from the audience. He responded to it by glaring at them, then getting off his box and walking uncomfortably close to me and then screaming repeatedly "Choose spin cycle!"
"Still nothing," I said, after a while.
"I'm giving you food for thought."
"You're giving me the heebie jeebies."
"May you rot in Hades then."
"Sorry, was that real or was that art?"
"Er...it was art, of course."
"So you weren't just pissed off with me then?"
"No, no, I was..."
"Changing my perceptions yes?"
"OK, well you have succeeded."
"Yes, you have altered my perception of you."
"In what way?"
"Well first I thought you were just a bit of a twat. Then I went through a stage of thinking you were a total arse. And then that perception morphed so that now I think of you as an Art Terrorist who should be locked up."
"Fascist. You don't deserve the gift of my art."
"Well I'm very glad to hear it. I would only have returned it anyway."
He started chanting "Spin cycle, spin cycle, spin cycle" and spinning around and around until he lost his balance and fell right off the front of the stage. The audience cheered, giving me time to consider some gag based on having to borrow a woman's underwear because your own is in the wash, and how this could try anyone's sanity, but the cheer died away before I had anything well-formed, and rather than come out with something half-baked I went for a visual gag. I picked up the bucket of fish and poured them over him where he lay on the floor below, adding the words "I'm being artistic." There was another cheer. "Don't worry," I added, "your spin-cycle will be finished soon, then you can change back into your own underwear." A small empty silence followed by smaller cheer this time, so I decided it was time to leave. I gave a little bow and then exitted stage right and continued on up to the temple.
Again the victuals were spread out before me by the curatress, as they had been the day before, and then the story continued. You will recall that Gwawl had just told Frederick about the way he tricked Pwyll into giving up Rhianon. As the curatress continued the tale I heard how Frederick then proceed to speak to Pwyll and Rhianon themselves about these events, who in fact confirmed the subject up to that point, and then, like Gwawl, declined to speak further of the matter. So Frederick decided to find someone else to tell him about how Pwyll had won Rhianon back after being tricked by Gwawl in disguise. Gwawl had told Frederick, after all, that the story was well known in the area. Frederick chose to ask about it in a local public house, where he found the landlord only too keen to share the tale as he understood it. It ran something like this.
Pwyll goes up to Rhianon a bit later on and she can tell something's up. He's looking sheepish, see, clamming up, but he knows he's got to tell her.
"I may have been a little rash," he tells her.
"What d'you mean by that Pwyll?" she replies.
"Well, this beggar came into the court today asking for a favour, and I said alright."
"What was the favour?"
"Well here's the funny thing. He wants to marry you."
"He wants to marry you."
"But I'm going to marry you."
"...yes, only now he wants to..."
"And you said 'yes'?"
"Well I'd already said that I would grant anything in my power, before he said what the favour was, so when he asked the favour I was sort of honour bound to grant it, you see."
"Why on Earth had you said that, before you knew what he was going to ask?"
"Um...well, I preferred to assume he was an honest fellow, you know? How was I to know what he was planning?"
"My goodness, how you ever came to earn the name of 'Pwyll' I cannot understand."
Frederick looked a little confused here, so the landlord explained that the name Pwyll means 'good sense'.
"So who is this man I am to marry?" asked Rhianon.
"Well, here's the funny thing. Turns out it was actually Gwawl in disguise."
"Gwawl! That wily bugger!"
"Don't you mean beggar?"
"I know what I mean."
"So what are we going to do?" asked Rhianon.
"Well," said Pwyll, "I'm optimistic. It may seem like a gloomy situation, but there must be some light in it, some blessing in disguise."
The landlord explained to Frederick that since gwawl means 'light' Pwyll's statement was literally true, as Gwawl had come into the court in disguise.
Rhianon only managed a half smile combined with a shake of the head at Pwyll's joke-cum-pun-come-something of that nature, but she set her mind to thinking of a way out of the problem that had arisen, namely her arranged - gasp! - marriage to Gwawl. Gwawl wasn't so bad, but she just didn't really fancy him. And to be honest he was a bit of a shit. Plus, more importantly, she wanted nothing more than to wake up each morning under the sheets with Pwyll, handsome, manly, intelligent and kind, if a little on the gullible side form time to time.
Rhianon is not without certain tricks up her sleeve, for she is possessed of certain magical skills. For instance, she has a flock of birds whose singing has the power to lull people to sleep and to invoke paradise, and many is the shepherd, shepherdess and country rambler who has been sure that he or she has heard this song, while in fact the composers of the triads used to say that there were three things rare indeed, the singing of the Birds of Rhianon, wisdom in a Saxon, and a free parking space in Marlow high street. Now of course times have changed and we must make an adjustment to such sweeping generalizations. Waitrose car park often has spaces, if you are willing to pay for a ticket.
Rhianon also has a beautiful white horse upon which she rides, and though she seems for all the world to be riding elegantly at a most leisurely pace, anyone who tries to catch up with her is unable to do so. Pwyll himself had attempted to do this right at the start of their courtship. Several times he had attempted to catch up with her, on several consecutive days and it wasn't until he'd called out to her telling her to stop and wait for him that she had done so. Only then did she tell him it would have been better for him if he had called out to her before, at which point Pwyll had demonstrated his gentlemanliness by not giving her a slap and asking her why the blue-rinsed blazes she hadn't told him that to begin with. It was then that she had confessed her love of him to the young prince, to which his own heart had replied in kind.
A third magic power of Rhianon takes the form of a bag, the property of which is that no matter how much is put into it it never becomes full. It was this item that she decided to use to get out of the tricky situation she now and Pwyll now found themselves in.
"Gwawl tricked you, Pwyll, and so it is only fair that you should trick him in turn, in fact it is more than fair for it is you who I love, you who I wish to marry."
"OK, I'm in. What's the plan?"
And so she proceeded to outline her cunning scheme, which will become clear to you in the events that then unfolded. Pwyll now disguised himself as a beggar, much as Gwawl had done, and we must assume he did so with the help of some of Rhianon's magical arts, for Gwawl did not recognize him. Pwyll had also wisely waited for a feast day, and Rhianon had helped too by ensuring that Gwawl's wine cup was never empty. When the feasters had eaten all they could and the remaining food was going spare, Pwyll came into the court carrying the magical bag, and asked what seemed like a simple request, namely that he be allowed to fill the bag with meat, saying that as soon as it was filled he would leave. Gwawl thought little of it, and paid him only scant attention before getting back to his carousing. Pwyll interrupted him.
"I have your word then that I may stay until the bag is filled?"
"Yes, beggar, very well," said Gwawl impatiently, turning around to glare at Pwyll. "Now bother me no more."
So Pwyll began to go around filling the bag with meat. More and more went into the bag, as Pwyll went from table to table. After a while Gwawl noticed that Pwyll was still in the hall. He had settled down near a harpist and was enjoyed some food and drink.
"Beggar," said Gwawl, "why are you still among us?"
"Because my bag is not yet filled," replied Pwyll.
"Well then hurry up and fill it then!"
And so Pwyll began to put more and more into the bag, and Gwawl was surprised by the quantity. This continued for some time until Gwawl became deeply curious.
"I cannot help noticing," he said, "that your bag is deceptively capacious. How much longer do you think it will be until it is filled?"
"That depends. If I carry on filling it in this way it will never be full."
Gwawl choked on his wine, then slammed his goblet down on the table and sought words unsuccessfully.
"Does the promise that exists between us cause you some alarm?"
Gwawl's eyebrows rose in shock at the audacity of this man who he had taken for a beggar."
"Do you think it wrong that a man might trick his way into another man's house and plunder from under his nose by means of deception and a promise given without full understanding of the situation?"
"Yes!" boomed Gwawl, for this was the plight he now believed himself to be in.
"Don't worry," said Pwyll. "I will tell you a way in which we may be released from the promise that exists between us. If a man was to get inside this back and stamp down on the meat, then from that poing on the bag would fill up normally and it would soon be full."
"How could a man fit inside that bag?" asked Gwawl.
"In the same way that all that meat fitted inside."
Gwawl then told one of his servants to get into the bag.
"No," said Pwyll, "there is a condition. It will only work if the man is the host of the party."
And so Gwawl was persuaded to climb inside the bag. As soon as he had done so Pwyll than tied up the top of the bag so that Gwawl was trapped inside.
Gwawl kicked and struggled.
"Do you wish to know who has trapped you? It is me, Pwyll. I came in disguise, just as you came in disguise. From your own lips I obtained confirmation of my own belief that it is not morally correct for a man to be made to uphold a promise if he has been deceived. In just such a way did you deceive me when it was you who was is disguise. I have said that we will now be released from the promise that existed between us, and it was my promise to you that I referred to. If you wish me to release you from the bag then you will first have to release me from the promise that has me similarly trapped by my own code of honour. Allow Rhianon to come back to me, the man who loves her, and go forward in your own life to find someone who loves you. Give me your assurance on this and I will let you out."
"Very well then Pwyll, I give you such an assurance."
When Gwawl was released from the bag he shook Pwyll by the hand, for he was apparently genuinely impressed by the ruse and by the lesson in honour that he had learnt.
And so it was that, according to the landlord's story, Pwyll and Rhianon were reunited and duly married.
At this point the curatress of the Temple of Sminthean Apollo picked up her lyre and played me another song, which went something like this:-
Gwawl tricked Pwyll
But that's not how it ended
Pwyll was a fool
But mistakes can be mended
The queen stayed true
To the one she'd befriended
With Rhianon's bag
Space-time was trancended
Pwyll came in
In a beggar's disguise
Bearing the bag
Of mysterious size
To cause Gwawl some surprise
"Climb in," says Pwyll
"But of course," Gwawl replies.
The top of the bag
Was then tied up tight
With a name that means 'Light'
"Should you let me out,
I would give up this fight,"
Said Gwawl in defeat
To which Pwyll said "Alright."
So now Fredrick had the back story, or at least this landlord's version of it, but was he any closer to finding Pwyll and Rhianon's lost son? He took the opportunity to ask the landlord if he had ever heard any stories connecting the business of Pwyll, Rhianon and Gwawl with the farmstead of Tiernon. The landlord shook his head.
"Not that I can recall."
"Oh well," said Frederick, and drank the last gulp of his beer ready to leave.
"But I have heard an amazing story connected with that place."
Frederick waited expectantly.
"Will you be wanting another pint then?"
"Oh, yes...same again."
"What I've heard," said the landlord as he filled the flagon, "and I can't say that I'm sure if I believe it, but what I've heard, is that one of the mares on the farm gave birth to a human child, a boy."
Frederick's immediate thought was that, since such a story was surely fabricated, he wished he hadn't just asked for another pint.
"What d'you make of that story?" he said, unsure how else to respond.
"As I say, I'm not sure I believe it, but stranger things have happened."
Frederick wondered what things have happened that are stranger than a horse giving birth to a boy.
As he sipped his beer he mulled things over and gradually a certain sense seemed to arise out of the jumble of peculiarities that he had been tangled up in since his arrival. A foal had appeared in a cottage on the same night that the child had gone missing. The owner of the cottage thought he recalled having seen a mare with the same colouring as the foal at Tiernon's farm. Now there was this story of a child being born from a mare at Tiernon's farm. Could it be that the child was brought there at the same time that the foal was taken, just after the mare had given birth - and presumably by the same person - and might the child have been mistaken for the offspring of the horse by some credulous rustic? It was a long shot, but it definitely warranted another visit to Tiernon's farmstead and this time a chat with Tiernon himself.
The next morning Frederick got up with the Sun and rode back to the farm at high speed, the fresh morning air streaming against his face, hoping to catch Tiernon before he set out into his fields, and he was lucky. He found the old farmer just finishing breakfast. After having explained who he was and what his purpose was, Frederick came out and asked the farmer simply if he had ever heard this story of the horse-boy, and what he thought about it.
Tiernon took in a big breath, then let out what seemed to be a sigh.
"Well, to be honest we don't want the story going around too much. The lad would be teased and taunted, treated as some kind of freak, if it was to be widely known. We haven't even told him the story. He believes that we are his parents. But yes, I can confirm it is true."
"So...did someone actually see the horse give birth."
"Yes...well, no, not exactly. But in the evening she was pregnant, then in the morning when I went into the stable I found the little child lying in the hay, the mare lying down beside her, presenting her teats, at which the infant was suckling."
"And this child is still with you?"
"Yes, we treat young Gwri as if he were our own son."
"I see. And was there anything peculiar...I mean anything else peculiar that you noticed when you found the baby?"
"Well, yes: he was already the size of a six month old baby on the day of his birth. But then you'd expect such things of one whose father must surely be...well, you know, one of the People of the Sidhe, or someone such as Merlin himself."
"Oh and there was a large leather sack lying nearby on the hay."
"Really? Do you still have this item?"
"Yes, I've kept it. I thought it might be a gift from...from you-know-who."
"Good, I will need you to produce that at some point. I have another question. What was the colouring of the mare?"
"She was black and white, but, just like her son, she had a golden yellow mane. Quite unusual. She passed away only a couple of months ago in fact."
"One of your stable hands told me no horse with that colouring had been here in the last ten years."
"Really? Well he can't have been thinking straight."
This didn't seem to Frederick to be an adequate explanation, but he decided to give the matter some thought later on. The important thing for the moment was that it now looked quite possible that young Gwri was in fact the lost son of Pwyll and Rhianon.
"Sir," he said, "I believe I know who the real mother and father of Gwri are, and if you would be so kind as to accompany me to the palace bringing the leather bag with you, then I may be able to confirm my theory."
So the scene was now set for the longed-for discovery, and sure enough the very next day Tiernon, carrying the wondrous bag, accompanied Frederick to the palace where the item was shown to Pwyll and Rhianon who at once recognised it, so important a part had it played in their courtship all those moons ago, and at once there was sparked up in their hearts a flame of hope that at long last the child they had yearned to see again would be found and returned to them.
But it wasn't to be. Only joking. It was indeed to be, but after the initial excitement had calmed down a little Tiernon engaged the couple in a serious and sensible conversation. The child was a very happy young chappy, who had developed a deep love of the pastoral environment in which he had grown up. His connection to the farm and its animals was a profound one, and he was still of a very young age, an age at which a suddenly upheaval and a complete change of lifestyle might prove highly confusing. After deliberating long and hard over the matter the queen and her loyal husband realised the sense that Tiernon was talking, and the three agreed together that the lad would not be told of his real parentage until he reached the age of eighteen. For the moment Pwyll and Rhianon would go to the farm in disguise and under false names, from time to time, pretending to be the child's long lost aunt and uncle. This way the deep and very understandable parental longing to get to know their child could in some way be satisfied until such time as he returned to the palace.
Frederick had other matters to attend to. He felt it was his duty, and correctly so, we must agree, to discover who it was that had taken the child, how and why, and to bring the culprit or culprits to justice. He started by calling to mind any lingering questions that had so far remained unanswered, at the same time asking himself if any significant patterns had emerged during his investigation that might warrant further exploration. Thinking in this way, he began to wonder again why the stable hand who he had initially spoken to when visiting Tiernon's farm had denied that there had been a horse with that particular colouring during the last ten years on the farm, when quite clearly there had. Did he have something to hide? He also knew that this man must have been one of the two stable hands who had, during the period in question, been involved with the maidservants at the palace. And wasn't it also the maidservants who had been both the last known to have seen the infant before his disappearance, as well as the first to discover and report the loss? In fact according to Rhianon the child was at that time in their care; it was they who were supposed to be looking after the child that night. A further conversation with Tiernon also revealed that on the morning when he had discovered the child in the stable he had rushed into the rooms of the stable boys to report the apparent miracle, but found the beds of the two that were involved with the maidservants to be empty.
Frederick wondered whether the two lads had gone to meet the maidservants, and whether the maidservants had accompanied them out of the palace, and whether perhaps they had brought the child with them because he was, as Rhianon claimed, supposed to be in their care at that time. Had they gone back to the stable and then been surprised in some way, fleeing as a result at top speed but leaving the baby behind in their haste?
Rather than interview the stable hands directly straight away, Tiernon wondered about this third stable hand, the one who had not been involved with a maidservant, and who had not been absent from his bed in the morning when Tiernon burst in, the one who had left the farm shortly afterwards. Where was he now? Might he be able to throw some light on these matters?
It took some time to track down this fellow, Gareth, and it would be tedious to relate in detail the process by which Frederick achieved this, but track him down he did, and after explaining who he was and what his purpose was, he began to interview him. The first thing he managed to learn from this rather reticent interviewee was that the reason he had left the farm was in fact due to threats that he had received from the other two stable hands. At first Gareth was unwilling to say why these threats had been made, but then Frederick took a gamble and outlined the theory described above, namely that the maidservants and the other two stable hands had been surprised and had fled leaving the baby. This being in fact surprisingly close to the truth, Gareth got the impression that the case was as good as closed, that their number was up, and so was persuaded to fill in the details. Yes, the maidservants had snuck out of the palace with the stable hands, and yes they had brought the baby with them, hid inside the first suitable bag they could find, which happened to be Rhianon's magic leather bag.
Gareth at that time had been somewhat jealous of his colleagues' antics, and also harboured resentful feelings about the way that they often bullied and teased him. He had gone out quietly to spy on them, and seeing the baby in the bag had decided to play a trick on them. Without being seen he had crept in and taken the baby and bag and then gone off to hide, chuckling to himself about the alarm that the others would feel when they realised they the loss. And things had gone to plan up to that point, but what he had not foreseen was that the stable boys and maidservants would, after about an hour of searching, give up and begin to plot a scheme by which they could divert the blame away from themselves.
Now earlier that night, as they had observed, the mare with the golden mane had foaled, and the plan hit upon by the stable hands and the maidservants was that they would take the foal, slaughter it, and use the bones and blood to frame Rhianon. But about half way to the palace the maidservants had begun to recoil at the thought of killing the new-born foal, and anyway one of the stable-hands had pointed out how much bigger the bones would be than those of a baby, and how obvious would be the deceit, and so instead they left the foal at the first cottage they came to, where of course it was found the following day. They decided that they would use a dead rabbit instead, and this was the action that they then carried out. Gareth at this time was busy taking the bag and baby back to the stable, not realising that they were no longer on the farm, and about an hour later as the Sun came up Tiernon had arrived in the stable to find the mare no longer pregnant, the baby lying near the her, and the leather bag cast down next to them.
With this confession from Gareth it was not long before a conviction was brought against the criminals who had kept a mother and father from their child. Pwyll and Rhianon began to use between themselves certain nicknames for their child, taking the French words for Horse and Lost, Cheval and Perdu, referring to the foal for whom he had been mistaken, making a compound of these words, Perdu-Cheval, which became shorted sometimes to Peredur and sometimes to Perceval. To Tiernon and his wife however the child, Le Cheval Perdu, was still Gwri Golden Hair.
The curatress now told me that the rest of the tale would have to wait for a third day, and I asked asked what features of the story were not yet complete. She told me that we had yet to hear of how Gwri was integrated into the royal household having been brought up in a rustic lifestyle without any knowledge of such things. She would also be able to tell me of Gwri's great romance, and even more than that she would describe the final climax of the tale in which Gwri assists in the regeneration of the wasteland. All in all it seemed that the story I had heard was far from finished, and so I was happy to return for the third and final instalment. Besides, the company of the curatress was exceedingly pleasant and nothing could have seemed finer to me than another session in her presence hearing her tell of the innocence of young love.
I looked again around the British Temple of Sminthean Apollo in which I was reclining and now many of the images made a great deal more sense to me, now that much of the story was known to me. There were still several mysteries though, and I looked forward to finding out about them.
It was Spring and surprisingly warm for the time of year (this was how the curatress continued the story on the third day), and the bluebells carpeted the woods, and other flowers were coming out in the meadows and on the mountains. New-born lambs gambolled in the fields, the song of birds filled the air, and the buzzing of bees could already be heard. Gwri, upon whose chin a beard had now begun to sprout, but who as yet had no idea that Pwyll and Rhianon were his parents, had been put in charge of a herd of goats, and he was driving them out across the hills.
He drove the goats across a shallow stream and there beheld a young shepherdess asleep on the other bank in the shade of a hawthorn tree. Her crook lay on the ground beside her, and some of her sheep were grazing the grass nearby, but Gwri could see that others were at that moment wandering off into the dappled shade of a woodland. In the meadow was a sheep pen made from dry stone walling with a wooden gate that hung open. Considering that it would be impolite to wake the girl, or that doing her might startle and alarm her, he decided the best thing to do to help was to leave his herd of goats drinking at the stream for a short time while he herded up her flock of sheep from the wood and brought them back into the meadow.
The shepherdess was called Kigva, and she was a girl of Gwri's age whose family had moved over from Ireland. She was just stirring when Gwri walked over to her, having herded the sheep into the pen, and through her half-opened eyes she was not immediately sure whether he was part of some dream, or from the waking world, or from some other realm such as the world of Faery.
"Afternoon, " he said.
"Hello," said the girl, sleepily.
"Your sheep were wandering off into the wood, so I've herded them into the pen, and your deer as well."
"Thank-you," said the girl. And then a moment later said "Deer? What do you mean by that?"
And so Gwri led her over to the fold and she looked over the wall and saw two hinds standing there amongst the sheep.
Over the next few days the girl asked her family and anyone she met from her village if they had ever heard of such a thing as a herdsman who could herd deer through a forest on his own two feet, and all agreed that they had never come across such a thing. So combined with the gratitude Kigva felt towards Gwri for helping her with the sheep, she also wondered at the skill and agility of someone who could perform such a feat.
From that time Gwri and Kigva often met out in the meadows, for they were grazing the same regions. At first they only exchanged a little polite conversation. But as the Spring drew on, making its way towards Summer, they met often out on the hills, and struck up a close friendship. And by High Summer they were doing everything together, grazing their flocks side by side, both benefiting from a double set of eyes watching the animals. Sometimes they would share their drinks of milk and of mead, and would share between them the cheeses and other foods that they had brought from their homes. They would make up games and stories and make music, one playing on a rustic pipe and the other singing or dancing, and in this way the days passed pleasantly.
But there were greater complexities in store, for we humans are not free from the same forces which pull the ram towards the ewe, and when they were bathing in a river or pool or washing off the Summer dust at the site of a spring which they would often frequent, there grew within them a deeper and deeper attraction to each other's naked bodies. Having been brought up in the simplest of pastoral ways, neither of them knew much about what these feelings were, still less of what one is to do about them. The only example of love-making that they had seen was that of the goats and sheep. A few abortive attempts at copying them had been tried, to little effect. Neither of them knew very much about what went where, which is just as well for they were far too young to start a family of their own.
One evening when it was time to drive their flocks home they found that a ford across a river had been washed away, making it impossible to take the animals across the deep, fast-flowing water. As a result they had no choice but to find a place where they could pen in the animals and settle down and spend the night out under the stars. This was when they discovered the joy of holding each other, for indeed, to keep warm, they held each other close throughout the entire night until the Summer Sun rose up to shed extra warmth in the morning. But as much as the holding provided the joy born of much-craved intimacy - and from then on became their favourite past-time while they were out in the meadows - at the same time it only served to inflame all the more their desire for a fuller form of love-making.
It was a good thing that before Nature herself had had a chance to teach them what goes where, Gareth, who had been reinstated in his post of stable-boy now that the other two had been discharged, happened to see Gwri and Kigva hugging each other in the grasses of a meadow, and realised it was time Gwri learnt a little about the birds and bees before the two of them got themselves in a spot of bother. And so as soon as the opportunity presented itself, Gareth gave Gwri a valuable lesson in "knighthood", telling him how to use his sword, as it were, and, importantly, how a gentleman sheathes his sword for protective purposes, and the possible effects of not doing so.
"Is there anything else you wish to ask?" inquired Gareth. "Anything at all you want to know?"
Gwri however did not wish to show his ignorance, and so he did not at that time learn another valuable lesson, that of the sacred female chalice that issues forth the consecrated blood in time with the Moon, the cauldron of rebirth, that gateway of new life, the Holy Grail. In short, though he knew something now about the use of his sword for pleasure and procreation, and how to prevent the latter, he still didn't really know about what goes where, nor had he yet acquired such knowledge of how his lover might be similarly pleasured as one cannot learn from observing the rams and he-goats at work.
Not long after this Pwyll and Rhianon put on the clothes of ordinary folk and paid a visit, posing as Gwri's uncle and aunt. The plan was to get to know him slowly, or rather for him to get to know them, so that when the time came and he discovered that they were his parents it would be less of a shock for him; he would make the adjustment more smoothly.
On this occasion Gwri took the couple out to one of his shepherd's huts out on a hillside, and there he made a fire and cooked them a meal. First he boiled some barley slowly in a pot, then later added some sheep's cheese, a hen's egg, a handful of beans and some wild spring onions that he had found. Pwyll and Rhianon were not used to the simple country life, and it made a refreshing change for them. After the stew was finished Gwri served up some rolled oats with goat's yoghurt.
The food seemed to be healthy fare, and was tasty, although his parents were privately concerned that if this was all he tasted, Gwri was missing out, and if this was all he ate, he can't have been getting the optimum nutrition. Did he sometimes eat the oily coldwater fish of the rivers and seas, salmon, trout, mackerel? Had he ever tasted oregano, rosemary and thyme, and the green-golden oil of the olive that is grown far to the south on the continent? Did he only drink milk and mead, or had he tasted the complex flavours of dark wine? It would be sad if a lad so naturally healthy would age before his time as a result of some such lack.
Pwyll and Rhianon were also made aware of how odd Gwri's country manners would seem in a royal court, and of the difficulties he might have in conversation with the widely read members of the court. All in all it seemed to the couple that it would be best if they were to introduce him gradually to this other way of life. And so they bought a cottage in the local area and often he would go and stay with them.
Now the education was not to be in one direction only. Pwyll and Rhianon realised intuitively that there was much they could learn from Gwri's innocent country life, and so this was how they presented the matter to Gwri: they had long lived off in a distant city, they pretended, and wanted to learn from him about his rustic life, and in return they would teach him about some of the things they had learnt about a different way of life. Gwri was curious about this other life, and so agreed to the arrangement.
So it was that Gwri introduced healthy oily fish to his diet, and tasted the rich peppery flavour of olive oil, expanding his repertoire of aromatic herbs and adding strong flavours such as garlic to his pot. On one particular day they decided to introduce him to wine, plus all the paraphernalia for drinking it in the old Mediterranean style.
Gwri sat at the dinner table in a state of wonderment at all he was seeing. Two youths came in holding candelabras inlaid with black enamel. The candles lit up the dining room and a damsel, a serving girl from the palace, elegant in manner and beautifully adorned, brought in a large krater for mixing wine held in both hands. The gold work of this amazing vessel shone in the candlelight. After her came another maiden holding a silver carving dish, being like the Moon, if the golden krater was the Sun. The krater was set with many kinds of precious stones.
The youths then brought water and towels and Rhianon and Pwyll followed by their son - imitating them - washed their hands ready for the meal. The first course was a haunch of venison in hot pepper sauce. A youth carved the tender, steaming venison in front of them on the carving dish, and two others brought in first a large jug of thick, unmixed wine in the old style, and then a second jug with clear spring water. These were poured into the krater, and then the wine was ladled out into gold cups.
The food was certainly excellent, and was partnered by the wine perfectly. That evening Gwri was served with all the dishes suitable for any king, count or emperor.
After the meal the three of them sat up talking. Couches to lie upon were prepared, and fruit was brought to eat: dates, figs and nutmegs, cloves and pomegranates, and sweets made with ginger from Alexandria. They tasted many more drinks: spiced wine without honey or pepper, old mulberry wine and clear syrup. All of this was new and foreign to Gwri, and he was quite amazed.
The next day Gwri couldn't contain his excitement as he told Kigva about all the wonders he had seen and tasted. She listened wide-eyed and wondered if Gwri had mistaken a dream for reality. But she was pleased to hear him say, with sincerity, that if someone had asked him if he would swap his friendship with her for all of those wonders, he would not even give it a moments thought, so great was his love for her. And then he made her sit on a mossy hummock as her throne, and made a crown out of leafy oak twigs, and began to bring to her various natural objects that he found lying nearby, in jest, playing out the role of one of the serving youths he had seen the previous evening. He brought her pine cones, snail shells and buttercups and served her imaginary wine from his wooden bowl into her drinking cup, calling her such names as 'Your Highness' and 'My Lady'.
Pwyll and Rhianon were keen to impress upon Gwri that though the life they were introducing him to had its pleasures and advantages, so too did the life he had been living, and they maintained their desire to learn from him about that life. And so he took them around the country and introduced them to an excellent form of shamanism that he and Kigva practised. This involved simply finding an animal or plant and then greeting it telepathically and then meditating upon it and communing with it in the mind and feeling its magic, noticing the effect that this has on the state of one's consciousness. And so they tuned into bulls and cattle and calves and goats and sheep and lizards and ants and dragonflies and bees and oaks and ivy and pines and adders and lizards and fish and rocks and stones and many kinds of birds including herons and hawks, and this simple wisdom answered a need that had long resided silently in their breasts. They were amazed at how their perception was enriched, how their state of mind was calmed and grounded and yet also seemed to reach easily for the stars as they connected through their hearts to the living world of nature around them. They resolved that, just as they had said, they would indeed add pastoral pleasures to their vocabulary while simultaneously increasing Gwri's knowledge of their world.
On another occasion they explained to Gwri about Memory, who is, as the Hermetica says, the assistant of Nature, organising and directing biological growth in accordance with blueprints of form existing at a multidimensional, metaphysical level. They explained too how all minds are a part of the Universal Mind, and how Memory also works on the level of ideas, including human thoughts. They explained that ideas with a universality to them, something absolutely definable, intelligible, unchanging, such as the figures of geometry, naturally develop a much stronger form field in the Collective Memory. As a result of this, they explained, arts that make use of harmonious geometry, whether it be painting, architecture, sculpture, metalwork, pottery or some other, these forms of art can be used as triggers for the perception of Memory in the mind's eye. In other words the viewer can perceive that resonance between the particular form and the universal transcendent blueprint, the morphic fields, and the effect of this is that the mind of the viewer is drawn out of an exclusively particular perception and is able to sense the Eternal, which naturally causes them to feel more at peace, less caught in linear time, less concerned about death, more inclined to take time and appreciate. This uplifted state, they told him, is what Civilization is, as when Osiris and Isis brought good order to Egypt, as the Hermetica describes. Pwyll and Rhianon told Gwri not to believe anyone who told him Civilization was something otherwise. Not that his life so far would have been stuck only in the particular, they said, for as he went about the activities of herding the goats he would have been resonating with all the previous generations of herdsman back through the millennia, and as he walked the old paths over the hills he was probably also entering into a resonance with an established pattern of place, so too did the old stories told around the fireside tune into the past, the ancestral Dreamtime, by means of Memory. However, they said, the high arts were capable of concentrating this kind of consciousness to a point of focus whereby a true aura of civilization could be achieved. So for example the archetypal herdsman walks the skies of late Spring and Summer evenings as the constellation Bootes, and this unchanging pattern of stars is universal, being the same wherever upon the globe a viewer is located. Such an unchanging, universal form takes the herdsman to a 'hermetic' level, with the drama played out each year in the skies as he appears in Spring driving his flocks out to pasture after the Winter is over, then disappearing form the sky at the end of the Summer as the flocks are brought in. Such a figure may then become an inspiration for poetry, story and painting.
Gwri had never heard of the Hermetica or Osiris and Isis, but Pwyll and Rhianon were patient and explained in many different ways, continually questioning him until at last they could clearly see that he had grasped the concepts. They then lead him to a special building where there was a little miniature maze into which mice were being placed. They explained that the mice were given certain tasks to do, and that this experiment had been continued over many years, and that the results showed that the mice were getting better and better at performing the tasks. They could be mice related to those that had done the tasks before, or they could be completely unrelated, but all were of the same species and they were gradually performing the tasks quicker and quicker. Pwyll and Rhianon explained to Gwri that this was the result of Memory, the collective memory of the species existing in fields that exist beyond the physical world.
Gwri, out of whose thoughts young Kigva rarely strayed, wondered if he might use this as an opportunity to obtain more of the knowledge of the birds and the bees that he so ardently desired, without showing his ignorance.
"Is this how the rams and the ewes know what to do when it is time for them to make baby lambs?"
"Quite possibly, yes," said Rhianon.
"Then why don't humans automatically know what to do?"
"Good question," said Rhianon. "I suppose it's because as humans we like to fill our minds with all sorts of other things and the instincts can get crowded out. Which is not always a bad thing, because life for us would be difficult if we made new babies every year like rams and ewes without deliberately deciding too."
"But what if a human knew how to protect against such things, and wanted to Remember anyway, as the animals Remember, not to have babies, but to satisfying a burning desire that has been growing in the hearts of himself and his girlfriend?"
Rhianon and Pwyll struggled to hide their smiles, so transparent were Gwri's motives. Pwyll stepped in at this point.
"Ah well, I should think it would be best for him to ask someone such as an older friend about such things."
After this Gwri realised he had no choice but to pluck up the courage to go and ask Gareth for the information he required. After pacing around for some time putting off the moment, he finally went and spoke to Gareth, who, being a kindly young man, did not laugh or scoff, but told Gwri what he wanted to know in no nonsense terms. And you may assume that neither Gwri nor Kigva slept much that night, so much did they revel in the joys of their new favourite pastime.
Over the next years Gwri was taught grammar and diction and given a grounding in the various other subjects that would serve him well once he entered into the life of the royal palace. He proved to be a willing and intelligent student, and learnt well. Then at last the time came for him to find out not only that Pwyll and Rhianon were King and Queen of Dyffed, but also that they were his parents. Of course over the years he had often wondered why Pwyll and Rhianon had singled him out for their courses of education, and so the information was not a total shock. It was still a surprise though.
They then asked him to decide what he wanted to do. Did he want to carry on living on the farm but visit the palace whenever he wanted, or to move to the palace and visit the farm whenever he wanted? Uppermost in his own mind was dear Kigva.
"How about we just play it by ear," he said, and it was agreed that that was what they would do.
Soon after Gwri was integrated into the palace as Prince of Dyffed Pwyll and Rhianon told him it was time he was introduced to a very old family tradition that had been passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years. Preparations were made for a journey and then a troop headed off into Lloegyr (England) and down through Somerset where they saw the majestic Tor of Glastonbury rising above the moors, and continued on into Dorset, where they made their way along the course of what is called the Cerne River, to the town of Cerne Abbas, where a great image of a man hunting with a stick is carved down to the chalk on the hillside. They told him that they would now teach him the traditional ways of offering food to the ancestors of Rhianon's line, kings and queens from some forgotten period, and that following this they would teach him the secrets of Regenerating the Wasteland.
They went to a certain place at the foot of the Giant's Hill and opened a secret doorway of stone, lighting torches and leading the way down a short tunnel and into a great underground chamber. The walls were covered with paintings of bare-topped, kilted men in standardised poses engaged in various activities such as hunting waterfowl, fishing in marshes with harpoons and harvesting grapes from vines, and there were many hieroglyphic inscriptions of a kind that Gwri could make no sense of. They went into a further chamber where there was an altar for offerings and here they laid a calcite lotiform chalice filled with wine on the slab, and waved an incense sensor, and said a certain blessing over the wine. Then Pwyll went to an ebony dresser covered with gilded charms and took from it an ancient parchment which contained a map with geometric diagrams and instructions in hieroglyphs, and he began to explain these things to Gwri.
The curatress stopped speaking.
I looked at her with raised eyebrows and a shrug, as if to say "and then...?"
"The text breaks off there," she said. "We don't know what the maps or diagrams were about, or what the ceremony for Regenerating the Land consisted of."
"Well!" I said. "That's a bit of an anticlimax."
"Mmm," said the curatress. "Sorry about that." And then she added: "But you can invite me out to dinner tomorrow night if you like."
"Will you tell me the last part of the story?"
"No-one knows the last part of the story."
"Do you want to go for dinner anyway."
"Yes," I said, as the guard's final eyelid dropped closed, "on account of fancying you."
And so we started dating, and our snuggling was a fine way to keep the winter cold at bay. Somewhere inside me I remained curious to know what that parchment showed, and what the ceremony was that Pwyll had started teaching to Gwri at the end of the tale. But it wasn't until the following May when the Cuppalot family and Hatpins and Heather arrived back from Egypt that I got into a conversation with them at a dinner party and, having imbibed generously, boldly suggested that we headed to Cerne Abbas, found the secret doorway to the underground chamber, located the map, and learned from it the lost secrets of the ceremony for Regenerating the Land.
They were all for it, so off we headed, Hatpins and Heather, Cuppalot, Myrtale and young Empathagenia, myself and Margaret, which I should tell you is the name of the Curatress of the British Temple of Sminthean Apollo, my ladyfriend. It took quite a bit of fumbling around in the woods and undergrowth to find that door, I can tell you, but it was certainly worth it as we swung it open and ventured into the hallowed hall. It was just as described in the story, but one thing which had not occurred to me before was now abundantly evident. It was Egyptian! The frescoes on the wall, the hieroglyphic writing, the pillars and offering table - the whole thing was Egyptian. Professor Hatpins was quick to ascertain from various details that the style was that of the Old Kingdom, and probably, he said, late third or early fourth dynasty, the age of the pyramid builders.
We greeted the images in the wall paintings respectfully, knowing that they were gateways to the kas of these ones now departed for Lightland and the Field of Reeds, and made it known that our intentions were benevolent, then we located the ebony dresser and found the ancient parchment. This we took with us when we left, and made exact copies, then returned it to its place in the dresser in the chamber. Hatpins was very glad that he had spent his time in Egypt over the last few months brushing up his knowledge of hieroglypic writing, and he now set to work deciphering and decoding.
Several days later the Hatpinses invited us all to their cottage near Marlow on the Thames to hear what the professor had discovered.
"Well then, I may now present to you the route towards a satisfactory, and indeed wonderful, conclusion to the tale, providing us with the details of the regeneration of the wastleland and the healing of the wounded king. I won’t go into all the details of how I decoded the parchment," said Hatpins, who had taken it upon himself to dress as an official from the Egyptian 4th Dynasty for the occasion, an imakhu or 'friend of the pharaoh', "but instead will provide here a summary of the results of my investigation."
He switched on a projector screen and took up a six-foot long was staff to use as a pointer stick.
"First I needed to work out what was being referred to as the First Risen Land. The parchment seemed to be describing a large man-made construction that was supposed to represent the Primordial Mound. It also described another similar mound, and explained how these were both to be found along the diagonal of a two by one rectangle, a rectangle twice as long as wide, and having at opposite corners the extreme eastern and western points of the land."
Hatpins brought up an image on the screen and pointed at a line on the map between British East Point in Lowestoft and the most westerly point, namely Land’s End in Cornwall.
"I found that along this path there is indeed an enormous ancient man-made mound, namely Silbury Hill in Wiltshire. Further along the line is Glastonbury Tor, which viewed from along this bearing presents a profile very similar to Silbury, if one ignores the tower that has been built on top of it more recently." He brought up another image.
"Could the construction of Silbury have been commissioned by Egyptians?" asked Hatpins in a tone I immediately recognised as rhetorical. "Well, I've done some research. The first stage of Silbury’s construction, known as Silbury I, was a relatively small mound, carbon dated to 2,700 B.C., and here I use the dating from Symbolic Landscapes by Devereux. I was aware that this was well after the start of dynastic Egypt. There were two more stages of construction following this and it is thought that the builders did not leave long pauses between these stages, but that, because of their sheer size, they would have taken quite a few years to complete. I realised that this put the completion of Silbury II and start of Silbury III at a date of, by reasonable estimate, about 2,670 B.C., which I knew was the period when King Djoser built the first stepped pyramid at Saqqara, which was likewise enlarged by later stages of building.
"I learnt that under the turf covering, according to the archaeologists, Silbury is a massive polygonal stepped pyramid built from chalk blocks.
"Since Silbury III would itself have taken quite a few years to complete, a reasonable estimate would be around 2630 B.C. Some time not too long after this completion there was a final stage of construction - the steps were filled in with Earth to produce the straight sides we see today. And it was at this time that the same thing was going on in Egypt - King Sneferu being the first to fill in the steps of a pyramid to make a ‘true’ pyramid. Then it was Sneferu’s son who had the Great Pyramid built. (Djoser 2667-2648 BC, Sneferu, 2613-2589 BC)
"I concluded, from this research, that not only was it possible that the Egyptians commissioned the building of the mound, but I further reasoned that they were starting to look like likely candidates.
"I then realised that Silbury Hill is not just vaguely but exactly at the bearing of the diagonal of the 2 by 1 rectangle from Glastonbury Tor, the prominent and evocative hill that presents a profile just like Silbury from this angle and the long axis of which, together with the Pilgrims’ Path over it, are also at this 2 by 1 bearing. Following the bearing further eastward leads to another of the greatest of the Early Bronze Age sites in Britain, at Dorchester-upon-Thames.
"So Silbury Hill and Dorchester Henge began to look like part of the establishment of the 2 by 1 rectangle that is inherent in the English profile because East Point (Lowestoft) and West Point (Land’s End) are at two diagonally opposite corners of this rectangle with a prominent hill, the Tor of Glastonbury, located along the line. Indeed, the line through Silbury to Dorchester is an exact version of this bearing, while of course the line between exact East Point and exact West Point is not absolutely an exact 2 by 1. The line established by these extrensive Early Bronze Age constructions is therefore an idealised slight 'correction' of the innate geometry as it stands today with current sea-levels.
Furthermore, Dorchester-on-Thames is at the Golden Section of the diagonal, while the Golden Section of such a 2 by 1 rectangle is in fact generated by elementary sacred geometry, as I have showed in this diagram.
"The next part of the parchment caused me to burn the midnight oil for several days as I worked out bit by bit that the Egyptian hieroglyphs were referring to the two human figure chalk giants of Britain. Cerne Abbas, home of the one of these chalk giants, and the village of Wilmington from which the other, known as the Long Man, is viewed are at exactly the same latitude as each other, at 50’49’’. They draw a horizontal line across the British 2 by 1 geodetic rectangle, the one that has two of its opposite corners at East and West Point. The height of this line from the bottom of the 2 by 1 rectangle compared to the full height of the rectangle is 1 : 3.41. This I found intriguing, because it is a sacred geometric ratio defining the height up any isosceles triangle that divides the triangle into two equal areas. It may be found geometrically from the bisection of the diagonals of a square by the circle that the square exactly contains, as in this same disgram, here, and here."
He used his was sceptre to show the line between the two giants, showing how it was derived from the geometry.
"Indeed, in the Great Pyramid the level upon which the King’s Chamber is placed compared to the full height is in exactly this same ratio, so the surface areas above and below this level are equal. This architectural ratio fits very clearly into the perennial and culturally extremely central Egyptian theme of the balance or equivalence of That which is Above and That which is Below, i.e. the unification of the Two Lands of Upper and Lower Egypt. Memphis had an epithet ‘The Balance of the Two Lands’. Memphis was the capital of unified Egypt during the Old Kingdom. In the Middle Kingdom the power was transferred along with the unification of the two lands associations to Thebes. Several more days of non-stop research led to the realisation that, to cut a long story short, the Egyptians were working to a scheme of relative latitude positions using the ratio of the Balance of Upper and Lower in isosceles triangles, as shown in this diagram below. Take the latitudinal difference between Thebes (25’43’’) and the north part of the Delta on the central Memphis meridian (31’34’’), then apply the ratio of triangular equilibrium, ‘Khufu’s Ratio’ to the difference, and this takes you to exactly 29’51’’, the latitude of Memphis, the Balance of the Two Lands.
"There was a diverse array of symbolism used to express the theme of the Balance of the Two Lands. here are two examples." He brought up a pair of images.
Sema piece after photo in Treasures of Tutankhamun, 1972, and left, Ankh from Denderah Temple
"On the right we see an image from the Denderah Temple where the ankh is shown as a balance or scales by the addition of weights hanging from the elbows, and holds two Was sceptres, which represent dominion, as I learnt from The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt by Shaw and Nicholson. One of the meanings of the word ankh was ‘to bind’, according to Ancient Egypt by Oakes and Gahlin, as well as ‘life’. ‘Life of the Two Lands’ was a pharaonic epithet. Memphis, known as the ‘Balance of the Two Lands’ was also called Ankh Tawi, the Life or Binding of the Two Lands. The image then shows the two dominions held in balance. To the left we see a piece from King Tut’s tomb treasures, and it confirms that the ankh with two sceptres represents the Balance of the Two Lands, for the piece is in the form of the Sema symbol which meant exactly that. Sema means unify and the Sema symbol shows the Papyrus of Lower Egypt and the Lotus of Upper Egypt being bound together. (Treasures of Tutankhamun, The Trustees of the British Museum) It can almost go without saying that the Long Man of Wilmington is essentially the same as these figures of the ankh and two sceptres.
"Thebes was held to be the site of the Primordial Mound and Silbury III (uncovered) looks just like the Egyptian 7-stepped symbol for this mound, while Thebes is at exactly 2/7 of the way from Equator to Pole, and Silbury is at exactly 4/7 - precisely twice the latitude! Delphi was the Greek equivalent of Thebes, the national centre and its mountain, Parnassus, is the location of the First Mountain to rise above the waters in the Deukalion myth, and is located at 3/7 of the way from Equator to Pole, and like Thebes there was an annual festival at Delphi where a crescent shaped boat was carried around. Both sites also had oracles, two of most famous of the ancient world, the Delphic Oracle of Apollo and the Theban oracle of Ammon. The crescent boat carried at Delphi was called Argo, like the boat that carried the fleece of the Golden Ram, while the crescent boat of Thebes carried the solar-ram-god Ammun. An Egyptian founding of Delphi is possible and consitant with the archaeological chronology, for a settlement there dates to Mykenean times when there was much trading between the nations, and so it seems to me that Silbury here in Britain must have been part of this pattern of Primordial Mound oracle/festival centres at seventh divisions of latitude.
"Then I recalled that the Long Man and the Cerne Abbas Giant together draw a horizontal line at precisely this same ratio up the rectangle, and also noticed the amazing similarity between the image of the Long Man and Egyptian animated ankhs above. This, I suddenly knew, is what the Long Man represents, the Balance of That which is Above and That which is Below in the Egypto-British scheme. The two giants’ line of latitude, 50’49’’, will divide any isosceles triangle with its base on the base of the geodetic rectangle and tip at the top of the rectangle into two equal areas, as in the Great Pyramid of Khufu."
Now it was time for the great revelation.
"The natural choice then of the triangle to put in is that very pyramid triangle, the cross section of Khufu’s pyramid. I did so on the map with the internal chambers included, and was utterly stunned at the result of this: the end of the Orion-aligned shaft from the King’s Chamber is at the exact location of the Cerne Abbas Giant which is itself an image of Orion with his club!! I checked this with a mathematical calculation from longitude figures and found it to be no more than a sixtieth of a degree away, a stone’s throw at this latitude, from the exact spot produced by applying the measurements in the pyramid.
"But Orion in Egypt held a throwing stick when shown hunting in the celestial marshes, not quite the same as a club. Actually, that’s not the full story. The Egyptian ceremony for aligning the foundation of a temple to the cardinal directions, known as the Stretching the Cord ceremony, is known to us from several examples, and, according to Shaw and Nicholson in The Dictionary of Ancient Egypt "This method relied on sightings of the Great Bear and Orion constellations, using an ‘instrument of knowing’ (merket), similar to an astrolabe, and a sighting tool made from the central rib of a palm leaf.” The text of this ceremony also includes the following words, "I hold the peg, I grasp the handle of the club and grip the measuring cord with Seshat. I turn my eyes to the movements of the stars”, and this is accompanied by images of the pharaoh knocking marker stakes into the ground with a club. This links Orion directly with club-holding. This was the act of setting out a north-south meridian. The shaft from the King’s Chamber in the pyramid points due south of course and aligned upon the culmination of the Belt of Orion in the Pyramid Age, and must be an architectural reference to this sacred ceremony. The Orion-Club associations therefore suggest a meridian through Cerne Abbas, and sure enough in Britain the line running due north-south from Cerne Abbas turns out to be the longest North-South line that can be drawn only on dry land in Britain, just beating the Glastonbury ‘rose-line’. Another viable possibility is that what was originally a throwing stick was alterd to a club in later recuttings of the giant, to fit with the Graeco-Roman conception of Orion, perhaps during the Roman period.
"The revelations weren't over yet, for an awesome discovery came next. The three enormous Thornborough Henges (themselves an image of Orion’s Belt) are, when measured on an atlas of Britain, the same distance north and east of the pyramid apex that Cerne is south and west of it, so that if the pyramid plan so far outlined is rotated through 180' around its apex the Thornborough Orion’s Belt is in the same position as the Cerne Orion at the end of the Orion Shaft - a mindblower.
The Three Henges of Thornborough from the air and Orion’s Belt through a telescope
Haptins then went on to describe how he had researched further the connections between the giants and Egyptian conceptions. Did we want to know about this, he asked, adding that it would lead to the completion of the tale of Gwri Golden Hair. We said that we did, and so he handed out a booklet he had put together which contained the following information.
The Two Giants : Figures from the Stars
"Aaron threw down his staff in front of Pharaoh and his court, and it turned into a serpent. Then Pharaoh in his turn called on the sages and sorcerers, and with their witchcraft the magicians of Egypt did the same. Each threw his staff down and these turned into serpents. " (Exodus 7:10)
Consider the possibility that the Cerne Giant with his club is Orion, the club-bearing hunter giant of Graeco-Roman tradition, known as Arrawn (‘Ar-ah-oon’) to the Welsh and Herne to the old English, a name similar to Cerne. In fact Orion as a stick-bearer goes right back to Egypt. Perhaps the most unarguable instance of this is the position of Orion in the location of Rostau in the sky region known as the Duat, namely the area to the right of the Milky Way including Taurus, Orion and Sirius. Rostau means ‘The Place of Dragging’ in reference to the hauling of the deceased’s sarcophagus to its resting place, and this is depicted with Taurus and Orion - as stick-bearer - clearly shown.
Ferrying the deceased through Rostau, with Orion and Taurus
Scenes like this, with a funerary sledge dragged by a bovine that is driven on by a stick-bearer, are found in the “Book of the Dead”, such as, for example, the papyrus of Hunefer, as an accompaniment to a text including references to Rostau: “I was with Horus on the day when Osiris, the still of heart, was clothed and washed, unbolting the door of hidden things in the Land of Rostau…I am the great chief of the service on the day of celebrating the coming of light and life by placing the Hennu boat of Sokar on the sledge.” Similarly, the bovine is shown driven through the Fields of Satisfaction by a stick bearer - Taurus and Orion moving toward the West.
The arm holding the stick raised above the head and the other arm raised in front of the figure form the classic Orion pose, and whilst the bovine direction is the reverse of how we normally see Taurus, the raised head results in the horns being, in fact, in the correct location and orientation with respect to Orion. Having identified the key pose, it is then easy to recognize Orion depicted again and again in tombs and other images connected with the Afterlife. The constellation of Orion, known as Sah, was closely associated with Osiris, the lord of the Afterlife, who could dwell within the Afterlife paradise in the form of Orion the Hunter, engaging in enjoyable pursuits such as hunting waterfowl in the celestial marshes. Orion is located just to the right side, the west side, of the great river of the sky, the Milky Way, and through the hermetic sky-ground equivalence by which the Egyptians equated the great river of the sky with their own great river, the Nile, the region of Orion-Osiris next to the band of the Milky Way was seen, as shown not just by the imagery but also by Egyptian texts, as a marshy river-side region, hence the image of hunting in a field of rushes. That the Egyptians did indeed envisage a Nile up in the sky is shown conclusively by various utterances in the Pyramid Texts, such as (pyr.1759) ‘…be firm o King, on the underside of the sky with the beautiful star upon the bends of the Winding Waterway’, and (pyr.1182-3) ‘may you lift me up and raise me up to the Winding Waterway, may you set me among the gods, the imperishable stars.’
This also is the origin of the similar images of Hathor the cow goddess standing amongst the reeds welcoming newcomers to the afterlife - here she is Taurus in this same part of the sky. (In Minoan Crete one assumed the form of Perseus and took the bull by the horns to get there, and this - grasping the horns of the Bull of the Sky to cross over into the Afterlife - is actually described in the early Pyramid Texts of Egypt, but I digress.) The Egyptians no doubt actually did use throwing sticks to hunt for water fowl in such regions - a gold-tipped ‘boomerang’ was found in Tutankhamun’s tomb treasures, one of many - and this throwing stick became the club of the Greek Orion, who yet retained his status as a hunter, as he did when he became Welsh Arrawn and English Herne. His myth as recorded by the Greeks also retained the fact that he chases a flock of birds across the sky. In fact in Egypt this was the Hyades, since this constellation just to the west of Orion is a v-shaped group of stars, just as water-fowl such as geese and gulls fly in a v-formation, and the V points away from the hunter.
So the Cerne and Wilmington giants mark the ‘Balance of Upper and Lower’ line which is given by the same ratio as the height of the King’s Chamber in the pyramid. As frequently pointed out, from this chamber a shaft aligns southward to the point in the sky where Orion’s Belt culminated at the meridian in the Pyramid Age, a fact which dovetails with the connections to Orion in the funerary tradition. And now we are considering that Cerne himself is Orion.
Below: The Cerne Orion., Image from Theban Tomb, of Nakht in the Form of Orion hunting in the Celestial Field of Reeds, following the flock of birds across the sky (and wearing gold pectoral collar similar to an amazing piece that turned up in an ancient burial mound near Mold in North Wales), and Orion with club as we see him today.
As regards the Long Man of Wilmington, there are again various Egyptian images which are strikingly similar, and the context turns out to be interconnected with that of the Cerne Orion. For a start there is this image below left which shows the Serpent Bearer constellation on the ceiling of the Temple of Hathor at Deir el Medina. To the right of it is the Long Man of Wilmington.
Above: even a cursory glance through the catalogue of Egyptian art is enough to find images similar to the Long Man of Wilmington, shown on the right. Left: Hekka, the Egyptian Serpent Bearer
The Serpent Bearer stands, or we might say tramples on Scorpio, which relates to a Greek myth whereby he is the one who heals the giant Orion the Hunter, bringing him back to life after he has been stung by the scorpion - the setting of Orion at the time of the rising of Scorpio. It is tempting to wonder if this might have a connection to the things Thoth did for Osiris. In an image below we see Thoth holding two serpent-entwined staffs while giving the healing ankh to the pharaoh standing in Osiris pose. Also, Thoth plays the key role in the Egyptian equivalent of the Greek myth just mentioned: Isis had hidden Horus in the marshes, but he was bitten by a scorpion. Isis appealed in anguish to Ra, the Sun god, who brought his boat to a halt, whereupon Thoth descended from this boat and uttered a spell that healed Horus.
The Double Sceptered Healer: Thoth holds serpent-entwined lotus and papyrus wands and gives life to pharaoh Seti I in Osiris pose, from Abydos, Upper Egypt
The Serpent Bearer constellation may indeed be an old one. Notice for example that it is present in art of the Bronze Age site of Knossos in Crete. The frescoes from the ‘palace’ of Knossos are constellation images, including the Cup Bearer (Aquarius), the Bull Leaper (Perseus over Taurus), winged lions (Leo and Leo Minor), and the Doves (the Pleiades), and so on. It is reasonable therefore to conclude that images of the bare-breasted goddess holding a serpent in each hand represent the Serpent Bearer constellation, as this is the standard configuration. Furthermore, though the foot of the Serpent Bearer touches the ecliptic in between Sagittarius and Scorpio, the main part of the constellation is above Scorpio. In Ancient Egypt the god who holds two serpents was called Hekka meaning ‘magic’.
The position of the Serpent Bearer in the sky is therefore interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, when Orion is, for example, setting on the western horizon, the Serpent Bearer is rising on the eastern Horizon. Recall that Wilmington is to the east and Cerne to the west of a long due east-west latitude line and we can see a pattern grounded from the stars into the landscape. Secondly, in the Pyramid Age, which was still in the Age of Taurus, the Sun was in the Scorpio-Serpent Bearer region at the Autumn Equinox, one of the two days in the year when the Sun rises due east and sets due west. This again links to the due east-west line between the two chalk giants in Southern Britain. The line therefore represents both sunrise at the Autumn Equinox, with the Sun rising in the Serpent Bearer - Scorpio region exactly due East while Orion is setting in the West, or the Spring Equinox sunset, with the Sun setting in the Taurus - Orion region due west while the Serpent Bearer rises in the East.
Now then, we really must be getting right into the heart of the mystery here, because serpent wands were the magical tool of those who were regarded as snake and scorpion charmers (See Ancient Egypt, Oaks and Gahlin, Hermes House, p. 453). The Egyptians used the name Kherep Selket, ‘the one who has power over the scorpion goddess’, for such people. (Ancient Egypt, p. 443) The absolute icing on the cake here is to be found in the image here below, a ‘cippus of Horus’, showing the young god standing with a lotus staff to one side and a papyrus staff to the other, holding a serpent in both hands and also a scorpion in the right hand, while standing on yet more dangerous animals, in this case crocodiles. He has mastery over all these dangers. Once again we have the Serpent Bearer and once again the image is strongly reminiscent of the Long Man.
Horus as Serpent Bearer with lotus and papyrus staffs and scorpion
Plutarch (in On Isis and Osiris) says it was Set who sent the scorpion against Horus, and this must be why Horus is shown between both the lotus and the papyrus staffs - he has mastered the scorpion, triumphed over Set, and stands now as ruler of both lands, Lower Egypt symbolized by the papyrus, as well as Upper Egypt, formerly the realm of Set, and symbolized by the lotus.
Suddenly we have an ancient myth, Egyptian and Greek, imprinted into our British landscape as the two chalk giants, the setting or 'stung' Orion and the rising Serpent Bearer who will heal him. It is a hermetic myth in that it involves a sky-ground mapping, the bringing down of a stellar drama, and because its chief agent is Thoth-Hermes with his Caduceus or healing serpent wand or wands, and it is a story whose essence is regeneration.
This kind of scorpion-charming even turns up in the Pyramid Texts, writings which are found within and thus tell us about the use of the pyramids, and which are concerned with the Soul of the deceased’s ascent into the Heavens. Utterance 227 refers to the Scorpion setting, or ‘gliding into the ground’, an event which occurs as Orion rises, and a few utterances on we do indeed hear about the king ascending as Orion - a pretty neat confirmation that our Orion-Scorpio chalk giants myth was indeed present in Egypt in the Pyramid Age. Utterance 227 reads:
To say: The head of the great black bull was cut off.
Hpn.w-serpent, this is said to thee. śr?-ntr-scorpion, this is said to thee:
Turn over, glide into the ground. I have said this to thee.
When constellations go down toward the west they do indeed turn over, and if something glides then it is likely to be in the sky. It does really sound like the setting of Scorpio.
Utterances 233 to 234 are also interesting as they contain references to double serpents and the scorpion:
233a. The n‘w-serpent (male) is bitten by the n‘.t-serpent (female); the female serpent is bitten by the male serpent.
233b. Heaven is protected magically; earth is protected magically; the male who is behind mankind is protected magically.
234a. The god whose head is blind is protected magically (Horus, with wounded eye?); thou thyself, scorpion, art enchanted / (made harmless by?) magical protection.
234b. These are the two knots (charm) of Elephantiné which are in the mouth of Osiris,
234c. which Horus knotted concerning the backbone.
There is clearly some obscurity here, but it sounds like two entwined serpents form a charm which creates a magical protection against the harmful powers of the Scorpion, or at least this interpretation is as valid as any other I can think of. It reminds us of Hekka whose two serpents are often shown crossed over each other. The ‘Thou, thyself, Scorpion, art enchanted’ is hauntingly reminiscent of the phrase in Virgil’s ‘messianic’ eclogue ‘Even the Serpent will fall’, but that is surely another story.
Whilst some translations read ‘The Scorpion itself if enchanted’ others read ‘The Scorpion itself is magically protected.’ And it is true. Scorpions are immune to scorpion venom. A key thing to recall here is that the thing to do if stung by a scorpion is siad to be to boil up and eat the main body of the scorpion apart from the sting, because it contains the anti-venom. I understand that the same is true with poisonous snakes. Now we can see why the healer figure is a serpent-bearer - the snake is in fact the itself cure for the snakebite, and this would have be known to the snake charmers of Egypt.
The later myth of the journey of the boat of Re through the night, as written and depicted on walls of the Theban complex, was linked to the afterlife journey, with the dawn being rebirth after the journey through the underworld, and here again we find Scorpio. Re visits Thoth in the sixth hour and then, in the seventh of the twelve hours of the night was the serpent demon whose head was held by Selket, the scorpion goddess. These 12 hours have been linked to the constellations of the Zodiac, and sure enough Libra, the Scales of Thoth, is the sixth house and Scorpio is the seventh house of the Zodiac, corresponding to the hours just mentioned.
If we want to invoke a British myth that has some resonance with this business - and I would suggest that yes we do, because cultural integrity demands it - then we can look to the story of Peredur, as he is called in the Welsh tale in the Mabinogion. He appears to be pretty much one and the same as Percival in the French versions.
Peredur in the Mabinogion is strange for a number of reasons. Not least is the peculiar combination of rather boring, repetitive filler material in which the hero is nothing more than a kind of Medieval James Bond, where even the narrator appears bored by his many conquests. “And then he overthrew a hundred knights. Then he went to bed. The next day he got up and overthrew a hundred more.” Such elements are not exactly riveting, and seem to be related with very little zeal. In sharp and peculiar contrast are other elements which seem poetic, mysterious, dreamlike and creative, such as when he stays at a hermit’s house, and it snows, and then a hawk kills a duck, then the noise of horses frightens off the hawk, then a raven comes to the sight of the kill, and Peredur contemplates the black of the raven and the red of the drops of blood against the white snow, and this makes him think of ‘the woman he loves best’, with her black hair, red cheeks and white skin. He enters into a long mediation upon these colours which it is very difficult to pull him out of. The element of the mother taking him away to a safe hiding place is, incidentally, in common with the story of Horus, who was similarly taken to a safe hiding place in the marshes by his mother Isis to keep him safe from Set, the impetuous warrior, who might be likened to Kai, and Arthur to Osiris.
It seems to be the last part of the story where the imagery really picks up, and even more dreamlike than the blood on the snow is the place where there were white sheep in a field on one side of the valley, and black sheep on the other side, and when a white sheep bleated a black sheep would cross the river and turn white, and when a black sheep bleated a white sheep would cross the river and turn black. On the bank of this river was a tree that was green with leaves on one side, while the other half was aflame with fire.
The black sheep turning white may be a symbol of his own family ancestry, for at the end of the tale he meets a black woman who he discovers is his cousin, and that he is of some ancient royal line. And the reason this tale has a resonance with Horus triumphing over Set and the poisonous creatures sent against him is that Peredur is given a magic charm by a woman who comes ‘from the direction of India’, which protects him while he slays a serpent that lives in a cave within a burial mound upon a hill. When he defeats the serpent he finds a magic stone in its tail with the property of alchemy. We must remember that it is by killing a snake and drinking its blood that an anti-venom can be found. We may also remember that it is in the related tale of Percival by Robert de Boron that the hero goes to a hill upon which there is a carving of a man, suggesting the Long Man, who we have now interpreted as the Serpent Bearer, the one who heals the king Osiris-Orion after he has been bitten by the scorpion. In fact in de Boron’s tale Percival does kill a great serpent and extract a magical chain from within its throat which he uses to save a knight. The Grail is used to serve some wounded king and bring him back to life, and one answer to the question of who this mysterious figure is who is served by the Grail is Osiris, or in British terms Arhtur. So the end of the tale may run as follows: King Arhtur is bitten by a serpent. Gwri kills the serpent and makes from it a drink which he gives to Arthur as an antidote from the poison. Arthur recovers, the sleeper awakes, and the Golden Age is reborn.