Today I have uploaded all the blogs from my facebook page The Warriors’ Way – A Journey to the Heart onto my blog here so that you can follow the story of my walk across Wales all in one place…Enjoy!
The Pilgrimage Begins – 31st May 2015
We live in changing times; the great turning as Joanna Macy calls it, transition times, a time when some of us are living the story we have been accustomed to since birth, the prevailing story our recent ancestors believed and passed down to us in their genes and their beliefs, and others are challenging that story, in their own lives and in what they tell their children. Of course many of us are living the paradox of both as we struggle to envision a future based on quite different principles whilst still needing to survive in a system that has certain expectations of us.
It can feel as if we have arrived in a time that has never been and of course in some senses that is true; we have never yet inhabited a planet where our species has used so much of the resources it finds around it that we have seriously impacted on the wellbeing of many other species including many of our own kind. At the same time,however, we are simply reliving a very familiar story; that of the dominant culture being challenged by another. Our history books are full of such turning points. It seems to be how humans evolve.
Today I left my peaceful Devon village, with my cat trying hard to walk with me, till my resourceful cat sitter tempted her back with biscuits, for a new foray into the world I live in. First stop Totnes, where the market was in full swing. Under the butterwalk two stalls set up side by side proclaimed very different messages yet both clearly manifestations of a new story emerging.
In recent times this area of our ancient market town has become known as a bit of a speakers corner albeit in a quiet understated way. Today a stall calling for the end of austerity stood beside one that was looking to the future in a rather less confrontational way; it was folk from the most recent transition initiative to have seeded in the area; a move to grow and process our own oats in the south hams. The transition team were offering free homemade flapjacks and crowd funding to purchase processing machinery for the town.
Across the road Dr Bike was in his usual pitch beside an ailing bicycle already set upside down ready for transition co founder Ben Brangwyn to work his magic on.Dr Bike can be found on the Saturday market most weeks repairing bikes in exchange for hugs, cakes and other such feel good exchanges.
Good tales to carry with me from Devon to Wales, where I am about to begin a month long storywalk.
Tonight I am in Caerleon, legendary court of king Arthur, though its actually an iron age hill fort closer to Caerwent where I am headed tomorrow that is more likely to have been the stronghold of the Briton’s king.
Without doubt though, Caerleon was a Roman fortress town. The magnificent amphitheatre is testimony to that, along with an impressive immaculately cared for museum filled to the brim with Roman artefacts uncovered in digs in the town from fine glassware to a stone coffin complete with its skeleton and burial goods.
I didn’t get much if a feel for Arthur’s presence here, even in the very well preserved amphitheatre that legend says was originally his round table but that may have been because of the teenage group who were chilling on its banks with their ghetto blaster pounding out rap of the kind that would feel appropriate in downtown Manhattan.
An elderly man with his newspaper shook his head and left his quiet seat on the outer edge and left.
School boys in soccer kits played tag and a couple of pairs of lovers sat in sheltered alcoves amongst the old stonework whilst I walked in the arena trying to feel the raw emotions that must have been present in this most barbaric of entertainment arenas.
Nothing. Carefully manicured grass and neat display boards.
The Briton’s and the Romans coexisted here once. How must that change of times have felt? Later the Angles overran the isle and the Britons were left to their Welsh and Cornish strongholds.
In the Hanbury arms I eat an early evening meal as the locals watch the cup final. They speak Welsh amongst themselves and I remember that I am in another country now. I am one of those Angles. I think of my great grandmother who was Welsh. Did she speak this language? Did she have to learn English when she crossed the border to work as housekeeper in a big house? I wonder how difficult it would be for me to to write in this our native language.
Tennyson sat in the hanbury Arms overlooking the river as I did this evening. He wrote of king arthur. I have a similar quest but it is Merlin whom I seek. I find him in an impressive sculpture of oak in an otherwise rather garish sculpture garden, its art rather subsumed by the quantity of pieces and the new age crystal shop that inevitably follows Arthurian legend about britain.
Why do I seek Merlin? Well I may be able to answer that question better at the end of this pilgrimage that will end on Bardsey island at the end of the month. Suffice to say for now that in this old story new story time in which we are living one of the themes that keeps reemerging for me is that if how important it is that we examine our roots before we choose how to live.
I suspect that the Arthurian legends, that body of story that so stirs us century after century, is likely to contain all that remains of the old teaching stories of our aboriginal peoples. That contained deep within its motifs are essential truths ..not so much for how we live in the world as how we manage our inner lives …and that now more than ever we have need of that wisdom.
Merlin has been a constant in my life. The grey bearded elder, Tolkien’s Gandalf, Rowling’s Dumbledore, exerts such a benign presence in our lives that the essence of that archetypal image has inspired poets and storytellers for time immemorial. What does he really represent? This is one of the questions I am carrying with me as I traverse these lands where the Briton’s took their culture when the Angles spread ever westwards.
Merlin carried with him when he journeyed this way that I will walk, this that I have christened the warriors way, the 13 treasures of Britain. You may think you don’t know this legend but the adventures of the hobbits and of Harry Potter are full of its symbology. Merlin took these treasures to the house of glass on Bardsey island. Why, and what did they represent? I hope to discover this as I walk. Was this last walk of his after he had fallen in love be with the maiden Nimue who patriarchal myths tell us took away his power?
Walk with me then on this journey of discovery, and discover with me what were these ancient teaching tales were telling us. What is the essential wisdom of the Britons that we lost sight of as the story of the invaders gradually became mainstream and what went before relegated to myth and faery tale?