He strikes well. Hard and keen and on the mark. The target responds accordingly: it reverberates. It is flattened. It crumbles. It moves. It dies. It comes to life.

Tomorrow, he has told us, he is going up with his dog to hit the peak of the mountain. He will take a sip from his saucer of mead, and then bend his knees as he raises his arms and his hammer over his head, until its peen rests on the slope behind him. The bristles of his beard will shiver in the air and under his breath, as he savours the taste of the liquor on his tongue. His dog’s tongue will pant, out of its mouth, on the mountainside.

And then he – Sucellus – will take a deep breath in, and an action that will start in that breath will move through his chest and his shoulders; will be sustained in his elbows and in the hammer itself, as it moves in a round arc to meet the mountain.

And the Earth will sing like a drum. And I don’t know what will happen then. It will flatten, it will crumble, it will move, it will die. It will come to life.

Bridie – the bright one

Bridie – the bright one

(written in Dearbhalie’s Awen)


In the beginning there was light and only light.  True light. Peace that passeth all understanding. The burning heart of the father.  All that was… was all that was… and all that ever could be.  The light contained alpha and omega, up and down; in and out: father mother lover sister brother, truth forever and ever. 

In one unseen moment, all that was desired to know itself. How desire arose in such luminosity, we will never know. Light deisred to look upon its own glory; to caress another as pure, as guilless, as brilliant…  And so it split in two.  And broke its own heart.  

In that second; worlds aeons and universes came into being… realms beyond imagining.  From the lightest dimensions of song and touch, of rainbow refracted dreaming dance – to the lowest hell relams of darkest debauched grasping at otherness… beasts and demons tearing flesh from one another in the insatiable quest for wholeness. 

Only one remembered.  Brigid; goddess of the sun.  And she, also containing the cool waters and healing power of the moon.  The one who could re-unite the fractured pieces: sooth and succour, inspire and inflame… and call the lost children home. So Brigid, on the back of her swan, in full knowing and awakening, her crown open to the crystaline essence of truth, went into the world.  She was ll things to all people; maiden, mother, lover, friend, provocateur, instigator, crone.  Comfort to the lonely.  Fire to the weak. In her we would see our own true face reflected. But she would only come to the meak.  Those willing to sacrifice selfish gain for freedom. Those with hearts pure enough to lie with then lamb.    

So eons passed. Fires and wars ravaged the world.  People fought and made love and made objects; built towers and banks and systems of governance…and tore them down again.  And finally a few were tired. They became meak.  They lay down in the field and stopped ploughing.  They stopped their desparate struggle for more.  They said: there must be another way.  And they called upon Brigid.   Luminescent she came on the wing of her diamond bright swan.  So dazzling, they could not gaze upon her. And she said to them:

”You never left.  For all that you felt you were parted from your god in heaven; that you fell from grace… and you called to him, and you cried for him. You never left.

Lay down your ploughts, sickles and scythes…stop trying. Lay down your arms,  swords and whips and tanks; your burning bridges and falling towers.  Surrender it all.  Be as children. ”

And they fell before Bridged – the bright one- hearing what she said was true.  And each skull cracked open, surrendering lotus petalled to the light of the swans wing.  And each heart cracked open surrendering to the firey panacea of perfect life – the hearth – the centre of the being where all is reconciled.

And the sun and moon were joined in unison.

Otherness was banished.

And all sang together, one voice, in truth.

My first ever poem

This is my first ever poem, it was written when I was seven years old, in felt tip pen, on one page of an adventure gamebook called ‘Grail Quest: The Castle of Darkness’. This was the first book I ever bought for myself, it’s the kind of book where you role dice and fight monsters.

My justification for posting it here? Well, the books (they are a series) are set in a rather idiosyncratic version of Camelot and have more ‘Grail questing’ in them than I realised at the time;  for example, although even back then I recognised Merlin, who is the reader’s guide to the magic world of the books, one of the recurring characters is Pellinore… In this particular book he’s encountered on the way in and out of the Castle in question. You carry a sword called Excalibur Junior, and your character lives just a couple of miles outside of Glastonbury. More about them here.

The recurring character who’s important here, though, is the Poetic Fiend. The Poetic Fiend is a friendly vampire who writes doggerel, and encourages ‘Pip’ (that’s the name you take as the quester) to write himself. A blank page headed “Pip’s Poem for the Fiend” gives the space to do it.

Anyway – with apologies for my faltering junior school spelling – here’s what I, as Pip, wrote for the Fiend; my first ever poem, written in a magical reworking of Camelot, under the watchful eye of a friendly vampire. Those who’ve seen my performances at the Open Gorsedds will note I appear to have been obsessed with birds from the start.


All my poems
I forgot
I could tell you
Cwite a lot

When I go
I’ll sae goodby
I’ll come back
When I see a bird fly.


For my efforts, the Fiend rewarded me with one gold coin, and told me to “spend it wisely, on some foolishness”.

The Power of Nine

Oh you maidens, numbered nine,
Who dance your way cross
Land and time: witches, sisters,
Oracles, shape-shifters.
What’s your wisdom?
What can you teach us?

Nine skerry-brides powered the mill,
Ground out the world
From the ice giant’s bones.
Nine sisters were nine mothers
To the hero Hiemidalir.
Nine Valkerie bring the brave to Valhalla,
As nine Morgana guide Arthur to Avalon.
There’s nine maiden mountains
And nine maiden wells,
Nine maidens painted on a cave in Cogal,
Nine witches of Caer Lyow,
Nine sisters of Mont Dol,
Nine ladies of Stanton Moor,
Nine maiden circles at Maldron,
Boskaden, Tregaseal, Waldron,
Nine druidesses of the Isle of Sien,
Nine who dance the Full Moon Rites,
Nine maenads and nine muses,
And then, with Cerridwen,
There’s nine whose breath kindles the fire
That heats the potion with the power to inspire
With Wisdom, Knowledge and Prophesy,
The initiate, willing to risk
All that they are in the name of truth.

In time, out of time, by time, through time,
Everywhere you look, you find them.
Thrice times three, trinity of trinities,
Over and again in myth and legend
These nine maidens weave their enchantment.
What’s their secret? What’s the mystery?
What do we learn from nine maidens’ histories?

Nine is the number of initiation.
Nine is the number of endings and beginnings.
Nine is the number of inspiration.
Nine is the number of transformation.
Nine moons to bring forth a babe.
Nine planets spinning round.
Nine dimensions to time.
Nine is the centre of all things.
Nine is the still point in the wind.
Eternally reoccurring,
Thrice time triple, nine-fold magical,
The power of three by the power of three
Can bind the world to our will.

Oh, you maidens who ever weave
In and out the fabric
Of time and place and story,
You nine whose sacred breath
Warms the cauldron of Cerridwen,
I stand before you now
Calling on your power.
I am a willing initiate
And I would drink
Of the cauldron of inspiration,
Of the potion of truth,
Open to the wisdom
Of those who’ve gone before.
I would know the nature of Awen,
Flowing of spirit,
Essence of life in motion.
Speak to me now.
Speak through me now.
Speak with the true voice of prophesy.
However we have called on you before
We have never needed you more.

“You have chosen this incarnation
To be part of the transformation
Of this sick ‘civilisation’,
Of an end to waste
And an end to greed
And the dawning understanding
Of what you truly need.
Listen to your hearts
Find the truth that’s beating there.
Open to your longing
For right living in the world.
Know that it is possible
For the point of power is now.

These are the most important things:
Hold your vision. Love with passion.
Speak your truth, and also listen.
Open to the dreams that call you
To a truer manifestation
Of the spirit of creation
And honouring of sacredness.”

It is time to own your power.
Heed the maidens’ message.
Eternally reoccurring,
Thrice times triple, nine-fold magical
The power of three by the power of three
Can bind the world to your will.

The Wheel of the Year

In response to Tim’s request, i am posting this in the correct place!

My piece on this year’s theme, ”12 Giants: The Glastonbury Zodiac”. The first half is poetry, the second half (beginning ”The Babe in the Boat…”) is a song.

The whole thing is called:

“The Wheel of the Year”

I stand before you as a Poet, first,
A Bard deform-ed through an eversion, not aversion, to verse,
I’m not the world’s worst!
And I’m bursting with discursive inner-healing for the hurts –
I have a feeling that it works…

It’s starting to dawn on me
What I’ve achieved
And even though part of me’s fairly relieved
The Fifth Bard of Glasstonb’ry’s
To be believed

The Western Star of Hesperus
Glows Golden Apples in Eve of Venus
The Fisher King’s Salmon Wisdom
Sprung forth from Ceridwen’s Cauldron

Sunlight on a Winter’s day
Crisply foretells that we’re well on the way
Starlight o’er a Blue Moon Tor
Lights up the night till it’s May once more
The Holly Queen and the Green Man
See Wheels turning, still, they stand
And the next revolution counts
Each to their own in equal amounts

The Bardic year of Ynys Witrin
Spanning two St. Dunstan’s Days
Harmonising Ancient Rhythms
In both new invention and paraphrase

Then my own personal journey
From the Isle of Death to the Isle of the Dead
Seascaped Thanet to Glastonbury’s Promontory
Finding Heartfelt Harmony and Healing for the Head

Am now become an Elder Bard!
And today – JUST TODAY! – am only half
Of the Current Chair
Am aware that there (somewhere!)
Is the next incumbent
Waiting to be chosen
But for now this moment
In time is frozen

So here at the end
Which is also the start
Both Silver and Gold
We are Bards of the Year of the Hallmark!
And whichever way we look, we know
That the Wheel of the Year is on show…

The Babe in the Boat
Holds the Key to the Temple
And Augurs the Return
Of the Once and Future King
Sail across the Moat
To the land of the Templar
Lessons can be learned
So drink it in


The Lady of the Lake
Reflects the constellations
Mapping out the stars
On the earth for all to see
Arthur on the wake
Well-read in incantations
Taliesin’s Words
In Company

Arianrhod’s Maze
Which contains the pilgrim’s Path
Hides the Silver Thread
So the Seeker finds they’re lost
Lapping are the Waves
Round the Measure of Math
The Isle of the Dead
Is starcrossed.

© Tony Atkinson 2011

Caer Sidhe

Let us extol the illustrious deeds
Of rough brow’d giants and knights on proud steeds
Questing the Grail.

Across the land named Summer they ride
To reach the shores of these twelve hides
That never paid Geld.

King Arviragus granted to Joseph,
Uncle of Jesus, freedom from sherriffs
And royal judges.

Arrogant Tudors took Somerset’s plums
And gave them to those with oversized thumbs;
Their loyal drudges.

Through aerial photos and recent research,
They’ve found some strange shapes in these ancient earthworks
And an old ditch.

Was it laid out in some mystical path
By Sumerian ancients? Well you may laugh …
But not too much.

Did light-line ley forces lay out the landscape
To form in courses of meaningful shape?
Or was it all planned?

It’s too good to be true, too big to be seen
And what on earth can all these pictures mean?
Who understands?

Castle of Wonders, if giants you seek
Then follow the hunter to where dragons sleep
And dreams are made.

Before the Briton with brave cultured hand
Albion’s giants this realm did command.
Not all were slain.

So listen while I tell you a story
Of giants and bean-stalks, the whole jack-a-nory
In the form of a song.

It won’t take a moment, well, maybe twelve minutes,
One for each giant and then we’ll be finished.
It won’t take long.

Came over the bridge from Ivythorn ridge
A beautiful deer, with no sound.
The white dogs of death all panting for breath
Burst through, red-eared, with one bound.
And now we begin, with the Nephilim,
As the Hooded One bends his bow.
He aims past the hounds and beyond the bounds
Of all we can be and know.

Breathe to become, newly burst through the boundaries.
Blazing brow be reborn, boldly blossom in the dawn!
Feel the bliss, be as one. Discipline wins the marathon.
She is bright as the moon, sweeps all bare with her broom.

The lady glides o’er the rippling sea
On the Polden’s western side.
The cradle wind blew the sea-chest of Lugh
And Taliesin’s hide.
The wind will whip King Solomon’s ship
That Pedrog and Bridget brought
Across the languid grey lagoon
To landfall at Dundon Fort.

Laugh for your life, let the wind be your lullaby,
Lilting over the lake, linger long in its wake.
Look, listen, leap, little gold do we ever keep;
Listen, learn, it’s your turn to leave more than you take.

To enter the gate of the royal estate
Needs knowledge of natures nine.
Mananan’s domain, the wind and the rain
And the infinite stormy brine.
The naked knight is called on to fight
And arms, once denied, are sought.
Mighty Titans this very night
Will feel the knife and sword.

Tree trunk align with the spine of the universe.
Roots drink deep from the earth, like starlight your leaves shine!
Hanging all in between what you do and you really mean
Are the keys to the Tree of Life’s great mystery.

Venerable Bran sheds a tear in the sun
For the raven whose fate is foresworn.
The foolish march hare flees to Somerton Fayre
As the fawn and calf are born.
Mountainous Bran, with a fleet on each arm,
Whose force-field would fail if disclosed.
Valiant Lugh, Fomorians slew,
With one stone was Balor deposed.

Float, flutter, fly, face the fear of the day you die.
Pierce the veil, break the gaol, to the victor the tale!
Vindication will come, though the vain may confuse the dumb,
follow fools, you will fall; trust your heart, you will rule them all.

The Wimble Toot witch lives just down the ditch
In a tumble-down past Teifi’s Bend.
She puts up a fight to our surly knight
But he overcomes her in the end.
The spider she spins and silver swans swim
As he studies her secret arts:
The right use of shield; to ride in the field;
And how to strike straight to the heart.

Set aside space for the sacred in everything,
The soothing of sorrows, the suffering’s done.
Sleep, sweet soul, soft the soil nourished for swelling.
Soon the seed that was sown will be grown in the spring-time sun!

Fair is Olwen ferch Yspaddaden
Our hero’s golden-haired prize.
From owl-borne dreams, her prince she has seen
With a raven’s wakeful eyes.
The greatest quest has yet to test
Our hero’s perfidious heart.
Sings the white dove of unselfish love
For without it you’d better not start.

High on a hill is the home of my family.
With hedgerows hemmed in, I am haunted by dreams.
I hear the harp playing heavenly harmonies.
You shall have honey to feed the haughty May Queen.

By Lydford Green, the lightning struck tree
Will point us to the Grail.
Mordred aggrieved did treachery lead
And double death did he deal.
Where Monarch’s Way cuts the Roman road through
The sacred barge set sail.
Pendragon was borne to Avalon’s shores
His damage for to heal.

Do you dare to dive in to the darkness so dizzying?
Deal with despair and the demons you bear?
Drink the nectar divine from the depths of imagining;
Make truth your devotion and open the door to your dreams!

Here’s a tale of two tribes who both knew the truth,
But told it to different tunes:
The one side would hum to the tone of the sun;
The other the timbre of moon.
The Baltonsborough team, in temper so mean,
Attacked the next terrified town.
This troublesome mob on sharp thistles trod
And tangled in thorns, turned around.

Let’s call a truce and take stock of life’s treasury,
temper the steel with the teachings we learn.
The straight and the thin only lead us to misery,
For the truth sometimes twists, but mostly it tends to turn.

On West Pennard Hill the cauldron is filled
And poetry’s nine senses made.
The salmon prevails in Avalon’s vale
Beneath the orchards’ shade.
The unicorn cools its feet in the pools
By the coppice on the shore.
Cocky Jack quick strikes out with his stick
And Cormoran is no more.

Take care to choose consciously like a King or Queen,
Concepts and knowledge in wisdom’s control.
For the cauldron cooks not for the cowardly warrior
But the chalice will serve those who serve the creator of all.

Out of the fog come Gog and Magog,
The gate-keepers of the mound.
The phoenix emerged from grammarye’s urge
And the magic of Merlin’s gown.
Peredur vanquished madness and might
To achieve this penultimate quest
And was that night with marvellous sight
In meditation blessed.

Merry meet, merry part, may you all mingle merrily,
Many mouths may you feed with your manna and mead.
As the moon shimmers down, silver crowning the meadow-fields
Man and woman embrace the impermanence of mortality.

As you may have guessed, there’s one final quest
Against a gargantuan hog.
The bristling boar with threatening roar
Is brought down by Greid’s grey dog.
Billy goats pitch on perilous bridge
And gore the hobgoblin full sore;
His body they throw to the quagmire below
Then shave off his head to be sure!

Gird your loins, take the stage, play the game, gracefully engage.
Though the struggle be grim, truth and goodness must win.
For the greedy will fail and the underdog will prevail
For only the guileless are within grasp of the Grail.

The owl and the goose return to the shore
Of Walton Hill once more,
To wait for the running of the deer
And the light of the mid-winter’s dawn.
Embattling trees encircle Caer Sidhe
For a reckoning of the score.
Some lingering thrall for the sea’s roaring call
Heralds the end of our tour.

Let the bells ring! Now it’s time for us all to sing
One final refrain to this riddling rhyme
And the reason for this astronomical journeying
Is to wait for the hunter to rise again over the ridge.

Oh Albion! What have we done?
To our daughters and noble sons?

Open Gorsedh 2011

This year’s theme was “Twelve Giants: The Glastonbury Zodiac”. Carly Roberts was chosen to be the sixth Bard of Ynyswitrin on St Dunstan’s day 2011. Tim Hall won the Crown and Oshia Drury was awarded the Tim Sebastion Memorial Trophy in recognition of her musical service to the community. Molly was installed as this year’s Younger Bard.

This means Tony Atkinson now joins the ranks of the Elder Bards. This year we admitted eight new Bards into the Order at the Annual Open Gorsedh ceremony.

  • Cat Watling
  • Jana Runnalls
  • Kat Brown :: TSMT 2010.
  • Carly Roberts :: Bardic Chair 2011.

Thanks to everyone who came and made this such a strong and inspiring event!