After six ‘steps’ (posts), I have reached the top of my Silent Eye ‘Leaf and Flame:The Foliate Man’ stairway. This sixth post marks the start of a new ‘floor’…
Happy ever after, is it, Cariad? Oh, we’d all like to think so, wouldn’t we? The tales we hear at our mother’s knee have that as their ending, after all: Princesses and princes, saved by heroic quest, or love, or both, ushered into a book-ending boudoir of joy, those words ‘The End’ sparkling with the glitter of ‘No more problems…’
I could see my girl’s longings and desires, could almost feel the tremble of tears when she heard the first strains of ‘Hela’r Dryw’ and the familiar words of the Cymraeg soothed her with her childhood language: Ah, the little wren and its annual slaughter, hunted for ritual purposes and for a higher theme. Ah! The sweetness of that music!
Lady Ragnell, they call her now. But, as a little child – as one of Granny’s beloved orphans – she was Gwawr, her name meaning ‘Born at Dawn’, the name I gave her. Wild and beautiful, she grew – and, both her strength and her weakness, unaware. Because, see, the prince who battles three tasks and arrives at the princess’s locked chamber may not be a true hero; he could be a predator in disguise, bach, and our innocent girl might not know the difference.
But worse – and this, for all my far-sighting, I did not foresee – natural beauty and spirit and grace can attract malignity allied with sorcery. I will not skate over old ice, love – except to add the bitterest little touch to my darling’s curse: The Enchantress turned her into a twin of me so that what had once been the face and form of love and comfort, and stories in the old tongue told over a warm fire, became daily torment and the source of rejection.
I look at her now, through flickering and fiery flames; I see her uncertainty and vulnerable happiness through whirling greens and blues, as the sap trapped in logs works with the fire to drape the room with quickly flickering ribbons. I see her rushing headlong, at the end of the nuptial ceremony, her crimson-clad body an arrow of sheer pleasure, towards the outer courtyard of the castle, deep in snow and ringed with torchlight.
I see Moon, still full, lending its deep silver Grail to the blinding whiteness. I see the Lord and Lady of the Hunt, in white and red, proud antlers pointing their bone-truth at the sky. I see the ring of Fox dancers, led by Mr.Fox, standing still, poised, ready. I hear the twitterings and growls, the breathy barks, the snortings and the soft feathery sighs of boar and bull, stag and tiny wren, raven and horse – all gathered, none fighting, a truce for the night.
I see a girl running, as I once did, love, so many years ago – as we all do eventually, either from or towards, either in ecstasy or in agony. And I know my little Gwawr: She runs with the wind because her spirit, having danced to the Welsh wren, now sings in harmony with the snow.
But – oh, why must there always be a’but’, eh? – beneath her anticipation (for she and her Gawain will be escorted to the Nuptial Chamber later, there to learn the gentle fire, the soaring wonder, of loving) I can feel her heart pitter-pattering with terror, though she does not know why.
Oh, little girl, I know – and wish I didn’t. I know that the best torturers leave not a single mark on the skin, that they target the mind and soul – and that an unbroken body can hide a bruised and bleeding mind. I know that ‘Happy ever after’ has to ride the night mare of those mind scars.
But, give the lady her moment, world; let her experience bliss. See her fling herself into the snow, followed and watched by her husband and the lords and ladies of the Court. See her exuberant landing (and the crash to the head as the silly girl falls backwards! Diw, Diw! There’s careless!). See the snow angel she makes and the laughter which lights up the darkness.
Watch, my lovelies, as the sky becomes a hotch-potch of cracking fizzing light, as fire sticks blossom in pink and red, green and blue, as ancient drum beats stir the blood in all those watching, as black-clad dancers, their faces red foxy snouts, clack sticks and pound the crunching snow into foot-printed powder. Listen to the aching beauty of bagpipe and shawm, viol and rebec, drum and rhythmic stick. Feel the tapping of feet, the rush of excitement, the animal pulse in the veins, the deep echoes in hidden places.
Look further, fy ffrindiau, at the stately grace of the Hunt’s Lord and Lady, the way their shadows heighten in the sky and smoke, and their unearthly beauty brightens the dance. Feel the earth’s percussion as the dancers’ staffs collide and thump and catch the light.
See the nobility of animals – all gathered together, with their human counterparts, for this one space of time – as they watch, and wait, and obey the invisible white flag briefly.
But know, gymdeithion, that our girl’s later loving (bright and blooming though it may be) is not the end. That the book does not close with a satisfying clap of paper at this point. That we delude ourselves if we perpetuate the ‘Happy ever after’ myth – and do great damage by this act.
See, sparks shine and flare – and paint the sky in all the shades of the spectrum – and then? They fade, flicker, wink out. So it is with happiness, or pain, or sadness, or desire. There is no ‘Ever After’, only the intense grabbing on to the moment, the giving in to the colours, and elements, you are handed.
So: Let us now leave our Lady Ragnell (once little Gwawr) and Mr. Fox and his magical dancers, and King Arthur’s Court, at Camelot.
Let us close the book very gently, fy gwerthfawr, and place it carefully back on the shelf. Let us return to the hearth-fire of home and the reality (whether joyful or unhappy) of life. And let us see that healing only begins when ‘The End’ is reached, and that a story’s conclusion is not a healing in itself.
Noson dda, cariad!