I remember sitting by the river Ogwen in Snowdonia nearly twenty years ago. It was at the waning of Summer, the light was still infused with golden hues and the temperature quite comfortable. This particular Summer had been good, believe it or not. The weather in North Wales can be fantastic when the Sun blesses us with its presence. It wasn’t a good time for me though; back problems had been plaguing me for several years. This particular time was quite bad and I was mired in misery as a result. I sat on the riverbank trying to make notes for a story. Very little was forthcoming as my spirits were quite low. I prayed for healing, Merlin and the Goddess being the object of my entreaties. It sounds dramatic but not inappropriate under the circumstances. One cannot remain unaffected by being in such a magnificent environment. What did I have to lose? As for the Ogwen, the river flows out of Llyn Ogwen lake. Ancient legends abound regarding Llyn Ogwen and its association with King Arthur. It’s said that Excalibur was eventually laid to rest in its waters. Snowdonia is the natural habitat of the mage, prophet and wild man of the forest. Many places lay claim to Merlin but I believe his spirit resides in the mountains and valleys of North Wales. This may upset many and for that I offer my apologies.
Not too long after my adventures in the national park, the story I was attempting to write took on a strange twist. Ideas were flowing through my mind, twisting and turning like the rush of water down a hillside. I decided to take out a deck of oracle cards relating to Merlin, sat down and consulted them. A few stood out like traffic lights; I was given the green light. Good start. Four elemental dragons, Fire, Water, Air and Earth came forwards. As did the Hanged Man and Magician. I called him and this is what happened! There was also another presence. She was from a different time and location. A priestess who’d travelled across time seeking the magician, seeking healing and possibly redemption? This tale was posted many months ago on this blog (Hidden Pathways). It appears that the story has yet to end. I have need of the mage’s help and must seek him out again.
I’m still creaky as ever, the physical vehicle wears down a little each year. Yet, this isn’t why I’m searching out the mage. It’s the wild man of the forest that’s needed this time. Ancient shaman, seer and truth-sayer. I need a guide through the wilderness of my inner landscape. It appears he can call forth plant totems. I sense a presence behind me. He’s not what I expected, not sure what I was expecting. His eyes are like dark pools of water, or is that the night sky being reflected in them? As for his clothing, they consist of animal skins, He wears no shoes. I assume the soles of his feet have become hard as leather over time. His face is covered by a long grey beard and his long grey hair moving as if touched by a gentle breeze. He gestures with his hand. I follow him deeper into the landscape.
Oh Merlin, your ancient Egyptian Priestess returned to her beloved land briefly but her work was to be elsewhere. She had to find that out by herself, didn’t she? He turns back to nod at my question. She returned to light a special beacon on a hilltop, watched by a gathering of members of her order. St Germain and the Archangel Tzadkiel had carried the Silver Violet Flame to these shores on that occasion. Merlin stops to warn me to watch where I’m going. The terrain is filled with many dangers. I don’t think he was talking about anything on the physical plane. Duly noted mage. He raises an eyebrow in question. I feign ignorance. There’s something of the Trickster about him. Not another one! I was on a training course this week and our trainer happened to mention that she saw a group of rabbits in the grounds of her hotel. There was a WHITE RABBIT amongst them…Apparently I can’t evade him, no matter where I am. I hear my companion chuckling. This is going to be an interesting journey. He stops and asks me to sit down. I choose a rock. He has an expectant look on his face. There’s a moment of silence and then he asks me to take out the cards in my pocket. Cards in my pocket? News to me. All he says is ‘plant totems’. A man of few words is our wild man. He has no need of words, what needs to be spoken of can be communicated through images and feelings. He views the world as if he’s peering through a clear mountain pool. There’s nothing that can be hidden from him. I lay the cards out on the ground. They appear to be from the Major Arcana:
Echinacea (genus Echinacea): XIV Temperance
Skullcap (genus Scutellaria): XVII The Star
Elderflowers (Sambucus nigrae): XIII Death
Cayenne (Capsicum annum): VIII Strength
Cyperus (Cyperus rotunduse): VII The Chariot
He tells me we’re only going to be looking at their symbolic and divinatory aspects at this stage. Their healing properties will form part of the later teachings. He pauses for a moment and then begins what appears to be a story. It’s much more than that:
Echinacea is used for gaining strength through the quality of purity, thereby leading to a state of beauty. It cools that which is filled with heat and fire. It fortifies the spirit against negativity and allows strength to be gained from challenges faced.
Skullcap focuses the mind to that which is within, peace can then be found. Ask for clarity in your visions and dreams.
Ask the Elder to clear all that has hindered from the past and the present. Unbind all that is dead and dying, for they need to pass beyond the veil. It speaks not of the living but that which is within you. She offers rebirth from the ashes of death.
Cayenne clears the coldness that afflicts, gathers in where you have wandered alone. Clears the barriers that have blocked your path. It offers power and strength. Accept them.
Where your energy is sapped and your spirit bound in darkness seek help from Cyperus. It shall balance and it shall guide you to the inner depths, wherein shall you find the knowledge you seek to triumph over adversity.
I sit in silence, trying to absorb his words. He states all he says is brief and necessarily so at this stage. I have to meditate on what has been imparted to me. The allies speak to me; do I understand what needs to be done? I think about it and nod. They are signposts on the path. This time there will be no Threefold Death. That stage has been passed. He leaves me at the portal to my reality, I walk through. For a moment I turn round and look at him. He lifts a hand and smiles. All I have in my mind is an image of water flowing down a hillside. Freedom and cleansing.
Dr Michael Tierra and Candis Cantin, The Herbal Tarot Deck, 1988