We chose the weekend in the bountiful month of September when the Moon would be near to her fullness. It was a lovely mellow time of the year, ornamented with harvestmen and beautifully patterned spiders, with ladybirds, with soldier beetles and rove beetles, with shining green beetles like gems upon the dock leaves, and the warm nights graced with rainbowed-hued lacewings and the beautiful moths: large emeralds, feathery plume moths, yellow underwings and swallow tails... The days were warm and luxuriant and the trees bore the deep green look of Summer.
Nuts were swelling on the hazels. The ash trees, those who were females, wore their outer yellow-green dresses of their seed-laden keys, the rowans and the guelder rose were laden with scarlet berries, the hawthorn with their deep red haws, the elders with their berries in bunches of purple deep and dark and the hedgerows were laden with blackberries all juicy and ripe for the picking. Mushrooms in abundance dotted the steep hillsides. The Lady's breast was full and her arms were inviting, beckoning and warm...
And here we were gathered together about Rhona who seemed to have about her already the lovely kachina of the Earth-mother. Arthur was here too, and Merian and Idris, and Gwen and Owen. And so too were those who had come from afar: Joe and Kathy had arrived midday yesterday, followed soon after by Liz and Judy with Coll, and Cindy, Dick and Steve had arrived in the early evening. And now just before midday Elen and Huw knocked on the door and there in the car with them were Alun and Lynwen. It was good to see Alun again after his startling encounter with the Horned One in Midsummer! And he and Owen were soon in deep discussion about the intricacies of verse and the art of story telling till the moths enticed us to the windows and a beautiful lacewing bewitched us all!
Supper was leisurely in the dancing firelight and shadows and the soft lights at the walls. There was soup with chunks of bread and there were cheeses and crusty loaves and rolls and crackers and biscuits and we talked long into the evening. And Coll was showing Alun the way of the flageolet, and if skill was lacking as yet in the one the will was not and Alun's fingers learned that night methinks a deal his dreams would work upon. Ah, but Coll had magic fingers and if Alun learned only half as well he'd learn well indeed! When Coll had deemed that Alun had as much in his soul as a soul could take on the dream road in only a night, he gave us a melody that spoke in the deeps of all our souls of a Mother's love, whereafter Owen read us another tale he'd wrought: a tale of the timeless forests, of the deep ways and the burrows among the roots and they who live in those ancient deeps, snuggled to the warm furry breasts in the fragrant leafy dark. We talked, and at times we sat quiet, not thinking at all, looking into dreamy eyes and reading in dreamy souls the self-same dreams that stirred in ours, and at last the Moon looked in at the window and she said... I think she said... it was time to go to bed... to dream... and if my memory deceives me about that, it was a beautiful deception she wrought.....
Breakfast was late, and leisurely, and some of us had been out into Dwy Nant with Rhona to help her build a green bower of branches and leaves wherein the Harvest Goddess would gather her people to her breast when the Moon looked down on the shadowy field and the shadows crept over her land. And a green cloth she had taken out with her to the field that it be to her hand beneath the Sun's golden rays with her people gathered there about her.
It was a hot dreamy midafternoon. The Lady looked lovely, her long green gown flowing soft about her, gathered about her waist with a soft brown leather girdle and hemmed at the bottom with little leaves and fruits blended in a subtle fashion. Long green sleeves clothed her arms and brown-gemmed and lovely the clasp she wore at her neck. Serene was her aspect now, full-breasted and beautiful. Bare of head she was, her long hair wafting gently in a subtle hint of a summer zephyr as she turned her head, now one way, now another, to look with love on her people gathered about her. And on her arm she bore a basket laden with apples: green and red and gold and russet, crisp ones and tender ones, sweet ones and tangy, and juicy ones that smelled all spicy as she took us with her through the waving grasses of Rhaeadr down to the shaded ford whereafter lay the field of Dwy Nant. And there she stood on a mossy rock in the rippling stream where the water swirled about her feet and her basket set down on the grass in the field beyond. She opened her greenclad arms and the way of her arms and the look in her eyes and the shape of her lips spoke a welcome that had no need of fashioned words. But words she fashioned for her love was brimming over:
"Come my People, for my breast is full."
Idris went down into the stream to the Green Lady's calling and sweet were the words she spoke him:
" Running waters, speaking stones,
Take all cares that weigh on Idris.
Take away and flow away - far away ... "
And oh, the lilt in her voice as she spoke those words of far away...' And Idris spoke her all the love he bore her ere she took him by the hand and into Dwy Nant. Next went Gwen, and to Gwen too she gave her rune of love:
" Running waters, speaking stones,
Take all cares that weigh on Gwen.
Take away and flow away - far away ... "
Soft was her voice, dreamy soft and full of love, and Gwen spoke her a sweet thing from her heart and the Green Lady took her by the hand till her feet stood on the grassy bank of Dwy Nant. Then went Coll, and the Green Lady spoke him her love and took him in her arms and pressed him to her breast. Lovely the words she had from Coll and she took his hand into her own until he stood upon the farther bank, and Kathy, and Joe, and Liz, and Alun... and so until each one of us had crossed the gurgling stream and stood in the waving grasses beyond. And the Earth-mother had come out from under the trees, green and lovely and we gathered about her and she took us with her through the ripe and goldening grasses to a place where her green cloth lay folded where she'd laid it in the grass, to where the love in her breast had drawn her, to a place some two circles' distance north of her own stone ring, grassy, warm, redolent with the scents of her own wild body.
"Be seated, beloved of my womb," and oh, the way she spoke that word, that sacred place, wherein she holds all the mysteries and the magic of becoming. We sat down with her in the grass, in a ring, and she on one knee in the north of it. Her love flowed out, for all her breast had suckled and would suckle still, and she turned her face, her sweetly lidded eyes, to him who strode in the blue road above and had ripened the fruits of her own fair green body, grown golden now beneath his golden rays.
She looked with love upon the bounty in her basket as she picked up the green cloth there beside her and spread it in the midst of our ring upon the grass and she went down again upon her knee and moved her basket of apples onto it, a little to the side of her. And she's taking the apples out of her basket one by one and setting them down upon that green cloth before her, not hurriedly, not slowly, but for all she treasures them, every one. At last her basket is disburdened of its bounty and she sets it aside. A chant rises from our lips, soft and deep, out of the deeps of our hearts, lovely in its dreamy cadence, for the Earth, our Beloved, Mother of us all:
"Mabh, beloved Mabh..."
Her own response, her lips sweetly closed - she has no need of words - is lovely in the lilting cadence of her voice. And her slender fingers are at the front of her gown and she is opening her buttons and putting her hand into her bosom and she draws out from her breast a beautiful rosy red apple and sets it amid the bounty laid there on the green cloth before us. Again that lovely chant:
"Mabh, beloved Mabh..."
And again that response, wordless and lovely, with its dreamy lilting cadence and the lovely look in the Lady's eyes.
And she puts her hand again within her green gown and there comes from her other breast an apple russet brown and golden and she sets it too among the bounty spread upon the green. And again that lovely chant:
"Mabh, beloved Mabh..."
And again that lovely response from the Lady, wordless, sweetly lilting.
Her fingers closed the bodice of her gown and she rose to her feet and took her basket into her hand: "Await me a little while, my Beloved Ones, and I'll bring you more again from the fruit of my breast," and she threw us a kiss where we were gathered there together in her love. Some breathed a word of endearment, some blew her a kiss from their hand. Coll, sitting in the circle there, put a flageolet to his lips and played a wistful air as the Lady wended her way through the tall waving grasses. Was it sad? Oh no, not sad. It was wistful; it was poignant, sweet and full of longing, and spoke the longing that twined about all our hearts. The Lady had gone into her leafy bower away over there by the wild straggly hedgerow that borders the stream that so little time ago we'd crossed for love of her. How long will she be? Scarce any time at all! Her beautiful form is there again, emerging from the shade of its umber interior, and another tune now it is that stirs Coll's fingers as his fingers work a different sorcery on his pipe!
Full her basket now, and full-breasted again she is and lovely as she makes her way through the long ripe waving grasses. Is she hurrying back to us? She is not, for well she knows the sweetness that twines about the tendrils of longing. But tarries she neither, for sweetness and longing are blended in a subtle art. She's with us again and she's down on one knee and has set her basket down in the grass beside her and her lovely hands have taken hold of her fruits and laid them, all with her love, on the green cloth spread out here before us in the grass: juicy pears and plums in purple, red and gold, blackberries and greengages, redcurrants and fruits from her far-away places. And we're chanting again that beloved name:
"Mabh, beloved Mabh..."
Sweet her own response, lilting on her Summer air.
Now she is putting her hand into her bodice and her breast has yielded her hand a gathering of plums of a subtle purple bloom. Dreamy soft we chant her name:
"Mabh, beloved Mabh..."
And dreamy soft and lilting her lovely response. And she puts her hand to her other breast and her fingers have brought out a choice and rosy pear and she is setting it amid her bounty lying spread before us. Again, for all we love her, we chant her lovely name:
"Mabh, beloved Mabh..."
Oh, and again her lovely response to linger in our hearts!
Her fingers closed the bodice of her gown and she rose up from the grass and took her basket into her hand. A rainbow of emotions swept her face as she threw a kiss into our midst: "In but little time I'll be with you again, O my beloved People" and her feet took her through the grass again to where her treasures lay. Arthur now took his pipe from his belt and put it to his lips and the sweet, poignant melody caught in the deep places of our hearts, and the sharpest poignancy of all he reserved for the moment the Lady vanished within her bower. He stilled the wind while she lingered within and tangled we were in the sweet, aching pain of a longing that was as old as time. How long? It was less than a minute - less than a half minute! The Lady, oh the Lady! She is there in the leafy doorframe, and the notes fair dance from Arthur's fingers! Two baskets the Green Lady has with her, one on each arm! Her gait is light and her lovely face is aglow with the joy that surges in her breast. And she is with us again! Her baskets she has set down on the grass. In one of them she has crusty rolls, and the other is filled with little cakes all made of the wheat of her own beloved body, and her fruits and spices inside them. She's sitting down in the grass among us and her beautiful hands go again and again into her basket and she is heaping crusty rolls upon the green cloth before us, and her hands are in her other basket now and taking out lots and lots of little cakes, and a very fine spread they make! All for love of her we chant her beloved name:
"Mabh, beloved Mabh."
Oh, that lovely lilting response! And she takes from her breast another crusty roll and puts it with all her love among the abundance on the cloth of green, and we're calling her by her sacred name:
"Mabh, beloved Mabh."
Lovely is her voice in her response, lilting, flowing, and a cake again she has brought from out the bounty of her breast and her harvest is gathered here before us. Full of love the chant we wrought her:
"Mabh, beloved Mabh."
Dreamy, laden with her love and haunting was the beautiful lilting cadence of her response.
Bare-breasted now she sat among us. "My People, beloved of my womb, joy now in the fruit of my breast." Hands reached in and some took a knobbly cake to start with and some took sweet fruits and some took a tangy green apple to eat with a crusty roll, and we all dipped in again and again and again. And the Lady herself, our Beloved, shared in that lovely spread and our joy was the greater for the joy we had in her sharing, and what we didn't eat ourselves was harvest in a wilder larder or, perhaps, a seed that wandering Mab would find to her liking anon.
The Lady did up the bodice of her gown and gathered a few of the cores and stones and seeds into her basket. "For my wildlings," she said, dreamily, lovingly, and we gathered what we could find of what remained and placed them in her basket where her own green arms had made a gathering. The green cloth she put in her other basket and the two of them she took up in one arm. "Come, my Beloveds," she beckoned, as she turned her steps toward her hedgerow bower, and we came to some thirteen paces from its leafy door: "Await me a few moments, beloved of my womb." And she went into its greeny-brown darkness and came out with but a single basket on her arm. "Come," she said, as she made her way through the twining tendrils of the vetchling and the purple knapweed and the golden brown heads of the ripening grasses and as we followed in her footsteps she cast her wild larder to this side of her and that as we made our way back to the tree-shadowed stream. And there where Dwy Nant met the running water she set her basket down, and stood beneath the alder tree.
Steve went first after the Lady and ere he set his foot to the water's edge, she clasped his hand and pressed him to her breast: "Until tonight, my Beloved," she said and longing wrought her voice, and for a few moments here they stood in the green leafy shade ere Steve went over the stream. Lynwen too she took into her arms and pressed to her breast: "Until tonight, my Beloved," and for the look in Lynwen's eyes she kissed her on her pleading lips and Lynwen crossed over into Rhaeadr with longing sown in her heart. And Kathy too in the dappled greenwood shade was sweetly tangled in the promise of the Harvest Goddess. And Dick, and Cindy, and Coll... and so until each one of us had crossed over the water that rushed bubbling in its rocky bed beneath the shady trees, and to each one of us, held lovingly in her hand, or clasped in her arms, or pressed to her lips, clasped to her bosom, she had spoken those magical words: "Until tonight, my Beloved..."
We made our way, with lingering memories, with sweet expectations, through the grasses of Rhaeadr and back into the house. We talked and Dick gave us a melody on his guitar and his voice gave us a lyric of Summer days, and we all joined in when Dick leaned back and dug a wad of papers out of his guitar case with a copy of the words for every one of us, and when we'd got a hold of the tune! We fumbled the first try somewhat, but nothing daunted we tried again and at the third attempt the Goddess herself put her seal upon it in our hearts! "I've another tune, but the words are a bit lumpy and rather few as yet," said Dick, contemplatively, enquiringly...
"Let's have it!" said Idris and Arthur together and prettywell everybody else in one way of another. So he put his fingers to the strings and after an introductory stanza his voice joined in with the words. They were few, as he said.
"Again," said Judy, excited; "Pen and paper, Somebody!" A notepad and three pens arrived in her lap as near as you could tell simultaneously! "Just the melody, Dick, please!" So Dick plucked the strings and Judy scribbled furiously... And the rest of us? I'm sure our thoughts were loud as thunder, but our lips breathed not a word! And in ten, twenty minutes or so, Judy delivered a missive of scribble to Dick. Dick's eyes lit up, and he read it out. It was rough, but it had what you knew it ought to have, and we polished it between us and Judy herself added another stanza in the process! Dick gave it a run through with his voice (We had as yet only one copy of it!) and it was powerful, beautiful, full of the love of the Goddess. Ere the last note had died away, Judy and Dick were in each other's arms and the Lady herself was in that kiss that joined them one with the other!
We all helped Rhona and Arthur with the dinner then, and in an hour or two's time it was ready: a rabbit stew that needed two big pots to hold it, with carrots and onions in it and turnips and leeks and little bits of celery in moon-shaped pieces, and there was a big bowl of peas, and a bowl of butter beans, and heaps of jacket potatoes, hot out of the oven. And there was a delicious apple pudding to follow after.
Washing up was soon accomplished with many hands to help, and some played music the while, and Owen and Judy and Alun and Coll were discussing something esoteric about the structure of verse, or perhaps it was the fitting of it to music that was the inspiration of their talk. It was about midnight...
Rhona had gone out some ten or fifteen minutes before and the Lady was with her. The night was calling, and she bore all the sweetness and the warmth of the dark in her arms, and her bosom was still, and a quiet lay on her breast and all about her. Sweet lay the Earth in the dream shadows, and our bare feet in the dewy grass trod the path to the quiet stream, rippling in the dark beneath the trees. Oak and ash and alder were there, and they made an arch all black and shadowy above the stream and they were dark against the dark night sky. The water whispered as we passed, and slipped away in the shadowed rocks, and we felt the swirl about our feet as we went over, and up the other bank and into Dwy Nant. And all the trees in Dwy Nant stood white in the dark, for the Moon had kissed them with her silver lips and they bore her silver light upon their leaves. And the Moon was lovely in the field, big and silver, close to the Earth, and she stood on the tree tops and scattered her moondust about her in the sky and the sky was all aglow where the silver moondust lay.
We stood in the field together, in the quiet and the dark, grass and vetch beneath our feet and the great wispy star-strewn sky overhead, vast to the rim of the dark and distant hills. And over yonder by the stream a lamp was burning, hanging in the branches of an ancient ash. Mist was on the silent hills and their upper slopes were melting in the sky. Far overhead Cygnus winged his way, neck in the wispy clouds, between the white gem of Altair and Vega's sparkling green. Now the distant hills stood clear against the sky and the mist had come into Dwy Nant and gathered like a silver river down the middle of the field. The young trees stood black in the silver as the moon-painted vapour wove about their slender trunks and beneath their night-hued leaves. The red eye of Aldebaran rose in the east and looked over the high alders by the stream, and high in the far western hills rose two fiery rivers that flowed in ethereal moon-coloured beauty down the slopes of unseen valleys to the shadowed plains below, and all at once the mist was thick in Dwy Nant and her breath bore a wild and lovely fragrance. And the mist drifted by. And the Green Lady stood before us, and her eyes were full of dreams and she held her arm out to Coll and he took the hand she offered and went with her into the dark. High overhead the five great stars of Cassiopeia gleamed in the north-east and rode the moon-grey night furrows. The quiet lay on the Earth, and the shadows lay on her breast.
The Moon gathered her misty skirts about her and painted them in a wispy crimson ring, and then she cast her skirts aside and gleamed in all her naked beauty, silver in the southern sky. And anon, the Earth-mother brought Coll out of the dark. And she stood, in her beauty, and in her darkness, Queen of the shadows, before Kathy and held out her green-clad arm, and Kathy took the hand she offered and trod the greenway through the dark and through the dew. And the north-eastern sky took on a vast perspective in awe-inpiring grandeur as the long grey trails fanned out of the north from a point in the hills made small in the remoteness of distance, and straight league after league in the star lanes from as far as the eye could see, and far overhead, like immense wispy plough tracks in the boundless star-strewn vault. And Kathy came back along the dew paths with the Green Lady, out of the sylvan shade and into the moonlight, and the Green Lady was lovely in the moonlight, and shadows gathered in the folds of her long green gown. And so went Judy and Dick and Owen and Cindy... and each one of us she took by the hand. I took the hand she offered, and her footsteps through the shadows took me deep into a wild and lovely haven.
She took me through dark tangled marsh bird's-foot trefoil and yellow meadow vetchling, on a path that wove deep among the thickets. Here and there an oak emerged from the tangle and the vetch twined her tendrils in the shadows around his youthful stem. Deeper the green-gowned Lady moved. Silverweed was underfoot, soft to the bare feet that trod the shadow-path, and sneezewort and meadowsweet were there in the shadows. We passed by soft rush and knapweed and tall timothy grass in the darkness and came at last upon a natural bower tucked away in the deep of the greenery beneath the boughs of a streamside ash. A lamp hung in the branches, and there was hazel here too, and ivy climbing up the ancient trunk, and rowan with its clustered berries. The stream flowed beyond, in the dark behind a blackthorn hedge, and the hedge was a wall of the bower, dense with leaves and hung with sloes, and bracken growing at its foot. Of trefoil and vetches were the other shadowed walls. Of the fine-leaved grass of the greensward was the carpet and the leaves of the ash were the roof overhead. There was a bed of bracken by the hedge, and a green cover on it, and an altar by the side. A copper goblet gleamed on the altar, and beside it a wand of the wild apple wood. And I knew I was in the bower of the Harvest Goddess.
She was bare of breast and beautiful in her long green gown and she bade me lie down on her bracken bed, and she took her wand into her hand as I sank within the softness of her fronds, and standing at my feet amid the green leaves of Summer and the ripe fruits of Autumn, she held me in the wild apple wand: "In my name, Child of Earth," she said, and the power and the love she spoke was ancient, and all the will I had was one with the love in her breast.
"In the name of Mab the beautiful," she said, and I thought of her lust through the ages and through all the species of the wild, and the scent of the bracken was rising in the air.
"In the name of Maghu the terrible," she said, and I knew that it must be so, and I knew it in the deep of my heart.
"In the name of Brirn the lusty," she said, and the voice of the stream rose out of the gulley as the stream gushed by in the dark wooded cleft.
"In the name of Pahh the mighty," she said, and the lamp light flickered on the ash leaves and my gaze rose up through the leaves, through the glistening, shining leaves, to the darker leaves on high, far, far up through the cone of light in the heights of the ash tree to the dark and lofty sky.
Then she came and sat down by the side of the bed where I lay, and she took the right hand of me into her own gentle hands and wrought with her stroking an art most subtle, and the wild scent of bracken rose about her. And I was lost in her enchanting and my thoughts were as shadows on a dancing stream. "Walk with Mab in the white fields of the Moon," she said, and all sweetness was in her voice.
And she rose from the greensward where she sat and moved to the other side and sat her down between the bed and the blackthorn hedge, and she took my other hand into her own two hands. And the rune she wrought was of the same sort as before her hands had wrought. "Give to Maghu what is hers," she said, and there was no more sadness in her voice when she spoke the aweful rune than there was in my heart when I heard it from her lips. And a heaviness as of a weight of mountains came into me and I knew it for the long, deep pull of the Earth, and was glad.
She rose again by the blackthorn hedge and moved to its other end where the vetch and the trefoil set a western buttress to the thorn, and my bare foot on the blackthorn side of the bracken bed was all her care and concern. She took it in her hands and caressed it most sweetly as the Wild Maiden in her wildness might caress the bearer of the horns, and full strong the smell of the bracken rose. I gazed into the ash tree and the leaves were laid on ancient boughs and branches, twisted into intricate patterns in a wild and untamed surge of sylvan life. Up and away into the shadowy canopy they wove their ways, and the eye traced them back, twisting and turning, gnarled and timeless, to the mighty heart of the ancient tree. "Walk with Brirn in the green fields of Summer," she said, and Vega flashed in a brilliant hue and danced in the leafy fingers on high.
And she took my other foot, even as she had taken the first, into her gentle hands and wrought her woman's art as she sat there in the shadows and the green things grew around. "Work for me, Love, with the might of Pahh," she said, and all my will and firm resolve was to serve the Green Queen.
And she came again and sat down on the greensward beside me, and deep dark pleasure glowed dark in her shining eyes and the shadows were gathered about her. And she slipped her hands into my shirt and wrought an art that was wondrously peaceful and full of love. Delicate hands she lay about my shoulders, stroking gently, and on my neck, in long slow strokes, like the slow meanders of a river in the lowland plain, or like a lazy breeze on a field of standing hay, or like shadows shifting in a woodland glade, and she wrought with the art of a pagan Queen. "Love me; love mine. They love thee, and I have loved thee always," she said, and all my thoughts and all my longing was to give myself in an ecstasy of yielding, to the love of the pagan Queen.
And she sat then before me and looked into my eyes, and into the shadows gathered about, and down through the ages into the deeps of my soul, and she told me how much she loved me; she told me of long, long ago when Time himself was but a youngling in her lap, and she loved me even then, and had swaddled me in the mists of the ages, wrapped me in the hold of her arms, held me in the dark of her eyes, and breathed into my soul the mystery that lies deepest of them all.
And she went to the altar where the tendrils of the vetch wound about, and poured a drink of apple into the copper goblet and it made a music as of running streams in the rounded curves of the hills. "Fruit of my breast," she said, and her gown was undone and all the lakes and the waters of her wilderness she held by the red paps of her breast. And she knelt in the grass where I lay and bade me rise and sit on the bracken bed before her. "Love to thee, Jewel of my womb," she said, and she placed the goblet in my hands, and the Moon shone big and full through the branches of the ancient tree. I drank deep of the fruit of her breast she gave me, for it bore the blessing of a Mother and a Queen.
And when I had drunk it, she kissed me on the lips, and that were the nicest rune of all.