This is the story of my midsummer walk on Llangoed common. Seen from one point of view, I went for a walk, and saw some horses and some birds. But from another point of view it was a journey of discovery, leading up to an act of magic.
It had started raining in the night, and the morning looked foggy and cold. I put off going out, hoping for a bit of sunshine, but then I decided to go anyway, with no particular end in mind.
Outside as usual everything seemed better than it had from inside the house. The weather was misty and damp but quite warm, and everywhere seemed to be bursting with life. The track across the common was carpeted with short grass dotted with little flowers, and bracken shoots and purple foxgloves thrust up at the side. My heart lifted as I walked, joyful to be back in this beautiful place. Sheep appeared through the mist, letting me get closer than usual as I passed them. The air was fragrant with gorse scent, and resonant with birdsong. I stopped to listen to one bird – a lark I think, singing its different songs, but although it seemed to be singing from overhead I couldn’t see it. Waves of mist drifted across the hillside below me, and finally I saw a bird, beating its wings like crazy as it dragged itself up into the sky, singing all the time, then circling above me, perhaps trying to distract me from a nest?
I decided to visit the lady’s pool first. This is a very small pool on the common which I had visited a few times before. I had come across it originally in mid-winter, and had an impression of a lady offering blessings. The next time I visited, in late summer, it had been dry, but this time it was still full of water with little white flowers all around one side. I stood for a while at the water’s edge, and then dipped my hand in the pool, getting a little water to wash my face, and clear my senses.
Near the pool is one of my favourite places on the common, a little grove where four large trees stand together. The biggest and oldest is a beech tree, and two others, an oak and an ash tree, make a rough triangle with it. In the centre of the three stands a sycamore. The ash tree is the most mysterious, old and gnarly, sitting on a green velvet mound above a little stream. It looks a bit like a drinking goblet, with a thick trunk which goes up about seven feet and then forms a hollow bowl shape with smaller branches continuing up around the edges. I’ve always wanted to see inside the bowl but it is just too high to reach and there is no easy climbing. I tried again this time, but my rubber-soled boots slipped on the bark.
As I wandered around the grove, the clouds thinned and the sun shone through for a few minutes, pale but warm. This was my chance to greet the midsummer sun, and I quickly slipped off my jacket and tee shirt, and let the sun on my body. Trails of mist were still wafting through the trees, but the sun was warm, and together they felt like life and vigour.
The sun only lasted a minute or two so it was back on with the clothes, but this had given me an idea. Taking off my boots and socks, I stood barefoot on the wet moss by the ash tree, feeling the wet and the cold, and my connection with the earth. Then I tried the ash tree climb again. My bare feet were much better than boots, and I managed to reach up to the lip of the bowl and peer in without falling off.
Up until now, my walk had been without any particular aim, and I might have decided to head home again, but I began to feel the need to head up to the high point of the common. I wasn’t sure why, but maybe it would be a good place to be if the sun came out again. Starting up the hill, I was surprised by a rumbling noise from behind, and turning round I saw a string of wild horses cantering towards me. They stopped and watched me warily, so after a moment I walked on again. Then I heard the rumble of their hooves again, and they passed by me, accelerating into a gallop up the hill ahead. On a magical walk, everything has meaning, and this seemed to me a pretty clear message that I was heading the right way!
As I followed their hoof prints in the wet ground I remembered a time in winter when I had followed hoof prints on the common and had then come across a group of ravens. The raven is my totem, and seeing one has a special meaning for me. On that occasion in winter there had been many ravens on the common, all calling to each other in their croaky bell-like voices. I had thought then about Odin and his ravens, and how the ravens in the Tower of London eat blood-soaked biscuits. If I had had a knife to hand and some biscuits, I might have given them some of my blood.
Today I had not seen any ravens, but having now brought them to mind, as I continued walking I occasionally heard one call in the far distance. I only recognised the calls after a pause. I would hear something almost like a dog barking rather than a bird, just part of the sound background, but after a second or two the back of my mind would pop-up – “That was a raven calling!”
As I walked I began to think about my plans. I have been thinking for some while about finding an apprentice who can take over from me one day. Finding a suitable apprentice will require action on several levels, and on a magical level, I was thinking that a good method would be to send out ravens to call for the apprentice. I thought about this as I walked, and the idea took form as I realised that this would be a good opportunity to “send out ravens”.
I came to a place on the side of the hill which gave me a good view to the east, and it felt right. I sat down and waited, my intention gathering itself. I called my patron, and projected my call for an apprentice. As I sat, I heard crows calling in the valley below. They can carry the call, I thought. But then, behind me, I heard a strange sound – like the sound of water and like a bell. Before I could really process it, I heard a clear raven call from close by. I turned my head and there they were – a pair of ravens flying down the hill towards me. The female (I think) made the water-call again, and flew off to the east. Her partner flew around me as I greeted him and then followed her off. My intention went with them, and I watched until they disappeared into the distance.
So that was the purpose of my midsummer walk, although I didn’t know it until it happened.